2020 coronavirus pandemic in Florida
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On March 1, 2020, Florida became the third state in the United States with a documented COVID-19 case, during the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic. Within two weeks, widespread closures of public schools, resorts, and theme parks had been announced throughout the state.
|2020 coronavirus pandemic in Florida|
Florida counties with confirmed COVID-19 cases through Dept. of Health's 6:00 pm update on April 5 (dark red denotes counties where deaths attributed to COVID-19 have occurred)
|Index case||Hillsborough County, Manatee County|
|Arrival date||March 1, 2020|
Florida became the third state on March 1 to confirm its first COVID-19 cases: one in Manatee County and one in Hillsborough County. On March 3, a third presumptive positive case in Hillsborough County was reported.
On March 5, a new case was announce involving an "elderly [man] with severe underlying [health] conditions" in Santa Rosa County who had recently traveled outside the United States. The Department of Health announced three new cases late on March 6, two in Broward County and one in Lee County. Officials also announced two deaths.
On March 9, nine new cases were announced, bringing the total cases from 14 to 23. Princess Cruises terminated a planned stop of the cruise ship Caribbean Princess in Grand Cayman after it was discovered that two of its crew members had recently transferred from Grand Princess in California. The cruise ship was ordered to anchor off the coast of Fort Lauderdale while its passengers and crew could be tested for coronavirus. Furthermore, a fourth Princess Cruises cruise ship, Regal Princess, was placed on a "no sail order" off the Florida coast after it was discovered that two of its crew members had recently transferred from Grand Princess in California.
On March 10, the first case in Alachua County was confirmed. On March 11, UF Health Shands Hospital confirmed they were treating their first patient with a case of coronavirus, but declined to say whether it was the same person who tested positive for the virus earlier in the week. On March 13, it was confirmed that Mayor of Miami Francis X. Suarez had contracted the virus. That night, the Department of Health confirmed that an Orange County resident died in California after contracting COVID-19 while traveling.
On March 14, Orlando International Airport confirmed that one of its TSA agents has tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total of TSA agents across the United States to have the virus to five after four other TSA agents at Mineta San Jose International Airport in California were tested positive. On March 15, 39 new cases were announced in Florida. Four of those new cases were in Miami-Dade County, and 17 were in Broward County.
On March 17, a male resident of an assisted living facility in Fort Lauderdale died. On March 18, it was disclosed that possibly 19 senior living facilities could be infected by the coronavirus. By that time, Florida had completed 1,132 diagnostic tests for COVID-19 and of 1,539 tests, 314 were confirmed as being positive. There were 1,000 test results that were still pending and seven victims had died in the state, including one in Broward County. The state had bought 2,500 testing kits.
By March 20, the number of positive test case had climbed to 520. A Pasco and a Broward County resident died. A man who returned to California after visiting Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando approximately two weeks prior died from the virus.
On March 1, Governor DeSantis declared a public health emergency after two cases were confirmed in Manatee County and Hillsborough County. On March 17, he ordered all bars and nightclubs to be closed for 30 days, extended school closures to April 15, and cancelled state-mandated school testing.
By the third week of the pandemic's presence in Florida, DeSantis began attracting criticism for the state's slow response to the pandemic, particularly for deferring beach closings to local governments during spring break while vacationers continued to congregate. The Miami Herald's editorial board wrote an editorial condemning DeSantis inaction in requesting help from the federal government, while noting his vocal support of U.S. President Donald Trump. Speculation mounted that DeSantis's decision not to lock down the state was influenced by business interests, instead of health experts. Business lobbyists including the Florida Chamber of Commerce urged the Governor not to "take drastic measures that might shut down the state's economy". On March 27, more than 900 health care workers signed a letter asking DeSantis to order citizens to shelter-in-place, and take other measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. A similar letter written by Doctors for America was signed by 500 health care professionals a few days earlier.
On March 30, DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order for the South Florida counties of Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Monroe, where over 58% of the state's coronavirus cases were concentrated. He stated that the order would remain in effect at least until the middle of May.
On April 1, DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order for the entire state, effective for 30 days, after a call with the president. This followed criticism from experts that more strict measures were necessary to contain the virus.
Early in March, the pandemic began having an impact throughout Florida as state and local government, businesses, and public institutions took measures to slow the spread of the virus.
On March 12, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts announced that the Walt Disney World Resort would close from March 15 to end of May, later announcing that the parks and resorts would stay closed indefinitely. Universal Parks & Resorts also announced that Universal Orlando would close from March 15 until at least the end of the month, also later announcing that the parks and resorts would stay closed until April 19. Other theme parks in Florida such as SeaWorld Orlando, Legoland Florida, and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay have also decided to close from March 13 until further notice.
On March 10, Joseph Glover, the provost of the University of Florida, sent out a recommendation to UF professors to transition their classes online. The following day, UF announced all its classes for the spring semester will be transitioned online by the following Monday, and encouraged students to return to their hometowns.
On March 11, Florida State University announced that classes will be moved online from March 23 to April 5, with in-person classes expected to resume on April 6. The Board of Governors of the State University System of Florida directed all state universities to make plans to transition into remote learning effective immediately. Essential functions, such as dining and library services are still operational. Florida International University in Miami announced that it will transition to remote learning starting from March 12 until at least April 4. The University of South Florida in Tampa announced that all classes will consist of remote instruction for the rest of Spring 2020 semester.
Most of the state's sports teams were affected by the pandemic. Several leagues postponed or suspended their seasons starting March 12. Major League Baseball (MLB) canceled the remainder of spring training, and announced that the season would be postponed indefinitely. The National Basketball Association announced the season would be suspended for 30 days, affecting the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic. The National Hockey League season was suspended for an indefinite amount of time, affecting the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association canceled all winter and spring tournaments, including the Division I men's and women's basketball tournaments, affecting colleges and universities statewide. On March 16, the National Junior College Athletic Association also canceled the remainder of the winter seasons as well as the spring seasons.
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- Health, Florida Dept (March 6, 2020). ".@HealthyFla has announced 3 new presumptive positive Florida #COVID19 cases: 2 in Broward County that are isolated and 1 in Lee County that is deceased. A previously-announced case in Santa Rosa County is also deceased".
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- WESH2: SeaWorld to close all theme parks due to coronavirus
- [Miami Herald: SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Legoland in Florida close due to ‘evolving COVID-19 situation]
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- NHL statement on coronavirus NHL, March 12, 2020
- NCAA cancels remaining winter and spring championships NCAA, March 12, 2020
- NJCAA cancels spring sports, basketball nationals amid coronavirus outbreak MLive.com, March 16, 2020
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