First ‘Presumptive Positive' Cases of Coronavirus Reported in Florida: Officials

Governor Ron DeSantis has declared a public health emergency in response to the announcement

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What to Know

  • Governor Ron DeSantis has declared a public health emergency in Florida
  • Florida's Department of Health said it is working to confirm two cases of the coronavirus
  • Test results for the virus would be available within 24 to 48 hours

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a public health emergency as officials worked to confirm what it described as two "presumptive positive" cases of the coronavirus in the state.

In a tweet Sunday evening, the state's Department of Health said two adults - one in Manatee County, the other in Hillsborough - were being isolated and cared for.

The patient from Hillsborough county has a history of traveling to Italy, while the patient out of Manatee county did not travel to any of the restricted travel areas identified by the CDC, health officials said.

Florida health officials said it’s too early to declare that the two cases are “confirmed” to have COVID-19. “We’re not at that point yet,” said the health department’s spokesman, Alberto Moscoso. Health officials said a “presumptive positive" case means someone has tested positive by a public health lab and is pending “confirmatory testing" at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials did not identify the individuals, specifics of their medical conditions or any routes of possible exposure.

FDOH says it is working to contact, isolate and monitor people who could have come into contact with both patients. State officials have planned a Monday morning press conference to provide the latest details.

DeSantis, who was expected to speak at the Monday press conference, declared a public health emergency Sunday in response to the announcement.

"The dedicated professionals at our county health departments, as well as those working at local medical providers, are well equipped to address these and future cases," DeSantis said in a statement.

The governor's announcement said he was issuing an executive order effective immediately directing the state health officer and surgeon general, Dr. Scott Rivkees, to declare a public health emergency in Florida. He authorized Rivkees to take “any action necessary to protect the public health."

Rivkees subsequently said his department was moving ahead with those plans while “working directly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention" at the federal level and with local medical providers.

Rivkee's own statement said the immediate steps were being taken “to ensure these individuals receive the proper treatment and that anyone who has come into contact with them is following the necessary protocols, limiting or stopping any further spread.”

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio said the safety of Florida residents remains the "highest priority."

"I will continue to work with the Trump Administration and Governor DeSantis to ensure our State has the resources and information it needs," Rubio said in a statement. "I am working with my colleagues in Congress on a funding package to ensure Florida has every available federal resource to respond to the coronavirus.”

On Saturday, officials said that all three of the department's labs could now test for the virus, and test results would be available within 24 to 48 hours. Previously, samples had been sent to the CDC in Atlanta for testing.

State and local authorities stepped up testing for the illness as the number of new cases grew nationwide, with new infections announced in California, Illinois, Rhode Island, New York - in addition to Florida and Washington state, where two people have died.

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