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Three more coronavirus deaths in Pinellas County

Pinellas County now has four confirmed coronavirus deaths.
Healthcare workers tested residents at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at Raymond James Stadium on Wednesday.
Healthcare workers tested residents at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at Raymond James Stadium on Wednesday. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Mar. 28, 2020|Updated Mar. 28, 2020

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Three more people died in Pinellas County and one more died in Pasco County of COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus.

Health officials in each county confirmed the deaths Saturday. They did not release their identities.

The Pinellas deaths include an 83-year-old woman, a 64-year-old man and a 52-year-old man. The younger man’s death was travel related, according to crisis information from the state. He recently visited Bulgaria, Germany and Utah. The other two deaths were not travel related.

The Pasco death, a 67-year-old man, was also travel related. He traveled to New York, the epicenter of the crisis in the U.S.

Related: Florida coronavirus death toll climbs, including four more in Tampa Bay region

That brings Pinellas County’s total coronavirus deaths to four and Pasco’s total to two. There are now eight confirmed coronavirus deaths in the Tampa Bay area. Across Florida, there were 3,763 positive cases and 54 deaths

One of the three Pinellas deaths was Bob Barnum, who owned St. Petersburg-based Earnest Realty, according to a Tweet from Mayor Rick Kriseman.

“COVID-19 hitting closer to home,” Kriseman wrote in the Tweet. “I will miss our friend and forever be thankful for his support.”

Barnum graduated from New York University with a bachelor’s degree in business and moved to Pinellas County in 1972, according to a biography on Earnest Realty’s website. He was involved with advocacy groups like Muscular Dystrophy Association, Equality Florida and Community Action Stops Abuse and was active in local theater. He was also a member of the Temple B’nai Israel congregation in Clearwater.

Hundreds left tributes or notes of sorrow on Barnum’s Facebook page, recalling most of all his generosity. Some remarked on his dedication to help folks find affordable housing. Others said Barnum helped them personally.

“He and I fought some (or many) days, hugged each other on others, but I always had a special place for him,” wrote Tuesdi Dyer, a former director at Community Action Stops Abuse. “He was a pusher... a fighter, and I have a tendency to really like those people.”

Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith said Barnum helped her buy her first home.

“He had all the dirt on the Golden Girls and he introduced me to circus art,” she posted.

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“Bob was a pioneer among LGBT Realtors and he was a Broker that I greatly admired and respected,” wrote real estate broker Bobby Poth. "Over the past several years, whether it was about a property, politics, or issues related to our industry, I learned so much from each conversation with Bob. "

Others used Barnum’s death as a call to action to abide by public health guidelines.

“Six days ago he was fine posting on Facebook, today he is gone,” wrote Monte Michelsen-Sandler on Facebook, who called Barnum his best friend. “PLEASE take this virus seriously! Stay home so we can live!!”

Dr. Angus Jameson, the medical director for Pinellas County emergency medical services, first alerted other county emergency services officials to the deaths in a Friday night memo. In the memo, obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, Jameson also stepped up coronavirus precautions for first responders.

He ordered that all emergency medical technicians, nurses and paramedics must now wear minimum personal protective equipment — goggles or face shield, gloves and N95 masks — when answering emergency medical calls.

Those workers must reuse that protective equipment “unless there is patient contact,” the memo said.

There has been a chronic shortage of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers across the country. The federal government has redirected shipments of protective equipment like masks, gowns, gloves and goggles to New York that were bound for Florida, epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S. It has left Pinellas County with about a two-week supply of equipment for first responders, though that estimate could change if the county receives more equipment or more virus cases.

Related: Florida medical supplies diverted to NYC. Pinellas has a 2-week stock left for first responders.

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