TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- After weeks of resisting a statewide stay-home order, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Wednesday that he would sign an executive order limiting all activity in Florida to essential services only for the next 30 days to try to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The order, which will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, is intended to follow the direction of the White House, which Tuesday revised its guidelines and extended its social-distancing recommendations until the end of April.
It will also come one month after Florida had its first two cases of COVID-19 confirmed March 2: a 63-year-old Manatee County man who had not traveled recently and a 29-year-old Hillsborough County woman who had recently traveled to Italy.
"We're going to be in this for another 30 days," the governor said at a news conference crowded with reporters in his small Capitol office.
"That's just the reality that we find ourselves in. And so given those circumstances, given the unique situation in Florida, I'm going to be doing an executive order today, directing all Floridians to limit movements and personal interactions outside the home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities."
He said the order will provide a list of essential services that follows closely the order issued by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on March 26.
Florida now will become the 34th state to ask most Floridians to essentially stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the deadly disease caused by the coronavirus.
DeSantis did not arrive at the decision easily.
As recently as Tuesday, he insisted a statewide stay-home order was unnecessary because the bulk of the cases, and the testing, has been in South Florida. Public health experts, however, have warned that the state's failure to implement stronger limitations on person-to-person contact increased the possibility that Florida would continue to see cases increase for months.
He dismissed the value of a statewide stay-at-home order, suggesting that on a trip to South Florida on Monday he had seen beaches that had been ordered closed with people gathering on them anyway.