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Coronavirus Latest for 3/28: DeSantis Secures Hydroxychloroquine for Florida Hospitals, Orange County Infant Tests Positive for Coronavirus

A Florida National Guard soldier prepares to administer a nasal swab for a local resident at the Orange County Convention Center test site. Photo credit: Sgt. Spencer Rhodes

Florida cases top 4,000

Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Florida now has 4,038 coronavirus cases. Updated figures from the Florida Department of Health on Saturday afternoon show 567 people have been hospitalized, and 56 people have died from COVID-19

Miami Dade has 1097 cases, the most of any Florida county.

Central Florida cases: 

  • Orange- 213 cases
  • Osceola–74 cases
  • Seminole–68 cases
  • Volusia–44 cases
  • Polk–37 cases
  • Brevard–27 cases
  • Sumter- 40 cases
  • Lake- 34 cases
  • Marion–18 cases

11-month-old child among the latest coronavirus cases in Orange County

The 213 coronavirus cases in Orange County include an 11 month old child. 

Dr. Raul Pino, director of the county health department said no other details were available about the case. 

“To those parents who probably are scared today…everything will be fine,” said Pino. 

“We have excellent care in Orange County. We will pull it together.” 

He said the median age for cases in Orange County continues to be 47. Forty three people have been hospitalized and four have died from COVID-19 in Orange County. 

Pino said he had not received any guidance on how to distribute hydroxchloroquine, the anti malarial drug that Gov. DeSantis said he was securing for hospitals in Florida.

President Trump has highlighted the drug in his White House briefings but infectious disease specialists say its effectiveness in treating COVID-19 is unproven

Orange County Sheriff’s deputies break up a warehouse party

Orange County Sheriff John Mina said his deputies had responded to several violations of the stay at home order in the last few days. 

“I want to reiterate the goal of this is to not make arrests, but we will enforce the order to keep our community safe and stop the spread of this virus,” said Mina. 

“We will enforce that order, and we have done so, several times throughout the past couple of days. We responded to a large party of about 30 people in a warehouse and had to disperse them. We’ve also responded to a number of businesses who are not essential and were in violation of the order and they were forced to shut down.” 

Mina said the businesses that were shut down were arts and crafts chains that had been told by their corporate headquarters to stay open. 

Coronavirus ‘like a hurricane in all 50 states’ 

US Rep. Val Demings says the $2.2 trillion package signed into law by President Trump was a “significant start,” but won’t be enough to get the country through a crisis that has impacted every state. 

“We’re in a place that we have never been before. We’re seeing some things we have never seen before as a nation, and therefore, we must do some things that we have never done before,” said Demings. 

“We know what a storm can do to one state or a region but imagine if there was a hurricane in all 50 states. This virus has touched all 50 states: we know certainly what it has done to our home state of Florida, and we’ve heard the impact that it’s having here at home,” said Demings. 

She said the package was not a stimulus package, but a relief package, aiming to put money in people’s pockets to help them survive. 

Lynx moving to a modified schedule

Lynx spokesman Matt Friedman said the region’s mass transit system would be cutting back on some of its services beginning on Monday March 30th. 

Find details about the modified service here

“We are asking customers if you’re sick, please stay at home,” said Friedman. 

He said buses were being disinfected, “because we do not want this to infiltrate our system and we believe what we’re doing has been safe for everyone.”

200,000 meals provided to 100,000 students

OCPS says it has provided 200,000 free meals to students at 50 sites throughout the county. 

School district spokesman Scott Howatt said more sites will open next week. 

“Some adjustments will be made next week to ensure that we are providing additional meals to as many children as possible,” said Howatt. 

Distance learning begins on Monday. 

“We want to thank our teachers for their tremendous efforts to ensure our children are able to successfully continue their education from home,” said Howatt. 

No move to stop domestic flights from coronavirus hot spots

Seven TSA officers at Orlando International Airport have tested positive for coronavirus. Airport CEO Phil Brown said the airport was being rigorously cleaned. 

“We still have a full staff crew at the airport even though yesterday we only had 5500 passengers flying out,” said Brown. 

Brown said decisions on restricting flights from the tri state area would be made by the FAA

“There have been no discussions that I’m aware of, of any restrictions on flights.” 

5:10 p.m. update

First coronavirus death in Volusia County

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

The Florida Department of Health has reported the first coronavirus-related death in Volusia County. 

The 65 year-old man, a Florida resident, tested positive for coronavirus on March 26. 

He had not traveled recently or been in contact with anyone who was confirmed to have the virus.

Orange and Pinellas counties have the most coronavirus-related deaths in the I-4 corridor. Four people have died from the virus in each county.

Gov. DeSantis securing hydroxychloroquine for hospitals to use in coronavirus cases

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

Governor Ron DeSantis says hospitals in Dade, Broward, Orange, and Hillsborough counties will get hydroxychloroquine as a last-resort treatment option for coronavirus.

The antimalarial drug is usually used to treat lupus and arthritis. 

DeSantis said he wants patients to have the “right to try” when it comes to coronavirus treatment. 

“If somebody is really in bad shape and there’s no other treatment available and a doctor believes this is something that could be helpful, we want that patient to be able to have access to that,” he said. 

DeSantis said he worked with the U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman to secure hydroxychloroquine from Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva Pharmaceuticals. 

Florida on the list for new, rapid coronavirus test

He’s also asked President Trump to include Florida in the first states that get a new rapid coronavirus test. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Abbott Laboratories’ portable test on Friday. The test gives positive results in five minutes, and negative in 13 minutes. 

DeSantis said the tests would improve coronavirus diagnosis and treatment in the state.

“Boy, would that make life a lot easier to be able to do this. I mean, right now you have people that’ll go into a hospital, they’ll have symptoms, they’ll get tested, and it’ll take five days for the test to come back.”

DeSantis said the Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz has already secured more than 2000, 45-minute coronavirus tests from Cepheid, a molecular diagnostics company. 

He said the tests will be sent to hospitals in South Florida and Jacksonville.

Further restrictions on visitors from tri-state area and New Orleans

Small private airports in Florida are being asked to help screen visitors coming from the tri-state and New Orleans area. 

Checkpoints have been set up on I-10 with more to come on I-95 to screen people driving in from those states. 

3:00 p.m. update

More than 1,520 Florida National Guardsmen deployed for coronavirus response

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

More than 1,520 members of the Florida National Guard are helping support the state’s coronavirus response. 

In a statement, spokesman William Manley said guardsmen are running testing sites and performing screenings at airports. 

Manley says guardsmen have performed 10,829 coronavirus tests at four sites in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Orange counties. 

At the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, 895 people have been tested since the site opened on Wednesday. 

The majority of tests have been carried out at the Broward and Miami Dade sites: 4,869 at C.B. Smith Park, 4,310 at Hard Rock Stadium, and 755 at Marlins Park. 

Guardsmen have also screened passengers from coronavirus hot zones at seven Florida airports including Orlando International Airport in Central Florida. 

Citizen Soldiers and Airmen with the Florida National Guard are in the process of collecting medical supplies at the State Logistics Readiness Center in Central Florida.

Orange County animal shelters are closed, but pet adoptions, fosters are up

Matthew Peddie, Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

Two days before the shelter closed last Friday, Orange County Animal Services said there were just two dogs in the sleepover program who still needed a place to go. 

The two week sleepover program which allows residents to take home a dog or cat on a trial basis for a minimum of two weeks had been expanded. Adoption fees were also waived in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Animal services staff are taking care of the pets still at the shelter while it remains closed, and the enforcement team is limited to priority calls.

The Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando says more than 65 percent of their pets found a foster home last week alone.

The Pet Alliance is suspending adoptions and will not take animals in during the two week stay-at-home order, and its clinics will only accept patients needing end-of-life care.

Pet Rescue by Judy and the Central Florida Humane Society are still doing cat and dog adoptions by appointment. The humane society clinic is still open during regular hours.

12:30 p.m. update

Miami-Dade’s First Death A Reminder That Younger People Need To Take Precautions

Daniel Rivero, WLRN

Both of the government drive-thru testing sites in Miami-Dade County are only available to people 65 and over, who are showing symptoms. But the biggest number of confirmed cases in Miami-Dade County are not senior citizens.

On Friday, the first death in Miami-Dade County was announced. It wasn’t a senior citizen, but Israel Carrera, a 40 year old resident of North Miami.

The age group with the most cases in the county is people between the ages of 25 and 34. That’s noticeably lower than the average age for cases in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

Miami-Dade County said it couldn’t comment on why only 65 plus people are able to get drive-thru testing. They referred us to the state Department of Health, which didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Researchers warn that people under 65 should not feel invincible in the face of the coronavirus, and that everyone from every age group needs to take precautions.

12:10 p.m. update

Orange County Public Library System Takes Storytime Program Online During Closure

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

The Orange County Public Library system has taken its storytime program for kids online while the library is closed.

Families can tune into storytime on the library YouTube page every Wednesday and Friday.

Youth librarians and volunteers read stories, play with puppets, and practice sign language. 

All 16 OCLS locations are closed to the public until further notice. 

Patrons can still check out e-books, music, videos, and take online classes on the library website.

Florida has 3,763 coroanvirus cases; 53 deaths

Matthew Peddie, WMFE

The Florida Department of Health is reporting 3,763 cases, including 3,608 cases in Florida residents.

526 people have been hospitalized, and 54 people have died.

Miami Dade has 1003 cases, the most of any Florida county.

Orange County has the most cases in Central Florida, with 206 cases, including a nine-year-old girl. Forty three people have been hospitalized and four have died.

Sumter County, home to the sprawling retirement community of The Villages, has 33 cases, and Lake County has 35 cases.

Other Central Florida counties:

  • Osceola–66 cases
  • Seminole–61 cases
  • Volusia–44 cases
  • Polk–34 cases
  • Brevard–26 cases
  • Marion–17 cases

Testing is available at the drive through testing site at the Orange County Convention Center. People who are 65 or older and are displaying COVID-19 symptoms, including a temperature of 99.6 degrees or higher and respiratory symptoms, can get a test.

First responders, including firefighters, law enforcement/corrections and medical staff with a valid agency ID do not have to have symptoms to be tested.

The site is limited to 250 tests per day. Click here to see a list of symptoms for coronavirus.

States impose new restrictions on travelers from New York

The Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — States are pulling back the welcome mat for travelers from the New York area, which is the epicenter for the nation’s outbreak.

Governors in Texas, Florida, Maryland and South Carolina this week ordered people arriving from the New York area to self-quarantine for at least 14 days.

Connecticut officials have pleaded to New Yorkers not to visit unless absolutely necessary.

But the most dramatic steps taken to date come from Rhode Island, where state police are pulling over drivers with New York plates to collect their contact information and the National Guard is enforcing the order at bus stations, train stations and airports.

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