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00000177-b32b-d5f4-a5ff-bbfb6e660000Here is the information you need to know about COVID-19 in Northwest Florida. We will keep this post updated with the latest information from local, and statewide agencies. For inforamtion from Centers for Disease Control and prevention: cdc.gov/coronavirusFor updates on Florida cases of coronavirus, visit the FDOH dashboard.The COVID-19 call center is available at 24/7 at 1-866-779-6121

Governor: 'Raising the Bar' on Fighting COVID-19

Ryan Dailey / WFSU-FM

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state will more aggressively inspect nursing homes to detect patients and staff who are infected with the coronavirus.

For now, the new efforts will be focused on Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties in South Florida, where about 60 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the state exist.

The new game plan to protect seniors in long-term care facilities from COVID-19, says the governor, is three-fold; first, a continuation of assessments.

“The Florida Department of Health has developed 120 ambulance assessment teams, to deploy preemptive measures to prevent the introduction of COVID-19 in the state’s long-term care facilities,” said the governor. “And to promote appropriate infection control practices.”

Second, the health department will send immediately rapid emergency support teams to facilities where residents have tested positive for the virus.

“The department’s rapid emergency support teams – or REST teams – operate as the incident command structure for Florida’s long-term care facility response,” DeSantis said. “These teams ensure the residents of the long-term care facility are in a safe and secure environment to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.”

And third, testing at a clip above current screening protocols and prohibiting visitation. DeSantis said they’re raising the bar even further.

“I am directing the Florida National Guard to create more strike teams to significantly ramp up testing in long-term care facilities,” said DeSantis. “Ten teams of four [members], and we’ll probably expand it beyond there as long as we have enough equipment and PPE.”

And that PPE – personal protective equipment – is flowing into the state, according to Florida’s emergency management chief Jared Moskowitz.

“To date, this division has sent out six million masks; five million gloves, 564,000 shoe covers, 515,000 face shields, 286,000 gowns, 77,000 containers of hand sanitizer, 47,000 [pairs of] goggles, and 22,000 tie-back suits,” said Moskowitz.

And there are millions of pieces of PPE, says Moskowitz, which are arriving in Florida from back order, with the operation expected to go through April and continuing into May. On another front, he and other state officials are continuing to follow the models that pertain to Florida, that are similar to a hurricane track that changes.

“The IHME [Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington] has changed on Florida three times already,” said Moskowitz. “First our peak was May 4, then it was going to be the 21st of April, and now it’s the 26th of April. We continue to watch that model as new data is [sic] gathered, and we’ll continue to prepare accordingly.”

“We are essentially at a plateau, with a slight increase in number of cases over the past week,” said Surgeon General Scott Rivkees. “The percent positive of individuals testing positive for COVID-19 really for the past 10 days has remained stable at about 11 percent.”

The numbers are as of mid-afternoon on Monday.

“The number of individuals in the hospitals have remained stable over the past week, with about 2,000 hospitalizations per day,” Rivkees said. “And same for the individuals in the intensive care units; we’ve been stable at about 800 individuals [and] 650 individuals on ventilators.”

The trends as applied to coronavirus, says Rivkees, are being followed very closely, as they prepare for the worst and hope for the best. He also repeats the litany on how Floridians can protect themselves.

“The importance of avoiding crowds; six-foot spacing,” said Rivkees. “If we are going to be in gatherings it should be less than 10 individuals. We should all consider wearing a mask in public, in the event that some of us are asymptomatic spreaders. Do not work when we are sick and again, for the elderly, these individuals need to avoid going out in public and certainly avoid contact with individuals who are ill.”

And Rivkees says residents might be social distancing and even wearing facemasks for another year due to COVID-19, because it’s likely to be that long until a vaccine is ready.