Governor lifts restaurant capacity restriction, suspends mask penalties

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis
    Gov. Ron DeSantis

Saying in an executive order issued Friday that “the State of Florida has suffered economic harm as a result of COVID- 19-related closures, exacerbating the impacts of the State of Emergency, and Floridians should not be prohibited by local governments from working or operating a business,” Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted his prior restriction on restaurants operating at 50% capacity and suspended any fines and penalties that local governments had implemented to enforce their own mask-wearing mandates.

Section 2 of the order says, “No COVID-19 emergency ordinance may prevent an individual from working or from operating a business.”

Section 3 of the order specifically addresses restaurants: “Restaurants, including any establishment with a food service license, may not be limited by a COVID-19 emergency order by any local government to less than fifty percent (50%) of their indoor capacity. If a restaurant is limited to less than one hundred percent (100%) of its indoor capacity, such COVID-19 emergency order must on its face satisfy the following: quantify the economic impact of each limitation or requirement on those restaurants; and explain why each limitation or requirement is necessary for public health.”

Section 4 says, “This order, consistent with Executive Order 20-92, suspends the collection of fines and penalties associated with COVID-19 enforced upon individuals.”

While the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners lifted its requirement that people wear a face covering or mask in county businesses as of last week, except for in its own public buildings, an emergency order by the city of Fernandina Beach requiring face coverings for those over the age of 6 in public indoor spaces in the city remains in effect until at least Tuesday, Oct. 6. The City Commission is expected to discuss an extension of that emergency order, 2020-126, at their regular meeting on that date.

According to an email message sent by City Attorney Tammi Bach: “The City of Fernandina Beach currently has a mandatory face mask order in place effective through October 6, 2020 (see attached City Resolution 2020-126). The City Commission is expected to consider an extension to the City’s mandatory mask order at its regular City Commission public meeting on October 6, 2020. I believe that the City Commission will unanimously extend the City’s mandatory mask order through November 6, 2020. The City Commission will base an extension of the mandatory mask order on the testimony of experts in public health, such as Dr. Ngo-Seidel, the Director for the Florida Department of Health Nassau County. In fact, Dr. Ngo-Seidel testified to the Board of County Commissioners of Nassau County on September 23, 2020 that, ‘Our key message for today is to continue the mitigation measures, it is important we consider the mitigation measures [face masks and social distancing] working together like legs
on a table, they all work together whether its wearing a mask or social distancing … and it’s important to sustain those measures to keep our community healthy.’ The City expects that Dr. Ngo-Seidel’s advice will not change by October 6, 2020.”