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Thirteen Democratic members of Congress sent DeSantis a letter on Tuesday, urging him to “immediately issue a statewide stay-at-home order to save lives.”
“This pandemic has not respected global borders so it certainly will not respect county borders,” the letter said. “We cannot wait, we cannot leave this decision to county or municipal governments.”
At least 33 states including California, New York and Chicago, which are all home to some of the most densely populated major U.S. cities, have issued stay-at-home orders. Florida is the third most-populated state in the country, with about 21.6 million residents.
DeSantis has so far refused to issue a statewide stay-at-home order, deferring that power to local governments. On Monday, he issued a “safer at home” order for four counties in South Florida, currently the hotspot of the outbreak in the state. Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe counties were ordered to stay at home until at least April 15th.
During a White House press briefing Tuesday, President Trump said he planned to call DeSantis to urge him to allow two Holland America cruise ships – the MS Zaandam and MS Rotterdam – to dock in the state. At least four people have died and more than 200 others have fallen ill with COVID-19 on one of the ships by Tuesday.
“They’re dying on the ship,” Trump said, according to Reuters. “I’m going to do what’s right, not only for us but for humanity.”
The governor said on Monday allowing the ship to dock would be a “mistake,” as South Florida is already overwhelmed by the virus and space in hospitals needs to be reserved for local patients, not foreign nationals.
Over the weekend, DeSantis ordered a two-week halt on all vacation rentals in the state. He also implemented highway checkpoints to screen all traffic coming into the state from Louisiana and the New York City area. Those traveling on flights from the tristate area — New York, New Jersey or Connecticut – as well as Louisiana, will be met by National Guard troops and public health officials at major Florida airports. Their contact information will be collected and they will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Florida or risk spending 60 days in jail.
The letter sent Tuesday cited a warning made by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during a press conference last week regarding social distancing.
“When you think you’re maybe overreacting, you probably are not acting as forcefully as you should,” he said on Friday at the White House.
The White House has relied on a model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent research center at the University of Washington. The data predicts the peak of infection in Florida to hit on May 3, with thousands more at risk of losing their lives within the next 30 days, Fox 13 Tampa reported.
“This isn’t about scaring people, it’s about explaining why we must take the steps being taken,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, tweeted Tuesday, sharing a projection from the institute. “If we all do our part #WeWillWin.”
Miami-Dade County was the second in the country to issue a stay-at-home order on March 12 – the same day Miami Mayor Francis Suarez began to self-isolate after showing symptoms of COVID-19. He tested positive the next day. After 19-days in self-quarantine, he announced Monday that he recovered from the coronavirus after receiving two consecutive negative tests.
On Tuesday, Miami issued a mandatory 10 p.m. curfew for all residents.
The letter was signed by Reps. Lois Frankel, D-Florida 21st District, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida 23rd District, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida 26th District, Donna Shalala, D-Florida 27th District, Ted Deutch, D-Florida 22nd District, Frederica Wilson, D-Florida 24th District, Charlie Crist, D-Florida 13th District, Kathy Castor, D-Florida 14ths District, Val Demings, D-Florida 10th District, Alcee Hastings, D-Florida 20th District, Al Lawson, D-Florida 5th District, Darren Soto, D-Florida 9th District, and Stephanie Murphy, D-Florida 7th District.
A petition titled “SHUTDOWN FLORIDA” had nearly 400,000 signatures on Change.org by Wednesday morning. It read: “Florida Governor Ron Desantis our family are in risk, please SHUT DOWN Florida.”