As Florida recorded more than 40 Covid-19 related deaths for the fourth day in a row while averaging over 600 new daily infections in the past two weeks, Gov. Ron DeSantis today announced what he described as a “full Phase 1” reopening of society and the economy, allowing restaurants to operate at 50 percent of capacity indoors, gyms to reopen, also at 50 percent indoor capacity, and all retail to operate at half capacity.
Vacation rentals in Flagler County and across the state may resume operations only after counties submit a written request and safety plan to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations, which has regulatory authority over such rentals.
Schools must continue distance learning. That means summer school willnot be conducted in-person: The Flagler County school district this afternoon announced that plan, with the Summer Reading, STEM, and ESE Extended School Year programs all to be conducted virtually. The 21st Century summer program run by Flagler Technical Institute will also begin the summer on a virtual platform as well as the Road to Success program. Students who are identified as qualifying for these opportunities will be notified by their school regarding their electronic devices.
Flagler Schools’ popular mobile feeding sites will continue to operate through the summer.
Movie theaters will remain closed. Nursing home and assisted living facilities, whose staffers and residents have accounted for almost half the Covid-19 fatalities in the state, will not see their no-visitation rules changed for now, and will be required to have all their staffers–but, curiously, not their residents–tested. Flagler County is going a step further: last week it tested all staffers and residents at two such facilities, with 300 tests that produced zero positive results. Next week it will do so at five more.
DeSantis called for the reopening of sports venues in whatever capacity they can operate, inviting out-of-state teams to practice in Florida or run training games or even leagues here. Theme parks and amusement parks will remain closed for now, but DeSantis said they may submit reopening plans and set their own dates when they expect to be able to open. Those plans will have to be reviewed and “endorsed” by local officials, DeSantis said, before the parks may reopen.
“Some of the things that we could have done but we didn’t do initially, we are now adding, and I think that’s appropriate given the progress that Florida has made,” he said.
He spoke on a day when the state’s Department of Health announced 42 more Covid-19 related deaths, for a total of 254 in the past seven days and an overall total of 1,917 deaths since the emergency began in late winter. Just over 44,000 people in the state have tested positive for the virus, including 153 in Flagler, four of whose residents have died of the disease. Flagler has generally had less alarming numbers, with about 2 percent of its population tested so far (cumulatively).
The county’s health department, led by Bob Snyder and using “strike teams” of nurses, paramedics and National Guard members, has been especially aggressive in th past two weeks, and will continue to be so next week, in testing all staff and residents at all 71 congregate care facilities in the county–assisted living facilities, nursing homes, adult group homes and memory care facilities.
When Deborah Brix, the physician and diplomat who’s been at the center of President Trump’s coronavirus response, spoke of the phased reopening of society in April, she said that Phase 1 may be enacted once coronavirus cases have shown a downward trajectory for 14 straight days. That has not quite been the case in Florida, even as cases have diminished from the peak. But state and local officials have been under pressure to reopen, and DeSantis has tended to follow the president’s push to reopen, which has leapfrogged over some of the White House’s own recommendations on reopening.
DeSantis’s announcement today was of special interest to restaurants and gyms. “Effective Monday,” DeSantis said, “gyms can operate. Make sure that you respect the social distancing capacity. I would say that for some of these places like CrossFit that do outdoor training, that’s great. The outdoor stuff, that’s a lower risk environment than if you’re an inside a stuffy room and a gym doing something where you’re going to be potentially be exposed to respiratory droplets.”
He only specified social distancing inside. He did not mention a 50 percent capacity restriction. But a one-sheet list of guidelines he tweeted and that his office issued today specified that gyms, like shops and restaurants, must also respect the 50-percent capacity indoors. (See the guidelines at the foot of the article.)
Still, it’s not clear how the capacity would be calculated beyond the use of actual fitness machines, as with classes, which generally account for a significant portion of a gym’s activity.
“Restaurants: we had started initially outdoor seating, 6 foot apart, with 25 percent indoor capacity,” the governor said. “We are now going, effective Monday, to operating up to 50 percent capacity and a lot of that is based off the spacing of the tables, or, if you have some type of partition, because I’ve had some restaurateurs tell me, hey, I’ve got plexiglass. My booths, I can;t move them, but I’ve got plexiglass. That’s fine. That’s effective. All we’re trying to do is create a low-risk environment, and I really appreciate folks that own restaurants who’ve been thinking deeply about this throughout this crisis.” He said the outdoor seating has been “interesting,” with some cities closing off parts of streets to have more room to operate outdoors, which he supports.
He is also calling for the opening of sports venues. Amusement and theme parks can submit reopening plans and get them endorsed from local officials, but he did not say when they would be allowed to reopen. Movie theaters will remain closed. “I’ve been a broken record on this, when you’re in an enclosed, indoor environment, the virus is more transmissible,” DeSantis said, speaking at a news conference this afternoon. “So how you would socially distance in there, I’m not saying it can’t be done, but I would probably need a little bit more information before I pull the trigger on that. Of course, drive-through theaters are 100 percent fine and are virtually no risk.”
Percy's mother says
The Ormond Beach (Flagler/Volusia) YMCA will be open on Monday 5/18, and that includes their swimming pool (by appointment only, members only). 1 person to 1 lap lane according to appointment time.
Can’t wait to jump into a 25-meter swimming pool and swim a couple of miles of laps.
Not sure about how the weight room is going to be handled. By appointment seems the best way to remain within the 50% capacity rule.
How about Flagler / Palm Coast? How about opening the woefully slim to none pool choices in Palm Coast?
We need antibody tests. If reports are true this went though Central and North FL starting in DEC, then maybe most of us had it. On the other hand, if no one is testing positive and no one has antibodies then it will be one hell of a fall/winter and it will get very bad. I’m inclined to think when everyone I know was being diagnosed with pneumonia and testing negative for the flu that it was COVID. I’m still wearing a mask though for others. I have “symptom” flare ups since March—literally all the COVID symptoms from loss of smell to dry cough to fever to breathing issues and so on. It’s not allergies I know what they are like for me. I did read some people have had symptoms now going on 4 months. The only way I’ll know is when they offer antibody tests for free here in town.
Proud American says
‘Quarantine’ is when you restrict the movement of sick people.
‘Tyranny’ is when you restrict the movement of healthy people.
Thank you DeSantis, set us free!
Our children lost the most out of this, and that time won’t ever be able to be brought back….
Are you even informed? Kids are getting sick and dying from a new disease called MIS , realated to coveid 19. If you care anything for your child , isolate then asap!
Mary Fusco says
People can appear to be completely healthy and be incubating this for 2 weeks or more. In that time frame you healthy fools, or so you think, can pass this on to someone else. Unfortunately, the person you pass it on to may be a child or someone who cannot fight it off and will die. I think that the children will live. It is the parents passing nonsense onto them. Not everyone who gets covid will get deathly sick or need to be hospitalized but, they can pass it onto someone that it will be fatal to. My daughter is an RN in JAX and I haven’t seen her in months and don’t know when I will see her again. We are practicing precautions. Everyone is essentially free to do what they please. However, it sucks if it comes back to slap you in the face. This situation is no fun for anyone but it is better than being sick and dying or having lifelong problems from this stinking virus. Grow up and remember, this too shall pass.
Concerned Citizen says
The state is rushing to reopen for one reason.
Memorial Day weekend is just around the corner. The state needs that tourism money badly. And will put public health at risk for it. This Govenor has handled this Pandemic poorly from day 1.
He allowed Bike week and spring break to continue even after confirmed cases continued to rise. He also allowed vacation rentals to continue. Knowing that it would bring more people into the area. Then he instituted a half ass lock down. Declaring everything “essential” And invoking a stay at home that wasn’t enforced.
You watch and see Memorial Day Weekend will come and go. We will be packed with tourists from all over the country. Then come Monday there will be a massive spike in cases. And we will go on lock down again. And have to start all over.
That’s great news….pretty sure my whole family had this virus in early March. Slight fever, dry cough for 3-4 days, loss of taste and smell for a few days, and that was it. Definitely wasn’t a cold as there was no phlegm or runny nose. Definitely wasn’t the flu as that’s MUCH worse. I’ve spoken to many that had similar symptoms back earlier in the year. This whole virus has been so overblown its ridiculous.
Glad for you and your family. Do you really think it’s overblown for the more than 94,000 dead in the United States?
For the despicable, uncaring people who make asinine comments about Covid 19 not being as bad as the Flu. . . please tell that to the poor grieving families and loved ones of the OVER 90,000 souls lost in our country in less than 4 months! You are Selfish, Heartless and Yes, Deplorable!!!