Stories about the coronavirus pandemic are free to read as a public service at tampabay.com/coronavirus. Sign up for our DayStarter newsletter to receive updates weekday mornings. If this coverage is important to you, consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to the Tampa Bay Times at tampabay.com/subscribe.
• • •
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has taken a more cautious approach to the coronavirus than leaders of other large states, and on Wednesday former Vice President Joe Biden joined the chorus of Democrats calling on the Republican leader to do more.
Biden, the leading Democratic candidate for president, suggested DeSantis is ignoring the advice of public health experts and urged the Florida executive to follow the lead of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine. Both Cuomo, a Democrat, and Dewine, a Republican, have ordered statewide lockdowns that mandate most residents shelter-in-place.
California, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Wisconsin and West Virginia have all taken similar steps.
“Floridians deserve science-based action from Gov. Ron DeSantis," Biden said. “While other large states continue to take strong, urgent, and sweeping action to stop the spread of COVID-19, Florida has not.”
DeSantis has mandated the closure of bars, restaurants, gyms and large gatherings but has resisted stay-at-home orders, calling them ineffective and unrealistic. Instead, DeSantis has ordered travelers from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut area get screened upon arrival and demanded they self-isolate for 14 days.
“You wouldn’t want to do (stay-at-home orders) on a community where the virus hasn’t spread," DeSantis said. "There are going to be upheavals on their lives and that’s not something we want to do flippantly. The (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has not said to do a statewide lockdown.”
The trouble with that, experts say, is DeSantis and state health leaders can’t be sure where in Florida the virus has spread. There isn’t nearly enough testing to judge the breadth of the outbreak and it could take up to two weeks for those carrying the virus to display symptoms. As it is, the state’s number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continues to rise, to more than 1,400 on Tuesday.
Biden demanded that DeSantis “let the experts speak to the public and explain why" the state isn’t taking the same actions as New York, Ohio and other states.
“To get through this, we need our leaders to listen to the public health experts and their guidance,” Biden said. “The stakes are too high to wait any longer.”
• • •
Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage
EVENT CANCELLATIONS: Get the latest updates on events planned in the Tampa Bay area in the coming weeks.
STORES REACT TO VIRUS: Some businesses adjust hours or announce temporary closings.
STOCK UP YOUR PANTRY: Foods that should always be in your kitchen, for emergencies and everyday life.
JOIN THE FACEBOOK GROUP: See updates and tips posts, and ask questions of our journalists.
LISTEN TO THE CORONAVIRUS PODCAST: New episodes every week, including interviews with experts and reporters
HAVE A TIP?: Send us confidential news tips.
We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.