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Most areas of Florida will enter reopening phase 2 Friday with some businesses still at limited capacity

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Florida will enter the next phase of its reopening Friday, allowing businesses including bars, movie theaters and bowling alleys to reopen in most parts of the state for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic triggered a shutdown.

The establishments will initially operate with capacity limits, Governor Ron DeSantis said Wednesday in Orlando. For now, the next phase will exclude the three most populous counties—Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach—where the outbreak has been most pronounced, according to DeSantis.

Florida began its phased reopening on May 4.

DeSantis has repeatedly made the case that the state dodged worst-case scenarios for its population, which includes one of America’s largest communities of retirees. He also argued that the key going forward is to focus on protecting the vulnerable, while paving the way for more flexibility among the broader population.

In his presentation Wednesday, he noted that the state has had no Covid-19-related fatalities among residents 18 and under, while 85% the deaths have occurred among residents 65 and older. Of the state’s 2,566 deaths, 1,306—or 51% percent—have occurred at long-term care properties including nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Overall, Florida has confirmed 58,764 cases of Covid-19, with daily increases mostly running under 2% daily since mid-May. Still, a report Wednesday showed the numbers climbed 2.3% from a day earlier, above the previous 7-day average of 1.4%.

DeSantis said Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach need to submit a written request to enter Phase 2 of the reopening, if they decide they’re ready to do so. Together, they account for 54% of Florida’s confirmed coronavirus cases among all 67 counties.

Going forward, restaurants can now seat people at bars with appropriate social distancing, while bars, pubs, bowling allies and concert venues must operate at 50% indoor capacity. Bar service will only be available to seated customers to discourage large standing crowds.

Retail will now be able to operate at full capacity, removing prior caps on traffic.

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