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How will Florida reopen from the COVID-19 pandemic?

The final day of task force committee meetings ended with cautious optimism.

Friday saw the final day of brainstorming sessions for the Governor’s Task Force to Re-Open Florida.

Over the weekend, committees will submit their ideas, and then it’s expected we will hear some decisions from Gov. Ron DeSantis by the end of next week.

One thing was made clear: re-opening parts of the economy will be far more complicated than just turning the lights back on, as COVID-19 complicates every aspect of our state's life.

“The fact that you guys are putting forth the effort to really look at some of these issues, perhaps from a different perspective, is very helpful for us,” said Gov. DeSantis.

Industries across the spectrum say re-opening anything comes with risk. Theme parks, beaches, restaurants schools -- everything.

Even if they do as they are told, follow guidelines and re-open their doors, business leaders voiced concern that when someone inevitably gets sick, they risk being sued.

“And that is -- with respect to the liability concerns -- what our members and others are facing,” said Steve Bahmer, CEO at long-term care provider LeadingAge Florida.

Other industries say if cleared to reopen, they also need to be reclassified so they can get the hard-to-obtain personal protection equipment they’d be mandated to use in order to provide some level of protection.

Some dentists, for example, say they’ve been denied PPE by their suppliers.

“Right now, dentists are not classified as essential front-line providers,” said Dr. Rudy Liddell with Brandon Dental Care. “Our dental supply companies cannot fill orders to us when we request PPE.”

Friday’s committee meetings also turned a nervous eye toward hurricane season and the challenges COVID-19 creates. That includes the potential danger of packing people into shelters, transportation out of evacuation zones, and predictable delayed emergency and repair responses.

“Everything we’ve had to provide for hurricanes is going to be multiplied and compounded by COVID-19,” said Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz.

The insurance industry says it’s also preparing to handle hurricane claims online rather than in person.

“And so, we are encouraging insurers to identify new ways of being able to have those same productive conversations in a virtual type of capacity,” said Insurance Regulation Commissioner David Atmaier.

Schools were once again a big topic of discussion, Friday, from K-12 to universities. It will only be safe to return, said the State Universities Board of Governors Chairman Syd Kitson, if we know students and staff are healthy.

“Looking towards the fall the ability to test for COVID-19 will determine what our campuses will look like,” said Kitson.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is a Democrat, was not selected as a member of the Governor’s Task Force Executive Committee.

Fried says that didn’t stop her. Overnight, she says she sent a list of 15 ideas to the Governor’s office aimed at re-opening Florida safely.

The final day of task force committees wrapped up with cautious optimism. Participants praised the initiative but recognized these are complex issues that won’t be solved in a week.

“We’re not done yet,” said Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. “We’re done having detailed thorough conversations, but now it’s putting that pen to paper and coming up with a great product.

“Your contributions, and your comments, and suggestions,” Corcoran told committee members, “have been fantastic.”

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