This post will be updated Friday, March 27 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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Juvenile Justice Employee Tests Positive
Updated March 29 at 12:45 p.m.
An official at the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice has tested positive for COVID-19. He was working at a youth program in Broward County where 27 minors are living at the facility, according to the department.
It marks the first reported case in the state’s juvenile justice program, which detains over a thousand minors who have been arrested across the state at any given time.
The department says the employee who tested positive has been sent home and all other employees and youth at the facility are being monitored for flu-like symptoms.
Keys Checkpoints To Stay Up
Updated March 29 at 12:40 p.m.
Checkpoints restricting access to the Florida Keys will remain up, Monroe County announced Sunday.
Only Keys residents, property owners, those actively working in the Keys and delivery trucks are allowed in.
The Monroe Sheriff's Office said it had turned away about 2,000 people in the first two days' operation of the checkpoints, which started on Friday at the county line on U.S. 1 and Card Sound Road.
City Of Miami Opening New Testing Site For Seniors
Updated March 29 at 12:05 p.m.
City of Miami residents 65 and over who are experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 can request a drive-through test at Charles Hadley Park in Liberty City, 1350 NW 50th St.
The testing will begin on Tuesday, March 31, and run 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at the park.
The testing is by appointment only. Interested residents must call 305-960-5050 to request an appointment.
According to the city, testing at this site will eventually be expanded to serve city residents younger than 65.
Sunday A.M. Update: Miami-Dade Adds 71 New Cases, No New Deaths
Updated March 28 at noon
Miami-Dade County has added 71 new cases of COVID-19, while Monroe and Palm Beach counties added no new cases, according to state data released on Sunday morning. Broward County added 18 new cases. No new deaths were reported in the state.
The numbers follow a record-breaking day for new reported cases in Florida. On Saturday, the state reported 737 new cases across the state, the largest single day number since the state started tracking COVID-19’s spread. Statewide, 4,266 cases have been reported.
Cruise Ship With Sick Passengers, Crew Headed For Port Everglades
Updated March 28 at 10:50 a.m.
The Zaandam cruise ship has received permission to pass through the Panama Canal on its way to Port Everglades, where it will unload its increasingly sick passengers and crew.
The Panama Canal Authority announced the decision, a reversal of its previous stance, late Saturday night in a statement.
“The ship will be scheduled for transit after entering Canal waters, which has not occurred to-date. According to the Zaandam’s itinerary, the vessel was originally scheduled to transit on April 1,” the statement read.
-Read more from our news partners at the Miami Herald
Fewer Flights In: Keys Report 'Significant Decrease' In Arrivals By Air
Updated March 28, 2020 at 2:40 p.m.
While the Keys are closed to visitors, flights have continued into Key West International Airport, leading some local residents to question whether the ban applies to air travelers.
According to Monroe County, there has been a "significant decrease" in commercial air travel.
"For example, a flight that arrived Friday was scheduled to carry 27 passengers, but arrived with only seven people, five of whom were a family with three children. All were property owners in Monroe County," county spokeswoman Kristen Livengood wrote in a release.
Of the 5 commercial flights Friday, 18 passengers arrived into Key West and 62 passengers departed, Livengood wrote..
Arriving passengers are being screened, Livengood said. Anyone coming from an airport directed by the order is required to quarantine themselves for 14 days. On average, passenger counts this time of year range in the 70 to 124 passengers per flight. Due to the virus, it has been between two and 10 people, most of whom have been residents or property owners.
"Outbound fights have been significantly fuller," Livengood wrote, also noting that any restrictions on air travel would come from the federal government.
Keys Checkpoints Could Come Down On Sunday
Saturday, March 28 at 1:50 p.m.
With much fanfare, Monroe County Friday morning opened two checkpoints to keep tourists from driving into the Florida Keys.
Later that afternoon, Keys officials in several cities, who lobbied for the checkpoints to block the spread of the novel coronavirus through the island chain, learned the roadblocks could come down Sunday night, and they are angry.
“All incorporated areas are pissed,” a city official who did not want to be named said Saturday.
-Read more from our news partners at flkeysnews.com
Seven Florida Prison Employees Test Positive For COVID
Saturday, March 28 at 1:40 p.m.
Seven Florida Department of Corrections employees who work at separate facilities across the state have tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, agency officials said late Friday.
Agency officials would not release the positions held by the infected prison workers, but in a statement said the employees either worked for the corrections department or one of its contractors at five prisons and two probation offices.
The staffers work at Century Correctional Institute in Escambia County; Everglades Correctional Institution in Miami-Dade County; Florida Women’s Reception Center and Marion Correctional Institution, both in Ocala; Zephyrhills Correctional Institution in Pasco County; and community corrections regional offices in Lake Butler and West Palm Beach.
The employees will not return to work until they have been cleared by health officials, the agency said.
-News Service Florida
Longtime Jackson Health Nurse Dies From COVID-19 Complications
Saturday, March 28 updated at 3:15 p.m.
Araceli Buendia Ilagen, a nurse at Jackson Health System for more than 30 years, has died from health complications as a result of COVID-19.
Jackson noted Ilagen as a “Champion for the profession” in a statement Saturday morning and thanked medical professionals like her in the fight against the highly-contagious virus.
Read the complete statement from Jackson Health System:
“Our Jackson Health System family is mourning the death of longtime Jackson nurse Araceli Buendia Ilagan, who recently died from complications of COVID-19. Araceli dedicated nearly 33 years of her life treating some of our most critically ill patients. During her long and storied career, she also mentored and trained other nurses, and was a champion for the profession. As we battle this global public health crisis, caregivers throughout the world are bravely serving on the frontlines, often putting their patients’ lives before theirs. These medical professionals – people like Araceli – are the true heroes, and we salute them all.”
Correction: A previous version of this blog entry misspelled Ilagen's name as Llagen. We regret the error.
Nova Southeastern University To Finish Out Semester Fully Online
Saturday, March 28 10:30 a.m.
Nova Southeastern University announced late Friday night that all classes will remain online only, through the rest of the current semester. NSU suspended in-person classes on March 13.
University President and CEO Dr. George Hanbury released a statement detailing the decision: “I hoped that we would be able to resume some sense of normalcy after April 17,” Hanbury’s statement reads. “However, I am informed by Dr. Elaine Wallace — the head of NSU’s COVID-19 task force — and other public health officials, that the requirement for physical separation will remain at least through the remainder of this semester… NSU will remain fully online through the remainder of the 2020 “winter term” for all undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.”
The university says it will continue to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak before deciding on how classes will be taught during the upcoming summer term.
DeSantis Puts Up Stop Sign For Louisiana Travelers
Saturday, March 28, updated at 8:40 a.m.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday he is adding New Orleans and other areas of Louisiana to a list of COVID-19 hotspots, requiring travelers from the state to self-isolate if they come to Florida.
Also, as he continues trying to find ways to combat the spread of the highly contagious and deadly disease, DeSantis said he is suspending vacation rentals in Florida for two weeks.
With New Orleans seeing large numbers of COVID-19 cases, travelers from Louisiana will be treated like people coming to Florida from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, DeSantis said.
To enforce the Louisiana restrictions, DeSantis said he would authorize the Florida Highway Patrol and local enforcement agencies to establish checkpoints at Florida entry areas along roads such as Interstate 10. DeSantis said the restrictions would not affect commercial drivers.
-News Service of Florida
Palm Beach County To Get Drive-Thru Testing Site
Updated at 4:33 p.m. , Friday March 27
Governor Ron DeSantis said the state is planning to open a drive-thru coronavirus testing site in Palm Beach County. More testing will help determine a more accurate number of COVID-19 cases, DeSantis said during a news conference Friday.
“If you look at Palm Beach’s numbers, you know, they’ve not had nearly the amount of testing that Dade and Broward have had,” he said.
There are more than 5,300 test results in Miami-Dade County, according to Florida Department of Health data as of 4:30 p.m. Friday. In Broward, that figure stands at more than 5,800.
There are only almost 1,500 test results in Palm Beach County. DeSantis said the Florida National Guard will help create the Palm Beach testing site. Exact location and start times are pending.
Similar sites are already open in Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, Marlins Park as well as at C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines.
-- Alexander Gonzalez
Wildlife Licenses Extended
Updated at 2:21 p.m.
Florida wildlife managers have extended fishing, hunting and other licenses set to expire in March and April as the state continues to battle the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
In an order signed Thursday, the agency said it was extending licenses for freshwater commercial fishing and charter fishing.
Licenses for wildlife exhibition and venomous snakes, like the kind needed at roadside attractions including alligators and other animals, are also being extended. The order also covers private game preserves that allow hunting.
-- Jenny Staletovich
BSO: 4 Broward Sheriff’s Office employees have COVID-19 and 100 others self-isolated
Updated at 3:49 p.m.
Four employees at the Broward Sheriff’s Office have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the quickly-spreading coronavirus. And, 103 other workers at the agency are in self-isolation as they either await a test result or because they may have come in contact with virus, BSO said Friday.
The announcement by the agency, which has close to 2,800 sworn officers and 5,400 employees overall, adds to the growing list of first responders in South Florida who have been affected by the disease. BSO did not say if the workers infected were sworn or civilian personnel.
“There are 107 cases in various degrees, still” said BSO spokeswoman Miranda Grossman.
Read more at our news partners the Miami Herald.
Children's Bereavement Center Offering Free Virtual Grief Support
Updated at 2:25 p.m.
The Children's Bereavement Center has suspended in-person groups but is offering free, virtual peer support groups for:
- Middle school youth
- High school teens
- English-speaking adults
- Spanish-speaking adults
The center is also offering therapeutic art and music activities for elementary-aged children to do at home.
To register, call 888-988-5483, or fill out this form to get a callback.
Miami-Dade Has First Death
Updated at 1:30 p.m.
Miami-Dade County has experienced its first death related to COVID-19, according to statewide data released Friday.
The county does not have any information about the death, the Miami-Dade Emergency Operations Center told WLRN. Rather, county officials just saw the death pop up on the statewide dashboard managed by the state of Florida.
The county has the most confirmed cases in the state, by far. As of Friday morning, there were 763 cases in Miami-Dade, among 2,765 across the entire state.
Four Dead On Cruise Ship Heading To Fort Lauderdale
Updated at 1:31 p.m.
Four passengers have died aboard a Holland America cruise ship that is making its way to Port Everglades, the liner announced Friday.
Holland America said “four older guests" died on the Zaandam, but didn’t say whether the new coronavirus was the cause.
The ship has had dozens of people become sick, including some with respiratory symptoms. On Thursday, several were tested for the coronavirus and two people tested positive. The company didn’t say whether the two who tested positive were among the four passengers who died.
Read more from our news partner the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Three Palm Beach County Deputies Test Positive For Coronavirus
Updated at 12:25 p.m.
Three Palm Beach County deputies have tested positive for the coronavirus -- and nearly 40 deputies are in quarantine.
The Sun Sentinel reports that at least 20 other first responders with the Broward Sheriff’s Office and Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue are also in quarantine -- after being exposed to the virus in the past week.
Two City of Miami police officers tested positive for COVID-19, Miami police Chief Jorge Colina confirmed yesterday.
Also, in Miami-Dade County, the Miami Herald reported earlier this month that two police officers tested positive for the virus.
One is a Miami Beach Police officer. And the other is a Hialeah narcotics detective.
Florida Keys Checkpoint Turns Away Its First Travelers
Updated at 11:39 a.m.
Two law enforcement checkpoints opened in the Florida Keys Friday morning to keep tourists out and reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
One checkpoint is on the 18th mile stretch of U.S 1 -- which leads from Florida City to Key Largo.
The other is on County Road 905 -- a less-traveled route that goes to and from the Keys.
The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners Facebook page shared video of the first cars being turned away at the checkpoint and advised residents not to call 911 with non-emergent matters related to the stop.
Four New COVID-19 Deaths In Broward Not Reflected By The State
Updated at 6 a.m.
Florida is just shy of 2,500 COVID-19 cases, as Florida’s Department of Health confirmed 129 more cases and one new death Thursday evening, bringing the state total of confirmed cases to 2,484. The death toll is now at 29, up from 23 on Wednesday.
But news reports detailing three more deaths at the assisted living facility in Broward County — where three residents have already died from COVID-19 — were not reported in the state’s latest numbers on Thursday evening.
Nor was the death of a Margate doctor in Broward reflected in the state’s numbers, as state health officials have listed the number of deaths in Broward at three since Saturday. Read more at our news partner the Miami Herald.
— Michelle Marchante and Devoun Cetoute / Miami Herald