No chances: Florida declares public emergency amid confirmed coronavirus cases

Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis (Photo: ClickOrlando.com)

Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis has declared a public health emergency after two residents in separate tested ‘presumably positive’ for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on Sunday, March 1.

According to the Florida Health Department, the two Americans hail from Manatee and Hillsborough counties in the southern state, respectively.

The Floridian from Manatee County, whose identity was not disclosed, is an adult with no travel history connected to the countries that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised against visiting in response to the recent outbreak.

The second person, however, reportedly does have a history of travel to Italy, where over 1,690 cases of the virus have been confirmed.

The state agency said both patients have been placed under mandatory isolation until they are cleared by officials.

DeSantis, in declaring the public emergency late Sunday, said he has effectively designated the Florida Health Department “as the lead state agency to coordinate emergency response activities among the various state agencies and local governments.”

The section of the emergency order indicated that the Florida Health Department will be monitoring anyone in the state who meets the definition of a Person Under Investigation [PUI] as defined by the CDC for COVID-19 for a period of at least 14 days or until the PUI tests negative for COVID-19.

The Florida Health Department has also been directed by Governor DeSantis to make “its own determinations as to quarantine, isolation and other necessary public health interventions as permitted under Florida law.”

The announcement comes hours after the state of New York confirmed its first case of COVID-19. The second US death from the viral outbreak occurred on Saturday (Feb. 29) as cases in Washington state spiked for the first time.