ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s top business regulator said Saturday that he planned to set up meetings with bar owners to discuss how they can reopen their businesses again safely, as the Sunshine State surpassed New York State in the total number of coronavirus cases.
Halsey Beshears, secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, said he planned to start setting up meetings with owners of bars and breweries across the state later this week to discuss how they can reopen without spreading the virus.
Late last month, Florida banned alcohol consumption at its bars, for the second time this year, in response to a spike in the number of coronavirus cases.
“We will come up with a Safe, Smart and Step-by-step plan based on input, science and relative facts on how to reopen as soon as possible,” Beshears tweeted.
Last week, members of Florida's craft brewing industry sent a letter to Beshears and Gov. Ron DeSantis, warning that almost a third of the 320 craft breweries in Florida could be forced to go out of business in the upcoming weeks if the restriction on on-site consumption continues.
“The health of our community is paramount, but it cannot be at the life savings of hundreds of entrepreneurs, the livelihood of thousands of families and the majority of an entire industry," the letter said.
The Florida Department of Health reported 12,199 new cases Saturday, bringing the state's total since March 1 to 414,511 cases. Florida surpassed New York State's 411,200 cases and is now trailing only California in having the nation's largest caseload.
Florida also reported 126 new deaths, raising that total since the start of the pandemic to 5,894 fatalities on Saturday. By comparison, New York State has had more than 25,100 deaths.
The state health department has recorded 892 COVID-19 deaths over the past week, an average of 127 per day.
The number of hospitalizations on Saturday was down slightly from the day before. Health officials reported 9,035 coronavirus hospitalizations in Florida, down about 2% from Friday.