Coronavirus Live Updates: Brightline Suspends Train Service

Mar 25, 2020

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

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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.


Brightline Suspends Train Service 


Wednesday March 25 at 6:55 p.m. 


Brightline announced it will temporarily suspend its train service, to try to slow the spread of COVID-19. 


The last train left out of Miami and headed north at 5:50 p.m. on Wednesday. 


WLRN obtained a statement from the company’s president, Patrick Goddard, which reads: 


“Like all businesses, we are operating in a period of uncertainty which may last several months. Although a difficult decision, we have decided to temporarily suspend Brightline service in the best interest of the entire South Florida community as we all seek to flatten the curve,” Goddard stated. 


“We are taking proactive measures with our Phase two construction teams in order to keep people employed and continue construction between Orlando and West Palm Beach. As we look ahead toward the economic recovery of Florida, projects like Brightline will help create jobs and a transportation network that will be more important than ever.”


- Caitie Switalski 


National Guard screening flights from New York

Wednesday, March 25 at 5:45 p.m.

Thousands of New Yorkers are fleeing stay-at-home orders and flying to Florida, possibly bringing more cases of the new coronavirus from a hot spot that Gov. Ron DeSantis bemoaned is worse than China.

“People are just getting out of dodge,” he said a late Wednesday afternoon news briefing, noting that South Florida is a top destination.

The National Guard is stationed at all airports and screening passengers from New York; all arrivals are ordered to self-isolate for 14 days. Another state order requires anyone who has traveled from New York state in the past three weeks to quarantine for 14 days to help stop the spread of the disease.

“We don’t want there to be any fallout in the state of Florida," said DeSantis, saying that New York City is the “epicenter” for the coronavirus in the United States.

— Marc Freeman / Sun Sentinel

Read more at the Sun Sentinel.

Keys Open Complaint Line To Enforce Tourism Ban

Wednesday, March 25 at 4:15 p.m.

Monroe County is enforcing its ban on visitors to the Keys through a complaint line to the county Tax Collector's office. The number is 1-855-422-4540.

The Tax Collector's office will refer complaints to the code compliance department in the local jurisdiction, city or unincorporated county.

After investigation, if offenders do not comply they'll be referred to the local law enforcement agency. The State Attorney’s Office investigative division will also help with law enforcement responses.

Of officers find probable cause, they'll issue a Notice To Appear for violating an emergency directive, a misdemeanor.

Monroe County Tax Collector Dee Dee Henriquez said Wednesday afternoon that the hotline had received 51 complaints so far. Code compliance officers were working 10 cases as of Wednesday morning, according to Monroe County.

— Nancy Klingener

Beach employees to help residents get federal, state aid

Wednesday, March 25 at 2:03 p.m.

The Miami Beach city commission is considering a plan that would help workers who’ve been displaced during the coronavirus crisis.

Commissioners unanimously voted Wednesday to direct City Manager Jimmy Morales to come up with a program that would use full-time city employees to guide people in applying for federal and state aid.

“What we can do is make sure that they get their $1,200 a person rather than write them that check,” Morales said during a meeting held Wednesday over the telephone in an effort at practicing social distancing.

City commissioners originally convened to discuss a proposal by UNITE HERE Local 355, a union that represents thousands of South Florida hospitality workers, and the Hospitality Employee Advancement & Training Center (HEAT), a nonprofit partnered with Local 355, hospitality employers and the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency. The groups asked for a $200,000 commitment from the city to put together a relief and recovery program that’s estimated to cost about $2 million.

In Florida, there were more than 1.2 million jobs in the leisure and hospitality industries, according to the latest preliminary January 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics — and at the time, almost 150,000 of them were in the Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall Metropolitan area.

— Alexander Gonzalez

Coronavirus cases increase to more than 1,600, with two new deaths in Florida

Wednesday, March 25, at 12 p.m.

The Florida Department of Health on Wednesday morning confirmed 215 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total of confirmed cases to 1,682. Two new deaths were also reported, and the toll is now 22.

Details about the new deaths were not immediately available.

Of the total cases, 1,583 are Florida residents and 99 are non-Florida residents who were tested or isolated in the state, according to Department of Health records.

— Michelle Marchante / Miami Herald

Read more at our news partner, the Miami Herald.

Measures taken by Latin American, Caribbean nations

Wednesday, March 25, at 11:25 a.m.

As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to rise, Latin American and Caribbean nations are enacting a number of drastic measures to try to combat the coronavirus. Here is a snapshot of some of the steps being taken in the hemisphere as of Tuesday, March 24.

Measures have become even more stringent, with places like the Turks and Caicos and French overseas territories instituting stricter measures. There are only a handful of countries that have not confirmed cases, while many more have cut themselves off to U.S. flights and tourists from elsewhere.

— Jacqueline Charles, Jimena Tavel, Jim Wyss and Nora Gámez Torres / Miami Herald

Read more at our news partner, the Miami Herald.

Monroe County has four COVID-19 cases. But one is not travel-related

Wednesday, March 25, at 10:15 a.m.

Florida Keys health officials Tuesday announced the third and fourth confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Monroe County, including the first one that is not travel-related.

The fourth case, a 48-year-old man listed only as a Monroe County resident, is travel-related, officials said Tuesday at 6 . The man is expected to make a full recovery.

But earlier the state announced the case of a 52-year-old woman in Key West who is isolating at home and expected to make a full recovery, according to the Florida Department of Health in Monroe County spokeswoman Alison Morales Kerr. 

“Travel is not associated with the infection,” Kerr said, of the 52-year-old woman’s case. “This case is currently under investigation.”

— Gwen Filosa / Miami Herald

Read more at our news partner, the Miami Herald.

DeSantis asks people who are 65 or older to self-isolate

Wednesday, March 25, at 8:30 a.m.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is asking seniors — and anyone who has traveled from New York state in the past three weeks — to quarantine to help stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

The requests came in the form of two executive orders issued late Tuesday.

The first order instructs anyone who has traveled from New York state over the past three weeks to immediately self isolate for 14 days. It includes those who have come to Florida in the past 14 days.

Those who violate the order could face a second-degree misdemeanor charges and up to 60 days in prison or a $500 fine.

In the second order, the governor directed Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees to ask seniors 65 and older, and anyone who has a severe underlying condition, such as severe asthma or a compromised immune system, to stay at home for the next 14 days. The order is brought on by the fact that coronavirus has a much higher mortality rate for these groups.

— Anthony Man, Mario Ariza and Brooke Baitinger / Sun Sentinel

Read more at the Sun Sentinel.