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Coronavirus Latest For 3/21: Drive-thru Testing To Open Wednesday At Convention Center, Golf Cart Testing Planned In The Villages

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis brief the media Saturday.

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Updated 10:04 p.m. 

Orlando Health Tightens Visitor Restrictions Because Of Coronavirus

Abe Aboraya, WMFE 

Orlando Health is restricting how many visitors a patient can have, even for patients at the end of life.

Generally, patients can have just one visitor for their stay, and that person must be screened and without symptoms. Patients at the end of their life can have two visitors. Patients who are suspected of having COVID-19 can’t have any visitors.

Check here for more detailed guidance. 

Updated 5:37 p.m. 

DeSantis: Drive-Thru Testing Slated To Open Wednesday

Abe Aboraya, WMFE 

As Orange County sees an increase in confirmed coronavirus cases, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said a drive-thru testing center will open at the Orange County Convention Center next Wednesday.

DeSantis said the National Guard is helping to get the center up and running. A drive-thru testing site in South Florida was so popular, it ran out of tests and people were told to return.

Testing is still be offered to limited groups: People who are 65 and older who have a fever over 99.6 degrees and respiratory systems. First responders and health care workers can be tested, regardless of symptoms.

“The goal is to cast as broad a net as possible,” DeSantis said. “We really want to get a good handle on what’s happening in Tampa and Orlando in particular. We have the ability to contain this in some areas.”

The governor said he plans to offer drive-thru testing in The Villages, the sprawling retirement community in Lake, Marion and Sumter counties. Sumter County has the largest percentage of residents over the age of 65 in the U.S., according to the U.S Census Bureau.

“This will be drive thru testing Villages styles where you can bring your golf cart through,” DeSantis said.

Updated 11:25 a.m. 

Florida Tops 650 Confirmed COVID-19 Cases, Two More Deaths

Abe Aboraya, WMFE 

Two more Floridians have died from COVID-19, bringing the state death toll to 12, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Florida has 658 positive cases, including 603 Florida residents and 55 non-residents. Orange County has the most cases in Central Florida with 23, including two travel-related, 13 that are not travel-related and eight that are of unknown origin. Orange County has had 18 hospitalizations from COVID-19.

Brevard and Lake counties have the fewest of any county in Central Florida. Sumter County, home to the sprawling retirement community The Villages, has two cases. Marion County has no cases.

Florida has increased testing in recent days, with a total of 8,239 completed. That includes 658 positive results and 6,579 negative results. Results are pending for 1,002 tests.

Nationwide, there are 19,624 cases and 260 deaths. Worldwide, there are 286,932 cases and 11,906 deaths. There are 89,899 people worldwide who have recovered from the virus, including 147 in the United States.

Updated 11:15 a.m. 

Publix Hiring “Thousands” To Meet Unprecedented Demand Over Coronavirus

Amy Green, WMFE 

Publix says it wants to hire “thousands of associates” by the end of March to respond to unprecedented demand prompted by COVID-19. 

The Lakeland-based grocery store chain says it wants to fill positions in its stores and distribution centers across its seven-state operating area.

That includes distribution centers in Lakeland and Orlando.

Publix is encouraging applications from those faced with joblessness because of the coronavirus.

Updated 11 a.m.

Child Care Centers Say, We Need More Toilet Paper

Amy Green, WMFE 

Orange County child care centers are calling for help as fears over COVID-19 prompt inventories to run low of essentials like bleach, paper products, wipes and toilet paper. 

A state directive closing public schools does not apply to child care centers.

One center says it is running so low on essentials like paper towels and gloves it will have to close as soon as this week.

The Early Learning Coalition of Orange County is calling for donations.

The address is 7700 Southland Blvd., Suite 100, Orlando. Donations can be dropped off Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. in a Child Care Supplies collection box. Contact the organization in advance about large donations.

Updated 10:30 a.m. 

Commissioner Fried Calls For Statewide “Stay-At-Home” Order

Amy Green, WMFE

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to issue a statewide “stay-at-home” order in response to the spreading COVID-19 virus. 

She says the order would be similar to ones in California, Illinois and New York.

The order would close all non-essential businesses for “a reasonable timeframe, after which time the situation could be reassessed.”

Fried says the data show that Florida, the nation’s third-most populous state, is a week behind California, which has experienced a broader spread of the coronavirus.

She acknowledges the economic impact but says that closing some businesses while allowing others to remain open creates confusion and uncertainty.

Updated 6 a.m.

Passenger numbers plummet as flight freeze kicks in

Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Orlando International Airport’s estimated number of passengers departing Friday was 33,833,  down from an original projection of 76,841 based on Spring Break numbers.

A Virgin Atlantic relief flight left MCO Friday to help travelers return home, while another was scheduled for today.

Virgin obtained permission to operate the flights after an expanded travel ban restricted the entry of visitors from Europe, the UK and Ireland.

Since the travel ban was put in place, the U.S. Department of State has issued a Global Level 4 Health Advisory, advising U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. The federal government is also moving to shut down travel to Canada and Mexico.

Rental car companies are now operating in the A Terminal only, and with resorts at Walt Disney World closing Friday evening, the Disney Magical Express has also stopped.

According to the Airports Council International-North America, economic losses of at least $14 billion are expected for all airports in 2020.

Three TSA officers test positive for COVID-19

Three TSA officers at Orlando International Airport have now tested positive for coronavirus.

Federal Security Director Pete Garcia notified staff Friday about two more confirmed cases, after TSA officer Andrea Silas was diagnosed last week.

Garcia said both officers are recovering at home and will have to be cleared by a doctor before they come back to work.

TSA workers at airports in California, Florida, Georgia, New York and Ohio have fallen ill with the virus.

Marion County has its first confirmed case of COVID-19

Marion County has its first positive test for COVID-19.

The Health Department announced the patient is a 59-year-old woman.

Staff are conducting a contact investigation, identifying and notifying people who will need to monitor themselves for symptoms over 14 days.

Orange and Osceola Counties enforce 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew

Mayor Jerry Demings announced the measure at a press conference Friday, as authorities ramp up efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Health care workers and other first responders are exempt from the curfew, and travel to and from work is allowed.

“We all think this is needed,” said Orange County Sheriff John Mina.

“We are not looking to arrest people, but we are looking to save lives in this community.”

Osceola County has also imposed a curfew from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m.

County leaders are urging residents to shelter in place and to stay home as much as possible unless working, shopping for necessities, getting food or attending to medical needs.

For more coronavirus coverage, click here.


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