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Bars close, cities debate masks as Florida virus cases rise

By Staff | Jun 23, 2020

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber adjusts his masks before speaking during a news conference along with other South Florida Mayors, Monday, June 22, 2020, in Miami. More than 100,000 people in Florida have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, state health officials reported Monday, as public health officials reissued advisories urging social distancing and mask wearing. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

By MIKE SCHNEIDER Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A popular bar in Florida where dozens of workers and patrons have come down with the new coronavirus had its alcohol license suspended after a state inspector found patrons weren’t socially distancing and following other rules meant to slow the virus’ spread.

At least 13 employees and 28 patrons have tested positive for COVID-19 at the The Knight’s Pub, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation said late Monday in a statement.

But the number of cases linked to the bar could be much higher. Dr. Raul Pino, a state health officer in Orlando, said Monday, without naming the establishment, that a bar near the University of Central Florida campus had been linked to 152 coronavirus cases.

The license suspension comes as Florida’s caseload surpassed the 100,000-person mark and scores of bars and restaurants across Florida have voluntarily closed for a short time because patrons or workers came down with the virus.

Florida had 103,503 cases on Tuesday, a daily jump of 3,286 cases. Florida also reported 3,238 deaths, an increase of 64 from the previous day.

Last week, several municipalities, including Tampa, Orange County, home to Orlando, and the Florida Keys, required that everyone wear face masks in public. Several other municipalities are weighing the question. St. Petersburg’s mayor signed an order effective Tuesday evening making masks mandatory in enclosed businesses, and mayors in Miami-Dade cities also issued similar rules. Lakeland officials rejected the requirement as too difficult to enforce, and Palm Beach County is considering one on Tuesday.

Universal and SeaWorld, both in Orlando, as well as Busch Gardens and Adventure Island in Tampa, have opened back up in recent weeks. Walt Disney World is set to reopen next month after being closed since mid-March, but some Disney World workers are petitioning the theme park resort to delay its opening. A moveon.org petition has garnered more than 5,000 signatures from workers and their family members. Disney World has a workforce of 77,000 employees.

“With the recent spikes in COVID-19 cases in Florida, the plan to reopen theme parks should be re-evaluated,” the petition said.

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