Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and elected officials from Miami-Dade and Broward counties announced today they will be joining the other 65 counties in the state’s Phase 1 reopening effective May 18th.
According to the Phase 1 plan, “Restaurants are allowed to reopen both their indoor and outdoor seating areas with restrictions. Both indoor and outdoor seating must include six feet of space between tables. Indoor seating will be limited to just 25% of capacity. Retail stores will be allowed to reopen with 25% of capacity and elective surgeries will also be allowed to resume.”
The South Florida counties will continue to enforce face covering rules and beaches will remain closed. Members of law enforcement and elected officials arrived at the briefing all wearing face masks which were removed only when speaking at the podium.
Broward County requires, “Persons who are providing an essential service during direct in-person interactions with any customer or other member of the public, persons obtaining an essential service at establishments including, but not limited to, grocery stores, restaurants, and pharmacies and persons using public transit, taxis, vehicles for hire, and/or other ride sharing arrangements to wear face coverings according the county website.
Miami-Dade’s policy remains in effect: “Facial coverings will be enforced until health experts advise it is no longer necessary.”
As Gov. DeSantis and mayors representing South Florida made statements at a podium set in Downtown Doral, people could be heard shouting comments in the background wanting more businesses to open and unemployment problems fixed.
DeSantis reported that Florida’s positivity rate now ranges between 1.84 and 5.27 percent overall for new cases.
“There was a time when Broward was testing 15 percent (positive),” DeSantis said about the new rate of 4.4 percent as of May 12th.
As of May 14th, confirmed cases in Broward County were 6,057 with 267 deaths and in Dade County there were 14,742 cases and 535 deaths.
DeSantis reported that ICU patients and patients on ventilators continue to decline.
The number of patients in ICU since the Phase 1 opening of the rest of the state two weeks ago has decreased 21 percent from 600 to 421.
“Syndromatic indicators remain low, Influenza-like activities remain low,” he said.
DeSantis said many of the economic engines for the state are in South Florida. “Today we take another important step,” he said about opening the last two counties by declaring Miami-Dade and Broward counties will move into Phase 1on May 18th
Miami-Dade had a 36 percent decrease in COVID-19 patients in the ICU in the last two weeks, DeSantis reported.
Both Miami-Dade and Broward counties submitted reopening plans.
“They are not going to have the exact same approach on everything but are collaborating and coordinating on some issues,” DeSantis said.
And while Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner announced that access to public beaches will begin on May 18th, South Florida beaches will remain closed because of possible crowding and social distancing problems.
“The virus is still here,” DeSantis said. “It’s not generating at as many cases but still poses a significant threat.”
The governor urges healthcare workers and other frontline and essential workers to take advantage of testing sites.
“Send them every two weeks,” he said. “We have the tests available to do it.”
DeSantis reminded residents that they should get outside and exercise. “The outdoors is our friend,” he said and pointed to the how the golf courses were kept open in The Villages retirement facility and that there have been, “record tee sheets and zero are in the hospital.”
DeSantis continues to emphasize protecting the most vulnerable population and said that testing long-term care residents and staff is crucial.
“We’ve got a mobile lab going around testing,” he said. “All workers at long-term care facilities should be going on a regular basis to test sites.
“Keep it out of those facilities, and we can save a lot of lives,” he said.
DeSantis said he will be making an announcement on May 15th, “that encompasses the gyms.”