How Is South Florida Preparing for the Coronavirus?

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What to Know

  • Dozens of people in Florida were being monitored for potential coronavirus after two people became the first in the state to test positive for the virus.
  • Miami-Dade County Public Schools provided a plan in case the virus was detected in the area, while some colleges canceled study abroad programs to countries affected by coronavirus.
  • Cruise lines say they are taking extra precautions to keep passengers safe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised concerns of a possible pandemic outbreak in the U.S. for the coronavirus, which has infected and killed thousands of people across the globe.

According to the agency, three cases have been confirmed in Florida and they are asking the public to prepare.

“We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare for the expectation that this could be bad,” a top CDC official told reporters in a conference call.

Officials from Miami-Dade held a news conference to discuss coronavirus preparations in the county.

"This county is ready to face a number of situations, this county faces emergency situations almost every year called hurricanes, so we're very good at preparing for things that are not the norm," Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said. "This though is a little bit different, this is a virus, this is something that frankly in my time as mayor I haven't faced, outside of the zika issue."

So, if the disease ever does reach South Florida, what are local officials expecting to do?


Florida's Department of Health says health care providers are following strict guidance from the CDC.

Patients who have a fever, signs of a "lower respiratory illness" and traveled to China within the last two weeks are required to be tested for the disease.

Patients who are diagnosed will be asked to wear a surgical mask and be evaluated in a private room.

President Donald Trump spoke to the press on Wednesday with updates on the U.S. response to COVID-19, praising his administration and saying that the “risk to the American people is very low.” Trump also announced that Vice President Mike Pence will be overseeing the administration’s response to the virus.


Nearly 10 million international passengers come through Miami International Airport every year - 2.3 million through Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

MIA says it is not providing screenings for the coronavirus for anyone who is not arriving from China.

Italian airline Alitalia says it is screening all passengers when they depart Rome to Miami. American Airlines has also canceled its Milan flights to Miami, MIA officials said.

They say Americans flying to the U.S. from China will be re-routed to the following airports:

  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York
  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington
  • Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii
  • Los Angeles International Airport, (LAX), California
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia
  • Dallas/Ft. Worth
  • Detroit
  • Washington Dulles
  • Newark

MIA is also among 20 U.S. Airports who are working with the CDC to beef up screenings of travelers. MIA's jurisdiction includes the Bahamas and Aruba, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.

Officials at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport said they have a communicable disease response plan in place which would be activated in the event that an infected individual is identified while traveling through the airport.


Miami-Dade Public Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced the district's plan if coronavirus were detected in the area.

In order to reduce face-to-face contact between students, the superintendent says schools will take advantage of digital or "tele-education" classes.

However, the electronic classes are a last resort if a school has to be closed.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho laid out a plan for the district in the event the coronavirus crosses the area. NBC 6's Dan Grossman reports.

Education of the disease will ramp up on school grounds, and electronic services that will connect school clinics with doctors for instant information are being installed.

Carvalho also said, if necessary, alternate dismissal times will be implemented, while increasing school cleaning cycles.

Florida International University announced it would restrict access for students and faculty while canceling study abroad programs to nations dealing with the medical crisis. All travel to Italy, Japan, Singapore and South Korea are restricted.

At the same time, the school is asking anyone who has visited the countries – as well as China, where thousands have died in recent weeks from the virus – or had contact with anyone who has visited to remain quarantined for 14 days even if they do not have any symptoms.

Miami-Dade Public Schools was forced to cancel two out of country field trips, including one trip to Italy.

The University of Miami also canceled study abroad programs in China amid concerns.

Miami-Dade College has canceled all study abroad trips for the summer 2020 term, under recommendation from the CDC, according to its campus newspaper.


South Florida is home to two of the three busiest ports in the United States - nearly 6 million passengers set sail from Port Miami in the past year aboard more than 1,200 cruise ships that docked there.

Royal Caribbean said it will screen the temperatures of all guests, crewmembers and visitors prior to boarding any vessel. Anyone with elevated body temperatures, flu-like symptoms, or anyone who has traveled from, to or through mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Japan or Thailand will be subject to additional screenings along with their travel companions. Read the full statement here.

South Florida's cruise industry is starting to be affected by coronavirus concerns after a ship that left Miami ran into trouble in the Caribbean due to a sick crewmember. NBC 6 anchor Carlos Suarez reports.

A MSC Cruises ship - which set sail from Port Miami - was denied permission to dock in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands after a crew member had symptoms of the flu and later tested positive for it.

Florida Rep. Chip LaMarca, whose District 93 includes Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, said cruise lines are taking extra precautions to keep passengers safe, and said cruise lines haven't seen a drop or cancellations for ships leaving Florida ports.

Travel agents also ensured cruise lines are being proactive by screening passengers of any sickness or fever, checking passports and cleaning ships.

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