While cases of coronavirus in the U.S. steadily rise to over 900,000 with more than 50,000 deaths, South Florida has been seeing sharp increases in numbers, especially in Miami-Dade County.
As of Friday (April 24), Florida’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 were over 30,000 which included over 1,000 deaths. In South Florida, over 17,000 had been confirmed with 10,701 cases in Miami-Dade, the first county in the state to exceed 10,000 cases. Deaths in South Florida climbed to over 500 with 279 in Miami-Dade, 149 in Palm Beach County, and 158 in Broward.
And, while there is growing controversy over lifting stay-at-home restrictions meant to stem of COVID-19 in other states, there are indications some of the restrictions imposed in Florida could also be eased by May 1.
Governor Ron DeSantis has taken the controversial decision to reopen beaches in Jacksonville and has compiled a task force to look into opening some businesses in the state last Friday. While claiming the curve of infection is flattening statewide, he admitted getting back to normal might take longer in South Florida.
Touting success on Tuesday, DeSantis said an anticipated rush of patients in Florida hospitals has not materialized. “Those predictions have been false…Our work is succeeding. We have flattened the curve.”
He said projections made last month that the state would become like New York and Italy, which have both seen extremely high cases of COVID-19 victims and deaths, were incorrect.
The positivity being expressed by DeSantis is an indication that some COVID-related restrictions will definitely be lifted soon. In fact, his task force has met regularly since it began discussions on Monday and is expected to submit its final report regarding reopening the state to the governor by Friday. Broward County Mayor Dale Holness, a member of the task force, shares some optimism in lifting some restrictions, even in South Florida.
The mayor, however, emphasized the task force is looking at a gradual reopening. “We have to ease into it. Easing the restrictions must be gradual. But I believe we can open some businesses while maintaining social distancing guidelines, including wearing masks,” he said.
Among the places that Holness believes could be reopened are recreational places like parks, and restaurants. But he said the task force was considering restaurant operating at only 25 to 50 percent of their normal occupancy, and staff wearing masks. The task force is also looking at returning hospitals and clinics restarting elective surgical procedures and seeing patients generally. The reopening of some beaches is also being considered.
Broward was the first county in South Florida to have a confirmed case of COVID-19 but has effectively controlled the spread of the virus compared to Miami-Dade. Holness attributes the control seen in Broward to early and widespread testing and having a smaller population size compared to Miami-Dade.
In recent days, Miami-Dade has taken steps to make testing more accessible to county residents.
In a virtual town hall meeting on Monday, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giminez said the county was considering reopening parks, marinas, and boat ramps, as well as loosening other restrictions.
While it appears there’ll be some ease in the stay-at-home restrictions in the state, South Florida residents appear conflicted at this eventuality.
Residents are admitting to feeling financial pressure from the lockdown but express fear of returning to work and to normal activities. “I just don’t know. There is so much confusion about this virus. There’s still so much death. I want to go back to normalcy, but I am scared,” said Lesley Morgan of West Kendall. This seems to be a common sentiment among South Floridians who crave normalcy but are worried about exacerbating the problem.