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Social distancing could remain in South Florida for a year, but restrictions will be slowly lifted

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – As Florida makes plans to reopen the state and get back to business amid the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Ron DeSantis made clear Friday that South Florida may be “a little different.”

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez followed that by suggesting that it might be a year until social distancing rules are lifted.

“I don’t think you’re going to see social distancing rules cut back until we have a vaccine,” Giménez said Friday afternoon. “So you’re looking at about a year from now until we actually do that.”

That said, his team is working on figuring out a new normal to make sure people know the infectious virus is still out there, while slowly considering phasing out restrictions and closures.

Parks, beaches, boating and golf are among the first phase of what could be reopened when medical experts say it’s appropriate. Masks would still be recommended, and rules for preventing group activities would still be enforced. Gyms would remain closed.

Nearly 60 percent of the Florida’s COVID-19 cases and deaths have been in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, which is part of the reason our slice of the state will likely open slower.

“Given the density in southeast Florida, given the international travel, given the connections to New York City, we were seeing more seeds of it here,” DeSantis said in a morning news conference in Fort Lauderdale.

There was good news Friday, as a prominent projection model now says Florida’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic could be significantly lower than previously predicted.

DeSantis says the goal is to get society functioning again. Like Giménez, he said that may begin with the reopening of parks and outdoor spaces before moving to restaurants with masks and social distancing still in place.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump revealed a three-phase plan that he shared with governors to guide the reopening of states.

But before local leaders can move forward, they know they’ll have to hash out details and dates to reopen the counties hit hardest by the outbreak.

DeSantis said he’s been talking to Giménez, Broward Mayor Dale Holness and Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner and “maybe southeast Florida’s next phase looks a little different.”

“I’m going to work with them to figure out what they think makes the most sense,” DeSantis said.

Task forces have been formed to put those plans in place, and it this point none of the orders have been lifted.

“At this time we’re flattening the curve,” Holness said. “What we have to do right now is look forward to how we can plan for the future.”

ALSO SEE: Gov. Ron DeSantis announces 2 walk-up testing sites in Broward County


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