Florida restaurants and retail slowly opening Monday; elective surgeries resume

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Florida Governor Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that Florida will start lifting stay-at-home orders starting Monday.

In a plan he’s labeling, “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step,” DeSantis said the state will take a “very slow and methodical approach” to reopening in order to convince the public it’s safe.

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  • Schools will remain closed
  • Restaurants will be allowed to do outdoor seating with six-foot social distancing
  • Retail stores can open at 25 percent indoor capacity
  • Bars, gyms and salons will remain closed
  • Elective surgeries will be allowed to resume
  • Nursing homes and long-term care facility visits will still be prohibited
  • People should still avoid gatherings of 10 or more people

Restaurants will open with six-feet of space between patrons and they will likely have be remain only 30 to 40 percent occupied. The governor said he  expects the public to wear masks in restaurants until they are ready to eat.

Airports will have to screen passengers before they get on planes and, in a few months, conduct rapid COVID-19 tests before every flight. Hospitals will screen patients 48 hours before they arrive for surgeries or other medical procedures. The Florida reopening plan is slightly more open than the White House’s recommendations.

The governor said “there is not going to be a firm time,” for when to allow businesses such as hair salons open. He said it will be months, not weeks until we return to “normal.”  He said he will be looking at data every day and making decisions based on data.  The governor’s new orders

“I think there is a window in June-July to have fans. I don’t think we will be able to pack them in there,” but he said he is not setting an opening date for baseball or other stadium gatherings.

“I am not seeing any outbreaks related to playing golf,” he said, so he says, he is not interested in restricting those kinds of businesses.

He said people were critical of Jacksonville opening its beaches, but he says he has not seen any data that shows opening the beaches there earlier than many thought was prudent has led to a new outbreak.

The governor said, “we are going to have to think clearly,” about how to open Florida’s convention businesses. He was not optimistic about opening convention centers anytime soon.

The opening orders won’t apply to Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, however, where the epidemic has hit hardest.  “We didn’t specificly prempt local government” from making their own decisions, the governor said.  But he said he did not see how a local government that has not seen big outbreaks could defend stronger guidelines than the state as a whole imposes.

Pinellas beaches and pools open

The Pinellas County Commission voted Tuesday to reopen beaches and pools, with restrictions to make sure visitors don’t gather in groups of more than 10. AT the same time, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor says that city’s beaches will stay closed.

Pinellas Commissioners decided to separate resolutions on opening pools and beaches into two votes. The group voted unanimously to open pools on Thursday at 6 a.m. They then voted 6-1 to open beaches on Monday at 7 a.m.

The pools include those at hotels, condos, apartments and commercial operations.

The resolution requires visitors to maintain a 6-foot distance from one another and to not congregate in groups of more than 10.

The county will post hundreds of brightly-colored signs at beaches to warn people about the requirements.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Saturday that he supported the move, because spring break crowds are gone and because medical data shows the “worst is behind” the county.

Tampa still closed

Tampa’s city’s parks and beaches will stay closed for now, said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor on Wednesday.  It is not known what effect the governor’s plans to loosen restrictions will have on Castor’s decision.

Castor said, “I just think it’s too soon to open up beaches and parks so people can congregate.”

The mayor didn’t give a date for reopening, saying she preferred to focus on getting small businesses and service operators back on their feet and reopening before turning to parks and beaches.

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