Latest On Coronavirus: Schools and Courts Close, Grand Prix Cancelled, And More Updates
WUSF will be providing the latest news and information on coronavirus in Tampa Bay and across the state. Here are the latest developments:
45 – Florida Residents | 5 – Florida Cases Repatriated* | 6 – Non-Florida Residents
The Florida Department of Health reported three new positive cases of the novel coronavirus in the state Friday. Officials are providing no other information at this time.
The Department of Health says 45 Florida residents have tested positive in state; another five have tested positive elsewhere. Six non-Florida residents have tested positive while in the state.
Two Florida residents have died.
Public Schools Statewide, Local Catholic Schools Close
The coronavirus outbreak has led the Florida Department of Education to close all public schools across the state through March 27.
Schools that are not on spring break at that time are scheduled to reopen on March 30.
The Diocese of St. Petersburg is closing all of its Catholic Schools and Early Childhood center buildings through March 20. Monday and Tuesday had already been scheduled as days off for students. Virtual learning will be conducted March 18 through 20. [Read more]
-- Mark Schreiner
Trials, Jury Selection Put On Pause
The Florida Supreme Court issued an executive order Friday suspending all grand jury proceedings, jury selection proceedings and criminal and civil jury trials from Monday through March 27.
However, a proceeding that has already begun may continue to a conclusion if the judge, with the approval of the chief judge, feels that it has to be done because of “the interests of justice.”
-- Mark Schreiner
Busch Gardens Closes
Busch Gardens will be closed effective Monday through the end of the month.
The theme park announced essential personnel, including animal care experts, will be allowed at the park, and its animal rescue and rehabilitiation operations will continue to operate.
-- Carl Lisciandrello
St. Petersburg Grand Prix Canceled
The St. Petersburg Grand Prix and all NTT IndyCar Series events have been canceled through April over coronavirus concerns.
IndyCar made the announcement on Friday morning on its website and twitter.
The decision came after officials initially announced the race would be held, but without general attendance. [Read more]
-- Daylina Miller
Entertainment Venues Closed
Various venues announced they are closing.
- The Straz Center is suspending all performances, classes and events scheduled for April. In a release, officials say “as many events as possible” will be rescheduled, and patrons should hold onto their tickets. Ticket holders also will be contacted concerning refunds and other options.
- Ruth Eckerd Hall is closing through April 2.
- The Florida Orchestra also announced it is cancelling performances through April 5.
- The Sarasota Film Festival has been postponed. It was scheduled for March 27-April 5.
- The Sarasota County Fair has been canceled.
-- Carl Lisciandrello
Tampa Pride 2020 Rescheduled
Tampa Pride 2020, scheduled for March 28 in Ybor City and the Cuban Club, has been rescheduled to May 30.
In a release, event officials said the move is to “ensure the health and safety of our community first and have taken the necessary precaution to do so.”
All official Tampa Pride 2020 events are on hold and may be rescheduled, according to the release.
-- Carl Lisciandrello
Stipends Offered To Teachers For Online Training
Florida teachers could receive $200 stipends to be trained to educate students online, as state education officials prepare for the potential impact of the novel coronavirus.
Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said this week the state was gearing up to train 10,000 teachers over the next few weeks to conduct online classes.
On Thursday, the Department of Education and Florida Virtual School announced they had partnered to offer all school districts student support, as well as teacher professional development.
Education officials say Florida Virtual School is offering the virtual teacher training as a precautionary measure.
School superintendents will determine which teachers will be eligible for the six-hour course.
Along with teacher training, Florida Virtual School is increasing its server capacity to accommodate up to 400,000 new students by the end of April. It currently can serve about 40,000.
-- News Service of Florida
PGA Cancels Tournaments, Including Valspar Championship
The PGA Tour first said there would be no fans. Now there will be no players.
In a late night decision, the PGA Tour canceled the rest of The Players Championship and said it would not play the next three weeks – including next week’s scheduled Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor.
It later said the Masters would be postponed.
Commissioner Jay Monahan had said earlier Thursday he was comfortable with the tournaments going on without fans because it's an outdoor sport. He said later Thursday night the new coronavirus situation is changing rapidly and the right thing for the PGA Tour to do is to pause.
It's the latest sports league to announce it was canceling events and seasons.
-- Associated Press
Hillsborough Leaders Talk Coronavirus Testing, WrestleMania At Emergency Meeting
Hillsborough County commissioners declared a local state of emergency for coronavirus, postponed area events -- but not WrestleMania -- and raised concerns about the lack of widespread testing during an emergency policy meeting Thursday.
Commissioners grilled Dr. Douglas Holt, head of the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County, saying they want better information to share with residents about where to go to get tested for COVID-19.
Officials also discussed what to do about major events planned in the Tampa Bay area, including WrestleMania 36, is scheduled to take place in Tampa April 5.
The WWE said it's preparing a contingency plan but remains committed to holding the event at Raymond James Stadium next month. Ultimately, it’s up to the county to decide whether to allow it continue. [Read more]
-- Stephanie Colombini
Orlando Theme Parks Closed
Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort will be closed the rest of the month starting March 15. The theme parks join a growing list of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement Thursday night, a spokesperson for the Walt Disney Company said theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Paris Resort will close through the end of March, in an abundance of caution. [Read more]