- The Washington Times - Monday, March 2, 2020

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday he’s declared a public health emergency after weekend lab tests revealed two cases of the coronavirus in the Tampa Bay area.

Mr. DeSantis, a Republican and key White House ally, said one patient is a Hillsborough County woman in her 20s who traveled to Italy, a hotspot in the global outbreak.

The other is a Manatee County man in his 60s with no history of travel to a hard-hit country, raising the specter of person-to-person spread in the state. He remains hospitalized in stable condition.

Both patients have been isolated from other people, state officials said.

The governor said the risk to Floridians remains low, though “we do anticipate that more will test positive.”

Mr. DeSantis said Floridians who develop symptoms of the disease, or “COVID-19,” after traveling to hard-hit places such as China, South Korea, Italy or Iran should contact their local health department. He also said anyone with lower respiratory problems should be evaluated for COVID-19.

Vice President Mike Pence met with Mr. DeSantis to discuss the coronavirus in between political meetings in Florida on Friday.

“The vice president assured us that we would have their full support,” said Mr. DeSantis, a vocal supporter of the Trump White House.

Earlier Monday, Mr. Trump retweeted announcements about the disease from Mr. DeSantis and the Florida Health Department.

Florida is critical to Mr. Trump’s reelection chances in November.

A longtime New Yorker, the president in October changed his place of residence to Florida, where he owns numerous golf properties and his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking more than a dozen cases of COVID-19 with no clear source of infection. Two people have died from the illness in Washington State, underscoring the coast-to-coast nature of the problem.

Mr. Trump is scheduled to meet with pharmaceutical executives at the White House Monday to talk about a vaccine and therapeutic drugs for COVID-19.

“We’re talking about a vaccine, maybe even a cure,” the president told White House reporters.

Mr. Trump says he is taking the disease seriously and believes Wall Street stocks will bounce back after a rough round of selloffs last week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up more than 300 points in early trading.

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