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UPDATED: Task Force Prepares Florida Reopening Plan; State Nears 29,000 Cases

The Florida Department of Health says there were 29,648 total cases of COVID-19 in Florida as of Thursday evening.

At least 987 Florida residents have died from the virus.

Palm Beach County: 2,554 cases

-144 deaths

-Men: 1,260, Women: 1,237

-397 hospitalizations

Broward County: 4,431 cases

-157 deaths

-Men: 2,214, Women: 2,089

-849 hospitalizations

Miami-Dade County: 10,588 cases

-270 deaths

-Men: 5,402, Women: 5,037

-1,183 hospitalizations

Meanwhile, the “Re-Open Florida” has a Friday deadline to deliver its report to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“If someone happens to think something is not essential, I can tell you the person in that industry whose job is in jeopardy sure thinks it’s essential to them,” DeSantis said.

As businesses start to reopen, the task force wants people to continue wearing masks in public areas. In addition, the group is considering asking workers to take their own temperatures before reporting to work.

The state has not decided on or set a reopening date.

The task force is also considering the particulars of the healthcare, tourism and education fields in terms of restarting operations.

According to Mary Mayhew, who heads Florida’s healthcare administration, doctors and hospitals need to resume performing elective procedures in order to stay in business.

She explains, “They have seen significant cost increases related to the purchase of the masks, the gowns, the gloves, the lab testing equipment. Increased staffing, overtime and benefits. And certainly that has been a significant financial pressure on hospitals.”

In addition, Mike Joyner, who serves as president of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, says, “Approximately 80 percent of Florida’s tomatoes go into the food service industry. What we saw as we were going into this shelter-in-place is business grind to a complete and sudden halt with the shutdown of restaurants, cruise lines, hotels, schools, those kind of things.”

Gov. DeSantis says restrictions in the state need to be lifted safely and methodically.

“We’ve still got a lot of work to go, but I’d much rather be in our shoes than in some of these other states’ shoes where they have … five, 10, 20 times the number of fatalities per 100 people than the state of Florida has,” he said.

DeSantis continued: “The good news is I think everyone is very keen on this right now. I think they want to be able to get to a point where obviously it is in fact safe, but just as importantly, people have confidence that it’s safe. Because even if it is safe, if they don’t have the confidence that it’s safe, people aren’t going to want to go to a store or go to some of these things like we used to do.”

A Quinnipiac University poll that was released on Wednesday found that nearly three in four Floridians do not think the state should reopen until public health officials determine it safe to do so.

The governor adds that he believes fast and efficient coronavirus testing is the key to having the state’s economy bounce back.

Florida’s stay-at-home order, which was implemented on April 1, is set to expire on April 30.