Coronavirus in Florida latest: Second deadliest day, doctors sought for reopening plan, more rapid testing

Here’s what you need to know for Thursday, April 23.
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 23, 2020

Florida reported its second-highest daily increase in deaths from the coronavirus Wednesday, with a jump of 61 deaths from the previous day, according to state figures. The state said 945 of the more than 28,000 people who have tested positive for the virus have died.

Fifth death at Seminole center

A fifth resident at Seminole Pavilion Rehabilitation has died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

And Freedom Square of Seminole, the retirement community of which the nursing home is a part, told residents Wednesday that at least seven residents in other buildings on the sprawling campus also have contracted the disease.

More tests on the way

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday announced two new contracts with laboratories that will increase COVID-19 testing capacity by 18,000 samples per day by using rapid tests.

DeSantis also announced that more than 10 new walk-up sites will be starting up in Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Duval, Leon and Orange counties in the coming weeks.

Doctors sought for reopening guidance

Members of the task force DeSantis created to advise him on re-opening Florida said Wednesday that they needed advice from doctors — something their meetings have been missing so far this week — before they can provide instructions to businesses on how to operate when they open their doors again.

In related news, Florida’s major theme parks are coming up with their own plans for how to operate once they open their gates

So what do Floridians think? Three out of four Florida voters don’t want to reopen the state’s economy unless public health experts say it’s safe to do so, according to a new poll.

And in a related fact check, PolitiFact looked into whether other countries that reopened saw an increase in coronavirus infections. (Spoiler alert: They did.)

Unemployment system improves, still lags

New data shows Florida has more than doubled the number of people who have received assistance in the last few days, but the more than 108,000 Floridians who have been paid since the coronavirus spike represent only about 6 percent of the total number of filings. That number has climbed to more than 1.7 million.

Few businesses benefit from loans

The state’s small business loan program has also helped just a fraction of applicants. Florida distributed about 1,000 loans in its first round of emergency funds to businesses across the state this month. More than 38,000 applied.

Manatee’s malady

Manatee County has recorded 35 deaths from the coronavirus, the fourth most in the state and far out of proportion to its population. Yet its Board of County Commissioners has responded to increasing pressure from the public to loosen emergency orders on social distancing and staying at home.

Read more on this here.

Mail voting set to explode

Voting by mail was already becoming more popular in Florida. Now the coronavirus could fast forward the evolution of elections in the state.

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New spotlight on older prisoners

The threat of coronavirus in Florida’s prisons has highlighted a question that’s been debated long before the pandemic arrived: Is it counterproductive to hold older inmates in Florida’s prisons if they are seen as no longer a threat, except to themselves?

Tougher time after release

Once inmates are released, transitioning back into society can be difficult and anxiety-fueled. Coronavirus will likely further complicate the process of finding housing, employment and a sense of security for prisoners being released amid the pandemic.

Unsafe at home

What do you do when your roommates don’t respect the danger of the pandemic? Read the story of one St. Petersburg couple and the advice an expert had for how to cope.

Help for Hillsborough artists

Help is on the way for some Hillsborough artists hit hard by the pandemic. Individual grants for artists living in the county are now available through the Hillsborough Arts Relief Program.

Echoes of an epidemic

COVID-19 differs from yellow fever, a disease that hit Florida in the 1880s, but there are some common themes between past and present. Think fake cures, citywide quarantines and infection anxiety.

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Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

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