Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Says He's in No 'Rush' to Lift Coronavirus Restrictions, State Will Have Phased Reopening

Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has said he is "not in a rush" to end social distancing restrictions implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, despite some conservatives urging a swift return to normalcy.

During a Saturday press conference, DeSantis asserted that Florida is on its way to recovering from the virus, as the southern state remains under a stay-at-home order through the end of April. But the governor also pushed back against the urgings from some conservatives to fully reopen businesses and activities.

"We're not doing in-person sports yet no matter what .... That's just not going to happen in May," DeSantis explained. The Republican lawmaker noted that his plan for reopening was similar to the strategy laid out by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, but he noted some differences.

Ron DeSantis
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis gives updates about the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic during a press conference on April 17 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida Joe Raedle/Getty

"Another thing in Phase One, they say movie theaters with social distance. I'm not there yet on the movie theaters," the governor said. "It's an enclosed environment. You're much better off being outdoors."

DeSantis pointed out that Florida is seeing a decline in the number of people going to get tested from the novel coronavirus, as well as a drop in the number of new people testing positive. "If you look at the last week, the average positive rate for new individuals was about 7.5 percent. So that's a good sign that things are going in a good direction," he said.

Representative José Oliva, the Florida House Speaker, has been urging for a swift re-opening of Florida's economy, according to the Florida newspaper The Ledger. Oliva, also a Republican, had sent out an email to his constituents earlier on Saturday, which declared the pandemic had ended. The message included an opinion article entitled "Let's stop the economic suicide, and get back to work."

Under the guidelines put forward by the White House, state leaders can look to begin reopening their economies after they've seen a decline in new confirmed cases of the coronavirus and deaths for at least 14 days. Additionally, states should have greatly expanded testing and tracing, so health officials can map and isolate the spread of the virus. After these steps are in place, states can then move to Phase One, which allows for some businesses to reopen while some strict social distancing guidelines remain.

As of Sunday morning, Florida had close to 31,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, of which 1,055 people have died.

"This week the number of people who've been in the hospital has hovered around 2,100 people," DeSantis said on Saturday. "Flattening the curve is all about making sure the disease doesn't overwhelm the hospital systems," he said.

Newsweek reached out to the governor's office for comment Sunday.