To our fellow Floridians,
Thank you for visiting our Florida State Senate District 21 Coronavirus update page.
Below is a review of important local updates as of March 19, 2020 at 1:00 PM. We will continue to update this page as information changes.
You can also click here for a Florida Department of Health dedicated webpage. Click here for frequently asked questions.
The Florida Department of Health has a COVID-19 Call Center available 24/7 at (866) 779–6121. You may also send an email with your concerns or questions to COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are in need of any support (including errand-running or grocery/medication pick up), please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com.
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY & MANATEE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
- Governor DeSantis has announced that all schools will be closed to students until April 15. After that date, it is possible that remote or virtual learning instruction will begin. This section will be updated as more information becomes available.
- Florida Virtual School (FLVS) has partnered with the Florida Department of Education to offer all school districts student support and teacher professional development tailored to the online learning environment. The Florida Department of Education in partnership with FLVS is training an additional 10,000 teachers statewide on the Virtual Teacher Training for COVID-19.
- Governor DeSantis also provided more flexibility to local school districts so they have the ability to purchase devices and internet services with unused funds for students in need.
- All remaining assessments for school readiness, all voluntary prekindergarten, and all testing requirements for K-12 will be cancelled for the 2019–2020 school year.
- Requirements for graduation and promotion will be evaluated as though those assessments did not exist. For seniors, if students have met the requirements for GPA and number of course credits, students will graduate. Be aware that as challenging as the thought is, plans for graduation ceremonies may fluctuate as time moves forward. Parents of underclassmen, middle school students, and elementary students will be able to request that their children remain in the same grade for the 2021 school year, if they choose.
- School grades will not be calculated for 2019–2020 and will remain the same as the 2018-2019 school year. School districts should be prepared to extend their educational calendars through June 30, 2020.
- Note that for our IEP students, school districts are being given flexibility to provide alternative services to meet their unique needs.
- For more information in HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, visit this site.
- For more information in MANATEE COUNTY, visit this site.
- For more information about COLLEGES and UNIVERSITIES, visit this site.
FOOD FOR STUDENTS
Commissioner Nikki Fried has activated the Summer BreakSpot text line & call center to ensure families can find free meals for kids under 18. You can:
- Text FLKIDSMEALS to 211-211
- Call 2-1-1 to speak with a live operator 24/7
- Visit www.SummerBreakSpot.FreshFromFlorida.com
- Find information for HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY here.
- Find information for MANATEE COUNTY here.
RESOURCES FOR SUPPORT
- GRAPHICS TO SHARE INFORMATION ON SOCIAL MEDIA: The Florida Immigrant Coalition has created multi-lingual graphics on how to stay safe — with resources in Urdu, Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish, English, Mandarin, and Creole. They are also working on Farsi and Korean next. You can find infographics linked here, and more resources from the Department of Health linked here. You can also share their post on Twitter and Facebook.
- CDC TRAVEL ADVISORIES: visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html
- CRUISE SHIPS: Find information here about cruising guidelines, including details for those who have cruises already scheduled
- AIRLINES: Here is a master list from Forbes on major international airline coronavirus change and cancellation policies.
- NURSING HOMES & ASSISTED LIVING FACILITIES: On March 14, Gov. Ron DeSantis banned most visits to nursing homes statewide as he acknowledged the coronavirus has likely spread into the general population. DeSantis and Health Care Secretary Mary Mayhew said while it will be frustrating for relatives not to visit loved ones in nursing homes, the ban is needed to prevent the virus’s spread among the frail and elderly. Exceptions will be made for visitations to patients who are near death. Read more here.
STATE PARKS: You can find updated information regarding our park system here.
LOCAL COURTS: For information regarding the 13th judicial circuit court in HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, visit this site.. For information regarding the 12th judicial circuit court in MANATEE COUNTY, visit this site.
- FLORIDA STATE PRISONS AND JUVENILE JUSTICE: You can find updated information regarding our justice system here.
- SMALL BUSINESS SUPPORT: This section will be updated as further information becomes available. Health and government officials are working diligently to support our community of small businesses. Find information for support from the U.S. Small Business Administration here.
- WORK PLACE GUIDANCE: Guidance for businesses from the CDC can be found here and from OSHA here.
- UNEMPLOYMENT SUPPORT: This section will be updated as further information becomes available, as this information is changing daily. Please visit CNN to learn about the latest updates.
- EVICTIONS: Sherriff Chad Chronister suspended evictions in HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY through April 20, 2020. Read more here. As of March 19, 2020, Sherriff Rick Wells of MANATEE COUNTY has made no declaration about evictions.
- UTILIES: Click here to see which utility companies have suspended disconnects during the coronavirus pandemic.
- HOUSE PAYMENTS/RENT: We know many homeowners are under strain during this time due to the coronavirus pandemic, but help is available. Please visit this site to find out more about mortgage relief. If you are a renter, we highly encourage you to reach out to your landlord sooner rather than later about their policies under the coronavirus pandemic so that you and your family can be prepared. If you run into unreasonable policies, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org for further assistance.
FROM THE GOVENOR’S OFFICE
- On March 17, Governor Ron DeSantis announced MAJOR changes impacted bars, restaurants, universities, and beaches. Scroll down to “Guidelines for Groups of People” for these updates.
- Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20–52 declaring a State of Emergency for COVID-19.
- Florida Division of Emergency Management activated to Level I (the highest level) to coordinate the state’s response to COVID-19. The National Guard has been mobilized to help with coronavirus response.
- Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has been directed to suspend drivers’ license renewal requirements for 30 days.
- All agencies have been directed to suspend for 30 days licensing and registration renewal requirements for existing processional licenses (e.g. realtors).
- Office of Insurance Regulation has published a resource page on its website emphasizing its direction to insurers and will continuously update the page with important insurance resources.
GUIDELINES FOR GROUPS OF PEOPLE (FOR BUSINESSES, COLLEGES, AND INDIVIDUALS)
- Per the Governor’s Executive Order, there remains in effect a prohibition of alcohol sales where it is consumed on-premise at bar, nightclub, and tavern establishments. This does not apply to stores where alcohol is sold, but not consumed.
- Per the Governor’s Executive Order, restaurants must limit their occupancy to 50% of their current building occupancy. Restaurants should ensure at least a six-foot distance between any groups of patrons and limiting parties to no more than 10 people.
- Beaches should be capped at 10 per group with groups kept separated.
- It has been recommended that local authorities strongly consider canceling mass gatherings and follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, including recommendations to cancel large gatherings of more than 50 people and smaller gatherings that may bring persons together from multiple parts of the country.
- Note that on March 16th President Donald Trump said people should avoid groups of 10 or more, which is even lower than what the Center for Disease Control is recommending. He also said eating inside restaurants and bars, discretionary travel and social visits should be avoided.
- Please practice social distancing. Learn more here. This article also includes guidance for parents.
CURRENT STATE NUMBERS
Florida recently partnered with private laboratories around the state to expand COVID-19 laboratory testing capacity. This partnership will increase the number of tests conducted each day and ensure Floridians receive the critical health information they need in a timely manner.
DEFINITION OF TERMS
Positive Test: A positive test is when a sample sent to the state health lab comes back positive for COVID-19.
Negative Test Result: A negative test result is when a sample sent to the state health lab comes back negative for COVID-19.
Pending Test Result: A pending test result is when a sample sent to the state health lab has not been declared positive or negative at the time.
People Under Public Health Monitoring: The number of people under public health monitoring includes those at risk of having been exposed to COVID-19 who are monitoring their health under the supervision of public health officials.
WHERE/HOW TO GET TESTED
- CALL YOUR PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN before you go anywhere for testing.
- The Florida Department of Health has expanded the testing criteria for COVID-19, allowing physicians to order a test based on their clinical judgment, mirroring what the CDC has been recommending.
- According to new clinical guidance issued in an email to providers, clinicians can choose to order a COVID-19 test even if their patient doesn’t fall within these six categories: contact with someone who has COVID-19; history of international or cruise travel; history of visits to domestic locations with community spread of the virus; hospitalization with acute lower respiratory illness of unknown origin; 65 years and older with chronic health problems; and being immuno-compromised.
- If doctors choose to order a test for their patients within or outside the six criteria, they need to collect the samples and send them to their health-care facility or a commercial lab like LabCorp and Quest.
- Samples collected from patients who fall within the state’s six criteria can also be sent to one of the state’s three public health laboratories.
- The state health department’s website has been updated as of March 19th to reflect the changes.
- Your healthcare professional will work with your county health department to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19. If you do not have a health care provider, contact your local health department.
- A person who is tested will have three specimens taken: oral, nasal, and saliva. The samples will be given to the county health department, who will then either ship or deliver them to the closest state laboratory. If a specimen is tested positive, it will be identified as ‘presumptive positive’ until the result is confirmed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, and the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Below are everyday preventive actions to help impede the spread of respiratory diseases.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Stay home when you are sick and avoid contact with people in poor health
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then dispose of the tissue
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. Please note that the CDC does not recommend that asymptomatic, healthy people wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
Note that symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days following exposure. Most people recover from the COVID-19 without needing special treatment, but the elderly and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems and diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.
A person that experiences a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan and any other destination under CDC travel advisory should call ahead to their health care provider and local county health department (CHD) and mention their recent travel or close contact.
If a person has had close contact with someone showing these symptoms who has recently traveled from this area or been in contact with a person with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, they should call ahead to a health care professional and the county health department. The health care professional will work with the Department to determine if the person should be tested for COVID-19.
ADVICE FOR OUR SENIORS
The CDC recommends that people over 60 stock up on supplies, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact, wash hands often, avoid crowds as much as possible, avoid cruises and don’t fly on planes unless absolutely necessary. If you are unable to leave home and are running low on supplies, please reach out immediately to email@example.com and we will coordinate to get you the help you need.
Medicare announced on March 17th that they will immediately expand coverage for telemedicine nationwide to help seniors with health problems stay home to avoid the coronavirus. Click here to learn more.
MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES
As we enter this new and unprecedented phase of the pandemic, we are inundated with guidelines about how to keep ourselves and our families healthy and virus-free. Yet a key item on the list — social distancing — poses unprecedented challenges to our mental and emotional well being, and requires consideration. The risk may be especially high for our children, who are suddenly cut off from school and friends. We hope these resources help.
- CDC: Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19
- SAMSA: Tips For Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation During an Infectious Disease Outbreak
- Scientific American: COVID-19: Dealing with Social Distancing
- NAMI Hillsborough: Click here.
- Peer Support Space: Please click here
- Mental Health Association: Please click here
Stay safe and well,
Amanda V. Linton
Candidate for Florida’s 21st State Senate District