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Coronavirus in Florida latest: Hillsborough order, prisoners at risk, working from home

Here’s what you need to know for Friday, March 27.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, left, and Director of Public Relations Jennifer Crockett, center, look on as Great Clips General Manager Kelly Slade, right, speaks to store owner while holding a flier which contains information about the county's recent "COVID-19 Safer at Home" resolution Thursday.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, left, and Director of Public Relations Jennifer Crockett, center, look on as Great Clips General Manager Kelly Slade, right, speaks to store owner while holding a flier which contains information about the county's recent "COVID-19 Safer at Home" resolution Thursday. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Mar. 27, 2020

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Florida saw yet another big jump in coronavirus cases Thursday, as the United States became the world leader in confirmed cases. Florida has added more than 800 new cases since Wednesday morning, pushing its total confirmed caseload to 2,484.

On Thursday, officials also reported that a 69-year-old Hillsborough County man with coronavirus died at home Wednesday, the third death in the Tampa Bay area and the twenty-ninth in the state. An Air Force commander also said that the number of cases at MacDill Air Force Base has grown to five.

The confirmed nationwide count stood at nearly 86,000 cases and at least 1,300 deaths as of Thursday night.

Hillsborough solidifies “safer-at-home” order, scraps curfew idea

Some disagreement over whether officials should drop a planned curfew order threatened to derail the Hillsborough County Emergency Police Group’s efforts to enact a “safer-at-home” order Thursday. But by the end of the day, those officials had a plan: There will be no curfew, but beginning at 10 p.m. Friday, Hillsborough residents will have to stay home except for essential business and activities and some exercise.

The order essentially mirrors the one proposed Monday by Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and shot down by others in the group. It follows the Department of Homeland Security’s guidelines for what is considered an “essential business,” and it allows nonessential businesses to stay open as long as nobody comes within six feet of another person. Residents can leave their homes to exercise or walk pets as long as they follow that six-foot rule, too.

Violating the order is a second-degree misdemeanor. Sheriff Chad Chronister said his agency plans to enforce the order in ways that don’t involve jailing residents.

Want to get tested at Raymond James? You’re too late

After a busy opening day Wednesday, Hillsborough County’s first public drive-through testing site has already booked appointments for all the testing resources it has.

A call center set up to screen those seeking tests at the testing site at Raymond James Stadium booked 900 appointments in a little over 48 hours, officials said Thursday. County officials were given only enough testing supplies for 900 people.

The stadium test site will shut down Friday once all 900 appointments have been completed. It will not reopen until the county receives more materials.

Coronavirus could be catastrophe for prisons

The spread of coronavirus puts Florida’s prisons in a situation that experts say could be catastrophic: State prisons house some 94,000 inmates, many of them elderly or ill and thus at higher risk.

But while county jails have been able to release hundreds of inmates to prevent the spread of the disease among tightly packed jail populations, prison releases are far rarer and more complicated. And in prison, it’s impossible to practice social distancing or proper prevention techniques. That means that those tens of thousands of state prisoners are sitting ducks.

“The virus finds itself in an environment where it is perfectly suited to thrive and spread,” said Greg Newburn, the director of state policy for Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Corrections said there are no suspected coronavirus cases in any state prison. But if the virus were to infiltrate the prisons, there would be no quick mechanism to fight it: A bill that would have created a medical release program controlled by the Department of Corrections died in committee earlier this year.

Working from home is hard. Here’s how to do it

If you’re fortunate enough to still have a job right now, there’s a good chance you’re working from home. There’s also a good chance it’s way harder than you thought it’d be.

Here are some tips from work-from-home pros about how to make the most of working from home, from how to stay connected with colleagues to organizing your time and preventing distractions from upending your day.

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