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News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida and WUSF can help. Our responsibility at WUSF News is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

Latest On Coronavirus: Florida's Cases Jump By 200 Saturday; Publix Hiring Thousands

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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 p.m. Saturday, March 21, according to the Florida Department of Health.

706 – Florida Residents | 6 – Florida Cases Repatriated | 57 – Non-Florida Residents

Florida's Coronavirus Total Jumps By 200

The number of people who have tested postitive for coronavirus in Florida jumped by 200 on Saturday, after the state announced 105 new cases during its evening update.

Earlier Saturday, the state had announced two new deaths and 95 new cases. Florida now has 763 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths from the virus. Fifty-seven of those cases were found in non-Florida residents.

The latest figures include several additional cases in counties across the Tampa Bay area: five in Hillsborough, two in Pinellas, two in Manatee, four in Sarasota, eight in Pasco and six in Hernando.

More than 9,300 people have been tested in Florida, with 7,570 testing negative. Test results are still pending for 1,005 people, the state reported.

The state is also monitoring 1,080 people for symptoms of the disease.

Tampa Bay area positive tests:

  • Hillsborough 47 (40 local, 2 non-Hillsborough residents)
  • Pinellas 29 (28 local, 1 non-Pinellas resident)
  • Manatee 13 (13 local)
  • Polk 10 (10 local)
  • Sarasota 14 (11 local, 3 non-Sarasota residents)
  • Pasco 8 (7 local, 1 non-Pasco resident)
  • Hernando 6 (6 local)

Publix Hiring Thousands Of Employees To Meet Demand

As other areas of the economy contract, Publix announced Friday that it is hiring thousands of workers to meet “unprecedented demand.”

The information released by the company did not mention coronavirus, but grocery stores and some other retailers in Florida and around the country have seen their shelves stripped bare by worried consumers who are stocking up.

The company hopes to fill the positions by the end of March, a release said. The jobs will be in the supermarket’s stores and distribution centers that are found in seven states, the company said.

“We take pride in serving our communities during times of need, and with the unprecedented demand we are experiencing, we’re in need of more associates to help across our operating area,” said Marcy Benton, Vice President of Human Resources for Publix. “We’re looking for people who have a desire to serve, are passionate about the food industry, are willing to work hard and ready to build a career at Publix.”

The company's nine service centers are located in Boynton Beach, Deefield Beach, Jacksonville, Lakeland, Miami, Orlando and Sarasota as well as Lawrenceville, Georgia and McCalla, Alabama.

Publix encouraged people who recently lost their jobs to apply. Online applications are available at www.publix.jobs.

BayCare Changes Testing Requirements, Ends Hospital Visitations

After opening drive-thru testing for COVID-19 Wednesday at locations across the Bay Area, BayCare is narrowing requirements for testing starting Saturday.

Because of limited testing supplies, the health care system will focus on testing people who it believes are most at risk at its seven locations, according to a news release.

People are now required to have physical symptoms in order to get screened and bring along a referral from their doctor that explicitly mentions those symptoms.

Drive thru hours will also be reduced to 9 a.m. through 1 p.m.

Test results will take at least five days to receive.

BayCare’s hospitals are also ending patient visitations starting Saturday. Only certain exceptions will be made and those visitors will be screened for signs of COVID-19.

-- Dinorah Prevost

2 More Deaths, 95 More Cases As Coronavirus Spreads

Two more people have died from the coronavirus in Florida, state officials announced at 11 a.m. Saturday and another 95 patients have tested positive.

One of the deaths was in Broward County, where cases of COVID-19 are among the highest in the state, according to the Florida Department of Health. The other was in Duval County. Twelve people have died from the disease in Florida.

The state has been adding dozens of new cases every day for the past several days and the number of patients who have the virus has now reached 658. Of those patients, 55 are non-Florida residents.

Broward County has the state’s highest number of infected people with 151 cases, followed by Dade County with 142.

The latest figures from the state include several additional cases in counties across the Tampa Bay area: eight in Hillsborough, five in Pinellas, one in Manatee, one in Polk, two in Sarasota, one in Pasco and one in Hernando.

More than 8,200 people have been tested in Florida, with 6,579 testing negative. Test results are still pending for 1,002 people, the state reported.

The state is also monitoring 1,072 people for symptoms of the disease.

Tampa Bay area positive tests:

  • Hillsborough 42 (40 local, 2 non-Hillsborough residents)
  • Pinellas 27 (26 local, 1 non-Pinellas resident)
  • Manatee 11 (11 local)
  • Polk 10 (10 local)
  • Sarasota 10 (7 local, 3 non-Sarasota residents)
  • Pasco 8 (7 local, 1 non-Pasco resident)
  • Hernando 5 (5 local)

-- Julio Ochoa

MacDill Sailor Tests Positive For Coronavirus

A Navy sailor assigned to the United States Central Command headquarters at MacDill Airforce Base was diagnosed with COVID-19, Colonel Stephen Snelson, commander of the 6 Air Refueling Wing, said in a Facebook video posted on Friday night.

The sailor had recently traveled overseas and upon his return, he followed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He immediately went into quarantine at his off-base home and practiced social distancing from his friends and family, Snelson said. When he started showing symptoms, he alerted the Florida Department of Health who tested him, he said.

“It’s unfortunate that this happened but this member did everything right,” Snelson said.

Because the case was travel related, the base will not increase its health protections, Snelson said.

“I know this may make some of you very nervous,” he said. “I promise if we all do our part and follow the CDC guidance, we will be ready to respond if and when our nation calls.”

-- Julio Ochoa

Florida Department of Health Retracts Report of Death of Pasco County Man

As of 6 p.m., there are 563 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Florida, an increase of 131 from Thursday. That includes 510 Florida residents and 53 non-residents.

Earlier Friday evening, the Florida Department of Health reported a 46-year-old man from Pasco County had died.

But just before 10 p.m., the Department retracted that and released a statement saying, "This was reported in error, there were no new fatalities in Florida associated with COVID-19 as of 6 p.m." 

Ten people have died in Florida from the coronavirus.

-- Mark Schreiner

CORONAVIRUS: Complete Coverage From WUSF And Health News Florida

Gov. DeSantis Closes All Restaurants To On-Site Dining; Also Shuts Down Gyms, Non-Emergency Surgeries

In the latest moves to slow the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order Friday closing all Florida restaurants and food establishments to on-site customers.

However, they still may run their kitchens to provide delivery or take-out services.

The order does not indicate when the closures will go into effect, but says it will end with the expiration of the state of emergency DeSantis signed March 9.

The order also temporarily closes all gymnasium and fitness centers in the state.

separate order issued by DeSantis Friday afternoon emporarily halts all non-essential elective medical procedures.

The order prohibits all hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, office surgery centers, dental, orthodontic and endodontic offices, and other health care practitioners’ office from providing any medically unnecessary, non-urgent or non-emergency procedure or surgery.

-- Mark Schreiner

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