Coronavirus in Florida latest: face mask recommendations, stay-at-home for seniors, grants for St. Pete businesses

Here’s what you need to know for Saturday, April 4.
Customers in masks line up outside waiting to enter after other shoppers have left at a Trader Joe's grocery store in Los Angeles on Friday.
Customers in masks line up outside waiting to enter after other shoppers have left at a Trader Joe's grocery store in Los Angeles on Friday. [ DAMIAN DOVARGANES | AP ]
Published April 4, 2020|Updated April 4, 2020

Florida officially has more than 10,000 cases of the coronavirus, after the number of positive tests doubled over the last week. To date, 170 people have died in the state.

New federal guidelines recommend face masks in public areas

Americans should wear face coverings in public spaces, President Donald Trump announced on Friday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised the public to wear face coverings like bandannas and cloth masks when leaving home. Officials still said that medical face masks, like N95 respirator masks, should be saved for frontline health workers.

The recommendations come after new evidence showed that people who are not showing symptoms can still pass the virus to others.

The president shared the new federal guidelines — and quickly said he was choosing to not follow the advice. “It’s a recommendation,” Trump said.

Tampa Bay Times reporters wrote a quick how-to on making a face mask from materials you might have at home.

We answered your questions about stay-at-home order for seniors

Gov. Ron DeSantis has ordered all Florida residents to stay home, except for essential activities. Senior citizens, specifically, “shall stay at home,” his order said. The line caused confusion among what is and isn’t allowed.

The Times tried to answer your questions on Friday. Essential activities such as exercise or buying food and medicine are still allowed. Public health experts said seniors should try to rely on delivery for these tasks as much possible.

The focus on seniors comes from research from the federal government that shows people over the age of 65 are especially at risk of hospitalization and death from the coronavirus.

Here is the full Q&A.

How to request food stamp assistance during the coronavirus

More Floridians need help getting food as the economy struggles during the coronavirus pandemic.

The state has eased the requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP or food stamps. Customer call center have also expanded hours to help more people.

Floridians can apply online through the ACCESS portal or by filling out a written application. They can call 866-762-2237 or 850-300-4323 for questions.

Here’s more on the program.

St. Pete offers grants for small businesses

Small businesses like restaurants, bars and retail businesses owned by St. Petersburg residents can apply for new $5,000 grants funded by the city.

Employees who have been laid off, furloughed or had at least 50 percent of their pay cut since March 17 can apply for $500 grants.

“These businesses, and their employees, deserve a fighting chance,” Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin during a Facebook Live appearance on Friday.

The grants do not need to be paid back, but they are taxable income. About 900 businesses and 3,000 employees qualify, according to Tomalin. Applications begin April 9 and there is no deadline.

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Pinellas schools expand free meals for students

The Pinellas County school district will add 13 new locations where students can pick up free meals during school closures.

Three days a week, the sites will provide bags with two breakfasts and two lunches.

More information about locations and days and times for pick ups can be found on the district website.

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We are collecting stories and pieces of your life under the coronavirus pandemic. Times reporters are building a scrapbook of this moment and we need your help.

Send photos, videos or audio recordings to Feel free to ask any questions about the project. Please include your name, city and the best way to reach you.

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