Florida state parks to open Monday as part of phase 1 plan

Gov. Ron DeSantis says sunlight and humidity effectively kill virus

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at Little Talbot Island State Park. (WJXT)

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Friday that he will open all state parks Monday as part of phase one of his plan to reopen Florida.

“Today, I am announcing that as part of phase one, as of Monday, Florida’s world-renowned state parks system will be opening,” DeSantis said. “Opening the parks back up is consistent with my safe, smart, step-by-step plan to reopen Florida.”

The governor said he based his decision to open state parks on a study conducted by the Department of Homeland Security.

“The Department of Homeland Security’s biodefense lab recently conducted a study about the effect of sunlight, heat and humidity on the virus, in terms of surface transmission and in terms of respiratory droplets and aerosols,” DeSanits said.

According to DeSantis, the DHS study concluded that sunlight rapidly killed the virus in aerosols and found that outdoor, daytime environments are lower risk for transmission of the virus than indoor environments. News 6 was unable to find a copy of the study from the DHS.

DeSantis said that while low outdoor transmission rates and the likelihood of sunlight killing the virus reflects positively for parkgoers, he said that social distancing and proper hygiene will remain important as the state begins to reopen.

“When you’re talking about open spaces with appropriate distancing distancing, that is a very low-risk environment,” DeSantis said. “It’s also very high reward for the people of Florida because they can go out, they can get sunlight, they can get fresh air. It’s good for peace of mind when they’re exercising.”

DeSantis initially announced phase one of his plan to reopen Florida on Wednesday, and gave the following guidelines for what will and will not change under the first phase beginning on May 4:

  • Schools continue distance learning
  • Visits to senior living facilities are prohibited
  • Elective surgeries can resume
  • Sports arenas and movie theaters will remain closed
  • Restaurants may offer outdoor seating with six feet of space between tables and indoor seating at 25% capacity
  • Retail stores can operate at 25% of indoor capacity
  • No changes for bars, gyms and personal services such as hair dressers and barbers
  • Vulnerable individuals should avoid close contact with people outside the home

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency, we have made decisions based on data, facts and science, and I think we’ve seen enough about COVID-19, and I think the science backs it up, that outdoor transmission is less likely than transmission in enclosed environments,” DeSantis said.

At the time of the governor’s announcement Friday, the Florida Department of Health reported 1,038 new COVID-19 cases since Thursday, as well as 46 new deaths as a result of the respiratory illness. The newly reported cases brought the state’s total COVID-19 cases to 34,728.

About the Author:

Erin began her career at News 6 as an assignment editor, then became a show producer. She is now a digital storyteller as part of the Click Orlando team.