TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WWSB/AP/News Service of Florida) - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he wants to avoid imposing a statewide lockdown because of the coronavirus.
Speaking Monday at The Villages retirement community, DeSantis said he doesn’t want to impose undue hardships on the two-thirds of Florida counties with few or no confirmed cases. He said he still believes a county-by-county approach is best.
Several night time curfews currently exist in parts of Central and South Florida. Miami Beach and two other Miami-Dade County municipalities along with Gainesville and Alachua County issued stay-at-home orders on Monday.
Some counties such as Miami-Dade and Broward have closed beaches and other gathering spots and imposed severe restrictions on businesses that can be open. Other counties, including Sarasota and Manatee counties, only shut down their beaches.
- Gov. DeSantis issued executive orders ending dine-in at restaurants, closing all gyms and suspending non-essential, elective medical procedures. More information here.
- Sarasota and Manatee counties closed their beaches. More information here.
- Mall at UTC, Sarasota Square Mall, Westfield Siesta Key and Ellenton Outlets shut down due to coronavirus. More information here.
- Area hospitals, including Sarasota and Manatee Memorial Hospitals, ban visitors. More information here.
DeSantis said he also doesn’t want to close daycare centers because medical personnel and other essential employees need someone to look after their children.
“You need to practice the social distancing, but you don’t necessary just have to shut in 24 hours a day. I think that is a more sustainable model. The more people are shut in, I think the more anxious they get," DeSantis said.
But Florida’s top elected Democrat, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, feels Florida should join several other states, including California, Illinois and New York by enacting a uniform statewide policy. Fried says leaving the decision to local governments creates confusion about the importance of social distancing.
“If you are doing all these precautionary matters, we have the power individually. So, I think you look at it as that we are empowering people more than anything else to really take their own health and wellness, and that of their family members, seriously," she argued.
However, DeSantis says society will only follow the strict limitations for a short period of time, before they no longer listen. He says allowing some limited movement is a more sustainable model.
“There’s just a lot of angst out there. So, if we can do this in a way that gives people a little bit of relief and an outlet, within the confines of being safe, I think we are better for it," the governor said.
A stay-at-home order would close non-essential businesses, and people could only leave home for a narrow list of activities including shopping for groceries, getting takeout dinner, visiting a doctor, or going to the bank.
“We need to do everything possible to stop the spread of the coronavirus. We have a significant elderly population here in our state. It’s not so much about me and it’s not so much about the kids, because we are all healthy. It’s about spreading it to my grandmother and spreading it to my mom who was just going through cancer last year. That’s really what we need to make sure we are doing, is that we are isolating it," Fried contended.
In the 6pm update on Friday, there were 563 cases statewide. As of 11am on Monday, there are 1,171 and a 14th person has died. But DeSantis stresses the increased number of positive cases should not cause undue concern.
“The vast, vast majority of people are testing negative for this,” DeSantis said.
According to state figures, more than 13,000 people have been tested for the virus. That’s more than most states, but less than New York. And of those, 11,063 have tested negative.
Over the weekend, Baker, Bay, Bradford, Columbia, DeSoto, Flagler, Marion, and Putnam reported their first cases, joining the ever growing list of Florida counties with cases of coronavirus. Other counties include: Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Collier, Duval, Escambia, Gadsden, Hernando, Hillsborough, Indian River, Jackson, Lake, Lee, Leon, Manatee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Nassau, Okaloosa, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Seminole, Sumter, Volusia, and Walton.
It is now easier to count the number of counties that do not have cases. In Florida, that’s 22 out of 67 counties.