WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner said Friday a new executive order clarifies the business restrictions in place to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The county earlier this month issued an order prohibiting food and alcohol services for on-site consumption at establishments between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
"It had some ambiguity in that we didn't want to have to kick people out of the restaurant right at 11," Kerner said in explaining the decision to repeal the order and replace it with a new edict. "In a normal society, there's a process where you pay for your bill and you go upon your merry way."
The revised order now stipulates that "establishments shall be closed and vacated," except for employees, between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
"But due to some pushback from restaurants that wanted to work around that very easy rule and not abide by at least the spirit of the law, we've been forced to make a much more clear, but much more direct, executive order," Kerner said during a news conference. "So the bottom line is this: In Palm Beach County, if it's after 11 p.m., there cannot be customers in the establishment."
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The order does not apply for drive-thru, pickup or take-out services.
Palm Beach County has already enacted several other restrictions, including a mask mandate.
County Administrator Verdenia Baker recently extended an executive order mandating facial coverings in public places.
"This should not come as any surprise to anybody," Kerner said, noting that commissioners have been "resolute, they've been direct and they've been candid about our belief that masks will save lives and masks will stop the spread."
A Palm Beach County judge recently heard arguments from attorneys about a lawsuit seeking to overturn the mask mandate. Lawyers for four Palm Beach County residents claim the mandate is unconstitutional, but Judge John Kastrenakes did not make a ruling on the matter.
"The mask is the key to our salvation at this point," Kerner said.
Kerner also noted that the county has begun mailing masks to residents.
"We mailed them first to the most impacted ZIP codes, meaning the ZIP codes that have the highest positivity rates and the highest aggregate number of infections," Kerner said.
He said about 400,000 masks have already been mailed.
"There will be about 3 million, I think, that will be mailed in total," Kerner said.