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Coronavirus Live Updates: Florida Sees Second Day Of Under 1,000 New Cases. Death Toll Passes 600

Broward County pre kindergarten teacher Sheryl Munoz taught her first virtual class on March 30 from the front porch of her Hollywood home.

This post will be updated today, Wednesday, April 15, with the latest information on COVID-19 in South Florida.

WLRN is committed to providing South Florida with trusted news and information. In these uncertain times, our mission is more vital than ever. Your support makes it possible. Please donate today. Thank you. .

WLRN staff continues to add to community resource lists, including this article on where kids and families can get food while schools are closed, and this post about whether and where to get tested for the coronavirus.

The dedicated website for the Florida Department of Health, including information about symptoms and numbers of cases, can be found here. The dedicated website from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can be found here.

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Florida Sees Second Day Of Less Than 1,000 New Cases. Death Toll Passes 600

Wednesday, April 15, updated 7:15 p.m

Florida saw its second day of relatively low novel coronavirus confirmations since late March. The state has not seen two consecutive days of new reported cases under 1,000 since March 29.

Wednesday evening, the Florida Department of Health confirmed 891 additional cases of COVID-19 and 43 new deaths statewide since Tuesday night. The state’s total confirmed cases is 22,519 as the death toll grew to 614. 

The drop in the number of coronavirus cases being reported may be due to Florida significantly underreporting the state’s COVID-19 testing backlog, it could hide the pandemic’s size.

The state only reports the number of Floridians waiting to hear test results from state labs, not private ones — and private labs are completing more than 90% of state tests. The state website doesn’t say that its figures exclude the vast majority of pending tests for the novel coronavirus

Since Wednesday morning, 438 more cases and 23 new deaths were reported, health officials said. Of the 43 new deaths, 29 were in South Florida.

Read more at our news partner, the Miami Herald.

— Michelle Marchante and Devoun Cetoute / Miami Herald

In Palm Beach County, High School Seniors Will Graduate Virtually

Wednesday, April 15, updated 1:50 p.m.

There will be speeches. Students’ names will be called, and their pictures will be displayed. But instead of walking across the stage to receive their diplomas, graduates will be watching from home.

Palm Beach County’s high school graduations will be held virtually this year, with the ceremonies starting late next month, Superintendent Donald Fennoy announced on Wednesday. The graduations will air on public television and be livestreamed on the district’s website.

It’s a heartbreaking but necessary consequence of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has halted events that draw big crowds around the world.

“As you are aware, neither state or federal officials are able to provide a clear timeline for when large gatherings will again be safe,” Fennoy wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to about 14,000 high school seniors and their families. “However, please know that the District is monitoring the situation closely, hoping that there may be a possibility that schools can coordinate recognition events in late summer.

“In the meantime, I want you to be recognized in a way that I know is 100 percent possible now,” Fennoy wrote.

The decision is not a big surprise, as the district already canceled a series of graduations scheduled to be held at the South Florida Fairgrounds.

Palm Beach is the first district in South Florida to officially cancel graduations, although leaders of the other districts have signaled they would likely do the same. In Miami-Dade and Broward counties, superintendents have begun gathering feedback from students regarding ideas for alternatives to alternatives to traditional spring graduation ceremonies.

— Jessica Bakeman

Florida Cases Surge Past 22,000 As Death Toll Nears 600

Wednesday, April 15, updated 11:45 a.m.

Florida’s Department of Health on Wednesday morning confirmed 453 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total of confirmed cases to 22,081 as the death toll nears 600. There were 20 new deaths announced, raising the death count to 591.

Sixteen of the new deaths were in South Florida: 

Eleven of the new deaths were in Broward County, raising the county’s death count to 92. Three people died in Miami-Dade, raising the county’s death toll to 146, the highest in the state. Palm Beach County reported two additional deaths, raising the county total to 105.

The four other deaths were in Lee, Sumter and Volusia counties. 

Of the new cases, 451 are Florida residents, while two are non-residents who were diagnosed or isolated in the state. In total, 21,435 of the confirmed cases are Florida residents and 646 are non-residents.

Read more from our news partner, the Miami Herald.

— Michelle Marchante / Miami Herald

Florida's Teachers Union Wants Schools Closed Through The Academic Year

Wednesday, April 15, updated at 8 a.m

Florida’s teachers union called on Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday to keep campuses closed through the end of the school year, saying the coronavirus outbreak “presents a threat we cannot control.”

Fedrick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association, said in a letter to the governor that teachers have "risen to the challenge" of conducting their classes online since campuses closed last month and there is no reason to reopen them until the virus is under control.

"The potential damage that could be done to families and entire communities from an outbreak of COVID-19 at even one school far outweighs the inconvenience of continuing distance learning for the rest of the school year," Ingram wrote.

DeSantis suggested last week that he was considering reopening schools next month because children have little risk of dying from the disease, drawing criticism that such a move would endanger staff members and parents who are older or have health problems. Florida has more than 4,500 public schools serving 2.7 million children. They employ 180,000 teachers.

DeSantis said at a Tuesday news conference that he is not going to reopen the schools until it can be done safely and any decision will be done in consultation with superintendents and parents. He said schools will be discussed by a task force on reopening the state that he intends to appoint this week.

"It is not just going back to school at the end of May for a couple of weeks — we are talking about what the fall semester is going to look like for K-12, what is it going to look like for our universities? What needs to be in place?" DeSantis said.

Florida has more than 21,600 confirmed coronavirus infections and at least 570 deaths with more than 3,000 hospitalized.

Also Tuesday, DeSantis announced that the federal government has approved 52,000 small business loans totaling $12.5 billion for Florida. He said some Floridians who have lost their jobs have started receiving the $600 weekly federal unemployment supplement.

“Everything is teed up and ready to go,” DeSantis said about the loans. “That is going to be a really important lifeline for Florida’s small businesses, which have really been hit hard.”

-Bobby Caina Calvan and Terry Spencer / Associated Press