PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he's in "discussions" with local officials to add Palm Beach County to Phase One of the state's reopening plan.
Speaking at a coronavirus testing site at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Wednesday, the governor said he hopes Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties will be added to the first phase "soon," but did not give a specific date.
"We'll hopefully be able to go forward soon in southern Florida, and I think that we can look to South Florida to really help lead Florida back," DeSantis said.
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Currently, Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties are excluded from all areas of Phase One of the reopening plan, with the exception of elective surgeries.
Under the first phase, which started on Monday, restaurants and retail shops across Florida can operate at 25 percent capacity.
On Tuesday, Palm Beach County commissioners voted to send a letter to DeSantis, asking that he add the county to Phase One. As of Wednesday morning, that letter had not been sent yet, according to Mayor Dave Kerner.
"We want to be safe about it, we want to be smart, and it is going to be a step-by-step process," DeSantis said. "It's not just flipping a switch. But I do believe that for Florida to be successful, we need our southern Florida communities to be successful."
The governor admitted that Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties have all met White House requirements to partially reopen in Phase One.
Those requirements include a decline in hospitalizations and the percentage of positive COVID-19 cases, along with enough health care resources.
But DeSantis said that because of the high number of cases in the three South Florida counties, along with how the epidemic has developed there versus the rest of the state, the decision was made to exclude the counties from Phase One.
"I consulted with [Miami-Dade County] Mayor Gimenez, the other appropriate officials in Palm Beach and Broward about what would Phase One look like. And they were doing last week some very important announcements on parks, marinas, boats, golf courses. And so they want to see how that's going," DeSantis said. "We're now going to be in discussions about the next step for these three counties."
According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department Health, there are 3,480 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Palm Beach County, including 215 deaths.