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Coronavirus in Florida latest: Local death toll tops 300, more on data manager

Here’s what you need to know for Thursday, May 21.
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 May 21, 2020

Florida on Wednesday recorded 44 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, bringing the state’s total death toll to 2,173. The Tampa Bay region’s death toll surpassed 300 as confirmed infections moved beyond the 5,000 mark.

DeSantis reveals criminal charge against data manager

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that a data manager forced to resign after objecting to removing coronavirus data shouldn’t have been working there at all, revealing that she faces an open criminal charge. But DeSantis got key facts wrong in both of those allegations against the manager, Rebekah Jones, who must resign by 5 p.m. today or be fired.

Read the latest on this story here.

State made $283 million in deals because it feared COVID-19

DeSantis has criticized the news media for quoting public health modelers who predicted the state would run out of hospital bed space if he didn’t issue a statewide stay-home order in April. But the governor’s emergency managers, using those same models, were so concerned they would run out of space that they signed $283 million in no-bid deals to build alternative hospitals to hold the overflow, a Times/Herald analysis has found.

Bar owners, workers protest closure

More than 100 bar owners and employees protested Wednesday in downtown Clearwater to demand they be allowed to open their doors. This is the 10th week of mandated closures for bars amid the coronavirus pandemic. “We’ve got to be able to make a living," one owner said. “People working for us have families.”

Pinellas owners can take short-term rental reservations

Several thousand owners of short-term vacation rental properties in Pinellas County can now take reservations for Memorial Day weekend after a state agency approved a county plan to let them reopen.

South Florida kids sick with inflammatory illness

At least two children in South Florida are hospitalized for an inflammatory illness that health officials believe is connected to COVID-19. Holtz Children’s Hospital in Miami has two confirmed cases that meet the criteria for multi-system inflammatory syndrome, hospital officials said Wednesday. The kids are in intensive care and showing signs of improvement.

For students, life interrupted

The pandemic stole precious moments for students in the midst of transitions. The Times talked to five in the Tampa Bay area about how their lives have been interrupted.

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