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COVID-19 Morning Report

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Florida Department of Health
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State health officials reported 4,181 new cases of COVID-19, Monday, increasing Florida's total to 536,961 cases.

The Florida Department of Health also reported 91 new coronavirus related deaths, Aug. 10, bringing the statewide death toll to 8,277 fatalities. Monday's reported number of deaths is one of lowest daily increases in weeks, and the daily increase in reported cases of the virus has remained below 10,000 cases for the last two weeks.

Health officials report there were about 6,900 patients with COVID-19 in Florida hospitals, Monday, marking the lowest level of coronavirus-related hospitalizations reported in a single day since officials began releasing that data a month ago.

Of the 4,020,073 tests that have been performed in Florida so far, the overall positivity rate stands at 13.36%.

Here in the Southwest Florida region including Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, state health officials reported 338 new cases of the virus, Monday for a total of 47,121 cases.

There were also 43 new COVID-19 related deaths reported in the Southwest Florida region, Aug. 10 including 35 deaths in Manatee County and eight fatalities in Sarasota County for a total of 976 deaths.

Gov. Ron DeSantis held an education roundtable at a public charter high school in Riverview Monday.

There was some tension when members of the public asked questions, particularly about how Hillsborough County public schools will reopen.

The governor and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran sat down with the principal, a teacher, parents, and others from Winthrop College Prep Academy to highlight the school.

Winthrop will open for in-person instruction August 24 and also offer online classes for kids who choose to learn from home.

The governor applauded Winthrop's reopening plan, referring to how the school handled the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

"While the distance learning may have been something that needed to be done at the time, there's no substitute for that in-person instruction. I know they're really chomping at the bit to get back. You feel that here. There's definitely a sense of excitement," said DeSantis.

After the roundtable, a member of the public who did not identify herself asked why no one opposed to in-person instruction was invited to speak.

"There's a lot of people here and they all agree with opening, which is great because it's choices, but I don't see anybody here that doesn't agree with opening,” she said, adding that teachers have concerns about their health.

The governor said there are flexible options for parents but he did not address the concerns of teachers.

He also responded to questions about the state denying the Hillsborough County School District the ability to start the school year fully online.

DeSantis said "some of this stuff is just not debatable anymore," continuing to say that kids are at lower risk for contracting the coronavirus.

"Beyond that is really a policy decision about how important is it to get students back in the classroom and how you balance that with, not zero risk, but I would say low risk," he said.

Corcoran gave a seemingly mixed message, saying it's up to the discretion of local school districts on how they reopen, but adding that his emergency order says they need to offer in-person classes to get fully funded.

"Hillsborough themselves two weeks ago was in complete agreement,” said Corcoran. “Every other district is doing what exactly what the emergency order gave them flexibility to do and they're doing it with great fanfare."

Hillsborough County's school board voted last week to go fully online for the first month of classes starting August 24.

The next day, Corcoran sent a letter to Hillsborough officials saying that violated the original plan which the state had already approved.

One week into early voting, more than 1.7 million Floridians have already cast ballots ahead of next Tuesday's primary elections. Nearly 90% have been cast by mail.

For comparison, vote-by-mail accounted for 67% of ballots cast ahead of the primary election two years ago.

Supervisor of Elections in rural Jefferson County, Marty Bishop, said the drop in early voting is likely attributed to COVID-19, and the push most county election supervisors have made to encourage people vote through the mail.

Bishop said supervisors across Florida are doing their best to make it safe for those who still choose to vote in person. “When the voter comes in and marks the ballot, they are told to carry the pen with them. We are not using secrecy folders because of the contact of using them over and over again. We have masks and we have hand sanitizer,” said Bishop.

The Aug. 18 Primary includes partisan primary races for several Congressional and legislative seats.

Additionally, citizens are casting ballots in numerous local contests, many of which are nonpartisan.

As of midday Monday, 840,000 Democrats had voted, 649,000 ballots have been cast by Republicans and 244,000 voters with minor or no party affiliation have gone to the polls or turned in ballots.

A Southwest Florida paramedic will be among the speakers at next week's Democratic National Convention.

Joe Biden's presidential campaign announced, Monday, that Fort Myers resident Aldo Martinez, 26, will be among those addressing the convention virtually.

The News-Press reports, Martinez is a paramedic with Lee County Emergency Medical Services working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 battle. He's also a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient who immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 12.

The DACA program was established under the Obama Administration. In 2017 President Donald Trump ordered an end to it.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the DACA program in a June decision. The majority opinion in that ruling called the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to end the program "arbitrary and capricious."

Martinez said recent challenges to DACA have added more uncertainty to what is already a stressful time given his work amid the ongoing pandemic.

The Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee runs Aug. 17-20. It's expected to broadcast live on cable news channels from 9:00-11:00 p.m. and will be streamed by the Biden campaign over a number of online platforms.

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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.
Jessica Meszaros is a reporter and host of Morning Edition at WUSF Public Media, and former reporter and host of All Things Considered for WGCU News.
Tom Urban is the Assignment Manager for .