TAMPA, Fla. - The state of Florida allowed bars to reopen, but then told them to close back down last month after the number of COVID-19 cases again started to surge. Now the reopening plans are being rolled back in other areas and industries across the state.
The mayor of Miami-Dade announced Monday the county will shut down all restaurants and gyms a second time to help slow the spread of COVID-19. But business owners and their employees now have to worry about how they'll pay their bills.
“It’s easy to spend money; it’s not easy to make money right now,” said Igor Ferraro, owner of Ferraro’s Kitchen in Miami-Dade.
Short-term rentals and party venues are also on pause, Miami-Dade officials said. In the last month, the area saw infections skyrocket to about 2,000.
The restrictions follow record daily numbers of coronavirus cases statewide in June and July.
“We know the contact tracers now have really good data saying, 'OK, we can link all these cases to bars. We can link them to these places that have mass gatherings in an indoor environment,' and so now that we know that, we have to dial back,” said Dr. Jill Roberts, an associate professor at the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health.
Dr. Roberts said it's important to act as soon as experts discover the source of the problem.
“It’s important to remember that the guidelines are changing because the science is getting better. The data is getting better,” said Roberts.
But the circumstances make it hard for some business owners to plan ahead.
“They don’t have that financial wherewithal to be able to bounce back and forth between open and closed and open and closed,” said Eileen Rodriguez, the regional director of the Florida Small Business Development Center at USF’s Muma College of Business.
The circumstances are taking a toll on businesses, especially ones that are smaller and locally-owned.
“It’s hard for us to keep the risks front-and-center all the time, so I think that there is fatigue,” said Dr. Wendy Rice of Rice Psychology in Tampa. “I think there is depression. I think there is a lot of sadness.”
To keep businesses like restaurants and gyms open, public health experts said it takes everyone working together.
“Remember, all of us can help in this and we can prevent another economic shutdown,” said Roberts.
Other cities and counties in South Florida are considering rolling back the opening of some businesses. Leaders statewide are watching the numbers to see how they might need to move forward.
If you feel sick:
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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