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COVID-19 in Florida: 23 people have now died as confirmed cases climb

St. Petersburg leaders said a grant, the Fighting Chance Fund, would help small businesses that qualify.

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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

  • 23 deaths reported in Florida, with 1,977 confirmed cases
  • Pinellas County has voted in favor of a 'safer-at-home' order
  • Hillsborough County to consider its own measure Thursday.


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.

6:21 p.m. (March 25)

The Florida Department of Health said the number of positive cases in the state was up 295, bringing the total to 1,977 cases. They also reported one more death, bringing that total to 23. 

4:50 p.m. (March 25) 

Sarasota Memorial Hospital says there have been 21 positive cases of COVID-19 there. 

• 11 patients are hospitalized at SMH
• 1 has died (results of the second suspect patient who died yesterday came back negative)
• The others were cared for either in the hospital or Emergency Care Center and released with follow-up monitoring by the Florida Department of Health

4:45 p.m.  (March 25) 

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor says an officer with the Tampa Police Department tested positive for COVID-19. Police Chief Brian Dugan said he will hold a press conference at 5:15 p.m. to address the situation.  

4:15 p.m. (March 25)

St. Petersburg city leaders said they are working on a grant that would help small businesses that qualify.  It would be called the Fighting Chance Fund.

3:46 p.m. (March 25)

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, or PSTA, it will temporarily suspend the downtown St. Petersburg Looper service and the South Clearwater Beach Jolley Trolley starting Monday, March 30.

It is because of decreased ridership as businesses and restaurants have closed, PSTA says.

The Jolley Trolly North Clearwater Beach Route and North Coastal Route to Tarpon Springs will keep operating on a Saturday schedule that ends at 10 p.m.

Finally, PSTA notes all weekday services will begin operating on a Saturday schedule and all weekend service will be operating on a Sunday schedule starting Sunday, March 29.

3:23 p.m. (March 25)

President Donald Trump approved Florida's disaster declaration request, making federal funding available for emergency-related services across the state amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Ron DeSantis formally requested the declaration earlier in the week, with Senators Mario Rubio and Rick Scott writing a letter to the president in support.

The disaster approval allows federal assistance to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts, a news release from the White House states. This includes funding for crisis counseling and emergency protective measures.

RELATED: President Trump approves Florida's disaster declaration request amid coronavirus pandemic

3:05 p.m. (March 25)

It's not set in stone yet, but Hillsborough County moved two steps closer to issuing a stay-at-home order to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The measure, which is paired with a curfew that mirrors the same language, would take effect Friday night at 10 p.m. -- if it passes a final vote tomorrow.

The group of eight mayors, commissioners and the sheriff all agreed on the time and date. There is a disagreement over using the term "curfew" because of its negative connotations, but no member of the group said that would keep them from voting to pass the order.

There will be another meeting Thursday at 1:30 p.m. -- via teleconference -- to vote on the finalized language for the order.

11:53 a.m. (March 25)

Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan says if the mayor issues a stay-at-home order, officers can enforce it. But, he says he's really relying on people to use common sense and practice social distancing to protect their neighbors.

11:30 a.m. (March 25)

Pinellas County commissioners voted to issue a safer-at-home order during an emergency meeting.

The ordinance is to stop the spread of COVID-19 amid the coronavirus pandemic. It will begin Thursday.

11:20 a.m. (March 25)

The Florida Department of Health is reporting 215 more cases of COVID-19 in the state. That brings the total to 1,682. 

Two more people have died from the virus. A total of 22 people have died from the coronavirus in Florida.

9:55 a.m. (March 25)

At 10:00 a.m. EST, the United Nations is launching a COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan. The secretary general will be joined by the director-general of the World Health Organization and the executive director of UNICEF in taking questions from members of the media from around the world.

You can watch it live here:

24 Hour Live and pre-recorded Programming The UN Web TV Channel is available 24 hours a day with selected live programming of United Nations meetings and events as well as with pre-recorded video features and documentaries on various global issues.

8:45 a.m. (March 25)
Pinellas County commissioners are holding an emergency meeting at 9 a.m. to consider a shelter-in-place order. 

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman said Tuesday he would consider a city-wide order but would prefer to have one at the county or regional level. 

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor will issue a stay-at-home order that's expected to take effect at Midnight.

Watch the emergency meeting LIVE here:

6:58 a.m. (March 25)

Anticipating potential shortages in the county-wide response to COVID-19, Pinellas County is proactively collecting personal protective equipment (PPE) and disinfectants for our hospitals, first responders, emergency medical services, nursing homes and home healthcare workers.  

Donations can be dropped off weekdays from 10 a.m.  – 7 p.m., or on Saturday, March 28, from 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at the following locations:
• St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church, 715 E Orange St., Tarpon Springs, 64689
• Walsingham Park, 12615 102nd Ave., Seminole, 33778.
• Tropicana Field, Lot 4, 198 17th St.. S., St. Petersburg, 33705 

More information can be found here.

6:50 a.m. (March 25)

Prince Charles has reportedly been diagnosed with coronavirus.
The BBC posted on Twitter that the Prince of Wales, 71, tested positive and has mild symptoms "but otherwise remains in good health." 

RELATED: This interactive map shows coronavirus cases in Florida

RELATED: Where can I go? What does a ‘stay-at-home’ order mean?

4:30 a.m. (March 24)

10:27 p.m. (March 24)

To help protect employees, Publix has announced plans to install plexiglass partitions to protect its cashiers. 

The Lakeland-based grocery chain, which operates 1,200 locations, says the partitions will be seen at all registers within the next two weeks. A spokesperson said installations would begin this weekend.

"I can confirm that we will be installing plexiglass companywide at our registers, customer service desks and pharmacies," Publix spokeswoman Mario Brous said. "Installations will begin this weekend, and we expect to conclude within the next two weeks."

9:34 p.m. (March 24)

On the day an executive order affecting New York-area travelers to Florida was set to go into effect, there was no guidance on how to implement it.

On Tuesday, 10Investigates revealed how law enforcement agencies were left in the dark about how to handle the order. Then, late Tuesday night, some guidance arrived -- although it was directed mostly at travelers, not the people expected to enforce the policy.

The Florida Departement of Transportation, working with the Florida Department of Health, late Tuesday said people flying to Florida from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are required to isolate for 14 days or during the length of their visit, whichever is shorter, to help limit the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.

7:25 p.m. (March 24)

The city of Miami will implement a stay-at-home order starting Tuesday night, WFOR-TV reports.

Mayor Francis Suarez on Twitter said he wants people planning on visiting for spring break to go home.

YOUTUBE: 10News coverage of coronavirus in Florida

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