Updates from the state on COVID-19 for March 17

Press release from Joint Information Center on COVID-19 for the State of Florida

The State of Florida is responding to COVID-19. In an effort to keep Florida residents and visitors safe and aware regarding the status of the virus, the Florida Department of Health will issue this update every day, seven days per week. 

Governor Ron DeSantis is in constant communication with Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz and State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees as the State of Florida continues to monitor and respond to the threat of COVID-19.

Today, in a briefing at the Florida Emergency Operations Center, Governor DeSantis announced the following:


  • Governor Ron DeSantis today made several announcements to keep Florida’s students, instructional staff and faculty safe. He announced that all remaining assessments for school readiness and voluntary prekindergarten and all testing requirements for K-12 will be cancelled for the 2019-2020 school year.
  • Governor DeSantis also provided more flexibility to local school districts so they can install and establish additional remote learning opportunities for students, including the ability to purchase devices and internet services.

Information on Restaurants, Bars, Nightclubs and Beaches

  • Governor Ron DeSantis issued an Executive Order that will reduce density and crowds in restaurants, bars, nightclubs and beaches to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Bars and Nightclubs
    • Under the direction of Governor DeSantis, all bars and nightclubs throughout Florida will close for the next 30 days. Information is available on the website of Florida’s Department of Business & Professional Management (DBPR).
  •  Beaches
    • The Governor is directing parties accessing public beaches in the state of Florida to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance by limiting their gatherings to no more than 10 persons.
  • Restaurants
    • Restaurants across the state of Florida will now be required to limit customer entry to 50 percent of capacity. Seating must be staggered and limited to ensure seated parties are separated by a distance of at least six feet, in accordance with CDC guidelines. Restaurants are encouraged to remain open and expand take-out and delivery services. Information is available on the website for DBPR.

Reemployment Assistance

  • Governor DeSantis reminded Floridians that if their employment has been negatively impacted because of mitigation efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, these Floridians may be eligible to receive Reemployment Assistance.
    • Individuals who are eligible for Reemployment Assistance may include:
      • Those who are quarantined by a medical professional or a government agency,
      • Those who are laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period by their employer due to COVID-19 concerns; and
      • Those who are caring for an immediate family member who is diagnosed with COVID-19
  • Governor DeSantis and the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) encourage any Floridian whose employment has been negatively impacted as a result of COVID-19 to visit Floridajobs.org and click on the Reemployment Assistance Service Center to learn more about the program and to watch a short video on how to apply.

Private businesses assisting Floridians

  • Governor DeSantis also applauded steps taken by private businesses such as FPL, Duke Energy, TECO, and Uber who are taking steps to assist Floridians with electric bills and delivering free meals to health care workers.

Presidential Preference Primary Election

  • Leading up to today’s Presidential Preference Primary Election, Governor DeSantis directed Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee to work with Supervisors of Elections throughout Florida to ensure a smooth election. Throughout the day, the Florida Division of Elections remained in constant contact with local elections officials to ensure voters who had not voted prior to election day, had the opportunity to cast their ballot. The Department of State proactively worked with emergency management officials to ensure that Supervisors had the necessary resources for sanitization and cleaning at polling places to help ensure the safety of voters on Election Day. Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee held a press conference to share updates from the day, once polls have closed statewide, that will be available for viewing on the Florida Channel.

More Information on COVID-19

To find the most up-to-date information and guidance on COVID-19, please visit the Department of Health’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage. For information and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), please visit the CDC COVID-19 website. For more information about current travel advisories issued by the U.S. Department of State, please visit the travel advisory website.

For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, please contact the Department’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling (866) 779-6121. The Call Center is available 24 hours per day. Inquiries may also be emailed to COVID-19@flhealth.gov.

What you Should Know

COVID-19 can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, including when an individual coughs or sneezes. These droplets may land on objects and surfaces. Other people may contract COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days following exposure. Most people recover from COVID-19 without needing special treatment. The elderly and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems and diabetes are more likely to develop serious illness.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. The Department recommends everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
  • Staying home when you are sick and avoiding contact with persons in poor health;
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;
  • Covering your cough or sneezing into a tissue, then disposing of the tissue;
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing;
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty; and
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

The CDC does not recommend that asymptomatic, healthy people wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

A person that experiences a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel from any other destination with community transmission should call ahead to their health care provider and local CHD and mention their recent travel or close contact.

If a person has had close contact with someone showing these symptoms who has recently traveled from this area or been in contact with a person with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, he or she should call ahead to a health care professional and the CHD. The health care provider will work with the Department to determine if the person should be tested for COVID-19.