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UPDATED: DeSantis Says Task Force will Oversee State’s “Resurgence and Reopening”

Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference late Wednesday afternoon at the Florida State Capitol regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

The governor announced that he is putting together a task force to oversee the “resurgence and reopening of Florida.”

“Time is of the essence, and we want to make sure we’re getting the best ideas possible,” he said.

The task force will be comprised of elected officials in addition to leaders in the fields of business and education, among others.

“I’ll be seeking advice and ideas on pretty much everything under the sun. Small business, agriculture, restaurants, tourism, large events and conventions, recreation, international travel, K through 12, as well as higher education,” DeSantis added.

“There’s a whole host of things that I think need to be done, and we want to get the best ideas that we can,” the governor said.

“We still don’t know everything about this coronavirus, and we obviously watch the data on an hourly basis, even a minute-by-minute basis,” DeSantis said. “But it obviously is prudent to start thinking about and planning for people getting back to work and getting society functioning in a more healthy way.”

However, DeSantis cautioned that while what President Trump and state governors do is important, no reopening of the economy will take place if the public decides on its own that it does not feel safe.

“Part of this is based [on] how people feel about the situation,” he explained. “Do they think that we’ve gone in a good direction? Do they think that … the risk is minimal enough? Some people may not think that. And so it’s not going to just be about what government does.”

In terms of education, DeSantis stated that he may decide to extend online distance learning for the remainder of the school year for school districts across the state.

“If the parents think it’s safe, they would prefer kids in school, and I think that’s true. But that’s a contingency,” DeSantis said. “I haven’t made any decisions about anything.”

A “stay at home” order remains in effect for the entire state until April 30.

It is unknown at this time whether that order will be extended, or if DeSantis will allow it to expire and begin to reopen various parts of our state.

DeSantis also announced Wednesday that he made a change in the leadership of Florida’s unemployment compensation system. He replaced the head of the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity, Ken Lawson, with Management Services chief Jonathan Satter.

“Jon Satter’s at the helm there, and we want to see real swift action,” DeSantis said. “Get it moving quicker but get us quick updates. … I don’t think the response has been sufficient in that regard.

He continued, “Jon has helped us a lot getting us where we needed to be on the call centers. He’s also helped us with getting the servers where they need to be. His mission is very simple, get assistance out as quickly as you can.”

In addressing complaints and frustrations about the unemployment filing system, he added,“I think what people want more than anything is to actually see the money being turned around. And that’s regardless of how fast the websites are. [We can have] the fastest website in the world, but if he money’s not being turned around? And that’s not what I think folks are looking for.”

Additionally, the governor announced that the state would receive $173.6 million in federal CARES Act money earmarked for education. It can be used from Pre-K to higher education, although DeSantis did not provide additional details.