A new emergency order will allow Broward County to close and fine businesses that aren't following coronavirus safety guidelines as officials expressed concerns Wednesday over the recent rise in COVID-19 cases.
The emergency order, which goes into effect on Friday, would close any business in violation of requirements on social distancing, sanitization, facial coverings or other rules for a minimum 24-hour period.
Businesses would be allowed to reopen after bringing their establishment into compliance.
Businesses could face fines of $500 or up to $15,000 for repeat offenders.
Broward Mayor Dale Holness announced the order at a news conference Wednesday morning with Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony and mayors from cities throughout the county.
Holness said the stronger enforcement orders are in response to the "alarming rise" in COVID-19 cases.
"At some point in time if this continues we'll overrun our hospital medical care system," Holness said. “If we have to go backwards, we will have to, so I’m pleading with everyone, please follow the rules and guidelines and we’ll be better off for it.”
The county has also established a hotline to report violations, at 311 or 954-831-4000.
Holness said the county has received around 830 complaints as of Wednesday morning. He said most were about restaurants not adhering to rules on 50% capacity, and bars pretending to operate as restaurants.
"This is something where we will enforce, we will support the county as the code enforcement officers will come out and institute these obligations or restrictions," Tony said. "This is not a time for us to take lightly the impact that this is having."
Broward has been one of Florida's hardest hit counties amid the COVID-19 outbreak. As of Tuesday, the county had more than 11,700 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 377 virus-related deaths.
Also attending Wednesday's news conference was Hollywood Commissioner Tracy Callari, who also has been battling on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak as a nurse at Memorial Regional Hospital.
"If you do not follow the protocols and do not take action today to make sure that you’re safe and that your friends and family are safe, we are never going to beat this virus," Callari said.