Here’s a sign that the coronavirus has turned our world completely topsy-turvy:
Many people will be looking forward to a Monday.
May 4 marks the day when Phase I of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to re-open Florida begins. The highlight of that is that restaurants may re-open with outdoor seating and tables six feet apart and indoor seating at 25 percent of capacity, and some retailers may open at 25 percent of capacity. Hospitals will be able to begin doing elective surgeries.
Some things haven’t changed. Bars, gyms, movie theaters, and services like hair salons remain closed, schools remain closed and will continue on distance learning through the end of the school year on May 28 — some school districts in Georgia, Texas and the District of Columbia have tapped out and ended the school year — and senior living facilities will stay on lockdown to prevent outbreaks there. Changes to those would coming in Phases II or III down the line; expect Phase I to last at least two weeks so officials can monitor levels of new and existing COVID-19 cases and how health care facilities are responding.
Social distancing guidelines remain in place, including the six-foot boundary between people, avoiding groups of 10 or more and wearing face coverings when social distancing isn’t possible or practical. And, in Osceola County, facemasks will still be required to be worn in public.
For now, the plan leaves out Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties, which have about two-thirds of the state’s cases.
DeSantis said Phase I based on input from prominent positions and the Re-Open Florida Task Force, and data and facts, and most importantly, “facts over fear”. Starting Phase I involves more work, actually, continuing the momentum of fighting the coronavirus:
- Readying the health care system to maintain the health and safety of all Floridians and supporting hospitals and health care workers in that mission;
- Protecting the vulnerable: those over age 65 and anyone with underlying medical conditions should still avoid contact with people outside the home;
- Increasing testing, labs and contact tracing — there will be 13 state-supported locations by next week in addition to local and county facilities like Osceola Heritage Park and the county’s site at St. Cloud High School this week and will move to another county location next week;
- Preventing introduction of the virus from outside the state;
- Instilling the public confidence, with a plan rooted in sound medical judgement and and driven by health metrics so every Floridian feels safe enough to return to work and daily activities.