This post will be updated today, Friday, April 17, and through the weekend 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.
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Miami-Dade Mayor Gimenez To Hold Virtual Town Hall Monday On Re-Opening Parks
Updated at 5:15 p.m. April 19
Miami-Dade County will hold a virtual town hall on Facebook and Twitter from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Monday to talk about plans to reopen the county. Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the county plans on slowly rolling out openings in phases, starting with parks.
“We’re also looking at phases to open boating, beaches and golf. Each phase would occur when the medical experts say it is appropriate based on the spread of the virus being contained,” he said Friday.
Monday’s panel will include medical experts and industry representatives who will try to answer questions about risks and what activities can resume.
Gimenez said groups will still be restricted to fewer than 10 people, with additional rules to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. For example, once parks open, contact sports will not be allowed. If boat ramps are open, the number of people onboard will be determined by the size of the boat, he said.
In a tweet Sunday afternoon, Gimenez said beaches will not be among the public places re-opened.
Social distancing guidelines will likely remain in place until a vaccine is developed, he said.
Questions for the panel can be posted beforehand and during the meeting on the Mayor Carlos Gimenez Facebook page or Twitter at @MayorGimenez. The mayor’s staff will be monitoring questions during the live meeting
Oasis of the Seas Crewmember Dies At Broward Hospital
Updated at 4 p.m. April 19
A Royal Caribbean crew member died in a Broward hospital Saturday. He had been a bartender on the Oasis of the Seas.
Colleagues who remain on the ship cried out as the captain announced the death over the loudspeaker, according to a recording obtained by the Herald.
“It is with great sadness that I now let you know that our fellow team member, bartender Dexter Joyosa, passed away at a Broward hospital this afternoon,” the captain said. “He was close to all of us and he was a fantastic employee.”
-Read more at our news partners The Miami Herald
State Nears 26,000 COVID Cases, With South Florida Still Epicenter Of Outbreak
Updated 12:15 p.m. April 19
South Florida again accounted for most of the Sunday morning update increases in Florida’s confirmed COVID-19 case count and deaths from novel coronavirus.
Of the 504 new confirmed cases that raised Florida’s number to 25,996, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach had 261 (Monroe County had no new cases). Only Miami-Dade and Palm Beach reported more deaths, but they were 11 of the 16 reported from around the state. The state’s announced death toll is 764.
As reported by the Miami Herald, announced COVID-19 numbers probably are well under actual numbers because of the time lag in reporting results from private laboratory testing.
Read more from our news partners at the Miami Herald
Homeless Trust: First Homeless COVID Death In Miami-Dade
Updated 8:15 a.m. April 19
As Miami-Dade nears 200 novel coronavirus deaths, a 26-year-old man has become the county’s first homeless person to succumb to the illness, reported the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust.
The man was a resident at the Chapman South Homeless Assistance Center in Homestead. The trust said the man, who it did not identify, visited Chapman’s health clinic on Friday with a fever.
He was immediately taken to Jackson South where he passed away a few hours later.
Read more from our news partners at the Miami Herald
DeSantis Orders Release Of Names Of Nursing Homes With COVID Cases
Updated 5:45 p.m. April 18, updated 8:10 a.m. April 19
After weeks of refusing to release the names of nursing homes where people have tested positive for COVID-19, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Saturday that the names of the facilities would be released "as soon as possible."
The list was later released Saturday by the state Department of Health. As with COVID cases generally, South Florida leads the state in numbers with 54 in Miami-Dade, 39 in Broward and 36 in Palm Beach County. There were no facilities listed in Monroe County.
The Miami Herald and other news organizations had filed a notice of intent to sue under the state's public records laws to get the information. This came after pressure from his administration led the Herald's longtime law firm to bow out of the case.
"I have now directed [the surgeon general] to determine that it is necessary for public health to release the names of the facilities where resident or staff member tested positive for COVID 19," DeSantis said.
He did not explain the reason for the change, but said it would act as "double security" for families to find out what was happening at nursing homes where their relatives live. After a positive test, facilities are supposed to notify all residents, staff members and families.
Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau Chief Mary Ellen Klas described the policy change in a tweet Saturday as a "BIG REVERSAL."
Florida Cases Of COVID-19 Top 25,000
Updated at 1:30 p.m. April 18
Florida added 516 new reported cases of COVID-19 Saturday morning. The figure — bringing the total confirmations to 25,269 people — comes a day after the state reported its highest number of new cases since the outbreak began more than a month ago, according to the state’s Department of Health. Friday had seen 1,413 cases added.
On Saturday, Florida reported 14 new deaths since Friday evening to bring its total to 740.
The decrease in reported cases returns to a pattern of three consecutive days of fewer than 1,000 new cases that had ended with Friday’s spike. But the cause may also be that thousands of private lab test results are still pending. Read more from our news partners at the Miami Herald
DeSantis Says South Florida May Take Longer To Re-open
Updated at 9:45 a.m. April 18
Getting back to some semblance of normalcy might take longer in South Florida than in other parts of the state, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday.
Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties have a disproportionately high number of coronavirus cases — more than 14,000 of Florida’s 24,753 cases as of Friday evening.
In some less populated areas, the disease spread has been tiny. Just west of Palm Beach in Hendry County, with its population of just over 42,000, there have been only 28 cases. In Lake County, north and west of Orlando, 187 cases have been reported (the population there is about 367,000).
“This is affecting the whole state,” DeSantis said. “But it’s not something that is affecting the whole state uniformly.”
Read more from our news partners at the Sun-Sentinel
Miami Catholic Schools Staying Online, Not Reopening
Updated at 5:28 p.m.
All schools in the Archdiocese of Miami will not be reopening and will stay online for the rest of the school year.
In a letter sent Friday to families whose children attend archdiocesan schools in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties, Superintendent Kim Pryzbylski said learning will remain online until the last day of school June 3.
“We have heard from parents, principals and teachers on the ‘new normal’ which requires all of us to plan, review and adjust,” she wrote. “As of today, April 17, students will continue with the virtual learning through June 3 to complete the 2019-2020 school year.”
Florida’s Unemployment Rate Spikes To 4.3% As Coronavirus Claims Thousands Of Jobs
Updated at 1:20 p.m.
Thousands of layoffs in tourism and retail helped push Florida’s jobless rate for March to 4.3 percent as the coronavirus pandemic forced governments to all but close the state’s consumer sensitive economy.
The state Department of Economic Opportunity reported Friday that the labor force contracted by 120,000 month over month. The number of private-sector jobs in Florida decreased by 37,300, down -0.5 percent from February, when the statewide jobless rate was 2.8 percent.
The agency said the Fort Lauderdale area jobless rate jumped to 4.2 percent from 3.1 percent due to COVID-19 and the state’s effort to mitigate the spread. The state made no mention in its statement about the losses in tourism and hospitality, focusing instead on year-over-year growth in sectors including professional and business services and trade, transportation and utilities.
Drive-through Food Distribution In Miami Beach This Weekend
Updated at 12:35 p.m.
For the second consecutive Saturday, 700 cars filled with individuals or families will line up at 21st Street and Collins Avenue on Miami Beach to receive groceries. Feeding South Florida, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization will provide grocery packages including a protein source such as chicken, general staples and fresh produce from various sources, including local farmers who have excess inventory that normally would have gone to restaurants, hotels, etc.
Miami Beach Commissioner David Richardson is leading the initiative to provide food to those in need, and hopes to continue the effort on a weekly basis.
WHEN: Saturday, April 18 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
WHERE: 2100 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach; Entrance on 21st Street at Collins Avenue
Florida's First Inmates Die Of COVID-19, State Confirms — After News Leaks
Updated at 7:30 a.m.
At least four inmates have died, nearly one in three inmate tests are coming back positive and there’s little information on exactly who is being tested and when.
The first inmate deaths weren’t acknowledged by the Florida Department of Corrections for six days — and only after a news organization revealed them.
Statewide, 63 staffers have come down with the virus, many of them in state prisons run by private contractors. At a time when millions are losing their jobs nationwide, the Department of Corrections announced this week that it was lowering the minimum age to be a corrections officer and offering $1,000 bonuses for new recruits.