From the Miami Herald:
Jimmy Flanigan walked into his family’s packed Flanigan’s Restaurant in Coconut Grove Friday night, three hours after Gov. Ron DeSantis approved 100 percent inside seating, and thought it looked too busy.
A crowd gathered to watch the Miami Heat play an 8:30 p.m. playoff game Sept. 25 on more than a dozen televisions. Patrons were standing shoulder-to-shoulder. The bar was steadily serving drinks.
“It was a little scary walking into a Flanigan’s after six months and seeing it full,” said Flanigan, CEO and president of the South Florida-based chain of 24 sports-bar-style restaurants. “It was too busy. So we backed off to 50 percent.”
New state guidelines for restaurants and bars, released after 4 p.m., and a delay of more than a day before Miami-Dade clarified its own rules to stem the spread of coronavirus, caused confusion across the county among patrons and restaurant owners.
“To say it was confusing would be an understatement,” Flanigan said. “It was compounded by the fact that the governor released the hounds without any warning.”
DeSantis moved the state into Phase 3 Sept. 25, ordering that all businesses immediately be allowed to open with at least 50 percent capacity. Restaurants, the order said, would be allowed to open at 100 percent indoor seating capacity. Local government would have to justify to the state any restrictions that kept capacity under 50 percent, DeSantis’ order read.
Not until nearly 11 p.m. the next day did Miami-Dade release its new guidelines to control the spread of coronavirus. Mayor Carlos Gimenez’ order allows at least 50 percent inside dining capacity for restaurants. They may reach up to 100 percent if they can sit tables six feet apart or by using outside spaces.
However, bars are allowed to seat at least 50 percent, even if their inside space does not allow for six feet of social distancing, DeSantis said.
The 30-plus hours between those two orders allowed for scenes not seen in Miami since before the March 16 restaurant shutdowns.
Flanigans, which regularly fills up for sporting events, immediately drew crowds that heard about DeSantis’ rules. Other restaurant owners were calling Jimmy Flanigan for advice, even as he was learning of the rules himself.
Flanigan said he ordered his Miami-Dade restaurants to go back to 50 percent capacity starting Sunday, and he shut down service at the bar.
“If you see a business at full tilt, it’s shocking. You start thinking about the (COVID-19) spread again,” Flanigan said. “That 24-hour period was where all the confusion came in.”
And it will, according to those who know best and who are being ignored by Trump and his whiny little minion, Gov. DeSantis.
Florida’s decision to reopen bars and restaurants at full capacity has the United States top infectious disease expert concerned that it will lead to another COVID-19 outbreak.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, shared his concerns on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Monday.
“Well that is very concerning to me, I mean, we have always said that, myself and Dr. Deborah Birx, who is the coordinator of the task force, that that is something we really need to be careful about,” Fauci said, “because when you’re dealing with community spread, and you have the kind of congregate setting where people get together, particularly without masks, you’re really asking for trouble. Now’s the time actually to double down a bit, and I don’t mean close.”
Fauci shared his concerns just days after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that all 67 counties would be transitioning into Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan, including Miami-Dade and Broward, the two hardest hit areas in the state.
Meanwhile, Richard Corcoran, the state’s Commissioner of Education, is trying to force Miami-Dade County Public Schools to re-open fully. That is being met with resistance both from the school administration and the rank and file teachers.
The Miami-Dade County School Board will convene an emergency meeting Tuesday to discuss reopening schools, this time under pressure from the Florida Department of Education to open schools Monday.
Days after the board voted on a conditional timeline of reopening schools between Oct. 14 and Oct. 21, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran sent a sternly worded letter to Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and board chair Perla Tabares Hantman on Friday. He accused the board of contradicting the district’s state-approved reopening plan, which says the district would determine by Sept. 30 if “local conditions meet the criteria established” to open schools Oct. 5.
Corcoran instructed the district to open schools for in-person classes by Monday or prove exemptions on a school-by-school basis by Friday.
Tuesday’s 1 p.m. board meeting, to be held in person for the first time since March at the school district’s downtown headquarters, only has one item on the agenda to decide how to proceed. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho offered the board two options.
A dozen protesters led by the Rank and File Educators of Miami-Dade rallied outside the Miami-Dade School Board administration building on Monday afternoon supporting the board’s decision for a later start and condemning DeSantis’ demands as bullying.
Jeff Raymond, a high school social studies teacher, said he visited his classroom at the end of last week and didn’t see any hand sanitizer and not enough social distancing in classrooms. His school, which he asked to not name, said 80% of students are expected back for in-person learning.
On Monday, Raymond received paperwork to apply for an exemption under the Americans with Disabilities Act. He has pre-existing health conditions and said he was “not comfortable at all” with his classroom setup.
“I’ve been prepared to take a bullet for my students and those are unpreventable,” he said. “This is preventable.”
Several teachers from Miami Beach Senior High were present. One teacher who declined to give his name said he hasn’t received any PPE or been told about protocols.
History teacher Charles Pilamunga said he brought a tape measure to his classroom. He has 37 desks in his spacious classroom, yet there’s only 2 feet between desks. International standards outlined in the teachers union agreement with the district call for 3 feet, 3 inches of social distance.
Pilamunga can’t quit his job. He’s the sole breadwinner in his family and he has two young children.
“It is what it is but I’d rather it not be this way,” he said, carrying a sign that read, “It’s life or death for us, our students and our communities.”
But as long as DeSantis can deliver the votes for Trump, it doesn’t matter if more people get sick.