Florida Lifts Indoor Capacity Limits At Businesses

Florida began Phase 3 of its pandemic recovery plan as of September 25, 2020. Businesses can operate at 100% capacity, including restaurants, bars and movie theaters.

Governor Shifts To Phase 3 COVID-19 Recovery Plan

Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis, has lifted indoor capacity limitations on businesses. This includes Florida’s restaurants, bars and movie theaters. These major changes in Florida’s pandemic policies were announced Sept. 25, 2020 at a news conference.

Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan For Florida’s Recovery – PHASE 3

The Governor declared the state was entering the next step, “Phase 3,” of Florida’s Recovery Plan, effective immediately. Florida had been in Phase 2 for nearly fourth months (since the first week of June 2020).

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis News Conference Sept. 25. 2020
Time To Restart Florida’s Economy

After six months of COVID-19 restrictions on businesses, the new message from the Governor seemed clear. The Sunshine State is done with regulations that limit business operations. While the Governor acknowledged the pandemic was not over, he indicated it was time to restart the economy.

Florida’s Governor wants to give Florida citizens the certainty that they can go to work, provide for themselves and their families. Also, the need for business owners to have certainty, so they can plan knowing they will be allowed to operate (impacting decisions about hiring and required staff).

The changes were announced from St. Petersburg, FL. During the news conference Governor DeSantis plainly stated:

“We’re saying in the state of Florida, everybody has an opportunity and the right to work. . .every business has the right to operate. You can’t just say no after six months and just have people twisting in the wind.”

Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis 9/25/2020
Highlights of Florida’s Executive Order
STATE OF FLORIDA OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR EXECUTIVE ORDER NUMBER 20-244 — Phase 3; Right to Work; Business Certainty; Suspension of Fines

Below are some highlights of Florida’s Executive Order. (For full details see the link at end of article to read the entire Executive Order 20-244).

  • State-level restrictions on Florida businesses are lifted. Businesses can operate at 100% capacity. This includes restaurants and bars. The Executive Order allows restaurant and bar owners leeway to continue indoor capacity at less than 100%, if they choose.
  • No COVID-19 emergency orders (by local governments – municipalities and counties), may prevent individuals from working or operating a business.
  • Local governments may not collect fines associated with COVID-19 related mandates.
  • With regard to restaurants, they may not be limited by a COVID-19 emergency order by any local government to less than 50% of their indoor capacity. Also, if a restaurant is limited to less than 100% of its indoor capacity, such COVID-19 emergency order must satisfy the following:

  1. Quantify the economic impact of each limitation or requirements on those restaurants; and
  2. Explain why each limitation or requirement is necessary for public health.

COVID-19 positive cases peaked in Florida during July 2020. According to the latest update from the Florida Dept. of Health, “data reported to the Agency for Health Care Administration shows that the number of COVID-19 positive patients that are currently hospitalized is down more than 70 percent since July.” (See latest data, Sept. 29, 2020 Florida COVID-19 update.) 

The governor also talked about hospitalization data, and stated since the July peak, Florida has experienced “more economic activity, more interaction, schools have opened, all the theme parks are open, and more people have visited. And what has happened with hospitalizations? COVID positive hospitalizations are down 76% since the July peak. ICU hospitalizations are down 72% since the July peak. Daily admissions for people getting admitted for either confirmed or suspected COVID has declined by 81% since that mid-July peak.”

In coming weeks and months, the state will be under a microscope to see what transpires during “Phase 3.” Looking ahead, the Governor commented:

“We’re not closing anything going forward. But I think if you look at our hospital capacity, if you look at we did to marshal the latest medications, if you look at what we’ve done to help with all the PPE and the testing and everything — you know we have the tools in place that we need,” said DeSantis.

“We use our resources best when we focus them on the people that are most vulnerable to COVID-19, and I think it’s readily apparent that’s the elderly population,” stated the Governor.

Florida’s Getting 6.4 Million Rapid COVID-19 Tests

Just a few days later, in another huge development, Governor DeSantis announced September 29, 2020 that Florida is getting an additional supply of 6.4 million rapid COVID-19 tests. The priority deployment is the state’s seniors at nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The rapid COVID-19 tests will also be distributed to Florida schools for testing teachers and students.


The rapid coronavirus tests are manufactured by Abbott Laboratories. They don’t require the use of a lab and results are fast, in about 15 minutes. According to the Director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, Jared Moskowitz, Florida anticipates getting 420,000 BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card test kits on October 1, 2020. Thereafter, the state will reportedly continue receiving a weekly supply of 400,000 rapid test kits.  Moskowitz indicated he thinks the rapid tests are “a game changer.”

Mask Mandates

Florida’s “Phase 3” does not address wearing masks. Decisions about face coverings has always been left up to local decision makers – city and county governments across the state. However, the Governor’s Executive Order 20-244 suspended penalties that local governments could utilize to enforce mask mandates. See related article, “Nassau Ends Mask Mandate, Fernandina’s Remains In Effect.”

Further Information