Yes to surgeries, limited dining, limited retail. No to schools opening, nursing homes visits, bars, gyms, personal services.
Governor DeSantis announced in a Tallahassee news briefing that phase one of Florida reopening begins May 4.
After looking at the data and conferring with his Re-Open Florida Task Force, he outlined phase one as follows:
- Schools to continue through distance learning,
- Visits to senior living facilities is prohibited,
- Elective surgeries can resume,
- Restaurants can offer outdoor seating, but must comply with a 6-foot space between tables; indoor seating is allowed, but only at 25 percent capacity,
- Retail stores can operate at 25 percent indoor capacity,
- No change for bars, gyms, and personal services such as hair dressers.
“The executive order continues the essential businesses framework,” DeSantis said, adding that the new order will expand certain other activities.
After laying out the criteria he used for the decision to re-open, such as low hospitalization rates, low positive testing rates for COVID-19, and increased testing capacity throughout the state, DeSantis stated, “We didn’t close businesses,” with the stay-at-home executive order, “We limited activities”.
In his 45-minute briefing, DeSantis blamed the media for exaggerating the pandemic’s impact on Florida and said he was addressing the fear that was created by over-estimations of cases and deaths.
Pledging to “Focus on facts, not on fear,” he cautiously wants to take “baby steps” to bring back the Florida economy while keeping its 21.5 million citizens healthy and safe.
DeSantis decided against opening movie theaters as they are “too difficult to keep distance in,” he said.
Right now his priority is keeping the senior population and said that the “most important social distance,” is between the “vulnerable from those who are not.”
DeSantis will not make face coverings mandatory for citizens, but will continue to ask Floridians to continue following the CDC guidelines.
He acknowledged the hardships of those affected by the national shutdown and for all Floridians.
“Our kids have not seen their friends from school in at least six weeks. School sports, plays and activities have gone up in smoke, depriving our kids of some of the best times of their lives. Traditional graduations have been cancelled and so have senior proms.
These moments will be forever lost. Working parents have had to juggle the new reality of distance learning all while trying to put food on the table. And of course our kids haven’t been able to see their grandparents.”
As he moves forward DeSantis said his outline for continued reopening includes protecting the vulnerable, increasing COVID-19 testing, promoting social distancing, supporting hospital capacity and healthcare workers, and preventing exposure to COVID-19 from people coming in from outside of the state.
He noted that while Miami-Dade and Broward counties, “Have seen the lion’s share of the epidemic,” opening the state will not be like “turning on a switch.”
It will be “safe, smart, step-by-step.”
This is a breaking news story and The Apopka Voice will update it as we have more details.