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Florida Cases Pass 10,000; Multi County Approach Needed For Surge, Transportation Sales Tax On Hold: Your Coronavirus Update For 4/3

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings speaks to media on Friday April 3rd. Image: Orange TV
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings speaks to media on Friday April 3rd. Image: Orange TV

Florida case data is updated at approximately 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. daily.

Updated 6:30 p.m.

More than 10,000 cases in Florida

Florida now has 10,268 coronavirus cases. 170 people have died from COVID-19 and 1,334 people have been admitted to hospital. Miami Dade is the hardest hit county with 3,364 cases.

95,835 people have been tested for coronavirus.

Updated 5:44 p.m.

Multi county approach needed to deal with coronavirus surge, says Mayor Jerry Demings

Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Orange County mayor Jerry Demings says he's working with neighboring counties to figure out how to deal with an expected surge in coronavirus patients.

Orange County now has 602 cases, with 82 hospitalizations and seven deaths from COVID-19.

"We agree that our approach to managing the surge will require a multi county focus, because that is how our healthcare network functions within this market," Demings said during a media briefing Friday afternoon.

He said social distancing measures appeared to be working after the county imposed a stay at home order a week ago. That order has been superseded by a statewide order.

Demings said cases were doubling about every 3 days before.

"Now, the most recent modeling indicates that every 3.8 days, we see a doubling of the numbers."

County updates "hot zones"

Zip codes with 21-30 coronavirus cases are considered hot zones. The county is updating cases on a heat map.

Orange County hot zones:

  • 32803
  • 32822
  • 32825
  • 32828
  • 32837
  • 34787

No sales tax for transportation on November ballot

Demings said he is suspending the pursuit of a penny sales tax for transportation, citing the impact of the pandemic on Central Florida's economy.

"We are in an uncomfortable new norm," said Demings, noting Disney's decision to furlough workers.

"If the largest single site employer in America with 77,000 employees is going to furlough employees, it is going to have a significant impact on unemployment and the entire economy here within Central Florida," he said.

"It's against this backdrop that I am announcing that we are suspending our pursuit of the one penny transportation infrastructure sales tax, to be placed on the November 2020 ballot."

Demings said they would not be able to meet the deadline to get the initiative on the ballot for November, and chances of it passing even if it were placed on the ballot are slim, given the economic uncertainty.

Orange County fatalities include an assisted living facility resident

Orange County Health officer, Dr. Raul Pino said two of the people who have died from coronavirus were women over the age of 80. One of them was an assisted living facility resident, the other lived at home.

"The assisted living facility is of high interest to us," said Dr. Pino.

"We all read what happened in Washington State. We don't want that to repeat here."

He said the county- and state department of health- have taken steps like conducting a 'sentinel study' of ten residents in each of five assisted facility residents. At the time, he said, all of those tests came back negative, suggesting that the virus was not widespread among those facilities.

He said the facility where the person who died had been living was inspected this morning to check its infection control procedures.

"Nothing wrong with the facility. This is not a reflection on the facility, but we are taking precautions and want to take the necessary steps to prevent or avoid anything like we have seen from happening in our county."

Updated 3:15 p.m. 

Churches To Worship Remotely, Even Though DeSantis Says They Can Gather

By Amy Green, WMFE 

One United Methodist Church leader overseeing some 700 congregations and campus ministries across the state says worship will remain at home. 

That’s as a stay-at-home order issued by Governor Ron DeSantis excludes places of worship as “essential.”

The conundrum comes as Christians prepare for Holy Week next week ahead of Easter, the holiest day on the Christian calendar when Jesus was resurrected.

Bishop Ken Carter of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church says leaders feel worship must remain at home in a state with a large and aging population.

“We tend to have government policies that have a very low social safety net and give very minimal direction to people, and so the church has felt like we need to exceed what the government was asking of our people.”

Instead many congregations are gathering on the internet to worship, using programs like Facebook and Zoom.

Updated 3:00 p.m.

Port Canaveral to furlough employees

Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Port Canaveral says it will temporarily furlough some of its employees through the end of May.

In a statement the company said employees in the port's cruise operations and recreation business segments, whose job functions are not required for current operations would be furloughed from today through May 30th, pending the resumption of cruise line operations.

The company said affected employees will remain Canaveral Port Authorities during the furlough.

Updated 2:00 p.m.

More than 500 cases added overnight

Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Florida now has 9,585 coronavirus cases, with the death toll climbing to 163, according to the latest figures from the Florida Department of Health.

1,215 people have been hospitalized.

Orange County has 589 cases, the most in Central Florida, and 81 people have been hospitalized. Six people have died from COVID-19 in Orange County.

Osceola County has 191 cases and 54 hospitalizations. Four people have died in Osceola County from COVID-19.

Sumter County, home to the sprawling retirement community of The Villages, has 67 confirmed cases and 21 hospitalizations. Lake County has 85 cases and 14 hospitalizations. Two people have died in each county from COVID-19.

Other Central Florida counties:

  • Seminole- 160 cases, 32 hospitalizations
  • Volusia- 119 cases, 32 hospitalizations, 1 death
  • Brevard- 51 cases, 16 hospitalizations
  • Polk- 115 cases, 45 hospitalizations, 2 deaths
  • Marion- 34 cases, 4 hospitalizations

Orange County Convention Center test site experiencing high demand

The drive up test site at the Orange County Convention Center closed at 9.07 this morning due to high demand.

The testing site is open daily, but tests are capped at 250 per day.

This week the site lifted its 65+ age requirement:  anyone experiencing symptoms, including respiratory symptoms and a fever of 99.6 or higher can get a test. First responders can get a test regardless of symptoms.

Update 9:49 a.m.

Scientists Predict An Active Hurricane Season - On Top Of COVID-19 Concerns

By Jeff Huffman, WUFT

Time seems to have ground to a stop as we all hunker down at home. But that doesn’t mean hurricane season won’t arrive in less than two months.

Colorado State University issued its annual preseason forecast, calling for another above average season. That would make five in a row.

Meteorologist Phil Klotzbach said we could see 16 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes. He said the busy season is being driven by low odds for an El Nino weather pattern and above normal ocean temperatures.

An average Atlantic season produces just 12 named storms, six hurricanes and nearly three major hurricanes.

Updated 8:47 a.m.

Florida Finally Takes Cruise Passengers, Some On Stretchers

Associated Press

Passengers from an ill-fated cruise are being allowed to touch dry land for the first time in weeks.

They'll be disembarking in Fort Lauderdale all day Friday following the removal of 14 critically ill people, who were wheeled off to Florida hospitals bracing for an onslaught of coronavirus patients. The exodus from the Zaandaam and Rotterdam will be followed by the Coral Princess, which arrives Saturday.

Buses will be taking people healthy enough to travel directly to the airport, where they'll board chartered flights home without going through the terminal. Hundreds of crew members will remain on dozens of cruise ships docked or waiting around Florida.

Updated 7:19 p.m.

Disney to furlough employees

Matthew Peddie, WMFE

The Walt Disney Company says it will begin furloughing employees on April 19th. Disney employees have been paid through the theme park closures and will continue to receive pay and benefits up until April 18th.

"However, with no clear indication of when we can restart our businesses, we’re forced to make the difficult decision to take the next step and furlough employees whose jobs aren’t necessary at this time," the company said in a statement.

Disney said affected workers would receive full healthcare benefits, and the company would pay the cost of employee and company premiums.

Evictions and foreclosures suspended for 45 days.

Another executive order signed by the governor suspends evictions and foreclosures for 45 days.

"I'm not sure that you're going to run out a lot of new places right now," said DeSantis.

"Nevertheless you just never know how people act, so given the circumstances, I think that those suspensions are warranted."

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