TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s minority party has called on the governor to roll back his state reopen plan amid a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, increased hospitalizations and a higher weekly death rate.
During a Wednesday morning news conference, Senate Democrats announced their "Step Back to Safety" plan while attacking Gov. Ron DeSantis' leadership through the health crisis.
"He's losing the war against the pandemic," said Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson."That means the people of the state of Florida are losing the war."
The Democrats' plan would call for rules much like what Florida experienced during Phase One of the state's current reopen strategy.
- Bars and nightclubs would close
- All businesses would operate at 25 percent capacity
- Students would have online options and wait at least another month before returning to school
Restrictions would then be lifted county-by-county, members said, if positivity rates remain at 5 percent for two weeks.
"If we don’t go back right now, it's only going to get worse, I promise you," said Sen. Oscar Braynon, a Democrat from Miami Gardens. "The numbers prove it. We see it happening right now. The proof is in the pudding."
While a rollback of any kind would likely hurt the already weakened economy, lawmakers said their option is better than risking another shutdown.
North Florida restaurant owner David Gwynn said the increased safety would come at a high cost. His small eatery, Cypress, is already under 50 percent capacity. Going backward would be a struggle for the business, which hasn’t capitalized on curbside.
Gwynn is willing to take the hit, however, for the good of the state.
"If that's what we need to do, then that's what we need to do," he said. "I want to survive this— physically and economically, but I understand we have to think of it as a collective whole."
Others don't share that sentiment.
Ethan Way, an attorney for Harry’s Bar and Package in Carrabelle, announced on Facebook he's filed a lawsuit against the governor over current bar restrictions, which forbids consumption onsite.
"The business has existed since 1942," Way said in his post. "It has survived hurricanes and all manner of strife. It will not survive this Covid shutdown."
DeSantis has been defiantly against rolling back, deferring to local governments to make the call. During a recent news briefing, he gave no indication he was considering Democrats' request despite being asked.
"We're working hard every day to prevent not only the deaths but significant hospitalizations," DeSantis said. "I think if you look at all the efforts that we have done to protect the most vulnerable and compare that with some of the other states that maybe didn’t put as much emphasis on any of that — we’ve had people from the Florida Health Care Association, some of them say we’ve been able to save, probably, thousands of lives."
Democrats have called on the governor for a lot of other actions during the pandemic. The vast majority have been ignored to date. That includes a statewide mask order, special session and fixes to Florida’s unemployment system.