Governor Ron DeSantis formally issued a stay-at-home order to all Floridians on Wednesday. The stay-at-home order went into effect today and is set to end on April 30. Prior to Wednesday, Florida was one of 13 members of the Union who had yet to institute a statewide stay-at-home order, leaving it up to local municipalities.
As of today, there are over 9,000 COVID-19 cases and 144 coronavirus-related deaths in the Sunshine State. The governor, and the state as a whole, faced national criticism for not doing enough to curb large social gatherings. South Florida, one of the most popular spring break destinations for young party-goers, leads the state with the highest number of cases. DeSantis released a statement last week saying that “the party’s over,” asking spring breakers to go home. While some of the most popular beaches closed due to the virus, beach-goers persisted, and photos and videos of crowded Florida beaches flooded national news networks. DeSantis did end up ordering beach gatherings be limited to 10 people, but he stopped short of ordering them closed.
"There’s a group of people that are going to just kind of pop around. It’s really up to the locals to deal with them," he told reporters in Tallahassee. "No matter what you do, you’re going to have a class of folks who are going to do whatever the hell they want to." Florida Democrats attacked the Republican governor for his lack of action. "Every part of the state is going to be affected by this," Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) told reporters. "Your reluctance to believe you are the governor of the entire state and you must protect the health of every person in this state is literally irresponsible." Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) claimed: "We have a governor who has been really irresponsible and has had an absence of leadership," she said. "I'm trying to think of the nicest way I can put it."
After weeks of intense pressure, Governor DeSantis finally decided to issue a mandatory stay-at-home order for the entire state. Due to the governor’s insistence that local governments tackle the issue, however, the governor’s order doesn’t change anything for many in the Sunshine State. The governor’s order takes the place of many stay-at-home orders already in place across the state, including in Orange and Osceola counties.
Florida was far from being the only state that decided to leave stay-at-home orders up to local governments. Twelve other states, all under Republican governors, have resisted issuing statewide proclamations as well. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey is advising people to stay home but has resisted issuing an official statewide stay-at-home order because of concerns about effects on the economy. Missouri Governor Mike Parson has rejected calls from local officials and medical groups for a statewide order and argued against a “one-size-fits-all” approach. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster has ordered all nonessential businesses, beaches and schools closed but have stopped short of a stay-at-home order.
As you work with clients in states with various approaches to combat the pandemic, we urge you to check with your perspective localities for guidance that may affect implementation of state and federal rules.