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Lee County Board of Commissioners meet to clarify DeSantis order

April 1, 2020
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Amid confusion regarding an order issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis Wednesday morning to keep Florida seniors in their homes and limit the movements of all Floridians to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services, the Lee County Board of Commissioners held an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon clarifying what exactly the order meant.

DeSantis had described the order as "directing all Floridians to limit movements and personal interactions outside of their home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities." The order also called on all seniors and individuals with underlying medical conditions to stay at home.

The long list of exemptions for businesses and the number of activities allowed are so vast that the on-ground effect of the order has left commissioners and the public with a lot of questions. DeSantis said the guidelines from President Donald Trump amount to a "national pause."

Essential businesses include a long list including government, finance, media, hardware, food and agriculture, information technology, infrastructure, legal services, health care, veterinarian care, manufacturing, trucking, childcare facilities, telecommunications providers, construction, architectural services, marina services, factories, waste management services, public works, warehouses, businesses that provide shelter and any businesses interacting with customers solely through electronic or telephonic services that use electronic, shipping, mailing services.

At Wednesday's meetings, commissioners questioned County Attorney Richard Wesch as to just how strict the order was. It was just two days earlier that the commissioners acted not to issue a restrict shelter-in-place order but opted for a more educational route of telling residents to follow state advisories.

Board of Commissioner Chairman Brian Hamman noted that some of the things people can still do is walking, biking, hunting, fishing, running, swimming, taking care of pets and attending religious activities.

Commissioner Frank Mann wants to know the difference between strength for what the county approved Monday and what DeSantis has ordered.

Wesch said the governor's use of the word "shall" in the order made it a mandate. He referred to the order's wording of "Senior citizens and individuals with a significant underlying medical condition (such as chronic lung disease, moderate-to-severe asthma, serious heart conditions, immunocompromised status, cancer, diabetes, severe obesity, renal failure and liver disease) shall stay at home and take all measures to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19."

He also cited the paragraph which said "all persons in Florida shall limit their movements and personal interactions outside of their home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities."

"The use of the word shall makes it mandatory," Hamman said.

Commissioner Cecil Pendergras asked what the impact would be on those in transtition or homeless. "What if people don't have a home?"

"That's putting law enforcement in a bad position," Pendergrass said.

Pendergrass said there is a lot of confusion now because some people are in the process of purchasing homes or moving.

Commissioner Ray Sandelli wanted to know what the difference was between "stay at home" and "safer at home."

Hamman said a lot of people have asked for clarity about the governor's order because the first section on the order says "safer at home." In addition, the federal list of essential services and businesses. and Miami-Dade County exceptions for essential businesses adopted by DeSantis, has left further questions regarding the order's impact.

At the start of Wednesday's meeting Hamman prayed for the protection of those taking care of those affected by the current pandemic and on the front lines of helping treat those at risk. "Father, we pray that you will be with them. It is in Jesus's name we pray," Hamman said.



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