Most of Florida’s retail stores and restaurants can resume operating indoors at a limited capacity starting next week on Monday, May 4, as the first phase of reopening the economy kicks off in the state.
Indoor patronage will be allowed for up to 25 people, and outdoor seatings will be allowed with appropriate social distancing, such as tables being positioned six feet apart, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference on Wednesday as he announced phase one of the plan called “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan for Florida’s Recovery” (pdf).
However, virus hotspots in the South Florida metropolitan region, which consists of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, will not have such restrictions lifted for now.
The affected counties, which collectively account for 28.9 percent of Florida’s 21.3 million residents, have seen a high number of cases and deaths from the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus. Collectively, they account for 57.3 percent of the state’s deaths and 59.5 percent of the state’s cases. The state, which has 67 counties, has seen 33,193 total cases and 1,218 deaths attributed to the CCP virus as of Wednesday, according to the Florida Department of Health.
“Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach are very important to Florida’s future,” DeSantis said during a news conference in Tallahassee. “We want to get them going. I think we have a good path to do it. But it’s going to be on a little bit different timetable than the rest of the state.”
DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order on April 1 to limit movement to only essential activities. The order, which closed non-essential businesses, went into effect on April 3 and was set to expire on Thursday. The order has now been extended to the start of Monday, after which Phase 1 of reopening will begin.
Under phase one, medical practices can resume elective surgeries and procedures statewide, but movie theaters, bars, fitness clubs, and other personal care services such as hair salons will remain closed. Nursing home visits will be prohibited and schools will continue to be closed with online distance learning in place.
DeSantis encouraged residents to wear masks for “face-to-face business.”
He said that Florida would increase walk-up CCP virus screening sites to 11 throughout the state.
“Part of our strategy in phase one is to expand testing … We want to be able to spot trends in the under-served communities.” he said.
He added that there is currently more capacity than demand for testing, and encouraged those who have symptoms or believe they may have been exposed to be tested.
DeSantis said that Florida authorities have been contact tracing and that he believes this may have prevented large outbreaks outside of South Florida.
“The contact tracing is going to continue in the state of Florida. It was always part of our strategy. … This saved a lot of spread, particularly in communities that did not have the widespread transmission like you saw in Dade and Broward,” he said.
“We did not ask to be put into this situation,” DeSantis also said, referring to the overall effect of the CCP virus on Florida. “This was thrust upon us largely because of the malfeasance of the Chinese communist party. We are where we are. But I think we can get through it, and we can build a foundation.”