MIAMI — Three employees of a company that greets cruise ship passengers in Florida have tested positive for the new coronavirus, state health officials said Tuesday, urging anyone who recently traveled through Port Everglades to isolate themselves for 14 days if they start experiencing symptoms.
The Florida Department of Health confirmed the company connection in a news release that also said a 69-year-old woman who tested positive for COVID-19 is the fourth Broward County resident, and third employee of Metro Cruise Services, to have the virus.
The health department advisory asks anyone who passed through the port in Fort Lauderdale to isolate themselves and contact their county health department or health care provider if they start experiencing symptoms of the virus, which includes a cough, fever and shortness of breath.
That conforms with new guidelines issued Monday by the CDC, which advises recent cruise passengers to monitor their health for 14 days, immediately self-isolate if they experience symptoms, and contact medical professionals for treatment.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, but it can cause more severe illness including pneumonia in older adults and people with existing health problems. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus within weeks.
Swift-moving developments over the new coronavirus ricocheted across Florida’s Capitol as Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Monday and lawmakers disrupted their legislative session so crews in surgical gowns could swab down the House chambers. DeSantis said his declaration would enable Florida to better marshal resources and get outside help as it confronts the growing public health crisis.
Health officials are trying to connect with all employees of Metro Cruise Services who may have come into contact with the three infected co-workers. The agency announced earlier that three Broward County men, ages 65, 67 and 75, had tested positive; the news release didn't specify which of these men are the other two company employees.
Two cruise ships that left from Fort Lauderdale — the Regal Princess and the Caribbean Princess — were later issued “no sail" orders by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after crew members who had possibly been exposed on a California ship were tested.
The Regal Princess eventually docked at the port late Sunday and passengers were able to leave the ship. The Caribbean Princess stopped briefly in Grand Cayman on Monday to pick up test kits for two crew members. The ship is sailing off Florida's coast until it gets the all clear.
Also, late Monday, state health officials reported that a 60-year-old Volusia County woman tested positive, bringing the state's total to 20. Of those, two people have died. Fourteen of the 20 cases were diagnosed in Florida and five in another state, officials said. In addition, a California resident, now under self-isolation in Florida, has tested positive.