This post will be updated today, Friday, May 29, and through the weekend with the latest information on COVID-19 in South Florida.
WLRN is here for you, even when life is unpredictable. Local journalists are working hard to keep you informed on the latest developments across South Florida. Please support this vital work. Become a WLRN member 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 Surpasses 56,000 COVID-19 Cases, No New Deaths Reported In South Florida
Updated Sunday at 2:45 p.m.
The state Department of Health reported a total of 56,163 cases of COVID-19 Sunday, an increase of 739 from Saturday.
And the state reported a total of 2,451 deaths, up four from Saturday. None of those deaths were in South Florida.
-Nancy Klingener/WLRN News
Beaches In Miami-Dade To Stay Closed, Gimenez Orders
Updated Sunday at 12:15 p.m.
Beaches in Miami-Dade County were set to reopen Monday, June 1, but County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced Sunday that he's put that on hold.
Gimenez said beaches will remain closed as long as a curfew is in place. The county instituted the curfew Saturday night, after a protest against police brutality was followed by looting and vandalism downtown.
The county's curfew is from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. In the city of Miami, the curfew starts at 8 p.m.
Pools in condos and apartment complexes can still reopen as planned and the county is opening public pools at Goulds, A.D. Barnes and Oak Grove parks.
-Nancy Klingener/WLRN News
Florida COVID-19 Cases Top 55,000
Updated Saturday at 1 p.m.
The state of Florida reported a total of 55,424 positive cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, and 2,447 deaths.
The new numbers show an increase of 927 cases from Friday, and 34 additional deaths.
More than half of the deaths in the state so far have occurred in South Florida, with 700 in Miami-Dade, 337 in Palm Beach County, and 313 in Broward County. Monroe County has reported four deaths.
-Nancy Klingener/WLRN News
Broward Loosens Restrictions For Beaches, Other Activities
Updated Saturday at 8:55 a.m
Broward County is further loosening restrictions on beaches, massages and will allow tattoo parlors to open Monday, June 1.
County Administrator Bertha Henry issued an executive order Friday that will allow picnicking, sunbathing and other activities on the beach. Group sports like volleyball are still not allowed.
For racquet sports, like tennis, doubles play is now allowed — effective on Friday. No more than four people at a time are allowed on any tennis or pickleball court.
And tattoo and massage establishments will be allowed to operate, under county guidelines.
Next Month, Families Who Qualify For Free School Lunch Will Receive Debit Cards For Groceries
Updated Friday at 2 p.m.
Families whose children qualify for free or discounted lunches at school will be able to get money for those meals directly in June.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Thursday the state has earned federal approval to participate in a program designed to help feed children during the coronavirus pandemic, especially as shuttered campuses have made it harder for families to access the typical school meals.
Families will receive up to $313.50 per child during the month of June, depending on when they became eligible for the federal program that provides free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches.
People who already receive SNAP benefits, sometimes referred to as food stamps, will have the money automatically added to their existing cards. Other families, including those who are on Medicaid or other public assistance programs, will receive their cards in the mail.
The program has gotten a slow start around the country, the New York Times reported this week. By mid-May, only about 15 percent of eligible families had received the money, with several states — including Florida — not yet receiving federal approval to begin the process.
Also, according to the report, implementing the program has become a difficult administrative feat, given that school districts and state governments have to work together to determine who is eligible and how much they should receive before issuing and mailing the cards.
Meanwhile, South Florida school districts — which have handed out millions of meals during grab-and-go distribution events since schools closed in mid-March — plan to continue offering free meals through the summer. Here’s WLRN’s guide on where to find free food during the pandemic.
Here’s more information about how families will receive the benefits from the Florida Department of Children and Families.
—Jessica Bakeman/WLRN News
Statewide Coronavirus Cases Pass 54,400
Updated Friday at 1:50 p.m.
Florida surpassed 54,400 positive cases of COVID-19 as Florida’s Department of Health confirmed an additional 1,212 cases of COVID-19 on Friday. Florida has a total of 54,497 confirmed positive cases, according to the state's health department.
Friday's update also included the announcement of 49 new deaths, increasing the statewide number to 2,413. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties make up 1,328 of those reported deaths. Monroe County has reported four deaths due to COVID-19.
Florida Plans To Increase Contact Tracing Capacity
Updated Friday at 6:45 a.m.
The Florida Department of Health says it’s bringing on more contact tracers to keep track of COVID-19 cases, as the state continues to reopen.
Contact tracing is a traditional public health technique that involves detecting positive cases and monitoring their close contacts to keep contagious diseases from spreading – and, in turn, keep economies open.
Dr. Shamarial Roberson, deputy secretary of health for DOH, told WLRN Thursday that the state is working with an external vendor to supply 600 tracers over the next three weeks.
“Since we are a fully integrated public health system, we can move contact tracers across the state to target the areas of need,” she said. “So we’ll watch the numbers and based on the cases we have, we’ll assess our needs and make changes accordingly.”
The vendor is Maximus, a health and human services provider. A company spokesperson confirmed that it’s executing a contract with the state of Florida.
The state of Indiana hired the same company to help with contact tracing efforts.
Dr. Roberson says Florida has recruited more than 1,500 contact tracers, who are typically people with health care and public health backgrounds.
– Alexander Gonzalez / WLRN News