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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 Cases Pass 22,500, Should Schools Reopen In May, 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 15, according to the Florida Department of Health:

21,865 – Florida Residents | 9 – Florida Cases Repatriated | 654 – Non-Florida Residents | 614 – Deaths

CORONAVIRUS: Complete Coverage From WUSF And WUSF Public Media

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Florida Cases Pass 22,500

State health officials say 22,519 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Florida - an increase of 891 cases since Tuesday evening.

614 people have died due to the coronavirus - 43 more than Tuesday evening’s total.

One death was reported in Sarasota County. No further information ws provided. [Read more]

-- Lisa Peakes

Should Florida Schools Remain Closed?

Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he would consider reopening some Florida schools in May while the state continues to contend with the coronavirus outbreak.

The statewide teachers’ union, however, sent a letter to DeSantis on Tuesday, urging him not to do so.

What do you think? Should schools remain closed through the end of the school year, or should DeSantis consider reopening them in May as he previously stated? We have prepared a form for parents and teachers to fill out and let us know. [Read more]

-- Carl Lisciandrello

St. Petersburg Announces Further Closings Of Gathering Spaces

In an effort to continue limiting the spread of COVID-19 in St. Petersburg, Mayor Rick Kriseman is announcing the closure of some gathering spots.

In his weekly Facebook Live address, Kriseman said Tuesday that the city is closing tennis courts, pickleball courts, skateparks, and dog parks in an effort to keep people at a safe social distance from each other.

“Locally, the data is encouraging,” Kriseman said. “But until the curve is flattened, and we’re on the other side of the peak, this is no time to let off the gas. There is more we can do. And based on some behaviors of late, we feel there is more we need to do to stay ahead of the virus.” [Read more]

-- Dylan Rudolph

Nikki Fried Seeks Meeting On Coronavirus Response

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has reiterated a call for Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state Cabinet to jointly address issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Fried says she’s been requesting weekly briefings from the governor’s office since before an April 7 Cabinet meeting was canceled.

DeSantis and the Cabinet -- Attorney General Ashley Moody, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Fried -- haven’t held a meeting since Feb. 4, more than a month before the governor declared a state of emergency.

“It’s important that we do meet so we can have these conversations and discuss it,” Fried said. “A lot of the stuff that we may not have to vote on could be one-on-one conversations at the very least, to give us up-to-date information of what is happening in our state.”

DeSantis’ daily schedule on Monday included a phone call with Moody to address COVID-19, with a Moody spokeswoman saying the conversation did not involve other issues.

That call was the first contact DeSantis had listed on his schedule with any of the Cabinet members since he started issuing emergency orders related to the virus on March 1.

-- Tom Urban, WLRN

Disney Workers Might Get "Fast-Pass" To Unemployment Benefits

A massive influx of furloughed employees from the Magic Kingdom might be able to avoid an initial registration step with the state’s overwhelmed unemployment-compensation system.

Also, the effort to streamline the process could be made available to other companies that know large numbers of workers are facing temporary unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said more than 70,000 Walt Disney Co. employees, who will soon be furloughed, could have their personal information downloaded directly from the company into the state’s CONNECT online unemployment system.

“They wouldn’t get any special place in line. Whoever is applying is going to go through that way,” DeSantis told reporters Tuesday. “But I think when you know you’re going to have a massive amount of people from one employer, and that’s announced, we can work with them to get that information and get it through the system. I think that would probably be better for everyone.”

-- News Service of Florida

Financial Help For Airports

Federal help is on the way for airports in the Tampa Bay region.

The Federal Aviation Administration says Tampa International Airport will receive $81 million in grants. St. Petersburg/Clearwater International is getting nearly $9 million. And Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport will get $23 million in federal aid.

The funds were included in the stimulus bill passed by Congress last month. Airports can use the money for payroll, operations, and other day-to-day expenses.

Tampa Airport CEO Joe Lopano says the grants will provide much-needed relief.

-- Bradley George

The State We're In: When Will Social Distancing End?

Political leaders making decisions about coronavirus are often straddling the issues of health and money.

Local public health expert Donna Petersen said that's because the loss of jobs and a lack of money can affect human health too.

Petersen is dean of the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health. Petersen spoke with WUSF’s Bradley George about coronavirus and its impact on communities on The State We’re In, a weekly Facebook Live show from WUSF and its partner WMFE in Orlando. [Read more]

-- Dinorah Prevost, Bradley George, Mary Shedden

DeSantis Unsure When Schools Will Reopen

The statewide teachers’ union Tuesday called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to keep school campuses closed for the rest of this academic year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know our public schools serve as refuge for many students, that our campuses provide them with meals, education and a safe haven with committed staff,” Florida Education Association President Fedrick Ingram said in a letter to DeSantis.

“As much as our students and educators want the opportunity to be back at our schools, returning prematurely will threaten the safety and well-being of all on campus.”

During a press briefing on Tuesday, DeSantis said he has not made a decision on when to reopen schools. He said he would be consulting with groups, including school superintendents and parents. [Read more]

-- News Service of Florida

Libraries Helping People Get Unemployment Forms

Libraries around the Tampa Bay area are offering paper unemployment forms to people who don’t have access to a printer. [Read more]

Beach Closures Could Help Threatened Shorebirds
Beach closures due to the coronavirus pandemic are devastating Florida’s tourism industry but they could be beneficial for shorebirds that nest on the sand this time of year.  

Typically birds like least terns, American oystercatchers and black skimmers have to share beaches with hordes of beachgoers as they lay their eggs on bare sand or in shelly areas.

Dwindling nesting habitat for these birds has affected their numbers and caused state wildlife officials to consider them threatened.    

But this year, they’ve had a lot more real estate. [Read more]

Business Help For Tampa, St. Petersburg

Tampa is joining other cities in announcing a fund to help small businesses, as well as families and individuals facing financial struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, St. Petersburg is expanding its fund. [Read more]

-- Dylan Rudolph

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I wasn't always a morning person. After spending years as a nighttime sports copy editor and page designer, I made the move to digital editing in 2000. Turns out, it was one of the best moves I've ever made.
WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online.