DeSantis Updates Florida's Work Against Coronavirus
Health officials in Florida report eight new cases of coronavirus as of late Wednesday, bringing the total diagnosed to 21. This as Gov. Ron DeSantis says action is being taken on a number of levels.
Speaking in Tallahassee, DeSantis said they’ve been working with “a lot of different folks” throughout the state, at the municipal level; health departments in all 67 counties, the private sector, and the feds, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The new cases, seven Floridians who live in in Collier, Pinellas and Pasco counties, and a Georgia resident currently in Alachua County, had all traveled internationally recently according to the Florida Department of Health. In his news conference, the governor updated the numbers.
“A total amount of tests — 147 — are currently pending results; 301 tests have come back negative, 877 people have been monitored for a 14-day period, [and] 353 are currently being monitored.”
Two deaths related to COVID-19, including one in Santa Rosa County, have been reported in Florida. In all, DeSantis said a dozen Florida counties have at least one patient who’s tested positive. The health department has issued an advisory for individuals who traveled to Egypt and took a cruise on the Nile River in February or this month.
“We had the individual who passed away in Santa Rosa — his travel had been to the Nile River,” said DeSantis. “Of all the positive cases in Florida, 10 of the positive cases have stemmed from this travel among the Nile River, and five of the eight new cases was [sic] connected to travel on the Nile.”
Meanwhile, students at the University of West Florida — and the other public universities around the state — are banned from campus for at least two weeks after spring break because of the virus. They will be shifted to online classes, and UWF plans to resume in-person instruction on March 30. Gov. DeSantis gave a thumbs-up to the decision by the Florida Board of Governors.
“I think because you have the ability to do distance learning, they’ll be able to that and not miss a huge beat,” DeSantis said. “And they’re going to continue to monitor the situation and make the best decisions that they can. So I think those were prudent steps.”
Pensacola-based LabCorps and Quest Labs of New York are joining state testing labs in Miami, Jacksonville and Tampa in expediting tests for coronavirus upon doctors’ orders. More labs are expected to come online soon.
“We actually have a lot of these labs throughout the state; we’ve got to line them up and make sure they’re willing and able to do it,” said the governor. “That will add to the capacity in addition to the private sector. And I’ve spoken with some of the University of Florida; they’re developing a test of their own.”
Another major challenge in battling COVID-19 is protecting senior Floridians in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
“Facilities across Florida are taking every precaution to ensure the health and safety of patients and residents, and protect the welfare of their health care staff,” said Mary Mayhew, director of the Agency for Health Care Administration, or ACHA.
She’s been traveling around the state to assess their particular needs. The first line of defense, Mayhew stresses, is vigilant screening of visitors, vendors, and staff.
“As I have been out in facilities I have had my temperature taken; I have answered all of the questions, and I have been prepared to be comprehensively screened,” Mayhew said. "No one is exempt from the screening.”
Referencing the impact of coronavirus in Washington State — where a nursing home in Kirkland is considered the epicenter — Mayhew said the choice in Florida is clear.
“Florida will, and must, stake every step to prevent real and potentially fatal threats to our elderly and senior populations,” said Mayhew. “And those with underlying health conditions.”
“At the Division of Emergency Management, we have been working for the last several weeks on planning on multiple contingencies; and we are now starting to get the necessary resources to go and act those plans,” said Director Jared Moskowitz. Part of that action, he adds, is following the state’s Comprehensive Emergency Plan.
“Year after year we train for all sorts of different situations like pandemics,” said Moskowitz. “We are following that plan, my folks are working around the clock at Level-2 at the emergency operations center.”
Following the Escambia County Commission’s committee of the whole meeting on Thursday, a COVID-19 update will be given by Dr. John Lanza with the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County, and by the county’s Emergency Manager Eric Gilmore, among others.