Florida Moves to Ease Coronavirus Lockdown Restrictions Starting May 4

Gov. Ron DeSantis says most of Florida can begin the first phase of reopening May 4. Photo and Caption: www.clickorlando.com

Florida’s statewide stay-at-home order may be expiring soon. Lockdown measures put in place in states across the country to help flatten the curve of the spread of coronavirus are starting to ease. Some businesses that have been shuttered for the past month due to the coronavirus pandemic will slowly start to reopen. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis made the announcement on Wednesday, April 28 that the executive order would expire come Monday, May 4 for the majority of the state.

DeSantis met with President Donald Trump on April 28 to discuss reopening plans, but specifics for the plan were not given. Every governor in all 50 states would need to adhere to a set of guidelines put in place by the president when tailoring reopening measures to their respective state.

The Phase 1 executive order is tentatively beginning on May 4 and will continue until it’s replaced by a subsequent executive order. DeSantis on Wednesday couldn’t provide a timeline for entering phase two but said he’s “thinking about weeks, not thinking about months” for each of the three phases.

Florida’s stay-at-home order is scheduled to expire Friday, May 1 but has been extending until 12:01 a.m. Monday, May 4. The new mandate will still require that Floridians limit their movements and whereabouts to the businesses that are open.

Not all of Florida will be entering phase one at the same time, however. The hardest-hit areas in Southeast Florida such as Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties are excluded from the phase 1 reopening guidelines. Technically, Executive Order 20-112 was issued for the whole state but the governor is working with the mayors in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties to ensure they have a stricter protocol in place. Those three counties account for 59% of the 33,690 cases statewide as of Thursday, April 30.

The phase 1 executive order is similar to the plan President Donald Trump laid out, but not identical. One noted difference is that Trump allowed gyms to reopen in phase one but DeSantis is holding back on that, at least for a few weeks. Still, both plans call for step-by-step approaches.

Restaurants will be limited to only 25% indoor capacity, and outdoor dining is allowed as long as the tables are spaced at least 6 feet apart from each other. Retailers can also allow customers inside at 25% capacity as long as appropriate social distancing and sanitation measures are in place. 

Florida schools will remain closed and distance learning will still be in place for the remainder of the school year. Gyms, barber shops, nail salons, hair salons and other personal care services such as spas will remain closed for now as well. Bars and nightclubs will also remain closed until further notice.

Governor DeSantis called on masks to be used in any and all “face-to-face business.” 

DeSantis said the White House coronavirus task force recommended in phase one of the reopening plan restaurants and retail open at a 50 percent capacity, but Florida would be taking a huge risk at that rate. DeSantis said that the media had an unfortunate habit to combine shelter-in-place with social distancing.” The Florida governor also said that his state could rebuild Florida’s foundations while protecting the most vulnerable to the virus.

Movie theaters will remain temporarily closed, and he would “look to see what happens in other states” before providing a timeline for their reopening. Nursing homes will stay closed and visits to said facilities will also not be allowed just yet, but DeSantis said he would reconsider visits once more widespread testing was available.

A state could look at the new case trend or the positivity rate trend when looking to reopen. This means the number of positive coronavirus tests compared to the number of tests overall, according to Governor DeSantis. He said his state’s testing rate was now similar to California and the positivity rate had been on the decline for a while.

DeSantis wants to make sure Floridians guide themselves by “facts not fear.”

A closeup of a window sticker for a food delivery app company known as Bite Squad in Orlando, Florida, USA. This company offers delivery for this local restaurant. Photo: David Tonelson/Shutterstock.com
Local business closures continue due to the coronavirus pandemic in Englewood, Florida, USA on April 6, 2020. Photo: Janis M Bock/Shutterstock.com
Closing sign for local business in times of the coronavirus pandemic in Englewood, Florida, USA on April 6, 2020. Photo: Janis M Bock/Shutterstock.com

State officials will continue to monitor health care resources including hospital bed capacity and personal protection equipment supplies. The governor said that sports fans can expect to attend major sporting events in Florida by June or July. Churches were never ordered to close under the governor’s executive order and will remain open.

Phase 1 reopening in Florida on May 4 will include:

  • Schools continue distance learning
  • Visits to senior living facilities are prohibited
  • Elective surgeries can resume
  • Sports arenas and movie theaters will remain closed
  • Restaurants may offer outdoor seating with six feet of space between tables and indoor seating at 25% capacity
  • Retail stores can operate at 25% of indoor capacity
  • No changes for bars, gyms and personal services such as hairdressers and barbers
  • Vulnerable individuals should avoid close contact with people outside the home

From: www.clickorlando.com