New York man with novel coronavirus was in Bal Harbour before showing symptoms

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A New York man who tested positive for novel coronavirus spent time in Bal Harbour Village in Miami-Dade County last month and left a week before exhibiting symptoms, local and state officials confirmed Friday evening.

Bal Harbour Mayor Gabriel Groisman told the Miami Herald he met with officials from the Florida Department of Health on Thursday, who told him the New York Department of Health has confirmed the man spent time in Bal Harbour at some point in February.

Groisman said the risk to residents in the village of about 3,000 people north of Miami Beach is believed to be low. That’s because the 50-year-old man from Westchester County, New York, did not exhibit any symptoms until seven days after he left the area, the mayor said.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people are thought to be most contagious for COVID-19 “when they are most symptomatic.”

Some spread of the virus “might be possible before people show symptoms,” the CDC says on its website. “There have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

The mayor added that it has now been more than 14 days since the man was in South Florida, which is thought to be the maximum incubation period for the COVID-19 virus.

The conclusion that four state health officials provided during the meeting Thursday, Groisman said, was that “residents are not at a heightened risk any longer.” Bal Harbour residents are now “in the same boat as everyone else,” he said.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ spokeswoman, Helen Aguirre Ferré, confirmed the details of Groisman’s understanding of the situation on Friday.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that the patient and his wife spent time in Bal Harbour the weekend of Feb. 15, citing a statement by the patient’s father-in-law, and first became ill on Feb. 22.

Tuesday is also when Florida officials say they first learned about the case from media reports, citing a lack of communication by New York health officials. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that day that a resident from New York who tested positive for COVID-19 had recently traveled to Miami-Dade County.

“New York state officials did not alert Florida officials,” Ferré said Tuesday.

A notice to Bal Harbour residents Friday evening said the mayor and village staff met with Florida Department of Health officials at the conclusion of a Thursday afternoon meeting that Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez held with municipal leaders from around the county.

Dr. Carina Blackmore, the Florida Department of Health’s director for the Division of Disease Control and Health Protection, joined them from Tallahassee via conference call, according to the notice, and “provided more details regarding the exposure, and the likelihood the traveler was not a risk during his visit to Bal Harbour.”

“The Village will continue to relay any pertinent information as it becomes available,” the village’s notice said.

Groisman said he wasn’t sure exactly where the New York man spent his time in the village or beyond its borders aside from “conjecture.” The village is home to the Bal Harbour Shops, an upscale open-air shopping mall.

There are four confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Florida so far, but still none among Miami-Dade County residents.