Florida works to enforce incoming out-of-state travel order

Reporter: Erika Jackson Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News

Executive orders are in place that mandate visitors from COVID-19 hotspots quarantine for 14 days in the state or the length of their trip in Florida, whichever is shorter. Since then, we’ve had dozens of emails and calls asking about enforcement.

The Florida Department of Health and Florida Highway Patrol are working to respond to travelers flying and driving into the state to help enforce the governor’s executive order.

With a rapid rise of COVID-19 cases in New York’s tri-state area, there’s growing concern of visitors flocking to Florida.

“I would reckon, given the outbreak there, that every single flight has somebody on it who is positive for COVID-19,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said publicly.

DeSantis issued several executive orders mandating travelers from heavily affected areas in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut self-quarantine for 14 days, upon arrival. Airline workers, active health care, emergency and military responders are all exempt from the order governor’s order of the affected areas.

“This is just a way to make sure that we are keeping people safe,” DeSantis said.

Florida National Guard and Florida Department of Health are helping screen air travelers, asking about their trip and providing self-isolation requirements but no temperature checks. FDOH in Charlotte County is at Punta Gorda Airport performing screenings of travelers from the affected areas under the governor’s order.

On the roads, Florida highway patrol is doing the same for drivers. Visitors who don’t follow the quarantine order face a fine of up to $500 and 60 days in jail. The order states it’s up to local government and law enforcement to help the health department enforce the order.

The department of health says it’s making random calls to monitor travelers.

But Charlotte County Sheriff’s office tells us the department hasn’t asked for help with quarantine-related issues. But did share details about what it is entrusted to do regarding the governor’s order in its jurisdiction.

CCSO statement: Our role at the airport is to keep the peace and assist the Department of Health. The addresses of those traveling and staying in our community are entered into our system so first responders are aware may any future incidents arise and can use universal precautions. We have not received any directive from the DOH to assist them in any specific quarantine issues.

We called the COVID-19 hotline and were  told there’s no direct way to enforce it. But, if someone wants to report a local violation, contact the county health department.

If you do choose to come to Florida from out of state, self-quarantine to stop the spread.

As for Sharron Root, who owns property in Port Charlotte, she’s just staying put up north.

“It’s just being respectful of you need to take care of the people in your area at this point in time,” Root said.

Statement from health department in Charlotte County:

The Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County has been on site to screen and hand out educational material to all incoming passengers aboard New York flights. So far, there have been 3 flights which included a total of 31 passengers. Forms have been collected from each passenger/family.

Upon arrival, each passenger received a copy of the Governor’s Executive Order, the traveler’s card which explains the self-isolation requirements, how to get more information, and what to do if they get ill, as well as a copy of how to manage respiratory symptoms at home. The Department of Health will also be making random calls to monitor individuals.

There are no incoming flights from New Jersey, Connecticut, or Louisiana to the Punta Gorda Airport at this time.

From grocery/food delivery to community organizations, there are many resources available to the citizens and visitors of Charlotte County to assist with self-isolation. Anyone in need of assistance, is urged to call 211 or visit the Charlotte County website for list of resources available.

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