Palm Beach County can start reopening non-essential businesses on a limited basis next week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Friday.
Restaurants and retailers will be allowed to reopen Monday at 25 percent capacity, and restaurants will be allowed to open outdoor dining with patrons seated six feet apart. County commissioners also voted to open beaches on May 18.
“This is not like flipping a switch. It is not just going to go on overnight,” DeSantis said during a press conference in West Palm Beach announcing the reopenings.
Separately, in Miami-Dade County, Mayor Carlos Gimenez indicated that some businesses, including restaurants, could reopen May 18, but not beaches, nightclubs or movie theaters. He said details will come next week.
Palm Beach County commissioners had sent a letter to DeSantis on Tuesday asking to reopen businesses, in line with the state’s 64 counties that were already allowed to reopen. Palm Beach County wanted to be viewed apart from Broward County and Miami-Dade County, which are still under stay-at-home orders.
Palm Beach County has had 3,615 cases of Covid-19 and 229 deaths, the third highest number statewide after Miami-Dade and Broward, according to the Florida Department of Health.
DeSantis ordered non-essential businesses closed in Broward and Palm Beach counties effective March 31, in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.
DeSantis said Friday that Palm Beach County has done a good job of containing the virus. He pointed to a decline in tests that have come back positive, which were once 18 percent and are now 9 percent.
The reopenings will likely bring relief to retailers and restaurants who have struggled across South Florida amid closures and a slowdown in business due to the stay-at-home orders. The popular deli TooJay’s recently filed for bankruptcy as a result of coronavirus, and more bankruptcies are likely to come down the road, according to experts.