Southwest Florida has questions about the coronavirus. We're answering them.

Karl Schneider and Jordyn Matez Naples Daily NewsPublished 3:57 PM EDT Apr 30, 2020News about the coronavirus

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News about the coronavirus is moving quickly, and we want to make sure you're up-to-date and not left in the dark. 

We dedicate ourselves and our work to informing the Southwest Florida communities with the information you need. To do that in these trying times, we're taking your questions and finding answers.

While we are answering as many questions as we can, we are not answering medical-related questions here. We have sent those questions to health and medical experts at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Latest medical Q&A: Health experts answer your questions on tests, treatments and symptoms

Your questions, our answers:

We've organized the Q&A into categories so it's easier to find the information you're looking for. Below we have:

  • General answers to non-medical-related questions
  • What places/restaurants are still open
  • How to get help
  • What about school

General COVID-19 Q&A

There is a COVID-19 Florida Call Center open 24/7: 1-866-779-6121 or email at

We recommend you take a moment to browse through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web page dedicated to COVID-19 here:

And the National Institutes of Health web page dedicated to COVID-19 here:

Q: What's changed now that Florida is in the first phase of reopening?

A: We've laid out a separate Q&A-style story for the first phase changes coming to the state. It covers everything from bars and restaurants to barbershops and salons.

Phase 1: Gov. DeSantis announces 'Phase 1' plan to reopen Florida. What it means

Q: Where are the drive-thru testing sites in Collier and Lee counties? How long is the wait?

A: In Collier County, the mobile collection site is outside NCH Baker Hospital at 350 Seventh St. N. The site requires patients to have an appointment ahead of time by calling 239-624-4443 and selecting option 1. Patients also must have a doctor’s order.

In Lee County, the mobile collection sites are outside of Lee Convenient Care at Page Field and the Cape Coral Sports Complex. Patients must have a doctor’s order and will be given a telephone number to make an appointment for the test, which is required.

Q: How many cases of coronavirus in Bonita Springs/Cape Coral/Naples/Fort Myers, Florida?

A: The data coming in from the health department does not get as granular as what city each case comes from. We do have the numbers for each county. You can keep up with those counts at The News-Press website and/or the Naples Daily News website.

The Florida Department of Health has a website dedicated to the state's COVID-19 response, complete with the reported number of cases:

Where is coronavirus in Florida? Use this map to track the outbreak of COVID-19

Q: How many people have recovered?

The Florida Department of Health does not currently report who those who have recovered. Here is the department's statement:

We do not currently measure “recovery,” and don’t expect to have such a designation anytime in the near future. Recovery can mean a lot of things – some countries say you’re recovered 14 days from infection even if you are still sick, or even dead, based on a computer algorithm that calculates the amount of time passed since a case is first reported. The very definition of recovery is a contested issue – are you recovered once you’re no longer symptomatic, or contagious, once you get a negative test result, or no longer require hospitalization? Are you ever “recovered” if you suffer long-term effects from having the virus? Until some of these issues and definitions are worked out at the local, state and national level, we will not be providing a metric for recovery. 

Q: When will elective surgeries begin again?

A: Beginning May 4, hospital ambulatory surgical centers, office surgery centers, dental offices, orthodontic offices, endodontic offices or other health care practitioners' offices can resume.

There are a few conditions, however, in order for these offices to remain in compliance with Gov. DeSantis' executive order:

  • If there is a surge of COVID-19 patients, surgical and ICU beds must be converted for treatment.
  • The facility must have enough personal protective equipment without needing to seek state or federal assistance.
  • The office did not seek additional federal, state or local assistance regarding PPE since resuming these elective procedures
  • The office has not refused to provide support and "proactively engage" with skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities and long-term care providers.  

Q: Is there any change in accepting vacation rentals?

A: On April 29, Gov. DeSantis issued executive order 20-111, which extends the suspension of vacation rentals (EO 20-87) until May 4. DeSantis' order says the suspension will be further extended by a subsequent order. Vacation rentals are defined as "any house, condominium, cooperative, or dwelling unit that is also a transient public lodging establishment."

A full list of how vacation rentals are affected can be found in executive order 20-87: 

Q: Is it true that Southern state governors have formed a coalition to open back up sooner than other states?

A: Yes, and Florida has joined this conversation.

"Florida is working in coalition with regional southeastern state governors, TN, MS, SC, GA, AL to safely re-open as well as working regionally within Florida to make sure we thread the needle properly," Gov. DeSantis' communications director wrote April 21 on Twitter. 

Q: Can you provide resources to use while staying home — free online books and movies — math and science projects?

A: Now that libraries are closing down, one of our biggest recommendations is the Libby app on mobile phones and tablets. You put in your library card info and get access to your library's entire electronic catalog: audiobooks and ebooks included. 

Most comprehensively, Khan Academy has a ton of resources for each and every grade level, complete with videos and progress trackers.

One of our reporters (who helped with this answer, practically wrote it!) put together a short list of other resources to keep kids busy, so we'd recommend checking that out here:

More: 5 ways to keep learning outside of school walls during coronavirus outbreak

Q: What exactly is the procedure to get tested for coronavirus?

A: The CDC says not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19. The Center has an entire web page dedicated to testing here:

While the CDC has put out guidelines, it says on its website: "decisions about testing are at the discretion of state and local health departments and/or individual clinicians".

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and want to get tested, Lee Health and NCH Health system are offering mobile testing sites (locations in an answer above). Lee Health collection will be done by appointment only and you must have a doctor’s order.

NCH is offering curbside testing, where patients can drive to the site to have samples collected by medical professionals with protective equipment.

Q: How can the self quarantine be enforced for people coming down from the north?

A: In an executive order, Florida Gov. DeSantis mandated that anyone coming into Florida from an area with “substantial community spread” of COVID-19 is required to isolate or self-quarantine for a period of 14 days from the time of entry into the state of Florida.

In order to enforce the order, checkpoints have been placed at the entrance to the state on I-95 and I-10. Drivers entering Florida are required to provide “key information” and briefed on how to self-quarantine. 

The checkpoint also requires a signature from the traveler demonstrating that they understand their requirement to self-quarantine. 

“I understand that any individual in my family who violates the self-isolation or self-quarantine by failing to remain within the confines of the address I provided for my stay in Florida for the mandatory length of time, can be subject to prosecution,” the form reads. 

Those who violate self-isolation may be subject to up to $500 in fines, 60 days of jail time or both, according to the form.

DeSantis also mentioned there are travelers going through checkpoints that are “being followed up with” when asked about enforcing self-quarantine procedures at a press conference on March 28. 

Q: How can I help from my home? Is there something I can safely do from my home (internet/phone) to help with services?

A: Thank you for this question, we're glad to be able to list some volunteer opportunities! So in the question, "services" is a bit vague, but we've been looking around for what are called "virtual volunteering" opportunities, and here's what I've found:

  • VolunteerMatch: This link ( has over 50,000 (!!) volunteer opportunities for those of us stuck at home.
  • Crisis Text Hotline: Here, you're able to use your phone to communicate via text messages to people going through a crisis. Training is required, but all this can be done at home. (

We hope to find more opportunities in the coming days. 

Q: As there is no formal mandate in Florida or Collier County to wear a face mask, how can Costco, starting May 4th, mandate that a face mask has to be worn to enter the store?

A: Costco is a privately run business and can mandate its customers wear PPE as it sees fit.

Q: Cell phones must carry many germs. How do we clean them?

A: It turns out, smartphones are actually seven times dirtier than toilets. A recent study found that coronavirus can live up to three days on plastic and stainless steel. That includes your Fitbits and Apple Watches, which experts say should be cleaned, too. 

Here's a handy article:

Q: Do snowbirds flying back up north have to be quarantined for 14 days upon landing?

A: As of now, mandatory quarantine is not a requirement for air travel, but some states have put requirements in place. Airports and airplanes can be crowded and can increase the chances of getting COVID-19. If you happen to come into contact with someone with COVID-19, you may be asked to "stay home and self-monitor and avoid contact with others for up to 14 days after travel," the CDC website says.

The CDC has a great resource page on air travel during the coronavirus here:

Q: The tax deadline has been extended to July 15th. Will we be able to electronically file beyond April 15th?

A: Yes, in fact the IRS is urging people to file electronically rather than using snail mail.

"The Internal Revenue Service today reminds taxpayers and tax professionals to use electronic options to support social distancing and speed the processing of tax returns, refunds and payments," the agency wrote in an April 9 news release.

Even with an extended deadline of July 15, people can file for a further extension to Oct. 15. 

The extension to mid July also includes any federal income tax payments taxpayers may owe and has no penalties or interest attached.

Q: Where can we report price gouging?

A: Florida's attorney general has opened a price-gouging hotline where tips can be submitted: 1-866-966-7226.

The AG's office also has set up an online form that can be filled out. The form says:

"State law prohibits an unconscionable increase in the price of essential commodities needed as a direct result of a declared state of emergency due to a hurricane or other natural disaster. What constitutes an essential commodity may change depending on the length and the nature of a declared state of emergency."

Those essential items are:

  • Protective masks and face shields
  • Sanitizing and disinfecting supplies, such as hand gel, wipes, and disinfectant sprays
  • All personal protective equipment (PPE), including gowns, booties, gloves, and other protective gear
  • COVID-19 test kits, swabs and related consumable medical supplies used in administering tests to be essential commodities

If you suspect price gouging, you can fill out the form here:!OpenForm

Q: Where are we buy fresh fruits and vegetables locally?

A: It's easy to get sick of canned and boxed goods, so it's refreshing to add some fresh produce in the mix. Here's a list of some of the area's local produce stands:

  • If you’re looking for a place to get your fix of fresh produce, Local Roots has partnered with Southwest Florida farmer’s markets to offer pickup and delivery services to their customers.
  • Customers can place orders online though the Local Roots website, then pick up their orders at a designated time and location. Free delivery is offered for orders of $50 or more.
  • As for other local produce providers, Hubbell Farms is offering free delivery to Lee and Collier counties – no minimum or maximum purchase required. The service also accepts SNAP/EBT benefits.
  • Farmer Mike’s U Pick is offering takeout and delivery services. Delivery services only for orders $30 and above.
  • Inyoni Farms in Naples is offering “online farm” store hours from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays for Wednesday pickups and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursdays for Saturday pickups.
  • East Fork Creek is offering an online shopping service that will alert customers twice a week with a list of available fresh produce that can be ordered for pickup or delivery. In-store pickup available Thursdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and delivery available from Sanibel to Bonita Springs on select times and days.
  • The Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers is offering a Green Market drive-thru on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to Noon.

Q: Why isn’t I-75 being monitored at the border?

A: Gov. DeSantis has not made any plans to implement monitoring at the I-75 border, he said at a press conference.  

While I-95 and I-10 are already installed with mobile checkpoint sites, DeSantis said I-75 is not a typical route for drivers coming in from New York and the surrounding areas  and that I-95 is the “natural” route to take. 

“[Drivers] would have to go out of their way a little bit, so we’ll look at that,” DeSantis said. “But I think having 10 and 95 is good. It adds some protection.”

The checkpoint process is going smoothly on I-95 and I-10, DeSantis said. Drivers provide answers to questions and are provided with information about self-isolating. 

DeSantis also said he has people that are “being followed up with” in regards to enforcing self-isolation. 

Q: How can we close the sale of a boat/vessel when the DMV is closed?

A: In Lee County, the tax collector offers online appointments for a limited amount of services. One of those services is Titles and Registrations. We're not sure about other counties, but visit you local tax collector's website to see if on line services are available.

Q: Will there be screening for RSW passengers?

A: COVID-19 screening began at RSW at March 26, according to live news reporter Mike Braun.

The screening is reserved for passengers who have traveled from the tri-state area as a part of Gov. DeSantis’ executive order mandating that anyone coming into Florida from an area with “substantial community spread” of COVID-19 is required to isolate or self-quarantine for a period of 14 days from the time of entry into the state of Florida.

More: RSW passengers from New York, New Jersey areas face screeners Thursday morning

The screening involves filling out a written for and answering verbal questions about the duration of your stay in Florida, according to Braun.

Q: We're told to wash a lot of things, but has there been any guidance for washing your eyeglasses?

A: The best answer we could find for this comes from Mill Creek Vision, an eye care facility in Washington state.

The company's website says the "easiest and most efficient" way to clean your glasses is plain old dish soap and water. Rinse the lenses first to remove anything that might scratch them, then lightly rub soap and water and dry with a microfiber cloth.

The company says to avoid rubbing alcohol since it is too harsh for the lenses and could end up damaging them.

Q: If someone flies in from New York they must stay in their hotel room or condo for 14 days. How is that supposed to work?

A: Those who fly into Florida from any area with “substantial community spread” of coronavirus are now directed to self-quarantine for a 14-day period upon arrival, as of an executive order issued by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday.

Johns Hopkins medicine lists several steps to properly practice self-quarantining:

  • Use standard hygiene and frequently wash your hands
  • Don't share things like towels or utensils
  • Stay at home (or in your hotel room)
  • Don't have visitors
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from other people

Once the quarantine period has ended, and if you don't have symptoms, follow your doctor’s instructions on how to return to your normal routine.

Q: What do I do if I’m feeling too stressed and anxious about all this COVID-19 news?

A: Dr. Heidi Radunovich, a licensed psychologist with the University of Florida, gives several tips to relieve and/or cope with our stress brought on by the spread of COVID-19. A UF spokesperson sent these answers in for this Q&A:

  •  Control what you can control
  • Try to let go of negative thoughts — the world is not coming to an end. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
  • Take a media diet — try only looking at any form of media two or three times a day. Otherwise, you might feel overwhelmed by negative news.
  • Exercise
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Sleep
  • Be open to talking to your kids about the virus, but be cautious about venting to your kids.
  • Keep your kids busy.
  • Your kids will be disappointed that they can’t do certain things. That’s normal. Help them to focus on their gratitude.
  • Monitor your own substance use
  • Have a laugh

If you're interested in finding more resources and information on support, visit:

Radunovich’s full presentation can be found here:

Q: Can I drive home if I live out of state?

A: You sure can. In a previous answer we found out that rest areas are still open. As with everything, follow social distancing guidelines and be diligent with hygiene. The CDC recommends having a plan to self-isolate for 14 days when you return home. Some areas are requiring this of travelers.

If you do plan on traveling, the CDC has issued a bulleted checklist:

CDC Travel:

Q: I receive Social Security. Will I still receive a stimulus check?

A: Short answer, yes - if you yearly total is $75,000 or less.

Longer answer: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) is headed to the U.S. House after the Senate approved it. In it, anyone receiving a "qualified income" up to $75,000 could receive $1,200 or $2,400 in the case of a joint return.

The language in the act defines "qualified income" as: ‘‘(A) earned income, 5 ‘‘(B) social security benefits ... and 7 ‘‘(C) any compensation or pension received under chapter 11, chapter 13, or chapter 15 of 9 title 38, United States Code." 

Here's a link to the act in its entirety:

USA Today has broken out some important parts of the act here: 

$1,200 cash payments, help for businesses: Here's what's in the historic stimulus package for coronavirus

What we know: How the $2T coronavirus stimulus will affect you and the economy

Q: How was the Coronavirus named?

A: A virus is given a name based on its genetic structure, the World Health Organization's website says.

Coronavirus has two official names: one for the virus, and another for the disease caused by the virus.  

In the case of the virus, the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses dubbed it “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2,” or “SARS-CoV-2.”

WHO then adapted “COVID-19” as the official name of the disease. Diseases are named to enable discussion on disease prevention and treatment, according to WHO.

Q: If I fly to New York then come back to Florida, do I need to self-quarantine when I return to Florida?

A: In an executive order, DeSantis mandated that anyone coming into Florida from an area with “substantial community spread” of COVID-19 is required to isolate or self-quarantine for a period of 14 days from the time of entry into the state of Florida.

“Self-quarantine” means taking the proper measures to isolate yourself from others for a period of 14 days. Self-quarantining is not currently being monitored by Florida State law enforcement.

If you have recently returned to Florida and are required to self-quarantine, follow CDC directed guidelines for how to properly self-isolate and protect yourself and others.


Q: Who are the people on the task force recommending when Florida should reopen?

  • Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez, Lieutenant Governor of Florida
  • Jimmy Patronis, Florida Chief Financial Officer
  • Ashley Moody, Florida Attorney General
  • President Bill Galvano, President, Florida Senate
  • Speaker Jose Oliva, Speaker, Florida House of Representatives
  • Senator Wilton Simpson, President-Designate, Florida Senate
  • Representative Chris Sprowls, Speaker-Designate, Florida House of Representatives
  • Commissioner Richard Corcoran, Commissioner of Education
  • Jamal Sowell, President & CEO, Enterprise Florida, Inc.
  • Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Mayor, Miami-Dade County
  • Mayor Dale Holness, Mayor, Broward County
  • Mayor David Kerner, Mayor, Palm Beach County
  • John Couris, President & CEO, Tampa General Hospital
  • Josh D’Amaro, President, Walt Disney World Resort
  • Todd Jones, CEO, Publix Super Markets
  • Syd Kitson, Chairman, Board of Governors for the State University System
  • Paul Reilly, Chairman & CEO, Raymond James Financial
  • Alex Sanchez, President & CEO, Florida Bankers Association
  • Eric Silagy, President & CEO, Florida Power & Light Company
  • John Sprouls, CEO, Universal Orlando Resort, Executive Vice President, Universal Parks & Resorts
  • Patrick Sunderlin, Vice President, Global Supply Chain, Lockheed Martin Corporation
  • Joe York, President, AT&T Florida and Caribbean

Q: What about cars traveling into Florida from hotspots?

A: Gov. DeSantis on Friday, March 27, announced checkpoints at the Florida border for travelers coming into the state. Visitors from the tri-state area and Louisiana will be told to self-isolate for 14 days.

Q: We receive a hard-copy paper each morning. What are you doing to ensure that the virus is not being transmitted with the paper?

A: The Daily News and News-Press are owned by Gannett. Here's what spokeswoman Laura Dalton wrote to me when I asked about the safety of our print products:

"We know some people have had questions about the safety of mail, packages and newsprint. To date, there has never been a reported incident of COVID-19 being transmitted via newsprint. We follow CDC protocols and are taking every reasonable precaution as we produce and deliver your newspaper. 

For our production and delivery workers, and in the select instances where employees cannot work from home, we have implemented social distancing measures and recommended hygiene practices. Our production and distribution site employees wear disposable gloves and use disinfectant wipes to wipe down equipment. We also sanitize high-touch surfaces on equipment and vehicles, and in offices, production spaces, and warehouses.

Outside the distribution centers, we hand newspapers to most carriers in their cars, or place the newspapers in carts for them to retrieve.  The safety and well-being of our employees, carriers and customers is always a top priority for us. Thank you for your business and support during this challenging time."  

What places are still open?

The USA TODAY Network has developed a website to let you know what local businesses are in your neighborhood. The website allows you to search for a city, find a business you want to support and purchase a gift certificate from that establishment.

Find a business here:

Q: When will food stores open first to seniors to get the supplies they need?

A: Some nationwide chains have already implemented these types of hours. Check a store's website for the latest information. Whole Foods, Target and Dollar General are among those we know right now.

Publix designated Tuesday and Wednesday mornings (7-8 a.m.) as senior shopping hours for customers 65 or older. Those hours begin March 24 and will continue until further notice. 

Local businesses may have their own hours listed. It's best to call ahead to the store you prefer and see if they have set aside senior shopping times.

Q: Regarding the early shopping hours at retailers for seniors, if I am immunocompromised, but not a senior, may I use those hours too?

A: So far here are the responses or information I've been able to dig from various retailers:

Beginning March 18, Target is reserving the first hour of shopping every Wednesday for those 65 and older, pregnant women and those defined by the CDC as vulnerable or at-risk, the company's website says. 

Here's a link to how the CDC defines "vulnerable and at-risk":

Walmart's website says: "From March 24 through April 28, Walmart stores will host an hour-long senior shopping event every Tuesday for customers aged 60 and older. This will start one hour before the store opens. Our Pharmacies and Vision Centers will also be open during this time."

I was able to speak with Walmart spokesman Charles Crowson about the retailer's senior shipping policy. He said he encourages those customers under the age limit who are immunocompromised to contact the manager of the store they would visit. "That's a situation I think our operators would be sympathetic to," he said. 

Publix's early shopping hours (listed here in the blog) are designated for those 65 and older, a spokeswoman wrote in an email when I asked.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a handy tool for finding local boat ramps: 

As of March 27, many of the boat ramps in Florida remain open, FWC spokeswoman Melody Kilborn wrote in an email. The Florida Public Boat Ramp Finder (see link above) is updated every 24 hours and will include any closures, she wrote.

"Please note if the comment box is blank, it means the ramp is currently open," Kilborn wrote. "However, out of an abundance of caution, we recommend checking with your local county government on boat ramp open/closed status as well as local Emergency Orders issued under the Governor’s Executive Orders prior to scheduling trips. We encourage the public to use guidelines outlined by DOH and the CDC regarding social distancing."

Found here:  

Collier County: As of Thursday, March 19, boat ramps remain open.

Lee County: The county's website says: "Parking fees at all boat ramps and parks are waived effective Tuesday, March 24."

For updates on FWC’s response to COVID-19: 

Q: Can we go on drives or ride motorcycles just to get out of the house?

A: Gov. DeSantis' order does not stop residents from driving or riding motorcycles. If you have to stop for gas, make sure to practice social distancing guidelines and pay attention to your hygiene and the items you touch.

Q: How are the seasonal rental agencies treating those families who paid for a beach house in advance?

A: Rental agencies will have different policies, so we're looking into a handful of more popular places.

VRBO is asking it's partners to set a 50% refund if renters cannot find another open date to rent. If a renter needs to move dates, full credit should be given for the cancellation.

Airbnb reservations made on or before March 14 (with a check-n date between March 14 and April 14) may be cancelled and guests should receive a full refund.  

Q: Will golf courses remain open in Florida?

A: Golf is one of few essential outdoor activities approved under the shelter-in-place order, says the Florida State Golf Association. 

"We have received a communication from the Governor's Chief of Staff that golf would be considered an essential recreation activity provided the proper social distancing is followed and that would mean only one person per cart," South Florida PGA Section, which includes courses in Collier and Lee counties, stated in an emailed release Wednesday.

"It is also our understanding that the current order does not change county and/or city orders that are already in place throughout Florida.”

This announcement follows an executive order issued by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis closing all nonessential businesses for 30 days beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, April 3. 

Lexington and Renaissance in Fort Myers, and Hideout and TwinEagles in Naples have been confirmed closed.

Some operational golf courses in Southwest Florida currently include:

Cypress Woods Naples: Facilities are closed, walk-ins accepted for members only;

Arrowhead Naples: Fully operational with the exception of their restaurant;

Valencia Naples: Fully operational; 

Naples Grande: Fully operational;

Q: Is there guidance for worship services at churches?

A: First Church of Christ, Scientist is offering Mother Church 10 a.m. Sunday services and 2 p.m. Wednesday testimony meetings, both online, at

First Presbyterian Church of Naples is holding online services at

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Vanderbilt Presbyterian Church and Lely Presbyterian Church have all suspended all services and events.

Temple Beth El has moved all Shabbat services, classes and meetings online. Shabbat services will be conducted at 7:30 p.m. every Friday at

Islamic Center of Naples has canceled all events and services until further notice.

St. Agnes Catholic Church in Naples is offering online mass services at

The Hindu Temple of SWFL has temporarily closed until further notice. It will share all rituals on

Q: Are scheduled funeral services shut down?

A: It would seem funeral homes are operating on a case-by-case basis right now. Daily News arts and entertainment reporter Harriet Heithaus wrote a story about funeral homes in Naples. In it, some directors say they have limited services to immediate family only. Some consider the possibility of setting up remote viewings via the internet.

More: Funerals made a family-only affair under COVID-19 limitations

Q: We are snowbirds and heading north this weekend. Are the Florida Welcome Centers and rest areas open?

A: Yes, they remain open. The Florida Department of Transportation wrote me back when I asked this question and told me the department "is laser focused on assisting with the state’s response to COVID-19."

It's good to note here that Florida is only collecting tolls electronically. When you come to a toll plaza, please drive right through — do not stop at the booths as this will cause traffic backups. If you do not have a SunPass or an interoperable transponder, you will receive a bill through the state's Toll-by-plate program.

Q: Are there likely to be driving restrictions for Snowbirds driving back home?

A: No driving restrictions have been placed on the state of Florida, but it is recommended that you only drive long distances if absolutely necessary.

If it is far enough that you may need to refuel or stop for food, you could be putting yourself or others at risk, Rachel Patzer, an epidemiologist and director of health services research at Emory University School of Medicine, told The New York Times. It may be more difficult to practice social distancing while on a road trip, Patzer said.

Q: Can the Internet handle all of the people who are working remotely?

A: The internet was engineered to handle a large capacity. And cable providers working in SWFL have a watchful eye on things as usage rates increase. With everyone working and learning from home, those rates shifted toward daytime hours. 

"The network doesn’t just run out of gas," Comcast spokesman Joel Shadle said. "If it starts to peak earlier in the day, it doesn’t run out of juice at night. Unless something unforeseen happens, it continues to deliver as needed."

He said it's like when the Olympics or Super Bowl air. A lot more people are online during those events and Comcast's network is built to handle those things.

The company has been closely monitoring network performance and is "very happy with the way our network is performing, especially in more highly impacted areas where customers are working from home," he said.

Comcast is fully equipped to support customers if problems should arise, he said. 

It increased internet speeds from 15/2 MBPS to 25/3 for all new and existing customers, and is offering 60 days of free internet service to new family customers. The company also offers free WiFi in public locations.

"Xfinity WiFi hotspots located in businesses and outdoor locations across the country will be available to anyone who needs them for free."

When NPR's Shannon Bond interviewed Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince, he said:

Q: What should we do about scheduled dentist, eye, and annual physical appointments? Mammograms and blood work? Go or cancel?

A: Please call ahead to your already scheduled appointments. Your specific health professionals will be able to advise you on how to proceed.

Q: Are the courthouses still open for trials?

A: This is a big topic and the best answer is to work with your attorney or call the courthouse directly about the status of trials and cases. 

Here's what we've been able to gather thus far:

Right now, all family law court events are held remotely except Domestic Violence Injunction hearings. The Florida Supreme Court has suspended grand jury proceedings, jury selections and criminal and civil jury trials through March 27.

The Clerk’s Offices in Bonita Springs and Cape Coral are closed effective Friday, March 20 and, until further notice, all services are moved to the downtown Fort Myers Clerk's Office locations.

County reporter Bill Smith says: As to whether, and what cases, are being heard, judges have cleared much of their dockets. Jury trials that did not start are postponed. It is unusual for ongoing criminal trials to be postponed, but it can happen for good cause shown. Some criminal cases that are impacted by 6th amendment speedy trial rights may have to be heard or the time for consideration extended either after hearing or, with the consent of the defendant, on the papers.

Q: Why are probation officers still going to visit homes of the clients?

A: The Florida Department of Corrections supervises more than 164,000 offenders in the state's probation services program. 

When I asked the department about probation officers visiting people during the coronavirus, here's what its public affairs office wrote:

"Probation officers perform a vital public safety mission, and at this time are continuing to perform offender home visits as necessary. Probation officers have been provided information and education on preventative measures they can take to keep themselves and the public safe during this evolving health emergency."

Q: What is happening with all the cruise ships headed to Florida? 

A: Cruise ships are being directed to prepare for an “indefinite period of time” at sea, according to a Coast Guard bulletin posted on Sunday. 

Citing strains on local medical resources, the bulletin said “all vessels operating within the Seventh District AOR with more than 50 persons on board should increase their medical capabilities, personnel and equipment in order to care for [sick] individuals.” 

The Seventh District of the Coast Guard’s area of responsibility encompasses all of Florida. 

The decision came as a result of trying to control overflow of sick patients into Seventh District medical facilities, the bulletin said. 

The bulletin noted that the Port of Miami is no longer accepting MEDVAC patients due to limited hospital capacity and it is “expected” that neighboring counties will take similar actions soon. 

The bulletin also told foreign-flagged cruise ships to seek medical help from the country they’re registered under before seeking support from the “limited facilities” in the U.S. 

Foreign-flagged ships are a norm in the cruise ship industry for companies trying to evade U.S. taxes and are often registered in neighboring countries like The Bahamas or Panama. 

Q: Can I walk on Naples beach even if it is closed?

A: The City of Naples has closed its beaches and all related facilities through at least the end of the month, said a statement from The City of Naples.

If officers are met with non-compliance, they will be issuing notices to appear in court and be fined an amount not exceeding $500 or imprisoned for a period of up to 60 days, said a post by Naples Police Department.

All public beaches within city limits as well as the pier, beach access points, parking lots and walkways are all closed to the public, the statement said.

With a city-wide closure on all beaches, Naples residents will not be able to access any public beaches through at least the end of the month.

When asked about procedures for enforcing beach closures, county sheriff’s offices deferred to an order by the Florida State Supreme Court.

More: Collier to patrol beaches to enforce closure, warns against going into the water

More: Lee County to spring breakers: Go home

More: 119 Naples and Fort Myers restaurants (and counting), and how they're handling COVID-19

Q: Is there a way to renew our expired library cards?

A: Typically, library patrons would have to visit the library in person every three years for renewals. This helps validate resident status.

Collier County Library branches have since closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the library system says it has extended expiration dates on library cards. Collier libraries are also offering temporary cards that can be acquired by visiting: 

The Lee County library system has also extended the expiration dates on member cards, according to the county website. 

Q: Is public transportation still up and running?

A: Collier County's CAT has waived all fares starting March 24. The beach bus service has been shut down since all county beaches are closed. The county is asking all passengers on a fixed route to enter and exit from the rear doors.

Lee County's Lee Tran also has waived all fares, but it started earlier on March 21. The Downtown River District GOLD Line, beach trolley and tram service have all been suspended. LeeTran has also closed the Rosa Parks Transportation Center lobby.

Q: What meal delivery services are available?

A: Our wonderful food writers have developed a story detailing how hundreds (!!) of local restaurants are responding to COVID-19 concerns. 

There are also mobile applications that will pick up meals from local restaurants and deliver them to your door. (NOTE: Some areas are not serviced by all of these businesses, but hopefully at least one works in your neighborhood.):

  • Bite Squad  
  • DoorDash
  • GrubHub
  • Uber Eats 

Groceries can also be delivered through certain retailers:

  • Postmates
  • Shipt
  • Whole Foods
  • Instacart

Q: Cell phones must carry many germs. How do we clean them?

A: It turns out, smartphones are actually seven times dirtier than toilets. A recent study found that coronavirus can live up to three days on plastic and stainless steel. That includes your Fitbits and Apple Watches, which experts say should be cleaned, too. 

Q: Are pickle ball parks open to play?

A: Collier has closed all county-run courts down until March 31 "in accordance with public health precautions," its website says. This includes aquatic facilities, community centers and fitness centers.

Lee has closed all rec centers, and pickle ball courts as of March 18. The county website does not offer a date when they'll reopen. Any organized sport under the county is also cancelled.

If you play on a private court, it's best to call ahead to find out if it's still open. 

Q: What about package deliveries?

USPS, FedEx and UPS are all currently operational. Customers are told to expect a possible delay in delivery time. Check your preferred shipping service's website for more details.

Amazon is prioritizing shipments for medical supplies and household staples, which could mean a delay in other items.

More: Amazon prioritizing shipments for medical supplies, household staples during coronavirus crisis

Q: What about hotels as we head back north, are they still open?

A: While there currently are various restaurants open in the Northeast region, Chip Rogers, President and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, told USA Today that as many as 25,000 hotels could be closing in the next few weeks due to financial issues.

More: Half of US hotels could close amid coronavirus crisis, industry exec says

Currently, guests are able to book hotels last-minute without penalty. Rogers said that, because there are so few customers left, most won’t have to worry about social distancing at open hotels.

What help is being offered?

Q: Is anyone offering food and groceries to those who can't afford to buy any?

A: Community Cooperative, an organization dedicated to "eliminate hunger and homelessness in Lee County ... " has mobilized food pantries during the coronavirus outbreak. The mobile pantry will be in various neighborhoods through April.

The organization has a list of dates posted on its website:

The Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida's website also has a ton of resources, one of which is a handy calendar. The website also lists 21 food pantries throughout Collier County:

Another website dedicated to food pantry locations has a running list of those found in Southwest Florida:

Q: Is there any provision to help those of us who are trying to hold on to our rental property, pay taxes and association fees?

A: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) was signed into law on March 27, allocating over $2 trillion in federal money to citizens in need of financial relief.

The CARES Act contains key provisions that will offer relief to the real estate industry through two established loan programs, JD Supra says.

The first, the Coronavirus Economic Stabilization Act of 2020 (CESA) creates loan programs to be directed by the U.S. Department of treasury. The second is designed to help small business retain employees, fund payroll and pay for other operating expenses.

The CARES Act also provides mortgage relief for property owners with federally backed mortgages who agree not to evict tenants from their property for non-payment of rent, according to JD Supra

Finally, the CARES Act contains certain tax relief provisions that could potentially benefit property owners and real estate businesses. More detailed information about these provisions can be found on JD Supra’s website.

Q: Are there designs out there to print 3D medical equipment?

A: Prusa Printers has an open source design on its website for a face shield. They have designed it based on feedback from independent US printers:

3D Face Shield:

There is also a local group seeking volunteers. 3DDeluxe is based in Fort Myers. 

"We are a temporary group of volunteers who are 3D printing face shields for health workers during the coronavirus pandemic. We are not working for profit, but are donating our time and resources to produce face shields while quarantined. If you would like to volunteer your time, printers, filament, or transparent plastic sheets let us know!

We need volunteers, we can't meet the demand!!"

Q: I read there was an unemployment benefit passed in the relief law authorizing a $600 unemployment benefit. Is there a separate application for it?

A: The CARES Act authorizes states to provide that $600/week benefit to those who qualify for unemployment benefits under that state. So while the federal government is funding the $600, people will need to file for unemployment under Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity.

The CARES Act also expands insurance coverage under unemployment benefits.

Q: What FL financial assistance is available to those that are affected by this virus and what are the contact numbers to call. Thank you!

A: Here is who is eligible to receive state assistance:

  • Those who are quarantined by a medical professional or government agency.
  • Those who are laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period by their employer due to COVID-19 concerns.
  • Those who are caring for an immediate family member who is diagnosed with COVID-19.

Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity houses the Reemployment Assistance Service Center, where people can apply for benefits. The service provides "temporary wage replacement" to those who meet the eligibility requirements, according to its website. 

The website offers a short video explaining the application process:

To find out if you're eligible, visit the Florida Jobs website:

Q: Shouldn’t Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity backdate my unemployment benefit to when I was first furloughed 5 weeks ago since I was unable to apply for my benefits sooner because the system was down?

A: It seems the state government is working on getting this resolved. Florida has seen a record number of unemployment claims come in, and it's online application was bogged down to the point of failure.

The USA Today — Florida Network reported that Gov. DeSantis is looking into making claims retroactive "to eliminate the time they’ve lost struggling to get into the CONNECT system."

"Only 11 percent of unemployed Floridians receive benefits, before the coronavirus rattled the economy, one of the lowest recipient rates in the nation, according to the U.S. Labor Department." 

Q: I am self-employed and noticed a statement that Florida State Law prohibits unemployment compensation for the self-employed. What do I do now?

A: On Monday (March 30) U.S. Congresswoman Lois Frankel and 12 other congresspeople sent a letter to Gov. DeSantis urging him to enter an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor to assist self-employed and independent contract workers.

The Coronavirus Aid and Relief Economic Security (CARES) Act opens up unemployment benefits to those workers.

"As Members of Congress we write to urge you to expeditiously enter into an agreement with the Department of Labor, and do whatever else is necessary, to ensure self-employed workers and independent contractors are able to access the unemployment benefits provided under the CARES Act," the letter says.

Q:Has there been something set up with Food Stamps for those on disability and don't get them to be able to receive them even if it temporarily?

A: Gov. DeSantis has submitted a federal waiver to raise SNAP benefit amounts to the maximum monthly allotment, according to the Florida Department of Children and Family Services.

Recertification has been extended for 6 months to families and individuals who were scheduled to recertify in April or May.

Work requirements for SNAP and TANF have also been waived per DeSantis. The department will also maintain Medicaid eligibility for recipients "through the last day of the month of the state of emergency."

To apply for SNAP or TANF, visit the department's website here:

Q: Many communities are working to retool their services producing personal protective products for their local hospitals. How can our community help the front line workers get the safety equipment they need?

A: N95s and surgical masks are used to protect people from airborne particles and liquids contaminating the face, the FDA says. This design is proven to help protect against COVID-19, which spreads through droplets of saliva when an infected person coughs or sneezes, according to WHO. 

N95 respirators and surgical masks have helped healthcare workers across the country stay safe during the fight against COVID-19, and can continue to do so with the help of the local community.  

If you have spare medical supplies you’re looking to donate, consider one of your local donation sites: 

  • Island Doctor: Accepting gowns only. 950 North Collier Blvd No. 308, Marco Island.
  • Garden at Terracina Grand: Accepting N95s, surgical masks, face shields, safety goggles, gloves, gowns, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. Leave donations at front door. 6825 Davis Blvd, Naples. 
  • Naples Community Hospital: Accepting N95s, gloves, gowns, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. 11190 Health Care Park Blvd, Naples. 
  • Lee Memorial Hospital: Accepting N95s, surgical masks, face shields, disposable booties, safety goggles, gowns and coveralls/bunny suits. Accepting donations by mail only. Send donations to 6748 Griffin Blvd, Fort Myers. 
  • Physicians Primary Care of SWFL: Accepting N95s, surgical masks, face shields, disposable booties, safety goggles, gloves, gowns, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and thermometers. Donations can be dropped off at buildings 1-4. 1304 Southeast Eighth Terrace No. 3212, Cape Coral. 

Q: Will Social Security be able to continue to issue seniors their checks during and throughout the coronavirus pandemic? 

A: For now, the Social Security Administration is continuing direct deposit payments as well as sending checks through USPS. The SSA is NOT providing in-person services. 

"On Tuesday, March 17, 2020, we suspended face-to-face service to the public in our field offices and hearings offices nationwide until further notice. This decision protects the population we serve—older Americans and people with underlying medical conditions—and our employees during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic," SSA's website says.

For more information on Social Security, visit the administration's website:

Q: What's being done to help the homeless?

A: A large list of different ways help is being offered can be found at the Lee County Homeless Coalition's website:

Under the federal government's CARES Act, $12 billion was set aside for housing and homelessness assistance.

Among some of the help being offered in SWFL:

  • Abuse Counseling and Treatment, Inc.'s shelters are still open and ACT remains open for outreach counseling and therapy.
  • St. Matthew's House's shelters and food programs remain open. The shelter is seeking food donations.
  • Lutheran Services Florida and its Oasis youth Shelter remains open and is accepting homeless youths ages 10-17. Those seeking entry will be screened for COVID-19.
  • RYAN Healing Center is open and has residential openings for women and mothers with young children.

Q: Is there help available for people struggling with rent and mortgages?

A: Rent Assistance -

Lee County is offering virtual assistance with past due rent, mortgage and/or utilities. Applications can be found online. Applications and all supporting documents must be submitted via email or be dropped off in the drop box (2440 Thompson Street, Fort Myers, Fl 33901;

The Salvation Army is offering financial assistance by appointment only (239-775-9447;

The St. Vincent de Paul Society is offering online rent assistance, as well as food and utilities, by request (239-775-2907;


A foreclosure and eviction moratorium for single-family homeowners was announced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday.

The moratorium is available to single-family homeowners for the next 60 days if they have Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgages, according to HUD.

The moratorium directs mortgage servicers to suspend all foreclosure actions currently in progress as well as suspend all foreclosure actions. Mortgage servicers are also directed to cease all evictions of persons from FHA-insured mortgages, says HUD.

Homeowners are encouraged to contact their mortgage service providers immediately if they are in need of financial assistance, David Dworkin, president and CEO of the nonprofit affordable housing advocacy group, told ABC News.

"For homeowners, [the Federal Home Mortgage Corporation and the Federal National Mortgage Association] have already made clear that all you have to do is call your servicer and tell them that you are unable to pay your mortgage," Dworkin said. "They're just saying if you can't pay your mortgage because of COVID-19 let us know, and we will defer your mortgage payments for as long as six months."

Q: Where can sole business owners seek financial assistance since the new loans are for businesses with two employees or more? 

A: Business owners are able to receive help under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance declaration issued by the Small Business Association, says LaShaun Collier, marketing coordinator for Florida Small Business Development Center.

Loans are made available statewide to small businesses and private, non-profit organizations to help alleviate economic injury caused by COVID-19.

Collier said the loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact.

The Florida SBDC offers one-on-one virtual appointments to help applications complete the online documentation, and applicants are encouraged to seek this help by calling 239-745-3700 or visiting

Some other resources available for small-business owners in Florida include:

Business Damage Assessment Survey:

U.S. Small Business Administration:

Center for Disease Control:

Q: How can I help my community?

A: One of the easiest and most important ways to help your community during this time is to practice CDC’s recommended health precautions: wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds frequently, cover your mouth when sneezing/coughing and practice social distancing.

Consider ordering takeout or delivery from a local restaurant in your community, as restaurant-owners have been forced to close certain operations.

If you want to offer financial help, consider donating to a local Worker Relief Fund in order to help service workers in the area who may be in need.

What about the schools?

Q: Will universities in Florida be refunding a portion of the fees paid for housing and meal plans now that students have been sent home? 

A: No state-wide answer has been announced just yet for what it means for those students who paid for housing or meal plans.

FGCU, however, sent an email regarding refund options for students on Monday, March 30. 

FGCU students living in South Village and North Lake Village will receive a $1,200 refund if they check out on or before April 6. The refund will be applied via the student’s university account, FGCU said. 

Students in West Lake Village will be given until May 3 to check out in order to receive the refund, as they are under a year-long lease. 

Residents who remain in housing after the check-out date will be able to stay but will not receive the refund. FGCU is encouraging all students to relocate if they have the option to do so. 

As for meal plans, FGCU said they are continuing to work with food service vendors and will let students know as soon as refund information is available.

Q: Why are daycare facilities still open when 10 or less is set out for people to abide by?

A: The Department of Health has determined that, although school districts have decided to close, child care programs may remain operational at this time, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families. 

Florida is permitting waivers of specific standards in order to continue operations and asking childcare providers to develop plans to stay open, the Hunt Institute stated on its website. 

Florida is following the CDC’s “Supplemental Guide for Child Care” for operations, according to DCF. 

If you are in need of child care, visit the Office of Child Care website at 

Q: Why are daycare facilities still open when 10 or less is set out for people to abide by?

A: The Department of Health has determined that, although school districts have decided to close, child care programs may remain operational at this time, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families. 

Florida is permitting waivers of specific standards in order to continue operations and asking childcare providers to develop plans to stay open, the Hunt Institute stated on its website. 

Florida is following the CDC’s “Supplemental Guide for Child Care” for operations, according to DCF. 

If you are in need of child care, visit the Office of Child Care website at 

CDC’s child care guide:


See Pam's full story of daycare facilities here: 

More: Florida daycares told they can still operate, but many in SWFL are struggling

Q: Will universities in Florida be refunding a portion of the fees paid for housing and meal plans now that students have been sent home?

A: No answer has been announced just yet for what it means for those students who paid for housing or meal plans.

In an email to faculty and staff Thursday evening, FGCU's Chief of Staff Susan Evans asked for patience.

"We know there are questions, and we ask you to be patient as the 12 universities and the Board of Governors work through this. We will provide information as soon as it's available."

This information will be updated in education reporter Pam McCabe's article, too, as soon as we find out:

More: Here's what we know about FGCU, FSW in light of coronavirus changes

Here's how you can get answers:

- Fill out the form below, or click here.

- Like or follow our community Facebook groups and post your questions there:

  • Ft. Myers:
  • For Naples:

- Email reporter Karl Schneider at (Please type "COVID Q&A" in the Subject line)

Keep checking back

We will update this story as questions continue to roll in. So feel free to bookmark the page and come back to see what else we've been able to answer.

Keep the questions coming and we'll answer what we can.

NOTE: I've routinely pestered my fellow Daily News and News-Press colleagues to help me answer your questions. This Q&A blog would not be possible without them. 

Karl Schneider is an environment reporter who would love it if you supported local journalism with a subscription to your local newspaper. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @karlstartswithk, email him at

Jordyn Matez is the features clerk at Naples Daily News as well as the Executive Editor at FGCU's student media organization, Eagle Media. Follow her on Twitter: @jordynmatez, email her at
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