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00000177-b32b-d5f4-a5ff-bbfb6e660000Here is the information you need to know about COVID-19 in Northwest Florida. We will keep this post updated with the latest information from local, and statewide agencies. For inforamtion from Centers for Disease Control and prevention: cdc.gov/coronavirusFor updates on Florida cases of coronavirus, visit the FDOH dashboard.The COVID-19 call center is available at 24/7 at 1-866-779-6121

DeSantis Issues Statewide 'Stay-at-Home' Order

Jennie McKeon

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has issued a statewide stay-at-home order as federal and local pressure mounted for him to abandon the county-by-county approach he had implemented.

The order takes effect at midnight Thursday.

After catching heat from inside and outside Florida, the governor made the announcement Wednesday in his Tallahassee office.

“Given the unique situation in Florida, I’m going to be doing an executive order directing all Floridians to limit movements and personal interactions outside the home,” said the governor. “To only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities.”

That’s roughly a 180-degree turn from a week ago, when DeSantis’ defended his decision not to issue a statewide stay-at-home order, despite encouragement from the White House’s coronavirus task force.

“The task force has not recommended that to me,” said DeSantis last week. “If they do, obviously that would be something that would carry a lot of weight with me.”

The reversal Wednesday came after consulting with President Trump and White House advisers -- who have said Americans need to stay home through April.

“At this point I think even though there’s [sic] a lot of places in Florida that have very low infection rates, it makes sense to make this move now,” DeSantis said. “[Trump] agreed with the approach of focusing on the ‘hot spots,’ but at the same time he understood that this is another 30-day situation and you gotta just do what makes the most sense.”

The decision by the governor – a staunch Trump ally – also came after U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams told NBC's “Today” show that he would tell DeSantis, and other governors, that the federal guidelines for social distancing should be viewed as “a national stay-at-home order.”

“There are guidelines that say, ‘look – the more we social distance, the more we stay at home, the less spread of disease there will be,” said Adams. “Governors have tough choices to make, they have to decide whether or not they feel like their citizens will listen to them without a stay-at-home order. But again, the most important thing is to stay at home, [and] stay 6 feet away from each other; that’s how you slow the spread.”

Last week DeSantis announced a “Safer at Home” order last week until April 15, but for South Florida only; also it was not mandatory.

“We viewed that as a distinct part of Florida; and the measure there I think will start to show some effect we hope very soon,” the governor said. “I have not viewed previously that as being necessarily the same solution for the rest of the state, just simply because we have areas of extremely low per-capita infections.”

Meanwhile, traffic checkpoints for coronavirus continue to operate 24 hours a day. One on Interstate 10 at the Florida-Alabama line is looking for travelers from Louisiana. On I-95 where Florida meets Georgia, the search is on for those coming from the New York area.

“Once we did the New York order, people asked me in the Florida Panhandle about how we could do something similar, given what’s going on in New Orleans,” DeSantis said. ‘It may not be quite as widespread as New York City, but I think there was a concern in the Panhandle that this could impact them.”

Florida state troopers and state health workers ask motorists if they’ve been to the New York or to Louisiana recently. Those saying “no” are waved through. Those answering “yes” are given a battery of paperwork to fill out and an order to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“That will not apply to any of the commercial transportation, as there’s a lot of key things being brought to Florida and other states,” the governor said. “So that’s not going to be impacted.”

A spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol said they were not at liberty to discuss the checkpoints, on orders from Governor Ron DeSantis.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.