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Cases Pass 23,000; Three Prisoners Have Died From COVID-19; More Than 180,000 Unemployment Applications Filed Last Week; Pressure Grows On DeSantis Over Nursing Home Cases: Your Coronavirus Update For 04/16

Gov. DeSantis briefs the media on Wednesday, April 15th. Image: The Florida Channel
Gov. DeSantis briefs the media on Wednesday, April 15th. Image: The Florida Channel

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

Updated 6:15 p.m. 

Cases pass 23,000

Matthew Peddie, WMFE

The latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health show coronavirus cases climbing to 23,340, with 668 deaths from COVID-19.

Two more people have died in Orange County bringing the death toll to 21. Orange County has the most cases in Central Florida, with 1,114.

Eleven people have died in Sumter County, while Volusia County is reporting nine deaths and Brevard County six deaths.

Hover over the map to see data from other counties. The US is reporting 658,263 cases, and 32,186 deaths.

New unemployment claims grow by 180,000

Brendan Byrne, WMFE

More than 180,000 Floridians filed new unemployment claims in the last week, but it’s unclear just how many of the state’s jobless are receiving checks. 

Many applications remain pending. 

To trouble-shoot the beleaguered system, Governor Ron DeSantis has assigned Jonathan Satter, secretary of Florida’s Department of Management Services.  

DeSantis said he wants daily -- if not hourly -- reports on how much money is being distributed. He said it's "unacceptable" that he isn't being provided with that information. 

The state’s unemployment website has been bogged down with thousands of applications -- prompting a redesign of the site and the addition of hundreds of new agents in call centers. 

DeSantis under pressure to release names of nursing homes with coronavirus infections

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

The Florida Alliance for Retired Americans is joining Democratic lawmakers in calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to release the names of nursing homes with coronavirus cases.

Alliance President Bill Sauers  said not releasing information about testing and procedures for quarantine puts residents and staff at risk. 

“You know. What provisions are being made for the workers? What protections are there for the workers?”

The Florida Department of Health lists the number of cases and deaths in nursing homes by county, but not by individual facility.

DeSantis has deployed teams from the National Guard to ramp up testing in nursing homes.

Updated at 5:14 p.m.

Three state prisoners have died from COVID-19

By Joe Byrnes, WMFE

Several people have tested positive for the coronavirus at Tomoka Correctional Institution in Daytona Beach.

Florida also has three prison deaths from COVID-19.

The Florida Department of Corrections announced testing, rigorous cleaning and new restrictions at Tomoka CI after seven inmates and three workers tested positive for COVID-19.

The men incarcerated there must wear face coverings and have their temperature checked. Those with symptoms will be tested.

Statewide, 140 inmates have gotten results from coronavirus tests. That's less than one completed test per correctional facility.

Three state prisoners have died from COVID-19.

The News Service of Florida reports two were men at the privately run Blackwater River Correctional Facility in Milton. They died on Sunday and on Thursday of last week.

Blackwater has racked up 34 cases among inmates and nine among employees.

Leadership shakeup at DEO

Tom Urban, WLRN

Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson has been removed from oversight of Florida’s troubled CONNECT reemployment system, which continues to draw complaints, with a record number of unemployment applications over the past month.

Department of Management Services Secretary Jonathan Satter was put in charge of the coronavirus response at the unemployment agency.

Satter has already helped get more than 100 computers servers to increase the capacity of the unemployment system, which was forced to offer paper applications and to bring in more than 1,000 people to handle calls from those filing claims.

Speaking to reporters at the capitol, DeSantis said that he hopes Satter will “rattle the cage” of the agency that has been unable to provide daily updates on state and federal claims.

“I ask for the numbers every morning, and that’s one of the reasons why we want Jon in there. We need to know exactly how many claims are paid, not just on a daily basis but really on an hourly basis. So, that’s just a change that needs to be done.”

Satter had worked in the private sector prior to being appointed by DeSantis to run DMS, an agency that oversees the state’s information technology.

Lawson remains with the DEO, where he was appointed to by DeSantis in December 2018. The governor says his new role will be “non-COVID-related.”

DeSantis assembling task force for input on re-opening state's economy

Ryan Dailey, WFSU

Gov. Ron DeSantis says he’s appointing a task force that will inform state officials on when and how to re-open Florida’s economy. The governor says he wants to tap experts in business, education, elected office and “all kinds of things” for input.

"I'll be seeking advice and ideas on pretty much everything under the sun: small biz, agriculture, restaurants, tourism, large events, conventions, recreation, international travel, K-12 as well as higher education," said DeSantis.

"There are a whole host of things we need to be thinking about."

DeSantis expects names for that task force to be published by the end of the week.

Pilot program allows Floridians to use SNAP benefits to buy groceries online

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

Floridians will be able to use SNAP benefits to buy food online based on a pilot program that begins at five Tallahassee Walmarts today.

Florida Retail Federation spokeswoman Amanda Bevis said by Monday other groceries statewide will be added to the list.  

"And we want Florida families to support the Florida retail stores. And so, providing additional ways for them to use their benefits to purchase what they need from Florida retailers seemed like a really good solution."

SNAP benefits can only be used to buy eligible food items. It cannot be used to pay for home delivery.

Click here to read more of WMFE's reporting on coronavirus in Central Florida.

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