Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dragged his feet on issuing a stay-at-home order for the state.
Update: Gov. Ron DeSantis finally conceded to health experts and issued a statewide stay-at-home order on Wednesday afternoon.
But Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has repeatedly failed to take this step to protect his constituents from COVID-19, making Florida the most impacted state not to have such an order.
For many students, spring break came as public health officials were urging social distancing measures. Despite numerous calls to shut down Florida's beaches, DeSantis refused to do so.
Instead, he left the decision up to local governments while urging people to obey social distancing guidelines.
"We're also in a situation where we have counties who have no community spread. We have some counties that don't have a single positive test yet," he claimed on March 19 at a press conference.
"But I've stood by every local community — Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale — we're backing them. [Miami-Dade] Mayor Gimenez just [closed parks and beaches]. That's great if that's good for them. But I also think we're going to be in a situation where if people are able to go out and be spaced out — so, these are not spring [breakers]," DeSantis argued.
DeSantis predicted, "You're going to see some fatigue on this mitigation in 10 days, two weeks" and called for "social distancing in ways that will effectively halt the spread of the virus, but are also sustainable if this ends up going, you know, many weeks and many months."
Thousands of college students congregated on Florida beaches that week. And a data firm reported on Tuesday that they may have brought the coronavirus back home and spread it further across the country.
Florida's Democratic congressional delegation wrote to DeSantis on March 25 asking for a "statewide shelter-in-place" order. Instead, DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order on Monday but only for four south Florida counties — Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach — lasting just through April 15.
"This codifies a common set of rules regarding 'safer at home' in Southeast Florida," he said at a news conference. "It gets all four counties operating under the same sheet of music."
According to the state's health department, three of those are populous counties with large numbers of coronavirus cases. But Monroe County has reported just 27 cases as of April 1, well below the totals in unmentioned counties such as Collier (146 cases), Duval (207 cases), Hillsborough (315 cases), Orange (373 cases), and Seminole (103 cases).
On Friday and Saturday, DeSantis also instituted checkpoints at the state's border to discourage people from Louisiana and the New York City area from entering the state. "We're just worried about the people fleeing some of those areas," he explained.
On Monday, he warned against allowing "foreigners" with the virus to disembark from a cruise ship in his state.
Despite doing less than many other governors have to address COVID-19, Donald Trump's newly adopted home state received all of the emergency medical supplies it requested from the administration, while more proactive states did not.
On Tuesday, DeSantis told reporters he wasn't doing a statewide order because Trump's team had not instructed him to do so. "The task force is not recommending this," he claimed. "If they do, that’s something that would carry a lot of weight with me."
More than 6,700 positive tests for the coronavirus have been confirmed in Florida. On Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted a statistical model showing that, by next month, 136 Floridians could die each day of COVID-19 under the state's current trajectory.
Asked Wednesday about DeSantis and other governors who have refused to issue statewide state-at-home directives, Surgeon General Jerome Adams told NBC News, "My advice to America would be that these guidelines are a national stay-at-home order."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.