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Coronavirus in Florida latest: Nursing home outbreak, Wade Boggs, Tallahassee protest

Here’s what you need to know for Saturday, April 18.
Ambulances line the entrance before the remaining 39 residents are evacuated from Freedom Square of Seminole, Friday, April 17, 2020 in Seminole. Three nursing home residents have died of the coronavirus in an outbreak that has afflicted Freedom Square of Seminole, a sprawling retirement community that has seen dozens of residents hospitalized because of the virus, officials said.
Ambulances line the entrance before the remaining 39 residents are evacuated from Freedom Square of Seminole, Friday, April 17, 2020 in Seminole. Three nursing home residents have died of the coronavirus in an outbreak that has afflicted Freedom Square of Seminole, a sprawling retirement community that has seen dozens of residents hospitalized because of the virus, officials said. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Apr. 18, 2020
Updated Apr. 18, 2020

Coronavirus’s dreadful march continued Friday as state officials reported 58 deaths and more than 1,400 new positive cases, a reversal of a slowing trend that has emerged recently. The state’s tally now stands at 24,753 and 739 fatalities. Among the newly reported deaths were nine in Manatee County, two in Pinellas County, a 57-year-old man in Hillsborough County and an 82-year-old woman in Polk County.

As horrible as these numbers are, there’s perhaps an even more grim caveat to keep in mind: The numbers are likely an undercount, given discrepancies in how deaths are classified, the limited number of tests given and the backlog at several testing laboratories.

Here’s what you need to know for Saturday, April 18.

Pinellas nursing home evacuated after outbreak, 3 dead from coronavirus

Residents of a Pinellas County retirement community were evacuated Friday after a string of deaths from the coronavirus.

Three residents of Freedom Square of Seminole, two men and a woman, have died since April 10. State, local and company officials agreed to shut down the Seminole Pavilion Rehabilitation nursing home.

A team of Times reporters and photographers documented how quickly COVID-19 spread in the facility, and how unprepared Freedom Square was in dealing with the pandemic.

Racial toll of coronavirus grows even starker as more data emerges

Speaking of incomplete data, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday released its first breakdown of COVID-19 case data by race, showing that 30% of patients whose race was known were black. But the federal data was missing racial information for 75% of all cases, and lacked demographic breakdown of the deaths. Why? Because roughly half the states, including Florida, have yet to release demographic data on fatalities. In states that have, about a quarter of the death records are missing racial details.

An Associated Press analysis of available state and local data shows that nearly one-third of those who have died are African American, with black people representing about 14% of the population in the areas covered in the analysis.

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Maker of N95 masks says it’s targeting Florida’s fraudsters and profiteers

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, wears a protective face mask as he leaves a news conference at the Urban League of Broward County, during the new coronavirus pandemic, Friday, April 17, 2020, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, wears a protective face mask as he leaves a news conference at the Urban League of Broward County, during the new coronavirus pandemic, Friday, April 17, 2020, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) [ LYNNE SLADKY | AP ]

A key respirator maker is pushing back against Florida fraudsters.

3M, the manufacturer of the coveted N95 masks used by healthcare care workers to ward off the virus, filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Orlando this week against Orlando-based Geftico, LLC, which it says fraudulently claimed it had access to 3M masks and attempted to sell them to the federal stockpile at 500% above the average list prices.

This isn’t just a cash squabble. As the state’s stockpile of the protective masks dropped to a dangerously low level last month, Florida’s Division of Emergency Management embarked on a frantic attempt to sign $600 million in no-bid purchase orders with dozens of vendors, many of whom were not authorized by 3M to sell the N95 masks.

Only a fraction of the 90 million masks the state sought have actually materialized, and Jared Moskowitz, the director of the Division of Emergency Management, conceded on Friday that “many people were duped.”

3M has filed a total of four lawsuits in four states recently. They plan on filing more Florida cases in the days ahead.

A Tampa baseball legend wonders if he’s been infected

Baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs said Friday that he was so sick in early March that he had to go to a hospital near his Tampa home in the middle of the night, and was diagnosed at the time with pneumonia and sent home for a “really rough” recovery. But now that symptoms of COVID-19 have become clearly identified, he is hoping soon to take an antibodies test to find out if he had the disease that has spread around the world.

Encased in concrete, man protests Florida prison conditions outside Governor’s mansion

Protester Jordan Mazurek, 28, who cemented his hands in two 55-gallon plastic drums filled with concrete in the driveway of the Governor's Mansion, sits on the pavement while his vitals are checked by first responders Friday in Tallahassee.
Protester Jordan Mazurek, 28, who cemented his hands in two 55-gallon plastic drums filled with concrete in the driveway of the Governor's Mansion, sits on the pavement while his vitals are checked by first responders Friday in Tallahassee. [ Associated Press ]

A Florida man encased himself in concrete Friday outside the Governor’s Mansion in the state capital apparently to protest prison conditions related to the coronavirus.

Tallahassee police spokesman Kevin Bradshaw said the man, identified as 28-year-old Jordan Mazurek, put PVC pipes horizontally into two 55-gallon plastic drums filled with concrete, with some sort of mechanism that locked his arms in place. Mazurek was first spotted about 6 a.m. outside the fence surrounding the mansion and was eventually freed about 10:30 a.m.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported that one of Mazurek’s drums was painted in white letters with the words, “Stop the massacre.” The other read, “Free prisoners now.” The man also wore what appeared to be a surgical mask.

Mazurek is a sociologist originally from Forth Worth, Texas, who now lives in Florida and is a co-creator of a group called “Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons,” the newspaper reported. Mei Azaad, a spokeswoman for the group, said they did not organize the protest but were aware of it.

COVID-19 cases found in 54 Florida prisons

A thunderstorm moves over Florida's Death Row at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford in 2018.
A thunderstorm moves over Florida's Death Row at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford in 2018. [ CHERIE DIEZ | Tampa Bay Times ]

Florida Department of Corrections officials on Friday reversed course and released comprehensive data about thousands of inmates who have been exposed to the coronavirus while incarcerated.

Corrections officials said there are 4,062 inmates throughout the state who have been placed in medical quarantine or medical isolation after being exposed to the highly contagious coronavirus.

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