DeSan­tis must or­der all Florid­i­ans to stay home

Orlando Sentinel - - Opinion - By Nikki Fried

Two months ago, we were cel­e­brat­ing the dawn of a new decade. One month ago, while a new virus rav­aged China and made its way east­ward, we were in the throes of Florida’s an­nual leg­isla­tive ses­sion, barely con­sid­er­ing its spread in Wash­ing­ton state. Even two weeks ago, we went about our daily lives, be­com­ing sud­denly aware of the threat in­fect­ing and killing peo­ple no longer far off our shores, but here at home.

To­day has ar­rived, and we are out of time to stop that threat. Do­ing so is up to us, given the neg­li­gent fed­eral re­sponse en­abled by de­cep­tion from the White House.

A lead­ing sci­en­tific model shows that without stronger ac­tion than vol­un­tary so­cial dis­tanc­ing, COVID-19 will hos­pi­tal­ize nearly 200,000 Florid­i­ans, de­spite there be­ing only 33,000 hospi­tal beds avail­able – with the med­i­cal point-of-no re­turn com­ing just two weeks from now. The deaths of thou­sands of Florid­i­ans may fol­low in the com­ing months.

For­tu­nately, pub­lic health ex­perts agree on the way to stop this threat: staying home.

No gov­er­nor in re­cent his­tory would have ex­pected to make the de­ci­sion that Cal­i­for­nia, Illi­nois, and over a dozen other states have made in the past few days, or­der­ing their res­i­dents to stay in their homes, and clos­ing non-es­sen­tial busi­nesses. These de­ci­sions are not without enor­mous eco­nomic im­pact. But they were nec­es­sary for one rea­son: to save lives.

It’s not easy to be in charge. But be­ing in charge de­mands bold ac­tion and de­ci­sive leadership at the best of times, let alone when fac­ing down the worst pan­demic in a cen­tury. His­tory will judge the ac­tion, or in­ac­tion, taken right now to pro­tect lives.

State lead­ers have our lim­its. As Com­mis­sioner of Agri­cul­ture and Con­sumer Ser­vices, I’m focused on en­sur­ing mil­lions of Florida’s chil­dren don’t go hun­gry while schools are closed, se­cur­ing our food banks and food sup­ply chain from farms to gro­cery shelves, and pro­tect­ing con­sumers from scams and fraud in this vul­ner­a­ble time.

I rec­og­nize the dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions Gov­er­nor DeSan­tis has al­ready had to make. But there are things only a Gov­er­nor can do. That’s why last week, I asked the Gov­er­nor to im­ple­ment a statewide “stay-at-home” or­der, just as twenty states have now done.

Florid­i­ans should be asked to sac­ri­fice to­gether, staying home and al­low­ing only es­sen­tial busi­ness, first re­spon­der, and health­care op­er­a­tions to con­tinue, for a rea­son­able time. This is crit­i­cal to flat­ten­ing the curve of trans­mit­ting this virus that is twenty times dead­lier than sea­sonal flu.

This is not a rad­i­cal or par­ti­san idea. This is what states have al­ready done, with Repub­li­can gover­nors in Ohio and Mary­land, and Demo­cratic gover­nors in Louisiana and Ne­vada. This is what’s nec­es­sary to pre­vent Florida from be­com­ing not only the next New York, but the next Italy, with sky­rock­et­ing ill­nesses, over­whelmed hos­pi­tals, and much harder de­ci­sions over who lives and dies. Doc­tors, epi­demi­ol­o­gists, and the U.S. Sur­geon Gen­eral agree on this.

The Gov­er­nor’s piece­meal ap­proach of clos­ing some beaches, some busi­nesses, and some com­mu­ni­ties won’t work. Too many Florid­i­ans are still, in the Gov­er­nor’s words, “do­ing jello shots” off each other’s stom­achs. Our world-fa­mous beaches re­main as packed with peo­ple as ever. And the virus con­tin­ues to spread unchecked.

To be clear, a “stay-at-home” or­der in Florida would re­quire eco­nomic sup­port for busi­nesses both small and large. But for the busi­nesses I’ve spo­ken to, the cur­rent ap­proach is yield­ing un­cer­tainty and con­fu­sion. They’d rather know what’s com­ing, so they can plan for their busi­nesses and em­ploy­ees. And as our na­tional econ­omy is dragged into a global re­ces­sion, eco­nomic sup­port will be nec­es­sary re­gard­less, par­tic­u­larly for small busi­nesses, mid­dle and work­ing-class families, and low-wage work­ers.

It comes down to this: when you get sick, your doc­tor doesn’t tell you to only take half of your medicine – you take the whole pre­scrip­tion, oth­er­wise you might not beat the ill­ness.

Right now, we need to take our whole pre­scrip­tion, make the sac­ri­fice to­gether, and ask Florid­i­ans to stay home, for now.

In the 19th cen­tury, con­ser­va­tive Bri­tish prime min­is­ter Ben­jamin Dis­raeli said “ac­tion may not bring hap­pi­ness, but there is no hap­pi­ness without ac­tion.”

The time is now for the Gov­er­nor to take bold ac­tion with a statewide “stay-ath­ome” or­der. The only choice left to make is not if, but when to act – be­fore it’s too late for ac­tion at all.

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