TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WWSB) - Governor Ron DeSantis says rising unemployment and forcing people to stay home may cause people long-term mental health consequences.
Federal numbers released Thursday show the highest number of jobless claims in American history, with more than three million people filing for unemployment last week, nearly five times as many as during the peak of the Great Recession. DeSantis has shut down bars and restaurants, cut off visitation at nursing homes and prisons and ordered senior citizens to stay home, as he attempts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
But the Republican governor’s efforts have sparked a partisan divide over whether he needs to do more to protect Floridians from COVID-19. DeSantis has issued a series of executive orders aimed at limiting face-to-face interactions and has encouraged Floridians to practice “social distancing” on their own. But the governor has avoided a more hardline statewide approach, citing concerns about intensifying the virus’ negative impact on the state’s economy and the mental health of residents.
“I really worry about suicide, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, child abuse if this is allowed to go for months and months on end,” DeSantis said.
“Clearly, we’ve got to do something about the virus, and there is no way a nine-month shutdown would possibly be sustainable. So, I think the question is going to be, let’s work to blunt the force of the virus. Let’s protect those folks who could be most in jeopardy of really negative health impacts. But let’s also get society functioning so the overall public health is better. Because when people are employed, and they’re able to put food on the table for their family, that’s better.”
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity will release February unemployment numbers on Friday. However, the full impact of the coronavirus on Florida's economy likely won't be seen until April, when jobless claims for March are released. As of midday Thursday, there were 2355 positive cases of COVID-19 in Florida, and 28 deaths.