April 29, 2020
First phase of city reopening begins;
more COVID-19 testing now available
Today, we made several major announcements regarding Fort Lauderdale's progress in the fight against the COVID-19 virus in our community. This city is greatly expanding testing capacity. We also are beginning to reopen some amenities for people to enjoy while still maintaining the necessary hygiene and social distancing standards. 

According to the latest data from the Department of Health, the greater Fort Lauderdale area has witnessed significant improvement in the key medical criteria set by the Centers for Disease Control. There has been a predominantly downward trajectory in new infections for more than two weeks in Broward County. 

Actually, the last two days have had the lowest number of new positive results in more than a month. 

As a percentage of total tests, we are also in an improved position. Positive test results account for less than 11 percent of total testing here. But in Miami-Dade, it’s more than 14 percent. And, nationwide, positive results comprise 17 percent of testing. What is particularly notable is where we stand compared to the place most impacted by the virus. More than 30 percent of all tests in New York have been positive. In addition, the one major hot spot in our community — the 33311 zip code — is dissipating. 

These are true indicators of a trend toward success. 

I want to thank our residents for adhering to the stay-at-home orders and the other emergency restrictions that have been in place. It is because of your commitment to these important regulations that we are stemming the spread of COVID-19. The community responded admirably as the unpredictable and unprecedented situation unfolded involving this deadly and contagious virus. 

We are now entering the first phase of reopening our city. 

This will be a slow and cautious process as we work to allow businesses and amenities to return while continuing to protect the health and safety of residents. We are going to have to deal with a new normal as the virus will remain present and dangerous until a vaccine is found. That will take time. 

One of the most important steps that we must take to ensure our health and safety is to continue to expand testing. And, that’s what brings us here today. 

I’m pleased to announce the opening of the first testing site within our city -- at Holiday Park. This centrally located site will allow us to better serve our residents in conjunction with the recently opened facility at the Urban League just outside the city. Most of the other testing sites are located far out in Broward’s western suburbs. 

This new testing will provide the critical help for business to reopen and allow us to gauge if the infection rate in our community remains low or whether we need to readjust our plans because of a rebound in the virus’ presence.

The drive-thru facility will be able to conduct 400 swab tests a day. It will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. by appointment only. 

Anyone over the age of 18 will be able to be tested whether or not they are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. No doctor referral is necessary.

Appointments can be made by calling 1-800-209-7919 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Upon arrival, individuals should use the Federal Highway entrance and provide proper identification that has name, date of birth and photo. 

There will be a separate entrance for first-responders who need to be tested. First-responders may make appointments and would use the Sunrise Boulevard entrance.

Tests will be administered by healthcare professionals from American Medical Response. Our team will follow up with the individuals and provide the results. 

I really want to thank Gov. DeSantis; his emergency management director, Jared Moskowitz; and Shane Strum, his chief of staff. They were instrumental in helping us set up this site and overcoming numerous hurdles that occurred along the way to today. Gov. DeSantis has been of great assistance overall to our city during this crisis. 

I also want to thank the Florida National Guard, the Department of Health, AMR, the city manager and his executive team for working hard to bring this testing site to fruition. I’d also like to thank Vice Mayor Glassman for helping me reassure the surrounding Victoria Park neighborhood about the site set-up. 

The work that begins here tomorrow, April 30, will help Fort Lauderdale residents get our lives back to a level of normalcy as quickly as is reasonably possible. 

Late Tuesday night, I signed an amended emergency order that took the first steps in reopening. Under the new order, we allowed parks, boat ramps, marinas, golf courses and community pools to reopen on a restricted basis beginning this morning. 

Parks have reopened for passive use only so people can get out and enjoy more places to walk and exercise. Individual groups of more than 10 people are prohibited, and social distancing of six feet is required. Tennis courts, racquetball courts and pickleball courts are open for singles-play only.

Remember, not all park amenities are reopening as we seek a balance with public health. Playgrounds, indoor facilities, exercise equipment, dog parks, campgrounds and pools remain closed. Multi-use fields and basketball courts are also closed, as are bathrooms and water fountains.

Boat ramps and marinas are allowed to open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. with some restrictions. On the waterways, boats must remain 50 feet apart at all times. Rafting up, beaching, anchoring and landing of boats are prohibited, and the sandbar remains closed. Kayak and canoe launches can open, and water taxis can restart.

Fort Lauderdale is the Venice of America, and we are trying to allow our residents to enjoy our waterways again … as long as it is done in a safe manner. 

Before the original emergency orders went into effect, we were very concerned about scenes of mass partying on the water, particularly at the sandbar. Actions like that can help the virus easily spread, and we are determined not to see a repeat of what was occurring. 

While golf has a limited presence in our city limits, we are allowing the one private course to reopen and have reopened the public three-hole course as Osswald Park. There are restrictions on play, however. 

Finally, we are allowing community associations to reopen their pools as long as they take certain measures to protect public health. 

We heard from many association leaders that these pools are a vital part of exercise, and even physical therapy, for their residents. It was important to provide them the opportunity to return to these activities safely. 

These are first steps.

In the coming days, the City Commission and I will look at reopening more of our community. A working group that I created of business executives, medical professionals and neighborhood leaders provided us a great roadmap to follow. 

They drafted a long list of ideas of how we can reopen the beach, restaurants, gyms, hair salons and many other facets of daily life with reasonable health safeguards. I thank all of them for their work and hope to phase the recommendations. We will attempt to act in coordination with our surrounding communities because a unified approach will ensure the least amount of confusion and provide the highest degree of consistency and stability. 

I look forward to the weeks ahead as we revive our economy.

Fort Lauderdale is a great place to live, work and play. We will emerge from this pandemic unbowed and resilient with the spirit of community that has long made us strong. As we do so, please remain vigilant and continue to take the necessary precautions to protect your health and that of your family and loved ones.