If he had his druthers, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would avoid imposing a statewide lock down because of the coronavirus. In his daily update on the disease, he outlined the thinking behind his position on Tuesday.
While several other governors have called for a statewide shutdown and stay-at-home orders because of the virus, DeSantis is shifting the onus to residents from elsewhere, especially from New York City.
“After the stay-at-home/shelter-in-place order was issued, you started having hundreds of flights from the New York City area – direct flights to the state of Florida,” said DeSantis. “That obviously is a big problem because that’s the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the entire world right now.”
On Tuesday, DeSantis said he expected people to voluntarily comply with his executive order requiring anyone arriving on a flight from the New York City area to self-quarantine for two weeks. They’ll be greeted at a number of airports by the National Guard.
“They’re asked to provide information to the guardsmen; they receive the information about what they need to do in order to self-isolate,” said DeSantis. “They have contact information should they be symptomatic. We’ll probably expand that into some of the smaller airports. And then what we’ll do is take that information and we will share it with some of the local communities.”
There are some who believe the coronavirus is no big deal, while others want the state to be locked down for periods up to nine months. DeSantis calls both “false choices.”
“Clearly we’ve got to do something about the virus; let’s work to blunt the force of the virus, but let’s also get society functioning,” the governor said. “So that the overall public health is better. Because when people are employed and able to put food on the table for their family, that’s better.”
One thing the governor doesn’t believe in is a “one size fits all” shutdown to fight COVID-19, which he says affects Florida in different ways, depending on the area. DeSantis is calling for tailored, surgical approaches that best fit the regions.
“We’ve worked with Palm Beach and Broward [counties] to impose more significant mitigation measures,” DeSantis contends. “And so you have that area, which is fighting this a little bit different than say, Northwest Florida or some of the places which we’re still testing, identifying, but were containing, because you haven’t had widespread community spreading.”
Such blunt measures, contends the governor, aren’t really needed in communities where the virus isn’t as prevalent. He adds there’s a lot of negative impact from such measures.
“People are going to go out of business; people are going to lose their jobs. There’s going to be upheavals in their lives,” said DeSantis. “And that is something that we should not do flippantly. Remember, the CDC has not said [to] do a statewide lockdown. And I also look at some of the other states that have done it, and I see massive noncompliance.”
Local shutdowns guided by the CDC have impacted local businesses in general, and restaurants in particular. Dining rooms are closed, with only drive-through or take-out services available. DeSantis urges Floridians to support businesses – especially “mom-and-pops” – as much as possible.
“Buy a gift certificate from some of these places; order food from some of these places,” the governor urges. “Understand that they are being negatively impacted through no fault of their own. They’re taking a major financial hit for the health and safety of the rest of society. So anything you can do to help with that, I think would be good.”
The new normal of changed behavior over the past few weeks because of coronavirus, believes DeSantis, could have long-term benefits in fighting other contagious illnesses.
“Influenza kills people every year; most people don’t even get a flu shot. Most people shake hands,” said DeSantis. “Now, people are conscious about handshakes, they conscious about what they touch; they’re more religious about washing their hands. I think you’re going to see less influenza because I think people will be actually taking the proper precautions.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis also made a change in his executive order to limit public gatherings at beaches to no more than 10 people. It’s now been expanded to include all public gatherings.