Florida, Texas, other states issue new restrictions to slow COVID-19
Several states, including Florida and Texas, are the latest to issue orders requiring residents to stay home or nonessential businesses to close to slow the spread of the COVID-19 illness.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday issued a “safer at home” order mandating residents limit activities outside the home to “only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities.”
DeSantis’ order, which takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, runs until April 30 unless extended. It follows a previous order DeSantis issued Monday exclusive to some southern Florida counties.
DeSantis defines “essential services” using the guidance put forth by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The federal agency includes as essential automotive repair and maintenance facilities, and “workers critical to rental and leasing of vehicles and equipment that facilitate continuity of operations for essential work forces and other essential travel,” but not vehicle sales.
However, DeSantis’ order Wednesday also counts as essential services those that were identified by Miami-Dade County in a local order, which includes new- and used-vehicle dealerships “provided, however, that such businesses should ensure that customers practice the social distancing as advised by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].”
The Florida Automobile Dealers Association, in a post on its website Wednesday, advised dealerships that they have been deemed essential services.
“All dealers should adhere to strict CDC guidelines for cleanliness and sanitation as well as adhere to all CDC distancing guidelines to protect customers and employees,” the post said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday issued an executive order mandating Texas residents minimize social gatherings and in-person contact “except where necessary to provide or obtain essential services.” The order takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday and lasts through April 30.
Abbott also cited the federal government’s list of essential services in his order and said businesses can request approval for an essential designation with the Texas Division of Emergency Management. The list includes leasing and maintenance, but not sales.
A stay-at-home order will take effect in Pennsylvania at 8 p.m. Wednesday until April 30 following action Wednesday by Gov. Tom Wolf.
Wolf’s office previously classified automotive repair and maintenance as essential services but prohibited vehicle sales in the state. Those designations remained in effect as of Wednesday.
In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday said he planned to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order Thursday, to be effective Friday through April 13. Previously, a number of local governments in the state, including the city of Atlanta, had issued their own orders limiting residents’ activity to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Kemp’s statewide order is expected to exclude grocery stores, medical supplies and some manufacturing operations, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
It was not immediately clear whether auto dealerships would be considered essential businesses in the state.
Also Wednesday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issued a shelter-in-place order across the state starting at 5 p.m. Friday. It will last until April 20.
Reeves’ latest order defined essential services as those spelled out in a previous executive order dated March 24, which include “automotive sales and repair.”
The five states accounted for more than 24 percent of the nation’s new-vehicle registrations in 2018, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association.
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