The Call To Reopen South Florida

May 8, 2020

South Florida is beginning the process of reopening.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Friday that the state is allowing Palm Beach County to join the rest of Florida in phase one.

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Restrictions will remain in Broward and Miami-Dade counties – although Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the county’s considering a reopening target date of May 18.

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis sent the governor a letter this week asking to reopen. He spoke with host Tom Hudson on the South Florida Roundup.

Here’s an excerpt of their conversation:

TOM HUDSON: Tell us about your letter to the governor. You mentioned that Fort Lauderdale has a plan for reopening businesses. Walk us through that plan.

DEAN TRANTALIS: We've since been watching the track record of our actions. For example, we've been watching that curve that everyone talks about and see how it is applied to our counties and our cities. We really didn't have to suffer through so much of what other communities in this country had suffered.

The CDC and Dr. [Paula] Thaqi, who is our representative here in in in Broward County from the state health department, gave us ideas on how we are to think about moving forward. There are five tests that we were told we had to achieve in order to ensure that we could go into that phase one that the CDC indicated was the beginning of the reopening of our communities. Long story short, Dr. Thaqi actually said we had achieved four of the five, and those were basically a two to three-week decline in infections and in symptoms that these hospitals were experiencing.

Let me ask you just about the inputting data that has allowed the county health department and your assessment to say that you've gotten four of these five criteria for reopening Fort Lauderdale satisfied. Are you looking at solely city of Fort Lauderdale, COVID test results? Or are you looking at Broward County?

They're Broward County test results.

So not isolated just to Fort Lauderdale?

No, because we don't think we have those statistics as available as we do Broward County. And these are basically coming from the state records as they keep them every day. And there's no reason to believe that Fort Lauderdale is a different than the rest of the county.

What's the fifth criteria that that you're focused on?

The fifth criteria specifically says that we are to have robust testing for health care workers and to begin antibody testing. What concerns me is that we do have robust testing for everybody and not just for health care workers. There's never been a health care worker who has been denied the ability to have a test. And the idea of antibody testing is really odd because we just this week received antibody test kits. Yet the governor opened up 64 other counties in this state with no regard to the antibody test.

It's true. But those 64 other counties had significantly different profiles when it came to infection rates and fatality rates for COVID-19. But on this robust testing piece, first, let me ask you, what exactly does that mean? Is that defined at all "robust" in terms of a per capita daily test rate, for instance?

No, there's no definition at all. When we asked about the definition, there has been no response because it's so vague. What we did in Fort Lauderdale was we were able to secure an actual testing site in our own city. There has never been a test site established by the county anywhere east of I-95.

We worked with the governor's office, and for the last week and a half, we've had a testing site in Holiday Park in Fort Lauderdale. We've been testing anywhere between 350 and 400 people per day since last week. And it's been great for us to get a sense of what the impact is of this disease on our community.

So far, we've seen no increase in the incidence of this disease. And the statistics in terms of those who have contracted the disease, and the number of people taking the test, has remained low. So there again, staying within the statistical data, and statistical region, that Dr. Thaqi and the CDC have indicated would require us to achieve in order to move into phase one — we feel we've achieved that.