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Coronavirus live updates: Here’s what to know in South Florida on April 17

We’re keeping track of the latest news regarding the coronavirus in South Florida and around the state. Check back for updates throughout the day.

 Can you catch coronavirus from a dead body? It’s a possibility, researchers say
▪ Miami-Dade’s unemployment rate more than doubled in March as statewide unemployment soars
▪ Latin America and Caribbean yet to hit coronavirus surge; most are tightening measures

WALK-UP TESTING SITES OPENING IN BROWARD COUNTY

12:50 p.m.: While Gov. Ron DeSantis has touted the dozens of drive-thru COVID-19 test sites as a safe, free and efficient way for people to get tested without getting out of their vehicles or, in The Villages, golf carts, one key population was left out: those who don’t drive.
That changes Saturday, when two walk-up sites open in Broward County — one at the Urban League of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale and the other at Mitchell Moore Park in Pompano Beach.
The sites, staffed by 60 Florida National Guardsmen, will each provide 200 tests daily to those in Broward, which has the second most confirmed positive cases of the novel coronavirus in the state behind Miami-Dade.


HOW (AND WHEN) GIG WORKERS WHO LOST THEIR JOBS CAN FILE FOR UNEMPLOYMENT

12:35 p.m.: Florida has a greater percentage of its workforce classified as independent contractors or gig economy workers than any other state in the country, but in the three weeks since the federal government passed an unemployment assistance act that is supposed to help them, they’ve been unable to tap into the aid.
On Thursday, after workers and lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to figure out how the overwhelmed state-run unemployment system will handle their claims, the state announced it is planning to launch a separate claims site for gig workers — but it won’t be ready for another seven to 10 days.

FRIDAY MORNING CASE NUMBER UPDATE

11:15 a.m.: Florida’s Department of Health on Friday morning confirmed 779 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total of confirmed cases to 24,119. There were 18 additional deaths announced, raising the statewide death toll to 686.
Of the new deaths, 12 were in South Florida, according to Florida’s COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard.

MIAMI HEAT FACE MASKS BENEFIT FOOD BANKS

10:45 a.m.: Face masks are the new hottest fashion trend in the COVID-19 era, and the NBA and Miami Heat are diving right in.
The NBA and WNBA partnered with Fanatics to release a line of team-branded face cloth coverings. Masks are available with logos from all 30 NBA teams and all 12 WNBA teams, including the Heat.
“As a global community, we can all play a role in reducing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic by following the CDC’s recommendation to cover our nose and mouth while in public,” said Kathy Behrens, NBA president of social responsibility and player programs. “Through this new product offering, NBA and WNBA fans can adhere to these guidelines while joining in the league’s efforts to aid those who have been directly affected by COVID-19.”

BAPTIST HEALTH DEVELOPS ITS OWN CORONAVIRUS TEST

9:20 a.m.: Baptist Health South Florida has received emergency approval from federal regulators to begin using a test it developed on its own for the novel coronavirus, one of a dozen hospital labs across the country to receive the clearance.
The test has a turnaround time of 24 hours or less. It is not considered rapid or particularly high volume, carrying the ability to test 40 to 80 samples a day, once testing ramps up at Baptist Health’s Miami Cancer Institute lab, which will be conducting tests for the health system’s hospital patients and healthcare workers.

CASES KEEP CLIMBING AT PEMBROKE PINES VA NURSING HOME

9:10 a.m.: A dozen military veterans residing at a state VA nursing home in Pembroke Pines have become infected with the coronavirus, six times as many as were first diagnosed last month when the pandemic struck Florida, officials said.
Of those, eight veterans are hospitalized with the COVID-19 disease, according to the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. The other four are not showing symptoms of the respiratory disease but are being isolated at the Alexander Nininger Jr. State Veterans Nursing Home.

WILL PASSENGERS COME BACK TO CRUISES?

9:05 a.m.: Despite mass cancellations of voyages, Miami-based Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings — the three largest cruise companies — have raised enough cash to last at least 10 cruise-less months, according to analysts. The fourth largest, MSC Cruises, is privately held.
But will people want to cruise again after thousands have been infected with COVID-19 after cruises and dozens have died?
That’s the million dollar question, said Rockford Weitz, director of the Tufts University maritime studies program.
So far the industry has disputed federal health officials’ repeated warnings that cruise ships are a more dangerous place for infectious disease spread than other environments. If companies want a shot at luring back customers, Weitz said, they better accept reality.

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