Kerry Sheridan

Kerry Sheridan is a reporter and co-host of All Things Considered at WUSF Public Media.

Prior to joining WUSF, she covered international news, health, science, space and environmental issues for Agence France-Presse from 2005 to 2019, reporting from the Middle East bureau in Cyprus, followed by stints in Washington and Miami.

Kerry earned her master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2002, and was a recipient of the Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship for Cultural Reporting.

She got her start in radio news as a freelancer with WFUV in the Bronx in 2002. Since then, her stories have spanned a range of topics, including politics, baseball, rocket launches, art exhibits, coral reef restoration, life-saving medical research, and more.

She is a native of upstate New York, and currently lives with her husband and two children in Sarasota.

You can reach Kerry via email at sheridank@wusf.org, on Twitter @kerrsheridan or by phone at 813-974-8663.

Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 3,650 new positive tests for coronavirus on Friday, a jump of 1,067 compared to the prior day.

teacher in mask speaks
Pinellas County Schools

At a Pinellas County School Board meeting Tuesday, teachers voiced frustration about having to instruct in-person and online students at the same time, as the district tries to balance safety with educational needs while the coronavirus pandemic drags on.

Florida Department of Health

The daily positive test rate for new coronavirus cases in Florida has remained below five percent for three days in a row, according to state health officials who also announced Tuesday the smallest number of daily cases in a 24-hour period since June.

Florida Department of Health

The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 across the state fell this week, while the positive test rate for new cases averaged out to 5.6 percent over the past seven days, according to the Florida Department of Health.

There were 632 fewer people hospitalized due to the virus by Friday compared to the start of the week. Hospitals across the state reported 25 percent of their beds are available and 21 percent of ICU beds.

In its last meeting before schools reopen on August 31, the Sarasota County School Board adopted a stricter mask policy, and heard from local health department officials Tuesday that cases of coronavirus in the area are trending downward.

More people were reported to have died in Florida from coronavirus-related complications this week than any other week since the pandemic began.

At the same time, the statewide positive test rate remains double what global health experts consider safe for reopening.

What happens if a teacher or student tests positive for COVID-19? The whole class, and all those in contact with the positive case, will be asked to quarantine for 14 days, the Pinellas County School Board said Tuesday.

Hillsborough County Schools, Florida's third-largest school district and among the nation's top 10 in size, decided Thursday to delay the opening of brick-and-mortar schools by four weeks due to coronavirus concerns.

The School Board voted 5-2 to begin remote learning August 24, after hearing from medical experts who said the positive test rate for COVID-19 should be five percent or lower. In Hillsborough County, the rate is currently 11 percent. 

Children who attend school in Sarasota County will have to wear either a mask or clear face shield, except in a handful of circumstances, the school board decided by a unanimous 5-0 vote on Tuesday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends mask-wearing in public because it may slow the spread of coronavirus, especially when six feet of distance cannot be maintained. However, it does not recommend face shields as a substitute for masks.

Many local school districts have pushed back their start dates, as talks continue about how to reopen safely in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Here are the latest plans from around the Tampa Bay region:

Many Florida schools are pressing ahead with reopening plans, and are in close consultation with area health departments. But are those public health officials putting any brakes on reopening, given the rising cases of coronavirus and COVID-19 deaths?

The number of cases of coronavirus is rising every day in Florida, including among children. As of July 10, more than 17,000 people under 18 in Florida had tested positive for COVID-19, according to state health data.

WUSF’s Kerry Sheridan spoke with Dr. Patricia Emmanuel, chair of pediatrics at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, about what this means for back-to-school plans.

Sarasota Memorial is the first hospital in Florida to begin a scientific trial using an experimental antibody treatment to attack coronavirus. Doctors hope the treatment, called REGN-COV2 and made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, will offer a new way to treat and possibly prevent COVID-19.

Governor Ron DeSantis on Saturday doubled down on his assertion that sending children back to school next month will be safe, reiterating that he would have no problem sending his own children to school if they were old enough.

Plasma from the survivors of COVID-19 can be a life-saving therapy for those who are hospitalized due to coronavirus, but Sarasota doctors say supplies are critically low and donations are urgently needed.

“We are in desperate need of plasma," said Kirk Voelker, a critical care pulmonologist at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

In June, Governor Ron DeSantis called for K-12 schools to reopen in full this fall, but left it up to individual school boards to figure out how to do that.

In the space of a month, the landscape has changed dramatically. Coronavirus cases in Florida are surging to new heights. But that hasn’t yet stopped local school districts from rolling out draft guidance for reopening, offering a blend of in-person instruction and virtual learning options.

Florida on Saturday reported yet another alarming surge in coronavirus cases, with a total of 9,585 new infections, marking a new daily record high for the state.

Twenty-four more people statewide died from COVID-19, bring the total death toll in Florida to 3,390 since the pandemic began, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The chief executive of Sarasota Memorial Hospital said Friday it’s “scary” how fast COVID-19 cases are rising and that younger patients are increasingly among those hospitalized.

After seeing the number of COVID patients at the hospital dip to eight in May, and even a brief period when the intensive care unit had no COVID patients for a few days, CEO David Verinder said the outlook has worsened.

Coronavirus brought schools to a halt in March, two months before the end of the year and dashing plans for prom and graduation.

Students at Seminole High School are documenting the effect of coronavirus on their lives and the absences they've endured, through poetry, pictures, and a special supplement to the yearbook.

The coronavirus pandemic forced schools to close about two months before the end of the school year, stripping away many of the common high school rituals such as proms and graduation ceremonies. 

Some high school students even lost family members, like Elijah Seay, 18, who is graduating from Lennard High School in Ruskin.

Every morning at Dover Elementary, near the strawberry fields of Plant City, upbeat music used to blare from speakers outside the front gate. I first met school resource officer Pedro Arroyo there one day in January. He greeted the children as they came in. Many stopped to give him a handshake, a fist bump, or a hug. 

Last week, Hillsborough County Social Services opened up a special call center, designed to help people who lost their jobs or had their pay cut due to the coronavirus pandemic. The county had $15 million in federal funds to distribute, and eligible callers could get help paying two months of mortgage or rent, plus one month of utilities. The call center ran out of money within four days, and has since closed down.

Calls were answered by public library employees like Taynisha Berenguer, who says even though she’s accustomed to people asking her all kinds of questions in her usual role, answering the Social Services line during the COVID-19 pandemic was quite an education.

On Friday, a drug called remdesivir was green-lighted by the FDA for emergency use in hospitalized coronavirus patients after a preliminary trial by the National Institutes of Health showed the antiviral medicine helped them recover about 31 percent faster than patients who received a placebo.

Hillsborough County opened up a new hotline on Monday for people who have lost their job or have reduced wages because of coronavirus, and need help paying for their housing and utilities.

The numbers for the Rapid Response Assistance Call Center is (813) 274-3710 or (813) 274-6710. It is open to callers from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The county opened a second number Monday morning due to high call volume. County officials are also asking people to be patient when calling.

Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis floated the idea of possibly reopening some public schools in May.

Florida's statewide teachers' union was quick to urge DeSantis to rethink the opening of schools. Florida Education Association President Fedrick Ingram said doing so would "threaten the safety and well-being of all on campus."

WUSF asked parents and teachers what they think should be done in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

As the number of coronavirus cases in Florida continues to grow exponentially, some predictive models show things could get bad, fast. Many hospitals are gearing up for a possible surge in sick patients.

The Clearwater City Council voted Wednesday 4-1 to close public beaches for two weeks over fears of coronavirus -- but the order doesn't begin until Monday morning.

Florida's Chief Justice Charles Canady late Tuesday ordered state circuit court judges to cancel, postpone or reschedule all but "essential" court proceedings. The stricter measures aim to limit the number of people crowding into courtrooms, after lawyers complained of dangerous conditions due to coronavirus. In addition, one courthouse employee in Miami has tested positive for COVID-19.

Coronavirus has upended daily life, and for those who care for children, it can be hard to know what to say, or how to explain. WUSF’s Kerry Sheridan spoke with Dr. Judith Bryant, a USF professor of psychology who specializes in child development, for advice on answering their toughest questions.

Local public schools are preparing for online learning in case they have to close due to coronavirus.

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