Broward County will begin a phased re-opening of parks, recreational facilities and other public spaces this week, though social distancing guidelines remain in place and beaches and businesses will stay closed, officials announced.
At a news conference Monday afternoon, Broward County Mayor Dale V.C. Holness said that due to the region's apparent downward trajectory of COVID-19 infections, South Florida officials were collaborating cross-county to devise a plan that would allow for the reopening of certain places.
Recreational facilities, golf courses, boat ramps, marinas, and pools in multi-family developments will all be allowed to open effective Wednesday, April 29th. Holness said an emergency order with details of the re-opening will be released tomorrow.
"These openings will assist in helping our residents with their physical and mental well-beings," Holness said. "So many have been locked up for a long time in their homes."
Many restrictions will still be in place regarding the use of those facilities, and all of Broward County's beaches will remain closed, as will businesses. Holness also noted that not every park in the county will be allowed to open, only a selected number.
Some of the restrictions Holness specified are as follows:
- Golf courses will be open for limited hours. No caddies will be permitted, and only one player may ride per golf cart, excluding groups who reside in the same household.
- Boat ramps and marinas, public and private, will be open for limited hours as dictated by their corresponding municipalities. Only one boat is permitted on a ramp at a time.
- Regarding pools in multi-housing developments, maintenance staff must sanitize pool chairs and railings after every use. Facial coverings must be worn while traveling to and from the pool area, including in hallways and elevators.
- Social distancing must be observed in all of these spaces. Frequent hand-washing and sanitizing is highly encouraged.
"Beaches will remain closed until we are further able to ensure that this downward trajectory continues," Holness said. "We will need to do even more robust testing, including antibody testing, to continue to ensure the safety and well-being of all people in Broward County."
The re-openings in Broward are being timed so that they coincide with similar lifting of restrictions in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
"We're timing this as closely as possible with other counties so that the people of South Florida are connected," Holness said.
The Mayor of the City of Weston, Daniel J. Sterner, emphasized that the plan was to slowly phase in more re-openings at the advice of scientific experts without promising anything to residents.
"None of us are looking at a calendar and circling a date," Sterner said in response to questions about when more restrictions would be lifted. "We'd rather underpromise and over-perform, so let's let the criteria work its way through and then say, based on this, this is what's happening in a day or two or three."
Sterner said the re-opening of parks and marinas was a "measured first step with more to come," noting that community responsibility would play a big role in how things develop.
In order to ensure that social distancing guidelines are being adhered to, officials added that there would be more county employees present at parks, monitoring park-goers and ensuring that no congregations or large gatherings take place.
"Based on our downward trajectory, our community has listened to elected officials," Sterner said. "But it needs to continue to do so, because if we don't, we're going to have more problems."
While some can’t wait for this first phase, others, like Corey Villard, fear it's still too soon.
“We still have a lot of people around that don't even know they have it,” Villard said. “I think we should still keep everything closed because we still see, like, Atlanta for example and they still have so many cases."
A Broward County spokesperson said the county will be releasing a list of the specific county parks that will be reopening on Wednesday.