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Amid a surge in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the area, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a “safer-at-home” order for four counties in South Florida on Monday that he said would be in place through mid-May.
DeSantis announced the order during a press conference Monday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, where health officials have set up a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site. The order comes as the state now has recorded some 5,000 confirmed cases of the virus, including 523 new positive cases on Sunday, as reported by The Hill.
Nearly six in ten (59%) of the confirmed cases are in four counties: Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe Counties, the Miami Herald reports.
“This codifies a common set of rules regarding ‘safer at home’ in Southeast Florida,” said DeSantis, as reported by the Herald. “It gets all four counties operating under the same sheet of music.”
The Herald notes that DeSantis borrowed the “safer-at-home” language from Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who issued a similar mandate for the county last week soon after Broward issued a “shelter-in-place” order.
“Shelter in place is for short-term emergencies when people are in imminent danger,” Gimenez explained in a video message Thursday. The phrase “safer at home,” he explained, more appropriately conveys the nature of the longer-term policy Miami-Dade and other counties are advising.
“Local governments have also established curfews, fines and other measures to keep people at home,” the Herald reports. “Orange County, which is not affected by the order, has also implemented similar orders.”
As he emphasized in the press conference Monday, DeSantis’s order for South Florida was a “codification” of actions already taken by the four counties. Another 25 counties in the state have likewise issued some form of “safer-at-home” orders.
DeSantis has been attempting to handle the crisis in a balanced manner, the new directive following this pattern of not imposing measures in an overly broad or strict manner. Some have criticized DeSantis for his more incremental approach, particularly as an increasing number of governors have ordered state-wide lockdowns.
Democrats in the state have begun to ramp up the pressure on the governor to impose more broad-based measures, including ten members of the U.S. Congress, who penned a letter last week calling on him to issue “statewide shelter-in-place orders.” Below is an excerpt of the letter signed by ten Democratic members of Congress, including Ted Deutch, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson:
To effectively slow COVID-19’s spread, we are asking you to issue a shelter-in-place order for the entire state. The order should allow only travel for essential services like grocery stores and health care providers, and to and from the workplace for critical workers. California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin have already issued similar orders. With the highest concentration of older residents of any state, Florida is at even greater risk of serious impacts on the health of our residents and burden on our health care system.
While we appreciate the state’s efforts to expand testing, it is not enough to provide a full understanding of the spread of COVID-19 across Florida. We are committed to doing everything we can to support the expansion of testing efforts in Congress, but we cannot wait for testing access, personal protective equipment, swabs, and other essential items before we take necessary action to slow the spread.
We understand the grave economic consequences this action will have. But hoping to dull the impacts on the economy in the short term by delaying a shelter-in-place order will only exacerbate those impacts in the medium and long term. Instead, we must accept the necessity of shelter-in-place order now while Congress works quickly to pass an economic stimulus bill that will save jobs, replace lost incomes, and support all Americans. In the long run, the cost of preventive action will save trillions of dollars and save lives.