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.

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:



Publix will resume vaccination appointment scheduling on Wednesday, Feb 24. This follows last week’s announcement that vaccine appointment scheduling would be halted due to shipping delays caused by severe weather across the country. Those with second dose appointments have not been affected by the shipping delay. Publix’s online reservation system will likely open every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, however, appointment availability across counties is subject to change. Information on getting a vaccine from Publix can be found at


Mayor Hagen Brody announced on Tuesday that the city of Sarasota will hold a pop-up vaccination clinic at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall this weekend. 4000 vaccine doses will be supplied by the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County. The doses going to Sarasota and Manatee Counties this week will help restart vaccine rollout after winter storms disrupted distribution. The county has started contacting people to set up appointments for vaccination clinics on Monday and Tuesday of next week at Bennett Park. Both counties will also hold second-dose clinics this week to finish vaccinating those who received their first shot a month ago. For more vaccine information visit

Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines - CDC

COVID-19 Vaccines in Florida - FL DOH

Below are two podcasted stories that outline Florida's distribution plan and explain the science and speedy approval of the vaccines.



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 4 p.m. daily, or until capacity is reached.

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

                                                                       Drive-Thru Testing
                                                                    5400 Bradenton Road,
                                                                      Sarasota, FL 34234

A state-run drive-thru COVID-19 testing site is available at 5400 Bradenton Road, 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, Nomi Health and Sarasota County. All ages can be tested regardless of symptoms. No appointment or prescription necessary. Testing is free. The site offers rapid antigen and PCR testing.

Testing at this site is available 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, or until capacity is reached. 

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

COVID 19 RESOURCES -- NEW as of 12/23/20

Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines - CDC

COVID-19 Vaccines in Florida - FL DOH

Information about Emerging Variant COVID-19 Strain - CDC

All Faiths Food Bank Food Distribution

The Food Bank of Manatee Food Distribution


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.