CLEARWATER — Pinellas County finally got the guidance officials have been asking for since Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on May 15 that phase one of his Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step recovery plan was complete.
County officials shared that information late Monday afternoon, which includes a list of entities and businesses that can be open as of May 18.
The only businesses that cannot operate are bars, pubs and nightclubs that receive more than 50% of their gross revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages.
In addition, all businesses must continue to adhere to social distancing rules with group of 10 or less spaced 6 feet apart.
According to the new guidance, the following businesses can operate with 50% of their allowed capacity excluding employees.
• Restaurants and food establishments, which also can have unrestricted outdoor seating as long as it complies with local law. No seating is allowed by bar counters.
• Retail sales
• Museums and libraries
• Gyms and fitness centers, including dance studios, yoga and other fitness classes and similar activities
• Personal services businesses, including nail salons, barbershops, hair salons, cosmetology specialty salons, tattoo services, massage services and other one-on-services.
These businesses may operate by appointment only with 15 minutes between appointments. No group appointment allowed. Face masks must be worn by employees.
• Recreation and large venues, including movie theaters, concert halls, auditoriums, bowling alleys, arcades, playhouses and casinos. Cleaning and disinfecting is required and face masks must be worn by employees.
In addition, large professional sporting events can reopen at 25% capacity.
The governor also allowed counties to begin submitting requests for open vacation rentals. Pinellas County is currently seeking permission to reopen those lodging accommodations.
Pinellas County’s public pools and playground centers continue under the same limitations. Public playgrounds remain closed. The beaches are open with social distancing required.
Governor’s press conference
The news about movie theaters and other large venues was a surprise as DeSantis said during his press conference May 15 in Jacksonville they would remain closed. However, he did hint he would be making further decisions soon on activities such as summer camps for kids.
DeSantis cited a continuing decrease in cases and positive tests, as the reason he was relaxing some of the restrictions, saying that any recent increases were attributed to issues in the state’s prisons, long-term care facilities and additional testing.
DeSantis said mitigation measures enacted with his original safer-at-home order were done to ensure that hospitals were not overwhelmed and that people could get care. That was never a problem, he said.
Protection for the vulnerable, which includes people age 65 and older and those with chronic medical conditions, will continue to be a priority, he said.
He said the state will be doing more to protect residents and patients in long-term care facilities, such as requiring staff members to be tested every 14 days. They will be required to wear personal protective equipment, face masks and gloves, when caring for patients. Visitation will continue to be prohibited.
Hospitals will not be allowed to transfer patients back to long-term care facilities until the patient is tested for COVID-19. In addition, the state is working to establish COVID-19 dedicated facilities where patients or residents that do not require hospital care can go to be isolated.
DeSantis believes it is possible to open the state’s economy and still protect the vulnerable.
He said elective surgeries could continue, pointing out that those aren’t necessarily cosmetic procedures, but were surgeries that could be scheduled.
He encouraged people who have been putting off health care to go to the doctor or hospital if needed. He said some have been afraid to go even when having a heart attack or stroke.
The governor said he had no timetable on when additional announcements will be made or the start for a phase two.
“I’m just excited to take some more small steps to open Florida,” he said.
Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.