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After A Nine-Hour Meeting, Palm Beach County Sends Letter To DeSantis To Move Into Phase Two

Just a day after the school district started the school year with distance learning, Palm Beach County commissioners approved their step-by-step approach to enter phase two of the state's economic reopening plan.

Commissioners voted 4-2 Tuesday to send a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis for approval.

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During the hours-long meeting, Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said the staggered approach into phase two is important for public health reasons. She says it allows the commission to receive updates from the health department on whether the county is in the “right trajectory” to move things faster.

Vice Mayor Robert Weinroth and Commissioner Hal Valeche refused to support the county’s step-by-step plan. Weinroth disagreed with having the school district linked to the county’s reopening plan decisions. Both Valeche and Wenroth want businesses to reopen sooner and fear the staggered plan could likely take months and hurt economic recovery even further.

Weinroth says people are hurting because "Congress has not responded to the needs of our constituents." There is no additional weekly unemployment and county residents are "back to the maximum 275" instead of the previous $875 a week.

Palm Beach County's phase two plan recommends the reopening of in-classroom instruction for the School District three or four weeks after step one of their incremental plan.

Here is a snapshot of Palm Beach County's step-by-step Phase 2 plan.

  • Step 1 - Reopen indoor entertainment by Sept 8, tentatively. Many operate at 50 percent capacity: Bowling alleys, escape rooms, movie theaters, playhouses (33 percent), and skating centers; full capacity outdoor seating for restaurants.
  • Step 2 - Recommends the reopening of in-classroom instruction three or four weeks after step one, but commissioners say the decision to reopen public brick-and-mortar campus should be made by the county School District, not the county.
  • Step 3 - If COVID numbers continue downward trend: Auditoriums, bingo parlors; comedy clubs and concert houses will operate at 50 percent capacity by approximately Oct. 19.
  • Step 4 - After COVID-19 "evaluation period," the plan allows entertainment businesses from step one to operate up to 75 percent capacity by approximately Nov. 2 (66 percent capacity restriction for playhouses).
  • Step 5 - Reduces capacity restrictions on businesses in Step one, three, and four, with possible reopening of arcades, bars, billiard halls, hookah and smoking lounges, and nightclubs/strip clubs — all pending approval by Gov. Desantis.

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Wilkine Brutus is a multimedia journalist for WLRN, South Florida's NPR, and a member of Washington Post/Poynter Institute’ s 2019 Leadership Academy. A former Digital Reporter for The Palm Beach Post, Brutus produces enterprise stories on topics surrounding people, community innovation, entrepreneurship, art, culture, and current affairs.