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Fourth Florida case of coronavirus found in Santa Rosa County man, DeSantis says

In a Thursday news conference, DeSantis said five other Floridians are self isolating in other states and will come back once they test negative.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, flanked by Gadsden County officials Thursday, announced that an older man in Santa Rosa County was the state's fourth case of coronavirus.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, flanked by Gadsden County officials Thursday, announced that an older man in Santa Rosa County was the state's fourth case of coronavirus. [ The Florida Channel ]
Published Mar. 5, 2020
Updated Mar. 5, 2020

Coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the Tampa Bay area. For the latest news on the outbreak, go to our coronavirus page, which we are updating regularly. You also can sign up for our DayStarter newsletter to have the day’s news sent right to your inbox each morning for free.

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TALLAHASSEE — A man over the age of 70 from Santa Rosa County is the fourth case of coronavirus in Florida, and four more Floridians in other states have been diagnosed with the flu-like illness, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday.

The man had traveled internationally but has “severe underlying conditions” and is apparently too ill to answer questions about his trip, DeSantis said. The governor did not say where the person was being treated.

“He’s not in shape to fully answer all the questions, so there is an investigation ongoing,” DeSantis said.

Five other Floridians who had traveled to China, the source of the virus, are being isolated in other states, he said. That includes a person who is currently residing in Washington. The locations of the other four were not released.

DeSantis said federal authorities stopped all five upon their return from China. If they do not show symptoms within 14 days, they’ll be released and allowed to return to Florida, he said.

“They’re not going to be released from quarantine until they test negative, so we don’t anticipate that having impact on the people in Florida,” DeSantis said.

The Santa Rosa County man tested “presumptive positive,” but DeSantis said health officials are “highly confident” that another test by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will confirm the test.

Another 69 tests are pending, and health officials are currently monitoring 248 people, according to the Florida Department of Health’s website. The state has also monitored nearly 1,000 people, taking their temperatures and looking for the symptoms of the respiratory illness, DeSantis said.

The state is still awaiting tens of thousands of testing kits from federal authorities, which will allow more sites to test for coronavirus, he said. Currently, only three labs — in Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville — can perform the tests.

“We’d like to get them as soon as possible,” DeSantis said. “To be able to do that local testing would make a big, big difference.”

Officials expect more Floridians to test positive for the virus, but DeSantis said the risk to the state remains low.

Florida has identified three other cases of coronavirus, known technically as COVID-19. One is a woman in her 20s in Hillsborough County.

She traveled from northern Italy, where there is an outbreak, and passed through Tampa International Airport and is self-isolating at home. Another woman, who is also self-isolating in Hillsborough County and is connected to the first patient, also tested positive. Her exact relationship is unclear, though state officials said she also made a trip to Italy.

A Manatee County man in his 60s was hospitalized in late February with other underlying conditions and was diagnosed after showing symptoms of pneumonia. He has not traveled to countries with known outbreaks, according to state officials. It’s unclear how he contracted the virus.

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Tampa Bay Times coronavirus guide

Q&A: What you need to know after Florida’s first positive coronavirus cases.

PROTECT YOURSELF: Household cleaners can kill the virus on most surfaces, including your phone screen.

BE PREPARED: Guidelines for essentials to keep in your home should you have to stay inside.

FACE MASKS: They offer some protection, but studies debate their effectiveness.

WORKPLACE RISK: A list of five things employers could be doing to help curb the spread of the disease.

READER BEWARE: Look out for bad information as false claims are spreading online.

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