Wesley Chapel Sports Campus Construction Time Lapse PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Pasco County announces the new 98,000 square-foot Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus of Pasco County (WRSCPC) in Wesley Chapel is officially open. The county expects the facility to spark a new era in sports tourism. “Families come to compete, but also look for opportunities to be entertained off the field. We look forward to having them dine in our restaurants, shop at our stores and enjoy our local attractions, further contributing to Pasco’s economy,” said Tourist Development Council Chairman and Pasco County Commission Chairman Mike Moore. The new sports campus is located between two major international airports and minutes from one of Florida’s major thoroughfares, boasting two 35,500 square-foot multi-purpose courts featuring eight drop-down basketball hoops and 16 volleyball nets; a 5,000 square-foot indoor cheer zone with springboard floor; and two full-size, outdoor multi-purpose fields. The county embarked on building the $29 million sports campus with Pasco’s tourist development tax, set on land generously donated by the Porter family. The Porters, one of area’s leading cattle ranchers, established Wiregrass Ranch in 1942. “This venue is unlike anything else in the Tampa Bay sports market,” said Sports Development and Tourism Manager Consuelo Sanchez. Forty-three out of 52 weekends from August, 2020 to August, 2021 are booked with youth amateur sporting events. A full list of available WRSCPC Amenities includes: • 16 Volleyball Courts • 8 Basketball Courts • Competition Cheer Studio • 16 Pickleball Courts • 8 Futsal Courts • 2 Cheer Competition Areas • Lounge Area • Athletic Training Center • Educational Lab • VIP Mezzanine • Concessions Area • Full-Service Kitchen • Meeting Area by Marriott • On-site hotel, Residence Inn ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Latest Videos

Rising Drug Costs In Florida Threaten Independent PharmaciesBRANDON, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - In Tampa Bay, there are close to 100 independent pharmacists that are at risk of shutting down because of lack of drug pricing regulations. Independent pharmacies are worried that this will cause pharmacy deserts and hundreds of millions of dollars in losses in Florida's economy. The Local Dilemma Third generation pharmacist, Basil Noriega is keeping his family’s legacy alive everyday as he heads into work. He operates Bill’s Prescription Center, one of the longest running pharmacies in Tampa Bay, established in 1956. “We were one of the first pharmacies in Brandon. Brandon was just kind of a hole-in-the-wall place at the time,” said Noriega. “One of the things he noticed was that the pharmacy that was in Brandon at the time was a little tiny shack. [My father] kind of found his niche. My great-great-grandfather was also a pharmacist,” said Noriega.  But with the threat of pharmacy benefit manager reimbursements, that legacy could soon be lost.  “It started about 10-15 years ago, we started seeing these pharmacy benefit managers coming in and really affecting the reimbursement rates and increasing the cost of medications per patient. The past five years, it’s gotten so bad where you’re seeing independent pharmacies across the nation closing...everyday,” said Noriega.  Think of PBMs as the middle men. They were created to help negotiate drug prices between “big pharma” and pharmacies. They pool money from contracted pharmacies to amass purchasing power, then negotiate rates and rebates with the pharmaceutical companies. Opponents of PBMs contend a greater incentive exists to favor high-priced drugs over cost-effective counterparts due to drug rebate calculations. The issue here: there are no regulations in place stopping PBM’s from increasing prescription costs. “It all boils down to: people are paying more, the government is paying more - for what? It’s for companies behind the scenes to make money,” said Noriega. “I’m getting one right now." Noriega pauses as he's interrupted by a notification of reimbursement. "So yeah this [prescription] costs us $152 and they’re paying us $60… So.”  Of 123 independent pharmacies surveyed, 98% are full MEDICAID providers. 61% of those pharmacies plan to discontinue MEDICAID if below-cost reimbursements continue. Noriega says, without change, we run the risk of losing these small businesses.  Resolving The Issue With Policy “You’re going to create a monopoly where CVS and Walgreens are going to be the only ones that will be able to give you prescription drugs and then they’ll start to dictate the prices,” said Jackie Toledo, (R) member of Florida House of Representatives.  Representative for District 60, Jackie Toledo proposed House Bill 961 in December 2019 that would crack down on PBMs and subsequently lower healthcare costs. “Nothing happened. Another year goes by where we’re not dealing with this issue. So next year, maybe I’ll start with the smaller piece of it,” said Toledo. But the fight is not over. In fact, representative Toledo is working with advocacy groups like PUTT (Pharmacists United for Truth and Transparency) and SPAR (Small business Pharmacies Aligned for Reform).  “It’s costing all of us money and minimizing our access to these prescription drugs,” said Toledo. “You know, when I got into it I started really getting upset with what’s happening. I’ve read books, I’ve seen data. If we don’t stop this from happening it’s going to continue to have an adverse effect on our healthcare system.”  Both PUTT and SPAR Non-Profits have now developed a statewide coalition of advocates with a goal of preserving patient access and keeping drug costs affordable. CW44 News At 10 will continue to follow this story as it develops.  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Clearwater Business Helps Struggling Small Businesses Affected By COVIDCLEARWATER, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Small businesses are becoming a big focus as the pandemic is causing a tremendous strain on local small businesses. Some new statistics show that many won’t survive. A movement is happening right here in Tampa Bay aimed at helping revive those struggling businesses. The movement is called, Save Our Town. Michael Plummer, Jr., owner of Our Town America, a local marketing company headquartered in Clearwater, Florida aims to continue connecting small local businesses with new Florida residents that might not otherwise have a chance to explore their new neighborhood due to the pandemic. “It’s not like they’re walking around, exploring their community as they used to. I mean, they’re [leaving] their house with a destination in mind, ‘I’m going here, going to do that,” said Plummer. “We have people who have been with us for years, decades, and they’re having to close their doors. It’s a struggle out there for every type of business. Every type of business, someone’s taking a hit,” said Plummer. According to Yelp’s Local Economic Impact Report, as of mid-June, nearly 140,000 businesses closed nationwide since March 1, 2020. Of all business closures, 41% of them were permanent. “PoFolks restaurant, right off 34th. It’s just a great restaurant ran by good people and they’ve taken a heck of a hit. Why? People just aren’t dining out the same way,” Plummer related. And Carriage Cleaners, a dry cleaning service in Seminole that Plummer says lost 80% of their business in the first few weeks. “Great, family-owned people. Super nice and, think about it, people aren’t dressing up, going out as they used to. That’s just one of those industries you wouldn’t naturally think of.” Moved by the toll the pandemic has taken on his peers, Plummer sought to utilize his strengths to help guide new strategy for his clients. Among other finer points, Covid-centric thinking seems to be a key to success, “Let them know you’re clean. Those are other issues that are coming up. People are looking for, ‘are they clean, standing up to regulations, are they doing curb-side now, delivery, pick-up?’.” Plummer also suggests to patrons not wanting to watch their favorite local businesses disappear, “Shop now. Shop early for the holidays. Buy gift cards for local restaurants. While you’re at those restaurants, leave a tip. Consider paying your gym membership. They’ve taken a heck of a hit as well.”  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Florida Bars Reopened Monday: Not Soon Enough For Some Struggling OwnersYBOR CITY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Florida bar owners were able to reopen their businesses Monday after an amendment to the state’s Executive Order was lifted. Bars can reopen at 50% capacity as long as they follow social distancing and Covid-prevention rules.  While most bar owners are relieved at the fact they can now reopen their doors for business, Kevin Lilly, Founder and Owner of Rock Brothers Brewing in Ybor says he still has a few things to get off his chest.  “We were the first to close and the last to open. We have specifically been closed very long.. and lost a lot of money. As a brewery, it’s been a double-edged sword because we also brewed more beer in May anticipating the June opening. What do you think happened to my wholesale beer sales when the bars closed? Nothing. Garbage,” said Lilly. He was forced to dispose of the beer.   Lilly did not “reopen” his bar on Monday, however, as he’s been open for three weeks already. After he and his fellow bar owners in the industry began coping with their losses from closing down, they then began asking questions.  “You know, we didn’t really know what to do, obviously. We all kind of accepted this eight-week closure,” said Lilly. “It got kind of… very off putting because we started to see other people open, other people doing things and then we’re going ‘hey.. what’s going on’.” To legally circumvent the shutdown, he began toying with ideas like food and cigar sales. In May, Lilly says he was given some hope. “So what happened in May is that the state told us that we were going to be able to open in June, that’s what they told us,” said Lilly.  He scratched the food and cigar idea to avoid more cost. “So then I went and spent more money to brew beer to be open in June and then two weeks later when they let us reopen on June 5th, they shut us down again,” he said.  This not only set him back the $30,000 he was paying to stay in business but another $10,000 to $20,000 in new beer he had just brewed. On top of this he had no plan and things became hopeless. Nearly three months later though, state officials sat down with Lilly and his fellow bar business owners at a roundtable to discuss a next step.  “The answer from Beshears was, 'all I can say is get your food license'. That was his answer. I said, ‘well number one, why wasn’t this told to us back in June. I would have done this a long time ago,” said Lilly.  So over the last three weeks, Lilly and others have begun incorporating food into their sales. And the lift on the executive order, allowing bars to reopen came soon after. But Lilly wants to be sure the message is clear that bar reopenings are long overdue.  “I had over 100 shows cancelled that were on the books. Looking ahead, I’m having to do everything I can to just get people in the door, give them a safe, enjoyable time and get my room filled with as much private parties and things I can do locally,” said Lilly “Bars are not the enemy. We [need to make] livings too. We have a right to earn money and there are people out there doing a good job.. and we just want to earn a living.”  His recently built food stand won’t go to waste. Kevin Lilly says he plans to revamp it to create a chefs tasting table for whisky, wine and cheese, renaming that section of the bar, Bar 509 after the Florida Statute 509 food license that allowed him to reopen.  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
9/11: HCSO Employees Share Their Stories As First Responders That DayHILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - There were ceremonies and moments of silence across Tampa Bay Friday as many paid respects, remembering 9/11. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department paid tribute to those who lost their lives on that day and to people in our own community who saved countless others. In a video message, several Hillsborough County employees shared their experiences as first responders who working in New York City and Washington DC on 9/11.  A special thanks to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and those who continue to serve and protect despite everything they've already endured.  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Local Musicians Team Up To Produce A Music Video To Bolster Voting In 2020TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - With the 2020 election less than two months away, it's sure to nothing short of historic. A group of local musicians and artists lended their talents to a locally produced music video to inspire the battleground state of Florida to vote.  “I loved the idea that it was a community project that everybody was volunteering their time, that everybody was from completely different musical backgrounds,” said Ashley Smith, Singer/Vocal Coach. “It was going to be a collaboration of the arts and for something that would better our community.”  They’re using their voices to get you to vote. More than two dozen Tampa Bay artists, some of which have still never met each other in person, are using music to inspire their community to cast their ballots come November.  “I’ve participated in voter registration drives in past elections, but this was not the year to go door to door. So I came up with the idea, we could create a music video with an original song,” said Michelle Passoff, Executive Producer. “And I’m not a singer or songwriter so I got on Google and I started “googling” and assembled a diverse group of people aged 16 to 77.”  Little did she know, Passoff was recruiting the perfect team back in march for the project.  “It was easier than I thought it would be. People said yes because they shared the purpose and the goal which is to get out the vote,” said Passoff.  It was that first zoom call that would show it. “I see like 20 people and everybody was talking about voting and so I was like I’m the perfect person for this because I don’t vote,” said Music Producer, Nawlage. “It’s that we get tied up in so many things in life. Like you go to the bank to open up a bank account, it takes you three hours. That’s what we’re accustomed to. They’re going to ask too many questions. You start getting scared. It’s just fear, I think it’s just fear.”  After speaking with his new team, Nawlage took a chance.  “I actually went on the website afterwards and I registered,” he said. After knowing her from past studio sessions, he got in touch with the perfect voice for the song. “And I knew through music, it was going to be the most beneficial, the loudest way to get my voice out there,” said Smith. He had already been manifesting a way to get involved with 2020 voting process in her own style. “We had a meeting of the minds and discussed, like ‘what can we do?’. And we came back to voting. And not just voting for your president but voting on a community level for people who can be your voice; to represent your state or your community within the country and I think that it starts there,” she said.  From videographers to singers and a legal team, there were over a couple dozen people involved in the making and all were volunteers for the project. Nawlage tells CW44 News At 10 that he plans to meet Passoff for the first time in person on Thursday. You can view the full music video here. 
California Doctor Takes Interest In Helping Florida Fight With COVIDTAMPA BAY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - A doctor in California has taken a strong interest in COVID-19 testing in Florida, among other states. He and his team are developing an at-home antibody rapid test and believes testing should increase, regardless of what politicians say.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is facing growing criticism for changing its guidance recently on who should get tested for COVID-19. The revised recommendations suggest many individuals who have been exposed to the coronavirus but are not showing symptoms may not need to be tested. Based in California and with more than 25 years practicing medicine, Dr. Michael Harbour has been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19. The frequent interaction between Silicon Valley corporations and China facilitated Dr. Harbour's first interactions with the virus. He and his team worked diligently with testing and to help contain the virus in that region. Due to his extensive experience, he noticed parallels between his area and some of the harder-hit states such such as Florida. Dr. Harbour relates, “Apple, Facebook and Intel, all headquartered here. They’re going to China for manufacturing and we had a lot of the cases right here, right at my hospital.” He and other medical experts are weighing in on rapid testing, saying there’s a need now more than ever to control the virus. It’s taking anywhere between three to five, up to fourteen days [to receive test results]. You could have infected others [in that time]!”  As Florida became a major hot spot for the pandemic, he and other experts say testing nose-dived in the state, causing concern. “The CDC making a recommendation that we don’t need to be doing this much testing now after somebody comes down with COVID. And what we’ve seen now, this is coming from the highest levels of the administration.”  Dr. Harbour has taken an interest in states like Florida which saw a need for rapid testing, so his team is in the middle of developing one. He states, “You don’t need the full virus to do the test. We’re looking for a particle that’s only found on that virus. You can get a rapid result within 10-15 minutes and you don’t have to send the specimen back to the lab for processing.”  The rapid antigen test will be done inside the doctor’s office and will have the ability to be done almost anywhere. Dr. Harbour says the rapid test “can be done at a school, it can be done in southern Florida before somebody gets on a cruise ship, before somebody gets on a plane.” He expects tens of thousands of kits to be available near the end of September of 2020 and says it could be a game-changer for the nation's COVID-19 pandemic problem. Considering his extensive experience with the virus, Dr. Harbour says he’s checking off every detail. “It’s important to have good U.S. manufacturers making these tests because that’s where a lot of the problems came on early. The United States was importing really poor quality tests from outside the United States, people were getting false positives. I know, because I’ve had people in my family get a false positive test.”  Having been directly impacted by the virus himself, Harbour says, “In my own family, I’ve had two people die of COVID, and one of my cousin's battling for her life.” He says support from the community and is vital in medical developments necessary to fight the virus. “Really listen to their doctors, listen to the medical community. Don’t listen to politicians about how to take care of yourself. They’re not the ones that you would go to for any other medical issue.”  Dr. Harbour says he’s also working with his team to develop an at-home antibody test. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Hillsborough School Board Discusses Child Trauma/Mental Health IssuesHILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - The Hillsborough County School Board met on Tuesday to discuss multiple topics including student trauma and mental health issues and possibly focusing tax dollars toward these issues. In a board workshop Tuesday morning Hillsborough County School Board members discussed the district’s needs regarding new policy proposals and current policies present in their schools. “Anytime that we feel that there’s a necessity, it will be very carefully thought out,” said Addison Davis, Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent. “You know, the importance of volunteers in our school has always been part of the infrastructure. I don’t know what I would do without volunteers to help with reading, with math. The biggest complaint our principals have is all the barriers of getting volunteers to be in the schools,” said Lynn Gray, Hillsborough County School Board The board discussed what they thought would be necessary over the next five years from funding materials needed for classrooms and volunteers needed in schools. “These are items we may need to use whether we're buying a couple of LCD projectors for a particular school, art supplies or a line of investigation science supplies,” said Superintendent Davis. “When we involve the expenditure of funds, which again, public funds are definitely our tax payers, I definitely like the fact that… no greater than fifty thousand. If we don’t start limiting the amount and checking it, we can get lost in a lot of money spent,” said board member Lynn Gray. The board also began the conversation around a policy geared toward students dealing with trauma and mental health issues. “We have to get to a place where we’re not putting children in marked or unmarked cars and taking them away to facilities and that does happen,” said board member, Cindy Stuart. Stuart spearheaded that conversation by introducing her teams ideas on developing a mobile crisis team for those students. “A lot of what happens is kids get pulled into an office, they say something that they may or may not intend to do. Law enforcement then reexamines the child, moves the child to a crisis center type situation. The child is then released to either a parent or guardian. So the whole process is traumatizing for a kid and the child is not getting the resource they need to move forward.” She says she’s seen a disparity in the number of kids that are getting transported to facilities versus the actual number of cases that move forward. “We do have the highest number of Baker Acts in the state and that’s unfortunate. I don’t care how you slice the numbers,” said Stuart. The University of South Florida Baker Act Reporting Center provides numbers to the public from 2015 to 2018 which can be found here. Shifting topics, the board also brought forward the potential for policies regarding the requirement of face coverings across the district. “I thought that, in case we ever had this issue again, God forbid, that we would have something in place,” said board member Karen Perez. They, however  scratched the idea due to it already existing in the emergency order. “In the same spirit, if this is already redundant language, then I’m not sure why we’re bringing it forward. We don’t need to be spending additional dollars to sit here and discuss and advertise and bring it back for a second hearing if this I already covered,” said Stuart. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Tampa Students Surprised With Virtual Guest Speaker, Jill BidenWESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Former Second Lady of the United States of America, Jill Biden made an appearance in Tampa Wednesday. She spoke virtually with students at Pasco Hernando State College, covering topics ranging from the pandemic to social unrest across the country.  Every so often, Dr. Davina Jones, Professor of Speech Communication at Pasco-Hernando State College invites a guest speaker for students into her [now virtual] public speaking course at Pasco-Hernando State College in Wesley Chapel. This week’s guest speaker: former Second Lady of the U.S., Dr. Jill Biden.  Students had no idea who the guest speaker would be, but soon learned that Dr. Biden was there to hear current students’ concerns and better understand what their community needs were.  Dr. Jones asked, “We’re going through all of this, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, we’re in the middle of social unrest, still debating how we treat each other, [do] Black lives matter? Are Black lives equal? We also have an election. How do we feel motivated about voting.” Dr. Biden replied, “My message is simple. You’re - all the students on the screen, you’re future depends on it. Community college students are some of the hardest working people around. It’s not always easy, but you show up when it counts, and I know that many of you are worried about your education and your safety. Or worried about your loved ones who may be out of a job, or how many of your parents or relatives are risking their health, working on the frontlines?”  While speaking to students virtually, she also used the platform to campaign for her husband, Democratic Presidential Candidate, Joe Biden.  “We’ve never seen the stakes in such tangible terms before. We’re living with the consequences of the 2016 election every single day,” said Dr. Biden “And then I’m going to take these conversation back to our campaign so that we are ready on day one to turn this around.”  Dr. Jill Biden went on to talk more about the pandemic and possibilities that could come as a result of her husband’s victory in the 2020 general election.  A former community college professor herself, Tampa was just one virtual stop during her two week tour of different cities and their classes.  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Pasco Cty. Teacher: 'These Kids Are Unnecessarily Struggling To Get Through The Day'PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - It's been one week since students and staff at Pasco County Schools have been back in their classrooms or learning from home.  “We made it through a week of face-to-face without closing down a school. Thank you for your work,” said Don Peace, President of USEP (United Schools Employees of Pasco) when he stood to speak at the Pasco County School Board Meeting Tuesday. “Dismissal, blended class sizes, classroom cleaning and bus safety are all concerns that we’ve been able to work towards resolving,” said Peace.  During Tuesday’s meeting, education officials recapped the first week by speaking with the superintendent's staff about what they saw. “While not perfect, we are very lucky that we did not experience some of the hiccups of our peer districts,” said Vanessa Hilton, Chief Academic Officer, Pasco County Schools.  “We had a great first week of school. I talked to a number of principals and they had indicated to me that it was one of the best school openings that’s they’ve had. I also want to thank the parents for their patience and flexibility,” said Kurt Browning, Superintendent, Pasco County Schools.  “I think they had so much anticipation, so there was really some great relief as they saw the laughter in students’ eyes and heard some voices out on campus and saw the smiles and deep breaths and relief of staff,” added Marcy Hetzler-Nettles, Asst. Superintendent for Middle Schools, Pasco County Schools.  But one Pasco County teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells me he didn’t have the same experience. He submitted a statement reading quote: “The kids have already gotten extremely lax with their masks, taking them off throughout the day. 90% of my day is asking kids on Zoom [meetings] to turn their camera on, kids in class to keep distance or to keep their distance from each other. It's exhausting and its unnecessary! These kids are unnecessarily struggling to get through the day… and we ARE becoming mask police. You're going to see a lot of highly educated and passionate teachers wall if things stay this way.”  The board then detailed safety measures the district put in place prior to reopening as they continue to work in partnership with the county health department - dealing with getting any questions answered. But that partnership has since grown. Superintendent Browning announced Tuesday that three new testing sites are now being established, specifically for students and staff.  “That will quickly allow us to keep our employees at work and keep our kids in school,” said Browning. He says his he expects them to be open sometime next week. “If someone is symptomatic and directed there by our school nurses, then they would drive through, be tested and the county health department would pick those tests up, get them to the state lab and hopefully have results the next day.”  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Recaps First Day Back To Brick And MortarHILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - If you chose the brick and mortar learning option for your child, you may have found yourself waking up to a different routine this morning. Monday, Hillsborough County students headed back into the classroom. We followed the superintendent and his team to some of those locations to give you the inside scoop on the students' first day back.  “Grins from ear to ear when you see kids transition to hallways. Teachers, support staff, leaders, everyone is excited to do what we do best, which is educate children,” said Superintendent Addison Davis, Hillsborough County schools.  “You know, first day coming on, being able to open up schools, doing it in a way that is graceful, but also more importantly that it’s safe,” said Davis. “They’re ready for social interaction. They’re ready to make that connectivity with learning again.”   Superintendent Davis welcomed students back to their first day during his tour of six different Hillsborough County schools.  “Excited to walk Sickles High School, ready to do that right now and just continue to see that great passion, that energy and that focus,” said Davis.  The Hillsborough County School Board gave students an extra week before heading back due to their knowledge of the spread of COVID-19. Now, Superintendent Davis says the district has specific protocols in place if that spread were to impact their campuses.  “If anyone’s positive, first and foremost, we want them to contact their Covid leader at every one of our schools and then that individual will contact the Covid leader within our school district, the Covid Commander, and then we immediately start to engage the Department of Health. And in that we start to contact trace to identify who’s had direct or indirect contact,” said Davis.  Students and staff are expected to quarantine to reduce the possible spread if tested positive for the virus.  “Anybody that’s tested positive, they’ll have to self-isolate for 10 days. Anybody that transitions, that has had that direct close contact, they’ll have to quarantine for 14 days,” said Davis.  It’s a risk district officials say they’ve researched for months now and they’re willing to take.  “We know that Covid’s already out. It’s with us until we find a vaccine. The biggest thing we can do is put proactive strategies to mitigate the spread within every one of our institutions,” said Davis.  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The $29M Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus Is Now OpenWesley Chapel Sports Campus Construction Time Lapse PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Pasco County announces the new 98,000 square-foot Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus of Pasco County (WRSCPC) in Wesley Chapel is officially open. The county expects the facility to spark a new era in sports tourism. “Families come to compete, but also look for opportunities to be entertained off the field. We look forward to having them dine in our restaurants, shop at our stores and enjoy our local attractions, further contributing to Pasco’s economy,” said Tourist Development Council Chairman and Pasco County Commission Chairman Mike Moore. The new sports campus is located between two major international airports and minutes from one of Florida’s major thoroughfares, boasting two 35,500 square-foot multi-purpose courts featuring eight drop-down basketball hoops and 16 volleyball nets; a 5,000 square-foot indoor cheer zone with springboard floor; and two full-size, outdoor multi-purpose fields. The county embarked on building the $29 million sports campus with Pasco’s tourist development tax, set on land generously donated by the Porter family. The Porters, one of area’s leading cattle ranchers, established Wiregrass Ranch in 1942. “This venue is unlike anything else in the Tampa Bay sports market,” said Sports Development and Tourism Manager Consuelo Sanchez. Forty-three out of 52 weekends from August, 2020 to August, 2021 are booked with youth amateur sporting events. A full list of available WRSCPC Amenities includes: • 16 Volleyball Courts • 8 Basketball Courts • Competition Cheer Studio • 16 Pickleball Courts • 8 Futsal Courts • 2 Cheer Competition Areas • Lounge Area • Athletic Training Center • Educational Lab • VIP Mezzanine • Concessions Area • Full-Service Kitchen • Meeting Area by Marriott • On-site hotel, Residence Inn ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Wrongfully Convicted Man Walks Free After 37 Years In PrisonTAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – Wednesday, CW44 News At 10 reported Hardee Correctional Facility inmate, 55-year-old Robert DuBoise was wrongfully convicted of murder back in 1983, according to Hillsborough County officials. After a motion was filed Wednesday morning, DuBoise was released from prison Thursday afternoon, after serving nearly 37 years behind bars. “For the practical purpose of getting him out of prison today, which is the courts intent, I’m going to grant the motion and modify the sentence,” said Judge Christopher Nash, 13th Judicial Circuit Court. 55-year-old Robert DuBoise, who was serving a life sentence after being wrongfully accused of the murder of Barbara Grams back in 1983, was officially released from prison Thursday. “I have no bitterness in my heart. If you keep bitterness in your heart, it just steals your joy from everything else,” said Robert DuBoise After an 11-month long investigation into the 1983 murder, the conviction review unit and the innocence project were able to prove DuBoise’s innocence through newly discovered DNA evidence. “I’m not the only one. They’re project needs support to continue what they’re doing,” said Robert DuBoise. After the judge granted Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren’s motion to release DuBoise from prison, he walked out a free man just hours later. “I said it’s a beautiful day. I thank God for it, it’s a beautiful day,” said DuBoise. Susan Friedman, who has worked closely with DuBoise and his family, says her team has prepared resources for him to get back on his feet. Something he says he looks forward to taking on. “Never used an iPhone, never used a computer, never been to a Walmart, never been to a Home Depot. So it’s a big change, I know. I haven’t… I’m sure it hasn’t set in completely yet,” said DuBoise. “This 37 year old nightmare is over! And I am happy for all of my family, that we finally get some closure,” said Harriett DuBoise, Robert DuBoise’s sister. And now that Robert DuBoise has been released, her team plans to clear his name for good. “What happened in this case should be a model for the rest of the country,” said Susan Friedman.  Susan Friedman declared, “He was only 18 years old and charged with a capital crime and went to death row shortly afterwards. Today is just the beginning for him and we look forward to seeing him fully exonerated. Thank you.” According to the Florida Statutes, DuBoise could be entitled to monetary compensation for wrongful incarceration. The next hearing is scheduled for September 14th where the judge will consider the evidence and could vacate and exonerate DuBoise’s sentence altogether. Check back with CW44 News for this developing story. Timeline of Conviction Review Unit Case of Barbara Grams Murder ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
News_8.26.20_AlvarezNews_8.26.20_Alvarez
Wrongfully Convicted Of Murder, Florida Man Spends 37 Years Behind BarsTAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – Today, Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren filed a motion to free a man wrongfully convicted of a 1983 murder and attempted rape in Tampa. An 11-month investigation by the Conviction Review Unit of the State Attorney’s Office, in collaboration with the Innocence Project, has determined Robert DuBoise did not commit the crimes for which he was convicted. The motion for DuBoise’s release after nearly 37 years behind bars is based on newly discovered DNA evidence, once thought to be lost. “Wrongful convictions erode the foundation of our justice system. For 37 years, we’ve had an innocent man locked up in prison—while the real perpetrator was never held accountable for this heinous crime,” State Attorney Warren said. “The family of the victim, Barbara Grams, deserves to have the truth, and this new evidence helps reveal that truth to all of us.” In September 2019, the Innocence Project submitted a petition to the Conviction Review Unit, or CRU, on behalf of DuBoise, a 55-year-old man incarcerated at Hardee Correctional Institution. The CRU works to identify, investigate, and remedy wrongful convictions from the past. State Attorney Warren established the unit in November 2018, creating one of the first conviction review units in a Florida prosecutor’s office. Robert DuBoise, man wrongfully convicted of murder and attempted rape of Barbara Grams (Tampa, FL) in 1983. Photo Credit: Hillsborough State Attorney's Office Forensic DNA testing was not advanced enough in 1983 for use in prosecution, so rape kit samples recovered from the victim were collected and stored away. Evidence stored from DuBoise’s trial was presumed to have been destroyed in 1990, making new DNA testing seemingly impossible. However, in August 2020, in the course of her thorough review of the case, CRU Supervising Attorney Teresa Hall was able to locate rape kit samples that were not used during the trial, still intact, at the Hillsborough Medical Examiner’s Office. The samples were retrieved, and the CRU and Innocence Project promptly sent them for DNA testing. The results showed that DuBoise's DNA was not present in the samples. The results identified DNA from two other men—one classified as a “major contributor,” and one classified as a “minor contributor.” One of the men, the major contributor of DNA, has been identified and is a person of interest in an ongoing investigation. While the State Attorney’s Office cannot share the details at this time of this new and ongoing investigation, we have determined that the person of interest poses no threat to public safety in our community. The evidence used to originally convict DuBoise at his trial was very limited and highly unreliable. The only physical evidence placing him at the scene was a supposed bitemark on the victim’s face that an expert claimed matched DuBoise. The scientific community now considers bitemark evidence unreliable in identifying perpetrators in criminal cases such as this, and a current expert has determined the injury was not, in fact, a bitemark at all.
Videoblocks Dog. Not authorized for use outside of CBS Television Properties.Hand held soft focus shot of beautiful brown small dog giving high five with paw to young girl with hipster tattoo, performs tricks in exchange for healthy meat snack for pets. Contributor: DeRepente
Pinellas County School Board Reviews Efforts In First Day Back To SchoolPINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Just one day after Pinellas County Schools reopened for students, district officials weighed in on what they saw during Tuesday’s school board meeting. “As you know, yesterday was the first day of school and we were able to take a few shots of the students beginning the 2020, 2021 school year,” said a board member at Tuesday’s Pinellas County School Board meeting. Let me start out by saying how proud I am of our entire staff, we had a very successful day,” said Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego. Board members discussed numbers gathered from day one of online learning. “Our attendance rate yesterday online was about 93/94 percent. We’ll continue to work with that attendance rate as parents are settling in,” said Dr. Grego. The board also discussed glitches that occurred just before classes began Monday morning. “Fewer than .1 percent of the courses and students were not rostered correctly so we had over 600 thousand sections if you could’ve believed that and we had fewer than 500 glitches,” said Dr. Grego. Superintendent Dr. Grego says some issues happened because the districts virtual platform officials were supposed to widen the bandwidth to ensure a connection for students. “But there is, I’m just being honest with you, we are having a slow go of it and so are other districts so, we’re try to work through that. I think state-wide there’s a much larger demand on Florida Virtual than past years,” said Dr. Grego. Some parents say they are pleased with the first day of school for their children, “As a husband and as a father, I have five children. Three are currently in the school system and I’m just here humbly just to say thanks for at least opening schools, thanks for giving us an opportunity to get back to education,” said one father who has three children in Pinellas County schools. Other people close to the matter aren't giving such glowing reviews. “We’re not ready yet,” said Nancy Velardi, President of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association. “The opening was not a success. Students were too close together for most of the day. Even though Pinellas County is no longer in a crisis, this does not mean that we are ready to open buildings full of people without possibly setting off a resurgence of new cases.” And one board member suggested a backup plan in the case of a district-wide shut down. “I think we need advisement from the medical team on a threshold for what we should expect including metrics to close this district if the community spread increases,” said Dr. Nicole Carr, a Pinellas County School Board Member. Superintendent Grego says buses had up to 44 students on board Monday morning. This averages two students a seat per bus while, he says, some had one student per seat. After receiving calls from parents requesting to transition their student to brick and mortar, he says those decisions will come at a later date.  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Disinfectant Company Embrace Technology As Students Return To SchoolTAMPA BAY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Today was the first day of school for Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas Counties. As these schools are reopening one Tampa Bay company says it's working to keep students returning to the classroom safe with new technology. CW44's Andrea Alvarez spoke with disinfectant expert, Jeff DeVengencie of Enviro-Master Services to discuss the Virus Vaporizer™ device that resembles something from a Disney Movie. Imagine a device that could spray disinfectant onto something; and that spray wraps around the item like a web, killing germs. It's making its way to classrooms and daycares all across Tampa Bay, Florida and now the rest of the country. Enviro-Master provides the disinfectant service which can be purchased for a company, school or the like similar to a lawn care or cleaning service. According to the company, the electrostatic spraying service uses and EPA registered, hospital-grade disinfectant and germicide to kill some of the most dangerous disease-causing pathogens. They claim the product is food safe, non-toxic, and can be applied to all surfaces—even food preparation areas. The unique process uses oxygen to kill bacteria and viruses’ so germs cannot build a resistance to the product. DeVengencie explains, "With the products passing through the gun, it puts an electrostatic charge to the product. And that's a positive charge in the product. You can't get that out of your aerosol can of Lysol. It'll wrap around like say, a desk chair, the desk feet, it goes all around, up and around everything and touches everything and disinfects all the total surface rather than just the top of the surface." The idea for this new technology started in Tampa Bay, but DeVengencie says it was developed long before the pandemic. "We started using it as test in 2016. Now with the pandemic that's going on, it's a great, great tool for us to do what we do." And as schools reopen across the state, "on average, students come in contact with over 150,000 germs at school every day. And when you add COVID-19 to the situation, it just brings it to a higher level of what they need to get done." Enviro-Master have made it their goal to help protect students. "The preschools in the daycares have been able to take advantage of what we've been doing and in there it's proven that their coronavirus outbreaks have been low." Microbiologist at the University of Arizona Dr. Charles Gerba conducted a study in UA classrooms with a virus vaporizer device. He found reduced levels of bacteria by 99.2% on surfaces in the room. Five days later, the number was still down at 79.2%. DeVengencie says "It's actually taken us to the whole a whole new level and awareness of what we do. And now with the pandemic, it just makes it aware for everybody to be able to take advantage of what we do." While experts are pushing to get new technology like this into more Tampa Bay school districts, DeVengencie exclaims, "The public school markets, it's a tough nut to crack. Even for our business to get into they have their own protocols." He says the disinfecting doesn't stop here. "We need to help our community be safe in our communities and feel safe to send their kids back to school." ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Shipping Expert Warns USPS Peak Surcharges This Holiday SeasonTAMPA BAY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Shipping industry experts are warning buyers and sellers to begin planning now for peak season shipments as shipping industry is facing new challenges in 2020 due to the pandemic. Experts say they expect major delays due to rate hikes and transportation predictions. CW44's Andrea Alvarez spoke with A.J. Hernandez, the President and CEO of Skypostal Inc., based in Miami, Florida about what is facilitating such a sudden change in the industry. "Everyone's shopping from home. These volumes are here to stay and the infrastructures are not there to manage them." July was a tough month for the shipping industry. International rates were raised confusing a marketplace that experts say was already struggling after the pandemic caused us shut down on international delivery. Hernandez explains, "What happened is the United States went to the governing body called the UPU and they said to the Universal Postal Union, 'You are no longer going to dictate. Either you allow us to set our own rates or we're leaving the UPU.' The argument was that it was cheaper to actually send something from China to the United States than it was from the east side of New York to the west side of the New York." The UPU accepted the United States Postal Service's demands, ultimately causing shipping rates to spike. "There's a 50% rate increase on average for all international services. Not only was there a rate increase, but there are also some services eliminated." Freight forwarders, like USPS, stopped delivery services across more than 100 international markets, sending thousands of businesses that depended on them scrambling to find ways to get shipments to their markets.' "I was shocked, merchants that I spoke to in the last week of June, who did not know about the rate increase. We're talking about big, big merchants of sending thousands of shipments a day overseas," The good news, it creates opportunities for businesses like, Skypostal, Inc., who deal outside of the postal networks. The timing of the hike, Hernandez says, was everything but ideal for the industry as a whole. "Because of COVID-19, we're having Christmas volumes now, so I can only imagine what's going to happen during the peak season." Eventually, the shipping rate hike trickles down to the consumers, which leaves Hernandez with one big piece of advice all around. "My advice to, to the buyers and the sellers is plan. Whether they're sending internationally or domestically, I think they need to add time because there are going to be delays." And those delays are result of transportation shortages across the board. "We're trying to plan and mitigate the risks of the lack of transport. And I think that this is going to be an industry wide challenge. And I'm talking about from planes to trucks to ocean, everything is going to be overburdened." Hernandez added that this year will be different for shipments during the peak season. While you may be familiar with FedEx and UPS raising shipment rates, he says the USPS will be implementing peak surcharges for the first time ever this holiday season, which typically begins in October. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Sheriff Grady Judd: "She Stopped Him Permanently"Sheriff Grady Judd: "She Stopped Him Permanently"
News_8.21.20_AlvarezShipping Rate Hike
Florida Woman Claims 5 Friends Tested Positive For COVID-19, Didn't Take TestPINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - The Pinellas County Board of Commissioners extended the Local State of Emergency Thursday morning through August 28, 2020 - after carefully weighing public opinion and listening to the latest medical advice from local physicians.  “Our numbers are looking good. We’re down below 5 percent. We’ve consistently been there for a seven day average, however, we know that continuing these efforts keeps us safer,” said Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton.  “We’ve gotten an awful lot of calls and emails today about removing the mandate. Personally, I think we have to wait and see what happens when the schools open,” said Pat Gerard, Pinellas County Commission Chair.  The extension keeps the county ordinance in force requiring citizens to wear face coverings and social distance in public places. Board members agreed that with schools reopening and flu season approaching, there should be no changes to the ordinance just yet.  “If the coronavirus acts like any other respiratory virus, we will see another spike when the weather is cool, when people are gathered more indoors potentially,” said Dr. Ulyee Choe “Most experts believe that we’re far from over, whether it’s her immunity, whether it’s a vaccine development from the CDC to the NIH, the World Health Organization.”  Commissioner Long points to what others are doing as examples to follow. “Look, all you have to do is look around the world and see, what were the measures that were put in place by the various where they have effectively been able to manage the spread,” said Commissioner Janet Long. She also mentioned ideas for schools just days before Pinellas County Schools are set to reopen. “There are examples of schools all over this country of schools that have started and within 8 days had to shut down, send everybody home. I think being cautious is prudent and I do agree that getting through a couple of incubation periods before we even think about it is very, very wise,” said Long.  Commissioners then addressed a caller's concern about testing sites. “I had five friends go, sign up, wait in line for an hour in the heat, didn’t get in to be tested but all got calls two days later that they tested positive. They were never tested! Five people I know personally. How many other people were there that we do not know about? So I’m really begging you guys to consider this,” said P. Kelly, a resident and caller during that meeting.  Commissioners say they plan to look into the issue immediately. “And I would ask, Barry, if you or Dr. Choe, your team can look at this. I think we need to get answers for that because that keeps popping up and it really undermines faith in the system. If the board agrees, I think staff needs to track that down and get some answers,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch.  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Hillsborough County Primary Election: 68% Voted By MailHILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - The 2020 primary elections recently wrapped up across Florida and Craig Latimer, Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections breaks down the voter turnout. Voters didn't seem to turn away, rather voted a little differently. “These are people, like the school board is a taxing authority; these are people that affect your pocketbook a lot,” said Latimer. “The county commissioners that you’re moving forward, they’re the ones that you need to fix potholes in your street and make sure your garbage gets [picked up], and as a matter of fact, in this primary election we had yesterday the Constitutional Office of the Clerk of the Court was decided at the primary election.” Which Cindy Stuart took 53 percent of the vote over former Hillsborough Commissioner Kevin Beckner.  When asked if the pandemic had an observable impact on vote-by-mail numbers, Latimer responded, “We did. We had a lot more vote by mail turnout. Ironically, we had 80 percent of our voters voted prior to election day, so that was between vote by mail and early vote.”  Of those who voted in Hillsborough County, Latimer says 68% voted by mail, 12% participated in early voting, and 20% voted at the polls on Election Day. That’s only 32% of in-person voters. And you guessed it, COVID-19 played a major role.  “You know, we saw this kind of changing leading up to the presidential preference primary back in March. The Coronavirus was really starting to highlight the news and we were really starting to feel the impact, locally. Normally 1/3 of our voters vote by mail and for the first time, over 50% voted by mail and we had a low in-person turnout,” said Latimer.  Despite the pandemic, though, many counties had to figure out how to make voting safe to begin with.  “We have put a lot of practices in to place, following the CDC guidelines,” said Latimer.  And based on feedback at Hillsborough County polls, it worked.  “We’ve got a lot of compliments from people that have come for in-person voting that have thanked us for providing a safe and healthy environment,” said Latimer. “I can tell you that I’m so pleased with my staff and the planning that they did.”  He says methods from this week are being considered for the November General Election.  “It’ll be a much bigger turnout but I can tell you that the practices that my staff has put in place have been very successful and very effective and efficient and we’re going to continue right down that road,” said Latimer.  In accordance with the Florida statute, the unofficial results will be certified Thursday after provisional ballots have been canvassed followed by the certification of official results and a post-election audit on August 25th.  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Hours From Florida Schools Reopening, Some Teachers Remain AnxiousPASCO COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Pasco County teachers went back to their classrooms today. Teachers who were selected to teach students on campus are getting ready for them to arrive next week. CW44's Andrea Alvarez spoke with a Pasco County teacher who says he's anxious but maybe not in the good sense. “This is the start of my fifth year, so I’ve been with Pasco County for four years,” said Jeremy Blythe, a teacher Pasco County Schools who started his career in the hospitality industry putting his culinary skills to use before becoming a Pasco County Schools Instructor. “I went from complacent at the hotel I was working at in Orlando to putting up my notice and transferring to a school in Wesley Chapel.” said Blythe “It’s really been, probably some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done in my life.”  But with COVID-19 putting a halt to his passion, he’s nervous about what happens next.  “I know I can speak on behalf of a lot of teachers; we’re just feeling very anxious. I’m feeling very nervous. I have several high markers so I’m already at an elevated risk,” said Blythe.  Over the summer, the district gave parents the options to send their child to traditional in-classroom learning, use e-learning, or to go virtual. “The biggest challenge that we’ve had is to match up students who want to be on campus versus those who want to be online and teachers who want to be on campus versus those who want to be online. And we’ve been working really hard to make that happen,” said Stephen Hegarty, Pasco County Schools Public Info Officer.  Blythe and other Pasco County teachers began a Facebook group asking that in-person classes don’t begin until positive cases decrease. “We started the group and it just.. it exploded,” said Blythe. “We’re pushing for a safe return to schools. Not that we don’t want to go back to work, not that we don’t want to be with our kids, but we need to do it when it’s safe.” But Blythe says his main concern now is lack of direction. “We just feel like there has been somewhat of a lack of communication in the sense that there aren’t details. We still don’t know exactly what’s expected of us.”  However, district officials say that’s what this week is for: “Encouraging teachers to spend some time looking over the plan. You need to know exactly what your responsibility is and you need to know what you need to convey to students about what their responsibility is,” said Hegarty.  And because parent response numbers are still shifting, teacher placement could too. “About 65 to 66 percent of parents planned on sending their kids back. Since then, the numbers were down to about 63 percent and that’s been the trend,” said Hegarty.  Blythe says, the bottom line is that some teachers are left with making difficult decisions. “You have a lot of tenure teachers who have been around for 20 – 25 – 30 years in this district, they’ve put their life into it and all of a sudden they’re looking at a situation where, ‘do I retire early because of this? What do I do?’ I think we’re all still faced with a lot of decisions that are… next to impossible,” said Blythe.  RELATED ARTICLE: Florida Teacher With Medical Condition Says District Denied Request To Teach Virtually Pasco County officials are urging parents to update contact info immediately so that you’ll know when a positive COVID-19 case is detected. Parents, you have until Thursday to make any student placement changes. Then, after one week of school, officials will open that option back up.  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Recently Upgraded Fire Safety Equipment Can Protect Against COVID-19HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Hillsborough County Fire Rescue rolls out millions of dollars of new equipment this week in a continual effort to improve firefighter safety. CW44's Price McKeon shows the new items and explains how they could help these first responders when it comes to protecting themselves - even against COVID-19. Pointing to air tanks beside him, "This is the breathing air that a firefighter will bring into a hospital environment and inside the fire where there's smoke and heated gases," said Hillsborough County Fire Chief Dennis Jones. He also shows us the new face pieces that firefighters also wear into a fire. "When you speak with the face piece on before, it was really muffled. These [new face pieces] make the voices crystal clear." Jones elaborates why the county bought the more than 1,000 new facemasks and more than 400 new air packs. "In Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, our previous air packs were becoming obsolete. New codes came out, new standards. And so, we were in the market for new air packs. When we change out air packs, we do a complete change." The cost, about $4 million according to the county. Both, facemasks and air packs will be distributed across the department's 44 fire stations. "The speaking diaphragm is much more advanced, and it's almost as if you're standing next to them," says Jones. That's not all the county says makes these masks safer and more effective. There's also a display inside the masks to show them how much air is left in their air bottles. The outside of the mask doesn't have exterior attachments, which lowers the chance of the mask catching on something while moving in the dark. There's also a specialty filter that can attach to the masks, so if there's a shortage of N95 masks, firefighters can add that filter and it can be used to help protect the firefighters from COVID-19. "Every firefighter gets their own personal facepiece and then every seat on the apparatus has an air pack." Face pieces and air packs are not the only purchases that the department's made recently to improve safety. Earlier this year Hillsborough finished buying all-new bunker gear that is measured and tailored for each firefighter. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Search Video