By DOTTY NIST
To slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has issued an order calling for people in Florida to limit activities outside their homes to essential activities and services.
Almost 12,000 Florida residents had tested positive for the acute respiratory virus as of April 6, with over 1,500 hospitalized and over 220 deaths from COVID-19 in the state.
The “Safer at Home” order was among a number of executive orders (EOs) applying statewide and issued by Gov. DeSantis in late March and early April in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.
EO 2020-91 – Essential Services and Activities During COVID-19 Emergency
EO 2020-91, Essential Services and Activities During COVID-19 Emergency was issued on April 1. The order directed “all persons in Florida” to limit movement and personal interactions outside their home to “only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities.”
The order also directed senior citizens and people with underlying medical conditions to stay at home plus “take all measures to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19.”
Gov. DeSantis encouraged working from home in conjunction with the stay-at-home order. Delivery, carry-out and curbside services provided by businesses or organizations were also encouraged.
Essential activities listed in the order included recreational activities consistent with social distancing guidelines (walking, biking, fishing, hunting, running, swimming, etc.), along with taking care of pets, attending religious services, and caring for or assisting a loved one or friend.
Essential services for purposes of the order were specified as those contained in a list detailed in a publication by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The document, titled Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce v. 2, with list, was attached to the order, with any subsequent lists published by the department to be included.
Per the order, essential services also included the businesses and activities detailed in EO 2020-89 and in an attachment to that order containing a list set forth by Miami-Dade County. This information was attached Gov. DeSantis’s Safer at Home order as well.
Workers in a number of infrastructure components were deemed as providing essential services, among those healthcare, law enforcement, public safety, food and agriculture, pharmacy, water and wastewater, transportation, public works, communications, government operations, critical manufacturing, hazard materials management, financial services, chemical plants/transportation, defense, commerce, shelter facilities/services, and hygiene products/services.
EO 2020-91 specified that a social gathering in a public space was not considered an essential activity. It directed: “Local jurisdictions shall ensure that groups of people greater than ten are not permitted to congregate in any public space.”
EO 2020-71, issued by Gov. DeSantis on March 20, had closed restaurant dining rooms and limited restaurants to providing delivery and take-out services. These restrictions remain in force with EO 2020-91, with their effective time frame tied to that of Gov. DeSantis’s original March 9 order directing a declaration of a public health emergency for COVID-19 (EO 2020-52). The March 9 order was set up to expire 60 days from issuance unless extended.
It was stated that EO 2020-91 did not supersede other EOs related to COVID-19. Also indicated was that EO 2020-91 would supersede any local government action or order related to COVID-19, but only in instances that the local government order or action allowed essential services or activities prohibited by EO 2020-91.
The Safer at Home order is to expire on April 30 unless extended.
EO 2020-92 – Amendment to EO 2020-91
Also issued on April 30 was an executive order amending the previous one. EO 2020-92 amended the section of EO-2020-91 that had stated that that order would supersede any local government action or order related to COVID-19, but only in instances that the local government order or action allowed essential services or activities prohibited by EO 2020-91. Substituted was the simpler language, “This Order shall supersede any conflicting official action or order issued by local officials in response to COVID-19.”
EO 2020-93 – Reemployment Assistance Program
EO 2020-93 was issued on April 2 in response to demands on the state Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) Reemployment Assistance Program resulting from COVID-19’s negative impacts on Florida businesses and a deluge of unemployed state residents seeking help from DEO.
The Reemployment Assistance Programs is Florida’s unemployment insurance program. With some conditions applying, state residents who lose their job through no fault of their own may apply for unemployment benefits through the program.
This executive order called for the deployment and training of state personnel from other agencies, in consultation with the state Department of Management Services, to assist DEO with reemployment assistance efforts. The order also provided for DEO to receive reemployment applications by Internet and telephone and pursue new/alternate methods of receiving applications, with CareerSource Florida and a third-party company to assist DEO in collecting applications.
The order further provided: “DEO shall immediately procure additional capacity, software, technology and/or other resources as needed to ensure the state’s reemployment assistance call center, website and staff can accommodate the increasing volume of applications and queries.”
EO 2020-93 is to remain in effect until expiration of EO 2020-52, including any extensions of that order.
EO 2020-94 – Mortgage Foreclosure and Eviction Relief
Also issued on April 2, EO 2020-94 put in place a 45-day suspension of any statute under Florida law providing for mortgage foreclosure. The executive order also suspended for 45 days any statute providing for eviction under Florida law as related to non-payment of rent by residential tenants due to the COVID-19 emergency.
The order specified that it should not be understood as relieving any person from their obligation to make mortgage or rent payments.
EOs available for viewing online
These executive orders may be viewed online at the link: https://www.flgov.com/2020-executive-orders/