Gov. Ron DeSantis at a press conference Thursday in Doral announcing the Phase One reopening of Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Gov. Ron DeSantis at a press conference Thursday in Doral announcing the Phase One reopening of Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted his two-months-long stay-at-home order for Miami-Dade and Broward counties Thursday, allowing the two south Florida metro areas to enter phase one of his reopening plan with the rest of the state.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties will start a limited phase one Monday. Municipal leaders in both counties, however, have opted to keep beaches closed until at least May 26 – Memorial Day weekend.

“Today, we take another important step for a very important part of the state of Florida,” DeSantis said during a press conference in Doral, flanked by local mayors and county commissioners. “Today, I have signed an executive order for both Miami-Dade and Broward to move into a limited phase one. We think that is the best way to build confidence.”

Miami-Dade and Broward counties combined represent about 20 percent of the state’s population, but account for nearly half of the state’s COVID-19 cases and 40 percent of the state’s deaths attributed to the disease.

Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties were excluded from DeSantis’ phase one reopening, which went into effect May 4 for the state’s other 64 counties. Last week, the governor allowed Palm Beach County to advance into phase one Monday. 

DeSantis said Miami-Dade and Broward counties have “progressed nicely in dealing with the epidemic” since May 4.

New cases reported in both counties are “over the last 10 days, far below what it was in beginning of April when they were having 500 new cases a day,” he said.

DeSantis said Wednesday marked the first time since May 4 that more than 250 new cases were reported in Miami-Dade county, mostly “because of an outbreak at Homestead prison, over a 100” new cases were reported.

The governor said COVID-19 patients needing ICU beds have decreased by 21 percent and needing ventilators by 34 percent in Miami-Dade and, respectively, by 44 percent and 56 percent in Broward.

“From the very beginning, we worked collaboratively with the counties. It was their view and my view that, although trends had improved, they needed a little more time to prepare, to develop a plan,” DeSantis said, adding he told local leaders, “ ‘When you are ready, come to me with a plan.’ ”

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez said his county has created a 182-page New Normal guidebook, with a color-coded system gauging exposure risks.

“At the height, we were in the red zone,” he said. “We are now in orange. We are advancing to the yellow stage of the new normal Monday.”

As with DeSantis’ phase one plan, Giménez said, “We’re not talking about reopening all businesses,” noting bars, movie theaters, bowling alleys and gyms remain closed.

Under the New Normal plan, residents need to practice social distancing, wear face masks indoors and “just assume they are asymptomatic carriers. Remember: I keep you safe, you keep me safe,” Giménez said.

Broward County Mayor Dale Holness said county commissioners heeded concerns from mayors to wait until May 26 to reopen beaches.

“We agreed (the two counties) to do it together as a region” to avoid beaches in one area drawing visitors from elsewhere, he said. “Our conversation will continue.”

Broward’s reopening plan varies from Miami-Dade’s in some details, such as allowing homeowners’ associations and apartment/condo complexes to open gyms.

“Because of (local leaders’) determination, we are able to take a small step, but it is not a final step,” DeSantis said. “I really believe in south Florida’s future, an incredible engine for the state. We are going to get back there. We are going to get our mojo back and be where we want to be.”

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