Florida governor announces plans to reopen state

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled a plan Wednesday to lift the state's stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus crisis that he called "safe, smart, and step-by-step."

The plan will go into effect on Monday in every county except Dade, Palm Beach and Broward counties, where most of the Covid-19 cases in the state have been reported, DeSantis said.

But before DeSantis released any details, he took a swipe at the "doom and gloom" media and critics who faulted him for the state's slow response to the unfolding crisis.

"A lot has been done to promote fear," DeSantis said. "We haven't seen an explosion of new cases."

That said, 83 people died in Florida from the coronavirus on Tuesday, the biggest spike in daily deaths since the plague started.

The restrictions that have been in place in the Sunshine State since early April -- and which were set to expire Friday -- will be lifted “in a very measured, thoughtful and data-driven way,” DeSantis promised earlier.

DeSantis' announcement came as some 350 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed Wednesday in Florida along with 47 new deaths, bringing the state's virus-related death toll to 1,218. More than 5,400 people remain hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the Florida Department of Health.

And it came after DeSantis touched base with President Donald Trump during an Oval Office meeting.

Wary Florida officials warned they would hit the brakes if DeSantis moves too fast to reopen the state.

In Daytona Beach, City Commissioner Rob Gilliland said if DeSantis “comes out with something we don’t think is restrictive enough,” the city could mandate precautions to ensure that residents are protected.

Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Florida officials have stopped releasing the list of coronavirus deaths being compiled by county medical examiners "which has at times shown a higher death toll than the state’s published count."

A Republican and staunch Trump supporter, DeSantis had been widely criticized for refusing to quickly clear the beaches of visitors and issue stay-at-home orders.

DeSantis also undermined the Hillsborough County sheriff's efforts to stop a renegade mega-church pastor from holding Sunday services and endangering thousands of worshipers.

Rodney Howard-Browne wound up dropping his plans to reopen The River at Tampa Bay Church on Easter after he was dropped by his insurance company.

Currently, the DeSantis Administration is taking flak for the state’s balky Unemployment Assistance program which critics like Miami Beach Mayor Don Gelber say “was essentially set up unfortunately to be stingy, to be cumbersome, and to not really give out employment checks.”

“The state of Florida has been really unforgiveable when it comes to unemployment benefits,” Gelber said Wednesday on MSNBC. “Our city is, you know, organizing food lines and such like a lot of cities across America. It’s heartbreaking to see the number of people online because they can’t afford a meal or need food for their family.”