Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step.: State ‘reopening’ to begin
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 Wednesday that he will allow the re-opening of restaurants and retail stores, with capacity restrictions, beginning May 4. Elective surgeries will be permitted again as well.
DeSantis announced that restaurants can re-open for on-premise dining with outdoor seating and social distancing, and indoor seating at 25% capacity. “Non-essential” retail stores can reopen with 25% capacity indoors.
The new order will not extend to Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, which have been hardest hit by the coronavirus.
DeSantis also announced Wednesday 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,” DeSantis 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. The governor 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 has argued that Florida has dealt with the coronavirus 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. DeSantis 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 Thursday morning, there had been 1,268 deaths across Florida attributed to COVID-19 since the pandemic began here in March.
There have been 33,690 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19.
There have been 43 deaths in Lee County among 1,021 confirmed positive cases.
“We do have hope,” DeSantis said. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”