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COVID-19 Morning Update

Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 617 new cases of COVID-19, Tuesday, bringing the statewide total number of confirmed cases to 57,447.

The Florida Department of Health also reported 70 new coronavirus-related deaths, June 2, for a statewide death toll of 2,530 fatalities. Tuesday’s reported deaths mark the highest single-day increase in fatalities since May 5.

In total, Florida has had 10,412 patient hospitalizations due to the virus. Of the 1,050,671 tests that have been performed in the state so far, the rate of positive tests remains at 5.5 percent.

In the Southwest Florida region including Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties state health officials reported 120 new cases of the virus, Tuesday and 14 new deaths.

Lee County, which continues to report the highest COVID-19 activity in the region, saw seven new deaths, Tuesday. There were also three new deaths reported Tuesday in Sarasota County, two deaths in Charlotte and one death each in Manatee and Hendry Counties.

Floridians will not have to worry about being evicted for failure to pay their rent or mortgage until July 1 after Gov. Ron DeSantis extended a moratorium on mortgage foreclosure and evictions. While this does provide some relief for Floridians, Florida Legal Services Director of Policy and Advocacy, attorney Amy Liem said more is needed.

“Florida’s response has to be a holistic approach that doesn’t just look at quickly trying to fix the evictions issue,” said Liem. “It has to look at unemployment compensation reform and you know with loss of jobs often comes loss of health insurance.”

For people who can’t afford to pay their rent or mortgage, Florida Legal Services recommends they negotiate a payment plan with their landlord and to make sure agreements are written and signed.

The statewide teachers’ union, the Florida Education Association held a call, Tuesday, to discuss its task force recommendations for the coming school year. They focused on a number of issues, including health and safety, social and emotional well-being, safe working and learning conditions, and school funding.

FEA President Fedrick Ingram said the recommendations do not go into specific detail because each school district is different, but he did say that schools should follow CDC guidelines on coronavirus, which means there may be a sort of "hybrid" learning model.

“That would mean that some students would go to school in our physical plants or brick and mortar schools, while other schools are home,” said Ingram.

“In terms of the busing, we have to adhere to social distancing, and that may mean buying more buses, that may mean employing more bus drivers.”

Union leaders also said they want schools to rethink fire drills, active shooter drills, and other emergency drills when schools reopen in the fall. Ingram said planned drills can lead to large gatherings of students and staff and that schools should find a way to do fire drills while social distancing.

“I don’t think it’s impossible to do that. I think that we have to work with our fire marshals. I think that we have to work with our fire departments locally,” said Ingram.

“I don’t think we should have a state system that says we do it like this because all of our schools from rural to urban are going to be different.”

Ingram said active shooter drills have traumatized students and schools need to decide whether to continue them. Another member of the task force called for a special legislative session so lawmakers can weigh in on how to spend the more than $770 million Florida schools are getting from the federal CARES Act relief package.

Collier County Commissioners voted, Tuesday, to lift some restrictions on beach access. Three weeks ago, county leaders decided to only open public county beaches from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and from 5:00 p.m. until sundown on Saturdays and Sundays in an effort to discourage out-of-town visitors from converging on Collier beaches amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Naples Daily News reports, starting Saturday, June 6, Collier beaches will fully reopen on the weekends. County beaches, parking lots and garages will now be open again from sunrise to sundown every day of the week.

Legoland officially reopened, Monday, with smaller crowds and fewer employees. Orlando Sentinel reporter Gabrielle Russon visited the park in Winter Haven and said she saw families having fun, despite social distancing guidelines that limited people on rides, or in lines.

"But I think there are just a lot of people who are really excited to go to a theme park,” said Russon. “I think there are people nervous about wearing a mask, you know, in the summer, but theme park fans are excited to go on a roller coaster again."

She said that fewer than 900 of Legoland's two thousand workers are back on the job.

Floridians will see the state's larger theme parks open in the coming weeks, starting with Universal parks on Friday, June 5. SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens in Tampa open next Thursday, June 11 and Disney World announced it will reopen its parks starting on July 11.

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.
Robbie Gaffney is a recent graduate from Florida State University with degrees in Digital Media Production and Creative Writing. Before working at WFSU, they recorded FSU’s basketball and baseball games for Seminole Productions as well as interned for the PBS Station in Largo, Florida. Robbie loves playing video games such as Shadow of the Colossus, Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Their other hobbies include sleeping and watching anime.
Mary Shedden
Mary Shedden is news director at WUSF Public Media, where she oversees a team of reporters covering 13 counties on Florida’s west coast.
Susan Giles Wantuck is our midday news host, and a producer and reporter for WUSF Public Media who focuses her storytelling on arts, culture and history.
Blaise Gainey is a Multimedia Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.