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Broward’s new order limits — but doesn’t close — restaurant service

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Broward County emergency order that residents have been waiting for has been signed.

It calls for no more than six people at a table when dining at restaurants, and dine-in service must end at 10 p.m. each night, Mayor Dale Holness announced Wednesday evening.

The order, signed by County Administrator Bertha Henry and going into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, also sets up stiffer penalties for businesses that break the coronavirus safety measures. The first violation calls for a 24-hour closure, but subsequent infractions will come with a 72-hour shutdown.

Vacation rentals will also be limited to the people who signed up to be there. No guests, and no more than 10 people allowed, Holness said.

“If we don’t all take responsibility to reduce the spread of this virus, the economy will continue to be stagnant or be worse,” the mayor said.

Broward residents and businesses had been anxiously waiting to hear if the county would start re-imposing shutdowns.

It turns out that Broward’s measures aren’t as strict as in Miami-Dade County, where indoor dining at restaurants has been halted.

“Since Miami put out their announcement there’s definitely been a little bit of anxiety, a little bit of unsure about what’s going to happen next for us,” said Sasha Formica, marketing manager for the Be Nice restaurant group. “We’re definitely anxious to find out so we can move forward with planning and preparing and seeing what this next chapter holds.”

Be Nice’s restaurants include Coconuts, The Foxy Brown and Top Hat Delicatessen in Fort Lauderdale.

Formica, who spoke to Local 10 News before Holness’ announcement, said the group has adapted to make the best of a tough situation after being shut down for weeks before reopening.

“We’ve been lucky to, once we’ve been back open, be fairly busy. We’ve taken reservations, we’ve gotten people in the door and we’ve been able to keep a lot of our staff on,” she said. “Restaurants have been tasked with monitoring and policing their guests over the last few weeks, and stricter rules may make people follow the rules.”

On Wednesday, Broward reported another 1,186 coronavirus cases and one death, bringing the county’s total positive COVID-19 cases to 23,781, and deaths to 419.

And one number that’s particularly concerning is the positivity rate. More than 14% of the tests analyzed Tuesday came back positive — higher than the two-week average of about 13%.

Holness met with the various city mayors earlier this week, and while there was some disagreement about the proper next step, Holness said something needs to be done to slow the rising COVID-19 numbers as hospital capacity diminishes.

“We must do something, because it’s not sustainable where we are,” he said. “The increases are going to increase unless we do something.”

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