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As the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic grips the globe, it can be difficult to find reliably factual information about what's going on here in Florida. 

This blog is a resource to address that crucial need. 10News reporters and producers will use it to share the latest headlines, while actively focusing on facts not fear.

Stories that require more in-depth coverage will be posted on WTSP.com/coronavirus.

Key Facts

  • Sarasota prohibits gatherings of 10 people or more
  • 29 deaths reported in Florida, with 2,484 confirmed cases
  • St. Pete police department employee tests positive
  • Pinellas County has voted in favor of a 'safer-at-home' order
  • Hillsborough County passes 'safer-at-home' order

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8:36 p.m. (March 26)

The Florida Department of Health is reporting a death in Highlands County from COVID-19.

8:33 p.m. (March 26)

The Office of Governor DeSantis released the following statement:

Today, Governor DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-85, directing the Department of Management Services (DMS) to ensure all state employees have access to telehealth services through the state’s contracted HMO plans and PPO organization plan without cost sharing, while also ensuring that all cost sharing that would have been applicable to state employees seeking immunization services under this Executive Order for the influenza vaccination be waived. 

6:21 p.m. (March 26) 

The Florida Department of Health is reporting 2,484 positive cased of COVID-19 in the state with 29 deaths.

5:52 p.m. (March 26)

Hillsborough County's COVID-19 drive-thru test site at Raymond James Stadium is closing a day early. 

The county said the site will close Friday once its testing kit supply is "exhausted."

The site will have administered 900 tests in the three day period. The site was originally set to be open until Saturday, but the county said the site "ran efficiently" allowing the tests to be completed in three. 

The reason for the limited amount of kits? 

Hillsborough Co. says it is due to the short supply in kits across the country.

4:45 p.m. (March 26)

The city of Sarasota has extended its local public health emergency through April 3 and prohibited social gatherings of 10 people or more. Police have been authorized to disperse large groups. Violating the 10-person rule could result in a second-degree misdemeanor.

Additionally, the city is urging people to comply with CDC social distancing guidelines by staying six feet apart from others and trying to remain home through April 3 -- except for "essential activities" like going to work, caring for others, buying food and getting medications or going to the doctor.

4:30 p.m. (March 26)

Hernando County leaders said a 33-year-old tested positive for COVID-19, the coronavirus. That brings the county's total to nine. 

Hernando County leaders decided Thursday to extend the county's state of emergency during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

4:12 p.m. (March 26)

Pasco County leaders said they are not issuing a stay-at-home order for the county. They said they are just urging the community to use common sense and follow CDC guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

3:22 p.m. (March 26)

The Sarasota Department of Health, Sarasota Memorial Hospital and county government officials are partnering to establish a COVID-19 appointment only drive-thru testing site.

The location will be by appointment only and is for those who are symptomatic and meet current CDC testing guidance.

Here's how it works: 

  • You must be referred by a physician
  • Your physician’s office will contact Sarasota DOH, who in return will contact you with your appointment date and time
  • Once on-site you must stay in your car
  • Present photo ID and prescription for specimen collection (name on ID and prescription must match

Starting March 27 the site will be open from 8 a.m. to noon at Twin Lakes Park. To make an appointment, call (941) 861-2883.

Specimens collected at the site will be sent to labs for testing.

2:20 p.m. (March 26)

Hillsborough County approved a "safer-at-home" order to combat the spread of coronavirus. The order goes into effect at 10 p.m. Friday.

The measure passed the county's Emergency Policy Group unanimously with an 8-0 vote.

There are exceptions for "essential services." That includes going to the grocery store, the doctor's office and the pharmacy. People who live in the county are also allowed to leave their home for exercise but are strongly urged to remain at least six feet away from others.

Because it's an "order," law enforcement has the power to enforce it, but the EPG said that the initial enforcement would be done in the form of "education."

1:29 p.m. (March 26)

IndyCar announced Thursday that the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is expected to be rescheduled to a date later this year. 

The event was originally set for March 13-15, but coronavirus related concerns canceled it.

Now, IndyCar says the shift to a later date is in support of the NTT IndyCar Series’ "efforts to run as many of its points championship races as possible in 2020."

The race is now expected to serve as the season finale round.

The rescheduled is still to be determined based on the ongoing guidance and mandates of national, state and local authorities regarding public gatherings. 

"The health and safety of all associated with this event will remain the priority of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg," the group said in a release.

Previously purchased tickets will be valid and honored on the rescheduled date. 

You can email tickets@gpstpete.com with any questions you have.

12:15 p.m. (March 26)

Four employees at Tampa General Hospital have tested positive for the coronavirus. The hospital confirmed to 10News the employees are now self-isolating at home, and it does not appear they contracted the virus on the job.

Instead, the hospital believes they became infected as a result of "community spread" or travel.

Tampa General Hospital employs about 8,000 people.

12:00 p.m. (March 26)
Pinellas County's safer-at-home order officially took effect at noon on Thursday.

The order includes categories of businesses and jobs that are considered essential, like grocery stores; utilities; manufacturing and construction; government; health care facilities; gas stations; banks; hotels; laundromats and restaurants serving food to-go.

And, while county beaches remain closed, the order keeps parks and boat ramps open.

Unlike other orders around the state and country, Pinellas County's lets "non-essential" business to stay open as long as they follow CDC guidelines about social distancing. 

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman pushed for commissioners to change the language of the order and close those non-essential businesses. However, after the two-hour discussion, commissioners unanimously approved the order.

RELATED: Stay-at-home vs shelter-in-place: Here's what they mean

RELATED: Pinellas County issues 'safer-at-home' order to stop spread of COVID-19

11:55 a.m. (March 26)

Due to High Demand, Hillsborough County will no longer be making COVID-19
drive-thru test appointments.

The Hillsborough County call center has made appointments for 900 residents since opening lines this week for people with COVID-19 symptoms. 

Based on the limited number of test kits available, no more appointments will be made for the drive-through test site until further notice.

If you have coronavirus symptoms, please contact your health care provider for
further guidance on testing options.

11:30 a.m. (March 26)

There are now 2,355 cases of coronavirus in Florida. 28 people have died from the virus.

10:34 a.m. (March 26)

An employee at the St. Petersburg Police Department's Emergency Communications Center (ECC) has tested positive for COVID-19.

The police department announced the test results saying that the individual is a non-sworn employee. 

The employee went out of town on March 16 and has been home sick since March 18 after showing symptoms of the virus, according to the police department. 

After learning the employee was sick maintenance crews started sanitizing the communications center several times a day. 

Four other employees who may have come in contact with the sick employee are self-quarantining at home. 

The police department implemented the following since the positive test results: 

  • St. Petersburg police Chief Anthony Holloway sent a memo to all police employees notifying them that an employee has tested positive
  • A volunteer from St. Anthony's Hospital will be onsite twice daily Monday through Friday to check employees' temperatures on a daily basis.
  • Hand-sanitizing stations were placed on each floor.

77 employees work in the ECC as call-takers and dispatchers for our 911
and non-emergency calls. The police department says, there is enough space for employees to spread out, maintain social distancing. 

10:25 a.m. (March 26)

All parks and beaches in Sebring are now closed because of COVID-19. The Highlands County Sheriff's Office tweeted the information this morning.

Beaches in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota and Manatee Counties have also closed -- along with beaches all over Florida in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The goal is to keep people from violating social distancing guidelines and spreading the virus.

8:35 a.m. (March 26)

A record-high number of people applied for unemployment benefits last week as layoffs engulfed the United States in the face of a near-total economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus. The surge in weekly applications for benefits far exceeded the previous record set in 1982. Layoffs are sure to accelerate as the U.S. economy sinks into what most economists expect to be deep and painful recession. Revenue has collapsed at restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, gyms and airlines. Auto sales are plummeting, and car makers have close factories. Most such employers face loan payments and other fixed costs, so they're forced to cut jobs to save money. 

8:15 a.m. (March 26)

Gulfcoast Legal Services (GLS) has suspended in-person services, but the legal aid organization continues to work with clients via email and phone, and has recently received an influx of calls regarding evictions. For more information call 727-821-0726 ext. 273.

5 a.m. (March 26)

President Donald Trump has declared Florida a disaster area because of the coronavirus outbreak. The president acted Wednesday, one day after Gov. Ron DeSantis requested the declaration. Florida is the sixth state to receive one because of the viral outbreak. The move makes the state eligible for federal funding for emergency protective measures and crisis counseling.

7:12 p.m. (March 25)

Manatee County said it will accept drivers with an appointment at the Bradenton Area Convention Center to be tested for COVID-19 coronavirus.

People must have a prescription to be tested from their doctor and make an appointment with the county by calling 941-748-0747. Visit the county's website for more information.

The center will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

6:55 p.m. (March 25)

Citrus County health experts announced the county's first coronavirus death Wednesday. Health officials said it was an 80-year-old woman.

YOUTUBE: 10News coverage of coronavirus in Florida