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Friday brought news of 714 additional confirmed cases of coronavirus across the state of Florida, increasing the statewide count to 3,198 — roughly six times the number of known cases in the state a week ago.
Health officials on Friday also reported 17 more deaths, including a 71-year-old woman in Hillsborough County. By Friday evening, the state’s death toll had climbed to 46.
Healthcare workers urge dramatic action
As the number of coronavirus cases in Florida has multiplied, more than 900 healthcare workers around the state urged Gov. Ron DeSantis to take further action. In an open letter, the medical professionals said the governor needed to take several critical steps to slow the virus’ spread, including to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order.
“We are the healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic in Florida and we urge you to act dramatically to mitigate the spread of the disease, protect and support healthcare workers, and ensure that patients have access to all necessary medical and social services during this crisis,” the letter says. “Health systems around the world are being stretched dangerously thin and we are not far behind.”
A Tampa Bay Times analysis last week showed Florida was slower to adopt coronavirus restrictions than dozens of other states across the country.
The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment about the open letter, but DeSantis did announce new travel restrictions during a press conference Friday afternoon. The governor issued an executive order that requires a 14-day quarantine for people traveling from Louisiana to Florida. The order is similar to the one DeSantis issued earlier in the week for New York travelers.
While public health experts have commended DeSantis’ efforts to control the spread of coronavirus from the nation’s hot zones into Florida, political experts say the travel restriction policies appear, at least in part, to be political.
Medical supplies destined for Florida diverted to New York
Medical supplies — including gloves, goggles, gowns and N95 masks — that Florida officials received from private vendors to hand out to counties around the state have instead been shipped to New York City, officials confirmed.
The federal government, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management, ordered that the supplies be redirected to New York, the nation’s epicenter for coronavirus cases.
Pinellas County officials said Friday they now have about two-weeks’ worth of supplies and are working with local vendors to see whether they could manufacture additional needed gear.
Testing to resume at Raymond James Stadium
Hillsborough County requested 15,000 coronavirus test kits, and the Florida Division of Emergency Management said Friday that it will send 1,000 to the county.
Even though the county did not obtain nearly the number of kits it wanted, the new ones will allow officials to recommence the drive-through testing at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa after quickly running out of tests earlier in the week.
Officials have not yet said when the testing site will reopen. In the meantime, BayCare Health Systems said it will continue to provide testing for the next several days.
Overcrowding in parks spark closures
Officials have closed parks and preserves across Hillsborough County and in the city of Tampa in the latest attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus in the communities. The parks had grown too crowded, they said.
The closure was designed to prevent groups of more than 10 people from gathering and includes playgrounds, dog parks and tennis courts, too. The move came as a countywide stay-at-home order has also gone into effect.
For now, the path along Bayshore Boulevard and the Tampa Riverwalk remain open.
Department of Correction employees test positive for coronavirus
The Florida Department of Corrections said seven of its employees are among those in the state who’ve tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.
All seven employees work in separate facilities, across five prisons and two probation offices, the department said.
So far, prison officials say they’ve seen no confirmed cases among inmates. One inmate at a private prison in Gadsden County attended a court hearing outside the facility and was placed under a “precautionary quarantine,” according to the department.
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