ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – A Florida legislator said Wednesday that he is recovering from the coronavirus but his parents are now infected, while a man and his three sons are facing federal charges that they illegally sold a bleachlike chemical mixture as a miracle cure for the coronavirus and other diseases.
State Rep. Shevrin Jones, 36, tested positive positive last week after showing up at the emergency room with fever, chills and trouble breathing. The Broward County Democrat said Wednesday he is feeling better but is fearful for his 71- and 74-year-old parents, who both tested positive this week.
“I speak with them three and four times (a day) just to ensure they are not experiencing any symptoms,” he said. “The scariest part about all of this is the hospitals and their capacity filling up and then the state not seeming to be taking this virus as serious as they should.”
Florida is one of the nation’s virus hot spots. Nearly 10,000 confirmed cases were added Wednesday, bringing its total since March 1 to nearly 224,000. Almost 4,000 people have died, including 48 reported by the state Wednesday.
The state shows that 41 of the state’s 208 hospital intensive care units are at capacity and another 49 are at 90% capacity or greater. The list includes hospitals with large ICUs such as Tampa General, Baptist Hospital of Miami and UF Health Jacksonville.
Some hospital systems say they have the ability to add beds if needed.
Meanwhile, federal officials announced Wednesday that they have charged four men with selling a fake COVID-19 cure.
The substance marketed as Miracle Mineral Solution was sold nationwide through an entity called the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing in Bradenton, Florida, according to a criminal complaint. A Miami federal judge in April ordered the self-styled church to stop selling the substance, but it was ignored.
Charged in the criminal complaint are Mark Grenon, 62, and his sons, Jonathan Grenon, 34, Jordan Grenon, 26, and Joseph Grenon, 32. They are charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to violate the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and criminal contempt.
Records in Miami federal court Wednesday did not list attorneys for any of the Grenons. They face a maximum of between 14 and more than 17 years in prison if convicted of all charges.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, the solution sold by the Grenons becomes a bleach when ingested that is typically used for such things as treating textiles, industrial water, pulp and paper.
The FDA said in a news release last August that "ingesting these products is the same as drinking bleach. Consumers should not use these products, and parents should not give these products to their children for any reason.”
The FDA has not approved the solution for any health-related used. But the Grenons marketed it as not only a coronavirus cure but also a cure for cancer, autism, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease and AIDS, according to the complaint.
“Not only is this MMS product toxic, but its distribution and use may prevent those who are sick from receiving the legitimate healthcare they need,” Miami U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan said in a news release. "We will not sit idly by as individuals purposefully violate court orders and put the public in danger.”
The complaint says the Grenons initially agreed to abide by U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams' order that they stop selling the solution, then changed their tone in podcasts and emails to the judge herself.
“We will NOT be participating in any of your UNCONSTITUTIONAL Orders, Summons, etc," one email from Mark Grenon read. “Again and again I have written you all that . . . you have NO authority over our Church."
Broward County on Wednesday became the latest major metropolitan area to issue local restrictions to fight the virus. Mayor Dale Holness announced the new rules limiting restaurants to six people at a table and ending indoor dining at 10 p.m. The new order imposes harsher penalties for businesses that break the rules, with closures of 24 hours at first and 72 hours for multiple violations. Vacation rentals will also be limited to the 10 people.