By Joan Murray

MIAMI (CBSMiami) —  Miami-Dade and Broward counties will be moving to Phase 2 of reopening effective Monday Sept. 14.

Joined by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, Gov. Ron DeSantis made the announcement Friday afternoon at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in Miami.

“Today I’m announcing that effective Monday, both Broward and Miami Dade counties will moved into Phase 2 and of course the most significant aspect of that is that it clears the pathway for in-person instruction to resume, of course, at the parents discretion and we want to continue to offer parents the ability to do remote learning if that’s what they want to do,” said DeSantis.

“This is really, really important. We’ve had a very difficult six months but it’s been very difficult for kids,” DeSantis said. “Many of them did a good job under the circumstances but it’s just not the same.”

DeSantis said he is moving forward with Phase 2 in South Florida due to downward trends in COVID-19 positivity rates and virus-related hospitalizations.

The Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent said he expects an announcement before the end of the month on when parents will have a choice of sending students back to classrooms, where they will be required to wear face masks, or keeping them in online distance learning.

Carvalho said a survey of parents found about 51 percent in support of sending their children to school for in-person instruction.

“Obviously, when they return, we will have in place all the safety and precautionary measures, with increased sanitation cycles, with isolation rooms, with a nurse in every school, with appropriate social distancing,” Carvalho said. “But I want to be clear, six feet of distance is probably not going to be possible in many schools.”

The Broward County School Board is expected to take up the issue of in-person instructions on Sept. 22.

Other than schools, Phase 2 means different things for different counties.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez says entertainment businesses including movie theaters, concert houses, auditoriums, playhouses, bowling alleys and arcades can reopen. They have to operate at 50 percent capacity and follow proper social distancing and sanitation protocols.

“I will continue consulting with our medical experts to make sure the openings are done the right way,” said Gimenez.  “And I want to give time to those entertainment venues that qualify for opening at a limited capacity to get ready.”

Broward has already eased restrictions on movie theaters, bowling alleys and playhouses.

Broward Mayor Dale Holness says Phase 2 will mean restaurant counter service opening and possible allowance of weddings and gym capacity expansion.

“We are are in a pretty good position but want to keep the positivity rate below five percent,” said Holness.

While restaurants in both counties are operating at limited capacity, when it comes to socializing, one thing isn’t changing. No bars are opening in Miami-Dade or Broward for the foreseeable future.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez tweeted Thursday night that county “bars will remain closed by emergency order until further notice, after Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears rescinded a June order that prevented onsite consumption of alcohol at bars.

It means starting Monday, bars and craft breweries will be able to operate at 50 percent of indoor occupancy, with people needing to be seated when served, everywhere except Miami-Dade, Broward, or Palm Beach counties.

As of Friday, Miami-Dade’s two-week average positivity rate for new cases is 6.25%. In Broward, it’s 4.03%.

Gimenez said reopening bars and craft breweries in other parts of the state is “fine, because they have very few cases of COVID-19.”

“We’re still not out of the woods yet, but we’re getting closer,” Gimenez said.

Miami-Dade County remains under 10pm curfew but that is also being moved to 11pm starting Monday.

DeSantis was asked if he was rushing the South Florida reopening, but he said Miami-Dade’s positive COVID-19 test rate had dropped substantially since it had 20 percent daily averages in July. He said the rate had been under 10 percent for more than a month.

“We have a health crisis with the virus, but we also have health crises with a lot of other things that have gotten worse since this crisis with the virus began,” DeSantis said. “Mental health. Drug abuse. Missed cancer screenings. Missed medical. Heart. Stroke. People that didn’t go in. That’s very important. And then we also are saying, we’re going to do best over the long term on this if we have a healthy, strong society. That means having a functioning economy. That means having a lot of things. But a school system is so important to so many communities that the cost of not having that are just so  dramatic.”

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