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White House COVID-19 Task Force reports Florida should close gyms, bars, restaurants

Hospitals are still seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases, putting Florida in the red zone.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The White House Coronavirus Task Force has called for the closure of bars, restaurants and gyms in Florida due to a rise in hospitalizations from COVID-19.

On St. Patrick's Day in 2020, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the shut down of bars and restaurants, causing great economic stress on the state's service industry. Now with federal officials calling for another shutdown, business owners are becoming angry.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous to be perfectly honest with you," said Mark Dewey, owner of 9 Round Fitness. “We’re a small facility with limited numbers of members, so when people come here to work out we have no issue with social distancing."

"This would be a financial disaster for our business, our families, and our employees," added Mary-Jane Culhane of Culhane's Irish Pub.

According to health officials, Florida is in the red zone as far as hospitalizations, prompting the call from the Biden administration for various businesses to be shut down.

However, while business owners are upset, there are local doctors who support shutting down some businesses to help control the spread of COVID-19.

“We’ve got a very small percentage of the population that’s vaccinated, and we still have long ways to go before we can start feeling comfortable about the fact that we have this under control," said Assistant Chief Medical Officer at UF Health Jacksonville Dr. Chirag Patel. 

However, business owners said they are doing everything they can to help keep their customers safe and prevent the spread of the virus.

“We have worked so hard to be COVID certified, you know sanitizing and cleaning every day, and we’ve been wearing our masks," Culhane said. 

In the beginning of the pandemic, when businesses had to close down for months, Culhane says it was a tough experience.

“Our income went down 50% and our sales got 80% reduction here at the southside location because everything close down around us," said Culhane.

Dewey had a similar experience during the spring shutdown.

"I’ve lost a lot of memberships basically due to the fact people lost their jobs," said Dewey. 

Patel says it comes down to the public’s decision.

“The economic cost that were facing as a nation and globally, but then there’s that health cost the cost in lives," Patel explained. 

Patel said he hopes everyone takes necessary action in staying safe while were still waiting on getting vaccinated.