South Florida gets go-ahead to move to phase 2 of reopening

Region was hard-hit by coronavirus pandemic

A sign urging people to wear masks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus is posted, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, near Art Deco hotels along Miami Beach, Florida's famed Ocean Drive in South Beach. Florida added at least 276 fatalities to its coronavirus death toll on Tuesday, a new state record. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Wilfredo Lee, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

MIAMI – On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that South Florida, which was hit harder by the coronavirus pandemic than the rest of the state, can begin phase two of reopening.

The rest of Florida began phase two in early June but South Florida lagged behind as the region was still grappling to get daily case numbers to a more reasonable level.

Broward and Miami-Dade counties have remained in phase one for months now. Palm Beach County recently got permission to enter phase two.

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DeSantis on Friday touted the region’s dramatic improvement since the peak of the pandemic in Florida over the summer.

He said since July in Miami-Dade County, hospitalizations have decreased by nearly 75%, new hospital admissions are down 82% and emergency room visits with COVID-like symptoms have gone down more than 80%.

In that same time period, he said Broward County has seen a 75% decrease in hospitalizations and emergency room visits are down 85%.

“So Miami-Dade has gone so far in a good direction, really appreciate that and then Broward has done phenomenal as well,” DeSantis said.

Under phase two, restaurants and theaters can operate at 50% indoor capacity, gyms and retail shops can move to full capacity as long as they have precautions in place and social gatherings with no more than 50 people can occur.

The state also announced on Thursday that bars can reopen starting Monday with 50% indoor capacity. However, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he won’t allow that at this time.

“Let me be clear that Miami-Dade County will not be opening up bars and nightclubs. In other parts of our state, opening bars is perfectly OK, fine because they have very few cases of COVID-19,” Gimenez said. “We’re still not out of the woods yet, but we’re getting close so we must make all sure to take personal responsibility about protecting ourselves and others from catching this virus.”

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Other venues including movie theaters, arcades, playhouses and zoos are expected to open next week.

Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools Alberto Carvalho said there will also be an announcement coming soon about reopening schools for parents who’d like to send their students back to brick-and-mortar classrooms instead of continuing online learning.

“Obviously when they return, we will have in place all of the safety and precautionary measures in place with increased sensitization cycles, isolation rooms with a nurse in every school with appropriate social distancing but I want to be clear, six feet of distance is probably not going to be possible in many schools,” Carvalho said.

The state on Friday reported 3,650 new cases of the respiratory illness, bringing the state total to 658,381 since the pandemic was first detected here in March.

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