April 17, 2024

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Here’s what to know in South Florida on March 20

We’re keeping track of the latest news regarding the coronavirus in South Florida and around the state. Check back for updates throughout the day.

Curfew for Miami Beach, hotels shut down in Miami-Dade

6:35 p.m.: Miami Beach will close down its hotels and enact a curfew on Monday night. In addition, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez ordered the closure of all hotels in the county.

An emergency order signed by City Manager Jimmy Morales on Friday evening states that all “commercial lodging establishments” — including hotels, hostels, dormitories, motels and short-term rental units — must be “fully closed to guests and renters” by 11:59 p.m. on Monday.

A citywide curfew of midnight will take effect a minute later, at midnight Monday. The curfew will be in effect daily from midnight to 5 a.m.

Friday’s final case count in the state

6:30 p.m.: Florida’s Department of Health on Friday afternoon confirmed 43 additional cases of COVID-19 and one new death in Broward County, bringing the state total of confirmed cases to 563. The death toll in the state is now 11.

Of the new cases, 36 are Florida residents, while the other 7 are non-Florida residents who were diagnosed or isolated in the state. In total, 510 of the confirmed cases are Florida residents, with 53 of the cases non-Florida residents.

The state is also monitoring 1,049 people for COVID-19. There are 1,094 tests pending.

Gov. Ron DeSantis at a press conference on Friday also said a large Fort Lauderdale assisted living facility where two people have recently died failed to properly screen its workers and has now had seven confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The Florida Department of Health confirmed that the facility, identified as Atria Willow Wood, at 2855 West Commercial Blvd., has had seven positive cases, including two deaths. Six additional tests are pending for other residents. Two of the positive cases were among the 96 patients at the ALF and five positive cases were from the 123 residents at the facility’s independent living facility, DeSantis said.

State Department working to get Americans stranded abroad back home

4:45 p.m.: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a press conference Friday that the State Department has established a “repatriation task force” to try to bring back the thousands of U.S. citizens stranded abroad as international borders are being slammed shut to try to control the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are trying to get Americans back from these places where air travel has been disrupted,” he said during a press conference Friday. “We will get that done over time.”

Pompeo said it was unclear how many Americans may have been stranded by COVID-19 border closures, but there have been reports of travelers stuck in Peru, Morocco, Honduras, Ecuador and Guatemala, among other countries.

A look at Broward’s drive-thru COVID-19 testing site

4:30 p.m.: A line of cars snaked through CB Smith Park in Pembroke Pines Friday morning as workers dressed in green hospital scrubs stood under white tents and began testing people for COVID-19.

The mobile testing drive-thru site, which is across the street from Memorial Hospital West, opened after 4,000 testing kits were delivered by the state. It opened at 9 a.m. and was expected to stay open until 5 p.m.

However, the site is only testing those who meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria. There was no information on how many people were turned away.

The swab test — not including wait time — is only expected to take about eight minutes, but results could take about three days, according to Memorial.

Members of the Florida National Guard stood watch at the park’s main entrance at Flamingo Road and Johnson Street. There was one main line. Once people get to the front, they are sent into six different lines. No one has to get out of their cars.

Pembroke Pines police helped control the traffic outside the park.

Meanwhile, Larkin Community Hospital opened a drive-thru site in Hialeah on Friday with the capacity to run 500 tests a day for COVID-19 and the potential to ramp up to 2,000 tests a day in the next three weeks.

Jack Michel, a physician and Larkin’s CEO, said the non-profit hospital is using a subsidiary lab and a private lab in New Jersey to process the tests. Patients will wait two days for positive results and four days for negative results, he said.

Also, James Lee Witt, the FEMA director under former President Bill Clinton, said Friday he is in talks with Miami to assemble multiple drive-thru testing sites in the city, facilities that could be operational next week under a venture that includes relatives of President Donald Trump’s housing secretary.

The Home Depot to donate N95 masks to City of Miami Fire-Rescue

3:30 p.m.: Miami Commissioner Manolo Reyes’ office announced Friday it has partnered with The Home Depot to secure additional emergency items for local healthcare workers and first responders.

The Home Depot will donate several thousand N95 face masks to the City of Miami Fire-Rescue. The masks are expected to be delivered early next week.

“We are grateful for The Home Depot and other businesses in the community who are doing the right thing and stepping up to help our first responders who are on the front lines of the fight against the spread of COVID-19,” Reyes said in a press release.

Seminole casinos close, Miccosukee slots stay open

2:15 p.m.: The Seminole Tribe of Florida announced Friday that it will close all of its Florida casinos — including Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood — over COVID-19 concerns. This takes effect at 6 p.m. Friday.

In addition to the hotel near Hollywood, the affected Seminole properties are: Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa; Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee; Seminole Casino Brighton; Seminole Casino Coconut Creek; and Seminole Classic Casino (Hollywood).

“This decision was not taken lightly as Seminole Gaming employs nearly 14,000 Seminole Gaming team members in the state,” the tribe said in a news release. “The goal has been to protect their livelihood without jeopardizing public safety. We have now reached a point where we do not feel comfortable taking that risk.”

For now, Miccosukee Resort & Gaming still has its slot machines open 24/7, as well as its virtual promotions. Several of the venue’s dining options remain open as well.

Puerto Rico up to 14 confirmed cases

2 p.m.: Puerto Rico’s Veterans Affairs Hospital reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Friday afternoon in addition to the two the island’s Health Department reported Friday morning. That brings Puerto Rico’s total confirmed cases to 14.

The Health Department said the VA cases include one woman and five men, who range in age from 33 to 65. All of them are in stable condition and in isolation at home except for one who remains hospitalized, officials said. In addition, four of them had traveled to Florida, New York or Colorado before symptoms appeared.

Latest death a Broward resident

12:45 p.m.: The new death in Florida linked to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, is a 92-year-old Broward County resident, according to the Florida Department of Health. He had no recent travel history. It’s still unknown if he had any contact with someone who tested positive for the disease, according to the health department.

Closures have come to Broward, Palm Beach

12:30 p.m.: Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday ordered all non-essential businesses in Broward and Palm Beach counties to shut down through at least the end of the month.

The order requires all “restaurants, bars, taverns, pubs, night clubs, banquet halls, cocktail lounges, cabarets, breweries, cafeterias and any other alcohol and/or food service business establishment with seating for more than ten (10) people within the incorporated and unincorporated areas of Broward County and Palm Beach County to close on-premises service of customers.”

In addition “All movie theatres, concert houses, auditoriums, playhouses, bowling alleys, arcades, gymnasiums, fitness studios and beaches shall close.”

This does not apply to grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and convenience stores.

Miami-Dade County began enforcing similar restrictions on Thursday.

Long lines remain at grocery stores

Noon: Long lines continue to be seen at supermarkets in South Florida. Shoppers with full carts snaked around aisles late Friday morning at Milam’s Market in Coconut Grove, where there were no eggs and minimal dairy products.

Most grocery stores have reduced their opening hours lately so they can restock shelves and keep the stores sanitized.

Publix shortened its hours on both ends of the day, now opening from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Winn-Dixie and Walmart have also adjusted hours to close early to give employees time to disinfect and restock shelves.

Sedano’s and The Fresh Market have also instituted designated special shopping hours for seniors and other individuals most at risk. These people get first crack at getting through the doors at the the first hour of stores’ opening.

In Fresh Market’s case, that’s 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Shoppers exclusively ages 65 or older will be able to shop at all Publix grocery stores on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 7-8 a.m. starting March 24. The stores’ pharmacies will also open at 7 a.m. for seniors.

10 deaths in Florida, 237 total cases in Broward, Miami-Dade

11:45 a.m.: The Florida Department of Health’s latest update showed another surge of South Florida positive cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Of the 520 cases statewide, Broward has a state-high 124 positive cases, including 28 new cases at the 11 a.m. update. Twelve new cases were found in Miami-Dade, bringing the county’s total to 113. Just 101 of the 237 cases in those two counties have been linked to travel.

One new death has been reported, bringing the state total to 10.

Jungle Island offering virtual lessons for kids starting Monday

11:30 a.m.: Have animal lovers in your house? Jungle Island is providing a way for them to pass the time.

Miami’s eco-adventure park will be holding virtual lessons weekdays starting on Monday on the park’s Facebook and Instagram pages. These are geared for children between the ages of 5 and 12 and will start at 11 a.m. each day.

“While schools are closed and kids are bored and stuck at home, we decided to bring some of Jungle Island’s fine-feathered, scaly and cuddly friends directly to the computers of our young fans,” Emma Guss, Jungle Island’s education manager who will lead the virtual learning exercises, said in a press release. “Each assignment is full of surprises and is designed to keep kids’ busy for hours, while they discover fun facts about animals, protected national parks, and the crucial role they can play in conserving wildlife and endangered species.”

Dolphins’ Stephen Ross gives $500K toward relief

10:15 a.m.: Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has pledged a half-million dollars toward South Florida coronavirus relief for the elderly and youth.

Ross’ funds are earmarked for meal programs for Broward County Public Schools and Miami-Dade County Public Schools, relief efforts led by churches in Miami Gardens and to bolster programs from Feeding South Florida to provide access to food for underserved populations in the area, the Dolphins said in a statement.

“We want to help those who are most vulnerable and those right here in our backyard,” Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel said.

Miami-Dade transit cuts have arrived

9:45 a.m.: Miami-Dade announced transit cuts to begin Friday morning that will cause longer waits for trains and buses as an agency short on hand sanitizer and facing a ridership plunge tries to keep public transportation moving during the coronavirus crisis.

The county hasn’t been able to deploy hand sanitizer in all of its buses. It is also awaiting results from a bus driver who is home and under isolation for possible COVID-19 exposure.

Scheduled wait times will grow from about five minutes at most stops to 10 minutes during rush hour and as long as 30 minutes late at night. Metromover will reduce arrivals by about 25 percent. Buses on dozens of routes will arrive less frequently.

National Guard opens drive-thru testing site in Broward

10 a.m.: The Florida National Guard on Friday opened a COVID-19 testing center at Pembroke Pines’ C.B. Smith Park, located at 900 N. Flamingo Rd.

Testing will run daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is currently only eligible to those who fit one of the following criteria:

First responders and healthcare staff, including police, fire-rescue, medical staff and essential staff that is supporting the management agencies during the novel coronavirus pandemic. You must show I.D.

People who are 65 or older with COVID-19 symptoms and have chronic conditions. You must show I.D.

Individuals who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and have recently traveled internationally on a cruise or plane or have a compromised immune system. You must show I.D.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who held a news conference at the park Thursday — said 4,000 testing kits with swabs were delivered to the test site.


9:30 a.m.: Haiti president Jovenel Moïse announced Thursday night the first two cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Haiti’s two international airports in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien have been closed to all commercial flights and the country is under a state of emergency.

In a posting on its website, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince told U.S. citizens that as a result of the closure of the country’s airports, along with its ports and borders, they should check with their airlines regarding any updated information about their travel plans and/or restrictions. For emergencies they can also call +509-2229-8900 or email acspap@state.gov.

Puerto Rico also announced two more cases on Friday, both with Florida ties, to bring the island’s total cases to eight. Puerto Rico’s Department of Health is handling five of those cases. The island’s chief epidemiologist, Carmen Deseda, said they had all been “imported” to Puerto Rico and there was still no indication of community transmission, or local spread.

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