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Coronavirus in Florida latest: Six more Pinellas deaths, focus on elder care homes

Here’s what you need to know for Friday, May 8.

As Florida prepares to wrap up the first week of its soft reopening, coronavirus cases and deaths continue to climb. The state on Thursday recorded 62 new deaths, with Pinellas County tallying six more to reach 15 newly reported fatalities this week.

More deaths in elder care homes

Five more residents of Pinellas County long-term care facilities have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to medical examiner reports released Thursday. That brings the total number of coronavirus fatalities in Pinellas nursing homes and assisted living facilities to 38, or two thirds of the 57 virus-related deaths in the county.

The number of positive cases and deaths connected to nursing homes and assisted living facilities continue to represent a larger share of the Florida’s overall death count. The main culprits are asymptomatic carriers of the virus, many of them long-term care staff members, who are getting tested infrequently or too late. Despite state efforts to ramp up testing, administrators at the facilities told the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times it is a piecemeal program that is failing to identify risk and completely contain the virus among the state’s most vulnerable.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor on Thursday called for increased testing of staff in nursing homes amid a jump in coronavirus cases in Hillsborough County’s long-term care facilities.

Nursing homes are required by law to develop approved plans to keep residents safe in case of evacuation during emergencies like hurricanes or emerging infectious diseases like the coronavirus. But a federal audit released in March that looked at 20 Florida nursing homes revealed failures in emergency planning, along with widespread safety issues that put seniors at increased risk of injury or death during an emergency or natural disaster.

New tool to gauge Pinellas beach crowds

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is launching a tool to allow beach-goers to check crowd sizes at beaches and parking lots before they go out their doors. The “Beach Capacity Dashboard” was set to go live at 1 p.m. today.

Free clinics adapt

Free clinics for the uninsured across Tampa Bay have adapted how they provide care as coronavirus makes face-to-face medical visits riskier. Some of those changes may help them in the long run.

Lawsuit seeks university fee refund

A University of Florida graduate student is the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit demanding that Florida universities refund unused student fees for athletics, transportation and other activities and services they can no longer access.

No mask, no service?

Businesses and big attractions are asking the public to use masks or face coverings, but that doesn’t mean they’re rigidly enforcing the policy. Few businesses are turning people away if they don’t have a mask on.

Lost summer for entertainment

Even if the rest of America reopens, the live entertainment industry could be facing a mostly lost summer. One Tampa Bay concert promoter said he doesn’t see events getting started again before September.

Coronavirus haiku for Mother’s Day

As Mother’s Day approaches in a time of social distancing, Times columnist Stephanie Hayes penned some haiku poems to illustrate this moment in motherhood.

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