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COVID-19 Morning Update

Florida Department of Health

The number of new COVID-19 cases documented in Florida, Thursday, topped 5,000 for the second consecutive day. The Florida Department of Health reported 5,004 new coronavirus cases, June 25, increasing the statewide total to 114,018 cases.

State health officials also reported 46 new coronavirus-related deaths, Thursday, bringing the statewide death toll to 3,327 fatalities.

Of the 1,721,812 tests that have been performed in Florida so far, 6.6 percent have been positive for the virus.

Here in the Southwest Florida region including Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, state health officials reported 332 new cases of the virus, Thursday, and six new deaths including three new fatalities in Collier County and one new death each in Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties.

The state has added more than 28,000 COVID-19 cases in the past week, which accounts for one quarter of Florida's total caseload since the pandemic began.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield said, Thursday, the number of infected people in the U.S. is likely ten times higher than the number of reported cases.

During a news conference in Tampa Thursday afternoon, reporters asked Gov. Ron DeSantis about the spike in cases and reopening.

““We are where we are, I mean I’m not taking — I didn’t say we’re going to go on to the next phase. We’ve done a step by step approach,” said DeSantis.

The Governor attributes some of the spike to people not wearing masks and not social distancing properly. Still, DeSantis remains adamant about not issuing a state mandate for people to wear face masks.

“There’s an enforcement that has to follow with that and we have a lot of places in Florida where that would not be a good use of resources,” said DeSantis. “So, I think a more tailored approach would make more sense.

Also Thursday, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried called for a statewide requirement that people wear masks in public places. Many local governments have approved mask requirements as the number of cases continues to surge.

Fried, the only Democrat on the state Cabinet, has been highly critical of the Republican governor’s handling of the pandemic. She calls a statewide mask requirement common sense.

““Everybody should be wearing masks. We know that the masks are not going to stop the spread, but it certainly will slow it down,” said Fried.

“We also need to reinforce that COVID is not behind us. So, everybody needs to stay vigilant. Everybody needs to continue having social distancing.”

Holmes Beach City Commissioners passed an ordinance, Thursday, requiring people to wear face coverings inside businesses. The Herald Tribune reports the emergency ordinance imposes a $250 fine for a first offense and a $500 fine for subsequent offenses. The ordinance took effect immediately, but will not be enforced until Sunday.

Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth says the city doesn't plan on issuing tickets and that the burden of enforcement will mostly fall on business owners who can seek help with compliance from law enforcement and code enforcement.

Earlier this week, Manatee County commissioners endorsed the Florida Surgeon General's health advisory urging people to wear masks, but stopped short of passing an ordinance to mandate the wearing of masks.

State health department data shows a spike in new COVID-19 infections among young people in Southwest Florida.

The Florida Department of Health reports 189 people under the age of 18 in Lee County have tested positive for the virus and 329 people under 18 have tested positive in Collier County. Those numbers mark a 31.6 percent increase in Collier and a 52.4 percent increase in Lee in less than two weeks.

Across the state, 4,809 people under 18 have tested positive for the virus and 131 have had to be hospitalized. State health data shows just three people between 15 and 25 years old have died from complications of COVID-19. The state's data does not yet reflect the death of a 17-year-old student of Cypress Lake High School in Lee County.

The News-Press reports rural counties are seeing much higher rates of infection in young people.

The state's current spike in COVID-19 cases is a concern as theme parks have either reopened or plan to reopen in days. The AP reports, the union representing actors at Disney World in Orlando said Thursday, that Disney should further postpone welcoming guests back into parks. Disney theme parks are slated to reopen in July. They've been closed since March due to the pandemic.

The CEO of Jackson Health System is concerned people are not complying with measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. Carlos Migoya told CNN, Thursday, a challenge is enforcement and educating people who can’t afford to miss work.

“A lot of these people are just looking for ways to make some money to be able to feed their families and those are the ones we need to educate and make sure they’re complying with the social distancing and masks, which they’re not doing today,” said Migoya.

Jackson Health announced on Twitter, Thursday, that there were 211 people hospitalized who have tested positive for COVID-19 in its hospitals

Millions of Floridians are feeling the financial burden of the COVID-19 crisis, and are finding it hard to pay rent. In order to offset that, Gov. DeSantis said that help will soon be coming from the federal government.

A total of $250 million from the federal CARES Act is on its way to Florida to help people keep a roof over their heads. Gov. DeSantis said $120 million will help subsidize housing costs for families already in affordable housing developments across the state. Some of these communities are the hardest hit by the economic impact of COVID-19.

On top of that, counties will get $120 million to distribute for rent and mortgage assistance. The money will be spread across the state, based on what percentage of a county’s residents have applied for unemployment benefits. The programs will run between July and December.

Florida had a slight uptick in first-time jobless claims last week, as the U.S. Department of Labor reported, Thursday, the state had an estimated 93,000 initial claims during the week that ended June 20. That’s up from 88,000 new claims the prior week and follows two weeks of declining first-time claims.

Since March 15, when the coronavirus pandemic began hammering the state, more than 2.4 million unique jobless applications have been filed, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Roughly 95 percent of them had been processed as of Tuesday, with nearly 1.54 million eligible claimants paid. DEO spokesperson Tiffany Vause said the biggest issue remaining for those not getting benefits is remembering to log into the state’s CONNECT unemployment website to update their status.

““It’s really important to continue to tell the agency that you are able and available for work and that you are still unemployed,” said Vause.

“So, you have to go into CONNECT every two weeks, and claim those weeks.”

Of those who’ve applied for assistance, 475,000 people have been ruled ineligible for state and federal benefits for various reasons.

Since March, the Department of Economic Opportunity has paid out $7.29 billion in state and federal benefits.

May’s unemployment rate in Florida was 14.5 percent. The June rate will be announced July 17.

Daniel Rivero is a reporter and producer for WLRN, covering Latino and criminal justice issues. Before joining the team, he was an investigative reporter and producer on the television series "The Naked Truth," and a digital reporter for Fusion.
Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas. She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.
Caitie Switalski
Tom Urban is the Assignment Manager for .