Florida Lagged Behind Dozens of States on Coronavirus Restrictions
People on Clearwater Beach on March 18, 2020. City officials ordered all public beaches to close for at least two weeks beginning at 6 a.m. on March 23 to limit the spread of coronavirus. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times)
As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases ballooned over the last week, states across the country put aggressive restrictions on businesses designed to slow the virus’ spread.
Florida has lagged behind dozens of them, a Tampa Bay Times analysis has found.
Gov. Ron DeSantis was part of an early wave of state executives to order the closure of bars and nightclubs Tuesday, bringing the revelry to a halt on St. Patrick’s Day.
But he was slower than at least 35 other governors to suspend in-person dining at restaurants and behind at least 22 in closing gyms and fitness studios.
DeSantis took both steps Friday afternoon.
As of Saturday, DeSantis had not taken the more extreme step of closing movie theaters and bowling alleys, as had governors in Arizona, Colorado and Ohio.
Governors in four of the six largest states — New York, California, Pennsylvania and Illinois — had gone as far as to issue statewide directives closing all non-essential businesses and telling residents to stay home.
Only Florida and Texas had not.
Some of the states that moved more aggressively than Florida had fewer positive tests for the virus.
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This story is part of a collaboration with the Tampa Bay Times through FRONTLINE’s Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.