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The State of Florida Issues Updates on COVID-19
March 11, 2020
Tallahassee, Fla. — The State of Florida is responding to COVID-19. In an effort to keep Florida residents and visitors safe and aware regarding the status of the virus, the Florida Department of Health will issue this update every day, seven days per week.
On March 9, Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-52, declaring a State of Emergency for COVID-19. By declaring a State of Emergency, Governor DeSantis is ensuring that state and local governments have the resources and flexibility they need to prepare and respond.
Last night, the Department of Health announced eight new cases of COVID-19 in Florida, seven of which are Florida residents:
New Positive Cases
- A 68-year old male in Nassau County has been identified as positive. This person is isolated and will continue to remain isolated until cleared by public health officials. This is a travel-related case.
- A 68-year old female Georgia resident who is currently in Alachua County, Florida, has been identified as positive. This person is isolated and will continue to remain isolated until cleared by public health officials. The Georgia Department of Public Health is leading the epidemiological investigation for this individual.
- A 73-year old male in Collier County has been identified as positive. This person is isolated and will continue to remain isolated until cleared by public health officials. This is a travel-related case.
- A 68-year old female in Collier County has been identified as positive. This person is isolated and will continue to remain isolated until cleared by public health officials. This is a travel-related case.
- A 64-year old female in Collier County has been identified as positive. This person is isolated and will continue to remain isolated until cleared by public health officials. This is a travel-related case.
- A 67-year old male in Pinellas County has been identified as positive. This person is isolated and will continue to remain isolated until cleared by public health officials. This is a travel-related case.
- A 64-year old male in Pinellas County has been identified as positive. This person is isolated and will continue to remain isolated until cleared by public health officials. This is a travel-related case.
- A 46-year old male in Pasco County has been identified as positive. This person is isolated and will continue to remain isolated until cleared by public health officials. This is a travel-related case.
Florida Residents Diagnosed in Florida
*A known history of exposure to COVID-19 outside of the state.
Port Everglades Advisory
On March 10, the Department announced a new positive case of COVID-19 in Broward County. The Department, through an extensive epidemiological investigation, identified this new case as the third positive case of COVID-19 associated with Port Everglades in Broward County, Florida. All three cases are connected to or employed by Metro Cruise Services – a company that operates at Port Everglades.
- The Florida Department of Health recommends that all individuals experiencing symptoms who have recently traveled through Port Everglades immediately contact their County Health Department or health care provider and self-isolate for 14 days.
- The Department also recommends employees of Metro Cruise Services at Port Everglades with any association to these cases self-isolate at home.
- The Department is working to connect with all employees at Metro Cruise Services who may have come into contact with the three individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 to provide the employees with the appropriate guidance and monitoring.
- The Department is working in close consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on this investigation.
- CDC recommends that individuals with recent travel history on a cruise monitor their health for 14 days and, if they develop symptoms, immediately self-isolate and contact their County Health Department or health care provider.
International Travel Advisory
The Florida Department of Health is advising all individuals who have traveled internationally to follow CDC guidelines, summarized below:
- Level 3: CDC recommends 14-day self-isolation and social distancing upon return to the United States. Social distancing includes avoiding going out in public and close personal interactions. If you become symptomatic, immediately self-isolate and contact your County Health Department or health care provider.
- Level 2 and Cruises: Travelers should monitor their health and limit interactions with others for 14 days after returning to the United States. If you become symptomatic, immediately self-isolate and contact your county health department or health care provider.
- For more information regarding current CDC travel advisories related to COVID-19, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html
A person that experiences a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan and any other destination under CDC travel advisory should call ahead to their health care provider or local County Health Department (CHD) and mention their recent travel or close contact.
If a person has had close contact with someone showing these symptoms who has recently traveled from areas or been in contact with a person with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, they should call ahead to a health care professional and the County Health Department. The health care professional will work with the Department to determine if the person should be tested for COVID-19.
Nile Cruise Advisory
The Florida Department of Health is advising all individuals who traveled to Egypt for a cruise or tour on the Nile River in February or March 2020 to self-isolate for 14 days following their date of return to the United States. Several passengers in the United States recently developed symptoms and have been confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, including 10 positive cases in Florida.
COVID Public Website and Call Center
Please visit the Department’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage for information and guidance regarding COVID-19 in Florida.
For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, please contact the Department’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling (866) 779-6121. The Call Center is available 24 hours per day. Inquiries may also be emailed to COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org.
What you Should Know
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.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. The Department recommends everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of respiratory diseases, including:
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
- Staying home when you are sick and avoiding contact with persons in poor health;
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;
- Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then disposing of the tissue;
- Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing;
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty; and
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
CDC does not recommend that asymptomatic, healthy people wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
Actions the State has Taken to Prepare for and Respond to COVID-19
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
- Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-52 declaring a State of Emergency for COVID-19.
- Governor Ron DeSantis directed the Florida Division of Emergency Management to activate to Level II to coordinate the state’s response to COVID-19.
- State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees declared a public health emergency for the novel coronavirus in Florida.
- Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-51 directing the State Surgeon General to declare a public health emergency.
- The Florida Department of Health (DOH) established an incident management team to coordinate response operations.
- DOH activated a dedicated incident command post for on-site response activities.
- DOH conducted three public health and healthcare stakeholders conference calls to provide statewide updates on the current outbreak situation, response actions, and guidance for pandemic planning. Over five hundred participants joined the calls. Calls are scheduled for each Wednesday at 2:00 ET.
- DOH participated with the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) on statewide conference calls with nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospitals.
- DOH established a public call-center for questions regarding COVID-19.
- DOH developed and distributed the communications-approved COVID-19 Presentation to CHDs for use at community meetings.
- DOH developed and implemented protocols for investigation, surveillance and monitoring for COVID-19 to rapidly detect and contain cases.
- DOH established mechanisms for on-going monitoring and coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding epidemiological activities.
- Distributed CDC Interim Guidance for Public Health Personnel Evaluating Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) and Asymptomatic Close Contacts of Confirmed Cases at Their Home or Non-Home Residential Settings to County Health Departments.
- Distributed the updated Clinician Screening Tool for Identifying Persons Under Investigation for Coronavirus Disease and a healthcare provider letter regarding Enhanced Surveillance and Preparedness for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) to associations, licensed providers, Health Care Coalitions (HCCs) and County Health Departments (CHD).
- Implemented testing at all three State Public Health Laboratories.
- Distributed updated CDC guidance for schools to CHDs and the Department of Education.
- Distributed updated Laboratory Guidance regarding implementation of testing at State Public Health Laboratories.
AGENCY FOR HEALTHCARE ADMINISTRATION
- The Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA) opened an event on the Emergency Status System for hospitals to enter census information and emergency room status updates.
- AHCA expanded the event on the Emergency Status System to collect isolation beds for hospitals effective Saturday, March 7.
- AHCA shared key guidance including CDC and the Department information regarding the importance of screening visitors, infection control protocol and hygiene best practices with all licensed healthcare facilities regulated by the Agency. The Agency is continuing to provide updates on recommendations and best practices from the CDC and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regarding COVID-19.
- AHCA, in coordination with the Florida Division of Emergency Management and the Department of Health, is hosting statewide calls for nursing homes, assisted living facilities, intermediate care facilities, and Agency for Persons with Disabilities group homes, and adult family care homes in conjunction with the Florida Health Care Association. Secretary Mayhew and Surgeon General Rivkees are continuing to address critical issues impacting these providers such as restricting and screening visitors and providing updates.
- AHCA, in coordination with the Florida Division of Emergency Management and the Department, is hosting statewide calls for hospitals in conjunction with the Florida Hospital Association. Secretary Mayhew and Surgeon General Rivkees to provide the most up-to-date information to hospital partners and residential facilitates caring for aging and vulnerable populations.
- This week, AHCA Secretary Mary Mayhew visited nursing homes and hospital facilities in Tampa, Jacksonville and Orlando to discuss COVID-19 preparations and response and address to any concerns and questions from local partners.
AGENCY FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
- The Director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), and members of the Senior Leadership Team participated in the conference call related to vulnerable populations hosted by the Surgeon General. The call provided the most up-to-date information to APD partners who are caring for vulnerable populations.
- APD implemented a visitor questionnaire at its two state centers in Gainesville and Marianna.
- APD is developing a visitor questionnaire for Adult Day Training facilities and group homes across the state.
- APD continues to provide additional best practices, preventative tips and CDC guidance to APD providers, Waiver Support coordinators and APD employees.
DEPARTMENT OF ELDER AFFAIRS
- The Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA) Secretary Richard Prudom stood with Governor Ron DeSantis and other agency heads during a press conference on Monday, March 9th, to address Florida’s recent actions and issue a State of Emergency for COVID-19.
- DOEA Secretary Richard Prudom and executive staff participated in a conference call with the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and ACL administrator Lance Robertson and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other state units on aging also participated to discuss issues on the implementation of prevention protocols for prevention of spread of COVID-19.
- DOEA Program directors provided guidance to Area Agencies on Aging and statewide Comprehensive Assessment and Review for Long-term Care Services (CARES) offices on how to protect clients and staff during a conference call and provided follow-up emails.
- DOEA participated in the Aging and Vulnerable Populations Call hosted by the Florida Department of Health (DOH). All of the state’s Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) were on this call, and DOEA staff followed up with them on an individual basis for questions and answers for COVID-19.
DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
- The Department of Children and Families (DCF) Office of Child Welfare sent communication about COVID-19, to licensed child care providers, directing them to follow the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Administrators of US Childcare Programs and K-12 Schools to Plan, Prepare and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019.
- DCF Secretary Chad Poppell sent thorough communication to all DCF staff, contracted partners, and licensed facilities (including child care providers) about COVID-19, including precautionary measures (as outlined by the CDC) and temporary policy updates.
- DCF is working with AHCA, DOEA, and APD to compile and develop guidance for agency staff and stakeholders who work directly with Florida’s elderly population and have a higher risk of being exposed to COVID-19.
- DCF established strategies for COVID-19 prevention at all three state mental health treatment facilities, as well as the South Florida mental health facilities run by Wellpath Recovery Solutions, a contracted partner. They are reporting weekly updates and to ensure compliance with virus prevention.
- Volunteer Florida is coordinating with the Florida Department of Elder Affairs to see how the agency can assist with distributing information to seniors.
- Volunteer Florida’s Emergency Management Department is having initial conversations with partners to determine what could be needed and what safety precautions need to be considered if volunteers are utilized.
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
- Florida Virtual School (FLVS) is offering virtual teacher training to up to 10,000 teachers to accommodate Florida school districts that wish to train their teachers in the FLVS online platform in the event teachers need to temporarily move to an online environment.
- Education Commissioner Corcoran is in constant communication with Florida Superintendents and districts to provide guidance on COVID-19 preparedness and response and will be holding weekly calls to update districts on preparation efforts.
- FDOE has sent weekly memos providing updates to school districts, superintendents, Florida Colleges, parents, teachers and stakeholders.
- FDOE launched a survey to school districts and public charter schools about their preparations, policies, their capacity to serve their students virtually to help meet and determine any preparedness needs.
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
- Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) has no known or suspected cases of COVID-19 within its correctional institutions at this time.
- FDC’s Office of Health Services coordinates with the department for guidance on any type of outbreak and is closely monitoring new information as it is disseminated from Florida Department of Health and the CDC.
- FDC has a plan in place and dedicated staff members trained in the prevention and containment of infectious diseases.
- FDC stood up its Incident Command System in response to COVID-19.
- Education has been provided to staff, inmates and visitors to prevent the spread of any infectious disease, including COVID-19.
- Precautions are in place at facilities to protect inmates and staff from exposure to flu, COVID-19 or any other respiratory illness and are being followed per CDC recommendations.
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF STATE
- The Florida Department of State (DOS) has been in contact with the Supervisors of Elections for Hillsborough, Lake, Leon, Manatee, Palm Beach and Sarasota Counties to determine their needs specifically as it relates to supplies. The supervisors have been encouraged to connect with their county emergency management department for meeting these resource needs.
- DOS is in constant communication with Supervisors of Elections regarding readiness for elections and any anticipated needs related to COVID-19.
- DOS is sharing information with the public regarding voting options for the upcoming election, including vote-by-mail and early voting options.
- DOS is actively wiping down public spaces including all DOS maintained properties, reception areas and restrooms with bleach or disinfectant wipes to mitigate the spread of germs.
- DOS is assessing departmental stakeholder lists, including museums, cultural facilities and libraries to evaluate if any stakeholders provide services to at-risk populations and determining the most suitable ways the department can provide information about COVID-19 to those populations.
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
- At the direction of Governor DeSantis, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Kevin J. Thibault, along with Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees, hosted a conference call with all Florida ports and their governing bodies as well as all public use airports to discuss Florida’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 virus.
- FDOT Secretary Thibault and staff from the department will host weekly conference calls with all passenger seaports and public use airports to provide updates related to COVID-19.
- COVID-19 educational materials are being posted in FDOT facilities, which include welcome centers, service plazas and rest areas across the state.
- SunRail has posted COVID-19 educational materials inside all trains and on all platforms, focusing on areas near entrances and bathrooms.
- SunRail trains are being cleaned and sanitized daily and SunRail staff have been provided sanitizing towelettes and encouraged to wash their hands frequently throughout the day.
- FDOT is providing hand sanitizer and posting COVID-19 educational materials at its public meetings across the state.
DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
- The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) continues to encourage businesses to follow the “Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers” issued by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This information is being provided to statewide business partners, local Chambers of Commerce and Economic Development Councils throughout the sate.
- The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) and Florida Retail Federation and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, in coordination with DEO, are working to provide health safety information and coordination with partners, including how to address potential local supply issues.
- DEO is coordinating with CareerSource Florida, local workforce boards, and other public-private partners. DEO is also working closely with our local, state and federal partners to explore potential resources for employers, businesses and impacted workforce.
- On January 24, VISIT FLORIDA ceased all Florida tourism marketing in China. VISIT FLORIDA redirected the savings from China and invested this funding into a domestic campaign that launched on March 2.
- VISIT FLORIDA has provided the state’s three highway welcome centers with the latest information and resources on COVID-19 to help keep the traveling public informed.
- VISIT FLORIDA is tracking traveler sentiment across online platforms and social media to monitor how COVID-19 may impact travel and travel booking to Florida.
DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE
- The Department of Revenue’s Child Support Program is working to reduce when customers are required to visit a local child support office and is providing new connect/customer service options.
- Efforts include rescheduling genetic testing sample collection appointments and postponing other types of appointments. The Program will soon be implementing the ability for parents to enter into written agreements over the phone, and the Program will be providing new fax, email and form drop-off processes.
OFFICE OF INSURANCE REGULATION
- The Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier is actively engaged with insurers and key partners at the state and national level regarding COVID-19. Commissioner Altmaier is collaborating with other state insurance commissioners and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to share information and resources.
- OIR has issued Informational Memorandum OIR-20-01M to all health insurers and health maintenance organizations, directing them to:
- Use every channel available to them to communicate with their policyholders and share official CDC and Department of Health information;
- Devote resources to inform consumers of available benefits, quickly respond to inquiries, and avoid and dispel misinformation;
- Work with public health officials to do everything possible to prepare and respond; and
- Consider all practicable options to reduce the barriers of cost-sharing for testing and treatment of COVID-19.
- OIR is reaching out to insurers regarding their response to COVID-19 and working with insurers to make sure they are properly communicating to consumers.
- OIR has activated its incident management team and has met to review disaster response procedures.
- OIR has issued Informational Memorandum OIR-20-02M as a reminder to all health insurers, health maintenance organizations and other health entities to allow for early prescription refills following the Governor’s Executive Order 20-52 declaring a state of emergency in Florida.
- OIR has spoken with multiple insurers who are voluntarily waiving cost-sharing for consumers in an effort to remove barriers to testing for COVID-19.
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF LAW ENFORCEMENT
- The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is coordinating ESF-16 providing updates and securing staffing while FDLE Regional Operations Centers are working with Regional Domestic Security Task Forces to prepare for any responses needed.
- FDLE’s Office of Mutual Aid prepared and distributed a law enforcement guide on COVID-19 for law enforcement partners and state agencies and FDLE’s General Counsel prepared a law enforcement guide for protocols in a quarantine.
- FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen sent an email to all members outlining simple ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as well as links to the Florida Department of Health and CDC websites. Signs have been posted in all FDLE Regions and at Headquarters with prevention information.
About the Florida Department of Health
The department, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.