Misinformation can spark fear and hysteria. We’re here to help. We’ll update this page with emerging information from reliable sources to answer all of your questions about coronavirus.
WUFT’s Coronavirus Story Archive
Rebekah Jones, 31, is suspected by authorities of hacking into a state emergency health network to transmit a message taunting the governor. (January 13, 2021)
New data from the Centers for Disease Control shows Florida has nearly half the known cases in the United States of a mutated and likely more contagious strain of the coronavirus. (January 8, 2021)
Walking through the empty gallery halls at the Matheson History Museum in Gainesville every day hurts Dixie Neilson to her core. The museum has been closed to visitors since March, and as quiet as museums typically are, these bare walls and silence felt different. (January 8, 2021)
The FDA is encouraging people with COVID-19 antibodies to donate plasma to help develop a treatment for the virus. (January 8, 2021)
In September, Florida first lady Casey DeSantis announced that the state Department of Education would spend $2 million to support the services in 18 rural school districts. (January 6, 2021)
University of Florida President Kent Fuchs on Tuesday received his first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at UF Health Shands. (January 6, 2021)
As of about 6 p.m. Monday, 19.7 percent of adult intensive-care unit beds statewide were available, but numbers varied by county. (January 5, 2021)
Gainesville is home to two of Florida's 11 Chinese heritage schools, according to the National Council of Associations of Chinese Language Schools. (January 5, 2021)
The once in a century pandemic is causing havoc on plans by Micanopy, the state’s oldest inland town, to celebrate its bicentennial in 2021. (December 24, 2020)
As the year comes to a close, here's a look back at the stories that stayed in the headlines. (December 23, 2020)
- The Florida Department of Health is keeping up with diagnosed cases, deaths, number of tests that have been administered for COVID-19 and number of people being monitored in Florida. It has also posted guidance for schools, businesses and large events to prepare and protect Floridians from COVID-19.
- Starting Monday, April 13, the previously FEMA-run testing sites in Jacksonville, Orlando, and Miami-Dade County will expand their testing criteria to include:
- Anyone with symptoms, regardless of age
- All first responders and health care workers, which includes any staff members at long-term care facilities
- Anyone who has had close sustained contact with someone who recently tested positive for the virus
The sites no longer have to abide by the prior federal limit of 250 test per day.
- On Friday, April 10, Gov. Ron DeSantis said the Department of Health sent a “strike team” to a nursing home in Suwannee County, where 51 people have tested positive for COVID-19, including 30 staff members, and more are awaiting test results.
- On Wednesday, April 8, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he was partnering with the Army Corps of Engineers to turn the Miami Beach Convention Center into a 450-bed temporary hospital with a hopeful completion date of April 20. The facility will only be used if Florida’s hospital beds become full — they were at 43% availability at the time of the announcement.
- On Monday, April 6, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order forgiving tax collection on small business loans issued in accordance with the federal CARES Act. He also announced measures taken to expedite processing of unemployment claims and urged congregations to forego in-person services during Holy Week.
- On Thursday, April 2, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced all foreclosures and evictions would be suspended for 45 days.
- On Wednesday, April 1, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced an executive order limiting all movement outside the home to only essential activities and services, effective Thursday, April 2 at midnight. Based on the two sources cited in the order and the additional provisions included in Executive Order 20-91, a complete list of “essential” services can be found here.
- Local government measures that are more restrictive than the state’s executive order are allowed to stay in place. “What we’re doing is setting a floor, and they can’t go below the floor,” Gov. DeSantis said in an April 2 press briefing.
- On Monday, March 30, Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran announced the new target date for reopening schools is Monday, May 4.
- On Monday, March 30, Gov. Ron DeSantis imposed a “safer at home” mandate for South Florida counties, an official recommendation to adhere to CDC social distancing guidelines until at least April 15.
- On Friday, March 27, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced in a press conference:
- New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana have been added to the executive order requiring incoming travelers to Florida from listed areas to quarantine for 14 days.
- New vacation rentals have been suspended for two weeks.
- The deadline for filing property taxes has been delayed to April 15, and the sales and use tax deadline to April 30.
- SNAP benefits will be temporarily increased to the monthly maximum amount.
- On Wednesday, March 25, President Trump approved Gov. Ron DeSantis’ request to declare a major disaster in Florida, directing federal emergency assistance to supplement local efforts to fight COVID-19.
- On Monday, March 23:
- Gov. Ron DeSantis held a press conference from The Villages where he announced the University of Florida would be partnering with the state to launch testing and research on the virus.
- The governor mandated a 14-day self-isolation for incoming travelers from New Jersey or New York arriving in Florida.
- On Friday, March 20:
- Gov. Ron DeSantis mandated all restaurants and food establishments suspend dine-in service and that all gymnasiums and fitness centers close. Days earlier, all bars and nightclubs were suspended for 30 days, until April 10.
- Floridians whose employment has been affected by COVID-19 may be eligible for Reemployment Assistance or Short Time Compensation.
- On March 16, Gov. DeSantis activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program to offer financial support of up to $50,000 to small businesses impacted by COVID-19. In order to be eligible, businesses must have been established prior to March 9, 2020, employ between two and 100 workers and experience disruption due to COVID-19. The application period opens March 17, 2020, and runs through May 8, 2020. Find the application here.
- Florida expanded the testing criteria for COVID-19. According to new guidance from the FDOH on March 15, physicians can now order a test for COVID-19 based on their own clinical judgment, even if their patient does not fit within the previous criteria for testing.
- Gov. Ron DeSantis held consecutive press conferences on COVID-19 between March 14 and March 20 at the Florida Capitol. The main takeaways:
- On March 20:
- Alcohol deliveries will be permitted under the new restaurant limitations. Regulations will also be waived to allow establishments to sell back their alcohol stock.
- Elective and unnecessary surgeries are now suspended.
- In-person meeting requirements for public officials have been waived.
- DeSantis stated they are working on relaxing the rules around reemployment assistance to make relief easier to access and more immediate.
- One assisted living facility in Broward County has seven tested positive cases, two of which have died, and six more tests are pending.
- On March 18:
- Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the state has distributed 2,500 test kits which can perform over 600,000 tests, but that there is a shortage of swabs and personal protective equipment. The governor has requested federal assistance for these supplies.
- There are confirmed cases of community spread in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. The state is working to identify those who are asymptomatic.
- Mobile testing sites are set to be open and operating by the end of the week, according to Gov. DeSantis. There are 17 locations currently in operation or opening soon: Tallahassee, Villages, Ocala, Tampa, Jacksonville, Stuart, West Palm Beach, Miami, Florida Keys, Pensacola, New Port Ritchey, and more to come.
- 19 nursing home facilities have a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19. Gov. DeSantis said they cannot test every resident in those 19 facilities.
- Daycares across the state remain open. Public health officials have not asked the governor to close daycares as some parents are still working and are unable to supervise young children during work hours.
- Bans on Florida nursing home visitations are extended under further notice.
- COVID-19 test kits to accommodate up to 625,000 patients have been ordered by the Florida Department of Health.
- At least two Florida football stadium facilities — including the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Miami Dolphins — will be mobilized by the Department of Health for overflow COVID-19 testing and management.
- Scott Rivkees, Florida’s Surgeon General, said the vast majority of Florida COVID-19 cases are related to international travel; He called for recent travelers in Florida to self-quarantine for 14 days before practicing social distancing.
- On March 15, Gov. Ron DeSantis wrote a letter requesting the release of 61 Florida residents from an air reserve base in Georgia who were previously aboard the Grand Princess cruise in California. All but 15 returned to Florida on Monday afternoon, March 16.
- On March 20:
- On March 19, Publix announced in a Facebook post that the company will be designating Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, 7 to 8 a.m., as senior shopping hours for customers age 65 and older. This change in hours will begin Tuesday, March 24, and continue until further notice. Publix Pharmacy will also be open at 7 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to serve the senior population.
- On March 18, the Florida Department of Corrections announced Florida prisons have temporarily stopped accepting new inmates in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
- On March 14, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) was granted federal waivers that allow public schools and community centers to provide free meals to students amid COVID-19 school closures. Ag. Commissioner Nikki Fried encouraged school districts to feed children in spite of school closures and activated her department’s statewide Summer BreakSpot program to provide additional meals.
- The Gainesville Chamber of Commerce Together page provides information on how the city is addressing COVID-19, including access to community and business resources, current policies and information on getting tested.
- On Friday, March 27, the City of Gainesville and Alachua County announced a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site for patients who have been referred by a physician, by appointment only.
- On Monday, March 23, Alachua County mandated an emergency “stay at home” order. Effective at midnight, the city and county decrees:
“Folks it is time to go home, and stay home,” said Alachua County Commissioner Robert Hutchinson.
- Non-essential business operations cease: Essential services, like grocery stores, medical facilities or banks, will remain open. As feasible, businesses may continue to work from home. Restaurants may continue to operate as take-out only services, as pursuant with Gov. DeSantis’ executive order on Friday.
- Prohibited activities: All public and private gatherings of any number of people outside of the home are prohibited. All gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited. Gatherings among members of a residence is allowed.
- Public places: All indoor and outdoors places of public assembly are closed, including but not limited to: parks, pools, movie theaters, museums and fraternal organizations.
- Reasons permissible to leave the home: Activities related to health, obtaining supplies or groceries, engaging in physical outdoor activity.
- Read the emergency declaration in its entirety here. Watch the emergency declaration here. If you have additional questions, tune into the Telephone Town Hall on Thursday, March 26.
- County offices are now closed to the public until March 30.
- On March 20, shortly after noon, Alachua County announced it now has 15 positive cases, and said more details will be forthcoming.
- On March 20, Alachua County announced a daycare center worker as its 12th positive case. Those exposed have been quarantined, and the center is closed for disinfection. According to the county, other daycares have not been affected.
- Audio from the city’s Telephone Town Hall on March 18 is now available.
- The 311 Critical Information Line is now being staffed by live operators. If you have questions or need information, you can call the line 24/7.
- On March 19, Alachua County reported four new positive COVID-19 cases, increasing the number of the county’s positive cases to 11. The cases are: A 27-year-old female who had recently traveled to the Dominican Republic; a 42-year-old female with an ongoing investigation into how she contracted the disease; a 51-year-old male who had traveled to the Bahamas; and a 39-year-old female who is a Georgia resident.
- The City of Gainesville’s Regional Transportation System will implement additional changes to bus routes beginning Monday, March 23.
- On March 18, Gainesville City Manager Lee Feldman announced an emergency order that City Hall and other city facilities will be closed to the public until further notice. Exceptions include the Gainesville Police Department lobby, Gainesville Regional Utilities’ main lobby and certain parks and public restrooms. For more information, visit the city’s COVID-19 FAQs page.
- On March 18, the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce has provided a sign for businesses to inform customers of the restrictions in place, is encouraging restaurants to expand take-out and delivery services and will continue to operate digitally.
- On March 18, the City of Gainesville invites citizens to tune into a Telephone Town Hall at 6:45 p.m. with Mayor Lauren Poe. Register here.
- On March 17, Alachua County’s communications office confirmed that there are six total positive COVID-19 cases in Alachua County. All cases are travel related, and there is no confirmation of community transmission.
- On March 16, Mayor Lauren Poe declared a state of pandemic emergency for the City of Gainesville after conducting an emergency special commission meeting on COVID-19. Shortly after, Alachua County Commission Chair Robert Hutchinson declared a countywide state of emergency. The following motions were passed by Gainesville leaders:
- Gainesville City Manager Lee Feldman capped all non-essential indoor and outdoor public assemblies to a 50-person occupancy or 50% of its existing capacity, including Gainesville Regional Transit System buses. Effective March 16, all public parks, gymnasiums, pools and buildings closed until further notice, excluding open-air facilities like Depot Park. Feldman also plans to limit Gainesville restaurants and bars to table-only seating, prohibiting all standing and barstool space. Hours of operation for affected businesses will be enforced as 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., strictly enforced by a “two-prong approach” composed of Gainesville Fire Rescue and Gainesville Police Department. The possibility of a citywide curfew was also debated.
- Gainesville Regional Utilities general manager Ed Bielarski is working to ensure residents’ utility service amid the crisis. One possibility is to house GRU workers at the water facility, or “reverse quarantine” them. He reminds citizens that emergency situations — like gas leaks — still warrant emergency response and that they should contact GRU immediately. Community members looking to aid neighbors in paying their utility bills amid the crisis can donate through Project SHARE.
- Emergency polling location changes are available here. About 100 elderly volunteer poll workers dropped out in fear of contracting COVID-19; If you are previously trained and willing to volunteer, contact the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton at (352) 374-5252.
- Alachua County first responders will be among those prioritized for COVID-19 testing once tests become available, according to Gainesville Fire Rescue Chief Jeff Lane.
- Jon DeCarmine, executive director of GRACE Marketplace, raised unanswered questions about the homeless populations facing COVID-19. The most dire of which begs: How do homeless populations self-isolate without quarantine facilities? He called for citywide public restrooms to remain open for sanitation purposes and $50,000 in monthly public aid to offset suspended volunteer programs.
- Gainesville Commissioner At-Large, Gail Johnson, called for the temporary withholding of eviction notices and a public declaration mandating temporary immunity to immigrants without citizenship in attempts to be tested for COVID-19 at local hospitals.
- On March 13, Gainesville Regional Utilities announced it is suspending all service disconnections for at least 30 days.
- On March 11, Alachua County had its first positive case of COVID-19. The 68-year-old woman of Georgia is currently in the county and is isolated.
University of Florida
University of Florida COVID-19 cases are updated once a day on its website.
- On April 8, UF announced two new positive cases, bringing its total to 32.
- On April 7, UF announced Summer B classes have been moved online as well. The timeline of important dates and deadlines has been adjusted accordingly and sent to students via email.
- On March 23, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a drive-thru testing site in partnership with UF Health that will become available, an effort to test residents of The Villages for COVID-19. Both cars and golf carts will be allowed to drive through for testing. Appointments can be scheduled here.
- Adding to Fla. total number of cases, UF has seven student COVID-19 cases.
- On March 19, UF Director of Commencements Stephanie McBride sent an email to Spring 2020 graduates announcing the rescheduling of commencements for the weekend of July 31 to August 2. The email included a student survey on whether or not they’d be interested in attending.
- On March 17, the State University System announced on-campus commencement ceremonies will not be held at Florida public universities in May. Each university has been directed to develop its own alternate schedule or method of delivery, according to the memo.
- On March 17, UF Provost Joe Glover and Vice President D’Andra Mull announced UF will be online for Summer A/C, classes for the first half of the summer semester and the whole semester.
- On March 17, in response to four UF students testing positive for COVID-19, the university announced that all classes will remain online for the remainder of the Spring semester.
- On March 16, Gainesville city leaders said they are reaching out to the UF Panhellenic Council to enforce prohibition of St. Patrick’s Day celebratory gatherings after rumors of brimming college bars and apartment pools were raised at an emergency city commission meeting on Monday. Gainesville City Manager Lee Feldman said he also working closely with University of Florida officials to ensure students partake in the 2020 Census.
- On March 16, UF President Kent Fuchs canceled all non-essential university travel and recommended personal travel of students and faculty be minimized. He prohibited all on-campus visitors — other than those hosted by certain UF officials — and mandated all in-person events through March 30 be canceled or moved online when feasible.
- On March 12, Dance Marathon at the University of Florida announced it will no longer be hosting its main event on the weekend of March 28 to 29 in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The organization posted on Facebook stating with guidance from UF administration, the CDC and UF Health that “it would not be safe or responsible” to host the event as it traditionally exists.
- On March 11, the provost’s office said all classes must be moved online as soon as possible and no later than Monday, March 16. The University is encouraging all students to return to their homes until March 30, however, campus resources, including dining halls, will remain open for students who are unable to leave. Classes are continuing, the university remains open and students are expected to meet all course requirements.
- On March 11, Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey announced that beginning March 12 until at least March 30, all league athletic events will continue with no fan presence. Only essential game day personnel and player families will be allowed in venues. The scheduled Florida home events will continue to have broadcast and media coverage.
- University employees are expected to maintain their normal work schedule as campus will remain open and fully operational.
- Have questions about the virus in Gainesville or on the UF campus? UF’s COVID-19 frequently asked questions page may have the answers.
- Students and staff of UF have mixed reactions to the news of classes moving to online. Some are viewing it as a healthy precaution, and others feel that this is being taken far out of proportion.
Sante Fe College
Santa Fe College has a webpage dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
- All services and classes have moved online and all campus locations are off-limits until at least May 1, 2020, according to their website.
- On March 13, Santa Fe College announced it will begin moving classes online effective Monday, March 16 through at least March 30.
- On March 12, Santa Fe College announced its campus will remain open and operate normally at this time. Santa Fe’s emergency management team is meeting regularly and is preparing to move instruction online should the situation warrant it. The college also stated that any student, faculty or staff who traveled to China, South Korea, Italy, Iran or Japan will not be permitted on any Santa Fe campus and must self-quarantine for 14 days.
North Central Florida Public Schools
- On Monday, March 30, Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran announced the new target date for reopening schools is Monday, May 4.
- On March 17, school closures have been extended to April 15.
- Alachua County public schools are closed March 16 through March 27, in accordance with a statewide recommendation made by the Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. According to an ACPS press release, schools will extend spring break by a week and issue deep cleaning of the school grounds and buses before aiming to reopen on March 30.
- During school closures, packaged breakfast and lunch will continue to be administered for free to people under 18 years old at the following ACPS sites: all elementary schools; Howard Bishop Middle School; Buchholz, Gainesville, Eastside, Santa Fe, Newberry and Hawthorne high schools; and the SWAG Community Center, the Willie Mae Stokes Community Center in Micanopy and at the Waldo Town Center. Times and locations subject to change and are updated here.
- As of March 12, north central Florida public school districts did not have plans to close, but they are actively talking with health and education departments to create response plans.
- On Monday, March 30: The USNS Comfort arrived in New York, a 1,000-bed Navy ship is aimed to relieve hospitals overloaded with coronavirus patients. A FEMA spokeswoman announced additional funding for national tele-health and loosening restrictions to allow more medical providers to transition to virtual care.
“To every single American, please know that the sacrifice you are making at this time is saving lives. Many, many lives,” said President Donald Trump during a coronavirus task force briefing.
- On Wednesday, March 25: The Senate and the White House agreed to the largest U.S. fiscal stimulus package in modern history — roughly $2 trillion of direct payments and jobless benefits to individuals and money to states and business affected by the pandemic. It is still being finalized but expected to be enacted within days. President Donald Trump also considered loosening federal restrictions on coronavirus in the interest of the U.S. economy by Easter, on April 12.
- On Monday, March 23: President Donald Trump: Announced an FDA-approved possible treatment for the virus — a combination of hydroxychloroquine and Z-pack pharmaceuticals — to be distributed beginning at 10,000 units to New York early Tuesday morning, on March 24. He said 103 U.S. citizens were retrieved overnight from Brazil who were previously stranded aboard a cruise line. He also signed an executive order to criminalize the hoarding of “scarce” medical supplies, such as hand sanitizer, at an industrial level. The Department of Justice will work with the Human and Health Services (HHS) to identify and announce which items will be deemed as illegal to hoard or price gouge, according to Attorney General William Barr.
“We can’t let the cure become worse than the problem,” said President Trump.
- On March 22: President Trump activated the National Guard in three states and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., tested positive for the virus.
- On March 20: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced in a tweet that the deadline to file taxes has been extended to July 15. Additionally, homeowners who have lost employment or income due to the coronavirus should be eligible for reduced or suspended mortgage payments for up to 12 months. Foreclosures are also halted. Missed payments will not be reported to credit bureaus. Currently, this applies to loans guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but the entire mortgage industry is expected to adopt a similar policy soon. Homeowners should contact their lender to work out a payment plan.
- On March 19: A $300 billion emergency coronavirus relief package was unveiled for small businesses impacted by the pandemic. Additionally, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The act provides economic assistance to workers, families and businesses, establishes tax credits to provide paid sick and family leave for coronavirus-related employment interruptions, incentivizes states to ease access to unemployment benefits and provides free coronavirus diagnostic testing, regardless of health coverage or economic circumstances.
- On March 18: U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Loan assistance became available in Florida.
- The COVID Tracking Project collects information from 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and five other U.S. territories to provide the most comprehensive testing data collected for COVID-19.
- On March 18: the Department of Housing and Urban Development authorized the Federal Housing Administration to implement an immediate foreclosure and eviction moratorium for single family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages for the next 60 days.
- On March 17: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the IRS will waive interest and penalty charges for 90 days for Americans who owe up to $1 million in taxes. However tax-filing deadline remains April 15.
- Mnuchin also said White House officials are working with Congress to pass laws to provide direct economic relief within the next two weeks: “We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately.”
- On March 16: President Trump held a White House press conference issuing a 10-person occupancy guideline for all gatherings and hinted that the United States could be headed for recession.
- On March 15: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made an official recommendation to cancel large events and cap mass gathering to 50 people for the next 8 weeks.
- On March 13: President Trump declared a national emergency in light of the public health concern posed by COVID-19 in the United States. He urged all state and local governments to deploy their respective emergency operations.
- On March 11: the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. While the CDC considers the novel coronavirus a public health concern, the immediate health risk to the general U.S. public is considered low at this time. The CDC provides up-to-date information on the rapidly evolving global situation, including details on the source and spread of the virus, its severity and the center’s response:
- Everyone has a role to play in preventing the spread of respiratory illnesses in communities.
- The CDC keeps track of reported cases and effected states in the United States.
- The American Public Health Association is urging the public to read science-based information to combat false information.
- Of the seven coronaviruses that are known to cause disease in humans, three cause more severe, and sometimes fatal, infection — COVID-19, MERS and SARS. Merck Manuals breaks down the differences and similarities between the three, their symptoms, treatments and diagnoses.
- The American Journal of Public Health reports on the CDC’s promise to the nation that it will bring a new level of preparedness to the United States amid growing threats, eliminate specific diseases, and end the devastation of epidemics.
- Consumer Reports provides updates on the virus and shares advice on how to keep yourself safe, and the coronavirus FAQ page breaks down some common misconceptions.
- COVID-19: What You Might Need If You’re Quarantined at Home. Despite what you might see others doing, there’s no need to hoard supplies for an extended stay at home.
- How the Spread of Coronavirus Could Affect Your Travel Plans. As new cases continue to erupt worldwide, how can American travelers prepare?
- Beware of Products Touting False Coronavirus Claims. Regulators and watchdogs warn consumers of hucksters playing on fears to make profits.
- Taking a trip soon? American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have implemented proactive measures to ensure a healthy and safe flying experience. American and Delta are two of the major airlines that fly into and out of Gainesville Regional Airport.
- The World Health Organization provides guidance on how to prepare for and respond to a the most common scenarios of COVID-19 transmission.
- To disinfect surfaces, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency disclosed a list of cleaners — including Lysol and Clorox — that are proven to kill the COVID-19 virus.
- The American College of Emergency Physicians has created a list of FAQs for patients, policymakers and health professions to consider as the situation evolves.