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Broward County Declares Emergency After 4th Confirmed Coronavirus Case

Florida officials urging anyone who recently traveled through Port Everglades to isolate themselves for 14 days if they start experiencing symptoms

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What to Know

  • Broward is declaring an emergency after a fourth confirmed case of COVID-19 in the county, officials said
  • The move comes after 3 employees of a company that greets cruise ship passengers at Port Everglades tested positive for coronavirus
  • State health officials are urging anyone who recently traveled through Port Everglades to isolate themselves for 14 days if they start experiencing symptoms

Broward County declared a state of emergency after a fourth case of coronavirus was confirmed in the county, officials said Tuesday.

County Administrator Bertha Henry announced the emergency declaration at Tuesday morning's Broward commission meeting, saying it will make way for more resources to fight the spread of COVID-19.

The county's emergency operations center was activated to Level 2, meaning all lead emergency support teams would be notified but the emergency operation center would not be physically staffed, for now.

"They are aware they are doing it, they indicated to me whatever we need to the extent they have the ability to get it and expedite," Henry said.

The county has also formed a business team to address issues related to operations comprised of Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, and other high-impact business areas.

The move comes after three employees of a company that greets cruise ship passengers at Port Everglades tested positive for the new coronavirus, state health officials said. The company, Metro Cruise Services, said the employees provided embarkation services at various cruise terminals in Port Everglades.

The Florida Department of Health is urging anyone who recently traveled through Port Everglades to isolate themselves for 14 days if they start experiencing symptoms.

Officials confirmed the company connection in a news release that also said a 69-year-old woman who tested positive for COVID-19 is the fourth Broward County resident, and third employee of Metro Cruise Services, to have the virus.

"We were unaware that any of our part-time employees were sick until we were notified by the authorities,” Metro Cruise Services President Anthony Newman said in a statement. "We then immediately notified all of our Port Everglades employees that one of their associates had tested positive and advised them that, if they have any symptoms, they should seek medical assistance and not report to work."

The health department advisory asks anyone who passed through the port in Fort Lauderdale to isolate themselves and contact their county health department or health care provider if they start experiencing symptoms of the virus, which includes a cough, fever and shortness of breath.

NBC 6 Investigator Tony Pipitone reports on the coronavirus' impact on the cruise industry.

That conforms with new guidelines issued Monday by the CDC, which advises recent cruise passengers to monitor their health for 14 days, immediately self-isolate if they experience symptoms, and contact medical professionals for treatment.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, but it can cause more severe illness including pneumonia in older adults and people with existing health problems. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus within weeks.

Swift-moving developments over the new coronavirus ricocheted across Florida’s Capitol as Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Monday and lawmakers disrupted their legislative session so crews in surgical gowns could swab down the House chambers. DeSantis said his declaration would enable Florida to better marshal resources and get outside help as it confronts the growing public health crisis.

Latest coronavirus figures from the Florida Department of Health as of March 10, 2020.
Florida Department of Health
Latest coronavirus figures from the Florida Department of Health as of March 10, 2020.

"That allows us to create a unified command structure, it also allows, if need be, out-of-state medical personnel to operate in Florida," DeSantis said at a news conference Monday evening. "It allows us to more swiftly purchase any necessary supplies including masks and materials and equipment necessary to set up field hospitals. It allows pharmacists to dispense up to 30-day emergency prescription refill of maintenance medication."

Health officials are trying to connect with all employees of Metro Cruise Services who may have come into contact with the three infected co-workers. The agency announced earlier that three Broward County men, ages 65, 67 and 75, had tested positive; the news release didn't specify which of these men are the other two company employees.

Two cruise ships that left from Fort Lauderdale — the Regal Princess and the Caribbean Princess — were later issued “no sail" orders by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after crew members who had possibly been exposed on a California ship were tested.

The Regal Princess eventually docked at the port late Sunday and passengers were able to leave the ship. The Caribbean Princess stopped briefly in Grand Cayman on Monday to pick up test kits for two crew members. The ship is sailing off Florida's coast until it gets the all clear.

Also, late Monday, state health officials reported that a 60-year-old Volusia County woman tested positive, bringing the state's total to 20. Of those, two people have died. Fourteen of the 20 cases were diagnosed in Florida and five in another state, officials said. In addition, a California resident, now under self-isolation in Florida, has tested positive.

For more information on coronavirus in Florida, visit Floridahealth.org/covid-19

AP and NBC 6
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