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Florida COVID-19 cases rise, infecting all but 1 county

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida's outbreak of the coronavirus has now infected more than 16,300 people, touching every county in the state except for one. Among Florida's 67 counties, Liberty County in Florida's panhandle is now the only one without an official infection. As of Thursday, Florida has recorded more than 370 deaths, with about 2,300 currently in hospitals. The outbreak has forced bars and restaurants to close, as well as kept much of the state's population at home. Gov. Ron DeSantis held a discussion Thursday with school officials to talk about school closures.


Crew member of cruise ship with virus cases dies in Florida

MIAMI (AP) — A crew member who was hospitalized after two ill-fated cruise ships docked in Florida with coronavirus cases has died. A medical examiner said Thursday that the 50-year-old Indonesian man tested positive for COVID-19. His death raises the Zaandam ship’s coronavirus-related death toll to four. A Holland America Line spokesman says the man was taken to a Florida hospital the day the Zaandam docked in Fort Lauderdale after spending weeks at sea rejected by South American ports. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday announced the extension of a “no sail order” for all cruise ships.


Assault charge for man accused of coughing on store worker

DEBARY, Fla. (AP) — A Florida man is facing an aggravated assault charge after allegedly coughing on a cashier. The store worker told deputies that 49-year-old Christopher Canfora of DeBary, Florida, complained that social distancing precautions for the coronavirus pandemic are “getting out of hand." She said Canfora intentionally coughed on her and the cash register. Deputies who arrested him said he denied the charges, and said he doesn't have coronavirus symptoms. The arrest report says he didn’t expect anyone to understand his sense of humor.


Miami: Cover your faces inside grocery stores, pharmacies

MIAMI (AP) — The city of Miami is stepping up its response to the coronavirus pandemic by requiring everyone inside grocery stores, pharmacies and most other retail business that are still open to wear face masks. The order signed Wednesday went into effect early Thursday morning. The Miami Herald reports any delivery workers and construction workers are also expected to cover their faces. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez says police officers will be enforcing the law, though at first they'll help educate people. Business that don't enforce the law could be fined or shut down.


Florida governor OK's stricter thresholds on ballot measures

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a slate of bills into law, including one that would make it more difficult to place citizen initiatives on the ballot. The governor has also given his support for fireworks on New Year's Day and July Fourth. And as the state's tourism industry takes a hit from the coronavirus outbreak, the governor has agreed to extend the state agency that promotes tourism in Florida. DeSantis announced the signing of seven bills late Wednesday. Dozens of other bills await the governor's consideration, but the Republican-controlled Legislature sends legislation incrementally as a courtesy to the governor.


Sheriff: Woman put porn-stuffed Easter eggs in mailboxes

BUNNELL, Fla. (AP) — Authorities say a 42-year-old Florida woman is accused of stuffing plastic Easter eggs with pornographic images and putting them in residential mailboxes. Flagler County Sheriff's officials said in a Facebook post they began getting calls from resident Sunday regarding the eggs. On Wednesday evening, they received more calls and were able to identify the suspect's car. Deputies spotted the vehicle and stopped it. The woman admitted to putting the eggs in mailboxes. She was arrested on 11 counts of distributing obscene material and for driving with a suspended license. She remained in jail Thursday.


Some churches confront virus restrictions on Easter services

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — At the holiest time of year for Christians, churches are wrestling with how to hold services amid the coronavirus outbreak. In some cases, that has set up showdowns between pastors and local officials over restrictions that forbid large gatherings. Many churches are offering parishioners livestreaming options to observe Good Friday and Easter services on TVs, phones and computers. Others are sending worshippers to drive-in movie theaters for services. Governors in several states have deemed church an “essential service,” allowing Easter worship to proceed even as public health officials warn that large gatherings could be a major setback amid a pandemic that has killed more than 14,000 people in the U.S.


'Houston, we’ve had a problem’: Remembering Apollo 13 at 50

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Apollo 13's astronauts still shun superstition 50 years after their harrowing moonshot. Mission commander Jim Lovell and Fred Haise say they never gave a thought to their mission number as they blasted off for the moon on April 11, 1970. Their mission was aborted when an oxygen tank ruptured two days later, on April 13. The way Lovell sees it, he's incredibly lucky to have survived and to be around at age 92 for the golden anniversary. Haise, who's 86, regards Apollo 13 as NASA's most successful failure. Their anniversary celebrations are on hold because of the pandemic.


Apollo 13's most famous quotes originated in Hollywood

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Apollo 13's best known quotes originated not in space or Mission Control, but in Hollywood. The astronauts urgently radioed, “Houston, we've had a problem," when an oxygen tank wrecked their moon-bound spacecraft on April 13, 1970. Screenwriters for the 1995 film “Apollo 13” wanted to punch that up. Thus was born “Houston, we have a problem.” Even more artistic license was taken with NASA flight director Gene Kranz' speech to his team in Houston.  Kranz never declared, “Failure is not an option.” That, too, is a movie line. Kranz says he constantly finds himself setting the record straight.


Coronavirus forces new approaches to fighting wildfires

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — They are two disasters that require opposite responses: To save lives and reduce the spread of COVID-19, people are being told to remain isolated. But in a wildfire, thousands of firefighters will be summoned to work in close quarters for weeks. That’s requiring the U.S. Forest Service and others to change strategies. In light of the “unprecedented challenge” of the pandemic,  Forest Service Chief Victoria Christiansen says resources will be used only when there is a reasonable expectation of success in protecting life and critical property and infrastructure. Wildfires have already broken out in Texas and Florida, and agencies are scrambling to finish plans for a new approach.