Florida deploys 3 field hospitals, requests medical supplies
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Health officials in Florida are deploying three field hospitals across the state to help combat the new coronavirus.
In an email sent Tuesday night, Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz announced that one field hospital is currently staged in Orlando and can be sent to other areas of the state if needed.
Another field hospital is on its way to Broward County, which has the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19. The county had 55 of the state's 216 cases, Moskowitz said. Mobile COVID-19 testing is also being implemented in Broward, and the National Guard has been deployed to assist there.
The third field hospital will be set up in Ocala, which is north of Orlando. That mobile facility can also be moved to other areas as needed.
In addition, Moskowitz is working with federal officials to determine whether the state can add U.S. Navy Mercy-Class hospital ships at Florida ports.
As of Tuesday night, Florida health officials said 216 people had tested positive for COVID-19, including 21 out of state residents who tested positive in Florida and six Florida residents who tested positive elsewhere, according to the state's dashboard.
Moskowitz also said the emergency management agency is requesting supplies from the federal government. These include: five mobile intensive care units, 5,000 ventilators, hospital beds, 250,000 coveralls, 500,000 gloves, 500,000 gowns, 500,000 collection kits, 100,000 16-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer and 150,000 personal protective kits that include coveralls, gowns and goggles. He is also requesting 2 million N95 face masks.
The supplies are being delivered on a rolling basis, and inventory is being distributed throughout the state 24 hours a day, the email said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday also ordered bars and nightclubs in Florida to close for 30 days and directed restaurants to operate at 50% of their maximum capacity to allow for social distancing.
State school officials said public schools would remain closed until April 15 and announced the suspension of mass campus gatherings, including sports events. DeSantis announced that four University of Florida students tested positive for COVID-19.
At the governor's prompting, Florida's university system said students should return home for remote learning for the rest of the spring semester. University officials also canceled traditional cap-and-gown graduation ceremonies in May, and directed campuses to reschedule or devise alternatives, perhaps even holding virtual graduation ceremonies for the 46,000 students who won't be able to march.
So far, six deaths attributed to coronavirus have been reported in Florida, including two announced Tuesday: a 77-year-old man who lived in an assisted living facility in Fort Lauderdale and a Manatee County resident.
Without naming the facility, Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees on Tuesday said 218 residents live there.
Scott Wyman, chief of staff for Fort Lauderdale's mayor, identified the facility as the Atria Willow Wood assisted living community. He said five firefighters and a police officer were in contact with residents at the facility. They are self-isolating, officials said.
The virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, for most people, but older adults and those with existing health problems can develop severe complications, including pneumonia. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
DeSantis had mostly refrained from issuing mandates and left localities to their own judgment on how to limit public activities. He acted more decisively after President Donald Trump issued stricter guidelines Monday.
The governor said his order does not preclude the hardest-hit area from taking more actions. Communities from Key West to Orlando and Jacksonville sought to help contain the virus by shutting down attractions or limiting hours at public establishments like restaurants.
Frisaro reported from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Associated Press writers Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami, Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg and Mike Schneider in Orlando contributed to this report.
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