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Lee County to re-open parks for walking, jogging and biking

By Staff | Apr 21, 2020

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners agreed to open up 23 of its parks — not including beach parks or Lakes Park — for hiking, walking, jogging, and biking. Horseback riding trails, available at some parks, also will reopen to the public.

The opening of the trails will take effect today.

County Manager Roger Desjarlais said the county is acting based on talks with Lee Health and the Office of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Dejarlais said the county would like to start talking about opening up its beaches and parks for more uses in the near future.

The action taken by the commissioners on Monday will not cover beaches or beach parks, Board of Commissioners Chairman Brian Hamman said.

DeSantis sees businesses in terms of risk, not in essentialness

At a press conference Tuesday, DeSantis said he believed Florida has been able to “flatten the curve” as its hospitals have large numbers of beds available, with approximately 2,000 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 throughout the state. DeSantis said that figure is far below what some had been estimating. Approximately 4,000 people have been hospitalized throughout Florida since the pandemic hit Florida about six weeks ago.

“We are planning on expanding testing,” DeSantis said.

“As we go forward and think about how the economy functions, the thing that has kind of struck me from dealing with this and as we get into these different kinds of health responses, they categorize things as essential business and non-essential business,” DeSantis said. “It seems to me that if we are looking about going forward in a safe way where people can get back to work but we can try to prevent a massive resurgence in cases, (it’s) probably better to think of different businesses and industries in terms of risk. Is it low risk or high risk?”

A lot of businesses are thinking “long and hard about what they need to do” to have a safe environment for business which will inspire confidence, DeSantis said.

DeSantis has appointed a group of more than 20 political leaders from across the state to the Re-Open Florida Task Force Executive Committee. The group is scheduled to meet each day this week with DeSantis and make recommendations to DeSantis on how to open the economy.

Meanwhile, the Re-Open Florida Task Force Executive Committee, a group consisting of more than 20 political and business leaders throughout the state appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, was scheduled to host two meetings through conference call on Tuesday to discuss re-opening the economy.

The committee is discussing steps the state may take to relax restrictions imposed by the governor since a state of emergency was declared last month in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The committee has been reviewing health care information to see if a steadying of coronavirus cases is occurring and whether this is the appropriate time to relax restrictions that have been put into place to lessen the health threats posed by COVID-19. There have been 823 deaths from the coronavirus in Florida, out of more than 27,000 confirmed cases as of April 20.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce made a presentation to the committee on Monday, stating that a re-opening of the Florida economy will need to be more surgical since 20% of Florida’s economy is driven by tourism and 21% of the state’s population is 65 and older.

The most at-risk jobs currently are those in tourism, retail, construction and recreation/sports sectors, according to the chamber.

There are more than 1 million tourism-related jobs in the state, more than 1 million retail jobs and more than 600,000 construction jobs statewide. The chamber estimates that more than 88% of tourism-related jobs are at risk, more than 86% of recreation/sports jobs are in jeopardy, more than 65% of retail jobs are at risk and more than 45% of construction jobs are at risk.

Tuesday’s meeting was set to focus on the hardest-hit industries in the state and what can be done to help them get back on their feet. The committee was set to meet with representatives of the restaurant industry, hotel industry, tourism industry and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

With the opening of beaches in Jacksonville last week, there is some momentum growing for a relaxation of movement restrictions in the state. The Fort Myers Beach Council is considering a limited opening of the beach to town residents.

Ryan Ash, deputy press secretary to DeSantis, said towns and cities have the ability to open up beaches on their own as DeSantis has not made any orders to municipal beaches. DeSantis did close state parks and state beaches.