The day has arrived when Fort Lauderdale can begin a gradual and safe reopening of its businesses.
For several weeks, we have witnessed the level of COVID-19 infection in our community drastically decline. This encouraging trend prompted me to urge the governor and Broward County to allow us to enter the first phase of reopening. Late Thursday, they gave the necessary permission.
Monday, Fort Lauderdale starts to transition out of the stay-at-home orders that have so limited daily life.
Restaurants and retail stores will be allowed to reopen at up to half their normal capacity. Barbers, hair salons and nail salons can open, as can museums and drive-in theaters. Condo associations were earlier allowed to reopen their pools and now will be able to open their gyms, community rooms and any other amenity.
This move comes with numerous measures designed to keep people safe and continue to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Businesses will need a plan to monitor their employees’ health so those who are ill remain home. Employees and customers must wear face coverings. Hand-sanitizer must be available throughout workplaces. Regular and intense cleaning will be required, particularly in high-traffic areas and bathrooms. Social distancing will continue to be mandatory.
Additional rules are in place for each type of business.
Restaurants will need to space tables six feet apart. Bar counters, salad bars and buffets will remain closed. No parties of more than 10 people are allowed. Disposable, single-use menus are required to the extent possible, as is a reservation-only system.
At retail stores, we recommend special hours for elderly and medically vulnerable customers. Plastic shields at service counters are recommended. Changing rooms should be closed or extremely limited. Self-serve testers products aren’t allowed.
At hair salons, barbers and nail salons, stations must be partitioned or separated by six feet and must be cleaned after every customer. Employees must wash their hands after each customer and will need to discard items like files or buffers immediately after use.
With these common-sense regulations, I feel confident that we can begin this cautious reopening and provide the public the level of confidence they expect that our businesses are safe. I know some businesses plan to take additional steps of their own volition and may open a little later just so they are certain they are completely ready.
The openings on Monday follow steps taken the last week of April to allow some passive recreation. At that point,
we allowed parks, boat ramps, marinas, golf courses and community pools to reopen on a restricted basis.
Broward and Miami-Dade counties are the last to enter Phase One because we had been the areas that saw the most infection. But that has rapidly changed.
The number of positive test results has dropped substantially when compared to the total tests administered. Positive tests accounted for 13.4 percent of all results the week that ended April 11, but just 3.6 percent the week that ended May 9.
On Wednesday, which is the date for the most recent data,, only 2 percent of the 2,155 tested administered in Broward County came back showing positive results for COVID-19 infection.
Emergency rooms are handling fewer and fewer cases of flu-like symptoms and COVID-like symptoms. Our hospital system also can once again treat all patients without crisis care. At the same time, we have greatly expanded the availability of testing.
I would like to personally thank Gov. DeSantis and his chief of staff, Shane Strum, for taking the time over recent weeks to talk repeatedly to me about how and when our community should reopen. They made a well-reasoned decision based on strong medical evidence that the time was right for us to reopen.
We will continue to carefully monitor the situation. If we see a significant raise in COVID-19 rates, then you have our guarantee that we will take corrective measures based on where the infections are occurring.
Some things must wait for later phases of reopening.
In discussions with other coastal leaders and county officials from both Broward and Miami-Dade, the decision was made to hold off on reopening the beaches. Large crowds have gathered on beaches elsewhere in the state as they reopened, raising concern about compliance with safety standards.
We made a collective decision that we did not want to risk reopening the beaches here at the same time as reopening restaurants and retail. Too much is at stake. We must get this right.
Our expectation is to allow passive recreation on the beach within the next couple weeks.
We also anticipate the governor to continue to allow us to open additional businesses in the coming weeks. Bars, nightclubs and major event venues remain in a more distant future.
It has been a trying couple months for our community as we sheltered in place. Now, enjoy a dinner out, get your hair cut and stop by your favorite retailers … if you feel comfortable doing so. Our community united together to fight COVID-19, so let’s continue the shared mission of health safety as we begin our return to a more normal life.