Florida rescinds quarantine order for visitors from NY, NJ, CT

Monroe County Sheriff deputies man a checkpoint on U.S. 1 leading into the Florida Keys on March 27, 2020 in Florida City, Florida. Monroe County administrators made the decision to prohibit tourists and only allow property owners and people who show

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis rescinded an order requiring people traveling from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to the Sunshine State to quarantine or isolate for 14 days.

The order signed by DeSantis and made public Thursday also eliminated detailed requirements for when restaurant employees should be kept from reporting to work because of coronavirus concerns.

Early in the national outbreak, DeSantis, a Republican, ordered that travelers arriving in Florida from then-hard-hit New York City and its suburbs quarantine themselves for two weeks, giving them a lot of the blame for spreading the disease in his state. But New York’s statewide daily infection-rate has plummeted since late April and is now about one-tenth Florida’s even though the states have similar populations.

As cases shot up in southern and western states and decreased in the New York area this summer, Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued his own order in June, requiring residents in several states, including Florida, to quarantine upon arriving in New York.

DeSantis' latest order also eased up the detailed requirements for when restaurant workers should be kept home. An earlier order had spelled out that restaurant workers should stay home if they were showing COVID-19 symptoms, had been in contact with an infected person, had traveled through an airport or been on a cruise ship in the past 14 days or had been ill with the virus but hadn't had two negative test results.

The latest order replaces those details with language saying the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation should “ensure" restaurants have screening protocols that follow protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Meanwhile, Florida on Thursday reported 7,650 new coronavirus cases. The state now has a total of 510,389 cases, second only to California, and at least 7,781 deaths.

It also reported 120 new deaths from the virus, bringing the seven-day average in reported daily deaths to 169. That's down from a high of 185 deaths and below 170 deaths for the first time in a nearly a week. Florida’s rate of deaths over the past week is second only to Texas, and it's third behind Mississippi and Arizona in per capita deaths.

Patients being treated in Florida hospitals for COVID-19 were down by about 270 cases from the previous day to 7,349 patients — more than 2,000 fewer than two weeks ago.

Florida also logged results of more than 100,000 tests for the disease, returning to levels of testing seen prior to the three-day shutdown of state-run drive-through test sites last weekend due to Tropical Storm Isaias.

Also on Thursday, figures released by the Department of Labor showed that the number of Floridians filing new jobless claims dropped last week by more than 17,500 from the previous week. There were 73,955 new claims for unemployment benefits filed last week in Florida, a drop from the previous week's 91,462 claims.

The report from the U.S. Department of Labor noted that last week there were fewer layoffs in agriculture, construction, manufacturing, retail and service industries than the previous week.

Nationally, the number of applications for unemployment benefits dropped by almost a quarter million to 1.2 million new claims.

Since the pandemic started in March, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has confirmed 3.2 million jobless claims and paid out $12.8 billion in benefits.