Risk of COVID-19 Infection in Florida Remains Low Despite First Potential Cases; Governor Declares Public Health Emergency


March 11, 2020


Article By: FloridaBlue


The risk of contracting COVID-19 in Florida remains low, despite the state’s first “presumptive positive” test results for two residents. Those results have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation. It takes the CDC about five days to get results back. 

One of the patients is a Hillsborough County woman in her 20s who had traveled to Italy, where the novel coronavirus has caused about 1,700 cases and 34 deaths. She is recovering at her home. A patient in Manatee County is a man in his 60s who had not traveled to any of the countries restricted by the CDC. He is being treated at a hospital. 

As a result of those cases, Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a public health emergency on Sunday. 

Officials said residents should take precautions to protect themselves from getting the virus, including frequently washing their hands with soap and water and avoiding people who are sick. (See more tips below.) 

Most of the people who contract COVID-19 recover in a matter of days, oftentimes at home, according to health officials. 


What Are the Symptoms? Patients typically have mild to severe respiratory symptoms, such as a cough and difficulty breathing, as well as a fever. As with other viruses, people who are elderly and/or have underlying health conditions are more at risk. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure. 

How is the Virus Spread? According to the CDC, the virus is mainly spread person-to-person, particularly when they are within six feet of each other. The primary way is when an infected person sneezes or coughs and their droplets land on a nearby person’s mouth or nose or are inhaled into their lungs. Another way is when a person touches a surface where the virus is, then touching his or her own mouth, nose or eyes. Click here for more information on how the virus can be spread. 

Florida Blue is an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. The information contained in this document may be confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom it is addressed. This document may contain material that is privileged or protected from disclosure under applicable law. If you are not the intended recipient or the individual responsible for delivering to the intended recipient, please (1) be advised that any use, dissemination, forwarding, or copying of this document IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED; and (2) notify sender immediately and destroy the document. 

What Should You Do If You Think You’ve Been Exposed? 

If our members are feeling ill (including fever, cough and shortness of breath), we are encouraging them to follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Florida Department of Health by calling their local health care provider for instructions before traveling to the doctor’s office. 

If it is determined that coronavirus testing is needed, Florida Blue will work directly with providers, state health officials and the CDC to ensure any COVID-19 testing and applicable treatment for our members is fully covered. 

Additionally, medical masks are not considered a covered medical device, as at this time the CDC does not recommend masks for the general public. The use of masks should be reserved for health-care professionals and those who are more susceptible to contracting a respiratory virus. 

How Can You Protect Yourself and Your Family? 

There is no vaccine to prevent infection for COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Here are some prevention tips: 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Also, wash your hands when you touch things in public like elevator buttons, door knobs and office telephones. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands 
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. 
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick and stay home when you are sick. 
  • Surgical masks should be reserved for caregivers, health care personnel and people with symptoms and under suspicion for COVID-19. As of now, masks are not covered by Florida Blue health plans. 
  • Make sure you have enough nonperishable food for a week or so in case you get sick, just as you would if you had the flu. 
  • Follow government travel restrictions 

How Are Cases Tracked? 

  • The Florida Department of Health said 15 people have tested negative and eight are awaiting results. There are more than 180 people who are being monitored by health officials. At one time, more than were 700 people being monitored in Florida. Click here for updated information on Florida cases. 
  • State labs in Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa can now test for coronavirus, which allows for quicker results. Presumptive positive results are confirmed by the CDC, which typically takes about five days. 
  • Nationally, there have been 86 cases and two deaths, both of which were in Washington state. A public health emergency was declared by the federal government in late January. Worldwide, there have about 90,000 cases and more than 3,000 deaths as of March 3. More than 45,000 patients have already recovered. Click here for the latest updates. 

Background In late December 2019, a new strain of coronavirus was linked to a live animal/seafood market in mainland China. Since then, about 90,000 people have been diagnosed worldwide with COVID-19 and over 3,000 people have died. 

About 90 percent of the cases and 95 percent of the deaths have occurred in mainland China, though the virus has been spreading wider around the world in the past few weeks. As of March 3, there are 87 cases in the United States and two deaths, both of which were in Washington state. 

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that causes respiratory infections, like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). More than 8,000 people were diagnosed with SARS in 2003, with 774 people dying from the virus that originated in China. There were only eight SARS cases, but no deaths, in the United States. 

Where Do Providers Get Updated Information? The CDC takes the lead with providers. All providers are aware of the protocol when dealing with infectious diseases. They work directly with the CDC and local health officials. Florida Blue has no active role in that process. If there are any ordered quarantines or other actions required by Florida Blue, we take that direction from the CDC and local health officials. 

Resources Here are several websites that can be used to find the latest details: