Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday told Floridians what “Phase 1” of his plan to re-open the state looks like. Relaxed restrictions will take effect Monday, May 4 statewide with the exception of Florida’s hardest-hit counties, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward.
Here are the restrictions that will be eased starting Monday:
· Elective surgeries can resume statewide, after being halted March 20.
· Restaurants can offer outdoor seating, and indoor service at 25% capacity, though DeSantis says “(patrons) need to have 6 feet apart” outside
· Retail businesses can open at 25% indoor capacity
Here’s what isn’t being relaxed in Phase 1, at least not yet:
· Visits to nursing homes, long term care facilities still prohibited
· Schools will continue distance learning until further notice
· Bars will remain closed, as well as gyms, barber shops and hairdressers
DeSantis says he will “look to see what happens in other states” when it comes to close-contact businesses like gyms and barber shops: “If I get some guidelines that make sense, and I see other states have done it, and it’s been okay, then we’ll obviously re-evaluate that.”
When considering moving to ‘Phase 2,’ of the three-phase plan, which mirrors the White House’s published guidelines, the Governor says officials will primarily watch hospital capacity and COVID-19 positive case rate in Florida.
“Today … Florida will take a step. Small, deliberate, methodical,” DeSantis told media when announcing the first steps toward reopening. He said the state’s guidelines were drawn up “in consultation with some of our greatest physicians.”
DeSantis, who met with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office Tuesday, told White House reporters he'll approach re-opening in a "measured, thoughtful and data-driven way."
Last week, DeSantis’ “Re-Open Florida” task force met in a series of conference calls, bringing together dozens of executives from various sectors of business in the state, as well as agency heads, a handful of medical doctors and hospital CEOs, and the Florida cabinet, minus its Democratic agriculture commissioner, Nikki Fried.
Republican Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva, part of the task force’s executive committee that weighed recommendations from various industries, said the goal was to give businesses and school districts universal guidelines.
“What we have to do, both in education and in business, is set forth a set of parameters,” Oliva said last week. “When those parameters are in place, people will be able to adjust to them. And if their business model works, it will work – and if it doesn’t work it will not work., But the parameters are the most important.”
The Florida Department of Health, as of Wednesday afternoon, reported 33,193 COVID-19 cases in the state and 1,218 deaths.