Absent restrictions on domestic travel from the federal government, Gov. Ron DeSantis has ordered travelers to Florida airports from COVID-19 hotspots to quarantine after arriving in the state.
DeSantis' order specifically calls out travelers from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Travelers must isolate or quarantine for 14 days or the duration of the person’s presence in Florida, whichever is shorter.
"That's the only way we can be sure that the virus is not going to be reintroduced in the state of Florida and then spread," DeSantis said Monday night during a live stream briefing. "You have so many people working so hard, many people have sacrificed, to try and protect our friends and neighbors. I just think it would be unacceptable to continue to allow it to simply come in from people who are fleeing a shelter-in-place order from those states."
The order does not apply to airline employees or travelers performing a military, emergency or health response. It went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
DeSantis has been criticized for not issuing a stay-at-home order for Florida residents as governors in many states have, including California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois.
"Given our circumstances, that would not be advisable," DeSantis said. "It would be a very blunt instrument. When you're ordering people to shelter in place, you are consigning hundreds of thousands of Floridians to lose their jobs. You're throwing their lives into potential disarray. If that was something that was necessary statewide, because the health comes first, that would be one thing. But if you look at Florida's situation right now, this is not a virus that's impacting every corner of the state."
DeSantis said there are 20 Florida counties that do not have any COVID-19 cases and 25 counties that have "only a few" cases.
The Florida Department of Health on Monday evening reported 1,227 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, including 17 deaths.
The disease has caused at least 582 deaths in the U.S., with more than 46,000 confirmed cases in the country. COVID-19 symptoms appear within two to 14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, runny nose and difficulty breathing.
Most people who have it develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually the elderly and those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.