TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Most of Florida will begin reopening on Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday.
DeSantis says Phase One of his “Smart. Safe. Step-By-Step.” plan will go into effect Monday, May 4. Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward counties will be excluded for the time being due to their elevated number of cases, the governor said. He did, however, express confidence that those counties could get to the same point as the rest of the state soon.
So what does Phase One mean and what will change starting Monday?
Schools will continue virtual learning during Phase One. It was announced earlier this month that distance learning would continue for the remainder of the school year. That was reiterated in Wednesday’s announcement.
Senior living facilities
Gov. DeSantis says visits to senior living facilities will be prohibited in Phase One. He did mention that he’s willing to re-evaluate if the state gets enough access to rapid tests.
“If someone tests negative and they want to go see one of their parents, maybe you let them in,” he said, adding that a visitor taking the antibody test may also work.
Elective surgeries will be allowed to resume in Phase One.
When Gov. DeSantis visited Tampa General Hospital earlier this week, hospital officials announced they would be ready to resume elective surgeries starting May 11. It’s unclear whether or not they will move that up and start Monday when Phase One begins.
Restaurants will be allowed to offer outdoor seating, as long as tables are separated by at least 6 feet.
Indoor seating will be allowed at 25% capacity.
Retailers will be allowed to operate at 25% capacity indoors.
Gov. DeSantis says Phase One will not change anything with bars, restaurants or personal services like hair salons.
Movie theaters will also stay closed for the time being. The governor says theaters were technically allowed in Phase One but he decided to be more cautious.
Protecting the vulnerable
The governor stressed that a goal of Phase One is to continue protecting the vulnerable population that has been most impacted by the coronavirus. He says vulnerable individuals should avoid close contact with people outside of their homes.
Gov. DeSantis says social distancing recommendations are still in place. Everyone is being asked to maximize their physical distance form others.
Socializing in groups of 10 or more should still be avoided if you can’t physically distance yourself from each other, the governor said.
The governor is recommending people wear face coverings if they’re interacting face-to-face with someone and can’t social distance. He pointed out workplaces would be a good place to practice using face masks.
The governor stressed they wouldn’t arrest or ticket anyone for not wearing a face mask and noted it’s probably not necessary to wear one if you’re going on a walk or jog or doing some other activity by yourself.
As Florida moves forward and begins Phase One of reopening and recovering, Gov. DeSantis stressed the importance of testing as much as possible and monitoring the state’s positivity rate.