Latest On Coronavirus: Florida Reaches Grim Milestones, Gualtieri Wants Beaches To Reopen, 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 11 a.m. Saturday, April 25, according to the Florida Department of Health:
29,996 – Florida Residents | 843 – Non-Florida Residents | 1,055 – Deaths
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Florida Cases Reach Two Grim Milestones
The number of COVID-19 infections in Florida passed 30,000 on Friday, and the number of people who have died passed 1,000.
As of 11 a.m. Saturday, 30,839 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state; an increase of 306 since Friday evening.
A total of 1,055 people have now died from the coronavirus statewide; an increase of nine deaths since Friday evening.
-- Kerry Sheridan
Gualtieri: It's Time To Reopen Pinellas Beaches
Folks who have been hoping Pinellas County officials will move forward with a plan to reopen the county’s beaches now have a powerful ally.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
In an open letter posted to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page on Saturday afternoon, Gualteri said the county has effectively flattened the curve of new coronavirus cases, and that “this week is the right time” to reopen beaches and pools. [Read more]
-- Carl Lisciandrello
Task Force Seeks Public Input
The task force that will give a final report to Gov. Ron DeSantis with its recommendations for reopening Florida’s economy is soliciting public comment online.
The Re-Open Florida Task Force has launched a public comment submission portal. It is open to all Floridians, and in a news release, the task force said feedback will be a “critical component” for its final report.
It also is soliciting comments on the impact of reopening the economy on areas including small business, healthcare, education, sporting event and tourism.
Click here to access the submission portal.
-- Carl Lisciandrello
Coronavirus Could Alter How Florida Responds To Hurricanes
Florida officials are considering adjusting the state’s hurricane-response plans to prepare for the possibility of an early storm season intersecting with the COVID-19 pandemic, Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said Friday.
If storms threaten Florida in June or July, the state might need to rethink the use of mass shelters, shuttles to evacuate people and the way it recruits volunteers to help with storm recovery, Moskowitz said.
If there is an early hurricane season, the state is considering using hotel rooms instead of schools and other types of mass shelters, Moskowitz said. [Read more]
-- News Service of Florida
Florida Taking Unemployment Website Down This Weekend
Rushing to reduce a massive backlog of claims created as businesses shuttered due to the coronavirus, Florida’s unemployment agency announced Friday that it has now processed more than 31 percent of unemployment claims, with payments of up to $275 a week going out to 22 percent of the applicants.
However, residents continue to express frustrations about being cut off from the state’s online CONNECT unemployment system and not being able to get through to call centers for assistance.
The Department of Economic Opportunity also took the CONNECT system offline Friday, and it will remain unavailable to Floridians until Monday morning. [Read more]
-- Tom Urban, WLRN
Lengthy Economic Recovery For Tampa Bay
State and local officials are optimistic that Florida may be past the peak of coronavirus infection, but a new report from the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council shows that the six area counties are going to take longer to financially recover than most parts of the country.
The report notes that while Florida has fewer coronavirus cases than many states, prolonged social distancing will have a devastating impact on the state’s $86 billion hospitality industry. [Read more]
-- Delaney Brown
More Deaths At Pinellas Nursing Homes
More people have died following two outbreaks of the coronavirus in Pinellas County nursing homes.
Nursing h0me officials confirmed nine people have now died from COVID-19 at Freedom Square, a retirement community in Seminole.
The Tampa Bay Times also reported the first death of a patient from the St. Mark Village nursing home in Palm Harbor.
At least 22 long-term care facilities in Pinellas County have confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to a list released by the state last week.
Freedom Square was the first to report deaths in its rehabilitation facility last week. Dozens of people have since tested positive for COVID-19 on the campus that offers skilled nursing, rehabilitation, memory care and independent living.
-- Mary Shedden
UFC To Hold Shows Without Fans In Jacksonville
The UFC is returning to competition on May 9 for three shows without fans in eight days in Jacksonville.
The mixed martial arts promotion is determined to return to action after postponing and canceling several shows due to the coronavirus pandemic.
UFC 249 will be held May 9 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville with no fans in attendance. The postponed pay-per-view show will still be headlined by Tony Ferguson’s interim lightweight title bout against Justin Gaethje.
UFC President Dana White also plans to hold shows on May 13 and May 16 at the same arena.
-- Associated Press
What Beaches And Parks Are Open In Tampa Bay?
As restrictions seem to loosen in some parts of the state, how are counties in Tampa Bay responding? We compiled a list of beaches and parks that will be open this weekend. [Read more]
-- Jonah Hinebaugh
Utility Companies To Trim Rates
Buoyed by low natural-gas costs, 21 public utilities throughout the state plan to trim customers’ electric bills during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Florida Municipal Power Agency, the savings will total about sixty million dollars over several months. The agency is owned by municipal utilities and provides wholesale power.
The Florida Public Service Commission on Tuesday is slated to consider similar plans to pass along savings from four privately held utilities --- Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric, Florida Power & Light, and Gulf Power.
Staff members of the commission on Thursday recommended approval of those plans.
Public and private utilities in the state rely heavily on natural gas to fuel power plants.
-- News Service of Florida
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