Why has Florida not issued a statewide stay-at-home order amid coronavirus crisis?

Florida has not issued a statewide stay-at-home order amid coronavirus crisis. Some support Governor Ron DeSantis’ approach. Others don’t.

JUPITER, Fla. ― Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has refused to issue a statewide “stay-at-home” order to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus because the disease has not hit many areas of the state, he said.

At least 30 states have issued statewide stay-at-home orders so far. Florida, among eight states with the highest number of COVID-19 cases, is the only one without such an order.

DeSantis’ approach in trying to manage the disease without doing undue harm to the economy mirrors comments from President Donald Trump who, on Monday reiterated his belief that a nationwide stay-at-home order is not needed.

“There are some parts of the country that are in far deeper trouble than others,” he told reporters. “There are other parts that, frankly, are not in trouble at all.”

But as the outbreak marches across the country, public health officials stress that the lack of testing is masking the true picture of the epidemic, a situation that they argue is playing out in Florida.

As of Tuesday night, 29 of Florida’s 67 counties had 10 or fewer cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. In 13 largely rural and poor counties — mostly in the northern part of the state between Gainesville and Tallahassee — no cases had been reported to the state health department.

Yet many rural counties have tested fewer than 75 patients in the past two weeks, according to health department data.

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Public health experts and emergency management officials disagree on whether a statewide stay-at-home order would make a difference in these rural counties.

Several of Florida’s largest cities and counties — including all of South Florida, which has about 3,900 COVID-19 cases — have ordered people to stay at home. These orders generally make exceptions only for travel to grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations or other essential errands. People are allowed outside their homes to walk or run but are not allowed to congregate in groups. They also exempt essential workers, including those in health care.

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