Governor Ron DeSantis

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is defending the firing of the state's top data scientist tracking the coronavirus pandemic. Rebekah Jones was ousted from her position with the Department of Health on Monday. She says she was let go for refusing to manipulate data to support the state's reopening.

When first asked about Jones' dismissal, DeSantis on Monday called it a "nonissue." He said he understood from an email she sent her supervisor that "she was tired and needed a break."

Update at 8:51 p.m. ET

A scientist who created a dashboard for monitoring Florida's rising number of COVID-19 cases said she's been fired for refusing to manipulate the data.

STEVE CANNON / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Florida’s state parks will reopen on Monday as part of a broader move to reopen the state. Governor DeSantis made the announcement today in Jacksonville. Restaurants and retails stores will also reopen at 25 percent capacity if local governments allow.

The governor is making an exception to those reopening rules in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, where there is the highest number of coronavirus cases in the state.

Updated at 11:35 a.m. ET

Americans are generally skeptical of too much government intervention. Over the past three decades, the number of people saying they want the government to do less usually outnumbers those saying they want it to do more, according to Gallup.

Matias J. Ocner / Miami Herald

Governor Ron DeSantis and his newly-formed task force are working on reopening the state during the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. DeSantis said some municipalities should feel free to start opening parks and beaches, with physical distancing guidelines. It comes as his administration faces increased scrutiny for its response to the coronavirus.

Jacksonville, Fla., Mayor Lenny Curry announced Thursday that parks and beaches in Duval County would reopen Friday at 5 p.m. with certain restrictions. The mayor said restrictions would allow "essential activities" only, as defined in an executive order signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Those "essential activities" include walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming, taking care of pets and surfing, as long as they're done within social distancing guidelines. Sunbathing is still prohibited.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that teams of National Guard personnel were being dispatched to dozens of nursing homes and assisted living facilities where COVID-19 cases have been found to test residents and staff for the virus.

DeSantis said the four-person National Guard "strike teams" have already been sent to 93 such long-term-care facilities, where a total of 962 positive cases have been discovered. But he said he wants to further expand testing.

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A big question going into this Easter weekend is whether some pastors in Florida will decide to hold services despite the risks of COVID-19 infection. One conservative Christian leader is trying to help congregations – and state and local officials – make the right call.

During Tuesday's White House press briefing, President Trump said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is "a great governor" who "knows exactly what he's doing" in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Vice President Mike Pence added to the DeSantis accolades, saying the Republican governor has "been taking decisive steps from early on."

But according to public health experts, thousands of heath care workers and a pending lawsuit, DeSantis' leadership has been woefully inadequate.

MIAMI HERALD

This post will be updated today, Monday, March 30, with the latest information on COVID-19 in South Florida.

Alejandra Martinez / WLRN

The emergency alert text message you received over the weekend — warning you to social distance — was from the state. 

OCTAVIO JONES / AP

Employees at the Florida Department of Health, the state agency that is managing the response to COVID-19, are not being allowed to work from home, even if their jobs are involved in research or other kinds of administrative work, several employees told WLRN.

OCTAVIO JONES / AP

A man in his 70s from Santa Rosa County has been diagnosed with coronavirus in Florida, and four more Floridians in other states have been diagnosed with the flu-like illness, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday.

The man had traveled internationally but is apparently too ill to answer questions about his trip, DeSantis said. The governor did not say where the person was being treated.

“He’s not in shape to fully answer all the questions, so there is an investigation ongoing,” DeSantis said.

Two ‘Presumptive Positive’ Cases Of Coronavirus In Florida, Governor Says

Mar 2, 2020
JOSÉ A. IGLESIAS / MIAMI HERALD

A Manatee County resident and a Hillsborough County resident have tested “presumptively positive” for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office. These are the first two cases to be reported in Florida.

A presumptive positive case has tested positive by a public health laboratory and is pending confirmatory testing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The announcement was included in a memorandum released late Sunday declaring a public health emergency in the state.

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