Brevard’s top health official is ‘self-isolating’ after returning from cruise amid coronavirus

Maria Stahl, administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Brevard County, working from home amid coronavirus pandemic

Maria Stahl with the Florida Department of Health in Brevard, discusses plans for schools. About 200 local government officials, emergency management, health and first responders met at the the Brevard County Emergency Management bunker Tuesday afternoon to discuss precautions and procedures for the Covid-19 virus.  (Photo: MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY)
Maria Stahl with the Florida Department of Health in Brevard, discusses plans for schools. About 200 local government officials, emergency management, health and first responders met at the the Brevard County Emergency Management bunker Tuesday afternoon to discuss precautions and procedures for the Covid-19 virus. (Photo: MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY) (Florida Today 2020)

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Brevard County’s top-ranking health official is “self-isolating” after she went on a cruise last week, reports News 6 partner Florida Today.

Maria Stahl, administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Brevard County, has returned to work as the new coronavirus pandemic continues shuttering the American economy.

"Maria is self-isolating and is in constant contact with DOH-Brevard staff and emergency management," Anita Stremmel, assistant county Health Department director, wrote in a Wednesday morning email.

"She is performing her usual duties, in addition to COVID-19 response duties," Stremmel wrote.

Last week, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency amid the spread of COVID-19 across the country. Brevard officials also declared a local state of emergency last week.

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FLORIDA TODAY requested an interview with Stahl and sent a short list of questions to Stremmel, who serves as the department's Brevard public information officer. Unanswered questions included details on Stahl's cruise — such as dates, port of departure, destinations and cruise line — plus the day she returned to work and whether she is working from home.

Since March 8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. State Department have recommended that travelers — particularly those with underlying health conditions — defer all cruise ship travel worldwide.

Last week, Port Canaveral tenants Carnival, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean suspended operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Cruise passengers are at increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, and outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported on several cruise ships," the CDC website said Wednesday, among other cruise ship travel warnings.

“Cruise travelers should stay home for 14 days after returning from travel, monitor their health, and practice social distancing,” the website said.

Last week, Stremmel said Stahl would follow CDC guidelines that were in effect at the time upon her return. Stremmel also said Stahl's cruise did not travel to any countries that had been deemed Level 2 or 3 by the CDC.

On March 3, Stahl addressed media about the coronavirus during a series of briefings at the Emergency Operations Center in Rockledge. More than 200 people attended, including county, municipal and public safety officials.

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