Governor DeSantis says a statewide lockdown isn’t warranted, encourages supporting local businesses


In a press conference this afternoon, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis further explained yesterday’s order that all people entering the state from New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut should self-quarantine for 14 days. He said that as soon as the shelter-in-place order was issued in New York, “you started having people flood out of New York City, including taking hundreds of flights to the state of Florida.” He said those residents should be staying at home since they’re in such a COVID-19 hotspot, but instead they’re leaving to go to other places, including Florida. 

People who fly in from these areas are now screened at major airports by National Guardsmen who collect contact information and give information about the self-quarantine and what to do if the visitors become symptomatic. DeSantis said that will probably be expanded to smaller airports soon. The contact information is shared with local communities so they can check in on the visitors.

He said he will sign an additional order today, mandating that in addition to yesterday’s order about travelers from the New York City, anyone who has traveled from New York in the past 3 weeks will need to self-isolate and report any close contacts they’ve had in Florida, including notifying anyone they’ve been in contact with.

Also, Florida’s Surgeon General Scott Rivkees will be issuing an advisory today that everyone 65 or older should stay home for the next 14 days to minimize their exposure. The advisory also applies to anyone who has a serious underlying medical condition, including chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, immuno-compromisation, including those in cancer treatment, and severe obesity. 

Groups of greater than 10 will be banned in any context: “You should not have any social group of 10 people or more.” The order applies to any social or recreational group.

The State also wants businesses to promote telecommuting, with a goal of having at least 50% of their workforce working remotely. 

DeSantis said that when the epidemic started to flare, many flights were canceled. But when the shelter-in-place order was issued in New York, the number of flights per day went from 20 to “120, then 160, and then yesterday they did 197 flights.” He said that’s now going back down.

He said that’s part of the challenge of shelter-in-place orders. “These measures have never been done in modern American society like this. When they’re put in place, the question is what happens after that. Are people going to 100% comply?… Those flights all of a sudden became the hottest ticket.”

DeSantis said “Let’s just get through this, get through the 15 days; there’ll be some type of pivot… I am somebody that believes that… you’re not snapping into recession because something happened with business… the economy just kind of stopped for a little bit, and the question is can we get it to start and get going?… I want to get back as soon as possible because I think some of the effects of these people who have been put out of work and who’ve been laid off, no one’s really talking about them, but those are folks who were doing the right thing and now they’re in situations where their family’s future may be in jeopardy…”

He said that before COVID-19, the unemployment office in Florida received about 250-1000 claims per day, but now they’re getting around 20,000 per day. “That’s not only going to have an economic cost, that will have a health cost unless we work hard to remedy that as soon as possible.”

DeSantis said he’s not in the camp that the virus is “nothing” and you shouldn’t make any changes, but he’s also not in the camp advocating for shutting everything down for 9 months. “Clearly, we’ve got to do something about the virus, and there’s no way a 9-month shutdown would possibly be sustainable, so I think the question’s going to be let’s work to blunt the force of the virus, let’s protect those folks who can be most in jeopardy… but let’s also get society functioning so that the overall public health is better because when people are employed and they’re able to put food on the table for their family, that’s better. I really worry about suicide, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, child abuse if this is allowed to go for months and months on end…”

When asked about Democratic state senators who have called for a statewide lockdown, DeSantis said, “We have a big, diverse state. The virus is impacting parts much differently, so let’s have tailored approaches, surgical approaches, that are going to work best for those regions… [South Florida] is fighting this a little bit different than, say, northwest Florida or some of the other places in the state… I think that’s a more prudent approach because these blunt measures, you wouldn’t want to do them on a community where the virus hasn’t spread throughout the community because… there’s a lot of negative impact from those blunt measures. People are going to go out of business. People are going to lose their job. There’s going to be upheavals in their lives, and that is something that we should not do flippantly… Everything the CDC has said, I’ve put in statewide. Remember, the CDC has not said do a statewide lockdown, and I also look at some of these other states that have done it, and I see massive non-compliance, and I’m not even sure how effective it is. If you’re doing a big block party in California during a lockdown, wouldn’t it be better to just go to work?”

“Some people think the governor should just be a dictator and just order everyone imprisoned in their homes, and I don’t think that would be an effective approach, but it’s certainly not warranted in certain parts of the state.”

When asked where people should spend their resources if they’re still getting paychecks, DeSantis said they should support local businesses, including getting take-out from restaurants. He also suggested buying gift certificates. “They are taking a major hit for the rest of society, so anything you can do to help with that would be good.”