What to Know
- More than 840 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Florida Saturday, bringing the state's total to 4,038
- More than 500 people remain hospitalized throughout the state
- The state's death toll increased to 56
275 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Florida Saturday evening for a total of 4,038, as the state's death toll increased to 56 and the toll in Miami-Dade and Broward counties rose to 14.
Of the 4,038 cases, 1,121 were in Miami-Dade and 820 were in Broward, according to the figures released by the Florida Department of Health.
318 cases were reported in Palm Beach, while Monroe had 22 cases.
At a news conference on Saturday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis confirmed close to 40,000 tests had been administered across the state with the rate of positive results at 8 to 10%.
Florida's Emergency Management director, Jared Moskowitz, recently received 2,000 private test kits that were capable of giving results in 45 minutes. According to the governor, the tests will be distributed between South Florida and Jacksonville.
DeSantis also added the state planned on buying rapid test kits from Abbott Labs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the test kits, which deliver results within five minutes. Florida will be competing with several other states to receive the tests.
During a phone conversation with an executive at Abbott Labs, DeSantis said he was told 50,000 tests would be created by the company on a daily basis starting at the beginning of next week.
"We have asked to be a big part of that," DeSantis said. "Getting some of those rapid tests down to the state of Florida would allow us to completely transform the testing situation here."
In addition to the 56 deaths, more than 500 people were hospitalized throughout the state. Around 39% of hospital beds in Broward are available. 36% of beds in Dade are available.
Miami-Dade's first death related to the virus was reported Friday. The 40-year-old man, Israel Carrera, lived in north Miami and had tested positive on March 22 before passing away Thursday, his boyfriend said. The second death in Miami-Dade was a 79-year-old man.
During Saturday's press conference, the governor also mentioned adding checkpoints along Interstate 95 to screen travelers coming from New York and New Jersey.
The decision comes on the heels of an executive order announced by DeSantis on Friday. DeSantis said he would expand his quarantine order to include Louisiana after officials in the lightly hit Panhandle worried that people would flee New Orleans.
Florida Highway Patrol and sheriff's deputies have already set up checkpoints along Interstate 10 to screen drivers.
On Friday, DeSantis said the National Guard was working to open a new testing site in Palm Beach that would operate similar to ones already open in Miami-Dade and Broward.
"If you look at Palm Beach's numbers, they have not had nearly the amount of testing that Dade and Broward have had," DeSantis said.
DeSantis has said he expected the number of diagnosed cases would continue to rise as testing sites opened around the state for people suspected of having the disease and others who are at high risk of contracting it, such as health care workers.
The disease was also taking a tough toll on the state's economy, with 74,000 residents applying for unemployment benefits last week, a tenfold increase over the week before. Since then, the state's tourism industry has essentially shut down and restaurants have been restricted to takeout and delivery.
DeSantis also discussed reports of a hospital in Hialeah charging $150 for COVID-19 testing, and said he has asked the state's attorney general to investigate for possible price gouging.
"Many of these are low-income individuals, and I just want to say that is not acceptable here in the state of Florida," DeSantis said. "The tests are free and we don't want to put individuals in any more difficult circumstances than they already are."
Meanwhile, the second-largest county in the state, Broward, issued an order requiring residents to stay home starting Friday unless they were getting food or other essentials, headed to work or had an emergency. Two election poll workers tested positive for the virus, including one who handled licenses and other documents at a precinct where 61 people voted, said Steven Vancore, a spokesman for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections.
Vancore said the worker did not handle documents for all of those voters, but “at least some of them." The worker was also a greeter during nine days of early voting. Officials contacted all but two of the poll workers who worked “in proximity" with the infected individuals.
The other poll worker who tested positive held a position that generally requires little or no contact with voters.
At the Atria Willow Wood assisted living facility, three more coronavirus-related deaths were reported Thursday, bringing the death toll at the center to 6.
Cities in Miami-Dade County, the state's largest, were taking similar measures to try to stop the spread of coronavirus. Miami Beach, Coral Gables and three other cities had enacted stay-at-home orders for their residents. Miami was enacting a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew starting Friday.
"Take personal responsibility. We all must act as if we were infected with COVID-19 and stay home as much as possible," Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Friday.
Cutler Bay Mayor Tim Meerbott wrote in a letter to Gimenez that a countywide ban on unneeded travel “is our best chance to flatten the curve and save as many lives as possible.”
In Monroe County, a checkpoint was set up on U.S. 1 to stop non-residents from entering the Florida Keys.
Despite criticism from Democrats and others, DeSantis has refused to issue a statewide stay-at-home order like those imposed in California, New York, Illinois and elsewhere. He said he doesn't think they are effective and that they aren't needed in the counties that have no or few cases. Most of those counties are small and rural.
He has ordered some statewide measures such as closing bars and gyms and limiting restaurants. State parks have been closed. Anyone arriving from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut within the past three weeks must self-quarantine under threat of 60 days in jail. The state issued recommendations Wednesday that people 65 and older or with health issues confine themselves to their home.
At Friday's news conference, DeSantis said the state is also suspending new vacation rentals for two weeks.
"Unfortunately the southern Florida counties are probably going to be the primary landing spot for a lot of the New York influx that has happened," DeSantis said.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.
On Thursday, Miami-area hospitals received crew members from two Costa Cruise ships, the Magica and Favolosa. Carnival Corp., which owns the cruise line, said in a statement that the ships were empty except for crew members. They remained offshore.
Lifeboats brought the ill crew members into the Port of Miami, where they were greeted by doctors and nurses wearing protective masks and overalls. They were walked to a screening area and then taken to an ambulance.
Both vessels were both last in port at the Caribbean island of St. Maarten: the Magica on March 17 and the Favolosa on Saturday, according to vesselfinder.com. About 30 crew members had shown flu-like symptoms, but only about a dozen required hospitalization, Carnival said.
The ships had tried to dock in several Caribbean ports to get treatment for the crew members, but had been turned away, the company said. The Miami hospital officials said they felt it was important that the crew receive treatment immediately.
“While we are all committed to preserving resources for our own residents, an international community like Miami would never turn our backs on people aboard ships at our shores,” Jackson Health, the University of Miami and Baptist Health said in a joint statement.