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What does Phase 3 Reopen Order Mean For Your Community's Covid Protocols?

Last week, Governor Ron DeSantis issued EO 20-244 entitled “Right to Work, Business Certainty and Suspension of Fines." This order, known colloquially as the Phase 3 Reopen Order, is designed to stimulate the economy and permit businesses, particularly restaurants, to fully reopen.  This latest EO prohibits local government orders from limiting indoor capacity to less than 50% and requires that any local order limiting indoor capacity to less than 100% quantify the economic impact and explain the compelling public health reason for the limitation.  This latest EO also suspends the rights of local government to impose fines for mask violations.  The Phase 3 Reopen Order did NOT rescind Florida’s State of Emergency which currently continues until November 3. Counties with previously high COVID-19 numbers (e.g. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach) have been issuing statements and revised orders to further clarify the situation for their residents.  However, many of you may still have questions and will be faced with questions from your residents regarding the impact of this latest order on your board’s ability to continue to restrict or keep amenities closed, limit guest access to your community, hold virtual meetings and require facial coverings in the common areas. Mixed-use communities with commercial units conducting business might have to revise some of their protocols as a result of the Phase 3 Reopen Order.  However, for Florida’s private residential communities, the best approach is to contact your attorney to discuss the impact of this order so that you are prepared to answer the inevitable questions.  The Phase 3 Reopen Order does not require boards in private residential communities to rescind or relax any existing COVID-19 protocols or prevent your board from levying fines for violations.  Remember, government orders are influenced by a number of factors, but they set the minimum scope for your COVID-19 restrictions and are not the limit of your right to adopt stricter standards.  As has been the case for over 6 months now, the protocols for your community must be continually revisited and re-evaluated based upon the existing impact and potential impact of the virus within your community and the surrounding area and available medical information on best practices to keep your residents and staff safe. While these protections must be balanced against the use rights of the owners and residents, life safety remains the top priority.