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Gov. DeSantis: New York City traveler who tested positive for COVID-19 intercepted in Jacksonville

Florida governor said the man was taken to a local hospital after he was stopped at an airport checkpoint.

Gov. DeSantis: New York City traveler who tested positive for COVID-19 intercepted in Jacksonville
Gov. DeSantis: New York City traveler who tested positive for COVID-19 intercepted in Jacksonville

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said an executive order that requires a 14-day self-quarantine for everyone coming from airports in New York City has already helped to stop the possible spread of the novel coronavirus in Jacksonville.

Speaking during a press conference Saturday afternoon, DeSantis said a traveler who had previously tested positive for COVID-19 was on a flight from a New York City airport to Jacksonville International Airport on Friday when he was intercepted at an airport checkpoint and taken to a local hospital. DeSantis said the man thought his symptoms had lessened enough to travel, but his symptoms returned. News Service of Florida reports that the people seated near him on the plane are now being treated by the CDC.

The name of the airline and the hospital where the man was taken were not released.

Gov. DeSantis: New York City traveler who tested positive for COVID-19 intercepted in Jacksonville
Gov. DeSantis: New York City traveler who tested positive for COVID-19 intercepted in Jacksonville

Last week, DeSantis issued an executive order mandating an isolation period for travelers coming to Florida from airports in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut amid the pandemic.

The order marked the first large-scale attempt by a state to impose a self-quarantine period for domestic travelers and underscores the expansive measures elected officials are attempting -- and willing -- to enact as the outbreak spreads. The move had raised questions about how the state of Florida could enforce such an order and whether it will be a constitutional issue because the federal government regulates interstate business, such as air travel.

When travelers come into large Florida airports from the hotspots, DeSantis said they’re met by the Florida National Guard and Florida Department of Health personnel, screened and given the instructions about self-isolation. There are currently airport screening operations at seven airports: Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), Miami International Airport (MIA), Orlando International Airport (MCO), Jacksonville International Airport (JAX), Tampa International Airport (TPA), Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) and Palm Beach International Airport (PBI).

DeSantis said Saturday the order “helps protect Floridians."

Normally packed on any given weekend, Jacksonville International Airport was a ghost town Saturday.

News4Jax saw only a handful of travelers. Some of them like Jaron Walker were wearing masks.

“Just to be safe and just to give myself the best opportunity to not catch the virus," Walker said.

Walker said the governor’ss 14-day self-quarantine for anyone coming from northern hot spots is a good idea.

“I don’t think anything is too much at this point," he said. "I think everybody dying is too much so whatever it takes is necessary”

On Friday, DeSantis expanded his quarantine order to include Louisiana after officials in the lightly hit Panhandle worried people will flee New Orleans as the number of positive tests there climb. It is about a three-hour drive from New Orleans to Pensacola and DeSantis said the Florida Highway Patrol and sheriff’s deputies will set up checkpoints to screen cars from Louisiana.

DeSantis said on Saturday the state plans to set up similar checkpoints on Interstate 95 to check for travelers coming from New York.

Rapid tests coming to Jacksonville

Last week, the FDA authorized a rapid test from molecular diagnostics company Cepheid, which provides results in about 45 minutes. Most laboratory tests for the coronavirus take anywhere from a few hours to days to receive results.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Saturday that Florida was able to obtain over 2,000 of the rapid tests and there are plans to send them to Jacksonville and hard-hit areas in South Florida.

“I think this is really really significant because the problem with the testing we have now is these private labs are overrun. Ideally, they would want to turn it around in 24 to 48 hours but in fact, a lot of people have to wait three, four or five days to be able to get test results,” he said. “I think it also gives a lot of people peace of mind because they at least know what the result is.”

DeSantis also announced that he spoke with Abbott Laboratories in an attempt to secure more rapid COVID-19 tests which can process results even faster, in 5-15 minutes.

RELATED | Virus test results in minutes? Scientists question accuracy

The test’s maker, Abbott Laboratories, said it expects to deliver 50,000 tests per day across the country beginning next week.

So far, DeSantis said about 40,000 people in the state have been tested for novel coronavirus with the positive test rates around 8-10%.

Latest numbers

The spread of coronavirus in Florida continued on Saturday, with 120 confirmed cases in Duval County, according to the evening numbers released by the Florida Department of Health.

The total confirmed number of cases of coronavirus in Florida surpassed 4,000 Saturday evening, a sharp increase from the 3,198 confirmed cases that were reported on Friday evening. A total of 3,877 confirmed cases were reported in Florida residents.

There are now 56 confirmed deaths in the state, up from the 46 deaths reported Friday evening. None of the most recent deaths were in Northeast Florida counties. A St. Johns County man is the latest Northeast Florida casualty connected to the coronavirus pandemic.

The new numbers include a total of 120 cases in Duval County (up from the 115 reported Friday morning), 68 cases in Alachua County (up from 67), 50 cases in St. Johns County (up from 48), 26 cases in Clay County (up from 24), and seven total cases in Nassau County (up from 6).

A total of 12 cases were reported in Putnam County (no change), seven cases in Baker County (no change) and 13 cases in Flagler County (up from 12), three cases in Columbia County (no change) and one case in Bradford County (no change). No cases have been reported in Union County.

About the Authors:

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.

Multi-media journalist