By Joan Murray


MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Although there are no known cases in the sunshine state, South Florida leaders say they are preparing for a coronavirus outbreak should it happen.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez held a news conference Thursday afternoon to address county residents on the coronavirus.

Gimenez spoke to members of the media after holding a meeting with key community agencies to prepare a contingency plan for the potential spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“I just met with officials from key community agencies to discuss how to prevent exposure to the coronavirus. There are no cases of this disease in the state of Florida,” he said.

“Our goal is to be the best-prepared county in the nation,” he added.

Representatives of the Florida Department of Health, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Jackson Health System, the Miami-Dade County Office of Emergency Management, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, the Miami-Dade Aviation Department and PortMiami joined the mayor as he addressed county residents.

“I met with Health Department Administrator Yesenia Villalta last week to go over the health ramifications of this virus,” Mayor Gimenez said. “Now, out of an abundance of caution, with this virus currently identified in patients in South Korea, Italy, Japan, Iran, and other nations, we want to be prepared to ensure the safety of our residents and visitors.”

Most of the reported cases of the virus, which causes respiratory issues, are in China. Other countries have reported cases. Most notably, Italy, South Korea, and Iran.

While air travel in South Florida isn’t affected, border patrol officers are monitoring international passengers and looking for people showing flu-like symptoms.

In Broward, Mayor Dale Holness says the county is also monitoring the virus and is ready to activate the emergency operations center if necessary.

“We have reserve funds for that and we would work closely with the state,” he said.

Meanwhile, South Florida residents are buying up protective masks at area stores.

Others say they are getting prepared as they would if a hurricane was approaching.

“I have my medications. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Irene Abreu.

Mayor Gimenez stresses residents can do their part simply by washing their hands often with warm water and soap.

“We have hand sanitizers at the airport and metro stations and are adding them at other Miami-Dade locations,” he says.

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