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Cases Tick Up To 14,747; OCCC Test Site Needs More Test Kits; Sumter County Fatalities Double: Your Coronavirus Update for 4/7

Gov. Ron DeSantis gives an update.

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

Updated 6:20 p.m.

95 hospitalized in Orange County with COVID-19

Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Orange County now has 768 coronavirus cases, with 95 people in hospital according to new figures released Tuesday night by the Florida Department of Health.

Ten people have died in Orange County from coronavirus. Mayor Jerry Demings has talked about using a multi-county approach to tackle the disease, with a peak in cases expected around April 21st for Florida.

At a press conference earlier Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Orange County’s bed availability was 44%.

Statewide there are 14,747 coronavirus cases, with 1,893 hospitalizations and 296 deaths. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties remain the hardest hit by the pandemic in Florida.

Sumter County coronavirus deaths double

Joe Byrnes, WMFE

Sumter County, home of the Villages retirement community has seen its death toll more than double from three to seven in the last two days.

Sumter now has the second-to-worst coronavirus death rate for its population among Florida counties. Only tiny DeSoto County, with three dead, has a worse rate. The county is vulnerable because of its aging population. None of the deaths was travel related. 

The Villages gradually has restricted recreational and social activities. But even now, its residents continue to go out to play golf together.

Retired EMS Capt. Gail Lazenby wants Villagers to stay home. 

“The people who live here aren’t stupid,” said Lazenby.

“However, what I see frequently is what I have called lax compliance.”

Lazenby said he’s concerned about groups of people gathering outside in lawn chairs or playing golf and then coming together to compare scores. They know they’re getting closer than six feet. 

OCCC test site needs more test kits

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

The Orange County Convention Center coronavirus testing site has run out of federally provided test kits. Spokesperson Lauren Luna said the state has stepped up with enough kits to provide 250 tests a day through Sunday. 

Luna said they’ve requested more tests from the federal and state governments to keep the site running after that.

“Our requests will either be approved or be given a number of tests that may not be the full requested amount or it will be denied.” 

Luna said the youngest person who has gotten tested at the site was 4 years old and the oldest person was 92 years old. 

Updated 5:00 p.m.

Florida doctors discuss pros and cons of hydroxychloroquine

Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Florida doctors say hydroxychloroquine is one option for treating coronavirus, but they are not sure that it will work, and there could be side effects. 

Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malaria medication that is also used to treat auto-immune conditions like lupus. 

President Donald Trump has touted its use in treating coronavirus, and Governor Ron DeSantis has worked to get supplies of the drug to hospitals across Florida.  

At a press conference in Tallahassee today, Governor Ron DeSantis spoke by video link to Dr. Sunil Kumar at Broward Health. 

Dr. Kumar said COVID-19 patients at the hospital are being treated with hydroxychloroquine and other medications.

“We decided to start treating all patients diagnosed with COVID-19 admitted in the hospital, but I had to be very careful,” said Dr. Kumar.

“I don’t want people to assume that that’s the only thing that’s available, but it’s a medication that’s been used for a long time, it’s being tested. But we’re not sure whether it’ll work.”

Dr. Kumar was asked by Gov. DeSantis whether it’s useful to have the drug on hand.

“Absolutely. I think we need to have every option that’s available for these patients.”

Dr. Carlos Campo,  head of ICU at Tallahassee Memorial, who also spoke at the press conference, described its use for coronavirus treatment as an “off label” use.

He said one of the side effects is cardiac arrhythmia, and he said he wouldn’t recommend this particular drug for outpatients because the patients need to be monitored.

“And again, the medications themselves can put the patient at risk,” he said.

More resource for struggling state unemployment system

Gov. DeSantis said he’s adding resources to help Floridians apply for unemployment assistance. 

The state’s unemployment system has struggled to cope with the huge number of applications, with thousands laid off due to the pandemic. People unable to apply online can now submit a paper application. 

DeSantis said helping the unemployed is a priority. 

“I also know that places like in Miami Dade they’re working really hard to give access to the paper applications and we appreciate that very much,” said DeSantis.

“We had 250 new call takers in place yesterday. I think we have, we’re adding to that today and tomorrow as well.”

More than half a million Floridians have applied for unemployment since March 15th. 

Updated 11:30 a.m.

Florida cases surge past 14,500

Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Florida’s coronavirus count is now 14,504, up from 13,629 last night. Hospitalizations have climbed to 1,777 and 283 people have died from COVID-19.

Miami-Dade is the epicenter of the pandemic in Florida, with nearly 5,000 cases.

Orange County has the most cases of any county in Central Florida, with 763 cases, 93 hospitalizations and 9 deaths.

In Sumter County, home of The Villages retirement community, 84 people have tested positive for coronavirus, 26 people have been hospitalized and seven have died. Lake County has 116 cases, 27 hospitalizations and two deaths.

Hover over the map to see case numbers in other counties.

Florida governor says unemployment system now up to speed

The Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says the state’s heavily criticized unemployment system should now be able to handle the crush of applicants it is receiving as workers lose their jobs because of the coronavirus outbreak.

He said Monday that the computer system’s capacity has been increased to handle 120,000 simultaneous connections, about double the peak usage in recent weeks.

More than 520,000 Floridians have applied for unemployment since March 15, compared to 326,000 in all of last year.

State statistics show that more than 13,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease and 253 have died since the outbreak began.

Residents urged to support local restaurants for “407 day”

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

Orlando residents are being encouraged to order carryout from hundreds of participating restaurants and then take a selfie and tag it #407Day. The move aims to support restaurants that are struggling to stay open during the pandemic, with dining rooms closed and a stay at home order in place.

Jonathan Poweski, General Manager of The Coop in Winter Park, said the restaurant has lost business since their main dining room closed to the public, but curbside pickup is helping them stay afloat.

“At the end of the day, we want to be there when this is all over,” said Poweski.

“And our best chance is by people getting out there and ordering out, whether it be pickup or delivery.”

Economic pain on the horizon, but no Depression

Nicole Darden Creston, WMFE

Recent economic reports show a record-shattering 10 million Americans applied for unemployment compensation in the last two weeks, and the markets on a roller coaster ride.

Economic analyst Hank Fishkind tells 90.7’s Nicole Darden Creston that things will be hard for the next few months financially, but the country is not headed into a depression.

“The abrupt and drastic fall in economic activity is indeed unprecedented and frankly worse than the Great Depression,” said Fishkind.

But unlike the great depression, he said, the Federal Reserve will continue to respond aggressively to prevent the failure of the financial system.

“And second, the huge stimulus packages congress has passed, and the additional stimulus that’s sure to come, will offset a substantial proportion of the incomes that are lost during this recession,” said Fishkind.

The outlook for Orlando is grim, though, where almost 40% of all jobs are in tourism, hospitality and the non-grocery retail sector.

“By May, most of these jobs are going to be lost, and the unemployment rate may reach 30%. The only good news in all this is that it won’t last all that long,” said Fishkind.

Fishkind said he expects the recession to last between 6 and 9 months.

Click here to read WMFE’s previous reporting on coronavirus


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