Two Florida seniors who had traveled abroad have become the state’s first residents to die from the novel coronavirus, the Florida Department of Health announced late Friday.
One of the deaths involved a 72-year-old Santa Rosa County man who had previously been disclosed as having the virus. The other death involved a Lee County resident, whose case had not been disclosed. The department did not immediately release the Lee County resident’s gender or age, saying the person was “in their seventies.”
Both died following international trips. Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that the Department of Health was conducting an investigation of the Santa Rosa County resident’s illness but that the man was “not in shape to fully answer all the questions.”
In the announcement late Friday, the department also said two Broward County men had been identified as “presumptive positive” for the contagious virus, known as COVID-19. One of the men is 75 years old, while the other is 65, and both will be in isolation until cleared by public-health officials.
In presumptive positive cases, results have been found positive by state labs, but confirmation is still needed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of Florida-related coronavirus cases has steadily increased, after initial announcements last weekend. The Department of Health website listed 12 positive cases, with six involving Florida residents in the state, five involving residents out of the state and one non-resident who is in the state.
The state also had 88 pending test results, and 278 people were being monitored, the Department of Health website said late Friday. Another 100 tests had been negative.
COVID-19 was first reported in Wuhan, China, on Dec. 31, and has spread to dozens of countries, with cases popping up in various U.S. states. The virus can be particularly danger for seniors and people with other medical conditions. There is no vaccine to prevent the virus.
“Symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath,” the Department of Health said in the announcement late Friday. “Symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days following exposure. Most people recover from the COVID-19 without needing special treatment. The elderly and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems and diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.”
Earlier Friday, Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier sent a memo to health insurers advising them to consider “all practical options to reduce the barriers of cost-sharing for testing and treatment” of COVID-19.
“Consumers may seek a variety of forms of healthcare in connection with COVID-19, including, but not limited to, physician office visits, laboratory testing, urgent care services, and emergency services,” Altmaier said in the memo. “It is important to remove actual or perceived barriers to testing for COVID-19. Consumers could be reluctant to seek testing or treatment due to other anticipated costs.”
--- News Service staff writer Christine Sexton contributed to this report.