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Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses coronavirus cases, health emergency in Florida

Posted at 10:00 AM, Mar 02, 2020

MIAMI, Fla. — With two confirmed cases of coronavirus in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis addressed the health emergency on Monday during a pair of stops across the Sunshine State.

The governor held news conferences with health officials in Tampa and Miami to discuss Florida's response response to coronavirus, or COVID-19.

"Despite these cases, the overall immediate threat to the public remains low," said Gov. DeSantis. "With that said, we do anticipate that more will test positive, and we have taken additional actions to help contain the viruses spread."

Gov. DeSantis declared a public health emergency over the weekend after two cases of the virus surfaced in Hillsborough and Manatee Counties in the Tampa Bay area.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus

Health officials said Monday that one patient is a man in his 60s from Manatee County. He's currently in the hospital and it's unknown how he was exposed to the virus. He has no travel history to China or other countries identified for restricted travel by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The second patient is a woman in her 20s from Hillsborough County who recently returned from traveling to northern Italy.

"Northern Italy is the site of a large outbreak of COVID-19," said Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees, who added the patient is currently in isolation at her home.

The CDC officially confirmed the cases on Monday afternoon.

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FULL NEWS CONFERENCE: Gov. Ron DeSantis addressed coronavirus cases in Florida

Gov. DeSantis said that to date, 23 people have been tested for coronavirus in Florida, and 184 people are currently being monitored.

If you recently traveled to countries with restricted travel from the CDC (China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, and Japan) and are experiencing symptoms like fever, cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing, contact the Florida Department of Health right away.

"Our goal is to contain this," the governor said.

Dr. Rivkees said coronavirus is transmitted like the flu through coughing and sneezing, and in 80 percent of cases, patients will have mild symptoms that can be treated at home.

"In the elderly, and those individuals with underlying medical conditions like high blood pressure, heart problems, obesity, and diabetes may be more prone to developing serious complications should they contract COVID-19," said Dr. Rivkees, who added there are currently no vaccines or medications to treat coronavirus.

"If you're younger, healthy, people tend to weather that," said Gov. DeSantis.

The governor said Dr. Rivkees is working with Mary Mayhew, the Secretary of Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration, to ensure that all assisted living facilities and nursing homes are taking adequate precautions.

Gov. DeSantis released this statement on Sunday after the two cases were announced:

"I have been working with federal partners and our Department of Health to ensure that communities are ready to handle the challenges presented by COVID-19. The dedicated professionals at our county health departments, as well as those working at local medical providers, are well equipped to address these and future cases. State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees has taken appropriate, decisive action to help affect the best possible outcomes, and I will continue directing our state agencies to do whatever is necessary to prioritize the health and well-being of Florida residents."

Gov. DeSantis said state labs in Miami, Tampa, and Jacksonville can now test for coronavirus, and the results take 24 to 48 hours to come back, as opposed to five days from a CDC lab.

The governor added Florida is following guidance from the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services with regard to prevention measures for coronavirus.

Florida has a coronavirus Incident Management Team in place and is getting multiple daily updates from the CDC. In addition, the state has hundreds of Department of Health professionals ready to respond to potential patients.

The Florida Department of Health has set up a special website with the latest information about coronavirus. CLICK HERE FOR THAT WEBSITE.

For questions related to coronavirus in Florida, contact the Department of Health's COVID-19 Call Center by calling 1-866-779-6121. The call center is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.