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Sarasota Wednesday, Apr. 29, 2020 2 years ago

Gov. Ron DeSantis announces plans for first phase of reopening Florida

The measures, which go into effect May 4, will allow restaurants and retail businesses to operate at reduced capacity. Bars, salons and gyms must remain closed.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced today he will be lifting some restrictions designed to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19, moving the state into a new phase of responding to the pandemic effective Monday, May 4.

Plans for the first phase of reopening include allowing restaurants and retail establishments to operate at 25% of regular indoor capacity. Dine-in service is allowed outdoors as long as there is at least six feet of space between tables. Bars, gyms, and personal service businesses such as salons must remain closed for the time being, DeSantis said.

Hospitals will be allowed to resume elective surgeries May 4. Distance learning will continue at schools, and visits to senior living facilities are still prohibited.

Guidelines on social distancing, including use of masks for face-to-face interaction and avoiding socializing in groups larger than 10 people, remain in place.

In a press conference today, DeSantis said the state would be taking a step-by-step, data-driven approach to responding to COVID-19 and determining when to lift other restrictions. He noted the state had not seen the spread some projections indicated was possible.

He said the state would continue to monitor to see how the initial regulatory changes affect the rate of positive tests and the capacity of Florida hospitals, but he was optimistic the state would be able to move quickly into another phase of reopening.

“We’re thinking about weeks,” DeSantis said of a potential move to phase two. “We’re not thinking about months.”

Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance CEO and President Dom DiMaio said business owners in the region will be cheering DeSantis' move.

"What we've been hearing from our businesses is that besides having some revenue, they just need to see people," DiMaio said. "A business like Bealls can open its doors, our restaurants can have people sitting outside and at least a few people inside. The general public just needs to be vigilant."

Besides being a Manatee County commissioner, Vanessa Baugh owns Vanessa Fine Jewelry in Lakewood Ranch with her husband, Don Baugh. Their business has been closed a month.

"Donnie and I did a high-five during the governor's speech," Vanessa Baugh said. "It might not be Monday, but sometime next week we will have our doors open."

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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