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Covid-19: ‘SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO’?

COVID19 Florida Governor order

‘SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO’?

This classic by the Clash hits home in 2020.

The words ring eerily similar to our current state of affairs:

Should I stay or should I go now? If I go there will be trouble. And if I stay

               there will be double. So ya gotta let me know. Should I cool it or should I

               BLOW”??

Well, we don’t want anyone in trouble, nor do we want anyone to blow—at least not before they know. That being said, we have to stay. Or do we? Let’s take a closer look at the two major Stay At Home orders issued the other day by the Mayor and Governor and find out if we need to stay or if we can go.

MAYOR CURRY’S ORDER 2020-5

It was the morning of April Fools day, 2020 in Jacksonville. Except it was no joke. Mayor Curry, getting in line with many other Florida Mayors, drafted an Order addressing non-essential business closures. The highlights include a list of businesses that meet the definition of “essential”. The only problem is that there was no list of businesses that are deemed “non-essential” by the city. But that seems to be the pattern with these Orders statewide. This Order did not address what type of activities were permissible—that is addressed in the Governor’s order discussed below. (e.g., biking, running, etc) If your business is not “essential”, you better not be at work today. Essential businesses include:

  • Those in the Health Care industry (e.g., hospitals, mental health workers, pharmacies)
  • Grocery stores (e.g., farmers markets, food banks)
  • Businesses providing food and shelter and social services.
  • Private Colleges, trade schools for purposes of implementing online learning and housing for students who cannot return home.
  • Restaurants, subject to social distancing/occupancy requirements
  • Businesses supplying office supplies.
  • Childcare Facilities.
  • Pet Supply Stores. (For a complete list, see the Order here)

Governor’s Order 20-91

Before we could finish lunch Wednesday and digest the Mayor’s Order (and our cheeseburgers), we were hit with the news that Ron DeSantis had finally given in to mounting pressure and issued Florida’s first Stay at Home Order. This order, unlike the Mayor’s, addressed not only essential businesses, but also addressed what activities were deemed “essential”. One of the first topics that surfaced was how this statewide Order would be applied vis a vis the various local Orders already in place. What about conflicts? What if the Governor’s Order approved of a business that a local order did not? Would the state order trump the local order?

It’s interesting to note that the Governor’s Order initially stated that “This Order shall supersede any conflicting” local Orders, but only to the extent that such local Orders allow essential services or essential activities “prohibited by this Executive Order”.  What that meant was that local officials were free to further restrict or limit additional businesses or permissible activities but that local mayors could not expand the list of permissible businesses or activities over and above what the state Order allowed.

But, before we could get settled into the Governor’s very voluminous (due to various attachments) Order, an Amendment was posted changing the language about conflicts. It read “This Order shall supersede any conflicting official action or order issued by local officials”.  That means that local officials were no longer permitted to deem businesses or activities “non-essential” that the Governor had deemed “essential” and therefore permissible.

Some have speculated that this amendment was brought about by pressure from religious right groups. One need look no further than last week’s arrest of a rogue pastor in Tampa for holding a large religious gathering where the congregation was caught on video sitting right next to each other as it would in any pre-pandemic service. The video went viral and created a backlash of criticism and the eventual arrest of the pastor for violating local social distancing and crowd gathering orders. Pastor Howard-Browne defiantly proclaimed that he would not shut down his services because they amount to an “essential-service”. Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said the pastor’s conduct resulted in a “reckless disregard for human life”.

Well, it seems that DeSantis has sided with the pastor. In an unusual move, his Order specifically allows for (via the Miami-Dade County adoption extension provision) such services to continue. In adopting the south-florida Order, the state of Florida considers religious services during the pandemic to be permissible and even expressly allows for unlimited participation and also removes the six foot barriers put in place for every other activity. Thus, it makes it clear what the amendment was for. Local officials can now no longer prevent religious services with an unlimited amount of people gathering in close quarters.

As far as essential businesses that are permitted to remain open today, the state order is for the most part on par with local orders, and may even be more expansive. It includes references to the Department of Homeland and Security’s list as well.

Can we go outside and play?

Yes. Well, sort of. The Governor listed specific activities like fishing, biking, swimming, and animal care. However, recreational use of local marinas and boat ramps have been closed to all those except for holders of commercial saltwater licenses and various public officials or those trying to return to the country or to accommodate persons living on their boats.

The main take away here is that if you are unsure of what you can do, read the orders. Its not easy. Consult an attorney if need be. You can watch my interview from last night on FOX30 News where I discuss these Orders with Jamar Phillips.

More on Covid-19 can be found here:

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  2. DMV in Disarray During Covid-19