TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — With his safer-at-home order set to expire Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced phase one of reopening Florida will begin May 4.
For now, the reopening process will exclude southeast Florida counties, namely Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, which have seen the highest rates of COVID-19 in the state.
"These counties have seen the lion's share of this pandemic but they are trending in a positive direction," DeSantis said. "I am working with them and will continue to work them and I do believe that they will be able to move to phase one very soon."
DeSantis continued, "We will get Florida back on its feet by using an approach that is safe, smart and step-by-step."
During a news conference Wednesday, DeSantis explained that after receiving input and advice from health care executives, small business owners, elected officials, unemployed Floridians and law enforcement, phase one of reopening the state will go as follows:
- Schools will continue distance learning
- Visits to senior living facilities will remain prohibited
- Elective surgeries can resume
- Restaurants may offer outdoor seating with six-foot space between tables and indoor seating will be at 25% capacity
- Retail stores can operate at 25% of indoor capacity
- Bars, gyms and personal services such as hairdressers will remain closed
- Vulnerable individuals should avoid close contact with people outside the home
- All individuals, when in public, should maximize physical distance from others
- Avoid socializing in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for physical distancing
- Face masks are recommended for all those in face-to-face interactions and when you can't social distance.
DeSantis did not give details on the phases that would follow phase one but did say the following will be considered as the state moves forward:
- Maintaining the health benchmarks of the safe, smart, step-by-step plan.
- Maintaining hospital bed capacity
- Monitoring COVID-19 test positivity rate
"We are trying to build a foundation for the future of the state of Florida," DeSantis said. "We did not ask to be put in this situation, it was thrust upon us -- largely because of the malfeasance of the Chinese communist party. We are where we are, but I think we can get through it. I think we can build a foundation."
The governor listed ways in which the pandemic has impacted everyday life for Florida residents, such as mass unemployment and children and parents adjusting to distance learning. It was during that moment that DeSantis also highlighted how the pandemic has impacted him personally.
"Our kids haven't been able to see their grandparents," DeSantis said. "This is something my wife Casey and I know real well. Our newborn daughter, Mamie, has yet to be held by any of her grandparents."
DeSantis said he's been receiving regular briefings from his Re-Open Florida Task Force, which is made up of politicians, health leaders, business people and education experts, on where the state should go from here.
The full news conference can be viewed below:
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