NEW PORT RICHEY — BayCare Health System has begun offering novel coronavirus testing in the parking at Gulf High School, 5355 School Road, from 9 a.m. until noon.

People who suspect they have coronavirus and have not yet been screened for COVID-19 by a health care provider, visit BayCareAnywhere.org via smart phone or computer at any time of the day to have a virtual visit with a provider. Pre-screening is necessary before accessing a COVID-19 testing site.

The link to BayCare testing locations and hours is https://baycare.org/coronavirus/covid-19-testing-centers.

—Brian Graves

•••

TALLAHASSEE— The nonprofit watchdog group Florida Tax Watch has issued the following statement regarding the impact of the newly passed federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act:

An analysis completed by Florida TaxWatch (FTW) has shown that the CARES Act (H.R. 748), which today passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is set for President Donald Trump’s approval, will provide more than $8 billion in federal aid to Florida, including up to $3.7 billion for local governments, as the state responds to the devastating economic impacts of COVID-19.

Along with this funding, Gov. Ron DeSantis requested a Federal Major Disaster Declaration, which was approved, in part, by President Trump this week.

With the new federal aid, as well as $3.8 billion in state reserves, the state appears to be in good shape for COVID-related costs; however, if the expected drop in Florida tax revenue occurs, the state will still be short of paying for other costs that the federal bill will not cover.

You can read the full report at https://floridataxwatch.org.

•••

CLEARWATER — Pinellas County has issued the following statement regarding the need for donations of medical supplies to deal with the coronavirus outbreak:

Eckerd College, Schiller University, Fiberglass Coatings, Inc., and dozens of individuals are among the many local partners who have donated tens of thousands of medical and personal protective items this week in Pinellas County, but more is needed to keep local health workers prepared to fight COVID-19.

The county is collecting personal protective equipment (PPE) and disinfectants at three drop-off locations through Saturday and two locations starting next week. Items must be unopened and unused. These supplies will then be delivered to local hospitals, long-term care facilities, and first responders to ensure their safety as they take care of our community.

Pinellas County is operating drop-off sites to receive specific donations from businesses and individuals. Staff and volunteers will retrieve items from vehicles to maximize social distancing.  

Please drop off donations today until 7 p.m., or on Saturday, March 28, from 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at the following locations:

St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church, 715 E. Orange St., Tarpon Springs.

Walsingham Park, 12615 102nd Ave., Seminole. 

Tropicana Field, Lot 4, 198 17th St. S., St. Petersburg.

The Tropicana Field and Walsingham Park sites will continue operating next week from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., Monday, March 30, through Saturday, April 4. These sites will also begin accepting nonperishable food donations next week.   

Personal protection equipment (PPE) items requested:

Surgical face masks (note: we cannot accept homemade face masks at this time).

P100 and N95 masks.

Face shields.

Nitrile exam gloves, powder free.

5 and 7 mil nitrile gloves.

Eye protection - safety glasses.

Surgical tear away gowns.

Safety eye goggles.

 

Disinfectants requested:

Hand sanitizer (any size) 60% Alcohol.

91% isopropyl alcohol.

Clorox wipes.

Lysol disinfectant spray.

Sani-cloth wipes.

3% hydrogen peroxide.

 

Medical devices requested (new and unused only, please):

Ventilators - Hospital, Transport, Home Use - Invasive positive pressure ventilators that can be utilized for intubated patients..

CPAP - Hospital, Disposable, Home Sleep Apnea.

BiPAP/BiLevel - Hospital, Disposable, Home Sleep Apnea.

High Flow Nasal Cannula Set-ups.

 

Only the above items will be accepted. 

Citizens and businesses can help our local food banks by taking non-perishable food items to the Tropicana Field and Walsingham sites starting next week, or to one of the following food banks:

Tarpon Springs Shepherd Center: http://tscenter.org,

Food Donations accepted: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

304 S. Pinellas Ave., Tarpon Springs.

RCS Pinellas: https://rcspinellas.org,

Food Donations accepted: Mon-Fri, 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Thursdays 8:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.

700 Druid Road, Clearwater.

St. Pete Free Clinic: https://stpetersburgfreeclinic.org,

Food donations accepted: Mondays, Tuesdays & Thursdays from 9:30 am. -  12:30 p.m.

863 3rd Ave. N., St. Petersburg.

Pinellas County is soliciting the help of the business community directly. For up-to-date information on opportunities for business donations, visit www.pced.org/donate

For questions, please call the Citizen Information Center at (727) 464-4333 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Those with hearing impairment can chat online at www.bit.ly/PinellasChat.

•••

PALM HARBOR— Through his office, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, has issued the following statement regarding the coronavirus outbreak aid measure passed by Congress:

“Today we passed an unprecedented economic package that will provide necessary resources to help keep us safe, protect jobs and prevent financial devastation for millions of Americans.  We must get people working again, as soon as it is safe to do so.

“The bill, which President Trump will soon sign into law, provides immediate relief to individual taxpayers who need it most, including: seniors, disabled Veterans and those on SSD. These stimulus checks will not be considered taxable income for 2020, so Americans will not have to worry about an unexpected future tax liability.

"Expanded unemployment benefits will provide support for those who have lost their jobs or seen their hours reduced through no fault of their own … but rather as a sacrifice in our shared effort to flatten the curve and save lives.

“Additionally, the bill provides loan programs to help every type and size of business, including: sole proprietors, independent contractors, and nonprofits.  If small business owners continue to pay their rent and employees, they can have their loans forgiven.

“It is not a perfect bill, there is definitely spending in this bill I am not happy with; however, this bill will save the lives and livelihood of my constituents.  We cannot allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good, especially in times as difficult as this.

“Like the spirit of the American people, this legislative package is robust.  We bounce back  rapidly and resiliently.  We are in this together and we will help one another overcome these challenging times.”

•••

JACKSONVILLE — The Florida Region of the Alzheimer’s Association has issued the following statement regarding a dial-in support group that will operate during the coronavirus outbreak:

 As the novel coronavirus outbreak continues to keep Floridians indoors, the Alzheimer’s Association is introducing a new way for those living with Alzheimer’s disease and their loved ones to gain support.

This week, the nonprofit organization debuted its new dial-in support groups, offering caregivers the opportunity to receive the support and information they need without leaving home. Now, support groups that previously met in-person will be able to convene via confidential conference call lines set up by their group facilitators.

“We are so pleased to announce that our statewide network of more than 200 caregiver and early-stage Alzheimer’s support groups will now be available over the phone,” said Angela MacAuley, regional leader for the Alzheimer’s Association in Florida. “While we want to ensure that our constituents are taking the appropriate steps to protect their health in these difficult times, we also want to continue to reassure them that they are not alone by opening up this new channel of support.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association “2020 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures” report (https://alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures), an estimated 580,000 Floridians are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, and an additional 1.2 million Floridians are providing them with unpaid care.

“Florida ranks second in the nation for Alzheimer’s prevalence, accounting for approximately 10 percent of the United States’ total diagnosed population,” MacAuley added. “As our state is so heavily impacted by this disease, it is crucial that we continue to offer those affected the support they need – especially given the current circumstances.”

Although Alzheimer’s disease itself has not been proven to increase one’s risk of contracting COVID-19, the novel coronavirus does pose unique challenges to those living with dementia and their caregivers. For instance, social distancing can be difficult – if not impossible – for those with late-stage dementia, and they may also need reminders to wash their hands as frequently and thoroughly as public health officials recommend.

For those battling Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline offers around-the-clock support. Those looking to join a dial-in support group or for additional information are encouraged to contact the helpline at 800-272-3900.

•••

NEW PORT RICHEY —  The Pasco Sheriff’s office has issued this statement about Sheriff Chris Nocco’s briefing on the coronavirus outbreak:

Yesterday, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco provided an update about COVID-19. He spoke on the importance of using common sense during the pandemic and supporting Pasco's small business community through alternative means, such as pickup or delivery. The video was released on our social media platforms and can be found at https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=328353668316744.

•••

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County has issued the following statement about its decision to extend the county’s state of emergency declaration:

As of March 26, 2020, the Hernando County Executive Policy Group has extended the Local State of Emergency declaration for Hernando  County, PROCLAMATION NO. 2020-02.

This extension provides Hernando County Government the authority to continue to take action as needed to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our community in response to COVID-19. This includes making emergency purchases, obtain additional resources, renting equipment, hiring workers, utilizing volunteers, etc. The Local State of Emergency extension will be in effect for

seven days, or until rescinded or extended.

Hernando County Government's Office of Emergency Management continues to monitor this rapidly evolving situation. Visit the following web and social media sites for more information:

Residents should monitor trusted sources of information such as the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) website at www.FloridaHealth.gov/COVID-19 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.CDC.gov to learn the facts and to follow recommendations to prevent the spread of disease.

FDOH has set up a call center for general questions regarding COVID-19 at (866) 779-6121, operating 24/7.

Visit www.HernandoCounty.us/COVID19 for information on all Hernando County Government updates regarding COVID-19.

For information on refreshing your emergency supply kits and plans go to www.HernandoCounty.us/em.

Sign up to receive emergency alerts at www.AlertHernando.org.

Follow us on Facebook @HernandoCoGov.

Follow us on Twitter @HernandoCoGov.

•••

NEW PORT RICHEY — The New Port Richey Public Library has issued the following statement about its eCard program:

The New Port Richey Public Library is unveiling a new eCard to those who may not yet have a library card and would like access to NPRPL’s online resources.

With the new eCard, members have access to the NPR Public Library’s collection of digital resources.  eCard members can stream movies, learn languages, find craft instruction and inspiration, download eBooks and audiobooks, stream movies and music and much more.

Visit the website, nprlibrary.org, to apply for the eCard.  The application is short and only takes a minute to complete.  You will receive a library card number and pin within two business days and can immediately begin using your account.  

There is absolutely no charge for this service if you are a New Port Richey resident or member of a TBLC reciprocal Library, such as the Library Cooperatives of Pasco, Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, and Pinellas Counties.

For more information, visit:  www.nprlibrary.org or call 727.853.1279 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

•••

CLEARWATER — BayCare Health System has issued the following statement regarding a coronavirus-screening app it is introducing:

BayCare Health System has launched an innovative and user-friendly online screening tool for COVID-19, a disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Patients, who are concerned about COVID-19, can conveniently check their symptoms using the screening tool, available on BayCare.org.

The Online Screening Tool uses a series of questions to help patients make decisions about seeking the appropriate medical care depending on their symptoms. The screening questionnaire, created based on current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommends appropriate care options for patients including BayCareAnywhere, an emergency department or self-isolation.

“As COVID-19 continues to become more prevalent in our community, patients are seeking quick answers from a reliable source,” said Nishant Anand, MD, chief medical officer for BayCare. “That’s why we created an online screening option to help them answer a few yes or no questions to determine if they should seek care for COVID-19.”

 This technology asks patients ten questions about symptoms, recent travels and medical history and takes a few minutes to complete. The screening tool is accessible on any digital device or smartphone using web browsers like Google Chrome or Safari. The tool is not available on Internet Explorer. 

The Online Screening Tool does not provide testing, diagnosis or treatment for COVID-19. Patients should talk to a doctor to determine testing or treatment options through one of the care alternatives provided through the screening tool.  

For more information about the Online Screening Tool, visit BayCare https://baycare.org/coronavirus.

 •••

 

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Department of Revenue has issued the following statement about property tax payments:

On Monday, March 16, 2020, Gov. Ron DeSantis directed the Department of Revenue (Department) to provide flexibility on tax due dates to assist those adversely affected by COVID-19. On March 26, Department of Revenue Executive Director Jim Zingale issued an emergency order to extend the final due date for property tax payments for the 2019 tax year. The Department also extended the due date to file railroad, railroad terminal, private car and freight line and equipment company property tax returns.

 Order of Emergency Waiver/Deviation #20-52-DOR-01 applies to all 67 Florida counties. Property tax is normally due by March 31 in the year following the year the taxes are assessed. The Department waives the due date so that payments remitted by April 15, 2020, for the 2019 tax year will be considered timely paid. Property tax returns for railroad, railroad terminal, private car and freight line and equipment company property are normally due by April 1. Returns will be timely filed if filed by April 15, 2020.

The Department has implemented the filing date extensions pursuant to subsection 213.005(2), F.S., which authorizes the Executive Director of the Department of Revenue to carry out certain actions during a declared state of emergency. On March 9, 2020, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order Number 20-52, declaring a state of emergency in response to the recent COVID-19 outbreak.

Property taxpayers who have additional questions should contact their county tax collectors. Railroad and private car line companies with additional questions may contact the Department at DORPTO@floridarevenue.com. Visit the Department’s webpage for COVID-19 updates. For more information or to sign up for email updates from the Department of Revenue, visit floridarevenue.com.

•••

NEW PORT RICHEY —  The Pasco Sheriff’s Office has released the following statement regarding Covid-19 scams:

PSO’s Economic Crimes Unit wants to ensure that citizens are aware of common scams being seen across the country concerning COVID-19. These scams, detailed below, encompass a range of tactics scammers may use to fraudulently obtain information or money from citizens seeking answers in a stressful time. PSO urges citizens to remain vigilant. If a citizens believes they may have been a victim of a scam related to COVID-19, contact the Pasco Sheriff's Office immediately to report the incident. The scam should also be reported to the Better Business Bureau via their website at www.bbb.org/scamtracker.

 Scroll through the photo panel above to see the COVID-19 scam information from the Sheriff’s Office.

 •••

TAMPA — The Girl Scouts of West Central Florida has issued the following statement regarding online programs:

Girl Scouts of West Central Florida (GSWCF) is proud to introduce Girl Scouts at Home – a virtual programming option available to all families through our website. This collection of online programs, activities and challenges is designed to keep girls engaged in the Girl Scout Leadership Experience during this time of social distancing. There are also free resources for parents/guardians and troop leaders.

Girl Scouts at Home is the product of a collaborative effort across multiple departments within the GSWCF council. It demonstrates that even as we navigate this time of uncertainty, GSWCF remains committed to serving not just our members, but the community at large.

Participants will find activities that align with GSWCF’s four program pillars (STEM, Outdoors, Life Skills and Entrepreneurship) along with ways to engage in community service. Examples of programming include virtual tours, interactive worksheets and engaging educational videos. New content will be provided every week by GSWCF’s Outreach Team. This initiative, called "Rising Diamonds", ensures that every girl, regardless of her family’s socioeconomic status, has the opportunity to participate in Girl Scouting in order to develop successful leadership and life skills. These staff members serve more than 3,000 girls in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk Counties through generous grant-funded opportunities.

Families are invited to engage in Girl Scouts at Home by visiting www.gswcf.org/athome.

•••

BROOKSVILLE — The Southwest Florida Water Management District has issued the following statement regarding public access to the recreational land it manages:

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will keep District-managed recreation lands open for individual and small group day use in its 16-county region to provide the public with a place to get outside and exercise. However, all campgrounds and campsites remain closed.

Recreational users are reminded to follow the direction of Gov. Ron DeSantis and to uphold CDC guidance to practice social distancing by avoiding gatherings larger than 10 people and distancing themselves a minimum of six feet from others.

As long as recreational users follow this guidance, the District will be able to provide recreational opportunities while protecting public health and safety associated with the spread of COVID-19, unless otherwise directed by an emergency order. 

The District and its partners have acquired more than 450,000 acres of conservation lands primarily through the state's land acquisition programs to protect the 16-county region's water resources. Approximately 99 percent of this land is open for public recreation. Many of these lands are maintained directly by the District and offer a more natural experience, while some of these properties are managed as county and state parks and offer a broader range of amenities.

For more information on District recreation lands, visit WaterMatters.org/Recreation.

 

•••

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County has issued the following statement regarding land use items before the County Commission:

The Hernando County Planning Department has postponed all land use items scheduled to be heard at the April 14, 2020, regular Board of County Commissioners meeting. The land use petitions scheduled for this public  hearing will be fully advertised for a future date once an updated public hearing schedule has been determined.

Contact the Hernando County Planning Department at (352) 754-4057 or visit the

Agenda Portal at http://hernandocountyfl.iqm2.com/citizens/ for more

information.

•••

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American College of Emergency Physicians has issued the following statement:

As emergency physicians risk their lives each day as they battle the worldwide pandemic COVID-19, they have a request of the American people: stay home and save lives.

“Emergency physicians are working tirelessly to protect as many people as possible. You too can do your part: stay home and save lives,” said William Jaquis, M.D., FACEP, president of ACEP. “This is the only way to slow the virus and the best strategy to prevent our health system from becoming overwhelmed.”

People of all ages can contract the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Some may have mild symptoms and could be contagious before they know they are sick—inadvertently spreading the virus and putting others at risk. The “silent transmission” of COVID-19 is one factor contributing to the spread. Younger adults are not immune from risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that nearly 40 percent of patients sick enough to be hospitalized were 20- to 54-years old.

“Even if you think you are healthy, spending time in groups or in public could spread the virus to people you are close with,” said Dr. Jaquis. “Young people, older people and everyone in between needs to follow the recommended steps for social distancing.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends putting distance (about six feet) between yourself and others. Guidelines to shelter in place, or stay at home, vary based on location. Conditions where you live are likely changing rapidly. Make sure you are getting health information from reliable sources such as your doctor, public health department or local leaders.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it took 67 days from the first reported COVID-19 cases to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000, and just four days for the third 100,000.

“We have to do everything we can to stop the virus from spreading. For most people, that means hunkering down and doing your best to stay home as much as possible. We have a narrow window to take meaningful action, and that time is now.”

A resource from the American College of Emergency Physicians, Stop the Spread: A Patient Guide to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), provides tips on how to minimize the risk of contracting the virus and how to determine whether you should visit an emergency department.

Visit www.emergencyphysicians.org for more information.

•••

CLEARWATER — The Sixth Judicial Circuit, covering Pasco and Pinellas counties, has issued the following statement:

 As of March 24, the Florida Supreme Court has extended its suspension of all criminal or civil jury trials, jury selection, and grand jury proceedings from March 27 through April 17.

Although the courts remain open, our goal is to dramatically reduce the number of people reporting to the courthouses each day. Persons who do not have business in the court facilities are requested to refrain from coming into these buildings.

 Whenever possible, all civil, family and probate proceedings were to be done by teleconference or by written submission of memorandum and that is still in effect and will remain in effect until further order of this Court.

In the meantime, mission-critical cases will continue to be handled by the court as usual.

They are:

1. First appearance hearings, where a defendant appears before a judge within 24 hours of their arrest.

2. Criminal arraignments, where a defendant not in custody enters a plea, but only as necessary.

3. Bond motions for individuals in custody.

4. Detention hearings, where a judge has to decide whether a child should be held.

5. Shelter hearings, when a judge has to decide whether to remove a child from the home.

6. Hearings on petitions for temporary injunctions relating to the safety of an individual.

7.. Petitions by law enforcement agencies for risk-protection orders, where someone allegedly posing a threat to someone else or themselves risks losing temporary custody of their firearms.

8. Hearings on petitions for the appointment of an emergency temporary guardian.

9. Hearings to determine whether an individual should be involuntary committed under the state’s Baker or Marchman acts.

10. Hearings on petitions for extraordinary writs as necessary to protect constitutional rights.

11. Proceedings related to a violation of quarantine or isolation, a violation of an order to limit travel, a violation of public or private building closures, and a violation of a curfew.

While conducting these mission-critical proceedings, judges shall employ all methods practicable to minimize risk of COVID-19 exposure to the individuals involved in the proceedings and to the general public. ALL PERSONS ARE REQUESTED TO AVOID UNNECESSARY ATTENDANCE FOR SUCH ESSENTIAL PROCEEDINGS.

A local chief judge may add other essential mission critical proceedings to those listed above and it is anticipated that the Chief Judge here will issue a new local order including such matters.

In the meantime many civil, family and probate hearings and mediation sessions previously set may be held by the use of electronic means, primarily conference calls. Counsel or pro se parties should understand that the Supreme Court order does not permit in person hearings for non-essential proceedings.

Unfortunately, until further order of the court, proceedings not discussed above will be cancelled or suspended. This includes but is not limited to; traffic court hearings of all kinds, local ordinance violations, simplified divorces, small claims matters, mass dockets or calendar calls, small claims pre-trials and any court dockets that would have required the gathering of large numbers of people. Such matters will all need to be rescheduled and conducted after the pandemic emergency passes.

The March 24 Florida Supreme Court order also ordered all time periods involving the speedy trial procedure, in criminal and juvenile court proceedings, be further suspended through the close of business on Monday, April 20.  Under the speedy trial rule, anyone accused of a felony is entitled to be tried within 175 days of having been taken into custody, and anyone accused of a felony is entitled to be tried within 90 days of having been taken into custody.

•••

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has issued the following statement:

On March 24, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is announcing $250 million in grants from the Administration for Community Living (ACL) to help communities provide meals for older adults. Florida received a grant for $18,161,682.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed into law by President Trump on March 18, 2020, provided the additional funding for the nutrition services programs authorized by the Older Americans Act (OAA) of 1965. These programs provide meals to more than 2.4 million older adults each year, both through home delivery and in places like community centers. The need for these services, particularly home-delivered and packaged meals, has increased as community measures to slow transmission of COVID-19 have closed meal sites and have left many family caregivers unable to assist their older loved ones.

“The Trump Administration recognizes that the measures needed to protect older Americans from the serious threat of COVID-19 have been disruptive for many of our most vulnerable,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “Getting more funds to community organizations that deliver meals to older adults, such as Meals on Wheels, is another example of the Trump Administration’s whole-of-government, whole-of-America approach to combating the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In addition to meals, Older Americans Act programs provide a wide range of services, such as help with bathing and dressing, rides to doctors’ offices, education on managing chronic illnesses, support for family caregivers, and much more. Provided by a network of community-based organizations, such as Area Agencies on Aging, local community and senior centers, faith-based organizations, and other non-profit service providers, these programs work together to help millions of older adults each year stay healthy and continue living independently.

“The network of community-based organizations that provide Older Americans Act services has an exceptional capacity to coordinate services, bring together service providers, and adapt to overcome challenges, and they are employing innovative solutions to continue meal services,” said ACL Administrator Lance Robertson. “This additional funding will help communities across the country provide older adults, especially those at greatest risk, with the healthy meals they need.”

Funding has been provided to states, territories, and tribes for subsequent allocation to local meal providers. Grant amounts are determined based on the population-based formulas defined in the Older Americans Act.

Older adults who need assistance can contact the Eldercare Locator to find services available in their community. The Eldercare Locator can be reached at 1-800-677-1116 or https://eldercare.acl.gov/.

For more information about COVID-19, please visit : https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html. For more information about the Older Americans Act nutrition programs, please visit ACL.gov.

 •••

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Department of Elder Affairs has issued the following statement:

On March 25, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA) announced a partnership with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) that allows the needs of the business community and workers in the restaurant business to be matched with the needs of the elderly and meal delivery services.

“By working together, our agencies will be able to ensure all of our 5.5 million seniors have safe access to food,” said Richard Prudom, secretary for the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.  “Gov. DeSantis has helped to facilitate this process and allowed restaurants and food establishments to become emergency meal vendors for Florida’s seniors who are homebound or self-isolating for protection. We are in constant communication with seniors and our senior-care providers around the state and we know this action will greatly increase the flexibility of our communities to access meal delivery.”

As meal sites for seniors close around the state to prevent the spread of COVID19, the collaboration between state agencies and the restaurant association will provide one more layer of food reassurance to our seniors.

“Restaurants are the very fabric of communities across Florida,” said Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. “Providing jobs, serving customers, and creating memorable experiences for guests are key in our hospitality industry, but our restaurants contribute so much more than that. Ensuring that older Floridians have access to food during this unprecedented time is important to our restaurant owners and employees, and we commend Gov DeSantis, Secretary Prudom, and Secretary Beshears for working with our to industry to help serve those in need.”

DOEA’s 11 Area Agencies on Aging throughout the state will work with local volunteers and other local service providers to ensure meal delivery to Florida’s most vulnerable population. Meal delivery by volunteers and other organizations will also combat social isolation of seniors by providing the simple interaction of food delivery to the doorstep of an elder.

•••

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County Public Transportation has issued the following statement:

Effective Wednesday, March 25, 2020, Pasco County Public Transportation (PCPT) will begin limiting the number of riders allowed on each bus in observance of CDC social distancing and gathering guidelines.

Drivers will allow 10 to 15 riders at a time, depending upon the size of the bus.  To accommodate this change, PCPT will increase the number of buses on the busiest routes by reassigning them from under-used routes, resulting in a temporary suspension of service on Routes 18, 25, 31 and 41 until further notice.  Vehicles will be standing by to assist with overflow situations, and supervisors will be on-site at key locations as this transition occurs.

For a complete list of PCPT Route and Schedule Changes, please visit: bit.ly/PCPTRiderAlerts.

Additionally, PCPT will close the walk-up customer service window at 8620 Galen Wilson Blvd., New Port Richey.

PCPT is limiting locations for Demand-Response (Paratransit) services to essential service locations, such as medical, work and grocery locations.

We appreciate your patience as we work to maintain service that is mindful of the well-being of our patrons and team members.

•••

NEW PORT RICHEY — United Way of Pasco has released the following statement:

Last week United Way of Pasco County earmarked $50,000 to the newly formed COVID-19 Relief fund. This fund was designed to assist non-profit agencies with the increase demand in food, hygiene products, and other basic need items.

UWPC will be supporting agencies through mini-grants capped at $2,000 to meet Pasco residents basic needs (i.e. food, toiletries, household items, etc.). Since its inception last week the relief fund has already received over $30,000 in requests.

This morning the UWPC Board of Directors agreed to recommendations set by the Allocations Committee for what agencies would receiving the first round of funding. Non-profit agencies serving Pasco County residents with procurement of basic need items such as food and hygiene products are encouraged to apply. All requests will be evaluated on a case by case bases. For more information and on how to apply please visit https://www.unitedwaypasco.org/covid-19-agency-grant.

Below is a complete list of awarded agencies for a total of $21,500 in allocations:

Chapters Health HPH Hospice, $2,000, Food.

Daystar Hope Center of Pasco, $2,000, Hygiene Products.

Life Community Center, $2,000, Food.

Messengers of Hope, $2,000, Food.

One Community Now $2,000, Food and Packaging for Food Safety.

Restored Hope $2,000, Hygiene Products.

•••

NEW PORT RICHEY — The Pasco County has issued the following statement:

Pasco County is calling on our local business partners to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) by allowing employees to work from home whenever possible.  Remote access and video and teleconference tools can help you keep your business operating smoothly, while protecting the wellness of your customers and team members.

Every effort to implement social gathering and distancing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Florida Department of Health (DOH) has the potential to reduce the risk for infection and save lives.  The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America and CDC recommend avoiding gatherings in groups of more than 10 people and avoiding prolonged contact within six feet of another person.

Employees who feel sick should stay home and contact their medical provider for further instruction.  Florida DOH has online resources to help guide you through this process, as well as what to do for a sick family member.  The CDC now offers an online Coronavirus Self-Checker, to help you make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care.

The Pasco Economic Development Council has created a comprehensive list of economic resources and programs, and is hosting online workshops to assist local businesses during these challenging times.  Learn more at: http://pascoedc.com/covid-19.

Pasco County is committed to following these best practices to prevent the spread of respiratory disease, and the programs, services and facilities you regularly enjoy could be impacted.  Please visit our Closures, Cancellations and Postponements webpage to stay informed of all Pasco County schedule changes or interruptions: bit.ly/PascoClosings.

•••

NEW PORT RICHEY — The Pasco County Community Development Department has issued the following statement:

 The Lender/Realtor Workshop scheduled for April 2, 2020, at 9 a.m., has been canceled. Lenders and Realtors who are scheduled to renew their status for April, May or June 2020 will be granted an expiration extension to June 30, 2020.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact our office at 727-834-3447.

•••

 

BROOKSVILLE — LifeSouth Community Blood Centers has issued the following statement regarding the need for blood donors during the coronavirus outbreak:

 LifeSouth Community Blood Centers is a provider to many local hospitals in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. They also supply major hospitals like UF Health Shands Hospital  and Malcom Randall V.A. Medical Center, in Gainesville, and, as of May 2020, Moffitt Cancer Center, in Tampa.  We have to ensure the blood supply is not interrupted during this Covid-19 health scare so we can continue to save lives.

It is important to remember that only healthy people can donate blood. The FDA assures blood donation is safe for donors, and blood donors are needed every day to ensure patients have the blood needed for critical treatments and emergencies.  Blood donation is essential to our community and only takes a small amount of time.

Blood and Blood Products have a shelf life of 42 days for red blood and only 5 days for platelets, so we urge donors to make an appointment to give regularly instead of just walking in so we can regulate the donations, reduce waste, and cut down on wait times.

To find a donor center, blood drive or to make an appointment visit lifesouth.org or call 888-795-2707.

 •••

ST. PETERSBURG — The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County has issued the following statement on the county’s first coronavirus-related death:

 On 3/23/20, a 67-year-old Pinellas resident diagnosed with COVID-19 passed away. This is the first COVID-19 death in our county.

 We are expressing our condolences to the person's family and we will continue to work with DOH and our community partners to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Positive cases and fatalities are reported by DOH twice a day, at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., on the DOH Dashboard. Please visit the Florida Department of Health's COVID-19 site at: https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/.

Here, you can find the DOH-Dashboard and other important information regarding COVID-19.

Follow us on Twitter for updates at @HealthyPinellas.

•••

NEW PORT RICHEY — The Pasco Sheriff’s Office has issued the following statement in response to reports that people had been seen on the beach at Robert J. Strickland Memorial Park, in the Hudson area, despite the closure of all of its beaches by Pasco County:

 We will be communicating with people the importance of the state of emergency and obeying these posted closings as we observe them. It is important to reiterate the importance of obeying these closings, which our deputies will be as we see people not following the posted orders, as calls for service allow. We are not actively patrolling these areas.

•••

NEW PORT RICHEY — The Pasco Sheriff’s Office has issued the following statement urging residents to take advantage of businesses that remain open and are providing services via deliveries:

Deputies with PSO's Community Relations unit are visiting local businesses across Pasco that are open and serving the community with takeout or delivery services. During these uncertain times, PSO wants to encourage citizens to utilize these businesses, through takeout or delivery, that will need the community's help the most. Yesterday, deputies visited Aroma Joe's in Land O' Lakes, B Creative Painting Studio in Wesley Chapel and The Stadium Restaurant in New Port Richey. Links to these videos can be found at https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=224079452125843https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1333759946828217and https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=869197106841306.

Stay tuned to our social media channels for additional videos. 

•••

TAMPA — The YMCAs of Tampa Bay has issued the following statement regarding all-day youth relief care for the children of essential workers:

Based on the latest statewide executive order, the YMCAs of the Tampa Bay will, tentatively, remain temporarily closed through Friday, May 8. This is an extension of policies and recommendations of health authorities, in an effort to transition the Y’s efforts to help essential care workers and do its part to limit the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Starting Monday, March 23, the YMCAs of Tampa Bay are offering all-day youth relief care for essential workers at 21 Y locations (listed below) across Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Citrus and Hernando counties to help support the children of healthcare and emergency response professionals, as well as other essential workers, who are playing important roles combating the coronavirus. Together, the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA, YMCA of the Suncoast and YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg are working to meet a critical need to help the Greater Tampa Bay region continue to effectively function as our schools are closed.

In West Pasco, Pinellas, Hernando & Citrus counties, qualified employees register here: https://bit.ly/3daGnjB.

In St. Petersburg, qualified employees register here: http://www.stpeteymca.org/childcare/youth-relief-care-for-essential-workers/.

In Hillsborough & East Pasco counties, qualified employees register here: https://www.tampaymca.org/relief-care.

TENATIVE SCHEDULE: Dates: Mar. 23-27, Mar. 30-Apr. 3, Apr. 6-10, Apr. 13-17, Apr. 20-24, Apr. 27-May 1, May 4-8. Time: 6:30/7 a.m. - 6p.m. Cost: $125 per week. (No child is turned away due to inability to pay. Please inquire about financial aid.)

This is a very fluid situation and dates are subject to change.

•••

TALLAHASSEE — The Agency for Persons with Disabilities has issued the following statement:

The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) issued Emergency Order 20-01 to outline which provider rules and regulations are being suspended due to the state of emergency in Florida regarding Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In addition, APD issued a curfew letter which allows essential health care service providers to continue delivering services to APD customers in the event that curfews are put in place in some communities.

 APD Director Barbara Palmer said, “We are issuing this Emergency Order to relieve our providers from certain regulatory requirements given the impact that COVID-19 is having across our state and nation. We want our providers to be focused on staying well and delivering the needed services our customers require. Licensing renewals and additional training can wait for now until the spread of COVID-19 is under control.”

The order suspends for either 30 or 60 days the following APD requirements:

Residential facility license renewal.

Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation certificate renewal.

Revalidation to administer medications.

Medication administration trainer recertification.

Reactive strategies certification renewal.

Additionally, APD is carefully assessing new admissions into APD group homes and APD foster care facilities to reduce the possibility of spreading COVID-19.

Further, in accordance with guidance issued by the Department of Management Services, APD has closed all of its offices to the public for 30 days to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19.

APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn, and work in their communities. The agency annually serves more than 55,000 Floridians with disabilities who have severe forms of autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, spina bifida, Phelan-McDermid syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome. To learn more about the agency, call 1-866-APD-CARES (1-866-273-2273) or visit APDcares.org.

•••

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County Utilities has issued the following statement:

Beginning Wednesday, March 25, 2020, Pasco County will temporarily close three community recycling drop-offs as a precautionary measure to reduce potential transmission of COVID-19.

The following drop-offs will be closed until further notice:

Holiday Area Recycling, Anclote Gulf Park Location, 2305 Baillies Bluff Road, Holiday.

Land O'Lakes Area Recycling, Senior Services Center Location, 6801 Wisteria Loop, Land O'Lakes.

Port Richey Area Recycling, Embassy Location, 9512 Crabtree Lane, Port Richey.

Residents may still take their trash or recycling to the West Pasco Resource

Recovery Center and the East Pasco Transfer Station, Monday - Saturday, from 8 a.m.

until 4:30 p.m.:

West Pasco Resource Recovery Facility, 14606 Hays Road, Spring Hill.

East Pasco Transfer Station, 9626 Handcart Road, Dade City.

For more information on Pasco County Recycling, please visit: www.pascocountyfl.net/181/Recycling.

•••

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Animal Services has issued the following statement:

The Hernando County Animal Services (HCAS) shelter, located at 19450 Oliver St., Brooksville, will be handling business by appointment only beginning March 24, 2020 to comply with CDC guidelines and prevent the spread of disease. The following shelter operations will be handled electronically or by appointment only:

Initial viewing of animals available for adoption by the public can be done by visiting  www.Facebook.com/HernandoCountyAnimalServices.

Adoption applications can be found at: https://www.hernandocounty.us/home/showdocument?id=22 and sent via email to AC@HernandoCounty.us or fax to (352) 796-3746.

Adoptions will be by appointment only once an adoption application has been approved. Call HCAS at (352) 796-5062 to schedule your adoption appointment.

Return to owner transactions will be by appointment only. Call HCAS at (352) 796-5062 to schedule your appointment.

Animals knowingly exposed to COVID-19 will be directed to shelter in place with the family in their household.

Animals that come to HCAS that have been exposed to COVID-19 will be housed in an established quarantine area at the shelter where the on-staff veterinarian will establish protocols for care

The HCAS volunteer program has been suspended until further notice.

Contact HCAS at (352) 796-5062 for additional information.

•••

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Small Business Administration has issued the following statement:

 Today, U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Jovita Carranza announced changes to help borrowers still paying back SBA loans from previous disasters. By making this change, deferments through December 31, 2020, will be automatic. Now, borrowers of home and business disaster loans do not have to contact SBA to request deferment.

“The SBA is looking at every option and taking every action to cut red tape to make it easier for small businesses to stay in business. Automatically deferring existing SBA disaster loans through the end of the year will help borrowers during this unprecedented time,” said Administrator Carranza. “Today’s announcement adds a list of growing actions the SBA is taking to support small businesses. These actions include making it easier for states and territories to request a declaration so small businesses statewide can now apply for economic injury disaster loans, and changing the terms of new economic injury loans to allow for one-year deferments. We are working around the clock to find ways to assist small businesses and today’s action is one step in this process.”

Visit SBA.gov/Coronavirus for more information on SBA’s assistance to small businesses.

 •••

CLEARWATER —  BayCare Health System has issued the following statement:

As the coronavirus infection rate continues to grow, BayCare Health System is closing patient visitation at its hospitals to safeguard the health of patients, team members, physicians and the community. The changes take effect Saturday, March 21. Only in certain, specific instances, will visitors be allowed into facilities.

“We regret this is necessary, but for the protection of our patients, team members, physicians and our community, it is imperative that we limit the number of people in our facilities,” said Dr. Nishant Anand, chief medical officer for BayCare Health System.

The few visitors who will be allowed into hospitals will be screened for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, the disease resulting from the novel coronavirus. Those who are deemed a risk will be restricted from entering the facility and may be referred to an Emergency Department.

Visitors may still be allowed, if approved by the hospital administrator on duty, for these circumstances:

• Inpatient.

• Labor and delivery, post-partum, pediatrics and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

• End of life situations.

• Behavioral Health Unit.

• Emergency Room.

• Waiting room only.

• Outpatient procedures.

• Waiting room only when accompanying a patient receiving sedation.

Patients who are presumptive or confirmed positive COVID-19 patients will not be able to receive visitors.

 The changes are consistent with BayCare’s COVID-19 plan to limit the spread of infectious disease. BayCare encourages loved ones to use video conferencing to keep in touch with patients.

“We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause,” said Dr. Anand.

•••

CLEARWATER  — BayCare Health System has issued the following statement:

Effective Monday, BayCare Health System is consolidating its drive-thru COVID-19 test collection sites to high volume locations and to provide geographic access.

The changes reduce from seven to four the number of test collection sites BayCare is operating across West Central Florida. The centers hours will also shift to 9 a.m. to 12 noon.

Criteria for testing will remain the same as BayCare concentrates on using its limited test supplies to identify patients who have the virus. Patients should be referred by a physician and should have current symptoms – cough, fever, shortness of breath – and meet other criteria recommend by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

After five days of testing across Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Polk counties, the seven BayCare sites had screened more than 6,100 people and collected specimens for testing from nearly 3,500.

Results from the tests are not expected until five to seven days after the specimen was collected. Patients will be called with their results. Positive results will be reported to the Florida Department of Health as required by state law.

Due to patient privacy laws, BayCare requires members of the media to coordinate and be accompanied by a member of the BayCare Communications Department when visiting a testing site.

Below are the addresses for the testing sites that will operate Monday from 9 am. to 12 noon. Patients should bring documentation from a physician that they have been referred for testing. Testing locations:

• BayCare Urgent Care (Tampa),

3440 W. Dr. MLK Jr. Blvd., Suite 100, Tampa.

• BayCare Urgent Care (Carillon),

900 Carillon Parkway, Suite106, St. Petersburg.

• BayCare Urgent Care (New Port Richey),

4821 U.S. 19, New Port Richey.

• BayCare Urgent Care (Haines City),

36245 U.S. 27, Haines City.

Besides the impacted BayCare Urgent Care centers used as testing sites, BayCare is closing several BayCare Laboratory Patient Service Centers to create the resources to staff the testing sites.

To find which BayCare Urgent Care centers and laboratories remain open to serve patients with non-COVID-19-related illnesses and injuries, visit baycare.org/coronavirus/closures.

•••

NEW PORT RICHEY — The Pasco Tax Collector’s Office has issued the following statement:

Starting Tuesday March 24, lobby service at the Pasco County Tax Collector’s Office will be suspended temporarily.  Due to the severity and uncertainty of the corona virus outbreak, no in-person transactions will be conducted in the county’s five offices at this time (Gulf Harbors – New Port Richey, West Pasco Government Center – New Port Richey. Land O’ Lakes, Wesley Chapel and East Pasco Government Center – Dade City).

In lieu of lobby service the five offices will begin to provide certain transactions through drive-through services.  These transactions are limited to automobile, boat and mobile home registration renewals, property tax payments and disabled parking permit applications. Dealers may drop off work and expect it to be ready within 48 hours.  Please look for signs directing you to the drive through area of each office. Drive through services will be available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Saturday from 8:30 AM until noon.

“Our first priority and concern is the health and safety of our customers and our staff,” comments Tax Collector Mike Fasano.  “We pride ourselves on providing the best level of customer service possible.  We would be doing the public and our staff a disservice if we were to continue to keep our doors open during these difficult and potentially dangerous times.  It is important to note that we are not stopping all services, only those transactions that require in-person contact.”

The countywide tax collector’s call center will continue to operate during the time of our lobby closure.  The hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. until noon. Please call (727) 847-8032, (813) 235-6076 or (352) 521-4338 for any assistance you may require

Since most driver licenses and state-issued identification cards require an in-person transaction, Governor Ron DeSantis has issued an executive order which grants a 30 day extension of the due date for renewing those documents which may currently be set to expire on or before April 15.  It is important to note that any stops or holds that are currently on a driver license will not be removed by this executive order.  

Customers are encouraged to utilize mail and online services whenever possible.  To renew automobile registrations please visit www.pascotaxes.com or www.gorenew.com   

Correspondence, registration payments and any other bills that are sent by mail will continue to be processed when it is received.

In addition to contacting our call center, please visit our website www.pascotaxes.com for updates to these and other actions that impact the services provided by the tax collector’s office.

 •••

Closed to public

A sign bars visitors at the Chief Aripeka Travel Park, on Osowaw Boulevard, near Spring Hill, on March 22. Precautions and rules like these are being followed by residents, businesses and communities around Hernando County, which has declared a local state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic.

—NICK STUBBS

•••

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued the following statement:

The Department of Environmental Protection announces that at the direction of Governor DeSantis and to successfully uphold CDC guidance to maximize social distancing and avoid gatherings larger than 10 people, DEP will close all Florida State Parks to the public effective Monday, March 23.

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. 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.

We appreciate the public’s cooperation and understanding as we work to prioritize the welfare of our communities and staff. We look forward to welcoming you again to our award winning state parks as soon as possible.

As always, we are committed to providing updates to the public. For continuous updates, follow Florida State Parks on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. For additional information on Florida State Parks, please contact 850-245-2157.

•••

 NEW PORT RICHEY — The Pasco Sheriff’s Office has released the following statement:

 On Friday, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco provided a brief message regarding COVID-19. The video was released on our social media platforms. The link to the video on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=504725437078464.

•••

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Lottery has issued the following statement:

 To help protect employees and players during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, Florida Lottery today announced that its Headquarters and all district offices will be closed to the public beginning Monday, March 23 until further notice. Currently, offices remain open to employees.

The Department is actively monitoring COVID-19 and taking every precaution to help keep employees, retailers and players as safe as possible. Health and safety are the agency’s top priorities and every effort is being made to ensure the Lottery may continue providing exceptional customer service to players and the public during this time.

Lottery offices will remain open to employees during this time; all Lottery Draw game drawings are being conducted as scheduled, and winner claims and prize payments will continue to be processed via mail. For information on how to claim a Lottery prize during this office closure, visit www.flalottery.com.

Health and safety are our number one priority. For additional safety tips and the latest information regarding COVID-19 in Florida, visit www.floridahealth.gov/COVID-19.