LISTEN LIVE

Latest On Coronavirus: FL Unemployment Claims Stabilize, St. Pete Closes Part Of Bayshore, And More

May 21, 2020

WUSF will be providing the latest news and information on coronavirus in Tampa Bay and across the state. Here are the latest developments:

Here are the latest figures as of 11 a.m. Thursday, May 21, according to the Florida Department of Health:

47,381 – Florida Residents |  1,294 – Non-Florida Residents | 2,144  – Deaths

CORONAVIRUS: Complete Coverage From WUSF And Health News Florida

NEWSLETTER: Sign Up For Coronavirus Updates From Health News Florida

New Jobless Claims In Florida Stabilize From Last Week

The number of Floridians who filed new unemployment claims last week remained almost unchanged from the previous week.

Figures released Thursday by the U.S. Labor Department suggests some stabilization in job losses as Florida businesses have started reopening after being closed to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

The labor agency reported that Floridians filed 223,927 jobless claims last week, compared to 223,082 claims filed in the previous week. [Read more]

-- Associated Press

DeSantis Changes His Tone

Governor Ron DeSantis says the woman ousted from the Florida Department of Health over what the state says was “insubordination” was not the person who designed the state’s COVID-19 database.

That runs counter to a feature on Rebekah Jones out of Syracuse University, her alma mater, published earlier this year.

Jones says she was fired for refusing to manipulate data, but the state says it removed her for what DeSantis’ spokeswoman Helen Ferre says was “a repeated course of insubordination including “unilateral decisions to modify the Department’s COVID-19 dashboard without input or approval from the epidemiological team or her supervisors.”

Said DeSantis: “Come to find out, she’s also under active criminal charges in the State of Florida. She’s being charged with cyberstalking and cyber sexual harassment. I’ve asked the Department of Health to explain to me how someone would be allowed to be charged with that and continue on because this was many months ago. I have a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment.” [Read more]

-- Lynn Hatter, WFSU

Catholic Masses Can Resume On Sundays

Two weeks after announcing Catholics across Tampa Bay can take part in public Masses from Monday through Saturday, parishioners now will be able to attend on Sundays.

Bishop Gregory Parkes, with the Diocese of St. Petersburg, issued a statement Wednesday saying churches have been granted permission to open on Sundays as early as the weekend of May 30-31.

The Masses can resume with churches adhering to social distancing guidelines, and Parkes urged caution for those who may be at risk for contract coronavirus. [Read more]

-- Carl Lisciandrello

St. Petersburg Closes Part Of Bayshore Drive To Encourage Exercise

St. Petersburg is closing a portion of Bayshore Drive NE to vehicles so people can walk and ride bicycles.

The closure between 5th Avenue and 2nd Avenue will go into effect Friday morning at eight.

Mayor Rick Kriseman said, even though it's a small stretch of road, it's heavily used.

“Beyond our Open Streets events, we have been looking at opportunities to experiment with road closures and create more space for those walking, biking, and exercising,” said Kriseman. “I am hopeful it will be used wisely.”

“This is an exciting opportunity to help foster more enjoyment of our downtown waterfront while allowing for easier social distancing,” added City Council Vice Chair Gina Driscoll. “This closure should help to inform future actions related to opening our streets for alternative uses.”

-- Mark Schreiner

Pinellas Short-Term Vacation Rentals To Reopen

Pinellas County is the first Tampa Bay area county to receive approval from the state for short-term vacation rental properties to resume accepting reservations and check-ins.

The ruling is effective immediately - just in time for the Memorial Day weekend.

Governor Ron DeSantis said vacation rentals could resume under the "full Phase I" of his COVID-19 recovery plan - as long as counties had their safety plan approved by the state. [Read more]

-- Mark Schreiner

Pence Touts Economic Recovery In Orlando

Vice President Mike Pence is describing Florida as a national leader as across the country states are taking gradual steps toward reopening their economies.

He met Wednesday in Orlando with tourism and hospitality leaders about restarting Florida’s lifeblood industry.

The vice president struck an assured tone as he pointed to data trends that he said show the coronavirus is easing its grip on the quarantine-weary country. [Read more]

-- Amy Green, WMFE

Survey: Two-Thirds Of Floridians Have Lost Wages, Or Had Jobs Disrupted

A new survey shows one out of four people in the state have had their work hours cut because of the pandemic. And nearly 18 percent have been laid off from work.

The Sunshine State Survey of 600 people was done by Nielsen and the University of South Florida. USF assistant professor Joshua Scacco says six out of 10 respondents said they are concerned about the effect the economic shutdown is having on their finances. [Read more]

-- Steve Newborn

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 at WUSF.org/give