JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis held two news conferences Friday to give Floridians an update on the state’s response the coronavirus pandemic.
The first press briefing began at 11 a.m. at Little Talbot Island State Park in Jacksonville.
The second news conference with Congressman Matt Gaetz and Florida National Guard Adjutant General James Eifert was held at 2 p.m. at the University of West Florida in Pensacola.
DeSantis’ appearances come as the Re-Open Florida Task Force released its three-phased plan to reopen the state, but despite some of the task force recommendations, DeSantis made his own decisions on some of what’s open and what remains closed in Phase 1.
Phase 1 will roll out on Monday for much of Florida with the exception of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
“Phase 1 should begin based on the benchmarks provided for in the Roadmap for Re-Opening which includes a downward trajectory of the syndromic and epidemiology criteria while maintaining adequate health care capacity,” the report stated.
In Phase 1, people are encouraged to not gather in groups larger than 10 and employers should continue teleworking and screen employees for symptoms of COVID-19 if they have to report to work.
Vulnerable populations, including the elderly and people were underlying health conditions, should stay at home during Phase 1, the report stated.
The task force calls for bars, nightclubs and businesses “that derive at least 50 percent of sales from alcohol” to remain closed. The governor agreed with that.
“I wanted the data. I wanted the facts,” DeSantis said when he was revealing his Phase 1 plan in a speech Wednesday.
According to DeSantis in Phase 1:
-Schools will continue distance learning.
-No visitors to long-term care facilities.
-Elective surgeries can resume statewide.
-Movie theaters will remain closed.
“I’ve declined to go for movie theaters at this time, even though you could have done that in Phase 1,” DeSantis said. “I think prudence dictates we go a little slow on that.”
Restaurants will be allowed outdoor seating with six-feet of social distancing; 25 percent capacity for indoor seating will be allowed with CDC guidelines for spacing.
“The task force recommended 50 percent inside. I think we’ll start with 25 percent with the outdoor and see how it goes,” DeSantis said.
Retail can operate at a 25 percent indoor capacity with social distancing.
The task force recommended that personal services businesses, such as salons and barber shops, may operate at 50 percent of its building’s capacity, with certain measures in place, including strict sanitation procedures and social distancing.
The task force also recommended that gyms and fitness centers would be allowed to operate at up to 50 percent of its building’s capacity.
DeSantis said Phase 1 at this time would not allow gyms, fitness centers and personal services to open.
“I do want people to get into gyms, and if I get some guidelines that make sense, then we will reevaluate it. But for now, Phase 1 is not going to include that,” he said.
Large spectator sporting events should use strict social distancing guidelines and limit occupancy of venues to 25 percent of building capacity, the report stated. But DeSantis said he would give approval to sporting events in Phase 1 only if they did not include spectators.
Theme parks will remain closed.
“Phase 2 will begin after the successful conclusion of Phase 1, which includes a downward trajectory of the syndromic and epidemiology criteria while maintaining adequate health care capacity,” the report stated. “This will occur when there is no evidence of a rebound or resurgence of COVID-19 cases and satisfies the benchmarks outlined in this Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. plan.”
Many of the same precautions are encouraged during Phase 2, however people will be allowed to resume non-essential travel. Businesses are urged to minimize non-essential travel, however, and must adhere to CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel.
The task force recommends that bars and nightclubs be allowed to operate at 50 percent of the building capacity, while restaurants will be allowed to operate at no more than 75 percent of its building’s capacity.
Gyms and fitness centers would also be allowed to operate at up to 75 percent of its building’s capacity, according to the task force’s report.
Personal services businesses, such as salons and barber shops, would operate at 75 percent of its building’s capacity.
“Theme parks may consider re-opening with capacity limits, strict social distancing and proper measures to clean and disinfect,” the report stated.
In Phase 3, vulnerable populations would be encouraged to limit their time spent in crowded spaces.
Employers would be able to call employees back to work, but teleworking may be considered for vulnerable populations, the report stated.
All non-essential travel may resume in Phase 3, but people must adhere to CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel, according to the report.
Personal services businesses, such as salons and barber shops, may operate under full capacity in Phase 3 but should consider taking certain preventative measures, including “removing all unnecessary, frequent-touch items such as magazines, newspapers, service menus and any other unnecessary paper products and décor from customer service areas,” the report stated.