Orange County under two-week 'stay at home' mandate, starting Thursday night

Update | Read the whole order here.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, Sheriff John Mina and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer called a meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday to announce the county will be under a stay-at-home order for two weeks, to begin Thursday night at 11.

"Orange County now has at least 50 cases within our county," said Demings. "On March 15, just one week ago we had just one case. It is an understatement that it is spreading throughout our community."

The entire county will be asked to stay at home as much as possible except for "essential business." Demings said he had a conversation with other Florida mayors, and spoke to leaders from hospitals to receive input.

"We believe this is the most effective way to deal with the coronavirus threat," said Demings. "Our goal is to get our lives back to normal as soon as possible."

Dyer noted that "every single mayor" in the county was in agreement with the decision.

There were hints of the announcement from the Tampa Bay Times earlier in the day, and some frustration with Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“It’s become clear the governor is not going to do a statewide order,” Dyer told the Times. "So we think that three of the leading most populous counties in Central Florida, we do know that some of the smaller countries tend to follow Pinellas, Hillsborough and Orange County’s lead. So by being the point of the spear it allows other smaller counties some cover to do what they need to do.”

The announcement comes on the same day as the International Olympic Committee announced the Tokyo Olympic games will be postponed until 2021, and that the president of Harvard University, Lawrence Bacow, and his wife, Adele Fleet Bacow, tested positive for the virus.

Gov. Ron DeSantis had been resisting growing calls for Florida to institute a similar lockdown statewide. DeSantis even pushed for restrictions on travelers from New York, saying their desire to escape a potential statewide lockdown there could bring hundreds of people with coronavirus to Florida.

"There’s over 190 direct flights from the New York City area to the state of Florida, and I would reckon given the outbreak there, that every single flight has somebody on it who is positive for COVID-19," DeSantis said Monday. "We don’t have people coming from Wuhan, we don't have people coming from Milan, yet you have a flood of people still coming from New York City."

On Tuesday, DeSantis held a video press conference to explain the move, asking all nonessential businesses to move 50 percent of their workforce to telecommuting.

"There's no way a nine-month shutdown would be sustainable," he said.

State Senate Democrats flooded the governor's office with letters on Tuesday, urging him to issue a shelter-in-place order.

"That is the dumbest shit I have heard in a long time," said state Sen. Oscar Braynon (D-Miami Gardens), Politico reported. "This is a day-by-day crisis. Italy damn near saw 1,000 people die in one day, and there are people proclaiming we got this and have it solved in 15 days?"

Viral images on social media compare the relatively empty streets of tourist-dependent Paris to the spring breaker-packed Clearwater Beach in Florida.

Some Florida municipal leaders, like St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, had already pledged to institute similar shelter-in-place orders on Monday, in the event state and federal authorities failed to issue their own.

The order is currently set to remain in effect until April 9.

– Please follow CDC guidelines and Orange County advisories to stay safe, and please support this free publication. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you news on how coronavirus is affecting Central Florida. Please consider making a one-time or monthly donation. Every little bit helps.


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