Coronavirus

Florida coronavirus cases rise dramatically as Broward, Miami-Dade orders residents to stay home

Diagnosed coronavirus cases in South Florida jumped dramatically Thursday night as Broward and Miami-Dade counties ordered residents to stay at home and Miami prepared to enforce a new 10 p.m. curfew, all to try and curb the devastating outbreak that has killed more than 20,000 across the globe and paralyzed the world’s economy.

Overall, as testing has ramped up this week, 2,484 people in Florida had been diagnosed with the highly contagious illness as of 6 p.m. Thursday, the Florida Department of Health announced. That’s nearly a 26 percent increase from the night before, when there were 1,977 diagnosed cases.

In Miami-Dade, there are now 654 diagnosed cases, in Broward, 505.

The infected include two Miami police officers, who have been sent home and are recovering in isolation. “Both officers are in good spirits and are currently experiencing only mild effects from the virus,” Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina said in a press release Thursday afternoon.

The number of deaths rose too, with Florida recording 29 deaths from COVID-19, up from 23 deaths the night before.

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Broward County still lists three COVID-19 deaths, according to the state health department. The numbers do not reflect the death of a Miramar doctor, Alex Hsu, 67, who is the first medical professional to die in South Florida from complications of the virus.

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Across the globe, countries were struggling to contain the virus — and the economic disaster caused by the worldwide shutdown of travel and commerce.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced a staggering 3.3 million people filed for unemployment claims last week, the most ever in one week. World leaders vowed to inject $5 trillion into the global economy. In Florida, 74,021 people filed claims. U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi predicted that lawmakers on Friday would pass a sweeping $2.2 trillion relief package to keep the economy afloat.

In Florida, governments continued measures to try to limit people from spreading the virus to each other and ease the press on overwhelmed hospitals treating the most severely affected patients.

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On Thursday, Broward County issued an emergency shelter-in-place order in the face of pressure from city officials, urging all residents countywide to stay indoors except to conduct “essential” business. The Emergency Order will begin at 12:01 a.m. on Friday and encompass all of Broward County.

“The general feeling among the municipalities is it’s really not effective if you’re just gonna do it municipality by municipality. You have to do it as a county,” Joseph Napoli, the city manager for Cooper City in Broward, told the Miami Herald. “If it’s countywide, it’s much easier to educate people.”

While the county is advising everyone to stay inside, those who work at “essential” businesses can leave their homes to go to work.

“Essential businesses” include grocery stores and farmers’ markets, gas stations and marine fueling stations, car dealerships, hardware stores, contractors, first responders, laundromats and restaurants. Also, outdoor exercising is still allowed if it follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s social distancing guidelines.

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Hours later, Miami-Dade County issued an order with similar language and the same effect: urging people to remain at home as much as possible without new rules governing when they could go outside.

The difference between the two counties’ orders was largely semantic. Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry called her measure the “Shelter-in-Place: Safer at Home Policy,” while Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez used the term “Safer at Home.”

Gimenez criticized use of “shelter-in-place” orders for the coronavirus emergency, saying the term should be reserved when an active shooter, tornado or some other threat doesn’t allow people to go outside under any circumstances.

The City of Miami has issued a shelter-in-place order. On Friday night, the city will be going a step further by enforcing a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew.

Miami city commissioners voted to enact the curfew during a video conference meeting on Wednesday night.

The curfew will give the Miami police department the power to stop, question and arrest anyone out in public after 10 p.m. There will be three general exceptions for people who are traveling to or from work, seeking medical services or walking their dogs within 250 feet of their homes.

“If there’s a curfew, we’re going to enforce it,” Chief Colina said.

In other developments on Thursday:

Two poll workers who spent Florida’s primary day in precincts in the city of Hollywood have tested positive for coronavirus, the Broward Supervisor of Elections said Thursday.

According to a press release, Supervisor Pete Antonacci has learned the workers tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus, after working March 17 at precincts at the Martin Luther King Community Center and the David Park Community Center, both in the city of Hollywood.

One of the workers also worked at an early voting center in Weston, according to the press release. Early voting ended March 15.

Thirteen crew members in need of life-critical care from two cruise ships were evacuated to local hospitals in Miami Thursday with COVID-19 symptoms.

The ships — Costa Magica and Costa Favolosa — lingered three miles offshore as lifeboats transported sick people to the U.S. Coast Guard station at Port Miami. Wearing hazmat suits, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue workers helped the people off lifeboats and into ambulances that took them to local hospitals.

Florida Department of Revenue Executive Director Jim Zingale issued an emergency order Thursday that extends the usual real estate property tax deadline from March 31 to April 15. Property taxes paid on railroad, railroad terminal, private car and freight line and equipment company property, usually due April 1, are also due on April 15.

Broward Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch said Thursday he has been under self-quarantine since last weekend after his son returned home from Spain and lost his sense of taste and smell, which is a symptom of COVID-19.

“He came back from Spain, and this weekend will be 14 days,” Deutch said Thursday during a virtual press conference with members of Congress. “He had what we thought might be a symptom, the loss of taste and smell. We’ve treated him as if he has had it, but fortunately that’s the only symptom.”

The U.S. Navy announced that a Key West sailor was among 35 sailors and civilian personnel who have tested positive for COVID-19.

“People in close contact with those who tested positive were quarantined and are being monitored,” the Navy said in a press release. “Military health professionals are continuing to determine if others were possibly exposed, and will take additional precautionary measures as necessary.”

Miami Herald staff writers Douglas Hanks, David J. Neal and Devoun Cetoute contributed to this report.

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