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 6:00 p.m., Thursday, March 19, according to the Florida Department of Health.
393 – Florida Residents | 6 – Florida Cases Repatriated | 39 – Non-Florida Residents
CORONAVIRUS: Complete Coverage From WUSF And Health News Florida
Ninth Florida Coronavirus Death
The total number of coronavirus cases in Florida is 432, with 393 of those being Florida residents. In addition, a ninth person has died.
According to the Florida Department of Health, the latest reported death was someone who had previously tested positive in Duval County. No other information was released.
BayCare Health System Postpones Elective Surgeries
BayCare Health System is postponing elective surgical procedures starting Friday, March 20 through April 30 at its hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers.
The change applies to procedures that can be delayed without danger to the patient, such as screening colonoscopies, catheterization laboratory procedures, interventional radiology studies and sleep lab studies.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Surgeon General encouraged hospitals to consider stopping elective surgeries to conserve personal protection equipment - and free up other resources.
BayCare hospitals will continue emergency procedures as needed.
-- Daylina Miller
Public Beaches To Close In Sarasota and Manatee Counties
Sarasota and Manatee counties will close all public beaches amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.
Manatee County Beaches will close Friday at 6 a.m. Sarasota County Beaches will close Saturday at 6 a.m.
No Cash Tolls On Florida's Turnpike
Florida’s Turnpike has stopped taking cash at toll plazas to help combat the novel coronavirus and protect toll collectors.
The Florida Department of Transportation announced Thursday that tolls will be collected through an electronic system.
It was not immediately clear how long the change would last.
-- News Service of Florida
Sarasota And Manatee Counties Close Public Beaches
Sarasota and Manatee counties will close all public beaches amid worries about the spread of the coronavirus.
Sarasota County will be closing its public beaches starting at 6 a.m. Saturday.
Manatee County Public Safety Director Jake Sauer said the public beaches on Anna Maria Island will be closed a day earlier-- Friday at 6 a.m. [Read more]
-- Cathy Carter
Miami Closes Beaches, Most Businesses
Florida's largest county inched closer to economic shutdown as Miami-Dade County's mayor ordered all beaches, parks and “non-essential” commercial and retail businesses closed because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez's order Thursday allows several businesses to remain open, including health care providers, grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants and banks.
The order appears to go beyond other state and local orders in Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered bars closed and restaurants to limit seating, while some municipal governments have limited restaurants to take-out and delivery.
-- Associated Press
Hillborough Releasing 164 ‘Low-Level’ Inmates
Hillsborough County is releasing inmates as it prepares for the coronavirus. Sheriff Chad Chronister said the order applies to 164 people charged with minor offenses who cannot make bail.
"These low-level, non-violent offenders will be better served home with their families, helping them deal with this health crisis instead of being in our detention facilities simply because they don't have the economic means to bond out," Chronister said at a press conference early Thursday morning.
-- Bradley George
Tampa Bay Area Malls Closed
Several malls in the Tampa Bay area are closing temporarily to help stem the spread of coronavirus.
Simon closed its facilities Wednesday night, and it expects to reopen them on March 29. These include Tampa Premium Outlets in Wesley Chapel, Ellenton Premium Outlets, and Tyrone Square Mall in St. Peterburg.
Notices on the Westfield mall websites say those locations are closed at well. They include locations in Countryside, Citrus Park, Brandon, Sarasota and Siesta Key. [Read more]
-- Carl Lisciandrello
Diocese Of St. Petersburg Halts Masses
Calling it the hardest decision he's had to make as the leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, Bishop Gregory Parkes announced Wednesday that he’s suspending all public Mass celebrations in the Tampa Bay area.
The move, which is effective immediately, is being done to help limit the spread of COVID-19. The bishop said It’s in effect until it’s determined that it’s safe to return to normal public worship schedules.
In a video released Wednesday, Parkes said, while people won't be able to receive communion, churches won't completely shut down.
"I have asked our pastors to keep our churches open for private prayer and devotion, and to make every effort to keep the faith life of our parishes alive by creative means which are adapted to the current circumstances,” said Parkes. [Read more]
-- Mark Schreiner
Hillsborough Due Dates Extended
Due dates for all criminal and traffic cases in Hillsborough County are being extended for an additional 60 days.
According to a news release, this comes two days after Hillsborough Clerk of Court & Comptroller Pat Frank canceled wedding ceremonies and the processing of passports.
-- Carl Lisciandrello
Clearwater Beach To Close March 23
The Clearwater City Council voted Wednesday 4-1 to close public beaches for two weeks over fears of coronavirus. The ban goes into effect Monday at 6 a.m.
Business owners representing restaurants and vacation rentals spoke out against the decision, and asked that any closure be limited to two weeks, and not take effect until after this weekend.
Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos said closing was the right thing to do.
"This was a very difficult decision for all of us. We understand the impact that it has on our businesses but we also understand the impact it is going to have on our residents and our visitors," he said. "We are trying to protect people's health."
-- Kerry Sheridan
Sharp Rise In Florida Unemployment
Gov. Ron DeSantis gave a glimpse Wednesday of coronavirus' economic impact on Floriday.
The Department of Economic Opportunity says unemployment claims have gone up 100 percent in the past weeks.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, DeSantis said many people are asking for help.
“Monday was the 2.8% unemployment, reflecting a time that seems a world away. Since this economic change has happened, we have had a huge uptick in calls," said DeSantis. "Some of it is unemployment compensation, but a lot of it are small businesspeople who are interested in bridge loans and interested in other ways to be able to get a lifeline.”
-- News Service of Florida
USF Staff Member Tests Positive
A member of the University of South Florida’s Counseling Center in Tampa has tested positive for coronavirus.
In a letter to USF staff and students, university president Steven Currall said he learned of the positive test today, and the individual is currently self-isolating at home.
Currall said the individual came in direct contact with 13 students and several employees while on campus March 9 and March 12. Those who came in contact are being monitored by the Florida Department of Health. [Read more]
-- Carl Lisciandrello