TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- As Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to resist calls to shut down Florida to prevent the spread of coronavirus, he's been in close contact with a powerful constituency: big business.
Some of the state's largest business groups, which donate millions to Republican candidates each year, have been lobbying DeSantis and his staff to keep the state open.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce has spoken frequently with the governor and his staff, urging him not to take drastic measures that might shut down the state's economy. The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association has been asking for ways to help their industries stay afloat.
"We're recommending that the governor continue to do what he's doing," said Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson. "I don't think the data says we need to do a statewide shutdown."
In refusing to shut down the state, like some public health experts recommend, DeSantis is taking a gamble that many governors have not been willing to make.
More than a dozen other governors from both parties have imposed limits on businesses or ordered residents to shelter in place in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
DeSantis has refused to follow suit, deferring to cities and counties about how best to protect their residents, and has been unswayed by pleas from public health officials, mayors and Democratic members of Congress. Joe Biden, the leading Democratic presidential candidate, urged DeSantis on Wednesday to take "science-based action."
Public health experts say that a three-week limit on public movement is required to stop the spread of the virus, and they point to a statistical model that shows that Florida may have only one week to act before hospitals become overwhelmed.
"It is past time to intervene to slow transmission (in Florida)," said Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in a call with reporters on Monday.
DeSantis' cautious approach happens to be the same one advocated by Florida's business associations.