Florida governor wants to accelerate transportation projects

Coronavirus: Florida governor issues statewide, 30-day stay-at-home order

Governor wants to accelerate transportation construction projects during statewide ‘pause’

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order Wednesday instructing the state of Florida to “take a pause” for 30 days and stay home amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The statewide stay-at-home order went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Residents will still be allowed to go out to get essential supplies, including food and groceries.

“I’m issuing an executive order directing all Floridians to limit movements and personal interactions outside the home to only those necessary and essential activities,” the governor said.

He did not order the closure of any beaches, but Volusia County officials on Thursday closed its beaches. Brevard County, however, has taken a different stance, allowing beachgoers to exercise but not sunbathe.

“The order doesn’t specifically say any of that is shut down,” said Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey. “We’re going to find out just how far the order extends.”

The governor has resisted issuing a statewide order of this kind up until this point more than 30 days after the first case of the virus was reported in Florida, but on Wednesday, as Florida’s coronavirus cases neared 7,000, including more than 80 dead, he said it was time.

As of Friday morning, confirmed cases surged past 9,000, with 144 dead.

The order drew praise from Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

“I think the governor came under a lot of pressure to act in the manner that we did 10 days ago,” Dyer said.

More than 30 others states had already issued such orders, including other large states like California, New York and Illinois, all acting more than a week ago.

DeSantis said he spoke to President Donald Trump and members of the coronavirus White House task force prior to making the decision. This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended extending its coronavirus guidelines for an additional 30 days.

[MORE COVERAGE: Florida may not see peak of COVID-19 infections until early May, study shows]

“We’re going to be in this for another 30 days and that’s just the reality that we find ourselves in,” DeSantis said.

More than half of Florida’s cases have been in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. DeSantis said that is due to the region’s large number of international travelers.

DeSantis had issued a stay-at-home order Monday for Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties and the Florida Keys.

Orange, Osceola and Hillsborough counties issued their own lockdown orders last week and Jacksonville announced Wednesday that it would join them beginning Friday.

The order also comes as a new University of Washington model released this week projects that the worst is yet to come for Florida. According to the models, Florida will see a rapid increase in the number of deaths and hospitalizations in April, with 100 people dying daily by mid-month and over 175 by May 1, when the number nears its peak.

DeSantis said the economic fallout is likely to worsen. In an attempt to mitigate some of that fallout, he plans to accelerate some roadway construction projects across the state while there are fewer drivers on the road. He instructed the Department of Transportation to put their foot on the gas of more than $2.1 billion in transportation projects.

[Coronavirus: What you need to do to get your government stimulus check]

Some of those projects will include the Howard Frankland Bridge near Tampa and the Sand Lake Road and International Drive extension in the Orlando tourism district.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people unable to work due to the virus are trying to file for unemployment through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and unable to do so because of an ill-equipped website and staffing issues.

The DEO hired an outside vendor to help answer calls and is seeking a bid to create a mobile application process.

Last week, Florida received 222,054 applications for assistance. On Sunday alone, more than 21,100 people applied, according to the DEO.

A $2.2 trillion federal stimulus bill, known as the CARES Act, signed by Trump last week will provide an additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits and expanded the benefits to contractors and gig workers who didn’t qualify under Florida’s benefits but those workers still need to apply through the state system.

The governor’s office and DEO officials said they are awaiting direction from the U.S. Department of Labor to implement the CARES Act benefits.

The stimulus bill will also mean U.S. residents receive checks from the federal government. Anyone earning up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income and who has a Social Security number will receive a $1,200 payment.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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