County, state task forces created to reopen businesses, boost economy

Officials with the state of Florida and Orange County have put together groups of experts from various businesses and organizations to work on plans for boosting the economy.

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Orange County has created a task force whose aim is to reopen the county as quickly and safely as possible, and the team of healthcare professionals, business owners, company presidents and county officials met for the first time Wednesday, April 22.

The Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force was formed after the coronavirus pandemic forced the government to temporarily close businesses and public gathering places in hopes of slowing the spread of the illness. The group is co-chaired by George Aguel, president of Visit Orlando, and Tim Giuliani, president of the Orlando Economic Partnership, and will hold weekly virtual meetings.

The task force will develop a phased approach to opening businesses. According to county officials, the task force has four priorities: to assist businesses with best practices and data-driven policies to protect the safety of employees and customers upon reopening; support small to mid-sized business as they reopen; develop a framework that ensures businesses are compliant with safety guidelines; and revitalize tourism and build visitor confidence.

“Our ultimate goal is to stop the spread of the virus and not put ourselves in any situation where we open too quickly or open without giving the proper instruction to our community to stay safe.”

— Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings

Andrea Wesser-Brawner, chief innovation and emerging technologies officer for Orange County, shared a proposed three-phase approach to reopening businesses in the county. It would take a minimum of six weeks to complete the phases, and the first phase would begin once the Florida Department of Health reports, among other things, a downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases.

In Phase 1, there is low human interaction. Employers would continue to encourage telework, would have their employees return to work in phases, close common areas where personnel are likely to congregate, minimize non-essential travel and consider special accommodations for personnel who are vulnerable.

In Phase 2, there is medium human interaction, and non-essential travel can resume.

In Phase 3, there is high human interaction. Visits to senior care facilities and hospitals can resume, large venues can operate under limited physical distancing protocols, gyms can reopen with standard sanitation protocols, and bars can operate with increase standing room occupancy where applicable.

Employers would have to develop and implement appropriate policies regarding social distancing and protective equipment, temperature checks, testing and contact tracing, sanitation, disinfection of common and high-traffic areas, and business travel.

Dr. Scott Brady, senior vice president of Ambulatory Services for AdventHealth, and Dr. George Ralls, medical chief quality officer of Orlando Health, both outlined their individual hospital’s calculated phasing-in approach.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings held a press conference later that day to share the purpose of the task force and its plan to get Orange County’s businesses reopened to help with economy recovery.

“We want to reopen Orange County as fast as possible — but also balance that with the health and safety needs of our community,” Demings said. “This will happen in phases; it will not happen overnight. It might be several weeks before we see the first business open. … The worst thing that I think anyone of us want is to relive this experience at an even worse result than what we are already experiencing.”

He stressed the importance of taking the advice of medical professionals.

“We’re asking the community to have the patience during the pandemic,” Demings said. “Right now, people should still be adhering to the stay-at-home order.

“Nonessential businesses should still be closed,” he said. “We understand the economic impact that this is having on our small businesses, but we have a public responsibility — a human responsibility — to protect human life at the same time, so the government’s role is to sometimes protect people from themselves.”



Members of the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force are Dr. Scott Brady, AdventHealth; Jesse Martinez, Alfond Inn; Inez Long, Black Business Investment Fund; Pamela Nabors, CareerSource Central Florida; Evelyn Cardenas, Central Florida Auto Dealers Association; Doug Taylor, Church Street Entertainment; Dave George, Darden Restaurants; Florencia “Larry” Rodriguez, Don Julio’s Mexican Kitchen; Kathy Ramsberger, Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts; Dr. Raul Pino, Florida Department of Health – Orange County; Steve Garrity, Highwoods Properties; John Henry, J. Henry’s Barber Shop; Michael Thomas, John Michael Exquisite Weddings & Catering; Johnny Rivers, Johnny Rivers Grill & Market; John Newstreet, Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce; Brandon Matulka, Lake County Agency for Economic Prosperity; Mary Chau, C. Spa & Nail Spa, Mike Van del Abbeel, Mosaic Hair Studio; Jerry Ross, National Entrepreneur Center; Wayne Rich, Nelson, Mullins/Broad and Cassel; Dr. Barbara Jenkins, Orange County Public Schools; Alex Leitao, Orlando City Soccer Club; Dr. George Ralls, Orlando Health; Phil Brown, Orlando International Airport, Alex Martins, Orlando Magic; Douglas Love-Ramos, Orlando Shakespeare Theater; Augusto Sanabria, Prospera; Pastor Roderick Zack, Rejoice in the Lord Ministries and president, African American Council of Christian Clergy; Dan Giordano, Rosen Shingle Creek; Brad Gilmour, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment; Tricia Johnson, Seminole County Government; Steve Jamieson, The Mall at Millennia; Conrad Santiago, The Trentham Santiago Group; Deborah Linden, The Vineyard Wine Bar & Healthy Bistro; Sandy Hostetter, Truist; Dr. Youcheng Wang, UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management; Chuck Whittall, Unicorp National Development; Rich Costales, Universal Orlando; Harold Mills, VMD Ventures LLC; Monesia Brown, Walmart Inc; Thomas Mazloum, Walt Disney World Resort; Todd Souders, WaWa Inc.; and Dan Wilcox, YMCA of Central Florida.



Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hosted a conference call Tuesday, April 21, among members of a statewide task force committee formed to create a plan for reopening the state.

The Re-Open Task Force Industry Working Group on Tourism, Construction, Real Estate, Recreation, Retail and Transportation discussed how it will approach the reopening of Florida’s economy.

“Opening Florida gets people back to work and back to some semblance of normalcy,” DeSantis said.

If it is done methodically and carefully, the plan can be successful, he said. As people begin returning to work and residents start returning to their normal day-to-day activities, it will be important to look at businesses as “high risk” and “low risk,” he said.

“Private businesses are thinking long and hard what things they should do to make a safe environment,” DeSantis said.



The task force members include representatives from local governments, tourism, theme parks, restaurants and hotels: Dana Young, president and CEO, VISIT FLORIDA; Secretary Halsey Beshears, Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation; Secretary Kevin Thibault, Florida Department of Transportation; mayors Lenny Curry of Jacksonville and David Kerner of Palm Beach County; Sheldon Suga, chairman, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association; Blake Casper, CEO, Caspers Company; Amy Schwartz, owner, Bella Bella Restaurant; Collier Merrill, president, Merrill Land Company; Philip Goldfarb, president and COO, Fontainebleau Miami Beach; John Tolbert, president and managing director, Boca Resort and Club; Jose Cil, CEO, Restaurant Brands International; Josh D'Amaro, president, Walt Disney World Resort; John Sprouls, CEO, Universal Orlando Resort, and executive vice president, Universal Parks & Resorts; Tim Petrillo, cofounder and CEO, The Restaurant People; Dev Motwani, president and CEO, Merrimac Ventures; Chad Harrod, CEO, Harrod Properties Inc.; Walter Carpenter, chairman, NFIB Florida Leadership Council; Len Brown, executive vice president and chief legal officer, PGA Tour Inc.; Gary Lester, vice president, The Villages for Community Relations; Glen Gilzean, president and CEO, Central Florida Urban League; Max Alvarez, president, Sunshine Gasoline Distributors Inc.; Tom Crowley, CEO, Crowley Maritime Corporation; Joe Lopano, CEO, Tampa International Airport; Ted Christie III, president and CEO, Spirit Airlines; Rick Sasso, president and CEO, MSC Cruises; Maury Gallagher Jr., chairman and CEO, Allegiant Air; AJ de Moya, vice president and general manager, The de Moya Group Inc.; Paul Anderson, CEO, Port Tampa Bay; Ken Stiles, CEO, Stiles Corporation; Bob Flowers, president, C.W. Roberts Contracting Inc.; Rob Kornahrens, president and CEO, Advanced Roofing and Green Technologies; Monesia Brown, director of Public Affairs and Government Relations, Walmart; Cody Kahn, owner, Holiday Inn Resort; and Matthew Caldwell, president and CEO, Florida Panthers Hockey Club.



A statewide executive committee was announced Monday, April 20, as well, and includes state and local government officials and representatives from some of the state’s largest companies.

Members of the Re-Open Florida Task Force Executive Committee are Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez; Jimmy Patronis, Florida chief financial officer; Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody; Bill Galvano, president, Florida Senate; House Speaker Jose Oliva; State Sen. Wilton Simpson, president-designate; State Rep. Chris Sprowls, speaker-designate; Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran; Jamal Sowell, president and CEO, Enterprise Florida Inc.; Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez; Broward County Mayor Dale Holness; Palm Beach County Mayor David Kerner; John Couris, president and CEO, Tampa General Hospital; Josh D’Amaro, pres ident, Walt Disney World Resort; Todd Jones, CEO, Publix Super Markets; Syd Kitson, Board of Governors chairman for the State University System; Paul Reilly, chairman and CEO, Raymond James Financial; Alex Sanchez, president and CEO, Florida Bankers Association; Eric Silagy, president and CEO, Florida Power & Light Company; John Sprouls, CEO, Universal Orlando Resort and executive vice president, Universal Parks & Resorts; Patrick Sunderlin, vice president, Global Supply Chain, Lockheed Martin Corporation; and Joe York, president, AT&T Florida and Caribbean.



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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