March 1: Governor Ron DeSantis declares a Public Health Emergency; There are 2 Florida COVID-19 cases
March 2: Florida Department of Health asks Floridians to follow CDC guidelines to avoid nonessential travel to China, Iran, South Korea and Italy.
March 4: DeSantis announces that the risk of contracting COVID-19 is low for Floridians.
March 7: Two Floridians die of COVID-19; Florida has 17 positive COVID-19 cases.
March 9: Florida State of Emergency declared; 19 FL COVID-19 cases; Social distancing goes mainstream.
March 11: DeSantis limits visitors to nursing homes; Florida universities announce they will use online instruction after spring break; CDC declares a pandemic; NBA season on hold; 31 FL cases.
March 12: The remainder of Major League Baseball Spring Training is canceled; Opening Day postponed; NHL season suspended; NCAA March Madness canceled; Florida has 49 COVID-19 cases
March 13: Fort Myers Beach Town Council cancels Shrimp Festival and St. Patrick’s Day parade; declares Local State of Emergency; blocks all events with over 250 people, authorizing staff to adjust event cancelations based on state and CDC guidance. By March 16 that number would drop to 10; All Florida K – 12 schools given an extra week of spring break, classes to resume March 30. (later extended to mid-April, then May 1 and then on April 18, DeSantis announced schools would remain closed for the rest of the academic year.)
March 15: Disney World & Universal Orlando close; FMB churches begin to cancel services through Easter, and later, extend cancellations into May.
March 16: Efforts to encourage spring breakers to leave FMB have mixed results; 160 positive FL COVID-19 cases; 5 deaths.
March 17: Governor closes all bars and limits restaurants to 50% capacity with a minimum of 6 feet between tables.
March 18: Florida has 328 positive cases; 8 deaths.
March 19: FMB Town Council closes the beach on FMB and all public parking at beach accesses; Lee County closes all Lee County beach parks and associated parking. Town shuts down all beach vendors and closes Bay Oaks Rec Center, Beach Pool, Mound House and Newton Park.
March 20: Governor closes all gyms and fitness centers; closes all dine-in restaurants – only carryout or delivery allowed. Florida has 564 positive cases and 11 deaths.
March 22: Florida cases hit 1,007 with 13 deaths.
March 23: Governor orders anyone flying to Florida from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to self-isolate for 14 days. Flagler County closes its beaches. Florida has 1,147 positive cases; 18 deaths.
March 24: Stay-at-home orders issued for Orange, Alachua and parts of Miami-Dade counties. Florida has 1,467 COVID-19 cases.
March 25: Lee County Commissioners meet in Emergency Meeting; Lee Health CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci and Lee Health staff strongly encourage a county-wide stay-at-home order to flatten the curve on new cases to allow the health system to handle the volume; Mayors of Lee municipalities ask for stay-at-home order; Commissioners decline to do so, but urge residents to follow CDC guidelines. Osceola County in Central Florida issues a stay-at-home order.
March 27: Governor suspends all vacation rentals for 2 weeks; sets up checkpoints on I-95 and I-10 in northern Florida to inform all New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Louisiana residents entering Florida that they must self-isolate for 2 weeks. Florida has 3,198 positive COVID-19 cases with 46 deaths.
March 30: FMB Town Council bans all vacation rentals for 90 days; revising it later to last until June 26. Order includes hotels, motels, RV parks, condos, single family homes and duplexes. Council recommends residents stay at home and limit non-essential activity. County Commissioners meet in Emergency session and agree to ratify Florida Surgeon General guidelines; they hear again from Lee Health experts and decline to consider a stay-at-home order. Governor issues a stay-at-home order for Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
March 31: Florida has 6,741 positive cases and 85 deaths.
April 1: Governor issues “Safer-at-Home” order limiting all non-essential activity and closing all non-essential businesses through April 30; County Commissioners meet to endorse the Governor’s order.
April 2: Reacting to thousands of unaddressed unemployment claims and the overwhelming collapse of the application system, Governor directs Department of Management Services to assist the Department of Economic Opportunity in handling unemployment claims.
April 3: Statewide Safer-as-Home order goes into effect. Florida cases reach 10,268 with 170 deaths.
April 10: Governor extends closure of vacation rentals to April 30.
April 13: Florida cases reach 21,109 cases with 499 deaths.
April 15: Florida cases reach 22,519, with 614 deaths. Lee Health announces they have 69 COVID-19 patients isolated in their hospitals and have discharged 112 patients; they have 179 employees quarantined. 31 employees exposed at work are positive for COVID-19.
April 17: Governor announces that some beaches and parks may reopen if it can be done safely. Jacksonville beach opens.
April 18: Governor cancels in-person instruction for Florida schools for the rest of the school year.
April 20: Fort Myers Beach Town Council discusses opening the beach to residents for exercise for limited hours. They set a Special Meeting on April 27 to further discuss easing local restrictions. FL Dept of Economic Opportunity (DEO) announces that payments have been issued to 6% of unemployment claims. Florida has 27,058 positive COVID-19 cases and 823 deaths, with 4,000 hospitalized. Governor’s Re-Open Florida Task Force committees begin four days of meetings with reports due April 24.
April 21: Lee County Commissioners open limited parks and preserves for trail use. Pavilions and restrooms remain closed. Beach parks remain closed. Flagler County opens their beaches. Charlotte and Sarasota counties vote to allow some beaches to open April 27 for essential activities, such as walking, fishing and swimming.
April 22: Satellite Beach and Cocoa Beach open.
April 23: Florida sees 1,300 new positive cases in one day, the most since April 2. Total Florida positive cases 29,648.; deaths 987. DEO announces that 701,740 unique unemployment claims have been filed; 31.2% of those have been processed with only 21.9% of them paid as of April 23.
April 24: Florida hits two milestones. As of noon, April 24, Florida has 30,174 positive COVID-19 cases and 1,012 deaths; 4,699 patients have been hospitalized. In Lee County, there have been 928 positive cases and 36 deaths. 70 COVID-19 patients are now isolated in Lee hospitals and 166 patients have been discharged. Lee Health has 197 employees quarantined at home and 32 employees are COVID-19 positive. Dr. Larry Antonucci announces that a computer compatibility glitch resulted in a number of local cases not being transmitted to the Florida Department of Health. The local cases will be added to state data in next few days.
Governor announces that he is asking the Florida Surgeon General to allow licensed pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 tests. He plans to study the Reopen Florida task force reports and has no “artificial date” to reopen the state or cancel his Safer-at-Home order which expires on April 30. “I’m not concerned with specific dates,” DeSantis said, “I’m concerned with getting it right.”
Photos by Missy Layfield