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Latest on Coronavirus: Schools Closed For Year; Nursing Home Names Released; State Cases Pass 25K

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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. Saturday, April 18, according to the Florida Department of Health:

24,797 – Florida Residents | 9 – Florida Cases Repatriated |  695 – Non-Florida Residents | 748 – Deaths

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More Than 25,000 People Have Been Confirmed With COVID-19 In Florida

The number of cases of COVID-19 in Florida increased by 739 on Saturday, pushing the state past 25,000 cases. 

That brought the total number of cases in Florida since the beginning of the outbreak to 25,492. The state also reported an increase of 22 deaths from the disease on Saturday, bringing the total to 748.  

Four more people died in the Tampa Bay area since Friday: two in Manatee County, one in Sarasota County and one in Hernando County.

Tampa Bay area positive tests as of 6 p.m. Friday, April 17: 

  • Hillsborough: 943 (901 local, 42 non-resident)
  • Pinellas: 587 (546 local, 41 non-resident)
  • Manatee: 362 (360 local, 2 non-resident)
  • Polk: 320 (314 local, 6 non-resident)
  • Sarasota: 279 (264 local, 15 non-resident)
  • Pasco:198 (191 local, 7 non-resident)
  • Hernando: 84 (80 local, 4 non-resident)

Florida Schools To Remain Closed Through End of School Year

Public and private schools statewide will continue distance-learning through the end of the school year, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Saturday.

At a press briefing in Tallahassee, the governor said he had considered the opinions of parents and teachers, and also looked at the timing of re-opening in May, with just weeks left in the school year.

“Or K-12 schools will continue with distance learning through the end of the school year,” DeSantis said.

“We’ve got pretty good momentum for distance learning. It’s obviously not the ideal situation but given where we are in the school year we felt that was the best decision to go forward.”

On April 10, DeSantis said he was considering the possibility of opening some schools and would issue his decision later.

The Florida teacher’s union, at least four major medical groups and tens of thousands of parents and teachers expressed their opposition to the idea in major petitions on change.org and moveon.org.

The state began on Saturday releasing the names of nursing homes and assisted living facilities where there are confirmed cases of COVID-19, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced.

Florida Releases Names Of Nursing Homes With COVID-19

There were 303 long-term care facilities with positive COVID-19 cases totaling 1,694.  At least 169 of Florida’s 748 deaths from COVID-19 were related to infections at these facilities.

The decision to release the names of the facilities was based on concerns for public health, DeSantis said.

“I told the surgeon general from the beginning that we want to put as much information out as we can,” DeSantis said. “I have now directed him to determine that it is necessary for public health to release the names of facilities.”

Directors of the facilities had been required to notify all staff members, residents and their families when a positive case of COVID-19 was found at a facility, DeSantis said.

“I think they all have done that, but all it takes is if one doesn’t do it,” he said. “I think I would want to know that.”

Florida officials had been refusing to release the information since the start of the outbreak, despite requests to do so and a potential open records lawsuit from the Miami Herald and other media outlets.

In some cases, the information was released by the county or by the nursing homes themselves.

That was the case at a nursing home in Seminole, where three people have died and dozens were hospitalized following an outbreak of COVID-19. 

DeSantis Says Some Areas Can Open Parks, Beaches

Governor Ron DeSantis and his newly-formed task force are working on reopening the state during the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. DeSantis said some municipalities should feel free to start opening parks and beaches, with physical distancing guidelines. It comes as his administration faces increased scrutiny for its response to the coronavirus.

On the Florida Roundup, hosts Tom Hudson and Melissa Ross spoke to Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez and Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried about some of the challenges the state now faces. Listen to the broadcast here.

3 Dead, Dozens Hospitalized After COVID-19 Spreads Through Seminole Nursing Home

Three people who were evacuated from a nursing home in Seminole have died from COVID-19, according to the medical examiner's office in Pinellas County. The patients, an 84-year-old woman, 74-year-old man and 66-year-old man were among dozens of people who were evacuated after the virus spread through the nursing home.

The remainder of Seminole Pavilion Rehabilitation's 39 residents were being evacuated on Friday and the nursing home was being shut down, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Twenty-one residents and six employees at the nursing home tested positive for the disease, the Times reported.

The patients, along with others who were considered at risk, were transferred to 3 area hospitals at the request of the nursing home, Assistant County Administrator Lourdes Benedict said in an email.

Seminole Pavilion Rehabilitation is part of Freedom Square of Seminole, a sprawling retirement community that offers varying levels of care from assisted living to memory care and skilled nursing. Read more here.

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