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Reopening Florida: Palm Beach to enter Phase One

Governor Ron DeSantis is moving Palm Beach County to a Phase One reopening for Monday, May 11, 2020.

The rest of Florida initiated a Phase One reopening earlier this week.

What does Phase One Mean?

✔ Restaurants & retail outlets may operate 25% inside CDC spacing

✔ Hair stylists, barbers and nail salons may reopen.

✔ Elective surgeries may resume

✔ Students must continue distance learning until further notice.

✔ Social distancing continues (6 ft distance)

✔ CDC still urges everyone to wear facial masks in public spaces

✖ Beaches closed until May 18th to reopen to county residents only

✖ Gyms, bars & movie theaters remain closed.

✖ Vacation rentals are still banned.

✖ No visitors to long term care facilities

✖ No social groups of 10 or more

County officials have been anxious to reopen, issuing a letter to the Governor. DeSantis now says he’ll sign off on that request. However, businesses must reduce the number of people in their stores by 75 percent and take other precautions to keep customers safe. Speaking at the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches COVID-19 testing site in West Palm Beach on Friday, DeSantis said, "The limited reopening will give the county’s economy a much-needed boost. I think they’re ready."

Starting Saturday, antibody testing will be offered at the ballpark to health care workers and first responders. Health officials say the presence of antibodies in your blood can reveal if you've had the coronavirus in the past without showing symptoms, and therefore may be immune to it.

Palm Beach has been working in tandem with Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, but determined that its infection numbers look better than the two sister counties and should permit Palm Beach County to move forward on its own. The three South Florida counties continue to account for nearly 60% of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in the entire state.

“We wanted to make sure [municipalities] were able to proceed in ways that their communities supported and that made the most sense.”

“Just because you go to Phase One, that does not mean the disease is going away,” DeSantis explained. “The shape of it may be different. We seem to be on a decline in many parts of the country. But nobody really knows exactly how this thing’s going to bounce.”

The Governor pointed out a drop in the rate of positive tests in county as a rationale for his decision.

“Palm Beach, they were at 18% a couple weeks ago. Now they’re under 10%.” He elaborated that rate has varied between 3% to 7.5% in recent days.

Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner joined the Governor Friday, thanking him for responding to the county’s request.

“Palm Beach County is well-prepared,” Kerner said. “Phase One is a small step. It’s measured. But it’s a large step for this community. It won’t happen overnight but this community is eager to move forward."

With some of the nation’s most expensive properties, Palm Beach County is home to Mar-a-Lago, which serves as Trump’s refuge from Washington. The president often spends his time there mixing work, business and pleasure in the company of dues-paying members. It has reportedly laid off 153 workers during the pandemic.

“Palm Beach is incredibly important for our state,” DeSantis added Friday.

"This is not like flipping a switch. It’s not just going to go back overnight. But I think if we take nice, strong, methodical, safe step forward, we’re going to be able to get people back to work. And you can put people back to work and still support our seniors. You can put people back to work and still send PPE to long-term care facilities. You can put people back to work and still have procedures in place so that these residents are cared for appropriately.”

But, others including many PBC Commissioners voiced grave concerns about lifting restrictions too soon in a county where 3,615 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, 238 have died and the total number of cases increased by nearly 19 percent in a week. Many local officials urged the Governor not to loosen restrictions meant to help stop the spread of the coronavirus until he can put in place adequate testing, contact tracing and the ability to isolate sick residents.

DeSantis still stated he is looking forward to further relaxing restrictions, allowing other businesses to reopen.“Smart, safe and step-by-step,” he said often repeating what has became the state’s slogan for a slow and stead recovery.

“It is a large step for recovering our economy. It’s a large step to putting people back to work and our friends and family getting back together in a safe, measured and methodical way.”

Check back on this story for updates.

CORONAVIRUS IN SOUTH FLORIDA: Latest updates, news & resources

The Florida Department of Health launched an interactive COVID-19 map to help residents keep up with the latest information on cases in the state.

The map breaks down the number of cases in each county and gives an overview of information. That includes the total number of cases in that county, the age range, the gender of the patients and how many of the cases are travel related. The department also announced it would be updating its website twice a day with the latest numbers.

Check the latest data using the interactive map below (app/mobile users click here)

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