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Desantis’ Stay-At-Home Order: What Does It Mean For You?

Upper Tampa Bay Park after Hillsborough announced it closed the parks to the public to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Department of Enrovronmental Protection issued a similar statewide order on March 23.
Carl Lisciandrello/WUSF Public Media
Upper Tampa Bay Park after Hillsborough announced it closed the parks to the public to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Department of Enrovronmental Protection issued a similar statewide order on March 23.

As Florida approached 8,000 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday issued a statewide stay-at-home order.

DeSantis announced the 30-day executive order at a press conference, saying he made the decision after speaking with President Donald Trump.

The order will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

CORONAVIRUS: Complete Coverage From WUSF And WUSF Public Media

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor both criticized DeSantis for hesitating to issue a statewide order after having already issuing similar edicts in their respective cities.

Kriseman said "the short term economic pain it will cause is worth the lives it will save and will actually help our economy recover more quickly in the long run term," while Castor said the move was  “better late than never.”

Former Miami-Dade Judge Jeffrey Swartz, now teaching on the Tampa Bay campus of the Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School, was not impressed by the language of DeSantis' decree.

RELATED: DeSantis Clarifies Minimum Standards Set By His Stay-At-Home Order

“His stay-at-home order really is, I’ve described it as almost being a nothing-burger. It is a document which is intended to make it look like he’s doing something when he really isn’t."

He also voiced his dismay for the governor taking so long in issuing a statewide order.

"I don’t know why he didn’t do it before," said Swartz. "I don’t know why he left our beaches open. I don’t know why he didn’t close down our restaurants. I don’t know why he didn’t do those things. I have no idea.”

Swartz added that it appeared to him that DeSantis was waiting for permission from President Donald Trump, something many other governors were not willing to do.

“Is (Governor of New York Andrew) Cuomo doing that? No. Is the governor of New Jersey doing that? No. Connecticut? No. Rhode Island? No,” Swartz said.

Here are some questions and answers related to DeSantis' order.

How long will it last?

For now, the order is scheduled to last until April 30, but may be extended if DeSantis sees fit.

Am I allowed to leave my house?

The order calls for Floridians to limit their movements and personal interactions outside of the home to only those necessary to obtain and provide essential services or conduct essential activities.

Those who are considered higher risk, such as senior citizens and people with significant underlying medical conditions, are to stay at home and take all the necessary measures to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

What is considered a significant underlying medical condition?

According to the order, this includes people with chronic lung disease, moderate-to-severe asthma, serious heart conditions, immunocompromised status, cancer, diabetes, severe obesity, renal failure and liver disease.

READ: Executive Order Issued By Gov. Ron DeSantis

What are essential services?

DeSantis borrowed guidelines from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and those already established in Miami-Dade County.

They include jobs that fall under the following sectors: health care, law enforcement, public works, water, energy, wastewater, logistics, food and agriculture and construction.

"If it is not enumerated as an essential service, then technically they’re not supposed to be working," Swartz said. "But just about everything is an essential service these days.”

Find the full list from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security here. A list will also be on the Division of Emergency Management’s website and the Department of Health’s website.

What are essential activities?

These activities include attending participating in recreational activity – while adhering to proper social distancing guidelines – such as walking, biking, fishing, hunting, running or swimming; taking care of pets; caring or assisting a loved one or friend.

Keep in mind that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection closed all state parks to the public on March 23 after not being able provide the reductions to best slow the spread of COVID-19. 

RELATED: How Tampa Bay Counties Are Handling Coronavirus Stay-At-Home Orders, Curfews And Closures

What about religious services?

The list also includes religious services. The move to include them as an essential activity conflicts with the safer-at-home order in Hillsborough County.

Swartz criticized the statewide order for including this clause, saying it will only worsen the situation.

"I’ve listened to many religious leaders say the same thing: that it is reckless for people going into a church without knowing they have been infected or not or anyone in there has been infected or not and then go home to their families and their communities as though everything’s okay.”

The tighter guidelines of Hillsborough County’s order resulted in the arrest of Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne on March 30 after he hosted two large Sunday services.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested Howard-Browne for unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency rules, both of which are second-degree misdemeanors.

"We are not a non-essential service. We are vital to any community, to health and the well-being,” Howard-Browne said in a video posted to Facebook.

DeSantis signed a second order Wednesday superseding any action or order issued by local officials. He attempted to clarify the boundaries at a Thursday press conference.

"We have the baseline, if some folks want to do things more than they can do more in certain situations," he said.

Relgious gatherings seemed to be one of those "situations" where DeSantis wasn't leaving any wiggle room over, saying the state doesn't have the power to shut down churches.

Instead, he asked that those that would rather not stream their services online and meet in person practice social distancing guidelines and keep congregants at least six feet away from each other during services.

“The constitution doesn’t get suspended here," he said. "There’s got to be ways where you can accommodate.”

But Swartz said that DeSantis’ order is “political and possible legal cover for the charges that were filed against (Howard-Browne).”

Arguing against those who feel the order restricts people’s right to assemble, Swartz said that every amendment in the Bill of Rights has exceptions during crises.

“Everything is based upon a reasonable standard. So is it unreasonable to restrict the freedom of assembly at a time of grave national urgency? And for the health and safety of the entire community to say, ‘no.’”

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Can I still order food from a restaurant?

The order encourages all businesses and organizations to provide delivery, carry-out or curbside service of all orders placed online or on the phone.

Previous executive orders by the governor regarding alcohol sales, restaurants and bars are to remain in effect until at least April 30 as well.

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Jonah Hinebaugh is the WUSF social media intern for spring 2020.
Dylan Rudolph is the WUSF Radio News Intern for the spring 2020 semester.