Florida reports first deaths on East Coast

Florida health officials announced late Friday that two people who tested positive for coronavirus have died – the first deaths on the East Coast linked to the virus. The Florida Department of Health said the two people had traveled overseas, but did not say specifically where they had traveled.

Seven people in the state have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to the health department.

The number of cases worldwide continues to climb. According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins, there have been more than 102,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. More than 57,000 people have recovered, and more than 3,400 people have died. 

There have been 17 deaths in the United States – 14 in Washington state and one in California, as well as the two in Florida.

Virus Outbreak Florida
Aubrey Holland performs tests at the Bureau of Public Health Laboratories on Monday, March 2, 2020, in Miami, where the COVID-19 virus is being tested at the Bureau of Public Health Laboratories.

Brynn Anderson/AP

Vice President Mike Pence announced Friday night that 21 people on the Grand Princess cruise ship, which is floating off the coast of San Francisco, have tested positive for the virus. The ship was barred from docking in the city amid evidence it was a breeding ground for a deadly cluster of more than 10 cases during its previous voyage.

Authorities were working to bring the ship to a non-commercial port this weekend and test everyone for the virus. While health officials said about 1,100 crew members will remain aboard, passengers could be disembarked to face quarantine, possibly at U.S. military bases or other sites. That’s what happened to hundreds of passengers who were exposed to the virus on another cruise ship in January. 

“Those that will need to be quarantined will be quarantined. Those who will require medical help will receive it,” Vice President Michael Pence said Friday.

President Trump, speaking Friday at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said he would prefer not to allow the passengers onto American soil but will defer to the recommendations of medical experts.

“They would like to have the people come off. I’d rather have the people stay but … I told them to make the final decision,” the president said.  

-Contributing: The Associated Press

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