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Coronavirus in Florida latest: stay-at-home order, state death toll passes 100, defiant pastor cancels service

Here’s what you need to know for Thursday, April 2.
Christina Lange, 41, and her dog Max, look out to the water as they watch the sunrise from North Shore Park on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 in St. Petersburg. "We came to relax and watch the sunrise,Ó Lange said. ÒItÕs mornings like this that make you feel like everythingÕs going to be ok.Ó
Christina Lange, 41, and her dog Max, look out to the water as they watch the sunrise from North Shore Park on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 in St. Petersburg. "We came to relax and watch the sunrise,Ó Lange said. ÒItÕs mornings like this that make you feel like everythingÕs going to be ok.Ó [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Apr. 2, 2020

Florida’s coronavirus death toll reached the triple digits Wednesday, surpassing 100. The number of cases statewide increased by more than 1,000 in a single day and nearly 1,000 people have been hospitalized. Florida has accumulated the fifth-largest caseload in the United States, according to the New York Times.

Statewide stay-at-home order

The biggest news Wednesday came when Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a stay-at-home order for Floridians, limiting all activity in the state to essential services over the next 30 days to try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Local leaders scrambled Wednesday afternoon to understand the implications of the order, many saying they were awaiting advice from their attorneys.

Like local leaders, you probably have some questions about the order. We’ve put together a Q and A here.

Defiant pastor cancels services

The defiant Tampa pastor who was arrested this week after holding two crowded services despite Hillsborough County’s stay-at-home order announced he is canceling services for now.

Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne announced Thursday in a Facebook Live stream that he was shutting down services at the River of Tampa Bay Church to protect his flock from “tyrannical government.”

Hillsborough creates quarantine facility in hotels

Hillsborough County has created the bay area’s first quarantine and isolation facility using two motels near the University of South Florida, giving those who have been infected or exposed to the coronavirus a place to stay without endangering family members at home. Officials announced the news Wednesday.

Together, the hotels can provide 362 rooms for people who have tested positive for the coronavirus to isolate, or for those who have been asked to quarantine after being exposed to the virus.

In other Hillsborough news, a lot fewer people than expected came to be tested for COVID-19 at a testing site at Raymond James Stadium.

Staff, supply shortages reach veterans hospitals

The medical centers serving the nation’s veterans are not immune to the shortages of staff, equipment and supplies that have plagued hospitals fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Government inspectors have confirmed that the problem has spread to veterans hospitals including the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System in St. Petersburg and the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa.

Company’s thermometer data shows drop in illness in Florida

A company that uses smart thermometers to track atypical illness and fevers may be able to show coronavirus hot spots in real time — and their latest data says spread is decreasing because of social distancing.

Claim of spike in New York flights doesn’t fly

Gov. Ron DeSantis has repeatedly said that when New York issued its stay-at-home order amid the coronavirus crisis earlier this month, it caused a flood of New Yorkers to flee to the Sunshine State.

But data on incoming flights to five major airports in Florida, including Tampa International, doesn’t bear that out, a Tampa Bay Times analysis found.

Florida unemployment benefits Q and A

As the number of Floridians applying for unemployment benefits exploded last week, so did questions about how to navigate the state’s stingy, glitchy system. We provide some answers here.

Officials serve up warnings to hundreds of Florida bars

Back on March 17, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an emergency order for all bars and nightclubs to close for 30 days, but the bars that also sold food could remain open and only sell food for that period.

In the nine days that followed, inspectors and liquor agents told nearly 900 bars that were defying the order that they needed to close, records show.

Pandemic as time-bender

We close today with a news essay by Times staff writer Zachary T. Sampson that we think you’ll find, well, timely.

Tampa Bay residents from all walks of life describe how the world moves differently in the clutch of a pandemic. Forced inside with our normal routines disrupted, Sampson writes, “the scaffolding that contains our lives has come down.”

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