Florida Declares Public Health Emergency After 3 Coronavirus Cases Confirmed

March 2, 2020 Updated: March 3, 2020
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After several cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus were confirmed in Florida on Sunday, prompting Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare a public health emergency in the state.

On Tuesday, in an update, officials confirmed a third COVID-19 case in Hillsborough County. The latest presumptive case is the sister of a previously confirmed case.  A spokeswoman for DeSantis wrote that his office has confirmed “a third presumptive COVID-19 case in Hillsborough; this individual resided with another who is confirmed as COVID-19.”

The two other patients, who are both adults from the state’s Gulf Coast, tested “presumptively positive” for the new virus. One patient was located in Hillsborough County and another person was located in Manatee County, officials said.

For the time being, the two are being quarantined, and the Florida Department of Health is monitoring every person who came into contact with them.

“Two individuals in the state of Florida tested presumptively positive for COVID-19, including a resident of Manatee County and a resident of Hillsborough County,” said DeSantis in a memo. “I direct the State Health Officer and Surgeon General, Dr. Scott Rivkees, to declare a public health emergency in the State of Florida.”

According to the memo, it includes guidelines for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for “community preparedness and everyday prevention measures,” the report said.

State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees noted in a statement that “this is the scenario that we prepare for every day in public health” while the “department is moving forward with the appropriate plans and we are working directly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

The first patient is an adult Manatee County resident without travel history to areas of restricted travel by the CDC, including China, Italy, South Korea, and Iran. The second patient in Hillsborough County traveled to Italy in recent days, said the Florida Department of Health.

Despite the emergency declaration, health officials said that they believe the overall virus threat to Florida remains low.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), in a statement, said he will work with members of Congress to obtain funds for Florida to curb the virus spread in the state.

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Healthcare workers transport a patient on a stretcher into an ambulance at Life Care Center of Kirkland in Kirkland, Washington on Feb. 29, 2020. (David Ryder/Getty Images)

Washington state was also placed under a state of emergency over the virus, as six people have died from the virus as of Monday afternoon.

A nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, also confirmed that it was effectively placed on lockdown late on Sunday after a staffer and a patient tested positive for the new virus. Dozens of patients there have reported COVID-19-like symptoms, said officials.