Coronavirus concerns: Tampa officials discuss preparations for virus

Coronavirus

MARCH 1 UPDATE: Two people have tested “presumptively positive” for the coronavirus in Tampa Bay, according to the Florida Department of Health. One of the patients is in Hillsborough County. The article below on preparations is from Feb. 27, before those cases were announced.

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Officials from the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County joined together on Thursday to address concerns over the coronavirus and discuss what preparations are in place if it were to hit Tampa Bay.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller called the coronavirus – or COVID-19 a “global issue that has the potential to protect our entire community.”

According to the commissioner, the county’s office of emergency management has been working with public safety officials from the City of Tampa to ensure the community is prepared to respond to the coronavirus.

“Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa officials are in constant communication with the Florida of Department of Health and our public safety leadership while we monitor global and national events associated with the potential spread of this virus,” Miller said.

Miller said avoiding the coronavirus is similar to avoiding the cold and flu. He offered the following tips to stay healthy:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Use hand sanitizer
  • Stay away from people who are sick
  • If you are sick, stay home

He also encouraged Hillsborough County residents to keep an eye on the county’s emergency management website for the latest coronavirus information.

The City of Tampa also has resources for residents to stay informed. Mayor Jane Castor said during the news conference citizens can text TAMPA READY to 888-777 to get signed up to receive text message updates about the virus and other city emergencies.

“As we closely monitor this tragic coronavirus outbreak around the world, we must take the approach of ‘not if, but when,'” Castor said. “And that’s why we’re standing here to protect our very diverse and ever-growing community in Hillsborough County.”

Castor says the city has plans in place to respond to “communicable disease threats” but pointed out that each type presents unique challenges.

“We will remain flexible and adjust our plan as necessary as we receive guidelines from the CDC and government health agencies,” she said. “This situation is constantly evolving. We’re here with our partners to ensure our residents we are as prepared as possible to deal with this disease if and when it arrives in our community.”

The mayor says city EMS personnel will be extra diligent when it comes to looking for symptoms of respiratory illnesses.

In addition to being prepared and keeping yourself healthy, Mayor Castor also urged residents to be cautious when it comes to information about the coronavirus.

“There are and will continue to be a lot of rumors,” she said. “It’s vitally important that all residents get their news from a reliable source.”

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