Former Vice President and presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has joined a mostly-Democrat chorus of critics in demanding Gov. Ron DeSantis issue a statewide shelter-in-place order to stem the spread of COVID-19 in Florida.
Biden called on DeSantis to “explain why” he is going against “science-based” advice from public health experts who say a statewide stay-at-home order would temper coronavirus spread and to “let the experts speak to the public."
DeSantis has resisted calls to order a blanket stay-at-home order, repeatedly explaining a more targeted approach is better-suited to containing geographically isolated outbreaks. There are no reported cases across a third of the state and only light reports of COVID-19 in another third, he said, while the outbreak is severe in south Florida.
DeSantis has closed bars, gyms, state parks, the Lottery and south Florida beaches. He's restricted restaurants to take-out or delivery and ordered arrivals from New York and several other hot spots to remain in self-isolation for at least two weeks. The governor, however, has left shelter-in-place decisions to local governments.
Several Florida cities and counties have done so. Broward and Miami-Dade counties have closed all nonessential businesses. Orange County’s stay-at-home order goes into effect Thursday night for 1.3 million people.
“You simply cannot lock down our society with no end in sight,’’ DeSantis said Tuesday.
Biden on Tuesday night, however, called on DeSantis to “let the experts speak to the public” so they can understand how dangerous not imposing a shutdown could be.
“In this moment of growing uncertainty and anxiety, Floridians want – and deserve – to hear from the public health officials leading the charge,” Biden said. “To get through this, we need our leaders to listen to the public-health experts and their guidance.”
Ten of Florida’s 13 Congressional Democrats also dispatched a letter to DeSantis on Tuesday, urging him to order a statewide shutdown the way governors have in other states, noting of the 10 states with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases, only Florida and Georgia do not have statewide stay-at-home orders.
“Without an FDA-approved vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, our already-strained health-care system could be overwhelmed,” the Democrats wrote. “That is why we need a statewide order as soon as possible.”
The Congressional Democrats’ letter came a day after Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the state’s lone statewide-elected Democrat, called on DeSantis to issue a stay-at-home order.
Florida Director of Emergency Management Jared Moskowitz, a former south Florida Democratic state representative, said DeSantis was analyzing options that include limiting open business to “essential businesses,” instituting curfews and issuing a shelter-in-place order.
A New York-based commercial analytics company that tracks GPS movement on mobile phones and other devices is offering DeSantis and other decision-makers access to a free “real-world graphing” tool that could provide a treasure trove of data in analyzing what works and what doesn’t.
Unacast unrolled its Social Distancing Scoreboard on Tuesday. It gives Florida a B grade overall in its coronavirus response, based on a 39 percent reduction in travel. States and places that topped 40 percent earned A grades.
According to Unacast, daily travel since March 10 is down 56 percent in Palm Beach County, with mobility down by at least 50 percent in Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange and Osceola counties. They all received A grades, as did Seminole County with a 43 percent reduction in mobility.
Pinellas, Hillsborough, Lee, Duval and Alachua were among counties with B grades. Eight counties – mostly rural – received F grades, including Sumter, which includes The Villages, where daily movement is down only 6 percent from normal.
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