Gov. DeSantis calls for NYC flight cutbacks because of coronavirus fears

Statue of Liberty National Monument. Credit: National Park Service.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has called on the Trump Administration to restrict flights into Florida from coronavirus hot spots including New York.

The governor said domestic flights from highly infected New York City pose a special threat to Florida and should be shut down, as were overseas flights that brought infected passengers to Florida from Egypt, Iran and recently, Ireland.

“Now we’re starting to see it brought in from other states, primarily New York,” DeSantis said at a wide-ranging press conference Saturday afternoon in the state capital.

Not only do many East Coast travelers fly down to Florida, one traveler stands out: President Donald Trump has been a longtime New Yorker and now has a residence in South Florida.

The governor also ordered Level 1 activation of the state’s Emergency Operations Center Saturday because of the spread of the coronavirus, which causes a respiratory disease called COVID-19 that can be fatal and has expanded across the globe.

The EOC’s Level 1 “full scale activation” status – often implemented during a dangerous hurricane – means all and not just some “primary and support agencies under the state plan” are on call to respond to the crisis.

The governor also discussed the 61 Floridians in quarantine after cruising on the infected Grand Princess cruise ship. Most of those Floridians, held this week at Dobbins Reserve Air Force Base in Marietta, GA, are elderly. DeSantis said he has directed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to supervise their return to their Florida homes.

They will be tested for the coronavirus and will be in isolation, having disembarked from the cruise ship that was held at bay off the cost of San Francisco due to illness aboard. A California man who recently traveled on the ship on a previous cruise died of COVID-19.

DeSantis reiterated that the state’s most vulnerable citizens are the elderly in congregate living and people with underlying health problems. He said the state’s highest priority is to prevent the spread of the virus to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, where many of the most vulnerable citizens reside.

Other updates:

/Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said his teams are stockpiling supplies and gear needed for health-care providers and preparing for a “med surge” that includes the expertise of National Guard units.

/Requirements to renew driver licenses and professional licenses are suspended for 30 days, to free up state staff.

/Surgeon General Scott Rivkees said he has asked university-based medical personnel to develop plans to expand the state’s medical capacity to test and treat. Questioned by reporters, he twice declined to estimate how many more medical professionals are needed.

/The governor extended for 30 days restrictions on visitation at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. People aged 70 and elder and people with underlying medical problems are the most at risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19.