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First coronavirus death reported in Lee County

March 7, 2020
By Nathan Mayberg , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Lee Health has reported that a patient in their care, who was 77-years-old, died Thursday on March 5 from the coronavirus known as COVID-19.

The health care organization held a press conference Saturday in which it was stated that two elderly patients arrived at the Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers on Wednesday around noon. They were admitted to the intensive care unit. One of the patients, who is also 77-years-old, remains isolated and is being treated as of Monday, March 9.

According to Lee Health president and CEO Larry Antonucci, both patients exhibited "severe respiratory distress" upon their arrival to Gulf Coast Medical Center and had "underlying health conditions."

Antonucci said those hospital workers who came in contact with the patients and treated them are being evaluated and have been isolated. "No Lee Health employees have shown signs of an infection," Antonucci said.

The death was reported to the state Friday evening. Both patients traveled internationally recently, according to the state Department of Health. The Department of Health has been referring further questions about the Lee County cases to the Florida Division of Emergency Management, which was unable to answer questions. Lee Health has referred any additional questions regarding the Lee County cases to the Department of Health.

Governor Ron DeSantis issued a statement Saturday in which he announced that he has directed the Florida Division of Emergency Management to activate to Level II to coordinate the state's response to COVID-19 and provide critical support to the Florida Department of Health and county health departments.

The Governor's directive follows last night's announcement from the Florida Department of Health (DOH) that two individuals have died and two new presumptive positive cases were confirmed in Broward County. Additionally, today DOH announced a new presumptive positive case in Lee County. The individual is isolated and being appropriately cared for. For the total case count, visit FloridaHealth.gov/COVID-19.

"I have directed the Division of Emergency Management to activate to Level II to ensure our state has all the necessary resources engaged as we respond to COVID-19," said Governor DeSantis. "It is critical that we proactively coordinate all state resources to mitigate the threat and contain COVID-19. I urge all Floridians to take necessary precautions and follow hygiene guidelines issued by the Surgeon General and Florida Department of Health."

On March 1, Governor DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-51, which directed Surgeon General Rivkees to declare a public health emergency to better equip Florida with the resources needed to handle the public health threat. The Governor has requested $25 million from the Florida Legislature to be appropriated in this current year for the Florida Department of Health to be used immediately to assist with the COVID-19 response.

Guidance from the Florida Department of Health

The Florida Department of Health has issued a travel advisory and an update regarding COVID-19.

The Tuesday morning update advises:

The Florida Department of Health is responding to COVID-19. In an effort to keep Florida residents and visitors safe and aware about the status of the virus, the Department is issuing regular updates as information becomes available. The Department will provide an update every morning, seven days per week.

- International Travel Advisory

The Florida Department of Health is advising all individuals who have traveled internationally to follow the new CDC guidelines, summarized below:

Level 3: Mandatory 14-day self-isolation and practice social distancing upon return to the United States. Social distancing includes avoiding going out in public and close personal interactions. If you become symptomatic, immediately self-isolate and contact your county health department or health care provider.

Level 2 and Cruises: Monitor your health and limit interactions with others for 14 days after returning to the United States. If you become symptomatic, immediately self-isolate and contact your county health department or health care provider.

For more information regarding current CDC travel advisories related to COVID-19, visit: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html

- Nile Cruise Advisory

The Florida Department of Health is advising all individuals who traveled on a river cruise on the Nile River in Egypt in February 2020 to self-isolate for 14 days following their date of return to the United States. Several passengers in the United States recently developed symptoms and have been confirmed to be infected with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), including two positive cases in Florida.

- COVID-19 Testing Results

18 Florida cases (17 Florida residents)

12 diagnosed in Florida

5 diagnosed and isolated in another state

1 confirmed positive non-Florida resident isolated in Florida.

115 tests in state results pending

140 negatives

The Florida Department of Health is working closely with the patients, potential close contacts of each case and health care providers to isolate and monitor persons who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and implement testing of anyone who may develop COVID-19 symptoms, including fever, cough or shortness of breath.

COVID-19 can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, including when an individual coughs or sneezes. These droplets may land on objects and surfaces. Other people may contract COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days following exposure. Most people recover from the COVID-19 without needing special treatment. The elderly and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems and diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. As a reminder, the Department always recommends everyday preventive actions to help impede the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

Avoiding close contact with people who are sick;

Staying home when you are sick and avoiding contact with persons in poor health;

Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;

Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then disposing of the tissue;

Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing;

If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty; and

Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

A person that experiences a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan and any other destination under CDC travel advisory should call ahead to their health care provider and local county health department (CHD) and mention their recent travel or close contact.

Please visit the Department's dedicated COVID-19 webpage at www.FloridaHealth.gov/COVID-19. This remains the best and most up-to-date resource for information and guidance regarding COVID-19 in Florida.

For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, please contact the Department's dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling 1-866-779-6121 or emailing COVID-19@flhealth.gov. The Call Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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