Governor Ron DeSantis initiated the second phase to reopen Florida on June 3 and set the phase to officially begin on June 5. Of the state’s 67 counties, all but Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach will move forward to Phase 2 of the coronavirus recovery plan, which was first outlined and implemented over one month ago.
As stated by Gov. DeSantis during his June 3 press conference, the same priorities remain: “Protect the vulnerable, increase testing, promote social distancing … support hospitals, protect healthcare workers, and prevent an introduction from outside of the state.”
To long-term healthcare facilities alone, PPE has been provided in the masses. The state has supplied protective gowns, face shields, and gloves in the millions to protect the group of people most susceptible to contracting COVID-19.
Testing, additionally, has increased considerably since the first phase deemed it a priority. In Florida, over one million people have been tested, putting the state in the running for the third most number of tests administered, according to Gov. DeSantis. Drive-thru and walk-up testing sites are instituted throughout Florida and are available in many of the underserved communities statewide.
Tests are increasingly available and with the high majority coming back negative. Gov. DeSantis continued, “We certainly have one of the lowest for any state with any significant population.” Antibody testing is also becoming more frequent and available, especially for first responders and healthcare professionals.
Phase 2 articulates permission for bars, movie theaters, and other entertainment venues to open while also allowing restaurants to expand their current seating limitations. Other restrictions will continue to lax in this phase as well.
Restaurants are permitted to operate indoors with socially distanced seating; the bars may be open to sit at with some separation; the outdoor seating may be utilized at full capacity and indoor seating at 50% capacity; and there will be seated service rather than seating yourself. Gyms and retail stores will continue to operate as they did during Phase 1 with consistent sanitation and social distancing protocols.
Movie theaters, bowling alleys, and other venues for entertainment are now given permission to operate at half capacity with the appropriate safety measures in place. “Those had not been operating up to this point. They now have a pathway to do that,” said Gov. DeSantis.
Public universities are under consideration for reopening their own operations. They have developed a task force to conjure plans for recovery later this month. Pari-mutuel facilities and theme parks, while not quite under the jurisdiction of the state, are able to reopen at their discretion with their own safety plans. Several theme parks have already opened or plan to reopen and have extensive safety protocols in place. All other personal services within the state are permitted to reopen as dictated by Phase 2 of Florida’s reopening process.
While moving forward with the second step in the state’s recovery after COVID-19, Gov. DeSantis strongly urges people aged 65 or older to avoid crowds and to minimize risk of exposure to the virus. “And I would say, even people who aren’t in those groups, be careful when you’re interacting with folks who may be in those vulnerable groups because that’s where you’re really going to see the significant health consequences of the virus,” he said during the press conference.
A guidance modeled after the nation’s response to reopening suggested groups of 50 people or less to be able to gather. This recommendation is adopted by Florida as well. Should an extraneous event require a gathering of more than 50 people, like a wedding or funeral, safety measures such as temperature checks and quick exposure surveys should be initiated.
Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach County will continue to be monitored and then prepare for Phase 2 while the rest of Florida’s 67 counties are ready to undergo this next step. The third phase in reopening the state will be determined after proceeding with this stage. Cases will be tracked, as usual, and the priorities will remain the same. Gov. Ron DeSantis’s task force will analyze the risk and benefits of reopening all businesses and returning to normal but, for now, will closely watch any coronavirus spread as this next wave of business openings commences.