Officials call for calm amid first case here

Baylee Dumont, right, medical assistant, helps Brandy Kuzara, clinical manager, as she performs throat and nasal swabs on a person at a drive-through coronavirus testing site.

A Lake County woman is the first patient with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the tri-county area, the Florida Department of Health announced Monday. It was one of 19 new Florida cases announced by the department on Monday, which did not provide any further information regarding the patients. It did reveal that the Lake County case is travel-related. No patients with COVID-19 are being treated at UF Health The Villages Hospital or UF Health Leesburg Hospital, CEO Don Henderson said Monday evening, adding “nor have we had any confirmed cases to date.” Huge swaths of the state have not yet had any confirmed infections. As of noon Monday, the health department, reported 160 positive results out of 1,805 people tested. However, the results of 829 tests were pending — including those of some people who have been tested at the two local UF Health hospitals, the Daily Sun has confirmed. Hospital officials said they will meet today to discuss a recommendation from state health officials that all elective procedures be halted.

Government officials are meeting as well. Marion County commissioners have called an emergency meeting for 11 a.m. today to discuss latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sumter County commissioners have set a special meeting for 4:45 p.m. today to declare a state of emergency.

A drive-thru testing facility was expected to open soon at a hospital in Broward County, the state’s hardest hit area, DeSantis announced on Sunday.

In the Villages on Monday, Premier Medical Associates began drive-thru testing some people with 100 kits it procured from LabCorp. The health practice first requires a screening over the phone by one of their medical providers who then schedules an appointment.

On Monday, 13 people were tested from a tent set up in one of the practice’s parking lots, according to Seema Khanna, chief operating officer.

The availability of test kits is still limited, so the practice is following CDC protocols for prioritizing who should be tested, Khanna said.

Patients with appointments are met by staff who are wearing masks and gloves. They do not leave their cars while a staff member takes two cheek swabs and one nasal swab. Results take three to four days, Khanna said.

One patient who was tested from his car told the Daily Sun that he started experiencing symptoms after picking up his in-laws who had traveled to Europe earlier this month.

The man, whose wife sat in the passenger seat, said they have both self-quarantined for 10 days and will remain quarantined at home until they receive the results.

Earlier Monday, Florida’s two largest theme parks — Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando — announced they would shutter hotels and other entertainment venues through the end of the month.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday said he will likely make a recommendation today about putting restrictions on restaurants to stop the virus spread as other states have done.

“I think what we would likely do is issue kind of a basic guidance for restaurants, and then allow localities to tailor that more or less based on their circumstances,” said DeSantis, speaking at the Florida Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee.

The governor added that the state government plans to offer assistance to small businesses who’ve had to adjust their operations because of the virus.

Small businesses in Florida who have between two and 100 employees can now apply for up to a $50,000 bridge loan, which would be for a one-year term at a zero percent fixed interest rate.

Senior writer Ciara Varone can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5395, or ciara.varone@thevillagemedia.com.  The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.