Florida not moving toward shutdown

As more and more governors move toward statewide shutdowns of non-essential businesses and services to decrease the spread of COVID-19, Governor Ron Desantis will not shut down the State of Florida.  The Governor continues to hold firm to this position despite the fact that 47 of Florida’s 67 counties have reported cases of COVID-19.  As Thursday evening, Florida had as many as 2,484 reported COVID-19 cases. 

Despite the criticism and warnings coming from many sides, Governor Desantis refuses to order a statewide shutdown which he believes would serve only to be disruptive at this point. The Governor believes “A tailored approach, a surgical approach works best for Florida.” Therefore, the Governor prefers to let the cities and counties make decisions about how best to protect their residents.

Some have attributed the Governor’s reluctance to order a statewide shutdown to the lobbying efforts by Florida’s largest business groups. The Governor apparently faces pressure from groups like the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, and the Associated Industries of Florida to keep the State of Florida open for business and to avoid a shutdown of Florida’s economy.  In an email from Tom Feeney, the President and CEO of the Associated Industries of Florida, to the Herald Times, Mr. Feeney wrote that “Some states and locals have done enormous unintended damage to essential supply chains and critical infrastructure due to lack of rational aforethought in their edicts”.  

Although the Governor has not ordered a statewide shutdown, he has taken certain measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, including without limitation:

  • Following the President’s 15-day plan for social distancing and planning to reassess at the end of such period.
  • Shutting down all bars and nightclubs for a 30-day period.
  • Extending the closure of all K-12 schools to April 15, 2020.
  • Ordering universities and state colleges to hold classes online only for the remainder of the spring semester.
  • Encouraging, but not ordering, Floridians who are 65 and older or with underlying medical conditions to stay home for the next 14 days.
  • Ordering visitors from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to self quarantine for two weeks and provide the state with the local address where they will be staying.
  • Activated the State Logistics Response Center, which would normally serve as a hurricane distribution center, as a logistics and command level operations center to facilitate distribution of supplies throughout the state.

In an effort to maintain Florida’s economy operational, the Governor requested that President Trump declare Florida a major disaster in order to open the flow of federal resources to help Floridians. In his letter to President Trump, Governor Desantis requested funds to “help with unemployment, crisis counseling, community disaster loans, and food aid.” Small businesses are being offered short-term bridge loans through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity as well as low-interest disaster relief loans through the Florida Small Business Administration. 

With hindsight being the best judge of the Governor’s decision to not shut down the state, Floridians continue riding out the unprecedented COVID-19 storm like any other named storm.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact the attorney listed below.

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