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Broward County Rolls Back Some COVID-19 Restrictions

Superintendent Robert Runcie, and Broward County Mayor Dale Holness joined a Zoom roundtable Friday to give the county COVID-19 updates.
Superintendent Robert Runcie, and Broward County Mayor Dale Holness joined a Zoom roundtable Friday to give the county COVID-19 updates.

Broward County leaders tried on Friday to relax some local pandemic restrictions, while leaving others still in place.

A new emergency order signed Friday allowed event and banquet halls to open soon, but kept bars closed.

That quickly changed after Gov. Ron DeSantis moved all of Florida into Phase Three of reopening.

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During a COVID-19 roundtable, County Mayor Dale Holness said people can do more things, but not everything yet:

"We need to see what happens first with our schools, in my mind, before we get to bars and clubs,” he said.

That quickly changed. Late Friday night Broward leaders had to announce a new emergency order. That's because the county's loosening of the rules came on the same day that DeSantis announced the rest of the state will be moving to Phase Three of reopening during the pandemic.

According to a new memo from the county, the Governor's order means:

  • "All state restrictions are lifted, but counties in South Florida, the former epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, have been advised they may enforce certain local rules with respect to Phase 3 reopening."
  • "No businesses are closed as a result of COVID-19; all businesses may open but County Emergency Orders that are not preempted by the Governor’s Executive Order still apply."
  • "Suspends Broward County’s ability to fine individuals for not wearing a facial covering."

Broward has now clarified its rules with an emergency order that opens bars and nightclubs immediately, and ends restrictions on capacity — though there are still sanitation requirements and tables and chairs must still be placed six feet apart.

"Our community has taken measured steps in our reopening to better promote public health and control our COVID-19 numbers," County Administrator Bertha Henry stated in an email Friday night. "Because of the Governor’s order I am compelled to expedite the opening of certain establishments.”

During the roundtable earlier in the day, Mayor Holness said he expects to see an uptick in cases of COVID-19 in the county once students are allowed back on their campuses, in October.

Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie also gave an update about reopening schools.

"This week, we got a commitment from Broward County Department of Health that they would provide priority testing for our public schools. So any time we have any issues that come up, a case that emerges in the school ... they will get priority testing turnaround within 24 to 48 hours."

Broward's average positivity rate for the past seven days is about 3.5 percent, according to state data compiled in Broward's COVID-19 dashboard.

You can read Broward's new rules in full, here.

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Caitie Switalski is a rising senior at the University of Florida. She's worked for WFSU-FM in Tallahassee as an intern and reporter. When she's in Gainesville for school, Caitie is an anchor and producer for local Morning Edition content at WUFT-FM, as well as a digital editor for the station's website. Her favorite stories are politically driven, about how politicians, laws and policies effect local communities. Once she graduates with a dual degree in Journalism and English,Caitiehopes to make a career continuing to report and produce for NPR stations in the sunshine state. When she's not following what's happening with changing laws, you can catchCaitielounging in local coffee shops, at the beach, or watching Love Actually for the hundredth time.