DeSantis defends himself as pressure grows over his stance on a shelter-in-place order

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

With Democrats criticizing his decision not to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday said he’s not sending a “mixed message” by imposing more COVID-19 restrictions in some areas of the state but not others.

At a press conference at a state emergency management warehouse in Orlando, the Republican governor said in his discussions with federal officials, including Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, they have praised the state’s “thoughtful, data-driven approach” to dealing with the virus outbreak.

DeSantis noted he worked closely with officials in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, where more stringent measures have been taken as more COVID-19 cases have emerged.

DeSantis has also imposed a number of statewide restrictions, including closing restaurants, bars and schools. And he has ordered anyone who has recently come from the New York City area to self-quarantine for two weeks.

“I think that that’s fine. But I also think there’s certain parts of the state where you have more sporadic cases and to issue, or to order someone not to be able to earn a paycheck when them going to work is not going to have any effect on what we’re doing with the virus, that is something that I think is inappropriate,” DeSantis said.

“Understand when you do some of these things, people respond in different ways and you got to think about what the second-order effect is. Clearly, when New York did shelter in place, that caused thousands and thousands of people to flee. And so that’s going to make it more difficult, I think, nationwide for us to be able to get a grip on this stuff,” he said.

He also questioned the shelter-in-place order in California, noting it hasn’t stopped some residents from going to the beach or attending parties.

“You’re probably are less dangerous just driving your car to go into the office than being with crowds of hundreds of people,” DeSantis said.

“So, you just got to think it through. But I’ve supported the local (restrictions), and it’s a more surgical approach” he said. “But it also is mitigating any damage that would be done for blunt instruments being applied in places throughout the state where it wouldn’t be appropriate.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic frontrunner for the presidential nomination, joined the criticism of DeSantis on Wednesday.

“While other large states continue to take strong, urgent, and sweeping action to stop the spread of COVID-19, Florida has not,” Biden said in a statement. “I urge Gov. DeSantis to let the experts speak to the public and explain why this is the case. In this moment of growing uncertainty and anxiety, Floridians want — and deserve — to hear from the public health officials leading the charge.”

Ten Democratic members of Florida’s congressional delegation also released a letter on Wednesday, asking the governor to impose a statewide shelter-in-place order.

“We understand the grave economic consequences this action will have,” the letter said. “But hoping to dull the impacts on the economy in the short term by delaying a shelter-in-place order will only exacerbate those impacts in the medium and long term.”

“Instead, we must accept the necessity of shelter-in-place order now while Congress works quickly to pass an economic stimulus bill that will save jobs, replace lost incomes, and support all Americans. In the long run, the cost of preventive action will save trillions of dollars and save lives,” the letter said.