Is coronavirus ‘community spread’ in Florida? Feds say yes, DeSantis’ office says no

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Federal officials say there’s “community spread” of coronavirus in Florida. 8 On Your Side’s Mahsa Saeidi investigates after Governor Ron DeSantis’ office disagreed.

The message from the White House was clear on Tuesday.

Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Anthony Fauci from the Coronavirus Task Force both stated the COVID-19 risk is higher in just four states, of which included Florida.

“There are parts of the country right now that are having community spread in which the risk there is clearly a bit more,” Fauci said. “And you know, the places: Washington state, California, New York and Florida.”

Pence also announced the community spread of COVID-19 in our state at Tuesday’s briefing.

“I will tell you that we’re working very closely with California, Washington, New York and Florida to develop community-specific recommendations for those areas where we have had what is known as community spread,” Pence said.

This is the first time the federal government has stated there’s community spread in Florida. That means, in some cases, the source of infection is unclear.

For example, a person gets the coronavirus, however, they haven’t been to a hot zone or come into contact with a confirmed case.

The distinction is important.

Public health officials say it impacts a state’s plan of action.

“When you have community spread, you’re obviously going to ratchet up the kinds of mitigation that you have,” Fauci said.

Governor DeSantis’ spokeswoman Helen Ferré was initially quick to respond reportedly telling the Tampa Bay Times, there’s no community spread.

Late Tuesday night, Ferré sent a tweet stating the governor had a conversation with Fauci and “Dr. Fauci emphasized COVID-19 in Florida is largely related to internat’l travel, not community spread, at this time.”

But largely doesn’t mean solely.

8 On Your Side Investigates called and emailed Governor DeSantis’ office for clarification this morning.

We also reached out to the Florida Department of Health to determine if they believe there’s community spread in Florida.

Governor DeSantis addressed this topic at a news conference late Wednesday afternoon. He said he believes there’s no verified community spread in Florida.

“Because that 3 person cluster in Broward can all be linked to the cruise ship, that technically doesn’t qualify as community spread,” DeSantis said.

8 On Your Side will closely be monitoring the new cases.