With the 2021 legislative session starting next week, state lawmakers are fast-tracking a proposal to protect Florida businesses from COVID-19 lawsuits.

It appears easier said than done — that along with shielding the state’s long-term care industry at the same time — the latter proving to be more difficult. The extent of the liability protections, and whether all long-term care facilities should be shielded from lawsuits, are some of the issues that lawmakers will have to consider.

Coronavirus Live Blog: Week Of Feb. 22

Feb 25, 2021
Mayra Heitman/WUWF

Thursday, Feb. 25

State Adds 6,640 Cases, 140 Deaths

The state added 6,640 new infections according to Thursday's FDOH report. An additional 140 deaths were also reported statewide. Of those 140 deaths, nine were reported locally with four in Escambia and five in Okaloosa. No additional deaths reported in Santa Rosa or Okaloosa counties. 

Local numbers:

City of Pensacola via Facebook

LEDE: Health officials say more than 30,000 Floridians have died of COVID-19, but hospitalizations and cases have continued to drop -- including in Northwest Florida, according to Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson. 

During his weekly virtual news conference Monday morning, Robinson lauded declines in overall cases and hospitalizations in the past few days. Over that time, cases have dipped to below the seven percent threshold.

Pexels Stock Photo

Baptist Health Care nurse Jamie Leigh Gunter is one of the troops on the front lines of the pandemic in Pensacola – and was also a patient herself.

Gunter earned her Bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of South Alabama, and has been at Baptist Health Care for about a year and a half. She began treating COVID cases nine months ago.

Mayra Heitman/WUWF

Sunday, Feb. 21

95 Deaths Statewide

The state added 5,065 infections and 95 deaths in Sunday's FDOH report. Of the 95 deaths, three were local. One in Santa Rosa County and two in Okaloosa County. 

Local numbers:

  • Escambia added 52 cases and has a 5.21% positivity rate
  • Santa Rosa added 41 cases and has a 7.50% positivity rate
  • Okaloosa added 58 cases and has a 9.71% positivity rate
  • Walton added 11 cases and has a 4.26% positivity rate 

Saturday, Feb. 20

Shutdown On COVID-19 Measures Sparks 'Fireworks' In Florida House

Feb 17, 2021
News Service of Florida

A rush by Florida Republicans to shield businesses from lawsuits linked to COVID-19 is sparking growing rancor with Democrats, as House leaders used procedural moves to cut off debate and sideline attempts to change the high-profile legislation.

The House’s version of the legislation was muscled through its final committee Tuesday night, ensuring it could become one of the first measures passed during the legislative session that will start March 2.

'Booze2Go' Bill Begins Its Legislative Journey

Feb 17, 2021
Pexels Stock Photo

Driving home with sealed mixed drinks or other alcoholic libations as part of “to go” meals moved closer Tuesday to becoming a permanent option in Florida.

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee became the first legislative panel to support a proposal to put into law an executive order from Governor Ron DeSantis which allows restaurants to include alcoholic drinks or bottles as part of take-home meals.

Courtesy Florida House of Representatives

Florida’s 2021 Legislative Session gets underway in a couple of weeks. In the run up to the start of the session on March 2, lawmakers have been in Tallahassee attending committee meetings. WUWF recently checked in with District 3 Representative Jayer Williamson of Pace to talk about the tough work ahead.

Mayra Heitman/WUWF

Sunday, Feb. 14

State Adds 5,436 Cases 

The state added a 5,436 additional COVID cases and 96 additional deaths according to Sunday's FDOH report. Of the 96 state deaths, five occurred in local areas: two in Santa Rosa and three in Okaloosa. No additional deaths were reported in Escambia and Walton counties. 

Local numbers:

Jennie McKeon/WUWF Public Meda

It’s likely you didn’t hear the words “contact tracing” much before the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s a common tool of defense when it comes to infectious diseases. 

Jennie McKeon/WUWF Public Media

One of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ most vocal critics is opening up a new front in his battle to remove DeSantis from office in 2022 -- a political action committee called “Remove Ron.”

“He’s world famous – people are literally dying to see this guy – he’s the Grim Reaper,” says the voiceover on the PAC’s video. “What’s he coming for? The political career of Ron DeSantis.”

Courtesy photo

Bonnie McLean takes good care of herself. She has a list of vitamins she takes; she drinks a protein shake every morning; and stays active. When she started to feel ill in mid-July, she didn’t immediately link her illness to COVID.

“It took me a week to realize how ill I was,” she said. “I woke up one morning and was tired and I thought maybe I hadn’t gotten enough sleep and I was so tired I didn’t want to do anything but I forced myself to get up and get on with my day.”

She thought she had a stomach flu. She had no respiratory issues, fever or cough. 

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

In his weekly virtual news conference, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson provided an update on the local coronavirus numbers, along with how and where to secure a vaccination.

The mayor kicked things off with repeating last week’s announcement that the current restrictions and guidelines due to COVID-19 have been extended to March 11. The original expiration date had been February 28.


Much like just about everything else in life, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way students are applying for and getting into college.

“Testing, college admission, financial aid, so many of those things are simply changing due to the effects of COVID,” said Rob Franek, editor in chief at the Princeton Review.

One of the big changes is many schools are going to a test-optional process when evaluating students for admission. However Franek says test-optional does not mean test-prohibited.

Mayra Heitman/WUWF

Sunday, Feb. 7

Weekend Update

The state added 6,624 cases according to Sunday's FDOH report. The state also reported an additional 103 deaths.

Over the weekend, Escambia added 222 cases and reported an additional 16 deaths, total is 563.

Santa Rosa added 133 cases and reported no additional deaths, total is 222. 

Okaloosa added 122 cases and reported two additional deaths, total is 298.

Walton added 61 cases and reported two additional deaths, total is 73. 

Friday, Feb. 5