‘Safer at Home:’ DeSantis asks Floridians to limit movements only to essential activities

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Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order that will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, asking all Floridians to “limit movement to only essential services and activities,” and stay at home.

He said, “it is an order to individuals to stay close to home.” It does not force non-essential businesses to close, but the public is advised to stay home as much as possible.

The governor says non-essential businesses may be able to do something else such as deliveries.

Your movements should be limited to essential things like work, grocery shopping, getting prescriptions, and such. You can see a full list of what Homeland Security considers essential services here.

DOCUMENT: Click here to read the executive order in its entirety.

DeSantis told reporters that he is issuing the order after consulting with President Donald Trump and White House advisers, who have said that Americans need to stay home throughout April.

”Even though there are a lot of places that have very low infection rates, it makes sense to make this move now,” DeSantis said.

The state’s confirmed cases have surpassed 7,000, with 102 deaths and over 900 people hospitalized, and an outbreak model cited at the White House shows exponential growth in the coming weeks. More than 30 other states had already issued such orders a week or more ago.

On Tuesday, Florida’s Democratic congressional delegation blasted DeSantis for failing to impose a statewide lockdown, saying the virus does not respect county lines.

DeSantis had been defending his county-by-county approach, saying it wouldn’t be fair to lock down the small, mostly rural counties with no or few confirmed infections. He issued a stay-at-home order Monday for Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties and the Florida Keys, last week ordered anyone arriving from the New York area and Louisiana into quarantine, and issued some statewide measures such as closing bars and gyms and limiting restaurants to takeout and delivery.

LINK: What counts as an “essential” business or “critical infrastructure workforce?”

Counties in the Tampa Bay area and central Florida issued their own lockdown orders, and Jacksonville announced Wednesday that it would join them on Friday.

The highly contagious virus that causes COVID-19 generally brings on mild or no symptoms, but it can cause serious illness, especially among older people.

A University of Washington model is projecting that Florida could see a rapid increase in deaths and hospitalizations, with 100 people dying daily by mid-April and more than 175 by May 1, when the number nears its peak. It predicts that 10,000 people will need hospital care by mid-month and 20,000 on May 1. The model predicts that more than 6,500 Floridians will die from the virus by June 1, among more than 90,000 deaths nationally.

DeSantis did not dispute those numbers when asked.

“This thing is really nasty,” DeSantis said. “It’s something that’s caused a lot of harm to a lot of people.”

Lee Health President & CEO, Larry Antonucci, M.D., MBA released the following on the order:

“We are pleased to hear that Governor Ron DeSantis is issuing an executive order asking all Floridians to limit their movement to only essential services and activities. While this is not a full stay at home order, it is a step in the right direction to encouraging and enforcing physical and social distancing. We are looking forward to hearing more details, but we believe this move could go a long way in helping us flatten the curve, slow the spread of COVID-19, protect lives and ease the potential strains on our health care system.”

DeSantis had resisted this order for weeks and, again, reiterated Wednesday that COVID-19 is not heavily impacting parts of the state. Now, he says it’s time for everyone to stay home.

The major exception, of course, is shopping for your essential needs.

This comes as the president fears that even with social distancing, we could see 240,000 people die across the country.

Collier County Commissioner Penny Taylor said this is something we absolutely needed because not enough people were staying home.

“I think this is a very prudent, important step,” she said. “I think it brings a sense of relief to the health care system. It certainly will bring a sense of relief to our citizens.”

Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello said the order is welcome news.

“I’ve been advocating this for now probably a couple of weeks,” he said. “Certainly, I feel we should have acted much sooner on a county level.”

Trump set the stage for DeSantis when he told the nation we’re in for a rough few weeks, saying, “The surge is coming and it’s coming pretty strong.”

Some of the essential businesses still allowed to stay open include grocery stores, gas stations, auto supplies, laundromats and more.

“There are some businesses that are non-essential, so yes, they’re not going to be able to have people congregate inside their businesses. But what they can do is they can do delivery orders and things like that,” DeSantis said.

The executive order will last through the end of the month.

As for enforcement, there is not a clear answer at this time. The governor avoided the question during his news conference and his executive order does not mention enforcement.

But Lee County said Wednesday that it could mean a misdemeanor, a fine and up to 60 days in jail.

DeSantis also said he is greenlighting transportation projects while the road is clear. As part of that, work on SR-951 in Collier County will be fast-tracked, which could mean more jobs in Southwest Florida.

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