TALLAHASSEE, FL — The governor of Florida has again expanded his 14-day self-quarantine order, originally aimed at people fleeing the New York City area, to now include travelers from New Orleans. The governor also authorized the use of roadside checkpoints along highways to enforce the directive in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said late Friday afternoon that Florida officials have already screened 3,400 travelers from New York, Connecticut and New Jersey since his order took effect earlier this week.
“Because we have put in the 14-day self-isolation requirement, you have seen a dramatic reduction in air traffic from the New York City area to the state of Florida, particularly the number of passengers that are on a lot of these aircraft,” DeSantis told reporters from his office in Tallahassee.
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DeSantis said officials in the Florida Panhandle requested the extension to include travelers from New Orleans. As in the case of New York area travelers, the order to report and self-quarantine to some extent relies on travelers to answer honestly and follow the rules.
“There’s a fear that as New Orleans becomes more of a hot spot, that you could have an influx of people into the Florida Panhandle from Louisiana,” the governor said. “We will be requiring the same for travelers from New Orleans, Louisiana and other parts of Louisiana to self-isolate for 14 days. “
He said the checkpoints will be set up along roads entering Florida from neighboring states. He didn’t specify exactly where the checkpoints would be located, but Florida is bordered by Alabama and Georgia.
“If you are coming from one of the epicenters, we probably think you should follow the directions of your state and local officials,” DeSantis said. “If they are telling you to shelter in place, then do that. But don’t come here, because we are trying to protect our folks.”
The governor also suspended all new vacation rentals throughout Florida.
“Now is not really the time to do that, so the vacation rentals will be suspended for two weeks,” the governor said. “If you are in one now, finish and go home.”
DeSantis said the next large-scale testing site in the state will be located in Palm Beach County, which has the third-highest number of new coronavirus cases behind Miami-Dade County and Broward County.
“I think it’s important to expand the testing there so we can get a better sense of what’s going on,” the governor said. “I also think, unfortunately, the southern Florida counties are probably going to be the primary landing spot for a lot of the new York influx that has happened.”
Under the governor’s order, people who traveled from the New York City area to Florida — at any time during the last three weeks — must self-isolate and report the close contacts they’ve had in the Florida. The same will most likely be the case for Louisiana travelers.
“We think that that’s important, because you may have had someone who got back 10 days ago,” the governor said. “Maybe they’ve not even shown symptoms but they could be infected. If they are working with folks in Florida, or interacting with them in Florida, that is a way that this virus can spread.”
Related: FL Expands Coronavirus Order Targeting NY, NJ, CT Travelers
The Florida governor’s order requires travelers “to inform any individual in Florida with whom they have had direct physical contact in the past 21 days that they traveled from an area with substantial community spread.”
Violations will be treated as second-degree misdemeanors punishable by up to a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail. The document directs all state, county and local law enforcement officials to enforce the order.
A woman told Patch her sister was encouraged to take an indirect route from New Jersey to Naples after the governor’s order was issued.
“Her reservations were with JetBlue,” the woman said. “They offered to fly her to Boston and then from there she could land in Fort Myers.”
DeSantis issued his initial order Monday night and dispatched the Florida National Guard to meet some New York flights by Tuesday at larger airports in South Florida.