What We Know About Coronavirus In Florida So Far

Mar 2, 2020

Florida is now trying to reduce the spread of COVID-19 —the disease caused by the new coronavirus. The CDC confirmed Monday two positive cases in Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis directed the surgeon general to declare a public health emergency.  

WLRN's Alexander Gonzalez got the latest from Health News Florida editor Julio Ochoa.

GONZALEZ: What do we know about the cases that the CDC has given final confirmation for being positive for COVID-19 here in Florida?

OCHOA: There's a patient in Hillsborough County and a patient and in Manatee County. The patient in Hillsborough is a female in her 20s who recently returned from a trip to northern Italy. Officials say she's in stable condition. The Manatee County patient is in his 60s and it's not known how he contracted the virus. He hasn't been traveling anywhere, so officials do not know exactly where he got it from. Both are being held in isolation. So they are being isolated from just about anyone else in the community until they have gone for 14 days without any signs of the virus.

What do we know about the risk of contracting the virus? We know we should be vigilant and take precautions but not panic at this point, right?

The virus is spread very easily through small droplets from the nose or mouth. It can be contracted if somebody touches an object where one of those droplets has landed and then they touch their eyes, their nose or their mouth. It's just like the flu or the common cold. The state is telling people to avoid contact with people who are sick; wash your hands; cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing. Those types of things help reduce the spread of this virus.

Read more about what Florida is doing to prepare for and combat the virus.

There's no vaccine yet against this new coronavirus. Health officials are encouraging people anyway to get flu shots. In what way does that play a role in protecting yourself from getting sick?

I guess it helps your immune system not to be compromised. If you have a flu shot, then you are less likely to be sick. And you're not sick, then your immune system is strong and can fight against COVID-19. And then you'd have a much better chance of being healthy.

Who is at greatest risk of becoming infected with COVID-19?

The state says just like the flu, elderly patients and those with other medical conditions like high blood pressure, heart problems and diabetes. But for most people, health officials say the virus could be mild. Most of the symptoms are fever, cough, shortness of breath, appearing anywhere between two to 14 days after exposure. So for a great majority of the people, it's going to be like the flu. But for some of these at-risk populations, it could be more severe.

How are state agencies and officials taking into account nursing homes and assisted living facilities? What kind of precautions are those facilities taking against the virus?

The state is speaking with the hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities and providers at least once a week to offer them training for how to deal with these patients. But as you can imagine, each one is dealing with it in its own separate ways. I know of urgent care centers in the Tampa Bay area. There are putting signs on their doors: If you are presenting with these symptoms, then you should not come into our urgent care facility. You should go to an emergency department or go to the health department because those facilities are not set up to isolate patients.

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