After first cases of coronavirus, this is what Florida health officials want you to know

Orange County leaders address steps taken to stop spread of virus

ORLANDO, Fla. – With the first two cases of the coronavirus confirmed in Florida, health officials are recommending new measures for residents and visitors to follow to prevent further spread of the respiratory virus.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Sunday that two cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Manatee and Hillsborough counties. COVID-19 is caused by a member of the coronavirus family.

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially confirmed the two separate cases, according to the Florida Department of Health website.

Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rvikees said with the two cases, he expects more to follow but Florida is still considered low-risk. There are currently eight other individuals in Florida awaiting test results for the virus.

The Florida Department of Health is recommending new measures to residents and health care facilities to help prevent further cases of the virus.

Before planning overseas travel, residents should refer to the CDC website for travel advisories.

The CDC has issued a Warning Level 3 and asking people to avoid nonessential travel to China, Iran, South Korea and Italy. Travelers should take precautions due to the coronavirus in Japan and Africa, according to the CDC.

If a Florida resident or visitor is returning from any of those areas with advisories, health officials are asking that they self-isolate for 14 days after returning. During that period, anyone who becomes ill should contact the health department prior to physically going to a hospital or clinic.

The state is also asking health care facilities to review the expanded definition of when to consider testing for COVID-19, which now includes individuals with lower-respiratory illnesses.

Symptoms of the virus include fever and signs or symptoms of lower respiratory illness --including cough or shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear between two to 14 days after exposure, according to the CDC.

Florida health officials said that labs in Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami can conduct the tests, which previously had to be sent to federal labs. They said that would mean results should be available 24 to 48 hours afterward -- instead of within days.

On Monday, Dr. Raul Pino with the Florida Department of Health in Orange County confirmed approximately ten Orange County residents had been tested for COVID-19, but their results came back negative.

He also said they’re monitoring approximately 30 residents who recently visited affected areas right now for possible exposure, but he said they are low-risk.

“We have received legal advice on how to isolate, quarantine and encourage individuals to take the precautions that they need to,” Pino said.

Pino’s comments came at news conference called by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, who said he’s making sure all departments at the county level are prepared for a possible encounter with the virus.

“We at Orange County have been monitoring and planning for the day the Coronavirus would become a public health emergency in our community, and that day of course is today,” he said.

Orange County Fire Rescue Chief Jim Fitzgerald said the Coronavirus has pushed his team to purchase two additional mobile decontamination units that are being used for county EMS transports.

He said that will bring the total OCFR uses to ten units.

“It mists and fogs the entire room, and it applies to every single surface killing the bacteria and the virus,” he said.

Tourism officials said so far, COVID-19 has had no obvious impact on the number of people visiting the Orlando area.

George Aquel with Visit Orlando said there have been no cancellations at the Orange County Convention Center, and his office continued to be in touch with the theme parks for any change.

About the Authors:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.