Florida Governor DeSantis Unveils Plan to Gradually Open the State

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis delivers remarks during a press conference at a coronavirus mobile testing site Monday, March 23, 2020, in The Villages, Fla. The Villages, a retirement community, is one of the largest concentration of seniors in the U.S. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/AP Photo

Governor Ron DeSantis (R) on Wednesday outlined the first phase of reopening Florida, which he said will kick off Monday, May 4.

The governor, after consulting with his Re-Open Florida Task Force, said the majority of the state will enter the first phase of reopening next week, allowing retail stores to operate at a limited capacity and restaurants to offer outdoor seating as long as they meet proper social distancing standards between tables.

Under the “SAFE. SMART. STEP-BY-STEP Plan for Florida’s Recovery,” elective surgeries will be able to resume, and retail stores will be able to operate at 25 percent capacity. Bars, salons, gyms, and movie theaters will remained closed. DeSantis said masks are encouraged, but there is no penalty for refusing to do so. However, residents are still asked to abide by proper social distancing standards while in public, and socializing in groups larger than ten is still discouraged.

Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, which were hit hardest by the virus, are excluded from the first phase of reopening.

“These counties have seen the lion’s share of this pandemic, 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.”

“We are trying to build a foundation for the future of the state of Florida,” the governor stated.

“We did not ask to be put in this situation. It 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. I think we can build a foundation,” he added.

DeSantis also stressed the importance of looking at the facts rather than acting on fear.

“What is our biggest obstacle? Fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear sparked by constant gloom and doom and hysteria that has permeated our culture for the past six weeks,” he said. “The facts should be more comforting than the fear.”

The state’s stay-at-home order expires on Thursday.

The state had 33,193 coronavirus cases as of Wednesday afternoon, with over 50 percent of those cases stemming from the South Florida counties excluded from the state’s first phase of reopening.

DeSantis said:

We also want public confidence. One of the reasons we’re going to take a very slow and methodical approach is because we want to make sure we build as much confidence as possible with the general public, and we’re also going to be partnering with local communities, which is what we did from the very beginning.

“We knew the epidemic was going to be different in Southeast Florida, and we work with those counties differently and treated them differently than we would in say Jacksonville or Northeast or Northwest Florida, where the epidemic was significantly less,” he added.

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