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First Florida coronavirus deaths, new cases in Lee, Charlotte

The new cases follows two deaths,the first in Florida, announced late Friday night by state health officials.
Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nu–ez, left, and State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees, looks on while Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks about the confirmed  coronavirus cases in the state at the at the Florida Department of Health Laboratory in Tampa, Florida on March 2, 2020.
Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nu–ez, left, and State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees, looks on while Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks about the confirmed coronavirus cases in the state at the at the Florida Department of Health Laboratory in Tampa, Florida on March 2, 2020. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Published Mar. 7, 2020
Updated Mar. 7, 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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UPDATE: The Florida Department of Health announced Saturday that it had found two more presumptive positive coronavirus cases in Lee County and Charlotte counties. The state now has eight positive cases of coronavirus in Florida residents and one in a non-Florida resident. The state said it has had 100 negative test results and has 88 pending test results.

Two Floridians have died after contracting coronavirus, state health officials announced late Friday. They are the first to die of the disease in the state.

The Florida Department of Health also announced two new positive tests in Broward County late Friday. They are both men, ages 65 and 75. Those are the first cases to come out of South Florida as the state increases testing. Both patients are in isolation.

The news broke hours after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that Florida had not seen any new cases in a day.

Related: ‘Unacceptable:’ Woman on Tampa flight with coronavirus patient blasts Florida officials

The deaths included two people in their 70s, a man from Santa Rosa County and the other a woman from Lee County. Both had traveled internationally, according to the state. The Lee County case had not been previously disclosed. The Santa Rosa positive test was announced Thursday, when the governor explained that the patient was apparently too ill to answer health officials’ questions. It is not clear where either of the two traveled.

Coronavirus, known technically as COVID-19, has also infected: a woman in her 20s in Hillsborough County who had visited Italy, the site of an outbreak; a travel companion of hers who normally lives out of state but is currently isolated in Hillsborough; and a man in his 60s from Manatee County who is not known to have traveled to any of the countries with the most severe cases of the flu-like disease.

Each of those people are in self quarantine at home. Doctors Hospital of Sarasota announced Friday that the Manatee man had been released from its facility. It is not clear how he contracted the disease; health officials said he had underlying conditions and had been hospitalized for five days before he was tested for coronavirus last week.

The late news Friday shows a worsening situation for Florida, where the state has handled nearly all public updates about how many people are sick, at times leading to confusion about the extent of testing and results.

Related: The struggle to find information on coronavirus is even harder in Spanish

Two Broward Memorial Healthcare System officials had told the Miami Herald about the cases there hours before the Department of Health’s announcement Friday night, but a hospital spokesperson would not confirm the information, saying all updates on positive tests would come from state leaders.

The health department later publicly identified the Broward cases.

The fatalities in Florida are the first outside of Washington and California, where 15 deaths had been announced by Friday night. The vast majority of those cases happened in the Seattle area.

The coronavirus epidemic began in China, where most of the world’s more than 100,000 cases have occurred. Nearly 3,500 people have died.

DeSantis and state health officials have emphasized that the threat to Florida’s general public remains low.

He announced Friday that he had requested $25 million from state lawmakers to pay for equipment and staffing in the state’s effort to thwart coronavirus. He further said he expects at least $27 million from the federal government, and $500,000 for immediate help.

The governor anticipates more people here will test positive as the state gets more kits and other residents show symptoms.

“It’s just the nature of it,” DeSantis said Friday at a news conference in Naples.

At the end of Friday, the Florida Department of Health said 88 test results for coronavirus were pending. Five Floridians who traveled to China also have the disease but are quarantined out of state.

Florida health officials have said younger people tend to weather the disease relatively well, but older patients and those with underlying health trouble are more susceptible to severe symptoms.

That’s part of what makes Florida particularly at risk when compared to other places in the United States. The state has a higher percentage of residents in their 70s, 80s or older than any other state.

Information from the Miami Herald was used in this report.

correction: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the Lee County patient who died this week from the coronavirus. It was a woman in her 70s.

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Tampa Bay Times coronavirus guide

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