Florida's Complete Phase 1 Reopening Happens As COVID-19 Cases Rise
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Restaurants and retail stores can reopen today in Florida's largest counties, Miami-Dade County and Broward County. Those two counties waited longer than the rest of Florida. But now they move ahead, allowing nonessential businesses to operate. NPR's Greg Allen can do a little bit of shopping if he feels like in Miami. Hi there, Greg.
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Hi, Steve. How are you doing?
INSKEEP: OK. What's open and what's not?
ALLEN: Well, you know, in Florida here two weeks ago, the governor allowed nonessential businesses statewide to reopen. But as you say, Miami-Dade and Broward counties waited a little longer while they worked on detailed guidelines. In Miami-Dade, the guidelines are 175 pages of...
ALLEN: ...Of information that tell businesses what they can and what they can't do. The businesses reopening today include things like restaurants, retail stores, malls and personal services - things like barbershops, beauty salons. I believe tattoo parlors also will be open today.
ALLEN: Gyms remain closed for now in Miami-Dade and Broward County. Although, the governor said they can open elsewhere in the state. Also nightclubs, movie theaters and hotels will be closed. And beaches will be shut down for the time being here in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Elsewhere in Florida, the rules are a little looser. In most other counties, gyms and beaches will be open again. And in Orlando, Disney is beginning to reopen its shopping district there, Disney Springs, today. No word, though, on when the shut theme parks themselves might consider reopening.
INSKEEP: OK. So yes to shopping. Yes to tattoos. No to a day at the beach. A little bit of change here - but the state, at the same time, has been seeing an increase in cases. How does that match up with the idea of reopening?
ALLEN: Right. It's really - it's still not really exactly clear what's going on. You know, Florida is a very big state with many rural counties where there are still fewer - a few cases at all. But over the last several days, there's been an increase in cases in several metropolitan areas in Florida and central Florida and south Florida. In Orlando, for example, there's generally not been a lot of cases there. But about a week after the county opened nonessential businesses, the number of infections there has climbed back to about where it was a month ago. And it's just - you're talking about a few dozen a day. But still, that's concerning.
We've seen a rise of cases in some counties even before they opened up again. And that was the case in Palm Beach County. Over the weekend, we saw Yahoo News reported that the Department of Homeland Security had identified Palm Beach County as a hotspot for COVID-19, with a 71% increase in new cases compared with the previous week. And those numbers are - they're higher than what the state's been reporting. But it's clear that the cases are up. And it began before the county there reopened on May 11.
INSKEEP: OK. So maybe the reopening is not the cause of the increase. But is the increase causing people to rethink the reopening?
ALLEN: Right. Well, all along, officials have said they're going to watch the cases very closely. And I think they think they can isolate them through contact tracing and testing, you know, at this point. But they say they will react as necessary. State and local officials say the decision to begin reopening is data driven. And cases had been trending downward until this recent upswing.
And we're not seeing it in every part of the state. Mostly, you're seeing it in places like Miami, Palm Beach County, Jacksonville, a few other areas. Officials say that they've increased testing. That's one reason for the new cases. But the confident hospitals have plenty of capacity, you know, the beds and ventilators available to handle any new cases as the state reopens. Here's the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Carlos Gimenez.
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CARLOS GIMENEZ: But if we follow the rules that are established, that are laid out in this plan, then we shouldn't see a spike or any increases in infection because following these rules will keep us safe.
ALLEN: You know, and the rules, you know, are the ones that require social distancing. And employees and customers and all these businesses will all be wearing masks.
INSKEEP: OK, Greg, thanks very much.
ALLEN: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Greg Allen in Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.