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A Virologist looks at an electron microscope image of a MERS coronavirus, a close relative of the novel coronavirus, on Jan. 24. Photo: Arne Dedert/picture alliance via Getty Images

Two Floridians have died after testing positive for the novel coronavirus following international travel, the state health department said on Saturday.

What's happening: Two new presumptive positive COVID-19 cases were also announced in Florida on Saturday — the Broward County residents, a 75-year-old man and a 65-year-old man, are in isolation after testing positive for the virus in a state lab, with additional CDC confirmation pending.

Why it matters: There are now 19 reported deaths from the virus in the U.S., with most — 16 — located in Washington state, per data from Johns Hopkins and state health departments.

Details: One deceased Florida patient was a Santa Rose County resident, and the other a Lee County resident, per the department's press release.

By the numbers: 11 Florida residents have tested positive for COVID-19, along with five repatriated citizens and one non-resident in the state, per the state health department. 278 patients are being monitored and 87 results are pending.

What we don't know: The health department has not disclosed the deceased patients' ages or genders or identified if the new presumptive positive cases were caused by international travel or community spread.

  • The health department did not indicate in its statement on Saturday where the deceased patients had traveled to or if officials were attempting to determine who they came in contact with.
  • The Florida health department did not immediately respond to request for comment. Multiple responders on the state's COVID-19 call center hotline declined to comment on the record.

What you can do: Florida residents are advised to avoid close contact with those who are sick, wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands and covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

The big picture: Organizers canceled the AFL-CIO presidential forum, at which 2020 candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders were due to speak on Thursday, because of concerns about the virus outbreak.

Go deeper... Coronavirus updates: More than 100 countries report cases

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper

Home confinees face imminent return to prison

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Thousands of prisoners who've been in home confinement for as long as a year because of the pandemic face returning to prison when it's over — unless President Biden rescinds a last-minute Trump Justice Department memo.

Why it matters: Most prisoners were told they would not have to come back as they were released early with ankle bracelets. Now, their lives are on hold while they wait to see whether or when they may be forced back behind bars. Advocates say about 4,500 people are affected.

The "essential" committee that still doesn't exist

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Nearly five months after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the creation of the bipartisan Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, it's not been formed much less met.

Why it matters: Select committees are designed to address urgent matters, but the 117th Congress is now nearly one-quarter complete without this panel assembling. When she announced this committee, Pelosi described it as an "essential force" to "combat the crisis of income and wealth disparity in America."

Biden's ethics end-around for labor

President Biden surveys a water treatment plant during a visit to New Orleans today. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration is excusing top officials from ethics rules that would otherwise restrict their work with large labor unions that previously employed them, federal records show.

Why it matters: Labor's sizable personnel presence in the administration is driving policy, and the president's appointment of top union officials to senior posts gives those unions powerful voices in the federal bureaucracy — even at the cost of strictly adhering to his own stringent ethics standards.