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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order on March 17, 2020, directing Floridians to "limit their gatherings" at beaches and to "support beach closures at the discretion of local authorities."
But the governor didn't issue a statewide mandate closing "all beaches," as former President Donald Trump claimed.
Former President Donald Trump cast doubt on some of Gov. Ron DeSantis' oft-repeated talking points about "keeping Florida free" during the COVID-19 pandemic — suggesting that other Republican governors did much better.
"Surprise, Ron was a big lockdown governor on the China virus, sealing all beaches and everything else for an extended period of time," Trump said in a statement posted to Truth Social March 22. "Remember, I left that decision up to the governors."
DeSantis boasted that he kept beaches open in his recent book "The Courage to Be Free" — a statement we found misleading. But Trump's suggestion that DeSantis closed all the state's beaches also misses the mark.
That order did not direct local officials to close their beaches or say closures were necessary. Instead, DeSantis urged residents to "support beach closures at the discretion of local authorities."
DeSantis cited March guidance from Trump and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — known as "15 days to slow the spread" — for his decision to impose pandemic-related restrictions.
The governor's order received criticism for not going far enough. Florida Democrats called his refusal to issue a statewide mandate to close beaches irresponsible. Still, he defended his position.
"They actually encourage people to get fresh air. They just don't want you congregating in big groups," DeSantis said March 19, 2020, according to Politico Florida. "These are our neighbors who may need to go out there, clear their head."
Following recommendations from local officials and the CDC, DeSantis closed beaches in Broward and Palm Beach County for 11 days. At the time, he called Southeast Florida the "epicenter of what we're fighting in Florida."
But DeSantis never called for "all beaches" in Florida to close, as Trump claimed. He did, however, direct local officials to reopen their beaches as part of the state's phased reopening, which began in May 2020.
Trump's campaign did not respond to our request for comment. DeSantis' office directed PolitiFact to review press releases about the state's pandemic response.
Trump said DeSantis sealed Florida's beaches in response to the pandemic.
DeSantis issued an executive order on March 17, 2020, directing all Florida residents to "limit their gatherings" at public beaches to no more than 10 people and to "support beach closures at the discretion of local authorities."
He also ordered beaches in Broward and Palm Beach County to close for 11 days, following recommendations from local officials and the CDC. DeSantis did not, however, close beaches statewide. The governor's refusal to close beaches to spring break crowds drew heavy criticism and litigation.
Trump's claim contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.
Trump administration, 15 Days to slow the spread, March 2020
President Donald Trump, 30 Days to slow the spread, March 2020
Politico, Fauci: Kids could get 'infected' if Florida reopens schools, April 10, 2020
Politico, DeSantis' White House cover erodes as coronavirus spreads in Florida, July 22, 2020
Politico, Florida won't close its beaches. Here's exactly what DeSantis said about that, March 19, 2020
PolitiFact, Are states in a bidding war over medical gear with the feds? April 1, 2020
PolitiFact, Fact-checking Ron DeSantis' book: What 'The Courage to Be Free' glosses over about his record, March 1, 2023
The Florida governor's office, Executive Order 20-91, accessed March 1, 2023
The Florida governor's office, Executive Order 20-68, accessed March 1, 2023
Email interview with Jeremy Redfern, spokesperson for DeSantis, March 30, 2023
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