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Tampa Bay has three new coronavirus patients: two in Pinellas, one in Pasco

The first COVID-19 patients found in Pinellas and Pasco counties are part of eight new cases across the state. A total of 23 cases have emerged in Florida.
Left to right: Florida Sen. Rick Scott, Gov. Ron DeSantis, Vice President Mike Pence and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield speak to the media on March about the coronavirus outbreak. [GASTON DE CARDENAS | AP]

Read the latest news about the outbreak on 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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Three more people have tested positive for coronavirus in Tampa Bay.

The Florida Department of Health made that announcement late Tuesday night, marking the first reported cases of the disease in Pinellas and Pasco counties.

The two Pinellas patients are both men, ages 64 and 67. Both are “traveled-related," according to the state.

The Pasco patient is a 46-year-old man whose case is also “travel-related.”

All three patients are isolated. Later Wednesday, Helen Aguirre Ferré, a spokeswoman for Gov. Ron DeSantis, said the state considers cases to be travel-related when a patient has either gone out of state or been in contact with someone who has left the state.

Related: How ready is Florida’s health department for the coronavirus?

These are the area’s first reported cases since last week, when state officials announced a 29-year-old Hillsborough County woman who traveled from Italy through Tampa International Airport had tested positive. So did a woman who was apparently overseas with her and is isolated in Hillsborough but is a California resident.

A Manatee County man in his 60s also tested positive but has no history of travel to countries with early outbreaks of coronavirus, according to the Department of Health.

The three additional Tampa Bay patients were among eight new cases across the state announced Tuesday night, raising the total number of people who have tested positive in Florida from 15 to 23.

The other cases are:

• A 68-year-old man in Nassau County.

• A 68-year-old woman from Georgia who is in Alachua County.

• A 73-year-old man in Collier County.

• A 68-year-old woman in Collier County.

• A 64-year-old woman in Collier County.

Health officials said each case was “travel-related,” but did not specify with the woman from Georgia. The state has also reported people from Broward, Santa Rosa, Lee, Charlotte, Okaloosa and Volusia counties have tested positive for coronavirus, known technically as COVID-19. Another five Floridians have contracted the illness but are isolated out of state.

Related: Feds say Florida has ‘community spread’ of coronavirus. Florida disagrees.
Dr. Ilene Robeck speaks to a small group Tuesday about the coronavirus outbreak at the St. Petersburg Free Clinic. Hours later, the state announced that Pinellas had its first positive cases. [CHRIS URSO | Times]

The news of Pinellas’ first cases indicates how quickly the viral situation can change.

Hours earlier, at a Tuesday afternoon coronavirus education session at the St. Petersburg Free Clinic, a handful of seniors sat with empty chairs spaced between them. Dr. Ilene Robeck shared the latest information.

“Right now, in Pinellas County, there are no cases,” she said.

“Thank God,” murmured one attendee.

But Robeck warned that could change quickly as Florida rapidly expands the number of cases health officials are testing.

“We may truly have no case in Pinellas County yet, but it still makes sense to practice good hand washing and separation techniques,” she said. “Things are changing so fast with this virus that you have to keep up to date.”

The number of cases found in Florida has changed nearly every day since the outbreak was first discovered last week.

A man from Santa Rosa and a woman from Lee, both in their 70s, have died. The state has deemed both of those cases “travel-related.”

Coronavirus produces symptoms similar to the flu and can cause severe respiratory infections, particularly in people who are older or have chronic health conditions.

Florida had 155 coronavirus tests pending Tuesday night, according to health officials, and 222 people here have tested negative to date. The state was monitoring another 319 people for signs of the illness.

More than 119,000 cases have been reported worldwide. Nearly 4,300 people have died.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to quote the state’s language “travel-related" and to include a definition of that term provided by the governor’s office.

• • •

Tampa Bay Times coronavirus guide

Q&A: The latest and all your questions answered.

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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