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Ft. Lauderdale Mayor on Florida reopening order: ‘We have to learn to coexist’ with the virus

Fort Lauderdale, FL Mayor Dean Trantalis joins Yahoo Finance’s Zack Guzman to discuss the latest coronavirus concerns as Governor Ron DeSantis drops restrictions on restaurant and bars in the state.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: As we move along here in 2020 we've seen cases rising yet again on the pandemic front. When we look at that nationally, it's been a worrying trend over the last couple of days and weeks, really. Just yesterday, we saw the national case count rise above 43,000. Versus seven days ago, that was up by about more than 5,000 cases, the largest rise we've seen on a week-over-week basis since mid-July.

And overall, that's the story. But when you look at a state level, states-- still moving very differently to reopen the economy. The latest news out of Florida was, of course, the governor there, Ron DeSantis, choosing to take back those restrictions that were put in place, leaving local officials scrambling to try and clarify what they could do at a local level to prevent an uptick in cases.

And here to discuss that with us is the mayor of Fort Lauderdale. Dean Trantalis joins us now. Mayor Trantalis, talk to me about how that battle has been going on here, because you yourself had to issue an emergency order to clarify what bars and restaurants, the workers there should be doing. So what have you seen play out since that order was put in place?

DEAN TRANTALIS: Well, first of all, thank you, Zack, for inviting me on the program today. It's been touch and go. Let's face it. Pandemics are not the run-of-the-mill type of thing that government officials encounter in their responsibility. So everyone is really trying to figure out ways, best practices, and see how we can work together.

What we're finding in Florida is that the infection rate is continuing to trend downward. In my county in particular, Broward County, it's about half of what the state level is. So it seemed appropriate to start to open up more businesses. The point is that, we realize [INAUDIBLE] shut down this summer that we thought the disease would go away, and when we open back up, it wouldn't be here anymore.

But clearly, it's here. We've got to learn to coexist with it. And so right now, we're looking for ways to do that. And part of that endeavor is to see how we get people back on their feet, back to work, and still do it in a safe way.

So the governor on Friday issued a Phase 3 opening emergency order, in which he said, we now move into a phase where more restaurants can open. Bars can now open up. And local officials were supposed to promulgate guidelines to help facilitate the process and give some guidance to the community.

Unfortunately, it didn't happen that quickly. We waited over the weekend, and Monday, Tuesday came around. So I thought it was important that my city, being a hospitality city, be able to provide some answers to the business community, which we did. We issued those orders yesterday morning, and it gave guidelines to the bar and restaurant community how they can operate safely, and at the same time, be able to function so they still make money.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah. That's one of the questions here, too, because obviously we're dealing with the same thing in New York, a lot of businesses saying, look, you can't keep us closed down forever. But of course, you want to see those improvements on the health statistics you're talking about there.

Well, the other thing being discussed here on a national level that also obviously impacts your community, as well as other communities around the country, is what could come through here between Republicans and Democrats at the federal level trying to get through another stimulus bill. When we look at that, local aid still seems to be a sticking point for Republicans and Democrats.

So as a mayor, in navigating this, as you've seen tax revenues fall off a cliff due to the pandemic, what have you seen in terms of aid coming through from the state and federal level here to battle all of this and really fill in those gaps that you're seeing here in 2020?

DEAN TRANTALIS: Well, through the summer, the federal government was giving checks out to people who were unemployed. And you can't run a government losing money at $1 trillion a month. That's totally unsustainable. We had to find ways to reopen the economy and do so in a safe way.

So the federal government spigot has now been shut off. At the state level, the state has been very cooperative in allowing us to set up testing sites. It has been paying for all of that and continues to work with our cities in terms of trying to cope with the pandemic, cash out the unemployment checks. The state of Florida participated with the federal government for a short time in terms of paying additional money for unemployment. But that program has now ceased. The governor also established a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, again, to help people, working people, try to get through this.

But the reality is, we need to get people back to work. People want to earn a living. They want to be able to pay for their rent and get food on the table. And honestly, Zack, we never really took much direction from the federal government from day one. As you know, it's been very confusing up there. So we've attempted to work our way through this by looking and listening to local medical experts, working amongst my sister cities here in South Florida, and just try to find best practices that will be safe for the community.