Checkpoints set for Lousiana drivers; no new rentals for 14 days
DeSantis orders state law enforcement to stop drivers from Louisiana from entering the Sunshine State.
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered state law enforcement Friday to stop drivers from Louisiana at entry points to the Sunshine State to tell them to self-isolate for 14 days. He also put a halt on any new vacation rentals for two weeks.
The orders are the latest moves by DeSantis to attempt to stop travelers from hotspots from “seeding” the coronavirus pandemic in Florida and worsening the spread.
Despite having a much smaller population, Louisiana has 2,746 cases, just 154 fewer than Florida as of Friday afternoon, and 119 deaths, compared with Florida’s 34. Of the Louisiana totals, 1,940 cases and 91 deaths come from the New Orleans metro area, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.
“There’s a fear that as New Orleans becomes more of a hotspot that you could have an influx of people into the Florida Panhandle from Louisiana,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis issued orders earlier this week for law enforcement and state health officials to check air travelers from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and tell them to self-isolate for 14 days because of the rampant spread in New York City. He said 3,400 travelers have been screened as part of those checks.
The 14-day moratorium on new vacation rentals is part of that effort as well. DeSantis said he’s concerned that shelter in place orders in other states might entice some residents to leave for Florida. He said current rentals won’t be affected.
“All we’re trying to do is keep our residents here safe,” DeSantis said. “If you’re coming from one of the epicenters, we probably think you should follow one of the directions of your state and local officials and if they’re telling you to shelter in place then do that, but don’t come here because we’re trying to protect our folks.”
DeSantis has received criticism for not taking more drastic measures to prevent social gatherings to thwart the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Pictures of partying spring breakers on Florida beaches led him to urge people to get off the beaches, but the decision on whether to close them has been left up to local governments.
Nikki Fried and other Democrats have said the lax approach will lead to more rapid spreading of the disease and have called on him to issue a shelter-inplace order as other governors have done, something DeSantis has resisted.
“DeSantis needs to lead right now,” Fried wrote in an email to her supporters Thursday. “He has to send a message to everyone in this state that we need to do what’s best for everyone and stay home!”
But DeSantis has defended his decisions as the best way to mitigate the damage from the virus while allowing areas of the state with relatively few cases, such as the western Panhandle, not to feel the pain of the economic crunch those measures would bring. He’s restricted restaurants to take out or delivery service only – after first allowing them to operate at 50 percent capacity – and shuttered bars and night clubs.
Many Floridians, aren’t heeding DeSantis’ calls to refrain from gathering in crowds of more than 10, or even the requests of local governments to stay inside.
In reaction to that, he ordered the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to break up boat parties, where groups of more than 10 hang out on craft in state waters.
In other orders issued by DeSantis on Friday, Florida National Guard members will be sent to Palm Beach County to help boost the amount of tests being conducted there. Palm Beach has 185 positive cases confirmed but has only completed 1,488 tests, compared with the more than 5,800 tests in Broward and more than 5,300 in Miami-Dade.