Gov. Ron DeSantis says most of Florida can begin first phase of reopening May 4

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Governor adopts step-by-step approach to reopening

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.– Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday that most of Florida will enter what he called “phase one” of the reopening process on May 4 as the state continues to fight the spread of coronavirus.

Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties will not open on this date due to a higher incidence of COVID-19 infections in the area, DeSantis said.

“These counties have seen the lion’s share of the state’s epidemic, but they are trending in a positive direction,” DeSantis said, adding he believes those counties could move to phase one “very soon.”

The governor said Florida would reopen in three phases in-line with the guidelines released by the White House under President Trump’s reopening America plan.

Here’s what changes and doesn’t change for Florida on May 4:

  • Schools continue distance learning
  • Visits to senior living facilities are prohibited
  • Elective surgeries can resume
  • Sports arenas and movie theaters will remain closed
  • Restaurants may offer outdoor seating with six feet of space between tables and indoor seating at 25% capacity
  • Retail stores can operate at 25% of indoor capacity
  • No changes for bars, gyms and personal services such as hair dressers and barbers
  • Vulnerable individuals should avoid close contact with people outside the home

Phase one maintains current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including vulnerable individuals continuing social distancing while in public, avoiding groups of 10 or more and using face masks in public when you can’t maintain six feet away from others.

“Our plan from the beginning to fight COVID-19 is going to continue. Nothing’s going to change about that. We are going to continue to protect the vulnerable,” DeSantis said. “We are going to continue to increase testing … we’ll continue to promote various forms of social distancing.”

The governor said when phase two and phase three begin will depend on how well the first stage goes.

“Each phase we’re thinking about weeks, not thinking about months,” DeSantis said.

State officials will continue to monitor health care resources including hospital bed capacity and personal protection equipment supplies.

“We also need to make sure our health care system is ready, make sure we have adequate resources and beds and the staff is protected,” DeSantis said.

The governor said he could see fans attend major sporting events in Florida by June or July. Churches were never ordered to close under the governor’s executive order and will remain open.

During his presentation, DeSantis did not address when Floridians could expect to see theme parks or major attractions reopen or speak to Florida’s troubled unemployment system. The governor took a few questions from reporters before leaving the room.

“We obviously need an economic recovery,” the governor said, touching briefly on the financial fallout.

At the time of the governor’s announcement Wednesday, the Florida Department of Health reported a total of 33,193 cases of coronavirus, with more than 1,218 fatalities as a result of the disease.

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