By John Haughey | The Center Square
Gov. Ron DeSantis again rebuffed calls Monday to impose a statewide stay-at-home order, calling a blanket shutdown unnecessary across large swaths of the state.
About one-third of Florida’s 67 counties has not reported confirmed cases of the coronavirus or the disease it causes, COVID-19, DeSantis said, and another one-third has reported only a few cases.
Rather than impose a statewide business shutdown and ban all social gatherings the way California, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Illinois have to varying degrees, DeSantis said Florida must focus on containing COVID-19 where it's spreading the most – south Florida’s Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
A statewide shutdown inadvertently could spread the coronavirus, DeSantis said, as COVID-19 refugees migrate elsewhere to find jobs or hunker down with family.
“In New York (City), when they did the stay-at-home order, what did people do? A lot of people fled the city and they are going to stay with their parents or fly (out),” DeSantis said Monday in The Villages.
And where did many fly? Florida, DeSantis said.
“We are getting huge amounts of people flying in. We are looking at how to address those flights,” he said.
DeSantis said he talked to President Donald Trump on Sunday night about the difficulty in containing the coronavirus outbreak with people flying in and out of the state.
As of Monday afternoon, according to the state Department of Health (DOH) coronavirus website, 1,171 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Florida, and 14 have died.
A week ago, there were 115 positive cases and four deaths statewide. By Friday, those totals reached 500 cases and 10 deaths. The big boost in numbers has been spurred by the increasing number of private labs analyzing tests in Florida – 699 positive test results returned by private labs.
The state expects 500,000 sampling swabs this week, meaning with increased testing capabilities, the number of reported cases will spike dramatically. According to the DOH, as of Monday morning, it had conducted 9,330 negative tests, with 933 still pending.
Last week, DeSantis issued four executive orders. On Friday, he ordered bars and gyms closed and limited restaurants to takeout/delivery, and issued an order to close beaches in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Some counties and cities have gone further, closing nonessential businesses, beaches, marinas and parks. DeSantis said he will leave authority in the hands of local leaders.
The state ordered all 174 state parks closed and shut down the Florida Lottery on Monday but did not close day care centers. There are still first-responders, police, medical professionals and hospital workers who need day care centers, especially with schools closed, DeSantis said.
“It is something we are looking at, but I don’t think it is as easy as saying, ‘Shut all this down and things are going to work out,’ ” he said.
Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando; Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach; and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried – Florida’s only statewide-elected Democrat – are among those calling for DeSantis to issue a state stay-at-home order.
“Shutting down one of the nation’s largest states is a decision that will have an economic impact – but it is a decision that will save lives,” Fried said Monday. “Based on the data, we know we are a week behind California’s vast increase in COVID-19 cases. The individuals and businesses I’ve spoken with are growing more anxious by the day. As the nation’s third-largest state, we need to go further, and we cannot afford to lose another week.”
Fried said an across-the-board order would be more effective than the current “piecemeal approach.”