Coronavirus Live Updates: Broward Businesses Shut Down, Cases Hit Four Figures

Mar 19, 2020

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

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.

QUICK UPDATES

Broward Closes Businesses

Sunday, March 22 at 6:15 p.m.

Broward County on Sunday joined other South Florida counties shutting down non-essential businesses to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Broward Mayor Dale Holness said in an evening press conference that he was ordering the businesses to shut down just after midnight Sunday. Businesses may continue to do what’s necessary to preserve inventories, maintain plant operations, process payrolls and allow employees to work remotely, he said.

Essential businesses can remain open, including grocery stores, gas stations, banks and pharmacies. 

Holness called the order “devastating steps to take” but said the move was needed in a county that trails only Miami-Dade County in the number of confirmed cases. Broward is also home to an assisted living facility where three patients have died.

-Jenny Staletovich

Florida COVID Cases Hit Four Figures

Sunday, March 22 at 6:15 p.m.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Florida has hit four digits — 1007 as of the 6 p.m. Sunday update.

Miami-Dade leads the state with 227 cases. Thirty of them have been hospitalized.

Broward has 217 cases, 37 hospitalizations and three deaths. Palm Beach County has 72 cases, 15 hospitalizations and one death. Monroe County has one confirmed case, with no hospitalizations and no deaths.

-Nancy Klingener

Airport Workers Face Mass Layoffs

Sunday, March 22 at 5:30 p.m.

More than 1,000 South Florida airport workers will be out of work in the wake of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. 

In a report filed with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, two concession companies at Miami International Airport said 858 workers are being laid off. Workers include servers and other staff at Cafe Versailles, Au Bon Pain, Sushi Maki and other MIA restaurants.

A Fort Lauderdale company that provides cabin crew and ground personnel to international airlines said it expects to furlough another 160 through May and could terminate them if flight restrictions remain.

Another 180 workers — mostly customer service representatives and security agents — have also been laid off, according to the Florida office for the Service Employees International Union 32BJ, which represents the workers. Another 300 workers have had their hours sharply reduced, spokeswoman Ana Tinsly said in an email.

“We have heard reports that there will be more layoffs next week,” she said.

A federal airline bailout package introduced in the Senate Friday fails to protect contract workers, the union said, which make up a third of the industry workforce.

“Contracted airline workers are the backbone of the airline industry,” Helene O’Brien, 32BJ’s Florida director, said in a statement. “They are the among the most at risk in the face of this global pandemic, and they are also the least able to go without pay and benefits during this time of crisis.”

If businesses abruptly fire workers, they risk losing federal emergency aid, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez warned Sunday.

“Please wait a couple of days until we get clarity on the federal rules on how to proceed,” he said in a briefing on YouTube. “You do not want your business to be penalized and not get the relief that you need.”

The $58 billion bailout package being considered for the airline industry introduced in the Senate last week is leaving out airport contract workers. They say the workers make up a third of the workforce and are among the hardest hit by the virus outbreak.

-Jenny Staletovich

WMFE Health Reporter Abe Aboraya contributed to this report.

Miami-Dade Mayor Says Marlins Park Will Be Testing Site

Sunday, March 22 at 3:15 p.m.

Another South Florida stadium is opening its parking lot for drive-through testing for the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Sunday that Marlins Park would be added to the list. Hard Rock Stadium began testing healthcare workers and first responders on Sunday and will begin testing people over 65 with symptoms or underlying conditions on Monday.

Gimenez said he’s working with Jackson Health System and the University of Miami to set up the Marlins site and thanked CEO Derek Jeter. More details will be provided Monday, he said.

The state Department of Health's 11 a.m, update announced that Florida has a total of 830 cases of COVID-19, and one person who tested positive for the disease has died in Palm Beach County.

Broward now has 180 confirmed cases. Miami-Dade has 177, Palm Beach County has 59 and Monroe has 1, according to the state's COVID-19 dashboard.

-Jenny Staletovich

11 A.M. Update: 830 Cases, 1 Death In Palm Beach County

Sunday, March 22 at 11:30 a.m.

The state Department of Health's 11 a.m, update announced that Florida has a total of 830 cases of COVID-19, and one person who tested positive for the disease has died in Palm Beach County.

Broward now has 180 confirmed cases. Miami-Dade has 177, Palm Beach County has 59 and Monroe has 1, according to the state's COVID-19 dashboard.

Of the 768 confirmed cases in Florida residents, 164 have been hospitalized and 13 have died, according to the state's 11 a.m. update of COVID-19 data. That information was not released for the 62 non-Florida residents who have tested positive in the state.

-Nancy Klingener

Miami-Dade Closes Marinas, Boat Ramps

Sunday, March 22 at 11:00 a.m., updated at 3:15 p.m.

Miami-Dade County has added marinas, boat ramps and docking and fueling facilities to its emergency closure list, after "large numbers of people continue to congregate without observing social distancing and are promoting large upcoming parties."

Despite the mayor's order Saturday morning prohibiting boats from rafting up next to each other, large groups continued to gather at popular sandbars along South Florida's shoreline.

Palm Beach County has followed suit, closing all boat ramps and marinas in the county to recreational activity. As with Miami-Dade, licensed commercial fishermen providing food for restaurants and seafood houses can continue to operate.

According to Miami-Dade County, boaters who need to remove boats from marinas or haul them out on boat ramps were being allowed to do so on Sunday. But only commercial fishermen who need to bring in their catch for restaurants and seafood markets are allowed to set out onto the water.

-Nancy Klingener

Sandbar Party Continues, Despite Mayor's Order

Sunday, March 22 at 9:20 a.m.

On Saturday morning, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez signed an emergency order prohibiting the practice of “rafting,” which involves boats being tied together so people can move from one to another and hang out in groups.

This practice, the mayor’s order says, “provides a means for social gathering that could potentially spread COVID-19/novel Coronavirus.” It was effective 9 a.m. Saturday. This past Wednesday, Gimenez also enacted a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people at county-operated beaches, parks and other facilities.

But that didn’t stop the party Saturday at the Haulover Sandbar, a popular gathering spot for boaters north of Miami Beach on the bay side. Numerous videos posted to social media showed the area jampacked, with boats tied together and hordes of people standing in close proximity on the sand.

Read more from our news partners at the Miami Herald

DeSantis Announces Third Death At Willow Wood, Faults Facility For Not Screening Properly

Saturday, March 21 at 6:35 p.m.

Gov. Ron DeSantis Saturday afternoon said there was a third death at Altria Willow Wood, the Broward assisted living facility — and again accused the facility of not following state and federal directives to limit access and screen people coming to the facility.

"They had sick construction workers, sick hospital staff. They had sick people in the food service," he said.

Law enforcement is now on-site at the facility and the CDC has an infection control specialist embedded there, DeSantis said. But he said those measures should not have been necessary.

"If you're in this business to take care of people who may be susceptible to this, you shouldn't need to have someone breathing down your neck to protect the folks in Florida who are most vulnerable," he said.

CBS4 News reported it received a statement from Altria calling DeSantis' description of their actions "unfair" and "inaccurate."

The state's 6 p.m. update listed a total of 763 cases of COVID-19 in Florida, with 169 cases in Miami-Dade and 164 cases in Broward.

Also on Saturday, the Miami Herald reported that the  University of Miami and a Broward school announced cases.

-Nancy Klingener

Keys COVID-19 Case Is At Exclusive Gated Community

Saturday, March 21 at 6:20 p.m.

The board of directors of the exclusive Key Largo gated community of Ocean Reef told members Friday that the woman who is the first person in the Florida Keys to test presumptive positive for the novel coronavirus is a resident.

In a message to members on Ocean Reef Club’s website, the board of directors said the community’s Buccaneer Island, where its beach, pool, some bars and aquatic sports rentals are located, is closed effective immediately “out of an abundance of caution.”

“We will remove all lounge chairs and towels as part of the closure,” the board members wrote.

Read more from our news partners at the Miami Herald

Key West Orders Non-Essential Businesses And Retail To Close

Saturday, March 21 at 5 p.m.

The city of Key West has ordered all non-essential commercial businesses to close by 5 p.m. on Monday.

Grocery stores, gas stations and others deemed essential can remain open.

Hotels in the Florida Keys must close by 6 p.m. Sunday. Monroe County is getting its first drive-through COVID-19 testing site on Monday in Marathon. Patients for that must be pre-screened.

-Nancy Klingener

Community Health To Start Drive-Through Testing In The Keys

Saturday, March 21 at 4 p.m.

Community Health of South Florida announced they will begin Coronavirus COVID-19 testing in Marathon on Monday.

The testing will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at a drive-through set up at the Marathon Community Park, 200 City Marina. Testing in Marathon will only be for Monroe County residents who meet criteria for testing.

Patients should call first for a phone screening at (305) 252-4820 before coming to get tested. They need to meet the following criteria: They have recently traveled to any of the affected countries or have been in contact with someone who has the COVID-19. Patients may be asked for objective evidence of travel or a Department of Health notification of a direct COVID-19 patient contact. 

According to Community Health, those with severe symptoms should go to the Emergency Department.

-Nancy Klingener

Puerto Rico Announces First Death From COVID-19

Saturday, March 21 at 2:15 p.m.

Puerto Rico announced its first death related to COVID-19, saying a 68-year-old Italian woman who had been hospitalized since March 8 succumbed to the illness.

In a statement, the Puerto Rican government said the woman had underlying health issues “that cannot be discussed for reasons of privacy and that kept her from recuperating.”

The woman and her 71-year-old partner had been evacuated from the Costa Luminosa cruise ship after she developed respiratory problems. They were declared COVID-19 positive on March 13, making them two of the island’s first three known patients.

Read more from our news partners at the Miami Herald.

Miami-Dade Adds Restrictions To Hotel and Motel Operations

Saturday, March 21 at 1:30 p.m.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giminez announced hotels and motels can no longer accept any new reservations. His latest order does allow for some exceptions for emergency workers, journalists and people who cannot return home. 

Mayor Gimenez also urged motels and hotels to honor any long-term arrangements they may have with people currently staying there. Many families and individuals who cannot afford monthly rents in Miami-Dade  live in motels and short-term housing where they typically pay weekly. 

-Nadege Green

Fundraisers Launched For Restaurant and Hospitality Workers

Saturday, March 21 at 1:00 p.m.

South Florida restaurant  and hospitality workers are experiencing layoffs by the thousands.  Several fundraisers have been launched to assist these mostly hourly and contract employees while they're out of work. Unite Here Local 355  has set up  a fundraiser for airport, casino, stadium and hotel workers.  Notable Miami-area chefs  including Brad Kilgore of Kilgore Culinary and  Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine, launched  The Miami Restaurant Employee Relief Fund.

-Nadege Green

Confirmed Cases In Florida: 658 With An Additional Death In Broward

Saturday, March 21 at 12:15 p.m.

The Florida Department of Health announced Saturday that COVID-19 cases in Florida have topped 600, with two additional deaths — one of them in Broward County.

The confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Florida is now 658.

The other death was in Duval County.

The state's COVID-19 dashboard, updated twice daily, can be found here.

-Nancy Klingener

Cuba Closes Down To Tourists

Saturday, March 21 at 10:20 a.m.

After weeks of insisting the island was open for tourism in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel announced Friday night that the country is shutting down most air travel and will not be admitting tourists starting Tuesday.

Only Cubans who reside on the island and foreign citizens who are permanent residents or work on the island will be able to re-enter the country, he said in the live television show “Mesa Redonda” — Round Table.

Commercial cargo will not be affected by the measure that will stay in place for at least a month.

Read more from our news partners at The Miami Herald

Miami Beach Closes Hotels

Saturday, March 21 at 8:20 a.m.

The city of Miami Beach has ordered all hotels, motels and short term vacation rentals to close by 11:59 p.m. Monday.

And there will be a curfew throughout the entire city from midnight to 5 a.m., effective Tuesday at 12 a.m. The city had already enacted a curfew in the entertainment district.

Miami Beach joins the Florida Keys in ordering visitors out. Monroe County has ordered all hotels and other tourist lodging to be closed by 6 p.m. Sunday.

-Nancy Klingener

Florida Halts Non-Emergency Medical Procedures To Conserve Equipment

Friday, March 20 at 5:10 p.m.

Floridians who need a hip replacement are going to have to wait.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis ordered a halt on all elective medical procedures in an effort to conserve medical supplies like personal protective equipment—surgical masks, face shields, gloves, N95 masks, etc.—that are crucial to treating patients with COVID-19.

From the governor’s office:

“All hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, office surgery centers, dental, orthodontic and endodontic offices, and other health care practitioners’ offices in the state of Florida are prohibited from providing any medically unnecessary, non-urgent or non-emergency procedure or surgery which, if delayed, does not place a patients immediate health, safety or wellbeing at risk, or will, if delayed, not contribute to the worsening of a serious or life-threatening medical condition.”

By the way, if you hear "elective medical procedure," and think of Brazilian butt lifts and liposuction, you’re not alone. And you're not incorrect—they are elective. But there’s more to it. "Elective surgery" is all the non-emergency stuff. Scoliosis corrections, joint replacements, organ donation, cataract surgery—those are the kinds of procedures getting cancelled to delay supply shortages ahead of an expected surge in COVID-19 cases.

These are procedures that improve quality of life. And they're being halted to preserve it.

-Sammy Mack

Restaurant Dining Rooms Across Florida Now Ordered To Close

Friday, March 20 at 4:10 p.m.

In a far-reaching move to try to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday issued an executive order that blocks restaurants statewide from serving food in their dining rooms.

The order will allow restaurants to sell food for carry-out and delivery but prevents on-site consumption. DeSantis also lifted a prohibition on restaurants selling package alcohol for carry-out or delivery.

In the order, DeSantis pointed to a need for “social distancing” to try to prevent the spread of the highly contagious and deadly virus known as COVID-19.

Read more on the decision here.

-Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida

South Florida ALF Coronavirus Death Toll Rises

Friday, March 20 at 3:10 p.m.

Marc Freeman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports another COVID-19 death has been linked to an assisted living facility in Broward:

“Confirmation of the growing death toll at Atria Willow Wood came from a company official, and follows fears of the virus spreading among the state’s vulnerable elderly population. Broward County’s two coronavirus deaths were at Willow Wood.”

Read more from the Sun Sentinel here.

Seminole Tribe Bets On Casino Closures

Friday, March 20 at 2:45 p.m.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida announced Friday that it will close all of its Florida casinos — including Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood — over COVID-19 concerns.

“With a primary focus on the health and safety of guests, team members and the public, the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Seminole Gaming have voluntarily decided to temporarily close all Seminole and Hard Rock Casinos throughout Florida today,” the tribe said in a statement.

The hotels join a long list of casinos in South Florida that have already closed.

Read more from our partners at the Miami Herald.

-Carli Teproff

DeSantis Orders Business Closures In Broward and Palm Beach

Friday, March 20 at 12:15 p.m.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has issued a sweeping order that closes businesses across Broward and Palm Beach County. The order is similar to closures implemented Thursday in Miami-Dade County. From the governor’s press release:

“Today, Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-70, directing all movie theatres, concert houses, auditoriums, playhouses, bowling alleys, arcades, gymnasiums, fitness studios and beaches to close in Broward County and Palm Beach County. These closures shall remain in effect in accordance with the President’s “15 Days to Slow the Spread”, initiated on March 16, 2020. These closures shall expire on March 31, 2020 but may be renewed upon the written request of the County Administrator. The Broward County and Palm Beach County Administrators will also have the ability to enforce, relax, modify or remove these closures as they see fit.

Additionally, the Executive Order requires all restaurants, bars, pubs, night clubs, banquet halls, cabarets, breweries, cafeterias and any other alcohol and/or food service business establishment with seating for more than ten people within the incorporated and unincorporated areas of Broward County and Palm Beach County to close on-premises service of customers.”

-Sammy Mack

The Keys Now Have COVID-19 Case

Friday, March 20 at 10:45 a.m.

The Florida Department of Health in Monroe County announced Friday that it has its first case of COVID-19. The patient is a 72-year-old woman who is a county resident.  From the press release:

“This case has not yet been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lab. All indications of this infection indicate that it was acquired from her travel from the United Kingdom. This individual is isolated at her home and will continue to remain isolated until cleared by the Department. She is expected to make a full recovery.”

Meanwhile, the Florida Keys have essentially told tourists to go home. Hotels and tourist lodgings are being told to close down by Sunday. And everyone in town has been asked to limit movement. From the city:

“In order to further protect public health and safety, the City of Key West is asking that citizens limit bus rides to only essential trips, such as medical needs, grocery shopping and work.

To continue to encourage social distancing, effective at noon Thursday March 19, the City of Key West Transit Department is suspending all fares. All routes in the City and the Lower Keys Shuttle are fare free.

Passengers are asked to use the rear door to enter and exit the bus. Passengers who require the use of the ramp or the bus lowered can still use the front door.”

-Sammy Mack

DCF Halts In-Person Applications For Benefits

Low-income Floridians seeking benefits such as food stamps, temporary assistance or Medicaid coverage will no longer be able to apply for them in person because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Department of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell said Wednesday the state was temporarily shutting down offices where people could apply or reapply in person for safety-net benefits. The state will direct people to either use an online portal or apply by phone. DCF will also allow people to drop off documents at a “secure drop box.”

Poppell did not say how long the offices would be closed.

The move came as business closings and disruptions caused by the outbreak appear likely to trigger the loss of thousands of jobs in the state. But Poppell said the offices had only served a small percentage of residents seeking help.

“With more than 90 percent of our customers filing for benefits online or by phone, closing our storefronts to protect our employees and the public is the right thing to do,” Poppell said in a statement.

DCF serves as the gatekeeper that helps with initial eligibility determinations for the programs. Poppell said the department will handle initial eligibility interviews over the phone.

-News Service of Florida

Florida Hotel Industry Hemorrhages Jobs

Florida hotels, and businesses that support the hotel industry, have cut nearly 400,000 jobs amid the coronavirus outbreak, according to data released Thursday by the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

The layoffs have come as officials and industry executives close or limit access to hotels, theme parks, beaches, bars and restaurants to contain the fast-spreading virus, also known as COVID-19.

Florida’s tourism industry is vital to the state’s economy, producing billions of dollars in state and local taxes each year. The hotel industry employs roughly 950,000 people in the state, according to the association.

The association said in a statement Thursday that it expects 44 percent of hotel employees in every state will lose their jobs “in the coming weeks.”

-News Service of Florida

Florida Stops Taking Cash At Turnpike Tolls

Florida’s Turnpike has stopped taking cash at toll plazas to help combat the novel coronavirus and protect toll collectors.

The Florida Department of Transportation announced Thursday that tolls will be collected through an electronic system. It was not immediately clear how long the change would last.

“As part of this initiative, customers should continue driving through the toll plaza and pay attention to overhead and portable signs,” the Department of Transportation said in a news release.

The change won’t impact “exact coin lanes,” where toll operators would not be present, or SunPass customers, who will still have charges taken from their accounts.

Motorists without SunPass transponders will be billed at the posted cash toll rates. The state is waiving a $2.50 invoice administrative fee.

-News Service of Florida

Find WLRN’s previous coronavirus live updates here.

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