Coronavirus Florida: Statewide total at 155, testing appears to be ramping up

Staff Writer
Walton Sun

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The Florida Department of Health reported 40 new coronavirus cases Monday, including two new cases in Sarasota County and one new case in Manatee County.

The total number of Florida cases is now 155, with five cases in Manatee County and three in Sarasota County.

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The new Sarasota County cases are both men age 50 or older. Manatee County’s five cases include two men and three women, with ages ranging from 62 to 81.

Private labs have now diagnosed 43 of the state’s coronavirus cases, an indication that testing is ramping up.

Signs point to a rapidly escalating health threat in the state.

A series of steps have been taken in recent days to contain the virus in Florida. On Saturday Gov. Ron DeSantis activated the state’s emergency operations center to Level 1, the highest level, and banned visitors at all nursing homes, assisted living centers and similar facilities.

Daily life in Florida is certain to be disrupted for weeks, if not longer, as schools are closed, large events canceled and mass gatherings strongly discouraged.

Other states and cities have ordered bars and restaurants closed. Florida has not taken that step, but DeSantis said Sunday he supports efforts by some municipalities to limit large spring break gatherings.

“Florida is not going to be the place where you’re out till 2 a.m. with 500 people at some bar," DeSantis said of the spring break events.

"Missing out drinking at a bar is not end of world,” he added. "You don't want to be in a position where you contributed to the spread of the infection."

Spurred on by the Florida Department of Education, schools across the state announced closures Friday to try and limit the spread of the virus.

DeSantis has advised local governments and private entities against large gatherings. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also advised against such gatherings in guidelines issued for Florida Thursday that included a recommendation to extend spring break at schools.

Most Florida school districts will be closing schools until the end of the month, but it is not clear that will be sufficient. The state of Washington recently announced that schools there will be closed until the end of April.

Other disruptions range from Publix reducing store hours to elections officials cutting down on the number of voting precincts. Disney World has closed. Big sporting events have been canceled. Jury trials have been suspended statewide. The mayor of Miami even tested positive for the virus.

“I think this is something that we will be able to get through,” DeSantis said Friday. “We are going to have to do this for the foreseeable future, but it is something that I think the people of Florida will be able to get through.”

The potential for the outbreak to severely strain Florida’s health care system is a particular concern. Hospitals are bracing for more patients and have been working to protect employees on the front lines of the response.

DeSantis said Sunday that the Florida National Guard will help administer drive through coronavirus testing at Memorial Healthcare locations in Broward County, which has seen the most cases of any Florida county.