USF To Fully Reopen This Fall

Mar 5, 2021

The University of South Florida is preparing to fully return to “pre-COVID” operations this fall.

President Steven Currall announced Wednesday that USF will see a transition through the summer where the number of in-person classes and student activities will significantly increase.

Vaccinations Expand To All Florida Teachers, Per Biden Directive

Mar 5, 2021
The federally run COVID-19 vaccination center is pictured at the Gateway Town Center.
Sydney Boles / WJCT News

Florida teachers of all ages are eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, under a directive issued by President Joe Biden’s administration.

No Age Restriction For Teachers To Be Vaccinated At Gateway

Mar 5, 2021

After some mixed messages Thursday that led to some confusion for younger teachers, the deputy director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management cleared the air and said the federally supported site at the Gateway Town Center that opened Wednesday will be complying with the federal directive - meaning teachers and school employees of all ages can get COVID-19 vaccines there.

Vaccine distribution and cracking down on protests are among the issues facing Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office and the Legislature on Thursday.

As the governor travels the state boasting of Florida’s “seniors-first” policy, Democratic leaders are calling for investigations into the allocation of coveted COVID-19 vaccinations Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is asking for an FBI investigation into the issue.

Florida Democrats rolled out a comprehensive package of COVID-19 protections Thursday. They would affect workers, parents, school children, business owners and the victims of the deadly virus.

House Democrats are pushing what they call meaningful COVID relief and a solid plan for the next pandemic. Their 69-page proposal is largely the work of a young freshman, Rep. Andrew Learned, a military officer and father of twins who runs a tutoring center near Tampa.

"There is something in this bill for all Floridians," Learned said.

Marta Lavandier / Associated Press

The Diocese of St. Augustine has posted guidance on its website from leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops suggesting Catholics steer clear of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine if the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna alternatives are available, citing moral concerns about the vaccine’s development.

Before the Super Bowl, public health officials expressed concerns that crowds in and around Raymond James Stadium could lead to a large spike in new coronavirus cases.

A report released Wednesday by the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County says that didn't happen.

Legislation to help remedy some of the issues that arose during the pandemic are getting priority in the regular session.

“Over the next 60 days, we will address lessons learned throughout this pandemic,” said state Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Spring Hill) in his opening address, in which he also acknowledged the struggles many residents have endured during the pandemic. “It is their sacrifices which gives us motivation to make the most out of this legislative session.”

The state on Wednesday reported another 6,014 people tested positive for the coronavirus since Tuesday’s report as hospitalizations continue to decline.

As of Wednesday, the state reported 3,597 people are being treated at hospitals in Florida with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19.

That's down 77 from Tuesday, and a level the state hasn't been at since late November.

The home of the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.
Bill Bortzfield / WJCT News

Opening day for the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp is getting pushed back a month due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sydney Boles / WJCT News

A federally run COVID-19 vaccination site opened Wednesday at Gateway Town Center on the Northside. The site is operated by FEMA, but the shots are being administered by 139 military personnel, many of them from Naval Hospital Jacksonville.

The American flag is flown at half-staff in front of Vero Beach Fire Station 2, honoring Vero Beach Battalion Chief David Dangerfield in this 2016 file photo. Wednesday flags will be lowered across Florida in honor of those lost to the pandemic.
Alan Diaz / Associated Press

The U.S. and the state flag will be flown at half-staff across Florida Wednesday in remembrance of all those who have died of the coronavirus during the past year.

DeSantis: Vaccinations Expanding For Police, Firefighters, Teachers

Mar 1, 2021

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday he will expand COVID-19 vaccinations to law-enforcement officers, firefighters and K-12 teachers who are age 50 or older.

Panama City Beach is limiting the number of people who may gather on the sand during spring break.

Parties and concerts taking place on the sandy shoreline in March must limit attendance to 125 people. Those who violate the policy could lose their special events permit and get shut down.

The beach crowd size limit is the only pandemic-related restriction that the city has in place at the start of the busy tourism month. The city has not adopted maximum indoor capacity limits or mask requirements.

DeSantis Order Allows Vaccines For ‘Vulnerable’ Floridians

Mar 1, 2021

After focusing almost exclusively since December on vaccinating seniors, Gov. Ron DeSantis has cleared the way for more people under age 65 to receive shots if they are “extremely vulnerable” to COVID-19.

DeSantis issued an executive order late Friday afternoon that allows physicians to vaccinate people who are deemed “extremely vulnerable” to the disease. The executive order also will allow advanced practice registered nurses and pharmacists to provide shots to such people if physicians determine that the recipients are extremely vulnerable.

Dozens Turned Away From Edward Waters College Vaccination Site

Feb 26, 2021

Scores of people who made appointments to get the COVID-19 vaccine at the new Edward Waters College community site Friday morning were turned away because they had been allowed to preregister even though they didn’t meet the qualifications.

People wait in line to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center at Jackson Hospital, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, in Miami.

With so much riding on the successful distribution of the coronavirus vaccine, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Florida Department of Health say their policy is to do everything possible to prevent any vaccine doses from going to waste. That sometimes means vaccinating people who don’t meet current eligibility requirements. 

Lawsuit Protections Weighed For Florida's Long-Term Facilities

Feb 26, 2021
Marta Lavandier / Associated Press

The Republican-led Legislature has promised to fast-track legislation to protect Florida businesses from COVID-19 lawsuits, but shielding the state’s long-term care industry at the same time is proving thorny.

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) sails in the Mediterranean Sea, Aug. 26, 2020.
Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Indra Beaufort / U.S. Navy photo

COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported aboard two Navy ships, including the Mayport-based USS Philippine Sea, which is at sea.

In an attempt to make traveling by plane during the pandemic safer Florida Senator Rick Scott is proposing that temperature checks be required at TSA screenings for all travelers.

Florida will start to see a surge in COVID-19 vaccine supply in the coming weeks, Governor Ron DeSantis said on Wednesday.

Speaking in Brooksville at another pop-up vaccination site, DeSantis said he expects Floridians to have access to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by this weekend or next week.

The vaccine was found to be safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration Wednesday and is expected to be authorized for use as soon as this weekend.

St. Augustine's City Hall is pictured during Nights of Lights.

The St. Augustine City Commission voted Tuesday to begin allowing public gatherings starting this spring. Events are slated to include arts shows, athletic events and music festivals. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis, center, speaks during a news conference, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, at a Navarro Discount Pharmacy in Hialeah, Fla.

Marking a significant change in Florida’s vaccination strategy, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday said teachers and law enforcement officers ages 50 and older will have access to COVID-19 vaccine doses in the coming days as four federally supported vaccination sites open in the state.


St. Johns County launched a new COVID-19 vaccination appointment preregistration system on Monday, replacing the earlier Eventbrite system.

Rep. Al Lawson file photo

A new federal COVID-19 community vaccination site at the Gateway Town Center will open on March 1.  It’s a partnership between FEMA and the Biden Administration and will be for residents 65 and up or healthcare workers. 

Two Florida women disguised themselves as elderly grandmothers in an unsuccessful attempt to get their second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, officials said Thursday.

Sarasota city commissioners voted on Thursday to formally drop a mandatory mask ordinance.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports three of the five members of the commission voted to stop extending the emergency order, effective next Thursday.

Shutdown On COVID-19 Measures Sparks 'Fireworks' In Florida House

Feb 18, 2021

A rush by Florida Republicans to shield businesses from lawsuits linked to COVID-19 is sparking growing rancor with Democrats, as House leaders used procedural moves to cut off debate and sideline attempts to change the high-profile legislation.

The House’s version of the legislation was muscled through its final committee Tuesday night, ensuring it could become one of the first measures passed during the legislative session that will start March 2.

People in Florida jockeying for COVID-19 vaccination appointments are being warned by county and state officials that scammers have wormed their way in, seeking to take their money and personal information.

In short, if you’re being asked to pay for an appointment, it’s a scam.

Florida State Attorney General Ashley Moody warned that scammers hiding behind seemingly legitimate booking websites may call, text or email, offering a swifter vaccine appointment that comes at personal cost.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis faced questions Wednesday morning about a new COVID-19 vaccination distribution site in an upscale Manatee County neighborhood.

Reporters asked if the decision to implement an exclusive vaccine clinic in Lakewood Ranch had anything to do with individuals from the area who donated to his campaign.

DeSantis didn’t say whether or not the decision was political. Instead, he stressed that the senior citizens who live there were the reason behind the move.