News_7.13.20_COVID-19 Cases Increase In South and WestCases Increase In South and West
CW44 News - 7.13.2020 - AlvarezPasco County taxpayers are seeing some of their dollars come to fruition through local parks. Others there are already making use of those spaces before project completion, like local live music artist Peter Cleveland, who was playing his guitar on a bench at Eagle Point Park where he spends much of his time. It’s one of several parks he’s seen undergo a makeover while strumming away in his usual spot. “We currently have 122 projects that we’re going to do. We’ve got 37 of them done,” said Curtis Franklin, the Project Manager for Pasco County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources. As part of a 5 to 6 year project, millions of taxpayer dollars are being used for the parks’ maintenance. “We are behind and doing a lot of the maintenance that we had to get done so as a way to play catch-up we identified several projects and came up with the amount of about $20 million and said ‘hey public what do you guys think about this’,” said Franklin. After receiving overwhelming support from the public, the project was a go back in 2018. CW44’s Andrea Alvarez sat down with park officials who say they’re finally catching up. “We are playing catch-up I mean that’s the big thing. We’ve been so far behind in deferred maintenance due to limited budgets and everything else going all the way back to the recession in 2008 that, you know, some of the stuff just wasn’t getting the regular maintenance but it needed to,” said Franklin. The project was broken up into phases. Right now, we’re in phase one. “We currently have another 12 playgrounds planned, we’ve done projects like the fishing pier here out at Eagle Point. Four new concession stands that are going in, we are renovating an observation tower, we’ve got a new seawall,” said Franklin. All while minimizing their footprint. “We put in an impervious surface parking lot out here so water doesn’t pool up. We didn’t pour asphalt, we actually have Geo block with crushed shells on top. It’s so much more environmentally friendly,” said Franklin. Franklin tells CW44 it’s one of the few means of business not negatively impacted by Covid-19. “COVID-19 has had an impact with some of our contractors and some of the people that supply certain services here but there’s an advantage to it and that the usage has gone down a little bit so we’ve been able to actually recover some of the maintenance. We’ve tried to take advantage of it,” said Franklin. He hopes taxpayers are seeing the value of their money in the case that other ideas may arise in the future. “We want to give the public what they deserve. We have infrastructure that is aging and you have to take care of it and this is one way that we are able to do that,” said Franklin.
CW44 News - 7.10.2020 - President Donald Trump spent the afternoon in South FloridaMIAMI DADE COUNTY, FL (CW44 News At 10) - President Donald Trump spent the afternoon in South Florida, much of it in Miami Dade County where they've seen more than 50,000 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic. The rate of transmission averages nearly 25% over the last two weeks. But the President did not wear a mask and did not focus on COVID-19. Instead, he discussed efforts to combat drug trafficking and support for Venezuela. Skylar Henry reports from the White House that President Trump briefly addressed the coronavirus pandemic during a visit to U.S. Southern Command. President Trump confirms, "...before it hit, we were doing really well, and we're still doing very well but now we're getting back on track." His comments directly contradicted those of his top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who the President claims has 'made a lot of mistakes'. Dr. Fauci insists, "...when you compare us to other countries, I don't think you can say we're doing great. I mean, we're just not." Later, the President attended a roundtable on supporting the people of Venezuela. President Trump relates, "We're testing at a level that nobody's ever tested before,". The Florida visit comes as the state grapples with soaring coronavirus cases, the President's Democratic challenger, Joe Biden slammed the trip as a "Photo-Op and a distraction from his failures." President Trump also continues to push for schools to reopen this fall, threatening to cut federal funding to those that don't Friday he tweeted that he would direct the Treasury Department to look into the tax exempt status of some colleges and universities. "We are are working to safely and responsibly reopen our country, reopen our schools, get our country going again," said the President. His threats on school funding have been criticized by some state and local officials as well as congressional members of his own party. Meanwhile, on the campaign front, the President's plan Saturday rally in New Hampshire has been postponed due to the tropical storm threat in the Northeast. The President attended a closed fundraiser with supporters in South Florida before returning to Washington a short time ago.
CW44 News - 7.10.2020 - McKeonHillsborough County, Fla. (July 10, 2020) – As Hillsborough County’s small businesses redesign their spaces and even redefine their business models to confront the disruption caused by COVID-19, Hillsborough is offering financial relief to help business owners restart their business. Small business owners throughout Hillsborough County who were forced to close by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic will be able to apply for more than $100 million in relief money on Monday, July 13, as the County’s Rapid Response Recovery Program (R3) enters application Phase 2. Hillsborough County’s R3 program is designed to maximize the impact of the federal CARES Act funding. The initiative has created programs to quickly inject strategic funding that can do the most economic good in the fastest timeframe, target communities in the greatest need, and simplify the application process for businesses. During Phase 2 of the program, business can qualify for funding from one of three different programs: Kickstart Small Business - up to $10,000 in working capital, for businesses with up to $1 million in annual revenue Back to Work - up to $2,000 per employee in payroll incentives to hire or rehire workers, for businesses with up to $5 million in annual revenue Safe at Work - up to $10,000 matching reimbursement for the cost of qualifying workplace improvements directly related to mitigating the spread of COVID-19, for businesses with up to $5 million in annual revenue Businesses applying for the program must have reopened in some form to apply. Phase 2 of the program focuses on: Businesses located anywhere in Hillsborough County Businesses deemed non-essential or forced to close by COVID-19 government orders Reopened small businesses Businesses with less than $1 million in annual revenue for the Kickstart Small Business and less than $5 million in annual revenue for the Back to Work and Safe at Work programs Business owners can only receive funds from one of the three programs. Information is available on the County’s website at to help business owners decide which program would be best for them. Residents also can call Hillsborough County Economic Recovery Financial Assistance Support Line at (888) 393-7509 weekdays between 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. A video about the program can be found here. The first phase of applications for businesses in economically distressed areas opened on June 30. Money is set aside for businesses in each phase of the R3 rollout, so businesses outside of these areas will still have an opportunity to apply. The third phase will begin in about two weeks. The Kickstart Small Business program will be available to all qualifying Hillsborough County businesses with revenue under $3 million. Businesses applying for the Back to Work and Safe at Work money with annual revenue of less than $20 million can apply.
Apartment Fire in In Tampa, FLCREDIT: Tampa Fire Rescue WHAT: Apartment building fire at 8725 N 50th Street DETAILS: Tampa Fire Rescue responded to a reported structure fire at 8725 N 50th Street at 10:40 a.m. Saturday, July 11, 2020. Arriving crews found heavy smoke and flames coming from the southeast corner of the two-story masonry apartment structure. The structure comprises four upstairs and downstairs units. Firefighters found the wooden staircase leading to the east side upper unit fully involved and ineffectual so they had to enter via ladder through the second story window of the unit to fight the fire. Aerial units were also set up to fight the fire. All residents were able to safely evacuate. According to witnesses at the scene, two men assisted in evacuating the residents prior to TFR's arrival likely preventing further and more severe injuries. Paramedics treated one resident, an adult female, at the scene for minor smoke inhalation. They also treated a pit bull puppy who had been overcome by smoke but was resuscitated. Firefighters had the fire under control by 11:55 a.m. An investigator from the fire marshal's office is on scene to determine the cause and origin of the fire. There were no other reported injuries at the scene. The American Red Cross came to the scene to offer assistance to those displaced by the fire.
CW44 News - 7.9.2020 - Top Defense Officials Testify About Role Of Military In Nationwide DemonstrationsTop Defense Officials Testify About Role Of Military In Nationwide Demonstrations. Both Milley and Esper declared they do not recall who made the call to clear Lafayette Square.
CW44 News - 7.9.2020 - Changes in St. Pete PD ProceduresChanges in St. Pete PD Procedures
CW44 News - 7.9.2020 - AlvarezTAMPA BAY, FL. (CW44 News At 10) - Local experts are giving an update on mental and emotional health statistics that have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. They report receiving thousands of calls regarding the newly mandated regulations and adapting to those limitations.  Manuel Guevara-Ruiz, Manager of Veterans & Peers Initiatives at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay relates, “It is all a symptom, perhaps, of COVID-19 being the disorder of the disease.” The service that the Crisis Center provides is confidential trauma resources which range from suicide prevention and substance abuse to emotional trauma from current events, such as the pandemic. “This is the first connection and from here we sit with you, we speak with you we understand we validate, we work with you to get the resources that perhaps you need and the resources in our community.” Guevara-Ruiz continues, “All of the symptoms that we hear on those phone lines, they all come up at the same time. Now, we are talking about that stress and that anxiety over, 'I am not employed,' 'We don’t know when I’m going to be able to get back to work', 'We don’t know when I’m going to be able to go to the grocery store and have that social interaction.'” Local Scientists have stated to CW44 News At 10 that they've indeed seen a spike in substance abuse cases over the last few months. Guevara-Ruiz elaborates, “The professionals will tell us, yes, there is a spike on things as such and it makes sense. Perhaps in that search for a coping behavior, but yes, there is this worry that we should be aware of as it pertains to substance abuse, as it pertains to domestic violence, as it pertains to one’s emotional health. I don’t think one has distinguished itself more than others.” The center and Guevara-Ruiz suggest taking the crisis one day at a time. “I think the most important thing is to be mindful of one and live in the here and now. Understand that I am exasperated because I am a very extroverted person, however in today’s world I am limited.” She insists if you've sampled the services before but were unsuccessful, you please try again as more resources have come available. “There are different resources. The whole COVID-19 has brought upon a unity in our governing bodies that has created resources for our community and they are here today, perhaps they weren’t here two months ago.” If you or someone you know is struggling mentally or emotionally, or simply looking for local resources, call: 2-1-1 or visit the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay's website.
CW44 News - 7.8.2020 - Trump Negates own health officials, demands schools open amid COVID-19 pandemic spikesTrump Negates own health officials, demands schools open amid COVID-19 pandemic spike
CW44 News - 7.8.2020 - McKeonHillsborough County distributing free masks
CW44 News - 7.8.2020 - Tempers Flare Over MasksTempers Flare Over Masks. Atlanta Mayor. Texas.
CW44 News - 7.8.2020 - AlvarezTAMPA - “We’re proud to have partnered with state and local governments and healthcare agencies to open this new COVID-19 testing site in downtown Saint Petersburg,” said Charlie Justice, Pinellas County Commissioner. Another free Covid-19 drive-thru testing site has officially opened to everyone across the Tampa Bay area. “You’ll need to bring identification, the staff has a great set up here. You go through, you register, you come get the test,” said Commissioner Justice. Regardless of symptoms and with no appointment needed, Commissioner Justice explains that tests will be administered at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Pete. You must be inside your vehicle with direct window access, limiting tests to four tests per car. County officials are hoping the new Mahaffey site will cause some relief after excess Covid-19 testing across the bay. “There was folks out here very early, 430, 5 o’clock this morning. It tells you there is a demand, people are concerned, they want the information,” said Commissioner Justice. Last week, just one hour after the Tropicana site opened for testing, supplies ran out and citizens had to return the next day after waiting in line. Commissioner Justice says he expects this site’s supply to meet the demand. “We have a significant number of tests I think it’s over twelve hundred per day. We’ve actually seen at the Tropicana site where we didn’t test everyone that was available so we had services available that people kind of gave up early in the day so this is a massive site more staffing, more tests available, we want people to come take advantage of it, it’s really important. Hopefully the supply will meet the demand,” said Commissioner Justice. Given their knowledge of other testing site routines, they’re breaking down info to you from afar. If you visit Healthy Pinellas via Twitter, testing site officials are providing up to date info you need before showing up. “The staff has really worked hard, this is not just something they set up yesterday. And as you see today the multitude and multitude of County staff that are working every day to make the site available,” said Commissioner Justice. But the Mahaffey site isn’t where it stops… “We are working with BayCare and other providers to have other sites throughout the county, but obviously if you look at the map this is a concern in this area so we wanted to have the site available,” said Commissioner Justice. However, after reviewing local data, it’s something he plans to keep an eye on. “Certainly the numbers are concerning and people want to have access to that information for themselves and their families. We saw a significant spike in numbers in South East Pinellas County,” said Commissioner Justice. The site will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. For more info on this testing site at the Mahaffey Theater, visit
CW44 News - 7.7.2020 - COVID-19 Vaccine Monies AwardedCOVID-19 Vaccine Monies Awarded
CW44 News - 7.7.2020 - McKeonHillsborough County Schools making masks mandatory.
CW44 News - 7.7.2020 - AlvarezBay area hospitals returning to more visitor restrictions
CW44 News - 7.6.2020 - Ghislaine Maxwell In New YorkJeffrey Epstein procuress Ghislaine Maxwell in New York following arrest last week. CBS Legal analyst feels she will talk.
CW44 News - 7.7.2020 - McKeonFace Mask Amendment In Hillsborough County
CW44 News - 7.3.2020 - Protest Movement Inviting White SupportProtest Movement Inviting White Support
CW44 News - 7.3.2020 - Disturbing Rate Of Elephant Deaths In BotswanaDisturbing Rate Of Elephant Deaths In Botswana
CW44 News - 7.3.2020 - Adult Lego SetsNew Lego Sets Designed For The Adult In You
CW44 News - 7.2.2020 - AlvarezOn Tuesday, CW44 News at 10 told you Pinellas County officials decided not to take a vote on closing beaches ahead of the holiday weekend, and other than keeping a 6 foot distance from the group next to you beachgoers can look forward to a pretty relaxed weekend on the beach as far as regulations are concerned. “We’re going to have all of our officers out. We normally have a larger contingent during holiday weekends,” said Frank Hibbard, Mayor of Clearwater. “And what I’ve recommended to people is those people who are at risk need to stay home.” Mayor Hibbard expects normal record crowds this year. He points to firework displays around the Tampa Bay area being cancelled but also the threat of Covid-19 restricting many activites, ultimately pushing families back toward the beaches. “It can be a safe enjoyable weekend, we don’t have much rain in the forecast whereas Memorial Day weekend we had kind of crummy weather,” said Mayor Hibbard. But says it wasn’t the popular decision among residents. “And we’ve had a lot of people that do not want the beaches open. I’d call it 60/40 against having the beach open,” said Mayor Hibbard. Question: “Ok, so why didn’t officials decide to close them?” “So the issue is, we could close Clearwater’s beaches, but if we do that, we’re going to push all of the people that would be coming to our beach down to smaller beaches that don’t have as much capacity. So they’d be going to Honeymoon and Indian Rocks and St. Pete Beach,” said Mayor Hibbard. Given Pinellas County officials have decided to keep the beach open, the city is implementing familiar safety measures. “So what we’re doing is signage to encourage people to follow social distancing on the beach, we have additional sanitary stations where people can wash hands. Obviously the bars are closed but restaurants and other food establishments are in fact open,” said Hibbard. And if you’re worried about overcrowding, pay attention to parking. One of the ways the city regulates beach population is through parking space capacity, which also matches up closely with those distancing protocols. “Once we get to a point where we have no more public parking, that’s kind of the trigger for we also don’t have any more room on the beach,” said Mayor Hibbard. “If they use some common sense and follow all of the guidelines, I think people can have a safe, enjoyable weekend.” We also reached out to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office who says they will have an increased presence as they normally do during holiday weekends.
CW44 News - 7.1.2020 - Alvarez“I’ve never not worked a whole day in my life. I left home at 15 and I’ve always had two jobs so it was really challenging for me to get out of that work mode and to just slow myself down,” said Leah Chavie, Owner of Leah Chavie Skincare Boutique in Manatee County. Filled with passion and drive, Leah Chavie says it might be a difficult time to chase a dream but not even that could stop her. “I left Rosemont Minnesota and went to Chicago and opened my own business about 10 years ago on Halsted [Street] in Chicago,” said Chavie. With her Chicago business meeting it’s 10th anniversary, and what the year 2020 had in store, she wasn’t exactly able to celebrate. “Where I live and where my business is, is right in the heart of the city which is considered a hot zone and so that kind of brought some fear and anxiety within itself for me. You know it was just a really hard decision to step away and to step back from my business but we had no choice, you know, we had to be socially responsible and shut down. How can we practice safe skincare being so close?” And after dealing with loss and her 2nd Chicago location burning down she decided to get away for a moment. “We made a decision to pack up our car and our three dogs and to drive 19 hours to kind of escape the cold and, at that point, we just really didn’t know the intensity of everything that was happening and there was so much fear floating around,” said Chavie. But that week turned into 2 months along with a life changing decision. “It was just an interesting time and we had made the decision prior to coming back that we wanted to open this business here just… it called to me, something called to me and everything just kept opening up for us down here,” said Chavie. She beat the odds and opened up a new business on Anna Maria Island during a pandemic. “Truth be told the way that my mind was thinking was that what if Chicago doesn’t allow us to open back up anytime soon because it was such a hot spot, that we wanted to have another option,” said Chavie. She says it wasn’t easy, but was one of the best instinctive decisions she’s made. “It a scary time and nobody knows what’s going to happen, nobody knows where this is going to go if, now were seeing a resurgence. I just feel like, ‘why not’, you know. Why not try it and see what we can do,” said Chavie. And she hopes to be an inspiration to other business owners during some of the most trying times. “But you know, you learn through everything and you grow from each experience and it makes you a stronger person and a better business owner if you will. I feel, with the pandemic, that really has brought that out for a lot of people. What important, and it’s about people and relationships and respect and integrity,” said Chavie.
CW44 News - 6.30.2020 - McKeonMIKE MERRILL DOESN’T HOLD BACK DURING HIS FINAL ON CAMERA INTERVIEW AS HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY’S ADMINISTRATOR… I've learned a lot of lessons along the way. So I’m going to put it this way we’re in a war. ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO THE CURRENT COVID 19 SURGE. So we’re not just fighting for for our lives we’re fighting for our livelihoods. MIKE MERRILL OFFICIALLY RETIRES TUESDAY AFTER RUNNING HILLSBOROUGH’S DAY TO DAY OPERATIONS FOR MORE THAN A DECADE. So I'd rather not because I think there is some benefit in continuity but I have no choice THE MAN WHO’S WORKED FOR THE COUNTY SINCE 1988 EXPLAINS THAT 5 YEARS AGO HE OPTED INTO A RETIREMENT PLAN THAT MAKES HIM CALL IT QUITS WITHIN THOSE 5 YEARS. So 5 years ago when I elected it I didn’t know we'd be in a pandemic now fast forward 5 years and June 30th I have to leave WITH THE SPIKE IN COVID 19 CASES… AND EYES AROUND THE COUNTRY LOOKING AT LOCAL LEADERS… A MAJORITY OF THIS INTERVIEW WITH HIM FOCUSED ON THE NOVEL CORONAVIRUS…. *Put aside whatever disagreements other things that are going because the virus doesn’t care about that this is going to keep coming BUT MERRILL RAN THE COUNTY OPERATIONS THROUGH MUCH MORE THAN THIS PANDEMIC… THINK BACK TO 2010… WHEN HE FIRST GOT THE JOB TITLE. certainly getting the economy thru the recession was important THE INTERVIEW STARTS TO WRAP UP AS I ASK HIM WHAT TYPE OF LEGACY DOES HE HOPE TO LEAVE BEHIND. I wold hope that people would feel that I was fair commited and really worked hard for the community to improve EARLIER THIS MONTH COMMISSIONERS RENAMED THE PET RESOURCE CENTER AFTER HIM.... BUT WHAT SOME MAY WONDER... WHAT'S NEXT FOR WHO THE MAN WHO SERVED THE COUNTY FOR MORE THAN THREE DECADE? Sleep for a while AND HE SAYS HE'LL SPEND QUALITY TIME WITH HIS TWO PUPS AUGGIE AND SUNI. REPORTING IN HILLSBOROUGH CO PM CW 44 NEWS AT TEN.
CW44 News - 6.30.2020 - AlvarezPinellas County officials discuss beach plans ahead of fourth of July weekend “We’ve been receiving a lot of emails asking us to close the beaches,” said Ken Welch, Pinellas County Commissioner. Just 4 days ahead of the Fourth of July weekend, Pinellas County commissioners started a conversation during Tuesday’s board meeting after receiving emails from citizens to close beaches. The big question: should beaches remain open during the pandemic? “We know we have an issue with people intermixing in large groups, but we also know that indoor places are much higher risk,” said Barry Burton, Pinellas County Administrator. Miami and Fort Lauderdale beaches are among those already closing for the holiday weekend due to the virus. While the majority of commissioners mentioned they would not support the idea. “I really don’t believe the beaches are the problem,” said Kathleen Peters, Pinellas County Commissioner “I’m not in favor of closing the beach either, I think it’s counterproductive at this point,” said Pat Gerard, Pinellas County Commission Chair “I do not support that at this point but I also am concerned about having a presence on the beach and making sure we don’t have a replay of Spring Break,” said Ken Welch, Pinellas County Commissioner. They recalled Memorial Day weekend where hundreds of law enforcement officers were present along the coastline. “I’d like to see us step up enforcement in those places we know are going to be hot spots,” said Pat Gerard, Pinellas County Commission Chair. But Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says it’s not that simple. “We’ll keep an eye on it, but to do what we did before with 300 deputies, law enforcement officers every place and the amount of personnel and the costs and to try and implement that with a couple days-notice, I’m not sure we’re accomplishing anything and there will be a whole lot of push back,” said Gualtieri. He says a large enforcement presence disbursing any crowds doesn’t exactly fix the problem during a pandemic. “So now you’ve got a situation where the hotels are extremely high occupancy plus you’ve got the locals. And you start pushing people away, all you’re going to do is push them into the pools, the pool decks and the hotels,” said Gualtieri. And he’s counting on citizens to take on the task. “Where does personal responsibility come in? When do we stop holding everybody’s hand.. ‘cause either they’re going to do it or they’re not at this point,” said Gualtieri. Right now, there are no local orders that pertain to the beaches however we are still under the governors phase two order which does impact your day at the beach. Your group can be no larger than 50 people and you must still remain 6 ft. apart from other groups. Stick with CW44 News for this developing story.

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