Last Updated: 5:02 p.m.
Gov. Ron DeSantis today ordered all restaurants across Florida closed for service or alcohol sales within the premises, allowing only take-out service. He also ordered all gyms and fitness centers closed in the latest in a series of sweeping measures gradually closing down much of the state’s economic, political, social and cultural activities as Florida’s coronavirus cases reach 520 with still minimal testing, and a colossal wave of new cases expected ahead.
Ten Floridians have died of Covid-19 so far. Flagler County has one confirmed case within its borders, but local officials are urging residents to act as if many more cases are present in the community, and to apply the same precautions ordered or recommended around the state.
The governor has not gone as far as the governors of California, New York and other states where residents have been ordered to “shelter in place,” orders now affecting 20 percent of the nation’s population, with more ahead. Nor has the governor closed Florida beaches, leaving that decision to localities: at least a dozen local governments have closed beaches.
But in a virtual town hall today, conducted by phone with call-ins from district residents, U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz said the best thing to do was “not going out frankly unless completely and absolutely necessary.” Waltz’s district includes all of Flagler County. He spoke with Flagler Department of Health Director Bob Snyder.
He said DeSantis was considering taking the same approach. “That is something they are absolutely considering,” Waltz said. “California has gone that direction. New York has gone in that direction. Obviously that comes with tremendous economic consequences.” He said DeSantis would “move in that direction” if gains aren’t seen in the state.
Waltz even recommended against families holding family gatherings. Answering a question from a constituent asking about a potential gathering, Waltz said that “much as we all want to get together, I think the best thing to do” is to hold a virtual gathering, if at all possible. “If you could at all delay it, I think that would be best,” he said.
“I completely agree,” Snyder said.
The City of Palm Coast is closing all city facilities to the public beginning Monday (March 23) until further notice. That includes City Hall, the utility department and all parks and recreation facilities with the exception of trails and open-space parks.
The city was following the lead of a state order that stopped face-to-face interactions between state agency staff members and the public, in the latest effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. The Department of Management Services, the state’s administrative arm, directed state employees to close to the public all facilities operated by executive agencies until April 19, according to a memo obtained by The News Service of Florida.
The closures could be extended, state officials said. “Floridians seeking assistance from agencies housed within DMS-managed facilities should contact the agency by phone or email for services,” the memo said. The agencies affected include the Department of Education, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Transportation, the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Law Enforcement.
DeSantis today also issued an executive order suspending a requirement that local government boards hold in-person meetings. The order will allow local boards to hold meetings by conference call or video conferencing, though they will be required to continue to comply with the state’s open-government laws. That means allowing the public to watch or listen in, and to participate through comment segments.
The order said it is “necessary and appropriate to take action to ensure that COVID-19 remains controlled, and that residents and visitors in Florida remain safe and secure.” DeSantis made the move a day after the state House and Senate held in-person meetings to pass a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Legislative leaders said they did not have the legal authority to allow members to cast votes remotely. DeSantis’ order only applies to local governments.
The state Department of Education earlier this week suspended all local school board meetings until July, allowing only emergency meetings, and requiring those, too, to comply with the state’s open government laws.
Regarding the order applying to restaurants, alcohol sales will still be permitted for take-out, with proper ID. The executive order lifts the restriction that normally prohibits selling package sales of alcohol for delivery.
“I am committed to supporting retailers, restaurants and their employees as they pursue creative business practices that safely serve consumers during this temporary period of social distancing and … as governor, I am responsible for meeting the dangers presented to this state and its people by this emergency,” part of DeSantis’s order said.
The announcement will affect a huge part of Florida’s economy and workforce. It will last as long as Florida is in a state of emergency, which DeSantis declared March 9. The state Department of Business and Professional Regulation will have enforcement power.
Carol Dover, president and chief executive officer of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, issued a statement that said DeSantis is taking “swift action out of precaution for the safety of Florida residents and visitors.”
“Allowing restaurants to stay open for delivery and take-out, while also lifting the ban for alcohol delivery, is critical to supporting Florida’s dining establishments and their employees,” Dover said. “We applaud Governor DeSantis for allowing Florida’s hospitality industry to continue to meet the needs of communities across Florida during this difficult time.”
Palm Coast will continue operating virtually through palmcoastconnect.com or by calling Customer Service at 386-986-2360.
Martini’s to go! Are you sure????
Thank you Governor DeSantis for finally doing what is right for the whole State of Florida residences. Please take this all seriously for the safety of everyone. Listen to the authorities and don’t think you are immune to not catching this virus, read the news.
Florida state offices are closed to the public and the city of Palm Coast is as well so how can the county offices remain open?
Why is the county library still giving books through the front door? Haven’t the county people realized there is a deadly virus attaching itself to books? Oh well, it will only kill a few people!!
It’s way past time. I ordered take out from a Flagler Beach restauran this evening. Went to pick it up and the bar was packed and plenty of groups of people eating together. All staff were wearing latex gloves like they repealed the virus. As I waited for my food I watched servers go from table to table with the same gloves on. Taking orders, delivering food and drinks and taking payments. There was no sanitizing between. I left without my food. We have to do better for all of our sakes.
Mary Fusco says
Maxi, what makes you think that you are safe by ordering takeout from a restaurant? How does anyone who is ordering takeout know that the person that prepared their food is not incubating this virus or has it and is showing no symptoms or has it and it is mild and is continuing to work? I really can’t wrap my head around how anyone can think that because a restaurant employee runs their food out to the parking lot to them thinks they are safe. How you do better is eat at home and stay there.
Mary, I was just expressing the same thought to someone I was talking to yesterday.
I agree, we all can survive this but ordering take out is insane…You do not know how the cooks are feeling, whether or not they have had any one they know get the virus…I myself would not take a risk like that, we all know how to cook…just do it for your health and well being….when this year is over you can celebrate and eat out or with friends…Most of this town is older…think twice about ordering take out…
I’m not too sure that this is not against the US constitution. Not sure how he can order a private business, not to conduct business. I think this has got so political, it’s crazy. Where is the ACLU?
They the Government can do what they want, they control the occupational license and the license to sell food and booze. If its for public safety and they want to close or restrict activity in a business, good for them.
According to the SCOTUS it’s completely within the police powers of state and local gubmint to protect the health and safety of it’s citizens.
The police power of the states has been invoked on multiple occasions by the Supreme Court, often in contrast to the limited powers of the federal government—for example, in Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion in the 2012 Obamacare case. This power also has been recognized in the context of public health for decades. In a 1905 Supreme Court case that upheld mandatory smallpox vaccinations, the court observed that “upon the principle of self-defense, of paramount necessity, a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members.”
I am sure this will bring a continued flurry of negative comments about how our government is handling this situation. I for one would like to go on record as say ing I can only imagine the difficulty in making anything happen in a country of over 300 million people. Our government is acting quickly and responsibly. We all have to do our part. Normally I feel politicians only have their own agendas, but appreciate their current response!
Name (required) says
Yes. It’s almost as if you’re saying something along the lines like Benghazi couldn’t have possibly been ONE persons fault. Exactly. Lol. Yes. Do your part, I concur. But trust leadership fully? No. Nope. No way.
The Voice Of Reason says
Shut down the Flagler county airport flight schools. The nerve of these selfish people. If they crash, which they do, all kind of first responders would have to respond to these recreational, unnecessary operations at a crucial time. The utter gall of these people never stops. Greed greed greedy flight schools. Sickening!!!
Just a thought says
I’m sure the planes are the least of the worries of our first responders.
Gina Weiss says
The flight schools are “NONESSENTIAL” businesses and should be closed down, you tell me how are they “SOCIAL DISTANCING 6 FEET APART “when 2 or more students get into these small planes. There are thousands of low wage earners out of work without a paycheck trying to support their families and these “corporate money hungry inconsiderate dirt bags” continue business as usual!
Gina Weiss says
AND JUST A THOUGHT: you can bet your butt that the local authorities are getting plenty of calls from residents who want answers to this!
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Good for you Gina. Keep up the good work.
Gina Weiss says
Jane Gentile-Youd Thank you for your warm heart, continued support and kindness. The POTUS just now included “NONESSENTIAL TRAVEL”. Florida has a large elderly population who are at a very high risk for corona virus, when the flight school students get off the planes they circulate in this community and other communities as well. Residents are now realizing that officials as well as Roy, airport operator, are showing their true colors by putting the dollar before the public’s health and welfare, especially sad at a time when people look to the sanctuary of their homes for healing, these flight schools have been in full swing since and especially this weekend now that people are home it has been horrific!
Gina Weiss says
Also a COMPLETE SHUT DOWN OF THE AIRPORT would make the airport an ideal location for drive through testing once kits arrive or for the Army Corps of Engineers to set up hospital beds in the event that our hospitals get to filled capacity.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Yes to ‘Voice of Reason’. Shut down the non essential flight schools completely. We need to take care of Flagler County citizens more than ever and the county will survive without the ‘questionable and perhaps somewhat tainted unscreened non essential students’. We don’t need any ‘foreigners’ who are not already living here at the moment or a family guest. Sorry but ‘we the people’ and nobody else should count during this health crisis.
Fire the entire government and all those accountable for this mess. Failure to plan is planning to fail.
Here Spot says
I ordered Chinese take-out last night in Palm Coast. Young girl delivered it like usual. FAST SERVICE…… NO PROBLEMS and Im still breathing ok. The meal was so hot NO virus could have stayed alive on it.
ALL IS WELL….STAY CALM !!!!
Concerned Citizen says
Why are the beaches still open?
Some people seem to think the beaches are immune from Covid-19. Any place you allow people to congregate will allow the possibility of the virus spreading. Covid-19 doesn’t much care about boundaries or age groups. And the beaches being open will attract folks coming from somewhere else. See the connection?
Our leadership just doesn’t want to loose the tourism dollars. Even though all these people will come here and then go back to wherever possibly being sick and spreading it furthur.