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OUC won’t disconnect electricity or water during coronavirus uncertainty, Florida public schools shut down, and other news you might have missed

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As coronavirus precautions intensify, Orange County elections continued as planned: Yesterday's elections proceeded as planned in Florida. Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said turnout during the early voting period, which began March 2, had been particularly low for various reasons, including the CDC's recommendations to avoid gatherings of 50 or more people. Yesterday's vote, which featured the presidential primary but also included multiple city elections in Orange County, carried on nonetheless, with poll workers taking extra precautions to clean and sanitize election machines and polling locations. 

OUC suspends electricity and water disconnections, as Orlando residents stay home: "During this time of uncertainty, we have suspended OUC service disconnects due to nonpayment until further notice," said a letter from Orlando Utilities Commission general manager and CEO Clint Bullock last week. The state's second largest municipal utility, led by a five-member governing board that includes Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, OUC provides electricity and water services to more than 240,000 customers, delivering juice to the residents of Orlando, unincorporated areas of Orange County, and the city of St. Cloud in Osceola County. "As your hometown utility, we're committed to helping our customers, employees and community through times of need," said Bullock. 

As COVID-19 cases rise, Gov. Ron DeSantis bans visitors to all Florida nursing homes: Gov. Ron DeSantis, while contending that many Florida residents are not at risk contracting coronavirus, announced a 30-day ban on visits to nursing homes and acknowledged that the virus could spread rapidly through some communities. "We're taking measures to be able to keep this a manageable situation," DeSantis said. The visitation ban applies to assisted living facilities and adult group homes, as well as nursing homes. DeSantis said the ban could be lifted for individuals in what he called "compassionate" cases. 

Florida public schools are closed until March 30: Officials last week recommended that all public schools across the state of Florida should remain closed until March 30 to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. The order was issued by Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran, who provided recommended spring break changes for all of Florida's school districts, each of which have different schedules. Corcoran's office also announced that "the start of state testing will be delayed by a minimum of two weeks." The decision was in accordance with guidance specific to COVID-19 issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Orlando cancels city gatherings of 250 or more: Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer released a statement saying the city is following the county's direction and "will cancel or postpone city-hosted, city-sponsored and city-permitted events with an estimated attendance of 250 or more people." The ban took effect last week, and continues through March 31. The city's guidance does not apply to workplaces and regular places of business like malls, nightclubs and movie theaters, but pointedly notes, "We also recommend that events or gatherings of 250 or more being hosted by organizations in the city be canceled or postponed."

This story appears in the March 18, 2020, print issue of Orlando Weekly. Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly Headlines newsletter.

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