COVID-19 Morning Report
State health officials reported 7,569 new cases of COVID-19, Tuesday and 187 new coronavirus-related deaths.
The Florida Department of Health released a statement, Sept. 1, explaining that Tuesday's reported single-day increase in cases of the virus is inflated due to delayed reporting of test results from Quest Diagnostics. The Health Department's statement notes that the test reporting dump from Quest includes nearly 75,000 tests, some dating as far back as April.
The incident has prompted the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Division of Emergency Management to sever ties with the laboratory company.
Gov. Ron DeSantis called Quest’s data delay irresponsible. He said it has tainted the state’s daily test results for months, but that he doesn’t think dropping the large laboratory will have a negative impact on reporting going forward.
"You know, we've had more success with some of the more upstart labs in terms of their turnaround time. So, I think that there's a lot a lot of options there,” said DeSantis.
“I will tell you, we when we were having the biggest backlogs, the biggest backlogs were typically from Quest even back in in early July."
However, DeSantis noted that Quest did contact everyone who tested positive to tell them their results.
Meanwhile, new federal regulations on test-result reporting are expected to be finalized this week. State public health officials hope the new rules will include penalties for those who fail to comply.
Prior to the problems with Quest, Florida had experienced nine consecutive days where health officials reported fewer than 4,000 new cases in a day. Florida's total number of reported cases of the virus now stands at 631,040 cases and the statewide death toll has now risen to 11,521 fatalities.
Of the 4,682,883 COVID-19 tests that have been reported in Florida so far, the overall positivity rate continues trending downward slightly to a current rate of 13.48%.
Since the start of the pandemic, Florida has recorded 38,495 coronavirus-related hospitalizations.
Here in the Southwest Florida region including Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, health officials reported 476 new cases of the virus, Tuesday for a total of 53,499 cases.
There were also ten new deaths reported in the Southwest Florida region, reported Sept. 1, including three fatalities in Lee County, two new deaths each in Charlotte, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, and one new fatality in Collier for a total of 1,211 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Since mid-March, residents of long-term facilities haven’t received visitors, but that’s about to change. Gov. DeSantis announced an order Tuesday that allows long-term care facilities to let visitors back in. Those that have had new COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks are excluded.
“I think it’s smart. It’s incentivizing good practices on the part of the facilities because if you do that then you’re going to be able to do the visitation,” said DeSantis.
“Obviously your residents’ family members will be very happy with that.”
Visitors must wear a mask and will be screened for symptoms though testing is not required. A resident may receive two guests at a time and may choose someone called an essential caregiver, who may touch them. Other guests must be socially distant.
About 4,800 staff or residents of these facilities have died since the start of the pandemic.
Florida residents unable to pay their rent or mortgages will have at least another month's reprieve. On Monday night, Gov. DeSantis again extended a moratorium against residential evictions and foreclosures. The AP reports, the extension came just hours before a previous extension was set to expire.
The extension means residents struggling with rent or mortgage payments amid the pandemic-induced economic downturn cannot be forced from their homes until the end of the month.
More than one million Floridians are currently unemployed.
More than 100 students and staff members of Palmetto High School in Manatee County are being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days after a possible COVID-19 exposure.
The Herald Tribune reports a message from the school's principal suggests teachers may not have been using seating charts, which are vital to accurate contact tracing efforts, noting that health officials could not definitively rule that students were not exposed.
During a meeting last week, Manatee County School board members urged the district to provide more specific information about possible exposure incidents in schools in order to be transparent and to give parents the information they need to make decisions about their own kids' health and safety.
Lee County School Board members, Tuesday, approved a temporary policy stating that the district will follow the recommendations of public health officials like the Florida Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when it comes to the use of protective gear like face masks.
The News-Press reports, the order applies to anyone entering a school campus. It's a temporary policy extending for 90 days.
Board members are slated to revisit the policy in 28 days to consider making it permanent.
Collier County Commissioners, Thursday afternoon are slated to consider extending the mandatory mask policy the county adopted in July.
The emergency order passed on a narrow 3-2 vote after passionate public testimony from residents both for and against the mask policy. The rule applies to workers and patrons of most businesses in unincorporated portions of the county and it's set to expire at midnight on Thursday unless officials extend it.
Business owner and outspoken critic of mask rules, Alfie Oakes, filed a federal lawsuit against the face covering mandate last month, claiming it is unconstitutional. The Naples Daily News reports the county has not yet filed a response to the complaint.
Lee County Commissioners approved a plan, Tuesday, 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.
The new human services grant program is slated to begin Sept. 21 after the county's current programs helping families and businesses with the economic effects of the pandemic sunset's Sept. 18.
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.