Governor: Florida screening travelers from coronavirus hotspots in attempt to 'get a handle' on virus' spread

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on “Fox & Friends” that the state is now screening travelers from New York City both at highway roadblocks and at airports in an attempt to “get a handle” on the coronavirus outbreak.

DeSantis has so far refused to issue a statewide stay-at-home order, similar to those enforced in at least 22 other states, including California, New York and Illinois. However,  Florida is now screening travelers from other states and those who do not self-quarantine could face 60 days in jail.

In Florida, more than 5,400 COVID-19 cases have been reported with 63 deaths, according to Florida’s COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard.

“Basically this is an extension what we’ve done from the very beginning,” DeSantis said on Monday. “When we had Floridians coming back from China, for example, they would be screened for 14 days. Then Italy, we added that. Obviously the president eventually shut down flights from both of those places.”

The novel coronavirus is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China. The United States currently has the most coronavirus cases in the world with more than 143,000, followed by Italy with more than 97,000, according to data compiled by Fox News.

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“Given the New York City area is the number one hot spot in the world right now, when the New York governor instituted the stay in place order, we started noticing a huge uptick in traffic out of the city, many of them coming to Florida and so we view that as problematic,” DeSantis said.

As of Monday morning, New York City reported more than 33,000 coronavirus cases and 776, according to data compiled by Fox News. New York State has more than 59,000 and 966 deaths.

In a press conference Saturday, DeSantis ordered a two-week halt on all vacation rentals in Florida, telling tourists "if you're in one now, finish and go home," USA Today reported.

Those traveling on flights from the tristate area -- New York, New Jersey or Connecticut – as well as Louisiana, will be met by National Guard troops and public health officials at major Florida airports.

DeSantis ordered highway checkpoints be set in place for traffic from Louisiana that enters the state on Interstate 10 and on Interstate 95, the route many people from the New York City area drive down south.

DeSantis noted on Monday that “almost 60 percent” of the cases in his state are in southeast Florida.

“The region is shut down, schools are out, people are really sacrificing and I think the fear is that while you are doing all that to try to slow the spread, it would be really bad if new infections were just being airdropped in from other hot spots and so we’re just trying to get a handle on it,” he said. “We can't prevent travel from an American citizen to our state, we understand that, but if we can tell them about self-isolation and request that they do that and if they comply, then I think we will be safer as a result.”

DeSantis also reacted on Monday to the fact that the Zaandam cruise ship carrying nearly 200 passengers and crew, which is reporting “influenza-like illness symptoms,” is making its way toward Florida.

Holland America Line made the announcement on Sunday two days after four “older” passengers passed away aboard the Zaandam. Holland America did not say what the guests died of, although they did report at least two of the ill guests tested positive for COVID-19.

“We cannot afford to have people who are not even Floridians dumped into South Florida using up those valuable resources and so I am in contact with the White House on this,” DeSantis said. “I'm in contact with local county officials in both Broward and Miami-Dade.”

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He added that “we view this as a big, big problem and we do not want to see people dumped in Southern Florida right now.”

Fox News’ Danielle Wallace and Michael Bartiromo contributed to this report.