Citing Florida as weathering the coronavirus crisis much better than many other states, especially those hardest hit, Gov. Ron DeSantis today said the state will begin reopening starting on May 4, except for three South Florida counties. But he is taking a much more cautious approach than other states that have reopened, and many existing restrictions will remain in effect.
“Florida will take a step, small, deliberate, methodical,” he said, “towards a more hopeful future. We do have hope. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.” It was one of his most anticipated news conferences of this ongoing emergency, lasting just under an hour.
What Phase 1 means for Florida and the 64 counties affected: Schools will maintain distance learning. Visitors will still be barred from long-term care facilities. Restrictions on groups of 10 or less will remain in place. Recommended use of masks in public places is now a statewide directive.
Elective surgeries may resume in hospitals. Movie theaters, bars and gyms will stay closed. “Prudence dictates that we go a little slow on that,” DeSantis said.
Restaurants may open outdoor seating with six-foot spacing between tables, and no limits on those tables as long as they abide by the distancing. Indoors, they may reopen as well, but must remain at or below 25 percent capacity of the restaurant’s inside floor space. While innumerable retail outlets never closed, many retail businesses that had may reopen, but also at 25 percent indoor capacity. DeSantis was a bit more vague on that count, saying that the order restricting “inessential” businesses remains in place, but with looser allowances. Travelers into the state will continue to be monitored.
But older people or people with underlying conditions will have to still abide by stay-home recommendations as much as possible, because more than 80 percent of those who have died of the coronavirus are in those groups.
DeSantis spoke alone, standing at a podium in the Cabinet starting at 5 this afternoon.
The new phase will exclude the three South Florida counties most severely affected by the virus. He described the approach as “safe, smart, and step by step.” He said an obstacle to overcome is “fear,” the story of fear that has kept people suffering from heart and other ailments, such as strokes, from seeking medical help in a hospital, because they fear catching the virus.
He said the state will be guided by “certain fundamental guiding principles,” chiefly public health and public safety. He said the elderly are at most risk, as are those with significant underlying medical conditions. He is concerned about the economy, and about civil liberties. “People have rights, the government needs to protect health, but we shouldn’t go beyond what’s necessary to protect that,” he said.
But he cautioned that the state will not move to phase 2 without documented certainties that the trends are safe. He insisted that the state had done much better than feared, and at one point explicitly blamed China for the pandemic, in terms more ideological than factual: “This was thrust upon us largely by the malfeasance of the Chinese Communist party,” he said. (The virus emerged in a market Wuhan, China, but there is no evidence that the Chinese government “thrust” the virus on the world.)
He also cautioned against making specious connections between certain activities and an uptick in infections, ridiculing, for example, those who criticized the mayor of Jacksonville for reopening beaches.
“That worst-case scenario thinking, that has not turned out to be true,” he said, showing a graph indicating the proportional number of fatalities and hospitalization rates in Florida much lower than many other states where the virus’ effects were worse. But he cited projections that pre-dated or were almost contemporary with DeSantis’s own shelter-in-place order, which was intended to do exactly what it did: prevent a surge in infections and hospitalizations. “The goal of reducing the curve was to keep infections underneath that hospital capacity,” DeSantis acknowledged. “There was never a time when there were beds that were needed.”
He said “mitigation” worked. “We’ve done much better than everybody said we would do.”
Part of our strategy in phase one is to expand testing beyond what we’ve already done,” DeSantis said, with a number of walk-up testing sites in many counties and new ones being added. “That’s bringing testing to people who may not be seeking testing.” The stepped up testing will be used to locate trends in infections. He described an approach that would make testing much more visible and available than previously. The state has also procured a mobile lab, enabling 3,500 tests a week with results in less than an hour. The tool would be used with health care workers and nursing home sites, helping to detect potential clusters.
For contact tracing, another key component of controlling or suppressing the virus, the governor credited existing ranks of health department workers but said the state “would probably add even more” contact tracers only if needed. “This saved a lot of spread particularly in communities that did not have a lot of widespread transmission.”
The stepped up testing mirrors trends in Flagler, where the immediate goal “is to test at least 2 percent of our population,” Flagler Health Department Chief Bob Snyder said. “So far in Flagler County we have tested 1.15 percent of our residents. The White House’s phased-in plan of reopening the nation includes seeing evidence of a 14-day downward trend in positivity rates among new cases. This has occurred in only two of 67 counties statewide–Orange and Hillsborough counties. In Flagler, we have a ways to go. But we are hopeful due to the testing site closer to home and other test site options like the Health Department, the urgent care centers and the speedway.”
DeSantis pointed to other indicators to justify the state’s move to Phase 1. Admissions for coughs and influenza-like symptoms have dropped, and overall cases have been declining, with daily totals below 1,000 every day except for two exceptions, when the health department was conducting back-logged “data dumps.” He said as Florida keeps testing more, new cases will be found, but the “positivity rate” will be a stronger indication of the disease’s spread: that rate, peaking at 15 percent on certain days and remaining in the low double-digits on most days, has fallen to around 6 and 5 percent. “That’s the trend we like to look at,” he said.
Another criteria indicating a credible return to some normalcy: the availability of hospital beds. “We have more beds available today in the state of Florida than on March 1,” he said, though that’s largely by design: DeSantis’s order ceased elective surgeries and many other hospital functions, while hospitals reduced admissions in preparation for the expected surge.
DeSantis spoke on a day that saw the number of new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Florida fall to the lowest total since March 24, with just 355 new cases registered today by the Florida Department of Health.
The cumulative total for Flagler County is 133. That total includes all confirmed infections since late March, as well as those who have recovered, though the department does not break down the number of recoveries. Twelve people have been marked as hospitalized in Flagler. But that number is also cumulative, and it includes Flagler residents who are hospitalized elsewhere. Two Flagler residents have died. In the state, 1,218 Floridians have died.
Palm Coast issued its own phased re-opening framework last week. The plan proposed nothing different and certainly nothing more restrictive than the governor’s plan described today, but it nevertheless drew significant opposition. Earlier today at Palm Coast’s town hall on the virus, anchored by Mayor Milissa Holland and with Snyder, City Manager Matt Morton and Fire Chief Jerry Forte on the dais, Holland stressed that the city is continuing to follow the governor’s lead.
“It’s important to note to our residents,” Holland said, “when the governor issued his executive order a few weeks back, that was the moment where the businesses were shut down. The non-essential businesses were told to close by that executive order. So the city of Palm Coast obviously, we must comply to a governor’s executive order, this is not something that we go and contrary to that.”
“We are waiting for the governor’s order to reopen with his recommendations,” Holland continued. (The town hall was held at midday, five hours before the governor spoke.) “We don’t know what types of businesses he’s going to recommend open first. But we have to have benchmarks on these phases. We have to measure these phases because we have to do it safely. That cannot be something that can be compromised in any way, shape or form. We’re dealing with the health and safety of our community and the residents within, and we do have a substantial, high-risk community.” According to the Census Bureau’s latest estimate, 31 percent of Flagler County’s population is 65 years old or older.
just more BS. Who in the hell is going to police this, he said no fines will be given. Just more wide mouth talk. People are not following any safe distancing stuff now, its plain as day when you go around town. Even the restaurants are not all wearing face masks. People just don’t’ care.
Rick G says
It’s interesting that the term “Chinese Communist Party” is now used instead of just plain China. Over the past week or so I have heard this used exclusively by Republicans looking to strike fear into the corners of their base. No one refers to Vietnam or North Korea with their well known Communist Parties..
Florida has a great governor! Wow very good job with trump tonight.
I love a good sense of humor. 😅😅😅
What’s wrong with this picture? Amazing . . . “Statistics 101 – Statistics don’t lie, but liars do statistics.”
So, you go to the Testing and get an “OK, you’re good to go” and/or you go do the Antibody Test and they say, “You had the COVID-19, but you are now cured.”
An hour later you meet up with an old friend with COVID-19 and give her a hug. Now, who is COVID-19 positive? Lucky you, now you have it! Would you even think to go back through Testing again?
So, wherein those statistics are you now going to be counted? Among the dead?
Folks, you need a vaccine to inoculate yourselves from this deadly disease. Not a Pass/Fail. We are a least a year away from a validated vaccine.
If we continue along these lines we are all in serious trouble. Who got us into this mess? And no, it’s not the Chinese.
Who now is responsible for the leadership we all need to survive? Where is it the buck stops? It’s a heavy task for those that do lead – but that’s why they paid the big bucks. Each one of us needs direction – NOW!
Go vote responsibly next time . . . if your still around to do so.
Thank God we have President Trump .
Trump / Pence 2020
Vote trump and Mitch out 2020
so many jokes here. Lolololol
Please visit the CDC website and read up on the “infectious period”.
Bob Ziolkowski says
We are anxious to go out to dinner again, which we do at least once a week, on Saturday; however, I know we are not alone and those that are willing to open at 25% capacity will have very long wait times. It seems we will have to wait until they are allowed to have 50% capacity, which I suspect will come sooner than later. Many businesses will not open at 25% since their rents, overhead, etc. will still be much higher, and I hope those businesses make their thoughts known via the State’s comment web site: https://app.smartsheet.com/b/publish?EQBCT=59c1681fac504b6ab8da108d52501c92
Sadly, one in four small businesses say they are two months or less from closing permanently amid the economic downturn caused by the virus. One in 10 are less than one month away from permanently closing.
So sad the entire lives & businesses allowed to remain upended over a new virus with a now-known minor death rate among the general population (less than 2%). A greater percentage of women in the US die during childbirth, more deaths occur from car accidents, more deaths from… but the country doesn’t have lockdowns over it, tell pregnant women to stay off the beaches or people off roads, etc
But I’ll be sure to wear a bandana that barely blocks secondhand smoke if that makes any neighboring sheep feel better
Yes, this was thrust upon the rest of the world by China. It did not originate in a market; it escaped from a lab in Wuhan. The type of bats that carried the virus were not within 900 kilometers of the alleged origin market. This is from a paper released by a Chinese university early in the pandemic. Our intelligence agencies are nearly 100 percent positive the virus escaped from the laboratory on a particular individual who spread it to his girlfriend who released it into the Wuhan population. The State Department warned of unsafe conditions at the laboratory back in 2015. Scientists were known to handle bats of the species known to carry the virus with recklessness. One scientist was handling them with his bare hands and no mask or face shield. Also in the early stages of the outbreak the Chinese government banned domestic travel to and from Wuhan, but allowed international travel from that city. They did this all the while claiming the virus was not transmitted human to human, while buying up needed medical supplies to fight the virus in it’s own country. Scientists who contradicted this have disappeared and haven’t been seen since. Aside from these minor facts, yes, the W.H.O. was correct in claiming China did a great job in handling this outbreak.
Mike Cocchiola says
“Facts”, Outsider? Who’s facts (and I don’t mean W.H.O.)? Intelligence agencies are nearly 100% positive…? How do you get such sensitive information? Are you in on their daily presidential intelligence briefings? You know, the ones that Trump ignores. Scientists all over the world are “known to handle bats”. They handle mice, rats, rabbits and monkeys, too. They’re called research laboratories. We all have them and do the same research.
“One scientist was handling them with his bare hands…? That’s pretty specific knowledge. Were you right there to witness this? Scientists … have disappeared and haven’t been seen since? Where does this knowledge come from – your daily intelligence briefings?
In any event, if some laboratory in Wuhan was ordered by the evil Chinese communist government to create and release the coronavirus to the world, this would be a monumental attack on all nations and all of humanity. Why would they do this? Why would they risk their own citizens and their economy? China had one of the world’s highest growth in GDP – 3X higher than the U.S. Why would they deliberately destroy the world markets that fueled that growth? Why would they risk almost certain retaliation by the aggrieved military and economic powers?
My point in all this is none of this is verifiable or even plausible. They’re called conspiracy theories. My advice… research, verify and only then report… with sources.
It is plausible and it’s origins are still being investigated with the possibility that it could have been accidentally released from the laboratory. “U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency updated its assessment of the origin of the novel coronavirus to reflect that it may have been accidentally released from an infectious diseases lab.”
Deborah Coffey says
We are being double-teamed by Satan, Trump & DeSantis. Lies, lies and more lies.
” (The virus emerged in a market Wuhan, China, but there is no evidence that the “Chinese government “thrust” the virus on the world.)
This is unknown. They lied to the world about it. The biggest Biological warfare testing facility is 8 miles away from that wet market.
They KNEW in November 2019 and did not secure international travel. They allowed hundred of thousands of Passengers to infect the rest of the world. The world needs reparations.
William Moya says
So do African Americans, Africans in general, including the hundreds of thousands we “dropped” in the Caribbean and Latin America. While we are at it, how about the Native Americans whom we massacred and from whom we stole everything. Let’s include also the million of Americans that work for the oligarchs and don’t even get paid a living wage nor do they have access to medical services. I eagerly await your response, Instigator says.
What is the difference between a restaurant which holds its seating to 25% capacity, or a bar that holds its seating to 25% capacity?
One serves food and one doesn’t? Both serve liquor.
I’m glad we’re opening some things, but until someone can explain the differences here, I’m at a complete loss as to the “logic” here. It’s as if bar owners are being treated differently than restaurant owners, and it’s based on the type of liquor license they have, not any kind of actual parameter in the establishment itself–for example, its square footage, which makes all the sense in the world. But, we’re still bereft of common sense here–opening restaurants and keeping bars closed is like the difference between sitting and walking on the beach….
Postings from the cult, pasting FOX “talking points” that focus on nothing but blaming China is just a BS distraction! This terrible lethal virus is currently killing people HERE every day!
Meanwhile, we all need to be aware of how our FLORIDA administration is politically and wrongly withholding important information from us:
The Florida Department of Health intervened to keep a tally of coronavirus deaths kept by Florida’s 22 medical examiners from being released publicly, the Tampa Bay Times reported Wednesday.
The Times said the list from the medical examiners had previously been released in real time, but, after the newspaper reported that the tally was 10% higher than the health department’s tally, state officials directed that the list be reviewed and potentially redacted. The pause in reporting, the Times said, has been occurring for nine days.
The Florida Department of Health said in a statement Wednesday night they are following guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that they had “spoken with counsel for Medical Examiners to explain concerns on disclosing personal identifiable information.”
Florida currently has more than 33,000 coronavirus cases and more than 1,200 deaths from the virus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Can people face the reality of this crisis, Trump was told about it back in January and ignored all the warnings, claiming it was a Democrat hoax, and of course his buddy DeSantis believes anything Trump says and follows him around like a puppy.
Trump now is bugging his Republican governors around the states to start opening up their businesses since his ratings have hit an all-time low and are affecting his re-election. Does Trump care or take the blame for the 61,000 Americans that have died? Absolutely NOT. Donald Trump could care less if people live or die all he cares about is getting re-elected. If people that believe Donald Trump instead of the honest and true facts I feel very sorry for you for being so naive. And, if you are a Republican the true Republican party is gone, this is the corrupt greedy Trump party now and those that stand next to him are afraid of him and cow down to his demands, it is so pathetic to watch. This is not a president that cares or supports the millions of people out of work he never talks about them. And then Senator Scott makes ridiculous comments that people want to collect unemployment instead of working. And the system he put in Florida for unemployment was not in the citizen’s favor but his own greedy self.
If Donald Trump and his staff cared about the American people why aren’t they out there in public right now handing out food to those in the long lines getting food? They are not out there because they could care less.
And, Pence has the nerve to go into the Mayo Clinic and defy their rules to wear a mask. This party day in and day out insults the safety of its citizens and only think about themselves and their greedy ego’s.
Wise up and I don’t care what party your front face the truth that is looking you right in the eye.
Born and Raised Here says
Would like to see a Senior Dining only from 5 to 8 pm on a Thursday, to avoid exposure.
Mary Fusco says
I’m a Senior. I dine at home, therefore, no exposure. People ultimately are responsible for their own destiny. Never knew how many crybabies lived among us. Sad for sure.
Don’t seniors usually eat at 4pm?
Thanks so much “Honesty” and “Mike C.”
May we please have a thoughtful discussion here based on “credentialed” facts instead of “conspiracy theories” about China. . . which have nothing to do with the subject of how Florida will open its businesses safely.
Just a t-rump lackey blaming it on New York visitors He allowed bike week -spring break and the beaches to be open. And then they went back to their respective states to spread it.
I’ve hated Trump long before he became President. His ‘reality’ show Celebrity Apprentice consisted of a bunch of suck-ups that couldn’t wait to be his next tool.
He did nothing about COVID-19 until it finally became obvious that it was for real, and ever since then he has deflected any responsibility for his “actions” in dealing with it. I watched a couple of his briefings and it was obvious that they were thinly disguised campaign rallies for his base. He has made a career out of fleecing the ignorant and stupid and has left a trail of wreckage in his wake. It’s incredible to me that anyone can still support this guy, but it’s like P.T. Barnum once said “There’s a sucker born every minute”. Does advising the public at-large to consume bleach and disinfectant to fight COVID-19 sound like wise leadership to you? And when I saw the picture of Pence at the Mayo Clinic not wearing a mask, it simply reinforced my belief that Trump, Pence and (most) of the Republican Party don’t give a rat’s ass about the public – they only want to be re-elected. They are hypocrites of the first degree and I hope that Biden kicks Trump’s ass this fall. And if he does, Trump will cry foul and say that voter fraud is what got Biden elected. Trump needs to go ASAP.
It will be necessary for restaurants to help raise the confidence of their customers. Those that do should have more business. I know l will be paying close attention to their policies with regard to hygiene. And exclusively dining where fastidious attention is paid to detail. Not going to be easy for them and after all they’ve worked through and worried about, l feel for them. Wondering if several fans at head level, pointed down wouldn’t improve air quality. Just a thought. And prayers for the success of these caring, hard working owners and staff! You’ve been missed!
So how much will prices increase, the few idiots going out will establish the new pricing structure for everyone else when everything is eventually opened. Just another wicket ploy by Republicans to increase the void between the rich and poor. Trump, DeSantis and Jared (Joe) Mullins need to be dealt with once and for all. Vote Blue!
there is one way that I am a liberal ,I am all for ME,ME, ME. Especially monetarily, the main reason I retired is I got tired of losing $700 a week( more when obama was president) to taxes to support people who should be supporting themselves.That being said we have been getting take out from many different restaraunts during this mess , including restaraunts we normally dont eat at.I am saving a lot of money this way ,for instance a glass of wine is generally $6 to $9 , times that by four .The same wine I drink in a restaraunt is $12 a gallon at walmart, so right there I save a minimum of $20. Plus I always leave a good tip,if the waitress is good 20% minimum ,if shes cute and friendly even more. This stay at home is putting money in my pocket! I am not against restaraunts opening slowly ,since we wont be there anyway! We just hope people are careful when they are out and about.
Trump / Pence 2020
Francesca Knutson says
Please speak up for licensed vacation rental owners! We are still closed while hotels are open. We provide a safe, clean, quiet place for guests to stay. We endure closures through hurricanes and now this…but it’s a safer alternative to a hotel.