The first Sumter County resident to test positive for the Coronavirus did so at UF Health Leesburg Hospital.
Don Henderson, CEO of UF Health Central Florida, confirmed the positive test result Wednesday afternoon in a prepared statement. Neither the man’s age nor where he lives was available, but a Sumter County Health Department release said his case was “travel-related.”
One news agency reported Wednesday that the man is a Villages residents. That hadn’t been confirmed to Ocala-News.com by late Wednesday afternoon and according to the Florida Department of Health, that kind of personal information is protected for anyone who is being monitored, has pending tests results or has tested negative for the virus.
It also was announced on Wednesday that a second person has tested positive in Lake County, a man between the ages of 56-75. He and a previously identified woman in her 60s who lives in the Lady Lake Mobile Home Park also are being identified as travel-related cases.
Dr. David Berger, M.D., chief operating officer and interim chief medical officer for UF Health Central Florida, said it’s important for anyone who might use the Leesburg hospital or its sister facility in The Villages to know that they have been working diligently to put in screening criteria and protocols to identify patients who should be tested. He said they are closely following guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Florida Department of Health, which is taking the lead on the epidemiological investigation into the Sumter County case.
That criteria includes symptoms of respiratory illness (fever, cough, shortness of breath), travel from most of Europe, China, Iran, Japan, the United Kingdom Ireland and South Korea since March 6, or close contact with someone showing symptoms who has recently traveled from those countries. It also includes anyone experiencing symptoms who has been on a cruise since March 6.
“We are well-prepared to address potential cases of COVID-19 and follow robust infection prevention and control protocols to protect our patients and our caregivers from this and other infectious diseases,” said Henderson.
As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 314 cases of the Coronavirus in Florida, with 2,493 people tested and 878 being monitored. Broward County has the most victims with 80, followed by Miami-Dade County with 76 and Palm Beach County with 19. There also have been seven Florida-related deaths from the virus.
All told, there were more than 7,769 cases reported across the United States and 118 deaths by late Wednesday afternoon. There were more about 215,000 cases reported across the world, with 8,732 deaths.
No cases have yet been identified Marion County. But three have been reported in Citrus County, which is adjacent to both Sumter and Marion counties. Seven patients also have been identified in Alachua County, which is north of Marion County.
The reporting of the Sumter County case came one day after the County Commission declared a state of emergency over the Coronavirus outbreak. That action, which was taken during Tuesday night’s commission meeting, is in effect for seven days and can be renewed by another vote of the board of commissioners. It vests power in emergency management director David Casto.
Dr. Sanford D. Zelnick, director of the Sumter County Health Department, said Wednesday that it’s extremely important for residents to “redouble” their efforts in social distancing, as well as other hygienic practices to prevent community spread. He also encouraged residents to avoid congregating in large groups – now defined as 10 or more people – and to stay calm.
“As community recreation centers postpone events, please do not transition to driveway gatherings or potluck events,” he said, imploring residents to also cancel unnecessary travel.
Zelnick said residents should contact facilities where people are cared for ahead of time for guidance on how visits can be safely conducted using distancing methods. He also said those who are hoarding needed supplies should stop that practice, as it hampers community prevention efforts.
Zelnick pointed out that many cases of the COVID-19 illness can be managed at home and residents are encouraged to do that. But he cautioned that if they start developing worsening symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chest pain or inability to take fluids by mouth, they should call 911 and inform the operator of their circumstances.
Zelnick added that if, as a community, everyone modifies their daily social activities as he has outlined, the potential effects of exposure likely will be reduced or attenuated.
“The curve of any community spread will be flattened, which will enable our ambulances and hospitals to more effectively respond,” he said.