Gov. DeSantis’ quarantine for fly-ins is retroactive to two weeks, not three

People navigate through Miami International Airport amid coronavirus fears on March 15, 2020. Gov. Ron DeSantis later imposed mandatory quarantines on travelers from areas including the New York region. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A COVID-19-related executive order targeting travelers to Florida appears to deviate from what Gov. Ron DeSantis indicated during a media briefing Tuesday, requiring self-isolation for some people who arrived within the past two weeks instead of the three first indicated.

The wording of the says the edict, released Tuesday night, requires 14 days of quarantine for “all persons who have entered Florida after being in any area with substantial community spread within the previous 14 days.”

However, a three-week period does feature in the order: These recent arrivals will have to “inform any individual in Florida with whom they have had direct physical contact in the past 21 days that they have traveled from an area with direct community spread.”

Failure to comply with the quarantine would bring criminal sanctions of up to 60 days in jail or fines of up to $500. Police are directed to report any such person with whom they interact to health authorities and to assist in enforcing the quarantine.

Still not clear is how the process would work and how individuals from two weeks ago would be compelled to comply. Meanwhile, DeSantis has been under pressure and even attack for refusal to order a statewide stay-home order like other states have done.

As for the contact tracing language, “any law enforcement authority that interacts with a person in violation [of that provision] shall immediately report the individual, along with personal identifying and contact information, to the Florida Department of Health.”

DeSantis has emphasized that his target is people from the tri-state area around New York City, including Connecticut and New Jersey. The region long has enjoyed close ties to Southeast Florida, and DeSantis has been complaining about incoming flights bearing people fleeing New York’s shelter-in-place directive.

But although the order singles out the New York City region, again, it also applies to “all persons within the state of Florida from an area with substantial community spread.” That could encompass cities and states across the nation where authorities have issued stay-home orders in hopes of containing spread of the virus — California, Washington state, Illinois to name a few.

The same language appeared in an initial order the governor’s office issued Monday ordering people fresh off the plane into isolation for 14 days, time for COVID-19 symptoms to manifest. The innovation of the second order is to apply the quarantine retroactively.

The edicts do exempt airline employees and “those performing military, emergency, or health response.”

Under both orders, people affected must pay all costs of their quarantine.

The governor’s communications office released the language Tuesday night but it was not yet posted to the governor’s web site early Wednesday.

Michael Moline
Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.