PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis says there has not been a date decided yet to reopen Florida and that he’ll work through the weekend on planning for a safe opening.
“We just want to do what makes sense,” he said in a news conference Friday evening. “You want to make sure it’s safe, but you also want to make sure it’s instilling confidence in people.”
DeSantis said the first phase of reopening doesn’t necessarily need to correspond with when his initial stay-at-home order is set to expire on Thursday April 30.
Friday was the deadline DeSantis set for his task force to report back after their meetings this week. The governor says he now has to go through all of those recommendations.
State Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah Gardens, said in an interview with Local 10 News earlier Friday that it’s possible the first phase of reopening could begin next week.
Diaz said that businesses that have less person-to-person contact would likely open earlier than others, but all of this is still being discussed.
“There’s certain businesses that are going to be a little harder to put through this. And that includes hairstylists and barbers, because you’re having direct contact,” Diaz said. “But something like a nail salon? Can you reopen nail salons if they agree to install plexiglass dividers where the customers can put their nails under that and there’s a protection?”
Echoing what DeSantis had previously said, Diaz notes that South Florida’s reopening could be slower than other parts of the state.
“When it comes to South Florida, we’re a little bit denser, we have more population and more people who could end up in crowded areas, so I think we have to go about it carefully,” he said.
Four more group meetings took place Friday to discuss those decisions and many others. Hospitals and long-term care facilities remain top of mind.
“You all must expect as residents test positive or they’re suspected to be positive, more PPE gets used more rapidly,” LeadingAge Florida President & CEO Steve Bahmer said on the call. “The burn rate increases. And so long-term care providers need to continue to be a top priority.”
Bahmer said that “widespread frequent testing of all residents and staff, with rapid results, also needs to be a priority as we think about moving to whatever the new normal will look like.”
Alex Sanchez, president and CEO of the Florida Bankers Association, said the banks are open and “ready to help Floridians with their financial needs.”
“Our banks worked around the clock … to make sure that these small business loans under the [Paycheck Protection Program] program were processed,” Sanchez said. “And we were third in the nation with 89,000 approved loans, behind only Texas and California.”
Sanchez said those loans totaled $18 billion for Florida’s small businesses.
DeSantis has said restrictions need to be lifted safely and methodically, but he’s also highlighted the importance of restarting the economy.
“If someone happens to think something is not essential, I can tell you the person in that industry whose job is in jeopardy sure thinks it’s essential to them,” DeSantis said.
On Thursday, the task force talked about requiring masks to be worn in public areas as businesses restart. They’re also considering asking workers to take their own temperatures before coming in.