Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis has issued a “stay at home” order for the state’s 21m residents in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, after resisting earlier calls to take action.
Mr DeSantis said on Wednesday afternoon that he was issuing a 30-day executive order directing the state’s residents to stay at home unless they were obtaining or providing “essential services” or conducting “essential activities”.
The governor said he had spoken with US President Donald Trump before announcing the measure, which will take effect at 12:01am Friday.
Mr DeSantis had previously resisted calls for a statewide stay at home mandate, saying at a news conference on Tuesday that he would not issue an order because the White House had not told him to do so.
At a White House press briefing on Tuesday evening, Mr Trump, who owns multiple resorts in Florida, including Mar-a-Lago, said it was a “different kind of state”, and that Mr DeSantis was a “great governor” who “knows exactly what he’s doing”.
According to the state’s department of health, there are 6,955 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Florida, and 87 people have died in the state as a result of the virus. Most of the cases have been concentrated in the populous south-east corner, in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
For weeks, Mr DeSantis has come under criticism from Florida lawmakers, residents and public health officials to do more to slow the spread of Covid-19. Last month, he was hesitant to close the state’s beaches, which are a popular destination in the winter months, especially among university students on “spring break”, and initially handed responsibility for closures to local officials.
But he has taken steps in recent days to clamp down on activity, saying that all of the state’s residents over the age of 65 should stay at home and self-quarantine for 14 days — Florida has some of the highest numbers of retirees of any US state. Earlier this week, Mr DeSantis recommended that people in south-east Florida stay at home as well.
At the weekend, the governor also began targeting people from other states, setting up checkpoints on motorways to identify visitors from New York and Louisiana, two of the states hardest hit by the coronavirus. Deborah Birx, the co-ordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said last week that anybody leaving the New York metropolitan area should self-quarantine for 14 days.
More than two dozen states, as well as the District of Columbia, already have stay-at-home orders already in place. On Wednesday, Pennsylvania also announced a statewide mandate, having previously relied on local authorities to issue county-by-county orders.
Pennsylvania has 5,805 confirmed Covid-19 cases, according to the state’s department of health.