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DeSantis seeks to get workers who tested positive back to work faster

A March 17 executive order prohibited restaurant employees infected with COVID-19, or who had been in contact with infected people, from returning to work until they had two consecutive negative tests separated by 24 hours.

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis is looking to “tweak” one of his coronavirus orders so restaurant wait staff and non-health care workers can get back on the job quicker after testing positive for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, his top business regulator continues to plan meetings with craft brewers and bar owners about reopening.

With the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday putting out new symptom-based testing guidance for non-health care workplaces during the pandemic, DeSantis said he will look to update a March executive order that included restaurants.

“We knew that (the test) could catch a dead virus for a decent amount of time. CDC said that could be up to 12 weeks, an infection can be 12 weeks old,” DeSantis said Tuesday during an appearance at AdventHealth Orlando. “Obviously, you’re no longer infectious. You don’t have the live virus. But it can pick up some of the dead virus in a PCR test (a type of test known as a polymerase chain reaction test). So, that obviously is not something that should keep someone out of work.”

No additional details were provided.

DeSantis issued an order March 17 that shut down bars and nightclubs, limited beach gatherings to no more than 10 people and limited restaurant occupancy to 50 percent, while encouraging restaurants to expand take-out and delivery services.

The order also prohibited restaurant employees infected with COVID-19, or who had been in contact with infected people, from returning to work until they had two consecutive negative tests separated by 24 hours. The order also prohibited restaurant staff members from returning to work if they had traveled through airports or been on cruise ships in the prior two weeks.

Restaurants in Florida were eventually limited to take-out only through April, with occupancy returning to 50 percent in early June.

Bars were allowed to reopen in early June. However, the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation issued an order June 26 banning the sale of alcohol for on-site consumption at bars, after non-compliance with safety guidelines in the industry was considered too widespread to police.

Chris Kingry, a spokesman for Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears, said in an email Tuesday that talks with the industry about reopening were still being planned.

Kingry added that reopening safely will require a “cooperative approach” from the breweries and bars.

“Secretary Beshears is committed to having a constructive conversation in multiple communities throughout the state to welcome the perspective of these business owners in forming a reliable plan,” Kingry said. “The arrangements for these meetings are currently in coordination.”

Beshears on Saturday said he would begin setting aside time late this week to discuss the June 26 order that prevents bars from serving drinks for on-site consumption.

The order has forced many bars to again close their doors, while some have sought licenses to expand food services. Beshears’ order doesn’t affect restaurants that derive less than half of their gross revenue from the sale of alcohol.

Last week, craft brewers warned DeSantis and Beshears that the order could cause more than 100 of the approximately 320 breweries in the state to permanently shut their doors.

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