Florida Travel Restrictions: What to Know If You Wish to Visit the Sunshine State

Florida’s perennial popularity as a vacation destination has contributed to its emergence as one of the nation’s top states for new COVID-19 cases since America began its reopening process. But, with folks desperate for a domestic summer escape, many coming from nearby states and some from across the U.S. won’t be deterred from flocking to its beaches and other attractions.

The Florida Health Department reports that Governor Ron DeSantis’ executive order from back in March is still in effect, requiring those entering Florida from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut to self-quarantine for fourteen days or the length of their visit, whichever is shorter. Others coming from areas with “substantial community spread” of the virus may also be told to quarantine, with airport and roadside checkpoints in place to screen for potential inbound cases.

Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis (who joins President Trump in attributing recent spikes in COVID-19 to higher testing rates) said at a press conference on June 30 that he doesn’t plan to halt the state’s reopening plan amid the increasing contagion. He’s relying on social-distancing protocols, capacity limitations, sanitation measures and mask-wearing by the public to control the tide of infection, reported CBS News.

Florida’s most-populous counties, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, are hanging back before moving into the “Phase 2” reopening that’s being enjoyed by the rest of the state. On June 5, Phase 2 meant that other counties could reopen their entertainment venues (e.g., movie theaters, auditoriums, bowling alleys, arcades, etc.) at 50 percent of indoor capacity; and retail establishments, museums, libraries, gyms and fitness centers at full capacity, provided they observe safety guidelines and social-distancing measures.

With 2.8 million residents, Florida’s single most-populous county, Miami-Dade, is doing a bit more to try to contain the recent resurgence of new COVID-19 cases. On July 6, Miami-Dade County Mayor, Carlos A. Gimenez, signed a new emergency order closing down dine-in options in restaurants, along with all party venues, fitness centers and short-term lodging rentals. Beaches will remain open for the time being, although the mayor said that he’ll close them again if crowding and non-adherence to public health regulations is observed.

Elsewhere, however, restaurants and other eating establishments are allowed to offer patrons on-premises seating, as long as proper social-distancing guidelines are followed and indoor capacity is limited to 50 percent. Outdoor seating is also fine, provided six feet of space is maintained between parties. However, the on-premises consumption of alcohol in bars has been suspended statewide.

Major theme parks and other attractions account for much of Florida’s overall tourism allure and have largely reopened with limited-capacity, social-distancing and enhanced sanitation protocols in place. Each of these companies has released its own set of rules, regulations and new measures aimed at minimizing the potential for viral transmission at its properties, which can be found via their respective links: Disney World, Universal Orlando, Legoland Florida, Busch Gardens Florida, Sea World Florida. The Florida Attractions Association also offers a more complete listing of the state’s many other attractions and their current operating statuses.

The Florida State Parks system (with areas subject to county-specific ordinances) is continuing to reopen state and national parks, but potential visitors should expect to find reduced hours of operation, with capped capacities and only select amenities available. Limited overnight accommodations and camping sites are available, alongside measures for reducing visitor densities. Currently, no walk-in camping sites are available. To check out each park’s present offerings, visit the State Parks webpage.

Florida State Parks had also already reopened certain recreational trails and day-use areas, including some with beach access, back as early as May. The beaches in each of Florida’s 67 counties are subject to county jurisdictional rules, which should be consulted before planning any sort of visit.

The Visit Florida website offers a comprehensive collection of weblinks where you can find up-to-date information on the status of each county’s beaches and its specific, local set of COVID-19 regulations. Would-be visitors are encouraged to check the official website for their intended destination regularly, since jurisdictional restrictions can change, literally, overnight.

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