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COVID-19 Morning Update

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Florida Department of Health
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The Florida Department of Health announced 220 new positive cases of COVID-19, Monday, and three new deaths bringing Florida's total number of cases to 1,227.  The death toll now stands at 17 people.

The epicenter of the outbreak in the state remains in South Florida as more than half of all cases in the state come from Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Governor Ron DeSantis is taking new measures to prevent people under mandatory lock down in other states from coming to Florida. DeSantis issued an executive order, Monday, directing the Florida Department of Health to require travelers from areas experiencing "substantial community spread" of COVID-19 to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Florida. Violators could be charged criminally.

The executive order affect travelers coming from states where shelter-in-place orders have been issued and specifically names the New York Tri-State Area including Connecticut, New Jersey and New York.

DeSantis said more than 190 direct flights arrived in the state, Monday, from the New York City area.

“I would reckon given the outbreak there, that every single flight has somebody on it who is positive for COVID-19,” said DeSantis.  “And so, as we’re working to stop it in the state of Florida’s you’re consistently having people come in from one of the top hot spots in the entire world.”

Gov. DeSantis said law enforcement and health officials will meet flights coming in from the New York Tri-State area and that they’ll be taking people's information and temperatures. DeSantis said his hope is that will be a deterrent for people fleeing to Florida in an attempt to escape restrictions put in place in their home states.

Gov. DeSantis sent a letter to President Donald Trump, Sunday, formally requesting a "major disaster" declaration for Florida due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The letter, sent to President Trump through Federal Emergency Management Agency Regional Administrator, Gracia Szczech, invokes the federal Stafford Act and requests a response involving several individual assistance programs including Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Crisis Counseling, Community Disaster Loans and the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Program.

The letter also requests more resources and support from FEMA.

The American Red Cross is urging healthy people to donate blood as the country faces a growing shortage due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Thousands of Red Cross blood drives have been canceled, and that means tens of thousands of fewer donations than expected.  Lee Health held two special mobile drives on Sunday, but the health system’s Chief Patient Care Officer, Lisa Sgarlata, said the need remains.

“We need blood because there is not enough to go around nationally and locally.,” said Sgarlata.  “We can always use more and any type of blood is welcome.”

Sgarlata said Lee Health is also getting closer to experiencing shortages in personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.  Lee Health is working with the Lee County Emergency Operations Center to secure state and federal supplies.  Sgarlata said they're also working with other medical providers like dentists, and other hospitals like NCH, as well as construction companies that have offered N95 respirators and masks.

The Lee Health and NCH Healthcare Systems say that combined they have 180 employees under quarantine due to possible exposure to the coronavirus, although none have tested positive.

Opinions differ among politicians on whether a statewide shelter-in-place order is needed for the state.  Several nighttime curfews currently exist in parts of Central and South Florida.  Officials in Hillsborough are slated to vote on a proposed curfew Thursday.  Other areas of the state are expected to issue local stay-at-home orders in the coming days.

Florida’s top elected Democrat, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, said she feels Florida should join several other states, including California, Illinois and New York by enacting a uniform statewide policy.

Fried said leaving the decision to local governments creates confusion about the importance of social distancing.  However, Gov. DeSantis said society will only follow the strict limitations for a short period of time before they no longer listen and that allowing some limited movement is a more sustainable model.

A stay-at-home order would close non-essential businesses, and people could only leave home for a narrow list of activities including shopping for groceries, getting takeout dinner, visiting a doctor, or going to the bank.

As a precautionary measure to avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19, the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office has implemented some changes in the type of calls they will be responding to. During a Charlotte County press briefing, Monday, CCSO Public Information Officer Claudette Bennett said minor accidents can be self-reported on the Charlotte County Sheriff's office website and that deputies will still be responding to D-U-I accidents and hit and run calls. For more details visit www.ccso.org

Andrea Perdomo is a reporter for WGCU News. She started her career in public radio as an intern for the Miami-based NPR station, WLRN. Andrea graduated from Florida International University, where she was a contributing writer for the student-run newspaper, The Panther Press, and was also a member of the university's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.