Coronavirus

Criminal Stalking Case Against Fired Fla. Health Data Scientist To Drag Into August

Jul 23, 2020
Rebekah Jones is pictured on MSNBC.
MSNBC / Via Fresh Take Florida

A misdemeanor criminal stalking case against the self-described whistleblower at the center of a politically charged dispute over Florida’s COVID-19 disclosures will continue into August, a circuit judge in Tallahassee ruled Wednesday.

Florida's Mini Lobster Season Still On Amid COVID-19 Concerns

Jul 23, 2020
Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rejected a request Wednesday to cancel the upcoming mini lobster season over concerns about crowds spreading COVID-19.

As school districts in Florida gear up to open brick and mortar campuses in the fall, Governor Ron DeSantis says he’s supporting choice for parents and students.

The state Department of Education’s emergency order calls for in-person instruction to be made available for the coming school year, unless local or state health departments say otherwise. But it also allows districts to get funding for students who opt for distance learning.

Evan Dvorkin / https://unsplash.com/@evphotocinema

One group that’s been hit particularly hard by the pandemic are Florida’s craft beer brewers.

Surge In Florida Inmate COVID-19 Cases Spurs Calls For Help

Jul 22, 2020
Chris Carlson / Associated Press

Inside a sweltering prison in rural North Florida, the mass testing of hundreds of inmates began nearly two weeks ago on a Saturday, as corrections workers tried to sort and quarantine prisoners with symptoms of COVID-19.

The NFL’s Player’s Association and team executives agreed to eliminate all four preseason games due to unnecessary travel for exhibitions.

Despite reports of ICU beds filling up in some hospitals, Governor Ron DeSantis says Florida’s Healthcare system is in good shape.

“You’ve heard different things about no ICU beds here or there, and I think it’s important to kind of explain how some of this works. So the big picture item is this morning’s census is that statewide 24% of the hospital beds in the state of Florida are empty," DeSantis said. "That’s over 14,000 hospital beds and about 20% of the ICU beds are empty and that’s over 1,000 ICU beds.”

As Florida’s coronavirus cases break national records, health workers say they’re feeling the strain. While most hospitals still have room to take in more patients, some doctors and nurses say they're being pushed to their limits.


Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press

The St. Johns County School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to push back the start of the school year until August 31, citing concerns related to the coronavirus and the upcoming Republican National Convention in Jacksonville.

Downtown Jacksonville
Bill Bortzfield / WJCT News

Downtown Vision is hoping to help jump-start some commerce for Downtown Jacksonville businesses hit hard by the pandemic with a new gift card program.

A Winn-Dixie store
Winn-Dixie

Jacksonville-based Southeastern Grocers is joining other supermarket chains and businesses that require customers to wear face coverings.

Aging advocates sent a letter to Florida U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott urging Congress to pass an additional coronavirus relief package for long-term care facilities.

State and local officials are urging Floridians who have recovered from the novel coronavirus to share their blood and plasma for others to be treated.

“Everybody donate your plasma, it’s very, very important; you can make a different in people’s health and in their lives,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis, speaking at OneBlood headquarters in Orlando Monday.

When the COVID-19 outbreak reached Florida in March, there wasn’t much information on how to treat it. But DeSantis says a number of inroads have been made since then – including the use of “convalescent plasma.”

Photo of woman cleaning a table in a classroom
JON SUPER / ASSOCIATED PRESS

The largest teachers' union in Florida filed a lawsuit Monday that seeks to block requiring schools to reopen buildings for in-person classes in August.

Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront Hotel
BILL BORTZFIELD / WJCT NEWS

You’re going to need a face mask to check into most hotels.

Aldi will require its customers to wear face coverings beginning July 27.
Andrew Weber / AP Images for ALDI U.S.

Aldi has announced it will start mandating customers wear facemasks on July 27, while the mandate at Whole Foods Market  went into effect as stores opened Monday, July 20.

Tourism is one of Florida’s main economic drivers, and the industry’s hit from COVID-19 shutdowns will be felt for years. That gloomy outlook opened Friday’s meeting of the Florida Economic Estimating Conference at the Capitol.

With a few exceptions, renters in Florida still have some protections against eviction. But there are fears that the state's landlords may move quickly to evict in-arrears tenants once those protections expire.

COVID-19 Cases Top 1,000 Among Florida Corrections Workers

Jul 17, 2020
Virginia Mayo / Associated Press

The number of Florida corrections workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 surpassed 1,000 on Friday, according to the state Department of Corrections. 

Tampa is cracking down on restaurants that do not follow laws designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Wednesday, it sent a warning letter to over 80 businesses that sell alcohol. The letter was sent to a list of businesses in a city contact list, and was not saying that these specific establishments were in violation of city ordinances.

A directive from the Florida Department of Education says the state’s public schools have to reopen for in-person classes five days a week in August. The order also says the reopenings should happen unless state or local health departments say otherwise. But local health officials say they don’t have the authority to give that advice.

Hundreds Of Inmates Test Positive At Columbia Correctional Institution Near Lake City

Jul 16, 2020
Columbia Correctional Institution
Florida Department of Corrections

A prison in rural North Florida has seen the number of inmates diagnosed with COVID-19 explode, with more than 400 prisoners reported testing positive for the virus this week.

File photo of a Publix store
SCOTT ISKOWITZ / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Publix, Target and CVS are joining Walmart and a growing list of retail chains nationwide that are requiring customers to wear face masks.

TIAA Bank Field
BILL BORTZFIELD / WJCT NEWS

More than 700 employees at TIAA Bank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, have gotten another round of bad news.

DeSantis Says Reopening Schools A 'Collaborative Effort'

Jul 16, 2020

Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters on Wednesday the Florida Department of Education should not dictate local school-district decisions, even though the department issued an emergency order that says schools must reopen in August unless health officials say otherwise.

Democrats Call For Scaling Back Reopening

Jul 16, 2020

Florida Senate Democrats want to scale back economic-reopening efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, as Gov. Ron DeSantis maintains his approach has been taken with an “eye towards what's sustainable.”

Governor Ron DeSantis held a roundtable discussion in Miami Tuesday, attended by mayors from across the hardest-hit area in Florida.

Most of the local leaders offered critiques of the state’s response to COVID-19. Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told the governor a statewide mask mandate needs to come from DeSantis to ensure compliance.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

A new study finds Jacksonville’s housing market is taking longer to rebound from the sales drop triggered by COVID-19 than those of most other large metropolitan areas across the country.

Update July 22: See here for the latest story on school reopening plans in the greater Tampa Bay region.

Four school districts in the greater Tampa Bay region are pushing to move their start dates back amid the coronavirus pandemic and concern from teachers.

Disability Rights Florida is suing Gov. Ron DeSantis and his executive office for not having a sign language interpreter during coronavirus press conferences. Disability Rights Florida is filing the lawsuit. Its lead attorney says DeSantis is breaking the law.

When viewers tune in to watch the governor, someone is missing. It's the person responsible for translating the governor's words into American Sign Language (ASL). Disability Rights Florida's lead attorney Ann Siegel says some Floridians who are deaf and hard of hearing depend on that interpreter.

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