By Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE — Restaurants and many retail stores outside of Southeast Florida can start reopening Monday with limited occupancy as part of the first phase of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ economic-recovery effort after the coronavirus caused massive shutdowns.
DeSantis on Wednesday outlined what he described as a step-by-step plan that will allow restaurants outside of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties to have outdoor seating and occupancy up to 25 percent, with operations complying with physical-distancing guidelines.
The first phase — following guidance from the White House to governors — also will allow hospitals and other medical providers to conduct elective procedures.
However, movie theaters will remain closed, as will bars, gyms and hair salons, and visitors will continue to be prevented from going to hospitals and nursing homes. And while DeSantis said the state won’t issue fines, gatherings of 10 or more people will continue to be prohibited.
DeSantis did not give a firm timeline for moving into the next phases of reopening the economy, saying the second phase will depend on trends involving hospital occupancy and if there are surges or declines in cases. The state will also look at what other states are doing for businesses, such as barber shops, that require close contact between workers and customers.
“My hope would be each phase we’re thinking about weeks, we’re not thinking about months,” DeSantis told reporters at the Capitol. “If we’re making progress, you know, we need to continue to put people back to work in a safe, smart and step-by-step way. But it’s going to be data driven.”
DeSantis spoke of a need to reduce fear of the virus while highlighting that Florida’s outbreak hasn’t been as large as some people had initially predicted.
The first phase of reopening excludes heavily populated areas of Southeast Florida, which has by far seen the most cases of COVID-19, the deadly respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. As of Wednesday morning, the state had 33,193 coronavirus cases and 1,218 deaths — with nearly 60 percent of the cases in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.
“We also want public confidence,” DeSantis said. “One of the reasons we’re going to take a very slow and methodical approach is because we want to make sure we build as much confidence as possible with the general public, and we’re also going to be partnering with local communities, which is what we did from the very beginning. We knew the epidemic was going to be different in Southeast Florida, and we work with those counties differently and treated them differently than we would in say Jacksonville or Northeast or Northwest Florida where the epidemic was significantly less.”
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry in a prepared statement said the phased approach “will allow our city and every community in Florida to get back to life as we knew it just months ago.”
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat, said she was “encouraged by this cautious approach.”
“I remain concerned about key numbers in the weeks ahead, that testing must be increased and that all data must be accurately reported, both cases and death,” Fried said in a prepared statement. “We are all eager to get back to normal, and to do so safely without jeopardizing public health.”
Meanwhile, Senate President Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who has resisted calls to rush into a special legislative session to deal with the economic impacts of the virus, said he’s confident in Florida’s ability to recovery.
“Floridians have shown great patience and sacrifice in tolerating severe economic hardships and many other inconveniences for the good of others during this unprecedented time,” Galvano said in a statement after DeSantis’ announcement. “While it appears that the worst of this pandemic is behind us, here in Florida we must remain vigilant in order to avoid any setbacks as we work to reopen our state.”
DeSantis signaled in recent days that he would allow elective medical procedures to resume. They were halted, at least in part, to try to conserve medical supplies.
Florida Medical Association President Ronald Giffler said Wednesday he was “pleased” with DeSantis allowing the procedures to return.
“This is welcomed news as many patients have had to delay much needed treatment and care due to (a DeSantis executive order) prohibiting patients with chronic kidney disease, certain cancer, cardiac bypass and congestive heart failure and those needing joint surgeries to alleviate chronic pain, to receive care,” Giffler said in a statement. “While the state has understandably focused on the immediate needs of fighting COVID-19, it is imperative that we not ignore a potential second crisis: a wave of emergencies and fatalities among the people delaying care or going untreated.”
But Rich Templin, a lobbyist for the Florida AFL-CIO, questioned DeSantis’ use of the “past tense” in describing the pandemic.
“As @GovRonDeSantis argues for reopening Florida he keeps talking in past tense,” Templin tweeted. “The escalation of the pandemic is still happening here!! It is not past tense!!”
In addition to the White House outline, DeSantis used recommendations from a task force he formed to look at various business-related issues. DeSantis met with President Donald Trump on Tuesday at the White House.
DeSantis said his moves won’t tread on civil liberties.
“There have been wide-ranging and punitive orders issued in various regions of this country,” DeSantis said. “People have rights. The government needs to protect health, but we should not going go beyond what is necessary to do that.”
Did you contract Covid-19 after returning to work? Call Morgan and Morgan, for the profit, um, er I mean…for the people.
What I found as an interesting contrast is the very people who refused to evacuate their homes when a hurricane was tracking directly at them on radar, are now willing to hide in their homes from an invisible mystery. Many who evacuated, and then were not allowed home after the storm, said they would never evacuate again. I suspect “locking down” shy of a zombie virus, will never be tolerated again.
I just hope all restaurant workers, From the cooks, to the wait people, to the servers, busboys. And hostesses or greeters all wear masks and gloves during this first phase. I have seen several places serving takeout these last few weeks and they have no protection.
The death and destruction being experienced by America, Americans, and our economy as a result of China’s egregious malfeasance… has now officially transitioned into a full-blown Democrat Party Campaign strategy. The more America and Americans suffer, the happier they are… and they don’t even hide it anymore.
I believe we may be witnessing the most extraordinary, malicious, and nefarious election meddling scheme of our lifetime. The Democrats hatred for America and Americans, and their lust for the destruction of our Great Republic, knows no boundaries and carries no empathy for the innocent… particularly children and the elderly. Be smart, use your common sense, and may God bless us all.
Edward, I hate the dems too, but repubs are every bit as culpable. Repub governors are shutting down economic activity along with dem governors. Every repub in congress except thomas massie voted in lock step for these immoral and destructive bailouts. In fact, they didnt just vote for it, theyre all doing victory laps celebrating. Trump claims to be a repub, and he signed the bailout with pure glee.
We need to hold all politicians accountable. The difference between the two parties is almost non-existent at this point. If you truly believe in liberty and smaller govt, youre not going to get it from the repub party any more than you would from the dems.
At what point in time do we stop with the panic porn and acknowledge this was wildly overblown and a colossal mistake now that we have concrete Florida data and antibody studies? At what point in time do DeSantis and Trump own this train wreck for allowing the panic porn media and President Fauci take over? At what point in time do we stop allowing the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with their Event 201 pandemic wargame rules take over? At what point in time do we stop acting like the CCP and destroying what’s little left of our constitutional freedoms? At what point in time do we tell the CDC and their face mask rules to stuff it? At what point in time do DeSantis and Trump stop being cowards and act like men by strongly backing their supporters who are being destroyed before our eyes? Both of these individuals barely won their respective elections. If the Democrats were not so colossally stupid and extreme leftists, DeSantis, and Trump in particular, would have no hope their next elections.
I agree, but it seems like the reactions to this are getting worse, if that’s possible. Now Costco and many of the airlines are requiring masks. When did we go from “lockdown to flatten the curve” to “lockdown until not one person has a fever”? This is what happens when we allow flawed human beings to control us. We need to stand up to anything govt wants to do. This is a govt power grab, nothing more.
And yes, i realize Costco and the airlines are private businesses that can require what they want. I was pointing them out because it seems like people are getting more paranoid as time goes on, even though the data is nowhere near as scary as what we were originally told it would be.
My main problem is not with them but with govt restricting our freedoms under the guise of “helping us”.
I shouldnt have mentioned Costco/airlines in the same post as govt
Well said. However, I disagree to one extent. You can lump these companies in with the government nowadays. Between big tech and big corporations, they are in lock-step with their government oligarch friends and masters. There is a diminishing difference these days between how the CCP controls their companies and how we control ours. Just look at the current insane advertising messages from these companies pumping the panic porn. Shame on Costco they may be private but they are feeding the panic porn as badly as our government and the enemedia and of course headquartered on the left coast.
No argument here. Everyone from banks to car manufacturers to toilet paper companies is bombarding us with how virtuous it is to allow govt to trample the few liberties we have left.
If it wasnt already obvious that the virus is nowhere near as dangerous as the govt is making it out to be- look at how the politicians who want us bolted in our houses are still taking vacations, going to the hair salon, and playing golf.
We need to strip these corrupt people of their power!!
Mayor Daily and the Commission need to come out of their Biden Bunkers and get this city up and running again… and fast. Lest they likely face formidable challenges to their leadership and offices in the next cycle. This is quickly becoming an incumbents’ nightmare.
“The govt needs to protect health”. It does?? Where does it say this? Can I refuse Ron’s protection of my health?
What about the State Parks, When do they reopen please?
I took one journalism class 50 years ago. This is what a news article is supposed to be – then and now. Walter Cronkite retired from CBS 39 years ago in April. I miss him in the same manner as I miss my parents. Cronkite was replaced with Dan Rather. Dan seems angry about things. I don’t pay any attention to what he says.