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DeSantis: Florida summer camps can open without restrictions

Tamara Lush and Freida Frisaro
The Associated Press
Northwest Florida Daily News

FORT LAUDERDALE — Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Friday during a news conference in Jacksonville that summer camps and youth activities can open without restrictions.

He said local organizations and governments can set rules and guidelines. The state won't preempt those rules, he added.

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"I hope that this will be good for folks over the summer. I really trust parents. I trust the physicians who work with the kids, the local leaders, coaches, camps," he said.

He said Florida has had no fatalities of people under the age of 25.

"I think the data is pretty clear: Kids don't seem to get infected at the same rates that adults get infected," he said.

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As of Friday morning, more than 49,000 cases have been diagnosed in Florida, with about 2,190 deaths. A Tampa Bay Times analysis of medical examiner and state health records showed that 83% of coronavirus deaths are in people over the age of 65. DeSantis said many of the recent positive cases have come from long-term care facilities and prisons.

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"We believe that this makes sense based on the data and observed experience. We are not going to be instituting a lot of rules, or really any rules," DeSantis said. "At the end of the day, we trust parents to be able to make decisions in conjunction with physicians."

Even so, Nichole Harrell, 31, of Tampa, has reservations about sending her 7-year-old son to summer camp this year. She said her only child is a social butterfly who loves to hug everyone and give high-fives. While she's repeatedly explained social distancing to him, Harrell said he doesn't "really know the significance of that."

Harrell said with restrictions like staying apart and not sharing sports equipment could make camp, which is supposed to be fun, feel more like punishment. So, she is keeping him home for the summer.

"We don't know if it's really safe. We don't know if it's really gone. We don't know if we'll have a second surge," she said. "There's just too many unknown things."

Meanwhile, Miami Beach city commissioners agreed Friday to reopen beaches and hotels beginning June 1, a week after the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The beaches will reopen about two weeks after retail stores, hair salons and barber shops were allowed to open under Florida's phase 1 plan.

The commission delayed the reopening of restaurants in the city until Wednesday, two days after Memorial Day.

Officials didn't want to deal with large crowds at the beach over the long holiday weekend that unofficially kicks off the summer season.

"We have to exercise some measure of caution because there is a natural tension between crowds and physical distancing," Miami Beach Mayor Gelber said. "How do you manage that in a pandemic? The answer is carefully. We know that Memorial Day is a traditional time for everybody to go to the beach and if we saw hundreds of thousands of people on our beaches, it would be a disaster."

The decision is likely to result in other nearby coastal cities reopening their beaches, which have been closed to the public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, the Miami Herald reported.

Gelber told commissioners that Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez had been "waiting for us to give him the signal" to reopen the county's beaches.

Broward County officials set Tuesday as the reopening day for beaches there.

Officials in the Florida Keys also set a June 1 date to reopen for visitors.

Kelli Kennedy reported from Fort Lauderdale.