MIAMI – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis confirmed two people in the Sunshine State have tested positive for COVID-19 and ordered health officials to declare a public health emergency amid the global spread of a new strain of coronavirus.
During a Monday news conference in Tampa, DeSantis sought to assure the public that risks remained low but to expect more cases in Florida.
Health officials identified the two Florida patients as a woman in her 20s from Hillsborough County who recently returned from northern Italy. State health officials said the other patient is a man in his 60s from Manatee County who had not traveled to any of the countries currently identified for restricted travel.
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DeSantis advised anyone who believes they may have contracted the virus to contact their county health department before visiting a physician.
“If you look at this virus, the vast, vast majority of people who acquire it will not require hospitalization, and so, if you work through your local county health department, rather than showing up at an urgent care center that will help with the resources for other needs,” DeSantis said.
Health officials urged the public to remain home if ill, wash hands frequently with soap and water and to refrain from touching their nose, mouth or eyes with unwashed hands.
Anyone who traveled to a country impacted by coronavirus is asked to self-isolate for up to 14 days.
Symptoms of the virus may appear in two to 14 days after exposure. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
The governor held a second news conference at 2 p.m. at the Florida Department of Health in Miami.
While no coronavirus cases have been confirmed in South Florida, City of Miami leaders and emergency managers also held a news conference Monday morning on the topic.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said people from more than 105 countries are expected to attend the Ultra Music Festival at Bayfront Park in just a couple of weeks, so the city and festival organizers are keeping a close eye on updates and updating the “life safety plan.”
The mayor compared the issue to preparing for a major storm, saying there may or may not be an outbreak.
At Miami International Airport, Local 10 News’ Liane Morejon spoke with several travelers, some of which were far more concerned about contracting the virus than others.
Additionally, Florida Senator Rick Scott called for increased screenings at all of Florida’a international airports Monday.
“My top priority is the health of Floridians. I’m calling on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to immediately increase screening procedures at every one of Florida’s international airports," Sen. Scott said in a statement. "We must also work with the newly-infected countries to make sure they are conducting proper screenings of outgoing passengers. With new cases reported in Florida, as well as the increased threat of the Chinese Coronavirus from Latin America, we have to do everything we can to prevent the virus from spreading in our state – and that starts with the thorough screening of travelers. I’ve been in constant contact with federal, state and local officials, and am confident they have the resources to keep families safe, but everyone must stay vigilant.”
Last week, Scott sent letters to the DHS and the CDC requesting information on security protocol and resources at Florida’s airports and seaports.
You can reach the Florida Department of Health in each county by calling the following numbers:
Miami-Dade County: (305) 324-2400.
Broward County: 954-467-4700.
Monroe County: 954-467-4700.
Palm Beach County: 561-840-4500.