Coronavirus

Coronavirus live updates: Here’s what to know in South Florida on March 21

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.

333 cases in Miami-Dade and Broward; Could Isolation shelters be coming?

7:15 p.m.: The Florida Department of Health’s Saturday night update showed 27 new cases in Miami-Dade County, bringing the total up to 169. In Broward County, 13 cases were added, bringing the total to 164. There are 763 confirmed cases overall in Florida.

With the number of confirmed cases surpassing 700, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he is considering his most drastic move yet: Moving certain people at risk to isolation shelters.

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DeSantis said his administration might put those who test positive for COVID-19 or show symptoms of the disease in shelters, such as abandoned convention centers or hotels, to prevent them from returning home and infecting those they live with.

It would be a dramatic change in strategy toward combating the spread of coronavirus, which has killed a dozen people in Florida. State and federal officials have encouraged people to stay home if they feel sick.

Some local stories worth reading

7 p.m.: With the day winding down, here’s a look at some of the stories our staff has put together this afternoon that haven’t previously been mentioned in the blog today:

Faith in the time of coronavirus: Coral Gables church offers drive-thru confessions.

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‘I just need a place to lay my head.’ Motel closures may displace Miami’s poor.

How did Miami city leaders get coronavirus tests? ‘Continuity of government’

Positive cases hit Broward County school, University of Miami

5:30 p.m.: Both the University of Miami and Broward County Public Schools on Saturday announced positive cases of COVID-19.

UM said a student from its main Coral Gables campus has tested positive for the virus. According to a university-wide email, the student “lives off campus, has been in self-isolation, and is in good condition.”

The Broward County School District said in an emailed release that it learned from the Florida Department of Health on Saturday morning that an “individual” at Walter C. Young Middle School in Pembroke Pines tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The release said the individual was last present at the school on March 12.

No Arsht Center performances until at least mid-May

1:20 p.m.: The Arsht Center announced its suspension of performances and events will extend to May 10, adding more than a month to its initial pause. Events at the Miami-Dade performing arts center were first put on hold March 12 with the initial suspension lasting through April 5.

Arsht Center president and CEO Johann Zietsman said in a press release that the center is in good financial standing and all staff members will continue to be paid and receive benefits “for the foreseeable future.”

“We are optimistic that we can weather this storm,” Zietsman said. “... The Center is resilient, and we expect to come out of this stronger and ready to welcome back audiences to the Arsht Center to connect with the arts and with each other. While we do feel optimistic about the Arsht Center’s future, our thoughts right now are with those suffering with the health effects of COVID-19 and so many in our industry and beyond that are suffering financially right now. We will do our part to employ local artists to lead virtual experiences and, when it is safe to gather once again, we will bring artists back to the stage as soon as possible.”

A full list of impacted performances and events can be found here.

New case numbers, state preparing to deal with unemployment assistance

1 p.m.: Florida has 658 confirmed cases, according to the latest update from the Florida Department of Health, with 293 - or almost 45 percent - being in Broward or Miami-Dade.

Meanwhile, as Florida’s economy ground to a halt this week, Floridians flooded the state’s unemployment assistance program with calls and online requests, jamming up the phone lines and crashing the website. Gov. Ron DeSantis said he’s aware of the problems, and his Department of Economic Opportunity is hiring another 100 call-takers to lesson the load and man the call center seven days per week. He’s also issued orders making it easier for people to qualify for unemployment and waived a rule that encouraged businesses to keep people on their payrolls at drastically reduced rates so the employees wouldn’t qualify for unemployment.

The pandemic has also hit parts of South Florida in another way: Finding vital child care services for those lucky enough to still have a job — in particular those with jobs deemed essential, jobs necessary for keeping the hundreds of thousands of Miami-Dade residents who are confined to home fed and as safe as possible under unprecedented circumstances.

An unknown number of child-care providers in Miami-Dade have decided to close their doors in the absence of any official orders to do so. Though public and private schools are closed, the state of Florida has so far exempted child-care centers, a key source of support for keeping people employed, especially those considered to hold essential jobs. One such provider, Small World, on its website blames the closure vaguely on “the county’s emerging situation with the coronavirus.”

Miami-Dade more lenient on arrest decisions

10 a.m.: Law enforcement has already taken several steps to try and halt the possible spread of the deadly virus through the jail population.

The idea is to issue more warnings and promises to appear in court for minor offenses like marijuana possession or other misdemeanors.

Police agencies all over the county, led by Miami and Miami-Dade, have already issued directives to officers to be more passive when it comes to making arrests related to business that have been ordered closed but remain open. Also, judges have become more lenient, issuing lower bond amounts or letting suspects walk for minor offenses. This includes arrests involving businesses that were ordered closed but remain open.

As of the middle of last week, arrests were way down compared to the same period a year ago.

On Friday, police were sent a memo informing them of a series of hoaxes circulating on the Internet and through the community. One of them is the debunked story that the nation’s military intends to mobilize and lock down the entire country in the coming days.

A news recap heading into the weekend

9:30 a.m.: South Florida has a lot going on regarding the coronavirus pandemic as the weekend begins.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties combine to have 251 of the state’s 563 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, as of the Florida Department of Health’s Friday night update.

A Fort Lauderdale assisted living facility has had two deaths related to the virus and seven total reported positive cases.

Non-essential businesses in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade have all been ordered to close.

And that’s just the start.

Here’s a rundown of the latest as it pertains to South Florida as the weekend begins.

The Florida Keys are bracing for a time without tourists, which is leaving business owners and employees uncertain about the future.

Miami-Dade is shutting down its hotels and Miami Beach is starting a curfew on Monday.

Miami-Dade and Broward school districts have started spring break, a welcome respite before beginning the new normal in the coronavirus pandemic: remote online learning until at least April 15.

Cuba is shutting down its tourism starting Tuesday, with air travel being restricted and only Cubans who live on the island and foreign citizens who are permanent residents or work on the island being allowed to re-enter the country, according to Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel.

A look at how gig workers might have to find another line of work — or turn to welfare programs like food stamps — as the pandemic continues.

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