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Florida's Response To COVID-19

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Photo credit: Alissa Eckert, MS, Dan Higgins, MAM
This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Photo credit: Alissa Eckert, MS, Dan Higgins, MAM

Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency in Florida because of novel coronavirus.

Health Reporter Abe Aboraya spoke to 90.7's Nicole Darden-Creston about the news that Florida has two presumptive positive cases of COVID-19, and what the state of emergency means. 

Nicole Darden-Creston: Abe, let’s start with the basics: What does it mean that we have two presumptive positive cases?

Abe Aboraya: Remember, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just got more than 100-thousand testing kits out to states. Up until recently, all testing has been done by CDC and has only been done on patients who meet strict criteria. That criteria has been relaxed. To your question, though, presumptive positive means they have tested positive in Florida, but now the CDC needs to confirm it. Additionally, Florida has eight test results pending for the new coronavirus. So far, 15 tests have come back negative. There are 184 people who are being monitored by the health department - this includes people who have traveled to China in the last two weeks and people at risk of being exposed.

Let’s hear a little bit of Gov. DeSantis: 
Last night I issued an executive order establishing the Dpartment of Health under Dr. Rivkees leadership as the agency responsible for the repsonse and coordination of the releveant state agencies for the COVID-19 response. In the order, I also directed the DOH to declare a public health emergency to better equip our state with the resources needed to handle this threat.
As far as what it means to be under a state of emergency-- the biggest thing is that it frees up federal funding for the response in Florida. And just broadly, politically, it gives people reassurance that people at the highest levels of government are taking it seriously.

NDC: What do we know about the two cases?

AA: Both are on Florida’s west coast. One is believed to have gotten the virus by traveling to Italy. The other, though, doctors aren’t sure where the individual caught the virus. Both patients are on isolation at this point. Let’s hear a little more from the governor.
In total, 795 have been monitored. Those two individuals who have tested positive remain in isolation at this time. Despite these cases, the overall immediate threat to the pub lic remains low. With that being said, we do anticipate that more will test positive.
NDC: We've been hearing a little from the Governor, Abe, but what has been the overall response from Gov. Ron DeSantis?

AA: The governor met with Vice President Mike Pence today. The Florida Department of Health is asking that people coming from areas with ongoing transmission of the virus - like China, Italy, Iran, South Korea and some parts of Japan - self isolate when they return. And just as importantly, if you develop symptoms, contact the health department BEFORE you go to the doctor or hospital. 

NDC: How does Florida fit into the national response to COVID-19? 

AA: Nationwide, the U.S. announced two deaths from COVID-19 over the weekend. Overall, the CDC says there are 43 confirmed cases in the U.S., including 26 cases of person-to-person spread. Keep in mind, the symptoms are pretty common: Fever, cough, trouble breathing. So the CDC is still recommending some basic tips to keep yourself safe: Wash your hands, stay home if you’re sick, and avoid unnecessary travel to areas with outbreaks.

NDC: Briefly, in the moments we have left, what are the possible economic impacts of this?

AA: That’s yet to be determined, but Florida’s economy is particularly vulnerable. Our state’s economy is dependent on tourism, and fears of coronavirus could turn visitors away. It’s anecdotal at this point, but we are seeing some people online saying they are canceling travel plans.And keep in mind, Florida’s GDP is very closely tied with the nation’s GDP, meaning if the fears on Wall Street about the Coronavirus end up equating into a recession, people will have less money. And less money means less travel - even if people aren’t scared by the virus.

NDC: Abe Aboraya is 90.7 Health Reporter. Thanks for speaking with us. 

AA: Thank you.