Seeking to shield Florida's elderly from COVID-19, governor limits visitors to nursing homes

Because the COVID-19 coronavirus appears to be hitting elderly patients the hardest, Florida is implementing new restrictions on who can visit nursing homes around the state.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced restrictions Wednesday afternoon, limiting who can come and go from nursing homes and assisted living facilities for a period of two weeks after they:

- Show symptoms of any respiratory infection or are sick
- Travel internationally
- Have been aboard a cruise ship
- Visited an area with community spread of the virus, or live in an area with community spread

By Wednesday night, some facilities were turning away visitors, altogether.

"These are informed efforts to mitigate the risk to our most vulnerable population to COVID-19, which is our elderly population and particularly those who have serious underlying medical conditions," DeSantis offered.

At Hawthorne Village at Brandon, they're doing everything they can to halt the spread of COVID-19 at its front door.

Lori Korte's dad is in the rehab unit at Hawthorne Village at Brandon. She got the news Wednesday shortly after she came home from visiting him.

That could be her last time seeing him for a while.

Hawthorne Village at Brandon posted signs on the entrances saying, “We kindly ask that you help us follow CMS guidelines and refrain from visiting at this time.”

"It makes me sad that I can’t go and see him,” Korte said.

The facility’s hard-line approach is just one more indication of how seriously health and public officials are taking COVID-19.

The governor, meanwhile, detailed Wednesday a few of the state’s latest cases, many of which were tied to a Nile River cruise. He also made the argument that because three cases were connected to one person in Port Everglades, Florida does not have community spread of the virus.

RELATED: Coronavirus: What to do if you’re told to self-quarantine

Two people in Florida have died from the coronavirus, and the state has a total of 23 cases. Five other Floridians who were traveling in China are being quarantined out of state.

Also on Wednesday, the State University System directed its 12 public universities to move all classes online as soon as possible.

If you feel sick

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Questions may also be emailed to covid-19@flhealth.gov. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website
CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know

Map of all known COVID-19 cases

MOBILE APP USERS: Click here for map