During a press conference Wednesday evening, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that Florida will reopen on Monday, May 4 by following a "slow, methodical approach." His phase one plan is aimed at easing Florida back to a new normal with a step-by-step initiative. The move excludes Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach County, which are facing the brunt of the state's novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Today, Florida will take a step — small, deliberate, methodical, and based on consultation with some of our greatest physicians — towards a more hopeful future,” Gov. DeSantis said during the press briefing. “We do have hope. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

The first phase includes the opening of outdoor seating at restaurants, relaxing the restrictions on retail stores, and the resuming of elective surgeries. However, bars, gyms, and hair salons will remain closed during this time.

According to the Florida Department of Health, the state has reported 33,193 positive cases of COVID-19 and 1,218 deaths. More than 5,400 people remain hospitalized with COVID-19, the state's health site reports.

The announcement comes one day before the state's stay-at-home order is expected to expire, and is a part of a three-phase plan.

"Fear is our enemy," he said. "The only thing we have to fear is letting fear overwhelm our sense of purpose and determination."

DeSantis emphasized the importance of continuing to observe social distancing rules and more testing in this first phase.

He did not discuss what the next two phases would entail or when they would start.

DeSantis pushed back again at earlier media coverage that predicted Florida would be on par with Italy and New York.

"A lot has been done to promote fear," DeSantis said. "We haven't seen an explosion of new cases."

During his meeting at the White House with President Trump, the governor compared Florida's response to other states and the "draconian orders" being taken to combat the virus.

“You look at some of the most draconian orders that have been issued in some of these states and you compare Florida, in terms of our hospitalizations per 100,000, in terms of our fatalities per 100,000. I mean you go from DC, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio -- you name it, Florida has done better,” DeSantis said.

The state will continue its safer-at-home order for the rest of the week, before phasing it to the "slow" reopening on Monday.

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