Updated at 2:15 p.m.
After weeks of criticism from both lawmakers and the public, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that he will finally issue a statewide stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at a press conference Wednesday afternoon, DeSantis said the issue will go into effect Thursday night, April 2, at midnight. The order instructs people to stay home except for those working at essential business. The order will last for 30 days.
"Given the unique situation in Florida," said DeSantis, "I'm going to be doing an executive order today directing all Floridians to limit movements and personal interactions outside the home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities, and we have the list of essential services that is detailed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its latest guidance."
The governor said he will define exactly what businesses are deemed "essential" later today when the official executive order is released.
“It makes sense to make this move now,” added DeSantis, who added that he had spoken to the White House about the decision. "We're in a much better spot today, than we were just a week ago. So what it says is it's really in order to individuals, to limit their travel and stay close to home."Today's announcement comes just hours after U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said in a TV interview that national guidelines suggest there should be a “stay-at-home order” for the whole country. Though, DeSantis stated in today's press conference that Adams' comments did not influence his decision.
Yesterday the Republican governor stated that he would consider a sweeping statewide stay-at-home order if it came from the White House.
"It is distressing that Governor Ron DeSantis waited until the coronavirus had spread to so many Floridians before finally issuing a statewide stay-at-home order," said Florida Democratic Chairman Terrie Rizzo in a statement. "I hope this will finally slow the rise in infections and that his actions are not too late."
Though very late in the pandemic, Florida now joins 30 other states, as well as the District of Columbia, that have enacted similar statewide restrictions.
Several counties, including Pinellas and Hillsborough have already issued similar stay-at-home orders, but today's announcement will now cover all 67 Florida counties.
As of publishing time, the state of Florida currently has 6,694 positive cases of coronavirus, and 87 confirmed deaths. Hillsborough County has 309 cases, while Pinellas has 170.
This is a developing story and we’ll update it with more information, as it’s available.
This story originally appeared in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay and is developing. We will update with more information as it becomes available.
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