TAMPA, FL — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday the state is under a health emergency as the first two confirmed cases of the new coronavirus have been detected in the Tampa area. One of those cases involves a man in his 60s from Manatee County who is hospitalized with pneumonia and the other a woman in her 20s who recently traveled to northern Italy and is being treated at home.
“The state of Florida is fully committed and doing everything we can to respond to the COVID-19 virus,” DeSantis said in the first of two planned news conferences Monday in Tampa and Miami. “Our goal is to contain this and make sure we are ensuring public health.”
Related: Easy Ways To Avoid Getting Sick This Season, 2 Coronavirus Cases Presumed In 2 Florida Counties: Governor
Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees said both patients were in stable condition. Health officials do not know where the male patient was exposed to the virus.
DeSantis said Florida Department of Health laboratories in Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville now have the capability to perform testing for COVID-19, which allows test results to be available much more quickly than by sending tests to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This allows test results to be available within 24 to 48 hours,” he said. “Currently, CDC is taking up to five days for results.”
State health officials announced Monday afternoon they had received confirmation of the two Florida cases from the CDC. The confirmation was to provide confidence in the Florida test results.
“We don’t know that it’s going to happen tomorrow, but they are working on getting the ability to test in some of these facilities, in a hospital or some of the doctors offices,” DeSantis said. The governor said the state had 15,000 test kits available.
DeSantis said 23 people have been tested in Florida and 184 people were being monitored for the virus as of Monday. In total, 795 people have been monitored, according to the governor.
“Those two individuals that tested positive remain in isolation at this time,” DeSantis said. “Despite these cases, the overall immediate threat to the public remains low. With that said, we do anticipate that more will test positive, and we’ve taken additional actions to help contain the virus’ spread.”
The governor said the Manatee patient had “some serious underlying conditions” and had been hospitalized.
The woman, from Hillsborough County, has a sister in California and possibly a roommate who might have been exposed, officials said. Both are in self-isolation.
Updates regarding the new coronavirus can be found on the Florida Health website.
A number of employees at a Miami area Costco were wearing gloves and wiping down shopping carts with disinfectant wipes at the store entrance Sunday as cashiers also donned protective gloves.
One cashier told Patch she wished she could wear a protective mask because customers routinely cough and sneeze on her.
COVID-19 can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, including when someone coughs or sneezes. These droplets may land on objects and surfaces. Other people may contract the virus by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.
As of Monday, there had been a total of 90,284 confirmed cases of the illness and 3,085 deaths around the world, with the vast majority in Hubei, China, according to information compiled by Johns Hopkins University. A total of 45,581 people have recovered from the illness.
Symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days following exposure. Most people recover from COVID-19 without special treatment. The elderly and those with underlying medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems, obesity and diabetes are more likely to develop serious illness, the health department said.
DeSantis said health officials are paying particular attention to the state’s nursing homes and assisted living communities.
“If you look at how this virus has unfolded, folks who are middle aged, younger, healthy, tend to weather it fine,” the governor said. “It tends to have a most deleterious effect on people that have either underlying health conditions, or that are elderly. We believe that that’s a priority, and they are going to be working with those facilities to ensure that their residents are protected.”
He urged facilities housing the elderly to take proper precautions in screening visitors.
“To let somebody come in who had just come back from Italy, who has symptoms, would be a huge mistake,” DeSantis said. “We certainly are concerned, given our demographics, that if those folks who are not watching who’s coming in then you could end up seeing this virus transmitted and that would not be good.”
Two people in Washington State died this weekend from COVID-19 — the new coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China — marking the country’s first known deaths linked to the virus as more cases were confirmed across the country. The first person who died was a man in his 50s with underlying health conditions, while the second victim was a man in his 70s who was hospitalized and had underlying health conditions.
As cases were announced in Washington, two health care workers in the San Francisco Bay area who cared for an earlier coronavirus patient were also diagnosed with the virus Sunday, the Alameda and Solano counties said in a joint statement. Elsewhere, authorities announced Sunday a third case in Illinois and Rhode Island and New York’s first cases.
A spokesperson for Miami-based Carnival Cruise Line told Patch the company is operating its normal itineraries for North America and Australia. No sailings were canceled as a result of the new coronavirus.
“All booked guests who have traveled to/from or through China, Hong Kong, Iran, Macau and South Korea in the 14 days prior to their departure will not be allowed to sail,” the spokesperson said. “We also have added screening measures at our terminals to identify public health risks related to COVID-19. If a guest meets the criteria that prohibits them from sailing, we provide a refund.”
In Manatee County, where one of the Florida cases was discovered, a school district spokesperson said district officials planned to meet with the governor and other state officials for discussions related to the new coronavirus.
“The district is enhancing cleaning and disinfecting measures in our schools, we are placing orders for additional hand sanitizer for all schools and works sites as well as any other materials that will be beneficial,” the spokesperson said
Public Health Guidance On Virus Prevention:
Monitor the latest information on COVID-19 in Florida and across the United States:
Coronavirus expected to spread
President Donald Trump spoke about the coronavirus outbreak Saturday, urging Americans not to panic, saying, “If you are healthy, you will probably go through a process and you’ll be fine,” Politico reported.
Also Saturday, the White House imposed new travel restrictions, elevating travel warnings to regions of Italy and South Korea and banning travel to Iran.
The virus — which originated in Wuhan, China — has been spreading so quickly overseas that infectious disease experts and scientists warn there may be no way to contain it.
Last week, a top official at the CDC said during a news conference it’s only a matter of time before the new coronavirus spreads to communities across the United States. Communities, schools and businesses should begin preparing now for “the expectation that this could be bad,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease.
What is the new coronavirus?
The symptoms of the new coronavirus are similar to seasonal influenza, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Both are infectious respiratory illnesses, but they’re caused by different viruses.
Both cause fever, cough, body aches and fatigue, and both can result in pneumonia. Both illnesses can sometimes cause vomiting and diarrhea and can be spread from person to person by sneezing, coughing or talking.
Common good-health practices such as frequent hand-washing, covering coughs and staying home from work or school if sick, can help control both illnesses.
Neither respond to antibiotic treatment, but both may be treated by addressing symptoms, such as reducing fever.
There some distinct differences between COVID-19 and the Flu: Flu is caused by several types of viruses, while COVID-19 is caused by the new coronavirus, which is also called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2.
Johns Hopkins says there is some evidence COVID-19 could be airborne “meaning that tiny droplets remaining in the air could cause disease in others even after the ill person is no longer near.”
There is no vaccine to protect against the new coronavirus as there is against influenza. Scientists around the world are racing to find a vaccine for the new coronavirus, although none currently exists.
A company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has shipped vials of its novel coronavirus vaccine to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease for further research.
Patch Editor Deb Belt and Megan VerHelst, Patch Staff, contributed to this report.