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COVID-19 Morning Report

Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 2,402 new cases of COVID-19, Wednesday, increasing the statewide total to 633,442 cases. The Florida Department of Health reported 127 new coronavirus-related deaths, Sept. 2, bringing the statewide death toll to 11,651 fatalities.

Of the 4,681,135 COVID-19 tests that have been reported in Florida so far, the overall positivity rate continues trending downward to its current rate of 13.40%.

Since the beginning of the pandemic state health officials report there have been a total of 39,158 coronavirus-related hospitalizations.

Here in the Southwest Florida region including Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties state health officials reported 180 new cases of the virus, Wednesday, for a total of 53,679 cases.

There were also 19 new coronavirus-related deaths reported in the Southwest Florida region, Sept. 2, including seven new fatalities in Sarasota County, five deaths in Lee County, three new deaths each in Collier and Manatee Counties and one new fatality in Charlotte County for a total of 1,240 deaths.

Gov. Ron DeSantis extended Florida’s moratorium on evictions, this week, for the fifth month in a row.

And while that offers relief to tenants who have found themselves without a job because of the pandemic, it’s putting landlords in a tough spot.

David Winker is an attorney in Miami who has both tenants and landlords as his clients.

“We’re not dealing with the real problem. We’re just saying ‘push it off,’ I anticipate past the election,” said Winker.

“And then you’re going to have, I would estimate, 4,000 to 5,000 evictions in the state of Florida ready to go.”

Winker predicts that when the ban is lifted, courts will be completely overwhelmed with new eviction cases being filed.

Landlords can currently file eviction actions in courts, but the final step of removing tenants from the properties is banned.

State Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, has been tapped to head Florida's employment agency. Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Eagle to head the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity two days after DEO Secretary Ken Lawson announced his resignation.

The AP reports, the agency has faced widespread criticism amid long-delays in paying out unemployment benefits to Floridians who lost their jobs during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Eagle is a real estate broker who has served in the Florida House since 2012. He's now term-limited out of serving another term in the chamber and recently lost the GOP primary election to represent Florida's 19th Congressional District. Eagle is the House Majority leader and vice-chair of the chamber's powerful Appropriations Committee.

The state’s tourism marketing arm Visit Florida is launching an advertising campaign aimed at encouraging in-state travel to try to help Florida’s tourism industry recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

During a press conference in Daytona Beach on Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said that between February and April 1.2 million Floridians lost their jobs and nearly half of them worked in leisure and hospitality.

He hopes this new campaign targeting Floridians will help bring those jobs back and help the state’s tourism industry.

“We really believe that this campaign will help reinvigorate those jobs and contribute to these communities,” he said. “This is really going to be, I think, an invaluable tool to help show folks that Florida is back and that we welcome folks.”

Visit Florida, the state’s tourism agency, is expecting to spend around $13 million on the campaign between now and December.

The ads will include digital and social media placement, as well as billboards and TV.

The announcement comes as the state is seeing a slight but steady decline in the number of daily positive coronavirus cases being reported.

The Sarasota County School district is planning to open two new COVID-19 testing centers exclusively for school staff and possibly students.

The Herald Tribune reports, Sarasota Schools Superintendent Brennan Asplen discussed plans for the testing sites with school board members, Tuesday. The aim of the testing centers is to minimize the amount of time teachers have be spend in quarantine with test results expected to come back within 24 to 48 hours.

One testing center will be at the Department of Health at the northern end of the county and the other will be centrally located in Osprey at the district's transportation hub.

Asplen didn't say when the testing centers are slated to open, but says it will be soon.

For months, Gov. DeSantis has faced calls to implement a statewide mask mandate. Now President of Physicians for Social Responsibility Dr. Howard Kessler, has joined that call.

Kessler says until there is a cure for COVID-19, practicing prevention is the best solution. He rejects the idea of herd immunity.

“That would mean that over 14 million Floridians would have to get infected and almost a quarter of a million Floridians would be projected to die," said Kessler. "You can cut those estimates in half and they are still shocking."

White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Scott Atlas has floated the idea of herd immunity. He joined DeSantis earlier this week to talk about reopening schools.

A Fort Myers business owner faces up to 30 years in federal prison after receiving more than $2 million in coronavirus relief funds and using nearly $700,000 of that money to buy a 40-foot boat.

President of Target Roofing and Sheet Metal, Inc, Casey Crowther, was arrested Wednesday on a federal charge of making a false statement to a lending institution.

The AP reports, a criminal complaint says Crowther applied for a Payroll Protection Program loan in April on behalf of his roofing business. The U.S. Secret Service is investigating.

Miami's annual Art Basel fair is cancelled this year amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The high-brow art fair, known for its glamorous parties and celebrity sightings, typically brings in collectors and socialites from around the globe.

The AP reports, the organization that puts on the event issued a statement, Wednesday, to announce that it would not be taking place this December, due to the pandemic's impact on international travel restrictions and other quarantine factors.

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Daniel Rivero is a reporter and producer for WLRN, covering Latino and criminal justice issues. Before joining the team, he was an investigative reporter and producer on the television series "The Naked Truth," and a digital reporter for Fusion.
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.
Brendan Rivers comes to WJCT News with years of experience reporting and hosting news for several stations in the Daytona Beach area.