Gov. Ron DeSantis on Saturday banned most visits to nursing homes statewide as he acknowledged the coronavirus has likely spread into the general population. Meanwhile, officials reported to Historic City News that world-famous South Beach had been closed to prevent college spring breakers from congregating.
The Associated Press is reporting that hours after DeSantis held a news conference at the state’s emergency management headquarters, health officials confirmed the death of a 77-year-old Lee County man who previously tested positive for COVID-19.
“We’re still going forward as if there are pockets in the community because I think that it is the only responsible thing to do when you have a virus that is highly contagious,” DeSantis said.
The new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, for most people, but older adults and those with existing health problems can develop severe complications, including pneumonia. The latest fatality, the third in Florida so far, did not contract the infection through travel; suggesting that he likely acquired it through contact made within the community.
During his news conference, DeSantis said three infected Broward County residents also have no known connection to a virus source such as travel to China or Europe or contact with someone who just returned. That means they, too, likely acquired it in the community, although the governor said a final determination hasn’t been made.
The state’s known infections now exceed 60 as the numbers jumped by a third Saturday, according to AP reporting.
- DeSantis and Health Care Secretary Mary Mayhew said while it will be frustrating for relatives not to visit loved ones in nursing homes, the ban is needed to prevent the virus’s spread among the frail and elderly. Exceptions will be made for visitations to patients who are near death.
- Surgeon General Scott Rivkees also announced the state is working with its universities to organize epidemiologists on their staffs to work temporarily for the state to bolster its efforts at tracking the disease. He said exact plans are being worked out.
- Meanwhile, Miami Beach Police ordered hundreds of spring breakers and other tourists off South Beach late Saturday to avoid large group gatherings that could spread the disease. South Beach is a popular party spot for college students and others from around the world.
- Earlier Saturday, state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced the state plans to keep providing free and reduced-cost meals to 2 million low-income students while the state’s 4,500 public schools are closed through at least March 30.
- DeSantis has activated the National Guard and the state is purchasing 625,000 testing kits. Most in-person court proceedings have been suspended for two weeks, although judges can choose to conduct some by video or phone if legally allowed.
There have been about 500 negative test results statewide and more than 350 people are being monitored. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. The virus has infected more than 150,000 people worldwide and killed over 5,600.
- Publix, the state’s largest grocery store chain, announced that it would close its stores daily at 8 p.m. — three hours early for most. The company said that would give its employees more time to fully clean stores and restock shelves.
- Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens have all announced they will be closed starting Monday. Disney said it will keep its hotels and its Disney Springs shopping area open, however. All major cruise ship lines have also suspended operations.