Severity: Critical Alert

Transportation: Officials in Florida, US, to ease coronavirus-related restrictions on additional businesses starting May 18.

The locations affected by this alert are:

  • Miami, Florida
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Jacksonville, Florida
  • Tampa, Florida
  • Daytona Beach, Florida
  • Key West, Florida
  • Tallahassee, Florida
  • Pensacola, Florida
  • Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
  • Fort Myers, Florida
  • Destin, Florida
  • West Palm Beach, Florida
  • Gainesville, Florida
  • Panama City, Florida
  • Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida
  • St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida
  • Melbourne-Space Coast, Florida
  • Naples, Florida
  • Sanford, Florida
  • Fort Pierce, Florida
  • Vero Beach, Florida
  • Punta Gorda, Florida
  • Lakeland, Florida
  • Marathon, Florida

This alert began 16 May 2020 21:25 GMT and is scheduled to expire 27 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Florida (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Transport and business disruptions; heightened security

Authorities in Florida plan to ease additional business restrictions starting May 18 as part of "Full Phase 1" of the state's coronavirus (COVID-19) recovery plan. The new directive will allow the following businesses/facilities to reopen and services to resume:

  • Restaurants and other food establishments for dine-in services
  • Retail stores
  • Gyms and fitness centers
  • Museums and libraries (at the discretion of local jurisdictions)
  • Barbershops, hair and nail salons by appointment only
  • Elective medical surgeries
  • Professional sports venues (without spectators)
  • Beaches (at the discretion of local jurisdictions.

Any establishments or facilities that resume operation must comply with certain state mandates aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, including limits on the number of persons inside the premises at any given time, social distancing guidelines, and other measures. Specific requirements may vary by industry. Other businesses, such as bars, nightclubs, and movie theaters must remain closed. Amusement parks are also closed but may submit reopening plans to state authorities. Vacation rentals require state approval to operate.

The statewide measures notwithstanding, certain local jurisdictions have imposed their own stricter measures. Authorities in Miami-Dade County plan to keep gyms and beaches closed. Beaches in Broward County will also remain closed, and some businesses in Palm Beach County will only be allowed to operate at 25 percent of their maximum capacity. Essential businesses, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and banks, as well as those in the media, security, transport, public utilities, and critical manufacturing industries, may continue operating.

Gatherings of 10 people or more will remain prohibited. Residents - especially those 65 years of age and older, and those with underlying medical conditions - are still encouraged to limit the time they spend outside of their homes, and authorities recommend all residents to wear face masks whenever they have in-person interactions or cannot maintain social distancing. Officials have also extended orders for travelers entering the state from New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. The order does not apply to persons employed by airlines or those performing military, emergency, or health service.

State authorities have not set any estimate as to when Phase 2 of the recovery plan will begin. Significant transport and business disruptions remain likely. Authorities will almost certainly keep additional security personnel deployed to assist in enforcing remaining restrictions. Officials could amend the order on short notice, depending on disease activity in the coming weeks.

Background and Analysis
The relaxation of some measures will likely accelerate in the coming weeks; however, restrictions may be reimposed or extended further should the number of COVID-19 cases increase. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Strictly heed the instructions of authorities. Avoid all nonessential operations in the areas impacted by the measures. Confirm appointments. Remain courteous and cooperative if approached and questioned by law enforcement officers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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