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COVID-19 Morning Update

Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 2,878 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, for a statewide total of 56,163 cases. The Florida Department of Health also reported 87 new coronavirus-related deaths over the weekend, bringing the statewide death toll to 2,451 fatalities.

There have now been 1,022,265 COVID-19 tests performed in Florida since the start of the pandemic and overall, 5.5% of those tests have been positive for the virus.

In the Southwest Florida region encompassing Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, state health officials reported 393 new confirmed cases of the virus over the weekend and 10 new deaths including five more deaths in Lee County, one new death in Hendry and County and two fatalities each in Manatee and Charlotte Counties.

Overall state health officials report a total of 6,030 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Southwest Florida and 406 deaths.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced new COVID-19 micro testing sites. There will be three sites each in the parking lots of some Home Depot and Publix stores. Speaking at a press conference, Friday, DeSantis said he wants to make COVID-19 testing more convenient.

“If you're shopping and you want to get a test, you have the ability; Very easy access,” said DeSantis.

“You don't have to leave the parking lot to be able to do it. So, we think that that's important as Florida continues to recover.”

One of the testing sites opened Friday at a Home Depot in West Boca Raton. Florida Director of Emergency Management Jared Moskowitz said the sites are aimed at shoppers who show no symptoms of the coronavirus.

“These sites are not meant for people who feel sick. If you feel sick, you have symptoms, we're not asking you to come drive here,” said Moskowitz. “We want you to go to the testing site. We've set up.”

Some of the shoppers being targeted by the new testing sites may be taking advantage of Florida’s one-week Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday, which began Friday and runs through June 4. The tax holiday means shoppers don't have to pay sales tax on items including flashlights, batteries, tarps, coolers, gas cans and generators.

One of the biggest challenges of assembling a kit this season is the lack of disinfectants and sanitizers on the market due to COVID-19.

Leslie Chapman-Henderson, President and C-E-O of Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, or FLASH, explains why items like surface wipes and hand sanitizer are important to include in a disaster preparedness kit.

“Say the water supply goes down or the power goes down and you can’t use the drinking water safely. You’re going to have to revert to a different method to clean your hands,” said Chapman-Henderson.

“So, those surfaces, keeping those clean, having hand sanitizer, either homemade or purchased, are probably going to be one of the better new additions to your kit.”

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season begins today, June 1, although there have already been two named storms in May.

Election officials in Southwest Florida are boosting their efforts to encourage residents to vote-by-mail in this year's elections. The News-Press reports the Collier County Supervisor of Elections office began mailing out reminders and vote-by-mail applications in mid-April. TheLee County Supervisor of Elections Office plans to start sending out vote-by-mail applications June 1.

Mailers in Lee County are going out to about 375,000 households at a cost of about $54,000. The Collier Election Supervisor's office has spent $134,000 printing and mailing notices and vote-by-mail request forms to registered voters.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, recruiting the volunteer poll workers needed for the August 18 Primary election and the November 3 General election has been a particular challenge.

Florida is applying for federal aid for elections through the coronavirus relief bill that would include money for vote-by-mail postcards, obtaining personal protective equipment for poll workers and boosting election cyber security.

Andrea Perdomo is a reporter for WGCU News. She started her career in public radio as an intern for the Miami-based NPR station, WLRN. Andrea graduated from Florida International University, where she was a contributing writer for the student-run newspaper, The Panther Press, and was also a member of the university's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.
Wilkine Brutus
Wilkine Brutus is a multimedia journalist for WLRN, South Florida's NPR, and a member of Washington Post/Poynter Institute’ s 2019 Leadership Academy. A former Digital Reporter for The Palm Beach Post, Brutus produces enterprise stories on topics surrounding people, community innovation, entrepreneurship, art, culture, and current affairs.