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Opinion | Florida Reopens

Thirsty guests enjoy Sloppy Joe’s in Key West, Fla.


Rob O’Neal/Associated Press

Get ready for media hyperventilating about a group of Americans who are choosing to live a full and prudent life, rather than a hysterical one. Just in time for the weekend, the citizens of Florida have been largely liberated to exercise their own good judgment when it comes to Covid-19 risks.

Ana Ceballos, Josh Solomon and Samantha Gross report in the Miami Herald:

Gov. Ron DeSantis

on Friday lifted all remaining coronavirus-related state restrictions on businesses such as bars and restaurants through an executive order that also suspends all fines and fees tied to social distancing enforcement.

The governor said Friday he would sign an executive order, which would take effect immediately, that will preempt local rules enforcing restaurant closures and will require municipalities to justify restrictions that don’t allow restaurants to operate at a minimum 50% capacity.

“Locals can do some reasonable regulations, but you can’t just say no,” the governor told reporters at a news conference in St. Petersburg. “You can’t say no after six months and just have people twisting in the wind.”

Kudos to Gov. DeSantis for understanding that costly and indefinite prohibitions with questionable public health benefits are not sustainable or wise. By any reasonable measure, the Sunshine State has been managing its affairs better than lockdown media stars like New Jersey and New York. Florida has plenty of elderly residents, yet it has suffered fewer deaths from Covid, and on a per capita basis has far less than half the Covid deaths suffered by either New York or New Jersey. Meanwhile Floridians have also been managing to fight the virus without destroying their economy. The Sunshine State has a much lower unemployment rate than either of the lockdowners.

Still, you can expect plenty of pandemic propaganda this weekend from news outlets suggesting that a horrific and deadly gamble is taking place in Tallahassee. Expect plenty of misleading and context-free reports intended to create the impression that Florida is the most dangerous place in the world.

In fact it is a place that is seeking to protect both public health and liberty–and so far it’s achieving much better results on both counts than either the Empire State or the Garden State. The Orlando Sentinel quotes Gov. DeSantis affirming today that “in the state of Florida everybody has a right to work.”

This doesn’t mean business owners are throwing caution to the wind. Sentinel reporters Gray Rohrer, Austin Fuller and Steven Lemongello visited Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café in downtown Sanford, where proprietor Christina Hollerbach is planning to gradually move back toward a full house and is “hoping to reach 100% capacity around March.” According to the Sentinel report:

Hollerbach added she does not expect masks, sanitizing or social distancing to go away immediately. “I’m glad the Governor is trusting restaurant owners to be responsible so that we can restore a good economy and bring jobs back,” Hollerbach said.

Amen to that. And speaking of free people exercising their rights and responsibilities, there’s more encouraging news about citizens nationwide, not just in Florida.

The Journal’s Jo Craven McGinty reports that, believe it or not, Americans are lately becoming more knowledgable about the Constitution and the liberties it protects. The findings come from the latest civics survey from the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Ms. McGinty reports that since 2017, understanding of the First Amendment has increased significantly:

Nearly three-quarters, or 73%, of the survey respondents correctly named freedom of speech as a First Amendment right; 42% accurately identified freedom of the press, up from 14%; and 34% correctly listed the right to peaceably assemble, up from 10%.

Those who accurately identified freedom of religion as a First Amendment right increased to 47% from 15%, and those who named the right to petition the government rose to 14% from 3%.

Only 19% of those surveyed couldn’t name any right guaranteed by the First Amendment.

In 2017, the number was 37%.

Here’s hoping that this weekend Floridians and all Americans can appreciate the blessings of liberty as they sensibly and peaceably assemble to share each other’s company.


Mr. Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival.”


Follow James Freeman on Twitter.

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To suggest items, please email [email protected]

(Teresa Vozzo helps compile Best of the Web.)


Mr. Freeman is also the co-author of “Borrowed Time.”

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