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Gov. DeSantis Announces Phase 1 Of Florida’s Reopening

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PBS NewsHour
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Governor Ron DeSantis outlined Phase One of Florida’s reopening plan at a Wednesday evening news conference.

The biggest changes for the state in Phase One include: 

  • Restaurants are able to offer outdoor seating with six feet of space between tables. Indoor seating is allowed at 25% capacity. 
  • Retail can operate at 25% of indoor capacity.
  • Elective surgeries can resume.

DeSantis said Phase One will begin Monday, May 4. 
“I think I deliberately aired on the side of taking measured steps - kind of even a baby step - to return to, not normal to where we were, but to start us on the road to a brighter day,” DeSantis said.

Phase One also includes an increase in COVID-19 testing. So far, the 13 state-supported sites across Florida have completed 88,000 tests, according to a presentation DeSantis showed during his news conference. 

Related: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry Calls Gov. DeSantis' Plan To Reopen Fla. 'Safe, Smart'

New testing sites will be coming to Southwest and Southeast Florida and the Panhandle. 

DeSantis also mentioned a mobile site that will have the capability of getting results within an hour. 

“We're not only bringing the swabs, we're bringing the lab to them so that we can get them very quick results,” DeSantis said.

Bars, gyms, movie theaters and “personal services” like hairdressers and barber shops must remain closed during Phase One. 

Visits to senior living facilities will still be prohibited as well. That is a measure DeSantis said he is willing to re-evaluate if rapid testing results and antibody tests become more readily available.

Phase One applies to every county in Florida except for Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach, where a bulk of the cases have been located. 

Related: Local, State, And National Coronavirus Coverage

DeSantis said that Phase One still includes social distancing measures and avoiding gathering in groups of more than 10 people. Face masks are still recommended for face-to-face public interactions. 

There will be three phases as part of the reopening plan, according to DeSantis. He did not specify a timeline for Phase Two. 

Numbers from the state outlined the number of hospitalizations and deaths per 100,000 people. In Duval County, there have been 6.4 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, and 2.1 deaths per 100,000. 

Statewide, there have been 152.9 positive cases per 100,000 people. 

DeSantis took time at the beginning of the press conference to say that the media has inflicted fear in people with “doom and gloom” scenarios on how COVID-19 would hit Florida.  

“I think that there's been a lot that's been done to try to promote fear to promote worst case scenarios to drive hysteria,” DeSantis said. “And I think people should know that worst case scenario thinking - that has not proven to be true.”

Former WJCT News reporter