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The Point, April 16, 2020: Gov. Ron DeSantis Announces First Tentative Step In Reopening State

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On Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a press conference Wednesday he is preparing for the next steps in reopening the state and how the state will be using coronavirus relief money for education. (WUFT News)

• WUFT News: From The Front Lines Podcast. "Kristen Griffis, executive director of Elder Options, speaks about how her organization is using its helpline to provide groceries, access to health care, and more for seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic."

• Gainesville Sun: 12 cases of COVID-19 at UF’s Oak Hammock. "Spokeswoman Nickie Doria gave The Sun a written statement that said the cases include six residents and six staff members in the unit, which has 24 spots."

• Gainesville Sun: State will use National Guard to help test at nursing homes. "As Clay County and Suwannee County deal with escalating COVID-19 cases at long-term care facilities, Gov. Ron DeSantis is deploying the Florida National Guard to help with testing at facilities around the state to identify residents and staff who are infected but not showing symptoms."

• WUFT News: How Gainesville Churches, Food Banks Are Trying To Fill Needs During The Coronavirus Crisis. "The coronavirus crisis has left many people without jobs, putting people in financially stressful situations and creating a higher demand for local food banks."

• Ocala Star-Banner: Payroll protection loans start rolling into Ocala. "Ocala-based HDG Hotels was among the first businesses to receive the initial wave of Paycheck Protection Program loan funding this week. The program, part of the federal CARES Act, helps businesses cover employee salaries during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program has $350 billion available to loan, and the government is seeking at least $200 billion more."

• WUFT News: Gainesville Charter Review Commission Holds First Hearing — Virtually. "Some of the most discussed amendments included a proposal to revise the term limits of city commissioners; one to increase salaries for the City Commission; and one to increase signature requirements for voter-initiated charter amendments from 10 to 20%."

• Gainesville Sun: County’s 311 line not working. "The county’s 311 Critical Information line has been having technical difficulties the last 24 hours or so, county spokesman Mark Sexton said. Until AT&T has fixed the issue, county officials have set up a new line for callers: 352-264-6557."

• WJCT: UF Health Launches COVID-19 Study On Loss Of Taste, Smell. "The University of Florida’s Center for Smell and Taste is conducting a study on these symptoms that starts on Wednesday, April 15. Patients who have been tested for coronavirus at a UF Health site, regardless of their test results, are eligible to apply." 

• Florida Politics: Go Gators: Ashley Moody, Emmitt Smith team up in COVID-19 fight. "Legendary Gators running back Emmitt Smith teamed up with Attorney General Ashley Moody to stiff-arm scammers and remind Sunshine State residents to continue to socially distance."

• Suwannee Democrat: Crime rate increases in Live Oak, Suwannee County. "According to the Uniform Crime Reports released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Friday, there were 804 offenses in the county in 2019, a 10.9% increase from 2018, when there were 725 offenses."

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Around the state today

• News Service of Florida: First Florida inmates die of COVID-19. "Florida Department of Corrections officials have kept the inmate fatalities at Blackwater River Correctional Facility secret for nearly a week, despite numerous questions from The News Service of Florida about deaths at the Santa Rosa County prison."

• Florida Phoenix: Nearly in ruin, FL oranges rebound during pandemic as consumers recall immunity-boosting powers. "Sales of classic Florida orange juice, rich in immunity-boosting Vitamin C, skyrocketed in March, up 40 percent in a recent four-week period over the same period a year ago. The very crop crippled by a disease called citrus greening is getting a new lease on life because it helps resist another disease: coronavirus."

• Miami Herald: ICE refuses to say if its contractors have COVID-19. A federal judge just ordered it to. "The court order was issued Tuesday night following a Miami Herald story that revealed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not consider its contractors ICE “staff,” and that the agency said it had no obligation to include them on its website detailing how many employees at its detention centers nationwide had contracted the virus." 

• WUSF: Threatened Shorebirds Could Benefit From Beach Closures During Nesting Season. "Typically birds like least terns, American oystercatchers and black skimmers have to share beaches with hordes of beachgoers as they lay their eggs on bare sand or in shelly areas. Dwindling nesting habitat for these birds has affected their numbers and caused state wildlife officials to consider them threatened. But this year, they’ve had a lot more real estate."

• Miami Herald: Trump resort in Doral lays off or furloughs 560 workers during coronavirus shutdown. "The multi-course golf resort and hotel closed March 23 under orders that also closed all Miami-Dade County hotels and motels because of the coronavirus crisis. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification filed March 30 by Trump Miami Resorts Management LLC specifies that the layoffs include 123 servers, 43 housekeepers, and 25 cooks."

• New York Times: Florida Inmate Released Amid Pandemic Killed Someone the Next Day, Officials Say. "The case could reignite criticism from some law enforcement officials and prosecutors who had warned that releasing inmates as a public health response to the virus could jeopardize public safety."

• Sarasota Herald-Tribune: DeSantis tells state to speed up I-75 widening. "Reduction in traffic because of COVID-19 would allow the Florida Department of Transporation to expedite transportation improvements on the interstate."

• News Service of Florida: State works with Disney to speed up jobless claims. "While complaints continue to roll in about busy phones and the online system crashing while people try to file unemployment claims, DeSantis said the state might be able to download the information about Disney workers late at night, when the system is less active."

• St. Augustine Record: Despite state order, people complain about vacation rental activity in St. Johns County. "A couple of residents called in during Tuesday’s St. Johns County Commission meeting to tell commissioners that people are still checking into vacation rentals in their areas. One of the callers was from St. Augustine Beach, and the other lives on the coast about two miles south of St. Augustine Beach."

From NPR News

• National: 'As Dangerous As It Sounds': Reactions To U.S. Plan To Defund WHO During A Pandemic

• National: For Centenarian Survivor Of 1918 Flu Pandemic, Coronavirus Is Just Another 'Problem'

• World: Emirates Airline Begins Conducting Rapid COVID-19 Tests For Boarding Passengers

• World: 'We Alerted The World' To Coronavirus On Jan. 5, WHO Says In Response To U.S.

• Politics: Trump Call To Governors Will Talk About Path To Reopening The U.S.

• Politics: RNC Delegates Could Wear Masks, Practice Social Distancing During Convention

• Business: Amid Historic Oil Bust, Texas Debates The Once Unthinkable: Keep It In The Ground

• Race: The Way The U.S. Census Tracks Race Has Changed Over Time

Blake is a student reporter for WUFT and can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.