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BayCare consolidates Covid-19 testing sites

BayCare Health System has reduced the number of Covid-19 coronavirus testing  sites it is operating from seven to four. BayCare said it is consolidating the test sites to one per county. Sites are open from 9 a.m. to noon at BayCare Urgent Care centers at 900 Carillon Parkway in St. Petersburb, 3440 W. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Tampa, 4821 U.S. Highway 19 in New Port Richey and 36245 U.S. Highway 27 in Haines City. Because of limited test supplies, BayCare is only testing people with symptoms of the virus — cough, fever and shortness of breath — and with documentation from a physician that they have been referred for testing.

Florida State Parks to close immediately

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced late Sunday on social media that the entire Florida State Park system will close to all visitors, effective Monday, until further notice, at the direction of Governor Ron DeSantis. "DEP has taken many measures to continue providing resource recreation at our state parks during this time, such as limiting operating hours and reducing visitor capacity at parks with high visitation," the parks office announced. "Unfortunately, this has not resulted in the reductions needed to best protect public health and safety as Florida continues to mitigate the spread of COVID-19." State parks in Pinellas County include Fort DeSoto, the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Piers, Honeymoon Island, Caledesi Island and Anclote Key.  

USF St. Pete student tests positive for Covid-19

A University of South Florida St. Petersburg student is self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19 coronavirus, USF St. Petersburg Chancellor Martin Tadlock announced Sunday. The student is being monitored by the Florida Department of Health’s Pinellas County division, USF President Steve Currall said. The student had not been on campus since late February. USF students have been strongly encouraged to remain off-campus for the rest of the spring semester. Remote instruction begins tomorrow when students return from spring break, and continues through the end of the semester. It’s at least the second coronavirus case to hit USF. A staff member in the USF Counseling Center on the Tampa campus also tested positive, the school said on March 18.


PSTA scales back service, limits riders

In response to the growing Covid-19 coronavirus emergency, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority said it will allow bus drivers to limit the number of riders on their bus to no more than 10 people at any given time. PSTA also is planning to scale back overall service levels by approximately 40 percent starting Monday, March 30.  "I am hoping everyone practices social distancing and allows the buses to be used by only those who have no option but to use transit to get to essential work, medical appointments or the grocery store.” said Brad Miller, PSTA CEO, in a news release. PSTA earlier suspended collection of fares at the bus’s front door to reduce crowding and required most patrons to use the bus’s back door. 

Arts Alliance compiles a lengthy list of available grants, loans and tools for artists

The St. Petersburg Arts Alliance has compiled this list of local and national grants, loans and tools for artists facing financial crisis during the Covid-19 emergency. The printable four-page pdf can be downloaded here.

Embarc Collective creates resource database for Covid-19

Embarc Collective, the downtown Tampa startup and innovation hub, has developed an open source database to compile resources available to support entrepreneurs and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. This list includes professional and personal resources to help startup operators and their families stay healthy and effective during this time. Embarc said it welcomes contribution to the database here and is encouraging everyone to share the information.

Busch Gardens parent company faces credit review

Moody's Investors Service has placed SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment (NYSE: SEAS) credit ratings on review for downgrade due to the coronavirus outbreak's impact on the company's ability to operate its amusement parks. SeaWorld announced that all of its parks, including Busch Gardens in Tampa, would be temporarily closed until the end of March. There is a risk that the parks will be closed for an additional period of time which could substantially erode operating performance and significantly pressure liquidity for the rest of the year, Moody's said. "SeaWorld competes for discretionary consumer spending from an increasingly wide variety of other leisure and entertainment activities. The parks are highly seasonal and sensitive to weather conditions, changes in fuel prices, terrorism, public health issues, as well as other disruptions outside of the company's control. SeaWorld also has a significant capital spending program for new rides and attractions that is expected to help support attendance during normal business conditions, but would likely be curtailed during the coronavirus outbreak," the March 20 Moody's report said. "The rapid and widening spread of the coronavirus outbreak, deteriorating global economic outlook, falling oil prices, and asset price declines are creating a severe and extensive credit shock across many sectors, regions and markets. The combined credit effects of these developments are unprecedented. The amusement park sector could be one of the sectors most significantly affected by the shock given its sensitivity to consumer demand and sentiment."

Tampa hospitality company establishes fund for its laid-off workers

McKibbon Hospitality has established an associate assistance fund in response to the profound impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic to the hospitality industry. The fund is designed to help McKibbon's recently laid-off employees with groceries and other necessities and will provide payments of $200 every two weeks for 90 days beginning on April 3, the company said in an announcement on HospitalityNet. "In the 94 years that McKibbon Hospitality has been in business, we have never endured more challenging times," the announcement said. The Tampa company, which builds, renovates and manages hotel properties and had a portfolio of more than 85 managed hotels in more than 30 cities, completely suspended operations at several hotels and laid off most of its workers. 

Trade association projects 88K Florida hotel jobs lost due to Covid-19

Forty-four percent of hotel workers in every state are expected to lose their jobs, or already have lost their jobs, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the hospitality industry, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association. In Florida, 88,631 hotel direct operations jobs will be lost, with 305,146 hotel-supported jobs at risk, the association said, citing research by Oxford Economics. Based on current occupancy estimates, the association said four million total jobs nationwide have been eliminated already or are on the verge of being lost in the next few weeks.

DeSantis orders all gyms closed, restaurants allowed to-go options only

Gov. Ron DeSantis followed the precedent of states like California, New Jersey, Minnesota and many others Friday, closing all gyms and dine-in restaurants to mitigate the effects of Covid-19. DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-71, ordering restaurants and food establishments within the State of Florida to suspend on-premises food and alcohol consumption. Establishments are, however, allowed to operate their kitchens for delivery or take-out options

DeSantis also lifted the restrictions for specially licensed food service establishments to sell alcohol for delivery or take-out off-premises. To-go or delivery alcohol sales with food will be permitted, and will require an I.D.

The order requires the closure of the all gyms and fitness centers throughout the state, unless part of a hotel, residential building, police station, or single-occupancy office building. 

Read the details of the order here: DeSantis Executive Order 20-71

PSTA discontinues spring break trolley

Following the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners' decision to close public beaches effective Friday night at 11:59 p.m., the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority announced it will immediately discontinue the free Park & Ride Spring Break Service, which provides free trolley service from downtown Clearwater to Clearwater beach. PSTA will continue to provide its regular service. That schedule can be seen here. PSTA also will continue regular service of the Jolley Trolley and Suncoast Beach Trolley.  In order to reduce crowding and bunching, all transit services in Pinellas County are free.  Customers are encouraged to use the back door of the bus to enter and exit.

BayCare postpones elective surgeries

BayCare Health System is postponing elective surgical procedures starting today and continuing through April 30 at its hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers. BayCare said the move is intended to serve the public’s health amid the coronavirus pandemic. The change applies to procedures that can be delayed without danger to the patient and includes elective surgeries, screening colonoscopies, catheterization laboratory procedures, interventional radiology studies and sleep lab studies. Urgent and emergent procedures will continue, the health system said.

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