April began with Governor Ron DeSantis issuing a statewide safer-at-home order in Florida. Mayor Lenny Curry issued a similar order for Jacksonville, and both will go into effect on Friday April 3rd. This comes after President Trump extended social distancing guidelines until April 30th after previously being optimistic about a return to business as usual by Easter.
One thing is for sure – coronavirus has already devastated countless lives across the globe, and the less careful we are as a nation, the longer it will take to return to any sense of normalcy. While the state of Florida has taken an important step in reducing the spread of coronavirus, stronger measures should be taken at the federal level to ensure that every state is managing this crisis to the best of their ability.
DeSantis’ decision to implement a statewide safer-at-home order, meaning that people are being advised to stay home unless buying food, seeking medical care, or going to an essential job, comes after many have already criticised the governor for not taking action sooner. Florida is one of the most affected states in the country with over 6,700 coronavirus cases and 85 confirmed deaths. While DeSantis claimed he would take statewide action at the insistence of the White House, as of March 31st he had not received an order of any kind. Stronger insistence from the federal government to issue a statewide safer-at-home order at an earlier date could have prevented the number of coronavirus cases and related deaths that Florida currently has.
Stricter guidelines from the federal government could also help put measures in place for states that haven’t issued safer-at-home measures yet. Other states, including New York, have already implemented orders to stay indoors, but Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota are among the states who have resisted such measures. Other states have only implemented safer-at-home orders at a local level or advised people to simply avoid contact in public. President Trump might be reluctant to enforce stricter measures on states where he has strong political support, as was the case with Florida, but this will be detrimental for the country in the long run. The United States as a whole needs strong leadership and consistent guidelines across all states in order to more effectively prevent the coronavirus from spreading.
A nation-wide lockdown like those in Italy and China would be difficult and unrealistic to implement in the US given that state governments have the constitutional freedom to resist such an order. Regardless, the federal government definitely needs to take a firmer stance on the need for social distancing and isolation. We should be looking towards successful social distancing measures that other countries have adopted. Dale Fisher, an official from the World Health Organization, praised Singapore’s practices of isolating, quarantining, and contact tracing, or “identifying and isolating those in close contact with infected patients”, which have resulted in a less severe coronavirus outbreak. Using social distancing and safer-at-home measures won’t stop the virus in its tracks, but our state and federal leaders need to prioritize the safety and well-being of their citizens before we can attempt to move forward.
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