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Coronavirus in Florida latest: Deaths pass 600, Pinellas nursing home hit hard, new unemployment boss

Here’s what you need to know for Thursday, April 16.
An illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the 2019 novel coronavirus.
An illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the 2019 novel coronavirus. [ AP ]
Published Apr. 16, 2020

More than 600 people have died in Florida after contracting the coronavirus, the state reported Wednesday. In Tampa Bay, the state is now reporting 870 known cases in Hillsborough County and 19 coronavirus-related deaths.

Pinellas nursing home has dozens of cases

About 30 or so patients and staff members at a Pinellas County nursing home have tested positive for the coronavirus, county officials said Wednesday. Several patients from Freedom Square Seminole Nursing Pavilion were transferred to three local hospitals Tuesday night.

In related news, a trade group for Florida’s nearly 700 nursing homes is asking Gov. Ron DeSantis to extend the state’s sovereign immunity provisions to the industry and other healthcare sectors during the course of the coronavirus pandemic, protecting them from negligence suits.

New boss for state unemployment system

Gov. Ron DeSantis is replacing the man in charge of the state’s broken unemployment system. DeSantis said during a Wednesday news conference that he still doesn’t have basic information about how many unemployment applications have been processed or how many people have been paid.

Hillsborough curfew draws lawsuit, petition

Hillsborough County’s curfew, passed this week, has already drawn at least one lawsuit, spurred petitions and raised hackles of residents who say the move is an overreach.

State prison inmate deaths reported

Two inmates at a Northwest Florida prison have died as a result of coronavirus, officials confirmed Wednesday. The deaths appear to be the first related to COVID-19 among the state’s roughly 94,000 inmates.

Lawyers petition for Manatee woman’s release from federal prison

Two Florida civil rights lawyers are pushing the federal government to release a Manatee County woman who they say tested positive for coronavirus while confined in federal prison.

Preaching conspiracies

Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne made national headlines last month when he held two crowded Sunday services at his River at Tampa Bay church despite Hillsborough County’s safer-at-home order, leading to his arrest. The incident cast a mainstream spotlight on the beliefs of a pastor who serves up conspiracy theories in his sermons. Here’s his backstory.

Farmworkers at risk

Florida’s thousands of migrant farmworkers have been tagged as essential for their work keeping food supply chains running, but little is done to keep many of them safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hooters layoffs

Hooters will lay off nearly 700 employees after closing its doors amid the pandemic. Records show all of the workers are in the Tampa Bay area.

Retired Hillsborough fire chief recounts coronavirus experience

Retired Hillsborough Fire Rescue chief Bill Nesmith admits thoughts of death crept into his mind as his body fought COVID-19. He recovered and recounted the experience to the Times.

SAT makeups

Florida’s College Board on Wednesday announced its plan to ensure greater access to the SAT in the coming months amid disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The approach includes school-day administrations rescheduled into the fall, an added September testing date and possibly a digital SAT at home.

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No governor bashing for Tampa mayor

Don’t expect to hear Tampa Mayor Jane Castor criticizing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Castor on Wednesday explained why she doesn’t take the bait when reporters ask her to assess the governor.

New details on inmate released from jail, charged with murder

An arrest report provides more details on the allegations against the Hillsborough County jail inmate arrested on a murder charge after being released to reduce the jail population amid the coronavirus pandemic. Investigators say Joseph Williams shot a man in Tampa, then hid from law enforcement.

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