The state of Florida and several counties are in states of emergency as more Floridians test positive for COVID-19, the coronavirus. Mary Mayhew, Florida’s secretary for the Agency for Health Care Administrations, which oversees nursing home and other assisted care facilities, said on Friday there was no community spread of the COVID-19 virus in Florida.
With new cases announced daily, Mayhew says only one case of the virus remains under investigation for community spread, and there are no others. Her comments are in contrast to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the county’s top infectious disease doctor, who named Florida as one of four states experiencing community spread of the virus.
On the Florida Roundup, host Tom Hudson talked to Mayhew about state health officials are doing to protect seniors and other vulnerable populations from COVID-19.
Here’s an excerpt of the conversation:
Tom Hudson: Secretary Mayhew, is the Florida health delivery system ready?
MARY MAYHEW: Tom, certainly, when you have this level of a challenge that is affecting the entire country, it is putting our emergency preparedness to the test. I will say that for Florida, because of all that we have gone through with other emergencies, both related to hurricanes and the formalized information and communication structure that exists for Florida, but also because of Florida's previous experience with other healthcare-related public health challenges, we have a lot to be thankful for in Florida. But there is no doubt that this is putting every state public health system to the test. But what we can say is that Florida today does not have any community spread. That's the cases that we see today have a travel-related connection.
Tom Hudson: There is one case identified just last night by the Department of Health in Broward County that is not travel-related and is still under investigation. And as you know, Dr. Anthony Fauci, of the National Institutes of Health, included Florida in a list of states that he described as experiencing community spread of COVID 19.
MARY MAYHEW: I am aware, and I know the surgeon general has spoken with him personally because that has not been reported by Florida. But you are correct. There is at least one case that remains under investigation. But it is why we need to be as vigilant as the governor has been to restrict exposure, public exposure in our facilities. And I know your leadership in Miami likes his leadership, and health care providers are taking additional steps to contain by boosting public events.
Tom Hudson: And the elected leadership in the city of Miami—the mayor—has tested positive for the virus.
MARY MAYHEW: And again, as we know, we are seeing significant effort to provide expanded testing to support local health care providers.
Tom Hudson: What’s the timeline for that? What can Floridians expect?
MARY MAYHEW: There are tests that are being deployed as we speak, from the Department of Emergency Management and the Department of Health. There are hospitals right now that are focused on bringing on line their capacity to test. I know that is true with several hospitals right now that are conducting tests. I was on a phone call today with several other large hospitals and health systems that are aggressively moving forward to be able to provide that capacity. That will make a huge difference here in Florida.
March 16, 2020 Correction: On The Florida Roundup, WMFE reporter Danielle Prieur misspoke in saying Disney will refund tickets and annual passes. Disney is extending the valid use period for theme park tickets affected by the coronavirus closures, or a credit towards future ticket purchase for those unable to use their tickets during the extension. Annual passes will be extended by the number of days the parks remain closed. Special event tickets during the closures will be refunded. Here’s a link: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/travel-information/
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