Coronavirus in Florida latest: Peak uncertainty, another death at Pinellas center

Here’s what you need to know for Wednesday, April 22.
This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the 2019 novel coronavirus.
This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the 2019 novel coronavirus. [ AP ]
Published April 22, 2020

Is Florida past the coronavirus peak? Uncertainty remains.

The number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Florida rose by 811 on Tuesday, and 44 more deaths were reported. A Tampa Bay Times analysis of Florida’s data shows that while the number of confirmed cases appears to be declining, the same trend is not yet true for COVID-19 deaths.

Governor says Florida’s curve is flattening

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that Florida’s curve of novel coronavirus infections has flattened and that an anticipated crush of patients was not going to materialize after all. DeSantis also defended how he had handled the crisis so far, particularly his decision to wait until April 1 to issue a stay-at-home order.

Eyes on elder care centers

Elder care centers continue to be a focus as officials work to limit and gauge the spread of the coronavirus.

The death toll rose Tuesday among patients evacuated last week from Seminole Pavilion Rehabilitation, and the National Guard is expected to arrive Wednesday to help conduct tests at facilities across Pinellas County.

After resisting for weeks, Gov. Ron DeSantis released a list of elder-care homes that had a resident or staff member test positive for the virus since March 2. But some are questioning whether the list is complete and why it doesn’t contain more useful information.

News of the outbreaks has prompted families to consider removing their loved ones to keep them safe. But advocates and legal experts warn that those decisions should be made carefully.

Workers need paid sick leave, executives say

Restaurants should offer employees paid sick leave up to 14 days and government officials should issue clear guidelines before reopening the economy, business executives told a Florida task force for reopening the state on Tuesday. They said guidelines should address such questions as how restaurants obey social distancing and whether employees and guests wear masks.

A cop’s perspective

The first Tampa police officer to test positive for coronavirus admits he underestimated the virus until it laid him low. Here’s what he had to say.

Failed mask deal with Shark Tank star draws scrutiny

Florida’s failed deal to buy 1 million N95 protective masks for $7 apiece from a Shark Tank star Daymond John shows how state officials broke all the contracting rules in a frenzied rush to feed the demand for supplies to fight the pandemic.

Florida’s unemployment system near bottom

Here’s some news that won’t surprise the thousands of unemployed Floridians trying without success to get their unemployment benefits. As unemployment surged during the early weeks of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, Florida ranked at or near the bottom of all states in its speed of processing those claims, federal data show.

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Renters could lose homes despite stay on evictions

Florida’s 45-day stay on evictions and mortgage foreclosures was intended to prevent people from becoming homeless, but housing advocates are warning that the state has not done enough to protect renters and could see an onslaught of evictions when the stay expires around May 17.

New panel to decide when to re-open courts

A newly assembled work group of judges, lawyers and court clerks has been created to come up with a plan to return the state court system to normal operations. Florida’s Chief Justice Charles Canady announced the 17-member group’s creation Tuesday in an order.

Voting protocol draws lawsuit

A group of voting rights organizations is suing Florida again over its elections protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that not enough was done during the March 17 primary to allow registered voters to safely cast a ballot.

New testing sites in Hillsborough

People in Hillsborough County have four new and free options to get tested for the novel coronavirus. The county will open three additional drive-thru test sites Wednesday in Plant City, Ruskin and East Tampa. AdventHealth will also start testing up to 2,000 people a day at Adventure Island.

Re-opening St. Pete

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is putting together an advisory group to explore when, and how, to reopen the city. The group will include representatives from the medical and business community, among others, Kriseman said.

Help for Pasco businesses; some recreational areas re-open

Help for some of Pasco County’s small businesses is on the way after the County Commission on Tuesday approved a $2 million emergency grant program. Up to 400 businesses could benefit from $5,000 grants paid up front under the program.

In other Pasco news, commissioners on Tuesday agreed it was time to reopen some recreational areas to let local residents get out of their houses and get some exercise.

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