Florida begins to reopen its economy today, as Gov. Ron DeSantis lifts some of the restrictions that have been in place for more than a month.
The reopening does not extend to the three most populous counties, all in South Florida, where most of the state’s confirmed cases are. Those counties are Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.
The state has seen nearly 37,000 cases and about 1,400 deaths from COVID-19.
Under the new order, restaurants and retail stores can re-open starting today. Outdoor seating at restaurants can be used, though inside, restaurants can use only 25% of their seating capacity.
Large venues such as movie theaters remain closed for now, as are barber shops and hair salons. Gyms and bars are still closed, too. It’s not clear when those establishments will reopen.
Beaches reopened in some areas, including Pinellas County, home to St. Petersburg and Clearwater. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said that the goal is to keep crowds from gathering.
“We’re going to take a common-sense approach to this,” Gualtieri told NPR station WUSF in Tampa. “So if five people come together, they can stay together – but no joining larger groups.” He said there will be deputies at every beach access point, others patrolling the beaches and thousands of signs urging social distancing.
Elective surgeries can also resume on Monday, and DeSantis said that part of the process was ensuring that hospitals have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to manage both the surgeries and treatment of COVID-19.
“The hospitals when they’re doing it, they’re certifying effectively that they do have space in the hospital, that if you did have an increase in COVID patients, they can handle it, that they have adequate PPE, they’re not going to run to the state for more PPE,” he said on Sunday.
The pause on elective surgeries – procedures planned in advance — has led to steep declines in revenues at hospitals, causing some to furlough doctors and nurses, as NPR station WFSU reports from Tallahassee.
Parks and marinas in Miami-Dade county reopened over the weekend, attracting many joggers and cyclists, though city beaches remain closed. Hundreds of cars towing boat trailers lined up at the Black Point Marina in Homestead, the Miami Herald reported.
As WLRN in Miami reports, beaches that are part of state parks are now open “for people to walk, jog, swim and fish, but sunbathing, chairs, canopies or coolers are not allowed.”