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Broward County Commissioners Workshop Reopening Ideas Ahead Of May 18 Target

Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry gives a presentation on reopening South Florida to county commissioners during an online workshop on Tuesday May 12.
Broward County Commission
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

During a special virtual workshop Tuesday Broward County commissioners swapped ideas about how they should open up restaurants and businesses — and how much capacity should be allowed in those locations.

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They are trying to get ready for a phase one reopening."Based on the conversations from our municipalities from last evening, there appeared to be consensus that we should target our opening for May 18, with a series of guidance and conditions," Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry said. "We do know that this virus is still active in our community...every resident has a role in this."


In Broward, cities and towns can enforce orders that are more restrictive than the county level but not more liberal. 


The current plans for Broward and Miami-Dade counties to start reopening includes retail businesses opening at 25 percent capacity. Community pools, and homeowners associations with gyms for residents have also requested to reopen to a less-than-full capacity. 


Large venues, like casinos, would not open in the phase one plan, according to Henry.  


Henry said she is also talking with Miami-Dade County later in the day Tuesday to coordinate more, but — right now — this first step doesn’t include reopening the beaches. 


"I’m just having a hard time understanding why people cannot paddle board, surf, walk, swim as long as they’re transient and they’re moving. It’s beyond me when we allow these other venues to be open," Commissioner Lamar Fisher pleased. "Let the public make their own personal decisions whether they’re going to attend a business or the beaches, but let’s get our beaches open."


The majority of commissioners expressed agreement with Fisher about reopening the beaches in Broward County, on some level.


"Miami-Dade is at this point, to my knowledge, they’re not opening up. So the concern is the overrun," Henry responded. 


Read More: A Quiet Reopening Day In Downtown West Palm Beach, As The County's 'New Normal' Begins


The commission did not hear presentations during the workshop from local business owners, or medical leaders. Some commissioners still have concerns, including Barbara Sharief, who has her doctoral degree in nursing. 


"Maybe it's not that we go straight into phase one like we've been talking about, maybe we phase phase one a little bit more, until people understand the importance of good hygiene, good social distancing, wearing the masks…" she said.


Other commissioners still, asked for more information. Commissioner Michael Udine wanted to see data on how the county’s hospital capacity has changed in recent weeks, and Vice Mayor Steve Geller asked to see the list of guidelines that Henry plans to send municipalities, before they get sent out. 


The governor still has to approve any plans before Henry can sign a new emergency order for Broward County. She told the commission she hopes the public will abide by social-distancing guidelines and they will not have to close things again, mentioning if that were to happen it would be difficult for the county to sustain.  


"We’re still in the early stages of this,” Commissioner Beam Furr cautioned his fellow commissioners. "And anybody [who] thinks that we can come out of here and declare victory, and open up and think that things are going to be okay, is sadly mistaken. What I think we’ve been able to do is stabilize, and we’re in the position where we can stabilize."


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Caitie Switalski is a rising senior at the University of Florida. She's worked for WFSU-FM in Tallahassee as an intern and reporter. When she's in Gainesville for school, Caitie is an anchor and producer for local Morning Edition content at WUFT-FM, as well as a digital editor for the station's website. Her favorite stories are politically driven, about how politicians, laws and policies effect local communities. Once she graduates with a dual degree in Journalism and English,Caitiehopes to make a career continuing to report and produce for NPR stations in the sunshine state. When she's not following what's happening with changing laws, you can catchCaitielounging in local coffee shops, at the beach, or watching Love Actually for the hundredth time.