Alcohol sales curtailed, DeSantis visits Fort Myers and urges caution among young people
In a visit to Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers on Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said cases among young people were rising fast as the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation ordered an emergency shutdown of all on-premises consumption of alcohol at bars throughout the state.
DeSantis called on younger people to exercise more caution, to wear masks and social distance. In the last two to three weeks, the median age of those testing positive for COVID-19 have been in their early 30s, he said. That represents a major shift from early in the pandemic, when the median age for positive results were people in their 60s.
Since the beginning of June, the number of COVID-19 cases have almost tripled among those ages 25-34, DeSantis said. “That’s a really big group of folks.” Most tend to be asymptomatic and don’t need medical attention but can still spread the virus to more vulnerable groups, he said.
DeSantis said he rejected the idea of mandating masks.
“We’ve advised that’s something that can make an impact at the same time to do police and put criminal penalties on that is something that probably would backfire. You have seen some localities require it and they are going to figure out how they are going to kind of use the long arm of the law to enforce it or not. A lot of businesses will require it when you are going in and that’s fine as well. A lot of what we’re seeing I think with like the younger people if they are partying at somebody’s house or something, they are probably not wearing a mask. Let’s just be honest with that,” DeSantis said. “We’re going to trust people to make good decisions.”
DeSantis said businesses were doing a good job by using masks and “creating a safe environment and I think a lot of customers are going to want to see that and so they have every incentive to do it.”
Lee Health CEO Larry Antonucci said in the last week the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests at the hospital has risen to more than 20%. “The demographic is definitely shifting to a younger demographic with our average age at 40.” Of those COVID-19 patients being treated at the hospital, between 20-25% are requiring intensive care. As of Thursday, there were 172 COVID-19 patients at the hospital.
“I think we’re getting complacent,” Antonucci said. “As I go around in the community, I see a lot of people not wearing masks and although you may be 25 and feel that you’re bulletproof, you have parents and grandparents and I bet you know someone who is overweight or diabetic, has heart disease or has lung diseases and they are at risk. The fact of the matter is you are going to put them at risk.”
Bar service limited
In announcing the decision to curtail alcohol consumption at bars, DBPR Secretary Halsey Beshears said, “Based on recent increases in COVID-19 cases and non-compliance with previous orders, DBPR has taken action to suspend on-premises alcohol sales at bars. DBPR believes this is a necessary step to take to protect public health as we continue working in partnership with industry and health officials to combat COVID-19.”
According to the agency, the suspension of on-premises consumption alcohol relates to establishments which derive more than 50% of their revenue from the sale of alcohol for on-premises consumption.
Bars may still sell alcohol in sealed containers for consumption off-premises.
According to the emergency order, part of the basis for the new restrictions is a significant increase in younger people testing positive for COVID-19, with a number of the cases originating in bars and nightclubs.
At the Lani Kai Island Resort, marketing director Melissa Schneider said the resort was closing its ground-level bars and Club Ohana. The Sun Deck at Lani Kai and Sabal Palm Patio Bar & Grill will remain open with alcoholic beverage service but without any seating at the bar. The hotel will continue to fulfill to-go orders through its beachside service for those in the sand and at the beachside tables.
As of Friday morning, more than 120,000 people statewide have tested positive for COVID-19 and 3,366 have died from causes attributed to COVID-19.