The World Health Organization has formally declared the coronavirus a pandemic. The move comes as higher education officials have directed universities prepare to suspend in-person classes and shift toward online learning. As fears of contagion spread, Governor Ron DeSantis is now limiting access to nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Florida A&M University, Florida State University, the University of Florida and Tallahassee Community College are among the schools that have announced plans to move their classes online. It comes as the number of coronavirus infections continues to increase. The decision comes amid the Spring Break season when tens of thousands of students are expected to head home or travel.
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“I think those were prudent steps. I think because you have the ability to do distance learning they’ll be able to do that and not miss a beat," DeSantis said. "So I think those were prudent steps.”
Concerns are increasing about the potential for “community spread”of the virus. That occurs when people are infected but don’t know how or where the contact occurred. Florida was recently cited as one of the four states where community spread is happening, but DeSantis disputes that and says the state knows where and how infections have occurred.
“Because that three person cluster in Broward can all be linked to that cruise ship … that technically doesn’t qualify as community spread …We haven’t gotten to that point yet,” he told reporters during a Wednesday press conference.
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Coronavirus is similar to the flu in that it attacks the upper respiratory system. It’s spread through coughing and sneezing.
Two people in Florida have died from the illness. The state now has 28 cases of infection.
Florida is limiting access to the state’s nursing homes, assisted living, long-term care, adult family care homes and adult group homes as seniors are especially vulernable to the worst effects of the virus due to underlying medical conditions. DeSantis outlined who wouldn't be allowed in.
“Any person infected with COVID-19….any person showing or presenting signs or sympoms…anyone who has or may have been in contact with a person infected with COVID-19 who has not tested negative.”
It also includes anyone who has recently travelled internationally or on a cruise ship.
The move comes as Washington State deals with an outbreak of the virus in a dozen nursing homes that’s killed 21 people and sickened more than 260 others.
Florida’s presidential primary is Tuesday, and DeSantis says the election proceed as scheduled. However, for polling locations in places like assisted living facilities and others, the governor is urging local supervisors of elections to change plans.