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Is South Florida Ready To Reopen After COVID-19 Shutdowns?

Park goers stroll down the promenade of South Pointe Pier as South Pointe Park reopened on Monday.
Carl Juste
Miami Herald
Park goers stroll down the promenade of South Pointe Pier as South Pointe Park reopened on Monday.

South Florida is beginning to reopen, about two months after shutdowns began across our region.

This week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis approved Broward and Miami-Dade counties’ requests to start up their local economies again — beginning this Monday.

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Meanwhile, Palm Beach commissioners voted Friday to reopen public beaches, beginning Monday, too. The county, along with the Florida Keys, reopened with the rest of state in the initial reopening phase.

On the South Florida Roundup, host Tom Hudson talked about local reopening efforts and the governor’s response to the pandemic with a panel of opinion page editors from South Florida’s major media organizations: Nancy Ancrum with the Miami Herald, Rick Christie with the Palm Beach Post and Rosemary O’Hara with the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Here’s an excerpt of their conversation:

NANCY ANCRUM: Unfortunately, reopening should go hand-in-hand with increased testing and with the insistence on testing and the availability of testing, because we do know that asymptomatic people can spread this disease.

TOM HUDSON: The Miami-Dade draft plan for reopening was released. There are lots of very specific details in there that really struck me, including how hotels are to treat their credit card readers. Is there any stone left unturned in this plan?

ANCRUM: I have not gone through the entire plan. I'm concerned that there is this desire to get back to normal, but that the rest of us are going to be left with that day to day, "Is it safe? Is it safe to leave my child at a child care center now that I can go back to work? Oh, do I get on an elevator with this unmasked man?" We are left to make those decisions, to negotiate our safety on our own, I think in too many cases.

ROSEMARY O'HARA: When we talk about the availability of testing, if you listen to his [the governor's] public briefings, and you hear, oh, 10 million tests, you know, a million masks. You hear these numbers as though, boy, we have conquered the mountain. Yet, we still are unable to test all of the people in nursing homes. Those places that are most vulnerable, we are not testing all the people who are in them to know if they're positive. We don't know about the number of deaths. It is a public record how somebody died once the medical examiner does that. And there's this dashboard that he's gotten credit for, and in some ways, it's valuable. But the data there are different than the numbers that we find in other places.  

Rick, your thoughts on this, particularly as it relates to the data and the information that's forthcoming from the state as the governor — during these this phased reopening — is pointing to that exact data for evidence of the flattening of the infection curve and the ability for the health care system to to be able to return to a new normal, but maintain the capacity for the potential of hospitalizations.

RICK CHRISTIE: I think politicians are always going to try to put out the best numbers that suit their agenda and make them look good. We really don't know for sure what the data is. It's largely because of testing. I'm okay with reopening because we don't want people to go too stir crazy. But you have to do it with certain things in effect to do it safely. If you're not doing things, like testing at an adequate level, and if you have not actually ramped up your contact tracing, hired health care workers to then all you're doing is just waiting for a resurgence of the virus.

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Alexander Gonzalez is a recent graduate of the University of Miami. He majored in English and was the the editor-in-chief of The Miami Hurricane newspaper from 2014-15. He was WLRN's digital intern during summer 2015. He subscribes to too many podcasts and can't get away from covering the arts in Miami.