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Coronavirus Latest For 3/25: Hoarding is Making it Harder for Moms Enrolled in the WIC Program to Feed Their Families

Governor Ron DeSantis briefs the media at the state logistics and response center in Orlando, Wednesday March 25th. Photo: Danielle Prieur
Governor Ron DeSantis briefs the media at the state logistics and response center in Orlando, Wednesday March 25th. Photo: Danielle Prieur

9:45 p.m. update

Hoarding is Making it Harder for Some Moms Enrolled in the WIC Program to Feed Their Families

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

Low-income moms in the Special Supplemental Nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, can only buy certain brands and sizes of foods like peanut butter, canned beans, and bread.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried says that’s why she’s asking people not to hoard food, so that these items are left on the shelves.

“If the stores can’t re-stock these WIC-approved items, so many of these kids are going to end up going hungry.”

Fried says the food supply chain is secure and restaurants and stores will continue to be open during stay-at-home orders. She says groceries are doing six to eight shipments a day up from two. She says it’s simply taking them longer to restock the shelves. 

State Representative Anna Eskamani says families who can’t get what they need at the supermarket are forced to go to already over-strapped food banks. 

“We really have to be sensitive to the needs of every Floridian realizing that some of us have quick available access to these types of items, but many of us don’t.”

Florida will receive additional funding for the SNAP and WIC programs through the “Families First” federal coronavirus aid package.

Want to check if an item qualifies for the WIC program before buying it? Look for a red label near the price tag. To read about the WIC program, click on the link.

Updated 7:30 p.m. 

Governor Ron DeSantis Says He Won't Approve Budget, Sign Legislation from the 2020 Session for Now

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

Governor Ron DeSantis says he’s waiting to approve the budget for the year as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the state. He doesn’t expect to have to make cuts, with federal emergency funding on the way from the “Families First” coronavirus aid package. 

But he says if there are changes, it could affect funding for a teacher salary and bonus program approved by the legislature.

“If you look at the teacher compensation, you know obviously we put a lot into that and we’ll see what happens with the budget, but I think that’s important.”

DeSantis says he’s also holding off on signing any bills that would take effect on July 1 except for legislation that would help people who have been laid off. 

He says that includes a bill that would require an employer to check an applicant’s immigration status using the E-Verify system before they could be hired for a job.

“We did E-Verify and workforce verification that could actually be something that’s even more important now given that people are going to be needing jobs.”

To listen to DeSantis' full address on his Facebook page, click on the link.

Updated 5:30 p.m.

Osceola County issues 'stay at home' order beginning Thursday March 26th

Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Osceola County has issued a 'stay at home' order that begins 11 p.m. on Thursday March 2th, and ending Thursday April 9th. To slow the spread of COVID-19, residents are ordered to limit travel to essential trips and stay at home as much as possible.

The order follows Orange County's stay at home directive which was announced yesterday.

All non-esssential retail and commercial businesses will stay closed while the order is in place. Osceola county leaders say essential travel is still allowed.
 Residents will still be allowed to shop for groceries, go to a doctor’s appointment, provide necessary care for a family member or pets, visit restaurants for takeout orders and go outside to walk a dog or get some exercise, but you must keep six feet between yourself and others.
Read the order here.

Updated 3 p.m. 

Central Florida Congressman: Coronavirus Leaves Leaders Fighting Two Crises At Once

Amy Green, WMFE

Central Florida Congressman Michael Waltz says COVID-19 leaves government leaders balancing two crises at once -- a public health one and economic one. 

That’s as Governor Ron DeSantis is questioning whether Orlando International Airport should shut down. Waltz says that is an issue for the White House, not Congress.

“We’re fighting a two-front war. We’re fighting an economic battle along with a public health battle, and I think those things are going to ebb and flow as we hope to contain it in certain parts of the country but then also let the economy at least kind of trickle along in other parts.” 

The governor is raising concerns about flights from New York to Orlando, after New York leaders issued a stay-at-home order. He says travelers could be bringing the coronavirus here. 

Meanwhile Waltz says help is on the way for the jobless in Central Florida, after Washington leaders reach an agreement on an unprecedented $2 trillion measure aimed at rescuing the economy from COVID-19. 

“The combination of receiving those monies, coupled with working with banks and lenders to delay whatever debts are owed, whether it’s on rent or mortgage or car payments and the like, hopefully that will help people get by.”  

The measure provides direct payments to Americans and makes way for business loans. 

Updated 2:00 p.m.

Democrats Pressue DeSantis for Stay-At-Home Order

Tom Urban, WLRN

The number of COVID-19 cases in Florida continues to rise, with 215 new cases bringing the total to nearly 1,700 people now testing positive for the virus as of midday Wednesday.

There have been 22 confirmed deaths in the state.

More than half of all the cases in the state are in three South Florida counties, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.

While Governor Ron DeSantis continues to say a statewide stay-at-home order would be counterproductive, since the virus is not affecting the entire state the same, elected Democrats continue to pressure him to change his mind.

Speaking at a food bank distribution center in Tallahassee, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said leaving overnight curfews, beach closures and stay at home orders up to local governments sends mixed messages about the importance of social distancing.

“We really need to be doing everything we can to protect those individuals and protect our state," said Fried.

"While this isn’t something that you’d want to do, unfortunately with the piecemeal approach, people are confused.”

As of midday Wednesday, 21 counties had no reported cases of COVID-19.

Most of them are small, rural counties in Florida’s Big Bend region and the Panhandle.

Beyond South Florida, the highest number of reported COVID-19 cases are in Hillsborough, Orange and Duval counties, each with over 50 cases.

Updated: 6 a.m.

Students must leave by 6 p.m. today

Rachel Smith, WMFE

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 thousand 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 dollars.

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.

Drive-up testing site opens at Orange County Convention Center

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

A drive through coronavirus testing site opens at the Orange County Convention Center today. 

The test is a quick swab of the nasal cavity performed by a Florida National Guard medic. 

To get a test you have to be sixty five or older with a 99.6 temperature and respiratory symptoms. 

First responders and health care workers can get tested regardless of symptoms. 

Before coming on site, people should make sure they have a valid form of ID and are prepared to stay in their car during testing. There are no restrooms on site.

Up to 250 tests will be performed daily at the site which is managed by the Florida National Guard and the Florida Department of Health. 

Tests are also available by appointment by calling the Florida Department of Health in Orange County at 407-723-5004

Sumter County takes a measured approach as case numbers rise

Joe Byrnes, WMFE

As COVID-19 cases increase in The Villages, Sumter County has taken a measured approach.

The County Commission held a regular meeting last night, while trying to maintain social distancing. They have followed the lead of the governor and health department.

Unlike some counties, Sumter has not issued a stay-at-home order.

"I think it's been clear that numbers will go up as the testing kits become more readily available, and people are tested," said county administrator Bradley Arnold. 

Arnold said the county is "trying to balance between that service provision versus not being overly reactive also related to simply closing down just out of fear."

To read more of WMFE's coverage of coronavirus, click here.