A group of Senate Democrats is continuing to push Gov. Ron DeSantis to close all nonessential businesses and issue a statewide shelter-in-place order amid the COVID-19 virus outbreak.
So far, DeSantis has rebuffed those calls, leaving the decision to local governments most impacted by the virus. Confirmed cases have varied widely in different parts of the state, with South Florida driving much of the uptick in positive tests.
Sens. José Javier Rodríguez and Annette Taddeo — both of whom represent parts of Miami-Dade County — were among the batch of Senators who released statements Tuesday pushing DeSantis for additional action.
“Strong measures taken now to reduce the rate of transmission will prevent a catastrophic breakdown of our healthcare system and save lives,” Rodríguez said.
“Data from around the world confirms what experts say is the quickest way to ‘flatten the curve’: shelter-in-place orders. At a critical time in the spread of the coronavirus in Florida, public health and the public interest require executive action — if not statewide then at least in outbreak zones like Miami-Dade and Broward — via a temporary stay-home order and temporarily closing non-essential businesses.”
Miami Beach also issued a stay-at-home order Monday, with other local governments expected to follow.
But Taddeo, like Rodríguez, is looking for more uniformity as Florida attempts to get the spread of the virus under control.
“This disease shows no mercy,” Taddeo said. “The only effective way to halt its infection rate is to eliminate its transmission. Closing non-essential businesses and issuing a stay-at-home order will bring us out of this crisis faster, and save lives in the process.”
The calls come as President Donald Trump has begun expressing unease with continued social distancing efforts which are having a negative effect on the economy. Those efforts have been instituted by states and local governments following guidance from the federal government to avoid groups of more than 10 people through the end of March.
But Sen. Janet Cruz says that although those impacts are harsh for many Floridians, the results will be much worse if the virus continues to spread and overwhelms the state’s medical care capacity.
“The longer this virus sickens our population, the longer the damage to our economy,” Cruz said.
“We can continue to slap on band aids, and hope for the best, or we can take immediate, bold action to stop the coronavirus in its tracks. For the sake of our health and our economy, I hope the Governor chooses the latter.”
Irrespective of the federal government’s recommendations, states and localities will still be free to institute restrictions as needed. Rodríguez argues Florida should not pull back on its social distancing efforts — at least for now.
“I ask Gov. DeSantis to shy away from the same harmful and false rhetoric pitting public health against Floridian’s economic futures that President Trump has started to use,” Rodríguez said.
“Without strong measures preventing the virus’ spread, economic impacts will be just as great or greater but with a growing number of lives lost and shattering impacts to our healthcare system.”
Those concerns were echoed by Sen. Lori Berman, who joined her colleagues in pushing for a statewide shelter-in-place order.
“This is not an easy call to make, but it is the right one,” Berman said.
“We need look no further than the infection rate and death toll in Italy or Spain to understand the consequences of a timid response. The faster we shut down the transmission routes, the quicker we can move toward recovery.”
Sen. Victor Torres of Orlando added to those calls with a late Tuesday morning statement.
“Leading experts on infectious diseases have been warning us for weeks now that so long as there are transmission routes for the coronavirus, the disease will continue to spread,” Torres said.
“States like New York, countries like Italy and Spain began shut downs only after the infection rate had grown exponentially and medical staff were quickly overwhelmed. Our most effective tool in limiting the damage this disease will cause to Floridians and our economy is to act while we still can.”