Critical Times

"Democracy is not a spectator sport."

Latest Updates (4/8):

  • There are currently 15,456 total cases of coronavirus in Florida; this includes 15,003 positive cases in Florida residents and 453 positive cases in non-Florida residents, as of Wednesday, 4/8, at 11:40 AM, according to the Florida Department of Health. 
  • As of Wednesday (4/8), 309 Florida residents have died.
  • Gulf Coast Medical Group, affiliated with Venice Regional Bayfront Hospital, is now offering telehealth visits. Link:
  • (Wednesday 4/1) Governor DeSantis ordered a statewide lockdown effective until April 30th.
  • You can receive text updates from Sarasota County about COVID-19. Text SRQCOVID19 to 888777
  • (Wednesday 3/25) The Sarasota City Commissioner has suggested a curfew after police reports show officers shut down two parties with loud music and large crowds.
  • Sarasota County Public Libraries announced on Tuesday that they will close all branches effective at 5pm on Tuesday, March 17th. This will run through Sunday, April 12th.
  • On Tuesday, March 17th, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the closure of bars and nightclubs for 30 days, starting Tuesday at 5pm, in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Updates (3/13):

  • The Florida Department of Health announced on Thursday, 3/12, that two men have tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus in Sarasota County. One, a 70-year-old man from Massachusetts, is being treated at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
  • According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Sarasota Memorial Hospital has 30 patients with severe respiratory issues in isolation rooms to rule out COVID-19. The facility is reporting results only if they are positive.
  • Hospital spokeswoman Kim Savage says patients with the flu or other diagnosed respiratory illness do not meet the criteria for coronavirus testing at this time.
  • While Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp are currently the only commercial labs able to test for coronavirus, others are pending approval from the Food and Drug Administration, Savage said.

“The misconception in our community is people can go to their doctor and get tested,” Savage says. “That’s not happening in our community yet. It’s not set up to facilitate that yet.

“The state is changing the guidance on whom we can test.”

  • Currently, the CDC and state labs don’t charge for the COVID-19 tests that go through the state labs. The federal government is requiring health care providers and insurers to cover COVID-19 testing that includes commercial labs.

Quick Info Links:

Sign up for a free daily coronavirus briefing from the New York Times here.

Avi Schiffmann's website tracking coronavirus has become one of the most vital resources for people seeking accurate and updated numbers on the pandemic. He's a 17-year-old high school junior from Mercer Island outside Seattle, who started the site in late December, when coronavirus had not yet been detected outside of China. Now the site has been visited by tens of millions, from every country on Earth. It tracks deaths, numbers of cases locally and globally, and provides an interactive map, information on the disease, and a Twitter feed. The resource updates every minute or so, and pulls information from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and elsewhere.

Questions? Contact:

Florida Department of Health COVID-19 Hotline and Email:
866-779-6121 (8am-5pm, Monday-Friday)

A Sarasota-specific call center for questions and concerns about COVID-19 is now available through the Department of Health in Sarasota County

941-861-2873. Subject matter experts are available Monday – Friday, 8 am to 5 pm. 

Sarasota Memorial Hospital COVID-19 Hotline:

Keep up with the spread of COVID-19 in the US and around the world:

COVID 19 RESOURCES -- NEW as of 3/31/20

COVID-19 Resource Toolkit

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

Provisions Related to Unemployment Compensation in the CARES Act

FAQ on the Bill's Rebates (Direct Cash Payments to Americans)

Explainer on How The Bill's Rebates Work in Terms of Social Security

Information for Small Businesses in the CARES Act

Small Business Relief Measures in the CARES Act

IRS Direct Cash Assistance Information


Information on starting a Mutual Aid Network

Bartender Emergency Assistance Program

Restaurant Workers Community Foundation

Consumer Guidance

Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program

Food for Kids

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried activated a text line and call center to find free meals for kids during the school closures.  Text FLKIDSMEALS to 211-211 to find the closest participating Summer BreakSpot location with meals available. Residents can also call 2-1-1 to speak with a live operator for additional information.

Library Hoopla 

Hoopla, Hooray! Sarasota County Libraries has temporarily increased all Hoopla checkouts to 10! Get instant access to all your favorite movies, shows, music, books and audiobooks!

For answers to questions about COVID-19, visit the World Health Organization Website.

What is COVID-19?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 is a recently discovered coronavirus that can cause respiratory infection. 

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment.

Who is most at risk?
Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.
How does COVID-19 spread?
As of March 2020, the disease is known to spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick.

Can someone without symptoms spread COVID-19?
The main way the disease spreads is through respiratory droplets expelled by someone who is coughing. The risk of catching COVID-19 from someone with no symptoms at all is very low. However, many people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms.

What are the best ways to protect myself and others?
  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Maintain social distancing by limiting your contact with those who are coughing or sneezing, and staying home as much as possible especially when sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with your hands.
  • When you cough or sneeze, be sure to cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately and wash your hands.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call your health care provider in advance. 
  • Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

Community Health and Connectedness

The Critical Times team is committed to coming together in this time of stress and anxiety, as it is clear that one of the most important things we can do as a community is take care of each other. Across the country, and the world, we have seen what is possible when we come together to share resources, knowledge, and creativity. Our job is to keep our community informed of critical news developments, and that is what we will continue to do. Below are some community-centered resources, compiled by the Urbana-Champaign Indy Media Center.

  1. YES! Magazine’s article on Facing COVID-19 with Community Instead of Fear.
    • Water: page 3
    • Food: page 6
    • Prep list: page 9
    • Cleaning: page 11
    • Meds, Health, and Disabilities: 12
    • List of external articles she suggests: page 14 
  • Additional suggestions to stay connected and engaged can be found in Pandemic Preparation and Positive Steps to Take, which is also long, leading with a lot of COVID-19 info. Towards the bottom, look for this list, which will provide details under each heading:  

    • Immediately start social-distancing practices
    • Prepare yourself on a logistical level
    • Prepare your emotional and community support network
    • Optimize your own psychological and physical health to boost your immunity and your resilience
    • Start looking for the opportunities of what you can do at home, which helps so you don’t feel bored and anxious
    • Get involved in improve-the-world opportunities that this extended break from business-as-usual will provide

Frequently Asked Questions about symptoms and testing:

What should I do if I have symptoms or have been exposed?

How do I get tested?
  • If you have symptoms, call your healthcare provider. Your healthcare professional will work with your county health department to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.
  • According to the Florida Department of Health, a person who is tested will have three specimens taken: oral, nasal, and saliva. The samples will be given to the county health department, who will then either ship or deliver them to the closest state laboratory. If a specimen is tested positive, it will be identified as ‘presumptive positive’ until the result is confirmed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    For more information on COVID-19 testing see CDC Tests for COVID-19.