coronavirus

2 Test ‘Presumptive Positive’ for COVID-19 in Broward County

The deaths brought the U.S. death toll to 17

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Broward health officials addressed community concerns at a press conference Saturday after the Florida Department of Health confirmed on Friday that two Florida residents had died from the novel coronavirus, and two "presumptive cases" had been identified in Broward County.

Due to "ongoing epidemiological investigations," officials at the press conference said they could not disclose any further information on the cases in Broward County, such as whether the patients had recently traveled.

"I understand that this news is concerning. But this is what we've been getting ready for," said Dr. Paula Thaqi, the director of the Florida Department of Health in Broward County. "We will continue to work together to protect our community."

In a press release, the department said the new cases in Broward County involve a 75-year-old man and a 65-year-old man. The two men are isolated and will remain in isolation until they no longer test positive, officials said.

The two deceased patients came from Santa Rosa County and Lee County, and both had returned from "international trips," the department said.

Further details on the identities of the individuals and where they traveled were not available.

Also on Saturday, Florida gov. Ron DeSantis announced on his Twitter that Florida's Division of Emergency Management would be activated to level 2. The announcement came hours before DeSantis was expected to address the media at a press conference with Vice President Mike Pence.

Broward County officials spoke in a news conference earlier Friday and confirmed they were monitoring people for the coronavirus but assured the risk of the virus in the county remains low.

On Saturday, Dr. Thaqi said that any person who experiences symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath within 14 days of having traveled to a country under a CDC travel advisory should call ahead to their healthcare provider and the Florida Department of Health at Broward County at 954-412-7300 before visiting any healthcare facility.

"Their healthcare professional will work with the Florida department to determine whether that person should be tested," she explained.

Earlier in the week, City of Miami officials have canceled two large-scale events as organizers of other events across South Florida say they're taking extra precautions to maintain the highest possible level of hygiene and cleanliness at their festivals and gatherings.

Ultra Music Festival, an outdoor electronic music festival that attracts hundreds of thousands of fans every March, has been postponed until 2021. Calle Ocho Music Festival, billed as the world's largest Latin music festival, has also been canceled.

Read more: Coronavirus Concerns in South Florida: A Guide to Which Events Are Cancelled (& Which Aren’t)

A "presumptive positive" case is when a state health lab has a positive case without confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis asked state lawmakers for $25 million for health officials to use immediately in the state's response to coronavirus.

DeSantis said he expects Florida to receive at least $27 million from the federal government, along with an extra $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to immediately cover costs like lab equipment and staffing.

The risk to the general public remains low in Florida, DeSantis said. Those most at risk include the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions. Health officials have put out guidance to assisted living facilities to restrict visitors who might be infected.

Meanwhile, the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus climbed to 17, with the majority of victims in Washington state, while the number of infections swelled to over 300, scattered across about half the states. Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota and Nebraska reported their first cases.

For more information on COVID-19 in Florida, visit floridahealth.gov/covid-19.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

AP and NBC 6 South Florida
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