TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — There is light at the end of the tunnel, said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who announced the state will begin reopening its economy on Monday, May 4.
It's considered "phase one" amid the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Although they are statewide guidelines, the governor made an exception for South Florida as that region has been hardest hit by the virus.
DeSantis' announcement comes just a day before Florida's stay at home order is set to expire on April 30.
As part of the governor's presentation, he showed the following points as part of phase one -- he said it is largely modeled off the White House's Guidelines for Opening Up America Again plan.
- Vulnerable individuals should avoid close contact with people outside the home
- All individuals, when in public, should maximize physical distance from others
- Avoid settings of 10 people or more that do not readily allow for physical distancing
- Face masks are recommended for all face-to-face interactions and situations where you can't social distance
- Schools remain distance learning
- Visits to senior living facilities are prohibited
- Elective surgeries can resume
- Restaurants may offer outdoor seating with 6-foot space between tables and indoor seating at 25-percent capacity
- Retail can operate at 25 percent of indoor capacity
- No changes for bars, gyms and personal services such as hairdressers
"We are going to be data-driven, we are going to focus on the facts," DeSantis said. If there is a sudden surge in coronavirus cases and there is a "flood of people" going into the hospital system, a "phase two" might be delayed.
There will be no firm time on setting a "phase two," added DeSantis, who said he'll be looking to other states on their plans and results as part of Florida's own decision making.
Part of the strategy to reopening the state further involves increasing the number of coronavirus tests taken statewide, DeSantis said. The state has the capacity, he added, with 750,000 tests available at each site daily.
A new testing site will open early next week near the University Town Center to better serve Manatee and Sarasota counties, the governor announced.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor tweeted in response to DeSantis' announcement, appreciating his effort.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman tweeted that he will review the plan.
On Tuesday, he traveled to Washington, D.C., and met with President Trump. During their meeting in the Oval Office, DeSantis said he would announce on Wednesday the next steps for reopening Florida.
DeSantis also said he’s been getting regular updates from his Re-Open Florida Task Force, which is made up of politicians, health leaders, business executives and education experts, on where the state should head next.
The Task Force hosted days of meetings last week with industry, education and health experts to come up with recommendations for the governor.
The current statewide order, expiring Thursday, has been in place since April 3 to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
As of Wednesday afternoon, there are 33,193 positive coronavirus cases in Florida. And, 1,218 people have died from the coronavirus, according to the Department of Health.
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