Lawmakers, petitions urge DeSantis to shut down Florida as COVID-19 numbers rise

As COVID-19 cases continue to climb, a growing list of governors are ordering their residents to stay inside and away from others. 

At least 30 states now have some form of a stay-at-home order in place, yet here in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis continues to resist calls to follow suit statewide. There is growing pressure for him to take stronger action.

“So here’s the thing, I don’t have an enforcement arm here, it’s gotta be done by the locals anyway,” said DeSantis.

His approach to slowing the impact of COVID-19 here in the sunshine state is to leave it up to each jurisdiction.

“Our guidance is no groups of 10 or more, follow what the CDC says,” DeSantis says.  “I think that’s the best way to be safe, and I think if people do that they’re good.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Florida ranks sixth in the nation for the number of confirmed coronavirus cases.

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DeSantis says South Florida is the state’s hotspot, and Monday he did issue a safer-at-home executive order for four counties.

“Right now it’s a matter of life or death, we need to have a consistent plan here in the state of Florida,” Representative Kathy Castor said.

Castor is one of 13 members of Congress who sent a second letter to the governor, urging him to issue a statewide order immediately. Saying in part, “This pandemic has not respected global borders so it certainly will not respect county borders.”

“I think that means that we have to be as aggressive as possible in flattening the curve and encouraging folks to stay home,” said Castor. 

Many policymakers, and even the White House, are now using models coming out of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent research center at the University of Washington. The data shows Florida’s peak could come on May 3, with the potential for thousands to lose their lives. 

But to keep the curve as low as projected, travel needs to be severely limited, non-essential services closed, and the entire state locked down. Florida has done none of those.

“There’s not really any more you can do in Southeast Florida, you just gotta kinda stay the course at this point,” DeSantis said.  “Some of the other areas, you know it’s just a different situation, were a big diverse state.”

A petition to lock down the state started circulating last week. The author writing “…our family are in risk, please shut down Florida.” As of Tuesday evening, it had nearly 400,000 signatures.

“I think no matter what you do, you’re gonna have a class of folks who just are gonna do whatever the hell they want to,” said DeSantis.

FOX 13 News reached out to Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio to see where they stand on a statewide stay-at-home order. So far, we have not heard back about their positions.

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know


Map of known COVID-19 cases:

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