Coronavirus Live Updates: Miami-Dade Closes All "Non-Essential" Business, Keys Courts Close

Mar 10, 2020

This post covered South Florida coronavirus news updates from March 10 through March 15. Because of the swift and frequent changes in this ongoing story, WLRN has--for the moment--decided to start a fresh roundup each day. To find today's Coronavirus Live Update, click here

The WLRN staff will also be updating this with the most relevant information about this pandemic from statewide and national sources, when it warrants mention.

For a running list of canceled events, click here. That post will be updated as more events get canceled.

The dedicated website for the Florida Department of Health, including information about symptoms and number of cases, can be found here. The dedicated website from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control can be found here.

QUICK UPDATES:

Miami-Dade County Closes All “Non-Essential” Businesses

Thursday, March 19 at 2:20 p.m.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez signed a sweeping emergency order Thursday that immediately closes all “non-essential retail and commercial establishments” in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“Essential” entities that may continue operating include health care facilities, grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, tradesmen, construction, taxi services, gas stations, restaurant carryout and delivery services, coin laundries, and others. Childcare providers may stay open with fewer than ten children per class, and each group of ten must be separated in dedicated rooms.

You can read the order, including the full list of which workers and organizations can stay open, here.

-Sammy Mack

Anger Over Expectation Faculty Be Present On Campus At Nova

Thursday, March 19 at 2:00

An employee of Nova Southeastern University called WLRN in frustration after he said faculty is still being asked to come to work on campus. Six confirmed cases of COVID-19 were linked to the university, the school acknowledged last week.

The school sent students home, but faculty is still expected to be physically present at work. The employee said the move is sending the wrong message to students and to the rest of the community, from an institution that is supposed to set examples.

"What are we teaching them, that we’re a bunch of dumb asses? That we already had six cases of COVID on campus and it’s still safe for faculty to come to campus? I know what safe is. This is not safe."

“I could do virtually all of my work from home. Staff here, we have VPNs, we have training in telework, so this just doesn’t make sense,” said the employee.

WLRN reached out for comment, Nova did not immediately respond. 

-Danny Rivero

City of Coconut Creek Imposes Curfew

 

Thursday, March 19 at 1:30 p.m.

 

Effective Friday March 20 at 11 p.m., the City of Coconut Creek’s new curfew will go into effect. The curfew will run nightly from the hours of 11 p.m. to  5 a.m. 

 

Mayor Lou Sarbone made the announcement Thursday in an online video for the city through its government Twitter account. He called the decision, a “very hard” one to make.

 

“I just signed an emergency curfew order,” Sarbone said. “We fear that once the Coronavirus spikes, our city will be subject to a little bit of an increase in crime. In order to combat that and give our first responders, our police officers the opportunity to do their jobs we’re asking that our residents to stay off the streets between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. This was not taken lightly.” 

 

In Miami-Dade County, The Village of Key Biscayne also has a curfew in effect for residents from 10 p.m to 5 a.m.

 

-Caitie Switalski  

 

New limitations on Keys courts due to COVID-19

Thursday, March 19, 2020 at 11:30 a.m.

From the Monroe County State Attorney's Office:

"Due to the threat of the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the three Monroe County courthouses in Key West, Marathon and Plantation Key are now closed to the general public “with the exception of those persons needing to conduct mission-critical proceedings” as well as “persons needing to conduct business with the Clerk of the Court and the State Attorney’s Office at the Plantation Key Government Center.”

Monroe County Chief Judge Mark Jones issued the directive March 18 following direction from the Florida Supreme Court. The directive remains in effect through April 17.

Entry to court facilities is limited to “attorneys, litigants, witnesses and essential personnel necessary to conduct the critical mission of the court.” Anyone who has exhibited symptoms of COVID-19, who has traveled internationally or who has been in contact with another person suffering from the effects of COVID-19 is prohibited from entering any court facility.

No inmate housed in any Keys jail facility is to be transported to any court facility “absent a written order” from Judge Jones.

Where available, “Technological means of communication such as telephone, conference call or videoconference should be used to minimize face-to-face contact among judges, attorneys and litigants.”

For incarcerated inmates, first appearances and arraignments will continue through videoconferencing from the jails. All arraignment dates for out-of-custody defendants will be rescheduled.

Previously, Florida Supreme Court Chief Judge Charles Canady ordered that state courts statewide, including in Monroe County, suspend some proceedings through Friday, March 27, due to the COVID-19 virus epidemic.

“All grand jury proceedings, jury selection proceedings, and criminal and civil jury trials are suspended,” he said in emergency administrative order issued March 13.

In that order, Canady said these measures are needed because “a public health emergency exists in the state courts. The emergency requires social distancing to reduce person-to-person transmission of the COVID-19 virus.”

“However, a proceeding that has been commenced may proceed to completion if the presiding judge, with approval of the chief judge [in Monroe, Judge Jones], determines that completion of the proceeding without delay is required by the interests of justice. In addition, the requirement of the double jeopardy clause must be considered in criminal proceedings.”

In addition, “the suspension of time limits under the speedy trial procedure restores additional days equal to the number stated herein.”

On March 9, Governor Ron DeSantis issued a statewide State of Emergency, triggering several emergency measures. On March 13, Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers declared a countywide State of Emergency, prohibiting gatherings of 50 people or more on county-owned property. The county’s state of emergency status lasts until March 22 but will be re-examined on a week-to-week basis.

Key West Mayor Teri Johnston has declared a local state of emergency for that city and Marathon Mayor Steven Cook declared one for the Middle Keys city, triggering some protective measures."

Where Are All The Tourists? In The Florida Keys, They Haven’t Gone Anywhere — Yet

Thursday, March 19 at 9:15 a.m.

Like the rest of the world, leaders of the Florida Keys have called for a halt to public gatherings to help stem the spread of COVID-19.

They’ve closed bars and nightclubs, restricted how many people can be in a restaurant, shut down beaches, parks and fundraising events.

In Key West, the mayor even went above and beyond a Florida mandate, and ordered all restaurants to stop serving people on the premises. Only takeout and delivery are allowed.

But the orders from on high have not stopped tourists from coming, staying — and partying, even if that breaks the rules.

Read more from our news partners at Florida Keys News and the Miami Herald.

-David Goodhue and Gwen Filosa

Diaz-Balart Tests Positive For COVID-19

Wednesday, March 18 at 11:06 p.m.

Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Ballart became the first member of congress to verify that he has tested positive with COVID-19. The veteran congressman released a statement on Twitter saying that he has been in a self-quarantine in Washington D.C. since last Friday, and will not be returning to South Florida because his wife has pre-conditions that puts her "at exceptionally high risk."

The release says Diaz-Balart started developing symptoms over the weekend, including a fever and a headache.

"I want everyone to know that I am feeling much better," reads the statement. "However, it is important for everyone to take this extremely seriously and follow CDC guidelines in order to avoid getting sick and and mitigate the spread of this virus. We must continue to work together to emerge stronger as a country during these trying times."

Shortly after Diaz-Balart announced that he has tested positive, Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams, of Utah, announced that he has also tested positive. Rep. Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, announced that he would commit himself to a self-quarantine, saying that he recently had a long meeting with Diaz-Balart. Scalise is not feeling any symptoms, and has not yet been tested.

- Daniel Rivero

CB Smith Park Park And Ride Lot To Be Cleared For Screenings

Wednesday, March 18 at 12:15 p.m.

An alert from Broward County Transit:

The National Guard will be using the Park and Ride lot at CB Smith Park for COVID-19 screenings and has requested that the lot be CLEARED by Thursday morning, March 19th.

BCT’s 95 Express customers are advised to utilize the Park and Ride lot at Ansin Sports Complex,10801 Miramar Blvd, Miramar, FL 33025, until further notice.

Please contact BCT Customer Service at 954-357-8400 with any questions.

Broward Sheriff posts live update

Wednesday, March 18 at 11:15 p.m.

Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony spoke Wednesday morning from Port Everglades and streamed his talk live on Facebook

Tuesday Evening Update: 24 New Cases, Total Tops 200

Tuesday, March 17 at 7:38 p.m.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced 24 new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, at a press conference Tuesday night in the state’s emergency operations center.

There are now 216 positive cases in the state. Of the 24 new cases announced, 22 were Florida residents.

More than 2,000 people have now been tested for COVID-19 in Florida. Expansion to private laboratories has changed the testing landscape. Florida recently partnered with private laboratories around the state to increase testing capacity.

Read more from our news partners at the Miami Herald

Three Elderly Residents Die In Fort Lauderdale Assisted Living Facilities

Tuesday, March 17 at 4:45 p.m.

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis held a press conference at 4 p.m. Tuesday, announcing restaurant closures except for delivery and take out for the next 30 days.

He also answered questions about senior citizen deaths in the city, due to Coronavirus.

“Three elderly residents in assisted living facilities in our city have passed away,” Trantalis said. “Test results have confirmed one was infected with the COVID-19 virus and we await the results of the other tests. We are relying on the state Department of Health to conduct appropriate testing of other potentially impacted residents.”

Trantalis said the three residents were at two separate facilities, but the names of those facilities had not yet been confirmed to the city.

That information was a change from what was confirmed to WLRN just over an hour earlier, when a spokesperson for the City of Fort Lauderdale confirmed what was first reported by the Sun Sentinel; that two people had died at the same assisted living facility located on West Commercial Blvd., due to COVID-19.

This post has been amended to reflect the Mayor's comments.

- Caitie Switalski

Monroe Allows Restaurants To Stay Open, With Limits

Tuesday, March 17 at 4:25 p.m.

While restaurants in Key West are limited to takeout and deliver, restaurants in unincorporated Monroe County will be required to operate at 50 percent capacity with the creation of seating 6 feet apart for tables.

All bars and nightclubs within the County that receive 50 percent or more of their revenue need to be closed by 5 p.m. today for the next 30 days.

County beaches will remain open, but users must follow the state's directive to congregate in small groups of fewer than 10 people.

Parks, county-owned spaces, and the libraries will remain open and are also to follow the less than 10 rule. County-owned playgrounds are being sanitized twice daily until further notice.

The county also decided Tuesday to scale down non-essential operations to reduce people in offices to groups less than 10 and maintaining 6 feet social distancing.

-Nancy Klingener

Cleveland Clinic To Open Drive-Thru Testing In Broward And Palm Beach, Other Counties

Tuesday, March 17 at 1:40 p.m.

Cleveland Clinic Florida has opened a fully operational drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in Martin County and has plans to soon expand into Broward, Palm Beach, Indian River and St. Lucie counties. The expanded drive-thru testing sites should start opening later this week to sometime next week, and will be by appointment only.

Drive-thru testing will only be available to people who meet the criteria for testing established by the Florida Health Department. Anyone who wants a test will first need to receive an order from their primary care physician, or from the Cleveland Clinic's virtual visit platform.

"Once it is established whether an individual meets criteria, they will receive an appointment at the closest drive-through testing center," said Cleveland Clinic Florida in a release.

The release did not mention concerns about lack of supplies. On Tuesday, a nonprofit group that was operating in Palm Beach County announced that it had to shut down after it ran out of testing supplies, and being overrun by demand for testing. Tests at that drive-thru were by appointment only as well, an attempt to manage the situation with the resources on hand.

- Daniel Rivero

Coronavirus’ ‘Chilling Effect’ Extends Miami Dade College’s Search For New President

Citing the “chilling effect” brought on by the novel coronavirus, Miami Dade College will extend its presidential search into the fall, further elongating an already drawn-out process to find a successor to longtime president Eduardo J. Padrón.

The Board of Trustees held its meeting Tuesday morning with all trustees phoning into the meeting. The college’s administrative staff, including interim president Rolando Montoya and executive vice provost Lenore Rodicio, a finalist in the presidential search, attended the meeting in-person but distanced themselves from each other.

Nicole Washington, the trustee tasked with leading the presidential search, said the college received an uptick in applications before the deadline, bringing the total number to 20.

Read more from our news partner The Miami Herald.

- Colleen Wright

University Of Miami Goes All Online For Full Spring Semester

Tuesday, March 17 at 10:45 p.m.

The University of Miami announced classes will resume online beginning March 23, until the end of the semester, May 8. The announcement was published online on Tuesday March. 17. 

Previously, remote classes were slated to end on April 4. 

The move comes days after the State University System of Florida announced that all public universities in Florida would switch to online classes.

The University of Miami is also beginning a partial housing shut-down. Students are advised to return to their permanent address, and must ask for an exemption request if they need to stay on-campus. They have until May 8 to pick up their belongings and fully check-out of their dorms.

Most on-campus facilities like the library, wellness center, and the counseling center will be closed. 

Employees who can work from home are encouraged to do so.

- Maria Esquinca

Key Biscayne Starts Blanket Curfew, The First In South Florida

Tuesday, March 17 at 10:25 a.m.

The Village of Key Biscayne became the first municipality in South Florida to institute a blanket curfew yesterday, when Mayor Mike Davey declared that anyone outside between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. would be stopped by police.

The City of Miami Beach has a curfew of 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., but it only applies to the city's entertainment district.

"It actually went perfect," chief of police Charles Press told WLRN about the first night of curfew being in effect. "We're educating people if we see them out there, and it seems things are getting communicated very quickly. We've had no issues, no complaints whatsoever from our 13,000 residents."

On the first night no citations were issued. The majority of people stopped were just returning from work or driving back to the mainland from the Key, said Chief Press.

"As we get deeper into this, we expect that people will be more educated and understanding about it. Should there be any violations as time goes on we will handle those on a case by case basis. Our intent was never to start issuing citations. It was to work with the community, not against the community," said Chief Press. "But we don't expect things will get worse. We expect they will get better."

- Daniel Rivero

Miami Beach Adds More Restrictions

Monday, March 16 at 7:45 p.m.

The city of Miami Beach Monday implemented additional measures to stop large gatherings in the city, a popular tourist destination now crowded with spring breakers.

Starting Tuesday, sidewalk cafes are required to reduce their capacity by half or allow a maximum of 50 persons, whichever is smaller.

Restaurant kitchens will be allowed to stay open until midnight for food delivery service only.

Non-essential businesses still have to close at 10 p.m. and Lummus Park is closed.

-Nancy Klingener

State Will Offer Loans To Small Businesses, Update COVID Numbers Twice A Day

Monday, March 16 at 5:45 p.m.

The state of Florida will supplement the federal Small Business Administration loan program with a $50 million "bridge loan" program, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday.

The program will provide loans of up to $50,000 to businesses with 2-100 employees. The loans will be for one year at zero percent interest, DeSantis said.

DeSantis also said the state will start releasing information about confirmed cases of COVID-19 twice a day, at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

-Nancy Klingener

Key West Closes Southernmost Point, Cancels Sunset Celebration

Monday, March 16 at 5:30 p.m.

The city of Key West Monday announced it is closing the Southernmost Point, Smathers Beach and canceling the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square.

The closures will be re-evaluated on a "daily basis," according to the city website. The city also recommended that facilities that attract gatherings of more than 10 people consider similar voluntary measures.

The city is also "evaluating procedures" to limit the number of people at Tuesday's City Commission meeting, scheduled for 5 p.m.

-Nancy Klingener

Hollywood Closes Beach, Broadwalk And Cancels Meetings

Monday, March 16 at 4:30 p.m.

The city of Hollywood on Monday closed Hollywood Beach and the Broadwalk to recreational use.

City community centers not serving as polling centers Tuesday are also closed, including the city marina and fuel pump there. Public meetings, including the City Commission, are canceled this week. The Sun Shuttle micro transit service has also been closed.

-Nancy Klingener

Barry University Moves To Remote Instruction

Monday, March 16 at 4:25 p.m.

Barry University announced Monday that the remainder of the semester will be taught remotely.

Residence calls will remain open to students who meet specific criteria to remain, but resident students are urged to return home immediately.

Any students who remain on campus will be required to self-report any travel utilizing mass transportation to Student Health Services (305-899-3750 or healthservices@barry.edu) as well as any known potential exposure to COVID-19.

-Nancy Klingener

Monroe County Commission Postpones Its March 18 Meeting Till April

Monday, March 16 at 3:10 p.m.

The Monroe County Commission has postpones its monthly meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, March 18 in Key Largo, until April 15 in Marathon.

County Mayor Heather Carruthers said the county hopes postponing the meeting will allow public participation on important topics, while protecting the community from the novel coronavirus.

Monroe County declared a state of emergency Sunday, and prohibited gatherings of more than 250 people on county property.

-Nancy Klingener

Miami Commissioner Asks National Guard To Help Miami-Dade

Monday, March 16 at 1:15 p.m.

City of Miami commissioner Manolo Reyes has asked Governor DeSantis to help Miami-Dade County set up a drive-thru testing site for COVID-19, especially to help test the city's elderly population. This weekend DeSantis that Florida's National Guard will help set up drive-thru testing sites in Broward County, immediately to the north.

"The vast majority of these elderly residents are frail in health and live alone or in governent subsidized housing," wrote Reyes in a letter to the governor. "It is our responsibility to take care for our most vulnerable residents." 

South Florida has emerged as the epiccenter of reported COVID-19 cases in Florida.

- Daniel Rivero

State Creates New Information Dashboard, Announces 19 New Cases

March 16, 2020 at 1 p.m.

The state of Florida Monday announced the creation of a new COVID-19 dashboard where the public can track confirmed cases.

The state Department of Health also announced that 19 new cases had been reported, 14 residents and 5 non-Florida residents.

Broward County has the most cases in the state, with 38. Miami-Dade is second with 23 and Palm Beach County is third with 8. Monroe County does not have any confirmed reported cases of COVID-19.

-Nancy Klingener

Organizers Say Winter Party Guest Tests Positive For COVID-19

March 16, 2020 at 8:15 a.m.

The Winter Party Festival has announced that a person who attended the festival has tested positive for COVID-19, the Miami Herald reports.

The event, which ran from March 4-10, was based on Miami Beach but had events at venues around Miami and in Wilton Manors.

Although some shows and events were already canceling at that time, the festival went on. Organizers said they gave out 10,000 bottles of hand sanitizer.

-Nancy Klingener

CDC Recommends Canceling Or Postponing Gatherings Of More Than 50 For The Next 8 Weeks

Sunday, March 15 at 9:45 p.m.

The CDC Sunday evening recommended that gatherings of more than 50 people should be canceled or postponed for the next eight weeks.

Large gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19, the agency said, by travelers spreading the coronavirus and introducing it to new communities.

-Nancy Klingener

DeSantis: National Guard, Memorial Healthcare To Partner On Drive-Through Testing In Broward

Sunday, March 15 at 7:30 p.m.

The Florida National Guard will work with Memorial Healthcare System in Broward to set up drive-through testing sites in that county, which has the highest number of cases of COVID-19 in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Sunday evening.

He said more than 170 National Guard members were already in Broward, with "several hundred more" expected by Monday.

"The idea is because we've had more cases in Broward than anywhere else we want to be able to supplement the health care system there," he said.

The testing will be aimed at a "limited subset" of people, he said.

"Clearly the folks who are elderly that have symptoms, that have an underlying medical condition, we want to have the easiest way possible for them to test and then if need be to get treatment or self-isolate."

The testing will be free to the patient, he said.

-Nancy Klingener

Key West And Monroe County Declare States Of Emergency

Updated Sunday, March 15 at 6:13 p.m.

Monroe County and the city of Key West both declared states of emergency Sunday afternoon, in response  to the rapid acceleration of COVID-19 across the state of Florida and particularly South Florida. 

The primary protective action the county is taking at this time is a social distancing rule. There will be no gatherings on County property of 250 or more people, and Emergency Management encourages all businesses and organizers to limit mass gatherings of 250 or more people through at least March 22, 2020. Right now, the recommendations and actions will continue in week-by-week increments and can be canceled at any time. This is issued for the next seven days, but it is expected to be renewed through the next 14 days.

The city of Key West declared a state of emergency Sunday afternoon, preparing the way to take other actions like closing beaches.

As of Sunday afternoon, no cases of COVID-19 had been diagnosed in Monroe County. But large crowds continued to gather in some places, like Duval Street bars as part of St. Patrick's Day celebrations on Saturday night.

The city said the declaration will also help it recoup funding it spends during the coronavirus crisis and apply for disaster relief. The state of Florida has already declared an emergency and the state's Emergency Operations Center is at Level 1.

The Key West City Commission is holding an emergency meeting at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 18., to discuss "protective measures pertaining to COVID-19." Residents are encouraged to watch from home via livestreaming or Comcast Channel 77.  They can provide comment ahead of time via the city website.

-Nancy Klingener

Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale Shut Down Beaches To Break Up Spring Break Crowds

Sunday, March 15 at 4:10 p.m.

Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale are closing popular sections of their beaches in order to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

The mayors of the two popular tourist destinations coordinated so closing one area wouldn't send a large crowd into the other.

Fort Lauderdale Beach is closed until April 12, from Harbor Drive to north of Oakland Park Blvd.

South Beach will be closed from 5th to 15th streets until March 19, after which city officials will re-evaluate.

-Nancy Klingener

Free Drive-through Testing To Start Monday For Palm Beach County Residents With Appointments

Sunday, March 15 at 2:45 p.m.

FoundCare, a nonprofit health center, is setting up Palm Beach County’s first free drive-through testing site for the novel coronavirus. The testing station will be set up in the FoundCare building parking lot, 2330 S. Congress Ave. in West Palm Beach Monday, March 16, starting at 10 a.m.

The testing will be open to Palm Beach County residents who have called FoundCare to complete a screening process and have made a scheduled appointment. Prospective patients must call 561-967-0365 for screening and appointments — if you don't have an appointment you will be turned away.

Following Monday’s launch between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the service will continue on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and hours may be adjusted based on need and supplies. Testing will be conducted by trained FoundCare staff members. 

-Nancy Klingener

Florida National Guard Headed To Help Out In Broward

The Florida National Guard is calling up its medical professions and forming Task Force-Medical, the Sun Sentinel reports.

The task force is heading to help out in Broward County, which has the most confirmed COVID-19 cases in Florida - 36, according to state figures released Sunday, March 15.

-Nancy Klingener

Miami-Dade Cancels Programs At Parks, Closes Pools

Sunday, March 15 at 1:20 p.m.

All programs and activities in Miami-Dade County parks will be suspended starting Monday, the county announced.

Election locations at county parks will remain open. Recreation and nature centers and pools will be closed. Recreation programs and athletic programs, games, practices and events are canceled, along with all field trips.

Parks will remain open to the public for non-programmed activities, including: Golf Courses: Briar Bay, Country Club of Miami, Crandon, Greynolds and Palmetto; Marinas: Black Point, Crandon, Haulover, Homestead Bayfront, Matheson Hammock and Pelican Harbor; Zoo Miami; the Deering Estate; Fruit and Spice Park; Trail Glades Range; and Larry and Penny Thompson Park and Campground.

For up to date information, you can check the county's website at, www.miamidade.gov/coronavirus. For Miami-Dade County Parks specific questions or concerns, please call 305-755-7910.

-Nancy Klingener

Runcie: Only 'Essential' Workers To Report To Broward Schools

Sunday, March 15 at 11:50 a.m.

When Broward County schools superintendent Robert Runcie announced a plan to close schools for two weeks to stop the spread of the coronavirus, he initially indicated it would be a regular work week for employees, with limited exceptions.

But Runcie changed course under pressure from the Broward Teachers Union. In an advisory Friday evening, the district announced only “identified essential personnel” would be required to work this week, March 16-20. However, employees will be required to work the following week, which is the district’s previously planned spring break.

The district announced other details about its closure plan over the weekend:

  • Free child care will be available from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day this week (March 16-20) for elementary-age children of essential district employees who are required to work as well as medical professionals and first responders. Students will have to prove they are enrolled in the district with identification numbers or cards. Find a list of locations here.
  • The district is offering fee-based camps from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the spring break week (March 23-27). Find a list of locations here.

-Jessica Bakeman

Bal Harbour Rabbi Tests Presumptive Positive For COVID-19

Sunday, March 15 at 11:30 a.m.

The mayor of Bal Harbour sent out a statement Sunday morning saying the rabbi of one of Miami-Dade's largest Orthodox synagogues, Shul of Bal Harbour, has tested presumptive positive for COVID-19, the Miami Herald reports.

The synagogue has been closed and is scheduled for cleaning Sunday night. The rabbi is self-isolating, the mayor wrote.

“If you have been in ‘close contact’ with Rabbi Lipskar in the past 14 days, please self-isolate in your homes with your nuclear family only, for a period of 14 days,” Groisman said.

-Nancy Klingener

American Airlines Cutting 75 Percent Of International Flights

Sunday, March 15 at 9:15 a.m.

American Airlines is reducing its international flights by 75 percent, starting on Monday, March 16. The suspension is scheduled to last through May 6.

The airline plans to continue to operate one flight daily from Miami to London and will continue short-haul international flying, including flights to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America "and certain markets in the northern part of South America, as scheduled."

The airline is suspending service from Miami International Airport to:

  • Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Brasilia and Manaus, Brazil
  • Georgetown, Guyana
  • Bogota, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Cali, Medellin and Pereira, Colombia
  • Guaquil and Quito, Ecuador
  • Lima, Peru

The airline is also expecting that domestic capacity in April will be reduced by 20 percent compared to last year and May by 30 percent.

In the press release, the airline said it will contact customers whose flights are canceled by email or telephone. If you booked through a travel agent you will be contacted by that agent. If your flight is canceled and you want to request a refund, you may go to https://prefunds.aa.com/refunds/?anchorLocation=DirectURL&title=refunds

State Announces 39 More Cases

Sunday, March 15 at 8:30 a.m.

The state of Florida has announced 39 more cases of COVID-19, bringing the total diagnosed in the state to 100.

The county with the most new cases — 17 — is Broward. Four new cases were announced in Miami-Dade.

Broward County has canceled all events in county parks and libraries, though both remain open. You can find the latest information from the county here. Early voting continues on Sunday and voting is still scheduled for Tuesday, March 17. There are some changes to polling locations — information is available from the county Supervisor of Elections.

-Nancy Klingener

Lee County Man Diagnosed With COVID-19 Has Died

Saturday, March 14 at 7 p.m.

A 77-year-old Lee County man who previously tested positive for COVID-19 has died, the state Department of Health announced Saturday evening.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is recommending that local authorities strongly consider canceling mass gatherings and follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. That includes recommendations to cancel large gatherings of more than 250 people and smaller gatherings that may bring persons together from multiple parts of the country.

Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has provided strong recommendations for extending spring break following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issuing guidance specific to COVID-19 in Florida. In addition, the Department of Education announced that the start of state testing will be delayed by a minimum of two weeks.

-Nancy Klingener

Baptist Health Closes Walk-In Clinics, Offers Free COVID-19 Screenings Via Telehealth

Saturday, March 14 at 6:30 p.m.

Baptist Health Primary Care is closing all walk-in clinic services until further notice, starting Monday, March 16.

They remain open for scheduled appointments.

If you believe you may have been exposed to COVID-19, you can get a free screening through the Care On Demand app, using the code CARE 19. You can learn more at www.BaptistHealth.net/CareOnDemand. If you have any other symptoms non-related to a cold or flu, please call 786-596-2464 to schedule an appointment with your Primary Care provider.

Baptist is also limiting hospital visitors to one person, age 18 years and older, per patient. Visiting hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Exceptions will be made in the pediatric, maternity and neonatal intensive care units. Please ask the nurse manager in these units for more details.

All visitors will be screened for cold- and flu-like symptoms.

-Nancy Klingener

USDA Provides Waivers For School Meals During Closure

Saturday, March 14 at 6 p.m.

Florida school districts will have flexibility in providing meals for students while schools are closed to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture granted waivers Saturday afternoon, allowing schools, child care centers and community organizations flexibility in providing the meals.

Instead of feeding at schools, they can be "grab and go" meals, meals available in school pick-up circles and multiple meals picked up at one time, according to state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried's office. 

Deciding whether to serve meals during the closure is a decision for each individual district. Fried's office encouraged parents to contact their individual school district to learn whether meals would be served, and how they would be delivered.

-Nancy Klingener

Miami Beach Closes Three Blocks Of South Beach

Saturday, March 14 at 5:30 p.m.

Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales has ordered three blocks of South Beach, from Seventh to 10th streets, closed to stop spring breakers who "don't seem to care about viruses" from congregating in large crowds, the Miami Herald reports.

Clubs and restaurants in Miami Beach were already under orders to limit occupancy to 250 since the city declared a state of emergency on Thursday.

-Nancy Klingener

Nova Southeastern: 6 COVID-19 Cases Linked To Ireland Travel

Saturday, March 14 at 4:50 p.m.

Nova Southeastern University announced Saturday afternoon that there were 6 COVID-19 cases "involving individuals with an NSU affiliation, all of whom had traveled internationally to Ireland." The U.S. announced restrictions on travel from Ireland and the U.K. on Saturday morning.

The travelers, as well as any students, faculty and staff who were in close contact with them, have been advised to self-isolate.

NSU suspended all classes last Thursday and students are required to leave residence halls by 5 p.m. Sunday, March 15. Classes are set to resume online on Monday, March 23.

-Nancy Klingener

DeSantis: Feds Should Look At Limiting Domestic Flights From Hot Spots - Like New York

Saturday, March 14 at 4:30 p.m.

Gov. Ron DeSantis held a press conference in Tallahassee Saturday afternoon and announced some new measures to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

He also said the Trump Administration should "look at" limiting domestic flights from some "certain areas where you have outbreaks" - such as New York.

Measures announced Saturday include moving the state's emergency operations center to Level 1 - full-on activation. The state is also recruiting teams of epidemiologists from schools of public health to help the Department of State with its sudden heavy workload.

And DeSantis said all visitation to nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other places that care for the elderly will be restricted for 30 days, to protect the most vulnerable people from COVID-19.

The state is also suspending driver's license renewals and professional license renewals for 30 days and has waived weight restrictions on Florida highways.

-Nancy Klingener

Brightline: Regular Trains Still Running, With More Cleaning

Saturday, March 14 at 1:45 p.m.

Brightline president Patrick Goddard sent a message to users Saturday assuring that the service would be operating its regular schedule — with some changes.

All leisure-related events and specialty trains are postponed. The includes the Buzzer Beater service, this weekend's Dino Train and the upcoming Havana Rum Train and other station-related events.

They are also increasing the frequency of disinfecting public and private spaces and introducing additional hand sanitizers at stations and on trains. And they are removing menus, magazines and other materials from the seats.

All change and cancellation fees will be waived for bookings made between March 10 and April 15, Goddard write. For both refundable and non-refundable fares, guests will be credited for the fare paid to use on a future booking. Special event tickets will receive a full refund within five business days.

-Nancy Klingener

MIA To Receive Flights From Europe

Saturday, March 14 at 12:40 p.m.

UPDATE: The federal government announced Saturday that the travel ban will also extend to the United Kingdom and Ireland, beginning midnight on Monday.

Starting Saturday, Miami International Airport said it's been approved to receive flights from several European countries that are affected by the Trump administration's 30-day travel ban.

The ban aims to slow the spread of the coronavirus from the Schengen area, 26 European countries with open-border agreements. The restrictions apply to "foreign nationals" who have been to any of those nations, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

MIA said it currently has 117 weekly arrivals from 17 airports within that zone: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Lisbon, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Oslo, Paris (Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports), Rome, Stockholm, Warsaw and Zurich.

For more details about the travel ban from Europe, see this guide from NPR.

-Alexander Gonzalez

Royal Caribbean To Suspend Global Sailings

Saturday, March 14 at 12:23 p.m.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. announced Saturday it would suspend sailings worldwide. The change would go into effect at midnight on Sunday, March 15.

As of Friday, the cruise line originally suspended sailings departing only from the U.S. ports.

Operations are expected to resume April 11, Royal Caribbean said on its website.

Current sailings will be completed and debark as planned. The company said it will email people who had planned to take trips during this time.

There are other cruise companies suspending global operations: Carnival Corp., Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Viking.

-Alexander Gonzalez

Publix Announces Earlier Closing, Shoppers Are Stocking Up

Saturday, March 14 at 11 a.m.

Publix has announced storewide closings at 8 p.m., a couple hours earlier than usual, in order to allow for cleaning and restocking shelves.

It's not just toilet paper that's in high demand. The Miami Herald reports that some Publix stores were cleaned out of fresh meat Saturday morning, while shoppers were lined up at Trader Joe's stores before opening.

-Nancy Klingener

25 New Cases In Florida; Broward Has Most In  State

Saturday, March 14 at 8:30 a.m.

The state has announced 25 additional cases of COVID-19 and the death of a Florida resident in California.

Nine of those cases were in Broward County and 6 were in Miami-Dade.

The Broward cases ranged in age from 19 to 83. The ages in the Miami-Dade cases ranged from 39 to 77.

Three additional cases in Palm Beach County were also announced, bringing that county's total to 5.

A 68-year-old Orange County woman who tested positive for COVID-19 died in California. She had traveled to Asia.

-Nancy Klingener

All Major Cruise Lines Halt Operations

Friday, March 13 at 8 p.m.

The Sun Sentinel reports that Carnival has joined Royal Caribbean and Norwegian in halting its cruise operations.

Princess, Disney and Viking cruise lines had all anounced suspensions earlier Friday.

-Nancy Klingener

All Florida Public School Districts Are Closing

Friday, March 13 at 6:34 p.m.

Public school districts throughout Florida, including those in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties, are closing for the next two weeks in an aggressive statewide effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Schools will close Monday through at least March 27, which includes the districts' previously planned spring breaks. The districts will continue providing food to families who need it. They're also preparing to deliver remote online instruction, should the emergency closures be extended.

-Jessica Bakeman

Nearly All Face-To-Face Court Hearings Halted Till March 27

Friday, March 13 at 5:54 p.m.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady Friday suspended nearly all face-to-face court proceedings in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

It will suspend grand jury proceedings, jury selections and criminal and civil jury trials.

-Nancy Klingener

Norwegian, Royal Caribbean cruise lines announce plans to suspend voyages

Friday, March 13 at 5 p.m.

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines have both announced plans to suspend voyages, in response to the spread of the coronavirus, the Miami Herald reports.

Royal Caribbean's 30-day suspension of U.S.-based cruises will begin at midnight Friday.

Norwegian is halting all cruises between Friday and April 30 for all three of its cruise brands, Norwegian, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas.

-Nancy Klingener

Key West Mayor Says Cruise Ships Can Keep Coming

Friday, March 13 at 3:15 p.m.

Key West Mayor Teri Johnston Friday afternoon posted a letter on the city website and social media, responding to calls from residents to stop cruise ships from calling at the island. She said she met with Coast Guard Capt. Adam Chamie, commanding officer of Sector Key West and captain of the port, on Friday morning.

"The Coast Guard continues to be vigilant and hyper-sensitive to the ever changing conditions surrounding COVID-19," Johnston wrote. "As of noon today [Friday], our port remains open and safe. Should that condition change, we will not hesitate to request an immediate port closure to cruise ships."

-Nancy Klingener

DeSantis: Primary Elections Will Go On

Friday, March 13 at 3:05 pm:

Governor DeSantis said in a press conference that the scheduled primary elections next Tuesday, March 17 should continue moving forward as scheduled, despite apparent chaos created by the spread of COVID-19 throughout Florida.

"We're definitely voting. They voted during the Civil War. We're gonna vote," said DeSantis. "These primaries the way this has worked out, quite frankly are not going to be cliffhangers."

He added that it is "ultimately going to be decisions that the local supervisors [of elections] are going to have to make. I think most of them understand that this is something they should be doing."

Still, questions hang in the air. Like: what do to about planned voting sites at senior centers or retirement homes? As a way to protect senior citizens, the most at-risk group, DeSantis and other officials have been calling to slow or even stop visits to nursing homes and other similar sites.

As WLRN has reported, Broward County has moved voting from those polling locations, while Miami-Dade County is still -- as of Friday afternoon -- going to continue to allow voting to happen in those places.

- Daniel Rivero

Fort Lauderdale Declares A State Of Emergency

Friday, March 13, at 2:05 p.m.

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis says the city is in a state of emergency. WLRN Broward reporter Caitie Switalski reports details in this Twitter thread.

Palm Beach Schools Will Close Next Week, Palm Beach Post reports

Friday, March 13 at 2 p.m.:

The Palm Beach Post reported Friday that Palm Beach County public schools will close next week, a week ahead of the planned spring break.

That will affect more than 190,000 students. 

-Nancy Klingener

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez Tests Positive After Meeting With Brazilians

Friday, March 13 at 11:55 pm:

City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has tested positive for COVID-19, he told WLRN partner the Miami Herald in an interview. That comes days after Suarez met with a Brazilian official who has tested positive for COVID-19.

"It is confirmed that I have the coronavirus," he told the paper. "I did test positive for it."

Suarez will be self-quarantining at his Coconut Grove home while he monitors his health.

Several other leaders have self-isolated after learning they met with an aide of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro who has the novel coronavirus. On Friday, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced that his test results came back negative after also meeting with the official.

President Trump has so far resisted getting tested for COVID-19, even after taking a photo with the Brazilian who has tested positive.

Brazilian media also reports President Bolsonaro has tested positive for COVID-19, while his office has denied those reports. President Trump and scores of other public officials like Senator Rick Scott and Senator Lindsey Graham met with both Bolsonaro and his aide personally while he was in South Florida last week. Both Senators are self-isolating and monitoring their health.

- Daniel Rivero

Palm Beach State College transitioning to online instruction

Friday, March 13 at 10:55 a.m.:

Palm Beach State College announced Friday that it will transition its spring courses to remote instruction. Staff and faculty were told to continue to report to their regular work location to ensure the continuation of services to students throughout the entirety of the spring semester. 

All course instruction, including courses currently being offered online, are suspended for students effective Saturday, March 14 through Sunday, March 22. Remote instruction is scheduled to start on Monday, March 23.

-Nancy Klingener

Gimenez Results Come Back Negative

Friday, March 13 at 10:35 am:

The results have come back -- rather quickly we might add -- and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has tested negative for COVID-19, WLRN partner the Miami Herald reported.

Gimenez met with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and one of this aides during a visit to South Florida last week. According to local Brazilian media, both have tested positive for COVID-19. Bolsonaro's test results have yet to be confirmed by his administration.

City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez also began self-isolating after meeting with the two, but no word yet on whether he has been tested. Same goes for Florida Senator Rick Scott. President Trump, of course, met with both the Brazilians while they were in South Florida, but has so far resisted getting tested.

- Daniel Rivero

Miami-Dade School Closes, Colleges in Miami-Dade and Broward Move To Online Learning

Friday, March 13 at 9:45 a.m.

Ruth K. Broad/Bay Harbor K-8 Center in Bay Harbor Islands is closing, and students will begin “distance learning,” according to the district’s news release. A Town of Bay Harbor Islands employee who works in an after-school care program at the town’s community center interacted with students in that program. The employee was confirmed positive for COVID-19 late Thursday night.

Miami Dade College classes are canceled Friday through March 29, during which faculty and staff will work to “transition to a remote learning environment,” the school announced. The college had already closed its medical campus near Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami after learning a visitor to a recent event there had tested positive for the coronavirus disease COVID-19.

Broward College classes are canceled starting Saturday through March 22, “except for field experience courses (i.e., health science clinicals, teacher education) and law enforcement academies,” according to a news release. From March 23 on, most courses will continue remotely.

-Jessica Bakeman

Additional Case In Miami-Dade

Friday, March 13, at 7:30 a.m.:

An additional case in Miami-Dade was announced early Friday morning.

That brings the total in the state to 51.

-Nancy Klingener

15 New Cases In Florida, Including First Cases in Palm Beach County

Thursday, March 12 at 11:15 pm:

In its nightly count of new COVID-19 cases, the Florida Department of Health has announced two new cases in Palm Beach County, the first ones to pop up there. Five additional cases were announced in Broward County, putting the total number of cases there at eleven, by far the most in the state.

Fifteen new cases were announced on Thursday. It marks the highest number of Florida cases to be reported in a single day so far in the course of this pandemic.

The total number of cases in the state currently sits at 45.

Among the two Palm Beach County cases, one is tied to a 73-year-old man who recently went on a Nile River cruise in Egypt that has produced many cases, and the second is a 72-year-old man who recently traveled to Europe.

In Broward County, the latest batch of cases includes a 20-year-old woman from Texas who recently traveled to Europe; a 25-year-old whose case is considered "travel related"; a 68-year-old woman whose case is connected to Port Everglades, where several other cases have come from; a 36-year-old male whose case is considered "travel related"; and a 28-year-old woman who Department of Health officials are unsure has made recent travel.

Other counties that saw new cases on Thursday include Sarasota (two cases), Lee, Duval, Clay, Manatee, Volusia and Alachua counties.

- Daniel Rivero

Miami Beach Calls Off Spring Break, Declares State of Emergency

Thursday, March 12 at 5:52 p.m.

Miami Beach is declaring a state of emergency, shutting down spring break and hoping to discourage visitors to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, Mayor Dan Gelber said Wednesday.

The declaration means city officials could set curfews or order clubs closed, he said.

“We cannot encourage large crowds,” he said. “We just cannot have that anymore because of this moment in time.”

Gelber apologized to the hospitality industry, that helps draw more than 16 million visitors to the beach every year, but said residents - especially the large population of seniors -  need to be protected.

“For us this has been especially challenging because we’re not like other cities that have one gathering a year or a month,” he said. “We have gatherings every single day.”

In addition to the state of emergency, the city has cancelled events that draw large crowds including the annual PRIDE festival and spring break activities. City beaches will remain open, he said. However, a warning to avoid water at Park View Island, caused by sewer line breaks last week, remains in place.

The city has also postponed events at the New World Symphony, the Colony Theatre and the Philmore, along with activities for seniors at city parks.

“We’re tryring to treat this with the immediacy it needs,” he said. “We’re treating it not unlike a hurricane that’s coming at us.”

- Jenny Staletovich

All Evictions In Miami-Dade Suspended Until Further Notice

Thursday, March 12 at 4:12 p.m.

Miami-Dade county has suspended all evictions until further notice as part of the state of emergency declared because of the novel coronavirus. 

Miami-Dade police officers are the ones who serve eviction notices and help landlords remove their tenants.

The agency says officers will not be doing that for the time being.

- Alex Gonzalez

Miami-Dade County And City Of Miami Mayors To Self Isolate

Thursday, March 12 at 3:19 p.m. 

After being in close contact with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's press aide, who tested positive for COVID-19, both Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez will self-quarantine.   

The two South Florida officials were present at a reception with Bolsonaro and the staffer when he was here this week. 

- Katie Lepri

Read More: A Running List Of All Canceled And Postponed Events In South Florida

Miami Dade College closes medical campus, other campuses to stay open

Thursday, March 12 at 3:10 p.m.

Miami Dade College is closing its medical campus indefinitely after discovering that a visitor who attended a recent event there has tested positive for the coronavirus disease COVID-19, the school announced Thursday afternoon.

The medical campus is located at 950 NW 20th St. in Miami, near Jackson Memorial Hospital. The college has also canceled events at all of its campuses.

Most classes, though, are continuing as regularly scheduled. The state mandate requiring public universities to transition temporarily to online instruction doesn’t apply to public colleges. The universities are overseen by the State University System, a separate agency from the state Department of Education, which governs the Florida College System.

- Jessica Bakeman

The College of the Florida Keys is moving classes online, canceling events and travel

Thursday, March 12 at 2:44 p.m.

The state college has announced plans to hold class online starting on March 16 until April 6. Events and travel are canceled. Students and faculty are discouraged from coming to campus.

The library will be for student use only. The college's dorm, Lagoon Landing, and the pool will remain open.

The college has been on spring break this week. Students, faculty and staff who have traveled to an area where COVID-19 is spreading are asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

-Nancy Klingener

Broward Moves Primary Election Polling Places From Nursing Homes

Thursday, March 12 at 2:25 pm:

Seven voting locations for primary elections next Tuesday have been relocated from nursing homes and assisted living facilities to other locations, over concerns that the elderly are the group most at-risk from COVID-19.

More information is available at the Broward Supervisor of Elections website, but the website is not lending itself well to taking a screenshot. In that case, see this tweet below and go to the website for more information.

-Daniel Rivero

Pride Of The Americas Event Canceled In Fort Lauderdale

Thursday, March 12 at 12:57 pm:

People from more than 50 countries and territories had been planning to travel to Fort Lauderdale for the first ever Pride of the Americas celebration next month.

The week of events, beach festival and parade were planned to combine celebrations for the LGBT communities in South Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The organization Pride Fort Lauderdale, which has been organizing the event in tandem with the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, has decided to postpone the event due to concerns about the Coronavirus.

Planning for the event has been two years in the making. Pride Fort Lauderdale is looking for new dates in the fall and expects to make an announcement of what those new dates are, in the next two days.  

- Caitie Switalski

Trump Had South Florida Meetings With Brazilian Who Has Tested Positive

Thursday, March 12 at 12:40 pm:

President Trump had direct interactions with a senior official of the Brazilian government who has since tested positive with COVID-19, WLRN partner the Miami Herald reported on Thursday. The interactions happened during a trip last week by Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro. 

The official -- Bolsonaro's press secretary Fabio Wajngarten -- posted photos on Instagram of himself and President Trump during a meeting at Mar-A-Lago. Wajngarten returned from the trip exhibiting flu-like symptoms, and later tested positive.

“I did hear something about that,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday. “We had dinner together in Florida, at Mar-a-Lago, with the entire delegation. I don’t know if the press aide was there, if he was there, he was there. But we did nothing very unusual!"

Read more at the Miami Herald

- Daniel Rivero

Gimenez Asks Trump To Suspend Flights From Cuba

Thursday, March 12 at 12:25 pm:

In a press conference at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez asked President Trump to suspend flights from Cuba, after the island announced its first three cases of COVID-19.

Gimenez said he does not "believe" that Cuba only has three cases.

The mayor did not request the suspension of flights from Colombia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Ecuador, the Domincan Republic or Chile, all of which have more reported cases of COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization.

- Daniel Rivero

City Of Miami To Announce State Of Emergency

Thursday, March 12 at 12:15 pm:

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is expected to announce a state of emergency at 2 p.m on Thursday amid fears of COVID-19 or coronavirus.

The state of emergency would give Suarez and city manager the right to prevent mass congregations of people, limit community contact and implement curfews, the mayor told WLRN's Sundial before the 2 p.m. announcement.

As more events including the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair, the Miami Open tennis tournament and the MIA Runway 5K cancel Suarez told Sundial this is the best thing for the city.

"The economic impact of the spread of the virus would vastly out weigh short term economic loss of not being able to hold the (Ultra Music) festival in one year," says Suarez.

Suarez says he's in contact with other city mayors around the country like Austin and Dallas.

"A lot of times with these things there are no right answer," says Suarez. "There's a comfort knowing we are struggling with these decisions together."

The mayors are having discussions about how to balance the tourist economy with COVID-19 fears and come up with the best protocols for the community.

- Alejandra Martinez

Major League Soccer Suspends Season

Major League Soccer is shutting down because of the coronavirus, according to Inter Miami owner Jorge Mas.

Mas says the target period for the hiatus is 30 days.

He told players and coaches, then held a news conference and says, “We've made a decision as a league this morning, as owners, that play will be suspended temporarily.”

The expansion team owned by Mas and former England captain David Beckham had been scheduled to play its home opener Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

- Associated Press

Case Numbers In Broward Creep Up

Thursday, March 12 at 10:47 a.m.:

The Florida Department of Health has announced two new cases of COVID-19 in Broward County, bring the total to seven in the county. Of those - four are not travel-related, one is travel-related, and two are still under investigation.

That makes Broward County the place with the most cases in the state, with more than double the cases of counties that come behind it. Both Collier and Lee Counties have three cases each, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The two newest cases involve a 65-year old man and a 61-year old man. It is not known this time if these newest cases are connected to Port Everglades. At least three of the cases in the county are connected to a company called Metro Cruise Services, that operates out of the port.

- Caitie Switalski

Miami-Dade Declares 'State Of Emergency'

Thursday, March 12 at 9:45 a.m.:

Miami-Dade County has declared a state of emergency over COVID-19, following a case from the county that was reported last night by the Florida Department of Health.

"Although we do not have community spread at this time, we want to take the preemptive steps to keep it that way," said Mayor Carlos Gimenez in a statement.

The county has immediately suspended the Youth Fair, the Miami Open tennis tournament, the Miami 5K run and all events at American Airlines Arena.

The annual Jazz In the Gardens event in Miami Gardens has also been postponed at this time. Last night, the city council voted not to postpone the concert, with Mayor Oliver Gilbert saying "we can't stop life." This morning, he reversed that decision. The event was expected to draw about 50,000 people.

- Daniel Rivero

Mississippi's First Presumptive Case Potentially Linked To Florida Travel

Wednesday, March 11 at 10:15 p.m.:

Mississippi announced its first COVID-19 case on Wednesday. The case involves a Forrest County man who recently traveled to Florida, the Mississippi Department of Health said.

The case still needs to be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control.

But even the prospect of a presumptive case connected to Florida travel raises questions about community spread inside of Florida.

Governor DeSantis spoke about the prospect of community spread within Florida at a press conference tonight, before the Mississippi case was announced. On Tuesday, the CDC mentioned Florida a state that has seen spread within the community.

“I spoke with [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] Director Robert Redfield and Dr. Fauci last night,” DeSantis said. “Florida was identified as one of the four states and it was said there was ‘community spread.’ Because that three-person cluster in Broward could be linked to the cruise ship, that technically doesn’t qualify as community spread, which would be multiple people, where we don’t know where they got it from. So we haven’t necessarily gotten to that point yet.”

Five positive cases in Florida are not considered "travel related," according to the Department of Health.

As mentioned below, DeSantis is holding a press conference in Miami on Thursday. He might speak more to the topic then.

Miami-Dade Has First Reported Case Of COVID-19

Wednesday, March 11 at 10:00 p.m.:

The Florida Department of Health has reported three new confirmed cases of COVID-19, including a case in Miami-Dade County. It involves a 56-year-old male, and is considered a travel related case. This marks the first confirmed case in the most populous county in the state.

One more case has been confirmed in Broward County, along with one St. Johns County. The Broward County case is "under investigation" on the question if it was a travel related case, according to the Department of Health. The St. Johns County man is a New York resident.

Governor DeSantis has a scheduled press conference at 11:30 am with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

- Daniel Rivero

State Higher Ed Officials To Public Universities: Move To 'Remote Instruction' Over Coronavirus Fear

Wednesday, March 11 at 4:15 p.m.:

Florida higher education officials are directing the state’s public universities to transition to “remote instruction” in hopes of reducing the spread of the coronavirus on campuses.

Florida International University in Miami and others whose students have already returned from spring break have been told to implement remote instruction immediately and advise students to stay home for at least two weeks.

More details coming soon.

- Jessica Bakeman

Princess Cruises cancels 10-day cruise due to expected ‘shortage of labor’ at port

Wednesday, March 11 at 3:47 p.m.:

Travelers who expected to board Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess Wednesday at Port Everglades for a 10-day voyage to Panama Canal have been notified that their cruise was canceled.

The cruise line notified passengers of the cancellation by email late Tuesday. The email attributed the cancellation to an anticipated shortage of labor at the port.

On Tuesday, health officials disclosed that three part-time employees of a port services contractor that worked for Princess Cruises at Port Everglades tested positive for coronavirus, possibly exposing thousands of cruise passengers.

— Ron Hurtibise

Read more at the Sun Sentinel.

COVID-19 Is Officially A 'Pandemic'

Wednesday, March 11 at 12:30 p.m.:

In a press conference, the head of the World Health Organization said that the organization is officially characterizing COVID-19 as a pandemic.

"Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the WHO.

Watch the whole press conference here:

 

- Daniel Rivero

Broward Case Came Through University Of Miami Facility

Wednesday, March 11 at 10:55 a.m.:

One of the COVID-19 cases that has been reported in Broward County came through a University of Miami clinic in Deerfield Beach, WLRN has learned. An email was sent to staff on Tuesday night explaining the situation.

The person who tested positive for COVID-19 accompanied a patient who was visiting the facility on March 2nd, and later tested positive. The University of Miami has several facilities in Deerfield Beach, including the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and other medical buildings.

The Florida Department of Health notified University of Miami about the situation on Monday afternoon, according to the email.

"We have taken immediate steps to notify all patients, staff and providers who were present during that visit, explaining the circumstances and providing instructions for next steps in their health care," reads the email that was sent to staff from Edward Abraham, the Executive Vice President for Health Affairs. "This includes self-monitoring symptoms and contacting their personal physician for any follow-up should symptoms present. An estimated 203 patients and 180 staff and providers have been notified in an abundance of caution."

Three of four cases in Broward County have involved people who are "connected to or employed by” the company Metro Cruise Services at Port Everglades. It is unclear if the case that passed through the University of Miami facility is also connected to Port Everglades in some capacity, or if this is the fourth case that is unconnected to the port.

The University of Miami says that it has been preparing for COVID-19 since January, and is taking every precaution to screen, and has developed steps to isolate patients if necessary. There are still no reported cases of COVID-19 in Miami-Dade, Palm Beach or the Florida Keys. 

- Daniel Rivero

Company Related To Port Everglades Cases Issues Statement

Wednesday, March 11 at 10:00 a.m.:

Three of the four COVID-19 cases that have been reported in Broward County have been "connected to or employed by" the company Metro Cruise Services, according to the Florida Department of Health. The company greets passengers upon arrival from various cruise destinations at Port Everglades.

Now, the company has issued a statement.

“Metro Cruise Services has been notified by public health authorities that three of its part-time employees have tested positive for COVID-19. These employees worked at various cruise terminals in Port Everglades, providing embarkation services.”

“We were unaware that any of our part-time employees were sick until we were notified by the authorities,” said Metro Cruise Services President Anthony Newman.

“We then immediately notified all of our Port Everglades employees that one of their associates had tested positive and advised them that, if they have any symptoms, they should seek medical assistance and not report to work. We are assisting all relevant governmental agencies with their inquiries and instructions. The health and safety of our workforce and those they encounter remain our top priority. We will be making no further statements at this time.”

Florida Department of Health Announces Eight New Cases In Florida

Tuesday, March 10 at 11:20 p.m.:

The state health department has announced eight new COVID-19 cases in Florida. None of the newest cases are from the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metropolitan area.

Of the newest cases, three are in Collier County, two are in Pinellas County, one is in Pasco County and one is in Nassau County on the border with Georgia. In Alachua County, a Georgia resident has also tested as positive.

With the exception of the case from Pasco County, all of these new numbers reflect people who are in their 60s or 70s. The Pasco County case involves a 46-year-old male.

Per the state Department of Health, all but one of these new cases are "travel related," meaning that the person recently traveled to an area where COVID-19 is actively being transmitted. The exception is the female Georgia resident in who tested positive in Alachua County.

- Daniel Rivero

Map Of Cases Across Florida

Tuesday, March 10 at 6:20 p.m.:

Credit Miami Herald

Our partners at the Miami Herald have developed a statewide map of counties with reported cases of COVID-19 in Florida. The map contains data about patient age, sex, and recent travel history. It will keep getting updated based on information released by the Florida Department of Health.

 Daniel Rivero

Gimenez Heading To White House To Talk Cruise Industry

Tuesday, March 10 at 5:00 p.m.:

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said on Tuesday that he is heading to the White House on Wednesday to talk about the impact of the coronavirus on the cruise ship industry. The CEOs of several cruise ship companies are expected to join him.

Cruise industry behemoths Carnival and Royal Caribbean operate out of Miami-Dade County, using PortMiami as one of their main points of departure. 

The cruise business has been particularly hard hit from the spread of the virus, after the State Department urged residents to avoid travel on cruise ships for the time being. That announcement came only a day after Vice President Mike Pence told industry leaders that they had little to worry about.

McClatchy reported Monday that President Trump is considering some kind of relief for the cruise industry, though most Republicans have not publicly supported an outright bailout.

In his comments, Gimenez said in the case that a passenger of a homeported cruise ship should be tested positive for COVID-19 while that ship is at sea, he would open PortMiami for that ship’s return.

“We’re with the cruise lines in the good times and so now we’re gonna be with the cruise lines in the bad times, and we’re gonna help 'em,” Gimenez said. “Keeping a ship out at sea with fellow Americans for the most part, just leads to further infection out at sea.”

To be clear, there is currently no ship headed to Miami. This is a hypothetical, born of concerns about several ships that have been left to scramble for what to do after one or more people on board test positive.

As of now, there are no verified cases of COVID-19 in Miami-Dade County.

— Daniel Rivero

Miami-Dade Elections Supervisor Talks ‘Contingency Plan’

Tuesday, March 10 at 5:00 p.m.: 

Miami-Dade County's Elections Supervisor spoke to a special meeting of the county commission about how the office is preparing for next week’s primary elections in the midst of fear about the coronavirus.

The office has placed hand sanitizers at the registration desk of every early voting location, Elections Supervisor Christina White said. The office will continue to do so through next Tuesday.

But there’s a different potential issue with Election Day on March 17 that is a bit more out of the office’s hands.

“I am hoping that our poll workers will continue to be involved in the process and want to work on election day. I think that’s maybe where the department is a little bit vulnerable,” White said. “Of course I do have our contingency plans. We do have different pools of standbys that we can tap into, so we’re just managing it now and I think it’s going to be okay, but that’s what we’re keeping an eye on.”

About 6,000 poll workers work every election day in Miami-Dade County. They skew more elderly, the population which is most vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.

— Daniel Rivero

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