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Criteria Loosened For Fla. Restaurant Employees To Return To Work After Contracting COVID-19

A sign reading "Still Open" hangs outside of a restaurant.
Lynne Sladky
Associated Press
A sign reading "Still Open" hangs outside of a restaurant.

An executive order signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis loosens the criteria for restaurant employees with coronavirus to return to work.

Executive Order 20-192, signed by Gov. DeSantis this week, says that the Department of Business and Professional Regulation will make sure that all restaurants screen their employees according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Before, restaurants were required to screen employees, but they had to prohibit employees from returning to work if they tested positive for COVID-19, a previous executive order said. An employee had to get two consecutive negative test results before they could return to work.

The state now refers restaurants to the CDC’s criteria to discontinue home isolation, which say those who have tested positive for COVID-19 but show no symptoms can be around others after 10 days. The same guidelines are being applied to employees of Jacksonville jails

Related: 85% Of Independent Restaurants At Risk; Jax Owners Urge Support Of RESTAURANTS Act

The criteria also say that symptomatic people with COVID-19 can be around others:

  • 10 days after symptoms first appear, 
  • 24 hours after fever stops without using any fever-reducing medications, 
  • and COVID-19 symptoms (such as a cough or shortness of breath) have improved

The recommendations do not apply to people with severe COVID-19 symptoms or to those who are immunocompromised.
The CDC says people who become severely ill with COVID-19 “might need to stay home longer than 10 days and up to 20 days after symptoms first appeared.”

The CDC still recommends that anyone who has had close contact with someone who has COVID-19 should stay home for 14 days after their last exposure to that person.

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment by this story’s deadline, but a spokesman for the Florida Department of Health did affirm that testing is not needed for individuals to return to work. They simply need to meet the criteria outlined in the infographic below.

“Based on the CDC guidance here, we would not expect this move to affect transmission and increase transmission across the state. We believe that this is a sound scientific move and we think that it's going to be safe,” said Chad Neilsen, Director of Accreditation and Infection Prevention at the UF Health Jacksonville.

While this decision is based on growing scientific evidence that asymptomatic carriers are much less likely to spread the coronavirus, Neilsen said it’s essential that everyone — including restaurant workers and patrons — continue to wear masks and social distance when in public.

“That way we can really get this back down to the 3% or 4% positivity that we were seeing on the front end of the pandemic in March and April,” he said. “I think we're moving in the right direction, but we have to maintain vigilance.”

The percent of tests coming back positive in Duval County was 11.1% as of Friday evening, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Recent numbers released by the Florida Department of Health do seem to indicate that the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are declining, but the number of tests being administered are also going down. The statewide percent positive rate for tests has been hovering above 10% for at least the last six weeks. And, as WJCT News has reported, because the DOH retroactively adds numbers when it gets test results and confirms the dates of deaths, new cases by day and date of death graphs can appear to be trending downwards even though that may not be the case.

The governor’s new executive order also lifts travel restrictions on people coming to Florida from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

The day after signing EO 20-192, DeSantis held an event at the University of North Florida with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, calling for resuming high-school sports during the pandemic

Brendan Rivers can be reached at, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.

Special Projects Producer Brendan Rivers joined WJCT News in August of 2018 after several years as a reporter and then News Director at Southern Stone Communications, which owns and operates several radio stations in the Daytona Beach area.