2 in Tampa Bay area are first Florida coronavirus cases

Gov. DeSantis: If experiencing symptoms, call your local health department

SKY News
March 02, 2020 - 2:57 am
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis updates on latest coronavirus efforts on March 2, 2020.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida's governor disclosed that two people are confirmed as the first in his state with COVID-19. His top health officer, Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees, declared a statewide public health emergency.

Gov. Ron DeSantis updated the conditions of the two Florida residents in a press conference Monday.

The first patient is a man in his 60s who is hospitalized in Manatee County, the governor said. That individual has pneumonia and is in stable condition at a hospital. He did not travel to any areas impacted, so it's unclear how he contact the virus. He's currently in isolation.

The second patient is a woman in her 20s in Hillsborough County. That individual recently returned from northern Italy. She is in stable condition and remains in isolation at home.

But the state Health Department said the Hillsborough patient had a history of travel to Italy, which has been among the countries hardest hit by the spread of the coronavirus outside Asia.

"Despite these cases, the overall threat to the overall public remains low. With that said, we do anticipate that more will test positive and we have taken additional action to help contain the viruses spread," he said. DeSantis said a total of 23 people in the state have been tested.

The state is currently monitoring 185 cases, and almost 800 total have been monitored.

Rivkee urged residents NOT to go to healthcare provider if they are displaying symptoms of the virus, as this increases the risk of spread. Instead, they should call their local Health Department by phone. 

Rivkees said immediate steps were taken to ensure diagnosed individuals "receive the proper treatment and that anyone who has come into contact with them is following the necessary protocols, limiting or stopping any further spread.”

The governor designated the Florida Department of Health as the lead state agency to coordinate emergency responses and to actively monitor all those with apparent or suspected infections for a period of at least 14 days — or until tests turn up negative.

The Florida developments came on a day when health officials in Washington state confirmed a second person there had died from the new strain of coronavirus — a man in his 70s from a nursing facility near Seattle where dozens of people were sick and had been tested for the virus.

It also came as state and local authorities around the country stepped up testing for the illness as the number of new cases grew nationwide, with new infections announced in Washington state, as well as California, Illinois, Rhode Island and New York.

Three Florida Department of Health labs are now able to test for the new coronavirus, cutting wait times significantly for results, state officials had announced Saturday.

The Florida health officials said in an email that labs in Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami can conduct the tests, which previously had to be sent to federal labs. They said that would mean results should be available 24 to 48 hours afterward — instead of within days.

“The most important thing is it will bring down the average testing time,” said Deputy Health Secretary Shamarial Roberson in a telephone interview. “It helps address this in a more efficient time.”

Florida officials had been awaiting approval for one component of the test from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Roberson said. That approval came Friday.

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