DeSantis Out with Plan to Reopen Florida
About 60 percent of coronavirus cases and fatalities have been in South Florida according to the governor, who added that hospitalizations, deaths and positive cases have slowed elsewhere — clearing the way for an economic jump start.Fresh off his meeting with President Trump, Gov. Ron DeSantis Wednesday announced that Florida is getting ready to begin the first phase of its reopening.
“This was something where we really wanted to get it right; I would have liked to announce what we’re doing two weeks ago if I could,” said the governor. “But I wanted the data, I wanted the facts.”
The governor introducing the elements of Phase One, which tracks the federal “Reopen America” program. He acknowledged the impact coronavirus has had on the Sunshine State, both socially and financially.
“Floridians have lost jobs through no fault of their own, and many are fearful of what may come next,” said DeSantis. “Others have seen small businesses that represent life’s work devastated practically overnight. This current crisis has impacted in one way or another all 21-and-a-half million Floridians in life-changing ways.”
Part of the reopening deals with large venues – restaurants, movie theaters, and churches. The latter were never closed in Florida; rather, they practiced social distancing voluntarily. DeSantis’ plan for the others is a mixed bag.
“I declined to go for movie theaters now; I think it’s just practically difficult to do the social distancing,” said DeSantis. “The restaurants – what we’re going to do is allow outdoor seating, at least six feet apart from the tables. Indoors they can do 25% capacity with the CDC-recommended spacing.”
Long-term care centers and nursing homes will continue to ban visitors, and students will continue distance learning for the rest of the current school year. DeSantis says the state will continue partnering with local communities.
“We knew the epidemic was going to be different in Southeast Florida, and we worked with those counties differently and treated them differently than we would in, say, Jacksonville or Northwest Florida, where the epidemic was significantly less,” the governor said.
Another part of the Phase-One strategy is to ramp up testing for the virus beyond what’s already being done. That, in part, will involve walk-up testing at 11 sites around the state, including one at the University of West Florida.
“We did all these drive-through sites which are very important,” said DeSantis. “But we knew that there were under-served communities. We’re going to put one in the Florida Panhandle and Escambia County. Now, they have not had a significant outbreak compared to parts of Southeast Florida, but it’s important to have the access for our folks in Northwest Florida.”
ICU bed availability in Florida hospitals has increased during the span of this pandemic. In fact, Miami-Dade, which has nearly 40% of all FL cases, had 45% of its ICU beds available as of 4/27. Thank you to all of our health care workers and systems for doing such a great job! pic.twitter.com/pNtt2aPHqm— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) April 28, 2020
Special care is given in the governor’s blueprint to residents who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus – older, and those will underlying medical conditions.
“We advise them to continue caution in how they interact,” DeSantis said. “I would tell people the most important social distance we can do is distancing the vulnerable population from those who are not. Because if you’re not vulnerable, you may be a carrier of this and not have symptoms and not know it, and you’re at-risk to pass it along.”
Hard-hit and heavily populated Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties are excluded from the plan. DeSantis says their businesses will begin their phase one when it is safer.
It’s a huge balancing act, says Gov. Ron DeSantis, between protecting Floridians from COVID-19, and rebuilding the state’s economic foundation.
“These steps will be deliberate – it will not be like turning off a switch,” said the governor. “But each step will bring us closer to that light at the end of the tunnel. The only thing we have to fear, is letting fear overwhelm our sense of purpose and determination.”
Local governments will be allowed to have more restrictive policies than the state. Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson takes to Facebook later this morning, to provide an update on COVID-19 and his Recover Pensacola plan with phased reopening measures.