TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Most of Florida started reopening on Monday, taking steps toward recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.
The first phase of the governor’s “Smart. Safe. Step-By-Step.” went into effect on Monday, May 4. The safer-at-home order that the governor put in place at the beginning of April was set to expire before that but was extended to be in place until Phase One started.
Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward counties will be excluded from Phase One 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 changed?
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Friday that Florida’s state park system would reopen Monday with Phase One.
Approximately 80 parks and trails throughout Florida will be open during the first phase, state park officials say.
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 as soon as Phase One begins on Monday.
In addition to elective surgeries, Gov. DeSantis’ executive order allows hospital ambulatory surgical centers, office surgery centers, dental offices, orthodontic offices, endodontic offices and other health care practitioner offices to reopen.
Offices that open will have to follow these regulations:
- The facility has the capacity to immediately convert additional facility-identified surgical and intensive care beds for treatment of COVID-19 patients in a surge capacity situation
- The facility has adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to complete all medical procedures and respond to COVID-19 treatment needs without the facility seeking any additional federal or state assistance regarding PPE supplies
- The facility has not sought any additional federal, state, or local government assistance regarding PPE supplies since resuming elective procedures
- The facility has not refused to provide support to and proactively engage with skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and other long-term care residential providers
Restaurants will be allowed to open up dining rooms and outdoor seating again.
Tables outdoors must be separated by at least 6 feet and groups with more than 10 people should not be seated. In addition, restaurants will be required to keep bar counters closed to seating.
Indoor seating will be allowed at 25% capacity and social distancing measures must be in place.
Retailers will be allowed to operate at 25% capacity indoors. They will also have to follow safety guidelines from the CDC and OSHA.
Gov. DeSantis says Phase One will not change anything with bars, gyms or personal services like hair salons.
Bars, pubs and nightclubs that earn 50% or more of their income from alcohol sales will still not be allowed to sell alcohol to be consumed in-house.
Gyms and fitness centers will stay closed during Phase /One.
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.
Museums and libraries can open but only at 25% capacity and only if local governments allow it. Any kind of interactive functions or exhibits, including play areas for children, will remain closed.
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.
The vulnerable population includes senior citizens and people with significant underlying medical conditions like chronic lung disease, asthma, serious heart conditions, immunocompromised status, cancer, diabetes, severe obesity, renal failure and liver disease.
Gov. DeSantis says social distancing recommendations are still in place. Everyone is being asked to maximize their physical distance from others and avoid gathering in large groups.
The governor’s executive order says local governments will be responsible for making sure groups of more than 10 people don’t gather in public where they cannot practice physical distancing.
The governor is asking people to avoid nonessential travel, especially to states and cities outside Florida that have a significant number of coronavirus cases. Anyone who travels on a cruise, anywhere internationally or anywhere with a high number of coronavirus cases must self-isolate for 14 days after returning home.
Airport screening and isolation will continue for certain visitors coming to the state.
The governor is recommending – but not mandating – 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.
The governor says his executive order banning vacation rentals will stay in effect through Phase One.
As Florida moves forward and begins the first phase of reopening and recovering, Gov. DeSantis stressed the importance of testing as much as possible and monitoring the state’s positivity rate.