JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As Gov. Ron DeSantis was meeting with Vice President Mike Pence, Florida’s two U.S. senators and cruise line officials Saturday afternoon in Fort Lauderdale, the state Department of Health announced more presumptive cases of the disease -- this time in Charlotte, Okaloosa, Volusia and Manatee Counties.
Just after 9:30 p.m. Saturday the Florida Department of Health tweeted about a new presumptive positive case in Manatee County where it said the patient is in isolation and being cared for.
The Department of Health also announced cases in Volusia and Okaloosa counties in a tweet just after 7 p.m. Saturday. The post affirmed both individuals are now isolated but had recently traveled on a Nile River Cruise in Egypt.
A press release issued by the department reported the patient in Volusia county is a 66-year-old woman and the patient in Okaloosa County is a 61-year-old woman.
As a result of the cases, the department is now advising individuals who traveled on the Nile River Cruise from Feb. 4 to 18 to isolate themselves for 14 days upon returning home after multiple passengers tested positive for the virus.
.@HealthyFla advises all individuals who traveled on a river cruise on the Nile River in Egypt from Feb. 4-18 to self-isolate for 14 days following their return. Several passengers have recently tested positive for COVID-19, including two presumptive positive cases in Florida.— Florida Dept. Health (@HealthyFla) March 8, 2020
Late Friday night, the DOH announced two Florida seniors who had traveled abroad have become the state’s first residents to die from the novel coronavirus plus additional presumptive positive cases in Broward and Lee counties.
One of the deaths involved a 72-year-old Santa Rosa County man who had previously been disclosed as having the virus. The other death involved a Lee County resident who had been hospitalized on Wednesday, but the case had not been previously identified as a case of coronavirus. The department did not release the Lee County resident’s gender or age, saying the person was “in their seventies.”
Both died following international trips.
The announcement raises the U.S. death toll from the novel coronavirus strain to 18, including 15 in the state of Washington and one in California.
In the Florida announcement late Friday, the department also said two Broward County men had been identified as “presumptive positive” for the contagious virus, known as COVID-19. One of the men is 75 years old, while the other is 65, and both will be in isolation until cleared by public-health officials. No information was given on the case in Charlotte County announced Saturday afternoon other than the patient is in isolation and being cared for.
DeSantis activated the Division of Emergency Management to Level II to coordinate the state’s response to COVID-19.
“It is critical that we proactively coordinate all state resources to mitigate the threat and contain COVID-19," DeSantis said in a statement Saturday morning. "I urge all Floridians to take necessary precautions and follow hygiene guidelines issued by the surgeon general and Florida Department of Health.”
Lee County said in a news conference Saturday that two patients who had traveled internationally arrived at a hospital Wednesday with respiratory illness. Both were tested for COVID-19. One died on Thursday, the other remains in intensive care.
Lee County officials could not answer why the cases weren’t announced to the public until Friday night, but local health officials said more than 60 people who had contact with one of the two patients were being monitored, but none of them have reported symptoms.
DeSantis had phone call at noon Saturday with state Surgeon Gen. Scott Rivkeesand, then headed to Fort Lauderdale to meet with Pence, Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and with port directors and cruise line executives.
As of 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Florida authorities said eight people in the state have tested positive for COVID-19 -- seven are Florida residents and the eighth is a non-resident. Earlier in the week Gov. Ron Desantis said five Florida residents who had been traveling in China have also been quarantined outside the state after testing positive for the virus.
Florida residents currently in the state have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Health Department, with 88 tests still pending. Another 278 people in the state are being monitored for the virus.
DeSantis has asked state lawmakers for $25 million for heath officials to use immediately in the state’s response to coronavirus.
On Friday, President Donald Trump signed an $8.3 billion measure to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than a dozen people in the U.S. and infected more than 200.
The risk to the general public remains low in Florida, DeSantis repeated. Those most at risk include the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions. Health officials have put out guidance to assisted living facilities to restrict visitors who might be infected.