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Florida will stay open, Gov. DeSantis says, as White House panel urges strict COVID-19 measures

The governor spoke on the second day COVID-19 vaccines were administered at five hospitals across the state of Florida.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference Tuesday afternoon at a West Palm Beach steakhouse, sending the message loud and clear that he has no intentions of enforcing bans on indoor dining or drinking amid a rising number of COVID-19 cases across the state.

"At a time when folks in our service industries, particularly restaurants, lodging and hospitality have kind of taken it on the chin, particularly in other states where they've been completely shut down, we just want to send the message, some may want to shut you down. We want to pull you up," DeSantis said. "We've got your back if you're a waitress or a cook or a family-owned business. You're an important part of our state. You're working folks who are working hard to make a living. You have every right to do that, and you can take it to the bank -- in the state of Florida, you're going to have that right defended by the governor."

The governor's remarks come just nine days after a White House Coronavirus Task Force report for Florida recommended stricter measures for stopping the virus, including mask-wearing at all times in public, increased physical distancing by reducing capacity or closing indoor spaces at restaurants and bars, and limiting gatherings outside of immediate households. 

A single mother employee at Okeechobee Steakhouse where DeSantis spoke tearfully praised the governor for keeping the state open amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"Single mom of two kids, no other income coming ... very blessed to have Gov. DeSantis keeping us open," the server and bartender said. "I would have lost everything, so I'm very -- I'm a blessed mother. And I just hope that we can still stay open and, you know, everybody do what they're supposed to do. If you're sick, stay home. If you want to come out, we are here for you and we are 100% committed."

DeSantis also gave an update on the status of COVID-19 vaccinations, on the second day those doses are being administered at five hospitals across the state. Florida will receive 205,000 Moderna vaccines next week, DeSantis said, and another 162,000 the last week of December, but many of the Pfizer vaccines originally slated to arrive in Florida next week and the week after may not arrive.

You can watch the governor's full news conference below.