COVID-19: Local updates and info

Published on: March 25, 2020


For more than 60 years The Observer News has been known as the “good news” community newspaper. During this time of uncertainty, we will continue providing stories about interesting people and businesses in the South Shore area. We will do our best to keep the community up-to-date on COVID-19; however, this information is subject to change hourly.

We would also like to hear your stories about acts of kindness around the neighborhood, or what you’re doing to occupy your children while they’re out of school. Send us a quick note and/or a photo. Email to

We’re all in this together!

Local senior shopping hours

Grocery store chains are stepping up and setting aside earlier hours for the people most vulnerable to the coronavirus — the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. Look for a full article next week on age parameters and updated hours.

Below is a list of local retail chain stores and their hours (as of press time) dedicated to serving seniors and the vulnerable:

  • Big Lots: Daily, first hour of business
  • Costco: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 to 10 a.m.
  • Dollar General: Daily, first hour of business
  • Publix: Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 7 to 8 a.m.
  • Walmart: Tuesdays, first hour of business
  • Winn Dixie: Monday through Friday from 8 to 9 a.m.
  • Target: Wednesdays from 8 to 9 a.m.

How can you help??

Fear of the spreading coronavirus has led to a global run on sales of face masks. This is very true in our own backyard. Hospitals, assisted living facilities, first responders, those providing food and supplies to the homeless, and the list goes on.

Debbie Caneen, director of admissions at Sun Towers Retirement Community in Sun City Center (813-634-3347 or, said they have 400 employees who need masks, but cannot locate them anywhere. Even automotive supply stores are out of stock.

Groups across the nation have started sewing and crafting protective masks, gowns and other essential items to donate, and JoAnn Stores is stepping up to help as many of these generous makers and health care facilities as possible.

Beginning this week, while adhering to social distancing guidelines, JoAnn Stores will open its classrooms to anyone who wants to help make these essential items.

Listed here are some members of the South Shore community that are making masks. Their contact information is included, along with their needs in order to continue production.

Whether it’s a donation, spreading the word or gathering a few friends (10 or less, of course) and making a few masks, contact them to find out how you can offer assistance.

  • Janice Bayruns, owner of FirstLight HomeCare, 813-677-2047 or Janice has a “no sewing” mask pattern.
  • Phyllis Laufer, call or text 610-533-1365 or Needs: Cotton fabric, non woven interfacing, 1/4” elastic, 5/8” ribbon.
  • Dabney Hill, president of the Sew n’ Sews of Sun City Center, Needs: In desperate need of 1/4” elastic
  • Diana Bello, owner of Embroidery by D.B., Needs: Elastic (any size) and ribbons.
  • American Sewing Guild, Brandon Chapter, Cindy Falck, president 412-427-7677.


For many of us, cars are like our second home. Even as people around the country are avoiding large public gatherings, they still must get in their cars several times each day for necessary trips to work or the grocery store. People are taking precautions in public, such as using hand sanitizer or wiping down carts. But what about avoiding dangerous germs and bacteria that lurk in many common areas inside your car?

According to a recent survey by, 32 percent of people clean the inside of their vehicles only once a year, while another 12 percent say they never clean the inside of their car. Germs and bacteria build up on high-touch surfaces such as steering wheels, door handles and seat belts without regular cleaning.

Here are some of the other dirty details of the survey:

• There are roughly 700 different strains of bacteria living in the average vehicle, including Staphylococcus (“Staph”), which can lead to complications such as skin infections and food poisoning.

• The average steering wheel is four times dirtier than a public toilet seat.

• Although it is not part of the car, gas stations are a cesspool of bacteria. The average pump handle is 6,428 times dirtier than public elevator buttons.

During this time of increased sanitizing precautions, it is just as important to clean the common touchpoints inside our vehicles to combat potential exposure to bacteria carrying COVID-19 and other infections.

Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for Properly Sanitizing the Inside of Your Car:

DO: Carry a packet of disinfecting wipes, and frequently clean common touchpoints such as the steering wheel, door handles, seat belts and buckles, keys and fobs, window button, radio and climate control buttons and more.

DON’T: Eat in the car. Although we often eat on the go, even the smallest particle left in the car can become a breeding ground for bacteria, particularly in a warm, enclosed environment.

DON’T: Use any kind of bleach or hydrogen peroxide on your vehicle’s interior. Both will kill germs but can damage the vinyl and plastics used in most modern cars. Do not use any ammonia-based cleaning products, as the ammonia breaks down the vinyl on the dashboard, making it sticky when subjected to heat and light.

DO: Carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer and use it every time you enter the car. This is an especially important practice after touching a pump handle and buttons at a gas station.

DON’T: Keep a large pump bottle of hand sanitizer in the car. Warmer temperatures in the spring and summer months may cause the alcohol in the sanitizer to “boil,” causing the bottle to expand. This may result in a crack or leakage of the plastic container.

Kevin Behan |