The Point, March 19, 2020: Coronavirus: A Death In Tallahassee, Florida Congressman Tests Positive, Beaches Remain Mostly Open


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More of what you need to know about COVID-19 locally and statewide today: Alachua County Public Schools’ closures have been extended to April 15. No public university in Florida will have a public commencement in May. Nationally, 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.

• WUFT News: Gainesville City Leaders Host Telephone Town Hall Meeting To Address COVID-19 Questions. “Gainesville, like the rest of the United States, is currently in the prevention phase of the pandemic. The main goal by the end of March is to ensure that the least possible amount of people get infected and to “flatten the curve.” During the coming weeks, Poe said it is important to support health care professionals and to keep everyone healthy.”

• Gainesville Sun ($): Changes for shopping, eating, entertainment. “Here is more information on what these regulations mean for some popular attractions around Gainesville and Alachua County.”

• Citrus County Chronicle: School district finalizing homeschooling plan for extended closures; bus-delivered food discussed. “An extension of statewide school closures due to the coronavirus has the Citrus County School District thinking more longterm in how it will teach and care for its students at home.”

• The Alligator: Wednesday COVID-19 updates: New county case; classes offered as pass or fail; UF helping The Villages. Alachua County now has seven reported cases of COVID-19, the Florida Department of Health announced this afternoon. The newest patient, a Florida resident, is a 50-year-old woman with a travel history to The Bahamas, according to the department’s daily report. As of today, the county has three non-resident and four resident cases.”

• WCJB: Gainesville City Manager orders City Hall and other city facilities to be closed to the public. Starting Wednesday at 5 p.m. City Hall and other city facilities will be closed to the public until further notice. According to the press release, the exceptions include the Gainesville Police Department lobby, Gainesville Regional Utilities’ main lobby, and certain parks and public restrooms.”

• WKMG: INTERACTIVE MAP: Here’s where to get your drive-thru coronavirus test. There is one major caveat: health officials are pleading that residents do not just show up to testing sites and flood medical professionals. Premier Medical Associates has set up two testing sites in Central Florida, one in Ocala and one in the Villages.”

• Gainesville Sun ($): RTS bus hits pedestrian crossing 34th Street. “An RTS bus on Tuesday evening hit a pedestrian crossing the street where there was no crosswalk. The pedestrian, who sustained serious injuries, was immediately taken to UF Health Shands Hospital, said Sgt. Lisa Scott of the Gainesville Police Department.”

• WUFT News: Gainesville Fire Rescue, Firefighters Working To Address First Responder Suicide Rate. “The bill will establish a First Responders Suicide Deterrence Task Force to recommend changes to reduce the incidence of suicide and attempted suicide. The task force is composed of representatives from first responder organizations like the Florida Professional Firefighters’ Association, Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association and Florida State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.”

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Around the state today

• Miami Herald: Miami’s Mario Diaz-Balart is first member of Congress to test positive for coronavirus. “Diaz-Balart self-isolated after consulting a doctor out of caution for his wife, so he could either avoid jeopardizing her health if he came down with symptoms or return home after 14 days if he showed no symptoms. Given the large number of people he’d come into contact with as a result of his work as a congressman, Diaz-Balart was told by his doctor it would be best to stay in Washington.”

• Tallahassee Democrat: Coronavirus reaches Leon County: Tallahassee hospitals confirm first three cases, death. “Local hospital officials announced three coronavirus cases and the first death in Leon County on Wednesday night as the number of Floridians infected by the virus continues to climb.”

• Tampa Bay Times: Florida agency won’t say how it will close bars, clubs that defy DeSantis’ order. “(Gov. Ron) DeSantis on Tuesday closed all bars and nightclubs for the next 30 days. The governor’s office did not provide details on whether businesses that don’t comply will face fines or other penalties. Specifically, the executive order stated that any business that makes over half its revenue from alcohol sales can no longer sell drinks for the next 30 days.”

• Tallahassee Democrat ($): Despite coronavirus fears, mass gathering of lawmakers set for Florida’s Capitol. “What may be among the last mass-gatherings in Florida for the foreseeable future is set to take place Thursday at the state Capitol, with lawmakers defying federal coronavirus guidelines and convening to approve a $93.2 billion budget.”

• New York Times: A Deadly Coronavirus Mix in Florida: An Aging Population and Lots of Young Visitors. “Whole swaths of the state have yet to begin robust testing, according to State Department of Health data. And even as some of the beaches still swarmed with college revelers, the state refused to close them.”

• Florida Politics: State short-handed on swabs, coronavirus testing supplies. “A swab order from a week and a half ago has yet been fulfilled, meaning the ability to collect samples is less than the ability to test results. The Governor has asked Division of Emergency Management (DEM) Director Jared Moskowitz to gather the supplies needed to explode testing capabilities.”

• WUSF: Clearwater Will Close Beaches Due to Coronavirus, Beginning March 23. “Clearwater Beach is one of the only beaches in Florida that stays open 24 hours. It is a popular spot for spring breakers, with as many as 30,000 people visiting daily.”

• Daytona Beach News-Journal: Coronavirus closes some Volusia beach ramps as thousands flock to the sands. “A day earlier, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was mandating new rules for bars and restaurants, Volusia County leaders unanimously chose to keep the beaches open, a decision both praised and criticized.”

• WTSP: 3 Daughters Brewing starts bottling hand sanitizer to help people during the COVID-19 outbreak. “In response to the outbreak, 3 Daughters Brewing has begun bottling 4-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer. And, it plans to make them available to patrons for free beginning Thursday.”

• Miami Herald: Florida hired 100 disease detectives in a weekend. Here’s how that happened. “In an unprecedented gathering of resources, the state has recruited 100 professors and students from five universities to help the state understand the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, and how it’s spreading.”

• WFSU: How Government Is Working To Keep Coronavirus Out Of The Criminal Justice System. “Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil says his department is working to create more space inside their detention centers to comply with social distancing recommendations. That could involve releasing some inmates and using more discretion when it comes to booking new ones.”

• Palm Beach Post ($): El Niño may skip hurricane season: Why that’s not good news for Floridians. “Early climate signals are raising red flags that El Niño will be a no-show this hurricane season, a bad sign for storm-weary states that have suffered four consecutive years of above normal activity.”

From NPR News

• National: Immigration Grinds To A Halt As President Trump Shuts Borders

• National: Census Delays Field Operations Due To Coronavirus

• World: Iran Releases 85,000 Prisoners But Not Siamak Namazi

• World: EU Locks Down Borders To Try To Slow Spread Of COVID-19

• Politics: What’s Next For The Democratic Primary After Biden Consolidates Lead

• Science: Advice From France To Avoid Ibuprofen For COVID-19 Leaves Experts Baffled

• Business: Jobless Claims Spike Throughout Country As Coronavirus Pauses Business

• Health: A Potential COVID-19 Vaccine Begins Clinical Trial

• Books: Electoral College ‘Not Carved In Stone:’ Author Advocates Rethinking How We Vote

About Blake Trauschke

Blake is a student reporter for WUFT and can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing

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