Florida will be under a statewide 30-day stay-at-home order, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday.
The order will go into effect Thursday at midnight, DeSantis said.
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During a news conference, DeSantis said he issued the executive order after he had a conversation with President Donald Trump and looked at recommendations from the White House Task Force on COVID-19 to extend federal guidelines for social distancing and mitigation through April 30.
"(Trump) agreed with the approach of focusing on the hotspots, but at the same time, he understood that this another 30-day situation and you gotta do what makes the most sense," said DeSantis.
DeSantis said the order directs “all Floridians to limit movements and personal interactions outside the home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities.” It does not specifically identify consequences people will face if they violate the stay-at-home order.
In defining essential services, the governor relied on policies previously issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Miami-Dade County. Sectors of jobs that fall under the definition include health care, law enforcement, public works, water, energy, wastewater, logistics, food and agriculture and construction.
The order also allows people to take part in activities such as walking, biking, hiking, swimming, running, fishing and hunting within social-distancing guidelines and taking care of pets, family members or friends.
Attending religious services in churches, synagogues and other types of houses of worship also is included in the essential activities list. That came after a Tampa minister turned himself into local authorities after violating an order for people to stay at home and social distance.
“We don’t really know how all these measures work, because it’s never been tried on American society before. But, I think we find ourselves in a situation where we have a national pause,” DeSantis said, referring to a decision by the Trump administration to issue guidelines for people to minimize contact with others “We need to deal with this front and center, and we’ll figure out on the backend how we get out.”
DeSantis had not previously issued a statewide stay-at-home order despite calls to do so. His executive order follows the same social distancing guidelines issued by Trump and the task force.
DeSantis said more stringent guidelines had been issued for areas of south Florida, where the number of cases has been more severe. But he said he chose to issue the 30-day order statewide to guard against further outbreaks.
“I have not viewed previously that as being necessarily the same solution for the rest of the state, just because simply we have areas that have extremely low per-capita infections,” DeSantis said.
“Even though there’s a lot of places in Florida that have very low infection rates, it makes sense to make this move now.”
The decision by Trump to extend the national stay-at-home order for 30 days “represents effectively a national pause,” DeSantis said, adding “that’s just the reality we find ourselves in.”
On Tuesday evening, Trump and other officials painted a somber picture of the spread of the virus, saying it was possible that at least 100,000 Americans would die of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.
Before Wednesday’s decision, DeSantis issued executive orders that included targeting people traveling from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, as the New York City area has been inundated with coronavirus cases. DeSantis required anyone flying into Florida from those states to self-quarantine for two weeks. He later extended that order to include anyone driving into Florida from those states and Louisiana to self-isolate and authorized police to conduct traffic stops.
— Rick Kriseman (@Kriseman) April 1, 2020
“As it relates to the governor’s actions today, I’d say better late than never, but being late may have catastrophic consequences for our residents and our health care system,” Kriseman said. “I am glad he heeded our call for statewide uniformity and urge all reisdents of our city and state to remain safer at home.”
Terrie Rizzo, chair of the Florida Democratic Party, also responded to DeSantis’ decision.
“It is distressing that Governor Ron DeSantis waited until the coronavirus had spread to so many Floridians before finally issuing a statewide stay-at-home order,” Rizzo said in an email sent to reporters. “I hope this will finally slow the rise in infections and that his actions are not too late.”
The News Service of Florida contributed to this story.
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