Mayra Heitman/WUWF

Friday, May 1

46 more deaths in Florida

Since 11 a.m. Thursday, 46 people have died who tested positive for COVID-19 in Broward, Charlotte, Dade, Hillsborough, Lake, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties.

There are a total of 34,728 Florida cases with 1,314 deaths related to COVID-19.

Another Escambia death; cases at 532

As of 3:30 p.m. today, Escambia County has had 532 positive COVID-19 cases. The number of COVID-19-related deaths in Escambia County residents is 12 individuals.

Walton County

Yes, you can sunbathe on Walton County beaches. 

Walton County Commissioners revised their beach reopening resolution Thursday afternoon after some confusion and consternation following their original resolution which prohibited sunbathing and limited beach activities to walking, jogging, fishing, swimming, paddle boarding, surfing, and boating.

The revised resolution allows all normal beach activities allowed under the Walton County Waterways and Beach Activities Ordinance — in other words business as usual. 


Destin beaches will also be open May 1. 

City Council members deliberated the issue Wednesday night for more than two hours before voting unanimously to open beaches from dawn to dusk. Beachgoers are to practice social distancing and keep groups to 10 people or fewer. 

Across the Panhandle, county commissions and city councils have had similar discussions. Each have their own hours of operation and restrictions, which the council considered. 

“It makes my head hurt reading it,” said Councilmember Chatham Morgan. 

Walton County Sheriff's Office

The Walton County Sheriff’s Office is doing its part to protect residents from spreading COVID-19 by delivering more than 3,700 safety masks to residents from Paxton to Miramar Beach.

“Our first duty is public safety,” said WCSO Public Information Officer Corey Dobridnia. 

The Sheriff’s Office spent about $15,000 on masks purchased from Professional Products in DeFuniak Springs. The funds come from forfeitures — proceeds of criminal activity including cash, technology, cars, and more. Attorney Clayton Adkinson also donated funds to the cause. 

To open or not to open? That was the question before the Escambia County Commission, in regard to beaches and COVID-19. The decision was hammered out in special session on Tuesday.

“If there’s no more discussion about this I call for a vote about the beach; item passes 5-0,” said Chairman Steven Barry. The vote was taken after Commissioner Robert Bender read the motion to open Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key on Friday, May 1.

City of Pensacola

In his weekly virtual news conference, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson announced the beginning of “Recover Pensacola,” set to kick off this week to initiate the rebound from the COVID-19 outbreak.

“It’s time for us to start coming back, and beginning to recover and beginning to open up; however, we do not want to do anything that would sacrifice safety, and so we’re looking to be measured,” said Robinson, from his office at City Hall.

The plan contains a number of elements covering key areas such as parks -- which are scheduled to reopen on Friday – and restaurants.

UWF Sea3D Lab

About two weeks after beginning to manufacture some personal protective equipment, or PPE, items at the University of West Florida, the project is getting a boost.

UWF’s Sea3D Lab began making face shields for doctors, nurses and first responders treating COVID-19 patients earlier this month. As of Thursday, the lab had filled 1,000 orders for the devices according to Nicole Gislason, who oversees the project for the school’s Small Business Development Center.

Mayra Heitman/WUWF

Here is information on COVID-19 in Northwest Florida. We will keep this post updated with the latest information from local, and statewide agencies. 

For information from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

For updates on Florida cases of coronavirus, visit the FDOH dashboard.

Jennie McKeon / WUWF Public Media

Starting May 1, people will be able to enjoy Navarre Beach from 2:30-7:30 p.m.

Santa Rosa County Commissioners voted Thursday to reopen the beach in a limited capacity. Additionally, commissioners voted to reopen the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier to annual passholders, including those whose passes have expired in the last three months. 

“None of this is something we normally deal with and we’re not going to be able to accommodate everyone and make everyone happy,” said Commissioner Lane Lynchard before the unanimous vote. 

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Ramadan begins at sundown on Thursday and will end at sundown on Saturday, May 23. But there are some changes to Islam’s holiest observance, thanks to the coronavirus.

As with Jews and Christians at Passover and Easter, the world’s nearly two billion Muslims are facing a new norm when it comes to worship because of COVID-19 -- with closed mosques, curfews and bans on mass prayers.

The Escambia County School Board is moving ahead with its search for the district’s first-ever appointed superintendent. At its regular meeting Tuesday, the panel appointed the members of a Citizens Advisory Committee that will assist in the selection process, which is still on track despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We approved the appointment of 22 individuals to serve as our workgroup to help us in reviewing the applications,” said board chairwoman Patty Hightower, who’s been overseeing the search process.


Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Reopen Florida” committee has begun work to map out the state’s reopening from the coronavirus shutdown.

“Good afternoon, I want to thank you again for your service; thank you for being a part of this really important task force as we move to the next step with COVID-19,” DeSantis told the panel by teleconference.

Some of Florida’s most powerful political leaders and business executives have been appointed to the committee — legislative leaders, mayors and executives from companies such as Disney, Universal, Florida Power & Light and Publix.

Savannah Vasquez/Courtesy Photo

Okaloosa County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday morning to reopen all beaches from 6:30 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7:30 p.m. daily starting May 1. 

Chairman Trey Goodwin said he believed the limited reopening was a “reasoned approach” at a time when people have been asked to give up a lot from closures of recreational facilities to layoffs.

“Folks are wearing out with this,” he said. “Fortunately, in Okaloosa County, our citizens are good stewards of the public and have done their part to reduce the spread. This gives us a plan, a target. It is cautious, but it is movement.”

A Sign Of Hope

Apr 20, 2020
Jennie McKeon/WUWF

In these socially distant times, it may be hard to find someone to confide in, especially those who live alone.

That’s why Jon Becker, senior minister at Concord Presbyterian Church in Gulf Breeze, decided he would reach out not just to his congregation, but the community.

On the church’s marquee, by the side of U.S. 98, are the words “Nervous? Afraid? Just need to talk? Call my cell,” followed by Becker’s personal number. 

“Some have just called to say thank you,” said Becker. “Some people just need someone to talk to. I’m mostly listening.”

City of Pensacola

COVID-19 and looking to the post-coronavirus future highlighted Mayor Grover Robinson’s virtual news conference on Monday.

Speaking from his office at City Hall after being cleared to end his self-quarantine, the mayor says other than some fallen tree limbs that were removed from roadways, there was little if any damage from the storms that moved through early Monday.

Elsewhere, there’s been talk about just when normalcy begins to creep back into everyday life. Robinson says for Pensacola, the most critical question is how to measure the importance of reopenings.