Coronavirus concerns: DeSantis urges Floridians to take social distancing seriously


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida officials are working on a way to stress the importance of social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have this issue with these bars and spring breaks,” he said. “I think you have a lot of folks taking a lot of important measures around the state. You’ve seen it with major events canceled, you’ve seen different things with the schools, you’ve seen nursing homes and assisted living facilities go to great lengths to protect the population. But then you see images over the weekend of these massive gatherings of a lot of students – a lot of college students in places like Miami Beach.”

The governor called those gatherings problematic.

“Although COVID-19 data suggests it’s probably not a very serious threat to the health of people who are young and don’t have underlying medical conditions, they can still acquire it and transmit it to others,” he said. “Those gatherings are prime ways to do that.”

DeSantis said he spoke with the mayors of Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale about the two cities imposing curfews and restricting access to beaches. He said he believes that’s the right way to go when it comes to addressing social distancing.

While the governor said he’s not sure he’s convinced it’s necessary to close all restaurants, he did say he approves of steps some areas have taken across the country to limit the capacity and space people out.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Sunday that people throughout the United States should avoid events of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks.

“This recommendation is made in an attempt to reduce introduction of the virus into new communities and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus,” the CDC said.

A spokesperson for Tampa Mayor Jane Castor told 8 On Your Side city officials are aware of the new CDC guideline and the conversation on limiting large gatherings will continue Monday morning. The city had already recommended the cancellation of a public or private gathering of 250 or more people.

When asked whether bars and restaurants should temporarily close, Eckerd College student Bella Iannotta said, “I’m actually surprised they haven’t already, I’m surprised that I can still go.”

Her mother Becky Iannotta told 8 On Your side it should be up to each individual business.

“I wouldn’t want to tell the business what they should or shouldn’t do,” she said.

Bella is headed home to Virginia for spring break not knowing when she’ll be back in Tampa Bay.

“As a mom, I’m just glad to have my kids under my roof,” Becky said.

Her daughter told 8 On Your Side when it comes to the spread of coronavirus she is concerned the most about a family member with an autoimmune disease.

“So I’m worried for them,” she said. “I’m worried that I’ll catch it and spread it so that as a young person I’m not worried for myself, I’m worried for other people.”

Gov. DeSantis also provided an update Sunday night on testing. He said the Florida National Guard will be teaming up with the Memorial Health Care System in Broward County to set up drive-through coronavirus testing sites.

“The idea is – because we’ve had more cases in Broward than anywhere else – we want to be able to supplement the health care system there,” he said. “We think we’re going to have a way to do this successfully.”

The governor called it a convenient way for a “limited subset of the population” to get tested, like the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.

“We want to put resources where there is the greatest need,” the governor said.


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