Ron DeSantis corrects himself on stay-at-home order — 3 ½ hours later

DeSantis, who has rejected the idea of a statewide stay-at-home order, announced he’d sign an order urging those in South Florida to stay home through “mid-May.” Then he changes it to April 15 during a West Palm Beach news conference.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in Miami Gardens.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in Miami Gardens. [ WILFREDO LEE | AP ]
Published March 30, 2020|Updated March 30, 2020

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MIAMI GARDENS — Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Monday morning that those living in Southeast Florida should stay home until mid-May to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. He would sign an executive order, he said, urging those in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe Counties to stay home.

The news spread quickly, as thousands of South Floridians reading online and watching on television mentally prepared to stay indoors — and away from work — for another month and a half. The Republican Party of Florida even issued a statement from Sarasota Sen. Joe Gruters, who doubles as the party chair, noting the mid-May date.

“Gov. DeSantis is resolutely leading the state through the coronavirus outbreak with measured, informed, effective actions to protect the health and rights of Floridians,” he wrote.

In between his 10 a.m. stop at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens and his 1:30 p.m. appearance in Palm Beach County, his schedule showed an 11:30 a.m. conference call with other governors and Vice President Mike Pence.

Then, three-and-a-half hours later at the press conference in Palm Beach County, DeSantis clarified that he meant April 15, not mid-May, for an end date to what he called the “safer at home” order for millions of residents.

When asked about why the error wasn’t immediately corrected, a spokeswoman for the governor said neither she nor anyone else caught it, and the end date for the order wasn’t in his notes.

The governor’s office did not respond to multiple requests for a copy of the executive order.

His order, which was filed with the state at 5:26 p.m. Monday, sets in stone what many South Florida communities have already done to prevent the spread of the virus.

“This codifies a common set of rules regarding ‘safer at home’ in Southeast Florida,” he said. “It gets all four counties operating under the same sheet of music.”

As of Monday morning, the four counties made up 59% of the total positive novel coronavirus cases in the state.

The “safer at home” language comes from Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s order last week for residents to leave home only for essential work or to pick up food and medication.

Broward County has also ordered residents to stay at home, as have several municipalities in the area. Local governments have also established curfews, fines and other measures to keep people at home. Orange County, which is not affected by the order, has also implemented similar orders.

Further details of the executive order were not immediately made available to the press.

DeSantis, who has rejected the idea of a statewide stay-at-home order, said Monday’s action makes sense for the region because of the number of cases concentrated there.

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Meanwhile, criticism over a lack of statewide action mounts.

Around 30 states across the country have issued some sort of statewide stay-at-home order in recent weeks.

Last week, several Democrats in the state Senate called on DeSantis to issue some sort of statewide order. Their action was followed by a letter from 10 Democratic members of Congress urging DeSantis to act.

Former Vice President Joe Biden even weighed in, suggesting DeSantis is ignoring health professionals in a state with a large population of vulnerable senior citizens.

Sen. José Javier Rodríguez said in a statement that while the regional order is welcome, the “patchwork approach will not cut it.”

“Because we remain so far behind on testing, we cannot know how far behind we also are in trying to catch up with the virus as it spreads,” the Miami Democrat said. “Counties like Lee, for example, have medical professionals urging for a safer-at-home order, reminding us why a statewide order is the best approach.”

Due to international travel into South Florida, DeSantis suggested that the virus could have been spreading in the area during this year’s Super Bowl, which was played Feb. 2 at Hard Rock Stadium.

Over 20 other states have issued some sort of stay-at-home order in recent weeks.

On Monday, DeSantis also announced he would sign an order lifting the restrictions on sending recently retired law enforcement and health care professionals back to work.

Statute prohibits certain types of employees from returning to work within six months of retirement.

The News Service of Florida was used in this report.

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