TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With Hurricane Isaias on a projected path to start impacting Florida as early as Saturday, a state of emergency has been declared along Florida’s east coast.
Gov. Ron DeSantis made the announcement Friday morning during a brief press appearance in Tallahassee. He’s scheduled to go to Tampa later in the day to participate in a COVID-19 roundtable discussion with President Donald Trump. DeSantis also said it’s possible he could provide another Hurricane Isaias update later Friday evening.
As of the 11 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, Isaias had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph as a Category 1 storm. Models show the eye moving alongside Florida’s southeast coast Saturday evening then continuing up toward the Central Florida coast Sunday morning through the evening.
Already, a hurricane watch has been issued from north of Deerfield Beach to the Volusia-Brevard county line.
The executive order declaring a state of emergency spans the entire east coast of the state, from Miami-Dade to Nassau counties. State-supported coronavirus testing sites along that area have also been temporarily shut down ahead of the storm.
The storm’s path and strength remain fluid, but the governor said there’s a possibility Isaias could become a Category 2 hurricane.
“There will be impacts to Florida but our hope is, is that this is not something, you know, that is interacting in a significant way with the actual Florida coast. But, you know, we, the most recent forecast, it brings the eye closer to the coast and so we just got to be vigilant and keep keep a lookout for what’s going on and please heed the warnings of your local officials,” DeSantis said.
He said as of now, it probably won’t be necessary to open up shelters but should that be needed, leaders are prepared to do so.
Given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, he noted that the state has reserves that include 20 million masks, 22 millions gloves, 10 million gowns and 1.6 million face shields.
Nursing homes and assisted-living facilities -- where the state’s most vulnerable residents reside -- also have a generator on hand should power be lost. Florida’s 21 COVID-only facilities are also prepared with generators, according to the governor.
Counties in the storm’s path like Miami-Dade and Palm Beach are among the hardest-hit by the pandemic, but the governor insisted that they’re in good shape to handle the storm.
“Of course (those counties') COVID, I think, trends have been have been pretty positive. Over the last seven to 10 days their positivity is down there, COVID positive patients in the hospital is down pretty significantly over the last seven to 10 days, so we appreciate those trends, and I want to see those continue, but (local leaders) feel like they have what they need,” DeSantis said.
Friday marked the fourth day in a row that Florida reported a record number of COVID-19 deaths, this time with 257. The state’s cumulative total of cases sits at 470,386.