JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday announced that a man in Florida’s Panhandle had tested positive for the coronavirus, or COVID-19. Later in the day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the case in Santa Rosa County as the fourth in Florida.
DeSantis also said five Florida residents who had been traveling in China have been quarantined elsewhere after testing positive for the virus. He didn’t say where those five people live or where they are being quarantined.
There are five other Floridians who are recovering out of state.
“They’re not going to be released from quarantine until they test negative, so we don’t anticipate that having any impact on the people living in Florida,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis said the newest case is a 72-year-old man who tested positive has underlying medical conditions and had traveled internationally. (Early information indicated this case was in Gadsden County, which was incorrect.)
On Wednesday, officials also said a 64-year-old Florida resident tested positive for the virus in Washington state. Officials did not say where that man lives.
Earlier this week, Florida officials announced that a 29-year-old Tampa woman and her 22-year-old sister, who is a California resident, have tested positive for the virus after they traveled from Italy. A Manatee County man in his 60s who had not traveled internationally but suffers from underlying conditions also tested positive for the virus.
According to the Florida Department of Health website, there are 69 patients awaiting test results in Florida. As of Thursday, 248 residents are being monitored for symptoms, either due to having close contact with someone who was diagnosed with the virus or because they’ve recently traveled to an affected area.
As of Thursday afternoon, at least 210 people in the United States have been infected and 12 have died.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said there are people in Duval County being monitored for the virus.
“That doesn’t mean they have symptoms that doesn’t mean they believe they are positive. That means they may have self-identified because they have traveled or maybe they have a sniffle," Curry said. "They are being monitored by the Department of Health.”
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The virus poses a low risk of spread from one person to another through contact of a shared surface but is spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing or exhaling, according to the CDC and the World Health Organization.
Symptoms of the virus include fever and signs or symptoms of lower respiratory illness, including cough or shortness of breath. Signs may appear between two to 14 days after exposure, according to the CDC.
The best way health officials say to protect against COVID-19 is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, after visiting public places, going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
If soap and water are not available health officials say to use hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol.
DeSantis urged Floridians not to buy masks on Amazon or other sources because there aren’t enough for professionals.
"In fact, if you put the mask on, you are more likely to be fiddling around your face and actually you may be more likely to transmit the virus if you are in contact with it,” DeSantis said. “Those really need to be used for health-care professionals that are treating patients.”
The Florida Department of Health has stockpiled about 150,000 masks, DeSantis said.
DeSantis urged people in the state to remain calm and urged visitors to come to Florida because the risk is low.
“The risk to Florida remains low,” DeSantis said when asked Thursday about people considering traveling to Florida for spring break or baseball’s spring training. “If you are someone who has a real serious condition already, you should view it differently than someone who is 25 years old and doesn’t have any (health) problems.”
DeSantis said the federal government has promised at least 10,000 test kits to the Florida Health Department so the state can meet an edict from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to allow anyone who a doctor suspects has the virus can be tested.
Associated Press and News Service of Florida contributed to this report.