CAPE CORAL, Fla -- Lee County Chairman and Commissioner Brian Hamman spoke one-on-one with Fox 4's Jessica Alpern, about his role on the Governor Ron DeSantis' Reopen Florida Task Force.
Friday is expected to be a crucial day for the force, which is scheduled to hold four final meetings. All of the information discussed will then be compiled over the weekend, with statewide recommendations from the governor expected as early as mid-week.
Hamman is serving on one of the task force industry working groups. He was specifically brought in to share insight when it comes to local government, but his role will go beyond that. He, along with Syd Kitson who Alpern interviewed earlier this week, are among the few Southwest Florida leaders on the force. So we asked how he's working to make sure our local issues are brought to the table. Including the fact that Lee County has the seventh highest number of unemployment claims filed in our state.
"I definitely think we all understand that it's not happening as fast as anybody wants. We're going to do everything we can to make sure Southwest Florida is heard by the governor," Hamman said.
Despite health concerns from critics, he believes Florida can reopen in a safe way. In fact when asked what getting our area's seasonal businesses back on their feet will look like, he shared the following vision.
"I envision first that we need to look at how things go by just getting residents up and going again before we start bringing in any other travel or visitation from folks. We can't necessarily restrict all travel, people do have freedom of movement. But we need to focus on not what we're doing but how we can do it safely," he said.
To those who feel Florida shouldn't even be talking about a reopening yet, he said "just like when a brand new restaurant opens up, there will be some people who will go and try that restaurant on the very first night but there will be others who will wait several weeks before they show up. That's exactly how this is going to work when things roll out in our economy." He added "that will be a natural way to help phase in the phasing that we're already going to be putting in place."
Hamman credited social distancing measures taken by the people of Lee County for why the area never saw its anticipated surge.
"This was supposed to be the peak, this week right here. This was supposed to be the week that we saw the surge. The surge didn't happen thanks to the good work of people who stayed home and protected themselves. And now that we're in this point where we can begin to plan a phase three opening, some of us will feel more comfortable going out earlier than others and that's okay," he said.
Alpern asked him how often concerns over a second wave of Florida cases come up in the daily task force meetings.
"It is literally mentioned in every single conversation, what do we do to plan just in case a second surge would come," he answered.
Hamman said he believes Lee County will be far better prepared if that were to happen.
Following Friday's meetings and work over the weekend, the task force executive committee will make its presentation to the governor Monday. After that is when the official recommendations are expected to follow.