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COVID-19 Morning Update

Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 1,317 new cases of COVID-19, Wednesday, raising the statewide total to 58,764 confirmed cases marking the highest single-day increase in cases April 17.

The Florida Department of Health reported 36 new coronavirus-related deaths, Wednesday, for a total of 2,566 fatalities including 1,306 deaths in long-term care facilities.

Of the 1,081,825 COVID-19 tests that have been performed in Florida so far, 5.4 percent have been positive for the virus.

In the Southwest Florida region including Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Glades, Hendry, Sarasota and Manatee Counties, health officials reported 242 new confirmed cases of the virus, yesterday, which is more than double to number of new cases reported in the Southwest Florida region one day prior. There were also five new deaths in Southwest Florida reported, Wednesday, including three new fatalities in Charlotte county and one new death each in Lee and Hendry Counties.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced all counties in Florida except Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach will move to phase two of his reopening plan on Friday, June 5.

DeSantis said retail stores, restaurants, and gyms will be allowed to operate at full capacity while movie theaters and bowling alleys will reopen at fifty percent capacity. He said the state still recommends people 65 and older or who have pre-existing conditions practice CDC recommendations for staying healthy.

““It’s really really important to continue to avoid crowds and to continue to limit the risk of exposure,” said DeSantis. “I would say even people who aren’t in those groups be careful when you are interacting with folks.”

DeSantis said bars, which have been closed since the start of the pandemic, will be permitted to reopen at full capacity outdoors and at 50 percent capacity indoors. Tattoo studios, massage clinics, acupuncturists’ offices, and tanning salons will also reopen for the first time since March.

Some members in the Florida House are asking Gov. DeSantis to be proactive and extend an eviction moratorium further. This comes after DeSantis extended the suspension hours before the deadline on Monday. State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, (D-Orlando) has been a vocal proponent of extending the moratorium.

“We know these issues related to foreclosure and evictions during this crisis are not going to let up anytime in the next several weeks,” said Guillermo Smith.

“We see that Floridians are still struggling to obtain their unemployment benefits from DEO, which is helping to pay their rent and their mortgage.”

Guillermo Smith, along with other House members, are calling for the moratorium to be extended to July 25.

Lee Health officials are considering allowing patients' families to visit them in the hospital again as the number of COVID-19 patients being treated in the Health System's four acute-care hospitals has plateaued.

During a media briefing, Monday, Lee Health President and CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci said the number of coronavirus patients being treated is holding steady at about 100 to 110 patients a day, despite an uptick in hospitalizations following the Memorial Day weekend.

The News-Press reports, Lee Health has had a 'no visitation' policy in place since March and that Dr. Antonucci said the health system will likely make an announcement about hospital visitation later this week.

Meanwhile, Lee Health plans to hold an hour-long virtual town hall meeting Thursday, June 4 at 3:00 p.m. to address questions from the public about COVID-19.

Tourism in Florida fell nearly 11 percent in the first quarter of the year compared to the first three months of 2019 according to a new report from the state's tourism marketing arm Visit Florida.

Visit Florida data also finds nearly 32 million people visited the state in the first quarter of 2020 compared to nearly 36 million the year prior.

Passenger travel at 19 of Florida's top airports was down nearly 12 percent in the first quarter of the year and hotel occupancy was down more than 13 percent. The News Service of Florida reports, second quarter of the year is expected to be worse amid ballooning unemployed and businesses that have had to close or scale back amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Visit Florida anticipates when people do begin traveling again more regularly, they'll see more Floridians taking shorter in-state trips as opposed to more tourists flying in from other locations. So, marketing plans are currently on hold as Visit Florida works on a rebound plan. New tourism marketing plans will still have to be approved by Visit Florida's Board of Directors, which meets next on June 24.

Beaches in the city of Naples will continue to have restricted weekend hours. Naples city council members voted, Wednesday, to maintain the current beach hours of 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and from 5:00 p.m. to sunset on Saturdays and Sundays. Beaches under the purview of the city of Naples will remain open from sunrise to sunset Monday through Friday.

Naples city leaders also decided to maintain restrictions on beach parking spaces, which are currently limited to those with residential parking permits. The council is slated to review beach restrictions again at a special meeting June 9.

Meanwhile, Collier County Commissioners voted, Tuesday, to lift some restrictions on beach access. The Naples Daily News reports beginning Saturday, June 6, Collier County 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.

Independence Day celebrations in Naples have been cancelled. Naples City Council members voted unanimously, Wednesday, to cancel the city's Fourth of July parade and fireworks display this year amid concern that large gatherings could help spread COVID-19.

The city of Naples Fourth of July parade typically brings some 10,000 people to downtown Naples and that the fireworks show draws an estimated 25,000 people.

On Tuesday, Collier County officials also did not approve Independence Day fireworks that would have been held at the Paradise Coast Sports and Special Events Complex. Marco Island City councilors also voted in May to cancel their July fourth fireworks display.

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.
By Danielle Prieur
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.