By Bobby Caina Calvan, Associated Press (AP)
TALLAHASSEE, Fl.--Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted all restrictions on restaurants and other businesses in Florida on Friday in a move to reopen the state's economy despite the spread of the coronavirus.
"We're not closing anything going forward," DeSantis said, while insisting that the state is prepared with plans in place if infections increase again.
The Republican governor's move is sure to stoke debate in a politically crucial state, where the pandemic has become intertwined with the upcoming presidential election. DeSantis is a major ally of President Donald Trump.
DeSantis took the action even as he acknowledged that the pandemic was far from over.
Florida has long been a COVID-19 hotspot, with nearly 700,000 people infected by the virus since the pandemic began in March. Nearly 14,000 Floridians have died.
The closures battered the economy, leaving hundreds of thousands of Floridians unemployed. DeSantis has slowly reopened the state for business since then, allowing restaurants and bars to reopen at half capacity, even as the pandemic continues to spread.