Gov. DeSantis: Florida monitoring 184 potential COVID-19 cases, ‘public risk still low’

coronavirus florida 27
The state is monitoring nearly 200 possible patients.

At a hastily arranged news conference Monday morning in Tampa, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gave his first public comments since two individuals in Hillsborough and Manatee counties tested presumptive positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The state now has access to its own testing supplies for the coronavirus. Previously, suspected patients had to have samples sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, and results took up to five days to come back.

Now DeSantis said the state can process tests within 24 to 48 hours. Results will either show negative or presumptive positive. Presumptive positive tests would then be sent to the CDC for final verification. The two new cases have not yet been confirmed by the CDC. Tests can be processed at Department of Health labs in Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville. DeSantis spoke Monday in front of the Tampa location.

DeSantis said the number of people tested in the state has grown to 23, with 184 people currently being monitored for potential symptoms. To date, DeSantis said 795 people have been monitored.

The two new cases, the first in Florida, include a woman in her 20s in Hillsborough County and a 60-year old man in Manatee County. Both individuals remain in isolation and are in stable condition.

The Hillsborough woman recently returned from northern Italy where a significant outbreak has occurred. Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees said health officials are still investigating how the Manatee County man contracted the illness.

Health officials are monitoring both patients and investigating who the infected patients might have come into contact with to reduce the threat of spreading the virus.

“The overall immediate threat to the public remains low,” DeSantis assured.

But he said health officials in Florida are expecting more positive tests.

DeSantis implemented new protocols after learning about the two Florida cases. They include establishing the Florida Department of Health as the agency responsible for coronavirus response and coordination. He also on Sunday night established a public health emergency “to better equip our state.”

The latest protocols included hospitals and other health providers to immediately report any suspected cases of coronavirus to the Department of Health.

DeSantis said he’s also prepared to seek funding if necessary to combat the coronavirus.

“I have spoken with both Senate President Bill Galvano and Speaker Jose Oliva,” DeSantis said. “They were receptive to [working] with my office to make sure the needs are met.”

Most of the Health Department’s needs are related to staffing, DeSantis said. Before the coronavirus outbreak, DeSantis recommended reducing the department’s staff by 79 people in his proposed budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Those positions, though, are in the Children’s Medical Services program, a unit that focuses on treating children with complex medical needs, and not in county health departments.

The state is asking anyone who thinks they might be ill to contact their health care provider or the Department of Health before traveling to a hospital, doctor’s office or urgent care clinic to help avoid contamination.

Individuals with a cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fever or lower respiratory infection symptoms should seek guidance from the Department of Health.

Those at the highest risk include individuals who have recently traveled to China, Iran, South Korea, Italy or parts of Japan.

The U.S. has already imposed travel restrictions to China, South Korea, Italy and Iran. DeSantis said he anticipates further travel restrictions as the virus continues to spread.

In addition, airports are increasing screening for individuals returning from affected countries.

Rivkees asked any individuals who are returning from trips to affected countries to self-isolate upon their return for 14 days.

Infected individuals can show symptoms as early as two days after exposure, but symptoms may take up to 14 days to present.

Officials are encouraging Floridians to remain vigilant by practicing good hygiene including frequent hand washing and avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth, but they encourage residents not to panic.

“The vast majority of people who have it will not require hospitalization,” DeSantis said.

Those at the highest risk for complications related to coronavirus include the elderly and people with underlying conditions such as heart problems, high blood pressure or diabetes.

Because of that, the state is increasing its attention on nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Rivkees encouraged people to limit visits to loved ones in such facilities to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

The Department of Health is also working with facilities to ensure they are taking adequate precautions.

“Folks who are middle age, younger and healthy tend to weather it fine,” Rivkees reminded.

Anyone suspected of having the COVID-19 virus should expect testing to include nasal swabs and saliva collection as part of the screening process.

“Our goal is to contain this and make sure we’re ensuring public health,” DeSantis said.

The coronavirus is a respiratory virus transmitted like the flu. Rivkees said most cases will be mild with only up to 15% requiring hospitalization.

In the U.S., at least 102 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed. More than 90,000 people have been infected worldwide by the new coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 3,100 people have died.


Content from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


  • Sonja Emily Fitch

    March 3, 2020 at 3:01 pm

    Why did Jackson Memorial miama send a positive cv19 patient home?

  • matt lusk

    March 3, 2020 at 4:31 pm

    “Most cases will be mild” with the other 3% dead.

Comments are closed.


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