As Florida weighs reopening, public invited to chime in

desantis, ron - cleveland clinic
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Florida officials opened an online portal Saturday for the public to weigh in on reopening the state amid the coronavirus outbreak that has now shuttered schools and businesses for more than a month.

In making the announcement, the governor’s office said “public feedback will be a critical component” in the work of the Re-Open Florida Task Force, a panel charged by Gov. Ron DeSantis to help guide him in deciding whether to lift certain restrictions put in place to limit the spread of the virus.

As of Saturday, the state reported more than 30,800 known infections and said about 1,050 Floridians have died from COVID-19.

DeSantis on Saturday visited a clinic in Weston, Florida, and said the rate of positive tests was declining as the state continued to ramp up testing.

The Governor said the state will allow pharmacies to administer COVID-19 tests and announced state labs will be receiving new equipment in late May to significantly increase the number of daily samples tested. DeSantis also said officials would receive a shipment with antibodies tests on May 1.

The state has 40% of regular bed and ICU bed availability, DeSantis said, which he said was leading him to likely restart elective procedures and surgeries soon.

The Governor and his task force are attempting to strike a balance between public health and reviving the state’s damaged economy. The public portal is sure to draw opinions that will further stoke the debate about when might be the right time to reopen the state.

The Governor’s stay-at-home order expires May 8, and he said he would provide an update on that directive this weekend. He said he thought it would be safe to restart certain sporting events without an audience, and hinted that restaurants with limited outdoor seating could lift some of the stress at supermarkets. DeSantis said he wasn’t ready to allow movie theaters or bars to open up.

“The prudent way to do it is to be very methodical about it. Be very data driven. I am not in a rush to do anything. I would rather do it right,” DeSantis said. “People should just know that we are in uncharted waters here. Nobody knows really what’s specifically been effective or not.”

The economy is the central focus of the governor’s task force.

School and business closures, as well as the Governor’s “safer-at-home” edicts, have strained the economy and left hundreds of thousands of people without paychecks.

It has also led to countless frustrations among the newly jobless, who continued to have difficulty getting unemployment benefits — with much of the difficulty tied to the state’s glitch-prone unemployment system. That frustration mounted when state officials said its site would not be available for the weekend to people checking on the status of their claims.

As of Saturday, the state’s online unemployment dashboard reported that more than 785,000 Floridians had submitted claims since mid-March for unemployment benefits, with less than half processed. Of those, about 166,000 have gotten paid.

Florida has struggled more than other states to clear its backlog of claims.

Small business owners, especially those in smaller counties that have not seen the surge of coronavirus cases experienced in hard-hit South Florida, have been antsy to reopen for business. But some cautioned that lifting restrictions too early could be dangerous to public health and prolong the crisis.

Associated Press


20 comments

  • Glenn Barca

    April 25, 2020 at 10:07 am

    WHERE IS THE DAMN TASK FORCE FOR THE FLDEO UNEMPLOYMENT DEBACLE ??? YOU BETTER “RE-OPEN” THE FLDEO “CONNECT” SYSTEM SO THE 1.5 MILLION NOW UNEMPLOYED CAN GET THE UI BENEFITS WE RIGHTLY DESERVE !! MOST HAVE BEEN WAITING OVER A MONTH, STILL APPLICATIONS HAVENT BEEN PROCESSED LET ALONE HAVE BEEN PAID. THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS AND A DISGRACE !! AND AS FAR AS RE-OPENING ..HELL NO !! NOT UNTIL TESTING OCCURS FOR ALL. YOU WANT TO SHUT US DOWN FROM OUR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS THEN WE THE PEOPLE WILL KEEP THIS STATE SHUT DOWN. STOP PLAYING GAMES AND PUT YOUR PRIORITIES IN ORDER. FLORIDA HAS BECOME A NATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT !!!!!!

  • Connie

    April 25, 2020 at 10:20 am

    It’s time to open ,Ive been home for weeks . Our little town Zephyrhills is doing fine. I can see why other counties must wait but we can open now.

  • Kendall Gogarty

    April 25, 2020 at 10:21 am

    Open the state up. People are loosing everything because they can’t work and the unemployment system is incompetent.

    • Glenn

      April 26, 2020 at 12:41 pm

      That is exactly what our failed state leaders want. THEY’RE the ones that shut the state down, therefore created the unemployment mess. So they hold on to the 4 billion that is in the UI trust account, drag they’re feet, make excuses how their system is being so called upgraded as to why they can’t pay people, not pay any claims ..can’t you see this is EXACTLY what they want, for people to start saying hey let’s “re-open cause I can’t sit home and not work any longer”. This is by design !! This is BS. First of all Florida hasn’t even peaked yet with the Covid, and somehow yeah let’s re-open the state .. really ? WTF !! You comfortable being in a workplace around others, or coming into contact with complete strangers ?? I don’t know about you but IM NOT ! There’s not even any statewide testing going on. Are they serious, you have to be kidding me. Bottom line here .. PAY THE PEOPLE THEIR RIGHTFUL UI BENEFITS !! But some of these fools that cry “re-open” are ignorant to the fact that by doing so people WILL DIE. Are we NOT human beings anymore ???? Money before human life ???? Sorry but this guy doesn’t buy in to what the Gov wants, I buy into ETHICS and HUMANITY. Don’t be the Governments blind sheep !!! Only a fool would follow that lead. Enough said !!!!

  • Freida

    April 25, 2020 at 11:28 am

    I never thought I would live to see The United States of America so close to becoming a socialist country. I’m 66 years old so my time is running out but dear God help my precious grandchildren who do not deserve what they are about to get. Have all the brains of higher-ups become possessed by the socialist-communist agenda? Please allow the State of Florida to open up. The future of our children depends on it.

    • Holly

      April 27, 2020 at 8:53 am

      Agreed! Sick stay home, like with any other sickness, so the well can get back to work. Last time I checked, Marshall Law goes against our constitution. People have choices….keep staying home or get back to work and LIFE! The longer healthy people stay quarantined, the lower their normal immune system falls, and then when the healthy people go out, they will catch all kinds of viruses and bacteria from a lowered immune system.🤦‍♀️

  • Betty jo

    April 25, 2020 at 11:41 am

    Of course, when trying to submit the form, it says higher than usual traffic, unable to submit, can they get any of their websites to work???????

  • Jackie

    April 25, 2020 at 3:14 pm

    I think Florida needs to reopen for the sake of our economy and the mental health of residents. Owners of small businesses such as boutiques are struggling from not being able to be open. I don’t think it is good for anyone emotionally to be stuck at home all day either. People can be responsible while going out and wash their hands.

  • Dylan

    April 25, 2020 at 3:15 pm

    Florida needs to reopen, or the devastation brought about by the lockdown will most likely surpass that of the virus itself. Freedom is always more important than temporary “safety.”

  • Sandi

    April 25, 2020 at 8:53 pm

    I am so disappointed in the states unemployment compensation programs. That system should’ve been updated years ago, now with as many people out of work and people talking about starting the economy how is that gonna happen if we can’t get our unemployment wages. I think the damn governor is doing a great job however I do not think that he has put the unemployment compensation as a priority and it really needs to be.

  • Freida

    April 26, 2020 at 10:27 am

    Just wondering why the very first comment was taken down? Do we no longer have freedom of expression in Florida?

  • Freida

    April 26, 2020 at 11:03 am

    Apparently, the public is only invited to chime in if these lobbyist like your comment.

  • Freida

    April 26, 2020 at 11:37 am

    Please take all of my post down. I do not want my name or post used in any way, shape, or form. I was mislead, I do not believe this is a legitimate State of Florida website.

  • J

    April 26, 2020 at 12:44 pm

    I vote we re open our economy. The damage done from business closures far outweighs the damage done by the c virus! There are more deaths from the flu & other diseases. I’m not buying into all this c virus hysteria! I think it’s political. How convenient this is all going down In an election year!

  • Jerry Collins

    April 26, 2020 at 2:21 pm

    Time to end all of this…open the beaches, WMA’s, parks, restaurants, etc….

  • Mike Carey

    April 26, 2020 at 4:17 pm

    Time to reopen the parks and the barbers, not necessarily in that order……..

  • Tracey Zarkis

    April 26, 2020 at 9:51 pm

    I watched the press conference today with the doctors from Orlando. There is no reason not to open the state based on their facts shared. Please open the state and let the people work!

  • Carolyn Cahill Glass

    April 27, 2020 at 11:05 am

    Please include trusted medical experts on the task force.

  • Mark Peterson

    April 27, 2020 at 3:45 pm

    Up until this virus hit, I was pleasantly surprised by our Governor’s performance. I didn’t vote for him, but he was doing MUCH better than his predecessor and I was seriously considering voting for him next time.
    That’s changed now.

  • Chris

    April 27, 2020 at 6:17 pm

    Please open the beaches and allow the people sunbathing not just walking!

Comments are closed.


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