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Health News Florida
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: Cases Near 37,000, Pinellas Beaches Busy, 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 11 a.m. Monday, May 4, according to the Florida Department of Health:

35,969 – Florida Residents | 928 – Non-Florida Residents | 1,399 – Deaths

CORONAVIRUS: Complete Coverage From WUSF And Health News Florida

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State Cases Approach 37,000

Florida has reported nearly 37,000 cases of COVID-19.

Data from the Florida Department of Health shows 36,897 people have tested positive for the coronavirus; an increase of 819 since Sunday morning.

There were 81 new cases reported in the Tampa Bay area Monday morning. Eighty-one new cases were also reported Sunday morning.

A total of 1,399 people have died statewide from the coronavirus; an increase of 20 since Sunday. [Read more]

Pinellas Beaches Busy On First Day Back

Pinellas County's beaches were busy Monday, on the first day that people were allowed to return to the sand.

Beachgoers from Fort DeSoto to Tarpon Springs showed up in flocks after being shut out since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Beaches in Madeira, Pass-A-Grille and Belleair had reached capacity early on, said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

Others, like Honeymoon Island in Dunedin, were restricting access to 50 percent capacity and had to turn people away. Gualtieri said the restrictions likely led to bigger crowds on the Dunedin Causeway.

He said once the beaches reach capacity, deputies in parking lots direct people to move on.

“This is how we're going to manage this, is when we see areas that are full, the deputies are going to shut it down and tell people to move to another area so we don't have too many people on the beach so that they can't do anything other than be on top of each other,” Gualtieri said.

Pinellas had 300 law enforcement officers patrolling beaches, with every beach access point and parking lot staffed.

Overall, Gualtieri said, people were being compliant and following social distancing rules.

-- Julio Ochoa

Derby Lane Reopening Friday

Derby Lane is reopening for live greyhound racing Friday after being closed for nearly 50 days due to the coronavirus.

The St. Petersburg racetrack announced it will host matinee races Monday through Saturday. It’s grandstand and concession area will be open.

All patrons will have their temperature checked prior to being allowed to stay on property, and those who refuse will be asked to leave immediately. Patrons also must wear a face covering and protective gloves.

The racetrack’s poker room will reopen on May 11th. The St. Pete institution is celebrating its 95th year.

-- Stephanie Colombini

City Of Tampa Reopens Beaches, Dog Parks

Beaches and dog parks within the city of Tampa have reopened under social media guidelines.

This includes Ben T. Davis Beach and the dog park at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

Areas such as playgrounds, picnic areas, sports fields, and restrooms will remain closed.

For more information, visit the city of Tampa’s website.

-- Carl Lisciandrello

DeSantis To Address Unemployment Issues

Gov. Ron DeSantis said he will hold a news conference Monday to address the state’s much-criticized CONNECT unemployment compensation system.

“The system just totally broke. It's not a good system. We're going to deal with that,” DeSantis said Sunday during an appearance at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach.

Since March 15, the state has received 1.78 million unemployment applications, of which more than 1 million are considered “unique,” as some people filed more than one claim. As of Saturday, 452,526, or 44.1 percent, of the unique applicants, had started to receive weekly state unemployment checks of up to $275.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity said more than $700 million has been paid out to applicants, of which $428.6 million, or 61 percent, is money from a federal stimulus program.

Complaints continue about the CONNECT online system going down as people fill out applications and about a large number of people being deemed ineligible for benefits. Overwhelmed by claims starting in mid-March, the Department of Economic Opportunity opened a backup online site for new claims and allowed people to fill out paper applications.

-- News Service of Florida

Elective Surgeries Ready To Return

After weeks of shutdowns to slow the spread of coronavirus, Governor Ron DeSantis says elective surgeries are ready to begin again on Monday.

He discussed ‘phase one' of reopening the state during a visit to Halifax Health in Daytona Beach Sunday. He pointed to the hospital's protocol - and its supply of personal protective equipment - as why this hospital and others can resume non-emergency surgeries.

“The hospitals when they’re doing it, they’re certifying effectively, that they do have space in the hospital, that if you did have increase in COVID patients they can handle it and they have adequate PPE, they’re not going to run to the state for PPE,” DeSantis said.  [Read more]

-- Susan Giles Wantuck

Remdesivir Already Being Tested In Sarasota 

On Friday, a drug called remdesivir was green-lighted by the FDA for emergency use in hospitalized coronavirus patients after a preliminary trial by the National Institutes of Health showed the antiviral medicine helped them recover about 31 percent faster than patients who received a placebo.

Locally, a trial is already under way using remdesivir in very ill COVID-19 patients on ventilators at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

Nine people have already received it intravenously at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, which was one of the first in the southeastern United States to enroll in a trial using remdesivir in late-stage coronavirus patients, said Dr. Kirk Voelker, medical director of clinical research. [Read more]

-- Kerry Sheridan

Hernando Libraries First To Open Locally  

Hernando County’s public libraries appear to be the first in the region to re-open to the public. On Monday, individual locations will open with restrictions including:

  • No more than 25 percent capacity, which depends on the size of each location;
  • Computer access will follow social distance guidelines and use is limited to 30 minutes;
  • Limited hours, depending on location;

All locations also will be closed for from noon to 2 p.m. every day for cleaning and the shelving of books.
For more information, visit https://hernandocountylibrary.us/

- Mary Shedden 

Remdesivir Already Being Tested In Sarasota

On Friday, a drug called remdesivir was green-lighted by the FDA for emergency use in hospitalized coronavirus patients after a preliminary trial by the National Institutes of Health showed the antiviral medicine helped them recover about 31 percent faster than patients who received a placebo.

Locally, a trial is already under way using remdesivir in very ill COVID-19 patients on ventilators at Sarasota Memorial Hospital [Read more].

- Kerry Sheridan

DeSantis Committed To Opening Hair Salons and Barber Shops

Barber shops and hair salons are still on the sidelines as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ reopening of select businesses during the coronavirus pandemic begins Monday.

DeSantis laid the foundation for the reopening of personal grooming businesses during a roundtable with barbers and hair stylists in Orlando on Saturday.

But the governor said more consideration of employee and customer safety is needed before he can give the go-ahead for salons and barber shops to turn on the lights again.

“Throughout this whole time, I’ve said I’d rather get it right than get it fast,” DeSantis, joined by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, told stylists, barbers and reporters at Ohsooojazzy Hair Salon in Orlando Saturday afternoon. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to sit on our hands. But we just want to be very thorough about how we’re doing it.”

The barbers and hair stylists assured the governor they are prepared to increase already stringent sanitation requirements. [Read more]

- Julio Ochoa