Florida Governor Issues Revised Statewide Coronavirus Mitigation Orders
On March 20, 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a series of executive orders in response to the growing and evolving COVID-19 pandemic. Executive Orders 2020-69 through 2020-72 expand the scope of Executive Order (EO) No. 2020-68, which limited the operation of bars, pubs, and nightclubs, as well as restricted gatherings at restaurants and beaches. The March 20, 2020, executive orders impose the following restrictions:
Executive Order No. 2020-69 suspends any Florida statutory requirement for an in-person quorum or local government meetings in public locations in lieu of other technological conferencing.
Executive Order No. 2020-70 requires closure of on-premises services in “all restaurants, bars, taverns, pubs, night clubs, banquet halls, cocktail lounges, cabarets, breweries, cafeterias and any other alcohol and/or food service business establishment with seating for more than ten (10) people” in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. The order also closes “[a]ll movie theatres, concert houses, auditoriums, playhouses, bowling alleys, arcades, gymnasiums, fitness studios and beaches,” except for gymnasiums or fitness studios that are hotel amenities with a 10-person or less capacity, residential building amenities, interior to any fire station or police station, or located inside any single-occupant office building.
Executive Order No. 2020-71 supersedes EO 20-68, Section 1, and suspends sale of alcoholic beverages on premises. The order also supersedes EO 20-68, Sections 3(A) and (B), and suspends all licensed restaurants and food establishments from offering on-premises food consumption for customers, though “such establishments may operate their kitchens for the purpose of providing delivery or take-out services.” The order closes gymnasiums and fitness centers (except as excluded in EO 2020-70) and authorizes the enforcement and implementation of its provisions by state and local law enforcement and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Executive Order No. 2020-72 suspends all “‘non-essential’ elective medical and surgical procedures, including dental procedures.” This order extends to all healthcare practitioners licensed in the State of Florida, including dentists. The order authorizes the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and the Florida Department of Health to enforce and implement the order’s provisions. EO No. 2020-72 expires upon the expiration of EO 20-52.
On March 23, 2020, Governor DeSantis issued Executive Order No. 2020-80, ordering all individuals traveling into Florida from areas with substantial coronavirus community spread, including the New York Tri-State area, through airports to quarantine for 14 days or for the duration of their stay in Florida, if shorter. This order does not apply to airline employees or military, emergency, or health personnel. EO 20-80 authorizes the enforcement and implementation of its provisions by the Florida Department of Health; the Florida Division of Emergency Management; each aviation and airport authority in Florida; county and local governments; and law enforcement agencies. A violation of this order is a misdemeanor in the second degree punishable by imprisonment up to 60 days, a fine up to $500, or both.
As of March 24, 2020, Florida had not yet joined the ever-growing list of states restricting all nonessential businesses. Still, based on the state’s current executive orders, many businesses are facing mandatory temporary shutdowns, which present challenges.
The current orders do not apply to “grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, and convenience stores except [for] those discrete portions of such establishments that provide alcohol and/or food service with seating for more than ten (10) people”; delivery, pick-up, or takeout services; or restaurants ancillary to essential services, including airports, port and secure facilities, and hospitals. These business can still operate.
Still, the orders clarify that municipalities may impose stricter standards within their jurisdictions. Broward and Palm Beach County administrators, for example, may further enforce, relax, modify, or remove these closures pursuant to EO 20-68. Several Miami-Dade County cities, including Miami Beach and Sunny Isles, have issued stay-at-home orders. On March 25, 2020, Pinellas County passed Resolution No. 20-20, the “‘COVID-19 – Safer At Home’ Order,” limiting nonessential activity and/or transportation, closing places of public assembly, ordering compliance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for places and entities conducting public and private gatherings, and ordering businesses to comply with CDC guidelines and post notices outlining these guidelines and how to report violations. On March 26, 2020, Hillsborough County passed a similar order, encouraging residents to remain at their principal places of residence unless engaging in essential services or necessary activities.
EO 2020-70, the primary order limiting business operations, expires on March 31, 2020, with a possibility for renewal. As Governor DeSantis’s orders and guidance change, we will provide updates as needed.