As state and federal authorities continue to pass new laws and modify existing laws to address COVID-19, we continue to regularly monitor local COVID-19 regulations that may have a direct impact on our clients and friends in Palm Beach County, Florida.
On March 1, 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-51, implementing a COVID-19 response protocol. Since then, the Palm Beach County Administrator, in consultation with public health officials, has issued over 35 emergency orders in response to evolving circumstances surrounding COVID-19.
Full text of these emergency orders can be found HERE.
While most of the emergency orders have been repealed, some existing regulations continue to impact the local community.
The State of Emergency issued by Palm Beach County on March 13, 2020, has been extended through March 5, 2021, empowering the Palm Beach County Government and its Division of Emergency Management to undertake all necessary coordination, preparation, and response activities necessitated by COVID-19.
Emergency Orders 2020-012 and 2021-002, which are directives on the wearing of facial coverings, have been extended until 12:01 a.m. on March 19, 2021. These orders mandate the wearing of facial coverings in all business establishments and in public spaces where social distancing is not possible, in common areas within private communities accessible to more than one housing unit, when utilizing the county’s Palm Tran transit services, and when accessing governmental businesses. Business establishments are required to ensure compliance with facial covering mandates, including establishing a process for verification of compliance upon customer entry into the business establishment.
The order also requires retail establishments and restaurants to post signage containing information regarding sanitization, social distancing, and facial covering requirements.
Facial coverings however, are not required for children under 2 years of age; any child under the custody of a licensed childcare facility; persons prohibited from wearing facial coverings by Federal or State safety or health regulations; public safety, fire, or other life safety personnel that have personal protective equipment requirements governed by their respective agencies; individuals who are actively engaged in exercise and maintaining social distancing in accordance with CDC guidelines; persons receiving goods or services from a business establishment for the shortest practical period of time during which the receipt of such goods or services necessarily precludes the wearing of a facial covering such as, but not limited to, consuming food or beverage or receiving a facial grooming or treatment; persons who have a medical condition that makes the wearing of a facial covering unsafe such as, but not limited to, asthma, COPD, other conditions that reduce breathing or lung capacity; and persons for whom wearing a facial covering conflicts with their religious beliefs or practices. Facial coverings may be removed temporarily while assisting persons who are hearing impaired or who rely on reading lips in order to communicate.
Most notably, Palm Beach County continues to be subject to the Phase 3 Reopening Protocols set forth in Emergency Order 2020-028. This emergency order (i) prohibits COVID-19 emergency ordinances from preventing individuals from working or from operating a business, (ii) provides that restaurants, including any establishment with a food service license may not be limited by a COVID-19 order to less than one hundred percent (100%) of its indoor capacity and (iii) suspends the collection of fines and penalties associated with COVID-19 enforced upon individuals. Business establishments who fail to establish and ensure compliance with these emergency orders may be subject to fines, penalties, and/or any other enforcement measures as discussed below.
In spite of these relaxed COVID protocols, all business establishments are required to adhere to enhanced cleaning protocols and to all applicable social distancing guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These measures authorize local authorities to penalize business establishments who are in compliance with the Phase 3 Reopening Protocols but fail to institute proper cleaning and social distancing protocols. However, these measures cannot be used to limit restaurant capacity to less than one hundred percent (100%) of its indoor capacity at any given time.
While Emergency Order 2020-028 prohibits the collection of fines and penalties against individuals, Palm Beach County law enforcement agencies are authorized to levy fines, penalties, and/or other enforcement measures on business establishments who fail to comply with any Palm Beach County emergency order or any state order.
Emergency Order 2020-017 authorizes Palm Beach County law enforcement officials to impose civil and criminal penalties on business establishments who violate a Palm Beach County emergency order or state order. Civil penalties include levying fines on business establishments in the amount of $250 for the first violation of a Palm Beach County emergency order or any state order, $350 for the second violation and $500 for each additional violation. Any business establishment that violates a Palm Beach County emergency order or state order may also be charged with a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable by a $500 fine. Under rare circumstances, business establishments may also be subject to additional fines from Palm Beach County Special Master or the Palm Beach County Code Enforcement Board ranging from $1,000 per day to $15,000 per violation if the code enforcement board or Palm Beach County Special Master finds the violation to be irreparable or irreversible in nature. These fines may be imposed for violations of the Local Government Code Enforcement Boards Act or the Palm Beach County Unified Land Development Code.
If a business establishment is ordered to close, then such business establishment may reopen only after (i) a 24 hour period has passed, during which the business establishment must conduct a thorough review of Palm Beach County’s emergency orders and (ii) the business establishment submits a fully executed attestation, signed under penalty of perjury by the owner, general manager, or chief executive officer of the business establishment, attesting that the review has been completed and the required measures have been taken to remedy the issues that led to the closure of the business establishment. In addition, within 5 days of reopening, the business establishment must submit to inspection by enforcement personnel to confirm that the violation(s) in question has been rectified.
Our firm stands ready to service our clients and friends in these unprecedented times. If you have any questions about local COVID-19 regulations, please do not hesitate to contact our offices for help.