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. Thursday, April 16, according to the Florida Department of Health:
22,674 – Florida Residents | 9 – Florida Cases Repatriated | 666 – Non-Florida Residents | 668 – Deaths
CORONAVIRUS: Complete Coverage From WUSF And Health News Florida
Florida Cases Exceed 23,000
State health officials say 23,340 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Florida - an increase of 821 cases since Wednesday evening.
668 people have died due to the coronavirus - 54 more than Wednesday evening’s total. [Read more]
-- Lisa Peakes
Hillsborough Officials Rescind Curfew
Hillsborough County will no longer be under a curfew.
The Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group on Thursday voted unanimously to rescind the curfew, which had gone into effect Monday night.
During Thursday’s meeting, group members said the curfew – which required residents to stay indoors from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. – ended up confusing the public.
Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister concurred, saying the curfew was hastily approved and is redundant, since there is already a countywide stay at home order. [Read more]
-- Steve Newborn & Carl Lisciandrello
No Pinellas Vote On Beach Restrictions
Pinellas County Commissioners did not vote Thursday on easing restrictions to local beaches, but it’s still under consideration.
During a three-hour public meeting, commissioners discussed the plan to ease numerous restrictions -- including access to beaches. The state order issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis April 1 does not force municipalities to close beaches, but many counties have to prevent people from gathering in large groups.
A Zoom presentation laid out what needs to happen first:
- a reduced number of coronavirus cases for 14 consecutive days,
- the ability to test all residents with symptoms the same day,
- proper protective equipment for medical first responders “without resorting to crisis measures.” [Read more]
-- Daylina Miller
DeSantis Forming Task Force To Reopen Economy
Gov. Ron DeSantis said he’s appointing a task force that will inform state officials on when and how to reopen Florida’s economy. The governor told reporters he wants to tap experts in business, education, elected office and “all kinds of things” for input.
“I’ll be seeking advice and ideas on pretty much everything under the sun: small biz, agriculture, restaurants, tourism, large events, conventions, recreation, international travel, K-12 as well as higher education,” DeSantis told media during Wednesday’s afternoon briefing. “There are a whole host of things we need to be thinking about.”
DeSantis made no mention specifically of healthcare experts being eyed for the task force, but said he expects names to be published by the end of the week. [Read more]
-- Ryan Dailey, WFSU
DeSantis Announces Shakeup To Handle Unemployment Claims
Gov. Ron DeSantis is announcing somewhat of a leadership shakeup at the state Department of Economic Opportunity. He’s named state Department of Management Services secretary Jonathan Satter as the new leader of “everything COVID-19 related” at DEO. Existing DEO director Ken Lawson will handle everything else at the agency.
“For example, if there’s business opportunities as we get in there, with the recruiting, then obviously Ken (Lawson) can handle that – some of the hurricane relief and things that (DEO) does. But in terms of the unemployment, Jon Satter is at the helm there, and we want to see swift action.”
DeSantis on Wednesday couldn’t answer how many unemployment claims have been paid to Floridians to this point – saying he didn’t have those numbers in front of him. [Read more]
-- Ryan Dailey, WFSU
Inmates Die At Florida Prison
Two inmates at a Northwest Florida prison have died as a result of COVID-19.
Florida Department of Corrections officials had not said anything about the deaths at Blackwater River Correctional Facility for nearly a week, despite numerous questions from The News Service of Florida.
The director of the medical examiner’s office that oversees Santa Rosa County said a a 69-year-old inmate died April 9 from complications related to COVID-19... and an 84-year-old inmate died three days later.
They appear to be the first two coronavirus-related deaths among the state’s roughly 94-thousand inmates.
The number of COVID-19 cases at Blackwater, a prison operated by The Geo Group, have skyrocketed in the last week. As of Tuesday afternoon, eight workers and 33 inmates at the prison have tested positive for COVID-19.
Statewide, the Florida Department of Corrections says 42 inmates and 58 corrections employees had tested positive for the virus.
-- News Service of Florida
Glazers Donate $100,000 To Fighting Chance Fund
The owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are donating $100,000 to St. Petersburg’s Fighting Chance Fund, to help locally owned business impacted by coronavirus orders.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said he was “grateful” for the gift from the Glazer family.
“The Glazer family has really come through for our region and our city in this critical time,” Kriseman said. “St. Pete’s small and locally owned businesses are the backbone of our economy, and their generous gift will help us to further assist them during this global pandemic.”
-- Carl Lisciandrello
DeSantis: No Guarantee Of A Coronavirus Vaccine
Gov. Ron DeSantis wouldn't say Wednesday if he agreed with the state surgeon general that Floridians would need to continue social distancing until a coronavirus vaccine is approved.
DeSantis said he didn’t hear Scott Rivkees' comments earlier this week and would talk with him privately. He then went on to say a vaccine isn’t a guarantee.
“You know there is no vaccine for SARS or MERS. Coronavirus causes the common cold. I hope there’s a vaccine tomorrow, but I don’t think there’s a 100% guarantee that there is a vaccine,” DeSantis said. “So that’s just something to think about as we figure out. I’m hoping we’ll get some effective anti-virals soon, because that’ll make a big, big difference."
During a Tuesday press conference, Rivkees said the public should get used to avoiding crowds and wearing masks until a vaccine can be approved—a process he indicated could take about a year.
-- Ryan Dailey, WFSU
New Cases Slow, But Deaths Rising
The number of new coronavirus cases in Florida has been lower the past several days compared to last week.
But at the same time, deaths from COVID-19 are increasing. The 72 deaths reported Tuesday by the Florida Department of Health are the state's highest single-day toll yet.
-- Stephanie Colombini
Hillsborough Changes School Food Distribution
The Hillsborough County School District wants to minimize contact between families and the employees who deliver food to better minimize the spread of the coronavirus.
-- Daylina Miller
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