State govern­ment should be tak­ing the lead on coro­n­avirus, but it’s not. Lo­cal gov­ern­ments are show­ing it’s a time for unity of pur­pose.

Orlando Sentinel - - Front Page - ED­I­TO­RIAL:

For years, state govern­ment hasn’t trusted lo­cal govern­ment to make de­ci­sions about ev­ery­thing from trim­ming trees to reg­u­lat­ing front-yard veg­etable gar­dens.

Now, at an ur­gent time when state govern­ment be tak­ing the lead on coro­n­avirus, it’s leav­ing the most con­se­quen­tial de­ci­sions to lo­cal gov­ern­ments.

Not ideal. This cri­sis should be man­aged and di­rected by the top, un­like tree-trim­ming. But Orange County and other lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions are in­creas­ingly step­ping up to fill the vac­uum.

Orange County was the lat­est with an ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion by Mayor Jerry Dem­ings Tuesday or­der­ing the county’s 1.3 mil­lion res­i­dents to stay home for at least two weeks start­ing Thurs­day night. Osce­ola County did the same on Wed­nes­day.

Good for Dem­ings, good for lead­ers in Orange County’s 13 cities by unan­i­mously em­brac­ing the move, and good for Osce­ola.

Now’s a time for unity of pur­pose, and Orange County’s lo­cal gov­ern­ments are show­ing us how that works.

It shouldn’t have come to this, of course. As the South Florida Sun Sen­tinel wrote in an ed­i­to­rial this week, Gov. Ron DeSan­tis has the power to en­act a tem­po­rary, statewide or­der for peo­ple to shel­ter at home and re­duce the coro­n­avirus spread. He just won’t, say­ing it would be too dis­rup­tive.

At a news con­fer­ence in Or­lando on Wed­nes­day, DeSan­tis showed no in­di­ca­tion that his po­si­tion was soft­en­ing, even as 10 Demo­cratic mem­bers of Congress wrote a let­ter urg­ing him to act.

We doubt Demo­cratic mem­bers of Congress have much in­flu­ence over what the gov­er­nor does. He ap­pears to be tak­ing his cues from Pres­i­dent Trump, who this week said, “Our coun­try wasn’t built to be shut down.”

So gov­ern­ments closer to the peo­ple are do­ing what the state will not, coun­ties like

Orange, Osce­ola, Alachua, Leon and Pinel­las, and cities like Mi­ami and Jacksonvil­le. The or­ders vary in de­tail and scope, but they’re de­signed to keep peo­ple in­side and away from each other to stymie the virus’ abil­ity to spread.

Orange County’s or­der has lots of ex­cep­tions to ac­com­mo­date ev­ery­thing from golf to pool clean­ing to home build­ing. But it’s not very dif­fer­ent from sim­i­lar shel­ter-in­place or­ders handed down by Los An­ge­les County and the state of Illi­nois.

Dem­ings is try­ing to walk a fine line be­tween keep­ing peo­ple away from each other while also try­ing to min­i­mize the ex­tent to which peo­ple can no longer earn a liv­ing or live their lives.

The shel­ter or­der fol­lows Dem­ings’ March 20 cur­few or­der from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

But no mat­ter how de­ci­sively in­di­vid­ual lo­cal gov­ern­ments act in the face of state in­ac­tion, it’s not go­ing to be as ef­fec­tive if they aren’t act­ing to­gether.

To the south, Osce­ola County is act­ing to keep peo­ple in­side, but to the north, Semi­nole County says it has no such plans. Nei­ther does Lake to the west.

To the east, Brevard and Vo­lu­sia coun­ties aren’t plan­ning stay-home or­ders, plus, their beaches re­main open. Orange County res­i­dents who, feel­ing a lit­tle bored or rest­less, might be tempted to just jump in their cars and go en­joy them­selves, mean­while de­feat­ing the or­der’s in­tended pur­pose.

It’s a patch­work of rules that’s likely to di­min­ish the ef­fec­tive­ness of cities and coun­ties that are act­ing more ag­gres­sively to keep peo­ple in place for a lim­ited pe­riod to slow the spread.

The lo­cal in­con­sis­ten­cies might be ex­plained by polls that have shown sharp — though re­cently nar­row­ing — dif­fer­ences in how peo­ple view the coro­n­avirus threat, with Repub­li­cans less likely to view it as se­ri­ously as Democrats.

That’s con­sis­tent with the blue coun­ties will­ing to act more re­stric­tively — Orange, Osce­ola, Leon, Alachua — ver­sus red coun­ties show­ing more hes­i­ta­tion in act­ing — Lake, Vo­lu­sia, Brevard.

Time’s run­ning out. Cities and coun­ties must re­con­sider their re­fusal to act. The ar­gu­ment to keep peo­ple sep­a­rated to slow the spread is pow­er­ful and backed by science.

Please, Semi­nole, Lake and other Cen­tral Florida com­mu­ni­ties, do your duty to pro­tect your peo­ple. Now. Be­fore the hos­pi­tals are over­whelmed and be­fore his­tory records the names of those who didn’t do enough to stop oth­ers from suf­fer­ing.

JOE BUR­BANK/OR­LANDO SEN­TINEL

Orange County Mayor Jerry Dem­ings acted de­ci­sively to slow the spread of coro­n­avirus, un­like the gov­er­nor.

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