PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

COVID-19 Morning Report

Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 8,109 new cases of COVID-19, Wednesday, increasing the statewide total to 545,901 cases. Aug. 12 marked the 17th consecutive day, health officials have reported fewer than 10,000 new cases in a day.

The Florida Department of Health also reported 212 new coronavirus-related deaths, Wednesday, bringing the statewide death toll to 8,898 fatalities. Tuesday marked Florida’s single-day record high of 276 deaths.

Of the 4,093,972 tests that have been performed in Florida so far, the overall positivity rate stands at 13.46%.

Here in the Southwest Florida region including Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, state health officials reported 377 new cases of the virus, Wednesday, for a total of 47,783 cases.

There were also 28 new coronavirus-related deaths reported in the Southwest Florida region, Aug. 12, including 11 new deaths in Lee County, eight new fatalities in Manatee County, four deaths in Sarasota, three new fatalities in Collier and two new deaths in Charlotte County for a total of 1,053 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is applauding the beginning this week of in-person classes at some Florida school districts. DeSantis says one superintendent likened the start of the school year to a military takedown of a terrorist.

“Martin County Superintendent Laurie Gaylord told me today that she viewed reopening her schools as a mission akin to a Navy SEAL operation. Just as the SEALs surmounted obstacles to bring Osama bin Laden to justice so too would the Martin County School System find a way to provide parents with the meaningful choice of in-person instruction, or continued distance learning. All in. All the time,” DeSantis says.

DeSantis says he’s heard about grateful parents who are driving their children to class with gifts and supplies for their teachers in tow.

“The superintendent of Suwannee County, Ted Roush, told me today never before in his 26-year career had he witnessed what he saw during the first day of school—parents not only bringing their kids to school, but also bringing presents and supplies to the teachers as a way to say thank you,” DeSantis says.

The governor also extended his thanks to teachers and other school workers.

“Thank you for helping society keep moving forward. Thank you for giving our kids the opportunity to learn in person. And thank you for giving our families what so many wants after these long many months—a renewed sense of normalcy,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis notes not all students will be returning to in-person classes. Some families are opting to continue distance learning this year. DeSantis says he thinks it’s important for parents to have that choice.

Colombian officials say they've arrested two Florida men wanted in the U.S. on charges of illegally selling a bleach-like chemical as a miracle cure for COVID-19 and other diseases.

The AP reports, the Colombian prosecutor’s office says Mark and Joseph Grennon were shipping their "miracle mineral solution", chlorine dioxide, from Colombia to clients in the U.S. and in other countries. They say seven Americans have died from using the substance.

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods has issued a policy requiring his deputies not to a mask when working. Visitors to the sheriff’s department are also not allowed to wear a mask.

Sheriff Woods issued the policy via email Tuesday, the day after Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn vetoed the city' mask ordinance.

The City Council has overridden the veto after comments for and against. Ocala resident Joe Kay lumped the two issues together.

"The city of Ocala is a national embarrassment and our sheriff being held up as the poster child for not wearing a mask," Kay said.

The policy has exceptions for the courthouse, schools, hospitals and jail. Deputies are told to keep a mask in a pocket for use at nursing homes, for COVID-19-related calls, and for calls involving elderly people.

Woods writes he can, quote, "already hear the whining" but says the policy's not up for debate.

Marion County has lost 104 lives to COVID-19, including 40 since the beginning of August.

Veterans hospitals across Florida are understaffed and the Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute said the pressures the coronavirus pandemic has put on the healthcare system makes filling those vacancies even more important now than ever.

The Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute is a nonprofit founded by veterans, health care workers and journalists to provide information that will help lead to better healthcare for veterans. The group said Florida is in bad shape when it comes to taking care of its veteran population partly because of a high number of vacancies at VA hospitals.

“The Miami VA currently has 310 vacancies, West Palm Beach has 465, Gainesville is at 1,054 staff vacancies, Tampa is at 463 vacancies, and in Orlando there are only 3,” said Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute Executive Director Brett Copeland.

“So, there’s still a lot of work to do as it comes to staffing up the VA and making sure that basic care can be provided at these facilities.”

The group says those vacancies are even more problematic during a global pandemic when veterans are directed to private health care providers who may already be facing an influx of patients caused by COVID-19, and who don’t know exactly how to care for veterans.

“Most private sector providers the average for example primary care provider may have 1 to 5 veterans among their 2,100 to 3,100 patients,” said institute co-founder and healthcare journalist and researcher Suzanne Gordon.

“The VA knows about these problems because that’s all they care for is veterans, it’s a population health system. It’s like a pediatric hospital or cancer hospital.”

Since March, the Veterans Health Administration has hired more than 24,000 people. The Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute is pushing for more hires to fill vacancies. The group also wants to see care at the hospitals be expanded for all veterans and their families.

Our smartphones have noticed people are driving less during the Coronavirus pandemic. Data from the GPS navigation app Waze has been keeping track of how much less people are driving and noticing that traffic is creeping back up.

Waze data finds that in April, as people were staying home, the miles driven per day in Miami and in Fort Lauderdale dropped by more than 80%.

People are getting back on the road again, but the good news is the amount of traffic jams per day is still way down.

"The times of day that people are driving and the types of trips that people are taking are definitely shifting,” said Waze Head of Public Sector Partnerships Dani Simons.

She said commuting is still down, but Waze is still seeing trips to parks to get fresh air and to the grocery store.

As people start to get back on the road Waze has been working with partners like Brightline to show railroad crossing alerts.

An Associated Press analysis at the end of last year found that Brightline has the worst per-mile death rate of the nation’s railroads with some of those deaths involving cars.

WGCU is your trusted source for news and information in Southwest Florida. We are a nonprofit public service, and your support is more critical than ever. Keep public media strong and donate now. Thank you.

Joe Byrnes
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.
Caitie Switalski