Third case of COVID-19 infection reported in Florida

Florida officials on Tuesday reported a third person testing positive for a strain of coronavirus, as states across the country struggled to keep abreast of the spreading threat from a rising number of infections.

Meanwhile, Florida health officials expressed frustration that New York officials did not inform them of the infection of a New York patient who had traveled to Miami. Florida learned about the case through the news media.

Two of the Florida cases have been confirmed while the third made public Tuesday is awaiting confirmation from federal health officials.

In a tweet, Helen Ferre, the spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, said the governor “confirms a third presumptive #COVID19 case in Hillsborough; this individual resided with another who is confirmed as COVID-19.”

Florida considers a case presumptively positive based on testing at one of the state’s three labs, then awaits confirmation from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

On Monday, Florida confirmed that two people had been infected with the novel coronavirus.

One of the confirmed cases was identified as a man in his 60s from Manatee County who had not been in any of the countries currently identified for restricted travel by federal authorities.

The second confirmed patient is a woman in her 20s in Hillsborough County who had recently traveled to northern Italy — one of the areas identified for restricted travel due to the virus.

As the governor’s spokeswoman clearly suggested, the third case was related to the already confirmed Hillsborough case.

The spreading virus has placed health officials across the U.S. on high alert.

Worldwide, more than 92,000 people have been infected, with the number of deaths now exceeding 3,100 people. In the United States, more than 100 cases have been confirmed — with nine deaths, all in the state of Washington, as of Tuesday afternoon.

Florida officials urged residents to take common-sense precautions, such as washing hands frequently for at least 20 seconds and to avoid contact with people who are sick.

The Florida Health Department’s website reported that nearly 250 people were under public health monitoring as of Tuesday and that there were 16 pending test results.

The absence of a clear protocol for sharing information between states seemed to become more apparent Tuesday as Florida officials expressed irritation that New York health officials did not reach out to alert officials in Florida about an infected 50-year-old lawyer from New Rochelle.

The man had no known travel history to countries with significant outbreaks of the new coronavirus, but had recently traveled to Miami.

Officials said the man was diagnosed Monday at a city hospital after initially seeking treatment at a hospital in suburban Bronxville. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city’s health lab performed the positive test on its first day of testing for the virus.

Florida officials said they learned about the case through the news media.

“Although NY officials did not alert F.L. Dept. of Health, @HealthyFla immediately reached out to N.Y. officials for information regarding this case,” Ferre tweeted Tuesday morning.

Coronavirus affects a vulnerable population in Florida

Tim Ficker, the executive director of Cypress Cove in south Fort Myers, said his facility feels like one big family. But right now, with the spread of COVID-19, his family is vulnerable. Now, his team is stepping up their efforts to protect everyone.

“We have been ordering additional supplies of sanitizers and even sanitizer stations for each of the entrances in addition to what we already have,” Ficker said. “We’ve ordered a refrigerator truck to be on campus so that we can stock up on additional food supplies in the event that we become quarantined.”

Warnings can also be found all over campus asking visitors and residents both to be careful because once the virus makes its way into the facility, it could spread quickly.

“If one resident’s sick and they’re in relatively close proximity and it could spread to others,” said Robert Hawkes, director of the physician assistant program at Florida Gulf Coast University. “Really, no different than if it were a school with young kids.”

Ficker knows the danger but feels everyone is taking the potential threat seriously, including visitors.

“We want to make sure every time they’re coming through the door, in these circumstances,” Ficker said, “they’re seeing a reminder that says, ‘Please, if you have any symptoms that could be perceived as being related to this virus, please stay out of our building for the time being.'”

Just on Tuesday, the state got in touch with nursing homes across the state, talking to them about restricting and screening visitors, best infection control protocol and best hygiene practices.

In a statement to WINK News, Katie Strickland, the communications director of Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, said:

Per Governor DeSantis’ recent Executive Order, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) was designated the lead state agency to coordinate emergency response activities and will have the most comprehensive information to share with you. We recommend you reach out to their communications director, Alberto Moscoso.

AHCA is working collaboratively with DOH to alert providers and stakeholder groups of best practices. The Agency’s top priority is the health and safety of residents and patients in the facilities we regulate. Please see the following link for an alert that went out to all hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and home health agencies statewide: http://ahca.myflorida.com/docs/Novel_Coronavirus_Update_for_Health_Care_Facilities_and_Providers.pdf

Additionally, the Surgeon General and AHCA Secretary Mary Mayhew participated in a call today with nursing homes across the state to address critical issues impacting these providers such as restricting and screening facility visitors, infection control protocol, and hygiene best practices.

Author: Bobby Caina Calvan / Associated Press
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