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As the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic grips the globe, it can be difficult to find reliably factual information about what's going on here in Florida.
This blog is a resource to address that crucial need. 10News reporters and producers will use it to share the latest headlines, while actively avoiding the hyperbole that's running rampant across social media.
Stories that require more in-depth coverage will be posted on WTSP.com/coronavirus.
10:44 p.m. (March 20)
Derby Lane in St. Petersburg closed until further notice Friday at 6 p.m.
9:58 p.m. (March 20)
The Florida Department of Health is now only reporting 10 coronavirus related deaths. The Flordia Department of Health said a person in Pasco County had died but then sent a correction saying there were no new deaths associated with COVID-19 Friday.
9:45 p.m. (March 20)
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor told 10News it was extremely likely that there would be a mandatory countywide "stay-at-home" order. She said it could happen early next week.
8:31 p.m. (March 20)
MacDill Air Force Base confirms that an active-duty sailor has coronavirus. It is believed to be a travel-related case.
Friday evening, Colonel Stephen Snelson said in a Facebook video, “The safety of our Airmen, families and employees is our top priority. We will continue to work with our interagency partners to ensure we do everything we can to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and ensure our Airmen, families and employees here have the most up-to-date information on appropriate measures to prevent the potential spread of the virus.”
7:50 p.m. (March 20)
TSA says two more agents at Orlando International Airport tested positive for COVID-19.
TSA says one is resting at home and the other is getting medical attention at a hospital.
7:25 p.m. (March 20)
The Florida Department of Health announced that a person who passed away in Pasco County tested positive for COVID-19. The total number of confirmed cases now sits at 563 and there have been 11 deaths statewide.
7:00 p.m. (March 20)
The Doctors Hospital of Sarasota announced they have an employee who tested positive for COVID-19. The person is a physician in the behavioral health unit at the hospital. Doctors Hospital of Sarasota says they are working with the Florida Department of Health to follow up with patients and employees that may have been in contact with the person, who is currently self-quarantined at home and doing well.
6:44 p.m. (March 20)
Hillsborough County leaders said they are closing all conservation parks starting at 8 p.m. Friday.
- Upper Tampa Bay Trail
- Town ‘n Country Greenway
It does not affect the county’s stand-alone boat ramps or nature (ELAPP) preserves, which remain open at this time.
6:20 p.m. (March 20)
Hernando County Transit has suspended their fare collection on all fixed routes for the next 30 days. Future updates about the buses operations will be posted on all buses and can be found here.
6:04 p.m. (March 20)
The Florida Department of Health is now reporting 11 COVID-19 related deaths in the state. The total number of confirmed cases now sits at 563.
You can track Florida's COVID-19 cases here.
5:58 p.m. (March 20)
BayCare Hospitals are almost entirely banning visitors to help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. As the infection rate grows statewide, the health system is shutting off most patient visitation.
The changes take effect on Sunday and mean only certain visitors with special circumstances will be let in. The ones who are allowed will have to be screened for symptoms first.
Visitors may still be allowed, if approved by the hospital administrator on duty, in these circumstances:
- Labor and delivery, post-partum, pediatrics and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
- End of life situations
- Behavioral Health Unit
- Emergency Room
- Waiting room only
- Outpatient procedures
5:48 p.m. (March 20)
BayCare Health System announced Friday that its is adjusting its drive-thru COVID-19 testing site operations.
This move is to ensure that those who are most at risk get tested. The change comes due to limited testing supplies being available.
“To help understand what is happening in our community, we need to be able to identify whether patients with symptoms are carrying the virus so they can isolate and not spread it further,” BayCare Health System Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Nishant Anand said.
The refinements to the sites’ processes and operations are:
- Starting Saturday, all location hours will be reduced to 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Screening criteria now requires you to currently be experiencing symptoms
- Physicians referring patients for testing are being asked to complete a new form that the patient is to bring to the testing site. The form is explicit about the need for a patient to be displaying physical symptoms as well as meeting other criteria for screening as established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We need to be testing symptomatic individuals – those with fever, shortness of breath, a cough -- and reserving our limited supplies for those cases,” Dr. Anand said. Every asymptomatic patient we test means one less swab is available to those more likely to test positive.”
5:19 p.m. (March 20)
Polk County is urging its residents to utilize their residential garbage collection services over taking a trip to the landfill.
County leaders understand that many people are cleaning their homes while self-isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they want to take a proactive approach to social distancing.
If a trip to the landfill is essential, be prepared to wait .
4:20 p.m. (March 20)
Governor DeSantis will speak about Florida's coronavirus response. Watch live here.
4:20 p.m. (March 20)
Governor DeSantis issued a new executive order:
"All hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, office surgery centers, dental, orthodontic and endodontic offices, and other health care practitioners’ offices in the state of Florida are prohibited from providing any medically unnecessary, non-urgent or non-emergency procedure or surgery which, if delayed, does not place a patients immediate health, safety or wellbeing at risk, or will, if delayed, not contribute to the worsening of a serious or life-threatening medical condition."
4:00 p.m. (March 20)
Publix says it is looking to hire thousands of people to fill spots at its stores and distribution centers by the end of March.
3:50 p.m. (March 20)
The season is over for the Tampa Bay Vipers. The XFL is calling it quits for the year to limit the spread of COVID-19 the coronavirus.
3:39 p.m. (March 20)
Florida Senator Rick Scott announced a plan to introduce legislation that would protect healthcare workers and first responders during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. It would also limit the U.S. supply chain from China.
2:25 p.m. (March 20)
Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order Friday directing all restaurants and food establishments within the State of Florida to suspend dine-in food operations.
Locations can still provide take-out and delivery options. Restaurants can also include alcohol in their take-out and delivery orders.
The order also included the required closures of gyms and fitness centers across the state of Florida.
2 p.m. (March 20)
Manatee County leaders are discussing the county's local response to the coronavirus pandemic. Watch live here.
As of today, the county has:
• Confirmed 9 cases of COVID-19
• Declared a local state of emergency
• Closed local beaches as of 6 a.m.
1:18 p.m. (March 20)
The Seminole Tribe of Florida and Seminole Gaming are temporarily closing all Seminole and Hard Rock Casinos Friday in Florida. The casinos will be shut down at 6 p.m. Hotel guests will be contacted about their bookings.
"This decision was not taken lightly as Seminole Gaming employs nearly 14,000 Seminole Gaming team members in the state. The goal has been to protect their livelihood without jeopardizing public safety. We have no reached a point where we do not feel comfortable taking that risk."
This affects the following casinos:
· Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa
· Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee
· Seminole Casino Brighton
· Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood
· Seminole Casino Coconut Creek
· Seminole Classic Casino (Hollywood)
1:08 p.m. (March 20)
The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) announced Friday that one of their Coast Guard Academy cadets in Florida has tested positive for COVID-19.
The USCG said a 20-year-old male traveled to Europe for spring break with six other cadets and a civilian friend who has also tested positive for coronavirus.
The group was visiting Spain and were ordered to return to the U.S. after President Trump suspended travel from Europe earlier this month.
The cadet became symptomatic after he returned to the U.S. and sought treatment and screening, according to the USCG.
The USCG said the cadet is in self-quarantine and the other six cadets remain in self-isolation at their homes while testing arrangements are made.
"Our thoughts and wishes for a full and speedy recovery are with these cadets, their friend, and their families. The Academy’s medical staff will be in daily contact to ensure the well-being of our cadets and the local health department is fully aware and engaged in the treatment and monitoring of these cases," RADM Superintendent William Kelly said.
12:46 p.m. (March 20)
Florida State Parks are slowly beginning to close state parks across the state.
Other state parks are being limited daily when it comes to capacity to ensure public safety and discourage crowd gathering. Updates will be posted daily to their social media pages.
Hours of operation have been reduced from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. and all events, activities and rentals have been canceled for the next 60 days.
Here are their active closures:
Topsail Hill State Park
Grayton Beach State Park
Deer Lake State Park
Henderson Beach State Park
12:34 p.m. (March 20)
Starting at 6 p.m., Friday Sarasota Memorial Hospital is activating a new policy restricting all visitors, except in special circumstances.
The temporary change is put in place to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and safeguard families, staff and the community.
11:30 update (March 20)
10 deaths are now reported in the state of Florida from coronavirus.
The number of positive cases is now 520. 474 of those are Florida residents.
10:25 a.m. (March 20)
Income tax filing deadline moved from April 15 to July 15.
9:35 a.m. (March 20)
Plan Hillsborough has temporarily closed its office to the public. Click here for more information.
6:40 a.m. (March 20)
There are now 393 positive cases of COVID-19 in Florida residents. Another 39 people in Florida are also positive.
Nine people have died in Florida from the virus.
10:20 p.m. (March 19)
Eglin Air Force Base officials announced their first case of COVID-19. Base leaders declared Health Protection Condition Bravo to reflect the heightened risk of COVID-19 community transmission and the risk of exposure to personnel.
10:05 p.m. (March 19)
Walgreens says one of its Seminole store employees tested positive for COVID-19. A spokesperson said the store has been cleaned and is expected to reopen Friday.
9:04 p.m. (March 19)
Hillsborough County has further reduced the number of people who can be gathered in one space at the same time from 50 to 10. In order to help limit the spread of COVID-19, the county announced it has banned all public and private gatherings that bring more than 10 people into a single space. The restriction does not apply to places that provide "essential goods or services" like grocery stores, hospitals and pharmacies. Restaurants are also not included. The restaurants are already restricted to 50 percent capacity by the state.
8:57 p.m. (March 19)
The University of Central Florida says one of its students tested positive for COVID-19.
The school said it believes the student has been off campus since March 9 and the risk of anyone else getting sick is very low.
6:22 p.m. (March 19)
The Florida Department of Health says a ninth person has died from coronavirus.
Florida says its total number of total positive cases is now 432: 393 cases involve Florida residents and 39 cases involve non-Florida residents.
4:33 p.m. (March 19)
Pinellas County leaders voted Thursday to close public beaches and public parking sports beginning Saturday. The beaches are tentatively scheduled to reopen on April 6.
Clearwater Beach announced it will follow the county's mandate and close Friday at midnight. It had originally planned on closing Monday.
3:36 p.m. (March 19)
Health experts said out of the four presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 treated at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, three have been released.
3:25 p.m. (March 19)
Hernando County declared a local state of emergency as a proactive measure to monitor and help limit the spread of COVID-19.
3:23 p.m. (March 19)
LSF announced it will shut down Head Start Centers through April 15.
3:07 p.m. (March 19)
Officials with Sarasota County announced that they will be closing all beaches starting at 6 a.m Saturday, March 21.
Manatee County officials said their beaches would be closing Friday, March 20, at 6 a.m.
They said the decision came after neighboring counties announced closures causing concern for the foot traffic that would drive to their shorelines.
3:00 p.m. (March 19)
Sarasota and Manatee County leaders are announcing plans for closures amid coronavirus concerns. Watch live here.
2:15 p.m. (March 19)
More beach closures: The city of Anna Maria announced Thursday its shorelines will be closed starting on Friday at 6 a.m. until further notice.
1:55 p.m. (March 19)
Pinellas County leaders are making an important decision on extending the county's local state of emergency to fight against COVID-19.
Watch live here.
1:40 p.m. (March 19)
Hillsborough County leaders announced Thursday a stronger social gathering recommendation to help limit the spread of coronavirus.
From now on, people should avoid gathering in crowds of more than 10.
Previously, the county was recommending that crowds be limited to no more than 50 people.
The lower number is in line with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control.
1:30 p.m. (March 19)
Hillsborough County leaders are holding an Emergency Policy Group meeting to discuss their latest actions related to COVID-19.
Watch live here
11:20 p.m. (March 19)
New Florida cases include:
- 62 additional positive COVID-19 cases (61 Florida residents and 1 non-Florida resident) reported to the Florida Department of Health.
- There are currently 360 positive cases in Florida residents and 30 positive cases in non-Florida residents.
10:10 a.m. (March 19)
To help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to help keep toll collectors safe, the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise will temporarily not accept cash as a form of payment for tolls. Tolls will still be required, but they will be collected through an electronic process. The change will take place starting at 12 p.m. Thursday.
7:45 a.m. (March 19)
In an effort to reduce the public’s exposure to COVID-19, the financial due dates set for March 18, 2020 through December 31, 2020 for all Criminal and Traffic cases have been extended for an additional 60 days, Hillsborough Clerk of Court & Comptroller Pat Frank announced Wednesday.
6:05 a.m. (March 19)
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister announced Thursday morning that 164 low-level, non-violent inmates will be released because of coronavirus. Chronister said they have a low threat to the community. He said if the inmates re-offend, it will be handled.
4:35 a.m. (March 19)
There are 328 cases of coronavirus in Florida.
299 are Florida residents.
967 people are being monitored.
9:09 p.m. (March 18)
Walmart stores across the U.S. will adjust operating hours to better accommodate older Americans in a sweeping effort to limit customers' exposure to COVID-19 coronavirus.
The company in a blog post announced its stores will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8:30 p.m. each day. Stores that open later than 7 a.m. will continue their regular starting hours, Walmart said.
The adjustment allows employes to restock the shelves and sanitize the store before customers arrive.
Walmart also will have an hour-long period each Tuesday for customers aged 60 or older, staring an hour before the store opens to the general public. It starts Tuesday, March 24, through April 28.
8:26 p.m. (March 18)
The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority will temporarily go fare-free on all its routes starting Thursday, March 19.
By going fare-free, it says, there will be less crowding at the farebox to reduce exposure to passengers and bus operators.