Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during an April 29 press conference in Tallahassee. STATE OF FLORIDA

A partial reopening of Florida set for May 4 will be “safe, smart and step-by-step.”

At a press conference on April 29, Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled the first phase of a plan to reopen Florida on Monday, May 4. DeSantis said the plan aims to protect the elderly and a vulnerable population from coronavirus, increase testing, promote social distancing, support hospitals and protect health care workers and prevent a reintroduction. 

Specifically, phase one will allow outdoor seating at restaurants following social distancing guidelines and 6-feet spacing per table, and 25% capacity indoors following CDC-recommended spacing. The Florida Re-Open Task Force recommended that restaurants reopen at 50% capacity, but DeSantis said he wanted to start out at 25%.

“I think being outside, if you’re 6 feet away, it won’t be risky as opposed to going to Costco. It may even reduce density at grocery stores by giving people another option,” he said. 

Retail stores will be able to operate at 25% capacity. Bars, gyms, theaters and personal services such as hairdressers will remain closed, per DeSantis’ phase one plan. 

As for schools, DeSantis said they’ll remain virtual for the rest of the school year. 

Also, no visitors will be allowed in long-term care facilities. DeSantis said he’s willing to reevaluate and let family members in once there’s enough rapid testing. 

Elective surgeries may resume statewide, so long as hospitals don’t see a surge of patients and have adequate personal protective equipment. 

Phase one of DeSantis’ plan continues to urge those 65 and older and those with significant underlying conditions to avoid crowds and close contact. Gatherings will continue to be under 10 people and face masks are “recommended for those in face-to-face interactions.”

Under phase one, DeSantis said walk-up and drive-through testing will not only continue, but expand statewide. No new sites were announced in the Keys during his press conference. DeSantis also said the state’s secured a mobile lab that will travel across Florida and rapidly test workers in health care settings. 

“When you have the testing it matters,” DeSantis said. “As you expand testing, more people have access.”

DeSantis said the shutdown has thrown millions into economic and social turmoil, with millions losing jobs through no fault of their own. Small businesses were devastated overnight and children stuck at home for schooling and away from their friends. 

“It’s been a tough two months for our country. We have lost Floridians, which is never an easy thing,” he said. 

But DeSantis said there’s light at the end of the tunnel with decreases in hospital admissions and percentage of positive cases. The first priority in reopening is maintaining the health and safety of Floridians, he said. 

The first phase is statewide, but DeSantis said the plan in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties will be a little different.

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