As cases climb, Florida may have to use empty hotels and convention centers to house coronavirus patients

DeSantis said hotel owners have offered to allow use of their facilities.

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click to enlarge As cases climb, Florida may have to use empty hotels and convention centers to house coronavirus patients
Photo via Tampa Convention Center/Facebook

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Saturday that state officials are looking at the possibility of putting people who test positive for the coronavirus in facilities such as hotels to help prevent them from spreading the virus to family members.

The idea, which also could involve using facilities such as convention centers, would be to help isolate people who have the virus but don’t need hospitalization. DeSantis said hotel owners have offered to allow use of their facilities.

“The reason why you would want to do that is if somebody comes in, tests positive, if you send them back home they’re likely to infect the people that they come in close contact with in their home, so then the virus continues to spread,” DeSantis said during a news conference at the state Emergency Operations Center. “If they have a place to self-isolate where they’re not going to be in close contact with anybody, then the virus dies with them.”

DeSantis emphasized that the highly contagious respiratory disease spreads mostly through personal contact.

“I think the plan would be, if you have somebody that presents but doesn’t require hospitalization, you test them, you have them be isolated in a convention center, hotel, don’t go back home with your family, because the people you are most likely to affect are those very close, persistent contacts. … If you are inside sharing a house with somebody, those are obviously the ones,” he said. “So, yeah, we’re absolutely considering that. Hopefully it doesn’t get to that, but we’re planning for that for sure, because I think that that’s the prudent thing to do.”

The number of cases of the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, continues to rapidly increase, with the Florida Department of Health website listing 763 cases in the state as of early Saturday evening. That included 706 Florida residents and 57 non-residents. DeSantis said 12 Florida residents had died.

As an example of how fast the number of cases is increasing, the Department of Health on Friday morning reported 520 confirmed cases.

The heaviest concentration of cases has been in South Florida, with Miami-Dade County leading the state with 169 cases as of Saturday evening, according to the Department of Health website. Broward County had 164 cases and Palm Beach County had 56 cases.

The coronavirus is particularly dangerous to seniors and people with underlying medical conditions. But DeSantis also said during the Saturday news conference that about 60 percent of the confirmed cases involve people under age 60.

“There’s not necessarily high rates of fatalities with that, but some people have really had some serious health consequences as a result of it,” he said. “So it’s just something people need to understand that it is the elderly are obviously … most vulnerable to this, but it’s something that could affect anybody.”

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