Gov. DeSantis cancels quarantine order for travelers from New York area, updates restaurant screening

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

Gov. Ron DeSantis has rescinded his requirement that travelers from the New York region enter quarantine and ordered COVID-19 screening for restaurant employees to follow the latest U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines as they are updated.

The governor issued an executive order Tuesday making the changes, which took effect immediately.

Regarding restaurant screening, the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association said on its website that employees who have previously tested positive no longer need to receive two negative tests before returning to their jobs.

“This executive order also removes the requirement that employees who have traveled through an airport in the last 14 days be prohibited from working in a restaurant,” the organization said.

DeSantis ordered the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to follow the latest guidance from the CDC, which recommends on its own webpage that restaurants emphasize maintaining safe distances between customers, use of face masks, and stringent santitation.

DeSantis imposed the travel restriction on March 23, when the COVID caseloads in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut appeared to be surging out of control, complaining that residents fleeing the infection were bringing the coronavirus to Florida — particularly to South Florida, which became this state’s biggest hot spot.

Now the shoe is on the other foot: New York state reported only 639 positive COVID tests on Tuesday, according to an analysis by The New York Times. Florida, according to state Department of Health records, reported 7,650 new positive COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and 120 Florida resident deaths.

That brought the total to 510,389 Florida cases and 7,747 deaths.

DeSantis had posted law enforcement officers and public health officials at state airports to greet travelers and inform them of the requirement to self-quarantine for 14 days upon pain of criminal penalty.

He said at the time: “As we’re working to stop it in the state of Florida, you’re consistently having people come in from one of the top hot spots in the entire world. We don’t have people coming from Wuhan; we don’t have people coming from Milan. Yet you have a flood of people still coming from New York City.”

Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has imposed his own quarantine order on travelers from 35 states and territories, including Florida, according to an update on a New York state website.

They are Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Delaware and Washington, D.C., have been dropped from the list.