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Florida Enters 1st Phase Of Reopening As Some Restrictions Lift In All But 3 Counties

Clearwater Beach opened to the public on Monday with signs warning beachgoers to practice social distancing.
Daniel Slim
AFP via Getty Images
Clearwater Beach opened to the public on Monday with signs warning beachgoers to practice social distancing.

Florida began to reopen its economy Monday with Gov. Ron DeSantis lifting some of the restrictions that have been in place for more than a month.

The reopening does not extend to the three most populous counties, all in South Florida, where most of the state's confirmed cases are. Those counties are Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.

The state has seen nearly 37,000 cases and about 1,400 deaths from COVID-19.

Under the new order, restaurants and retail stores can reopen starting today. Outdoor seating at restaurants can be used, though restaurants can use only 25% of their indoor seating capacity.

Large venues such as movie theaters remain closed for now, as are barbershops and hair salons. Gyms and bars are still closed, too. It's not clear when they'll reopen.

Beaches reopened in some areas, including Pinellas County, home to St. Petersburg and Clearwater. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the goal is to keep crowds from gathering.

"We're going to take a common-sense approach to this," Gualtieri told NPR station WUSF in Tampa. "So if five people come together, they can stay together — but no joining larger groups." He said there will be deputies at every beach access point, others patrolling the beaches and thousands of signs urging social distancing.

Elective surgeries can also resume on Monday, and DeSantis said that part of the process was ensuring that hospitals have enough personal protective equipment to manage both the surgeries and treatment of COVID-19.

"The hospitals, when they're doing it, they're certifying effectively that they do have space in the hospital, that if you did have an increase in COVID patients, they can handle it, that they have adequate PPE, they're not going to run to the state for more PPE," he said on Sunday.

The pause on elective surgeries — procedures planned in advance — has led to steep declines in revenue at hospitals, causing some to furlough doctors and nurses, as NPR station WFSU reports from Tallahassee.

Parks and marinas in Miami-Dade County reopened over the weekend, attracting many joggers and cyclists, though city beaches remain closed. Hundreds of cars towing boat trailers lined up at the Black Point Marina in Homestead, the Miami Herald reported.

As WLRN in Miami reports, beaches that are part of state parks are now open "for people to walk, jog, swim and fish, but sunbathing, chairs, canopies or coolers are not allowed."

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Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.

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