State of Florida Updates on COVID-19

TALLAHASSEE – On Monday, March 16, in a briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center, Governor DeSantis announced the following:

  • Governor DeSantis announced he is going to supplement federal Small Business Administration (SBA) loans. The Governor activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Loan Program. Up to $50 million has been allocated for the program. (See:  SBA To Provide Loans to Small Businesses Impacted by Coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Governor Ron DeSantis directed the Department of Revenue to provide flexibility on the deadlines of taxes due such as corporate income tax and sales tax to assist businesses that are adversely impacted from COVID-19 mitigation measures.
  • Floridians throughout the state are lending a hand to stop the spread of COVID-19:
    • Members of the Florida House of Representatives have been activated to their National Guard units,
    • The Players Championship donated thousands of pounds of food to Feeding Northeast Florida,
    • Miami-Dade County school administrators are handing out computers and mobile devices, and
    • Comcast agreed to provide free WiFi for the next 60 days to kids who do not have it.
  • The Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars and the Orange County Convention Center have agreed to open their parking lots to stage supplies and locate testing sites.
  • Restaurants throughout the state including Jimmy John’s in Tallahassee and Toasted Restaurant in Orange County are providing children with free lunch throughout the week.
  • Drive through testing sites are expected to open, throughout the state, in addition to the first proposed state site at Memorial Healthcare System in Broward. So far, sites are being developed in in Myers, Pensacola, West Palm Beach and Tallahassee.
  • The Floridians who were at held at the Dobbins Air Reserve Base are on their way back to Florida; 15 Floridians have elected to stay at the base to care for their family members.
  • On March 9, Governor DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-52, declaring a State of Emergency for COVID-19. By declaring a State of Emergency, Governor DeSantis is ensuring that state and local governments have the resources and flexibility they need to prepare and respond.

More Information on COVID-19

To find the most up-to-date information and guidance on COVID-19, please visit the Department of Health’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage. For information and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), please visit the CDC COVID-19 website. For more information about current travel advisories issued by the U.S. Department of State, please visit the travel advisory website.

For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, please contact the Department’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling (866) 779-6121. The Call Center is available 24 hours per day. Inquiries may also be emailed to COVID-19@flhealth.gov.

What you Should Know

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 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 the virus. The Department recommends everyday preventive actions to help stop 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 sneezing into 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.

The CDC does not recommend that asymptomatic, healthy people wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

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 any other destination with community transmission should call ahead to their health care provider and local CHD and mention their recent travel or close contact.

If a person has had close contact with someone showing these symptoms who has recently traveled from this area or been in contact with a person with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, he or she should call ahead to a health care professional and the CHD. The health care provider will work with the Department to determine if the person should be tested for COVID-19.

 Actions the state has taken to prepare for and respond to COVID-19:

 DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

  • At the direction of Governor DeSantis, State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees declared a Public Health Emergency for COVID-19 in Florida.
  • Governor DeSantis announced that the State ordered an additional 2,500 test kits to supplement the adequate resources already available to test for COVID-19. These additional test kits will enable the Department of Health, working with Florida health care providers, to test up to an additional 625,000 individuals. The Governor also suspended non-essential in state and all out-of-state travel for state employees for 30 days.
  • Established an Incident Management Team to coordinate response operations.
  • Defined a high-level phased response strategy for COVID-19.
  • Activated a dedicated incident command post for on-site response activities.
  • Conducted three public health and health care stakeholder conference calls to provide statewide updates on the current outbreak situation, response actions and guidance for pandemic planning. Over five hundred participants joined the calls.
  • Established a public call center for questions regarding COVID-19. The call center launched Monday, March 2.
  • Developed and distributed COVID-19 presentation materials to County Health Departments (CHD) for use at community meetings.
  • Activated the Joint Information Center in coordination with the Division of Emergency Management.
  • Developed and implemented protocols for investigation, surveillance and monitoring for COVID-19 to rapidly detect and contain cases.
  • Established mechanisms for monitoring and coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding epidemiological activities.
  • Distributed CDC Interim Guidance for public health personnel evaluating Persons Under Investigation (PUI) and asymptomatic close contacts of confirmed cases at their home or non-home residential settings to CHDs.
  • Approved and disseminated an updated Clinician Screening Tool for identifying COVID-19 PUIs.
  • Distributed a health care provider letter regarding enhanced surveillance and preparedness for COVID-19 to associations, licensed providers, Health Care Coalitions and CHDs.
  • Implemented testing at all three State Public Health Laboratories.
  • Distributed updated CDC guidance for schools to CHDs and the Department of Education.
  • Distributed updated laboratory guidance regarding implementation of testing at State Public Health Laboratories.
  • Developing a laboratory surge plan.
  • Developing a clinician-level briefing for medical audiences.
  • Identifying and monitoring close contacts of presumptive cases. Any close contacts with symptoms will be tested.
  • Implemented private lab testing.
  • Developed and disseminated pandemic planning guidance.
  • Advised CHDs and HCCs to retain expired personal protective equipment until further until further notice.
  • Continued development of public information resources.
  • Developing infographics for first responders (fire, law enforcement and EMS) regarding infection control and personal protection for COVID-19.
  • At the Governor’s direction, a public-private partnership has been put in place between Memorial Healthcare in Broward and the National Guard to set up a mobile testing unit.
  • At the direction of Governor DeSantis hiring additional epidemiologists from university health programs to help with workload.
  • Governor DeSantis directed the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to extend all existing nursing home and assisted living facility licenses for 90 days to remove distraction from patient care.

AGENCY FOR HEALTH CARE ADMINISTRATION

  • AHCA distributed a provider alert to licensed health care providers regarding the Division of Emergency Management’s new Emergency Order tightening visitation restrictions at residential and long-term care facilities.
  • AHCA, in coordination with the DEM and the Department, is hosting ongoing statewide calls for nursing homes, assisted living facilities, intermediate care facilities, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, group homes, and adult family care homes in conjunction with the Florida Health Care Association. Secretary Mayhew and Surgeon General Rivkees are continuing to address critical issues impacting these providers such as restricting visitors and providing updates.
  • AHCA, in coordination with DEM and the Department, is hosting ongoing statewide calls for hospitals in conjunction with the Florida Hospital Association. Secretary Mayhew and Surgeon General Rivkees to provide the most up-to-date information to hospital partners and residential facilitates caring for aging and vulnerable populations.
  • After previously opening an event on the Emergency Status System (ESS) for hospitals to enter census information, emergency room status updates and isolation beds, AHCA expanded the ESS event to track nursing homes and assisted living facility bed capacity, effective March 15.
  • The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) will be granting a 90-day extension to all licenses for health care providers and regulated facilities.
  • AHCA is distributing information regarding regulatory flexibilities created by waivers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) related to skilled nursing facilities, critical access hospitals, home health agencies, durable medical equipment, provider enrollment, etc.
  • AHCA participated in a collaborative call with the Florida Health Care Association, Florida Hospital Association and LeadingAge Florida to discuss patient transfer arrangements between health care facilities such as nursing homes and hospitals.
  • The Florida Medicaid Program announced coverage of commercial testing for COVID-19 for dates of service back to February 4.

 

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