Gov. Ron DeSantis said Saturday that the Trump administration should consider domestic flights in the ongoing effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Florida, where dozens of cases have been discovered.
"What we're seeing here is cases now where people would've clearly acquired it somewhere else in the United States, brought it here," he said during a news conference in Tallahassee. "Given Florida's relationship to people from New York, you have a lot of interaction."
DeSantis said the state is starting to see some cases come from other states, especially New York, where there are more than 500 cases statewide.
The majority of the Florida cases are also connected to overseas travel.
DeSantis said there were six cases from Broward County — which has highest number of cases in the state — that involved travel from Ireland. On Saturday, the Trump administration added both the United Kingdom and Ireland to a 30-day travel ban from Europe. Originally, it applied to 26 European countries in the Schengen area.
Nova Southeastern University announced Saturday that there were six cases that involved travel from Ireland. The trip took place before the Trump administration's travel restrictions went into effect, according to NSU's website.
"At this time, no other NSU student, faculty, or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19," the university added on its coronavirus updates page.
Miami International Airport is the only Florida airport and one of 13 in the nation that is approved to receive flights from Europe. MIA asked to be added to the list because it has Centers for Disease Control staffing and a quarantine station, according to Greg Chin, a spokesperson for MIA.
The governor also discussed the potential for community spread, which is when an illness spreads and the source of infection is unknown. DeSantis said the health department is continuing to investigate cases that are not linked to travel — three of which are in Broward.
"The posture we've had has assumed that you would have transmission in the community," he said. "We're still going forward as if there are pockets in the community because that's the only responsible thing to do when you have a virus that is highly contagious."
In response to the growing number of cases, the governor announced that the Florida Division of Emergency Management is moving to the highest Level 1 activation. DeSantis said he has directed the state to hire more epidemiologists and public health experts from universities and allied health programs to help with virus testing, which will become "more robust, but it will also be more decentralized."
Mary Mayhew, secretary for the Agency for Health Care Administration, reiterated that seniors and people with underlying medical conditions are most at risk from contracting the virus.
"We know that for many nursing homes and assisted living facilities, they do not have negative pressure rooms. They do not have skilled staff ready to use N95 masks," she said. "That is above and beyond of what is expected of them for infection prevention. They are working and need to work closely with hospitals and facilities to ensure containment."
Health officials are urging people to practice social distancing and common sense hygiene, like frequent handwashing, to prevent more vulnerable folks from getting infected.
To that end, DeSantis extended visitation restrictions at nursing homes and long-term care facilities to 30 days. Compassionate visitations are exempt.
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