This post will be updated today, Tuesday, April 21, 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 Passes 10,000 Cases, 1,000 Hospitalizations As DeSantis Says Curve Is Flattening
Tuesday, April 21, updated 8:30 p.m.
As Florida nears 28,000 novel coronavirus cases, Miami-Dade County has become the first county in the state to surpass 10,000 cases and exceed 1,000 hospitalizations, according to the Florida Department of Health’s Tuesday evening report.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, in a Tuesday press conference, said the state’s coronavirus curve has flattened.
Since Monday evening, the state has seen 811 more cases and 44 new deaths, bringing the statewide case total to 27,869 and the statewide death toll to 867. Health officials reported 374 more cases and 28 new deaths since Tuesday morning.
Of the 44 new deaths, 23 came from South Florida.
Miami-Dade County saw 10 new deaths and registered 10,056 confirmed cases and 1,029 hospitalizations. The county also has the state’s highest death toll at 233.
Read more at our news partner, the Miami Herald.
— Michelle Marchante and Devoun Cetoute / Miami Herald
Miami-Dade Teachers Union Launches Campaign To Help Feed Students During School Closures
Tuesday, April 21, updated 4 p.m.
The teachers union in Miami-Dade County is raising awareness about the availability of free meals for children at schools with a new website and public service announcements airing on local radio and television stations.
The United Teachers of Dade created short spots in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole to alert parents they can receive grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches for their children. Starting this week, Miami-Dade County Public Schools is holding meal distributions from 4 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays at 50 school locations. Students and families are able to pick up enough meals for multiple days.
UTD launched the website freeschoollunch.info that families can use to find a location near them.
— United Teachers of Dade (@UTD_AFT1974) April 21, 2020
The district has handed out more than 1.2 million meals since March 16, when schools closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Nearly three-quarters of the district’s roughly 347,000 students qualify for free or discounted meals at school. Demand for meals has grown as the closures have dragged on.
Schools will be closed through the rest of the academic year, state and local officials announced over the weekend.
WLRN is continuously updating our list of where people can find free food during the pandemic.
In Expected Move, Miami-Dade Announces Virtual Graduations For High School Seniors
Tuesday, April 21, updated 3:25 p.m.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools will hold virtual graduation ceremonies for the class of 2020, displaying students’ pictures and calling their names during the streamed events scheduled for May and June.
The school district also announced a social media campaign to honor seniors and inspire community support for them. The month-long campaign will culminate with a “senior recognition day” on May 20, when schools will post photos of the graduating class, and students will be asked to share videos of special memories, using hashtags like #MDCPSGrad and #Classof2020.
The school district is also planning in-person activities for the senior class to be held in the late summer or winter, if it’s safe.
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho unveiled the district’s plans after meeting virtually with students from each of the district’s high schools.
Important conversation with senior leaders whose voice I want to hear. I recognize that none of this is ideal…it is disruptive, disappointing & inconvenient. This is moment you’ve been waiting for. We will ensure you have a graduation, one way or another! #MDCPSGrad #Classof2020 pic.twitter.com/WfTYkt46E2
— Alberto M. Carvalho (@MiamiSup) April 17, 2020
The School District of Palm Beach County was the first in South Florida to announce plans to cancel traditional graduation ceremonies and hold virtual ones instead.
Broward County Public Schools administrators are also gathering feedback from students. In a tweet on Saturday, Superintendent Robert Runcie said the district would make an announcement about its graduation plans this week.
Florida Cases Near 27,500 As The Statewide Death Toll Increases by 16
Tuesday, April 21, updated 11:45 a.m.
Florida’s Department of Health on Tuesday morning confirmed 437 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total of confirmed cases to 27,495. There were 16 new deaths announced, raising the statewide death toll to 839.
Twelve of the new deaths were in South Florida, according to Florida’s COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard.
Four people died in Miami-Dade, four in Broward and four in Palm Beach. Additional details about the deaths was not immediately available.
Of the statewide total confirmed COVID-19 cases, 26,761 are Florida residents and 734 are non-residents who were diagnosed or isolated in the state.
Read more at our news partner, the Miami Herald.
— Michelle Marchante / Miami Herald
What State And Local Officials Say About 'Reopening' As Cases Pass 27,000
Updated Tuesday at 7:30 a.m.
Leaders and officials from across Florida joined a conference call on Monday to discuss how to re-open the state's economy.
It was the first meeting of the Re-Open Florida Task Force, which is led by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. The Miami Herald reports that the group did not include a discussion about the health risks of allowing people to work, even as cases and deaths continue to rise.
Monday evening, officials confirmed 398 more cases, bringing the state's total to 27,058. Thirty-four new COVID-19 related deaths were confirmed, bringing the overall death toll to 823.
Instead, the task force's discussion focused on the numbers reflecting the state's economy.
“If Florida was a nation, we would be the world’s 17th-largest economy,” said the Chamber's CEO, Mark Wilson, who spoke for 10 minutes. “And our goal by 2030 is to be the 10th-largest economy, and we hope you’ll keep that in mind as you think about your recommendations.”
The state's surgeon general and the secretary for the Agency for Health Care Administration, two top health officials, were only heard at the end of the 90-minute call.
Notably missing from the group was Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the state's top elected Democrat.
“This is sadly more of the same politics over state from the governor,” she said in a statement. “I was not asked to serve alongside my fellow Cabinet members on the task force, which has no voice on its membership representing Florida’s $137 billion agriculture industry.”
Representatives from small businesses were also missing.
The task force is set to meet every day this week to meet the governor's tight deadline to produce a report with recommendations by Friday. The meetings will resume Tuesday at 10 a.m. and will be live-streamed on thefloridachannel.org.
Local government leaders are also discussing what steps toward normalcy they can begin to take.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Monday announced a set of rules that will open parks, golf courses and marinas in the coming days, with a series of conditions.
He reinforced that the reopeings will still follow CDC guidelines on social distancing, or violators could face fines or even arrest.
“People need to start to go out," said Gimenez. “We need to start looking at when we can get to a new normal. Because frankly, we can’t sustain this path that we’re on. As a county, as a state or as a country.”
In Broward County, the Sun Sentinel reports that the possibility of reopening some outdoor areas, but not beaches, is in a "preliminary" planning stage.
Also, Broward County Mayor Dale Holness, who is a member of the governor's Re-Open Florida Task Force, has said that he can see the resumption of elective surgeries and restaurants reopening with limited capacity.