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Coronavirus in Florida latest: nursing homes named, some beaches reopen, and schools to stay closed

Here’s what you need to know for Sunday, April 19.
People walk on the beach during the coronavirus pandemic Friday, April 17, 2020 on Jacksonville Beach, Fla.
People walk on the beach during the coronavirus pandemic Friday, April 17, 2020 on Jacksonville Beach, Fla. [ WILL DICKEY | The Florida Times-Union via AP ]
Published Apr. 19, 2020

The number of positive COVID-19 cases reported in Florida hurdled over the 25,000 mark early on Saturday. The cases rose to just shy of 25,500 by Saturday evening, according to the Florida Department of Health. That’s about 700 more cases compared to the same time on Friday.

Over that same time span, Florida’s death count from the deadly respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus rose by 26, bringing the total number of fatalities in the state to 765. Hernando County and Hillsborough County both had one additional death, and Manatee County had three.

COVID-19 cases reported in 54 Florida prisons

Recent cases included 10 Department of Juvenile staffers at facilities in South Florida and four youths at a Miami facility. The staff who tested positive included one at Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center; one at Palm Beach Regional; one at Miami-Dade Regional; and four at Broward Regional. All four infected youths resided at the Miami Youth Academy. Officials said parents and guardians have been notified. Personnel who tested positive for the illness won’t be allowed to return until cleared by medical professional.

The Florida Department of Corrections released comprehensive data over the weekend about thousands of inmates who have been exposed to the coronavirus while incarcerated. Corrections officials said there are 4,062 inmates in 54 prisons throughout the state who have been placed in medical quarantine or medical isolation after being exposed to the highly contagious coronavirus. Of those, 156 inmates are in medical isolation because they are suspected of having or confirmed to have the virus, officials said.

In reversal, DeSantis discloses elder care homes with COVID-19 cases

Governor Ron DeSantis also made a stark reversal in disclosure on Saturday by announcing he has ordered state health care officials to release the names of elder care facilities where residents and staff have tested positive for COVID-19. The announcement came after weeks of refusing to name the facilities despite increasing pressure from advocates and the families of residents living inside the state’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

A list of more than 300 facilities, released Saturday night, included 25 in Pinellas, four in Hillsborough and two in Pasco. Pinellas had the fourth most confirmed cases at elder care facilities, following Miami-Dade, 54; Broward, 39; and Palm Beach, 36.

Freedom Square of Seminole, the nursing home at the center of an outbreak where three patients have died, also announced Saturday that three more patients and 13 employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Michael Mason, the executive director of Freedom Square of Seminole, a sprawling retirement community, said the company sought help from the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County to help “develop more aggressive mitigation strategies" to combat the disease. Staff at the nursing home said it does not have enough personal protection gear for its employees.

#FloridaMorons trending on Twitter after City of Jacksonville becomes the first to reopen beaches

Many people of Twitter weren’t impressed with Jacksonville reopening its beaches during the pandemic. Jacksonville, led by its Republican Mayor Lenny Curry, was the first to allow people back onto the beaches, which have been closed since March 20. The beaches are open for “essential activities” from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. each morning and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. each evening. About 30 minutes after the beaches were reopened at 5 p.m. Friday, WJAX - the local CBS affiliate - shared images of a crowded beach that was that sparked a viral response online.

Within hours, the hashtag #FloridaMoron was born.

Florida schools to stay closed through semester, Gov. Ron DeSantis says

But unlike Florida’s beaches, its schools won’t be welcoming in visitors anytime soon. Saying distance learning is working well enough for now, Gov. DeSantis on Saturday announced the state’s K-12 schools would remain closed for the remainder of the academic year.

“We felt that was the best decision,” said DeSantis, explaining that he had consulted with school leaders and also heard from many residents.

DeSantis’ previous order had called for campuses to stay shuttered through May 1. But after saying he might consider sending students back “even for a couple of weeks,” the pushback came fast and furious from educators, parents and others.

Most state education leaders had anticipated this move to come on Monday. They were caught off guard, but not surprised, by the decision. Moments after the governor’s decision, feedback started pouring in. It was largely positive.

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