TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WWSB/News Service of Florida) - Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday said he wants people age 65 and older and people with serious medical conditions to stay home for the next two weeks, as Florida continues to fight against the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“Folks who are 65-plus are the ones that have the best chance to suffer a negative outcome, and that’s disproportionately so when you talk about fatalities,” DeSantis said. “We want to make sure those folks are protected.”
DeSantis said state Surgeon General Scott Rivkees will issue a health advisory about people 65 and older and people with serious “underlying medical conditions” staying in their homes. The serious conditions include such things as chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, severe obesity and people in cancer treatment.
“I think that that’s important as well because as we’ve seen, the folks who may be under 65 who have suffered real serious hospitalizations or even death (from the coronavirus) have been people that usually have had a serious underlying medical condition,” DeSantis said.
But the governor said he’s still not a believer in issuing a statewide stay-at-home order.
DeSantis said from what he’s seen happening across the country when stay-at-home orders are issued, there is massive non-compliance and people flee the hot zones, like New York, which is in part why he issued restrictions from travelers from that area and expanded those restrictions on Tuesday.
“It’s not clear to me that doing a massive shutdown of the entire state would even work. I think you are seeing, in some of the states that have done this, there has really been huge noncompliance,” DeSantis said. “In New York City, it’s like the party never ended. You have got people congregating all over the place. You see images from California, in Orange County. I don’t think the beaches have ever been so crowded, with people going out. Again, these are people who have been ordered to shelter in place, and they are not complying with those orders. The fact of the matter is, a governor is not going to start imprisoning people just because they leave their house. So, you are going to have a lot of noncompliance.”
However, the governor is taking action to prevent gatherings. He already put out an executive order calling for no groups of more than 10 people. He said a new order Tuesday will expand that to include social or recreational groups that would be limited to less than 10 people, including in homes. In addition, DeSantis said he is directing “non-essential” businesses to promote telecommuting, with a goal of at least 50 percent of the businesses’ workforces telecommuting.
Florida has “community spread” of the highly contagious disease, with people not sure how or where they were infected. But DeSantis has not followed other states, including New York, New Jersey and California, in issuing a shelter-in-place mandate, which generally would require people to stay home except for essential activities.
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 and media outlets in the Tampa Bay area are reporting Tuesday the mayors of St. Petersburg and Tampa are considering citywide stay-at-home orders.
The issue of a stay-at-home order was discussed at Tuesday’s emergency meeting in Manatee County and there was a brief discussion around what constitutes an “essential” business. However, commissioners ultimately said their focus is on testing and getting additional supplies for first responders, hospitals, and health care providers.
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.