Gov. DeSantis declares public health emergency over positive cases of COVID-19 in Florida

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State of Florida

Gov. DeSantis holds a press conference regarding COVID-19 in Tampa.

Gabriela Pasqualin and Christian Casale

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a public health emergency on Sunday after the Florida Department of Health announced that two individuals in the state had tested positive for COVID-19 – otherwise known as coronavirus.

Carol Traynor, senior director of Public Relations at Valencia College, told the Voice that “there is a lot of discussion taking place within the college, not just today, but as the situation has evolved over the last few weeks.”

As of now, the College has not revealed any plans for if the virus continues to spread.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), children are not more susceptible than adults to contract COVID-19. Those most at risk are above the age of 65 or have a weak immune system.

According to Sunday’s press release from the Florida Department of Health, there is no vaccine to prevent the disease, which is a respiratory illness that spreads similarly to the flu. The statement recommended actions such as avoiding people who are sick, frequently washing hands, and looking out for symptoms of COVID-19: including a fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

The statement also relays that the CDC doesn’t recommend that healthy people wear surgical masks to protect themselves.

“Those two individuals who have tested positive remain in isolation at this time,” Gov. DeSantis said at a press conference on Monday morning at the Tampa Branch Laboratory of the Florida Department of Health. “Despite these cases, the overall immediate threat to the public remains low.”

The governor, who was joined by Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees at a press conference, remarked that he expects more people in the state to test positive. Both individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 were characterized by Gov. DeSantis and Dr. Rivkees. One, a male in his 60s from Manatee County with no travel history to affected areas of the virus, is currently hospitalized and in stable condition.

“It is unknown how this individual was exposed to COVID-19,” Dr. Rivkees said.

The other patient, described as a woman in her 20s in Hillsborough County, recently returned from Northern Italy – an area where COVID-19 is known to have spread. She is also in stable condition and receiving medical care at home, according to Dr. Rivkees.

More than 40 countries, including the United States, have already confirmed the disease’s presence since the first reported case in the province of Wuhan, China, on December 31. COVID-19 has already killed more than 3,000 people globally and infected more than 89,000.

“The big problem with this new coronavirus is that it has no symptoms for 14 days, enough time for one person to transmit the disease to several others,” Keith Malmos, a biology professor of Valencia College, said.

According to The CDC, the coronavirus is part of a family of viruses commonly found in many different species of animals, including camels and bats; they rarely evolve and infect human beings. 

Orlando, one of the United States’ tourism juggernauts, welcomes millions of visitors every year, including a good portion of travelers from China. Airlines around the world have canceled or cut their flights to China until as late as March amid the COVID-19 outbreak. In the lobby of Orlando International Airport, many passengers arrive wearing masks.

“I came from Los Angeles to visit my daughter who lives here,” Yolanda Martinez, 67-year-old woman at the airport said. “As I am over 60 years old, I prefer to prevent myself from any contamination”