Critical Times

"Democracy is not a spectator sport."


Click here to listen to The Critical Times' weekly stories about COVID-19's impact on the Florida Suncoast.


Please complete the form found here if you need assistance of any kind or if you can offer assistance to members of the community. 


The COVID Racial Data Tracker is a collaboration between the COVID Tracking Project and the Antiracist Research & Policy Center. Together, we're gathering the most complete race and ethnicity data on COVID-19 in the United States.

Thanks to the Gulf Coast Community Foundation for their generous support of WSLR’s COVID-19 coverage.

The National Conference of State Legislatures brings you up-to-date, real-time information about bills related to and responding to COVID-19 that have been introduced in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.


The governor said Florida would reopen in three phases in-line with the guidelines released by the White House under President Trump’s reopening America plan. Read the Governor’s Executive Order here

We are currently in Phase 2 of reopening. Here's what that means:

  • Nightclubs will remain closed.
  • Visiting nursing homes and long-term care facilities is still prohibited.
  • Schools will continue distance learning.
  • Restaurants can increase their indoor seating to 50% capacity, with unlimited outdoor seating within social distancing parameters
  • Bars are permitted to reopen under the same rules as restaurants, with the additional restriction of no barstools.
  • Movie theaters, concert venues, arcades, and other entertainment businesses can also reopen at 50% capacity.
  • Tattoo shops and tanning and massage parlors can now open, following safety guidelines from the Department of Health.

As with Phase 1, any other establishments wishing to reopen must have their plans approved by the state before moving forward.



***Please click here for Florida Department of Health’s (DOH) new COVID-19 Case Dashboard***

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:



Robert L. Taylor Community Complex
1845 34th St.
Sarasota, FL 34234

A state-run, walk-up COVID-19 testing site is available at Robert L. Taylor Community Complex located at 1845 34th St. Sarasota, 34234. The site was created through a partnership with the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the Florida Department of Health, the Florida National Guard, the City of Sarasota and Sarasota County. No appointments or prescriptions are necessary, and individuals can walk or park their vehicles at the community complex and receive free testing regardless of residency or symptoms. This testing site is for all age groups. 

Test will take place 7 days per week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, or until capacity is reached.

Click here for information about the type of testing available at this location.

Lincoln Park
501 17th Street East
Palmetto, FL 34221

The Florida Division of Emergency Management is operating a walk-up COVID-19 test center at Lincoln Park.

The site will operate daily from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. (or until they reach the max. of 500 test kits/day).

  • Adults and children can be tested
  • No appointment and no prescription are necessary
  • Tests are free to the public

Antibody testing is also available at Lincoln Park for adults ages 18 and older with a valid ID (up to 200 anitbody tests per day). 

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


The Orioles will host food distribution at Ed Smith Stadium in partnership with All Faiths Food Bank.

The events will take place on the second Saturday of each month from September through December, with the first event being held on September 12Future events will be held on October 10, November 14, and December 12.

Each distribution event will take place in the East Lot and is first-come, first-served, beginning at 9 a.m. and continuing until food runs out or 11:30 a.m. All the events will be staffed by All Faiths Food Bank volunteers and staff, and several of the events will also be staffed by Orange & Black Gives Back, the Orioles employee volunteer program. To donate or to learn more about upcoming food distributions, please visit 

All Faiths Food Bank has taken special measures to remove barriers to assistance: no pre-registration is required. Physical distancing and no-touch strategies will be observed, as food will be distributed via drive-thru and placed directly into the trunks of cars. Attendees will also receive information about additional Food Bank locations where groceries are available. 

All Faiths Food Bank is the only food bank and the largest hunger relief organization in Sarasota and DeSoto counties. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Food Bank is committed to providing hunger relief to the many families who have been affected by this crisis. 



This Tuesday, the Sarasota Office of Housing and Community Development began accepting applications for their Coronavirus Relief Fund Rental Assistance Program.

The program aims to  provide rental assistance to those who have been financially impacted by COVID-19. Assistance is offered through the Jurisdiction.

Those who are eligible can request up to five (5) months of rental assistance for a rental unit in Sarasota County and can receive up $9,000 total through the program. Applicants may request up to five (5) months of rental assistance (current rent or rental arrears) for a rental unit in Sarasota County, with a maximum of $9,000 total in rental assistance offered on a first-eligible, first-served basis. Household income must be at or below 80% of the Area Median Income based on limits published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, adjusted by household size.

OHCD will accept applications September 8, 2020 through September 30, 2020 and will determine applicant assistance eligibility. Applicants may access the application (external) beginning September 8, 2020.

A limited number of hard copies of the application will be available at each public library, the City Hall Annex at 1565 First Street, Sarasota, FL 34236, and the City of North Port Family Services Center at 6919 Outreach Way, North Port, FL 34287 on September 8, 2020 at 10 a.m. 

Paper applications must be sent by mail to the Office of Housing and Community Development at 111 South Orange Avenue, Suite 103, Sarasota, FL 34236.

Payments will be made to landlords or property management companies, not to individual applicants. The landlord must agree to participate in this program and will be responsible for providing a current lease with the applicant, a notice of delinquent rent (if applicable), as well as a completed W-9 form. To learn more about the program and find all of the required documents, visit Sarasota County's website here.

COVID 19 RESOURCES -- NEW as of 9/12/20

Coronavirus Relief Fund Rental Assistance Program

United Way Suncoast Coronavirus Assistance Center

Paper Application Link to File for Unemployment in Florida

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

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!

Information on starting a Mutual Aid Network

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.