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DeSantis Issues Statewide Stay-At-Home Order As Unemployment Surges

A "CLOSED" sign displayed in a glass window
Tim Mossholder

Governor Ron DeSantis has issued a statewide “stay at home” order, limiting movements to essential services only. The directive will likely add more shock to the state’s already over-burdened unemployment system.

DeSantis says his decision to issue a statewide stay-at-home order was not due to any recommendation by the U.S. Surgeon General. Instead, he says he made the decision after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control extended its social distancing guidelines for another 30 days.

As for how the governor plans to enforce the order,  DeSantis says government can’t “ham-fist everyone into their bedroom. It’s just not practical.”

“If you’re engaged in essential services or seeking essential services…okay. If you’re not, you’re going to be protecting yourself your family and your fellow Floridians better if you stick close to home,” DeSantis said. “I see some of these stories…where you have someone steps out and someone wants to get them arrested…at some point, you just need to exercise good judgement.”

DeSantis has been under increasing pressure by Democrats to institute a statewide policy.  Prior to the order, most of South Florida was under a regional advisory while other counties were able to decide their own polies. DeSantis defended the more gradual approach by saying not all counties have large scale outbreaks of COVID-19.

“When I called for this stay-at-home order nearly two weeks ago, there was a reason,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who has been among the high-profile Democratic voices calling for a statewide order.

“It was necessary to flatten the curve and save lives. I said then I would stand with the Governor when he issued the order, and I do so now. Thank you, Governor, for making the right call. Together, we will fight this virus and preserve the state we love.”

The stay-at-home directive is geared more toward individuals rather than businesses yet it comes with a list of sectors deemed “essential” such as energy, banking, food, communications and infrastructure. The directive relies on designations made by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for what type of worker is considered essential, and could lead to more layoffs and furloughs.

It comes as the state continues dealing with an unemployment system advocacy groups and critics have deemed broken. The state’s unemployment website keeps crashing, wait times can go on for hours and the Department of Economic Opportunity, which manages the system, is understaffed.

DeSantis says he’s clearing the way for fixes to the system.

“Basically my direction has been don’t spare any expense hire who we need to hire in order to be able to get this done because it’s Important for folks, these are not people who are losing their jobs because of anything they did this is something that there was a shock to the system,” he said.

DEO has begun searching for 100 employees to help answer calls. It entered into a contact with a call center last week. Questions about when those new workers will start or when fixes to the website will be made have not been answered. Unemployment is surging amid statewide shutdowns, stay-at-home orders and social distancing directives.


Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.
Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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