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Health News Florida
News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida and WUSF can help. Our responsibility at WUSF News is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

Latest On Coronavirus: Eighth Death, Clearwater Beach To Close, USF Staff Member Tests Positive

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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 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, March 18, according to the Florida Department of Health.

299 – Florida Residents | 6 – Florida Cases Repatriated | 29 – Non-Florida Residents

CORONAVIRUS: Complete Coverage From WUSF And Health News Florida

Eighth Florida Coronavirus Death, 14 More People Test Positive

Fourteen more people have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to 328. In addition, an eighth person has died.

The latest death was someone who had previously tested positive in Clay County. No other information was released.

Of the fourteen new cases announced by the Florida Department of Health in its Wednesday evening update, 10 are Florida residents, four are from out of state. [Read more]

-- Mark Schreiner

Clearwater Beach To Close March 23

The Clearwater City Council voted Wednesday 4-1 to close public beaches for two weeks over fears of coronavirus. The ban goes into effect Monday at 6 a.m.

Business owners representing restaurants and vacation rentals spoke out against the decision, and asked that any closure be limited to two weeks, and not take effect until after this weekend. 

Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos said closing was the right thing to do.

"This was a very difficult decision for all of us. We understand the impact that it has on our businesses but we also understand the impact it is going to have on our residents and our visitors," he said. "We are trying to protect people's health."

Restaurants will stay open, but a Pinellas County order says alcohol can't be served after 10 p.m. [Read more]

-- Kerry Sheridan

USF Staff Member Tests Positive

A member of the University of South Florida’s Counseling Center in Tampa has tested positive for coronavirus.

In a letter to USF staff and students, university president Steven Currall said he learned of the positive test today, and the individual is currently self-isolating at home.

Currall said the individual came in direct contact with 13 students and several employees while on campus March 9 and March 12. Those who came in contact are being monitored by the Florida Department of Health. [Read more]

-- Carl Lisciandrello

Supervisor Of Elections Offices Closed To Public

The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections offices will be closed to the public until April 20.

The office is holding off on processing paper voter registration applications.

Check with your local supervisor of elections offices for changes in procedures in your area.

-- Carl Lisciandrello

BayCare To Begin Drive-Through Testing

BayCare patients can start getting tested for coronavirus without leaving their cars.

But that doesn't mean anyone concerned that they have coronavirus should drive to one of the seven urgent care locations offering drive thru tests.

BayCare's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nishant Asand says the service is limited to patients who meet federal testing guidelines. That includes...

“International travel, includes airlines as well as cruises,” he said. “If they have symptoms which includes fever, shortness of breath and cough, those are the appropriate people we'd screen. No. 2 is people who have had contact with individuals who have tested positive.

BayCare hopes to expand access as testing supplies become more widely available. The drive-thru locations will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

-- Stephanie Colombini

Hillsborough County Halts Evictions

All evictions in Hillsborough County are suspended, effective immediately.

Sheriff Chad Chronister made the announcement at a press conference Wednesday morning. He said many people are taking a financial hit, and the coronavirus outbreak is a time to show compassion. [Read more]

-- Bradley George

Florida Setting Up 3 Field Hospitals

Health officials in Florida are deploying three field hospitals across the state to help combat the new coronavirus.

Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said Tuesday night via email that one field hospital is currently staged in Orlando, and the others are being sent to Broward County and Ocala.

This comes as the number of people infected with COVID-19 rose to 216 cases with six deaths reported in Florida.

-- Associated Press

Amazon To Hire 4,700 In Florida

Amazon will hire 4,700 workers in Florida as part of a nationwide push to recruit more than 100,000 employees.

The jobs will be include delivery drivers and positions at its fulfillment centers around the state.

Pay starts at $15 an hour.

More than 7,000 Floridians work for Amazon.

-- Bradley George

No Classes Until After April 15, State Testing Cancelled

Florida students will not return to classes until after April 15, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday afternoon.

Additionally, all remaining testing will be cancelled for the remainder of the school year and there will be no school grades released for the 2019-2020 school year.

“Requirements for graduation and promotion and final course grades will be evaluated as if those assessments did not exist,” DeSantis said.

-- Cathy Carter