TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Saying it would “cause huge issues” if the state ordered daycare centers to close, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday he is allowing them to remain open for now despite ordering all schools and bars to close.
After an eight death from coronavirus in Florida -- this one at Ascension St. Vincent’s in Clay County -- and positive cases up to 328 by Wednesday afternoon, DeSantis and state officials said many more cares are expected as there are 1,140 tests pending and more test kits are available every day.
State officials said they are responding quickly to cases at assisted living communities in an attempt to prevent an outbreak similar to one that occurred at a Seattle-area nursing home, which has been linked to more than two dozen COVID-19 deaths.
“If a cluster of confirmed cases were to be discovered in Florida, the department would move quickly to engage with and isolate any infected individuals to prevent further spread,” said Alberto Moscoso, the state health department’s spokesman.
This comes after a man in a Broward County nursing facility died earlier this week and four patients at Camelia at Deerwood, a senior living facility in Jacksonville, are among the city’s 13 infections.
Garay Holland was on his way from Bee Branch, Arkansas, on Wednesday to visit his 97-year-old mother at the Jacksonville retirement community.
"I might just stand outside her window and wave, and talking to her on the cellphone. At least she’ll know I got here as quick as I could,`` said Holland, 78.
Five firefighters and a police officer are self-isolating after they had contact with residents at Fort Lauderdale's Atria Willow Wood community, where one person died of the disease and another death is being tested.
State and local officials have told people to self-isolate, have shuttered the state’s bars and limited restaurant capacity and hours. Walt Disney World, Universal-Orlando Resort and other theme parks are closed, as are some beaches. The Florida Supreme Court said Wednesday it would not hear cases until June. Houses of worship have called off services, including the Catholic churches in the Miami and Tampa areas, which made announcements Wednesday. The city of Sunrise ordered the closure of Sawgrass Mills Mall near Fort Lauderdale, one of the nation’s largest and a major attraction for South American tourists.
Still, some tourists and locals flocked to spots like Clearwater Beach near Tampa, which was open and packed Wednesday beneath clear, sunny skies -- although most groups did seem to be sitting at least six feet (2 meters) apart from other clusters of people.
Sarah Kelley, a St. Louis grocery store section manager, agreed that visiting the beach with her two teenage sons may not have been the best idea. “It is a great festering Petri dish,” she said. But with everyone trying to stay apart, she and her sons took the risk and even went inside a surf shop.
"We are trying not to touch anything,'' she said.
This coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, for most people, but older adults and those with existing health problems can develop severe complications, including pneumonia. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.