Latest On Coronavirus: Cases Near 30,000, Citrus Schools' Servers Apparently Compromised, 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. Thursday, April 23, according to the Florida Department of Health:
28,843– Florida Residents | 805 – Non-Florida Residents | 987 – Deaths
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Citrus County Schools Servers Apparently Compromised
The Citrus County Sheriff's Office is looking into the possibility that someone compromised the school district's computer servers.
According to school officials, technology employees noticed early Thursday morning that some remote learning programs were not working properly and quickly determined some servers had been compromised.
They shut down the servers - which the district says was backed up and had software protection.
The employees also notified the district's Risk Management Team and the Sheriff's Office, which is now conducting an investigation.
School officials said they hope the problem can be resolved within a few days - but said they do not know how long the disruption will last.
Remote learning will continue for students, using programs that have not been impacted.
-- Mark Schreiner
State Leaders Push For ‘Parameters’
State leaders on Governor Ron DeSantis’ ‘Re-Open Florida’ task force have set a goal for the group: Providing ‘parameters’ to businesses and school districts that would be pre-requisites for re-opening.
Three ‘work groups’ representing different economic sectors met Wednesday – representing a vast array of different types of businesses. One covered education, manufacturing, mining and utilities – another, food tourism and retail. The call concerning agriculture, healthcare, finance and other industries was cut short by technical difficulties.
Across all the varied industries, House Speaker Jose Oliva says, universal rules are needed. [Read more]
-- Ryan Dailey, WFSU
DeSantis Defends Northeast Florida Reopening Beaches
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is defending areas like Jacksonville and Duval County that decided to reopen beaches.
Criticism of the move was swift and harsh, with #FloridaMoron trending on twitter alongside pictures of people on beaches. DeSantis says Florida’s coronavirus infection and death rate are lower than state’s like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
“So, my hat’s off to Mayor Curry and the people of Jacksonville and Northeast Florida for doing a great job. For those who try to say you’re morons, I would take you over the folks who are criticizing you any day of the week and twice on Sunday,” he said.
Other cities and counties have started reopening their beaches to walking and other recreational activities. Many of the reopenings come with limits on operational hours, and disallow sitting, picnicing and camping out.
DeSantis has set a Friday deadline for a task force to make recommendations on how to reopen industries and businesses that closed due to the pandemic.
-- Lynn Hatter, WFSU
Half Million Jobless Claims Filed In Florida Last Week
A half million Floridians applied for unemployment benefits last week, according to figures released Thursday.
The new figures comes as a statewide task force continues examining when businesses shuttered and forced to lay off workers because of the new coronavirus can reopen.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported that more than 505,000 initial claims for unemployment benefits were filed in Florida last week. That pushes the state’s number of claims filed for unemployment well past 1 million claims since businesses around the state started closing last month under lockdown orders from municipalities and then Florida’s governor.
Florida has a civilian labor force of around 10 million workers.
-- Associated Press
Schools Open For Summer Camps?
Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran says he’d like to see schools be open for summer camps.
He says there will most likely be a hybrid solution for families with members vulnerable to COVID-19.
“They’ll probably stay in a learning management virtual platform with the teacher still having that direct instruction, but we still want to open up the campuses for everyone and open up those camps,” Corcoran said. “So you’re going to have a hybrid.”
Corcoran says those accommodations could carry over to the fall when students go back to school.
No final decisions have been made.
Education officials are trying to figure out issues, such as how to social distance in places like classrooms and cafeterias.
-- Robbie Gaffney, WFSU
The Villages Announces Plan To Reopen Recreational Facilities
The sprawling Villages retirement community announced a three-phase action plan for reopening recreational facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also on Wednesday, Sumter County -- where most of The Villages lies -- marked its 12th death from COVID-19.
Phase I begins next Monday. Villages Recreation and Parks staff will return to work to clean and prep. They'll set up tables and chairs to create 6-foot buffers.
Then, assuming local, state and federal rules permit, Phase II kicks in on May 4.
Through the end of the month, some recreation facilities will begin to reopen for limited use. The district will make decisions on which ones depending on Health Department criteria.
Those that do open will close each day at 8 p.m. to allow time for cleaning.
After that, guidelines permitting, The Villages will open more recreation centers and outdoor facilities. But no large events are planned.
-- Joe Byrnes, WMFE
Sarasota Votes To Reopen Beaches
Sarasota County Commissioners have voted to reopen beaches.
But there will be restrictions.
Beginning Monday, people will be able to walk, swim and fish at Sarasota County beaches. These are deemed as "essential activities" outlined by Governor Ron DeSantis' stay-at-home order. [Read more]
-- Cathy Carter
Companies To Bolster State Testing
Florida will be able to increase the number of COVID-19 tests that can be processed per day by 18,000 after the state signed contracts with two new testing companies.
Speaking to reporters at the capitol Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he anticipates the testing companies will be able to provide results within a two-day period.
The governor did not immediately provide the names of the testing companies that signed contracts.
He says the increased capacity will be focused on testing Florida’s most vulnerable populations.
“These tests at these labs will primarily be where we send our samples that we collect in the long-term care and assisted living facilities and at the community-based walk-up sites,” DeSantis said.
To access medically underserved communities, the DeSantis administration recently created walk-up sites in Broward and Duval counties where residents don’t need to have access to a car to obtain a test.
There have been over 2,200 confirmed COVID-19 cases involving residents or staff members of long-term care facilities, along with more than 230 deaths.
-- Tom Urban, WLRN
St. Petersburg On Its Own Timeline
While some models say Florida and St. Petersburg may have passed the peak rate of coronavirus infections, that doesn’t mean people should be throwing house parties anytime soon.
In his weekly COVID-19 update, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said Tuesday the city will not be lifting social distancing orders without a serious review.
Florida’s emergency declaration is set to expire April 30, unless it's extended by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
But Kriseman said his city will reopen on its own timeline. [Read more]
-- Delaney Brown
What To Expect When Theme Parks Reopen
Expect “virtual” or expanded FastPass-style lines, staggered seating on rides, online food ordering and limited crowds when Florida’s major theme parks eventually reopen after being shuttered during the coronavirus pandemic. [Read more]
-- News Service of Florida
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