Early Voting Sets Records In Pasco County, Anticipate Breaking MorePASCO COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Pasco County voting officials tell CW44 News At 10, early voting records are still being broken this week. Officials are working to address voter concerns at the polls. Among those concerns is potential voting harassment. Pasco County early voting has gone exceedingly and historically well during its first week, according to Supervisor of Elections, Brian Corley. "We sent out about - almost 40% of our entire voter roll requested vote-by-mail ballots. And we've gotten back nearly 100,000, which is historic in and of itself." Early voting started Monday in Pasco County. "And that was actually our busiest first day of early voting in the history of early voting." Corley says that trend has continued despite inclement weather there. "I have to say I've been so impressed with with the voters and I really want to thank them because - we're trying to administer the most scrutinized election ever during a pandemic. And the voters have been pretty understanding." New this year are the use of gymnasiums as an early voting spot, which Corley says has been a major help with turnout. When asked about any challenges over the last week during early voting, Corley responded, "Probably managing expectations, because we notified voters back in May, that, you know, we didn't know if we were gonna have polling places my poll workers and we knew there'd be lines at a minimum and there are lines," But he says voters have been comforted when they show up to find out safety protocols are strictly in place to create a safe, social-distanced early voting process. However, safety protocols have now gone further than social-distancing.
USF Shares Results of Statewide Presidential Election SurveyTAMPA BAY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - University of South Florida researchers are sharing new findings from a statewide presidential election survey. USF tells CW44 News At 10, the survey measures attitudes and opinions as we get closer to the general election. CW44 News At 10's Andrea Alvarez spoke with a USF education official on Tuesday who shared his team of researchers are looking deeper into election result predictions and into what shapes your opinion before voting. Some of us research. Some of us are focusing on ethics. And some of us are just ready for change. Whatever our purpose is for voting in 2020, a team of researchers at USF has been keeping track of it. Associate Professor of Political Communication at USF, Joshua Scacco says, "What we're finding is that the election could potentially be shifting some very important ways in which people vote, but also ways in which people are worried and anxious about the state of government and the state of democracy in the United States."
Day One Of Early Voting In Hillsborough County - Over 13,000HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Brisk - that’s the word being used to describe day one of early voting in Hillsborough County. While vote-by-mail has been breaking records across the county, it's not the only option. For voters who prefer to vote in person, early voting polls opened up Monday in Hillsborough County and those numbers are already trailing 2016’s total numbers. “Normally, the very first day of early voting in the presidential year, we have a big turnout. We had 18,000 people vote in 2016. We’ve already had over 13,000 people vote today,” said Craig Latimer, Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections.
Undercover Drug Sting Ends In 3 Arrests, 2 Illegally In U.S. From MexicoAn undercover operation Polk County results in three arrests, two of which are in the U.S. illegally. The investigation revealed Meth trafficking connections to Mexico, Colorado, Atlanta and Polk County. Katie Johnston reports.
St. Pete Car Wash Gearing Up To Deliver A Spooky Surprise For HalloweenST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - The next time you head out to your local car wash, make sure to do a double-take on those car windows. You might have a spooky masked man right outside your car. A St. Pete car wash company says they’re going all-out this year to help kids celebrate Halloween safely! When you think of a car wash, you probably don’t think you’ll run in to Michael Myers while you’re vacuuming your car out, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at Woodie's Wash Shack Wave of Terror Drive-Thru Haunted Car Wash in St. Petersburg, but keep in mind, it’s all for a good cause. “While you’re on the grounds of the property, there will be some creepy creatures wandering around, maybe banging on your windows. Don’t worry, they won’t touch your paint job,” said Jenny Beadle, Marketing Director at Woodie's Wash Shack.
Dark Web Bust In Inverness: 2 Arrested And 16,000 Pills, $143K & Firearms SeizedTwo Floridians were arrested in Inverness Wednesday for racketeering and a host of other charges for their role in selling counterfeit drugs on the dark web. Katie Johnston reports.
Pinellas County Teen Saves His Father's LifePINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - A Pinellas County father lives to tell the story of how his son saved his life. And Wednesday morning, the duo was reunited with first responders who witnessed everything. “We never know what we’re going to get when we get a.. phone rings and comes into our consoles,” said Matthew Albright, a Pinellas County Public Safety Telecommunicator, formerly known as a dispatcher. Paramedics responded to the 1200 block of 14th Court SW in Largo on August 30th after being dispatched for a man going into cardiac arrest. “We had known that there was a cardiac arrest going on. We knew that bystander CPR was in progress,” said Niesa Jones, a responding Sunstar paramedic. “To get to him, it was a very small area. It’s kind of something we’re used to so we just started moving furniture to get access to him.” But what they didn’t expect upon arrival was an 18-year-old performing CPR to help save his father’s life. “I had come downstairs for a snack and my grandma started yelling at my dad because he was making a noise,” said Zachary Musgrave, 19, David’s son. That’s when he called 911 and Albright picked up on the other end. “They walked me through chest compressions and said that the paramedics were on their way,” said Zach Musgrave. “I was pretty terrified. I just held myself together the best I could.” Paramedics tell CW44 News At 10 it’s because of Zachary’s bravery that his father is still alive today to tell their story. “I don’t remember that night…um… from that Wednesday up to the time that I woke up in the hospital, I don’t remember anything,” said David Musgrave, Zachary’s father. “I’m so proud of him. If it wasn’t for him starting the process, I probably wouldn’t be here. I’m just so proud of him.” Wednesday, Largo Medical Center staff reunited the patient and son with their team of paramedics, EMTs and telecommunicators from that night. “I’ve been doing this for 12 years and this is only the second time that I’ve actually gotten to meet somebody that I had a hand in helping,” said Albright. Paramedics took the opportunity to encourage others to follow in Zach’s footsteps. “Bystander CPR is something that we stress! Ideally, we want everyone to know CPR. Basic CPR saves lives and that’s absolutely what happened. His son saved his life,” said Jones. “It’s a scary situation for anybody, especially when it’s your own family member, so, just to even get up and get in there is great,” said Ryan Pavao, responding Sunstar EMT. In light of the heroic actions, Largo Medical Center staff will hold a virtual, hands only CPR demonstration for the community via Facebook Live on November 3, 2020 at noon. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Hope & Winter Celebrate Their Birthdays At Clearwater Marine AquariumCLEARWATER, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Two of Tampa bay’s favorite dolphins celebrated their birthdays over weekend. Winter and Hope, two rescued dolphins at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium turned 15 and 10. “[Winter] is the one that’s turning 15 tomorrow. She came to our facility back in 2005. Now, at that time, she was estimated to be about 2 to 3 months old and that’s how we can get her birth date. She was found on December tenth, so that’s why tomorrow, October 10th will be her birthday,” said Allison Twedt, Animal Care Specialist, Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Winter is widely known for having her prosthetic tail and for starring in the 2011 movie, Dolphin Tale. “She was entangled in that crab trap rope which was tightly wrapped around her tail, unfortunately cutting off all the blood circulation, so she did end up losing her tail flukes and that’s why she has no tail to this day. But she was able to adapt, figure out how to swim on her own,” said Twedt. Hope turned 10 on Sunday. “She was actually found 5 years and 1 day after Winter, so back in 2010,” she said. Hope was estimated to be the same age when she was rescued at 2 to 3 months old, landing her birthday on October 11th. “Now for hope, she was found without her mom, and at such a young age, they’re not able to survive on their own at that young just because they need those survival skills such as hunting, learning how to communicate, and their mother teaches them those skills,” said Twedt. The community was invited to be part of the weekend-long birthday bash. “The animal care specialists will be diving with them doing some enrichment, some birthday festivities and then at 2:00[pm], they will be receiving their birthday cakes on both Saturday and Sunday,” Twedt told CW44 News on Friday. “We actually made their birthday cake, Winter's, I guess I should say, and we’re going to be setting it up [Friday], making sure it looks nice and pretty. But we make that out of ice and then Jell-o. It’s sugar free so it’s not like the Jell-o that we eat.” Guests brought birthday cards and presents for the two dolphins from their pre-made wish list.
'Pedestrian Crosswalk Provisions A Must' After 3 Fatalities Over WeekendTAMPA BAY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - It was a deadly weekend across Tampa Bay as several traffic accidents led to fatalities at intersections known to be dangerous for pedestrian crossings. Over the weekend, three deaths were the result of separate pedestrian versus vehicle accidents across Tampa Bay. CW44’a Andrea Alvarez spoke with an local advocate for pedestrian safety who says crosswalk provisions are long overdue. “When you become a driver in Florida, you always have a higher duty to everybody around you,” said Edward Reyes, a lawyer at Tampa’s Reyes Law Firm. Reyes has become a local advocate for pedestrian safety across Tampa Bay, and because Florida ranks among some of the deadliest states for pedestrians, he’s speaking out after three deaths happened over the weekend surrounding this very issue. “People come here to vacation, people come here to walk around. A lot of these accidents typically happen in lower income neighborhoods because they can’t afford insurance, they can’t afford a car, there’s also not as many crosswalks, there’s also not as many provisions in place,” said Reyes. In a 2019 report taken on 20 of the deadliest cities in the country for pedestrians, 9 were in Florida. Friday night, Clearwater police and fire crews responded to this intersection of Belleair Road and Missouri Ave after a woman was struck by at least one vehicle. Police say the woman was attempting to cross Missouri Avenue against the pedestrian signal when she was struck. She was one of three who died from their injuries after being struck by vehicles in intersections over the weekend across Tampa Bay. In Hillsborough County, a man was hit on Hillsborough Avenue after walking into the road for unknown reasons just before 4:00 am Sunday. Hillsborough County Sheriff’s officials tell me two responding deputies accidentally struck the body which was still lying in the road after previously being hit and killed by the citizen driver. The Florida highway patrol is now investigating the incident. Another fatal pedestrian versus vehicle accident happened in Largo Saturday involving a juvenile male who passed away from his injuries. “There’s two parts to it. You have to think of what the pedestrian’s doing and also what the driver was doing because both people are distracted many times and both may not be following the laws many times,” said Reyes. He says it’s all fact specific, after the fact. But what the focus needs to be on is preventing the incidents in the first place. “It would be nice is there were certain provisions in place. I think that may reduce some of the injuries as well,” he said. In an effort to protect the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's office says they’re turning their attention to focus on dangerous intersections. CW44 News At 10 will provide further updates as they become available. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
St. Pete Insurance Agent Arrested, Exploited Elderly Couple For $100kAn Insurance Agent in St. Petersburg has been arrested for exploitation of elderly victims to the amount of $100,000. Detectives are searching for any other potential victims. Katie Johnston reports
22 Arrested For Seeking Sex With Minors, 2 Were Previous Sex OffendersHILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - An online chat investigation known as “Operation Social Bust” resulted in the arrest of 22 men who sought out sex with minors in the Tampa Bay area. Two of those arrested were previous sex offenders. One man contacted what he believed were two different children during the short operation. During the four-day operation, which ran from September 29, 2020 through October 2, 2020, detectives with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office focused on finding online sexual predators by posing as underage girls and boys on social media. Among the individuals arrested were two sex offenders. In September, an undercover detective posing as a 15-year-old girl came in contact with Flor-Adam Brandon Cruz, 24, on social media when Cruz initiated a conversation. Cruz is a high-risk sex offender who is already on felony probation until 2032 for battery on a minor. Cruz sent text messages describing, in detail, the sexual acts he wanted to perform on the girl. In his messages, he explained to the fictitious teen that he would help her gain experience with sex. Detectives were able to arrest Cruz during a traffic stop in Brandon, Florida. Christian Ramirez, 37, a registered sex offender from Texas now living in Plant City, Florida was arrested on October 1, 2020. Ramirez believed he was communicating with a 14-year-old boy online and drove to a location in Riverview to meet up with the teen for sex. Many of the individuals detectives encountered during the operation traveled to Hillsborough County in an effort to carry out sexual acts. Darroll Roberts drove from Clearwater On September 29 to meet a who he thought was a 13-year-old girl. While chatting, Roberts, who is 26 years old, told the girl he was 19. When taken into custody, detectives located condoms in his pocket. “For some of these men, this arrest is not the first time they’ve targeted minors online. This time, they just got caught,” said Sheriff Chronister. Michael Badillo-Toro, 31, solicited undercover detectives not once, but twice during the same four-day operation. Badillo-Toro was texting two separate juvenile profiles of 15-year-old girls. In both cases, he described the sexual acts he wanted to perform on the girls. One of the 22 individuals arrested is facing a charge of human trafficking for soliciting paid sex with a minor. Christopher Lalley, 33, offered $125 for a teenager to have sex with him. He traveled from St. Petersburg to meet the 14-year-old girl. During his arrest, detectives found cash, condoms, and alcohol in his possession. Sheriff Chronister advised parents to be mindful of what their children are doing online and to frequently monitor who they are talking to on social media. "When it comes to children being online, there is no such thing as being overprotective,” said Sheriff Chronister. “Take the necessary steps to educate your child to prevent these online predators from taking their innocence.” ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. HCSO contributed to this story.
Meet Beep, Autonomous Shuttles Soon To Be Sharing Tampa Bay RoadwaysTAMPA BAY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - A few routes in Tampa Bay are soon to see some autonomous shuttle traffic. Beep, the self-driving autonomous shuttle company based out of Lake Nona, Florida is celebrating their one year anniversary on the road. Upon launch, the autonomous shuttles served a one mile route within a 17-square-mile planned development located 7 miles south of Orlando International Airport in the City of Orlando. Today, Beep is operating the largest and longest running autonomous shuttle mobility network in the country. With four routes and eight shuttles in service, the autonomous vehicles create a micro-transit network providing residents with a safer, more efficient, and eco-friendly transportation alternative. Shuttles from Beep took to the streets to celebrate their milestones around the country, with roots in various cities, transporting passengers on public roads and providing COVID testing with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. Beep CEO, Joe Moye shared how his team has assisted in the Covid pandemic, "Just a great example of teams coming together to try to help serve solutions for this this crisis we're facing. We're operating in a very safe environment, but with no driver on board whatsoever, so it's enabling us to minimize the exposure that professionals would otherwise have to those [COVID test] samples and obviously provide a much needed service." Beep is soon to launch routes in Tampa and St. Petersburg, and the company will also be filling at least a dozen new job positions in various locations before the end of this year. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Covid: Florida Man Finally Home After 51 Days In Medically Induced ComaPINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Tampa Bay man receives outpouring of support from across the globe after waking from his 51-day medically induced coma to treat his COVID-19 infection. 28-year-old Casey Gray of Pinellas County, Florida endured what many of us hope to never to experience in our lifetime, all due to COVID-19. Gray explains his attempt to follow health official protocols, “Me and my wife were quarantined pretty well. The only time we really went out was to go to the store. We started to get sick but we didn’t think it was Covid at first. We made an appointment to go get tested, but I woke up that morning and I just couldn’t breathe.” On July fifth, Gray was admitted to Largo Medical Center’s emergency room. “My test came back positive. The next day I was having trouble breathing again, even with the nasal cannula, so they put me on high-flow oxygen,” said Gray. But he was still having trouble breathing, so doctors decided to put him on a ventilator. That's when physicians noticed other complications. “I had blood clots, my lungs weren’t working, I had bleeding. I started deteriorating really, really fast.” Physicians decided Gray needed to be intubated due to his rapidly declining health. Doctors proceeded to sedated him into an induced coma which lasted 51 days. “They sedated me. I just remember getting a mask on my face… counting backwards and.. that was it,” said Gray. It didn't stop at the intubation though. “So I actually had two tubes in my neck and two in my leg. And then while I was on the operating table, they were like, 'Well, since he’s here, we need to trache him'." Days turned to weeks. Gray recounts, "I woke up and um.. I didn’t know what the day was… I thought it was still July and [my wife] was like ‘No, it’s the middle of August’.” He proceeded along his slow road of recovery, spending a total of 75 days at the hospital. When asked what he missed the most being away from home, Gray replied, “One day I was just like ‘you know, I just really want to be around family.' And so we decided we’d move in with her mom and dad and that way my parents could come [visit] and my brother.” Recognizing his inspirational road to recovery is not yet complete, Gray gained an outpouring of support from across the globe. “I was the sickest person in the hospital at the time and I made it out… and I know not everybody gets that chance. I had a lot of people praying for me. I’ve gotten letters from like, Canada, Africa, people prayed for me in South Asia. It’s been very crazy and I feel very blessed by it.” CW44 will continue to follow Gray and his story and will provide further updates. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Florida's Voter Registration Site-Crash Causes Stir On Social MediaTAMPA BAY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - A social media storm erupted overnight after Florida’s voter registration site stopped working just hours before deadline. Dozens of politicians and a number of organizations have responded online about the glitch calling on state officials to fix the problem Monday. If you were one of the many voters who waited until Monday night to register to vote, you may have experienced some issues gaining access to Florida’s voter registration site just before that midnight deadline. Monday evening, Florida’s Secretary of State Laurel Lee took to Twitter pointing to delays that happened for about 15 minutes due to high volume. She also stated site maintenance increased capacity and that voters still had until midnight to vote. Voters were still having issues through 8:00 p.m. according to those on social media. The site crash impacted those trying to register to vote, but was not an issue for those already registered according to local voter officials. CW44's Andrea Alvarez reached out directly to the Florida Department of State Tuesday morning about the issues but had not heard back at the time of broadcast. Perhaps one of the most outspoken of social media accounts Monday night was the league of women voters of Florida. Officials there stated “Florida’s online voter registration system has a suspect history of crashing just before key deadlines.” Account admins pointing to last year’s halt to registration after the site went offline for maintenance just days before the deadline. Other politicians and organizations who spoke out about the glitch accused the state of voter suppression. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried called on Governor Ron DeSantis to fix the site saying “The voter registration deadline in Florida is just hours away and the online voter registration website is broken. This is unacceptable”. In a written statement to the CW44, Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley responded to the crash: “Earlier this evening, we noticed the state division of elections on-line voter registration (OVR) portal was not functioning. At 6:41 pm, we received an email from the Division of Elections which stated, "Just wanted to let you know that OVR is online and working. Due to high volume, for about 15 minutes, some users experienced delays..." however, we have seen OVR to be intermittently up then down.” In a follow up tweet Tuesday morning the League of Women Voters of Florida called the site crash unacceptable and says an untold number of Floridians were unable to register. A spokesperson for the account then said they are looking closely at the possibility of litigation. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Firestone Grand Prix Of St. Petersburg Is Less Than 3 Weeks AwayST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is less than three weeks away. Monday night, officials released new details on protocols being added to the events to make sure it's safe for those attending. "So the Grand Prix started here in St. Petersburg in actually many many years ago actually in the '80's," said Kevin Savoree, President and COO of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. "For open wheel Champ Car, Indy car, it started again in 2003, took a year off in 2004. And then we've operated it consecutively since 2005." It's one of the longest running street races in the country, and it's continuing its legacy right here in Tampa Bay. But for the first time in history, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will host the season finale for the championship rather than having kicked off earlier this year. Savoree emphasized, "We just look forward to hosting the Indy car guys again and finishing what we started last March after the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to race kickoff. Back in March, event crews began brainstorming ways to push the fan favorite back to late 2020. Every day it should start with when you get out of bed, 'How do you feel?' and if you don't feel well, stay home." After receiving the final sign-off from the city of St. Petersburg last week, the event will operate under the restart St. Pete guidelines for COVID-19, as we reported last week. "When you're in lines, we're asking everyone to wear a face mask of face covering and if you don't have one, we'll provide you one." When you arrive at the tracks, Savoree says that track officials will have protocols for social-distancing as you approach the gates. "When you arrive there's going to be hand washing stations, hand sanitizer, grandstands are going to be sanitized all the time." In their aim to go paperless during the sold out event ticket managers are working through some final details to come up with a limited amount of additional tickets for fans. Your ticket will be scanned either on your phone or printed at home. After coming to an agreement on attendance numbers, Savoree says 20,000 fans rather than the normal 140,000 will celebrate comfortably and safely. "It's 84 acres. So that's 3.6 million square feet. Very excited, very, very appreciative of the support of Mayor Kreisman and the city administration and his team and obviously for city council for their consideration and approval. And I think all of us know that we can do this the right way and and we're looking forward to that. Mask on!" For more details, visit GPStPete.com. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
City of St. Pete Urges Residents To Obtain Flu Vaccination ASAPPINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - A trip to the doctor's office is likely at the top of your list over the next couple of weeks or at least it should be according to top health officials. The City of St. Petersburg, Thursday issued a statement encouraging residents to obtain a flu vaccination as soon as possible. You might remember hearing a similar message back in August when we told you Pinellas County officials began warning local residents about the dangers of this year's flu season - especially during a pandemic. Officials with the City of St. Petersburg state, although flu vaccination is not related to COVID-19, it is vital in helping reduce the impact of respiratory illnesses and resulting burdens on the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic. City officials encourage residents to help prevent the spread of the flu by getting their flu vaccination as soon as they can. Annual flu vaccination is recommended for all person's age 6 months and older, including pregnant women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu. More about the flu can be found at CDC.gov/flu. Local vaccination locations can be found at VaccineFinder.org.
Firestone Grand Prix Of St. Petersburg To Host Spectators October 23-25ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Officials from the City of St. Petersburg and Green Savoree St. Petersburg, LLC (GSSP) announced today that the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, rescheduled to October 23-25, will be open to spectators. The event was postponed from its original March date due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. At today’s City of St. Petersburg City Council Meeting, Mayor Rick Kriseman with the support of City Council approved GSSP’s plans to operate the event with 20,000 spectators under specific health and safety protocols. Fans should visit gpstpete.com/covid19 for more information on these essential protocols. "My thanks to Green Savoree Racing Promotions and INDYCAR for their flexibility and resilience during this challenging time. I know that everyone is excited to get back on the track in St. Pete,” said City of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. “I can't wait for October 23rd. I know everyone will embrace this race the St. Pete Way, adhering to the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Let's have some great racing in the Sunshine City." Competitors, spectators and all associated with the event will be subject to a health screening and temperature check before entry is permitted. All attendees will be required to wear masks or facial coverings at all times unless when eating or drinking with the “No Mask, No Entry” plan. Those who don’t have one will be issued a mask at the entry gates. “It’s exciting to be able to have fans attend the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Our entire team greatly appreciates the patience and understanding of our ticket holders as we worked through this process with Mayor Kriseman, City Council and local health officials,” said Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of GSSP, organizers of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. “It’s important for everyone who attends to read and follow all the COVID-19 protocols to contribute to a fun, safe and successful event for us all.” To promote social distancing, the paddock and pit lane will be closed to spectators. The CDC’s recommended guideline of at least six feet of social distancing should be maintained while on site. Hand sanitizer and hand washing stations will be pervasive across the venue. “The ongoing guidance and support of Mayor Kriseman, City Council, and the City of St. Petersburg’s event team have been phenomenal. We also would not be in this position to move this spring tradition to fall without Firestone’s unwavering commitment and dedication,” said Kevin Savoree, co-owner, president and COO of GSSP. “It’s going to be a terrific weekend again in downtown St. Pete in three weeks featuring world-class racing from INDYCAR.” Previously purchased tickets to the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which were not already deferred, will be valid for gate entry on the corresponding days of the postponed event. Ticket purchasers on file will receive more information via email, and in some cases, reserved grandstand seating may need to be reassigned to allow for social distancing. Additional answers to common questions can be found at gpstpete.com/covid19faq. A very limited number of tickets will be released for sale in the coming days at gpstpete.com. This will be the first time the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg serves as the season finale for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, as the event traditionally has opened the season. The 100-lap INDYCAR race is set to take the green flag at 2:32 p.m. ET on Sunday, October 25, 2020.
Pasco County To Offer Another Round Of Covid Financial AssistancePASCO COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Pasco County is opening another round of one-time assistance to residents that have been financially affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The Pasco Board of County Commissioners (BCC) is pleased to offer another round of CARES assistance through our Community CARES program to help pay your bills directly if you live in Pasco County and have experienced economic hardship due to COVID-19. This one-time assistance will be available Tuesday, October 6, 2020, to 800 people on a first-come, first-served basis. Pasco County received funding for this program through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act. The BCC initially appropriated $4 million to Pasco CARES. Community CARES will use the remainder of that funding, with a maximum allowance of $3,500 per household. Residents will be income-qualified at or below 80% of the Area Median Income and must prove Pasco residency and economic impact from COVID-19. The types of bills eligible for payment under the Community CARES program include: • Mortgage (for homesteaded properties) • Rent • Utilities (water & electric only) For more information about this program or the application process, please call Pasco County Customer Service at 727-847-2411. The applications will be accepted beginning Tuesday, October 6, 2020, at 9am. You may apply online here. The BCC reminds residents that more assistance will be available in the coming months. CW44 News At 10 will provide further updates as they become available.
SCREAM-A-GEDDON Now Open With Covid Precautions In PlacePASCO COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - October is finally here and so is SCREAM-A-GEDDON. With several Tampa Bay haunted attractions canceling plans this year due to COVID-19, the Florida-favorite scare park is now open and safely serving spook-starved guests. Park officials with SCREAM-A-GEDDON in Pasco County have figured out a way to give you the horrifically haunted time you've been waiting for - safely. SCREAM-A-GEDDON Marketing Manager, Winston McDaniel took time on opening day to give CW44's Andrea Alvarez a preview of the horrors in store. "It is six haunted attractions, five haunted houses and one zombie paintball assault." Said McDaniel. Tucked back behind acres of farmland in Pasco County, this locally renowned scare park is celebrating their eighth year in business. "Thousands and thousands of people come out, especially in the October month when everybody is really wanting to get spooked and scared," says McDaniel. And it's not just their way of figuring out how to operate safely during a pandemic that makes them different. "Two of our houses are actually interactive in which you can opt-in to experiencing the story of the house in a way or the actor will interact with you. They'll pull you away from your group, this year in a very socially-distanced way, without direct touching." McDaniel explains, this year, the park is operating at 50% capacity, so the crowd will be cut down to half, allowing ample room for social distancing. "Our park sits on about 20 plus acres of space. So there's a lot of space outdoors, even a lot of the haunted houses that are 'indoors', a lot of the sections are still outdoors. They're just designed in a way to make it look like it's inside. We can afford to not send people into a large in a large conga line. Essentially, we send you through with just the group that you came with." Anyone coming into the park is subject to a temperature check. And the same goes for mask requirements. McDaniel describes how they've cleverly integrated safety precautions without detracting from the experience. "We've given all of our monsters and clowns, its characters - themed masks to wear. We have staff members who are disinfecting heavily trafficked areas throughout the night that is their sole responsibility. And after we close for the evening, every single night the park goes through a disinfectant fogging." Park officials still want to make the trip worth your time, so, new this year, and by popular request is Ravenhill Asylum. McDaniel recounts, "They said, 'we wanted you to put a an asylum into your park' so we said, 'Okay, let's do it'. It is a crazy, crazy time. It's a lot of fun. It's probably the most in depth house we've ever done." The park is open now through November 1, 2020. Because the park is operating at 50% capacity this year, park staff is asking guests to buy their tickets online prior to arrival. You can find those tickets and park hours on their website. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Grady Judd On Violent Carjacking: 'If You Get Shot, That's On You'POLK COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - A convicted felon in Polk County allegedly attempted to car-jack multiple vehicles after fleeing an auto accident he caused. According to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, the suspect, Christopher Hendricks (32) of Bellevue, Florida was driving a pickup truck that was registered in his name. At around 7:45am on Friday morning, he was involved in a crash on I-4 which resulted in his pickup leaving the interstate and coming to a stop in a swampy area. Hendricks abandoned the vehicle and proceeded on foot to the Marathon gas station on State Road 557, just south of the interstate. He approached a woman refueling her Chevy Colorado and attempted to steal her vehicle. The woman responded by removing the fuel nozzle from her truck and sprayed the suspect until he fled. Hendricks approached an unoccupied burgundy van that was also at the Marathon station. The owner of the van, a concealed weapons permit holder, noticed what was occurring and approached the suspect with his firearm drawn, extracting the suspect from his vehicle at gunpoint. Hendricks fled the Marathon station and proceeded down an embankment and jumped into the westbound traffic of I-4. A man travelling westbound slammed on his brakes to avoid hitting the fuel-doused suspect, which in turn caused a semi-truck to rear-end that victim. The suspect then ran to the other side of the westbound traffic, approaching a green pickup that had stopped to help. The driver locked the doors to the pickup which was enough to detour Hendricks to the next vehicle, a red Chevy Equinox belonging to a good samaritan that had also stopped to help the crash victims. As Henricks attempted to enter the vehicle, the good samaritan removed the keys from his vehicle and ran away. Law enforcement had arrived at this point, handcuffed Hendricks and placed him into a police cruiser. He reportedly kicked out the rear window of the patrol car in an effort to escape. He was then wrestled under control by responding officers then taken to county jail. Sheriff Judd took a moment in the press conference to remind reporters that Hendricks previously served 10 years in federal prison for aggravated battery, which was a plea-down from attempted murder. Judd asserted, "Our goal is to send him back to state prison for an extended period of time because it's painfully evident to us that the community is not safe when he's at large." Judd continued the press conference by applauding the efforts of the affected citizens, adding, "I guarantee you, when you start trying to carjack somebody's car at the gas station, you're subject get get shot. And shot a lot." A reporter responded, "You don't think that's a dangerous message you're putting out?" Judd replied, "The message is, you don't have to have a firearm. You don't have to have a knife to be a dangerous individual. And if you come to this county, and if you use extreme violence, to try to carjack somebody from their car, if you get shot that's on you. You can protect yourself and your property." Law enforcement are continuing the investigation and are coordinating with all affected agencies to establish a concise list of charges that will be brought against the suspect. CW44 News At 10 will provide further updates as they become available. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Voting Machines Tested In Hillsborough Confirming Accuracy & IntegrityHILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - The first Presidential Debate of 2020, featuring Democratic Nominee Joe Biden and Republican incumbent President Donald Trump focused in part on the integrity of the vote-by-mail process. As the 2020 general election rapidly approaches, Hillsborough County officials have begun testing voting machines to confirm the integrity of the counting process. The DS800 voting machine was just one step in Wednesday's official test where Hillsborough County voting officials checked the logic and accuracy of random samples of their voting machines which confirm the integrity of the ballot counting process. “What that means, the logic, is that the machine can see every single line on the ballot where a vote can be cast. And the accuracy of course, is ‘does it count correctly’,” said Craig Latimer, Hillsborough County’s Supervisor of Elections. Hillsborough County are getting a jump start on the voting process. “In the state of Florida, we can begin processing vote-by-mail ballots 22 days before the election, or after we conclude the Logic and Accuracy test which is today,” said Latimer. His expectations for this year’s voter turnout: “Robust! We usually get about a 73% turnout at a general election. I think it’ll be higher,” he said. Latimer says the very first results you’re going to see are the early vote and vote-by-mail and then precincts will start rolling in. “Florida has a great opportunity to be the shining star at this time because we will have unofficial results on election night. We’re going to have vote-by-mail, everything that we’ve had in, up until election day, we’re going to upload the early vote on the Monday before the election by law,” said Latimer. President Donald Trump has made accusations that the country would see mass fraud due to vote-by-mail ballots not returned, but Latimer says his team has it under control. “Vote-by-mail is safe and secure. It’s not riddled with fraud by any means. It’s a safe and secure to vote and the voter is in control. They can stay on top of it and make sure that vote was counted,” said Latimer. “The legislature has put great laws and safety and security around it, and quite frankly, both presidential campaigns have said Floridians are ok to vote by mail. You know, we encourage people to get their information from a trusted source, and a trusted source in this case is certainly my office.” Latimer says, after today’s tests and despite a pandemic, he’s looking forward to the votes coming in. “In the primary, 68% of our voters voted by mail. So we’re seeing that, but it’s ok, we’ve got the equipment to do it, it’s just a matter of ramping up the volume,” said Latimer. Voters in Hillsborough County can confirm registration status, digitally track ballots, and see when their ballot has been counted by visiting VoteHillsborough.org. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
TPA Announces First U.S. Airport COVID Testing Site For PassengersTAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Tampa International Airport, in partnership with BayCare Health System, announced the launch of the country's first airport testing pilot that will offer two types of FDA-approved COVID-19 tests for all departing and arriving passengers. The testing site, located inside the Main Terminal near the Airside F shuttle, will offer both the rapid antigen test and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test. PCR nasal swab test results are the most accurate and broadly accepted internationally. Interested travelers will be able to purchase either test regardless of which airline they're booked on, their gate location or destination. Testing services will be offered on a walk-in basis from Thursday, October 1st to October 31st, seven days a week from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. The pilot program will be open to all ticketed passengers who are flying or have flown within three days and can show proof of travel. The PCR COVID-19 test costs $125 and the antigen test costs $57. At many destinations around the world, government health agencies are requiring travelers to provide a negative PCR test result to avoid quarantine or other restrictions upon arrival. Passengers departing from Tampa to states, countries or territories requiring negative PCR tests are advised to take the test three days before departure and can expect results within 48 hours. The antigen test, which produces results in 15 minutes and is most accurate within five days of the onset of symptoms, offers an added layer of same-day reassurance for travelers arriving at or departing TPA. The TPA site is one of four testing locations BayCare is helping run across the Tampa Bay area. The health system will bring to TPA the same level of expertise, high quality care, testing accuracy and patient privacy as its other sites. "Tampa International Airport has been a leader of airport health protocols since the earliest signs of the pandemic and was one of the first in the country to mandate masks, install plastic shields and apply social distancing markers through its TPA Ready launch in April," said Gary Harrod, Chairman of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority which oversees TPA. "These innovative efforts go a long way in building traveler confidence and keeping our region safe as we continue to recover from the impacts of COVID-19." For more information about the TPA COVID-19 pilot testing program, go to https://baycare.org/TPA-Testing.
Positive Covid Cases Spike In Pinellas As State Count FlattensPINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - As the U.S. Coronavirus death toll tops 200,000 - now the highest in the world - some Tampa Bay area doctors are discussing the recent increase in positive cases. “What are you doing?! You are creating fear and panic,” said Virginia Frizzle, a Pinellas County resident. “I am so for face masks. It’s the minimum that could be required, the minimum that we can do, not only for the person standing across from us, or standing next to us in line at the supermarket,” said Karen Mullins, a Pinellas County resident. Among a variation of calls from Pinellas County residents Tuesday afternoon, Pinellas County officials listened in prior to voting on the local State of Emergency. “There may be cases and there may be rises and falls in cases, but nobody’s dying on the street and therefore there is no emergency. For you to force mask wearing on me and have no basis for it…,” said Dawn Lechner, a Pinellas County resident. This afternoon's Board of County Commissioners meeting was different though. As the U.S. coronavirus death toll tops two hundred thousand, now the highest in the world, local doctors right here in Tampa Bay are discussing their recent increase in positive cases. Before voting in favor to extend the county’s local State of Emergency, the board brought forward several doctors to speak on the county’s most recent numbers. “So we are seeing an uptick, in fact, our new cases have gone up two out of the past three weeks,” said Dr. Larry Feinman. Tampa surgeon, Dr. Feinman says, week over week, state versus Pinellas County, the state has flattened, whereas Pinellas County’s rate has increased. “Pinellas County’s rate is 77 percent higher in terms of increase as compared to the state in general,” said Dr. Feinman. Doctor Nishelle Threadgill pointed to the near future where our ability to isolate may diminish over the next few weeks. “October is the next option for Pinellas County School students that may choose to return to school and I certainly suspect that there will be quite a few who now will also return to those classrooms,” said Dr. Nishelle Threadgill, CMO, Community Health Centers of Pinellas. Just after the board’s vote to extend the local State of Emergency, the board then discussed separating the mask mandate ordinance from the local State of Emergency due to the amount of time the public comment portion of the meetings was taking. “Our work is piling up because we have never taken public comment at our work sessions. When we’re taking public comment for hours at a time, things are not getting done that our citizens are waiting for us to get done,” said Janet Long, a Pinellas County Commissioner. “Commissioner Long I hear what you’re saying but we have yet not finished a meeting. So any work that’s on the agenda has gotten completed in every single meeting, even with people calling in; and I think it’s a real slippery slope when you represent the people, that you don’t want to hear from them, especially on something that is so important as this outbreak and this pandemic,” said Kathleen Peters, a Pinellas County Commissioner. The board voted 4 to 3 in favor of delegated the extension of the local State of Emergency each week to County Administrator Barry Burton. This will remain overseen by Burton until the board gathers further detail from physicians, giving them reason to discuss the order in detail again. Doctors during that meeting suggested they come together to create a proposal for the Board of Commissioners explaining potential metrics to begin rescinding the mask ordinance. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to the story.
Positive Covid Cases See 2 Week High In Pasco CountyPASCO COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - The number of positive COVID-19 cases has increased significantly over the last two weeks in Pasco county. Officials held a meeting this Monday morning to review and discuss those numbers along with the future of face mask mandates. “I want to see the supporting documentation, again, the science, the data, the facts, the information that you all use to come up with your final decision on what you decide to do with the masks because that’s important to me,” said one Pasco county resident during Monday’s Board of County Commissioner’s meeting. “It’s not fair. It’s not fair to us. This should not be forced on us,” said another during that public comment. Pasco county residents against a mask mandate showed up to speak out against the order during that meeting. What they didn’t expect to hear is that the county’s positive COVID-19 case numbers have gone up significantly over the last two weeks. “As of this morning, 8,834 cases. In this past week, we’ve had a 61 percent increase in the last seven days… so we’re heading in the wrong direction at this point,” said Mike Napier, Administrator, Florida Department of Health in Pasco county. Napier says the county continues to support a drive-thru testing site for residents. “The concern here really is that we were doing pretty well back in the early part of September averaging about 3 percent as a rolling average on our positivity. This last week is the first time in almost a month that we have almost a 6 percent positivity rate and we have 1300 cases,” he said. Last week, testing was established in Pasco County Schools for those showing symptoms, and as of Friday: “We had a total of 79 students and 26 staff that have tested positive for 105 total cases,” said Napier. What’s more concerning, according to Napier, is the amount of students and staff who have been exposed to those positive for coronavirus. “We have almost 1,400 students exposed at school which means they’re going to be sent home for that exposure time and making sure they’re staying home for those 10 or 14 days depending on their exposure. And we’ve have 128 staff that were exposed at school,” said Napier. Each Pasco County Commissioner has a different opinion on mask mandates… “You know, these are the things I see: I’ve been in Wawa, people yelling. I’ve been in Walmart, I’ve been in Target, folks yelling ‘you have to wear a mask, you’ve got the wrong mask. You know, again, I’m all about us highly recommending it but I support it until you tell us otherwise,” said Mike Wells, Vice-Chairman, Pasco County Commissioners. Napier says he’s working with his surrounding health officers to discuss mask mandate decisions coming from a regional standpoint rather than local. “We know that we have a community that moves from Pasco [County] into Pinellas [County] and Pinellas [County] into Pasco [County], Hernando [County], Hillsborough [County]. We’re actually looking to the academics to be able to come up with something from a regional standpoint,” said Napier. Pasco County Commissioner Rob Oakley said, “I would hate to see us open it up too early and then it go out of site when we can keep that from happening.” Officials were sure to point out that it is too early to extrapolate a correlation of increased positivity with the reopening of bars last week. Check back with CW44 News At 10 for updates as we follow this developing story. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.