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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: No Deaths In Tampa Bay Area For Second Day, DeSantis Criticizes Early Models

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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 11 a.m. Sunday, April 26, according to the Florida Department of Health:

30,680 – Florida Residents | 848 – Non-Florida Residents | 1,074 – Deaths

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Florida Cases Pass 31,000; Bay Area Posts No Deaths For Second Straight Day

The number of COVID-19 infections in Florida passed 31,000 Sunday. However, the number of deaths in the Tampa Bay area remained unchanged for the second straight day.

As of 11 a.m. Sunday, 31,528 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state; an increase of 689 since Saturday morning.

The Florida Department of Health switched to reporting figures once a day over the weekend.

A total of 1,074 people have now died from the coronavirus statewide; an increase of 19 deaths since Saturday morning. No deaths were reported in the Tampa Bay area Sunday, the second straight day that happened. [Read more]

-- Mark Schreiner

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

DeSantis Criticizes Early COVID-19 Projections As TMH Updates Its Timeframe. How Do Models Work?

Florida seems to have passed its peak for coronavirus cases. Even though the state is still logging new infections, the rate of new cases overall appears to be decreasing. Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis has gone on defense. Ahead of plans to reopen businesses that have been closed, DeSantis is attacking the same models the state has relied on to guide its COVID-19 response.

“You go back a month, month and a half, we heard report after report saying it was just a matter of time until Florida’s hospital system was completely overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients," he said during an April 21st press conference. 

DeSantis has been defending the state against blowback to his plans to reopen businesses. Part of that defense has involved pointing to the models that have been used to figure out the impact of the Coronavirus on the state, and criticizing journalists for their reporting.

“In fact, there was an article in March in the Miami Herald that said this week, this week in April, Florida could see 465,000 people hospitalized throughout the state of Florida. The reality? Slightly more than 2,000. Those predictions have been false," DeSantis said. 

Journalists did not produce those estimates out of thin air. The numbers came from several scientific models cited by both state and national health officials who used them to guide policy decisions regarding the coronavirus.

“In March we were told that Florida would reach its surge, a peak in new COVID cases by the middle of May. Then a week later it was forecast that April 23 would be the peak," said the Palm Beach County Medical Society's Dr. Brent Schillinger. 

Schillinger is one of dozens of people appointed to DeSantis' task force to examine how to restart organizations and business that have shuttered amid the coronavirus. He acknowledges the situation hasn’t turned out the way early models predicted. [Read more]

-- Lynn Hatter

Florida's Airline Industry Could Take Years To Recover From Coronavirus Impact

Reviving the airline industry in Florida could take years to get back to January levels, requiring confidence from passengers that their flights and their destinations are safe from the coronavirus.

To try to provide that comfort, Spirit Airlines President and CEO Ted Christie recommended Thursday to members of a task force created by Gov. Ron DeSantis that a standardized set of policies and rules could be used for such things as airlines, car-rental companies, hotels and local governments hosting travelers.

“We can create a message that can be marketed to the broader traveling public that Florida is committed to your safety,” Christie said during a conference call with the Industry Working Group on Tourism, Construction, Real Estate, Recreation, Retail and Transportation that is part of DeSantis’ Re-Open Florida Task Force.

“You can plan to enjoy a clean and seamless trip here that includes a robust testing program to ensure that future issues can be isolated and the impact can be contained with a uniform set of expectations,” Christie added.

Meanwhile, Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano said with business at a near standstill, part of rebuilding consumer confidence is that the Tampa airport is mandating tenants wear personal-protection masks, and “we will soon begin encouraging the same for passengers and other guests.” [Read more]

-- Jim Turner, News Service of Florida

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

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

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Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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.