Marion County's first 2 virus deaths, Florida nears 300

State cases surge to over 14,700, local infections and hospitalizations increase

SKY News
April 06, 2020 - 5:42 am
Security guards look on from the City of Miami Beach’s municipal parking lot located at 4621 Collins Avenue which houses a MedRite COVID-19 testing site on April 05, 2020 in Miami Beach, Florida.

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The coronavirus death toll in Florida reached more than 295 people as total cases topped 14,700, according to statistics released by the state Department of Health on Sunday.

The deaths have been heaviest in South Florida, where three counties have totaled 165 fatalities. That includes the deaths of Sgt. Jose Diaz Ayala of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office on Saturday and Deputy Shannon Bennett of the Broward Sheriff's Office on Friday.

Palm Beach County has had 49 deaths, followed by Broward County with 40 and Miami-Dade with 31.

Alachua County has nearly 140 cases, and 2 people have died in Marion County.

Marion County Commission Chairwoman Kathy Bryant announced the deaths Sunday in a Facebook video. “This message is not one of information. It is one of condolences.”

Bryant relayed prayers for the victims, saying "their lives will forever be changed because of this virus.” “We hope this will serve as a reminder of just how critical and life saving it is that each of us follow the CDC guidelines and governor’s executive order of safer at home and keeping a distance to hopefully prevent more losses in Marion County.” Bryant said further details on the deaths will be released from the Florida Dept. of Health in Marion County.

The Department of Corrections also reported Sunday that two inmates and five staff members at a Santa Rosa County private prison have tested positive for the virus. Statewide, 26 state and private prison employees have tested positive, but the Blackwater River Correctional Facility is the only prison with inmates who have tested positive.

Republican U.S. Rep. Mario-Diaz Balart of Miami, the first member of Congress to test positive for the coronavirus, announced on Twitter that he was now rid of the disease.

“Today, after being deemed #COVID19 free by my doctor, I was able to reunite with my family in Miami. Though still a bit weak, I feel well,” Diaz-Balart said, adding that he applied to participate in a Red Cross plasma donation program to help others stricken with the illness.

Also, the state's famous beaches remained under restrictions. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order last week, but it allows exercise such as walking, running and swimming.

In Volusia County, home to Daytona Beach, officials initially closed beaches entirely, but decided Saturday to allow some activity consistent with the governor's order. Sunbathing and sitting in chairs is prohibited, but fishing, surfing, walking, running and other physical activity are allowed if social distancing is practiced.

Alachua County revised the county's Emergency Order to tighten sthe state's restrictions on persons in businesses. Alachua County is limiting to one person per 1,000 square feet at a time.  

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