This Is What Matters As Florida Allows Reopening Of Youth Sports, Summer Camps And Recreation Activities

By Arthur L. Caplan & Lee H. Igel

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida says it is time for kids to have some summer fun playing sports and going to camp together again. After two months of shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, sports leagues, summer camps and organized recreation activities across the state are now being allowed to reopen. Beyond the symptom screening, sanitizing and social distancing, what needs to be done to help ensure that kids can go running, jumping, swimming, kicking and screaming in a safe way?

Florida has had something of an early lead when it comes to managing sports in coronavirus times. In mid-April, with professional sports suspended, WWE was cleared to stage wrestlers-only television events after DeSantis designated “professional sports and media production with a national audience” at a location “closed to the general public” as essential services. And throughout the pandemic, the NBA and MLB have been among the major leagues exploring plans for restarting their seasons at sites in Florida, including Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. But those decisions have concerned paid adults—not kids—getting back in the game.

The decision to lift restrictions on youth sports and recreation activities, according to an announcement from DeSantis, was based on a few key factors. One is the low COVID-19 infection rate among children. Another is concern for children’s physical and emotional health. A third is what youth sports and recreation programs could contribute to local communities and economies.

Florida has recorded just over 50,000 of the more than 1.6 million COVID-19 cases in the United States to date, according to Johns Hopkins data tracking. The state has also recorded about 2,200 of the more than 100,000 deaths across the country. There are all sorts of suggestions as to what is leading to those relatively low rates in Florida—from public response to social distancing measures and disaster response from experience with hurricanes to early orders banning outside visitors from entering nursing homes and restricting COVID-positive patients from returning to nursing homes after they were sent to hospitals. Meanwhile, like many places around the nation and the world, Florida hasn’t been without its share of people missing the point. Crowding at popular public places, especially beaches and bars, has made headlines. So, too, have questions about officials manipulating data to make the coronavirus case numbers appear better than they might actually be.

In any case, Florida appears to be weathering the pandemic in good enough condition to begin reopening many services. One of the last states to issue a “safer-at-home” order, it is one of the first states to go ahead with opening up organized sports and recreation activities.

Sports and recreation are an important part of healthy childhood. Sports and recreation promote lifelong physical, cognitive, social, and emotional growth

Vacation rental ban continues in Phase One of Florida’s reopening

The statewide ban on vacation rentals will continue in Phase One of Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ plan to reopen Florida.

For more than a month, guests have been unable to schedule vacation rentals through services like Airbnb or HomeAway. And with phase one, starting Monday, that won’t change — at least for another two weeks.

Earlier this month, DeSantis extended the vacation rental ban until Thursday. On Wednesday, the Governor issued a carryover order (Executive Order 20-111) that extends the ban until phase one begins on Monday, and another, 20-112, that carries the order through phase one.

The original order, issued March 27, (Executive Order 20-87) suspended vacation rentals in homes and condominiums. It did not apply to hotels, inns and resorts, and it did not apply to long-term rentals.

Vacation rentals have become popular with tourists and spring breakers, who have drawn DeSantis’ ire throughout the pandemic.

According to the order, “many cases of COVID-19 in Florida have resulted from individuals coming into the state from international travel and other states, posing great risk to Florida residents.”

Additionally, “vacation rentals and third-party platforms advertising vacation rentals in Florida present attractive lodging destinations for individuals coming into Florida.”

However, with spring break come on gone, DeSantis can’t point to college kids crowding beaches and taking body shots for why to close the rentals.

One of the reopening’s tenets calls for preventing new infections from travelers.

The Governor’s Re-Open Florida Task Force report suggests vacation rentals could open in phase two, but only to Florida residents. Anyone traveling internationally or from domestic hot spots couldn’t rent, according to a subsequent suggestion.


President Donald Trump‘s “Opening Up America Again” framework outlines at least two weeks between phases, and DeSantis seems set to follow a similar timeline. On Wednesday, he told reporters the second phase was hopefully weeks rather than months away.

With the Memorial Day weekend less than three weeks away from the beginning of phase one, vacation rentals will likely have limitations if there are not still closed.

As COVID-19 began spreading in the United States, the Governor ordered that people traveling from New York City, New Orleans and the surrounding areas self-isolate for 14 days upon entering the state, which he says reduced the number of plane trips from the New York area. The state also set up highway checkpoints at the border on Interstate 10 and Interstate 95.

Restaurant dining rooms and retail storefronts will be open to customers but limited to 25% capacity under phase one. The first phase also permits outdoor seating at restaurants, as long as tables are spaced 6 feet apart.

VISIT FLORIDA CEO Dana Young, who led the task force’s working group involving tourism, said she hoped Florida residents, who would be more likely to immediately take an in-state trip, could put that industry on a path to recovery.

On Friday, Pensacola-area Republican Matt Gaetz weighed-in on the vacation rental ban during a press conference