This summary of the coronavirus outbreak in Florida was provided by the Florida Department of Health.
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TALLAHASSEE — The State of Florida is responding to COVID-19. In an effort to keep Florida residents and visitors safe and aware regarding the status of the virus, the Florida Department of Health will issue this update every day, seven days per week.
Governor Ron DeSantis is in constant communication with Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz and State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees as the State of Florida continues to monitor and respond to the threat of COVID-19.
Today, in a briefing at the Florida Emergency Operations Center, Governor DeSantis announced the following:
One additional person has died in Clay County.
Earlier this week, the state received news that an ALF resident who passed away had tested positive for COVID-19. The state then learned that two additional residents in the same facility passed away. Those individuals tested negative for COVID-19.
Since February 22, FDOH labs in Miami, Jacksonville, and Tampa have tested more than 1,600 people.
During the week of March 8, private labs began processing COVID-19 tests. Since then, more than 50 private labs have completed more than 2,050 tests.
The Florida National Guard is assembling a drive-through testing facility at Broward Memorial Healthcare System.
To support communities responding to COVID-19, Governor DeSantis has directed FDEM Director Jared Moskowitz to expedite the delivery of more than $170 million in Hurricane Irma reimbursements to cities, counties and hospital districts that have now reached the 50-percent auditing threshold to receive funds.
To support the volume of calls to the COVID-19 call center and the reemployment assistance call center, Governor DeSantis directed State Surgeon General Dr. Rivkees and DEO Director Ken Lawson to expand the call-handling capacity of those call centers.
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 COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org.
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. Facemasks 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 (DOH), 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.
DOH established an Incident Management Team to coordinate response operations.
DOH defined a high-level phased response strategy for COVID-19.
DOH activated a dedicated incident command post for on-site response activities.
DOH 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.
DOH established a public call center for questions regarding COVID-19. The call center launched Monday, March 2.
DOH developed and distributed COVID-19 presentation materials to County Health Departments (CHD) for use at community meetings.
DOH activated the Joint Information Center in coordination with the Division of Emergency Management.
DOH developed and implemented protocols for investigation, surveillance and monitoring for COVID-19 to rapidly detect and contain cases.
DOH established mechanisms for monitoring and coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding epidemiological activities.
DOH 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.
DOH approved and disseminated an updated Clinician Screening Tool for identifying COVID-19 PUIs.
DOH distributed a health care provider letter regarding enhanced surveillance and preparedness for COVID-19 to associations, licensed providers, Health Care Coalitions and CHDs.
DOH implemented testing at all three State Public Health Laboratories.
DOH distributed updated CDC guidance for schools to CHDs and the Department of Education.
DOH distributed updated laboratory guidance regarding implementation of testing at State Public Health Laboratories.
DOH developing a laboratory surge plan.
DOH developing a clinician-level briefing for medical audiences.
DOH identifying and monitoring close contacts of presumptive cases. Any close contacts with symptoms will be tested.
DOH implemented private lab testing.
DOH developed and disseminated pandemic planning guidance.
DOH advised CHDs and HCCs to retain expired personal protective equipment until further until further notice.
DOH continued development of public information resources.
DOH 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.
THE DIVISION OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
Yesterday, Governor DeSantis and DEM Director Jared Moskowitz announced that Florida is continuing to order supplies and personal protective equipment in an effort to mitigate and contain the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
After conducting a thorough assessment of needs, Director Moskowitz has requested the following supplies through Direct Federal Assistance. Supplies are being delivered on a rolling basis, and inventory is being distributed throughout the state 24 hours a day.
– 5 mobile intensive care units
– 5,000 ventilators
– 5,000 hospital beds
– 50,000 two oz. bottles of hand sanitizer
– 250,000 coveralls
– 500,000 gloves
– 500,000 gowns
– 500,000 collection kits
– 100,000 16 oz. bottles of hand sanitizers
– 150,000 Personal Protective Equipment kits, including coveralls, gowns, and goggles
– 2 million N95 face masks
Director Moskowitz is working with the federal government to determine if there is capacity to add US Navy Mercy-Class ships at Florida ports.
Three field hospitals are being deployed.
Mobile COVID-19 testing is also being implemented.
AGENCY FOR HEALTH CARE ADMINISTRATION
Secretary Mayhew is working directly with hospitals and large health systems to identify potential vacant wings or buildings to provide additional hospital inpatient capacity should it become necessary.
On March 16, Florida became the first state to receive CMS approval of its 1135 Medicaid Waiver giving AHCA more flexibility for its COVID-19 response efforts. This federal action lifts Medicaid prior authorization requirements for critical health care services and allows for expedited provider enrollment.
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 distributed information to health care providers regarding guidance and clarifications on DEM’s Emergency Order No. 20-006.
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.
AGENCY FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
APD and AHCA hosted a Provider conference call to share information on modifications to some existing policies and practices during this state of emergency due to COVID -19. APD and AHCA are researching responses to additional questions raised during the call. The answers will be posted on apdcares.org.
APD is implementing telework for employees throughout the state as directed by Governor DeSantis to reduce possible exposure to COVID-19.
The agency’s three state-run centers in Marianna, Gainesville, and Chattahoochee, as well as APD-licensed group homes, are restricting visitors in compliance with the Executive Order to protect the health and safety of our customers.
APD Adult Day Training programs across the state are screening visitors for possible exposure to COVID-19 using a visitor questionnaire. The questionnaire is also being used to screen visitors coming into APD Regional Offices.
APD continues to provide an up-to-date status on COVID-19, best practices, preventative tips, and CDC guidance, in addition to CMS guidance, to APD providers, Waiver Support Coordinators, Stakeholders, and APD employees.
DEPARTMENT OF ELDER AFFAIRS
Secretary Prudom participated in a conference call with the Administration on Community Living (ACL) and ten other State Units on Aging. He presented an update on what Florida is doing regarding issues and challenges during COVID-19.
DOEA released an updated interactive Elder Needs Index (ENI). Best opened in Google Chrome.
DOEA’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP) hosted a conference call with regional ombudsman managers to discuss strategies for advocacy during COVID-19 environment.
LTCOP participated in conference calls with National Association of State Ombudsman (NASOP), Florida Healthcare Association (FHCA), and Consumer Voice with Administration for Community Living (ACL). All concerning COVID-19.
DOEA participated on a statewide call coordinated by the Florida Association of Service Providers (FASP) statewide regarding COVID-19 issues, trends, and concerns.
DOEA participated in an Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) workgroup conference call to discuss specific issues related to COVID-19 and statewide waiver requests.
DOEA coordinated planning with the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to discuss Adult Day Care Centers and the provision of meals should they close.
DOEA participated on the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) southeast region call regarding COVID-19 as it relates Adult Care Food Programs.
DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
The Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) Office of Child Welfare is sending regular communication about COVID-19 specifically to licensed child care providers, directing them to follow the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Administrators of US Childcare Programs and K-12 Schools to Plan, Prepare, and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). An FAQ document for providers was also posted prominently on DCF’s Child Care webpage.
DCF’s Office of Child Welfare is disseminating a survey to licensed child care providers to assess closures throughout the state. Currently, the decision to close is at the discretion of each individual facility.
DCF Secretary Chad Poppell sent thorough communication to all DCF staff, contracted partners, and licensed facilities (including child care providers) about COVID-19, including precautionary measures (as outlined by the CDC) and temporary policy updates.
DCF is working with AHCA, DOEA, and APD to compile and develop guidance for agency staff and stakeholders who work directly with Florida’s elderly population and have a higher risk of being exposed to COVID-19.
DCF is leading status update calls with both internal leadership and leadership from external contracted partners. For the time being, these calls will take place twice weekly, every Tuesday and Friday.
DCF General Services staff throughout the state are working with lessors and janitorial contractors to increase sanitizing measures in office buildings, especially restrooms and common areas. They also began taking inventory of sanitizing supplies (disinfecting wipes, Lysol spray, hand-sanitizer, etc.) and are ordering more as needed.
DCF established strategies for COVID-19 prevention at all three state mental health treatment facilities, as well as the South Florida mental health facilities run by Wellpath Recovery Solutions, a contracted partner. They are reporting daily updates to ensure compliance with virus prevention and monitor potential outbreaks.
DCF has established a visitation protocol for all state-owned and contracted mental health treatment facilities, as well as vendors and patient families, requiring all outside parties to complete a Visitors Viral Symptoms Screening prior to entering a facility. At this time, there are no cases of patients or facility staff testing positive for COVID-19.
DCF’s Office of Economic Self-Sufficiency is communicating with DEO regarding work requirements and CareerSource operations and availability.
DCF’s Office of Economic Self-Sufficiency implemented screening procedures, including a set of questions that must be asked prior to entry, at all economic self-sufficiency storefronts.
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS’ AFFAIRS
Effective March 11, 2020, FDVA is restricting visitor access to its State Veterans’ Nursing Homes and Domiciliary until further notice, with the exception of essential visitors, such as family members of those residents undergoing end-of-life care. In addition, we are temporarily suspending admissions in our network of state veterans’ homes. Thank you for your understanding.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has also temporarily restricted access to their nursing and community living center facilities to only essential visitors until further notice.
The VA Sunshine Healthcare Network (VISN 8) is taking additional steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 to protect healthcare system’s capabilities, healthcare workers and veterans. Facilities within the VISN 8 Network include the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital and Clinics, Miami VA Healthcare System, North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System, Orlando VA Healthcare System, VA Caribbean Healthcare System, and the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center.
These actions include:
– VISN 8 facilities are transitioning to virtual appointments to the fullest extent to allow veterans to stay at home, avoid exposure to others and reduce their risk; Veterans with appointments will be contacted several days beforehand to discuss virtual appointment options available to them.
– Veterans can help with this transition by visiting the VA Video On-Demand webpage for more information: https://mobile.va.gov/content/getting-started-0.
– Veterans enrolled for care within VISN 8 can continue to use the VISN 8 Clinical Contact Center for 24/7 virtual urgent care by calling 1-877-741-3400 (toll free) or by using the VA Health Chat App. Veterans who are concerned they may have symptoms of Coronavirus, flu or cold should contact the center first before coming to a VA facility.
– VISN 8 facilities will cease non-urgent elective procedures. Any impacted veterans will be contacted directly by their health care team to reschedule. Urgent and emergent elective procedures will continue during this period.