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Florida coronavirus cases increase to 13,300 as more testing sites open across the state

ORLANDO, Fla.– Following the first weekend Florida was under a stay-at-home order, coronavirus cases saw a smaller increase from Sunday night into Monday morning, reaching a new total of 13,324, according to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health.

For the last week cases of the highly contagious illness have jumped by nearly 1,000 almost daily. On Sunday, Florida saw about half that increase, however, as more testing sites open around the state that number is expected to jump in the coming weeks. UCF and Aventus BioLabs opened a drive-thru site on campus Monday that can test up to 250 people per day.

Officials in Volusia County announced Monday two drive-thru testing sites are coming to the area.

More than 120,000 people have been tested statewide as of Monday, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis. Of those, about 10.6% have tested positive for the virus.

“In terms of testing, one of our main priorities throughout this has been to expand the availability of testing in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said Monday. “We are now over 120,000 individuals tested, which I think is huge. If you look at the improvement in the testing over the last two or three weeks it’s been a dramatic increase in the state. We are now one of the top states for testing.”

Florida’s coronavirus cases also included 15 new deaths Monday, bringing the state’s death toll to 236. Over the weekend, a Broward County sheriff’s deputy and a Palm Beach County sheriff’s sergeant both succumbed to the disease. Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties have the highest concentration of coronavirus cases in Florida.

There are only five counties in the state without any COVID-19 cases, according to the Florida Department of Health numbers.

In Central Florida, all 10 counties in the region but Brevard County have reported deaths associated with COVID-19.

Floridians experiencing financial hardship, unable to work due to the pandemic, were waiting for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity website to go live Monday after it went down overnight to allow for fixes and for a backlog of applications to be processed. Last week, the DEO started accepting paper applications due to problems with their site and call system.

A News 6 investigation found that in the past two weeks, the department has spent $25 million on improvements to the computer and phone systems it uses to collect unemployment benefits applications.

Throughout the weekend, DeSantis said the DEO trained hundreds of customer service representatives to handle calls. Last week, the governor asked most state agencies to designate people working from home to help with applications and calls.

“We need all hands on deck now,” DeSantis said. “So we’ve identified over 2,000 employees in state government that can step up to help the unemployment compensation claims.”

With Easter Sunday and Passover coming up, the governor said he has been in contact with religious leaders throughout the state about their plans and reminding them to adhere to social distancing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We want people during this time to be spiritually together, but to remain socially distant,” DeSantis said. “Please keep God close, but please keep COVID-19 away.”

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