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Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday expanded the state’s self-isolation mandate to apply to anyone who traveled from the New York, New Jersey or Connecticut area in the last three weeks to self-isolate for 14 days in an effort to control the spread of coronavirus.
“Please, please, if you come in from the hot zone....you need to self isolate that’s the requirement in Florida,” DeSantis said, at a press conference at the state’s emergency operations warehouse in Orlando.
The new executive order will expand on one that took effect Tuesday that requires anyone on a flight from those areas to self-isolate for 14 days upon their arrival in Florida. The new order requires anyone who has traveled to or from those regions in the last three weeks to also identify the people they have had contact with and to inform them they may have been exposed to the virus.
“It’s pretty clear this thing has been passed around there for weeks and weeks and anyone who has been there has a shot [at getting the virus],’’ DeSantis said.
“In terms of the challenge that we’re facing right now, people realize the epicenter of this thing has shifted,’’ he said. “First, it was Wuhan, China, then it went to Italy and now it’s New York City. We’re really rooting for New York to do better.”
Despite mounting public pressure and public health advice, DeSantis continued to reject calls to lock down Florida to contain the virus. The goal of a state-wide lockdown is to contain the virus and prevent its spread to prevent overwhelming the hospital system.
DeSantis acknowledged that Florida is experiencing community spread of the virus but said he believes that a statewide shutdown of businesses would do more harm.
“Different communities have done different mitigation measures,” he said. “We supported working with the local communities to apply an approach that makes sense for them.”
He acknowledged that there is a delay in testing results, and touted the increasing number of testing supplies the state has, but said his decisions have been dependent on the testing data, not getting ahead of it.
“There’s second- and third-order consequences from some of this that you have to think through,’’ he said, mentioning the strain on families with parents working in healthcare while children remain at home because schools are closed. He lamented the impact on the public’s mental health, on businesses and the surge in unemployment.
“My goal is try to protect the public health as best I can, and that obviously involves the virus, but it also involves some of the other public health issues that could also be impacted by what we’re doing here,’’ he said.
Miami-Dade and Broward counties were the first to order non-essential businesses to close and other communities have followed.
“There are certain parts of the state where they have more sporadic cases, and to order someone not to be able to have a paycheck when them going to work is not going to have an affect on what we’re doing with the virus, that’s something that’s inappropriate,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis also repeated his anecdotal evidence that lock downs in more than a dozen other states aren’t working. “I talked to a buddy in California who said he’s never seen the beaches so crowded,’’ he said.
He added that he even has questions about whether the school closures have been effective and cited Singapore which has been able to keep schools open. He did not mention that, unlike Florida, the Singapore government imposed strict interventions early and tested people aggressively early in the crisis.
“There’s no difference in how the virus spread in either of the countries,’’ he said, noting there is “not a lot of data to support” closing schools.
Meanwhile, the number of cases in Florida continued to climb. The Florida Department of Health confirmed Wednesday 215 additional cases of COVID-19 in Florida, bringing the total confirmed cases in the state to 1,682. The death toll is now at 22.
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