Task Force meeting over weekend to finalize recommendations to reopen state

The Re-Open Florida Task Force is set to work through the weekend to finalize recommendations on re-opening the state amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to meet virtually with the task force Friday to continue discussing when and how to re-open the economy. The task force started meeting virtually on Monday and has working groups looking at every industry in Florida.

During Thursday’s meeting, the governor’s chief of staff said over the weekend the recommendations from the working groups will be complied into one big report. The task force will then take one final look at it before hopefully sending it to the governor early next week.

Governor DeSantis has not said when Florida will re-open but it could be once the state’s “Safer at Home” order expires on April 30. The governor has said the state will re-open in three phases: short, medium and long term.

During its meetings this week, the task force was focused on how and when businesses can re-open and be low-risk. On Thursday, Governor DeSantis told task force members, “We need to have people to have confidence that’s what’s going on economically is being done safely and with an eye for making sure people are protected.”

The governor suggested rather than looking at essential versus non-essential businesses, the task force explore how businesses can minimize the risk of COVID-19 spreading when they re-open by using social distancing, sanitation protocols and other measures.

The task force is considering limiting attendance at theme parks when they re-open and staggering seating on rides. The tourism industry said when they can re-open they will first focus on getting Floridians to take stay-cations. The next phase would involve attracting national and international travelers.

It could be more of a gradual process for sporting events to get back to normal. Visit Florida is coming up with ways to get fans into the stadiums. Visit Florida President and CEO Dana Young said some suggestions include, “Limiting arena tickets when appropriate. Spreading out attendees. Social distancing at concession stands with virtual lines, cashless [vendors] and limiting common touch points as much as possible.”

Governor DeSantis is hoping hospitals will be able to start doing elective procedures again in the near future. The latest state numbers show available hospital beds in the state jumped from 12.4 percent on March 2 to 43 percent on April 22. The governor said, “I think we’ve seen the [coronavirus] positivity rate decline in Florida over the last week or so even in places like Palm Beach and Miami-Dade that have had higher positive rates so I think that that’s a good sign. We want to keep the progress up there.”