The Latest On Coronavirus: CDC Recommends Gatherings Of 50+ People Be Canceled, Florida Mobile Hospitals Ready
WMFE is monitoring the spread of coronavirus in Florida. See below for the latest.
CDC Recommends Gatherings Of 50+ People Be Canceled
The CDC is recommending that gatherings of 50 people or more in US be canceled or postponed over the next eight weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic.
That guidance came as the virus was already curtailing many elements of American life. Officials and businesses on Sunday took forceful measures to halt the virus’s spread. Theme parks closed, Florida beaches shooed away spring breakers and governors in Ohio and Illinois ordered bars and restaurants shuttered.
New York City, New Jersey and elsewhere are considering similar measures. The nation’s top infectious disease official said he would like to see a 14-day national shutdown imposed, but it does not appear President Donald Trump would order that.
Florida Governor Says Mobile Hospitals Ready To Deploy
Florida has two mobile hospitals ready to deploy if needed to fight coronavirus.
In a press briefing Sunday night, Gov. Ron DeSantis said there’s a 100-bed hospital and a 250-bed hospital ready to deploy. The state is also looking for vacant hospital beds that can be used if a surge happens.
But the biggest threat isn’t capacity. It’s the workforce.
“The fear is less that they will run out of hospital beds, although eventually that could happen, just depends, but the biggest fear is the health care workforce gets put on the sidelines because you have exposure to a COVID-19 patient and you have to have 20 people in your hospital self isolating,” DeSantis said.
Jared Moskowitz, head of Florida Division of Emergency Management, said the state is distributing N95 masks across the state and other protective equipment for health care workers.
“We’re also focusing on hospital surge,” Moskowitz said. “We’re making preparations around potential surge by having nurses on standby, mobile hospitals, the wrap-around services that will be needed, as well as the ventilators the governor instructed me to order.”
Mary Mayhew, the head of the Agency for Health Care Administration, said the state will continue restricting visitor access to nursing homes. She said the state must be proactive because nursing homes don’t have negative airflow rooms to isolate patients.
Additionally, the state is looking at hospitals and nursing homes that are vacant that can be used if capacity becomes a problem.
“We cannot have false expectations about the ability of our longterm care providers to effectively isolate their residents and contain the spread of the virus if they do not have negative pressure rooms for isolation and N95 masks,” Mayhew said.
The governor and his team stressed social distancing – avoiding large crowds to slow the spread of the virus. The governor stopped just shy of saying he supports banning travel within the united states from parts of the country with outbreaks.
“There’s only a few of them, Washington State, northern California, New York City, those are some,” DeSantis said. “So I think they should think about that. Obviously there are implications for that. But I do think the more travel you have to and from these hotspots, the more it’s gonna spread to other parts of the country. That’s just the reality.”
The governor chided scenes of large gatherings at beaches and bars in South Florida for spring break. He applauded mayors who have put curfews in place to curtail gatherings.
Orange County Utilities Suspends Water Service Disconnection
Orange County Utilities says it has suspected water service disconnection due to nonpayment through March 31. The department recognizes the financial hardship some residents are facing as businesses close because of coronavirus.
The statement published Sunday said this policy may be adjusted based on how the situation develops in coming weeks.
“Orange County Utilities continues to ensure that water services are provided in a safe and uninterrupted manner. Tap water remains a reliable and safe source of drinking water for residents,” the statement said.
In recognition of financial hardships that customers may be experiencing under the #COVID19 pandemic, Orange County Utilities will be suspending water service disconnections due to nonpayment through 3/31: https://t.co/ciH4eVKk0Z. #CoronaVirus pic.twitter.com/53HDK2R6VX
— Orange County FL (@OrangeCoFL) March 15, 2020
Orange County has suspended jury trials for the next two weeks starting Monday, but jurors who are already assigned to a trial must report to the courthouse as scheduled.
Residents in need of financial help, healthcare, or in crisis can call the Heart of Florida United Way’s hotline. It’s a free service available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 211 or texting your zip code to 898-211.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida is in need of volunteers to pack and sort food. OneBlood is in need of donations.
Actualización del Condado de Orange sobre el COVID-19 emitida el 15 de marzo de 2020:
- El Condado de Orange tiene dos casos confirmados de COVID-19.
- Orange County Utilities suspenderá las desconexiones del servicio de agua por falta de pago hasta nuevo aviso: http://www.ocfl.net/utilities.
- A partir del lunes 3/16, los juicios por jurado quedan suspendidos por dos semanas. Los miembros de jurados ya asignados a un juicio deberán reportarse según lo programado: http://myorangeclerk.com.
- Para asistencia financiera, programas de salud o apoyo en caso de crisis, se recomienda a los residentes del Condado de Orange que llamen a Heart of Florida United Way para obtener información y apoyo. Simplemente marque 2-1-1 o envíe su código postal al 898-211: http://www.hfuw.org/gethelp/.
- La necesidad para abastecer el banco de sangre no se detiene. OneBlood continúa haciendo un llamado a la comunidad para que donen sangre. Para encontrar un centro de donantes cerca de usted, visite: https://givelife.io/vqpy.
Para información adicional visite http://www.ocfl.net/Coronavirus.
7:00 p.m. update
Some Starbucks Temporarily Close, Others Implement a To-Go Model
Starbucks says it’s temporarily closing some stores in high-social gathering locations like college campuses and malls on Sunday. The company is also closing stores or reducing hours in areas with high numbers of coronavirus cases.
Stores that remain open will be transitioning to a “to-go model”. That means no more seating, including in the cafe and on the patio and a modified condiment bar.
Customers can still order at the counter, but must make their order ahead of time using the “order ahead feature” in the Starbucks app. They can also use the drive-through and delivery options.
In accordance with social distancing guidance from the CDC and public health authorities, we are temporarily closing stores in some locations, and moving the majority of our company-operated stores to a “to go” model across the U.S. and Canada. https://t.co/U5M01tcwDL pic.twitter.com/9Y9AD50pPw
— Starbucks News (@StarbucksNews) March 15, 2020
Executive Vice President of Starbucks in the United States and Canada Rossann Williams says the company will continue to review “the facts and science of the situation” to make decisions that protect communities where their stores are located.
“Every community’s needs are incredibly different. We want to make sure we play a constructive role by taking responsible actions, in partnership with the CDC and local public health authorities, so we can continue to do what’s right for our partners and customers,” Williams said.
In a letter last week, Starbucks warned it might be changing the in-store experience to allow for more social distancing.
Beaches Close in Cities of Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale
Starting Monday the cities of Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale will be closing all public beaches.
In a statement released on Sunday, the City of Miami Beach says beaches from Fifth to 15th streets will be closed and a curfew will be in place in the entertainment district between 11 a.m. and 5 a.m. daily.
Starting 3/16 non-essential businesses will be required to close daily by 10PM & there will be a curfew in the Entertainment District from 11PM – 5AM
— City of Miami Beach (@MiamiBeachNews) March 15, 2020
Seniors are being warned against using the Miami Beach trolleys as they do not allow for social distancing.
City recreational facilities are closed.
Non-essential business will be closed after 10 p.m. and restaurants, bars, and nightclubs are advised to decrease their capacity by 50 percent. The following businesses are not impacted by the curfew: pharmacies, grocery stores, convenience stores, private offices, banks, hotels, hospitals, medical service providers, medical supply stores, hardware stores, gasoline service stations, and automotive supply/repair centers.
The following add’l proactive measures in response to COVID-19 are effective today thru 4/12:
– gatherings of 250+ prohibited
– bar/nightclubs/restaurants to reduce/limit occupancy to 50% & close 10pm-6am
– public beaches & City rec. facilities closed
— City of Fort Lauderdale (@FTLCityNews) March 15, 2020
In a separate statement Sunday, the City of Fort Lauderdale says all beaches from the Atlantic Ocean to the easternmost sidewalk of A1A or to any right-of-way or property line abutting the beach, and from Oakland Park Boulevard south to Harbor Drive will be closed.
All bars, nightclubs, and restaurants will observe a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and must reduce or limit their occupancy by 50 percent. All public gatherings of more than 250 people are prohinited. City recreational facilities will be closed.
Disney Offers More Information on It’s Suspended College Program
Disney has offered more guidance for college students whose work experiences and internships were cancelled on Saturday before the parks close tonight.
Students in the Disney College Program, Disney Culinary Program, Disney Cultural Exchange Program, and Disney Academic Exchange Program were told they needed to leave by Wednesday at 11 a.m.
In a statement released on Sunday, Disney didn’t backtrack on their decision but said Disney Cast Members at the Disney Service Center would work with individual students to help them find transportation or accommodation as needed.
FYI folks, this was just posted on the Disney Internships & Programs Facebook page. We have been asking Disney to extend the stay for students and/or provide financial support for travel. More to come!https://t.co/bTQrlO9pdA pic.twitter.com/9LhQnWOlZJ
— Rep. Anna V. Eskamani 🔨 (@AnnaForFlorida) March 15, 2020
Disney also said students should fill out an online survey to express their interest in returning to work at the parks when “the time is right.”
“Given the uncertainty of the times, we still believe the right thing to do is to encourage everyone to return home. Similar to the way college and university programs are prioritizing social distancing, we made the difficult decision to suspend these programs, based on guidance from local, national, and international health agencies,” the statement said.
International students like Amber Smith from Australia filled the comment section on the Facebook page where the statement was posted.
“Unfortunately with the cost of flights between Western Australia (literally the other side of the world) and Orlando, I won’t be able to afford to come back. I can’t just fly back and forth when flights are $2,000 (give or take) and take 24 hours of flight time (not including layovers, customs, delays, etc),” Smith said.
Follow the Disney Internships & Work Programs Facebook page for updates.
6:30 p.m. update
Major League Soccer, Women’s Soccer League Suspend Training for Another Week
Major League Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League teams won’t be allowed to practice for another week because of coronavirus. MLS has suspended training until Friday, March 20 and the NWSL has suspended training until Sunday, March 22.
A letter from @thesoccerdon regarding COVID-19
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 15, 2020
In a joint statement released on Sunday, MLS says players are still expected to remain in their club’s market and to follow social distancing recommendations. The club is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Public Health Agency of Canada to determine when it is safe to practice.
They will provide the public with updates when they are available.
“MLS is working with public health authorities, in collaboration with the MLS clubs, the MLS Players Association, and in consultation with the other North American professional sports leagues to finalize a protocol that would permit players to access training facilities for rehab or individual training under safe conditions during the team training moratorium,” the statement read.
— NWSL (@NWSL) March 15, 2020
The NWSL says players are also expected to remain in their club’s market.
For updates follow @MLS and @NWSL.
Walt Disney World Donates Excess Food to Central Florida Food Banks
Walt Disney World will close Sunday night through the rest of the month. But before they do, they’re donating excess food to Central Florida food banks including Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.
In a statement released on Saturday, Walt Disney World says these donations are part of Disney Harvest program which has been donating excess and unserved food from the parks to food pantries since 1991.
— Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) March 15, 2020
“Second Harvest Food Bank is known for their vital work addressing critical food needs in Central Florida, and we know the important role we play in helping to bring meaningful solutions to our community in times of great need,” Tajiana Ancora-Brown, Director of External Affairs at Walt Disney World Resort said.
Second Harvest Food Bank says they’re already experienced a 23 percent increase in demand for meals after businesses and schools have closed during the coronavirus outbreak. They’re looking for monetary donations and volunteers who can sort and distribute food.
Volunteers who have traveled abroad or who have flu-like symptoms will not be allowed on site until they have self-isolated for fourteen days and are symptom-free.
To find the food bank nearest to you, click on the link.
Commissioner Nikki Fried Activates Website to Help Families Find Food During School Closures
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have activated the Summer BreakSpot website. Families can use it to find free breakfasts and lunches for children under the age of 18 while schools are closed in the state through March 27.
There are currenlty 934 BreakSpots in the system in the following counties: Alachua, Baker, Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Clay, Collier, Miami-Dade, Duval, Franklin, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lake, Lee, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Manatee, Marion, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Santa Rosa, and Seminole.
In a statement released on Sunday, Fried said this number is expected to increase as FDACS approves new sites.
Today, we’ve activated our Summer BreakSpot website where families can find free meals for kids under 18 during the #COVID19 school closures.
VISIT: https://t.co/1nDHj07stQ to find a location near you.
As of today, there are 934 locations active statewide, which will increase.
— Commissioner Nikki Fried (@NikkiFriedFL) March 15, 2020
“Social distancing and avoiding crowded areas, like school cafeterias, are critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19. But we can’t let Florida’s children go hungry in the meantime,” Fried said. “That’s why we’re activating our Summer BreakSpot locations, to offer families an alternative way to find healthy, nutritious meals. For many children, these meals will be the only meals they can count on, so we’re encouraging families to take advantage of this service.”
Fried said federal waivers have also been approved which will allow local school districts to continue to provide some meals to students who usually rely on free and reduced lunch programs for meals.
Parents and students can search for the BreakSpots closest to them within a fifty mile radius by clicking on the link. They should use the map to confirm that sites are open during Spring Break.
5 p.m update
Florida National Guard Forms Medical Task Force
Update: The Associated Press and 90.7 WMFE staff.
The Florida National Guard has called up Army Combat Medic Specialists and Air Force Medical Technicians to form a Medical Task Force that will be sent to Broward County.
The Florida National Guard has called up all of it’s medical professionals to form Task Force – Medical. Our #Soldiers and #Airmen are supporting the @HealthyFla Florida Department of Health (DOH) in Broward County. #COVID19#FloridaFirst #RightReadyRelelvant pic.twitter.com/ldtfpKUv4j
— FloridaNationalGuard (@FLGuard) March 15, 2020
These medical professionals will work with the Florida Department of Health to set-up and staff a drive-through coronavirus testing in Broward County.
Governor Ron DeSantis activated the Florida National Guard on Friday after Broward continued to lead the state in new coronavirus cases. Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez has tested positive for the virus. Miami-Dade and Broward County schools have closed.
Florida Adds 39 Confirmed Cases, Broward Becomes Hotspot
Florida’s confirmed cases of new coronavirus jumped by 39, reaching 100 total as testing expands and results become known.
The Florida Department of Health said Sunday that 16 of the new cases are in Broward County, which remains the state’s hot spot for the disease with more than 30 confirmed infections. Three people have died in the state.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Saturday that some of the patients had not traveled to known hot spots for the disease or have contact with anyone who did. That means it is likely the virus has spread into the general population.
DeSantis is asking the federal government to let 61 Florida residents come back to the state after being aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship off of California.
The cruise ship was forced to idle for days off the California coast last week because of a cluster of coronavirus cases. Now, 61 Florida residents are being held at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia.
DeSantis said all the residents would be tested for coronavirus and would have to isolate for two weeks upon entering the state. The governor, in a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said “it’s time to bring these Floridians home.”
Yesterday I sent a letter to @HHSGov Assistant Secretary Robert Kadlec requesting the release of 61 Florida residents from Georgia, many of whom are elderly, who were previously aboard the Grand Princess voyage outside of California. It is time to bring these Floridians home. pic.twitter.com/KUe5iVatVu
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) March 14, 2020
Seminole County Students Can Get Free Breakfasts and Lunches While School’s Out
Seminole County schools will be offering free breakfasts and lunches to students who are 18 years old and younger while classes are out between March 23 and March 27.
— SCPS Info (@SCPSInfo) March 15, 2020
Families can pick up the meals at the following sites starting on Monday:
- Casselberry Elementary (1075 Crystal Bowl Circle, Casselberry, FL 32707)
- English Estates Elementary (299 Oxford Road, Fern Park, FL 32730)
- Midway Elementary (2368 Brisson Avenue, Sanford, FL 32771)
- Pine Crest Elementary (405 W. 27th Street, Sanford, FL 32773)
- Spring Lake Elementary (695 Orange Avenue, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714)
- Wicklow Elementary (100 Placid Lake Drive, Sanford, FL 32773)
- Winter Springs Elementary (701 W. S.R. 434, Winter Springs, FL 32708)
District staff will be distributing meals as a drive-thru service to parents who use the car loop. They will also hand out meals to students who usually walk or ride to school and may not have another form of transportation. Sites will be open between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
To prevent the spread of coronavirus, breakfasts and lunches must be taken home to eat.
In response to “How can I help the schools?” We will be needing community assistance filling the food pantries at our schools. If you can assist please begin to gather dry food items. We will be posting drop off locations in a few days. #greatcommunity @SCPSInfo
— Walt Griffin (@walt_griffin) March 15, 2020
Superintendent Walt Griffin is asking the community for donations of dry food items to stock school food pantries. He says distribution sites will be posted online @SCPSInfo next week.
Meanwhile, Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Jenkins said the school board is preparing for digital and remote learning at all schools if necessary.
Other notes from Jenkins:
- At this point, we await clarification from the state regarding student make up day requirements vs waived days.
- All field trips of any type are suspended until further notice.
- Spring break camps are NOT suspended for the coming week.
- Efforts to feed children who normally receive free and reduced price lunches are being arranged.
- Students and staff returning from international or cruise travel will be expected to self-isolate as indicated earlier. Every effort will be made to accommodate remote learning in such cases.
- Preparations are in place for digital and remote learning for all schools if needed.
Walmart Follows Publix’s Lead, Shortens Hours
Walmart stores and Neighborhood markets that are usually open 24 hours will close at 11 p.m. on Sunday. They will continue to operate between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. until further notice.
Stores that are usually open for reduced hours like 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. will continue to operate normally during those hours.
In a statement released Saturday, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Walmart U.S. Dacona Smith said these reduced hours will help workers restock shelves and disinfect stores.
Starting March 15, Walmart stores and Neighborhood Markets will be open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. until further notice. This will help ensure associates can clean and stock products. Stores operating under more reduced hours will keep current hours of operation. https://t.co/xw5GuNFQ0F
— Walmart (@Walmart) March 15, 2020
Smith says workers will continue to work their regular shifts and supply chain and trucking fleet will continue to deliver to stores. The company has waived it’s attendance policy for workers through April. Workers can use their regular paid time off for sick leave.
Any worker who has a confirmed case of coronavirus will get two weeks of paid sick leave. Workers who are still sick after two weeks are eligible for up to 26 weeks of paid leave.
“To our associates, thank you for your incredible work during this time. I know it hasn’t always been easy, but your entire Walmart family is so proud of what you are doing and the important difference you are making, both for your neighbors and for your country,” Smith said.
2:00 p.m. update
OneBlood Set up at Early Voting Sites Throughout Central Florida for Donations
Central Floridians who are registered to vote in Orange County can cast their ballot and then donate blood at four early voting sites today and Tuesday. Volunteers will be at:
- Alafaya Library
- Southwest Library by Dr. Phillips Market Place
- West Oaks Library
- Apopka Community Center
Volunteers will also be at early voting sites in Apopka, Winter Park, Maitland, Winter Garden and Eatonville on Tuesday.
In a statement, oneBlood says fear around the coronavirus is keeping people from donating blood and blood centers throughout the country are facing shortages.
Admiral Brett P. Giroir, M.D. Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says it’s still safe to donate blood.
“Part of preparedness includes a robust blood supply. Healthy individuals should schedule an appointment to donate today to ensure that blood is available for those patients who need it,” Giroir said.
Blood centers are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration regulations and follow strict guidelines to keep donors and patients safe throughout the process.
There have been no reported or suspected cases of transfusion-transmitted coronavirus.
To find your closest donation center or to find out your blood type, click on the link.
Central Florida Churches Make Changes to Regular Services, Events
Some Central Florida churches are deciding to hold services and other events virtually this Sunday as coronavirus cases continue to rise.
All Saints Episcopal Church in Winter Park held service online today. They live streamed the morning prayer at all three Sunday services on their Facebook page. The church is also offering an online version of its weekly bulletin.
St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Winter Park held masses online today. They live streamed the 9:30 a.m. mass on their website. For future masses through March 31, there will be no chalice during communion, no shaking hands during the sign of peace, and no holding hands during the Our Father. All meetings and events except for mass have been canceled, including Stations of the Cross and Lenten retreat. The nursery is closed and baptismal fonts will be emptied. Cleaning schedules have been increased.
Crossroads Community Church in Orlando held service online today. They live streamed the 10 a.m. service on their website. For future in- person services, there will be no hugging, fist bumping or handshaking during service, and only hosts and greeters will open doors. Refreshments after church have been canceled. Hand sanitizers have been placed at entrances to the church. Routine cleaning has been increased.
Discover Life Church in Melbourne held service online today on their Facebook page. All church activities are canceled, including Sunday Experiences and Clicks.
First Baptist Church Orlando held service online today on their Facebook page and website. Events have been canceled next week as Spring Break has been extended for Orange County public schools. Facilities will stay open for small group gatherings only. Congregants should contact group leaders to check if an event is still taking place before going on-site.
Is your mosque, synagogue, church, temple or other place of worship closed because of coronavirus? Let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TSA Worker Tests Positive for the Coronavirus
A TSA agent at Orlando International Airport had tested positive for coronavirus, officials confirmed.
Federal Security Director Pete Garcia told employees that a transportation security officer had tested positive for coronavirus. The officer is currently under self-isolation at home and will return to work once cleared by a doctor.
The Transportation Security Administration has coordinated with the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority to disinfect the security checkpoints where the officer worked.
Garcia has identified officers and other employees who had direct contact with the officer who tested positive. They have been told to self-isolate at home for fourteen days.
TSA recommends the following to prevent the spread of coronavirus among workers and the flying public:
- Wearing gloves in all positions
- Authorizing frontline personnel whose security screening tasks require them to routinely come into close contact with the traveling public to wear surgical masks if they choose to do so
- Washing hands often with soap and water and/or an alcohol based sanitizer, if soap and water is not available
- Avoiding touching their face, nose, mouth, and eyes with their hands
- Covering their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched areas
- Avoiding close contact with those who are sick
- Staying home if they are sick
The TSA has set up a website with information on cases in workers around the country. Four screeners at San Jose International Airport have tested positive for coronavirus.
Virus screenings jam US airports; ‘atrocious,’ a flyer says
Update by: Associated Press
The U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert says that crowds of returning travelers at airports could spread the disease, but that they are likely to continue.
Travelers are finding long lines and hours-long waits for required medical screenings at 13 airports where travelers from Europe are being funneled. The crowds formed even as public health officials called for “social distancing” to stem the spread of the coronavirus. One traveler described the scene at the Dallas-Forth Worth airport as “atrocious.”
The acting Homeland Security secretary says the U.S. is trying to add additional screening capacity and work with airlines to expedite the process.
OUC Waives Service Disconnections
Update by: 90.7 WMFE Staff
The Orlando Utilities Commission will waive service disconnections because of late or missing payments until further notice.
“As your hometown utility, we’re committed to helping our customers, employees and community through times of need,” the company said in a statement released Saturday.
— Orlando Utilities (@OUCreliableone) March 13, 2020
On March 4, OUC announced it would limit nonessential business travel. Workers and on-site vendors and suppliers who have traveled abroad or whose family members have traveled abroad are required to self-isolate for fourteen days. All in-person meetings have gone online.
CEO Clint Bullock said customer service continues as normal in a letter published yesterday.
“Rest assured that as we make decisions moving forward, we will always keep protecting our customers, employees and community top of mind. Let’s stand together, as a community, to persevere, as we always do,” Bullock said.
8:00 a.m. update:
Florida Department of Health Announces 39 New Presumed Positive Cases
Update by: 90.7 WMFE Staff
The Florida Department of Health has announced 39 presumed positive cases. More than half are in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Patients are both male and female, and range between the ages of 19 and 83. Fourteen cases have been confirmed to be travel-related. The others are currently under investigation.
— Florida Dept. Health (@HealthyFla) March 15, 2020
In Central Florida, there are two new presumed positive cases: a 71 year old-man in Volusia County whose case is travel-related and a 48 year-old woman in Orange County whose case is still under investigation. Both patients are isolated and will continue to remain isolated until cleared by public health officials.
For up-to-date information on new cases, follow @HealthyFla or click on the link.
5:01 p.m. update:
Three Florida COVID-19 Cases Could be Linked to Community Spread
Update by: 90.7 WMFE Staff
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said three unlinked COVID-19 cases in Broward county are evidence of community spread, unrelated to travel to infected areas.
Speaking with reporters Saturday from Tallahassee, DeSantis said while epidemiologists investigate the origins of the cases, Florida will continue to take preventative measures. “We’ve been operating under the assumption with everything we’re doing with mitigation measures, assuming you were going to see spread in some portion of Florida’s communities.”
DeSantis said the state is continuing to stock up on supplies like goggles, masks, face shields and gloves, along with respirators and ventilators. He said the state has set up a mobile hospital that can care for up to 250 patients.
“We’re on an emergency posture here. We have been for some time. We’re going to continue working hard.”
Test kits and travel
The state purchased 625,000 additional test kits. “We don’t have a testing capacity issue as far as kits in the state of Florida,” said Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz.
DeSantis is urging the President to look at limiting domestic air travel to and from hotspot areas.
We’re seeing cases now where people clearly would have acquired it somewhere else and the United States brought it here,” he said. “It just makes it much more difficult to be able to contain it.”
Meanwhile, early voting is underway for Florida’s Presidential Preference Primary. Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee said early and in-person voting Tuesday are still underway. Some precincts that were located at assisted living facilities which housed vulnerable Floridians were moved.
“This has resulted in some changes to local voting precincts which are being managed by the supervisors of elections in each of Florida’s counties, the Department of State is in constant communication with the supervisors of election to ensure that we are aware of any changes that are occurring, and that they are receiving any support that they might need from the state,” she said.
Voters can check with local supervisors of elections for update information or call the state’s voter assistant hotline at 1-866-308-6739.
DeSantis is extending current visitation restrictions for nursing homes and assisted living facilities for the next 30 days, in accordance with CDC guidance.
“At the end of the day, this is a virus that does not threaten all segments of our society equally,” he said. “The folks who are most at risk for this are folks who are elderly frail, or have serious underlying medical conditions. Want to do all we can to prevent this virus from affecting those communities who are at most at risk from it.”
Critical need for blood donations as blood drives are cancelled
Speaking at an update from Orange County leaders, OneBlood’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications and Public Relations Susan Forbes said blood centers across the nation are experiencing rapid cancellations of blood drives.
“The significant drop in donations is now affecting the ability for the nation’s blood supply to be effectively replenished,” said Forbes.
“As businesses and schools close and events are cancelled, it is impacting OneBlood’s collections and it is drastically limiting where we can go to host blood drives.”
Forbes said about 400 OneBlood blood drives had been cancelled in the last week, which equals about 8,000 units of blood uncollected. She’s asking healthy, eligible donors to visit a OneBlood center or blood drive, and businesses that are able to, offer to host a drive.
“Blood donors are needed now more than ever.”
Orange County COVID-19 case acquired in Palm Beach County
Dr. Raul Pino said an Orange County man in his 40’s who has been confirmed with coronavirus is self isolation, and in good health. His wife and two children are also self isolating.
Dr. Pino said it’s a matter of time before more cases emerge.
“We actually are surprised that at this point in the epidemic, with the geographic position that our county has, with the number of people that travel through our county every day, internationally and nationally and through the state, that we haven’t seen more cases,” he said.
“Of course as we increase our ability to test we may find new cases.”
Dr. Pino said the county is preparing to do drive through testing and will be ready to do so when it gets supplies.
New flight restrictions impacting travel at MCO
Orlando International Airport spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell said new travel restrictions imposed by president Trump on flights to the UK, effective Monday, will have an impact on 4 to 5 flights per day.
“So that does impact the number of passengers who are coming in,” said Fennell.
“Operations today at the airport are steady, we’re obviously seeing more departures than arrivals.”
U.S. Rep. Val Demings: coronavirus aid bill will help the most vulnerable
“Last night on the house floor after many, many hours of negotiations with Republicans and Democrats, we were able to pass the ‘Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” said US. Rep. Val Demings (D- Orlando).
“And what we are trying to do in that act is in the name, because with all of the issues we are dealing with, it’s how we take care of people.”
The $8.3 Billion bill allocates money to food assistance programs, creates an emergency paid leave program, expands unemployment insurance and provides for free coronavirus testing. The bill has been sent to the U.S. Senate.
Need for volunteers at Second Harvest Food Bank
Orange County mayor Jerry Demings said the Second Harvest food bank has seen an uptick in need for food with the loss of jobs and employment uncertainty.
“They are asking for volunteers to come to help distribute food,” he said.
Demings urged residents to remain calm during the pandemic.
“Together we will get through this storm that is occurring throughout our community,” said Demings.
“The next few weeks are going to be uncomfortable for all of us because places and events that we love to frequent have either been closed or events have been postponed or cancelled, and that is a necessary step that we have to take within this community to keep all of us safe.”
12:05 p.m. update:
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to close
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will close from March 16th until further notice. In a media release the visitor complex said when it is deemed safe for visitors to return, the entire facility will be cleaned and sanitized including tour buses, attractions, eateries and theaters.
Click here for information about ticket refunds.
New coronavirus cases include Osceola, Orange Counties
The Florida Department of Health announced 25 new cases of coronavirus and the death of a Florida resident in California. Florida now has 64 cases of coronavirus.
A 41 year old man in Orange County and a 54 year old man in Osceola County are among the cases. Both are in isolation, and the department is investigating whether they were travel related. A 68 year old Orange County woman died after testing positive for COVID-19 in California following a trip to Asia. In a press conference Friday, Orange County mayor Jerry Demings said she had been in isolation in California.
Schools closed for two weeks
The Florida Department of Education has directed all public schools to close for the next two weeks. Extracurricular activities and state testing are postponed. School is scheduled to resume on March 30th.
State of Emergency in Orlando
Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer declared a state of emergency in the city Friday. The city is working with Orange County and the county department of health to help fight the spread of COVID-19.
Events hosted, sponsored and permitted by the city with an attendance over 250 are cancelled beginning Monday, through March 31st.
The Orlando Fire Museum is closed along with the Beardall and L. Claudia Allen Senior Centers, and senior events at neighborhood centers are cancelled.
The city says residents should not expect any interruption in municipal services.
Kissimmee rescheduling events
Kissimmee has postponed all public events managed by the city or held on city property with an anticipated attendance of more than 250 people through March 31st.
The city says it’s working with event organizers to reschedule or provide full refunds for deposits or venue rentals that have been paid.
Coronavirus hits tourism sector hard
Disney, Universal and Seaworld are closing their Orlando area theme parks through the end of the month, beginning at the close of business Sunday.
In a media release Friday, Visit Orlando CEO George Aguel said that as of last Sunday, bookings at hotels in Orlando through the end of March are down nearly 15% compared to the same time last year. Aguel says he is “bracing for even more pronounced slowdown in the weeks ahead.”
Still, Aguel said he is cautiously optimistic for a strong recovery, and Visit Orlando is preparing a push to bring visitors back at the appropriate time.
State Courts suspend most face to face legal proceedings
Most face-to-face legal proceedings in the state courts will be suspended for a minimum of two weeks under a statewide order issued Friday afternoon by Florida Chief Justice Charles Canady. The order takes effect Monday.
Florida Chief Justice Charles Canady authorized local judges to conduct legal proceedings electronically. It’s the first time a limit on face to face proceedings has been ordered since the state court system was unified in 1972.
Longer lines at food banks
Food banks in Orange County are noticing longer lines as fears over the coronavirus begin to slow the economy.
Second Harvest President Greg Higgerson said the growing demand reminds him of the time after the 9/11 terrorist attacks or 2008 economic collapse when there were massive layoffs in Orange County.
Higgerson said he’s not worried about running out of food, but social distancing could complicate the distribution of meals.
Villages shuts down thriving entertainment scene
The Villages, a Central Florida retirement community of about 130,000 people, was taking seriously the state’s advice against gathering in crowds.
It largely had shut down its thriving entertainment scene to counter the spread of COVID-19.
Citing recommendations from the governor and health officials, The Villages canceled evening events on the town squares indefinitely. The Villages also was closing its cinemas — the Barnstorm Theatre and the Old Mill Playhouse.
Click here for more of WMFE’s coronavirus coverage
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