Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Wednesday, April 29, that Florida would begin to reopen its economy in attempts to rebuild the state’s foundation. He outlined a number of phases intended to slowly ease our businesses out of fear and into working order while protecting the vulnerable population.
“Now, these steps will be deliberate. It will not be like turning off a switch, but each step will bring us closer to that light at the end of the tunnel,” Gov. DeSantis said during his press conference.
Phase One will consist of an expansion of COVID-19 testing. In addition to the many drive-in testing sites speckled throughout the state, DeSantis calls for walkup testing sites as well to benefit the communities less attended to. Additionally, he plans to increase the number of labs and consequently have quicker testing and results for all parts of the community.
“We think we’ll be able to do 30,000 to 40,000 tests a day,” he said. He also stated the importance of contact tracing to track down all potentially affected persons.
As for immediate restitutions provided by Phase One, Gov. DeSantis decided that schools will remain in distance learning. Guests should not be allowed into long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, permitting only a few exceptions. Churches were never officially closed in the state of Florida and will remain open with social distancing expected. Comparatively, movie theaters and other large venues will not be opened during Phase One of reopening the state.
Restaurants will be permitted to open with some restrictions: Outdoor seating must accommodate social distancing, the interior of the restaurant may be utilized at 25% capacity, and all seating must align with the CDC’s space recommendations. Gov. DeSantis hopes that opening restaurants will reduce the shopper density in some grocery stores.
Grocery stores should maintain their current practices of social distancing, wearing face masks, etc., and the 25% capacity limit will be relaxed. Curbside service should continue for retail businesses and is recommended for all retail, if possible, in addition to conducting business over the phone, through a webcam, or simply at a distance with a face mask.
Small businesses like gyms, hair salons, bars, and other nonessential businesses will not be opened during Phase One.
DeSantis urges social groupings to stay under 10 people at once. “We’re recommending face masks if you’re in face-to-face interactions with people, particularly in the workplace and if you can’t adequately social distance,” he said during the press conference. No fines will be imposed on those who do not comply.
When it comes time for Phase Two of Florida’s reopening, actions will continue to be driven by true data. A priority in the second phase is addressing hospital resources and capacity. This largely depends on how Phase One goes; if cases decrease, it may be plausible.
Gov. DeSantis hopes that each phase will be implemented only a few weeks from each other so that the state reopening will come quickly and safely; however, there is no firm time schedule in place to outline each phase. Decisions will be made by the state according to the data brought to them by healthcare professionals, physicians, Floridians, business owners, and assorted executives. While many states in the country are reopening at an accelerated pace and others are continuing quarantine practices for another few months, our state will take gradual steps to reintroduce the complete business community.
Ideally and according to White House recommendations, there will be three phases until the state is fully reopened. Gov. DeSantis and his Task Force to Reopen Florida will continue to collaborate with local governments among Florida’s counties to decide what is best for their regions. As a result of this partnership, the counties of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach will remain closed until data allows otherwise. They are the only counties in the state excluded from Phase One because of medical judgement.
In the words of Gov. DeSantis, “We’re a resourceful people with a can-do spirit. We can do what we need to do to protect our vulnerable populations from the coronavirus while taking safe, smart steps toward rebuilding Florida’s foundation.”