Governor Ron Desantis declares public health emergency in Florida

The order says the "State Health Officer is authorized and directed to use his judgment as to the duration of this public health emergency." (CDC)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - In response to the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19), Governor Ron DeSantis declared a public health emergency in Florida.

According to the executive order, two people in Florida, a Manatee County resident and a Hillsborough County resident tested presumptively positive for COVID-19.

The results are "presumptive positive" until they can be confirmed with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Florida Department of Health officials say the overall immediate threat to the public is still low.

Officials say the Manatee County resident is an adult without travel history to countries identified for restricted travel by the CDC. The person sought health care and is isolated at this time. The second patient, of Hillsborough County, has a history of travel to Italy. This person is also isolated.

The order also says the "State Health Officer is authorized and directed to use his judgment as to the duration of this public health emergency."

Governor DeSantis designates the Florida Department of Health as the lead agency in coordinating emergency response activities. The department will also actively monitor anyone who shows signs for COVID-19, as defined by the CDC, for 14 days or if the person tests negative.

The order also says the department is allowed to "make its own determinations as to quarantine, isolation, and other necessary public health interventions as permitted under Florida law."

Governor Ron DeSantis said, "I have been working with federal partners and our Department of Health to ensure that communities are ready to handle the challenges presented by COVID-19. The dedicated professionals at our county health departments, as well as those working at local medical providers, are well equipped to address these and future cases. State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees has taken appropriate, decisive action to help affect the best possible outcomes, and I will continue directing our state agencies to do whatever is necessary to prioritize the health and well-being of Florida residents.”

State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees added, "This is the scenario that we prepare for every day in public health. The Department is moving forward with the appropriate plans, and we are working directly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local medical providers to ensure these individuals receive the proper treatment and that anyone who has come into contact with them is following the necessary protocols, limiting or stopping any further spread. Thanks to Florida's integrated public health system, we have been able to proactively engage and plan with our public health partners at every level, enabling us to take these important steps in a very expeditious manner. Our epidemiological teams are among the best in the nation, and they are right now aggressively pursuing every potential lead during these critical early moments of this outbreak in Florida.”

COVID-19 can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, including when an individual coughs or sneezes. These droplets may land on objects and surfaces. Other people may contract COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

Symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days following exposure.

Most people recover from 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.

While there is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, the Department of Health recommends taking preventative measures.

Those include: avoiding contact with people who are sick, staying home when you are sick and avoiding contact with people in poor health, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, and covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throwing the tissue away.

Officials also say to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. They say if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

They also say cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a household cleaning spray or wipe is another preventative measure.

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