by Freida Frisaro and Bobby Caina Calvan from The Associated Press, March 16, 2020
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Walt Disney World will close all of its hotels in Florida due to growing concern over the coronavirus, the company announced early Monday.
In a tweet, the company said the hotels would not close until 5 p.m. on Friday to give guests time to arrange other accommodations. The company also said all Disney stores nationwide would close on Tuesday, including in Disney Springs in Orlando, Florida, and Downtown Disney in Anaheim, California. To help contain the spread of the disease, Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens closed on Sunday night for at least two weeks.
The move was announced as the number of COVID-19 cases rose to more than 130 in Florida by Sunday night. Gov. Ron DeSantis was scheduled to release updated numbers Monday afternoon.
On Friday, officials had said there were more than 60 cases and by Saturday, about 100. Three people have died from the virus in Florida.
In line with Arizona, Ohio and Illinois, Florida had not postponed Tuesday's presidential primary. Secretary of State Laurel Lee said elections officials across the state were doing all they could to ensure the health of voters and workers. Lee said more than 600,000 Floridians took part in early voting, which ended Sunday. As of Sunday, 1.3 million people had also voted by mail.
Two other states that were scheduled to vote later, Georgia and Louisiana, delayed their primaries last week, citing the virus. Georgia, which was scheduled for March 24, moved its contest to May 19. Louisiana, which was slated to vote April 4, will now cast ballots June 20.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that he was awaiting guidance from federal officials before deciding whether to order restaurants or bars shuttered as some other states and major U.S. cities, including New York City, have done.
A drive-thru testing facility was expected to open soon at a hospital in the state's hardest hit county, Broward, in South Florida, DeSantis announced on Sunday.
More than 170 National Guard personnel have deployed in the county, and 300 additional Guard members were soon to be activated to help with the testing. State officials said they also were preparing to set up mobile hospitals to help the state's hospitals with testing if needed. The tests will be free to patients, DeSantis said.
The governor said Florida should brace for even more infections and he again urged residents — particularly younger people on spring break — to exercise caution and refrain from gathering in crowds.
On Monday, the state unveiled a new online dashboard that provides the public with a clearer picture of where the virus has hit. The COVID-19 surveillance dashboard provides a color-coded map that shows the intensity of infections across the state.
Broward and the South Florida county of Miami-Dade have by far the largest number of infections, with nearly half of all the state's cases.
In Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale — popular among college students on spring break — officials said Sunday that they would close off some popular beaches and ordered "nonessential" businesses to close by 10 p.m. to prevent large crowds from forming.
The virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, for most people, but older adults and those with existing health problems can develop severe complications, including pneumonia. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
Legislative leaders in Florida announced that traditional end-of-session ceremonies were being canceled to limit large gatherings when it convenes Thursday to adopt a $93.2 billion state budget.
The public gallery overlooking the state House will be closed to all visitors.
“The Florida House has a constitutional obligation to vote on the budget; we are also obligated to do so in Tallahassee,” Speaker Jose Oliva said in a statement. “We will take recommended steps to mitigate the danger of any exposure to members or staff to Coronavirus."
Calvan reported from Tallahassee.
The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak
This article was written by FREIDA FRISARO and BOBBY CAINA CALVAN from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].