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The Villages Announces Plan to Reopen; Protests Continue in Downtown Orlando; 42 Year Old Dies from Coronavirus in Orange County; Florida Case Number Passes 28,000;Your Coronavirus Update For 4/22

Photo: Jafar Ahmed @darksidoo

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

Updated at 7:54 p.m.

The Villages announces plan to reopen recreational facilities

By Joe Byrnes, WMFE

The sprawling Villages retirement community announced a three-phase action plan for reopening recreational facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also on Wednesday, Sumter County — where most of The Villages lies — marked its 12th death from COVID-19.

Phase I begins next Monday. Villages Recreation and Parks staff will return to work to clean and prep things. They’ll set up tables and chairs to create 6-foot buffers.

Then, assuming local, state and federal rules permit, Phase II kicks in on May 4th.

Through the end of the month, some recreation facilities will begin to reopen for limited use. The district will make decisions on which ones depending on Health Department criteria.

Those that do open will close each day at 8 p.m. to allow time for cleaning.

After that, guidelines permitting, The Villages will open more recreation centers and outdoor facilities. But no large events are planned.

The golf games, of course, have never ceased.

6:30 p.m. update 

Florida cases pass 28,000 person mark

28,309 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the state of Florida according to figures released Wednesday night by the Florida Department of Health. 4,288 people have been hospitalized and 893 people have died.

Orange County has 1,251 cases with 28 deaths and more than 220 hospitalizations. The county began testing at mobile sites throughout Orlando this week, in addition to the state run drive through testing available at the Orange County Convention Center.

Sumter County, home of the Villages retirement community, has 164 cases, 11 deaths and 37 hospitalizations.

In the United States, there are currently 840,340 cases of coronavirus and 46,560 deaths.

Hover over the map for details about cases in other Florida counties.

Coronavirus claims the life of a 42 year old man in Orange County

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

Orange County Department of Health Medical Director Dr. Raul Pino said a 42 year old Hispanic male is the youngest person to die from coronavirus in the county. Pino says the man had been in contact with a COVID-19 patient and had no pre-existing health conditions.

He says people who are 65 and older and have pre-existing conditions are still at a greater risk for poor health outcomes. 

“For example, 71 percent of all people who died had hypertension. About 53 percent of all people who died had cardiac disease. And about 47 percent have diabetes. 35 percent of those had had chronic lung disease.”

Pino said mobile testing will continue at Barnett Park Thursday and at West Orange Park on Friday.

He said they are scouting out a site in Apopka that will open on Tuesday or Wednesday next week with the location to be announced on Friday. 

Protests calling for businesses in the county to reopen continued outside of the Orange County Administration building during the coronavirus briefing. 

Orange County Sheriff John Mina says protesters are allowed to peacefully exercise their first amendment rights unless they endanger other people or deface property.

“My advice to the community at large would be to stay away from any large gathering, and especially any gathering where people are not following the guidelines that we as community have been committed to for nearly a month and have shown these great results of flattening that curve.”

Mayor Jerry Demings called on residents to be patient as the task force continues a phased approach to reopening businesses. 

He said the county can not get ahead of the White House and Governor’s decision to send people back to work.

4 p.m. update 

OCCC coronavirus testing site still hasn’t reached capacity, a week after it started getting 750 tests a day

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

The Orange County Convention coronavirus testing site has been able to test 750 people a day since Monday, but it still hasn’t reached capacity this week.

Spokesperson Bailey Meyers says it’s important that people continue to get tested as asymptomatic carriers can unknowingly spread the virus.

“This is the regional state site. Anyone from Lake County to Brevard really anywhere across the state even if they’re passing through the I-4 corridor can stop by and get tested for COVID-19.”

Florida National Guardsmen have collected more than 8,600 swabs for processing since the site opened in March.

Anyone with respiratory symptoms, pre-existing conditions, or who has had contact with a COVID-19 patient can get tested for free without an appointment. 

Healthcare providers and first responders don’t need to have symptoms to be eligible for testing. 

Couples in North-Central Florida get a second chance at dream weddings

Couples whose weddings were cancelled or postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic are getting a second chance in one north-central Florida county. 

The Alachua County Clerk of Court office is hosting drive-thru wedding ceremonies at the courthouse on the evening of April 30th. 

The ceremonies are set to begin at 5 p-m, and officials ask anyone interested in participating to call for an appointment. 

Couples should arrive at the courthouse about 15 minutes before their scheduled ceremony time. The makeshift wedding ceremony costs 30 dollars and is payable in cash or credit card.

Some Central Florida hospitals planning to offer elective surgeries again

Abe Aboraya, WMFE 

AdventHealth is joining a growing list of hospitals that plan to start offering elective surgeries again.

Dr. Neil Finkler Is Chief Medical Officer of Acute Care Services for the nonprofit hospital system. He says the hospital supports reopening the economy – safely.

“In a way that allows for economic rebound without letting the COVID virus resurge. Here at AdventHealth, we’re looking at resuming elective surgery in early May, and are developing strategies for reopening our outpatient services.”

Finkler said the hospital would again stop elective surgeries and outpatient visits if the rate of COVID-19 cases began to increase. 

The Florida Hospital Association released a plan this week to the Governor’s Re-Open Florida Task Force to resume elective surgeries.

World Central Kitchen and Hope CommUnity Center will pass out meals in Apopka on Thursday, Friday

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

Chefs for America Orlando in collaboration with Hope Community Center will be providing free dinners in Apopka tomorrow and Friday.

The group is part of Chef José Andrés nonprofit World Central Kitchen which has served 160,000 meals a day to needy families since the start of the pandemic. 

A group of chefs will prepare the nutritious meals at Jaleo, José Andrés’ restaurant in Disney Springs. 

Then Hope CommUnity Center volunteers will deliver them to Chalet North and Brightwood Manor mobile parks and other communities in Apopka.

The Center’s Director of Donor Relations Catalina Gonzalez says food is the greatest short-term need in the community during the coronavirus pandemic.

“So, our emergency food pantry is almost depleted and we cannot keep up with the demand.”

Gonzalez says they will deliver 420 meals each day. Free meals will also be available for curbside pickup at Reyes Mezcaleria in downtown Orlando on Thursday and Friday. 

Orange County business task force to meet

Amy Green, WMFE

An Orange County task force charged with developing a strategy to restart the local economy is scheduled to meet for the first time today. 

The task force is composed of nearly 50 representatives of local hospitals, theme parks, financial institutions, hotels and small businesses. 

The group also includes representatives from Lake, Osceola and Seminole counties. 

The meeting is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Orange TV will carry it live, and you can listen to 90.7 News for the latest coverage. 

State unemployment system “a jalopy”

Robbie Gaffney, WFSU

It’s been more than a month since Florida closed restaurants and bars and the state is still grappling with a broken unemployment system.

The system hasn’t been able to handle the surge in claims. The state has added more people to man the phones, and created a paper-application but only about 6 % of claims have been processed.

DeSantis said the system was faulty to begin with.

“The fact that the state paid 77 million for this thing, I mean it’s a jalopy. So we got a lot of great talent in there working on fixing it but you also have the situation where it’s not just the state you have federal databases that are being pinged and guess what? Those are being stressed too. It’s very slow.”

DeSantis said later this week he will have a presentation on what the state is doing to fix the unemployment system.

DeSantis considers allowing elective surgeries at hospitals

Lynn Hatter, WFSU

Florida hospital and physician groups are asking Governor Ron DeSantis to allow them to restart urgent and elective surgeries.

They say the reason DeSantis suspended the practices via executive order—to preserve medical supplies—has passed. The rate of new coronavirus infections is slowing and the state has started talks about how to reopen businesses and public spaces.

DeSantis said he’s considering lifting his executive order.

“That absolutely has to happen. I can’t tell you when it’s going to happen but it’s something I’m committed to getting done.”

In its letter to DeSantis, the Florida Medical Association, a physicians group, says thousands of people have seen postponements in their treatments for kidney failure, heart disease and cancer because of the executive order.

The organization warns a second crisis is brewing: more emergencies and deaths from people who’ve gone untreated or had their treatments delayed.

Click here to read more of WMFE’s coronavirus coverage.


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