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COVID-19 Morning Update

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Florida Department of Health
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State health officials reported 6,336 cases of COVID-19, Monday, marking the 13th consecutive day of single-day increases topping 5,000 cases. Yesterday's reported cases of the virus increases the statewide total to 206,447 cases since the pandemic began.

Florida has seen a roughly 70 percent increase in reported cases of the virus since Phase Two of Governor Ron DeSantis's reopening plan went into effect June 5th.

The Florida Department of Health also reported 47 new coronavirus-related deaths, yesterday, bringing the statewide death toll to 3,778 fatalities.

Of the 2,235,937 COVID-19 tests that have been performed in Florida so far, 9.2 percent have been positive for the virus. Monday marked the 22nd consecutive day that Florida's positivity rate has increased.

State health officials report the total number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations now stands at 16,045 patients.

Here in the Southwest Florida region including Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties state health officials reported 358 new cases of the virus, Monday, for a total of 20,937 cases since the pandemic began. There were four new reported deaths in the Southwest Florida region, yesterday, including two deaths in Lee County and one new death each in Charlotte and Manatee Counties for a total of 587 deaths.

Public and charter schools in Florida will be required to reopen brick and mortar schools in August according to an emergency order issued Monday by state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

The Herald Tribune reports, the order requires all schools to open in the fall and requires all public school boards and charter school governing boards to have schools physically open to all students at least five days a week.

County health officials will be able to override the education commissioner's order if they deem it unsafe to open schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the order makes clear that school officials must prepare a plan to reopen schools next month.

Corcoran's directive says school districts cannot shift to a hybrid model that would allow students to split their time between classroom learning and distance learning.

Schools will be allowed to offer a remote learning option, but such plans will have to be approved by the state and must be more robust than the distance learning plans school officials and educators scrambled to adjust to this past spring when the pandemic hit.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is on the defensive amid Florida’s surge in new COVID-19 cases. At a press conference in the Villages, Monday, DeSantis said people shouldn’t worry because the virus isn't new anymore.

“People just should put it into context about what’s going on. You know, there's no need to really be fearful about it. I mean, we can talk about the different steps that that individuals can take,” said DeSantis.

However, Miami Dade County is taking steps to stop people from getting together in groups and spreading the virus.

Restaurant dining rooms and gyms will need to close down starting on Wednesday, along with ballrooms, party venues and short-term rentals.

Some South Florida hospitals announced plans to hold off on elective procedures to make room for more COVID-19 patients.

Gov. DeSantis says he'd like to see an incentive from Congress to encourage workers to return to their jobs. During Monday’s press conference in the Villages, reporters asked DeSantis if he would support extending Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, for the rest of the year.

“Right now, there is a disincentive, depending on where your wage is, if you had some type of premium then there’s more of an incentive to want to go back,” said DeSantis.

“But I would support them doing something to be able to get people, to keep them on their feet, get them back into the workforce.”

DeSantis said he recognizes many businesses will not be able to hire 100 percent of their workers back again. The additional $600 in federal unemployment benefits are set to expire at the end of the month.

For some, the federal unemployment benefit on top of state unemployment benefits has meant earning more than they would have from their regular paycheck.

Florida’s county Supervisor of Elections want to allow voters more time to get their ballots in by expanding the early voting window. It comes amid concerns about election disruptions due to the coronavirus. As journalist Steve Bosquet explains, DeSantis disagrees with the need for more time.

“They wanted to expand the early voting window from 14 days, the maximum, to 22 and Gov. Ron DeSantis did not approve that request,” said Bousquet.

“That has supervisors that I talk to, even in Republican counties, scratching their heads.”

So far DeSantis has recommended schools close Aug. 18 for the primary election and Nov. 3 for the general election, to create less traffic at schools that are used as polling locations.

Cape Coral City Council members voted, Monday, to reject a proposal that would have required people in the city to wear face coverings in public.

The News-Press reports, the decision followed contentious debate and more than seven hours of public input received over two sessions.

Opponents to a face mask mandate characterized such a rule as an infringement on their civil rights. Some argued the face coverings themselves can pose a health risk.

State Rep. and Congressional District 19 candidate Byron Donalds, (R-Naples), attended Monday's city council meeting and spoke out against the proposal.

The mandatory mask requirement was supported by Mayor Joe Coviello and two city council members, but a majority of councilors opposed the move.

Gov. DeSantis says he wants to see Florida ramp up its antibody testing for the coronavirus. DeSantis said it will help officials have a better understanding of how the virus has spread throughout the state.

“Some of these areas that have hit 15-20 percent, the virus doesn’t expand as much,” said DeSantis.

“So if you have a very low seroprevalence then it’s got more potential target to reach. I think it’s very important, not only as we get through this period, but as we get into the fall and the flu season, to have that source of information I think it going to be very, very important, so we want to work to get that done.”

Florida Department of Health data shows that of the more than 236,000 people who have been tested for COVID-19 antibodies through June 25th), just four percent of tests indicate the presence of coronavirus antibodies.

The federal government permitted manufacturers to quickly bring antibody tests to the market, but now the FDA is instructing some manufacturers to pull their faulty tests from circulation.

The presence of virus-fighting antibodies in someone's system may provide them with a greater sense of security about their risk going forward, but the News-Press reports, medical experts say that sends the wrong idea.

It is not yet known how effective or for how long antibodies may be in helping to fight a future infection.

MLS and NBA tournaments getting underway in Orlando this month should give sports starved Americans some respite from the pandemic, said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.

Major League Soccer’s MLS is Back tournament at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex is set to kick off this week, while the NBA is slated to begin July 30.

If the NBA and MLS believe they can play tournaments safely in Orlando, why not try it, said Demings at a press conference Monday.

"You know, I think America is starving for televised sporting competitions and so it's a way for us to get beyond the COVID-19 fatigue that we are experiencing.”

Meanwhile, FC Dallas announced Monday that it would not be participating in the MLS is Back tournament after 10 players and one staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

Demings also said he was quote “fairly comfortable” with Disney reopening two of its theme parks this past weekend.

Verónica Zaragovia
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.
Matthew Peddie