SANTA ROSA COUNTY, Fla. – The Florida Department of Health says two people have died in the state as a result of the new coronavirus, which causes a respiratory disease called COVID-19.
These deaths bring the U.S. death toll from the virus to at least 16, with 13 deaths reported in Washington state and one in California.
The department says one of the deceased patients was in Santa Rosa County and the other, a person in their 70s, was in Lee County. Both had fallen ill following international trips, according to the department.
Lee Health told WFTX that the patient that died in Lee County was tested for COVID-19 "in accordance with guidelines provided by the Florida Department of Health." They say the person came to Gulf Coast Medical Center with severe respiratory ailment. That agency notified Lee Health of the "presumptive positive" test results Friday evening.
“We are saddened by the family’s loss and will continue to monitor and take appropriate precautions on behalf of patients, caregivers, and the community,” said Dr. Larry Antonucci, president and CEO of Lee Health.
Also on Friday, the state's department of health announced that it has identified two new presumptive positive cases in Broward County, a 65-year-old man and a 75-year-old man. Both are being isolated until they’re cleared by public health officials.
Worldwide, there’s been more than 100,000 cases confirmed and over 3,400 COVID-19 deaths, with a majority in mainland China, where the virus is believed to have originated.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is spread by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how flu and other respiratory diseases spread, or when people touch surfaces that have been contaminated by an infected person, and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.
The CDC says the following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the coronavirus: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. You should call a doctor if you develop symptoms and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or you recently traveled from an area that has experienced an outbreak of the virus.
Officials say the most important thing you can do to protect yourselves from the virus is to take everyday steps to prevent respiratory illness, including:
· Covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or into your sleeve, and then throwing the tissue in the trash.
· Washing your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom or before eating. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
· Avoiding touching your face – especially your eyes, nose and mouth ‑ with unwashed hands.
· Staying home if you have cold or flu-like symptoms, and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Staff at WFTS and WFTX contributed to this report.