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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 Tops 9,000 Cases, Pinellas Closes Non-Essential Businesses, 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.. Thursday, April 2, according to the Florida Department of Health.

8,694 – Florida Residents | 9 – Florida Cases Repatriated | 314 – Non-Florida Residents | 144 – Deaths

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Florida Tops 9,000 Coronavirus Cases

The latest information from the Florida Department of Health shows that statewide 9,008 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 144 people have died. The death toll grew by 43 since 6 p.m. Wednesday, the largest daily increase yet. [Read more]

-- Lisa Peakes

Pinellas Closes Non-Essential Businesses

After a  long meeting that highlighted confusion about the statewide stay-at-home order Gov. Ron DeSantis issued Wednesday, Pinellas County Commissioners voted Thursday to close non-essential businesses in order to comply.

But as they put that plan into effect, officials say they'll seek guidance from the state about the scope of DeSantis' order.

Under the county stay-at-home order implemented last week, businesses like barbershops, nail salons, jewelry stores and others could remain open if they practiced social distancing. But the state order bars people from visiting non-essential locations. [Read more]

-- Stephanie Colombini

Castor Questions Religious Gatherings As Essential Activity
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor says Gov. Ron DeSantis’ stay at home order is “better late than never” as the state deals with a surge in coronavirus cases.

Castor weighed in on various topics during an interview Thursday with Rachel Martin on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

She also called a Tampa pastor “reckless” for holding services in a crowded church despite a Hillsborough County stay-at-home order, and questioned DeSantis' determination that religious activity is defined as an  "essential activity" that would be permitted. [Read more]
-- Bradley George
Tampa Pastor Says He Will Close Church
The pastor of a Tampa church who was arrested for holding two services in apparent violation of Hillsborough County's safer-at-home order says he is closing service on Sunday.
Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne of The River Church,said in a statement on the church’s website that “it is prudent to take a pause by not opening the church doors this Sunday. This will allow an opportunity for people to take a deep breath and calm down.”

Howard-Browne was arrested on a warrant for unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency rules, both of which are second degree misdemeanors. He is accused of violating Hillsborough County's safer-at-home order, which went into effect March 27, said Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister.

Howard-Browne said he has yet to decide whether to open the church for Easter Sunday or thereafter.

-- Carl Lisciandrello

Ill-Fated Cruise Ships Get OK  To Dock In Florida

Passengers aboard two cruise ships off the Florida coast that have had coronavirus cases and deaths have been given the green light to disembark.

Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine said Thursday that an agreement had been reached between local, state and federal officials and Carnival Corp., which owns the Zaandam and the Rotterdam. And Port Everglades traffic records list the two ships’ arrival as “confirmed.”

The cruise line Holland America is operating the ships. Holland America says 45 passengers who are mildly sick will stay on board until they recover, but that it needs 10 people to be taken to a Fort Lauderdale hospital for immediate medical care.

-- Associated Press

Hillsborough County To Open Two Quarantine And Isolation Sites

Hillsborough County is opening a pair of quarantine and isolation sites for residents who have tested positive for coronavirus or have been exposed to the virus.

The sites are two adjacent hotels on East Fowler Avenue in Tampa.

Hillsborough County authorities announced Wednesday that 362 rooms will be available for residents who can care for themselves, but are unable to stay in their own homes. [Read more]

-- Mark Schreiner

Raymond James Stadium Secures More Testing Kits

Drive-through testing at Raymond James Stadium has been extended through April 8 after Hillsborough County Emergency Management secured 1,000 additional testing kits.

The site will be closed during the weekend while supplies last, officials said.

The testing center is open from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.

-- Carl Lisciandrello

Florida Attorney General Warns Of Scam

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is warning Floridians of a recent COVID-19 scam. These scam messages state that people won’t get their coronavirus stimulus check if they don’t fill out the 2020 census. The message then has a link to a fake website directing people to give out personal information.

Moody released a video on YouTube. In it, she says while the government is trying to get census information, it is not related to the coronavirus stimulus money:

“Floridians need to know the stimulus money will be directly deposited into your bank account or a check will be directly sent to you. You do not need to respond to unsolicited emails, text messages, robocalls with personal financial information to get stimulus money.”

Moody also says government officials won’t reach out to Floridians to get financial information for the census.

-- Robbie Gaffney, WFSU

The Toll On Florida's First Responders

Hundreds of first responders across the state are in quarantine after being exposed to people who may have the coronavirus. And some have tested positive for COVID-19, including a Tampa police officer and firefighters in Sarasota and Orange counties.

Most Floridians are being told to stay home as much as possible, but that's not an option for firefighters, paramedics or police officers. They continue to respond to emergencies in their communities, rarely ever knowing for sure if the people they'll interact with have COVID-19. [Read more]

-- Stephanie Colombini

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

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