Gov. Ron DeSantis

Gov. Ron DeSantis address the state to give latest update on COVID-19 outbreak in Florida.

The state of Florida is aggressively responding to COVID-19. In an effort to keep Florida residents and visitors safe and aware regarding the status of the virus, the Florida Department of Health issues an online update every day, seven days per week.

The Miami Times has compiled an encompassing list of South Florida cancellations that run the gamut from school shutdowns, availability of free and reduced lunch, sports cancellations, the status of beaches and supermarket hours.

In a Monday, March 16, 2020 briefing at the state emergency operations center, Gov. DeSantis announced the following:

At the governor’s direction, a public-private partnership has been put in place between Memorial Healthcare in Broward and the National Guard to set up a mobile testing unit.

DeSantis has directed the dept. of business and professional regulation secretary Halsey Beshears, in coordination with the Florida dept. of health, to issue social distancing guidance to restaurants and bars.

DeSantis sent a letter to the federal Small Business Administration to turn on the SBA loan program for small businesses.

DeSantis directed the dept. of management services secretary Jonathan Satter to allow state employees to donate and transfer their available leave time to other state employees to mitigate the impacts of school closures.

IN REVIEW

On March 9, Gov. DeSantis issued executive order 20-52, declaring a state of emergency for COVID-19. By declaring a state of emergency, DeSantis is ensuring that state and local governments have the resources and flexibility they need to prepare and respond.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Florida surged to more than 130 statewide, amid four deaths reported by the Florida Department of Health. More than 170 National Guard personnel have deployed in Broward County, and some 300 additional Guard members are soon to be activated to help with drive-thru testing.

DeSantis said Florida should brace for even more infections and he again urged residents — particularly younger people on spring break — to exercise caution and refrain from gathering in crowds.

SOUTH FLORIDA PERSPECTIVE

At a press conference held Tuesday, March 17, Miami-Dade Deputy Mayor Jennifer Moon announced the latest order signed by Mayor Gimenez — implementing the temporary shutdown of all restaurants; bars; taverns; pubs; night clubs; banquet halls; cocktail lounges; cabarets; breweries; cafeterias and any other alcohol and/or food service businesses that contain on-premise seating for more than eight people.

Restaurant kitchens will still remain open and operational for take-out and delivery orders only. The order does not apply to grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and convenience stores. All movie theaters; concert houses; auditoriums; playhouses; bowling alleys; arcades; gymnasiums and fitness studios will also be closed.

The order will not last until the expiration of the local state of emergency.

The cities of Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale — popular among college students on spring break — announced Sunday that they would close off some of their popular beaches and ordered “non-essential” businesses to close by 10 p.m. to prevent large crowds from forming.

The governor has been especially concerned about college students on spring break and other young people congregating in large groups.

“To have people congregating in these bars and beaches like this undercuts our efforts to protect our vulnerable population,” DeSantis said.

SCHOOLS

Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools Alberto Carvalho announced Friday, March 13 that M-DCPS will be closed effective Monday, March 16.

“After careful consideration and in consultation with health officials, effective March 16, 2020, all M-DCPS schools will close. The well-being of our students, employees and community is our number one priority," he shared via Twitter.

The decision comes after a Town of Bay Harbor Islands employee who'd been in contact with children from Ruth K. Broad/Bay Harbor K-8 Center tested positive for COVID-19 (coronavirus).

At 10:15 p.m. on Thursday, March 12, the Town of Bay Harbor Islands advised the district of the diagnosis, which has been confirmed by the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County (FDOH).

After consulting with the Florida Department of Health, the district made the decision to close the school. Parents and employees have been advised of the closure and are being instructed not to come to school.

Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie issued a letter on Friday, March 13 indicating district schools would be temporarily closing beginning Monday, March 16.

“This closure begins next week and continues through the following week, which is our regularly scheduled Spring Break. This means, there is no school for students from March 16 through March 27.

“All District employees, except for identified essential personnel, will not be required to report to work from March 16 - 20. Beginning the week of March 23, all employees who are on calendar, and thus previously scheduled to work, will return to work.

“In addition, we will provide food to students on free or reduced-priced meals and their families. These meals will be available at eight high schools across the District: Blanche Ely, Boyd Anderson, Dillard, Charles W. Flanagan, Hallandale, Miramar, Nova and J.P. Taravella.”

FLORIDA COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES

On Tuesday, March 17, Governor DeSantis recommended that all public colleges and universities implement ALL ONLINE LEARNING through the end of the Spring semester.

Florida International University began remote learning effective Thursday, March 12 in response to the coronavirus pandemic and will remain in effect until the end of spring semester. Please visit the FIU website for updates.

The university, along with the other State University System institutions, made this decision in an abundance of caution and following the lead of Gov. DeSantis.

The university is lifting the deadline to withdraw from the Spring Term (Session B and C) with a DR grade temporarily. In addition, students living on campus were encouraged to return home by noon on Sunday, March 15-- although students who choose to remain on campus can do so.

All three museums at FIU are closed to the public until at least April 4.

The Children’s Creative Learning Center is closed as of Monday, following Miami-Dade County Public Schools closures.

Conference USA and all FIU intercollegiate games have been suspended until further notice. Fans who previously purchased game tickets for scheduled athletic events will receive an email from the FIU Athletics Ticket Office with more information about refunds. All practices have also been suspended until further notice.

On campus dual enrollment students will transition to remote learning.

Miami Dade College has suspended all classes effective March 16, 2020regardless of delivery modality (including online classes). Students are not to be required to complete any assignments during this time.

Effective March 30, 2020 remote learning will remain in effect until the end of the spring semester.

During this time period, all employees will continue to report to campus so they can be ready for a remote-learning transition, however all college events and gatherings are canceled. Please visit the Miami Dade College website for updated information.

University of Miami, spring break has been extended through March 22. Online and remote distance learning environments will resume on March 23 and remain in effect through the spring semester. The university will partially close on-campus housing beginning Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Please visit the University of Miami website for updated information.

Florida Memorial University begins virtual learning on Thursday, March 19. FMU campus and residence halls will remain open until then, but classes were suspended from Monday, March 16 to Wednesday, March 18.

FMU Sunday, Black History Jazz Brunch at Plymouth Congregational Church and all Founder’s Day events have been postponed.

Florida Atlantic University will transition to 100% remote instruction beginning Monday, March 16 and will continue through the end of Spring semester. Please check the FAU website for updated information.

The university said students should not return to campus from spring break for at least two weeks and all residential students are encouraged to remain off campus if possible.

Essential services will still be provided, such as dining, counseling, health services and library services, as the campus will remain open.

At Nova Southeastern University, there are a total of six positive COVID-19 cases involving individuals whom had traveled internationally to Ireland prior to travel restrictions for Europe and the United Kingdom.

NSU suspended all classes on Thursday, March 12, and will plan to resume on Monday, March 23, with fully online delivery. Residential Life and Housing is assisted students in leaving all residence halls, transitioning to their homes or off-campus housing on Sunday, March 15.

The university is working with all individuals who are not able to travel home to ensure that they have a housing option.

NSU’s medical and health care experts, under the guidelines established by the Broward County Health Department, interviewed the study abroad students and have counseled these travelers, as well as any students, faculty or staff members believed to have been in close contact with them.

Effective Monday, March 16, Broward College employees will work from home and prepare for remote learning. The college asks students not to come to campus until further notice.

All classes are suspended from March 14 – March 22, including face-to-face, online, as well as field experience courses and law enforcement academies previously excluded. The college will continue its efforts to prepare for a transition to remote learning beginning Monday, March 23 and will last until the end of the semester. Visit the Broward College website for updated information.

SPORTS

The NBA has suspended its season “until further notice” after a Utah Jazz player tested positive Wednesday, March 11 for the coronavirus, a move that came only hours after the majority of the league’s owners were leaning toward playing games without fans in arenas. Now there will be no games at all for at least 30 days.

NASCAR said it will run its next two races without fans in Atlanta and continuing at Homestead-Miami Speedway. This comes after Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez said the county was under a state of emergency and NASCAR racing would be postponed unless officials chose to run the race without fans.

“These events will be restricted to competitors, crews, officials and other necessary personnel to conduct the race,” NASCAR said in a statement. “We will work with public health officials as we determine future scheduling beyond these events.”

The stock car series had already announced changes designed to give drivers 6-foot buffers during media sessions and move its pre-race competition meeting to an outdoor location.

The Miami Open tennis tournament that was scheduled to start later this month was canceled Thursday because of the new coronavirus outbreak.

The tournament had been scheduled for March 23 to April 5 at the NFL Dolphins’ stadium complex in Miami Gardens. The tournament moved there last year from its former home on Key Biscayne.

The NCAA canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments Thursday, March 12, putting an abrupt end to the season less than a month before champions were to be crowned.

The unprecedented move comes a day after the NCAA announced the games that were scheduled to start next week would go on, but played in mostly empty arenas. That plan was scrapped as every major American sports league from the NBA to MLB put the brakes on its season due to concerns about the pandemic.

“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to the spread of the pandemic and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during the academic year given the ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA said in statement.

The NCAA canceled championships in every spring sport, which include hockey, baseball and lacrosse.

Major League Soccer is shutting down for 30 days because of the coronavirus, delaying the home opener for the expansion team co-owned by former England captain David Beckham.

Inter Miami, co-owned by Beckham and Jorge Mas, had been scheduled to play its home opener Saturday. MLS started its season on Feb. 29 and each of the 26 teams has played two league matches.

In addition, the U.S. Soccer Federation canceled exhibitions in March and April for its men’s and women’s national teams as a precaution.

TOURISM AND TRAVEL

Princess Cruises, which had one of its ships quarantined off the coast of Japan last month, is suspending global operations through early May because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The cruise line, which is part of Carnival Corp., said Thursday that 18 cruise ships will cease voyages that were scheduled to depart between March 12 and May 10.

The Miami cruise operator said those currently on cruises that will end in the next five days will continue to sail as expected so that travel arrangements aren’t disrupted. Sailings underway that extend past March 17 will end at the most convenient location for guests, factoring in operational requirements.

TSA has also disclosed that a screener at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, in Broward County, also tested positive for COVID-19, however it was unclear if the case was among infections already announced by Florida health officials.

Miami International Airport has been designated as one of 13 airports nationwide that will receive flights from Europe and will check passengers for signs of the disease. Spokesman Greg Chin said that unlike Chicago’s O’Hare where lines have been long, Miami has had short waits as only 10 European flights arrived Saturday and only seven are expected Sunday.

THEME PARKS

All parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Paris Resort will be closing through the end of the month, starting at the close of business Sunday, the Walt Disney Company announced.

The company said in a statement Thursday, March 12 that the decision was made “in an abundance of caution” to protect guests and employees amid the global outbreak of the new coronavirus. The decision came hours after the announcement of the planned closure of Disneyland in California.

Additionally, Disney Cruise Line will suspend all new departures beginning Saturday and continuing through the end of the month, the statement said. The Walt Disney Company will pay its cast members during that closure period, according to the release.

In a company announcement early Monday, March 16, Disney stated that it will close all of its hotels in Florida due to growing concern over the increase in coronavirus cases in the state.

CONCERTS

Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert made a decision Thursday, March 12 to postpone the city’s signature Jazz in the Gardens music festival out of growing concerns of COVID-19.

“After much consideration and in an abundance of caution,” led Gilbert’s Thursday morning announcement. The event was scheduled Saturday, March 14 and Sunday, March 15.

All preceding ancillary events are cancelled. They include Thursday, March 12, Poetry in the Garden; Friday, March 13 Women’s Impact Luncheon and the official press conference; Friday, March 13 opening night party at Hard Rock Stadium.

Officials canceled a large Hispanic street festival in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood citing fears that crowded events could spread coronavirus more widely.

Mayor Francis Suarez said the city of Miami would not grant permits for the Calle Ocho Music Festival, effectively canceling the street event, in an “abundance of caution” as cases of the coronavirus continue to rise. Four people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Florida, but so far none in Miami.

Authorities announced the decision a day after they decided to cancel Ultra Music Festival; that draws thousands to Miami’s downtown Bayfront Park. Both festivals take place in March, in Florida’s spring break season.

Ultra festival organizers said the city of Miami was following directives from the governor of Florida and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Calle Ocho was scheduled for Sunday to stretch over 20 blocks in the heart of the city’s Cuban community, with live music performances of Latino artists on 10 stages. Organizers say it draws a million people and in the past has featured artists that are now widely known such as Pitbull and Maluma.

The Adrienne Arsht Center closed Friday, March 13 and canceled the weekend’s “Hamilton” shows as part of a broader shutdown of county theaters by Miami-Dade. The theater said it was clearing its calendar of all events through April 5, with refunds available for all corresponding shows.

STORES

Publix Super Markets announced Friday evening that they will be adjusting their store hours amid coronavirus concerns.

A release shared on the company’s Twitter stated that all stores and pharmacies companywide will be closing at 8 p.m. nightly starting Saturday, March 14 until further notice.

The company says this time adjustment is to better serve customers by giving store teams enough time to conduct additional preventative sanitation and restock products on shelves.

Sedano’s Supermarkets will remain open under regular business hours and continue to offer online services to customers via its app and website, the company shared in a statement on Monday, March 16. They will however be limiting the number of online orders to ensure that all of their customer’s orders are fulfilled.

Winn-Dixie and Harveys Supermarket stores will close an hour earlier at 9 p.m. starting Monday, March 16 until further notice.

Southeastern Grocers President and CEO Anthony Hucker announced the move on Sunday, March 15 in an email to customers and on the store websites.

"This change will give our associates the time they need to appropriately restock our stores, and ensure our stores are able to conduct additional sanitation procedures in service of providing a shopping experience our customers can always count on," the letter said.

The stores also will no longer operate self-serve deli bars and will have prepackaged deli items available.

"We pride ourselves on adhering to the highest standards of cleanliness in our stores, and we’ve added extra focus in our most high-touch areas of the store, such as check-out, PIN pads, cart corrals, etc. We’re taking all necessary precautions with our associates and adopting recommended best practices from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)," the letter said.

Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer and private employer, said late Saturday it is limiting hours to ensure stores can keep sought-after items such as hand sanitizer in stock.

Beginning Sunday, March 15, more than 4,700 Walmart and Neighborhood Market locations in the U.S. were open from 6 a.m. to 11 pm. until further notice. Most super center stores are typically open 24 hours while some Neighborhood stores are as well.

“I don’t think any of us have been through an experience like this, and we continue to be amazed at what people, whether in the stores or in the supply chain, are doing to make sure customers have what they need,” Dacona Smith, chief operating officer, said in a statement.

Other retailers are following Apple and closing their stores, including Urban Outfitters, Everlane and Patagonia.

“This is a critical moment in the world,” Everlane posted on its website. “With the situation evolving very quickly, we must do our part in slowing the spread of COVID-19”. Everlane says it will keep its online operations open, while Patagonia is closing down both its website and stores.

The Florida Dept. of Health, The Associated Press; Florida International University; Miami Dade College; University of Miami; Florida Memorial University; Miami-Dade County office of the mayor; Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Broward County Public Schools contributed to the information in this report.

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