Latest On Coronavirus: Florida Again Sees Largest Increase, Pasco Parks Now Closed, And More
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, March 31, according to the Florida Department of Health.
6,490 – Florida Residents | 9 – Florida Cases Repatriated | 251 – Non-Florida Residents | 85 – Deaths
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Daily Increase in Florida COVID-19 Cases Exceeds 1,000
For the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak began, the state of Florida reported more than 1,000 people tested positive for the virus in a 24-hour period.
According to the Florida Department of Health, 6,741 people in Florida have been diagnosed with COVID-19 as of 6 p.m. Tuesday. That’s an increase of 1,037 since the same time Monday night.
Health officials say 85 people have died from the coronavirus. Among the latest deaths are four Tampa Bay area residents: a 92-year-old woman from Hillsborough County, a 60-year-old man from Polk County, a 68-year-old Manatee County man who had traveled to France, and a 28-year-old Sarasota man who had traveled to Illinois.
-- Lisa Peakes
Duke Energy Gets State Approval On Waiving Fees
Pointing to a need for flexibility in dealing with the effects of the coronavirus, the state Public Service Commission on Tuesday approved a plan that will allow Duke Energy Florida to waive customer fees --- similar to the way it can waive fees after a hurricane hits.
“We applaud Duke for its actions to help customers facing financial hardships during this public health emergency,” commission Chairman Gary Clark said in a prepared statement after the approval. “Today, with these modifications, we provided the company with additional flexibility to mitigate customer impact.”
The commission regulates what utilities can charge customers through a system of what are known as “tariffs.”
Duke is allowed to charge extra fees for such thing as reconnecting service and late payments. It has been able to waive some charges if customers suffer damage from natural disasters.
But the utility said in a filing this month that it wanted to make clear it can waive fees in circumstances such as the coronavirus outbreak. It also sought authority to expand the types of fees that could be waived.
-- News Service of Florida
Pasco Parks, Nature Preserves Shut Down
Pasco County has closed all of its parks and nature preserves as of Monday night.
Boat ramps and the Suncoast Trail will remain open, officials said.
-- Carl Lisciandrello
Kriseman Wants Statewide Stay-At-Home Order
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has reiterated his call for Gov. Ron DeSantis to issue a statewide stay at home order.
The comments followed the governor's executive order Monday asking residents of Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties to stay at home as much as possible until mid-April.
Kriseman said Florida would be better equipped to stop the spread of the coronavirus if the directive applied to all of the state's 67 counties.
Kriseman also joined the U.S. Conference of Mayors in calling for President Trump to enforce the Defense Production Act to help combat the outbreak.
“My fellow mayors remain focused on the worst public health crisis our nation has faced in recent memory. Cities around the nation are facing shortages when it comes to necessary equipment and supplies to safeguard our first responders and residents,” Kriseman said in a statement. “Now is the time for politicians in Washington to lead. I echo the call from the U.S. Conference of Mayors for the President to do just that by fully enforcing the Defense Production Act.” [Read more]
-- Cathy Carter
Tampa Opens Tent Shelter For Homeless
As Hillsborough County is under a “safer at home” order, those without a home are at risk.
To limit the spread of coronavirus, the city of Tampa has partnered with Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Petersburg to create a temporary outdoor shelter for the homeless.
The shelter, called "Hillsborough Hope," is located on vacant land owned by Catholic Charities at 10049 N. Florida Avenue. [Read more]
-- Vanessa Henry
USF’s Yuengling Center May Become Emergency Site
Hillsborough County is considering opening up several emergency sites to act as an overflow, in case local hospitals run out of beds. Tim Dudley, Hillsborough's emergency management director, said they're negotiating with the state to use the University of South Florida's indoor arena.
"The Yuengling Center is identified as an alternative care site and would be established for up to 250 beds," Dudley told members of Hillsborough's Emergency Policy Group.
It would be outfitted with cots to provide basic support for patients who don't need critical care.
The Yuengling Center - then known as the Sun Dome - was an emergency shelter for people who special needs who fled Hurricane Irma three years ago. [Read more]
-- Steve Newborn
Raymond James Stadium Testing Site Reopening
Hillsborough County has gotten another 1,500 testing collection kits from the state and will reopen its testing site at Raymond James Stadium for three days beginning Wednesday. It will be open from 8 to 11 a.m. through Friday. [Read more]
-- Steve Newborn
Tampa Pastor Arrested After Church Hosts In-Person Worship
The pastor of a Tampa church who hosted two large Sunday services, even busing people in, is free on bond after being arrested.
Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne of The River Church violated Hillsborough County's safer-at-home order said Sheriff Chad Chronister.
Howard-Browne was arrested on a warrant for unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency rules, both of which are second degree misdemeanors. Hillsborough authorities confirmed his arrest via email, saying he was taken into custody at his home in Hernando County around 1:30 p.m. Monday.
He bonded out for $500. [Read more]
-- Daylina Miller
Florida Schools To Remain Closed Through May 1
Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran is recommending the state’s K-12 public schools remain closed through May 1.
Guidance from the Florida Department of Health and the CDC led to Monday's decision. In addition, President Trump announced Sunday the extension of social distancing guidelines through the end of April.
The decision is up the state’s 67 county school boards, not Corcoran. Most have indicated they'll follow the recommendation.
Distance learning, which began for many districts Monday, will continue during that time.
-- Mark Schreiner
DeSantis: Cruise Ship With Sick Passsengers Not Wanted At Florida's Ports
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis doesn't want a cruise ship where four people died and others are sick to offload passengers for treatment in the state.
Speaking at a news conference at a testing center outside the Hard Rock Stadium on Monday, he said Florida can't treat outsiders right now.
The Holland America cruise line says the passengers on board include 304 Americans. DeSantis said doctors should be sent to treat passengers on board.
DeSantis also told a press conference that he expects South Florida's four counties — Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe — to be on near-lockdown until mid-May.
-- Associated Press
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