Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis (R) pushed the state into phase three of its reopening amid the coronavirus last week. Among the changes are restaurants and bars being able to open to a minimum of 50 percent capacity, if not full. For local jurisdictions seeking to impose further restrictions, they need to justify the needs for doing so to the state.
“There will not be limitations from the state of Florida,” DeSantis said in a news conference Friday. I think this will be very, very important to the industry. Some of the local [governments] can do reasonable regulations, but you can’t say no after six months and just have people twisting in the wind.”
As part of this reopening, the live music venues can reopen at full capacity (unless local rules prohibit them – but again, such rules will need to be justified to the state). Venues, naturally, can continue to self-regulate should they prefer to operate at reduced capacity with social distancing requirements should they wish.
DeSantis has made no bones about his desires to see the state reopened to whatever extent possible, despite the Sunshine State becoming one of the major epicenters of COVID-19 throughout the summer. He has particularly pushed back against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ choice to keep the stands empty to start their season. The franchise made headlines and had huge demand for tickets after signing Tom Brady as quarterback during the off-season, and its home stadium is scheduled to host the Super Bowl at the end of the current NFL season.
“I think you can do much more than what’s been done,” DeSantis said, speaking of the franchise going two weeks of home games with empty stands despite the state allowing them to host in-person. “Outdoor transmission (of the coronavirus) has just not been a major factor. It doesn’t mean it can’t happen. It doesn’t mean there aren’t things that you can think about in some of these venues. But I’d like to have fans in some capacity and then let’s build going forward.”
Two NFL teams in the state allowed fans in the stands for their openers. Miami allowed 13,000 and drew 11,075. Jacksonville opened with a 25 percent capacity and has drawn 14,100 and 16,563 in its two home games. By February, DeSantis hopes that Tampa Bay will not only be allowing fans, but will allow full capacity for the Super Bowl.
“I’ve supported that. It’s not really a question of government. It’s really what the league’s been comfortable with,” he said. “I very much support the Bucs having fans. We expect to do a full Super Bowl, and we’re going to show that we’re going to be able to do that.
Florida currently trails only Texas and Florida in terms of known COVID-19 cases, and only Louisiana in terms of total cases per capita.