Florida coronavirus update

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The Florida coronavirus toll continues to rise with seven reported deaths from 216 cases being tracked by the state while overall cases across the globe surpassed 200,000.

The state, which expanded is testing abilities this week with the addition of private labs, is still waiting on results from 1,061 tests, having tested 2,294 people overall.

Of the 216 tracked cases, 195 are of Florida residents and 21 of non-Florida residents. 6 of the Florida residents are out of state. The most cases in the state are in Broward County with 55 followed by Miami-Dade with 42.

Volusia County has the most in Central Florida with nine cases followed by Osceola with seven, Orange with six, Seminole with four and Lake, Polk and Brevard counties with one each. So far, 27 of Florida’s 67 counties are tracking at least one case of coronavirus in a Florida resident.

The latest Florida death was in Manatee Count. Across the U.S., the death toll rose to 115. Florida is fourth in the nation for coronavirus fatalities behind Washington’s 55, New York’s 16 and California’s 13.

Nationwide, West Virginia saw its first case of coronavirus so now all 50 states are affected with around 6,500 cases reported, according to Wednesday data tracked by Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Research Center.

Globally, the report tracked its 200,000th case just after 6 a.m. Wednesday and logged its 8,000th reported death.

Also on Wednesday, thousands of snowbirds from Canada should take note of a decision by the U.S. and Canada to close its border to nonessential traffic. Truck drivers and Canadian snowbirds, who live in the U.S. for part of the year and are returning to Canada, are among those expected to get an exemption.

Tuesday saw several major announcements including the state’s K-12 public schools keeping students out of classrooms until at least April 15, a statewide order for the closure of bars and restaurants for 30 days, a call on Florida restaurants to reduce capacity by 50% and keep diners at least 6 feet apart and limiting beach outings to groups of 10 or less. State universities are also ordered to go online only for classes and cancel commencement ceremonies.

Also, the Florida Division of Emergency Management is deploying three field hospitals across Florida, including one in Orlando. The agency has requested additional hospital supplies and personal protective equipment from the federal government in response to COVID-19’s spread within the state.

Additionally, mobile testing for COVID-19 is being implemented, and the National Guard is deploying in Broward County and remains on standby to mobilize elsewhere.

Publix adjusts hours again
Publix has again adjusted its hours as customers react to coronavirus. Grocery stores will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and in-store pharmacies will adjust their Monday through Saturday hours to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The new hours are to give employees time to do additional sanitation as well as to restock products.

Gatorland closes, debuts ‘School of Crocs’ online
Gatorland, the longtime south Orlando attraction, has temporarily closed due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, but it is attempting to bring its reptiles outside its marsh — virtually — through online programming, including a Facebook Live show called “School of Crocs.”

At this Orlando restaurant, an owner despairs over the cost of coronavirus | Commentary
Coronavirus worries have emptied restaurants big, small and in between. Some states have ordered them closed. Florida’s are still open, though many restaurants have voluntarily closed or gone to take-out service only.

The impact is bad enough for the Outbacks and McDonald’s, but large chains generally have reserve funds to help them survive hard times. Small, independent restaurants need a constant cash flow, and there’s no cash in sight.

Target reducing hours
Target CEO Brian Cornell released news that as of today, Target will reduce horus and close all stores by 9 p.m. daily. In addition, the first hour of shopping each Wednesday will be reserved for vulnerable guests including the elderly and those with underlying health concerns. The chain has already enacted enhanced cleaning and more staffing for order pickup and drive-up shopping in an effort to embrace social distancing needs.

“In addition to these changes, we’re fast-tracking the flow of products that are in highest demand, including food, medicine and other essentials. We’ll continue to maintain limitations on in-demand items and respectfully ask all guests to consider their immediate needs and purchase accordingly so more families can find the products they need,” Cornell wrote in a press release.

As far as employees go, the chain made changes to its back-up care benefit because of school and other care-facility closures.

“Back-up care will be available to all, including frontline team members who are doing so much right now,” Cornell said. “This comes on top of temporarily waiving our absenteeism policy and covering quarantine and confirmed illness pay. We’ll also continue to offer benefits like paid family leave and free counseling services for the range of challenges our team might be facing.”

Give Kids the World closing
Give Kids the World, the Central Florida nonprofit that for 34 years has been providing free vacations, including visits to theme parks, for critically ill kids and their families, is shutting its doors until at least April 1 because of the coronavirus threat.

Employees will continue to be paid, but all volunteer shifts are being canceled, CEO Pamela Landwirth said.

“As good citizens, we are taking the necessary actions to keep everyone involved safe and to do our part to help prevent the spread of this global pandemic,” she wrote.

Coronavirus makes International Drive a ‘ghost town’ during busiest month of year
Friday nights in March at TGI Friday’s on International Drive are usually huge for bartender Edwin “Swerve” Gonzalez. He can hardly rest as he slings drinks and places food orders with his kitchen.

But on this particular Friday, as fears of the coronavirus rippled through the service industry, Gonzalez worked a mostly empty bar during the dinner hours in what is usually the busiest month of the year. Local revelers stayed home, for the most part, and business travelers that would have been in town had no reason to visit as conferences canceled earlier this month.

Florida high school sports in jeopardy
Tuesday’s announcement that Florida’s public and private K-12 schools will remain closed through April 15 makes it much less likely that high school sports state championships will play out this spring.

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