FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 13, 2020
Contact: Joint Information Center on COVID-19 for the State of Florida
(850) 815-4940, ESF14@em.myflorida.com
The State of Florida Issues Updates on COVID-19
TALLAHASSEE — The State of Florida is responding to COVID-19. In an effort to keep Florida residents and visitors safe and aware regarding the status of the virus, the Florida Department of Health will issue this update every day, seven days per week.
Today, Governor DeSantis held briefings related to COVID-19 with State Surgeon General Dr. Rivkees, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz and the National Guard Adjutant General James Eifert. During a press conference, the Governor provided several updates on Florida’s efforts to respond to COVID-19:
- Governor DeSantis announced 1,000 additional COVID-19 test kits have arrived in Florida for distribution to labs across the state.
- As a result of the increase in Broward County to 11 positive COVID-19 cases, the Governor directed Director Moskowitz to expand his emergency order and prohibit all visitation to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult family-care homes, long-term care facilities and adult group homes in Broward County for 30 days.
- Governor DeSantis will be activating a limited number of members of the Florida National Guard that will stage in Camp Blanding to prepare to deploy to any area of the state on a moment’s notice.
Governor DeSantis has recommended that local authorities strongly consider canceling mass gatherings and follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. CDC has issued recommendations for implementation of mitigation strategies in Florida, including recommendations to cancel large gatherings of more than 250 people and smaller gatherings that may bring persons together from multiple parts of the country.
Yesterday, March 12th, Governor DeSantis announced that the State ordered an additional 2,500 test kits to supplement the adequate resources already available to test for COVID-19. These additional test kits will enable the Department of Health, working with Florida health care providers, to test up to an additional 625,000 individuals. The Governor also suspended non-essential in state and all out-of-state travel for state employees for 30 days.
On March 11, Governor DeSantis directed the Florida Division of Emergency Management and the Agency for Health Care Administration to take action to restrict access to vulnerable populations for those who may have been exposed to COVID-19. The Governor also directed the Florida Department of Corrections to suspend visitation at state prisons for 30 days.
On March 9, Governor DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-52, declaring a State of Emergency for COVID-19. By declaring a State of Emergency, Governor DeSantis is ensuring that state and local governments have the resources and flexibility they need to prepare and respond.
* The Department of Health will confirm cases reported by commercial labs.
**Definition of travel-related: A known history of exposure to COVID-19 outside of the state.
U.S. Department of State – Global Level 3 Health Advisory
The U.S. Department of State advises U.S. citizens to reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact of COVID-19. Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions. Even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice.
The Florida Department of Health is advising all individuals who have traveled internationally to follow CDC guidelines, summarized below:
- Level 3 Travel Advisory: CDC recommends 14-day self-isolation and social distancing upon return to the United States. Social distancing includes avoiding going out in public and close personal interactions. If you become symptomatic, immediately self-isolate and contact your County Health Department or health care provider.
- Level 2 Travel Advisory and Cruises: Travelers should monitor their health and limit interactions with others for 14 days after returning to the United States. If you become symptomatic, immediately self-isolate and they should call ahead to a health care professional or their county health department before seeking treatment.
- According to CDC, a cruise ship is defined as a passenger vessel involving the movement of large numbers of people in closed and semi-closed settings.
A person that experiences a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan and any other destination under CDC travel advisory should call ahead to their health care provider or local County Health Department (CHD) and mention their recent travel or close contact, unless they are experiencing an emergency.
If a person has had close contact with someone showing these symptoms who has recently traveled from areas or been in contact with a person with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, they should call ahead to a health care professional and the County Health Department. The health care professional will work with the Department to determine if the person should be tested for COVID-19.
Nile Cruise Advisory
The Florida Department of Health is advising all individuals who traveled to Egypt for a cruise on the Nile River or tour in February or March 2020 to self-isolate for 14 days following their date of return to the United States, and if ill, immediately contact their CHD or health care provider. Several passengers in the United States recently developed symptoms and have been confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, including 11 positive cases in Florida.
Port Everglades Advisory
On March 12, the Department announced a new positive case of COVID-19 in Broward County. The Department, through an extensive epidemiological investigation, identified this new case as the fourth positive case of COVID-19 associated with Port Everglades in Broward County, Florida. Three cases are connected to or employed by Metro Cruise Services – a company that operates at Port Everglades. The epidemiological investigation for the fourth person connected to Port Everglades is ongoing.
- The Florida Department of Health recommends that all individuals experiencing symptoms who have recently traveled through Port Everglades immediately contact their County Health Department or health care provider and self-isolate for 14 days.
- The Department also recommends employees of Metro Cruise Services at Port Everglades with any association to these cases self-isolate at home.
- The Department is working to connect with all employees at Metro Cruise Services who may have come into contact with the three individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 to provide the employees with the appropriate guidance and monitoring.
- The Department is working in close consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on this investigation.
- CDC recommends that individuals with recent travel history on a cruise monitor their health for 14 days and, if they develop symptoms, immediately self-isolate and contact their County Health Department or health care provider.
COVID-19 Public Website and Call Center
Please visit the Department’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage for information and guidance regarding COVID-19 in Florida.
For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, please contact the Department’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling 1-(866) 779-6121. The Call Center is available 24 hours a day. Inquiries may also be emailed to COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org.
What you Should Know
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 the virus. The Department recommends everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of respiratory diseases, including:
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
- Staying home when you are sick and avoiding contact with persons in poor health;
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;
- Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then disposing of the tissue;
- Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, 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; and
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
The CDC does not recommend that asymptomatic, healthy people wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
A person that experiences a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan and any other destination under CDC travel advisory should call ahead to their health care provider and local CHD and mention their recent travel or close contact.
If a person has had close contact with someone showing these symptoms who has recently traveled from this area or been in contact with a person with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, they should call ahead to a health care professional and the CHD. The health care provider will work with the Department to determine if the person should be tested for COVID-19.
Actions the State has Taken to Prepare for and Respond to COVID-19
Department of Health
- Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-52 declaring a State of Emergency for COVID-19.
- Governor Ron DeSantis directed the Florida Division of Emergency Management to activate to Level II to coordinate the state’s response to COVID-19.
- Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-51 directing the State Surgeon General to declare a Public Health Emergency.
- State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees declared a Public Health Emergency for COVID-19 in Florida.
- Established an Incident Management Team to coordinate response operations.
- Activated a dedicated incident command post for on-site response activities.
- Conducted public health and health care stakeholder conference calls to provide statewide updates on the current outbreak situation, response actions and guidance for pandemic planning. Over five hundred participants joined these calls.
- Participated with the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) on statewide conference calls with nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospitals.
- Established a public call center for questions regarding COVID-19.
- Developed and distributed an updated COVID-19 presentation to CHDs for use at community meetings.
- Implemented protocols for investigation, surveillance and monitoring for COVID-19 to rapidly detect and contain cases.
- Established mechanisms for ongoing monitoring and coordination with the CDC regarding epidemiological activities.
- Distributed CDC Interim Guidance for public health personnel evaluating Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) and asymptomatic close contacts of confirmed cases at their home or non-home residential settings to CHDs.
- Distributed the updated Clinician Screening Tool for identifying PUIs for COVID-19 and a health care provider letter regarding Enhanced Surveillance and Preparedness for COVID-19 to associations, licensed providers, Health Care Coalitions and CHDs.
- Implemented testing at all three State Public Health Laboratories.
- Distributed updated CDC guidance for schools to CHDs and the Department of Education.
- Distributed updated Laboratory Guidance regarding implementation of testing at State Public Health Laboratories.
AGENCY FOR HEALTHCARE ADMINISTRATION
- Secretary Mayhew participated in a press conference with Governor DeSantis, Lieutenant Governor Nunez, Miami-Dade leadership and health care leaders to provide COVID-19 updates, including information on the new screening requirements at nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other long-term care facilities per a recent emergency order.
- The Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA) opened an event on the Emergency Status System for hospitals to enter census information and emergency room status updates.
- AHCA expanded the event on the Emergency Status System to collect isolation beds for hospitals effective Saturday, March 7.
- AHCA shared key guidance including CDC and the Department information regarding the importance of screening visitors, infection control protocol and hygiene best practices with all licensed healthcare facilities regulated by the Agency. The Agency is continuing to provide updates on recommendations and best practices from the CDC and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regarding COVID-19.
- AHCA, in coordination with the Florida Division of Emergency Management and the Department of Health, is hosting statewide calls for nursing homes, assisted living facilities, intermediate care facilities, and Agency for Persons with Disabilities group homes, and adult family care homes in conjunction with the Florida Health Care Association. Secretary Mayhew and Surgeon General Rivkees are continuing to address critical issues impacting these providers such as restricting and screening visitors and providing updates.
- AHCA, in coordination with the Florida Division of Emergency Management and the Department, is hosting statewide calls for hospitals in conjunction with the Florida Hospital Association. Secretary Mayhew and Surgeon General Rivkees to provide the most up-to-date information to hospital partners and residential facilitates caring for aging and vulnerable populations.
- This week, AHCA Secretary Mary Mayhew visited nursing homes and hospital facilities in Tampa, Jacksonville and Orlando to discuss COVID-19 preparations and response and address to any concerns and questions from local partners.
AGENCY FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
- Members of the APD Senior Leadership Team are holding daily meetings on actions, policies, procedures, and updates related to COVID-19
- The agency’s three state-run centers in Marianna, Gainesville, and Chattahoochee are working very closely with their local health departments to enhance infection control measures.
- APD sent an updated visitor questionnaire for Adult Day Training facilities and Group Homes across the state to screen visitors prior to entering a facility. This visitor questionnaire will also be used for visitors to APD Regional Offices.
- APD continues to provide an up-to-date status on COVID-19, best practices, preventative tips, and CDC guidance to APD providers, Waiver Support Coordinators, Stakeholders, and APD employees.
DEPARTMENT OF ELDER AFFAIRS
- Through Departmental Leadership and the Area Agency on Aging contract managers, we provided ongoing technical assistance to the entire Aging Network regarding allowable flexibilities within programs to ensure continuity of services and the safety of elders. For example, we provided guidance on congregate meal sites and the provision of take-home meals, “drive-thru” meals and, if needed, the transfer of funding from congregate meal title into home-delivered meal title should any meal site close.
- DOEA disseminated the most current information on local emergency manager contacts from Florida Division of Emergency Management to Area Agency on Aging (AAA) Executive Directors, AAA Emergency Coordinators, and the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) providers.
- DOEA provided The Comprehensive Assessment and Review for Long-term Care Services (CARES) supervisors with a DOH flyer on preventing respiratory illness. Staff will leave a flyer with each client after conducting a face-to-face visit.
- DOEA continues to disseminate Situation Reports to Area Agency on Aging (AAA) Executive Directors and emergency coordinators.
- Staff continued to provide technical assistance to the Aging Network for frequently asked questions throughout the state regarding: potential congregate meal site closures, completing assessments when elders self-isolate, the screening of participants at meal sites, and screening of participants and visitors at Adult Day Cares.
DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS’ AFFAIRS
- The Department of Children and Families (DCF) Office of Child Welfare sent communication about COVID-19, to licensed child care providers, directing them to follow the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Administrators of US Childcare Programs and K-12 Schools to Plan, Prepare and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019.
- DCF Secretary Chad Poppell sent thorough communication to all DCF staff, contracted partners, and licensed facilities (including child care providers) about COVID-19, including precautionary measures (as outlined by the CDC) and temporary policy updates.
- DCF is working with AHCA, DOEA, and APD to compile and develop guidance for agency staff and stakeholders who work directly with Florida’s elderly population and have a higher risk of being exposed to COVID-19.
- DCF established strategies for COVID-19 prevention at all three state mental health treatment facilities, as well as the South Florida mental health facilities run by Wellpath Recovery Solutions, a contracted partner. They are reporting daily updates to ensure compliance with virus prevention and monitor potential outbreaks.
- DCF has established a visitation protocol for all state-owned and contracted mental health treatment facilities, as well as vendors and patient families, requiring all outside parties to complete a Visitors Viral Symptoms Screening prior to entering a facility.
- Effective March 11, 2020, FDVA is restricting visitor access to its State Veterans’ Nursing Homes and Domiciliary until further notice, with the exception of essential visitors, such as family members of those residents undergoing end-of-life care.
- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has also temporarily restricted access to their nursing and community living center facilities to only essential visitors until further notice.
- All VA Medical Centers in Florida are implementing enhanced screening protocols at their facilities. VA Outpatient Clinics are also implementing enhanced screening protocols. Please plan to arrive at the facility well in advance of your appointment to allow additional time for the screening process.
- Veterans who are concerned they may have symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19) are encouraged to contact the VISN 8 Clinical Contact Center at 1-877-741-3400 (toll free). Clinical staff provide 24/7 virtual care and support, including nurse advice and triage. The service is available at no cost to veterans enrolled for care in the VA Sunshine Healthcare Network (VISN 8).
- Currently, all U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemeteries are open for burial and visitation by the public. Florida has nine National Cemeteries. To schedule a burial, please call 800-535-1117, option 1. In light of concerns regarding COVID-19, some families may prefer to proceed with direct interment of their loved ones and postpone the formal committal services to a later date. Cemetery administrators will work to accommodate these preferences.
- All FDVA and VA facilities remain fully operational.
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
- This morning, Volunteer Florida had preliminary conversations with Mass Care on the anticipated needs of volunteers. Today, we will work together to plan for volunteers and develop volunteer safety guidelines to ensure that we are protecting our service providers (volunteers and clients).
- Volunteer Florida has asked all Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) partners to review their continuity of operations so that there is no service delivery disruption.
- Volunteer Florida participated in a statewide call with Supervisors of Elections to discuss Volunteer Connect (Florida’s official volunteer opportunities) and how it can be used by offices to help recruit volunteers for Tuesday’s primary election.
STATE UNIVERSITY SYSTEM
- Today, Commissioner of the Florida Department of Education Richard Corcoran provided strong recommendations for extending spring break following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issuing guidance specific to COVID-19 in Florida. As all Florida school districts and public charter schools have different schedules, please click here to see the recommended spring break changes for each district. In addition, the department also announced that the start of state testing will be delayed by a minimum of two weeks.
- To stay up to date on school closure information, visit: fldoe.org/em-response.
- FDOE sent updated guidance to school districts and superintendents ahead of spring break. To view that memo, visit: fldoe.org/em-response.
- At this time, no Florida student has contracted COVID-19.
- In an effort to be proactive, and only as a precautionary measure if COVID-19 evolves in Florida, Florida Virtual School (FLVS) has partnered with the Florida Department of Education to offer all school districts student support and teacher professional development tailored to the online learning environment. The Florida Department of Education in partnership with FLVS is training an additional 10,000 teachers statewide on the Virtual Teacher Training for COVID-19. Superintendents who are interested in offering their teachers the Virtual Teacher Training for COVID-19 should work with their County Virtual Principals to provide a list of teachers to FLVS through: https://www.flvs.net/FLVSTeacherTraining.
- Education Commissioner Corcoran is in constant communication with Florida Superintendents and districts to provide guidance on COVID-19 preparedness and response and will be holding weekly calls to update districts on preparation efforts.
- FDOE has sent weekly memos providing updates to school districts, superintendents, Florida Colleges, parents, teachers and stakeholders.
- FDOE launched a survey to school districts and public charter schools about their preparations, policies, their capacity to serve their students virtually to help meet and determine any preparedness needs.
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
- Effective immediately, all universities will make plans to transition to remote instruction as soon as possible.
- State universities with students who have returned from spring break, which includes Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida International University, Florida Polytechnic University, and the University of Florida, should implement a process to transition to remote instruction immediately and encourage students to return home for at least 2 weeks. Each university will provide detailed information to their students, faculty, and staff at the earliest possible time regarding this transition.
- State universities with students who are currently on spring break or about to be on break should direct their students to NOT return to campus for at least 2 weeks following the conclusion of spring break. This includes students at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Florida Atlantic University, Florida State University, New College of Florida, the University of North Florida, the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida, and the University of West Florida. Each university will provide detailed information to their students, faculty, and staff at the earliest possible time regarding this transition.
- All universities will continue to provide essential services, such as dining, counseling, health services, library services, etc., potentially on a limited basis or remotely. Each university with clinical and other non-classroom based programs will communicate directly with those students.
- All universities will continue to provide essential services, such as dining, counseling, health services, library services, etc., potentially on a limited basis or remotely. Each university with clinical and other non-classroom based programs will communicate directly with those students.
- RESIDENTIAL HOUSING While students are encouraged to remain off-campus, each university should develop a plan for providing residential accommodations for students who need assistance or must remain in place.
- For more information visit: https://www.flbog.edu/2020/03/11/state-university-system-statement-on-covid-19/
- Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) has no known or suspected cases of COVID-19 within its correctional institutions at this time.
- FDC Community Corrections officers are working with offenders on supervision to adjust reporting schedules to minimize congregating at probation offices and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- FDC’s Office of Health Services coordinates with the Department for guidance on any type of outbreak and is closely monitoring new information as it is disseminated from the Department and the CDC.
- FDC has suspended visitation at all correctional institutions statewide through April 5, 2020. The decision to reinstate the normal visitation schedule will be evaluated in consultation with the Department.
- Inmates will continue to have access to mail, email, phone calls and video visitation.
- Legal visits will not be impacted.
- FDC has partnered with vendors to provide some complimentary phone and video visitation services.
- Anyone entering a correctional institution will be screened, and entrance will be restricted if they:
- Have traveled and returned from China, Iran, Italy or South Korea within the last 14 days
- Have signs or symptoms of a respiratory infection such as fever, cough or shortness of breath
- Have had contact with someone who has been or is under investigation for COVID-19
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF STATE
- FDC has a plan in place and dedicated staff members trained in the prevention and containment of infectious diseases.
- FDC initiated its Incident Command System in response to this potential threat.
- Education has been provided to staff, inmates and visitors to prevent the spread of any infectious disease, including COVID-19.
- Precautions are in place at facilities to protect inmates and staff from exposure to flu, COVID-19 or any other respiratory illness; preventative measures are being followed per CDC recommendations.
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
- To minimize guests’ contact with surfaces, Florida Department of State’s Mission San Luis (MSL) is propping open interior doors such as the doors to the Visitor Center public restrooms, gallery, theater, gift shop, and Mission Room. Mission San Luis is also frequently disinfecting and sanitizing items and surfaces that people touch at the Visitor Center, Messer House, gift shop and gallery. This includes countertops, elevator buttons, door handles, stair rails, water fountains, sinks, refrigerator doors, gift shop counters, gallery handles and buttons, and all flat surfaces, in general. Hand sanitizer is currently available in the Visitor Center for all staff and guests. Staff frequently clean the historic site public restroom’s high touch surfaces and historic site water fountains. With the COVID-19 General Prevention sign, we are now encouraging staff to avoid contact with people who are sick and to avoid touching their own eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands or after touching surfaces, in general. We are also encouraging staff to stay home when they are sick. COVID-19 general prevention signs from the Florida Department of Health have been posted in shared staff spaces, and the Florida DOH instructional sign regarding hand washing has been posted in public restrooms.
- At the direction of Governor DeSantis, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Kevin J. Thibault, along with Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees, hosted a conference call with all Florida ports and their governing bodies as well as all public use airports to discuss Florida’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 virus.
- FDOT Secretary Thibault and staff from the department will host weekly conference calls with all passenger seaports and public use airports to provide updates related to COVID-19.
- FDOT is monitoring temporary lane closures near hospitals and Department of Health facilities. If congestion near these facilities and lane closures occur, FDOT will remove lane restrictions to help ensure mobility within the area.
- COVID-19 educational materials are being posted in FDOT facilities, which include welcome centers, service plazas and rest areas across the state.
- COVID-19 materials are being posted at all FDOT work sites across the state to help educate contractors, vendors, and stakeholders.
- FDOT toll collectors have been given additional training and are required to wear gloves as well as continue with enhanced cleansing.
- SunRail has posted COVID-19 educational materials inside all trains and on all platforms, focusing on areas near entrances and bathrooms.
- SunRail trains are being cleaned and sanitized daily and SunRail staff have been provided sanitizing towelettes and encouraged to wash their hands frequently throughout the day.
- FDOT is providing hand sanitizer and posting COVID-19 educational materials at its public meetings across the state.
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF HIGHWAY SAFETY AND MOTOR VEHICLES
DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
- FLHSMV continues to encourage Floridians through social media and other channels to use convenient online options, rather than visiting an office location, to renew or replace a driver license, ID card, motor vehicle or vessel registration, and more.
- FLHSMV has been in regular communication with the Florida Tax Collectors Association to provide the latest COVID-19 information and guidance from the Florida Department of Health and other state partners.
- Governor DeSantis announced the activation of the Business Damage Assessment survey to assess the impact of COVID-19 on Florida’s local business operations. The survey, managed by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), will evaluate businesses affected by COVID-19 and the impacts the virus has had on the local economy so actions to implement appropriate relief programs can begin. The survey can be taken online at <sp