TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Just hours before a sweeping "stay at home" order goes into effect for the entire state of Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis is trying to clear up some confusion about what will and won't be allowed for residents.
The "stay at home" order will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, and will remain in place until April 30.
According to the executive order issued on Wednesday by DeSantis, "all persons in Florida shall limit their movements and personal interactions outside of their home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities."
Those essential activities include going to the grocery store, gas station, health care facilities, pharmacies, child care centers, and more.
WATCH NEWS CONFERENCE:
"When you're limiting people to essential services and essential activities, the goal is to reduce contacts with people outside the home," the governor said at a news conference on Thursday.
DeSantis said the goal is to avoid being in large groups, using the example that you can play basketball alone outside, but you can't play with a group of people.
"If you're engaging in activity that doesn't involve close contact with other people, you're gonna be fine," the governor said.
DeSantis also addressed a controversy with the "stay at home" order which allows churches, synagogues, and houses of worship to remain open.
Many Floridians worry that will cause clusters of people to be together at once during religious services.
"I don't think the government has the authority to close a church. I'm certainly not going to do that," DeSantis said. "There's no reason why you couldn't do a church service with people 10 feet apart. So we absolutely asked them to abide by the social distancing guidelines."
The governor added that many churches and synagogues are now spreading parishioners out or even holding virtual services.
Just asked @GovRonDeSantis about his safe-at-home order’s exemption for religious services. Says he doesn’t think state has authority to close churches, that people need them and that there is “no reason you can’t do church services six feet apart.”— Forrest Saunders (@FBSaunders) April 2, 2020
DeSantis also said on Thursday that he is adding more resources to Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity, which is being overwhelmed with unemployment claims, including 348,000 in the last week.
"This system is not handling the needs of the people in Florida," DeSantis said.
The state will provide extra staffing at the Claims Assistance Center and will purchase additional software to help Florida's CONNECT website handle more traffic.
"This is not something that you can turn on and off in an economy like this," DeSantis said. "This is a problem that could be with us for more than a couple weeks."
In addition, Florida is suspended foreclosures and evictions for 45 days.
According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, there are more than 8,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 128 deaths.
More than 69,000 people have tested negative for the virus in Florida.
Here are the cases in our viewing area:
- Palm Beach County: 630
- St. Lucie County: 47
- Indian River County: 38
- Martin County: 33
- Okeechobee County: 1
For the latest information about coronavirus cases in Florida, click here.