Alerts and Updates

Florida Initiates Phase 1 of Reopening, with South Florida Counties Following a Different Track

May 4, 2020

Also during Phase 1, hospitals will be permitted to perform certain elective procedures provided that the facilities satisfy certain criteria.

As of 12:01 a.m. on May 4, the executive orders implementing Florida’s “safer at home” protocols have expired, and Executive Order 20-112, initiating the first phase of Florida’s reopening, is in effect.

For much of the state, this means an easing of the restrictions providing that “all persons in Florida shall limit their movements and personal interactions outside of their home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities.” However, as a set of FAQs for the reopening process clarifies, in coordination with their mayors, Miami-Dade County, Broward County and Palm Beach County—the counties with the highest numbers of reported COVID-19 cases in the state—“will follow stricter protocol without the re-open provisions of Executive Order 20-112.”

According to a May 3 news release issued by Miami-Dade County, which reminded residents that Executive Order 20-112 “does not apply to Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties… The only reopening in Miami-Dade County has been through Emergency Order 21-20, which ordered the reopening, with restrictions, of parks, golf courses, marinas, and boat ramps.” For its part, Palm Beach County has also taken steps to ease restrictions related to recreational activities, issuing revised rules for boating, golf courses, tennis courts and community pools. And Broward County has similarly announced the limited reopening of parks, marinas, golf courses, pool decks, pools and certain other residential recreational amenities.

As for the rest of the state, as the executive order makes clear, the reopening will not be an immediate return to business and personal activities engaged in prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, some businesses—such as bars, nightclubs and gyms—will continue to remain closed during Phase 1 of the reopening. Sporting venues may reopen, but only without spectators. And certain businesses will be permitted to reopen with limitations. For example, restaurants may open for indoor seating at 25 percent occupancy provided proper social distancing is maintained, and on-site sale and retail businesses and museums and libraries will also be allowed to reopen at 25 percent occupancy. (Restaurants may open fully for outside seating provided that the restaurants ensure a minimum of 6 feet between parties, do not seat parties larger than 10 and keep bar seating closed.)

Also during Phase 1, hospitals will be permitted to perform certain elective procedures provided that the facilities satisfy certain criteria, including that they have sufficient capacity and adequate personal protective equipment, and that they have not sought federal or state assistance since resuming elective procedures and have not refused to provide support to nursing facilitates, assisted living facilities and other long-term care facilities.

The executive order—violations of which may result in a 60-day term of imprisonment, a fine of $500 or both—does not purport to overrule local orders to the extent localities throughout the state have restricted access to—or closed—businesses or buildings. As such, while certain businesses may be able to reopen according to the executive order, local rules may still prohibit such conduct.

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