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Latest On Coronavirus: Tampa Bay And Florida See Record Surges, Masks A Must In St. Pete, And More

Jun 18, 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 Wednesday, June 17, according to the Florida Department of Health:

85,926 — Positive Tests | 3,061 — Deaths

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Largest Jumps In Tampa Bay, State

The Tampa Bay area and Florida continue to see unsurpassed numbers of new coronavirus cases, with both setting records for the largest daily increases.

The Tampa Bay area had 711 more people test positive in a 24-hour period.

It’s the first time the regional daily increase in the number of people testing positive has topped 700. The increase is 160 more than the record high posted Wednesday.

The state also saw its largest daily increase, with 3,207 new cases – the first time it topped 3,000 in one day. This brings the total to 85,926.

Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties saw their highest daily increases to date.

Hillsborough had 337 new cases, 93 more than the record high posted Wednesday; Pinellas had 203 new cases, 41 more than the record high posted Saturday; and Pasco’s high of 44 new cases was 21 more than the record high posted Wednesday.

Polk County tied the record high reported Wednesday, again with 68 new cases.

The state also had 43 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 3,061. This includes nine in the Tampa Bay area – five in Manatee County, two in Pinellas, and one each in Hillsborough and Polk. [Read more]

-- Carl Lisciandrello

Masks To Be Required For Workers In St. Petersburg

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is continuing to ease restrictions related to the coronavirus, despite the state seeing record increases in new cases of COVID-19.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman responded with an order on Wednesday requiring workers inside city limits to wear a mask starting Friday at 5 p.m.

"Governor DeSantis has blamed the statewide surge on the fact that more testing has occurred," he said. "He also blamed it on infections in long-term care facilities, jails, and even among migrant workers. As it relates to St. Pete, he's wrong about that. [Read more]

-- Alysia Cruz

Florida Unemployment Claims Drop

More than 86,000 Floridians applied for new jobless benefits last week.

The figure released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor was a drop of almost 30% from the previous week, as pandemic-related restrictions continued easing up across the state. [Read more]

Pinellas Schools Seek Input On Reopening 

The Pinellas County School district is asking students, families, staff and community members for input on reopening schools.

The Return to School survey measures comfort levels on models of instruction, bus transportation, social distancing, cleaning and sanitizing, and the use of Personal Protective Equipment in classrooms.

The survey also asks if people want to be part of a focus group. In a video on the district’s YouTube page, a school official told board members "We plan on doing probably 6 or 7 focus groups." [Read more]

-- Lisa Peakes

Protesting During Coronavirus Pandemic Worth The Risk, Some Say

The killing of George Floyd has gripped the nation for more than three weeks. For many, it was a jolt that pulled them out of their pandemic-induced social isolation and onto the streets where they have marched elbow to elbow with strangers.

But as cases of the coronavirus surge in Florida and other states, protesters and health experts are concerned about the impact that these sudden mass gatherings are having.

As the Black Lives Matter rally in Tampa turned to a march, maintaining social distancing became much more difficult.

Thousands of people spilled onto Bayshore Boulevard, becoming a unified mass, walking and chanting in time. [Read more]

-- Julio Ochoa

Questions Remain About Reopening State Offices

More than a month after Gov. Ron DeSantis began restarting Florida’s economy, his administration has not issued guidance for how state agencies should reopen offices to workers and the public.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many state workers have been working from home and have been following telework and sick leave policies issued in March by the Department of Management Services, an executive agency that oversees state personnel matters.

But the department had not outlined return-to-work protocols as of Tuesday, nearly two weeks after DeSantis moved into the second phase of the state’s economic reopening plan, which includes allowing expanded operations at restaurants and reopening bars and gyms. The first phase started in early May.

-- News Service of Florida

DeSantis Receives State Budget, Promises Cuts

Governor Ron DeSantis has received the legislature’s spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year. But before it can be approved, the $93 billion budget is already expected to shrink. The fiscal year begins on July 1.

The delivery comes a day after DeSantis warned of looming budget cuts. DeSantis told reporters he’s trying to preserve state worker and teacher pay raises, but the cuts will be coming.

The state’s revenue collections came in nearly $890 million short of estimates in April and that number is expected to climb even higher, even as businesses reopen. DeSantis is hoping for a quick recovery. [Read more]

-- Lynn Hatter, WFSU

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