With 1,171 coronavirus deaths, Florida awaits word from Gov. DeSantis on when to reopen

Florida nears 33,000 COVID-19 cases as governor eyes reopening state for business

A one passenger at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter checks in at the Tampa International Airport Friday, April 24, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. Business at the airport has been at a near standstill due to the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) (Chris O'Meara, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ORLANDO, Fla. – The day after thousands of Floridians learned they will have to continue to wait for federal unemployment benefits, Gov. Ron DeSantis met with President Donald Trump at the White House Tuesday as cases of the novel coronavirus neared 33,000 as the decision to reopen the state for business looms large.

The latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health reveal 5,222 have been hospitalized since the virus was first detected in the state March 1. DeSantis said Monday about half of those are still currently hospitalized.

By Tuesday, 1,171 have died as the result of COVID-19 related complications, according to the DOH, that number is part of the 32,846 people in Florida who have tested positive for the virus.

State medical officials stress that Florida needs to see the rate in new cases drop consistently in order to see results. On Monday, the last time new numbers were released by the state, Florida was seeing about 9% of tests come back positive on Tuesday that percent dropped by 0.1%.

That number will fluctuate depending on the amount of people tested daily. In the past two weeks, Florida has tested between 6,489 people and at most 19,217 people on any given day, data from the DOH shows. The percent of positive cases have ranged between 6% and 13% since April 13.

More than 368,000 tests have been performed in Florida for the respiratory illness as of Tuesday morning.

Doctors with Tampa General Hospital said Monday Florida needs to continue testing for the virus, including antibody testing, and expand the number of tests administered daily in order to be able to safely reopen the state.

Information about those carrying antibodies for the disease, “will allow us to really be able to contain this epidemic,” USF Health Dean Dr. Charles Lockwood said.

In Central Florida, new testing sites have opened this week in Brevard, Orange and Seminole counties and there are plans to expand testing in Volusia County.

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

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


The Florida Department of Health releases new testing numbers, including deaths and hospitalizations once a day on the interactive dashboard below. If you are having trouble viewing on mobile, click here.

The governor’s Re-Open Florida Task Force made up of business executives and owners continues to have calls and is receiving feedback from the public.

During his meeting with Trump on Tuesday, DeSantis said he plans to make an announcement on what the process to reopen the state will look like on Wednesday.

DeSantis didn’t say if a timeline would be revealed then.

A draft of recommendations designed to help restaurants, schools, churches and businesses safely reopen as states look to gradually lift their coronavirus restrictions from from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been sent to Washington but still could be revised before the Trump administration unveils it to the public, reports the Associated Press.

Meanwhile the frustration amid Floridians unable to work due to the pandemic continues to grow as thousands learned they were deemed ineligible for state benefits over the weekend but not given a clear path forward to receive federal unemployment under the CARES Act.

The Department of Economic Opportunity, which oversees the state unemployment system, has notified more than 263,000 people they are ineligible as of Tuesday, many of whom are contractors, self-employed or independent workers. Those workers don’t qualify for Florida benefits but should be granted federal unemployment, which the state is tasked with administering.

“Many of the individuals that were deemed ineligible this weekend could be eligible for federal benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. The agency is working diligently to get more detailed information to individuals who may be eligible for federal benefits. This week, individuals will be able to log-in to CONNECT and complete the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program after they were deemed ineligible for state Reemployment Assistance benefits,” a statement from the DEO read.

People caught in this limbo, some who have been waiting on financial help for weeks, told News 6 they have not received information about how or when they will see checks from the PUA program.

On Tuesday, the DEO offered some guidance to those who qualify for the PUA program. Those who applied on or before April 4 will need to resubmit their applications at Floridajobs.org. Anyone who applied on or April 5 is awaiting further contact from the DEO.

Important information about coronavirus

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people who are infected recover.

However, U.S. health officials say many who have the virus will never show symptoms or know they are contagious.

Cough, fever and shortness of breath are the most widely reported symptoms of the novel coronavirus but recently the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention has expanded its list of known COVID-19 symptoms adding six new symptoms, including chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and loss of taste or smell.