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COVID-19 Morning Report

Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 5,266 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, Monday, bringing the statewide total to 146,341 cases. June 29 marked the sixth consecutive day that the number of new cases counted in a single day topped 5,000.

This past Saturday marked a new daily record with 9,585 cases reported. Florida's coronavirus caseload has more than doubled since phase two of Gov. Ron DeSantis' reopening plan went into effect June 5.

The Florida Department of Health also reported 28 new coronavirus-related deaths, Monday, increasing the statewide death toll to 3,447 fatalities.

The positivity rate among those in Florida being tested for the virus increased to 7.65%, Monday, which marks the 15th consecutive day the state's positivity rate has increased. So far 1,914,151 COVID-19 tests have been performed in Florida.

Since the pandemic began, state health officials report there have been 14,354 coronavirus-related hospitalizations. Health officials reported 110 new hospitalizations, Monday.

In the Southwest Florida region including Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, state health officials report a total of 15,621 documented cases of the virus and 555 deaths since the pandemic began.

Pointing to difficult circumstances, Gov. DeSantis signed a $92.2 billion budget, Monday, for the upcoming fiscal year, after vetoing just over one billion dollars in spending.

The large number of vetoes come as state revenue plummets because of economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers passed a proposed $93.2 billion budget in March, as the effects of the virus were just beginning to be felt.

The new budget takes effect July 1, which marks the start of the state’s 2020-2021 fiscal year.

The budget includes $500 million to increase teacher salaries and more than $625 million for Everglades restoration and other water-related projects. DeSantis said the spending plan also includes pay raises for state employees.

“My goal was to try to safeguard the historic achievements that we were able to do, while also realizing historic savings so that we could put Florida on a more solid fiscal foundation,” said DeSantis.

Some examples of vetoes include $20 million for the economic development program called the Job Growth Grant Fund, and $21 million for a new Second District Court of Appeal building in downtown St. Petersburg.

Florida Democratic lawmakers are urging the governor to create a plan for families who could be forced out of their homes as his moratorium on evictions and foreclosures expires July 1. State Senator Victor Torres, D-Kissimmee, said DeSantis should have addressed the issue, Monday, when he announced cuts to the states’ budget.

“This is coming to a head on collision and we have families out there who are in desperate need to get money to pay for their rents and their mortgages because they’re not getting unemployment or there’s no jobs available for them,” said Sen. Torres.

The governor’s moratorium on evictions and foreclosures expires Wednesday.

Citing concerns over the spread of coronavirus, the city of Sarasota is joining a growing list of Florida cities that require the wearing of face masks in public spaces.

The Sarasota City Commission approved the measure at a special meeting on Monday.

City leaders say they received hundreds of phone calls and emails about the proposed mask mandate. Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin told commissioners a majority of respondents supported the measure in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.

But most people who signed up to speak at the meeting were against the wearing of face coverings. Rosalyn Coons was one of them.

"We are on a slippery slope relinquishing freedoms that we have in this nation and allowing this tyrannical ordinance,” she said.

Benjamin Casey, a homeless student at New College of Florida, urged commissioners to vote in favor of the mask ordinance.

"If I contract COVID, I'll not only lose my job and source of income for several weeks to be free of it, but I also have the chance of losing housing at my school," he said.

Sarasota city commissioners approved the ordinance by a 4-1 vote.

Commissioner Hagen Brody said while he was in favor of mandating masks indoors, he opposed the measure because it includes outdoor spaces.

"Outdoors is totally unenforceable,” he said. “I think it just has a host of problems we aren't even capable of predicting."

Barwin acknowledged that most people are aware of social distancing practices and other CDC-recommended guidelines to help slow the spread of COVID-19, but said that “such recommendations are not being practiced voluntarily on a community-wide basis” and that the commission agrees that making face masks mandatory is necessary for the health and safety of the community.

The measure goes into effect at midnight Wednesday and would be in effect for 60 days.

Officials said enforcement efforts will focus on compliance and education. Violations of the mask requirement could result in a civil, non-criminal infraction with penalties up to a $500 fine.

Exceptions include:

  • Children under the age of 18
  • Schools, daycares and non-City government agencies
  • People for whom a face covering would cause impairment due to an existing health condition
  • Those working in a business or profession who do not interact with others, who maintain physical or social distancing from others or where a face covering would prevent them from performing their duties
  • Those who are outdoors or exercising while maintaining physical distancing
  • Those who are eating or drinking

Last week, Sarasota County's administrator said the county would not pursue a face mask ordinance.
Commissioners in nearby Manatee County also voted down a mask mandate last week. However, the cities of Holmes Beach and Anna Maria Island quickly adopted their own emergency orders requiring people to wear masks in public.

Palm Beach County is joining the rest of South Florida in closing beaches over the July 4th weekend.

Speaking on WPTV, Monday, Mayor Dave Kerner said that he’s concerned about the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

“What we’re protecting against is an influx of thousands of people from the counties to our south to our beaches here,” said Kerner.

“And then intertwine the issue that we have community spread in our community at unprecedented levels. We unfortunately have to take this action.”

Palm Beach County beaches will be closed this Friday through Sunday. Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties have also closed their beaches.

In Southwest Florida, officials in Lee County plan to keep beaches open for the Fourth of July. City officials in Naples are planning to bring back parking restrictions and Collier County commissioners are likely to take up the issue of whether to close beaches for the holiday at a meeting June 30.

The Lee County Clerk of Courts office closed for cleaning, Monday, after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. The News Press reports, face-to-face recording and marriage licenses and ceremonies will not be available until further notice, but that other Clerk of Court services will continue, and court services remain unaffected.

Meals of Hope will soon offer COVID-19 testing at some of its mobile food distribution sites. The Southwest Florida-based food pantry provider has partnered with Lab-24 to administer free COVID-19 tests.

Testing opens to adults and children in July and results will come back within 48-96 hours. Lab 24’s telemedicine doctors will call patients with their results.

Positive results will be sent to the CDC and the Florida Department of Health. For more information on when and where to get tested, visit Meals of Hope on Facebook or visit their website.

Vice President Mike Pence will not be making a public appearance in Sarasota on Thursday. The AP reports, Pence's scheduled campaign events this week in Florida and in Arizona have been called off amid surges in new cases of the coronavirus.

The White House says Pence will still travel to Arizona June 30 and to Florida later this week to meet with governors and health officials, but will not be making appearances through his "Faith in America" tour.

With the number of coronavirus cases in Florida spiking, fuel demand and prices are expected to drop once again.

According to AAA Auto Club, a gallon of regular unleaded gas in Florida now averages $2.03 per gallon, which is up one penny from last week.

However, crude oil and wholesale gasoline prices both fell last week, as confirmed COVID-19 cases spiked in Florida and many other states.

Triple A spokesman W. D. Williams said if more businesses are forced to close their doors again and people are told to again work from home, simple supply and demand issues will again lead to lower fuel prices.

“The trends and the pressures right now are to slow the gasoline price increase. So, like I say, we could see gasoline prices below two dollars per gallon again, if the trends with the COVID continue to increase,” said Williams.

Right now, gas prices are $0.14 higher than last month, but still down $0.51 over the past year.

Florida’s most expensive gas is found in West Palm Beach, while the cheapest area of the state to fill up is Fort Myers.

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.
Tom Urban is the Assignment Manager for .
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.
Cathy Carter is the education reporter for WUSF 89.7 and StateImpact Florida.
Alexander Gonzalez is a recent graduate of the University of Miami. He majored in English and was the the editor-in-chief of The Miami Hurricane newspaper from 2014-15. He was WLRN's digital intern during summer 2015. He subscribes to too many podcasts and can't get away from covering the arts in Miami.