President Donald Trump approves disaster declaration for Florida

Declaration comes at request of Gov. Ron DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis shakes hands with President Donald Trump in May 2019
Posted at 3:39 PM, Mar 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-25 16:47:57-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump on Wednesday declared a "major disaster" in Florida, two days after Gov. Ron DeSantis requested that designation because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The declaration clears the way for the state to receive federal assistance.

In a letter to Trump on Monday, DeSantis wrote that Florida's "hospitals, medical facilities and first responders are facing challenges rarely experienced before."

He said the state has already spent $208 million on related unemployment assistance, food stamps, disaster loans and mental health counseling.

Despite the designation, the Republican governor has resisted calls from other Florida lawmakers and officials, mostly Democrats, to issue a statewide stay-at-home order.

"To order someone not to be able to earn a paycheck when them going to work is not going to have any effect on what we're doing with the virus, that is something that I think is inappropriate," DeSantis said during a news conference Wednesday in Orlando.

In his letter to the president, DeSantis wrote that the state's medical system is already burdened and the situation will get worse with limited testing and more than 1,600 confirmed cases.

"The process of triaging and isolating affected individuals is significantly disrupting lifesaving and life sustaining services," DeSantis wrote. "Additionally, the insufficient medical resources and capacities of medical facilities, and the already limited number of qualified medical personnel will only continue to rapidly deplete as the impacts of COVID-19 continue to spread."