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'We are asking governor DeSantis to trust us:’ Marion County leaders want to open all businesses to 50% capacity

Leaders urged the governor to expand reopening guidelines for the county

MARION COUNTY, Fla. – Counties across Central Florida are working to determine how their local polices will fall into place after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced phase one of his plan to reopen the state amid the coronavirus pandemic.

DeSantis announced Wednesday that most of Florida will the first phase of the reopening process on May 4 which allows restaurants and retail stores to operate at 25% capacity, among other amendments to his initial stay-at-home order first issued on April 1.

Phase one maintains current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including vulnerable individuals continuing social distancing while in public, avoiding groups of 10 or more and using face masks in public when you can’t maintain six feet away from others.

[READ: Gov. Ron DeSantis says most of Florida can begin first phase of reopening May 4]

Marion County leaders said in a news conference Thursday that these provisions will not be enough to keep the county’s economy afloat and issued a public plea to the governor for more operations allowance.

“We are asking governor DeSantis to trust us to implement cautious, reopening phases that make sense to our current state so our citizens can get back to work and we can put an end to their financial suffering and economic hardships,” county commission chairman Kathy Bryant said. “Marion county leaders and elected officials are capable of making independent decisions for our residents, visitors and business people, and have a plan to do so that will continue to slow the spread of this virus while keep our families, patrons and neighbors safe with the blessing of our governor.”

County officials urged DeSanits to allow leaders to better tailor their reopening processes to the communities they serve, saying each city has their own specific needs that need to be met.

"Marion county is home to 258 hair salon establishments employing almost 1100 individuals, 61 gyms and fitness establishments that provide almost 450 local jobs and over 612 restaurants with almost 10,000 employees, Bryant said. “Our restaurateurs will not survive on a 25% seating capacity. We are urging Governor DeSanits to allow us to implement the Reopen Florida Task Force phase one plan for our restaurants, gyms and personal services.”

Bryant proposed to the governor the following guidelines she would like to see implemented:

Salons

  • Wants salons to operate at 50% capacity
  • Schedule patrons by appointment only to avoid groups
  • Follow all appropriate social distancing guidelines with minimum of 6 feet distance between all patrons
  • Require employees to sanitize after each use
  • Require employees and guests to wear face masks
  • Remove all frequently touched inventory in shared spaces. Items such as products, magazines, services menus

Restaurants

  • Wants restaurants to operate at 50% capacity
  • Follow all appropriate social distancing guidelines with minimum of 6 feet distance between all patrons
  • Parties could not exceed 10 people
  • Reservations and call-ahead models would be considered
  • Outdoor dining would be prioritized

Gyms

  • Wants gyms to operate at 50% capacity
  • Follow all appropriate social distancing guidelines with minimum of 6 feet distance between all patrons
  • Strict disinfecting practices would be implemented

“With his blessing to take the lead in our county we can continue to save lives while we also continue to save local businesses,” Bryant said.

A letter with these requests has been drafted to DeSantis and is being reviewed by mayors within Marion County as well as Bryant and leaders of local law enforcement agencies, a county spokesperson said.

As of Thursday, the Florida Department of Health reported 175 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Marion County, 26 hospitalizations and four deaths.

Unlike many of our neighbors, Marion county has maintained a COVID-19 positivity rate of 3.9% which is important to note as Marion County is home to many persons age 65 and over, Bryant said. “Our daily percentage of ER visits which mentioned cough, fever and shortness of breath peaked in mid march and have since returned to the early levels of early 2020.”

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