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COVID-19 Morning Report

Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported another 12,624 cases of COVID-19, Monday, marking Florida's second highest number of new confirmed cases in a single day after shattering the national single day record, Sunday of more than 15,000 cases.

Florida's total number of cases of the virus now stands at 282,435. The Florida Department of Health also reported 35 new coronavirus-related deaths, July 13, increasing the statewide death toll to 4,277 fatalities.

Of the 2,642,613 tests that have been performed in Florida so far, 10.7% have been positive for the virus. Florida's positivity rate has averaged around 14.3% for the past two weeks, which is about three times what it was when the first phase of Florida's reopening plan went into effect in May.

More than 78% of Florida's total positive cases have occurred since phase two of the state's reopening plan went into effect June 5.

State health officials reported 227 new COVID-19 hospitalizations, Monday, for a total of 18,498 hospitalizations since the pandemic began.

In the Southwest Florida Region including Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties state health officials reported 825 new cases of the virus, Monday for a total of 27,902 cases overall. The Southwest Florida region also saw four new deaths, yesterday including two new deaths in Manatee County and one new fatality each in Lee and Hendry Counties for a total of 631 deaths.

According to state data, more than 80% of Florida’s ICU beds are filled, and that’s raising alarms for Democratic lawmakers and physicians. Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Aileen Marty with Florida International University said there’s many things Floridians can do on their own to help stop the spread.

“They need to understand and value the need for a case cover. They need to know how to properly wear them, how to avoid auto-contamination when wearing a mask, which mask to use, when to wear them,” said Dr. Marty.

She said people can still catch the virus from touching a contaminated object.

Dr. Marty is also raising concerns that the coronavirus will spread more when schools open in the fall. Last week, Florida’s Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran ordered schools to open their doors five days a week in August. Marty said asymptomatic children can spread the disease just as much if not more than adults.

“So, you put children from different households in a normal brick and mortar school in a zone that has 25% positivity, you’re going to have an increase transmission in the community. It is a risk,” said Dr. Marty.

She’s advising Miami-Dade Schools to do as much remote learning as possible and not to heavily rely on hybrid solutions. Marty said only the students of parents that have no other options should physically go to school.

Gov. Ron DeSantis hosted a press conference, Monday, at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

It was his first time speaking on the pandemic since Florida announced a record high number of positive cases Sunday. Despite the huge numbers, the governor tried to keep his message positive.

“We’re going to get through it. You’re a strong county and you’re really a great engine for the State of Florida. So, it’s not necessarily going to be easy but I’m 100% confident that we’re going to get through this,” said DeSantis.

DeSantis also talked about how most of the people testing positive now are younger and less likely to die from the disease.

A heckler interrupted the governor at the beginning, accusing him of not doing enough as numbers of new cases soar and the death toll continues to increase.

DeSantis also says he doesn't expect to let bars start serving alcohol again anytime soon. The state re-imposed a ban last month on bars selling alcohol except for to-go orders. DeSantis said he wants bars to be able to open, but adds last time he gave the okay, some establishments failed to follow social distancing rules.

“It got to the point where my secretary (Department of Business and Professional Regulations Secretary Halsey Beshears) was just – it was like whack-a-mole,” said DeSantis.

“So, I want them to be able to operate, but I want them to do it consistent with the step-by-step plan and we just weren’t able to get that done.”

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary is in charge of making sure businesses that hold alcohol licenses follow the rules. DeSantis said he plans to keep bars effectively closed until the percent of people testing positive for the coronavirus sees a significant decrease.

Physicians in Collier County want county commissioners to adopt a mandatory face covering policy for people while visiting indoor buildings that are open to the public.

The Naples Daily News reports, the Collier County Medical Society began circulating a petition among its 650 members in support of a mandatory mask ordinance last Friday. There's also a change.org petition supporting a mandatory mask ordinance in Collier that's gathering signatures online.

Collier Commissioners last debated a mask ordinance in late June, when they voted to temporarily close beaches ahead of the July 4 holiday. Fort Myers City Councilmembers recently voted down a proposed mask ordinance.

The Florida Keys has a mandatory mask policy in effect through June 2021. Local leaders on Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach in Lee County have adopted mandatory face covering ordinances, but Lee County Commissioners have not taken up the issue, despite Commission Chairman Brian Hamman recently announcing that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Officials with Florida blood donation center OneBlood are calling for individuals who are eligible to donate convalescent plasma.

As coronavirus cases surge, the group says the need for plasma is extraordinarily high.

People who have recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies that stay in the plasma portion of their blood, and transfusions to those still fighting the virus can boost their immune system and potentially help them recover.

OneBlood Senior Vice President Susan Forbes said they've seen a more than 500% increase in hospital orders for COVID-19 convalescent plasma.

“As quickly as donations come in, they are being processed, tested, and rushed to hospitals,” Forbes said. “People’s lives are on the line and time is of the essence.”

Dr. Peter Marks, director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said they are concerned that convalescent plasma is going to be in short supply if more people do not donate.

Responding to reports that the government wanted to stockpile supplies of convalescent plasma to have on hand for later in the year, Marks said its past time to stock up.

“There’s not a rainy day in the fall,” he said. “There’s a thunderstorm pouring right now, and we need to use it right now.”

Plasma can be donated every 28 days.

Those who have recovered from the coronavirus are urged to visit www.oneblood.org to see if they meet the eligibility requirements. Appointments to donate are required.

A children's theater camp in Fort Myers is now closed after two students tested positive for the coronavirus. Executive Director of the non-profit Creative Theater Workshop, Jeremy Kuntze, said one asymptomatic student tested positive Sunday followed by a second confirmed positive case.

Kuntze tells the News-Press, the organization took safety precautions like using sanitizer, requiring daily temperature checks, and requiring all staff and volunteers to wear masks. Students were encouraged to wear masks, but were not required, and no students wore masks during performances.

After a student called to report they may have been exposed to one of the COVID-positive students at the Creative Theater Workshop Camp, the Florida Repertory Theatre cancelled in-person auditions for its scheduled November production of "West Side Story," and instead opted to hold auditions virtually.

The Florida Rep had already cancelled its in-person summer camps and a youth theater production.

Broadway Palm Dinner Theater, also in Fort Myers, had also already cancelled its planned summer production of "The Sound of Music."

Concourse C at Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers will reopen Wednesday.

The Lee County Port Authority made the announcement Monday. The News-Press reports, the reopening of Concourse C will come with Delta Air Lines and United Airlines resuming operations there.

The concourse closed April 23 as air travel plummeted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Florida gas prices are now at their highest levels in 15 weeks, averaging $2.10 per gallon for regular unleaded fuel.

Gas prices are up $0.09 per gallon from last month, but still down $0.54 from July 2019.

According to AAA Auto Club, the overall demand for gasoline has gone up recently, as some people begin to return to work and other activities during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, recent increases in the number of COVID-19 cases has markets cautious, leaving crude oil prices stagnant.

Triple A spokesman W. D. Williams expects the price uncertainty in the market to continue.

“There’s always a little lag between the prices of crude oil and the market supply and demand. It always seems like gas prices tend to go up quickly and then drop a little slower than they go up,” said Williams.

The most expensive gas in Florida is being sold in West Palm Beach, while the cheapest fuel in the state can be found in Fort Myers and in Orlando.

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.
Verónica Zaragovia
Tom Urban is the Assignment Manager for .
Lisa Peakes is the local host of NPR's All Things Considered on WUSF 89.7.