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We’ll update this story throughout the day with the latest news about coronavirus and its impact in Florida. 

The Florida Department of Health announced 17 new positive cases of coronavirus in Florida Thursday. The ages of the people affected ranged from 24 to 83, with three of the new cases in their 20s. 

Most of the newest cases were in South Florida, with four cases in Broward, two in Palm Beach (the first cases confirmed in theat county) and another in Miami-Dade County. The rest were scattered around the state.

Duval and Clay counties in North Florida saw their first cases of the virus.

More: Here’s why the state of Florida won’t say how many COVID-19 tests take place in a county

The DOH also is advising all individuals who have traveled internationally to follow new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, summarized below:

  • Level 3: Recommends 14-day self-isolation and social distancing upon return to the United States. Social distancing includes avoiding going out in public and close personal interactions. If you become symptomatic, immediately self-isolate and contact your county health department or health care provider.
  • Level 2 and Cruises: Travelers should monitor their health and limit interactions with others for 14 days after returning to the United States. If you become symptomatic, immediately self-isolate and contact your county health department or health care provider.

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Here is the latest information available from the FDOH:

Miami mayor tests positive for virus after Brazilian event

12:50 p.m.

The mayor of the city of Miami has tested positive for the new coronavirus after meeting with a Brazilian senior official who was also in close proximity to President Donald Trump.

Mayor Francis Suarez said in a Friday statement that he was not feeling any symptoms and advised anyone who shook hands with him or was close to him since Monday to self-isolate for 14 days.

Florida politicians such as U.S. Sen. Rick Scott had expressed concerns about coming into contact with the Brazilian president’s press secretary Fábio Wajngarten, who tested positive after joining Bolsonaro in a visit to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate last weekend.

Will Florida close schools?

11:16 a.m.

At least half a dozen states have announced they are closing all schools to limit the spread of the coronavirus, raising the question of whether Florida will follow in their footsteps.

Bradenton state Rep. Will Robinson said Friday that “we may get to that point but for now let’s continue to monitor the situation.”

“Things are changing by the hour and parents should stay in close contact with their school system,” Robinson added.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has not hinted at potential school closures. But states with fewer coronavirus cases than Florida are shutting down their schools.

Florida Tech suspends in-person classes, athletics and campus events

12:04 p.m.

Florida Institute of Technology has suspended in-person classes, athletics and most campus events amid concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

In a letter to the campus late Thursday, Florida Tech President T. Dwayne McCay announced the college was immediately suspending face-to-face classes for the remainder of the spring semester.

All classes next week are canceled, McCay said, with the exception of regular online courses and courses through the school’s Virtual Education Program, which would proceed as scheduled. 

The Education Center’s in-person courses would shift online beginning Monday, while all classes will move online beginning March 23.

“We expect to resume campus face-to-face classes and full university operations starting with the summer 2020 term,” McCay said in the letter.

More: Coronavirus: Florida Tech suspends in-person classes, athletics, campus events

Some cruise passengers keep sailing from Port Canaveral, even as Disney halts voyages

9:15 a.m.

Port Canaveral will temporarily lose one of its major cruise lines, as Disney Cruise Line announced it would suspend sailings, effective Saturday, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Disney has its two largest ships based at Port Canaveral — Dream and the Fantasy, both with a capacity of 4,000 passengers.

The suspension lasts until the end of the month and will affect eight scheduled sailings out of Port Canaveral.

The Dream was boarding passengers Friday at Port Canaveral’s Cruise Terminal 8 for its final cruise before service will be halted.

Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean thus far have not announced plans to halt sailings of their cruise ships.

More: Coronavirus Port Canaveral: Some cruise passengers keep sailing, even as Disney halts voyages

Here’s why Florida won’t say how many COVID-19 tests take place in a county

11:58 p.m. Thursday

As the novel coronavirus spreads across the country, the response by states has been subjected to constant scrutiny. Florida health authorities have been particularly tight-lipped about the information they have chosen to release.

While Florida health officials are identifying the counties where positive cases of COVID-19 have been identified, including the age, gender of individuals and whether an individual engaged in foreign travel, the state so far is refusing to provide localized county-level data on how many were being  tested and monitored for the virus.

“The DOH strives to protect the identity of individuals tested or affected by COVID-19, while also ensuring information necessary for the public health is available,” they said. As such the DOH said it was “unable” to break down the data by community.

More: Here’s why the state of Florida won’t say how many COVID-19 tests take place in a county

MoreCoronavirus in Florida: Hundreds to attend Mar-a-Lago fundraiser despite crowd warnings

Coronavirus closes Walt Disney World,  Disney Cruise Line, Universal Studios

8:46 p.m.  Thursday

Walt Disney World announced Thursday evening that it would be closing Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Paris Resort, beginning at the close of business on Sunday, March 15, through the end of the month.  

Disney Cruise Line will suspend all new departures beginning Saturday, through the end of the month. 

Universal Orlando Resort also will temporarily close its theme parks at the close of business on Sunday, March 15.  A statement on the resort’s web site said they anticipate remaining closed through the end of March – but will continue to evaluate the situation. 

Universal Orlando’s hotels and Universal CityWalk will remain open.

More: Coronavirus closes Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise Line and Universal Studios

Despite Gov. DeSantis’ warning, Florida Legislature works on

7:03 p.m. Thursday

Even as Gov. Ron DeSantis discouraged “mass gatherings” in Florida because of the spreading coronavirus Thursday, the Florida Capitol was crammed with 160 lawmakers and hundreds of staff, lobbyists and visitors for the closing days of the Legislature.

The session is scheduled officially to end Friday, but a few days of overtime is certain – even though lawmakers grow anxious about the virus and eager to get home to their families and district offices.

More: Despite Gov. Ron DeSantis warning, Florida Legislature works on, drawing crowd


USA TODAY answers a question you may be wondering: Is coronavirus worse than the flu?



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More: Coronavirus rationing: Target, Walmart limit purchases of hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, toilet paper

More: You can still buy hand sanitizer online at these places

Germiest public places, objects you should avoid to reduce chances of picking up COVID-19

There are 10 places WebMD recommends to avoid: 

  • Swimming pools
  • Gyms
  • Restaurants and their menus
  • Public water fountains
  • Shopping carts
  • Hand dryers and soap dispensers
  • Hotel rooms and elevator buttons
  • Playgrounds
  • Touch screens
  • ATMs

In the know: Coronavirus advice and information

More: Coronavirus updates: Trump travel ban spooks US stocks; NBA suspends season; US death toll at 38

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