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Coronavirus in Florida latest: State passes 1,000 deaths, re-opening talks underway in Tampa Bay

Here’s what you need to know for Friday, April 24.

Florida reached another grim milestone Thursday as the number of known coronavirus deaths surpassed 1,000. The number of known cases in the state is approaching nearly 30,000, with 80 new cases in the greater Tampa Bay region.

Two more deaths at Freedom Square

Two more people in the Freedom Square of Seminole retirement community have died of the coronavirus, bringing the COVID-19 death toll in that community to seven.

Daniel Lewis, 66, was one of those seven. He thought his stay at Seminole Pavilion Rehabilitation, the nursing home inside the community, would be temporary, his family said. Read more about his life and death here.

Hillsborough officials talk re-opening

Hillsborough’s elected leaders are starting to discuss at least a partial re-opening of the county’s economy. The Emergency Policy Group met Thursday and heard from public health officials who said there’s evidence the spread of coronavirus has slowed.

Slow approach to re-opening Pinellas beaches, businesses

Municipal leaders along Pinellas County’s shoreline support opening nonessential businesses, but are divided on how beaches, eateries and bars should open if Gov. Ron DeSantis’ emergency stay-at-home order expires next week. Officials of many Pinellas towns submitted dozens of ways to ease restrictions so residents can get back to work and possibly enjoy the beaches.

Hospitals itching to re-start elective surgeries

Speaking of reopening, Florida hospitals want to start performing elective surgeries when Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order prohibiting them expires in two weeks, executives told a task force on Thursday. At the same meeting, task force members said Florida’s preschools and colleges will play a critical role as the state tries to get back to business as usual.

Local nurses share NYC stories

A small group of recent master’s graduates from the University of South Florida College of Nursing volunteered this month to leave their Florida jobs for New York City — the epicenter for COVID-19 infections in the United States. Here are some of their stories.

Feds confiscate masks bound for firefighters

A shipment of 1 million face masks headed to South Florida for firefighters was confiscated last week by the federal government, according to a local official. Miami-Dade County’s emergency management director said the masks were for firefighters who planned to begin at-home new coronavirus testing for homebound Miami-Dade residents.

Latin American aid halted

The pandemic is causing Tampa Bay area charities that help needy people in Latin America to lose donations and access. Now on hold are projects meant to help families in Colombia, terminally ill children in Venezuela, and communities in Mexico that lack clean water.

Quinceañera dreams postponed

The quinceañera is a big deal for Latino families — a huge 15th birthday celebration and family reunion that can cost thousands of dollars and take years to plan. Now, as social-distancing measures cancel gatherings, families and vendors in Tampa Bay and across the country are seeing those plans come undone in a matter of days.

Howard Frankland work ahead of schedule

Here’s a silver lining to the pandemic. A drop in daily traffic has allowed construction crews to speed up work on adding lanes to the frustrating bottleneck at the Howard Frankland Bridge and Westshore interchange. State officials say the new lanes could open this summer.

Coronavirus in Florida podcast: Has the Sunshine State flattened the curve?

Gov. Ron DeSantis says Florida’s coronavirus curve has flattened. Is that true? On the latest episode of our Coronavirus in Florida podcast, host Allison Graves puts this question to Dr. Sally Alrabaa, an infectious disease specialist at the University of South Florida.

‘The offspring of a train wreck and a dumpster fire’

That’s how Times business columunist Graham Brink describes Florida’s unemployment benefits program. State officials undermined the system for years and the failure we’re seeing now is the result of negligence combined with arrogance, Brink writes in this column.

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Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

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