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State Lawmakers Call For Action In Response To Coronavirus

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis updates media in response to the coronavirus on Tuesday, March, 24, 2020 in Tallahassee, Fla.
Brendan Farrington
AP Photo

In response to COVID-19 Governor Ron DeSantis has made all restaurants take-out or delivery only and closed all bars. He’s also limited gatherings on beaches to no more than 10 people and is asking people 65 and older to stay home.  But state elected officials believe more needs to be done to help stop the spread of the virus. Lawmakers spoke about what they think should be the next steps.

Most jobs around the state have been impacted by coronavirus. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have handed down guidelines urging people to stay 6 feet apart and limit crowds to no more than 10. Rep. Ramon Alexander (D-Tallahassee) believes state workers should also follow those guidelines.

"I think it’s extremely important that we recognize the need for consistency throughout all of our state agencies," Alexander said. "Many of our agencies have gone above and beyond to provide the necessary accommodations for our state employees. I think it’s necessary for purposes of uniformity that that be in writing."

Alexander says some state employees are having to use their sick leave to request time off if they want to stay home because of coronavirus. He thinks they should be given more flexibility.

“Quite frankly, I think the bottom line is that these are unusual circumstances and situations, and if it were full in thought I would recommend that members of the state employee population wouldn’t have to use any of their leave time," Alexander said.

Governor Ron DeSantis said Tuesday he’s told agency state heads to allow as many workers as possible to telecommute.

“We think that’s a good policy. I know many agencies have done it. We clearly have a need for essential workers, particularly in the public health sphere and emergency management so we’re going to need to have their hands on deck," DeSantis said. "But certainly any of the non-essential we would say, keep at many home as you can and try to reduce any density in the workforce”

Meanwhile, Rep. Clay Yarborough (R-Jacksonville) thinks more needs to be done to help the businesses that have been mandated to close.

"Businesses in our state right now are hurting. And when the orders have come out that have mandated reductions on our businesses that have essentially severely reduced their ability to generate revenue or in some cases businesses have close right now because of what’s going on," Yarborough said. "It does not make sense to me that we would be taking taxes from those businesses at the same amount or at all if they indicate they are the ones who are closed because of state orders."

Yarborough also thinks business tax renewals, property taxes on commercial properties, and other business-related fees should be waived until the mandate is lifted on bars and restaurants. 

In Orlando, Sen. Victor Torres (D-Kissimmee) thinks closing bars and restaurants isn’t enough. He says more businesses need to be closed.

"Bit by bit that this governor is doing. He needs to step up and gain his leadership," Torres said. "This is a time to show why you are the governor and make sure that people understand you’re doing it in their best interest, and try to keep everyone safe."

Torres and other Senators sent a letter Tuesday urging the governor to implement a stay at home policy. Torres says in Orange and Collier counties; officials have established a curfew from 11:00 pm to 5:00 am. But he believes more needs to be done to make sure Florida doesn’t run into problems New York has now.

“I was just listening to the Governor of New York the amount of cases and the lack of supplies they don’t have the gowns, the masks, the ventilators I mean it’s enormous and I want to prevent that from spreading here in Florida," Torres said.

DeSantis, however, thinks the call to recommend everyone stay at home wouldn’t be effective.

“The CDC has not said do a statewide lockdown and I also look at some of these other states that have done it and I see massive non-compliance and I’m not even sure how effective it is," DeSantis said.

In the meantime, several local governments including Miami Beach, Tampa, and Leon County has issued their own stay at home orders in an effort to help control the spread of the coronavirus.

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.