Florida will start to reopen May 4, but for now Miami-Dade and two other counties won’t be included

"We will get Florida back on its feet by using a safe, smart and step-by-step approach," DeSantis said Wednesday.

DeSantis said that restaurants and retail outlets can let customers in, but only at 25% capacity, and people must follow social distancing guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


The restaurants can offer outdoor dining if the tables are 6 meters apart.

"Outdoor transfer has so far been more difficult than the indoor climate-controlled transition," the governor said, adding that medical officials recommended the outdoor seating.

Cinemas cannot open again yet.


"I just think it's practically difficult to carry out the social distance," the governor said. "Indoor environments, I think, are more likely to transmit, so even if you could have done it in phase one, I think defensiveness indicates that we're going a little slow with it."

Bars, gyms and places that offer personalized services, like hair styling, will also open later.


People can reschedule non-urgent operations, he said, though it depends on the hospital's ability to handle surges in cases and the availability of protective equipment.

Schools will continue to hold online courses, he said.

DeSantis said the new measures he announced would not include three of the counties most affected by coronavirus. They are counties of Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach, which make up about 6.2 million of Florida's residents, according to US Census Data.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez agreed with the governor. He said he was not sure when his city could join the rest of the state.

"We need to discuss it with some of the experts, the epidemiologists as well as the surgeon general, who we hope to talk to tomorrow, to get a clearer picture," he told CNN's Erin Burnett.


DeSantis said Florida's Phase 1 reopening will emphasize walk-up and drive-up testing, with a total of 11 state-sponsored walk-up sites in the state. DeSantis said 6,300 walk-up tests have been administered during the first two weeks.


"These walk-up sites are very important and we want to be able to spot trends in some of the underserved communities," he said.

The governor praises his actions for keeping the case countdown

The governor on Tuesday praised the state's success in tackling the outbreak. He blamed the media for its divination – which he said was "wrong" – that Florida's hospital system would be overwhelmed with nearly half a million or more hospital admissions in Covid-19.

Under his joint press conference in the White House along with President Donald Trump, DeSantis accused some states of issuing "the most draconian orders" and reeled off a list of states he believed Florida had outperformed in its handling of the outbreak.

"Everyone in the media said Florida was going to be like New York or Italy, and it hasn't happened," he said. "We had a tailor-made and measured approach that not only helped our numbers be far below what anyone predicted, but also did less damage to our state going forward."

DeSantis largely approves Florida's allegedly low infection rates for its own office's swift action, which included issuing a safer home order that went into effect April 3.

Trump and Florida DeSantis talk about reopening plans and sharing mutual congratulations

Critics hammered DeSantis for his alleged inaction before the order was issued. The governor has said he decided to take action on April 1 after noticing Trump's change of behavior during a news conference the day before. Trump urged Americans to prepare "for the hard days ahead" during that rally.

The governor's office gave CNN graphs and charts that it said show how Florida fared better than several states in metrics such as hospitalization, intensive care unit deaths and per capita deaths. CNN has not independently verified the data.

Experts have told CNN that local authorities exercise the real power to protect citizens In a pandemic, and in Florida's case, several jurisdictions made moves before the state – with some acting well before DeSantis issued its state order.

Some local actions include:

  • Miami asked the music festivals Ultra and Calle Ocho in early March to cancel their collections, which they did.
  • Miami, Miami Beach and Orange County issued a stay-at-home or equivalent order 10 days before the state's safer-home order came into effect.
  • The Florida Keys and Key Biscayne closed to visitors outside in March.
  • Coconut Creek, Coral Gables, Delray Beach, Hallandale Beach, Homestead, Key Biscayne, Miami Gardens and Sweetwater imposed a curfew in late March.
  • Aventura, Bal Harbor, Boca Raton, Broward County, Cooper City, Coral Gables, Delray Beach, Doral, Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Hollywood, Lauderdale-by-The-Sea, Miramar, Oakland Park, Palm Beach County, Parkland, Pembroke Pines, Pompano Beach, Sunny Isles Beach, Weston and Wilton Manors issued a form of stay-at-home, safer-home-or-shelter-on-site directive in March.

DeSantis also took credit for protecting the state's elderly population, pointing out that Florida suspended visits and mandated the display of staff at long-term care facilities, as well as the mobile response team deployed to conduct the testing at the facilities.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the state had at least 33,000 cases, more than 1,200 of them deadly, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Around 30% of those killed are related to nursing homes and long-term care, according to the Florida Department of Health data.

CNN's Steve Almasy and Erica Henry contributed to this report.

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