Florida Gov. DeSantis lifted all restrictions on restaurants and small businesses as the coronavirus continues to spread

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday announced that all restaurants and small businesses statewide can reopen and operate at full capacity. 
  • DeSantis has championed opening businesses in the state as a move to restrengthen the Florida economy,  but the decision comes as the number of confirmed cases in the state continues to rise.
  • "We're not closing anything going forward," DeSantis said Friday at a news briefing.
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered on Friday the total reopening of all restaurants and businesses, a decision that's been met with backlash as the coronavirus continues to spread statewide.

All restaurants and small businesses in the state can operate at full capacity from this point onward, according to the order.

The governor's order also ensures that local officials are unable to direct restaurants and businesses to close or operate at less than half-capacity without specifying a reason.

"We're not closing anything going forward," DeSantis said Friday at a news briefing.

The governor also eliminated fines against people refusing to wear masks.

"As an act of executive grace, all fines and penalties that have been applied against individuals are suspended," he said.

DeSantis, a major ally to President Donald Trump, has been pushing for reopening across various sectors, arguing that the state's economy depends on it.

In June, DeSantis announced that public schools will reopen at "full capacity." When the pandemic first hit the state in March, DeSantis refused to close beaches, even as spring break attracted crowds of students.

Florida was one of the last states to announce a state-at-home order, with DeSantis making the announcement April 1 when several other states had already implemented it in March.

Lawmakers have criticized DeSantis for his response to the pandemic, and voters have indicated their disapproval as well. A July poll found that DeSantis dropped swiftly in popularity, with 49% of Florida voters saying they disapproved of his performance. The same poll last year recorded a 62% approval rating from voters.

DeSantis is once again facing fire for his decision to reopen businesses and restaurants.

"No one is advocating for a full-scale lockdown in Florida. But we have been and continue to ask for common-sense prevention measures such as face masks, which are essential to preventing further spread," Democratic state Sen. Audrey Gibson said, according to the Associated Press.

The coronavirus has infected more than 695,000 people and killed more than 13,900 in the state, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

With the number of confirmed cases rising daily, Florida has become one of the country's hardest-hit states. On Friday, Florida added 2,874 new cases, according to JHU data.

Nationally, more than 7 million people have been infected, of which more than 203,000 people have died, according to JHU data.

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