Latest On Coronavirus: Florida Sees Deadliest Day Yet, Teachers Urge School Stay Closed, And More

Apr 14, 2020
Originally published on April 15, 2020 6:02 am

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 14, according to the Florida Department of Health:

20,984 – Florida Residents | 9 – Florida Cases Repatriated | 644 – Non-Florida Residents | 571 – Deaths

CORONAVIRUS: Complete Coverage From WUSF And WUSF Public Media

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Florida COVID-19 Deaths See Largest Daily Increase

Florida deaths due to the coronavirus saw the largest daily increase Tuesday, according to the Department of Health.

The 6 p.m. Tuesday update shows that 571 people have died in the state from the coronavirus; an increase of 72 since Monday evening.

It was the largest daily increase since April 9, when state officials reported 48 deaths [Read more]

-- Lisa Peakes

Teachers’ Union Urges DeSantis To Keep Classrooms Closed

The statewide teachers’ union Tuesday called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to keep school campuses closed for the rest of this academic year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know our public schools serve as refuge for many students, that our campuses provide them with meals, education and a safe haven with committed staff,” Florida Education Association President Fedrick Ingram said in a letter to DeSantis. “As much as our students and educators want the opportunity to be back at our schools, returning prematurely will threaten the safety and well-being of all on campus.”

State education officials last month called for all school districts to close their campuses through May 1 in an effort to halt the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the highly contagious novel coronavirus. Classes are being conducted online while campuses are closed.

DeSantis said Thursday he had not decided about whether to reopen campuses and raised the possibility that some students could return to classrooms sooner than others.

“We’re going to make the best decision that we can, but it may be that not every county is going to be treated the same in this,” the governor told reporters. “There is nothing wrong with that. If the problem is different in certain parts of the state, we should recognize that.”

But in the letter Tuesday, Ingram said now is “the time to declare the previously unthinkable” and keep campuses closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year. [Read more]

-- News Service of Florida

Social Distancing "The New Normal" For At Least A Year

Florida residents might be social distancing and wearing facemasks for a year because of COVID-19, the state’s top public health officer said Monday.

“Until we get a vaccine, which is a while off, this is going to be our new normal and we need to adapt and protect ourselves,” state Surgeon General and Florida Department of Health Secretary Scott Rivkees told reporters.

When asked to explain his remarks, Rivkees said, “As long as we are going to have COVID in the environment, and this is a tough virus, we are going to have to practice these measures so we are all protected.” [Read more]

-- News Service of Florida

Tampa Announces Relief Fund, St. Petersburg Expands Its Fund

Tampa is joining other cities in announcing a fund to help small businesses, as well as families and individuals facing financial struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The “One Tampa: Relief Now, Rise Together” fund will look to provide rent, mortgage, and utility relief for individuals, families, and small businesses in need because of the lockdown.

Meanwhile, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Tuesday that they're expanding their “Fighting Chance Fund.” [Read more]

-- Dylan Rudolph

Fresh Market Makes Face Coverings Mandatory

The Fresh Market is now requiring all customers to wear face coverings before entering its stores.

The grocery store chain made the announcement in an email to customers on Saturday, followed by a news release in which it said the policy will be going into effect on Tuesday.

The new policy is in accordance with the CDC’s latest recommendations, according to the release.

The store has 159 locations nationwide, including several in the Tampa Bay area. [Read more]

-- Carl Lisciandrello

State Increasing Coronavirus Testing At Long-Term Care Facilities

Since mid-March long-term care facilities in Florida have not allowed visitors to enter their buildings. But the number of positive cases there have continued to rise. In response, Governor Ron DeSantis says he’s going to ramp up testing.

“I am directing the Florida National Guard to create more Strike teams to significantly ramp up testing in long-term care facilities," Desantis said. "They have already visited and tested I believe hundreds of residents in South Florida with the National Guard Strike teams, we are going to expand that to 10 teams of four and we’ll probably expand it beyond there as long as we have enough equipment and PPE.”

The strike teams are going to long-term care facilities to randomly test residents and staff regardless of whether they are showing symptoms. DeSantis believes increased testing will help find people who are asymptomatic.

-- Blaise Gainey, WFSU

Florida Hotel Hot Spots Become Ghost Towns 

Hotels in Florida that typically would be packed for spring break and the promise of summer have become ghost towns during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I kind of chuckle because it has affected every aspect of tourism, not only rates and occupancy, but just everything that exponentially unfolds outside of a person that checks in to a hotel or a vacation rental,” said Robin Miller, CEO of Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce.

Hotels are considered an essential business based on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order that established a statewide "safer-at-home" directive. However, some organizations have interpreted the order differently and asked their member hotels and motels to close. [Read more]

-- Vanessa Henry

Hillsborough County Is Now Under Curfew

You'd best not be out and about after sundown in Hillsborough County. A curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. is set to go into effect beginning Monday night after dozens of large gatherings took place over the weekend.

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister said there were 24 calls to police Saturday concerning large groups getting together and not paying attention to social distancing, and another 14 calls on Easter Sunday.

At a meeting Monday of the Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group, County Commission Chair Les Miller said officials need to send a more urgent notice to people to stop congregating. [Read more]

-- Steve Newborn

Coronavirus Cancelled Their Graduations. Now What? 

Amid uncertainty about the coronavirus and the continuation of social distancing, school officials in Polk County are offering its more than 5,800 seniors the chance to vote on the format for their graduation ceremonies.

Among the options: rescheduling the traditional ceremony, a virtual recognition, or a drive-thru graduation.

Due to coronavirus closures, the class of 2020 has had to forgo many of their much-anticipated senior traditions: senior week, Grad Bash, and especially senior prom. We tell their stories. [Read more]

Hospital Group Backs Guidelines For Use Of Ventilators

As Florida approaches an expected peak in the number of coronavirus cases, people on the front lines are waiting and planning for one of the worst possible outcomes: a shortage of ventilators needed by patients battling COVID-19.

While Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration has remained relatively quiet on the topic, Florida Hospital Association leaders have decided to endorse a proposal that spells out how crucial ventilators would be used.

The most current model from the University of Washington Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation shows that Florida’s health care resources are expected to reach their limits on April 26. [Read more]

-- Daylina Miller

Wildlife Officials Look To Prevent Spread

Scientists believe the virus that causes COVID-19 came from contact with a wildlife species in China, likely bats. So can we catch the virus from animals or transmit it to them?

WUSF's Steve Newborn talks with Jonathan Sleeman, center director of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center, in Madison, WI. [Listen to the interview]

-- Steve Newborn

Pinellas Commissioners To Consider Easing Beach Restrictions

Pinellas County commissioners will discuss the possibility of easing beach restrictions during a meeting on Thursday.

The subject came up at a Monday meeting where commissioners extended a local state of emergency until Friday. That order includes the continued closure of public beaches and beach parking areas. [Read more]

-- Daylina Miller

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