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A woman in black shirt sits at a computer
Taynisha Berenguer

Last week, Hillsborough County Social Services opened up a special call center, designed to help people who lost their jobs or had their pay cut due to the coronavirus pandemic. The county had $15 million in federal funds to distribute, and eligible callers could get help paying two months of mortgage or rent, plus one month of utilities. The call center ran out of money within four days, and has since closed down.

Calls were answered by public library employees like Taynisha Berenguer, who says even though she’s accustomed to people asking her all kinds of questions in her usual role, answering the Social Services line during the COVID-19 pandemic was quite an education.

A portion of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge collapsed into Tampa Bay in May 1980 after it was struck by a cargo ship.
"The Skyway Bridge Disaster" / YouTube

A documentary about the 1980 Sunshine Skyway disaster has been released for on-demand audiences as the tragedy reaches its 40th anniversary. 

A private company with permission to conduct a controlled burn this week in Santa Rosa County could be hit with a hefty price tag for letting the fire get out of control.

At 9 p.m. Wednesday, the Monday fire, named the Five Mile Swamp fire, had consumed 2,000 acres of land in central Santa Rosa County, destroyed a dozen homes and damaged several other structures.

Clearwater Beach
DAYLINA MILLER/WUSF PUBLIC MEDIA

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

Updated at 8:43 a.m. ET

Another 3.2 million people filed for unemployment for the first time last week, bringing the total number of jobs lost during the coronavirus crisis in the last seven weeks to at least 33.5 million.

Last week's number was down from the nearly 3.9 million initial claims filed the week ending April 25, and filings have fallen for five weeks in a row.

The claims numbers come one day before the release of the April jobs report, which is expected to show a staggering jump in unemployment to around 16%.

Woman playing a guitar and singing
SRQLive

From job loss, to balancing work from home to the isolation of following stay-at-home orders, coronavirus has changed our everyday lives. WUSF is giving you a voice to share those experiences.

Today, we meet Sarasota based singer-songwriter Sara Nelms. Before the pandemic, Nelms had an active schedule with gigs at bars, restaurants and clubs.

In her own words, Nelms shares what it means to be a performer at this time of social distancing.

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.

blurred rows of library shelves with books
iStock

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.

A pandemic and a hurricane? Yes, it could happen.

Imaging self-isolating at home, and being without power, running water, or access to food for days, if not weeks. It’s a reality we hope never materializes, but one we can’t be certain of. Therefore, attempting to stock up on everyday essentials now will make surviving a storm much easier, and it could possibly save your life.

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."

Find Your Evacuation Zone

May 6, 2020

Not everyone needs to evacuate from a hurricane, but if you do, knowing your zone will make it much easier to know when to go.

As a hurricane approaches, emergency managers will tell residents when to leave based on the zone they live in. Even if you can’t see the water, it may still be necessary to evacuate depending on your proximity to nearby waterways and points of access. Conversely, if you don’t need to evacuate, you may be asked to ride out the storm at home to prevent unnecessary traffic on evacuation routes.

Determine Your Risk from a Hurricane

May 6, 2020

Hurricanes are not just a coastal problem. Life and property can also be at risk hundreds of miles inland. The hazards, however, are not the same for all locations.

Most residents in hurricane prone areas understand how intense the winds can be. However, many may not realize -- or prepare for -- other hazards a storm presents, several of which that are far more deadly than the wind.

Understanding your risk is the first step to preparing for the possible life-altering effects from a storm.  

Updated at 10:06 p.m. ET

The IRS has paid out more than $207 billion in coronavirus relief payments to individual taxpayers, as part of the $2 trillion package passed by Congress known as the CARES Act.

And among the recipients of those $1,200 payments are the bank accounts of dead individuals — a problem that could impact millions of American families.

DIOCESE OF ST. PETERSBURG

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

Health Care worker's hands holding COVID-19 testing kit.
Manatee County Government

Governor Ron DeSantis was in Sarasota Tuesday to discuss the state’s latest response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at a new COVID-19 testing site at the University Town Center Mall, the governor said Florida is ramping up testing and loosening restrictions on who can get screened for the virus.

A beach with people sunbathing
Visit Sarasota

Sarasota's Lido Beach will remain closed for now but city owned boat ramps at Centennial Park and Ken Thompson Park have been reopened to the public.

A male and female medical officials take a medical test sample from a person in a car at a drive-thru sitesample
Manatee County Government

Pinellas County is now offering COVID-19 testing without restrictions at three sites. The testing is free and is being offered for walk-ups and drive-through to at Community Health Centers in Pinellas Park, Clearwater and the Johnnie Ruth Clarke Center in St. Petersburg. 

Downtown high rise with view of street and bay.
Sarasota City Government

The City of Sarasota has approved a grant program aimed at helping small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The initiative would help stabilize struggling small businesses with grants up to $5,000. Money would come from $2.2 million in economic development funds.

The grant program is still being finalized-- but will be eligible to businesses with 25 employees or fewer. Grants will be awarded on a first come first served basis.

STEVE NEWBORN/WUSF PUBLIC MEDIA

The Florida Aquarium in Tampa has announced plans to reopen to the public on May 15.

Diners enjoy outdoor seating at Parkshore Grill in St. Petersburg on Monday. Tables must be spaced six feet apart.
Tyson Grant / Parkshore Grill

Diners are returning to Tampa Bay area restaurants for sit-down service now that the state is letting them reopen with limited capacity.


A group of teenagers sits on a beach towel at Clearwater Beach.
Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media

Pinellas County's beaches were busy Monday, on the first day that people were allowed to return to the sand.

Legendary Miami Dolphins Head Coach Don Shula Dies At 90

May 4, 2020

Don Shula, the steel-jawed son of Hungarian immigrants who rose from tiny Painesville, Ohio, to carve his name in professional football’s record books and become both a national figure and a South Florida icon, passed away Monday morning.

The cause of death was not immediately known, but a source has confirmed it is not related to the Coronavirus pandemic.

CLEARWATER POLICE DEPARTMENT

Beach goers can return to the sand in Pinellas County this morning, but don't expect it to get too crowded.

Recent track forecast improvements prevented millions of Floridians from unnecessarily evacuating ahead of Hurricane Dorian last year, but a new report also reveals record-setting errors in its intensity forecast.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is calling for an investigation into the state’s unemployment system, which he described as “broken.”

Housing prices aren't expected to drop significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The group Florida Realtors says that's because builders have been cautious since the last recession. They've built fewer homes, and Florida has a statewide shortage.

Florida Realtors' Chief Economist Brad O'Connor says new home sales are down anywhere from 30% to 40% statewide. He says there's a key difference between the housing market of today and the one ten years ago.

Florida’s state parks will reopen on Monday as part of a broader move to reopen the state. Governor DeSantis made the announcement today in Jacksonville. Restaurants and retails stores will also reopen at 25 percent capacity if local governments allow.

The governor is making an exception to those reopening rules in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, where there is the highest number of coronavirus cases in the state.

A white sign says "business is open"
Delaney Brown / WUSF Public Media

In two unanimous votes, the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners decided Friday to extend the local state of emergency while allowing some businesses to resume in accordance with Governor Ron DeSantis’s plan to reopen the state.

 


This week Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his Phase One reopening plan, which will take effect across most of the state (with tighter restrictions remaining in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, where over half the confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths are located) on Monday, May 4.

Floridians have been under orders to stay at home since early April, but Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis says now is the time to start a gradual reopening.

Retail stores and restaurants in most of the state will be allowed to open on Monday at 25% capacity and with social distancing measures. Schools, bars, gyms, movie theaters, beauty salons and barber shops will remain closed.

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