Latest On Coronavirus: Cases Pass 30,000, State Takes Down Unemployment Site, And More
WUSF will be providing the latest news and information on coronavirus in Tampa Bay and across the state. Here are the latest developments:
Total positive cases of coronavirus as of 6 p.m. Friday, April 24, according to the Florida Department of Health:
29,707– Florida Residents | 826 – Non-Florida Residents | 1,046 – Deaths
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Florida Taking Unemployment Website Down This Weekend
Rushing to reduce a massive backlog of claims created as businesses shuttered due to the coronavirus, Florida’s unemployment agency announced Friday that it has now processed more than 31 percent of unemployment claims, with payments of up to $275 a week going out to 22 percent of the applicants.
However, residents continue to express frustrations about being cut off from the state’s online CONNECT unemployment system and not being able to get through to call centers for assistance.
The Department of Economic Opportunity also took the CONNECT system offline Friday, and it will remain unavailable to Floridians until Monday morning. [ Read more] -- Tom Urban, WLRN
Hillsborough Moving Toward Ropening Business
Members of the Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group are slowly moving toward reopening the county for business.
The board delayed a vote Thursday until Monday on possibly lifting or modifying the county's stay-at-home order.
They chose to wait until Governor Ron DeSantis takes action on the statewide policy, which could happen as soon as today. [ Read more]
-- Steve Newborn
Florida’s Coronavirus Cases Have Peaked But Danger Remains
National coronavirus models and some state officials agree that the peak infection rate in Florida has come and gone. That has prompted some to question models that predicted more doom and gloom and call for the state to re-open.
But it's not that simple, said Thomas Unnasch, co-director for the Center for Global Health Infectious Disease Research at the University of South Florida. [Read more]
-- Daylina Miller
Chronister Warns Of Stimulus Scams
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister is warning residents to be wary of scams involving stimulus checks.
Chronister posted a video on social media Friday telling residents to be aware of unsolicited texts, emails or phone calls.
"It's unfortunate that during a global pandemic there are still people out there looking to prey on others," Chronister said in the video. "Everyone is vulnerable to scams during these troubled economic times."
According to a news release, scammers will identify themselves as being with the IRS and request financial information for social security numbers – either by email or phone.
-- Carl Lisciandrello
Airports Prepare To Resume Flights As Economy Reopens
Most tourists come to Florida by sky. That’s why airlines are making sure they’re ready when businesses reopen. Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano says they’re prioritizing health and social distancing.
“We’ve reduced touch points by encouraging more mobile boarding passes,” Lopano said. “[We're] encouraging using carry-on luggage only, which reduces contact at the ticket counter and contact at the baggage claim. We’ve increased cleaning frequently.”
Lopano is requiring all airport workers to wear masks and have them available to sell to guests. He says the airport has reduced seating to encourage social distancing and is requesting all airlines to use every other gate to help keep passengers separated. Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie thinks with policies like these implemented in businesses across Florida, the state can again welcome tourists.
"We believe with a standardized set of policies and rules for the companies and municipalities hosting travelers in Florida, as well as clear expectations for the guests traveling into our state, we can create a message that can be marketed to the broader traveling public that Florida is committed to your safety and you can plan to enjoy a clean and seamless trip here."
Although airports haven't shutdown, the amount of people flying has been cut tremendously. Tampa International Airport has seen a 97% drop in business.
-- Blaise Gainey, WFSU
Return To Normalcy A Year Away For Hard Rock Casino
The head of Hard Rock International – which runs the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa – thinks it's going to take at least a year until his company's business gets back to normal.
Jim Allen is Chairman and CEO of the Seminole Tribe of Florida's gaming company.
He told CNBC Wednesday that they're looking forward to reopening their hotels, casinos, and restaurants after COVID-19 forced them to shut down. Hard Rock owns properties in 76 countries worldwide.
-- Mark Schreiner
Publix To Assist Food Banks
Publix says it will buy fresh produce and milk from Florida farmers and southeastern dairies and donate the staples to food banks.
The Lakeland-based grocery chain says it will donate the fresh produce and milk to Feeding America-member food banks.
-- Amy Green, WMFE
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