COVID-19 News

July 9, 2020
DeSantis: Schools Should be Considered Essential, Open as Soon as Possible

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida schools should be considered essential and open when possible. “We spent months saying that there were certain things that were essential, and that included fast food restaurants, it included Walmart, it included Home Depot,” the governor said at a news conference in Jacksonville with U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia. “But if all that is essential, then educating our kids is absolutely essential. ... If you can do these things, we absolutely can do the schools.” DeSantis also said he is asking the federal government for more medicine and will create designated drive-through lanes at testing sites in Broward and Miami-Dade counties for people with coronavirus symptoms to speed up results. Sun Sentinel

New Florida Jobless Claims Dropped Again Last Week

The number of people filing first time jobless claims dropped last week in Florida by more than 17,000 as the state's laid-off workers continued to return to jobs they'd lost earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic. The decline in unemployment claims came, however, before Miami-Dade County was forced to backtrack on its effort to restore economic activity as the county dealt this week with a surge in new coronavirus cases and rising hospitalizations. The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday that 67,070 people filed new unemployment claims in the state in the week ending July 4. That was down from more than 84,000 first-time claims filed the week before. Department of Labor

State Death Toll Tops 4,000 from COVID as 120 New Fatalities Added to Count on Thursday

The state on Thursday added 120 new fatalities to the death toll from coronavirus as the count topped 4,000 dead since the pandemic began in the state. The state recorded over 8,900 new cases, health officials said Thursday. The report of 120 new deaths is the most reported in one day so far during the pandemic in Florida - though the deaths reported on Thursday may not have all occurred recently.

The Department of Health also reported Thursday that on the most recent day for which statistics are available, July 8, about 18.4 percent - nearly one in five - of tests for the COVID-19 virus came back positive. On Wednesday, the state said 51,700 tests were reported to the state, and 8,935 were positive. In all, the state has recorded over 232,000 cases and more than 4,000 deaths from the virus since the pandemic started. Department of Health

Miami-Dade County: One in Three COVID Tests Coming Back Positive in Latest Report

The percentage of daily positive results from coronavirus tests in Miami-Dade County spiked to 33.5 percent in county data released Thursday, the first time it has been over 30 percent. The latest results raised the county's 14-day average to 24.3 percent for tests returning positive for the virus, which has surged in recent days in the state's biggest county. The county reported just under 2,000 positive results on Wednesday, out of nearly 6,000 tested, down from more than 2,900 positive cases out of nearly 10,400 tests the day before.

Miami-Dade County Daily Data Dashboard 

Petition Seeks to Let People Visit Nursing Homes

Duval School Board member Lori Hershey has started a petition urging Gov. Ron DeSantis to lift a ban on people visiting loved ones in nursing homes, a ban aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19. DeSantis has often touted the rule preventing people from going to nursing homes as something that has kept the death rate from being higher in nursing homes, but has also acknowledged it is a difficult rule because people want to be able to spend time with loved ones who may be nearing the end of life. “I think loved ones are saying ‘we've been patient long enough,’ and now we want to know why there are not guidelines in place for us to be able to visit our loved ones," Hershey told Health News Florida. Hershey's mother is in a nursing home with Alzheimer's. “Time is ticking, and I'm losing it," Hershey said. WJCT-Health News Florida

Additional Testing Locations Come to Jacksonville After HHS Deems it COVID Hot Spot

With northeast Florida seeing a "recent and intense level of new cases and hospitalizations" from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the federal Department of Health and Human Services said it is opening new surge testing locations in Jacksonville.  The agency said Tuesday it would perform surge testing in Jacksonville, along with locations in Louisiana and Texas, by offering 5,000 tests per-city per-day, at no charge to those tested. The temporary surge testing sites will operate anywhere from five to 12 days. "The three jurisdictions identified are seeing significant increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and could potentially benefit from additional opportunities to identify new cases, especially for people who are asymptomatic," HHS said. Department of Health and Human Services 

July 8, 2020
Hillsborough County Schools Will Require Masks in Fall

The Hillsborough County superintendent of schools announced students and staff returning to public schools on Aug. 10th will be required to wear face masks. Superintendent Addison Davis said the decision comes after consulting with medical professionals from the University of South Florida and Tampa General Hospital, teachers, school administrators, business leaders and local Department of Health officials. WUSF-Health News Florida 

Seminole County Medical Director Warns Local Hospitals May Soon Reach Capacity

Seminole County should be "very worried" about rising rates of hospitalization there and difficulties hospitals are having meeting staff needs as the COVID-19 virus continues to spread, the county's medical director said. "The hospitals are having a hard time staffing," said Dr. Todd Husty, an emergency room doctor and Seminole's medical director. "Every single patient that they see with COVID takes twice as long [to treat] as the ones who don't have COVID ... And every room needs to be cleaned exquisitely." Seminole County health officials expressed concerns that hospitals in the county may soon reach capacity. On Tuesday, Seminole County reported 203 patients being treated for COVID in the county's four hospitals, including Advent Health Altamonte Springs, Central Florida Regional in Sanford, Oviedo Medical Center and Orlando Health South Seminole Hospital in Longwood. That's 40 more patients than the previous record set on July 4, when 163 patients were hospitalized in the county. Orlando Sentinel

Trump Heading to South Florida on Friday

President Donald Trump will go to Miami-Dade and Broward counties later this week, two of the hardest-hit counties in the state by the resurging coronavirus pandemic. Trump will meet Friday with officials at the U.S. Southern Command headquarters in Doral, where he will highlight efforts at international drug trafficking interdiction. Trump may also address Venezuela policy during the stop – Doral is home to the largest population of Venezuelan-Americans in the country. The president also is expected to hold a campaign fundraising dinner in Hillsboro Beach in Broward County. CNN / Miami Herald / Sun Sentinel

Trump: GOP Flexible on Jacksonville Convention

President Trump said Tuesday that Republicans are "flexible" with respect to holding a full convention in Jacksonville amid a rising number of coronavirus cases in the state. "We're always looking at different things," Trump told Greta Van Susteren, host of "Full Court Press," in an interview Tuesday. "We went to Florida, and when we went, when we signed a few weeks ago, it looked good and now all of a sudden it's spiking up a little bit and that's going to go down. It really depends on the timing. Look, we're very flexible, we could do a lot of things, but we're very flexible," Trump continued. The Hill

July 7, 2020
Cape Coral Council Rejects City Mask Ordinance

A motion to require the wearing of face masks in the City of Cape Coral to reduce the spread of coronavirus failed during a Monday city council meeting, with members instead agreeing to simply recommend the use of masks in public. The proposal drew intense interest and a large number of public comments. WINK News

Collier County, Naples Beaches Back to Normal Hours After Holiday Restrictions

After modifying weekend beach hours and parking requirements to ward off potential out-of-town Fourth of July crowds amid the coronavirus pandemic, Collier County, Marco Island and Naples have lifted their beach restrictions again. Naples beaches returned to normal hours Tuesday morning while Collier County and Marco Island restrictions expired Monday.  Naples Daily News

Miami Jackson to Get 100 Healthcare Workers to Help With Surge in Patients

Miami-Dade County’s public hospital network, Jackson Health System, will get 100 healthcare workers this week to help deal with an increase in COVID patients after an appeal to Gov. Ron DeSantis. Jackson CEO Carlos Migoya spoke to the governor Monday night to request help, a hospital spokesperson told the Miami Herald. Migoya was told Jackson would receive 100 healthcare workers by Friday through a private staffing company. About 75 of the nurses will be “ICU-ready,” the spokesperson said. “We think we can have them seeing patients within a few days of getting here,” said Matt Pinzur, vice president and chief marketing officer at Jackson. Miami Herald

Miami-Dade Reverses on Gyms, Will Allow Them to Stay Open

Gyms and fitness studios will be able to remain open in Miami-Dade County, the county's mayor said Tuesday after earlier saying they would have to close as the region tries to fight a surge in COVID-19 infections. Mayor Carlos Gimenez said on Twitter that he'd reached a compromise that will allow gyms to stay open but with requirements for wearing masks indoors and for distancing among people who are working out outside. 

 

Gimenez had earlier said he would order gyms closed. The county also is reinstating a ban on indoor seating at restaurants, though outdoor seating of tables of four or fewer people will continue to be permitted. 

More: Miami Herald

South Florida Schools Likely Won't Return to Full-Time Classroom Learning in Fall

South Florida students likely won’t be required to return to brick-and-mortar classrooms next month, despite a state order requiring schools to open five days a week in the fall unless local school officials decide that wouldn't be safe. Officials in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties have either said or suggested that full-scale in-person classes are unlikely. “We do not see a realistic path” to every school in the county opening five days a week this fall, Superintendent Robert Runcie said during a School Board workshop on Tuesday. Miami-Dade school officials said Monday that the district won't open school buildings until the county enters Phase 2 of reopening after the pandemic. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach are currently in Phase 1. Palm Beach County school officials are expected to discuss on Wednesday different reopening plans, including full-time in-school learning, on-line classes and a hybrid model. Sun Sentinel

DeSantis Extends COVID State of Emergency 60 More Days

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday extended by 60 days a state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order will now be in place until Sept. 5. Executive Order 

Florida's Coronavirus Infection Rate Soars Over 20%, Highest Since Start of Pandemic

The rate of tests for COVID-19 coming back positive has spiked to over 20 percent in Florida, the highest rate since the beginning of the pandemic in Florida. The state's positive test rate was just under 20.8 percent in a report issued Tuesday. Health officials also reported more than 7,300 new cases and more than 380 new hospitalizations related to the virus. Sun Sentinel

 

List of Companies That Received Paycheck Protection Program Loans from the SBA

From an animal cancer clinic in Fort Lauderdale that was able to retain one job, to Miami's Biltmore Hotel – one of several businesses that said it could retain 500 jobs with the help – here's a look at the more than 42,000 Florida businesses that received loans of $150,000 or more under the federal Paycheck Protection Program. 

List of Florida companies receiving Paycheck Protection Program loans from the SBA

July 6, 2020
Lawsuit Challenges Jacksonville's Mask Requirement

A Jacksonville man is suing to overturn the city's requirement for people to wear face masks in public to prevent spread of the coronavirus. The lawsuit filed by Jason French, owner of French Capital Management in Mandarin, argues the proclamation Mayor Lenny Curry issued June 29 violates the privacy and due process clauses of Florida's constitution. Jacksonville's order requires anyone over age 6 who is in a pubic space to wear a mask or face covering when they can't practice social distancing.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of French by Republican state lawmaker Anthony Sabatini, who has filed several such lawsuits across the state. Florida Times-Union / News4Jax

Hillsborough County Amends Mask Rule, Eliminating Criminal Penalties

Hillsborough County emergency leaders agreed Monday to rewrite the county's face-mask requirement to ease concerns from business owners. Among the changes were removing criminal sanctions, instead using civil fines for enforcement. The order also now includes an amendment saying the order isn't meant to conflict with a state law prohibiting concealed weapons permit holders from wearing face masks indoors. That means gun permit holders are exempt from the face mask requirement. Tampa Bay Times

DeSantis Praises Theme Parks, Says Reopenings Successful

Gov. Ron DeSantis praised precautions being taken by Orlando's theme parks amid the coronavirus pandemic during a news briefing Monday in The Villages, despite the surge in cases in Central Florida and throughout the state. Walt Disney World's theme parks are set to reopen on July 11 with Magic Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom, followed by the July 15 reopening of Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios. The Disney Springs shopping and dining complex has been reopening gradually since May 20.

More: Orlando Sentinel

Miami-Dade to Again Close Restaurants, Gyms in Bid to Stem Surge of COVID Cases

Miami-Dade County's mayor announced on Monday he will issue an executive order for restaurants, gyms and other businesses to close again in a renewed effort to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. The order by Mayor Carlos Gimenez will take effect Wednesday and reinstate closure orders for in-establishment customer service at restaurants, banquet facilities and party venues, though takeout and delivery are still allowed to operate. Restaurants and gyms had only recently reopened after an earlier closure, but case numbers and positive test rates have soared in recent days in Miami-Dade County. Gimenez said the move would help curb the spread of the virus and ensure hospitals will have enough capacity and staff to treat the rising number of patients. Miami Herald / Sun Sentinel / Statement from Mayor Gimenez / Updated Statement

Number of New COVID Cases Dropped in Monday Report

Florida health officials on Monday reported 6,327 new cases of COVID-19 among Florida residents, a significant drop from two straight days of over 10,000 new reported cases over the weekend. The death toll for the pandemic climbed by 48 on Sunday to a total of 3,880. Just under 15 percent of test results were coming back positive in the latest data. Department of Health 

July 5, 2020
Suarez: Rising Cases in Miami 'Extremely Worrisome'

After Miami allowed businesses to reopen despite an ongoing threat from the novel coronavirus, "people started socializing as if the virus didn’t exist," helping propel the current rise in cases in the city Mayor Francis Suarez said Sunday on ABC News. "It’s extremely worrisome." 

The number of coronavirus cases in the state topped 200,000 after another record breaking weekend, with just over 10,000 new cases recorded in the Department of Health's Sunday morning report of cases from the day before. 

On the Fourth of July Florida reported just over 15 percent of tests for the virus returned positive results. 

More: Department of Health

July 2, 2020
Florida Unemployment Claims Dropped Last Week

The number of people filing first-time unemployment claims in Florida dropped by more than 11,000 last week, but the decline came mostly before the recent spike in coronavirus cases that have caused some areas of the state to slow down COVID-19 reopening efforts. The U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday that 84,608 people filed new jobless claims in the week ending June 27, down from 95,683 the week before. The latest numbers continued an up-and-down few weeks in economic signals in which it has been hard to discern a clear, widespread trend. Florida was one of just a handful of states that saw declines in new filings last week, and had the second largest drop after Oklahoma. Nationally, 1.45 million new jobless claims were filed, down from 1.46 million the week before the Labor Department said. U.S. Department of Labor 

Lakeland Commission Approves Mask Requirement; Rule Starts Thursday Evening

Lakeland city commissioners on Thursday voted to require people to wear masks while "working, living, visiting, or doing business" in the city during any time they can't maintain social distancing from strangers outside their home. The commission voted 5-2 to put the requirement in place starting at 5 p.m. Thursday evening in a bid to curb a coronavirus pandemic that has seen cases soar in Florida in the last week. The requirement expires Aug. 3. Fox13 / The Ledger 

 

More Than 10,000 New Coronavirus Cases Reported in Florida

Florida reported on Thursday more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases, the biggest one-day increase in the state since the pandemic started. The Department of Health said there were 9,958 new Florida resident cases, and 10,109 new cases overall since the previous day's report, bringing the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 169,106. In June, Florida infections rose by 168 percent or over 95,000 new cases. The percent of tests coming back positive has gone from 4 percent at the end of May to 14.5 percent on Thursday. There were also 67 new deaths announced Thursday, bringing the statewide death toll to hit 3,617.  Department of Health / USA Today-Treasure Coast Newspapers / Reuters / Miami Herald

July 1, 2020
Duval Schools Approve Use of Barrier Screens Between Students

The Duval County School Board on Tuesday unanimously approved the use of protective barriers, or plastic screens, to help separate students during the upcoming school year. The desk partitions will help encourage distancing in the COVID-19 era where it would otherwise be impossible to meet the recommended 6-foot separation of students. The district expects to use $4 million in federal CARES Act money to buy 120,000 of the partitions. Health News Florida / News4Jax First Coast News (Video)

DeSantis: Floridians Can Celebrate Fourth, Just Take Precautions

Florida residents can have some fun over the Fourth of July weekend but need to be cautious – and the elderly in particular should take extra care, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday. "You can do a lot of things, if you just take some small precautions, you're going to be ok," DeSantis said at a news conference in Daytona Beach. "Be cautious of parents and grandparents in the interactions that you may have." DeSantis said he is not as worried about the virus spreading at outdoor events held at places like parks or beaches as he is about indoor gatherings, such as house parties. Tampa Bay Times

Florida Cancels Late July In-Person Bar Exams

Florida has canceled the upcoming administration of the bar exam, which was slated to take place July 28 and 29. Instead, the state will give an abbreviated online version of the test on August 18, according to an announcement Wednesday by the Florida Board of Bar Examiners. The announcement didn't give a reason for the change, but the number of COVID-19 cases in the state has surged in recent weeks, prompting renewed calls for alternatives to the two-day, in-person attorney licensing exam. Law.com / Florida Supreme Court

Miami Beach Reinstates Curfew

Miami Beach is reimposing a citywide curfew in an effort to once again slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

The curfew will be from 12:30 a.m. to 6 a.m., city manager Jimmy Morales told city commissioners in an email on Wednesday. "This will reduce the social interaction and help police with enforcement against loitering," Morales said. "There is nothing else to do after midnight." NBC6 / Miami Beach Order

Miami's Jackson Health System to Limit Elective Procedures to Keep Capacity Available

The largest hospital in Florida's hardest-hit county in the coronavirus pandemic announced it is scaling back elective surgeries and other procedures because of a new surge in cases. Jackson Health System in Miami says it will limit non-emergency admissions on Monday because of "a steady increase" in the number of coronavirus patients over the past few weeks. 

Miami-Dade has 37,961 confirmed cases and 1,000 deaths, according to the state Department of Health. Not including surge capacity, officials reported Tuesday night that South Florida hospital bed availability was between 20 and 30 percent.

In Orange County, hospitals are also seeing higher numbers of patients with COVID-19, but there remain more than 400 beds available in the county, said Orange County Health Officer Dr. Raul Pino. "If we need to increase the number of beds for whatever reason in the near future, the first step the hospital would take is to stop elective procedures before we even plan for surge capacity," Pino told Spectrum News 13.

Associated Press / New York Times

Broward Plan for Restarting Classroom Instruction Includes Masks for Students, Teachers, Smaller Classes

Students will wear masks at school when not at their desks next year under a plan for restarting schools in Broward County. Students will be able to remove masks when seated at desks – which will be spread 6 feet apart – reducing the size of most classes to 14 students. Teachers will also wear masks under the plan. The first day of school – Aug. 19 – is unlikely to be delayed, according to Broward district staff, because students would lose learning days before state assessments and employees would miss out on paychecks. 

More: Sun Sentinel

June 30, 2020
Florida Has Conducted 1.8 Million COVID Tests

As of June 29, Florida had conducted about 1.8 million tests for COVID-19, the third most in the nation. According to the COVID Tracking Project, Florida was behind only California and New York, which had both tested more than 3.8 million, and slighly ahead of Texas in the number of tests given. Illinois, New Jersey and Michigan were the only other states that have conducted more than 1 million tests. 

On the most recent day for which the results are available, June 28, 41,600 test results were recorded. Just over 5,200, or about 13.7 percent, were positive.  

Becker's Hospital Review / Florida Department of Health

St. Johns County Commission Doesn't Take Up Mask Measure

A motion to take up a proposal for a countywide mask requirement in St. Johns County couldn't get a second in a county commission meeting Tuesday. The commission in the county, which includes St. Augustine, did take up a proposal to require county employees to wear masks at work but that proposal failed 3-2. News4Jax

Collier County Commissioners Approve Partial Beach Closures for Holiday Weekend

Collier County commissioners voted narrowly on Tuesday to close beaches during the peak hours of the day over the Fourth of July weekend in a bid to keep crowds from spreading COVID-19. The board voted 3-2 to close beaches from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Friday to Tuesday July 7. Beaches will be open from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., and then from 5 p.m. to dusk during the holiday period. The move is one of several efforts by local officials in Florida to try to prevent large gatherings over the holiday weekend as the state continues to battle a widening coronavirus epidemic. WBBH

June 29, 2020
Rate of Positive COVID Tests Up in Latest Report, Though Fewer Tests Meant Fewer New Cases

The Florida Department of Health on Monday reported 13.67 percent of coronavirus tests came back positive over the previous day, up from 12.4 percent the day before. The number of tests coming back dropped considerably – from about 72,000 to about 42,000 – and that led to a significant drop in the number of daily cases. Officials said there were 5,266 new cases from the previous day, after three straight days of more than 8,000 new cases. The agency also reported Monday there were 28 new deaths from the virus over the previous day.  Department of Health

DeSantis Vetoes More than $1 Billion from Budget in Face of Coronavirus Economic Downturn

Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed about $1 billion from the budget lawmakers passed this spring, bolstering reserves to gird against the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. After the vetoes, the state budget that will go into effect July 1 stands at $92.2 billion. 

DeSantis said in a news conference that after the vetoes, Florida's reserves will increase to $6.3 billion, which the state could tap into to offset the effect of a big drop in tax collections that has already started. State economists said last week that state revenue was about $789 million below projections in May, with sales tax collections about $700 million under the amount that would have been expected without the pandemic. The governor said reserves now include $2.3 billion in unallocated general revenue, and $1.5 billion in unallocated trust fund money. The state's main reserve fund, the Budget Stabilization Fund, holds $1.7 billion and $800 million remains in reserve in the state's tobacco litigation trust fund. 

The governor noted that many of the budget items he vetoed are items he had actually recommended in his proposed budget earlier this year, and that the merit of many of the rejected spending items wasn't the issue – only the need to boost savings. "Next year, we will see a lot of this stuff back in play," he said. "I think these steps are necessary in order to make sure we are still on a stable fiscal foundation ... These were not easy decisions." 

Veto List / Governor's Press Release

Other News Coverage: Orlando Sentinel / Tampa Bay Times-Miami Herald / GannettAssociated Press

Jacksonville Requires Masks in Public, Indoor Places

In the face of rising coronavirus cases the city of Jacksonville will put a mask requirement in place for people in public indoor spaces. The city announced the requirement would go into effect Monday evening. 

The move comes as coronavirus cases have increased in Northeast Florida amid a major statewide spike in recent days, forcing a change in policy after Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry had said just last week that a mask requirement wasn't needed. But Jordan Elsbury, Curry's chief of staff, said the decision was made after speaking to leaders of local hospitals on Monday morning. "Every single day, almost, we have conversations with hospital providers and CEOs and other members of our community and we felt that it was time to take this step," Elsbury said.

PoliticoNews4Jax

See the LobbyTools list of all mandatory mask orders on our Local & State COVID-19 Orders Database 

Palm Beach County Finalizing Beach Closure Orders for July 4 Weekend

Palm Beach County leaders were meeting Monday morning to discuss plans to close all beaches for the Fourth of July weekend. Mayor Dave Kerner told reporters Monday that the beaches closures will be in effect from Friday through Sunday. Kerner cited the need to take action because of the rising number of coronavirus cases in Palm Beach County. County officials were holding a meeting at the Emergency Operations Center to craft the language of the order. WPTV