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In NPR Interview, Castor Says DeSantis Order 'Better Late Than Never,' Calls Tampa Pastor 'Reckless'

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor says Gov. Ron DeSantis’ stay at home order is “better late than never” as the state deals with a surge in coronavirus cases. ";s:3:

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor says Gov. Ron DeSantis’ stay at home order is “better late than never” as the state deals with a surge in coronavirus cases.

She also called a Tampa pastor “reckless” for holding services in a crowded church despite a Hillsborough County stay-at-home order, and questioned DeSantis' determination that religious activity is defined as an  "essential activity" that would be permitted.

Castor weighed in on various topics during an interview Thursday with Rachel Martin on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

DeSantis' announcement Wednesday came as federal and local pressure mounted for him to abandon the county-by-county approach he had previously implemented.

Castor told Martin the state’s largest cities took a proactive approach by issuing their own orders.

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“We were in constant contact with the mayors of Miami, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, and each of us had already put a stay at home, safer at home order in place some time ago,” Castor said. “I'm glad that the governor has taken this action and there have been many that have asked for it. But the larger urban, more densely populated areas have already taken those steps.”

While Tampa’s hospitals are seeing an influx in COVID-19 patients, Castor said she’s confident the city’s health system will not be overwhelmed.

“We are confident from the modeling that we have flattened the curve to the point that we're not going to see the explosion in the hospitals that some of these other cities have seen,” she said.

Castor questioned why DeSantis made the allowance for church services.

“I’m not sure why that was included in there,” Castor said, citing the “overarching rules no more than 10 individuals at any one location and you have to stay 6 feet away from each other” as well as the only essential service provision.

“I have talked with just about all of the ministers, pastors and reverends in the city of Tampa, and they have the ability to have services through Facebook, or other electronic presentations.”

Castor called Pastor Rodney Howard Browne “reckless” for holding services at Tampa’s River Church on  Sunday and suggested he did so for publicity.

Hundreds attended the gathering, which drew attention from Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister. Browne was later arrested and charged with unlawful assembly for violating the county’s stay at home order.

Castor said she spent three decades in local law enforcement, with much of that dedicated to emergency management.

"And I can say I've never seen this lack of unpreparedness on the federal level," she said. "And I can understand that everyone was caught to a degree by surprise. But we've been at this for a month now, and not to be able to have produced some of these items by this time is very, very surprising."

Castor also lamented the lack of federal stimulus money that's being allocated for cities with fewer than half a million people. There's only 33 cities nationwide that qualify - and none in the Tampa Bay area.

"I would hope that Secretary Mnuchin and others would rethink that distribution model. Because it really is the cities that are on the front lines of fighting this, and will be hurt the most economically. And so we're going to need that funding to get back up on our feet."


Bradley George was a Morning Edition host and reporter at WUSF until March 2022.
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