With more than 36,000 cases and almost 1,400 deaths from COVID-19, Florida will enter the first phase of its “reopening” this Monday, after a month of confinement that has had a severe impact on an economy until two buoyant months and with an index unemployment lower than the national average.
This will begin the three-phase plan to “get Floridians back on their feet,” as Governor Ron DeSantis has described, who has left out of the first phase the three southeastern counties most affected by the coronavirus.
Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, with more than half of the 36,078 cases of COVID-19 confirmed to date in Florida, which are 615 more than on Saturday, will remain under stricter measures to prevent contagion for now.
The Florida Department of Health reported Sunday that deaths from COVID-19 total 1,379 and hospitalizations 6,035.
PROTESTS IN MIAMI-DADE
With the exclusion of this reopening of the cities in South Florida where most of the cases are concentrated, dozens of protesters crowded on Sunday at the Freedom Tower in Downtown Miami demanding that the economy be reactivated and restrictions be lifted in this area of the state.
Raúl Evia, one of the protesters, claims that his rights are being violated. “We are demanding that the government open all businesses and give us back our constitutional rights to bring our daily bread home.”
Diana Castillo, for her part, considers that “the laws are totally unfair (…) because of a virus you cannot destroy the economy and people’s lives,” he points out.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez has indicated that the gradual reopening in the county will be made according to the recommendations of experts and health professionals and following the protocol in coordination with Governor DeSantis.
Since March 1, 429,970 tests have been performed, which in 8.4% of the cases have been positive, but if only the cases confirmed in the last 10 days are taken into account, the positive rate is between 4.12 and 6.18%, as highlighted by DeSantis.
About 2% of the state population has been tested for the virus and the governor aspires to do an average of 30,000 tests per day on May 15, and by June 15, about 40,000.
The governor has said he works closely with authorities in South Florida to establish when the economic reopening of the three most affected counties can begin. For now, the slogan is to keep everyone safe and avoid new infections.
The first COVID-19 case in Florida was confirmed on March 1, and some cities and counties began taking action that same month, until the stay-at-home order for all of Florida went into effect on April 1 and lasted until this Monday, May 4.
NOTHING WILL BE THE SAME
Except for bars, nightclubs, cinemas, gyms and hairdressers, barbershops, manicure centers and other personal services, tomorrow all the businesses in the 64 counties included in phase one will open their doors.
But nothing will be the same as before in the first phase, the duration of which will depend on how the situation evolves.
Maintaining the physical distance of six feet (1.82 meters) between people and not gathering more than ten people at a time are the main commandments of phase one.
In the case of the restaurants that survived during the confinement preparing takeaway meals, they will now be able to serve customers within the establishments but at 25% of their capacity, the same as the retail businesses.
All medical services and health care facilities will be able to return to normal operation and perform surgical procedures, including cosmetic ones.
However, hospitals that resume non-emergency operations will need to be ready to assist geriatric centers.
More than 400 of the deaths from COVID-19 recorded in the state have occurred in these centers, which will remain isolated as before, without visits from family members to residents.
TOURISM, AN ENGINE DOWN
As for mobility, you can travel freely throughout the state, and visitors arriving in Florida from hot spots of COVID-19 will need to be screened at the airport and put in isolation for a time.
Seasonal rentals through platforms are still suspended, and hotels and other places of accommodation are only allowed to provide essential services.
Neither the theme parks that so many people visit Florida nor the cruises can work for now.
This means that the tourism sector, Florida’s main economic engine, which received 68.9 million visitors from other places in the US and abroad in the first half of 2019, has yet to wait.
UNEMPLOYMENT IN THE STATE
The Hotel and Lodging Association of America estimates that of the 747,705 jobs that depend on the hotel industry in Florida, 336,467 have been lost or will be lost.
The number of layoffs and temporary job and salary suspensions in the theme park sector, which is concentrated in Orlando (central Florida), is also in the thousands.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 4.3% in March, 1.5 points more than in February, and it is estimated that in April it will rise exponentially since it was the month of confinement.
Unemployment subsidy applications increased by more than 426,000 last week in Florida and problems in the operation of the official website to claim those payments have caused a group of citizens to have sued the state government.
The monthly Consumer Confidence Index conducted by the University of Florida Office of Economic and Business Research plummeted in March and was 11.2 points lower than in February.