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Florida Democrats blast governor's handling of virus crisis

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Florida's congressional Democrats are blasting Gov. Ron DeSantis' refusal to issue a statewide stay-at-home order to combat the coronavirus outbreak. They said Tuesday that DeSantis' decision will result in thousands of unnecessary deaths, risk the health of doctors and nurses and threaten to overwhelm hospitals. Florida now has at least 6,700 confirmed infections and 84 deaths. The Democrats said the Republican governor must drop his county-by-county approach and follow other hard-hit states by closing all non-essential businesses and ordering people to stay home except for essential trips such as buying groceries. DeSantis has defended his approach, saying businesses and workers in unaffected counties shouldn't be punished.


Florida docking plan in the works for ill-fated cruise ships

MIAMI (AP) — The U.S. Coast Guard says it's working with Holland America on a detailed docking plan that would require two ships carrying passengers and crew from an ill-fated cruise to handle all medical issues without impacting South Florida's already-stressed hospitals. A Coast Guard official told the Broward County Commission that if a unified command of state, local and federal officials can't unanimously agree on what to do with the people on the two ships now headed to Florida, then they'll punt the decision to Washington. Passengers are pleading with Florida officials to let them disembark despite a coronavirus outbreak on board.


Florida governor loses latest bid to curtail felon voting

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida officials have lost their latest bid to enforce a state law denying the right to vote for felons who have not paid all court fines and fees. Tuesday's decision by the entire bench of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was the latest setback for Gov. Ron DeSantis and fellow Republicans who have tried to limit the reach of Amendment 4. The ballot measure approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2018 restores the vote to felons who have served their sentences.


Florida governor doesn't want cruise ship to dock in state

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he misspoke when he said he expects South Florida to be locked down for six more weeks. He said later Monday that he expects the Miami and Fort Lauderdale area to on lockdown until at least April 15, not May 15. He also said he doesn't want a cruise ship where four people died and others are sick to offload passengers for treatment. He says Florida can't treat outsiders right now. The cruise line says the passengers on board include 304 Americans. Speaking at a news conference, DeSantis said Holland America should send doctors to treat passengers on board.


Florida sheriff seeking tips in 'Tiger King' mystery

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — It might be the biggest diversion from the pandemic: binge-watching a recently released and luridly fascinating “Tiger King,” a Netflix documentary about rival big cat wranglers. Now a Florida sheriff is asking the public for tips regarding one of the lingering mysteries raised in the show: What happened to Jack “Don” Lewis, the husband of Big Cat Rescue's Carole Baskin? Lewis went missing in 1997, and speculation about his fate is running rampant among viewers. Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister is seeking tips, hoping to take advantage of all the attention. Big Cat Rescue says it, too, hopes for fresh clues.


White nationalist gets bond after voicing concern over virus

YORK, S.C. (AP) — A white nationalist jailed in South Carolina on a domestic violence charge was granted bond after requesting a release because of coronavirus concerns. Augustus Sol Invictus was granted a $10,000 bond Tuesday on charges of domestic violence and possession of a weapon during a violent crime. His attorney said the bond was appropriate given coronavirus concerns and trial delays. Officials say no cases have been reported at the jail. Invictus is accused of choking his wife, holding a gun to her head and forcing her to drive him to South Carolina. Invictus ran for the U.S. Senate in Florida and was a featured speaker during the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.


Florida woman dies after getting stuck under dive boat

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Wildlife officials say a 37-year-old Florida woman was killed when she got stuck under a dive boat and trapped by the propeller. The incident happened Sunday as the crew of the Southern Comfort was recovering divers from the water off Palm Beach County. Two divers were pulled under the water. Officials say Mollie Ghiz-Flynn of Melbourne wasn't able to free herself. She was finally freed by the crew and brought onto the boat, where CPR was administered. Officials say the woman died of her injuries. The wildlife commission is investigating.


Pastor arrested for violating rules amid virus outbreak

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Florida officials arrested a megachurch pastor after detectives said he held two Sunday services with hundreds in attendance and violated a safer-at-home order because of the coronavirus. Jail records show Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne turned himself into authorities Monday afternoon in Hernando County, where he lives. Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister says he told church leaders of the danger they are putting themselves and their congregation in by not maintaining appropriate social distancing. The county and governor’s orders require gatherings be fewer than 10 people to limit the spread of the new coronavirus. A live stream of Sunday's three-and-a-half-hour church service showed scores of congregants.


Louisiana pastor says he'll keep violating coronavirus ban

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A Louisiana pastor says he will keep violating a ban on gatherings put in place to control the spread of the coronavirus because God told him to. Pastor Tony Spell told The Associated Press that he plans to hold another service for hundreds of people Tuesday night at the Life Tabernacle church in the city of Central. East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore said Spell was charged Tuesday with six misdemeanor violations of Gov. John Bel Edwards' order prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people.


Florida utility seeks 1-time rate reduction due to COVID-19

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Power & Light is telling customers the company is seeking a one-time decrease of about 25% in power bills as the result of lower fuel rates due to the coronavirus outbreak. In an email sent Monday, the company noted that approval from the state's Public Service Commission is needed before the discounted rate would go into effect in May. The company said the typical residential customer would see a reduction of about 25% of the regular monthly bill. The plan would vary by rate class.