TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order Wednesday as federal and local pressure mounted for him to abandon the county-by-county approach he had implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
It goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday.
DeSantis told reporters that he is issuing the order after consulting with President Donald Trump and White House advisers, who have said that Americans need to stay home throughout April.
“Even though there are a lot places that have very low infection rates, it makes sense to make this move now,” DeSantis said.
The Republican’s announcement came hours after the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams, said on NBC’s “Today” show that he would tell DeSantis that the federal guidelines for social distancing should be viewed as “a national stay-at-home order.”
The order comes as the state’s confirmed cases approach 7,000, with 86 deaths and almost 900 people hospitalized. More than 30 others states had already issued such orders a week or more ago.
Jacksonville’s Mayor Lenny Curry ordered a similar order to go into effect Friday morning, telling people to stay home except for buying food or medicine, visiting a doctor or going to an essential job.
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A University of Washington model is projecting that Florida could see a rapid increase in deaths and hospitalizations, with 100 people dying daily by mid-April and more than 175 by May 1, when the number nears its peak. It predicts that 10,000 people will need hospital care by mid-month and 20,000 on May 1. The model predicts that more than 6,500 Floridians will die from the virus by June 1, among more than 90,000 deaths nationally.
DeSantis did not dispute those numbers when asked.
“This thing is really nasty,” DeSantis said. “It’s something that’s caused a lot of harm to a lot of people.”
DeSantis has ordered anyone arriving from the New York area and Louisiana into quarantine and issued some statewide measures such as closing bars and gyms and limiting restaurants to takeout and delivery.
Last week, DeSantis said a statewide order would be “a very blunt instrument.”
“When you’re ordering people to shelter in place you are consigning ... probably hundreds of thousands of Floridians to lose their jobs," DeSantis said at the time. “You’re throwing their lives potentially into disarray, and if that were something necessary statewide because the health comes first, that would be one thing. But if you look at Florida’s situation right now, this is not a virus that’s impacting every corner of the state.”