Latest On Coronavirus: Deaths In Pinellas, Pasco, Sarasota; Stay-At-Home Order In Pinellas, And More - WUSF Public Media | Tampa NPR, Local News Coverage

Latest On Coronavirus: Deaths In Pinellas, Pasco, Sarasota; Stay-At-Home Order In Pinellas, And More

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. Wednesday, March 25, according to the Florida Department of Health.

1,867 – Florida Residents |6 – Florida Cases Repatriated | 110 – Non-Florida Residents | 23 -  Deaths

Pinellas County Reports First Death

More than 1,970 people in Florida have tested positive for COVID-19 according to the latest statistics released Wednesday evening morning by the Florida Department of Health.

23 people in Florida have also died from COVID-19. That’s 3 more than the Tuesday evening update.

The most recent deaths were a 71-year-old resident of Pasco County and a Sarasota County resident. They’re the first deaths reported in each county.

The publicist for Terrence McNally says the 81-year-old award-winning playwright died in Sarasota Memorial Hospital Tuesday because of complications due to coronavirus.

On March 16, a 70-year-old man in Manatee County passed away due to COVID-19..

— Lisa Peakes & Mark Schreiner

Pinellas Votes To Enact Stay-At-Home Order For One Week

Many businesses and public facilities in Pinellas County will close for one week, under a resolution unanimously approved by county commissioners on Wednesday.

County administrator Barry Burton says many residents are staying home and abiding by social distancing guidelines, but stronger measures are needed.

“If you do not employ these practices, we have no choice but to take more aggressive actions to keep our residents safe,” Burton said. [Read more]

— Bradley George

Drive-Thru Testing At Raymond James Stadium Begins

Demand is already high as Raymond James Stadium in Tampa opens this morning for drive-thru coronavirus testing.

Hillsborough County spokesman Jon Paul Lavandeira said 97 appointments had already been set up for testing before the 8 a.m. scheduled opening.

Lavandeira said 900 test kits are on hand, and the site has the capacity to serve 200 people a day.

The drive-thru testing site will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Saturday. It will remain open as long as the testing supplies last. [Read more]

— Jessica Meszaros
Nikki Fried Targets Scams, Price Gouging
With Floridians hunkered down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried are trying to focus attention on scams and price gouging that stem from the crisis.

Scams include text messages claiming to offer victims yet-to-be-approved stimulus package money, crooks going door-to-door in lab coats posing as federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention employees and seniors being offered free COVID-19 test kits in exchange for personal information.

Also, as of Monday night, Moody’s office had received 628 complaints about price gouging related to products such as cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and face masks.

“At a time like this, to charge them exorbitant prices for the things they will need to keep their families safe is disgusting and unlawful,” Moody said. “We will continue to pursue them throughout the duration of this crisis.”

Fried’s office said other scams include online sellers claiming they have high-demand products such as cleaning and health supplies and then consumers not getting shipments after placing orders.

Fried’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has received 41 complaints related to the coronavirus, mostly related to traveling and lodging cancelations, the department said in a news release.

— News Service of Florida
UCF Closing On-Campus Housing

The University of Central Florida is closing all campus housing facilities due to COVID-19 concerns.

Students must be moved out by 6 p.m. today.

UCF is also developing a plan to refund nearly 12,000 students who lived in campus housing.

According to a draft letter to the Florida Board of Governors, UCF says the refund adds up to about $5.4 million.

UCF’s Board of Trustees is meeting later this week to discuss where this money will come from and how refunds will be handled.

If students have nowhere to go, they can apply for an exception, but they are handled on a case-by-case basis, according to the UCF Coronavirus website.

— Rachel Smith, WMFE

Tampa To Enact Stay-At-Home Policy; At Odds With Hillsborough County

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said she plans to enact a stay-at-home policy for the city. It would be enacted Wednesday morning and be enforced beginning at 11:59 p.m. that night.

It means most people will be asked to stay at home except for getting essential items, like going to the grocery store. It doesn’t apply to health care workers, first responders, water and sanitation workers. Castor announced her plans Tuesday on Facebook.

Her unilateral move comes a day after a meeting on Monday, when Hillsborough County’s Emergency Policy Group voted down Castor’s request for a countywide shelter-in-place order. A majority of that group said only the county administrator can issue this kind of order. [Read more]

— Steve Newborn

Gov. DeSantis Asks Seniors To Stay Home, Says New York Area Travelers Must Report Contacts

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday said that Florida’s Surgeon General Scott Rivkees will be issuing a new health advisory in response to the coronavirus.

People 65 and older, and anyone with underlying medical conditions, will be asked to stay at home for the next 14 days to minimize their exposure to COVID-19.

DeSantis is also expanding his directive requiring travelers flying into the state from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to self-isolate to now include people who flew into Florida from that region in the last three weeks.

During Tuesday’s press conference, DeSantis said he will sign an order requiring travelers to self-isolate and report the contacts they’ve had with anyone in Florida. That information will then be shared with local communities.

— Cathy Carter

DeSantis Wants State Declared A Disaster Area

Gov. Ron DeSantis has asked President Donald Trump to declare Florida a disaster area, saying the coronavirus outbreak is having a “drastic effect” on the state’s economy and medical providers.

His letter to Trump released late Monday says Florida’s hospitals and first responders are facing challenges rarely experienced. A declaration would make Florida eligible for federal aid.

This is no hurricane but DeSantis wrote that the state has already spent $208 million and it’s medical system is already burdened, with limited testing showing more than 1,400 people infected and 17 deaths.

Trump has not acted on the request.

— Associated Press

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