A Florida couple on Key West that tested positive for the coronavirus was arrested for defying a quarantine order, local officials said Thursday.
Neighbors videotaped Jose Antonio Freire Interian and Yohana Anahi Gonzalez flouting the requirement and then handed the telltale tape over to the Key West police, authorities said.
“There were complaints from the neighborhood of them continuing to be outside, going about normal life functions,” Key West City Manager Greg Veliz told The Miami Herald. “An officer took the video to the judge and the judge signed the warrant.”
Interian, 24, and Gonzalez, 27, appear to be among the first people who have been jailed in Florida for breaking quarantine.
“As far as I know, these are the first arrests of this kind in Monroe County,” Brandie Peretz, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health in Monroe County, told NBC News.
Word of their arrest came as Florida on Thursday reported a record 253 new coronavirus deaths, according to the latest NBC News tally of coronavirus cases and fatalities. Nationwide, the death toll from a pandemic that President Donald Trump has claimed would “just disappear” rose overnight to 152,717, NBC News figures show.
The grim new Florida death toll number came on the heels of state health officials reporting 216 deaths on Wednesday and 186 deaths of Tuesday, both of which were new daily highs in a pandemic that has been hitting the state especially hard in recent months.
So far, Florida has logged a total of 456,105 cases and 6,586 deaths, according to state statistics.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a staunch Trump ally, has been harshly criticized for his handling of the coronavirus crisis and stoked more anger earlier this month by referring to the rising case numbers as a “blip.”
Maria Bavaro, right, with her father Antonio Franco. (Courtesy Maria Bavaro)
And many Florida residents like Maria Bavaro of Lake Worth Beach are very angry. Bavaro told NBC News her 87-year-old father Antonio Franco was in an assisted living center when he died in May of COVID-19.
“I feel like we should’ve never put him there,” Bavaro said of her dad, a hard-working Korean War veteran from Brooklyn who raised three daughters. “I feel like the government failed him. I feel like the state of Florida failed him.”
“I feel like we were robbed of his last few months of life,” she said.
Interian and Gonzalez, who had been ordered to quarantine after testing positive on July 21, were taken into custody Wednesday evening, Adam Linhardt, a spokesman for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, told NBC News. They were sent to the Stock Island Detention Center where they were placed in “negative pressure rooms” where the air is not recirculated into other parts of the jail.
“The idea is to keep them apart from the general population and keep them in a place where they can’t infect anybody else,” Linhardt said. “We’ve had people in those rooms before we’ve suspected of having it. If they show symptoms, that’s where people are quarantined.”
Each was hit with misdemeanor charges of violating the state law that requires isolation or quarantine in a public health emergency and violating emergency management.
Conviction on those charges could result in up to 60 days behind bars.
Interian posted bond and was released early Thursday while Gonzalez remains behind bars, Linhardt said.
In other coronavirus-related developments:
Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain died at age 74 from complications from COVID-19. Cain had tested positive a week after he attended Trump’s June 20 campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. While it wasn’t immediately clear where he contracted the deadly virus, Cain had defended the event, writing in an op-ed, “The media worked very hard to scare people out of attending the Trump campaign rally last Saturday night in Tulsa.” Cain was also photographed not wearing a mask at the rally. Several Trump campaign staffers and others also tested positive for COVID-19 after the rally.
Jobless claims rose for a second week in a row while the GDP fell by a record 33 percent as the thriving economy Trump inherited from his predecessor continued to be battered by the pandemic. More than 1.43 million people filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, according to the Department of Labor. It was the second-straight week that the number has risen, and the 19th week in a row that the U.S. had seen more than a million claims.
McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said the fast food chain would sic the cops on any customer who defies their mask-wearing mandate — but only after they first try to reason with the refusenik. “In the event that we do have someone who’s unwilling to wear a mask, we’ve done training around de-escalation,” Kempczinski said on “CBS This Morning.” “Ultimately we’re not going to be asking our crew people to put themselves in harm’s way. If someone is unwilling to wear a mask and comply with our rules, that might be where we might bring in law enforcement.” On Wednesday, the president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store union, Stuart Appelbaum, called on store owners to hire security guards and empower managers after a spate of sometimes violent incidents that pitted angry customers against workers trying to get them to wear masks. “It’s not the job of the employees to enforce the store rules on face masks.”
The Philadelphia Phillies shut down Citizens Bank Park “until further notice” after a member of the coaching staff and one of the home clubhouse staffers tested positive for COVID-19, the team announced in a statement. Earlier, a member of the visiting clubhouse staff also tested positive. The announcement came in the wake of a three-game series with the Miami Marlins. Seventeen players and two coaches have tested positive since Friday.
Citing federal privacy rules, Tennessee state officials announced they would not collect or release to the public information about new coronavirus cases in the schools, The Tennessean reported. Instead, state health department spokeswoman Shelley Walker said they would will encourage individual districts to track COVID-19 cases as the schools reopen in an effort to “best understand the burden of disease in their jurisdiction and take appropriate steps to mitigate further spread of illness.” Critics called foul. “It would seem irresponsible for the state to just look the other way and not track that data,” said Deborah Fisher of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. As of Thursday, there were 100,822 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 1,020 deaths reported in the state.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued a mask mandate starting Saturday and running through Sept. 28 as the state has seen a significant rise in new cases. “We need a statewide approach to get Wisconsin back on track,” Evers said. “We know that masks and face coverings will save lives. While I know emotions are high when it comes to wearing face coverings in public, my job as governor is to put people first and to do what’s best for the people of our state, so that’s what I am going to do.” As of Thursday, Wisconsin had 54,988 confirmed cases and 918 deaths.
Mississippi set a new record for coronavirus deaths in a day with 48 reported Thursday and a new record for reported cases with 1,775. Arizona also hit a new record for the number of pandemic deaths in a day with 172 reported Thursday. Both states are led by Republican governors who are loyal to Trump and who have been harshly criticized for reopening their states as the number of cases were still climbing.