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A M Reid
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press
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Despite Florida having the fifth most confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, only issued a 30-day stay at home order this Wednesday, which will be going into effect today at midnight.
The move comes after a rapid growth of case numbers in the state and President Donald Trump declaring that the coronavirus guidelines will be extended for 30 days.
“I had decided on this, you know, when the president did the 30-day extension. To me, that was, people aren’t just going to go back to work. That’s a national pause button,” DeSantis said during a news conference in Tallahassee. “I think that given that we’re having a 30-day, I think that’s a signal from the president that, look, this is what we’re going to be fighting for a month.”
When the 30-day order is in place, Florida residents must stay isolated inside their homes and abstain from unnecessary movement and social interaction. DeSantis explained that residents will only be allowed to leave their house to “obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities.”
DeSantis previously resisted issuing a statewide order and said that it was up to cities and counties to decide lockdown measures for their residents. His lack of action was criticized heavily by public health experts and he particularly received backlash over not enforcing beach closures, with many beaches pictured crowded with spring breakers.
DeSantis argued that he would only implement a statewide order if he was directly recommended to do so by Trump or the federal government. He reiterated this argument at a news conference on Tuesday, telling reporters that he had been in contact with the White House coronavirus task force, and they did not tell him to carry out the order.
“The task force has not recommended (a statewide order) to me,” DeSantis remarked. “If they do, obviously that would be something that carries a lot of weight with me.”
“We are obviously taking whatever they say and we’re going to implement that in Florida. If any of those task force folks tell me that we should do X, Y or Z, of course we’re going to consider it. But nobody has said that to me thus far,” DeSantis added.
Prior to DeSantis’ announcement Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, claimed that to avoid Dr Anthony Fauci’s projected pandemic outcome of millions of cases and between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths, “populous states like Texas and Florida” would need to start acting “very aggressively.” Dr. Gottlieb explained that if these states did implement stricter measures, it would be possible to keep the total case number and death toll “well below those kind of models.”
Now with DeSantis changing his mind, state agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried, who earlier blasted DeSantis for not carrying out the order, has since thanked him for “making the right call.”
“When I called for this stay at home order nearly two weeks ago, there was a reason. It was necessary to flatten the curve and save lives,” Fried commented. “I said then I would stand with the Governor when he issued the order, and I do so now…. Together, we will fight this virus and preserve the state we love.”
Others, however, have said that the order has come too late and it may have cost lives.
“DeSantis ignored the obvious for too long, and Floridians likely are sicker for it,” the Miami Herald editorial board said. “His statewide essential-services-only order, though welcome, is so very late.”
Besides Florida, Mississippi and Georgia have also declared stay at home orders.
According to data by The COVID-19 Tracking Project, Mississippi currently has the highest coronavirus hospitalization rate in the United States, at around 31 percent.
Mississippi Hospital Association President Timothy Moore warned that the hospital system may soon be pushed to its limit.
“As the pandemic worsens, the need for ICU beds, critical care beds, ventilators…which in turn requires a higher level of trained expertise to take care of those patients, that’s going to be the biggest challenge that we face,” Moore noted. “If you look at even a 20 percent exposure rate, you’re looking at regular normal hospital beds, we would be in need of about 20 percent more beds than we have.”
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