“When can we go back?” That’s beginning to be the question many of you are asking. The truth is, “going back” is proving very challenging in places all around the world. New York now has more positive cases of the coronavirus THAN ANY NATION ON EARTH. While the virus is still spreading here in America, we’re paying very close attention to the various models other nations are trying, and I’m convinced the script for “going back” is completely dependent on our collective ability to contain, track and manage the spread of COVID-19. Just as predicted, this past week has indeed been challenging and our toughest days are still ahead of us. Lives and livelihoods continue to be lost, and we’re at least two weeks from Florida’s anticipated peak. Models continue to change (again), and the latest data shows Florida’s anticipated peak has shifted further back to April 27 – although I’ve seen some models that indicate an early May peak. Again, more testing and epidemiological tracking are essential as more data will allow us to reopen in the safest way possible. The last thing any of us want is to reopen in the way’s others have – only to start the spread and another round of quarantines. Just as Governor DeSantis tailored our response slowing the spread, I’m confident the “reopening” of Florida will be tailored, targeted, science-based and effective. Restarting the 17thlargest economy on earth will take a unified business community and a massive commitment to getting it right and I can’t wait to help lead it. 
 
BY THE NUMBERS: As of yesterday, Liberty County had its first positive case, which means all of Florida’s 67 counties now have positive COVID-19 cases. Florida now has 17,698 positive COVID-19 cases, that’s an increase of 1,142 since yesterday, and we’ve had 419 deaths (an increase of 48 from the day before). Florida has managed to significantly increase our testing and we’ve now tested 165,686, and we tested another 8,834 Floridians yesterday. Nearly 2,500 people are now hospitalized. The percentage of positive results has been approximately 10-11 percent of those tested for the past two weeks. Friends, we need to see this percentage drop significantly before we can start the process of sorting out the “reopening”. To see how many cases are in your county, click on our daily map here. 
 
INITIAL UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS:In the U.S., approximately 17 million of our fellow Americans have already filed initial unemployment claims. Here in Florida, initial unemployment claims for the last two weeks show that 169,885 Floridians have filed for unemployment benefits. This number is regrettably lower than reality, and our Chamber Foundation’s Chief Economist Dr. Jerry Parrish is monitoring these numbers closely. Like unemployment claims systems across the country, Florida’s UI system has been overwhelmed, and system-wide challenges delayed many Floridians attempting to file for benefits. Simply put, America’s state level unemployment systems weren’t built for a global pandemic, but Florida’s is already adapting. For perspective, Florida’s reemployment assistance program was built for about 20,000 internet connections at a time, not hundreds of thousands. 
 
Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson and his entire team at DEOhave been working around the clock to develop and implement massive improvements, and they have been successful. In the last week, 72 additional servers were installed to strengthen the platform, which doubled capacity to 120,000 users at a time. The reemployment assistance site is mobile friendly, and a new app has further increased access points for Floridians filing unemployment claims. You can access the unemployment benefit system here. Each Tuesday morning, I host a statewide webinar with over 150 of Florida’s leading chambers of commerce, and this coming week, we’ll all be talking about how to get the word out about the new system and how our Floridians in need can access the benefits businesses have paid for, and those laid off deserve. 
 
COVID-19 Resource Center: Please continue to visit our COVID-19 Resource Center for a complete listing of resources for your business, including:
 
 
Be sure to read the Federal Recovery Program Updates section below for up-to-date information on the status of federal recovery programs one week after they opened.
 
And see all the incredible things your fellow Florida Chamber members are doing by reading our Daily COVID-19 Membership Update, and visiting our Giving Back section. Thankfully, the spirit of free enterprise is helping answer the call for additional personal protection equipment for Florida’s front line healthcare workers. Our make-shift COVID-19 Call Centerhas connected millions of masks, thousands of ventilators and other PPE to Florida’s Department of Emergency Management. Please continue reaching out to Tanya Bechtold in our COVID-19 Call Center if you have the ability to manufacture swabs and/or masks, procure them and/or donate them. Contact her at tbechtold@flchamber.com or 850-521-1218.
 
If there’s information I’m not providing in this daily email, simply let me know and we’ll make every effort to get you what you need in our collective time of need. Share this with others and ask them to sign-up to receive a copy.  
 
 
My Best,
 
Mark Wilson
President and CEO