MIAMI (AP) — Two people who tested positive for the new coronavirus have died in Florida, marking the first deaths on the East Coast attributed to the outbreak in the United States (US), health officials said on Friday.
The Florida Department of Health said the two people who died were in their 70s and had travelled overseas. The announcement raises the US death toll from the novel coronavirus strain to 16, including 13 in the state of Washington and one in California.
One of the Florida deaths was that of a man with underlying health issues in Santa Rosa County in Florida’s Panhandle, according to the statement. The health department added that the second death was that of an elderly person in Lee County, in the Fort Myers area.
The statement did not give immediate indications of where the two had travelled or whether officials were seeking to determine who they came in contact with.
Helen Aguirre Ferre, a spokeswoman for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, confirmed the deaths and other new cases in South Florida, on Twitter. She promised in her tweet that updates would be provided regularly as they become available.
The spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an email request by The Associated Press for more information. As of Friday, Florida authorities said seven people in the state have tested positive for COVID-19. They said six are Florida residents and the seventh is a non-resident.
One of the new cases was only confirmed after the person had died, according to the statement. The other two cases that were confirmed to have tested positive on Friday were a 65-year-old man and a 75-year-old man, both in Broward County, home to Fort Lauderdale. The state’s health department said both men have been isolated until public health officials clear them.
Officials had previously announced that five Florida residents who had been travelling in China have also been quarantined elsewhere after testing positive for the virus.