‘Safer-At-Home” Order Issued
5pm Wednesday, April 1, 2020 – On Wednesday afternoon, April 1, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a “Safer At Home” order for the entire state, effective at 12:01am Friday, April 3 until April 30. It calls for everyone in Florida to stay at home unless engaged in an “essential” activity or service.
DeSantis had resisted increasing calls to enact such an order the past two weeks, explaining as recently as yesterday that it made little sense to issue a one size fits all order, when there were counties without any positive COVID-19 cases.
However, the national tone shifted dramatically mid-week as White House science advisors predicted that the COVID-19 virus could result in 100,000 – 240,000 deaths in the United States. DeSantis mentioned that President Donald Trump’s extension of social distancing guidelines this week that he had previously hoped to lift by Easter, inspired the Florida governor to act on the state-wide restrictions. “We have a national pause,” DeSantis said.
As of Wednesday morning more than 30 states had issued a “stay-at-home” order. On Wednesday, Florida and Pennsylvania joined them. DeSantis’ order phrasing of “Safer-At-Home” is essentially the same as other states “Stay-At-Home” orders.
The order reads in part: “…all persons shall limit their movements and personal interactions outside their home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities.”
It also mandates that those 65 and over or those with a “significant underlying medical condition” SHALL stay at home and take all measures to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Compared to previous advice, Wednesday’s order mandates that seniors and those with high risk medical conditions must stay at home except for essential services.
According to the order, essential activities include religious services, recreational activities consistent with social distancing guidelines, such as walking, biking, hiking, fishing, hunting, running or swimming, taking care of pets and caring for a loved one or friend.
“A social gathering in a public space is not an essential activity,” the order reads.
Essential services are defined by the 13-page “United State Department of Homeland Security Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce” and include an extensive list of businesses considered essential, including the obvious public safety, healthcare and food categories, but also utilities, transportation, communications, Information technology and financial services. Included on the list are bicycle maintenance services and census workers. The Governor’s order also includes the list of exemptions from the Miami-Dade stay-at-home order. DeSantis’ Safer-At-Home Executive Order 20-91, including the Department of Homeland Security’s Essential Workforce list is provided below.
The Governor also announced plans to accelerate a number of road construction projects to take advantage of the state’s rare light traffic conditions.
“At this point, all the mitigation that can be done, is done, “ DeSantis said during the briefing. “We are focusing on testing, protecting the health care workforce and making sure we have enough hospital capacity.”
Two weeks ago on March 18, the state had 328 COVID-19 cases. On Wednesday, April 1, the morning report from the Florida Department of Health reported 6,955 cases and 87 deaths in the state. As of Wednesday morning, Lee County reported 212 cases and 8 deaths.
There are now 203,608 cases in the United States with 4,476 deaths.
Lee County Emergency Meeting
After declining to impose a county-wide stay-at-home meeting during their second Emergency Meeting on Monday despite requests from municipalities, including Fort Myers Beach Mayor Anita Cereceda, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) met Wednesday afternoon, just three hours after the governor issued his Executive Order.
They reviewed the order and expressed concern about how to respond to constituents who want to know whether their business is considered essential. County manager Roger Desjarlais said he expected guidance to be available soon on the county’s website. Frank Mann thanked the governor for listening to Lee County, though it was not immediately clear what Lee County had asked the governor for since it had resisted enacting any stay-at-home restrictions on its own. Mann also asked that County Attorney Wesch review the county’s proposed stay at home order that they rejected previously to make sure that the state order didn’t leave any loopholes that the county’s order would have covered. Wesch assured the BoCC that the list of essential businesses in the county’s proposed order was included in DeSantis’ order.
Cecil Pendergrass added, “The Governor’s action is a better way of doing this. It’s better to be statewide.”
Mann then asked that the BoCC send a letter to the Governor indicating that the BoCC agrees with the spirit and letter of Executive Order 20-91.
Before the meeting ended BoCC Chair Brian Hamman warned, “This will not be a smooth process. This is the first time any of us are doing this.” County Manager Roger Desjarlais indicated that once the county had a chance to review the order, they would have additional information on it, including essential businesses, on their website, leegov.com