Latest Florida news, sports, business and entertainment at 9:20 p.m. EDT


Trump declares Florida a disaster area due to virus

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump has declared Florida a disaster area because of the new coronavirus outbreak. The president acted Wednesday, one day after Gov. Ron DeSantis requested the declaration. Florida is the sixth state to receive one because of the viral outbreak. The move makes the state eligible for federal funding for emergency protective measures and crisis counseling. The declaration came shortly after the two major counties in the Tampa Bay area moved to impose lockdown orders. Restrictions have already been imposed by local officials in south and central Florida and elsewhere. The state is approaching 1,700 confirmed cases and at least 21 have died.


Florida governor's coronavirus dilemma: health vs. economy

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The nation's struggle to protect both lives and the economy during the coronavirus outbreak is on full display in Florida. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is walking a tightrope. He has yet to issue a stay-at-home order for the state's 21 million people as some other governors have done, and he has been hesitant to close down popular beaches. He's left many decisions up to counties and cities, an approach that has garnered praise, confusion and derision. The success or failure of DeSantis’ strategy could have major consequences for the national economic recovery. And no single state is more central to President Donald Trump’s reelection.


'The whole city laid off': US jobless claims climb sky high

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New unemployment benefit claims are rising to levels unseen in recent U.S. history as a result of coronavirus concerns. States have reported receiving tens of thousands of new claims for unemployment insurance last week. Officials figures are to be released Thursday, and some economists project that new claims could reach 3 million nationwide. Some laid-off workers have encountered delays in filing claims because of overloaded websites and phone systems. Some states are warning that it could take longer than the normal two to three weeks to receive unemployment payments because of the sudden surge in claims.


Publix stores to have barriers for cashiers as virus spreads

MIAMI (AP) — Florida-based grocery chain Publix says it will begin installing plexiglass barriers at the cash registers to protect its workers and customers from the coronavirus. A company spokeswoman says all of its stores should have the barriers installed within the next two weeks. Publix has joined its competitors Kroger and Walmart in installing the so-called “sneeze guards.” Grocery stores are seeing their business soar as authorities urge people only to go out for essentials, prompting them to stay inside and cook more at home. Publix has more than 1,200 locations spread across Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.


Brevard Zoo is taking care of abandoned black bear cub

MELBOURNE, Fla. (AP) — Zoo officials in Brevard County are caring for a black bear cub that was abandoned by its mother in the Ocala National Forest. Wildlife officers found the cub on a dirt road road in late February. They looked for its mother but she never returned. The cub was taken to the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne where officials are taking care of it. Because it was abandoned at such an early age, it won't be able to be released into the wild. The cub is about about six weeks old and is being fed every four hours.


Judge: Second expert to evaluate man who bit victim's face

STUART, Fla. (AP) — A judge in Florida has granted a motion to have a second mental health expert evaluate a Florida college student accused of fatally attacking a couple outside their home and chewing off part of the man's face. Earlier in March a health expert for the state agreed with a defense expert's assessment that Austin Harrouff was insane on Aug. 15, 2016 when he attacked the couple. Circuit Court Judge Sherwood Bauer Jr. said this will be the only time he'll grant permission for prosecutors to have a second expert evaluate Harrouff, who was 19 when the attacks happened.


Former officer pleads guilty to excessive force at hospital

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) —  A former police officer at a Florida veteran’s hospital has pleaded guilty to using excessive force and lying in reports to cover up the incident. Court records say 56-year-old Norman Nicholson pleaded guilty in Tampa federal court Tuesday to charges of making false records in a federal investigation and depriving an individual of their rights under color of law. A plea agreement says Nicholson was working for the Bay Pines Veterans Affairs Healthcare System near St. Petersburg when he used excessive and unreasonable force during the arrest of a U.S. Army veteran. Investigators say Nicholson then authored two false arrest affidavits and a police report.


1 killed, 1 injured when motorcycles crash

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. (AP) — Authorities say one motorcycle rider was killed and another was seriously injured when their bikes collided on a Florida street. A police news release says the crash occurred early Tuesday morning on a Pembroke Pines road. Police say two Yamaha motorcycles were traveling in the same direction when one bike hit the other. A 19-year-old man was taken to a nearby hospital, and a 22-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene. Crash investigators haven't said whether speed or alcohol was a factor in the crash. The release says charges might be filed based upon the outcome of the investigation.


Coast Guard crew rescues man in boat near Dry Tortugas

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — U.S. Coast Guard crews rescued a 70-year-old man who was experiencing chest pains while on his boat near the Dry Tortugas National Park. The agency said in a news release that the man was medevaced on Monday after contacting Coast Guard officials in Key West. He told them that he'd bee having chest pains for two days. The agency diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Charles David Jr. to the area to pick up the man. They took him to Key West where an emergency medical crew was waiting. His condition was not immediately available on Tuesday.


Trial for man accused of killing officer delayed by Covid-19

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The trial of a man accused of killing an Orlando police officer has been delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak. Markeith Loyd was scheduled to stand trail in May for the shooting death of Lt. Debra Clayton, She was fatally shot while trying to arrest Loyd in January 2017. He had been on the run for allegedly killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon when Clayton tried to arrest him. The shooting resulted in a manhunt for Loyd, who was eventually captured and charged with first-degree murder. Court officials decided to delay many hearings and trials due to the pandemic,