Orange County Ramps Up Testing; Curve Flattens; OCPS Working To Distribute Digital Learning Devices: Your Coronavirus Update For 4/15
Florida case data is updated at approximately 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. daily.
Update: 10.30 p.m.
Demings: County still short of adequate testing supplies
Matthew Peddie, WMFE
Orange County is ramping up testing with five new mobile testing sites coming online next week. But Mayor Jerry Demings says the county is still short on testing kits.
Just one of the five sites will be open each day.
“In order to manage the limited supplies of resources that we have today, it is impractical for us to set up a testing site in every one of those zip codes,” said Demings.
He said the new sites allow testing to be done closer to coronavirus hotspots throughout the county- zipcodes with higher numbers of cases.
He says the county is also trying to establish "strike teams" to go to residents who can’t make it to a test site.
Tests are free but you have to make an appointment. Call 407-723-5004, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 pm.
Sites and availability:
- Monday- Kay Blanchard Park
- Tuesday- South Econ Park
- Wednesday- Camping World Stadium
- Thursday- Barnett Park
- Friday- West Orange Park
Orange County's case curve flattening
The director of the Orange County health department says he’s "cautiously optimistic" that coronavirus cases are coming down in the county.
But Dr. Raul Pino says it’s too soon to say if the pandemic has peaked already.
“Are the cases coming down? So the short answer is yes. The long answer- I don't want to be the one who calls the curve, and then we get a second spike.”
1,072 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Orange County, and 19 people have died.
Some students still need digital devices for remote learning- OCPS
Orange County Public Schools says it’s still working to get digital devices to students so they can learn remotely.
OCPS spokesperson Scott Howatt said high school and middle school children have district-issued devices, but some third, fourth and fifth graders do not.
“Last week, our team distributed 1173 devices. and this is an ongoing effort that will continue,” said Howatt.
The school district has some 212,000 students.
The district has also begun distributing free weekend meals for its students in addition to meals on week days.
Orlando launches program to help businesses navigate state and federal assistance
Orlando is launching a program to help businesses navigate state and federal assistance available during the pandemic.
Mayor Buddy Dyer says businesses are having a tough time getting the help they need. The city’s partnering with the Orlando Economic Partnership on the program.
“The way it'll work, you'll fill out a form to let the Orlando economic partnership know about your business and what your needs are, and you'll be provided with an ambassador to steer you through the programs and help you figure out what forms and how you can seek that assistance.”
The service is free. It’s called BRACE, which stands for business recovery assistance and collaborative engagement.
Florida death toll passes 600
Matthew Peddie, WMFE
Florida's coronavirus case tally has climbed to 22,519. Statewide, 3,249 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and 614 people have died.
Orange County has the most coronavirus cases in Central Florida, with 1,072 cases and 178 hospitalizations. Nineteen people have died from COVID-19 in Orange County.
Osceola County has 361 cases, five deaths and 108 hospitalizations.
In Sumter County, home of the Villages retirement community, two more people have died, bringing the death toll to 11. Sumter County has 114 cases and 29 hospitalizations.
Hover over the map for case numbers in other counties.
Demand For Orange Juice Boosts Florida’s Battered Citrus Industry
By Amy Green, WMFE
Some good news for Florida’s battered citrus industry — retail sales have spiked in recent weeks.
Consumers are loading up on orange juice during the coronavirus pandemic.
Year-over-year retail sales were up 10 percent during the four-week period ending March 14th — sales were up 40 percent during the last week of the period.
Andrew Meadows of Florida Citrus Mutual says the boost off-sets restaurant losses for the state’s iconic crop, which has been decimated by citrus greening disease and a competitive beverage market.
“It is heartening for us to know that people still see orange juice as a significant source of vitamin c that will boost the immune system, and that is what people are looking for right now.”
Citrus is the leading crop in Florida, which ranks second behind Brazil in oranges for juice. Production here is down by nearly 70 percent from the industry peak some 15 years ago.
Florida teachers union wants schools closed for the semester
The Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s teachers union called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to keep campuses closed through the end of the school year, saying the coronavirus “presents a threat we cannot control.”
Florida Education Association President Fedrick Ingram said in a Tuesday letter to the governor that teachers have “risen to the challenge” of conducting their classes online since campuses closed last month.
He said there is no reason to reopen the schools until the virus is controlled. DeSantis said last week he might reopen schools in May because children don't seem to die from the disease.
He backed off a bit Tuesday, saying a reopening won't happen until it is safe.
Eradicating coronavirus won't be simple: Dean of USF College of Public Health
Mary Shedden, WUSF
Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees is recommending that people practice safe social distancing until a vaccine for COVID-19 is in place. That could take a year.
Donna Petersen, Dean of the University of South Florida's College of Public Health, says he's making an important point - eradicating coronavirus won't be simple.
While she says she can't predict how long social distancing will be needed in Florida, Petersen believes there are several factors that need to be met first.
"But until we have testing available, ideally a vaccine and um a low rate of transmission, maintaining that social distancing is going to be absolutely critical to make sure we don't have a resurgence of the virus."
Petersen spoke yesterday on The State We're In, a weekly Facebook Live show from WUSF in Tampa and WMFE in Orlando.
She answered audience questions about coronavirus and its effects on the community.
To see the whole show, visit the State We're In Facebook page.
UCF's new president starts mid pandemic
Rachel Smith, WMFE
The University of Central Florida’s new President Alexander Cartwright officially started on Monday.
Cartwright said he is witnessing how strong UCF is while going through this pandemic, but he is excited to make it even stronger.
While Cartwright said he's confident he can improve the university, he does not know how this pandemic will affect UCF long-term.
DeSantis defends "essential" label for WWE
Tom Urban, WLRN
Governor Ron DeSantis defended declaring professional wrestling an essential service, along with other televised sporting events that can be held in empty stadiums, as people shelter at home amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking to reporters at the state capitol Tuesday, the governor said people are starved for new entertainment, a day after it was reported he gave the green light to World Wrestling Entertainment, as an essential business, to tape events in Orlando.
DeSantis’ hopes NASCAR can potentially televise a race without fans, and he supports a proposed one-on-one golf challenge between golfers Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
“People are chomping at the bit. I mean, if you think about it, we have never had a period like this in modern American history where you’ve had so little new content, particularly in the sporting realm.”
DeSantis feels such broadcast events could be good psychologically for Floridians.
On Monday, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings confirmed WWE was deemed an “essential business” by DeSantis’ office, which allows the wrestling company to continue taping events before an empty arena in Orlando.
Click here for more of WMFE's coronavirus coverage.