Florida governor wants federal disaster area declaration

Florida governor wants federal disaster area declaration
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisThe Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election DeSantis: It's safe to hug with PPE on Police say man spat on child in restaurant and said 'you now have coronavirus' MORE (R) is pushing President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoe Arpaio loses bid for his old position as sheriff Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Trump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet MORE to grant his state a federal disaster declaration as the coronavirus pandemic intensifies, in a letter he sent Sunday.

DeSantis wrote that the crisis is having a “drastic effect” on Florida’s economy and medical providers in the letter that was released Monday. The state’s “hospitals, medical facilities, and first responders are facing challenges rarely experienced before,” he said.

A federal disaster declaration would give Florida access to federal funds after the state has spent $208 million on related unemployment assistance, food stamps, disaster loans and mental health counseling. 

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Although these declarations typically occur with natural disasters like hurricanes, DeSantis said Florida’s medical system is already overwhelmed, and there are only more cases to come. With limited testing, the state has documented more than 1,400 cases and 20 deaths. 

“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.”

The governor reported that more than half of about 6,600 businesses surveyed have laid off employees, with unemployment claims rising 130,000 in four days last week.

DeSantis has declined to implement a stay-at-home order for the state, saying he wants to focus response on the affected areas, as half of the confirmed cases are in three counties: Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, The Associated Press reported.

He did approve an executive order Monday requiring those traveling from New York and New Jersey to go into a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine. 

But some jurisdictions have issued shelter-in-place orders, including in Miami-Dade County.

Florida has already closed bars and gyms and limited restaurants to takeout and delivery. Some areas have closed beaches after the state’s beaches remained crowded despite recommendations to avoid gatherings of 10 people or more.