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00000177-b32b-d5f4-a5ff-bbfb6e660000Here is the information you need to know about COVID-19 in Northwest Florida. We will keep this post updated with the latest information from local, and statewide agencies. For inforamtion from Centers for Disease Control and prevention: cdc.gov/coronavirusFor updates on Florida cases of coronavirus, visit the FDOH dashboard.The COVID-19 call center is available at 24/7 at 1-866-779-6121

Reopen Florida Task Force Begins Work


Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Reopen Florida” committee has begun work to map out the state’s reopening from the coronavirus shutdown.

“Good afternoon, I want to thank you again for your service; thank you for being a part of this really important task force as we move to the next step with COVID-19,” DeSantis told the panel by teleconference.

Some of Florida’s most powerful political leaders and business executives have been appointed to the committee — legislative leaders, mayors and executives from companies such as Disney, Universal, Florida Power & Light and Publix.

“I think creativity is important [along with] innovation; all these companies – small, medium and large through Florida – are thinking about how they come back and how they can do it in a way that will be safe, but also inspire confidence,” said DeSantis.

Rather than think of businesses as “essential” and “non-essential,” the governor contends a better approach would be to think in terms of “low-risk” and “high risk.”

“If it’s low-risk, the fact that somebody thinks it’s ‘non-essential,’ that tells me that we should be able to get that industry back up and running,” the governor said. “And I know that a lot of the private businesses are thinking long and hard about the different things that they need to do to be able to make sure they have a safe environment.”

One challenge for the committee is taking into consideration the fact that COVID affects different parts of Florida in different ways. Not every policy, says the governor, is one-size-fits-all.

“Because not every policy is going to be the same in different corners of the state,” DeSantis said. “Actually, just in the few days that we’ve been talking to people it’s been very inspiring to see that everyone’s all hands on deck to try to get this done in the best way possible.”

Joining the teleconference was Dana Young, the CEO of the state’s tourism wing, Visit Florida. She said Tuesday’s conference subcommittee call focused on three areas – the state’s overall tourism industry; restaurants; and hotels. The strategy within has four marketing phases. Number one includes a page on the Visit Florida website on the economic impact of the coronavirus.

“Between March 1 and April 11, statewide hotel revenues were down by over $1.6 billion, compared to the same time last year,” Young said. “Over the next month, domestic air capacity is down by over 65%; and international air capacity is down by nearly 80%.”

Marketing phase two can begin, says Young, when public health officials and policymakers lift the Stay-at-Home order and determine that hospitality businesses can resume operation. Phase three is working to reattract both domestic and international travelers as they get more comfortable traveling far from home.

“In this marketing phase, Visit Florida will work on building partnerships with businesses that directly deliver visitors to Florida, such as airlines, online travel agencies, and tour operators,” said Young. “We will also launch a marketing campaign for travelers who are most likely to travel within the next three to six months.”

Phase four involves expanding the first three phases globally, and Young warns that will be a long process.

“A critical part of this plan is focusing on expanding Visit Florida’s ongoing marketing efforts for the next two to three years because our economic rebound will take time,” said Young. “We’ll be engaged in long-term planning to ensure Florida remains top-of-the-line for all travelers.”

The committee will meet daily by phone until Friday, when DeSantis hopes it will be able to make a report. Meanwhile, Florida Democrats are criticizing the governor’s choices, saying the panel includes only his loyalists.