CLEARWATER — Pinellas County Utilities has issued the following statement:

 As people prepare to stay home during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, some household staples are getting stockpiled more zealously than others - toilet paper is one of the most highly coveted items. Pinellas County Utilities would like to advise all residents and partners of the community that while you may be using alternatives to toilet paper during this time, popular bathroom wipes and pre-moistened towelettes often advertised as 'flushable' are heavily contributing to clogs and backups in our sanitary sewer system.

•••

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

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance to discourage gatherings of 10 people or more, Pasco County Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources will close the beaches at the following parks beginning Friday, March 20, 2020 at 8:00 p.m. until further notice:

• Anclote River Park.

• Robert J. Strickland Memorial Park.

• Robert K. Rees Memorial Park.

• SunWest Park.

Boat ramps at Anclote River Park and Robert J. Strickland Memorial Park will remain open. Day use at our parks, open spaces and trails will continue to remain open unless otherwise noted.

For updated Parks events cancellations/postponements, please visit: http://pascocountyfl.net/parks.

 

•••

Governor tells restaurants
to close dining rooms

Take-out and deliveries only

By SUZETTE PORTER

Tampa Bay Newspapers

Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a new executive order March 20 that says all restaurants and food establishments in the state must stop serving food and alcohol on their premises.

They can still operate their kitchens and provide delivery and take-out services.

The order lifts the restriction that prevents food service establishments from selling package sales or alcohol for delivery, take-out or consumption off-premises. Alcohol sales that go with food for pick up or delivery will be allowed. An ID is required for orders with alcohol.

Only employees, janitorial personnel, contractors and delivery personnel will be allowed on premises.

 •••

Seventh Pasco coronavirus
case confirmed

4 males, 3 females test positive

BY BRIAN GRAVES

Suncoast News Staff

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Health’s update released at noon Friday, March 20 have added one male and one female to the number of people in Pasco County who have tested positive for the coronavirus.

That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Pasco County to seven, four males and three females.

The DOH also reports four of the cases are considered “travel-related” and one of the cases involves a non-Pasco resident.

The report does not update the number of people who have been tested. That number was 57 residents who had been tested with 30 showing negative results and 22 test results pending as of Thursday, March 19.

Hernando County is reporting a total of four confirmed cases, two males and two females, with two being categorized as “travel-related.”

Pinellas County is reporting a total of 21 positive cases, 13 males and eight females, with 14 categorized as “travel-related.”

No deaths have been reported from any of the three counties.

DOH information on the COVID-19 outbreak is updated twice daily at www.FloridaHealth.gov.

 •••

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has issued the following statement:

To minimize exposure to COVID-19 and help protect visitors and employees, the Governor has recommended state offices be temporarily closed to the public from Thursday, March 19th through Sunday, April 19th. As a result, FDACS Division of Licensing regional office personnel will not be available to fingerprint license applicants.

Local law enforcement agencies and tax collector offices across Florida have likewise begun to temporarily suspend fingerprinting services. Therefore, first-time concealed weapons license (CWL) applicants will be unable to obtain electronic or hard card fingerprinting services from any of the means authorized by section 790.06(5)(c), Florida Statutes. As a reminder, fingerprints submitted from any source other than official law enforcement, tax collector offices, or FDACS Division of Licensing offices cannot be accepted under 790.06(5)(c), Florida Statutes.

To prevent unnecessary financial burdens and frustration to CWL applicants who would be unable to be approved due to the unavailability of fingerprinting services, acceptance of online or in-person initial CWL applications beginning Monday, March 23, 2020 will be delayed. Per Commissioner Nikki Fried’s emergency order 2020-004, expiring concealed weapons licenses and security officer licenses will be automatically extended an additional thirty (30) days at this time.

Renewals/Security Officers: The Division of Licensing will continue accepting online and mailed CWL renewal applications and all Chapter 493 security officer applications as usual.

If applicants have questions, they may contact the FDACS Division of Licensing at (850) 245-5691 or DOL@FDACS.gov. Division of Licensing personnel will remain available to answer questions by telephone or email.

 •••

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

Pasco County Utilities (PCU) is taking additional measures to protect the health and safety of customers and staff.  Effective 4 p.m. Friday, March 20, 2020, and until further notice, the Land O' Lakes and New Port Richey PCU Customer Service Centers will be closed to customers and the public.

Drive-through services will remain open at both locations from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., where a PCU Team Member can support customers and receive any necessary paperwork. The Dade City location will remain open from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.

For a complete list of alternative service options, please visit: bit.ly/PCUServiceUpdate

PCU is available to answer any questions by phone or email at UtilCustServ@pascocountyfl.net. Visit www.PascoCountyUtilities.com for more information about online services.

 •••

Fifth Pasco coronavirus case reported

57 residents have been tested

 BY BRIAN GRAVES

Suncoast News staff

 TALLAHASSEE – A third Pasco County male is the latest to have been tested positive for the coronavirus.

That word came as part of the Florida Department of Health’s update released at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 19.

That  brings the total number of confirmed cases in Pasco County to five, three males and two females.

The DOH also reports three of the cases are considered “travel-related.”

As of the time of the report, 57 residents had been tested with 30 showing negative results and 22 test results pending.

DOH information on the COVID-19 outbreak is updated twice daily at www.FloridaHealth.gov.

•••

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

The Pasco Sheriff's Office has converted charity store into donation site to assist in feeding Pasco's children and elderly.

On March 19, Pasco Sheriff Office began accepting monetary donations to assist in feeding two of Pasco's most at-risk populations: children and the elderly. Those wishing to donate can visit PascoSheriffCharities.org/donations. From there, they can make a selection on where they'd like their donation to go. A video was released on our social media platforms with additional information from Sheriff Chris Nocco. The link to the video on our Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1442376769262137.

 

 ••• 

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas has released the following statement:

 Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas today announced a comprehensive set of steps to help customers, communities and employees manage the economic hardship caused by COVID-19.

“This is an unprecedented crisis that requires an unprecedented response,” said Lynn Good, Duke Energy’s chairman, president and CEO. “We hope the customers and communities we are privileged to serve – and the outstanding Duke Energy employees who serve them – will take some comfort from these actions.”

 More Help for Customers

The company will waive late payment fees and fees for returned payments for its millions of electric and natural gas customers across its service territories beginning Saturday March 21 until the national state of emergency is lifted. For residential customers, the company will also waive fees for credit and debit card payments.

Last week, Duke Energy said it would discontinue service disconnections for unpaid bills. That covers 7.8 million electric customers; plus, 1.8 million natural gas customers, many of whom are served by Piedmont Natural Gas.

“Our goal is to continue providing reliable service while helping our most vulnerable customers during this extraordinary time,” Good said.

 Community Assistance

The company also announced $1.3 million in donations by The Duke Energy Foundation to support hunger relief and help local health and human services nonprofits across its service territories, including those providing meals to children and families impacted by school closures. Given the unprecedented nature of the situation, Duke Energy is giving nonprofits the flexibility to use the funds where most needed.

 Relief for Employees

To aid in providing continued service to our customers through this event, Duke Energy will also expand assistance to employees, in order to maintain the highest level of service to customers. This is part of the company’s larger donation.

The company is providing five additional personal days off to employees who experience a disruption in dependent care due to school, daycare or other child-related care – as most all schools are not in session. Duke Energy will also provide a $1,500 stipend to assist with unplanned expenses resulting from costs related to COVID-19 issue.

As part of the company’s larger donation, for Duke Energy employees, the company is donating $100,000 to the Relief4Employees program, which is a fund that employees can draw on for short term financial help during times of personal need.

 Continued service to customers

 The company will continue to read meters in most areas and send bills. Customers should pay what they can to avoid building up large balances that will be more difficult to pay off later.

Duke Energy power plants, electricity and natural gas delivery facilities and call centers, are staffed, ensuring dependable service to customers. The company will continue to respond to power outages and other emergencies.

Customers should download the company’s mobile app or visit duke-energy.com or piedmontng.com for information and most service transactions. Customers who are unable to self-serve can still contact the company: Duke Energy Florida: 1-800-700-8744.

•••

 BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Utilities has issued the following statement:

 The Hernando County Utilities Department customer service lobby, located at 15365 Cortez Boulevard in Brooksville, will not be open for public access beginning Friday, March 20, 2020 until further notice.

HCUD will continue to provide services as normal to its customers via phone, email and online only during this time. The following resources are available for customers to utilize until further notice:

All payments, outside of credit card, can be dropped off to the drive-thru drop box located on the west side of the customer service parking lot at 15365 Cortez Boulevard in Brooksville.

Credit card payments can be made utilizing the following resources:

• Online at www.HernandoCounty.us/Utils.

• Call (352) 754-4037, option 3 - available 24/7.

• Call (352) 754-437, option 6, available during normal business hours only.

To establish new residential service/transfer existing residential service, customers can visit www.HernandoCounty.us/Utils and fill out the residential service application form.

To close existing residential service/start seasonal service, customers can visit www.HernandoCounty.us/Utils and fill out the termination of service form.

Call (352) 540-3848 for commercial permitting/fire hydrant meters.

Call (352) 754-4757 for DBPR forms, FDEP forms and building plan submittals.

Contact HCUD Customer Service at (352) 754-4037 or HCUDCS@HernandoCounty.us for all other inquiries and questions. Normal service hours will continue Monday - Thursday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. and Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

•••

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando Audubon has released the following statement:

The following Hernando Audubon birding trips have been cancelled:

March 21: Ahhochee Hill.

March 27: Beginning Birding at Chinsegut Conservation Center.

April 4: Croom Tract, Withlacoochee State Forest.

April 14: Lettuce Lake.

 •••

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County has issued the following statement:

 As a proactive measure to monitor and limit the spread of COVID-19, PROCLAMATION NO. 2020-01, Declaration of State of Local Emergency, has been enacted by the Hernando County Executive Policy Group as of March 19, 2020.

This declaration provides Hernando County Government the authority to take action as needed to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our community.

This includes making emergency purchases, obtain additional resources, renting equipment, hiring workers, utilizing volunteers, etc. The Local State of Emergency will be in effect for seven days, or until rescinded.

The Hernando County Emergency Operations Center is operating at a Level Three: monitoring status. 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.

 •••

CLEARWATER — The Pinellas County Tax Collector’s Office has issued the following statement:

Effective immediately, all Pinellas County Tax Collector Offices are closed until further notice in an attempt to help reduce the spread of coronavirus COVID-19.

Customers are strongly urged to utilize the online services available at, www.taxcollect.com.  Assistance is also available by phone from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday at 727-464-7777.  Customers also have the option to handle transactions through the mail.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we are closing our doors to the public.  We are doing everything in our power to ensure the safety of both our customers and our employees,” said Pinellas County Tax Collector Charles W. Thomas.

“Services on our website, www.taxcollect.com, are available 24/7 and we are prepared to assist customers over the phone as well. At this time, everyone's health and safety are paramount.”

Driver Licenses and State ID Cards Set to Expire Will be Granted an Extension under the direction of Governor Ron DeSantis, an Emergency Order has been executed by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes. All Florida driver licenses and identification cards set to expire in the next 30 days will be granted a 30-day extension beyond their current expiration date. This executive order does not remove any stops or holds on a driver license.

Updates will be posted at www.taxcollect.com and on Facebook (@PinellasTC).

 •••

TAMPA — HCA Healthcare West Florida has issued the following statement:

 In order to protect our patients, visitors, physicians and caregivers, HCA Healthcare West Florida hospitals are implementing a modified visitor policy, effective Friday, March 20 until further notice. 

• Inpatient Units - No visitors are permitted. Exceptions must be approved by the hospital Administrator on Call (AOC) or administration and can be made for:

O end-of-life situations.

O labor and delivery, postpartum, and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

 one visitor is allowed and may stay overnight.

O behavioral health units.

 a patient’s attorney of record, a state or federal representative on official duty, and end-of-life situation visitors are allowed in accordance with State of Florida Emergency Order No. 20-52.

 • Emergency Room – One visitor is allowed per patient in the ER. Once a patient is admitted to the hospital, the visitor must leave as visitors are not allowed in inpatient areas.

 

• Outpatient Procedures – One visitor is allowed per patient who is having an outpatient surgery or other outpatient procedure requiring sedation. Visitor must remain in the designated waiting area. If the patient is admitted as an inpatient, the visitor must leave as visitors are not allowed in inpatient areas.

 • Anyone under the age of 18 will not be considered for visitation unless they are the parent of a hospitalized child.

 All persons authorized to enter will be screened and asked the following questions:

• Have you had a fever and signs/symptoms of respiratory illness                                           (cough, flu-like symptoms, or shortness of breath)?

• Have you traveled outside the country within the last 14 days (including a cruise)?

• Have you been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 without wearing the proper protective equipment?

• Are you currently being tested for COVID-19?

• If the screen is positive (yes) to any of the above – no access to the facility unless seeking emergency medical assistance.

 All persons authorized to enter must practice hand sanitization upon entering the hospital and upon entering and exiting a patient’s room.

Patients may use their phone, Skype, or FaceTime to communicate with family and friends during this time.

 •••

Pasco reports fourth coronavirus case

2 males, 2 females test positive

BY BRIAN GRAVES

Suncoast News staff

 TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Health is reporting a Pasco woman has become the fourth county resident to test positive for the corona virus.

That announcement came as part of the DOH’s daily update Thursday, March 19, at 1 p.m.

This brings the number of Pasco cases to two males and two females, with two cases being travel-related and two non-travel related.

The DOH is also reporting there have been a total of 48 Pasco Countians tested for the virus. Outside of the four confirmed, 32 have been negative and 12 test are still pending.

The DOH COVID-19 information table is updated twice daily at www.FloridaHealth.gov.

 •••

NEW PORT RICHEY — The Pasco County Commission has announced it is canceling its meeting scheduled to take place April 7.

•••

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County has issued the following statement:

The Hernando County Government office building, located at 621 W. Jefferson St., which houses the Hernando County Housing Authority, Health and Human Services and Veterans Services offices, will be closed to the public beginning Monday, March 23, 2020 until further notice. These departments will be conducting all services via email, regular mail, phone and fax. Please see department specific operational changes and information below. These operational changes should not interrupt any services provided by these departments.

 Housing Authority

Website - https://www.hernandocounty.us/departments/departments-f-m/housing-authority/-fsiteid-1.

Phone (352) 754-4160.

Fax (352) 754-4168.

Applications for housing programs (Section 8 vouchers renewals, SHIP Down Payment Assistance, NSP rental housing and the TBRA Homeless Housing program) will still be processed

 Veteran services

Website - https://www.hernandocounty.us/departments/departments-n-z/veteran-services/-fsiteid-1.

Phone (352) 754-4033.

Fax (352) 754-4726.

All scheduled appointments will now be conducted remotely via phone only at the scheduled appointment time.

Anyone needing to turn in paperwork for submission can utilize fax or regular mail.

Health and Human Services

Website - https://www.hernandocounty.us/departments/departments-f-m/health-human-services/-fsiteid-1.

Phone (352) 540-4338.

Fax (352) 540-4339.

All programs and services, except homeless assessments will still be available. Face to face interviews will not be conducted.

Visit the Health and Human Services website to enter a service or information Request.

 •••

 BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County has issued the following statement:

 

The Hernando County Building and Zoning Division offices, located at 789 Providence Street in Brooksville, will remain open to the public as a drop-off and pick-up area only until further notice. To reduce risk to the public and staff, it is encouraged for Building Division customers to utilize online services available at https://www.hernandocountygis-fl.us/BldgDept/. However, should you need to

visit the office:

• Applications and forms will be available in the lobby.

• A permit drop-off area will be available in the lobby for submittal of permits, applications, revisions, resubmittals and other documents.

• Permit pick-ups can be scheduled over the phone by contacting a Permit Technician at (352) 754-4050.

• Inspections can be scheduled online at https://bit.ly/2IW5sB3 or by phone at (352) 754-4050.

• Contractors are encouraged to utilize the online system at https://bit.ly/2IW5sB3 to submit applications, documents and receive permits.

• All documents can be submitted electronically via email to BLDG@HernandoCounty.us or fax at (352) 754-4416. Customers will be contacted as soon as their documents are entered to ensure they are received.

 •••

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County has released the following statement:

 Effective immediately, Pasco County Public Transportation is suspending all fares until further notice.  Fare-free ridership assists our customers experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 related closures and allows for additional health precautions.

Riders will now be allowed to enter from the rear doors of the bus and drivers will no longer handle fare payments to comply with CDC-recommended social distancing.

PCPT continues to operate, maintaining normal service hours and routes while following all recommended CDC and Florida Department of Health preventative measures and sanitizing best practices to serve you.

Please visit our Closures, Cancellations and Postponements webpage to stay informed of all Pasco County schedule changes or interruptions: bit.ly/PascoClosings.

 •••

BROOKSVILLE — The Southwest Florida Water Management District has released the following statement:

The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board will hold its monthly meeting Tuesday, March 24, at 10 a.m. remotely.

 Following the Governor’s directions to reduce public gatherings and practice social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19, in-person attendance by Board members and staff will be limited. With the exception of the Governing Board chair, all other Board members will be participating remotely. Only staff that are necessary for the meeting will attend in person at the Brooksville Headquarters, located at 2379 Broad Street in Brooksville.

To view the Governing Board meeting online, visit WaterMatters.org and click on the “Live Video Stream” link. The video stream link becomes active and the live video feed begins approximately 15 minutes before the scheduled meeting time.

For any members of the public who wish to provide input to the Governing Board, call in at 1-888-585-9008, then enter conference room number 551-666-434. You will also be able to hear the proceedings there. If possible, please use a landline for the best connection. Please do not use speakerphone or put your phone on hold. Please be sure to mute your phone when you are not providing comment. During the conference call, *2 will mute or unmute your call.

If you are calling in to provide input but also want to see the meeting presentations, we recommend you use the Skype option available on our website at WaterMatters.org rather than our traditional livestream. The livestream is slightly delayed so it wouldn’t be in sync with the phone call. When logging in to Skype, you must select “Don’t join audio.” Make sure to also mute your Skype device audio to avoid feedback loop. Use the telephone numbers listed above to listen to the meeting.

The meeting agenda and meeting materials are posted one week before the meeting, and can be found at WaterMatters.org by clicking on the “Go to District Calendar” link.

 •••

Third Pasco coronavirus case confirmed

NEW PORT RICHEY — The Florida Department of Health has just released information that a third case of the coronavirus has been confirmed in Pasco County.

All the information that can be confirmed at this time is the new case is a female and is being categorized as both a travel-related and a known-contact case.

According to the DOH, a person can be both a travel-related case and a known contact case, just one of those, neither of those or be pending investigation.

The first case, a 46-year-old male, was a travel-related case and a known contact case. The second, a 67-year-old male, was categorized as a  known contact case.

The DOH has a COVID-19 dashboard available on its website which keeps a record of the the available information on the state’s confirmed cases at www.floridahealth.gov.

—BRIAN GRAVES

•••

MIAMI — The U.S. Small Business Administration has released the following statement:

 Today, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced that small businesses located in the State of Florida adversely impacted by COVID-19 can now apply for disaster loans.

For small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private nonprofit organizations, the SBA is offering Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help meet working capital needs caused by the Coronavirus

All 67 Florida counties are included in the disaster declaration for Coronavirus.

“I am encouraging all small businesses located in Florida to visit the SBA Disaster Assistance website and submit your application today,” said SBA South Florida District Director Victoria Guerrero. “While there, you will find information on how to contact our customer service team who can answer any disaster-related application questions. You can also reach out to one of our many resource partners for application assistance.”

SBA Resource Partners information can be obtained on the SBA website at www.sba.gov/local-assistance/find/.

SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in economic assistance to help small businesses overcome the temporary loss of revenue resulting from the disaster. These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact.

Interest rates offered are as low as 3.75 percent for businesses without credit available elsewhere; businesses with credit available elsewhere are not eligible.  The interest rate for non-profits is 2.75%.

Loan amounts are set by the SBA and based on each applicant’s financial condition. Repayment terms are up to 30 years.

To apply, visit the SBA Disaster website at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/.

For additional information, please contact the SBA Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center. Call 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or e-mail disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

•••

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

Until further notice, Pasco Sheriff's Office locations, including all district offices (New Port Richey, Trinity and Dade City), the Sheriff's Office Administration Building and the substation at the Wiregrass Mall, will be closed. The graphic below provides alternate means of contacting the Sheriff's Office or filing non-emergency reports.

•••

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

 Today, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs’ SHINE Program issued guidance to the state’s more than 5.5 million elders on how to protect yourself against Medicare fraud as the state responds to COVID-19.

“Medicare provides some easy-to-use and preventive measures you or your loved ones may wish to use to help avoid identity theft and other potential scams as our state responds to COVID-19,” said FDOEA Secretary Richard Prudom. “We encourage all seniors to heed this guidance, including protecting your Medicare number and not giving out your Medicare card to anyone except your doctor or those you know should have it. These suggestions are beneficial for any possible fraud. I also encourage seniors to visit the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services dedicated COVID-19 webpage at https://www.medicare.gov/medicare-coronavirus.”

Keep this list in mind to help prevent Medicare fraud:

• DO protect your Medicare number and treat your Medicare card like it's a credit card.

• DO review your Medicare claims for errors and problems, including things like fake charges, double billing or other fraudulent activity, waste or abuse.

• DO visit medicare.gov/fraud to learn more about how you can protect yourself from Medicare fraud.

• DON’T give your Medicare card or Medicare number to anyone except your doctor or people you know should have it.

Other ways Medicare is helping:

Every day, Medicare is responsible for developing and enforcing the essential health and safety requirements that health care providers must meet. When you go to a healthcare provider, you expect a certain standard of care, and we work to make sure you get it. That includes taking the following additional steps in response to coronavirus:

• Establishing new codes to allow providers to correctly bill for services related to diagnosis and treatment of the illness.

• Instructing our national network of State Survey Agencies and Accrediting Organizations to focus all their efforts on infection prevention and other cases of abuse and neglect in nursing homes and hospitals.

• Instructing nursing homes and hospitals to review their infection control procedures, which they're required to maintain at all times.

• Issuing important guidance answering questions that nursing homes may have with respect to addressing cases of COVID-19

Reporting Medicare Fraud

If you think you may have spotted fraud, you should report it right away. No matter how minimal the information you share is, it could be the missing piece to stopping the next fraud scheme. If you are a victim of fraud, know that you won’t be penalized or lose your coverage for reporting it. Even if you are not a victim, it’s important to report any fraud scams you encounter to Medicare. Report suspected fraud by calling 800-96-ELDER or visit www.floridashine.org and click on the Contact Us tab at the top of the page.

•••

ST. PETERSBURG — The Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg has released the following statement:

Out of deep pastoral concern for the most vulnerable among us, Bishop Gregory Parkes announced on March 18, 2020 that the public celebration of Masses in the Diocese of St. Petersburg are suspended, effective immediately, until it can be determined that it is safe to return to normal schedules and public worship. Bishop Parkes has dispensed the faithful from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass for as long as the suspension of public celebrations of the Mass is in effect.

In a statement released today as a letter and a video, Bishop Parkes also asked churches to remain open for private prayer and devotion and to make every effort to keep the faith life of our parishes alive by creative means which are adapted to the current circumstances.

“We will provide other opportunities to remain in spiritual solidarity during this period. Remember that Christ abides with us and we can always be united in spirit and in prayer,” said Bishop Gregory Parkes.

Bishop Parkes also offered the faithful a list of suggestions to help them to worship God and practice their faith while Masses are suspended.

Parishioners also have the option to view a live stream of the Mass from their local parish or from the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg Monday through Saturday at 8:15 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 10:00 a.m. The Cathedral has also started a “Live Church Cam” that is focused on the altar and the Tabernacle, where the Holy Eucharist is held in repose. Catholics believe that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. To find a local live stream of a Catholic Mass, visit www.CatholicMassOnline.org.

Catholics are urged to visit www.dosp.org for a list of Frequently Asked Questions and other resources to help them understand the changes that are taking place in the spiritual life of our Church.

 School Update

Bishop Parkes has directed that all Catholic school and Early Childhood center buildings will be closed to students from now until April 15. March 18-20 and March 30- April 15 are virtual/online school days. March 23-27 will be Easter Vacation/Spring Break.

•••

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County has released the following statement:

 Beginning Thursday, March 19, all Pasco County Libraries will be closed through April 5, 2020.

Customers are encouraged to explore our online resources by visiting www.pascolibraries.org and clicking on the e-content tab where you can:

• Borrow ebooks and audiobooks via Overdrive and Hoopla.

• Stream movies, TV shows and the Great Courses library through Kanopy and Hoopla.

• Enjoy thousands of episodes of high-quality kids' content through Kanopy Kids.

• Build a resume and get career help with LearningExpress Library.

• Ask a Librarian' via our chat feature.

Please visit our Closures, Cancellations and Postponements webpage to stay informed of all Pasco County schedule changes or interruptions: bit.ly/PascoClosings.

•••

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County has released the following statement:

 Hernando County Government announces resources available for residents to view and provide public comment at Board of County Commission meetings remotely and encourage them to do so if they do not have any items before the Board.

The next regularly scheduled BOCC meeting is Tuesday, March 24, 2020, beginning at 9 a.m. To comply with CDC guidelines on public gatherings, citizens are encouraged to submit their comments to be entered into the record via email to CitizensComments@HernandoCounty.us until further notice. The deadline to submit public comment for the March 24 regular BOCC meeting will be 5 p.m. on March 24, 2020. Agendas and minutes for all BOCC meetings can be found at the following link: http://hernandocountyfl.iqm2.com/citizens/.

All Hernando County Board of County Commission Meetings can be viewed LIVE remotely through the following resources: Spectrum Channel 644; Online at the following link:

http://hernandocountyfl.iqm2.com/Citizens/VideoScreen.aspx?EncoderID=1002&MediaType=Channel. Visit https://www.hernandocounty.us/departments/departments-a-e/board-of-county-commission for a full list of scheduled BOCC meeting dates for the remainder of 2020.

•••

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

 Hernando County Animal Services announces minor operational changes at its shelter, located at 19450 Oliver St., Brooksville, to comply with CDC guidelines on public gatherings and prevent

the spread of disease:

All in-person issuances of Hernando County Animal Licenses at the HCAS facility have been suspended. Residents can obtain a Hernando County Animal Licenses online or via mail through PetData. Visit https://www.petdata.com/for-pet-owners/hrn/license-online for more information.

HCAS frequently enjoys citizens, often with children, at its facility to visit with the animals, knowing that they are not going to adopt. HCAS respectfully asks that such visits be suspended until further notice. However, if you are actively looking to adopt an animal or reclaim your animal, you may visit the facility as normal.

There may be times when the lobby area is crowded with citizens that require service at the HCAS facility. During these times, you may be asked to maintain a line outside of the lobby to demonstrate appropriate social distancing.

Hernando County Animal Services is committed to its core mission to rescue, rehome, and reunite animals that come into its care. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to create a safe environment for the citizens, staff and animals in Hernando County.

Hernando County Government's Office of Emergency Management continues to monitor this rapidly evolving situation.

•••

DADE CITY — The Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative has issued the following statement:

 At WREC, the health and well-being of our members and employees is a top priority! Due to recent Centers for Disease Control guidance regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, WREC is canceling the 2020 Annual Meeting, that was to be held on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. As the nation works diligently to contain and isolate this virus, we feel it necessary not to create an environment for possible spread.

Thank you for understanding and we look forward to seeing you at our 2021 Annual Meeting.

Should you have any questions or need additional information, please contact:

WREC Office Phone Numbers:

• Billy E. Brown Corporate Center: 352-567-5133.

• One Pasco Center District Office: 352-588-5115.

• Bayonet Point District Office: 727-868-9465.

• West Hernando District Office: 352-596-4000.

• Crystal River District Office: 352-795-4382.

•••

LAND O’ LAKES — “Display Your Robot,” an exhibition and magic show that was scheduled to take place March 29 at the Land O’ Lakes Recreation Center, has been cancelled, according to the event’s organizer, the New York-based the Math Club Inc., a nonprofit organization that promotes mathematics and STEM education.

•••

CLEARWATER — The Sixth Judicial Circuit public information office has issued this statement explaining the impact of an order issued March 17 on the operation of courts in Pinellas and Pasco counties:

 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.

As of March 13, all criminal or civil jury trials, jury selection, and grand jury proceedings in the Sixth Judicial Circuit were canceled until at least March 27th by administrative order of the Florida Supreme Court. 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.

Here are additional procedures that will go into effect as of Monday, March 23.

1. All violence protection return hearings will be suspended indefinitely. Pending temporary restraining orders will remain in effect until further order of this Court.

2. All delinquency proceedings – involving children accused of crimes – will be suspended indefinitely. The exception for juveniles will be detention hearings, when a judge decides if the child should be held in custody.

3. All dependency hearings – where a parent is accused of neglecting a child – will be suspended indefinitely, except for shelter hearings, which are emergency hearings where a judge has to decide whether to remove the child from the home. Two other exceptions are when a parent has a first appearance in court or is entering a plea.

4. All problem-solving courts – including Drug Court, Veterans Court, and Early Childhood Court – will be suspended indefinitely.

5. All juvenile diversion and teen court programs will be suspended indefinitely.

6. All criminal and civil traffic cases will be suspended indefinitely.

7. All municipal and county ordinance violation cases will be suspended indefinitely.

8.  Mass calendars and mediations in small claims pre-trial cases; mass calendars for simplified and uncontested dissolution cases; and all Title IV-D child support cases, will be suspended indefinitely.

 9 . All hearings on risk protection orders will be suspended indefinitely. Pending temporary risk protection orders will remain in effect until further order of this Court.

10. All criminal proceedings, unless mission critical as defined below, are suspended indefinitely.

 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. As mentioned before, detention hearings, where a judge has to decide whether a child should be held.

3. As mentioned before, shelter hearings, when a judge has to decide whether to remove a child from the home. Also, those hearings at which a parent is having a first appearance or is entering a plea.

4. Termination of parental rights advisory hearing, where a parent at risk of losing custody of a child enters a plea.

5. Hearings at which a pregnant juvenile asks that parental permission be waived.

6. Petitions for injunctions pertaining to dating violence, domestic violence, repeat violence, sexual violence, or stalking, where there appears to be an immediate and present danger of domestic or repeat violence.

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. The issuance of warrants or authorization for wiretaps.

9. Any emergency matters which require immediate action by a judge to prevent harm to persons or property.

10. Other time-sensitive matters as determined by a judge.

•••

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

 To help ensure the health and safety of our customers and staff the five Pasco County Tax Collector’s Offices will be implementing a new policy effective at 8:30 AM on March 20, 2020.  Only the individual customer who is doing business with our office will be allowed to enter the building.  Unless they are also conducting business, any family members or friends who may be accompanying that individual will be asked to wait outside.  We will do our best to accommodate parents and guardians with children.

New rules and regulations regarding “social distancing” and other limitations on public gatherings are being announced frequently.  Our office is committed to doing its part to comply with any directive issued by state or federal authorities.  We are also using common sense to ensure that everyone who may visit our offices can do so quickly and in a clean and healthy environment.  While this new policy is temporary it will remain in effect until further notice.

On behalf of everyone at the Pasco County Tax Collector’s Office we thank you for your patience and understanding as we all work together to get through this unique situation.

•••

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County has issued the following statement:

Hernando County is closely monitoring the rapidly evolving COVID-19 developments. We know that in times of crisis, libraries play invaluable roles in supporting their communities both in person and virtually. Libraries are by design unable to practice social distancing to the degree recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health authorities. Keeping libraries open at this time has the potential to harm communities more than help. We stress the importance and need to come together in this crisis and commit to ensuring our library, which provides so many important services to our community, do not serve as vectors for a fast-paced pandemic.

After carefully considering a multitude of factors and the rapidly changing situation in the surrounding areas, the Hernando County Public Library System has made the difficult decision to not open for public access effective Wednesday, March 18, 2020 until further notice.

For your convenience, please use our eResources that are highlighted on our webpage at https://hernandocountylibrary.us/.

You may also continue to reserve items by calling your local branch or online through our website. Items may be picked up, after you are notified, at the branch the hold was requested to be picked up at. Staff will meet you at the front entrance to provide you with your hold(s).

Please continue to drop off items through the after-hours/drive up book drops. Returns will not be accepted at the front entrance. Staff will be readily available by phone Monday-Friday from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm and Saturday from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm for any questions you may have. Fines have been suspended through May 1st.

Thank you for your understanding in this time of crisis! Keep calm and read on!

Visit www.HernandoCountyLibrary.us for locations or more information and follow @HernandoLibrary on Facebook for event updates.

 •••

LAND O’ LAKES —United Way Pasco has released the following statement:

United Way of Pasco County announced today that they will be allocating $50,000 from their reserves to assist agencies who are struggling to keep up with the increased demand in food and basic need supplies from current and now, new clients.

“As we prepare to enter this next great challenge of facing a pandemic a lot remains uncertain, but what does remain certain is that many people will be deeply affected. 45% of our county rests on the edge of poverty and is one crisis away from falling off the edge of sustainability; for many, this will be that crisis” said Charles Anderson, President and CEO of United Way of Pasco in a recent statement to shareholders.

United Way of Pasco has created a COVID-19 Impact Relief Fund for people who are already seeing the negative effects of COVID-19 and for those to come. “We are taking a proactive stance and will be investing $50,000 of our own funds and will stand ready to help. We cannot do this alone and we are once again relying on the support of our community to join us” added Anderson.

United Way of Pasco County is urging companies and individuals to please give to this cause and challenges everyone to contribute whatever they can to help match and even exceed the $50,000. 100% of the COVID-19 Impact Relief Fund will be used to assist individuals and families. Funds will be allocated to replenish pantries of food and other basic need items. United Way of Pasco will not be keeping any fees from funds donated. United Way of Pasco will also be asking any agency that receives funds through the COVID-19 Impact Relief Fund to do the same.

If you would like to make a contribution to the United Way of Pasco COVID-19 Impact Relief Fund please visit UnitedWayPasco.org for electronic donations. If paying by check, make payable to UWPC and please note “Relief Fund” on the memo line and mail to 17230 Camelot Court Land O’ Lakes, FL 34638. Please email any questions to Info@UnitedWayPasco.org.

 •••

CLEARWATER — Pinellas County has released the following statement:

Businesses can  visit https://floridadisasterloan.org to begin the application process.

Assistance is available at the Florida Small Business Development Center (FSBDC) at Pinellas County Economic Development by visiting http://www.PCED.org/SBDChelp to submit a form for a response by phone or email.

Florida’s Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program is now available to offer short-term, interest-free loans to businesses impacted by COVID-19. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis opened the program Tuesday, and the application period runs through May 8.

The working capital loans are intended to “bridge the gap” between the time a major catastrophe hits and when a business has secured longer term recovery resources, such as sufficient profits from a revived business, receipt of payments on insurance claims or federal disaster assistance. The application form and additional details can be found at http://www.FloridaDisasterLoan.org

 Information for Applicants

Loans will only be made to an individual or individuals who own, individually or collectively, at least 51 percent of an eligible business. The eligible business owners must serve as guarantor for the loan and only one loan may be made per eligible business.

Amount (Max):

Businesses with less than two employees: $25,000 per business maximum

Business with two to 100 Employees: $50,000 per business maximum

(loans of up to $100,000 may be made in special cases)

Terms: All loans will be due one year from the date of the promissory note.

Interest: Loans are interest free for the term of the loan (one year). The Interest rate will be 12 percent per annum on the unpaid balance thereafter, until the loan balance is repaid in full. Loan default is subject to a normal commercial collection process.

 Limitation: Only one loan may be made per eligible business. All previous bridge loans received MUST be paid in full.

 Businesses located in Pinellas County can visit www.pced.org/SBDChelp and complete the appointment form. Our staff at the Florida SBDC at Pinellas County Economic Development will email or call to help you with your application(s) for assistance. Please do not visit the FSBDC at Pinellas County Economic Development. In accordance with the Center for Disease Control's best practices for containing COVID-19, we will assist our small business clients by phone or email only.

Additional resources for businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Pinellas County businesses impacted by COVID-19 should continue to report economic damages at https://www.linkedin.com/company/pinellasbiz.

Pinellas County Economic Development: www.pced.org/disaster.

FloridaSBDC: http://floridasbdc.org/services/business-continuation.

Pinellas County Government COVID-19: http://pinellascounty.org/emergency/covid19.

Florida Chamber of Commerce: https://www.flchamber.com/follow-facts-not-fear.

 •••

NEW PORT RICHEY — Mike Singer, the managing director of the Good Samaritan Health Clinic of Pasco, has issued the following statement:

The Good Samaritan Health Clinic of Pasco will be postponing its 14th Annual Nurses Gala, originally scheduled for May 8th. We are following the guidelines issued by the CDC on March 15 which recommend that for the next 8 weeks, organizers cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States. We will re-schedule once we can determine a date in 2020 where it is again safe for our community to gather in large numbers.

As of this writing, our clinic remains open to serve Pasco County’s medically uninsured, limited-income residents as we have since 1990. In 2019, Good Sam provided free health and dental care, including prescriptions, over 3,500 times to our friends and neighbors in Pasco County without health insurance and with limited income. We are indebted more than ever to our volunteer healthcare providers, volunteer administrative volunteers and staff who continue to come to the clinic daily to help serve our patients.

While the medical community, including Good Sam, and the community at-large rightfully prepare for the potential impact of COVID-19, we also need to assure that we will be available now and in the months to come to treat our patients, most of whom need treatment for chronic conditions such as Diabetes, High Cholesterol, High Blood Pressure and COPD. Depending upon the long-term economic impact of this outbreak, our services may be more vital than ever down the road as more people in our community may become eligible for our services.

Please remember to keep Good Sam in your budget and in your heart as we go through this community challenge.

Thank you again for your support of Good Sam and our patients. Please stay well and safe.

 •••

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

As Pasco County works to enact best practices to slow the potential spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in our communities, facilities and customer service areas, Pasco County Administrator Dan Biles is requesting that all local business partners follow social gathering guidelines and best practices to prevent respiratory illness.  Taking these important steps can reduce the risk for your patrons, staff and our citizens as a whole.

Administrator Biles encourages you to do your part, by following the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America, as well as the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention and Florida Department of Health (DOH):

 Avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people, including restaurant and bar settings

Practice social distancing, avoiding prolonged contact within six feet

Make use of available online options including shopping, and takeout or drive-thru dining

If you feel sick, stay home. Do not go to work. Contact your medical provider.

Practice good hygiene – hand washing and frequent disinfecting are your best defense

Pasco County is sensitive to the fact that the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and containment efforts are fueling challenging and uncertain times for local businesses and residents alike.  We are working closely with the Florida Department of Health in Pasco County to help keep our community informed, and we will continue to share the latest information from the DOH and CDC with our customers.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ office has activated an emergency bridge loan program, as well as an online business assessment survey to assess the impact of COVID-19 on local business operations and the economy, so actions to implement appropriate relief programs can begin.  You can take the survey here: https://floridadisaster.biz.

 •••

BROOKSVILLE — The Southwest Florida Water Management District has issued the following statement:

Consistent with direction provided by Governor DeSantis, the Southwest Florida Water Management District has canceled all nonessential travel and implemented social distancing to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

All District offices will be closed to the public beginning March 17 until further notice.

During this time, our staff will continue to conduct business and provide quality service from alternative work locations. We respectfully request that our constituents also conduct business with our staff remotely (by phone, email, Skype, teleconference, etc.).

Currently, the health of our staff and stakeholders is our main priority. Reducing face-to-face contact is one way the District is doing its part to help our communities recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Call 800-423-1476 or visit WaterMatters.org should you have questions or need contact information for a staff member.

{Update: The Southwest Florida Water Management District will close all campgrounds throughout its 16-county region to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

Beginning Wednesday, March 18, at 1 p.m., all District campgrounds and campsites will be closed for 30 days. Recreational day use activities will still be allowed at this time.

The health of our staff and stakeholders is our main priority. Call 800-423-1476 or visit WaterMatters.org should you have questions.}

 •••

Second Pasco coronavirus case confirmed

BY BRIAN GRAVES

Suncoast News staff

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Health has confirmed a second case of coronavirus in Pasco County.

The number was reflected in the department’s daily COVID-19 updates on March 16.

The first case was a 46-year-old male who reportedly contracted the disease by being in contact with one of his customers who visited him on business. That customer had been traveling outside of the country and that case has been labeled by FDOH as travel-related.

The first case is known to have been in Land O’Lakes only because the man who contracted the disease contacted an area media outlet to tell his story.

The only information which can be confirmed from FDOH about the newest Pasco case is it is a 67-year-old male and it is not considered “travel-related.” No information has been released on where the newest case resides.

 •••

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has issued the following statement:

At the direction of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes has issued an Emergency Order extending all Florida driver licenses and identification cards that will expire in the next 30 days. All Florida driver licenses, commercial driver licenses and identification cards set to expire in the next 30 days will be granted a 30-day extension beyond their current expiration date.

The Executive Order, accessible here, authorizes the following:

• Extends the effective period of all driver licenses and identification cards that will expire between March 16, 2020, and April 15, 2020, for 30 days.

• Waives the delinquent renewal fees during the extension period for these driver licenses and identification cards.

Florida law enforcement agencies have received notification of these extensions.

 •••

CLEARWATER — Pinellas County Utilities has issued the following statement:

In the interest of public health and safety in response to the threat of COVID-19, Pinellas County Utilities is suspending all disconnections of water and wastewater service for non-payment – effective immediately for 30 days.

For the safety of our employees, beginning Wednesday, March 18, Utilities department Customer Care offices will be closed to walk-in visitors. Meetings at our facilities will be by appointment only.

Our Customer Care team will remain available by phone or email. Customers may continue to pay their bills online, by phone at 727-464-4000 or by mail: Pinellas County Utilities; P.O. Box 31208; Tampa, FL 33631-3208.

Customers may also place payments in “drop box” locations:

• Pinellas County Government Center, 29582 U.S. 19 N., Clearwater.

• Pinellas County Utilities, 14 South Fort Harrison Ave., Clearwater.

• Pinellas County Utilities, GMD, 6730 142nd Ave., Largo

• City of St. Pete Beach, 155 Corey Ave., St. Pete Beach.

Pinellas County Utilities is actively monitoring the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the following statement on March 11, 2020:

“EPA has established regulations with treatment requirements for public water systems that prevent waterborne pathogens such as viruses from contaminating drinking water and wastewater. COVID-19 is a type of virus that is particularly susceptible to disinfection and standard treatment and disinfectant processes are expected to be effective. The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking-water supplies. Based on current evidence, the risk to water supplies is low. Americans can continue to use and drink water from their tap as usual.”

For more information visit, “What You Need to Know About COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and Pinellas County’s Drinking Water and Wastewater.”

Updates will be provided on the Pinellas County Utilities webpage as additional information becomes available. For questions, please call 727-464-4000 or email custsrv@pinellascounty.org.

 •••

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County has issued the following statement:

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance to discourage mass gatherings of 50 people or more, Hernando County Parks and Recreation will close the following park and park amenities:

Alfred McKethan/Pine Island Park, located at 10840 Pine Island Drive in Spring Hill, is currently at capacity and no additional guests will be admitted into the park. Alfred McKethan/Pine Island Park will be closed to the public beginning March 17, 2020 until further notice.

Rogers Park beach area, located at 7244 Shoal Line Boulevard in near Hernando Beach, will be closed to the public beginning March 17, 2020 until further notice. The Rogers Park boat ramp will remain open for the launching of motorized and non-motorized watercraft.

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.

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

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—Pasco County has released this statement regarding the operation to the Pasco Library System:

 All Pasco County Libraries programs and events are cancelled, and meeting rooms will be closed through March 31.

 Libraries are open, offering books, DVD’s, and other materials to borrow, and public computers for internet access, etc.  Customers are also encouraged to explore our online resources by visiting www.pascolibraries.org and clicking on the e-content tab where you can:

•  Borrow ebooks and audiobooks via Overdrive and Hoopla.

•  Stream movies, TV shows and the Great Courses library through Kanopy and Hoopla.

•  Enjoy thousands of episodes of high-quality kids content through Kanopy Kids.

•  Build a resume and get career help with LearningExpress Library.

•  ‘Ask a Librarian’ via our chat feature.

The New Port Richey Public Library has issued this statement:

In an abundance of caution for our Library members and staff due to COVID-19 coronavirus, all library-sponsored events, classes, and workshops held inside the Library are suspended beginning Tuesday, March 17. Tasty Tuesdays will continue to be held, as it is an open-air event.

The NPR Public Library remains open for normal hours. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the library at 727-853-1279 or email me directly at marketingspecialist@nprlibrary.org.

 •••

TRINITY — Chabad Jewish Center of West Pasco has issued this statement:

 In this time of confusion and doubt, with so many questions and few reliable answers, we write to offer you a definitive piece of news.

Chabad will stay open for the duration!  Albeit with a little twist.

Chabad is working hard to continue to bring you that which you count on us for - Judaism and community, imbued with warmth and joy.

However, as always, the safety of our congregants is our number one priority. As such there will be no more in-person events or services at Chabad in Pinellas or Pasco for the time being.

Details are still in the works, but with G-d's help, here is a taste of what to expect:

1. Live (virtual) Torah classes, we will be giving throughout the next few weeks.

2. Interactive social events we will do together virtually online (Think: Challah bake, Passover cooking, kids crafts, coffee dates and more).

3. Individual emotional support opportunities.

You don't want to miss the info, so be sure to follow us on Facebook, or sign up to our email list.

In the meantime, here are a few tips and ideas of what you can do:

·  If you are feeling anxious, take a moment to meditate and breathe while listening to this.

·  Let your creativity loose whether online or on paper through art, writing, speaking or anything else.

·  Learn more about the Jewish laws and Mitzvot that speak to you, whether it be charity, honoring your parents, honest business practices or Kabbalah by searching online or contacting anyone you feel can learn with you including your local Chabad Rabbi & Rebbitzen.

Rebbitzen Chanie Adler.

Rabbi Pinchas & Mushky Adler.

Rabbi Yossi & Dina Eber.                                                                       

Rabbi Levi & Miriam Hodakov.

Rabbi Alter & Chaya Korf.

Although physically our doors are closed on the advice of health officials the doors of our hearts are wide open. 

We are here for you in whatever manner we are able to assist. 

The main Chabad number 727-376-3366 and the email address is Rabbi@ChabadWP.com.

 •••

The Pasco School District has released this statement:

 LAND O’ LAKES – (March 16, 2020) – Pasco County Schools on March 13 announced a plan to provide meals to students at seven designated sites starting on Tuesday, March 24. The food will be offered on a drive-thru basis at the school sites listed below. The pre-packaged meals are for children under 18 years old and will include lunch as well as breakfast for the next day.

The school feeding sites will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. from Tuesday, March 24, through Friday, March 27. The dates match the time frame that students were expected to be back in school after Spring Break. That changed on Friday when the state announced that all schools would remain closed for an additional week.

In an effort to gauge the demand for meals the school district has created a Meal Request Form. Anyone who plans to visit one of the sites to receive meals for students is asked to fill out the form here. Filling out the form is not a requirement for receiving food, but it will help the district prepare.

Children (under 18 years old) must be present to receive a meal.

 School Feeding Sites

Crews Lake Middle School – 15144 Shady Hills Road, Spring Hill.

Fivay High School – 12115 Chicago Avenue, Hudson.

Gulf Middle School – 6419 Louisiana Avenue, New Port Richey.

New River Elementary School – 4710 River Glen Boulevard, Wesley Chapel.

Pasco High School – 36850 State Road 52, Dade City.

Sunray Elementary School – 4815 Sunray Drive, Holiday.

Zephyrhills High School – 6335 12th Street, Zephyrhills.

 For more information regarding the Pasco County Schools’ plans concerning the coronavirus, visit the district website at this link where you will find a set of helpful Frequently Asked Questions. If you have any other questions, concerns, or suggestions, navigate to the green button below the FAQs and click on Submit Questions or Suggestions.

 •••

BROOKSVILLE — The Brooksville Main Street Program has announced that its Friday Night Live event scheduled for March 13 has been cancelled.

Main Street said in a statement:

This afternoon the Governor requested all events over 250 people be cancelled, therefore Friday Night Live for March 13th must be cancelled.

We apologize for any inconveniences this may have placed on your plans with family and friends, but we must abide by these regulations.

 •••

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

The safety and welfare of our employees and the public we serve are of top priority to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). DEP continues to take proactive measures and preventative actions to protect visitors, staff and volunteers as COVID-19 continues to be monitored.

Currently, all Florida State Parks and Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection facilities (aquatic preserves and National Estuarine Research Reserves) remain open to the public. However, out of an abundance of caution, DEP has made the decision to cancel all events and activities at Florida State Parks and Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection facilities effective immediately.

This decision is in line with guidance from the CDC for the public to avoid the gathering of large groups. The department will provide updates when events and activities will resume.

For the protection of our staff and our day-use visitors, all state parks, aquatic preserves, and NERRs have been provided with signage and guidance on preventative actions to reduce transmission of respiratory illness. All staff are fully informed and utilizing the protocol urged by the CDC and Florida Department of Health. Surfaces and areas that are frequently touched are consistently disinfected throughout the day, and all facilities are regularly and thoroughly cleaned to protect visitor safety.

DEP continues to be in close communication with the Governor’s Office, the Florida Department of Health and CDC regarding the most recent COVID-19 status. For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, please contact the Department of Health’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling 1-(866) 779-6121 or emailing COVID-19@flhealth.gov. The call center is available 24 hours a day.

If your travel plans have changed and you need to modify camping or cabin reservations, please visit www.reserveamerica.com or contact ReserveAmerica at 1-800-456-2267.

For additional information on Florida State Parks, please contact 850-245-3029. For additional information on Office Resilience and Coastal Protection facilities, contact DEP's Office of Public Services at 850-245-2119.

 •••

ST. PETERSBURG — The Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg has issued the following statement:

 In an abundance of caution for students, employees and vulnerable populations Bishop Gregory Parkes has directed that all Catholic school and Early Childhood center buildings will be closed to students from Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 20.

March 16-17 had previously been scheduled as days off for students. Virtual learning will be conducted March 18-20.

All after school and athletic events are canceled until buildings are reopened.

Maintenance staff will be deep cleaning the school buildings during the closure using appropriate precautionary measures.

Field Trips are canceled through April 17.

Galas and auctions are canceled or postponed until at least April 17.

People returning after travel are required to follow CDC guidelines in effect at the time of return. https://www.cdc.gov/

To find out which parishes offer a live stream as well as local broadcasts of the Mass and to learn about prayers offered in regard to the Coronavirus, visit www.dosp.org/coronavirus.

 •••

CLEARWATER — Ruth Eckerd Hall has issued the following statement:

Susan Crockett, Ruth Eckerd Hall President and CEO and the Ruth Eckerd Hall board of directors announced today that effective Sunday, March 15, Ruth Eckerd Hall is postponing all performances, all education activities and events through Thursday, April 2. This includes performances and events at Ruth Eckerd Hall, The Nancy and David Bilheimer Capitol Theatre, the Marcia P. Hoffman School of the Arts, the Murray Theatre and off-site events presented by Ruth Eckerd Hall on the Road.

In making the announcement, Susan said: “Our top priority is the health and safety of our guests, staff and artists. We ask that our patrons retain their tickets. We are working with artists’ management to reschedule as many events as possible.”

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BROOKSVILLE — Hernando Superintendent of Schools John Stratton has issued a statement saying the district will follow a mandate from the Florida departments of Education and Health and will require that any staff or students who travel out of the country or goes on a cruise over spring break, during the week of March 16, must self-isolate for 14 days before returning to school.

When they return from spring break, on March 23, any staff member or student who has traveled abroad or been on a cruise to inform school administrators of this fact, Stratton said.

Hernando has fortunately not yet had any coronavirus cases, school district staff will continue to monitor the situation during spring break and keep staff and families informed, Stratton said.

In a Twitter video posting, Pasco Superintendent of Schools Kurt Browning has said the Pasco School District will also require 14-day self-isolation for students or staff who travel out of the country or go on a cruise during spring break.

“We support the state’s position,” Browning said. “Please plan accordingly.”

Teachers and other staff are still scheduled to return from spring break on March 23 and students on March 24, Browning said.

If the Pasco district were forced to close a school or all schools, the district has a distance-learning plan in place, Browning said in the video.

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BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando Sheriff’s Office issued this statement a 1:05 p.m. March 13:

Sheriff Al Nienhuis and members of his command staff continue to monitor verified information provided by Governor DeSantis and the Florida Department of Health as it pertains to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Sheriff Nienhuis urges citizens to obtain any and all information on this matter from a verified and trusted source, such as the Florida Department of

Health, the CDC, Emergency Management, or your health care provider. 

Obtaining information from sources that have not been verified could likely cause panic and/or undue stress.

Currently, there are no cases of COVID-19 in Hernando County.

The Florida Department of Health has opened a call center to assist with providing information and answering questions.  The toll free number is 866-779-6121.

Everyone can help to prevent the spread of disease by following a few simple steps:

• Stay home if you are sick.

• Avoid contact with people who are sick.

• Get adequate sleep and eat well-balanced meals.

• Wash hands often - with soap and water for 20 seconds or longer.

• Dry hands with a clean towel or hand dryer.

• Avoid touching your face or eyes.

• Cover your mouth with a tissue or sleeve when sneezing.

• Clean and disinfect “high touch” surfaces often.

• Call, before visiting your health care provider.

 

The CDC has provided a list of recommended guidelines, they are as follows:

• Elderly persons with underlying health conditions should avoid cruise ships.

• A 14 day self-isolation and social distancing  by avoiding going out in public

and close personal interactions upon return to the United States.

• Travelers, including cruises, should monitor their health and limit interactions with others for 14 days upon return - If you become symptomatic, immediately self-isolate and contact your county health department or your health care provider if you need medical care.

• For more information regarding current CDC travel advisories related to

COVID-10, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html.

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CLEARWATER — Pinellas County has released this statement:

 

The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners will hold an emergency meeting at 3 p.m. today to consider a Local State of Emergency declaration. The meeting will be held in the 5th Floor Assembly Room, Pinellas County Courthouse, 315 Court St., Clearwater.

Residents may watch the meeting live on the County YouTube page, https://www.youtube.com/user/pcctv1, at or on cable television (Spectrum 637; Frontier 44; WOW! 18).

 

 

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NEW PORT RICHEY — The organizers of Chasco Fiesta has posted the following notice:

 

“It is with great sorrow and sadness that we have to announce that the city of New Port Richey has postponed our event. In light of the speed of transmission of the Coronavirus and the effects on the elderly population and the possibility of unknowingly transmitting the virus to others, in the interests of Public safety and containment we will be rescheduling the Chasco Fiesta at a later date when the virus is under control.”

 

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NEW PORT RICHEY — During a meeting Thursday morning, the Pasco County Commission declared a state or emergency related to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The emergency declaration is similar to the action the county takes when Pasco is under threat of a hurricane or severe tropical storm. The declaration approved March 12 authorizes Pasco officials to take whatever actions are allowed or required by law if a coronavirus emergency were to develop in the county.

The county did not enact any emergency measures other than the declaration at the meeting.

In the meantime, county officials are urging Pasco resident to be vigilant in observing personal hygiene measures, such as frequent hand washing, to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

 

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ST. LEO  — In response to coronavirus outbreak, Saint Leo University issued the following statement Thursday morning:

 

Good morning,

Saint Leo University will move to online classes to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus. At its residential campus in Pasco County, students now are on spring break and instructed not to return. Online classes will begin March 23 for those students who attend at the main campus.

Education center students at Saint Leo’s Tampa (Channelside); MacDill Air Force Base; Pasco-Hernando State College sites in New Port Richey, Spring Hill, and Brooksville; and Lakeland locations will begin online classes March 16.

 

Effective immediately, the university is canceling all large group events. Additional details about individual cancellations will be shared by event organizers. All sports activities are suspended indefinitely. In addition, no fans will be permitted at the Acrobatics & Tumbling home events.

 

I hope you will share this important information. Thank you for your consideration.

 

 

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TALLAHASSEE — The following statement is attributable to Florida Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee, Arizona Secretary of State Kathy Hobbs, Illinois Elections Board Chairman Charles Scholz and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose:

As each of our four states prepare for voters to head to the polls on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, we are working closely with our state health officials to ensure that our poll workers and voters can be confident that voting is safe.

 Unlike concerts, sporting events or other mass gatherings where large groups of people travel long distances to congregate in a confined space for an extended period of time, polling locations see people from a nearby community coming into and out of the building for a short duration.

Further, guidance from voting machine manufacturers on how best to sanitize machines, guidance from CDC on best practices for hand washing, and guidance from our respective state health officials is being provided to every polling location.

Americans have participated in elections during challenging times in the past, and based on the best information we have from public health officials, we are confident that voters in our states can safely and securely cast their ballots in this election, and that otherwise healthy poll workers can and should carry out their patriotic duties on Tuesday.

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BROOKSVILLE — The Florida Department of Health in Hernando County issued the following statement at 1 p.m. March 12:

 

The Florida Department of Health in Hernando County is reinforcing important public health messaging—like symptom monitoring, infection prevention, and stopping or slowing down the spread of disease—that will help keep you safe if you come into contact with someone with COVID-19 or other viral respiratory pathogens like the flu. Our agency is monitoring the health trends in the community on a daily basis to help identify any possible cases of COVID-19 and we serve as an expert resource for health care providers, and the public. We are working to make sure that health care providers know what to look for and what to do if they suspect COVID-19 in a patient. We also coordinate the collection of specimens from patients which are submitted to the CDC or the Florida Bureau of Public Health Laboratories for testing of suspected COVID-19.

Additionally, the Department is ensuring that local plans, resources and capabilities are in place to respond in the event of a widespread outbreak and lessen the impacts on Florida’s communities.

Lastly:

· A call center has been created for the public with questions about COVID-19. The call center is available 24/7. That number is 866-779-6121.

· For those who would rather email questions, contact COVID-19@flhealth.gov

· Follow the Department on Twitter at @HealthyHernando.

 

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LAND O’ LAKES — No Pasco County public schools have had reported any coronavirus infection cases, according to Stephen Hegarty, the school district’s public information officer.

Pasco public schools will be closed for spring break the week of March 16. In line with “normal practice,” all Pasco schools will receive a “thorough cleaning” during the off week, Hegarty said.

 

A spokeswoman for the Hernando County School District said schools there will be closed next week for spring break as well and will receive a planned deep cleaning.

 

 

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PALM HARBOR — The PGA has announced that effective March 12, it is suspending tournament play.

The suspension of tournament play started with Friday’s second round of the Players Championship, at TPC Sawgrass, in Jacksonville.

As a result of the decision, the 2020 Valspar Championship, at Innisbrook, will not be played. The PGA also announced late Thursday night that the Valero Texas Open, in San Antonio, will not be played as well.

Only a few hours earlier on March 12, the PGA said it would continue tournament play, but without spectators, through the end of the Valero Texas Open.

“When you work on an event for a full year and are not able to share it with our fans, it hurts,” the Valspar tournament director, Tracy West, said in a statement issued after the announcement that the tournament would be played without spectators. “We thank our title sponsor Valspar for their full support and look forward to a wonderful community event next year.”

 

 

NEW PORT RICHEY — On March 13, the Pasco Sheriff’s Office released this statement:

 

In light of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recommendation to limit mass gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Pasco Sheriff’s Charities has made the difficult decision to postpone the Community Touch A Truck and Meet & Greet event on April 4. A new date for the event is forthcoming and will be announced when available.

If you previously purchased an event ticket, a full refund will be credited to the purchaser’s bank account or card used to purchase the ticket. Please allow 5-7 business days for this refund to process. When a new date for the event is announced, you will need to purchase a new ticket.

We’re certain that our fans and citizens are disappointed by this change, but we hope to share a new date as soon as possible.

Thank you for your understanding. Please continue to visit CDC.gov for the most up to date information on COVID-19.