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Five things Florida and Tampa Bay get right about coronavirus | Editorial
Here are the policies and actions that our local and state governments have done well so far in this time of crisis.
 
Pinellas County Schools workers hand out lunch; Amalie Arena's front steps; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference on coronavirus.
Pinellas County Schools workers hand out lunch; Amalie Arena's front steps; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference on coronavirus. [ Times files ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published March 17, 2020|Updated March 17, 2020

As Florida and Tampa Bay cope with the coronavirus crisis, here are five examples of smart decision-making to help Floridians cope with the new reality.

1. Local school districts distribute free food for hungry students

From left, St. Petersburg High School cafeteria workers Barbara Watts, Mychelle Walker and Taylor Fowler work to prepare lunches for the following day.
From left, St. Petersburg High School cafeteria workers Barbara Watts, Mychelle Walker and Taylor Fowler work to prepare lunches for the following day.

Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco County Schools are creating stations to distribute bagged breakfast and lunches available to children beginning on March 23 in Pinellas and Hillsborough and Pasco County Schools. All three will go until March 27. More than 50 percent of students in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco public schools are eligible for free or reduced lunch, so school cancellations have a real impact on low-income students who depend on eating at school. The sooner a reliable food delivery system is up and running, the better.

2. Jeff Vinik, Rays create compensation plan for stadium workers

Amalie Arena in Tampa.
Amalie Arena in Tampa. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Vinik Sports Group have announced they are creating a compensation plan for part-time employees working at Amalie Arena during previously scheduled hockey games and events in March. Vinik and the group also formed an internal program that will offer assistance for full-time and part-time employees experiencing financial issues in the face of coronavirus. It’s important to see leaders in the sports world stepping up for their employees in a time of need. Many of these workers depend on their paychecks coming in, and the temporary “pause” of National Hockey League games for the immediate future has a major impact on that. The Tampa Bay Rays, like other Major League Baseball teams, are pledging $1 million to help cover lost wages of Tropicana Field employees.

3. Universities to close and transition to remote learning for semester

The campus of the University of South Florida in Tampa.
The campus of the University of South Florida in Tampa. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that all state universities will transition to remote learning for the rest of the spring semester. Students who have not already left campus are being instructed to leave and return home. It will be a change for students and faculty, but it is the smart approach to encourage social distancing.

4. Limit crowds on beaches to no more than 10 in a group

(From left) Florida State University freshmen John Smith,18, Sam Blake, 18, and Jack Garfield, 18, spend their spring break at Clearwater Beach, Florida on Saturday, March 14, 2020. "We're going to miss being at school once the break is over," said Garfield. "Hopefully the coronavirus will be over soon."
(From left) Florida State University freshmen John Smith,18, Sam Blake, 18, and Jack Garfield, 18, spend their spring break at Clearwater Beach, Florida on Saturday, March 14, 2020. "We're going to miss being at school once the break is over," said Garfield. "Hopefully the coronavirus will be over soon." [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
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The spring break crowds on Clearwater Beach and elsewhere this week cannot continue. Gov. Ron DeSantis has taken an appropriately measured approach, declaring the beaches can remain open but that there should be no groups larger than 10 gathering there. That is a reasonable approach for now.

5. Uber Eats waives delivery fees for independent restaurants

Uber Eats driver, Cory Herndon, delivers an ice cream order at Tampa Bay Times web producer, Allison Graves' home on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019 in St. Petersburg.
Uber Eats driver, Cory Herndon, delivers an ice cream order at Tampa Bay Times web producer, Allison Graves' home on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019 in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

As the public is encouraged to social distance, how will restaurants survive? One answer: through deliveries. Uber Eats, a delivery model based in part on the popular car service, is waiving its delivery fee for independent restaurants in the United States and Canada. It also created a program that allows for daily, rather than weekly, payouts to restaurants partaking in the service. The last thing any of us wants the coronavirus to do is kill our local businesses. But eating out in public is not safe right now—making delivery easier and more accessible to all is the best middle ground.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.