Update: On Friday, DeSantis did, in fact, announce gyms would reopen in Florida starting Monday, May 18. Read about that here.
Gov. Ron DeSantis didn’t have specifics. Those are coming Friday.
But on Thursday, DeSantis hinted it was time for gyms in parts of the state to reopen.
“This is a virus that, if you’re in good shape, you’re probably going to be OK," DeSantis said. "I think it’s really important that people have access to gyms.”
The heads-up from DeSantis came at a news conference in Doral about something unrelated: DeSantis and local leaders announced the Phase 1 reopening of Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Reopening outside Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward started May 4. Come Monday, restaurants and retail shops across the state will be allowed to serve customers at limited capacity.
But other establishments, like gyms and movie theaters, have remained closed while officials hope to restart Florida’s economy while limiting the spread of the coronavirus.
Gyms were a particular sticking point for protesters in Clearwater on Monday who got national attention. Some two dozen demonstrators did push-ups and squats outside the Pinellas County Courthouse while waving signs calling for gyms to reopen.
Florida’s fittest may not wait much longer to get back to pumping iron.
“We’re going to have an announcement tomorrow that’s going to encompass the gyms,” DeSantis said Thursday, teasing Friday’s event in Jacksonville. The governor’s office has not yet released specifics.
DeSantis has maintained that Floridians need a way to relieve stress during the long months of the COVID-19 induced economic shutdown. He’s defended municipalities that have kept beaches open, and on Wednesday, he called for professional sports teams to start practicing and playing their games in Florida.
However, the governor pointedly refused to say whether he would open parts of the state to Phase 2 starting Monday.
In a Thursday newsletter to members, the Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson mentioned that the “anticipated” Phase 2 reopening of most of the state would occur Monday.
DeSantis distanced himself from that claim, but also did not deny it.
“I don’t know what the Florida Chamber is saying,” he said early Thursday afternoon in Doral. “I go by the beat of my own drum. I’m not singing their tune or anyone else’s tune.”
A Chamber spokeswoman said Wilson’s comments in the email newsletter were based upon White House guidelines, which say that states with a downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period are able to move into the next phase of reopening.
Florida’s Phase 2 allows businesses to operate at 75% capacity. The state recommends, but does not require, that they disinfect areas and equipment accessed by customers between use. Businesses should separate patrons by six feet and resume indoor group sessions and classes with restricted capacity.
But some health experts say it’s premature to move to the next level.
“There should be a longer Phase 1 before we move to Phase 2 so we can observe the results and see what needs to be fixed,” said Dr. Aileen Marty, a professor of infectious diseases at the Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. Marty helped craft Miami-Dade’s guidelines.
“It’s a little preliminary to move on to Phase 2,” Marty said.
Miami Herald staff writer Carlos Frias contributed to this report.