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 7:00 p.m., Monday, March 16, according to the Florida Department of Health.
142 – Florida Residents | 6 – Florida Cases Repatriated | 18 – Non-Florida Residents
State Announces New Coronavirus Cases, Fifth Death
The Florida Department of Health announced 24 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday, bringing the total number in the state to 160.
142 Floridians have tested positive for COVID-19 and another 18 people from out-of-state have tested positive in Florida. There are also six Florida residents with coronavirus who are being treated in other states.
A fifth person has died in Florida from the coronavirus. The person died in Orange County, a release from the state said, but no other identification details were provided.
The state also launched a COVID-19 dashboard, providing a map with a county-by-county breakdown of existing cases. However, the state’s release announcing the new cases did not provide information that was previously available. The state did not provide the individual ages and locations for the new patients who tested positive. [Read more]
-- Julio Ochoa
Tampa, St. Petersburg Set Limits on Gatherings, Bars and Restaurants
The mayors of Tampa and St. Petersburg held separate Facebook Live sessions on Monday, announcing new limitations on gatherings, as well as at restaurants and bars.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor ordered all bars and restaurants to limit their occupancy to 50 percent of their maximum capacity, starting Tuesday at noon. She also ordered them to close daily at 10 p.m. until further notice. [Read more]
Late Monday night, Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill issued an administrative order with the same restrictions for restaurants, bars, and private clubs in the rest of the county. [Read more]
St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman said his city is restricting both public and private gatherings to 50 people and will limit late alcohol sales at bars and restaurants in an effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Bars and restaurants must now abide by a last-call of 9 p.m., and Kriseman stressed that this restriction will be strongly enforced.
“Late night revelry in this city will not be allowed,” Kriseman said.
In addition, all libraries, recreation center and pools will be closed to the public until further notice. [Read more]
-- Lisa Peakes, Steve Newborn and Carl Lisciandrello
WrestleMania Moved Out of Tampa
WrestleMania 36 will not be held in Tampa after all. World Wrestling Entertainment issued a state on Twitter saying it will move the event to its training facility in Orlando.
As it has done with recent televised events, WrestleMania will be held in the empty WWE Performance Center in Orlando. Only essential personnel will be allowed on the closed set. [Read more]
-- Carl Lisciandrello and Mark Schreiner
Gov. DeSantis Announces Small Business Loan Program
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Monday that Florida will offer $50 million in loan programs for small businesses that are being adversely impacted by the novel coronavirus. The interest-free loan program is designed to help companies stay in business in the short-term.
Small businesses with two to 100 employees can apply for loans up to $50,000. [Read more]
News Service of Florida
Recreational Facility Closures in City of Sarasota
The City of Sarasota on Monday announced that City recreational facilities will be closed beginning Wednesday March 18, through at least the end of the month. Closures include Arlington Park and Aquatic Complex, Bobby Jones Golf Club, Lido Beach Pool, Payne Park Tennis Center, Payne Park Skate Park and the Robert L. Taylor Community Center. The City Commission’s next regular meeting scheduled for April 6 has been canceled.
On Monday, The Ringling Museum of Art and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota also announced they will be closed until further notice.
Beach Closures, Curfews In Miami, Fort Lauderdale
While the state was urging social distancing in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, spring break crowds descended on parts of South Florida over the weekend.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state will make recommendations about these kinds of gatherings based on new guidelines that the Centers for Disease Control was expected to release on Monday. Later Sunday night, the CDC recommended that everyone cancel or postpone gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks.
The governor praised efforts by some South Florida officials to curb crowds. The mayors of Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach announced Sunday similar measures for their cities – including curfews and beach closures. [Read more]
No Visitation At Hillsborough County Jails
Effective Tuesday, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is suspending suspending jailhouse video visitation for families and friends of inmates.
In a release, the sheriff’s office said remote video visitation will be available for $8 for 20 minutes. It can be set up at https://hcsovisit.com/app.
In addition, the lobbies at the Falkenberg and Orient Road facilities will be closed. Those arriving at the Orient Road Jail to pay bond for an inmate will be directed to a side door, where a sheriff’s office employee will assist them.
-- Carl Lisciandrello
Pinellas County Tax Collector’s Office Announces Changes
The Pinellas County Tax Collector’s Office is closing two locations and canceling some services.
The following offices will be closed from March 17 to March 27:
- Skyway Office, 1067 62nd Ave S, St. Petersburg, 33705
- Gulf to Bay Office, 1663 Gulf to Bay Blvd, Clearwater, 33755
The other locations will remain open– the North County office in Clearwater, Mid-County Office in Largo and South County office in St. Petersburg.
During this time, the office also will not perform road tests or issue concealed weapons license.
-- Carl Lisciandrello
ACT Exams Rescheduled For June
College-bound students will have to wait a month to take their ACT.
In a release, ACT officials said the test is being rescheduled from April 4 to June 13 as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
Students registered to take the ACT will receive instructions on next steps.
For more information, visit the ACT website.
-- Carl Lisciandrello
How Coronavirus Is Impacting Tampa Bay Businesses
Local businesses are starting to feel the impact of coronavirus.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges people to continue social distancing, some local businesses are seeing a traffic slow down as a result. [Read more]
-- Delaney Brown
Free Meals Available For Florida Students
Free meals for children under 18 will be available at Florida schools during the ongoing coronavirus closures, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said Sunday.
Last year, more than 2 million Florida school children were eligible for free or reduced-priced lunches. Fried said in a statement that activating the summer meals program would provide an alternative to families who rely on these meals.
The state already has activated 934 “break-spot’ locations in counties across the state, including Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Manatee, and Polk.
The program – which normally operates during the summer – may not be operating right away at all locations because of scheduled spring breaks. Families are encouraged to check the website SummerBreakSpot website to find open locations.
-- WUSF Staff
Disney Closing Hotels, Shops
All Disney stores in North America, including locations at Disney Springs in Orlando, will close on Tuesday.
Hotels at Walt Disney World Resort and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort will close on Friday.
UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Dean Robertico Croes says it will have a big impact on other businesses too.
“It is a huge thing. So, the problem is again demand. It’s not only people holding off on spending money because they don’t have a job, but also companies will be holding off and those who have the spending power are also holding off.” [Read more]
Drive-Through Coronavirus Tests In Broward
Gov. Ron DeSantis says a drive-through testing site for COVID-19 will be set up this week in Broward County, which has been hit particularly hard by coronavirus. He said during a press conference Sunday night in Tallahassee it will be manned by Florida National Guard troops.
DeSantis also called on muncipalities to call off spring break festivities, saying large gatherings could become a breeding ground for the disease. [Read more]
-- Steve Newborn