Checkpoints in NW Florida
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced Friday afternoon, March 27, that he was suspending all vacation rentals in the state for two weeks, effective immediately. Those currently in a vacation rental will be allowed to “finish and go home.”
Continuing his effort to limit the number of people entering the state from “hot zones” he expanded his previous order requiring those coming to the state from the New York City tri-state area (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) to include anyone coming to the state from New Orleans and Louisiana. Admitting that New Orleans is not exactly a hot spot, he said he’d had requests from some in the Panhandle with concerns that a migration similar to that from New York might occur. As of Friday, New Orleans had 997 known cases of COVID-19, with Louisiana reporting 2,746, below Florida’s Friday morning count of 2,900. Louisiana issued a stay-at-home order on March 23, though New Orleans had issued its own order earlier.
Road checkpoints will be authorized on major highways entering Florida in the Panhandle to inform anyone entering the state from Louisiana that they must self-isolate for 14 days and provide information on where they will be staying. Commercial vehicles will be exempt.
DeSantis began his briefing with a defense of his “tailored” response to the virus, mentioning his frequent conversations with President Donald Trump and referencing the President’s recognition that different areas are impacted in different ways.
As of Friday, 23 states had issued a statewide stay-at-home order. While DeSantis has resisted doing so, eight Florida counties have issued the order for their counties. Generally, the stay-at-home order allows trips out for essential purposes, such as purchasing groceries or seeking medical care.
He also said that 3,400 people had been screened as a result of his March 23 and 24 orders related to flights from New York. The screenings at Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) began Thursday, March 26 and consisted of Florida Department of Health representatives collecting questionnaires and handing those arriving a flyer instructing them to self-isolate for 14 days or as long as they are in Florida if less than 14 days. No temperatures were taken and no interviews conducted with Thursday arrivals at RSW.
Florida Hospital Beds
The state continues to track available hospital beds. DeSantis stated that the state has 19,300 general hospital beds, with 2,000 adult Intensive Care beds and 234 Pediatric Intensive Care beds available. State data shows that as of Friday, 456 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized.
Testing supplies are being distributed as soon as the state receives them. The governor specifically mentioned testing swabs and said that 1,000 are being sent to each of four counties: Dade, Broward, Hillsborough and Palm Beach counties.
DeSantis announced that the deadline for Florida property taxes has been extended and will now be April 15. Sales and use tax filing deadlines for businesses are now April 30.
He also admitted that the state unemployment system has been overwhelmed with applications. 3.3 million unemployment claims were filed in the U.S. last week. At the peak of the 2008 recession, the number of claims were in the 600,000 range.
The governor directed the Department of Children and Families to work with the federal government to temporarily increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for families to the maximum allowed. A family of four that was receiving $449/month will now receive $509/month.
DJ Griff COVID-19 Victim
As of Friday afternoon, Lee County recorded 76 COVID-19 cases with 25 hospitalizations and five deaths. The age range of positive cases is 10 – 94 with an average age of 53.
One of the recent deaths was Conrad Buchanan, 39, a popular DJ known as DJ Griff Gotti. Following his diagnosis, he took to Facebook to urge everyone to take the virus seriously and stay home. His recent performances included March 10 and 11 at the Lani Kai Island Resort during Spring Break, as well as several Fort Myers nightclubs. Buchanan is survived by his wife Nicole, a daughter and son. A Go Fund Me page (bit.ly/GoFundGriff has been established to assist his wife and family with expenses.
Following the Lee County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) emergency meeting on March 25, the County posed a video to their website, leegov.com, featuring County Manager Roger Desjarlais urging seasonal residents and visitors to go home and stay there. “When the situation improves, we will welcome you with open arms,” he said. “Please do your part. Your actions will make a difference. Please stay home and be safe!”
The BoCC has scheduled an emergency meeting for 9:30am, Monday, March 30. They indicated at their Wednesday meeting that they may consider a stay-at-home directive or closure of non-essential businesses at that meeting.
Track COVID-19 cases in Lee County and the State of Florida at the Florida Department of Health Dashboard at bit.ly/DOHdashboard
For more information from the DOH, visit floridahealthcovid19.gov