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COVID-19 live updates: Student tests presumptive positive for COVID-19, Polk State College says

This is a resource for up-to-date, factual information on the COVID-19 outbreak.

Latest headlines:

  • Polk State College says one of their Winter Haven Campus students has tested presumptive positive for COVID-19, coronavirus. 
  • The City of Clearwater has ordered all public beaches to close for two weeks, beginning Monday morning. This applies to the sand -- not the businesses along the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The federal government is temporarily suspending foreclosures and evictions nationwide
  • American military hospital ships USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort are being prepared to be deployed to help fight coronavirus 
  • The United States and Canada have mutually agreed to close the border between the two countries in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19

Live blog:

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 avoiding the hyperbole that's running rampant across social media.

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


11:18 a.m. (March 19)

A student at Polk State College has tested presumptive positive, according to the college.

They shared on Facebook that The Florida Department of Health notified them that the second case in Polk Co. was a student who takes classes on their Winter Haven Campus.

Students and faculty who may have come in contact with the individual have been notified and informed of the importance of following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines for COVID-19.

This includes self-quarantine, monitoring symptoms, and contacting their healthcare provider for medical advice if necessary.

“The health of students, faculty, staff, and the community is the College’s No. 1 priority and Polk State will continue to follow the CDC’s guidelines,” Polk State College wrote.

In the event that student’s case becomes a confirmed case, the college plans on closing off areas the student may have come in contact with and wait up to 24 hours before beginning cleaning and disinfecting, as is recommended.

Polk State College’s campuses and centers are closed to students. Face-to-face classes were canceled and are switching to online Monday, March 30, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“The College remains in contact with the Florida Department of Health and will continue to make decisions in the best interest of students, faculty, staff, and the community to ensure all can complete this semester successfully and healthily,” Polk State College wrote.

6:50 a.m. (March 19)

In an effort to reduce the public’s exposure to COVID-19, the financial due dates set for March 18, 2020 through December 31, 2020 for all Criminal and Traffic cases have been extended for an additional 60 days, Hillsborough Clerk of Court & Comptroller Pat Frank.

6:39 a.m. (March 19)

Valley Bank is taking a number of steps to help personal and business customers affected by the COVID-19 situation. For qualified customers, Valley is:

  • Deferring interest and principal payments for up to 90 days 
  • Waiving overdraft charges 
  • Waiving penalties for early CD withdrawals for emergency needs
  • Increasing debit card and credit card limits
  • Increasing loan limits

6:05 a.m. (March 19)

Sheriff Chad Chronister announces that low-level, non-violent inmates will be released due to the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 virus. This move has been put in place to protect the inmate population and detention deputies.

9:09 p.m. (March18)

Walmart stores across the U.S. will adjust operating hours to better accommodate older Americans in a sweeping effort to limit customers' exposure to COVID-19 coronavirus.

The company in a blog post announced its stores will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8:30 p.m. each day. Stores that open later than 7 a.m. will continue their regular starting hours, Walmart said.

The adjustment allows employes to restock the shelves and sanitize the store before customers arrive.

Walmart also will have an hour-long period each Tuesday for customers aged 60 or older, staring an hour before the store opens to the general public. It starts Tuesday, March 24, through April 28.

RELATED: Walmart to host a senior shopping hour during the coronavirus pandemic

8:26 p.m. (March 18)

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority will temporarily go fare-free on all its routes starting Thursday, March 19.

By going fare-free, it says, there will be less crowding at the farebox to reduce exposure to passengers and bus operators.

6:17 p.m. (March 18)

The Florida Department of Health now says there have been 328 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Florida. Of those, 299 involved Florida residents, and 29 were people who tested positive in the state -- but don't live here.

Florida health leaders say eight people have died of the coronavirus in the state.

6:12 p.m. (March 18)

The city of Clearwater has declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic and ordered all its public beaches to close for at least two weeks -- beginning at 6 a.m. on March 23. 

Clearwater Beach has been frequently ranked as one of the best beaches in the United States. The decision to shut down the beaches was made during an emergency meeting of city council on Wednesday evening.

RELATED: Clearwater Beach to close amid coronavirus pandemic

4:30 p.m. (March 18)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced 2,800 test kits have been distributed, with the capacity to test about 600,000 people.

As of the governor's latest update, there are 314 positive COVID-19 coronavirus cases in Florida. Most are centered in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

DeSantis said daycare centers statewide have not been closed, citing the difficulty it would bring to parents.

RELATED: This interactive map shows coronavirus cases in Florida

4:25 p.m. (March 18)

The city of Tampa is closing the following beaches at sunset until further notice in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.

They include: 

  • Ben T Davis Beach, 7740 W Courtney Campbell Causeway, Tampa, 33607
  • Cypress Point Beach, 5620 W Cypress St, Tampa, 33607
  • Davis Islands Beach, 864 Severn Ave, Tampa, 33606
  • Picnic Island Beach, 7409 Picnic Island Blvd, Tampa, 33616

The city says Cypress Point Park and Picnic Island Park will be closed, but the Picnic Island Park boat ramp will remain open.

3:44 p.m. (March 18)

The University of South Florida announced a staff member in the USF Counseling Center on the Tampa campus tested positive for COVID-19 coronavirus.

USF believes the employee, who was on campus on Monday, March 9, and Thursday, March 12, had direct contact with 13 students and several employees.

It said the "employee is self-isolating at home in accordance with guidelines established by the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control."

Anyone concerned for their health is asked to call the USF Student Health Services with any questions at 813-974-2331.

3 p.m. (March 18)

Bradenton has declared a local state of emergency that will allow the city to get possible reimbursement for expenses incurred due to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. City Hall and the Public Works Building will be temporarily closed to the public.

3 p.m. (March 18)

Pinellas County school leaders say students who do not have an electronic device to do their coursework can pick up one with the district next week.

The district has set up a website for families and encourage them to check it out.

RELATED: Closed Schools: Here’s what you can expect county-by-county

1 p.m. (March 18)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is hosting a live webinar, talking about the state of the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to watch live.

12:15 p.m. (March 18)

At a news conference on Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced the Department of Housing and Urban Development is providing immediate relief to renters and homeowners by suspending all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April. He also said the U.S. Navy's two hospital ships would be dispatched to help fight coronavirus, as needed.

11:38 a.m. (March 18)

CDC Emergency Partners Information Connection (EPIC) will host a webinar and discuss the current state of the COVID-19 outbreak, what CDC is doing to respond to the outbreak, and how partners, organizations, and the public can help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the US. 

Tune in on the CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response Facebook page.

11:22 a.m. (March 18)

There are now 314 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Florida. Seven people have died from the virus.

11:20 p.m. (March 18)

The city of Clearwater is holding an emergency meeting today to declare a state of emergency due to COVID-19. It's being held at 5 p.m. at Clearwater Main Library at 100 N. Osceola Avenue.

10:50 a.m. (March 18)

CareerSource Tampa Bay will temporarily close two of its five offices serving the public due to coronavirus.

The closings will take effect on Wednesday, March 18 and include:

  • Plant City Office, 307 N Michigan Ave, Plant City, FL 33563, USA
  • Ruskin Office, 201 14th Avenue, SE Ruskin, FL 33570

The other CSTB offices will have reduced hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday

through Friday.   

The offices that will remain open include:

  • Tampa Center, 9215 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33612
  • Brandon Center 9350 Bay Plaza Blvd, Tampa, FL 33619
  • Career Prep Center, 2605 North 43rd Street, Tampa, FL 33619

10:05 a.m. (March 18)

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister is suspending the execution of all eviction proceedings within the county. The order will last through at least April 20. Chronister says property owners can still file for evictions through court, but deputies won't be acting on those filings. This will allow people to stay where they're living and free up law enforcement resources to help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

9:40 a.m. (March 18)

President Trump announced on Twitter the United States and Canada have mutually agreed to close the border between the two countries in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19

9:31 a.m.(March 18)

SECO Energy was informed late Tuesday afternoon that a SECO Energy warehouse administrative employee may have had an exposure to a Citrus County resident who has been tested for COVID-19 but results are not available. The employee serves in an administrative role with the cooperative and has limited contact with the public and other employees. The employee is asymptomatic and has been placed in quarantine as a precaution along with the employees with whom he was in contact. SECO Energy’s Sumterville headquarters and adjacent campus are temporarily closed to public access for any vendor or delivery without an approved appointment or scheduled delivery. 

 8:25 a.m. (March 18)

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister will address the media regarding a countywide order the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office will implement beginning today. The news conference is scheduled for around 10 a.m.

5:50 a.m. (March 18)


6,496 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States

216 confirmed cases in Florida

5:15 a.m. (March 18)

Starting Wednesday, BayCare patients who have been instructed by their doctor to be tested for COVID-19 will be able to provide a specimen for testing without leaving their cars. BayCare Health System is transforming seven BayCare Urgent Care locations across West Central Florida into drive-thru testing centers for COVID-19.

Testing locations:

*BayCare Urgent Care (Carillon)

900 Carillon Parkway, Suite. 106, St. Petersburg, FL 33716 

BayCare Urgent Care (New Port Richey)

4821 U.S. Highway 19, New Port Richey, FL 34652   

BayCare Urgent Care (Countryside)

3351 N. McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater, FL 33761          

BayCare Urgent Care (Tampa)

3440 W. Dr. MLK Jr. Blvd., Suite 100, Tampa, FL 33607       

BayCare Urgent Care (New Tampa)

17512 Dona Michelle Drive, Suite 5, Tampa, FL 33647          

BayCare Urgent Care (Bloomingdale)    

2442 Bloomingdale Ave., Valrico, FL 33596     

BayCare Urgent Care (Haines City)

36245 U.S. Highway 27, Haines City, FL 33844          

5:09 a.m. (March 18)

Florida Health has a tool kit all COVID-19 related.

Click here to view it.

11:30 p.m. (March 17)

St. Petersburg College is moving all classes and operations online starting Wednesday, March 18, and canceling all college-related events.

"Students, faculty and staff received communications on March 13 that classes would move online for at least two weeks. Today, following guidance from local, state and federal health officials regarding physical distancing, that time period was extended to the end of the term out of an abundance of caution," a statement read. 

"Students, faculty and staff received additional notification this evening, Tuesday, March 17."

10:47 p.m. (March 17)

The Florida Supreme Court issued a statewide order to limit court functionality during the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

In the order issued by Chief Justice Charles Canady, grand jury proceedings, jury selection proceedings and criminal and civil jury trials have been suspended.

It is in effect until Friday, March 27.

RELATED: Florida courts limit functions during COVID-19 pandemic

9:52 p.m. (March 17)

The Florida Department of Health announced the first positive COVID-19 coronavirus case in Polk County.

It involves a woman, health officials said, and there are no other details about the case. There are 216 total COVID-19 cases in Florida.

U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, whose congressional district includes Polk County, urges "all of my constituents to heed the advice of the CDC, state and local health officials to ensure that together we can flatten the curve of the virus."

YOUTUBE: 10News coverage of coronavirus in Florida

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