Florida reports 2 dead from coronavirus, first known fatalities on East Coast

Two people in Florida who tested positive for the coronavirus have died, becoming the first known fatalities outside California and Washington state, health officials reported Friday.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an order Saturday directing a Level II public health emergency in the state after two people, who were both in their 70s and had traveled overseas died, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The announcement raises the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus strain to at least 16, including 13 in the state of Washington and one in California, with at least 253 confirmed cases across the country.

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One of the Floridian deaths was a man with underlying health issues in Santa Rosa County in Florida’s Panhandle and the other was an elderly person in Lee County, in the Fort Myers area.

As of Saturday morning, eight people in the Sunshine State have tested positive for COVID-19, one of which is a non-resident, officials said.

One of the new cases was only confirmed after the person had died, while two elderly men tested positive Friday in Broward County, ages 65 and 75, both of whom are in isolation, and another case in Lee County was reported Saturday. Five Florida residents who tested positive after traveling to China are also being quarantined.

The risk for those in Florida continues to remain low, authorities say, as most cases have been in Washington state and California, where a cruise ship is being held off the coast after a passenger on a previous trip died and others became infected.

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DeSantis asked state lawmakers Friday for $25 million so health officials can use it to combat the coronavirus with lab equipment and staffing, in addition to the expected $27 million in federal aid after President Trump signed an $8.3 billion coronavirus spending bill, along with $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

With spring break season hitting Florida, it is unclear what measures state officials will take, as Miami city officials canceled two large music festivals over fears of the new virus spreading.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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