PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

COVID-19 Morning Update

Florida Department of Health

The Florida Department of Health added nearly 2,500 new confirmed coronavirus cases over the weekend for a statewide total of 12,350 cases as of the latest update.  State health officials also announced 25 new COVID-19 related deaths, Sunday, for a total of 221 fatalities.

1,555 of Florida's cases have been admitted to hospitals.  In Collier County two infants have tested positive for the virus.  Statewide there are 49 confirmed cases in the zero to four age demographic.

Lee County continues to lead here in Southwest Florida with 379 confirmed cases and 11 deaths.  Collier has 231 cases and two deaths.  In Sarasota County health officials report 140 COVID-19 cases with seven deaths.  In Manatee County there have been 136 cases and three deaths.  Charlotte County has seen 47 cases and one death.  Hendry County has seen seven cases and no deaths and Glades County reports four cases and one death.

Over the weekend, COVID-19 claimed the lives of two South Florida sheriff’s officers who were both in their 30s. Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Shannon Bennett died Friday night, a week after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

Bennett served as a resource officer at a public elementary school. He was 3years-old and had been on the force for 12 years. Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said Bennett had been infected while on duty. Sheriff Tony reminded people that law enforcement and other first responders are exposed to the coronavirus in their daily work. “For every time we have to answer a call because someone’s is noncompliant it puts our lives at risk.,” said Tony.

“ For every time we have to answer a call for someone who decides they’re going to congregate and hang out at the beach, you’re putting our lives at risk.”

Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Sergeant Jose Diaz Ayala died Saturday of coronavirus and other underlying illnesses. Diaz was 38-years-old and had 14 years with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and its Corrections Division. Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner also remembered Diaz with a reminder to the public.  “We are now starting to see as our first responders begin to have a death toll, just how important your cooperation and your diligence is in staying at home and understanding that its safer at home,” said Mayor Kerner.

Sheriff’s Deputy Bennett was engaged to be married. Sergeant Diaz leaves behind three daughters.

Florida's 20th Judicial Circuit issued a memo, Friday, on how it will enforce the State Department of Health's isolation orders.  Chief Judge Michael McHugh sent the memo which says any person who has been ordered to isolate or quarantine by the Department of Health and violates that order will be held in custody without bond until that person is seen by a judge.

Judge McHugh's memo says no "notices to appear" will be given to violators of health department orders and they will be held in custody until first seeing a judge, who will then decide to set bail or bond.

The court's order applies to all counties in the 20th judicial circuit including Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades Counties. It will be in effect until further notice.

Manatee County Commissioners, on Friday, approved a temporary curfew.  The resolution was put in place as a supplement to the “safer at home” order issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis last week.  In a statement Manatee Public Safety Director Jacob Saur said "I do believe with a curfew, the public should know they shouldn’t be out on the roadways.”  The curfew is in effect from 11:00 pm until 5:00 a.m. seven days a week.

A federal relief loan program is open for some in the agriculture industry. Those who work in aquaculture or small co-ops can apply. Florida Farm Bureau President John Hoblick said the American Farm Bureau and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are trying to get more farmers included in the federal loan program.

“We feel that the intent from Congress was to include all of agriculture when they passed this bill,” said Hoblick.  “They’re working to see if there’s any way that we can work on trying to get agriculture operations eligible for the economic injury disaster loan program as well.”

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said farmers will still be able to apply for a federal pay check protection program as well as the state’s small business emergency bridge loan program.  Fried is also urging farmers to register to become a vendor for the state so that their produce can be bought and sold. She says it’s an easy process.

“In order for any of our state departments to actually purchase from our farmers, Florida farmers and producers must be registered on ‘My Florida Marketplace.’”  Fried notes her team has been working with agencies like the Florida Department of Corrections to buy fresh food from the state’s farmers.

Many church leaders are trying to stay connected with congregants, while social distancing due to the coronavirus during Christianity’s holiest week of the year.  At the Church of The Redeemer in Sarasota, Thursday, Father Charleston Wilson handed out boxes with palms, special prayers, and rocks for children to paint at Easter.  “We’ve said come through, drive thru; Holy week in a box.  We’ll hand it to you.  Don’t get out of your car,” said Wilson.

Online sermons are now commonplace and Wilson said he’s been surprised to see how many people tune in.  “If I teach a class on Wednesday night down at the church, I might have 30 or 40 people.  That would be a very successful Wednesday night class,” said Wilson.  “ Now 600 people are watching things that I’m offering life on Wednesday evenings.”

Wilson’s church pre-recorded Easter services weeks ago, with a full choir, so it will feel more like the real event when it airs on Sunday.

Andrea Perdomo is a reporter for WGCU News. She started her career in public radio as an intern for the Miami-based NPR station, WLRN. Andrea graduated from Florida International University, where she was a contributing writer for the student-run newspaper, The Panther Press, and was also a member of the university's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.