Latest On Coronavirus: Deaths Pass 900, Sarasota Votes To Reopen Beaches, And More

Apr 22, 2020
Originally published on April 22, 2020 6:48 pm

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. Tuesday, April 22, according to the Florida Department of Health:

27,791– Florida Residents | 9 – Florida Cases Repatriated | 785 – Non-Florida Residents | 927 – Deaths

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Florida Deaths Pass  900

The number of people who have died from the coronavirus in Florida has passed 900.

The 6 p.m. Wednesday update from the Department of Health registers 927 deaths in the state; an increase of 60 since Tuesday evening and the second-largest daily death increase since March 14, when 72 deaths were recorded.

There are now 28,576 cases of COVID-19 in the state; an increase of 707 since Tuesday evening.

-- Lisa Peakes

Sarasota Votes To Reopen Beaches

Sarasota County Commissioners have voted to reopen beaches.

Beginning next Monday, county beaches will be open to essential activities.

“That’s fishing, biking, running, walking, surfing,” said Sarasota County Administrator Jonathan Lewis, who made the recommendation at today’s regular board meeting. “Those kinds of things that are identified as essential activities by our governor. But not things like bringing in a cooler and setting up a canopy and spending the day at the beach.”

However, beach parking lots will remain closed for now.

On Monday, neighboring Charlotte County reopened their public beaches.

-- Cathy Carter

St. Petersburg On Its Own Timeline

While some models say Florida and St. Petersburg may have passed the peak rate of coronavirus infections, that doesn’t mean people should be throwing house parties anytime soon.

In his weekly COVID-19 update, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said Tuesday the city will not be lifting social distancing orders without a serious review.

Florida’s emergency declaration is set to expire April 30, unless it's extended by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

But Kriseman said his city will reopen on its own timeline. [Read more]

-- Delaney Brown

Pasco Reopens Select Parks

Pasco County is reopening select parks, preserves and nature trails on a limited basis.

County officials on Tuesday said the patrons will be allowed to take part in essential recreational activities, such as biking, hiking, fishing or running.

Social distancing guidelines of 6 feet will remain in effect, and groups of 10 or more will not be permitted. Restrooms will remain closed. [List of parks]

-- Carl Lisciandrello

Calls Coming Into Price-Gouging Hotline 

More than 3,300 consumers have called the state’s price-gouging hotline since it was activated last month.

State Attorney General Ashley Moody says thanks to those calls, Florida has contacted more than 4,500 merchants, secured more than $240,000 in refunds, and deactivated nearly 200 posts offering items with higher than usual prices.

“But our work does not end there,” Moody said. “We are also preserving evidence, issuing subpoenas, and taking other legal measures to advance our price gouging investigations.”

Florida’s price-gouging law currently covers supplies like protective masks, sanitizing and disinfecting supplies, commercial cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment, and COVID-19 test kits.

Anyone who violates the price-gouging law could be fined up to $1,000 per violation and up to $25,000  for multiple violations spanning a 24-hour period.

-- Brendan Rivers, WJCT

USF Launches Online Tool To Track Symptoms

Hillsborough and Pinellas County residents will be able to view areas where people are experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 with a new online program from the University of South Florida.

Researchers are using data from a survey residents fill out to map reports of symptoms by zip code.

Testing is so limited right now that many people with coronavirus symptoms still don't qualify because they don't meet other factors, according to Thomas Unnasch, distinguished professor in the USF College of Public Health and director of the Center for Global Health Infectious Disease Research.

He said that's where this surveillance tool could help county leaders and health workers. [Read more]

-- Stephanie Colombini

Manatee Lifts Curfew

After almost two-and-a-half weeks, Manatee County Commisioners have lifted a temporary local curfew.

The board first voted to enact the measure on April 3. It was in effect every night from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

A similar curfew was established in Hillsborough County on April 13-- but it only lasted three days before commissioners rescinded that order. [Read more]

-- Cathy Carter

St. Pete Pride Canceled

St. Pete Pride, one of the largest LGBTQIA celebrations in the Southeast, has announced it is postponing this year’s event due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Originally scheduled for June 26-28, the parade and the other weekend festivities have been tentatively pushed back until the fall of this year, though no date exact date has been determined. 

The announcement arrives as St. Petersburg, and the rest of the country, continues to practice social distancing measures. [Read more]

-- Thomas Iacobucci

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