Florida's first cases: 2 Bay Area patients test positive for coronavirus

Two people in the Tampa Bay area have tested "presumptive positive" for COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, Florida health officials announced Sunday night.

On Monday morning, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a press conference with the state's surgeon general, Dr. Scott Rivkees, to provide an update on the state's preparations and the individuals who tested positive.

According to Rivkees, a woman in her 20s who tested positive in Hillsborough County had recently traveled to northern Italy, where there is currently an outbreak of COVID-19. He said the patient is in stable condition and is in isolation at home.

However, officials do not know how the second patient, a man in his 60s from Manatee County, contracted the disease since he did not recently travel to one of the areas identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rivkees said the man had been hospitalized for pneumonia when he tested presumptive positive for coronavirus. He remains hospitalized in stable condition.

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On Monday morning, Sarasota Military Academy announced a student and his mother were quarantined "due to the mother's contact with a patient at Sarasota Doctors Hospital in her professional role." School officials added that both are not showing any symptoms.

"We will keep you and your families updated with their status. Please remember to consistently and thoroughly wash your hands," according to a statement. "We are continuing to disinfect all classrooms and common areas as we have previously done due to flu season."

The DOH said despite these two new cases in Florida, the overall immediate threat to the public remains low.

“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," DeSantis said in a press release accompanying the announcement. "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.”

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"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," added Dr. Rivkees.

The public health emergency allows for funding to be immediately available for local governments to tackle a coronavirus case -- or even a presumptive case -- if needed. 

The news came as the nation learned about the first two American deaths due to COVID-19, both in the Seattle area.

The CDC currently recommends mitigation measures in communities with COVID-19 cases, including staying at home when sick, keeping away from others who are sick and staying at home when a household member is sick with respiratory disease symptoms or if instructed to do so by public health officials or a health care provider.

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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 this virus. 

The CDC recommends the following preventative measures to minimize the spread of illness:

 - Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

 - Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

 - Stay home when you are sick.

 - Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

 - Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

 - CDC does not recommend that people who aren't sick wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by those who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.  

 - Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and 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.