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COVID-19 Morning Report

Florida Department of Health

The Florida Department of Health reported 1,885 new cases of COVID-19, Monday, marking the ninth consecutive day of fewer than 4,000 cases and the lowest single-day increase in reported cases since June 15.

State health officials also reported 68 new deaths of Florida residents, Aug. 31, increasing the statewide death toll to 11,331 fatalities.

Florida has now reported 623,471 cases of the virus since the start of the pandemic, which represents 2.9% of Florida's population of about 21.5 million people.

Of the 4,622,552 COVID-19 tests that have been performed in Florida so far, the overall positivity rate remains at 13.49%, although the rate of tests being conducted in the state continues to decline.

Since the start of the pandemic, nearly 38,500 people have been hospitalized with the virus, but the rate of hospitalizations throughout the state has been steadily falling.

Here in the Southwest Florida region including Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties state health officials reported 95 new COVID-19 cases, Monday, for a total of 53,023 cases. There were also five new coronavirus-related deaths reported, Aug. 31, in Lee County, for a total of 1,211 coronavirus-related deaths in the Southwest Florida region since the beginning of the pandemic.

Florida is seeing a decrease in the number of positive COVID-19 tests. It’s coming as the number of tests being conducted is falling. Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday the state is not responsible for the decline in testing. He said fewer people are showing up.

“Now that the numbers are going down there’s an effort, it seems like, to say, ’Oh these people are really sick. They’re being denied tests,’” said DeSantis.

“No one is being denied tests. You have the ability to go, but the test sites have very few people.”

Emergency room visits for coronavirus have also been declining in Florida.

As students return to classrooms throughout most of the state, Gov. DeSantis and an adviser to President Donald Trump, on Monday, tried to bolster support for offering in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Scott Atlas, said during a news conference with DeSantis that evidence is “incontrovertible” that children are at extremely low risk from COVID-19.

The news conference came as school districts in almost all areas of the state were required to offer in-person classes by Aug. 31.

Atlas said the focus of testing and other measures should be on vulnerable people, but he also warned about the effects of locking down schools and other parts of society. “You cannot shut down schools and then just assume you are doing something good because there is some infection in the school,” said Atlas.

“We know that there is a significant drop in learning, but also all the socialization that children need, all of the physical activity, all the health, all of the nutrition.”

DeSantis emphasized focusing on people who show symptoms of the virus and are particularly vulnerable to its effects, rather than people who are infected but asymptomatic.

“Having a functioning society is very important in fighting an epidemic. To put society on its knees is kind of cutting off your nose to spite your face. The schools, I think, are an important part of that,” said DeSantis.

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued an emergency order in July directing schools to reopen brick and mortar buildings to in-person learning by August 31st.

Districts in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, which have had the largest numbers of coronavirus cases, did not have to meet the date for in-person classes.

Corcoran estimated Monday that about 60% of students statewide are taking part in face-to-face instruction and about 40% are taking part in virtual or “hybrid” learning, though the numbers vary by district.

Corcoran also said he’s predicting a state victory in the lawsuit challenging school reopenings.

“The First DCA (District Court of Appeal) basically said looking preliminarily at what we’ve done, we have a high probability of succeeding on the merits, and was in absolute rebuke of the trail court for trying to take away that right from parents, teachers and students,” said Corcoran.

“So, I think we’re going in a great direction.”

The statewide teachers’ union the Florida Education Association, argues the order on school reopenings side-steps local school board authority to make such decisions. The state says it’s meant to give parents a choice. A lower court ruled the state’s order violates local control, but the appeals court has put that ruling on hold.

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Ken Lawson resigned Aug. 31. His department has come under fire after its CONNECT online unemployment system failed in March when the coronavirus walloped Florida.

During that time, businesses either had to shut down or scale back, causing massive layoffs, but the state's unemployment system couldn't handle the influx of new people applying for benefits. It crashed and glitched, locking out many who needed relief.

Lawson had previously helped author a memo, warning Gov. DeSantis about the website's "capabilities."

In April, DeSantis put someone else in charge of handling the website, pushing Lawson aside. Lawson says he is stepping down in the "spirit of turning the page and moving forward" in his resignation letter. DeSantis said the state already has a replacement, but did not name the individual.

Lee County officials plan to put $10 million from the county's share of federal CARES Act funding into a grant program aimed at helping human services organizations with unanticipated expenses caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The News-Press reports, the plan for the LeeCARES Human Services Grant Program is to provide one-time grants of between $5,000 and $50,000 to non-profits and local government agencies that provide some form of direct human services to those being impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

Lee County Commissioners will consider formally adopting the proposed grant program Sept. 1.

County leaders are also looking to set aside $5.5 million for incorporated communities in Lee County to help with local expenses caused by the pandemic, including in the communities of Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, Cape Coral, Sanibel, Bonita Springs and Estero.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas. She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.
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.
Tom Urban is the Assignment Manager for .