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Timeline: The spread of coronavirus in Florida

COVID-19 situation continues to rapidly evolve

ORLANDO, Fla. – The coronavirus was first detected in Florida on March 1 and since then, the numbers have continued to swell.

At this point, Florida Department of Health officials are updating COVID-19 data twice a day and government officials are regularly providing updates on the current state of the spread and what we all can do to stop it.

In Florida alone, bars and nightclubs have been temporarily shuttered, restaurants have been forced to closer their dining rooms as diners are urged to get their orders to-go and theme parks have ceased operations.

But how did we get here?

The timeline below shows how this all began in Florida and how the situation has changed since then.

Feb. 29: State labs in Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami gain the capabilities to process COVID-19 tests. Previously, they had to be sent to federal labs.

March 1: Gov. Ron DeSantis announces that the first two Floridians have tested positive for coronavirus. One is a 29-year-old Hillsborough County woman who had recently traveled to Italy and the second is a 63-year-old Manatee County man who had contact with someone who tested positive.

March 2: AARP warns Florida nursing homes to start preparing since senior citizens are more likely to experience severe symptoms if they contract COVID-19. Those facilities are urged to make sure they have adequate personal protective equipment.

March 2: Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, alongside Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and other local officials, says it’s “just a matter of time” before the respiratory illness makes its way to the region. Dr. Raul Pino from the Florida Department of Health cautions the public not to panic and insists that protocols are in place for when COVID-19 strikes.

March 2: The Florida Department of Health issues guidelines to stop the spread of the coronavirus, asking residents not to travel to certain areas overseas. The University of Central Florida also asks students and employees to use caution when traveling abroad during spring break.

March 3: The third case of coronavirus is reported in Florida. The patient, a 22-year-old California woman, is the sister of the 29-year-old Hillsborough County woman who was diagnosed after traveling to Italy. Both were recovering in the Tampa Bay area.

March 3: The Florida Department of Health sets up a coronavirus hotline so residents can call to get their questions answered. The hotline was originally only open on weekdays but has since expanded to be available 24/7. The number to call is 1-866-779-6121. Questions can also be emailed to COVID-19@flhealth.gov. The first of many conference cancellations begin. Since then, nearly every mass gathering scheduled for the coming months has been canceled.

March 4: DeSantis speaks in Orlando, saying that the risk of contracting the coronavirus is low for Floridians. The Florida Department of Health announces that five Floridians who contracted COVID-19 while out of state are being held in isolation.

March 5: Two coronavirus patients die in Florida: one in Santa Rosa County and one in Lee County. Both were in their 70s and had recently traveled internationally. At the same news conference, health officials announce two more presumptive positive cases, one in Lee County and one in Charlotte County.

March 5: Demings announces that Orange County has lost out on $154 million in potential economic impact due to canceled conventions.

March 7: Central Florida sees its first case of COVID-19: a 66-year-old Volusia County woman. A 61-year-old woman from Okaloosa County and an individual from Manatee County also test positive. Both women had recently traveled internationally.

March 8: The Regal Princess is ordered to remain offshore near South Florida after 21 people on board tested positive for COVID-19. Publix starts to limit the number of certain items customers can purchase as some shoppers begin hoarding toilet paper and other essentials.

March 8: The Florida Department of Health confirms another positive COVID-19 case, this time a 67-year-old man in Broward County. At this point there have been two deaths, five Floridians who were diagnosed out of state and nine people diagnosed in Florida.

March 9: Florida House members announce that they were possibly exposed to someone with the respiratory illness. They have since been cleared to return to work.

March 9: DeSantis declares a state of emergency to create a pathway to obtain funding and resources to stop the spread of COVID-19. Hours later, the state announces that another Volusia County woman with a recent history of international travel tested positive.

March 10: Eight new cases are announced in Florida, marking the first significant jump since the first local patient was identified. One of the new patients is a Georgia resident who tested positive in Alachua County and the others are three Collier County residents: two women ages 68 and 64, and a 73-year-old man; two men, ages 67 and 64, in Pinellas County; a 46-year-old man in Pasco County and a 68-year-old man in Nassau County.

March 10: Central Florida schools cancel field trips that involve air travel.

March 11: A man who was traveling from New York to Florida for Daytona Beach’s Bike Week tested positive while in St. Johns County. Two more cases, one involving a 56-year-old man in Miami-Dade County and the other involving a 70-year-old man in Broward County, are also announced.

March 11: DeSantis places limits on who can visit nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The same day, the CDC awards $27 million to Florida to stop the virus’ spread. Florida universities also announce that they’ll be moving to remote instruction after spring break. The CDC at this point has deemed coronavirus a pandemic.

March 13: The governor says the number of Florida-related cases is now up to 51. Thirteen of the new positive cases were related to the Nile River Cruise in Egypt. An Orlando-area resident now has died in California.

March 13: Officials from Universal Orlando Resort and Disney World say their theme parks will close effective March 15.

March 13: The state orders that all Florida public schools take an additional week off after spring break with the intent to resume classes on March 30. DeSantis said the state has received 1,000 of the 2,500 testing kits that have been ordered. Nine people are awaiting test results in Seminole County.

March 14: The number of Florida-related cases is now up to 115. Of those, 106 are Florida residents and nine are non-Florida residents. Among the patients is an Orange County man who said he was at Mar-a-Lago at the same time as President Donald Trump. A TSA agent at Orlando International Airport tests positive and the fourth Floridian dies.

March 14: Holy Land Experience announces it will close for the rest of the month along with the Central Florida Zoo.

March 16: There are now 161 Florida-related cases. Family members of an Orlando woman who died in California due to COVID-19 tell News 6 what happened.

March 17: The first coronavirus case in Brevard County is identified. The total of Florida-related cases is up to 166 as local gyms begin closing. Later in the evening, the number of Florida-relates cases moves up to 261, including five deaths. Earlier in the day it was at 192. UCF cancels all graduations. Orange County has six cases at this point. The first drive-up testing location opens.

March 17: DeSantis orders that all bars and nightclubs be shut down state-wide. We learn students won’t return to class until at least mid-April.

March 18: A Florida congressman tests positive. Canaveral National Seashore plans to close as the latest numbers show eight deaths and 328 cases.

March 19: A UCF student tests positive for coronavirus while the school will be hosting online-only classes through the summer. There are 432 Florida-related cases as of that evening. In California, a man dies two weeks after visiting Disney World and Universal in Orlando. All Brevard County beachside parking is closed.

March 20: As of 6 p.m., the number of Florida-related cases is 563.510 cases in Florida residents, six of whom are being isolated out of state, and 53 non-Florida residents who were diagnosed while visiting the Sunshine State. There are also 11 deaths included in that figure.

March 20: DeSantis orders that all restaurants switch to take-out and delivery only to prevent guests from dining inside. Orange County is the first in Central Florida to institute a curfew.

March 21: The latest numbers show 706 cases have been confirmed in Florida residents and 57 have been confirmed in non-Florida residents. Twelve deaths have also been reported statewide, according to the department.

March 22: The day ends with 937 confirmed cases in Florida residents and 70 confirmed cases in non-Florida residents, totaling 1,007 Florida-related cases. That night, officials from Florida State Parks announce that every state park will close.

March 23: DeSantis orders that anyone flying from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to Florida self-isolates for 14 days. Later that night, DeSantis asks Trump for a major disaster declaration, which would allow certain FEMA programs to be activated. There were 1,227 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Florida: 1,147 Florida residents and 80 non-Florida residents who tested positive in the state. Beaches in Flagler County close.

March 24: Stay-at-home orders are issued for parts of Miami-Dade County, Alachua County and Orange County. About half the state’s reported COVID-19 cases are in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. The governor says issuing a statewide lockdown would be too disruptive to residents and businesses. Universal Orlando extends its closure to April 19. By 6 p.m., there are 1,467 cases in Florida.

March 25: Osceola County becomes the second in Central Florida to issue a stay-at-home order for residents. A total of 1,977 Florida-related coronavirus cases, including 110 non-Florida residents in the state, have been identified.

March 26: Brevard County closes down beaches Friday through Sunday during peak hours. A 9-year-old Orange County boy tests positive for COVID-19, one of 119 cases in Orange County and 2,484 statewide.

March 27: Seminole County issues a social-distancing mandate, which is not the same as a stay-at-home order like the ones in effect in Orange and Osceola counties. Across Florida, 3,198 people have contracted the respiratory illness, 46 of whom have died.

March 29: The Florida Department of Health reports there are 4,950 people who have tested positive for COVID-19. The death toll increased to 60.

March 30: DeSantis asks retired first responders and medical personnel to return to the workforce so they can help to stop the spread of the coronavirus. He also issues an executive order requiring residents in Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties to stay at home. Those counties account for more than half the COVID-19 cases in the state. The Department of Education announces that in-person classes won’t resume at Florida schools until at least May 1. The state reports 5,704 cases and 71 deaths.

March 31: With another jump, Florida is now at 6,741 cases and 85 deaths. Sumter County, which includes part of The Villages, issues a stay-at-home advisory.

April 1: Although he’s been reluctant to do so, DeSantis issues a statewide stay-at-home order that will go into effect toward the end of the week.

April 2: A cruise ship that had at least two passengers die of coronavirus while barred from South American ports finally docked in Florida after two weeks at sea and days of negotiations with initially resistant local officials. The number of coronavirus cases is 8,010 with 144 dead.

April 3: A new report highlights the number of hospital beds across the state. Seminole County officials issue an order requiring those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to stay home until they are medically cleared after learning that some patients left isolation and went out in public. The workweek ends with the state’s death toll at 170 and 10,268 total cases.


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