DeSantis: Miami and Broward are ready to reopen

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis has given Miami-Dade and Broward counties the green light to move into phase two of reopening businesses and schools during the coronavirus pandemic, paving the way for in-person classes to resume in what have been the state’s hottest spots for Covid-19.

The decision brings Florida closer to having students back in schools in every county, a major priority for the Republican governor. Reopening schools has been a sticking point for DeSantis as Florida continues to rebuild its economy from the havoc caused by the coronavirus.

“The most significant aspect of [phase two] is it really clears the pathway for in-person instruction to resume,” DeSantis said Friday.

The ascent to phase two is a major step for the state’s two highest-populated counties, which were both hit hard by Covid-19. Miami-Dade also struggled to coordinate with the state on tracing infections in late July as the rate of tests that came back positive for the virus were around 20 percent.

Miami-Dade’s rate has since plummeted to 5.63 percent as of Thursday. The rate in Broward was 3.73 percent, which is lower than the statewide 5.53 percent, according to a state Department of Health report.

“Now the contract tracing is better — more robust than in the past,” said Carlos Giménez, mayor of Miami-Dade County. “And that’s why we’ll be able to open up more businesses.”

Giménez said that his county will assemble a list of businesses that will be allowed to open at half-capacity.

While some outdoor businesses like zoos will be clear to open Monday, a decision on when to usher thousands of students back to campuses across Miami has yet to be made.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho was optimistic schools would reopen ahead of the original schedule on Oct. 5, noting that the local school board is meeting next week over the issue. Miami-Dade has been plagued with a rough start to the school year, which has included cyberattacks that devastated distance learning and a board vote to scrap the county’s online learning platform.

Joining the rest of Florida in phase two of reopening “lifts a huge roadblock” for the school district, Carvalho said Friday.

“We are extremely encouraged by the downward trends we have observed,” he added.

Broward and Miami-Dade are going into phase two less than a day after Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears announced that bars and nightclubs will be able to reopen Monday at 50 percent capacity.

Still, Giménez said Miami-Dade watering holes will remain closed for now.

“We’re still not out of the woods yet, but we’re close,” Gimenez said.


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