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Thirteenth TSA Worker at OIA Tests Positive for Coronavirus; Governor DeSantis Says He Hasn't Decided When To Reopen Schools, More PPE on the Way for Healthcare Workers: Your Coronavirus Updates For 04/14

Disney World workers protested Florida's unemployment system from their homes across Orlando. Photo credit: Unite Here
Disney World workers protested Florida's unemployment system from their homes across Orlando. Photo credit: Unite Here

Florida case data is updated at approximately 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. daily.

Updated 9:00 p.m.

Orange County deaths tick up

Orange County's death toll has jumped to 18 according to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health on Tuesday evening.

Orange County has the most coronavirus cases in Central Florida, with 1,038 cases and 165 hospitalizations.

Osceola County has 349 cases, five deaths and 107 hospitalizations.

Volusia County has 226 cases and 51 hospitalizations. Seven people have died from COVID-19 in Volusia County.

Brevard County has 163 cases, forty hospitalizations and six deaths.

In Sumter County, home of the Villages, the death toll stands at nine, with 113 cases overall and 28 hospitalizations.

Updated 7:20 pm 

Another TSA officer tests positive for coronavirus at Orlando International Airport

A thirteenth Transportation Security Officer has tested positive for coronavirus at the Orlando International Airport. 

In an email to officers, Federal Security Director Pete Garcia says the worker 's last day at the checkpoint was April 5, less than two weeks ago.

Garcia says the screener will not return to the airport until a doctor clears them for duty.

The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority says staff continues to deep clean checkpoints, break rooms, and work areas. 

They recommend officers wear TSA-provided N-95 masks and stay at home if they’re sick.

Governor Ron DeSantis says more PPE on the way for healthcare workers, first responders

Governor Ron DeSantis says Florida is getting one million N-95 masks for healthcare workers and first responders from the federal government. 

DeSantis says the Department of Emergency Management has already received 800,000 of the masks.

He says Jared Moskowitz and his team will distribute these masks and other protective gear in the next 24 hours. 

“This delivery will include another 1.2 million procedure masks, a hundred thousand face shields, 500,000 gloves, 60,000 containers of hand sanitizer, 35,000 gowns.”

DeSantis says testing will also ramp up among the state's most vulnerable patient populations at nursing homes. He says mobile units of Florida National Guardsmen have already tested 500 workers and residents in these communities. 

Governor Ron DeSantis says he hasn't decide when to reopen K-12 schools, colleges

DeSantis says he hasn’t decided whether to reopen K-12 schools and colleges in Florida before the end of the year. He says he would consult with superintendents and parents before reinstating classes.

He says a statewide task force of experts will help plan how to safely operate schools post-coronavirus.

“It’s not just going back to school at the end of May for a couple of weeks. I'm talking about, what’s the fall semester going to look like for K-12? What’s it going to look like for our universities?"

DeSantis says the task force will also help small businesses, restaurants, and gyms rethink daily operations with new protocol in mind.

He says he wants to make rapid 5 minute Abbott tests available to employers so that workers can be quickly tested if they have symptoms. 

Florida National Guard tests more than 31,800 Floridians

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

The Florida National Guard says they’ve conducted more than 5,400 coronavirus tests at the drive thru Orange County Convention Center testing site. 

The Convention Center ranks third for the number of samples collected out of eight National Guard run testing sites statewide.

Only Guardsmen at C.B. Smith Park in Broward County and Hard Rock Stadium in Miami-Dade County have collected more swabs.

In Central Florida, Guardsmen also continue to screen passengers at the Orlando International Airport and manage the State Logistics Readiness Center.

More than 2,200 Florida National Guardsmen have been deployed to help with the response to COVID-19. They have conducted more than 31,800 coronavirus tests.

More testing in the Villages

Joe Byrnes, WMFE

Clinical testing has resumed at the polo field in The Villages for a couple of days this week. It was offered Tuesday and is set for Thursday, too.

The testing is only for people with COVID-19 symptoms and those at high risk. People must sign up at ufhealthcovid.com beginning 8 a.m. Wednesday.

UF Health officials say 300 tests are being administered each day. The University of Florida plans to resume research-related testing later in The Villages.

Dr. Michael Lauzardo, deputy director of UF's Emerging Pathogens Institute, said in a prepared statement the "big takeaway" is that social distancing is working in The Villages and that "the curve has been flattened."

OUC Board Agrees To Financial Assistance During Coronavirus Crisis

By Amy Green, WMFE

New help is on the way for cash-strapped OUC customers. 

The utility’s board of commissioners agreed Tuesday to spend 7.5 million to lower fuel rates -- translating into small savings in May for customers. 

Meeting virtually, the board also agreed to put 2.6 million toward a bill assistance fund and set aside another 1.5 million for small businesses. 

Clint Bullock, general manager and chief executive officer of the Orlando Utilities Commission, says the utility is taking other steps to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, like modifying hurricane season plans. 

“It’s going to be different, the logistics of how we interface, how we coordinate, how we feed, how we lodge, there’s a chance it will be different.” 

Bullock says one OUC employee has tested positive for COVID-19, and 60 percent of the utility’s employees are working remotely. 

Meanwhile Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer says social distancing guidelines appear to be working, and a projected surge in coronavirus cases appears to be tapering. 

“Two weeks ago we had a hospital call, and they were anticipating we would need 2,000 to 5,000 additional beds outside of the existing system, and they came back last week and said they thought they could manage the surge and then the peak within the initial resources.” 

Death toll passes 500

Matthew Peddie, WMFE

524 people have died from COVID-19 according to numbers released by the Florida Department of Health today.

Florida has had 21,367 positive coronavirus cases, with 2,909 hospitalizations.

Orange County has 1,033 cases, the most in Central Florida. The county has had 159 hospitalizations and 13 deaths. Marion County has had the fewest cases at 103, with 13 hospitalizations and three deaths. Sumter County, home to the sprawling retirement community of The Villages, has had 112 cases, 27 hospitalizations and nine deaths.

Nationwide, there are more than half a million confirmed cases and more than 23,000 COVID-19 deaths.

Disney World workers take aim at Florida's jobless system

The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Some of the 43,000 workers whose unions reached a deal with Walt Disney World over the weekend on temporary furloughs that allow them to keep their benefits aren’t going quietly.

They staged stay-at-home protests Monday aimed not at their employer but Florida’s beleaguered unemployment system.

Across metro Orlando, they hung signs in windows and scrawled messages on sidewalks that said,  “SOS. #WorkersCan’tWait.”

Disney World has been paying its workforce since it closed its doors in mid-March because of the spreading new coronavirus, but it plans to start indefinite furloughs next week.

That’s when Disney workers will try signing up for Florida unemployment benefits.

Lake County to sterilize N-95 masks

Joe Byrnes, WMFE

Lake County Fire Rescue will begin sterilizing used N95 masks for first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

[caption id="attachment_152024" align="alignleft" width="400"]

Lake County Fire Rescue is santitizing used N-95 masks using hydrogen peroxide pumped into a special trailer. Photo courtesy of Lake County Fire Rescue[/caption]

The three hour process decontaminates up to 300 masks at a time, dispersing hydrogen peroxide in the air and then maintaining the saturation level.

Over the weekend, Lake County officials did a trial run of the CURIS Decontamination Unit. They say the masks were free of bacteria and the coronavirus. 

The sterilization and reuse of N95 masks could ease local concerns over the availability of personal protective equipment.

State surgeon general says social distancing could last for a year

Gina Jordan, WFSU

Florida residents might be social distancing and even wearing facemasks for a year because of COVID-19.

Surgeon General and Florida Department of Health Secretary Scott Rivkees said it’s likely to be at least that long until a vaccine is ready.

“So as long as we are going to have COVID in the environment, and this is a tough virus, we are going to have to practice these measures so we are all protected.”

The state’s emergency management director says the anticipated peak of Florida’s COVID-19 outbreak has been moved back to April 26th. Some areas are expected to lag behind that, including the Panhandle.

Orange County 'not out of the woods yet'

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

Orange County Department of Health Medical Director Dr. Raul Pino says there is a deceleration in new cases in Orange County.  But he warns it may not be permanent.

“It doesn’t mean that we are out of the woods yet," he said at a media briefing Monday afternoon.

"That is not the case. We need more data to be able to assess if we have peaked already.”

Dr. Pino said it’s possible to have a second peak if people stop complying with social distancing measures. 

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said he’ll consult with health officials before lifting any measures. 

“Let’s get this done now. I don’t want to have to go through this again in two months. If we can be uncomfortable now, we don’t have to repeat this.”

Demings said he wants to assemble a group of business leaders by the end of the week to plan for an eventual reopening. 

Measures to re open businesses could include limiting occupancy and temperature checks.

Florida has had 21,019 positive coronavirus cases, with 2,841 hospitalizations according to the latest numbers from the department of health.

499 people have died from COVID-19 in Florida.

Orange County has 1,024 cases, the most in Central Florida. The county has had 157 hospitalizations and 13 deaths.

The county wants to open five more mobile testing sites in Orlando.

Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer said the mobile test sites will be at West Orange Park, Blanchard Park, Barnett Park, South Econ Park, and Camping World Stadium.

Orlando Health provides tablets for isolated COVID-19 patients

Amy Green, WMFE

Orlando Health is providing tablet devices for COVID-19 patients who don’t have any other way to stay in touch with family and friends while they are in the hospital. 

Visitation is restricted for these patients to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

Hospital staff members help patients use the tablets and connect with loved ones. The tablets are sanitized after each use.  

Click here to read more of WMFE's coronavirus coverage.