TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and state health officials said Thursday the Sunshine State is prepared to handle the Coronavirus, however, there are no confirmed infections in Florida as of this week.
Lieutenant-Governor Jeanette Nunez, State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees and Deputy Secretary for Health Dr. Shamarial Roberson joined DeSantis at the State Capitol to provide assurances the state is prepared to handle any potential outbreak of the Cornavirus, otherwise known as Covid-19.
Nunez said every county health department is prepared to deal with any infections on a local level and there is a containment management team in place should an outbreak happen in Florida. The state is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on preventing new cases and treatment.
“We will adapt and we will make sure we are following those guidelines to a T,” Nunez said.
Rivkees said as cases are confirmed in Florida they will be posted to Floridahealth.gov/covid-19. Residents and visitors can follow updates on the virus there as well.
The CDC said twelve of the cases were travel-related and two of the cases were person-to-person spread.
Health officials said 445 people in the country were tested for coronavirus this year.
Rivkees said he could not reveal how many people in Florida have been tested for the virus or how many suspected cases the state has but said Florida is considered low-risk for the virus because there have been no confirmed infections here.
“This is a new virus,” he said. “This is an emerging and rapidly evolving situation.”
Rep. Stephanie Murphy, Florida-D, said state officials failed to be transparent about suspected cases in Florida, given the number of tourists who travel to Florida daily.
“I was disappointed that at today’s briefing state officials failed to be forthcoming with the public about suspected cases in Florida," Murphy said in a statement. “As a top tourist destination and home to many vulnerable seniors, Florida is uniquely at risk from the threat of this illness.”
Of the 11 international airports in the U.S. accepting travelers from China none of those are in Florida, according to the governor.
A vaccine for the virus is in development but more than a year away from implementation, Rivkees said.
The respiratory virus can be transmitted by coughing and sneezing. Rivkees advised Floridians to stay home from work or school if they are sick and wash their hands for 20 seconds after being in public places. He also recommended everyone get a flu shot.
“Make sure you are protected from the flu,” Rivkees said. “You are much more likely to get influenza than the coronavirus.”
There are currently more than 80,000 cases of Covid-19 around the world, a majority of those are in China but there are now 3,000 cases in 37 other countries, Rivkees said.
Should someone in Florida believe they are infected they can go to any hospital for testing and treatment, Nunez said.
If a case is confirmed health officials will contact the county health department and then those tests will be sent to the CDC in Atlanta.
The immediate health risk for the virus is considered low in the U.S., according to the CDC.
The CDC said any traveler should avoid nonessential travel in China and South Korea.
Health officials said travelers should practice enhanced precautions for Japan, Iran, Italy, and Hong Kong.
Health officials are also asking healthcare providers to look out for people who recently traveled from China who have fever symptoms.