Home is where the health is: Governor issues Executive Order 2020-91 ‘Safer at Home’

Home is where the health is: Governor issues Executive Order 2020-91 ‘Safer at Home’

BY MARCY SHORTUSE – In a move that surprised many, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 2020-91, the “Safer at Home” Order, on Wednesday, which means that all people in the state of Florida at this time should “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 Order went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday morning, April 3. It will expire on the last day of April, unless extended by special exemption prior to that time.

Approximately 30 states had already done so at the time of DeSantis’s decision. 

The order is two-fold, with the first category pertaining to senior citizens (65 and older) and individuals with significant underlying medical conditions. The order states they “shall” stay at home and take all measures to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19. The second category specifically states that all persons in Florida limit their movement, as stated above.

The second section of the Order defines essential services to be extremely vast. You can find them all by going to 

flgov.com/wp-content/uploads/orders/2020/EO_20-91.pdf.

In the third section the Order lists “essential activities” to include attending religious services, participating in recreational activities (consistent with social distancing guidelines) such as walking, biking, hiking, fishing, hunting, running and swimming, as well as taking care of pets and providing care for others.

The Order states that a social gathering in a public space is not considered to be an essential activity, and that local jurisdictions “shall” ensure that groups of people greater than 10 are not permitted to do so. 

According to Lee County Commissioners, those who violate the Order can be charged with a misdemeanor, which means paying $500 per occurrence and spending up to 60 days in jail. The definition of the law, however, is tricky. DeSantis said on Wednesday that while law enforcement will be able to enforce the order with the threat of criminal charges, not everyone out doing something “non-essential” will necessarily be arrested or subjected to a criminal penalty.

Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell said, “We will continue to educate the community as the situation evolves and please remember that the last thing we want to do is take legal action. We are not going to arrest anyone and everyone who is out in the community. The goal is to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Any disregard for this Executive Order may result in a misdemeanor charge under Florida State Statute 252.20.”

The Commission met on Wednesday afternoon for a brief time, simply to go through the bare bones of the Order and try to sort out the logistics.

Lee County Attorney Richard Wesch said the Order contains 34 pages of information, in part taken from exemptions listed by the Department of Homeland Security, and also from a list of exemptions included and adopted by Dade County.

Wesch stated the county cannot “adopt any uses prohibited by the Executive Order,” which means they cannot go against it.

Commissioner Brian Hamman said that means if a business owner whose business is not listed as “essential” calls them and asks the county to override the Order, they can’t.

Wesch also clarified that through the Order’s use of the word “shall,” which within the law means “binding and mandatory,” those who act outside the Order can be jailed and fined.

“This will not be a smooth process, I promise,” Hamman said. “But we will perform and answer all of your questions to the best of our abilities.”

Just prior to dismissing the meeting Lee County Tax Appraiser Ken Wilkinson approached the podium and said, “This refers to people 65 and older staying home. I’m 75. But I need to get the tax roll out. If I don’t, none of you will get your money. Most of my people are working from home, but I can’t.”

Commissioners assured Wilkinson he could, in fact, go to work.