Officials in North Florida sent a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis on Thursday, requesting that the Panhandle be considered as part of the governor’s reopening strategy.
The letter, issued by State Representatives Mike Hill, Alex Andrade, Jayer Williamson, Mel Ponder, Brad Drake, Jay Trumbull and Jason Shoaf, urged the Republican governor to “review the data in the Panhandle” and reopen much of the area that relies heavily on tourism.
The letter also points to the dangers of a “one-size-fits-all” approach to reopening the state’s economy, citing how, unlike much of Florida, the Panhandle represents “a very low percentage” of confirmed coronavirus cases.
“Now, that we are in phase one of the re-opening plan we are pleased that you continue to embrace a science, fact-based approach to getting our state back to work,” the letter reads, referring to DeSantis’ methodical and careful approach that helped slow the spread of the virus. “Next to saving human life, getting main street open and back to work so that Florida families can get back on their feet should be the next most important focus of your team. This too should not be a one-size-fits-all implementation.”
“We would like to ask that you and your team carefully review the data in the Florida Panhandle. It represents a very low percentage of all cases in Florida yet, like area with significantly higher numbers of people affected, much of the economy remains shut down, even under phase one of the re-opening plan.”
Unlike other areas in the state, much of the Panhandle has remained relatively unscathed throughout the pandemic. Confirmed COVD-19 cases in the region remain low, with major tourist cities like Panama City Beach recording only double-digit cases.
Despite the low number of confirmed cases and the peak of beach season on the horizon, many crucial businesses in the Panhandle continue to suffer. Vacation rentals, in particular, have been prohibited to operate, being singled out during phase one of Florida’s reopening, leaving many rental companies fearing the prospect of having to close their doors permanently.
Meanwhile, hotels, motels, inns, resorts and long-term rentals have been immune from the ban, with many being given the green light to reopen.
With the letter, Florida House members hope to remedy that unbalance and give business owners in the Panhandle a fighting chance
For the full letter, click HERE.