QUINCY (CBSMiami/NSF) — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday said the federal government will send “tens of thousands” of novel coronavirus testing kits to the state and asked people not to purchase a type of tight-fitting mask to protect themselves from the contagion.
DeSantis, speaking to reporters during an appearance in Gadsden County, also announced that five more people have tested positive for the coronavirus, a contagious disease known as COVID-19. That brought to nine the number of Florida-related coronavirus cases, a total that includes one non-Florida resident who is being detained in the state.
One of the new cases involves a 72-year-old Santa Rosa County man, with underlying medical conditions who had recently traveled abroad. DeSantis said the Florida Department of Health is conducting an investigation but that the man is “not in shape to fully answer all the questions.”
The other four new cases, meanwhile, involve residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 but are not in the state. They won’t be allowed back into Florida until they test negative, DeSantis told reporters.
“So we don’t anticipate that having any impact on the people actually living in Florida,” the governor said.
DeSantis previously had announced that a Florida resident had been detained in Washington state after traveling back from Asia.
That means five of the nine cases involve Florida residents who are not in the state.
Three cases involve Florida residents who are in the state and one case involves the non-Floridian who is being detained, according to the Department of Health website.
The three cases in Florida are a 29-year-old Tampa woman and her 22-year-old sister, who is a California resident, who tested positive after returning from Italy. A Manatee County man in his 60s who had not traveled internationally but suffers from underlying conditions also tested positive for the virus.
The state also is trying to quickly gear up to test people for the virus.
DeSantis said the federal government is sending testing kits to Florida. The final destinations will be hospitals and doctors’ offices, as the state tries to meet an edict from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to allow anyone with doctor’s orders to be tested.
“We don’t have them yet, we’d like to get them, obviously, as soon as possible,” DeSantis said. “We certainly believe that would help things. Especially if we’re in a situation where we have a surge of people showing up with symptoms. Being able to do that local testing would make a big, big difference.”
Until enough testing kits arrive, the state does not have the resources to meet that new CDC guidance. For now, the state will continue testing patients who meet two of the following three criteria:
- Travel to or from an area with widespread community transmission — Italy, China, South Korea and Japan — and showing symptoms of COVID-19: cough, shortness of breath and fever.
- Close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, with the same symptoms.
- Severe, acute lower respiratory illness and fever requiring hospitalization, and without an alternate diagnosis, like the flu.
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DeSantis also asked people to refrain from purchasing what are known as N95 masks, a type of tight-fitting mask, as a precautionary measure to prevent COVID-19 infection.
“For just the average person going to Amazon and buying a mask, that is not what you need to be doing. The CDC has been very clear on that. In fact, if you put the mask on, you are more likely to be fiddling around your face and actually you may be more likely to transmit the virus if you are in contact with it,” DeSantis said. “Those really need to be used for health-care professionals that are treating patients.”
“The risk to Florida remains low,” DeSantis said, when asked about people considering traveling to Florida for spring break or baseball’s spring training. “If you are someone who has a real serious condition already, you should view it differently than someone who is 25 years old and doesn’t have any (health) problems.”
Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough, and breathing trouble. Most develop only mild symptoms. However some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.
(©2020 CBS Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida’s Christine Sexton contributed to this report.)