TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida officials on Tuesday reported a third person testing positive for a new strain of coronavirus, as states across the country struggled to keep abreast of the spreading threat from a rising number of infections.
Meanwhile, Florida health officials expressed frustration that New York officials did not inform them of the infection of a New York patient who had traveled to Miami. Florida learned about the case through the news media.
Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters Tuesday that the third patient was the sister of a 29-year-old Hillsborough County woman whose infection has already been confirmed and who had recently traveled to northern Italy — one of the areas identified for restricted travel by federal authorities.
Alberto Moscoso, a spokesman for the Florida Health Department, said the older woman had been traveling with her 22-year-old sister, a resident of California. He said the sisters were recovering in the one of the women's home in the Tampa Bay area and were being closely monitored by health officials, he said.
A third woman — identified by the governor as a roommate of one of the infected women — was under self-isolation and was being closely monitored, Florida health officials said, but had not shown any symptoms.
While Florida is now capable of doing its own testing, health officials rely on the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to confirm its results.
The other confirmed case announce Monday was identified as a man in his 60s from Sarasota who had not been in any of the countries currently identified for restricted travel by federal authorities.
In Sarasota, a mother and son were quarantined because of possible exposure to the novel coronavirus, according to a post shared on Facebook by the Sarasota Military Academy, where the boy attends school.
“One of our students and his mother are currently quarantined as a precautionary measure due to the mother's contact with a patient at Sarasota Doctors Hospital in her professional role,” the post said.
Vice President Mike Pence had visited the school last Friday and shook hands with other cadets after attending a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.
The academy's executive director, Col. Christina Bowman, told the paper that the Pentagon had been in contact with the school about the student who Bowman said was not present during the vice president's visit.
The spreading virus has placed health officials across the U.S. on high alert.
Worldwide, more than 92,000 people have been infected, with the number of deaths now exceeding 3,100 people. In the United States, more than 100 cases have been confirmed — with nine deaths, all in the state of Washington.
Florida officials urged residents to take common sense precautions, such as washing hands frequently for at least 20 seconds and to avoid contact with people who are sick.
The Florida Health Department's website reported that nearly 250 people were under public health monitoring as of Tuesday and that there were 16 pending test results.
The absence of a clear protocol for sharing information between states seemed to become more apparent Tuesday as Florida officials expressed irritation that New York health officials did not reach out to alert officials in Florida about an infected 50-year-old lawyer from New Rochelle.
The man had no known travel history to countries with significant outbreaks of the new coronavirus, but had recently traveled to Miami.
Officials said the man was diagnosed Monday at a city hospital after initially seeking treatment at a hospital in suburban Bronxville. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city's health lab performed the positive test on its first day of testing for the virus.
“This individual had traveled to Florida. That was not any information that had been provided to us,” DeSantis told reporters at the state Capitol in Tallahassee.
“We found out through the press," the governor said, "and now our Department of Health is working with New York officials on doing what you do — go tracing the contacts and trying to piece those together as part of the investigation."
DeSantis said he was concerned about a potential surge in cases in his state, adding that he wants to be sure there is adequate personnel to respond.