Governor unveils ‘Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step.’ plan
After more than a month of executive orders to restrict public and business interactions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on April 29 that he will allow the reopening of restaurants and retail stores, with capacity restrictions, beginning May 4. Elective surgeries will be permitted again, as well.
As part of Phase I of his “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan to Re-Open Florida” initiative, DeSantis announced that restaurants can reopen for on-premise dining with outdoor seating and social distancing, and indoor seating at 25 percent capacity. “Non-essential” retail stores can reopen with 25 percent capacity indoors.
The new order will not extend to Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, which have been hardest hit by COVID-19.
DeSantis also announced that there will be an increase in testing, including a site at the Twins’ CenturyLink Sports Complex parking lot in Fort Myers.
“What is our biggest obstacle? Fear,” he said. “Fear is our enemy.”
DeSantis pointed to sudden dropoffs of people seeking medical care for heart problems and stroke symptoms due to fear of exposure to the new coronavirus at hospitals. He said that could lead to more deaths.
“The only thing we have to fear is letting fear overwhelm our sense of purpose and determination,” DeSantis said.
In explaining his announcement, DeSantis said “the unprecedented national shutdown has thrown the lives of millions of Americans into economic and social turmoil.”
Small businesses representing the life’s work of Floridians have been lost overnight for some.
School plays, activities, graduations and senior proms have been canceled, depriving children of “some of the best times of their lives,” DeSantis said. “These moments have been forever lost.”
Visitors to nursing homes still will not be allowed. Bans on bars, movie theaters and salons will continue. “Distance learning” will continue as schools will remain closed.
DeSantis argued that Florida has dealt with COVID-19 better than many other states and that the health impact on the state’s population has been less severe than had been predicted or expected. He pointed to charts showing that death rates and hospitalizations per 100,000 people were far less than the hardest-hit states in the country.
As of April 29, there were 1,218 deaths across Florida attributed to COVID-19 since the pandemic began here in March. There were 33,193 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19. There were 41deaths in Lee County among 1,003 confirmed positive cases.
“We do have hope,” DeSantis said. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Phase I includes the following:
– Schools remain distance learning.
– Visits to senior living facilities are prohibited.
– Elective surgeries can resume.
– Restaurants may offer outdoor seating with six feet between tables and indoor seating at 25 percent capacity.
– Retail can operate at 25 percent of indoor capacity.
– No change for bars, gyms, and personal services such as hair salons.
– 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 one cannot social distance.
On April 29, the Governor’s Office released a FAQ sheet, along with a 44-page PowerPoint with multiple graphics providing both projections and actual and comparative numbers.