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Lawmakers standby to act as coronavirus arrives in Florida

Leaders working to control spread of coronavirus
Posted at 7:11 PM, Mar 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-02 19:11:13-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Right now, state leaders are working to control the spread of coronavirus in our state. As Florida declares a health emergency and faces a potential widespread outbreak COVID-19, lawmakers are taking these cases seriously.

To give an idea of how serious, some ABC 27 spoke with aren't shaking hands and are instead bumping fists or just rubbing of elbows to prevent spread of the illness.

"We do anticipate to see more positive cases in the state of Florida, and we have taken additional actions to help contain the virus' spread," said Gov. Ron DeSantis.

So far, there are 86 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the US, with two people testing positive in Florida. For now, lawmakers are watching and waiting.

Health Policy Vice Chair Sen. Lori Berman said it's lucky they are in session.

"This is a real crisis in our country," said Berman.

If the threat worsens, she says, legislators will move fast filing policy or pushing forward funding to help.

"We were in session when the Stoneman Douglas event happened," Berman said. "We were able to respond really quickly. I'm hoping the same thing will happen with coronavirus."

Senator Jose Rodriguez was one of the first to act. He's filed a new bill amendment requiring the state, during an infectious outbreak, disclose how many people are being tested and in what counties.

"We should not have a situation where members of the public and community leaders are filling in the blanks," said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez's move coming after the governor briefly withheld COVID-19 testing data over privacy concerns, later releasing them following public outcry.

"Should we ever be in a situation like this again," Rodriguez said, "we want it absolutely clear."

Outside the statehouse, trade groups tell business members to take the virus seriously.

"Don't work sick," said Sen. Berman. "Don't allow your employees to work sick."

Leaders with the Restaurant and Lodging Association also reminding tourists the state is ready for spring break, urging visitors to keep their plans.

"We, with the rest of the business world, are watching," said Geoff Luebkemann, the VP of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. "But, right now, there are no domestic travel restrictions. Florida is open for business."

Keeping tourism healthy as the virus spreads will be vital.

Some predict the situation will help keep the state's tourism bureau, Visit Florida, in operation as lawmakers debate cutting its funding this session.