Governor: Three Floridians Being Tested for Covid-19
Florida officials are reporting a third person who's tested positive for a new strain of coronavirus that appears to be spreading across the United States.
Since Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a public health emergency Sunday night after announcing the state’s first two cases of the virus, state government has begun bracing for a much broader outbreak.
“I know there are discussions about was the CDC too restrictive to start or not,” said the governor. “But the bottom line is the guidance has been expanded, and so those individuals who fit the new guidance will be tested, which is a broader net. And obviously, that’s subject to change as well.”
Two of the cases have been confirmed while the third case is awaiting confirmation from federal health officials. The most recent patient is the sister of the woman whose infection had previously been confirmed. Both had been traveling through Italy.
“She has been in isolation since this this was all identified; and this was something that was contemplated,” said DeSantis. “There is a roommate in addition to the sister, who is in isolation – has not been symptomatic yet – but obviously that’s something that’s [being] monitored.”
A Manatee County man, who did not have a recent travel history, had contacted several health care personnel about his emerging illness. They have since been tested.
“You have some that have been determined medium/high risk of transmission, others low,” said DeSantis. “There are four currently outstanding – we’ve not received a positive as yet – but obviously once we get the information we will.”
Meanwhile, Florida health officials are expressing frustration that officials in New York didn't inform them of the infection of a New York patient who had traveled to Miami.
“That was not in the information that had been provided to us; we found out through the press, and then the department of health is working with New York officials on doing what you do. Go tracing the contacts and trying to piece those together as part of the investigation.”
If he tests positive, he’ll be counted among the cases in New York State. DeSantis was on a conference call Tuesday with a number of health care professionals. One question to be answered, according to a study in China, involves the ages of the coronavirus patients.
“There was not anybody who had tested positive who was 15 or under,” the governor said. “Now that doesn’t mean they can’t get it, but that suggests that perhaps you’re resistant to it if you’re younger, or perhaps the symptoms are so mild that they’re not even registering. But that study also shows that people with underlying symptoms and [the] elderly are most likely to have the severe cases.”
State health officials have been issuing guidance to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, saying basically you should not have people entering those buildings, who are exhibiting any types of symptoms – such as coughing, sneezing, and a fever, among others.
“And I really think that you need to be forward-leaning on that; we’ve seen what’s happening in Washington State,” said DeSantis. “So we’re going to continue to work with them, but we obviously believe our elderly population would be more vulnerable than the rest of the population at this point.”
The Florida Department of Health is providing the DeSantis administration with a data stream on Covid-19, and the governor says a dollar total for state spending should be ready in the next few days.
“If flu season hopefully abates, that would take some capacity off,” said DeSantis. “Because if the symptoms are the same people may think they have this when they really just have the flu. I think the concern is that if you have a surge-type situation in a part of the state, then we want to make sure that we have enough personnel there to help administer that.”
Florida has three testing centers for Covid-19 – in Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa -- which can conduct tests instead of sending samples to CDC labs in Atlanta.
“Those are still considered ‘presumptive positives’ at this point; although I do think they’re doing it right,” the governor said. “But it’s a tough test, so you can make sure of that. But I think hopefully soon, CDC will say, ‘you guys do it.’ So in this way if someone tests in Florida we can say immediately it’s positive instead of saying it’s presumptive with confirmation awaiting.”
County school districts have issued health alerts for parents and students. Universities and colleges – including the University of West Florida -- have banned travel to countries where the virus has been present for weeks.