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Latest On Coronavirus: Florida Cases Grow To 38,000, Real-Time Pinellas Beach Updates, And More

May 7, 2020

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 3 p.m. Thursday, May 7, according to the Florida Department of Health:

37,813 – Florida Residents | 1,015 – Non-Florida Residents | 1,600 – Deaths

CORONAVIRUS: Complete Coverage From WUSF And Health News Florida

NEWSLETTER: Sign Up For Coronavirus Updates From Health News Florida

Which Tampa Bay Libraries Are Open

According to “Phase 1” of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to reopen Florida, libraries can open at 25 percent capacity. However, the plan leaves the decision up to local governments.

Some Tampa Bay area counties are acting quicker than others to reopen.

Libraries were forced to physically close to patrons because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many systems are serving as pick-off and drop-off points for people who are unable to print state unemployment applications. They also continue to offer digital resources.

Here's a county-by-county breakdown of libraries that are now reopen.

-- Mark Schreiner

Website To Provide Real-Time Pinellas Beach Updates

As more folks flock to Pinellas County beaches now that they’re open, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is launching a tool that will help beach-goers plan their day.

A link on the Sheriff’s Office website will list all beaches in the county and alert folks if it is beach is open, reaching capacity, or closed. It will also indicate whether parking is available.

Folks can start checking for updates on Friday at 1 p.m.

-- Carl Lisciandrello

Pasco Sets High School Graduation Dates

Pasco County high school seniors will be graduating in August, officials announced Thursday.

The traditional celebrations in late May or early June were canceled due to coronavirus concerns and restrictions against large crowds.

Officials said the new dates are contingent on developments regarding coronavirus and CDC recommendations.

A list of the new schedule, with graduation site in parentheses:

  • Aug. 5: Marchman Technical College, TBD (River Ridge High School)
  • Aug. 7: Pasco High School, 7:30 p.m. (Pasco High Stadium)
  • Aug. 10: Pasco eSchool, 6: (River Ridge High School)
  • Aug. 11: Wendell Krinn Technical High School, 6 p.m. (Wendell Krinn Technical High)
  • Aug. 12: Gulf High School, 11 a.m.; Anclote High School, 3 p.m.; Cypress Creek High School, 7 p.m. (Yuengling Center)
  • Aug. 13: River Ridge High School, 11 a.m.; Zephyrhills High School, 3 p.m.; Wiregrass Ranch High School, 7 p.m. (Yuengling Center)
  • Aug. 14: Hudson High School, 11 a.m.; Land O’Lakes High School, 3 p.m.; Wesley Chapel High Schookl, 7 p.m. (Yuengling Center)
  • Aug. 15: Fivay High School, 9 a.m.; Sunlake High School, 1 p.m.; Mitchell High School, 6 p.m. (Yuengling Center)

-- Carl Lisciandrello

Polk Graduations Set For Joker Marchant Stadium

All Polk County high school graduations will take place at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium in June.

According to the Polk County school district, this includes traditional high schools as well as the following schools: Gause Academy, Fresh Start, East Area Adult, Polk Grad Academy, Polk Virtual School, Ridge Technical College, Traviss Technical College and West Area Adult.

A schedule of graduation schedules can be found on the school district’s website. Times for the ceremonies have yet to be determined.

-- Carl Lisciandrello

Pasco CARES Program Reaches Limit In 15 Minutes

The system set up to help Pasco County residents who were seeking assistance with paying their bills due to hardships from the coronavirus pandemic reached its limit in 15 minutes.

The Pasco CARES program was set up Thursday morning on a first-come, first-served basis for 1,200 residents.

Anyone with questions can call the Pasco County customer service line at 727-847-2411.

-- Carl Lisciandrello

Florida Tops 173,000 Unemployment Claims Last Week

Florida had more than 173,000 first-time unemployment claims last week as it prepared for a soft reopening of restaurants and retailers amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to U.S. Department of Labor numbers released Thursday.

The 173,191 new claims for the week ending May 2, an estimate by the federal agency, was a sharp decline from the 433,103 first-time claims during the week ending April 25 and 506,670 new claims during the week ending April 17. The state had provided the estimates for the weeks ending April 17 and April 25.

Large parts of the state’s economy shut down or scaled back in March to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the deadly respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. Gov. Ron DeSantis approved the first phase of an economic reopening that started Monday for businesses such as restaurants and retailers.

From March 15 to Tuesday, the state Department of Economic Opportunity reported receiving more than 1.8 million unemployment claims, of which more than 1.1 million were considered “unique.” The difference was due to duplicates or incomplete paperwork.

-- News Service of Florida

Can Mosquitoes Spread Coronavirus?

Mosquito season isn't officially here yet, but they are starting to appear already.

And this year, there's a new question: can mosquitoes spread coronavirus? 

If there's some good news, the answer is "no." [Read more]

-- Angela Cordoba Perez

Charlie Crist Backs Protection For Business Owners From Lawsuits

At both the state and federal level, lawmakers are hearing from business-owning constituents who want protection from potential COVID-19-related lawsuits. Democratic U.S. Representative Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg is the latest Florida politician to address the issue.

Ibrahim Moussa, the owner of Clearwater restaurant Abe’s Place Tap & Grill, told Crist he has employees still afraid to come to work. He’s worried, as the economy reopens, lawsuits could come from people claiming they got sick at his establishment.

“We are not asking for immunity, but some sort of a safe harbor when we open, if we do our job, and do it to the best of our ability,” Moussa said.

Moussa was on a conference call hosted by Crist Wednesday, to share concerns from the hospitality industry. Crist is lawyer who formerly served as Florida’s attorney general.

Crist expects coming legislation from Washington will include some sort of protection for business owners who do their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. [Read more]

-- Ryan Dailey, WFSU

Florida Matters: The (Maybe Not) Dismal Short-Term Future Of Tampa Bay Business

As we transition back to normal, Florida Matters looked for some analysis on the unique challenges Tampa Bay businesses, non-profits and the economy will be facing as we transition from stay-at-home orders to heading back to work again.

So we got some insight with Balaji Padmanabhan, the Anderson Professor of Global Management, the Director of the Center for Analytics & Creativity and a professor in the Information Systems and Decision Sciences Department at the University of South Florida Muma College of Business. [Read more]

-- Steve Newborn

Florida Unemployment Lawsuit Dismissed

Hundreds of thousands laid-off workers who can’t get their unemployment money from the state of Florida got more bad news Wednesday. A state judge says she had no authority to order the immediate payment of jobless claims.

As agonizing delays dragged on week after week with Florida’s overwhelmed re-employment assistance web site, some workers sued the state. They want a judge to force the state to immediately pay benefits. But after a 90-minute telephone hearing in Tallahassee, they got no relief. Because of the controversy surrounding Florida's broken benefits program, Wednesday’s hearing attracted an overwhelming amount of news media interest ... so much that it took nearly 10 minutes for all media outlets to identify themselves.

After hearing arguments, Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey dismissed a lawsuit that sought a writ of mandamus. That’s typically sought in cases in which the government fails to perform a duty it is legally required to perform.

-- Steve Bousquet, WFSU

Malls Reopening Across Tampa Bay

Several malls across the Tampa Bay area have either reopened or will today ... or in the near future.

International Plaza in Tampa and the Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota are reopening today. Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg, Tampa Premium Outlets in Lutz and Ellenton Premium Outlets reopened on Monday. 

The locations will offer limited hours, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Some retailers also will choose to remain closed. [Read more]

-- Carl Lisciandrello

Derby Lane Will Remain Closed To Public

After announcing earlier this week that Derby Lane will reopen greyhound racing to patrons, it now says it will remain closed to the public.

In a news release on Tuesday, officials say spectators will not be allowed on property when live racing resumes Friday.

In addition, the Derby Lane Poker Room will not reopen.

Live racing can be viewed online on the Greyhound Channel.

-- Carl Lisciandrello

Catholic Masses To Resume

Some Catholics across Tampa Bay will soon be able to attend public Masses again. Just not on Sundays.

Bishop Gregory Parkes, with the Diocese of St. Petersburg, issued a statement saying the churches can slowly begin the process of returning to public worship.

"My prayer is that whether you join us in person for Mass or stay at home for health reasons, we will all be joyfully united and present to the Lord in prayer, worship and service," Parkes said in a statement

Churches can gather from Monday through Saturday starting May 11. They must adhere to social distancing guidelines, and only allow for 25 percent capacity. [Read more]

-- Carl Lisciandrello

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