State of emergency declared in Broward County after 4th case of COVID-19 confirmed

PORT EVERGLADES, FLA. (WSVN) - Officials have declared a state of emergency in Broward County after Florida Department of Health confirmed that a fourth patient in Broward tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Broward declared a state of emergency to access resources such as cleaning supplies for the port, government buildings and polling places.

“We’ll be issuing a declaration for state of emergency. Why is that important to us? It opens up resources from the state,” Broward County administrator Bertha Henry said. “A lot of what we need has been, in short, supplies, so we’re trying to get it from wherever we can get it.”

Health officials had announced a 69-year-old woman tested positive for COVID-19, early Tuesday morning.

She, like two out of the other three cases in Broward, is connected to, or employed by, Metro Cruise Services — a company at Port Everglades, according to the Department of Health.

With this new case, the department also issued an advisory for anyone who has recently traveled through Port Everglades.

Those who recently traveled through the port and are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms have been advised to immediately contact their doctor or local health department and self-quarantine for 14 days.

The port is one of the busiest ports in the world with nearly 4 million passengers passing through each year. Last December, the port announced that they had beat their own world record, where 55,964 passengers sailed in and out of the port in a single day.

The release of information came after tense moments during a roundtable discussion in Davie.

Broward Health Department’s medical director, Dr. Paula Thaqi, said there are ongoing interviews with one of the other patients, who is not associated with Port Everglades, to figure out how he contracted the virus.

A spokesperson from the port said that Princess Cruises is the only cruise line that uses Metro Cruise Services at Port Everglades, and that they are using a different subcontractor.

An online job posting for Metro Cruise Services said, “Metro Cruise Services is the ground handler that works with Princess Cruises in Port Everglades to create a smooth turnaround process for all cruise guests. Pier agents assist guests at the beginning and end of their cruise and meet guests from all over the world.”

7News has reached out to the company for comment but have yet to hear back.

The Regal Princess cruise ship has been docked at Terminal 2 in Port Everglades for two days after two crew members tested negative for the coronavirus. Employees have been going in and out of the ship since the ship docked Sunday night.

One of the employees said they’re on board the Regal Princess wiping down every surface.

Meanwhile, another Princess cruise ship, the Caribbean Princess, is scheduled to dock in Port Everglades on Wednesday.

The Broward County Commission convened to discuss protective measures against the virus. They said they have to be more aggressive about getting the message to the public, because thousands could have the virus and have not yet started to show symptoms.

They also discussed polling locations ahead of the primaries, which will commence in a week. They said they will have hand sanitizers at each location to encourage Floridians to go out and vote.

“We really want our people to vote,” Henry said. “We want people to come out to vote. We don’t want them to be discouraged about this, and so today, when they go into the polling places, they’ll see hand sanitizers.”

Commissioners said all equipment at polling stations will be wiped down every 15 or 30 minutes, and they have also hired day porters in all of the government buildings to assist in the sanitizing measures.

They spoke with the county’s Chief Judge and requested people wipe down doors every 20 to 30 minutes in government buildings, as well as places at the port that people often touch, such as door handles.

“The first thing I wanted to suggest is that we enhance our messaging,” said Commissioner Mark Bogan. “Our messaging has been wash your hands, don’t touch your face. I think a stronger message has to do with paper towels and tissue, and that is don’t touch. I think, don’t touch door handles, don’t touch keypads for credit cards, when you get gasoline, use things between your skin, whether it be paper napkins or tissue. I think the message needs to be enhanced.”

County officials said nasal swabs are available for those that want testing, so if anyone feels even mild symptoms, they should contact the Broward County Health Department through their website or by calling 954-467-4700.

For more updates on the coronavirus in Florida, click here.

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