TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said his plan to gradually reopen parts of the state will not include South Florida at first.
Speaking in Tallahassee on Wednesday, the governor said Phase One of his reopening strategy will begin on Monday, May 4.
However, the guidelines will not apply to Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties "for the time being" because of the high number of coronavirus cases in those areas.
"These counties have seen the lion's share of the state's epidemic, but they are trending in a positive direction," DeSantis said. "I am working with them and will continue to work with them, and I do believe that they will be able to move to Phase One very soon."
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The governor said Phase One involves the following:
- Schools continue distance learning until further notice
- Visits to senior living facilities are prohibited
- Elective surgeries can resume
- Restaurants may offer outdoor seating with 6-foot space between tables and indoor seating at 25 percent capacity
- Large venues like movie theaters will remain closed
- Retail can operate at 25 percent of indoor capacity
- No change for bars, gyms, and personal services such as hair dressers (they will remain closed until further notice)
- Vulnerable individuals should avoid close contact with people outside the home
- All individuals, when in public, should maximize physical distance from others
- Avoid socializing in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for physical distancing
- Face masks are recommended for all those in face-to-face interactions and where you can't social distance
"My hope would be, each phase we're thinking about weeks. We're not thinking about months," DeSantis said, adding there will be three phases in the reopening process.
DeSantis praised Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties for their decision to reopen parks, boat ramps, golf courses, community pools, and other recreational activities.
"I'm not seeing any outbreaks tied to playing golf," DeSantis said. "I think it was the right decision to give people outlets and give people the ability to do some of those things."
The governor didn't specify when the three South Florida counties will be included in the statewide reopening plan.
"I think we're gonna be able to get them there relatively soon," DeSantis said. "We want to get them going, I think we have a good path to do it, but it's gonna be on a little bit different timetable than the rest of the state."
Wednesday's highly anticipated address came just one day before a sweeping "stay at home" order, which only allows Floridians to leave their homes for essential services and activities, was set to expire.
The "stay at home" order has been extended to Monday, May 4.
"We will get Florida back on its feet using an approach that is safe, smart, and step-by-step," DeSantis said. "We do have hope. There is a light at the end of the tunnel."
DeSantis met with President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday and said he'll take a "measured, thoughtful, and data-driven" approach to reopening the state.
"Going from where we are now to Phase One is not a very big leap," DeSantis said during a news conference in the Oval Office. "I think that will be able to be a small step for us."
The Re-Open Florida Task Force, made up of health, political, business, and education leaders from across the state, presented its recommendations to the governor on Tuesday about the safest and most effective ways to reopen operations in Florida.
According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, there are 33,193 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 1,218 deaths.