She is the sister of one of the first two cases identified in Florida, a Hillsborough County woman who traveled to Italy.
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that a third coronavirus case has been positively identified in the state — a sister of one of the first two Florida residents confirmed to have the illness.
The Florida Department of Health said Sunday that Florida’s first two COVID-19 cases are a Manatee County man in his 60s and a Hillsborough County woman in her 20s who traveled to Italy.
The Hillsborough County woman’s sister has now tested positive as well. She also traveled to Italy and is a California resident, but is being isolated in Florida.
"She’s been in isolation since this all was identified," DeSantis said. "Again, that was something that was contemplated."
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The uptick in cases came as Florida ports, universities, school districts, hospitals, nursing homes and local governments began bracing for an expanded impact from the virus. Florida lawmakers also readied to shift extra dollars to state health officials.
"The concern is if you have a surge type of situation in a part of the state, we want to make sure we have enough personnel there to be able to help administer that," DeSantis said.
Because of the highly infectious nature of the coronavirus, a roommate of the Hillsborough County woman also is in isolation, the governor said.
The Manatee County man, who did not have a recent travel history, came into contact with several health care personnel as his illness emerged. They have since been tested, DeSantis said.
"We have not received a positive yet," DeSantis said about those tests.
The Manatee County resident is being treated at Doctors Hospital in Sarasota. He and the Hillsborough woman are reportedly in stable condition and being kept in isolation until they are medically clear.
Since DeSantis declared a public health emergency Sunday night after publicly announcing the state’s first two cases of the virus, state government has begun bracing for a much broader outbreak.
County school districts have issued health alerts for parents and students, universities and colleges have banned travel to countries where the virus has been present for weeks, and Florida U.S. Sen. Rick Scott has been pushing the Department of Homeland Security to increase health screenings at the state’s international airports.
Florida State University began exploring distance-learning options, in case of a campus shutdown. On Monday, FSU announced it has cancelled spring studies in Florence, Italy, and is shutting down its study center there next week.
Italy’s death toll from coronavirus reached 79 on Tuesday.
"FSU has great emergency plans for all kinds of emergencies, from hurricanes to power outages," said Sally McRorie, FSU’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.
"Luckily, we have a very good emergency plan for how to continue to teach our students via distance learning in the event that we must."
Florida seaports also expect to see a reduction in the $10 billion in Chinese imports they handle annually, mostly in Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale.
"I’m not sure I would use the word ‘standby,’ but there are things being put in place," said Doug Wheeler, president and CEO of the Florida Ports Council. "If this continues to progress as it has, I think you will start to see more and more of those plans come online."
At the most extreme, those steps could involve refusing to allow a container ship enter a port, or evacuate cruise ship passengers to a quarantined facility.
A New York attorney identified as that state’s second coronavirus victim had recently traveled to Miami, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday. But DeSantis told reporters he only learned about that potential risk through media reports.
Barry Inman, an epidemiologist with the Florida Department of Health in Brevard County, said the Department of Health is monitoring about 25 people in Brevard who came into the United States from certain countries in the last 14 days, under current federal and state protocol. Most flew in from China. Inman says none of those being monitored have shown symptoms of the virus.
Speaking at the Capitol, DeSantis sought to calm growing fears about the spread of the illness. He said research shows that younger, healthy people should not assume that contracting coronavirus means their life is in jeopardy.
"If you don’t have an underlying health condition and you’re not elderly, so far you’ve seen very few really serious cases," he said. "We really want to look at those very vulnerable populations and focus the efforts there."
The governor also has reached out to Florida’s legislative leaders about a need to increase dollars for the state’s Health Department, the Agency for Health Care Administration, which oversees nursing homes, and other agencies forced to play a larger role in combating the virus.
"Better to put the money in to do what needs to be done and to answer the needs rather than try to shortchange that ... I think you’d end up with more economic problems," DeSantis said.
Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who represents Manatee and parts of Hillsborough County, where the first two cases were identified, said, "Initially we’re talking about maybe $10 million to $20 million."
"Until we really know what we’re looking at, the numbers are still in play," Galvano said.
"We’re all in," he added.
Lawmakers are expected to finish the 2020 legislative session on March 13, although leaders Tuesday said a day or two of overtime may be needed to settle on a final budget, likely to top $92 billion.
While there seems to be no controversy over increased coronavirus funding, the House and Senate are at odds over a teacher pay plan, environmental dollars and the fate of Visit Florida, the state’s tourist marketing agency, which the House wants to eliminate on June 30.
With tourism expected to take some kind of financial hit from the spread of coronavirus, Galvano acknowledged Tuesday that it may help make the case for the Senate and DeSantis, supporters of steering $50 million to finance Visit Florida for the coming year.
Visit Florida played a role in promoting the state as a tourism haven during the 2016 Zika virus outbreak, the red tide and blue-green algae blooms of 2018, and following powerful hurricanes which left damage that threatened to keep people away.
"It is important to have some mitigating voice out there so that people around the world have a realistic understanding of what is a threat and what isn’t," Galvano said.
James Call and Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat and Dave Berman of Florida Today contributed to this report.