County lifts most outdoor COVID-19 restrictions
Outdoor COVID-19 capacity restrictions and sanitation requirements were lifted in Broward on Monday.
In Emergency Order 21-01, Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry lifted “regulations pertaining to outdoor activities and certain sanitation requirements, while maintaining in place the remainder of the commonsense measures that are designed to curb the spread of COVID-19 . . . until certain specific parameters are achieved that would permit further reductions in regulations.”
Gatherings that occur as regular day-to-day activities, and in operating an establishment, are no longer subject to the 10-person limit, but are still subject to capacity rules.
Outdoor open-air events and activities aren’t subject to the 10-person gathering limit, as long as attendees consistently practice social distancing, or the event is an organized sports event.
The order also applies to public and private pools, hot tubs, saunas, boats, fishing piers, jet skis rentals, charter vessels and golf courses.
At Broward County Parks, indoor events with 11 to 100 people are permitted.
Any other indoor event that exceeds the 10-person gathering limit and is not an organized sport may only operate with an approved operating plan submitted in advance to [email protected].
At their Tuesday meeting, the county commission continued its discussion, started on April 6, on lifting restrictions in the future.
The county commission unanimously supported an amendment by Mayor Steve Geller to loosen stipulations on the removal of restrictions in the future, but certain criteria must still be met.
Broward must now achieve: a 50 percent vaccination rate, plus either a less than 5 percent positivity rate or 15 new cases per day per 100,000. Johns Hopkins recommends 10 new cases per 100,000.
In his amendment, Geller further loosened language: that the below 5 percent positivity rate now be measured over a seven-consecutive-day period, rather than the originally agreed upon 10-consecutive-day rolling period.
A substitute motion by Commissioner Lamar Fisher to go with only a 50 percent vaccine marker failed, 3 to 6.
By comparison, more stringent markers at the April 6 Commission meeting were: 50 percent vaccination rate, plus below a 5 percent positivity rate for 10 consecutive days.
“Some people say this is impossible, but we already did it once. From Aug. 28 to Oct. 25. Then came Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas holidays,” Geller said.
According to the county order, Broward based its initial lifting of restrictions on more people getting vaccinated locally, as well as updated guidance on outdoor activities from the Centers for Disease Control [CDC].
As of Sunday, 453,269 Broward individuals are fully vaccinated, with 280,657 more partially vaccinated. This is not half yet, but Geller said that could happen by Friday.
There are close to two million people in Broward.
The county’s COVID-19 positivity rate has not reached the desired goal for further reopening. In fact, it is said to be spiking. This is why Geller said he brought in the either/or part for the second marker.
The 14-day positivity rate report detailed in the order shows numbers still well above the “below 5 percent” marker.
Positivity rate numbers were in the six and eight percent range the first two weeks of April. For instance, 8.25 percent on April 5; 7.58 percent on April 11; 6.09 percent on April 14; and 8.02 percent on April 18.
As a result, indoor sanitization and signage requirements will continue and facemask and social distancing requirements will stay in place.
Not until Phase 3 reopening will facemask and all remaining COVID-19 restrictions be lifted.
The mayor submitted his reopening plan to both Broward Health hospital districts; Dr. Paula Thaqi, the director of the Florida Department of Health in Broward County; and NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci. All deferred to the CDC, which has a multi-layer command, and gave him website links vs. specific answers to his questions.
Dr. Fauci was “very nice” to talk to and got the CDC to call Geller the next day, the mayor said. At one point Geller was on a call with 16 people: 10 from the CDC, four from the Florida Department of Health in Broward County, including Dr. Thaqi, the State of Florida epidemiologist and Geller’s staff. Geller also got a response from Johns Hopkins.
During the April 6 meeting, the county commission was criticized by residents who said it should immediately lift all restrictions.
They talked about civil rights and liberties, argued statistics about how long the coronavirus can survive in the sunlight, questioned whether there is a state of emergency anymore and the merits of masks.