From The Capitol

In these unusual times, the latest edition of our e-newsletter hopefully will not be a repeat of so much information hitting your e-mail inbox about COVID-19. Governor Ron DeSantis has made Florida’s response to the pandemic ‘priority number one’. To keep the public informed, he has been giving updates at press conferences throughout the state. Further, he assembled a task force to solicit feedback and make recommendations about re-opening Florida. Here is a link to their final report.

As of May 4th, Florida entered Phase One of the re-opening efforts, which includes all counties except Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. A helpful link to frequently asked questions about the state’s current guidelines can be found here. Meanwhile, many local governments have developed their own orders and advisories that further restrict or enhance some of the Governor’s executive orders.

Over the past few weeks in response to this crisis, we have seen:

  • Local governments and courts holding public meetings on virtual platforms;
  • Farmers working hard to get their crops ready for market and distributed to food banks and grocery stores. The Department of Agriculture  is facilitating direct sales by farmers to the public on its website;
  • Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried activating the Department of Agriculture’s Summer BreakSpot website, where families can find free meals for children under 18 during the school closures;  
  • Grocery stores with online purchasing services are extending support to families participating in the SNAP program and;
  • Public utilities lowering rates or offering refunds for a limited time period.

Education has taken on a new look entirely after the Governor closed all public and private schools as well as colleges and universities for the remainder of the school year. Parents, teachers and students are juggling virtual education. Many camps may not open this summer, further lengthening the time parents will have to balance work and childcare. While some school district officials are indicating they may resume classes in the fall, there is no timetable on when schools may open. The same goes for Florida’s colleges and universities, which are taking a significant financial hit.

As businesses struggle to rethink their operations amidst social distancing and smaller group gatherings, we can anticipate different ways of communicating and interacting. Telecommuting for work, staggering employees work schedules at offices and offering alternatives are some practices already in place that will continue for the foreseeable future. New efforts to expand coronavirus testing, including allowing tests at pharmacies and randomly checking blood donations for antibodies, are also underway. We will be following developments and reporting them in future editions of our eNewsletter.