FL Officials Tight-Lipped About China Virus Testing

PLUS: Florida’s race to stop the spread of new coronavirus 

Feb 18, 2020

Miami Herald – While there are no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, in Florida, state health officials say they can’t disclose how many people have been tested for the virus.

“The goal of this public health response is containment,” said state Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, who presented to the Senate Health Policy committee Tuesday. “And if there’s a confirmed case, it will absolutely be reported.”

However, Rivkees said the Department of Health is not authorized to publish the number of people in the state being tested for the virus out of privacy concerns.

Senators pressed Rivkees, recalling that during the mosquito-born Zika infection outbreak in 2015 and 2016, the state frequently published the number of specimens that were being tested.

“It was important for others nearby to know this information then, because mosquitoes can fly,” Rivkees said. “[Coronavirus] can only be transmitted person to person.”

He said if the virus is eventually found to be airborne, that policy could change.

According to the Florida Administrative Code, all information contained in investigations of this kind is confidential and is only to be released if the surgeon general considers the disease highly infectious or says there is a potential for further outbreaks.

Because the CDC says the immediate health risk from the virus is considered low, DOH is not required to share testing information.

Should the risk heighten, the agency “will continue to make new information available as quickly as possible,” a spokesman said.

The Department of Health has created a 700-person incident management team to ready for a potential outbreak, he said, and required protocols have been shared with healthcare providers across the state … Read more. 

Florida’s race to stop the spread of new coronavirus before it hits

FEB 24, 2020

SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL | Experts remind people to make sure they are frequently washing their hands and not going to work if they start to show symptoms — not just to ward off the new coronavirus, but also the more common flu and other viruses.

Florida’s role in the race to prevent the new coronavirus from turning into an outbreak in the United States will be critical with the state’s vulnerable elderly population and the flood of international visitors.

Florida’s health officials say there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state. But health care providers and government officials in Florida desperately want to get ahead of the new virus that originated in China and has spread to more than two dozen countries.

Florida hospitals are making preparations, researchers are scrambling to find treatments, and manufacturers are trying to create test kits that work.

In China, where an outbreak has hit hard, frustrated medical workers complain of a shortage of masks and supplies and Florida wants to avoid a similar situation.

John Sinnott, an infectious disease physician and professor at the University of South Florida and Tampa General Hospital, told Florida Senate Committee on Health Policy this week:

“Florida should be prepared to use our federal emergency response centers for masks, ventilators and things like that should it come to America, and that would fall on your committee to get that ball rolling,”

While still unclear how the virus spreads and whether it is airborne, Sinnott reminded Florida senators that COVID-19 is highly contagious … Read more.