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As New York City and the surrounding area have become the new epicenter for the coronavirus pandemic in America, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday he is ordering anyone arriving on a flight from the New York region to submit to self-quarantine for two weeks.
DeSantis said in an address from his Tallahassee office that more than 100 such flights arrive daily in the state and he believes each contains at least one person infected with the new coronavirus.
He said he has been in contact with federal officials about curtailing such flights, but has not yet received a response. He said people will be screened when they arrived and told they must self-quarantine. He said those travelers will not be allowed to stay with family or friends, because that is one way the virus is spread.
He did not say specifically how the self-quarantine would be enforced, but he said “it is actually a criminal offense if you violate the quarantine order.” Florida law says it is a second-degree misdemeanor to violate a quarantine order that could result in a 60-day jail sentence.
DeSantis said people could be “held accountable if they buck the law.”
He said he doesn’t want to cause unnecessary financial hardship or create unintended consequences such as people fleeing the state and spreading the disease.
“In New York [City], when they did the stay-at-home order, what did people do? A lot of people fled the city and they are going to stay with their parents or fly [out],” DeSantis said during a press conference at a retirement community of 80,000 residents north of Orlando. “We are getting huge amounts of people flying in. We are looking at how to address those flights.”
He said he talked to President Trump on Sunday night about that issue.
As of Monday morning, more than 1,100 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Florida and 13 have died.
DeSantis said one of the biggest problems statewide is people who “put themselves first” by refusing to avoid large crowds.
“If you shut down the bar, they go to a house party. You have no beach, so they go to a sandbar, which is technically not the beach. I would say for those folks, you need to cool it. ... The more stuff you are doing, the more difficult and longer this may go,” DeSantis said.
The virus causes only minor flu-like symptoms in most people, who recover in a matter of weeks. But it is highly contagious and can cause severe illness or death in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health problems. Severe cases are often only able to breathe with respirators.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.