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Florida seeks new ways to expand coronavirus testing

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida will look to new ways to expand coronavirus testing, such as allowing tests at pharmacies and randomly checking blood donations for COVIID-19 antibodies. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis discussed testing during a news conference in Miami. He also rolled out a mobile testing lab that will travel the state to do rapid tasting at long-term care facilities. State provided statistics show Florida has more than 38,000 confirmed cases resulting in more than 1,500 deaths. Of the fatalities, at least 577 have been long-term care residents or employees.


With trial over, Florida felons await voting rights ruling

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A federal judge is weighing whether Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida lawmakers were wrong to stipulate that felons who had already served their time must also settle all legal debts before they can regain their right to vote. The case could have wide ramifications: The state's sizable population of disenfranchised felons represents a significant bloc in a state known for razor-thin election margins. It also underscores the onerous challenge facing elections officials tasked with determining who among the state’s hundreds of thousands of released felons can vote.


Lawsuit aims to make it easier for Floridians to mail-vote

ORLANDO Fla. (AP) — Advocacy groups want to make it easier for Floridians to vote by mail during the current pandemic. A lawsuit they filed this week in federal court in Tallahassee asks a judge to allow ballots to be counted if they're postmarked by Election Day but arrive within 10 days of that deadline. It also wants to allow paid organizers to collect vote-by-mail ballots from voters who require assistance and for the state to pay for postage for mail-in ballots instead of voters. The Florida lawsuit come as states around the U.S. struggle to hold elections in the face of the highly-contagious new coronavirus.


State offficials to review complaint against Florida sheriff

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — State law enforcement officials will review a complaint against a Florida sheriff appointed by the governor after the 2018 Parkland high school massacre. Critics say the sheriff should have disclosed he fatally shot another teenager when he was 14 in Philadelphia. A Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman told the Sun Sentinel on Wednesday that the agency has received a complaint against Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony and plans to review it. She says there is no active investigation. Tony signed an affidavit this January, a year after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed him sheriff. The form is meant to verify that a law enforcement officer meets the state’s qualifications.


Florida Supreme Court hears marijuana cases via video

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Supreme Court is considering whether a recreational marijuana ballot proposal can go before voters in 2022 and whether the state’s tight regulation of the medical marijuana industry violates the state constitution. The court heard arguments Wednesday via video conference as a precaution amid the coronavirus outbreak, with lawyers and justices all in separate locations. The arguments were carried live on the court's website and its Facebook page.


Florida announces plan to replace bridge that fell, killed 6

MIAMI (AP) — Florida officials have announced plans to design and build a bridge to replace one that collapsed and killed six people two years ago in Miami. The Florida Department of Transportation said in a statement that it would manage and oversee all aspects of the project, and follow federal officials’ recommendations. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded last November that design flaws and a lack of oversight led to the collapse of the Florida International University bridge in March 2018. The design phase will begin in 2021, and the replacement bridge is expected to be built in about two years.


Troopers: Teen driver distracted by phone causes fatal crash

PALM COAST, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Highway Patrol says a teenager drifted into another lane on Interstate 95 and hit a tractor trailer after being distracted by her phone. The agency says the 56-year-old truck driver died in the crash early Wednesday morning. The 18-year-old told investigators she hit the truck's rear wheels after overcorrecting her vehicle. The truck veered off the road, hitting a guard rail before overturning. The teen suffered minor injuries. Troopers say both drivers were wearing seat belts. The crash happened near Palm Coast in central Florida.


Chief: Officers fatally shoot man suspected of stabbing girl

ST. CLOUD, Fla. (AP) — Authorities say a man suspected of stabbing a 9-year-old girl was fatally shot by police officers following a confrontation. St. Cloud police Chief Pete Gauntlett tells news outlets neighbors called 911 Tuesday after seeing a man running erratically through backyards. He was covered in blood and had visible wounds. The child's family drove her to a hospital, and she was later transferred to a hospital in Orlando. She was reported to be in stable condition with wounds to the face and neck. The man's identity hasn't been released. Police say they don't know the relationship between the man and girl.


Florida makes plans for dealing with COVID-19 in a hurricane

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — As Florida slowly reopens, officials are contemplating what they should do if the coronavirus outbreak lingers into hurricane season. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that the virus will be around in some form during hurricane season, and the state needs to rethink how to provide shelter for evacuees without spreading the disease. Hurricane season begins June 1 and usually peaks from late August through September. Florida is often a target for storms, forcing thousands of people to evacuate with many fleeing to shelters. Florida has had more than 37,000 confirmed coronavirus cases resulting in nearly 1,500 deaths. DeSantis partially lifted his “safer at home” order Monday, allowing restaurants and retail shops to begin operating at 25% capacity.


Civil War soldiers' remains unearthed from cemetery collapse

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) — National Park Service archaeologists are recovering the remains of unidentified Civil War soldiers from a collapsed section of Vicksburg National Cemetery in Mississippi. The collapse happened in February. The National Park Service says remains of about 15 Union soldiers are being unearthed from graves that were part of the collapse or that are in an unstable area. The material will be stored so each soldier’s remains are kept together, and DNA testing may be needed. The remains will be buried again in the 116-acre cemetery. About 17,000 Union soldiers are buried there, and about 75% of them are unidentified.