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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: Florida Exceeds 7,000 Cases, DeSantis Issues Stay-At-Home Order, And More

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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 p.m.. Wednesday, April 1, according to the Florida Department of Health.

7,495 – Florida Residents | 9 – Florida Cases Repatriated | 278 – Non-Florida Residents | 101 – Deaths

CORONAVIRUS: Complete Coverage From WUSF And WUSF Public Media

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Florida Nears 8,000 COVID-19 Cases

Statewide, 7,773 people have tested positive for COVID-19, and 101 people have died. The death toll marked its largest daily increase at 16.

The Department of Health’s morning report seemed to offer hope that social distancing was having a positive effect. As of noon, 6,955 cases of coronavirus had been verified in the state; an increase of 214 since 6 p.m. Tuesday. It was the lowest overnight increase since March 26th.

But another 818 positive tests were announced in the afternoon, making Wednesday the second day in a row with more than 1,000 new cases. [Read more]

-- Lisa Peakes

DeSantis Issues Statewide 30-Day Stay-At-Home Order

Florida will be under a statewide 30-day stay-at-home order, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday.

The order will go into effect Thursday at midnight, DeSantis said.

During a news conference, DeSantis said he will issue the executive order following a conversation with President Donald Trump and recommendations from the White House Task Force on COVID 19.

Citing, in part, the economic fallout that has followed the outbreak, DeSantis said the order directs “all Floridians to limit movements and personal interactions outside the home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities.” [Read more]

-- Carl Lisciandrello & Mark Schreiner

Work On Howard Frankland Bridge Expansion To Be Accelerated

Taking advantage of what he terms “a trickle” of traffic on major thoroughfares due to residents heeding stay-at-home coronavirus orders, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he will accelerate various road projects throughout the state.

As a result, work on the Howard Frankland Bridge expansion will be accelerated by four weeks.

During his Wednesday news conference, in which he announced a statewide 30-day stay-at-home order, DeSantis said the Howard Frankland Bridge project is among several that will take precedence in the coming months.

The $814 million project calls for a new eight-lane Howard Frankland Bridge that will be used as a partial expansion of the old one. [Read more]

-- Carl Lisciandrello

Polk Reopens Outdoor Spots

One week after closing most parks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Lakeland officials are reopening trails, dog parks, boat ramps, some sports courts and the Cleveland Heights Golf Course.

Lakeland Commissioner Scott Franklin says harsh restrictions that the city had set caused an unanticipated ripple effect, where people were crowding into the areas that remained open.

“Without meaning to, we now forced everybody in the same common spaces,” Frankliln said. “And I think if we open this up, relax it but use common sense, I think, we will be moving in the right direction.”

Lakeland commissioners voted 6-1 to reverse the closures. [Read more]

-- Maria Tsyruleva

Stay-At-Home Order For Villages, Except For Golf

Golf will go on in one of the largest retirement communities in the nation, though other activities will be curtailed because of the coronavirus.

Officials in Sumter County, in which most of The Villages retirement community is located, issued a stay-at- home advisory on Tuesday.

It advises residents to remain at their houses except to get groceries, seek medical attention, work, care for another person or exercise outdoors.

Spelled out as permissible in the order’s exercise category was golf.

The Villages has dozens of golf courses. The Villages was the nation's fastest growing community last year, reaching 132,000 residents, a jump of 41 percent.

-- Associated Press

Coast Guard: Cruise Ships Must Stay At Sea With Sick Onboard

The U.S. Coast Guard has directed all cruise ships to remain at sea where they may be sequestered “indefinitely" and be prepared to send any ill passengers to the countries where the vessels are registered due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In a memo sent March 29, the agency's top regional official said the new requirements are necessary as medical facilities in South Florida may become too overloaded to deal with sick cruise ship passengers.

Meantime, two Holland America cruise ships are sailing toward Florida after being stranded at sea. Gov. Ron DeSantis says the state's healthcare system is stretched too thin to take on their sick passengers.

-- Associated Press

County Leaders Weigh Next Move

Leaders from Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco counties were joined by their counterparts from the cities of Tampa and Clearwater at a virtual meeting to address COVID-19 efforts on Tuesday. 

The main goal was to open a line of dialogue between regional leaders in order to help each other through the quarantine, said Pasco Board of County Commissioners Chairman Mike Moore.

In the nearly hour-long call, Moore led the discussion of a variety of issues that different communities are currently facing, or may face in the near future.

Like most conversations these days, coronavirus test kits were a main topic. [Read more]

-- Dylan Rudolph

Corcoran: Leave Schools Closed Until May
 
Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran on Tuesday called for all school districts to extend campus closures through May 1 as part of efforts to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus across the state.

“While we work together to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, one constant remains --- students can and will continue to receive a great education in Florida. It is essential that students do not fall behind and are still receiving instruction, even when they are not in the classroom,” Corcoran said in a prepared statement.

Corcoran said he was recommending, not mandating, that school campuses remain closed until May 1. He had originally intended for school districts to resume on-campus classes by April 15.

Districts are offering online classes while campuses are closed. It is possible some campuses will remain closed the rest of the school year.

-- News Service of Florida

A Second Stimulus Check?
 
The federal government has agreed to give Americans money during the global pandemic caused by COVID-19.

But U.S.  Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, says the financial boost coming to citizens from the federal government may not be the only one. [Read more]

-- Blaise Gainey, WFSU

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