As Florida coronavirus deaths exceed 1,000, Gov. DeSantis promises 'a way to get back’ post-pandemic

More than 30,500 cases statewide, as national death toll rises to 51,000 Friday

Gabriela Rojas, executive director of the Miami Diaper Bank, directs drivers at Curley's House of Style, Inc., food bank, Thursday, April 23, 2020, in Miami. Curley's House of Style, along with The Children's Trust and the Miami Diaper Bank,distributed diapers and baby items to families financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Wilfredo Lee, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ORLANDO, Fla. – As President Trump signed a nearly $500 billion stimulus bill Friday aimed at helping small businesses and hospitals amid the coronavirus pandemic, Florida’s new positive total for virus cases reached 30,533 on Friday, according to the latest data from the Florida Department of Health.

Gov. Ron DeSantis acknowledged Friday many Floridians are struggling due to financial impacts from the virus and promised, “We’re going to figure out a way to get back.”

“People have sacrificed a lot to be able to fight the spread of this virus,” DeSantis said. “We’ve seen people out of work in numbers were not used to and I just want to tell people I appreciate all the efforts throughout the state of Florida.”

While Florida saw its largest increase in new cases since April 2 on Thursday with more than 1,300 new cases, the percent of overall new COVID-19 positive test results is dropping -- but just barely, according to to the Department of Health numbers.

Here’s what that means: A little more than a week ago on April 15, about 10.5% of Florida coronavirus tests were coming back positive. Now that number has dropped to 9.5% of the more than 320,900 people in Florida have been tested for COVID-19 as of Friday morning.

However, Thursday’s spike in positive cases may cause that percentage to go back up. The Florida Department of Health said in a news release of the 21,298 tests performed on Thursday 10% came back positive.

[INTERACTIVE MAP: Here’s where to get your drive-thru coronavirus test]

According to the Florida Department of Health dashboard, 4,817 people with severe cases of the respiratory illness have been hospitalized since March. The state does not release current hospitalization numbers or how many people have recovered from the virus.

As of Friday, Florida’s death toll from the virus reached 1,046.

Across the U.S., more than 51,000 people have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University data, which makes about 25% of the global death toll.

View the dashboard below to see how many cases are in Florida and around the world. If you are having trouble viewing on mobile, click here.

In Central Florida, Volsuia County saw the largest jump in deaths Thursday with eight new fatalities from the virus in 24 hours. Patrica Boswell, administrator for the Department of Health in Volusia County, said 48 of new positive cases are connected to long-term care facilities, along with seven of the deaths, and a number of new positive cases are also tied to the Tomoka Correctional Institution.

Information from the Florida Department of Corrections shows that as of Friday, 82 inmates and 10 staff members at Tomoka Correctional Institution have tested positive for COVID-19.

Meanwhile Orange County health officials say the county may have seen the worst of the virus in mid-March.

By Friday evening, new deaths were reported in Lake, Marion, Orange, Polk, Seminole counties.

Here’s a breakdown of cases by county in the Central Florida region:

CountyTotal casesHospitalizationsDeaths

DeSantis said continued and expanded testing will be key to reopening the state for business. Florida remains under a stay-at-home order until April 30 but the governor has not announced when non-essential businesses can open even with social distancing and limited capacity rules in place.

The governor’s reopen Florida task force will continued to discuss via phone calls Friday how best to reopen the state.

Meanwhile, NASA is preparing to send U.S. astronauts to space from the Space Coast for the first time since 2011 but NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is asking people not to come watch the historic launch in person. The event would normally pack Brevard County beaches and launch viewing spots.

“We are asking people to join us in this launch but to do so from home,” Bridenstine said. “We’re asking people not to travel to the Kennedy Space Center.”

What’s in the bill for Americans?

President Donald Trump signed a bill Friday providing a nearly $500 billion infusion of coronavirus spending, rushing new relief to employers and hospitals buckling under the strain of a pandemic that has claimed almost 50,000 American lives and 1 in 6 U.S. jobs.

The bill includes a request from the Trump administration for $250 billion to replenish a fund to help small- and medium-size businesses with payroll, rent and other expenses.

It also contains $100 billion demanded by Democrats for hospitals and a nationwide testing program, along with a $60 billion set-aside for small banks and an alternative network of community development banks that focus on development in urban neighborhoods and rural areas ignored by many lenders. There’s also $60 billion for small-business loans and grants delivered through the Small Business Administration’s existing disaster aid program.

Florida unemployment struggles continue

Floridians unable to work due to the virus have struggled for weeks attempting to receive benefits from the state due to a troubled Department of Economic Opportunity website and application system. On Friday, the DEO announced its application portal CONNECT would go down through the weekend until Monday, meaning people cannot check on the status of their applications or file for benefits.

The current Florida unemployment website was put in place under former Gov. Rick Scott, costing $77 million. On Friday, DeSantis said it was “not a good investment for Florida.” Since March, Florida has spent more then $120 million to fix the problematic website and call centers, DEO spending records show.

“This thing was a clunker, there’s no doubt about it it was designed to fail, basically, I think,” the governor said of the Florida unemployment website.

Nearly 22% of more than 701,700 unemployment claims have been paid by the state totaling $157 million, according to the DEO.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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