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Latest On Coronavirus: First Hillsborough Death, Raymond James Stadium Halts Appointments, 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 7 p.m. Thursday, March 26, according to the Florida Department of Health.

2,352 – Florida Residents |6 – Florida Cases Repatriated | 125  – Non-Florida Residents | 29 -  Deaths

CORONAVIRUS: Complete Coverage From WUSF And WUSF Public Media

Pinellas Law Enforcement Making Sure Businesses Following Rules

Pinellas County businesses are being warned to follow recommendations designed to reduce the spread of coronavirus or they will be forced to close.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at a news conference Thursday afternoon that 200 deputies and officers from St. Petersburg and Clearwater Police started sharing details about the one-week stay-at-home order this morning. He said officers are concerned specifically about places where people usually are in close contact such as hair and nail salons. Pinellas leaders also are reminding residents that swimming pools at apartment complexes, country clubs and other public places are closed. Tennis courts and golf courses are open - as long as people follow guidance to stay 6 feet apart. - Mary Shedden 

First Hillborough Resident Dies As Florida Cases Increase By Over 500

Hillsborough County has reported its first coronavirus-related death.

In a release, the Hillsborough County Health Department says a 69-year-old resident died at home.

More than 1,970 people in Florida have tested positive for COVID-19 according to the latest statistics released Wednesday evening by the Florida Department of Health. That's 500 more since Tuesday evening's update.

23 people in Florida have also died from COVID-19. That's three more than the Tuesday evening update.

The most recent deaths were a 71-year-old resident of Pasco County and an 81-year-old Sarasota County resident. They're the first deaths reported in each county.

The publicist for Terrence McNally says the award-winning playwright died in Sarasota Memorial Hospital Tuesday because of complications due to coronavirus. [Read more]

-- Lisa Peakes & Mark Schreiner

Drive-Thru Testing Appointments Halted At Raymond James Stadium

The coronavirus test site at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa is no longer taking appointments.

The site, run by Hillsborough County and six other local partners, just opened Wednesday and had 900 test kits with which to work.

A county spokesman tells WUSF that 900 appointments have already been booked for symptomatic people who passed a pre-screening process.

They also don't know when or if they will receive more kits they requested from the federal government.

The site will still be running Friday to complete the scheduled appointments.

-- Jessica Meszaros

St. Petersburg Police Employee Tests Positive

A non-sworn employee at the St. Petersburg Police Department has tested positive for COVID-19.

According to police, the Emergency Communications Center employee contracted the virus after going out of town.

The employee returned March 16 and has been out of work since March 18 after showing symptoms, police said. The positive test came back on Wednesday.

Four other employees who may have come in contact are self-quarantined, police said.

-- Carl Lisciandrello

Tampa Police Officer Tests Positive, Others Quarantined

First responders in the Tampa Bay area who have contact with the public are starting to test positive for COVID-19.

Tampa Police Department Chief Brian Dugan announced Wednesday that a 26-year-old officer who just started on the job has tested positive for coronavirus.

The officer was hired in August and had last worked on March 15.

In a Facebook Live video posted Wednesday afternoon, Dugan said the officer became sick while off-duty. On March 18, he self-quarantined and was placed under a doctor’s care. His test came back positive for COVID-19 Wednesday.

He added that 44 other officers are currently on active monitoring. Thirty-five are in quarantine and nine are awaiting test results. [Read more]

-- Mark Schreiner

Drive-Thru Testing Center Opens In Manatee

Manatee County has opened its first drive-thru testing site, 25 days after the first positive case of COVID-19 was reported in the county.

The four-day event starts today and is limited to 200 people with an appointment and a doctor's prescription.

The drive-thru specimen collection is at the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto through Sunday. The Department of Health is scheduling 50 appointments for each of the four days.

County officials say they plan on additional testing - but are currently competing with other Florida counties for limited supplies. [Read more]

-- Cathy Carter

Publix To Add Plexiglass Barriers For Cashiers

Publix says it will begin installing plexiglass barriers at the cash registers to protect its workers and customers from the coronavirus.

A company spokeswoman says all of its stores should have the barriers installed within the next two weeks. [Read more]

-- Associated Press

Student On USF Tampa Campus Tests Positive

The University of South Florida is reporting that a student and an employee at its Tampa campus have tested positive for COVID-19.

The student had been traveling abroad and tested positive upon returning to the U.S. The student has not been on campus this semester and is self-isolating in another state.   

Also, an employee in USF Innovative Education has tested positive. The person has not been on campus since March 13 and is being monitored by health officials.

Students and staff members who may have come into close contact with these individuals are being contacted separately by with appropriate health guidance.

A USF St. Petersburg student who has not been on campus since late February tested positive over the weekend and a member of the university's Counseling Center on the Tampa campus tested positive last week.

-- Mark Schreiner

Florida Declared A Disaster Area

President Donald Trump has declared Florida a disaster area because of the new coronavirus outbreak.

The president acted Wednesday, one day after Gov. Ron DeSantis requested the declaration. Florida is the sixth state to receive one because of the viral outbreak.

The move makes the state eligible for federal funding for emergency protective measures and crisis counseling.

The declaration came shortly after Hillsborough and Pinellas counties moved to impose lockdown orders. Restrictions have already been imposed by local officials in south and central Florida and elsewhere.

State health officials report nearly 2,000 cases and 23 deaths as of Wednesday night.

-- Associated Press

Brightline Suspends Service

Brightline announced it will temporarily suspend its train service, to try to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The last train left out of Miami and headed north at 5:50 p.m. on Wednesday.

WLRN obtained a statement from the company’s president, Patrick Goddard, which reads:

“Like all businesses, we are operating in a period of uncertainty which may last several months. Although a difficult decision, we have decided to temporarily suspend Brightline service in the best interest of the entire South Florida community as we all seek to flatten the curve,” Goddard stated.

“We are taking proactive measures with our Phase two construction teams in order to keep people employed and continue construction between Orlando and West Palm Beach. As we look ahead toward the economic recovery of Florida, projects like Brightline will help create jobs and a transportation network that will be more important than ever.”

- Caitie Switalski, WLRN

Curfew Set For Hillsborough County Weekends, Weeknights

Hillsborough County could soon be under a weekend and weeknight curfew -- as early as Friday.

On Wednesday, members of the county's Emergency Policy Group unanimously approved setting up a vote for the curfew during their next meeting  at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

The move to limit the spread of coronavirus would set up a countywide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. weeknights; and from 10 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday.

If passed, it would also enact a "stay-at-home" policy all week long. [Read more]

-- Steve Newborn

Pinellas Votes To Enact Stay-At-Home Order For One Week

Many businesses and public facilities in Pinellas County will close for one week, under a resolution unanimously approved by county commissioners on Wednesday.

County administrator Barry Burton says many residents are staying home and abiding by social distancing guidelines, but stronger measures are needed.

“If you do not employ these practices, we have no choice but to take more aggressive actions to keep our residents safe,” Burton said. [Read more]

-- Bradley George

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