Florida's COVID-19 Death Toll Hits 35,000

Apr 16, 2021

The Florida Department of Health reported Friday that 7,296 people tested positive for COVID-19, which brought the seven-day total to more than 38,000 cases.

That's roughly 4,000 more cases than last week's total.

The greater Tampa Bay region recorded 1,607 cases on Friday, with 9,700 reported over the past week.

Nearly 130,000 coronavirus tests were returned on Thursday and the positivity rate for new cases was 6.8%. The state averaged a positivity rate of 7.38% for the week.

Associated Press file photo

The Mayo Clinic has put together a Q&A about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) joint recommendation to pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after reported cases of rare blood clotting events in recipients.

Florida has put a halt to the administration of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines after the CDC and the FDA recommended a “pause” as they investigate reports of very rare, but potentially dangerous blood clots.

A syringe is filled with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
Mary Altaffer / Associated Press

Editor's Note:  Tuesday morning, following this story's Monday publication, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said they are recommending a "pause" in the use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine out of an "abundance of caution" while an investigation is conducted into reports of apparently rare, potentially dangerous blood clots.

Original Post: Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines will be available at several pop-up sites around Northeast Florida this week, starting Tuesday at Lutheran Social Services in Jacksonville.

In this Saturday, April 18, 2020 photo, mortician Cordarial O. Holloway, foreground left, funeral director Robert L. Albritten, foreground right, place a casket into a hearse in Dawson, Ga.
Brynn Anderson / Associated Press

People whose loved ones have died from COVID-19 can get the federal government to help pay for a funeral.

Fla. Waives Standardized Student Testing Rules For Promotion, Graduation Due To COVID

Apr 9, 2021
News Service of Florida

Answering the question of how the state would handle standardized testing this year, the Florida Department of Education issued an emergency order Friday waiving accountability measures tied to state exams. 

JTA First Coast Flyer bus
John Burr / WJCT contributor

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is offering free 1-day passes to anyone who wants a ride to a COVID-19 vaccination site in Jacksonville.

DeSantis Says Florida Suing Federal Government, Wants Cruises To Resume

Apr 9, 2021

Arguing that the state is at risk of losing billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody on Thursday filed a lawsuit against federal health officials for sidelining the cruise industry.

A syringe is filled with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
Mary Altaffer / Associated Press

Beginning Tuesday, Florida’s federally supported COVID-19 vaccination sites will provide only the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shots.

The vaccination center at Regency Square mall is pictured Monday.
Michelle Corum/WJCT News

Opening up vaccinations to every Floridian age 16 and above on Monday prompted long lines in some parts of the state, but not at Jacksonville’s largest site: the Gateway Town Center.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken away the protection of many safety nets for millions of Americans -- with children particularly affected.

Places that are typically easily accessible for children to be cared for, such as schools, neighborhoods, family gatherings, and other public places are less of an option, leaving compromised children even more vulnerable.

DeSantis Issues Executive Order Blocking COVID 'Passports'

Apr 2, 2021
News Service of Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday issued an executive order barring government agencies from issuing COVID-19 “passports” and preventing Florida businesses from requiring customers to show documentation that they have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 before gaining entrance.

A large supply of COVID-19 vaccines from the federal government is expected to arrive in Florida next week.

It comes at the same time vaccine eligibility will be extended to those 18 and older, as well as teens who have parental consent.

However, there is a question as to whether the increased availability will be taken advantage of.

Florida is days away from expanding COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to adults of all ages and some teenagers. But months into rollout, there are still some hesitant to get shots.

Misinformation spread on social media and through word-of-mouth is partly to blame.

Health News Florida's Stephanie Colombini sifts through some popular vaccine myths with Dr. Kevin Sneed, dean of the University of South Florida's Taneja College of Pharmacy, to get the facts.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured.
Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

St. Johns County announced Wednesday it is now accepting COVID-19 vaccination appointment preregistrations for Florida residents age 16 years and older to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Clay County Fair Returns To Northeast Florida

Mar 30, 2021
A child leads a cow at the Clay County Fair.
Clay County Fair

After missing a year because of the coronavirus, the Clay County Agricultural Fair is back, with new safety precautions. 

Masks will continue to be required at the Florida Theatre for the foreseeable future.
Florida Theatre

Now that Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has lifted Duval County’s mask mandate, the question becomes: what’s next?

Regency Square mall vaccination site
Sydney Boles / WJCT News

People who are 40 and older are now eligible for the coronavirus vaccine in Florida, and at Jacksonville’s two major vaccination sites, the lines were short when WJCT News stopped by  and people’s spirits were high. 

The Carnival Ecstasy is pictured docked at the JAXPORT Cruise Terminal in March 2020.
Bill Bortzfield / WJCT News

Florida is considering legal avenues to challenge federal guidelines that keep passenger cruise ships from sailing because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as efforts continue to convince the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to lift restrictions. Jacksonville is among the Florida cities where cruises have been halted since the pandemic.

Downtown Jacksonville skyline file photo.

Nearly $29 million in federal money will be distributed by the city of Jacksonville to help Duval County residents who may have been unable to pay their rent or utility bills due to a loss of income related to COVID-19.

Via Jacksonville Daily Record

The city issued a permit for construction of a Walmart Health clinic at the retailer’s Southwest Jacksonville Supercenter in Collins Plaza.


Presale tickets went on sale Thursday for an April 24 Ultimate Fighting Championship event that’s scheduled to be the first large-scale full-capacity sporting event planned in Jacksonville since the pandemic began. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis is pictured announcing new COVID-19 vaccination guidelines.
Gov. Ron DeSantis' office

Beginning Monday, March 29, everyone age 40 and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida.

Emergency Fund Pitched For Governor's Office

Mar 24, 2021

A new pool of money for emergencies, separate from the state’s traditional "rainy day" funds, would be created in the governor’s office under a pandemic relief measure approved Tuesday by a Senate committee.

Gov. Ron DeSantis brought his COVID-19 vaccination update to Pensacola Tuesday morning, reminding the Panhandle that the shots are now available to everyone over the age of 50.

“Most of the Panhandle counties are about two-thirds of the seniors – some of them more – that have gotten shots,” said DeSantis. “Obviously this is open to 50-plus, but we hope there will be more remaining seniors come here.”

Krispy Kreme will give customers that show a valid COVID vaccination card a free glazed donut.
Business Wire

Krispy Kreme, which has four Jacksonville donut shop locations, has rolled out a tasty incentive for people to get their COVID-19 vaccines.

Vice President Kamala Harris, left, receives a vaccination center tour from FEMA's Gracie Szchech Monday, as Jacksonville Lenny Curry, left, and Rep. Al Lawson, fourth from left, look on.
Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press

Vice President Kamala Harris visited Jacksonville Monday afternoon.

Harris departed Washington, D.C., landing at Jacksonville International Airport at 1:39 p.m., according to the White House. 

Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press

Coronavirus vaccines are now open to everyone age 50 and up in Florida, but a University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville doctor would like to see that number dropped down to age 16.

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine has been difficult for many in Florida. But the visually impaired have several additional hurdles that sighted people don’t.

Maggie Saldana of Naples is legally blind. She calls the process to get a vaccine appointment online “long and hopeless.”

“Because I am legally blind, the computer is not my friend,” Saldana said.

Saldana said that the Publix website is not compatible with the screen reader she uses to make websites accessible.

Like many people, she recruited family members to help.

For anyone looking forward to the annual frivolity of spring break or the diversion offered every year by March Madness, the coronavirus pandemic is once again reminding: not so fast.