Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has announced plan to reopen the state, as the government remains mostly closed due to the coronavirus shutdown.
The state has not held any in-person Cabinet meeting since February, while the Capitol remains shut down to the public
Workers in the state are still operating under social-distancing restrictions and mask-wearing guidelines.
But the governor has insisted on opening schools for in-person learning, allowed visitors for nursing homes, encouraged theme parks to expand attendance caps, invited more tourists to the state and proposing limited restrictions on bars and restaurants.
DeSantis said on Wednesday September 9, 2020, that the key factor in the rest of the decisions was restarting the economy.
“The state’s economic engine needs to start running again,” DeSantis spokesman Fred Piccolo wrote in an email.
Piccolo said the symbolism of the Capitol opening will be welcome, while adding that the government will be starting the economic engines in the meantime.
Many state workers continue to work from home or must wear face masks or distance themselves from colleagues when in the office.
Those who are working, though, are often in workplaces that could expose them to the virus at places like hospitals and schools.
“The majority of our state employees who can do so are working from home. However, our essential workers continue to put themselves at risk daily while performing their duties to care for residents,” said Vicki Hall, president of the Florida chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.
Hall is also skeptical about the reopening of schools, which DeSantis has asked as an option for in-person learning for parents who choose to send their children.
DeSantis is worried about kids slipping behind by relying solely on virtual school and of the lack of socialization and other services provided by schools, such as free lunches for low-income students.
But Hall is concerned with school workers — teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria employees and other staffers — will be at risk as classes reopen.
“As expected, we are seeing a number of schools with positive cases,” Hall said.
“We feel that the safety of children, staff, and faculty should be a top priority for our state leadership but as we are witnessing, this, unfortunately, has not been the case.”
Recently, DeSantis has been showing an intent to remove more and more coronavirus restrictions.
He announced the resumption of visitation at nursing homes on September 1, and appeared with theme park executives in Orlando encouraging them to increase their occupancy levels.
Different from the message of wearing a mask and practicing social distancing from his health department to the public, DeSantis has not been wearing a face mask in public appearances and was skeptical of social distancing practices.
DeSantis said COVID-19 caseloads and positivity rates have decreased from daily positivity rates of more than 10,000 and 15% respectively to 2,909 daily average, with a positivity rate of 5%.