Lawmakers: Florida shouldn’t reopen without more testing

Restaurants open during phase one of Florida's reopening
Restaurants open during phase one of Florida's reopening

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Democratic U.S. representatives from Florida on Friday urged Gov. Ron DeSantis not to loosen restrictions meant to stop the spread of the new coronavirus until adequate testing, contact tracing and the ability to isolate sick residents are in place.

The U.S. lawmakers said in a letter to the Republican governor that Floridians would be at risk without those measures in place as businesses that have been closed because of the pandemic start to reopen. DeSantis partially lifted his ``safer at home'' order Monday, allowing restaurants and retail shops to begin operating at 25% capacity.

Excluded from the reopening plan were three South Florida counties that have been the epicenter of the pandemic in the state.

"While we fully recognize the tremendous burden placed on the economy by stay-at-home orders and closed businesses, we urge you to prioritize the health and safety of Floridians above all else,`` the letter said. ``A rushed reopening may very well serve only to increase the human loss caused by an already historic public health crisis, as states moving forward with reopening are seeing increases in new COVID-19 cases.``

The letter asks DeSantis to answer why he is allowing the state to reopen with what the lawmakers describe as a lack of a comprehensive testing plan. The letter also asks DeSantis to provide answers about the number of contact tracers the state plans to have for tracking down people a coronavirus patient may have encountered, and what guidance his administration is giving to local governments about enforcing social distancing.

The letter was signed by U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Al Lawson, Debbie Murcasel-Powell, Donna Shalala, Darren Soto, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson.

Meanwhile, state officials said that some campgrounds and trailheads at 19 state forests would be reopening with limited capacity.