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Mass gatherings in Florida should be postponed to stop coronavirus spread, DeSantis says

DeSantis also said he was canceling all non-essential travel by state employees and purchasing an additional 2,500 testing kits.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis meets with reporters on Monday, March 9, 2020, at the state Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida. DeSantis declared a state of emergency over a new strain of coronavirus to better mobilize resources and defended his proposal for teacher raises. (AP Photo/Bobby Caina Calvan) [BOBBY CAINA CALVAN | AP]

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Cities and counties should postpone or cancel any mass gatherings over the next 30 days in an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday.

If a mass gathering is not canceled, event organizers should have screening measures in place to prevent people who have been exposed to the virus from entering, he said.

DeSantis did not define what accounts for a “mass gathering,” although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines it as groups of more than 1,000 people. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Thursday the guidance he received was for any gathering of more than 250 people.

The announcement was the most sweeping recommendation yet from DeSantis in response to the coronavirus, known as COVID-19. On Wednesday, he issued an executive order prohibiting a wide array of people from visiting nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other places where older residents live.

The coronavirus has a mortality rate 20 to 40 times higher than the flu in older populations, Florida’s surgeon general, Scott Rivkees, said Wednesday.

DeSantis said he did not have the authority to ban mass gatherings outright. He did speak to PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred Thursday about hosting events without fans, allowing them to watch online.

On Thursday, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman announced fans would not be allowed at this weekend’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Many other events in Tampa Bay have been canceled or postponed.

DeSantis also said he was suspending all official travel for state employees for the next 30 days and was telling them to “maximize remote working and telecommuting.”

“If they can perform functions at home, now would be a good time to do that,” he said.

State emergency officials are also purchasing an additional 2,500 COVID-19 testing kits and distributing them to hospitals and labs around the state.

“We have to increase our testing abilities in Florida,” he said.

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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.

STOCK UP YOUR PANTRY: Foods that should always be in your kitchen, for emergencies and everyday life.

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.

OTHER CORONAVIRUS WEBSITES:

CDC

Florida Department of Health

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