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DeSantis' 'Re-Open Florida' Task Force Debuts. Notably Absent? Doctors, And Agriculture Commissioner

Lynne Sladky
AP Photo

On Monday, Governor Ron DeSantis held the introductory meeting of his assembled Re-Open Florida Task Force. The group will look at when and how to begin opening up the state’s economy – but ideas haven’t started flowing yet.

“How do you approach this in a way that is obviously going to be safe, but I think even just as important, is the confidence of the public,” the Governor said, asking the task force to consider those criteria as its first meeting got underway.  

There weren’t any significant suggestions to DeSantis on how to re-open pitched during the first conference call – but listeners did learn who will be advising the governor.

The group’s executive committee includes state agency heads and legislative leaders. The entire Florida cabinet except for Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the lone statewide elected Democrat, is included.

From the private sector, the Re-Open Task Force executive group features executives from these Florida businesses:

“We’ve got Josh D’Amaro from Disney, we’ve got John Sprouls from Universal Resort, Joe York (of) AT&T, Eric Silagy Florida (of) Power & Light, John Couris (of) Tampa General (Hospital), Alex Sanchez Florida Bankers (Assn.), Paul Riley of Raymond James, Patrick Sunderland (of) Lockheed Martin, Todd Jones (of) Publix, and Syd Kitson from the Board of Governors of the state university system,” DeSantis said, giving a rundown on the call.

Notably absent from that group are any medical doctors, as the only healthcare industry representative is a hospital executive.

The governor’s office of policy and budget will oversee the work of the task force, which was assembled in a tiered structure. Three working groups, divided into representatives from high, medium and low-risk industries as identified by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, will meet each day.

Florida Chamber CEO Mark Wilson explained to the group how “risk” was calculated.

“Thinking about social distancing – if you look at if these jobs can be performed in close proximity to other employees and to the public, then what you can see here, is the total number of jobs that are vulnerable on a going-forward basis,” Wilson explained.

Wilson says in total, 3.4 million Florida jobs are “at risk,” out of more than 10 million in the state. The Chamber says it’s going to be a lot harder for smaller firms to re-open versus larger companies, and lower-income people are going to have a harder time getting back to work because they’re more likely to be in “high-contact” jobs.

Much of the discussion from state leadership Monday concerned testing for COVID-19, which DeSantis says is key to re-opening the economy.

“We need to get the economy back in a safe way,” DeSantis said. “Part of that, I think, is having the testing – I think it’s going to give people confidence that they’re going to be able to participate in the economy.”

The working groups’ ideas will advise the task force’s executive committee. The executive committee will meet every afternoon to discuss the working groups’ ideas.

Meanwhile, as the Governor’s task force is mulling how to re-open, one Florida congresswoman is warning making the move too soon could be a dangerous repeat of history.

The Spanish Flu, or H1N1, caused a global pandemic in 1918 infecting nearly 500 million people. Congresswoman Donna Shalala believes leaders should look into the past when deciding if the time is right to get back to business.

“They thought they had the virus whipped because they did a certain amount of testing. And then people went out on the streets and the beaches and the disease spike again, much worse than the first time. So we have to pay attention to the public health experts.”

Shalala is worried opening up the economy could lead to history repeating itself. She agrees with health experts that more testing needs to be done before people can get back to their lives before the pandemic began.

Here’s the entire list of the Re-Open Florida Task Force executive committee:

  • Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez, Lieutenant Governor of Florida
  • Jimmy Patronis, Florida Chief Financial Officer
  • Ashley Moody, Florida Attorney General
  • President Bill Galvano, President, Florida Senate
  • Speaker Jose Oliva, Speaker, Florida House of Representatives
  • Senator Wilton Simpson, President-Designate, Florida Senate
  • Representative Chris Sprowls, Speaker-Designate, Florida House of Representatives
  • Commissioner Richard Corcoran, Commissioner of Education
  • Jamal Sowell, President & CEO, Enterprise Florida, Inc.
  • Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Mayor, Miami-Dade County
  • Mayor Dale Holness, Mayor, Broward County
  • Mayor David Kerner, Mayor, Palm Beach County
  • John Couris, President & CEO, Tampa General Hospital
  • Josh D’Amaro, President, Walt Disney World Resort
  • Todd Jones, CEO, Publix Super Markets
  • Syd Kitson, Chairman, Board of Governors for the State University System
  • Paul Reilly, Chairman & CEO, Raymond James Financial
  • Alex Sanchez, President & CEO, Florida Bankers Association
  • Eric Silagy, President & CEO, Florida Power & Light Company
  • John Sprouls, CEO, Universal Orlando Resort, Executive Vice President, Universal Parks & Resorts
  • Patrick Sunderlin, Vice President, Global Supply Chain, Lockheed Martin Corporation
  • Joe York, President, AT&T Florida and Caribbean
Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.
Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.