State officials are giving Florida residents a chance to weigh in on re-opening the economy, while also expanding Covid-19 testing and continuing to work to improve the system for filing unemployment claims.
The Re-Open Florida Task Force has launched a public comment submission portal open to all Floridians.
State residents can offer their opinion on any topic related to the re-opening of Florida’s economy, including the impacts to small business, healthcare, education, tourism, agriculture, retail, recreation and sports and construction, an email from the office of Gov. Ron DeSantis said.
Public feedback will be a critical component of the task force’s final report to the governor, the email said. Click here to submit comments.
Florida has been under a stay at home order since April 3, limiting state residents’ movements to essential services and essential activities. That order is set to expire April 30. In advance of making a decision on lifting or modifying the order, DeSantis appointed the task force earlier this week, and it is expected to finalize its recommendations this weekend.
At a Friday afternoon press conference, DeSantis said he wants to go forward in a “safe, methodical way,” and is less concerned about a specific date and more concerned about “getting it right.”
“I am going to work today and all through the weekend about what we need to do and make sure we are doing it in a way that makes the most sense,” DeSantis said Friday. “It does not need to be any specific date. I think that if you do it right then we’ll continue to build off this and get to a place where people can get back on their feet.”
DeSantis also addressed Covid-19 testing and the state’s unemployment system during the news conference.
He said he would ask the state’s surgeon general to issue an order to allow licensed pharmacists in Florida to order and administer Covid-19 tests. Details remain to be worked out, but DeSantis said he hoped the tests by pharmacists could be given to anyone who thinks they have been exposed to the virus, so that if those individual test positive they can self-isolate themselves in order to avoid spreading the illness.
About 1.55 percent of the state’s population has been tested so far and many public health experts have said widespread testing is needed before businesses can reopen safely.
Much of the push to reopen the state’s economy has been driven by a soaring jobless rate, and exacerbated by technical difficulties in the state’s online system for filing unemployment claims. A class-action lawsuit was filed against the state Thursday over the computerized system. It alleges that former Gov. Rick Scott and a Republican-dominated legislature created a flawed process seven years ago that now has failed Florida workers, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
“I don’t know legally about the lawsuit but I can tell you that system was not a good investment for the state of Florida,” DeSantis said Friday. “This thing was a clunker, there’s no doubt about it. It was designed to basically fail I think. With this volume it was going to be a problem no matter how good the system was, but I do think the way this thing was designed was very problematic.”
DeSantis cited the work done over the past several days to bring the system up to speed. Through Friday afternoon, the Department of Economic Opportunity said it had processed nearly 219,000 claims for unemployment assistance, and paid $157.5 million to nearly 154,000 claimants.