TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order Wednesday as federal and local pressure mounted for him to abandon the county-by-county approach he had implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
DeSantis told reporters that he is issuing the order after consulting with President Donald Trump and White House advisers, who have said that Americans need to stay home throughout April. It goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday.
“”Even though there are a lot places that have very low infection rates, it makes sense to make this move now,” DeSantis said.
The Republican’s announcement came hours after the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams, said on NBC’s “Today” show that he would tell DeSantis that the federal guidelines for social distancing should be viewed as “a national stay-at-home order.”
The state’s confirmed cases are approaching 7,000, with 86 deaths and almost 900 people hospitalized, and an outbreak model cited at the White House shows exponential growth in the coming weeks. More than 30 others states had already issued such orders a week or more ago.
On Tuesday, Florida’s Democratic congressional delegation blasted DeSantis for failing to impose a statewide lockdown, saying the virus does not respect county lines.
DeSantis had been defending his county-by-county approach, saying it wouldn’t be fair to lock down the small, mostly rural counties with no or few confirmed infections. He issued a stay-at-home order Monday for Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties and the Florida Keys, last week ordered anyone arriving from the New York area and Louisiana into quarantine, and issued some statewide measures such as closing bars and gyms and limiting restaurants to takeout and delivery.
Counties in the Tampa Bay area and central Florida issued their own lockdown orders, and Jacksonville announced Wednesday that it would join them on Friday.
The highly contagious virus that causes COVID-19 generally brings on mild or no symptoms, but it can cause serious illness, especially among older people.
A University of Washington model is projecting that Florida could see a rapid increase in deaths and hospitalizations, with 100 people dying daily by mid-April and more than 175 by May 1, when the number nears its peak. It predicts that 10,000 people will need hospital care by mid-month and 20,000 on May 1. The model predicts that more than 6,500 Floridians will die from the virus by June 1, among more than 90,000 deaths nationally.
DeSantis did not dispute those numbers when asked.
“This thing is really nasty,” DeSantis said. “It’s something that’s caused a lot of harm to a lot of people.”
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