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Editorial: Gov. DeSantis lets Florida cities take the lead in coronavirus fight. Good. They're better at it

The Miami Herald Editorial Board, Miami Herald on

Published in Op Eds

Municipal governments in Florida are on their own. Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said as much.

But that might not be a bad thing in the mano a mano fight against the coronavirus. After all, DeSantis has fallen into line with President Donald Trump's impatience that the coronavirus is still a thing, still something he has to address again and again.

The president is sick and tired of it. Of course, Americans are sick, and dying of it.

Until now, cities and counties of South Florida and elsewhere in the state have been in the lead, with the governor lagging behind.

In a Monday afternoon press conference, DeSantis reaffirmed that he would not give an order for Floridians to shelter in place, as other governors who are confronting the crisis with more rigor have done. His position bucks the advice of public health experts who want him to issue a short-term, stay-at-home order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

LOCAL GOVERNMENTS STEP UP

Instead, he invited regions to bring him their good ideas, saying he would do what he could to assist them.

Again, given the governor's limited abilities here, that's not a bad idea -- as long as he can deliver. And we commend him for the Florida Department of Health's release of a complete list of cities where Floridians with confirmed COVID-19 live.

Finally, the public can see whether residents in their cities have tested positive. DeSantis, too, asked Trump to give Florida "major disaster" designation, which the president did on Wednesday.

In the meantime, local governments are taking the lead, thank goodness. Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber issued a shelter-in-place order, starting Tuesday. Miami and other cities in Miami-Dade -- and the county itself -- should follow suit. Days ago, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez shut down parks and hotels and beaches, restaurants, nail salons and casinos. Testing is getting on its feet, with several drive-thru centers opening in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties. DeSantis announced such a site on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in the city of Miami Gardens.

TALKED TO TRUMP

 

Monday, the governor said that about 20 counties have no confirmed coronavirus cases, asserting that a statewide shutdown would hurt those residents economically. That's a valid point. But economic hurt will be the least of the problems in those counties if they can't figure out how to prevent the coronavirus from leap-frogging over their borders and infecting their residents. Again, they're on their own.

You could almost hear the gears shifting in DeSantis' head on Monday as he humble-bragged that he had recently talked to Trump about the situation. But it was a revelation more chilling than inspiring.

"We can't let the cure be worse than the problem," Trump tweeted. This is not the person we want mentoring Florida's governor as this public health crisis gallops along. But here we are.

So under the new mantra, Florida, DeSantis said, will not shelter in place, despite the fact that there now are more than 1,200 coronavirus cases in the state and at least 18 deaths as of Monday night.

And the governor also cited New Yorkers who have "gotten the hell out of Dodge" heading to Florida now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has issued a statewide shelter-in-place order. DeSantis says those northerners will be stopped at the airport, screened and required to go into 14-day self-quarantine. Of course, not a word about how it will be enforced, meaning Floridians could be in even more peril.

Still, the governor was clear: Save yourselves.

(c)2020 Miami Herald

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