So far, Florida has dodged direct impact from the coronavirus as it continues to spread outside China. But Rep. Chip LaMarca wants officials to remain on their toes and prepare should the outbreak extend into the state.
So far, only 60 people in the U.S. have contracted COVID-19, the official name of the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Worldwide, the number has eclipsed 80,000, with nearly 2,800 dying from the virus.
More than a dozen Americans affected by the virus were passengers aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. Those passengers suffered from a coronavirus outbreak. More than 300 Americans were aboard that ship.
To help assess the readiness of the state to deal with a similar circumstance, LaMarca coordinated a call with several representatives from ports around the state.
“I received a briefing from the Florida Ports Council and the U.S. Coast Guard on the potential economic impact of the worldwide outbreak of coronavirus on our state,” said LaMarca, whose House District 93 is home to Port Everglades.
“Considering Port Everglades is one of the top ports in the world, this could impact not only Broward residents and visitors, but every Florida family.”
Directors from Port Miami, Port Canaveral, Port Tampa, and Port Jacksonville were also on that call.
“With 231,579 Florida jobs impacted by Port Everglades including 13,127 people who work for companies that provide direct services to the port, my main concern is how this could affect businesses in the community,” LaMarca said.
“Even Florida logistics companies who help connect goods by truck and rail to every part of the state could be impacted.”
Tuesday, Surgeon General Scott Rivkees told the Senate there are “no cases” of the coronavirus in Florida.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average has dropped for three straight days with analysts linking the drop to the uptick in cases outside China. Monday saw a drop of more than 1,000 points, with another 800 points shaved off the Dow on Tuesday.
That’s a preview of how the markets may continue to respond should concerns about the virus’ spread have a significant impact on shipping, tourism and other facets of the economy.
LaMarca, for his part, said he would remain tuned in to those potential effects.
“The Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Chief Economist recently said he is ‘concerned but not panicked’ about the threats on Florida’s economy,” LaMarca noted.
“I will remain in constant contact with the port authority and all relevant state and federal officials to provide constant updates to the public.”