As part of Phase I of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to re-open Florida, restaurants and retails locations can re-open on Monday with some drastic conditions for now.

After fighting the “Formidable enemy” of COVID-19 that has affected all 22 million Florida residents, DeSantis laid out a plan that starts with a “small, deliberate, methodical step toward a hopeful future.”

The plan currently excludes Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties, where about two-thirds of the state’s cases are, and continues to includes the six-foot boundary between people, avoiding groups of 10 or more and wearing face coverings when social distancing isn’t possible or practical.

The plan that starts Monday:

Phase I

  • Schools remain on distance learning;
  • Visits to senior living facilities remain prohibited (“We had to do it to prevent an outbreak, but it’s tough,” DeSantis said);
  • Elective surgeries may resume;
  • Restaurants may offer outdoor seating with six foot spacing between table and indoor seating at 25 percent capacity (“This way it’s no more dangerous than going to Costco or those type of stores,” DeSantis said);
  • Retail can operate at 25 percent of indoor capacity;
  • Bars, gyms, movie theaters, and services (salons, etc.) remain closed;

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.”

The move to a Phase II, which will include more openings, will use the federal mandates as a guideline and be deliberate, “not like turning on a switch.” It will involve require maintaining hospital bed capacity and monitoring COVID-19 positive test rates, and “it doesn’t need to take months.”

The plan involves will:

  • Ready the health care system to maintain the health and safety of all Floridians;
  • Protect the vulnerable: those over age 65 and anyone with underlying medical conditions, and continues focused ;
  • Increase testing, labs and contact tracing — there will be 13 state-supported locations (like the Orange County Convention Center) by next week, in addition to local and county facilities;
  • Continues to promote social distancing;
  • Supports hospitals and protects health care workers;
  • Prevents introduction from outside the state;
  • Instills the public confidence, with a plan rooted in sound medical judgement and and driven by health metrics so every Florida feels safe enough to return to work and daily activities.

So what’s the biggest obstacle? Fear and the constant doom-and-gloom that’s permeated the state for the last six weeks.

“We are trying to build a foundation for the state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “This was thrust upon us. We can get through this.”

It happens Monday. Your patience has been rewarded, Osceola County. You’re gonna make it. Be smart, and we’ll catch up with you again this weekend to review all this.