Governor says Florida isn’t ready to enter third phase of coronavirus reopening

Nearly 9,000 new cases reported Friday

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference at Orlando Regional Medical Center Tuesday, June 23, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. DeSantis spoke about Florida's caseload of coronavirus topping 100,000. (AP Photo/John Raoux) (John Raoux, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

TAMPA, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida isn’t ready for the next phase of his effort to reinvigorate the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We never anticipated necessarily doing anything different in terms of the next phase at this point anyways,” DeSantis said Thursday during a bill-signing event in Tampa. “We are where we are. Obviously, South Florida is where they are. I think the main thing is just for folks to look, in May, if you remember end of April, May all the way through, you know coronavirus was relatively quiet in Florida. You had manageable cases. Our positivity rate was 4 or 5 percent consistently.”

But since the Memorial Day weekend, positive cases have grown, with more than 5,000 reported Thursday to push the state’s total to 114,000 cases since March. On Friday, nearly 9,000 new cases reported with a new statewide cumulative total of 122,960.

DeSantis has resisted calls to issue a statewide requirement for people to wear masks but urged people to follow health guidelines, which include social distancing, avoiding crowds, hand washing and wearing masks in public.

“I’m confident that people, if you follow guidelines, if you follow the instructions from the local and the state and the federal officials, you know, you can do things in a low-risk way,” DeSantis said.

After many businesses were shut down or dramatically scaled back at the end of March to prevent spread of the virus, most of the state entered the first phase of DeSantis’ reopening plan on May 4, which allowed restaurants and retail stores outside of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties to operate with outdoor seating and 25% indoor capacity.

The phase let hospitals and doctors resume providing elective medical procedures.

Later, the occupancy limit was bumped to 50%, gyms, barber shops and hair salons were allowed to open, and the South Florida counties --- which have been virus hotspots --- were able to take part.

In early June, the second phase started in all but South Florida. In part, bars and movie theaters were allowed to operate with limited indoor seating capacity.