Washington, Florida Governors Declare State of Emergency for Coronavirus

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis both declared states of emergency over the weekend to help their states prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus.

Inslee, a Democrat, declared a state of emergency Saturday, and Desantis, a Republican, declared a public health emergency a day later. Two men, both with underlying health conditions, died from coronavirus in a Seattle-area hospital over the weekend, according to The New York Times.

Kirkland, Washington, where the deaths occurred, had six confirmed coronavirus cases as of Monday morning, and there is a possible outbreak in a local nursing facility. Three residents were in critical condition, The New York Times reported, and one of the two people to die from the virus had been a resident at the nursing home.

In declaring a state of emergency, Inslee called on state agencies to use all resources -- including the National Guard -- necessary to respond to the outbreak.

"Washingtonians can be assured we've taken this threat seriously and have been working in collaboration with our health care partners to develop plans and procedures to prepare for what could likely be a world-wide pandemic," Inslee said Saturday.

Meanwhile, two Florida residents tested positive for the virus as of Sunday, prompting DeSantis to take action. The governor called on Florida's Department of Health to coordinate response activities throughout the state. The department will determine public health interventions necessary to protect residents, including quarantining and monitoring those who might have coronavirus.

"The department is moving forward with the appropriate plans, and we are working directly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local medical providers to ensure these individuals receive the proper treatment and that anyone who has come into contact with them is following the necessary protocols, limiting or stopping any further spread," Dr. Scott Rivkees, Florida's surgeon general, said in a statement.

There have now been at least 80 cases of the virus in the U.S., the Los Angeles Times reported Monday morning. At least half of these cases were reported in California, and 24 cases were people who had visited Wuhan China or who were on the Diamond Princess cruise ship where travelers were quarantined.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the first case of coronavirus in his state on Sunday evening. A woman contracted the virus while visiting Iran and is now isolated in her home, the Democratic governor said.

"Last week I called for the Legislature to pass a $40 million emergency management authorization to confront this evolving situation -- I look forward to its swift passage." he said. "There is no reason for undue anxiety -- the general risk remains low in New York. We are diligently managing this situation and will continue to provide information as it becomes available."

Vice President Mike Pence, who was tapped by President Donald Trump to lead the government's response to the coronavirus, met with a handful of governors, including Cuomo, Inslee and Newsom on Thursday.

Pence also visited Florida on Friday to speak with DeSantis about the coronavirus, right before the state confirmed its first cases. The vice president maintained that the threat of the virus spreading throughout the U.S. was small.

Casey Leins is a staff writer for the Best States section of U.S. News & World Report, where she writes about innovative solutions to problems plaguing the states. She came to U.S. News as an intern in 2014, joined the News team as a web producer in 2015, and was part of the team that launched the first Best States ranking in 2017. She was selected to attend the McCormick Specialized Reporting Institute workshop held by the Poynter Institute in 2017, and previously worked as a writer for the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business and the Howard County Times. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park. Follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at cleins@usnews.com.