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COVID-19 Morning Update

Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 8,892 new cases of COVID-19, Monday, increasing the statewide total to 432,747 cases. Monday marked the 34th consecutive day Florida has experienced a single day increase of at least 5,000 new cases, although it's also the lowest daily total reported since July 9.

The Florida Department of Health also reported 77 new coronavirus-related deaths, yesterday, bringing the statewide death toll to 5,931 fatalities.

Of the 3,436,270 tests that have been reported in Florida so far, 12.59% have been positive for the virus.

State health officials report Florida's total number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations since the pandemic began has risen to 24,332 patients.

Here in the Southwest Florida region including Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, the Florida Department of Health reported 481 new COVID-19 cases, July 27, for a total of 40,233 cases.

There were also nine new deaths reported in the Southwest Florida region, Monday, including two new deaths each in Charlotte, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, and one new fatality each in Collier, Hendry and Lee Counties for a total of 769 deaths.

Florida teachers and Democrats say it would be reckless to reopen schools now as the number of coronavirus cases in Florida surges.

They spoke out Monday on a conference call with reporters as Vice President Mike Pence visited South Florida.

The teachers and Democrats said the Trump and DeSantis administrations have left school leaders with — as they put it — impossible decisions over how to manage school reopenings.

Among those on the call was Keegan Schlake, a high school teacher in Orlando. He says teachers want to get back in the classroom but are fearful.

“In a typical year I see about 150 students cycle through my classroom door every day, and thousands shoulder-to-shoulder in the hallways. Schools are not designed for social distancing. My classroom physically cannot hold 25 students at a time, with all of them being six feet apart,” said Schlake.

Vice President Mike Pence was in South Florida at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Monday, to mark the beginning of clinical trials for a potential coronavirus vaccine.

Researchers are entering phase three for development for a vaccine. Pence said the U.S. is not waiting until the end of clinical trials to create the vaccines.

“We’re actually having these companies produce the vaccines as we speak and as soon as they’re confirmed to be safe and effective, we’ll have tens of millions of doses able to distribute across the country,” said Pence.

He credits President Donald Trump for the quick progress, but in a statement, the Florida Democratic Party said the President and Governor Ron DeSantis’s response has “left Florida as the global coronavirus hotspot.”

The biotechnology company Moderna is handling this trial phase. 1,000 people will be participating in the trial. Half of them will get a vaccine, the other half a placebo. The University of Miami is one of many trial sites across the U-S.

College and university faculty members are calling for all online classes next semester. In a letter, the United Faculty of Florida asks the governor to bar in-person classes this fall.

United Faculty of Florida President Karen Morian said many of the reopening plans posed by higher education leaders were put in place before a recent rise in state coronavirus cases.

““Not addressing the reality on the ground is the biggest problem that we’re facing. A lot of it is pie in the sky, it will be alright. It will work out. Fingers crossed,” said Morian.

“Because for a while we looked pretty good in Florida, but we don’t know. So, mid-March we were in a pretty good situation and we shut everything down to keep our campus from being super-spreader sites. And that’s what we’re asking. We’re asking to do that again.”

Morian said making a decision now to move to distance learning will give everyone the predictability they need to prepare for their classes. She said it also won’t risk the upheaval of moving classes online part way through the semester if the situation worsens.

Republican voters in Florida typically far outnumber Democrats in the number of vote-by-mail ballots requested, but now Democrats have leapt ahead in asking for mail-in ballots.

The AP reports that for months, Republican strategists have worried privately that President Donald Trump's baseless claims of widespread mail voting fraud would put them at a disadvantage in the November election. Now that appears to be coming true.

Election officials continue to say voting by mail is the easiest and safest way to cast a ballot amid the coronavirus pandemic.

State officials report that in Florida's fiscal year that ended June 30, state revenue was more than $427 million less than expected, even as Florida's economy began reopening.

The AP reports, the last fiscal year's cumulative loss comes to $1.9 billion, mostly due to a sharp drop in sales tax revenue since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

The financial hit from the virus is actually much higher. From March to May, Florida lost $2.1 billion in potential revenue.

With more than 5.5 million Florida residents over 60-years-old, isolation, depression and mental health have become issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seniors in long-term care facilities have been unable to see visitors for the past four months, due to the virus. Many others have self-isolated at home, with limited visits from family and friends.

On Monday, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and other groups that work with older Floridians held a news conference in Tallahassee to discuss the importance of mental-health and nutritional services at this time.

Flyers with tips and mental health provider contacts are now being distributed inside grab bags to many seniors who receive at home meal services. Additionally, senior groups are focusing on making telephone calls to elderly residents who have become isolated.

Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom said the coronavirus has been particularly difficult for the state’s oldest population.

““This is the unfortunate consequence, but, we are finding other ways to address that social isolation and loneliness, always expecting that day when they can do a real physical hug is just around the corner,” said Prudom.

Numbers released Monday by the Florida Department of Health show that 45% of Florida’s nearly 6,000 coronavirus-related deaths have come from residents and staff of long-term care facilities.

More than 80% of all COVID-19 related deaths in Florida are among those over age 65.

Major League Baseball has canceled the home opener for the Miami Marlins after at least a dozen players and staff tested positive for the coronavirus. The outbreak also has forced the cancellation of another game.

The Miami Marlins were supposed to play their first home game Monday night against the Baltimore Orioles, but earlier Monday, ESPN reported at least 10 people with the Marlins tested positive for the coronavirus, including eight players and two coaches.

Over the weekend, the sports network said another four Marlins players reportedly tested positive.

The positive tests come after a series played against the Phillies. Additional testing is being conducted. The Marlins are self-quarantining in Philadelphia as they await results.

A Yankees and Phillies game scheduled for Monday night was also postponed.

A Florida judge has upheld a challenge to Palm Beach County's recently enacted mandatory mask ordinance. The lawsuit against the mandate argued it violates peoples' right to privacy and personal autonomy.

The AP reports, the judge said the mask order legally protects residents from infectious disease, citing a century-old U.S. Supreme Court ruling saying that a state can mandate vaccines. The case is at least the fourth in Florida, where a local mask ordinance has been overcome a legal challenge.

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.
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Tom Urban is the Assignment Manager for .
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.