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COVID-19 Morning Report

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Florida Department of Health

Bars in Florida will be permitted to reopen at 50% capacity starting Monday, Sept. 14. The AP reports, Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears issued the emergency order, Thursday, at the direction of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The order rescinds a previous order from the governor that shut down all bars in the state on June 26.

Before the announcement last night, DeSantis met with local restaurant owners in Lee County, Thursday afternoon, who told him they want to see restaurants open back up to 100% capacity. DeSantis indicated that may happen soon.

DeSantis said he also supports the idea of permanently extending an executive order that allows restaurants to offer alcohol to go.

State Health officials reported 2,583 new COVID-19 cases, Thursday increasing Florida's total to 654,731 cases. The Florida Department of Health also reported 211 new coronavirus-related deaths, yesterday, bringing the statewide death toll to 12,482 fatalities.

Thursday marked the second consecutive day that the number of new reported deaths was in the 200s. Before that, Florida experienced four straight days of state health officials reporting daily death tolls in the double digits.

Of the 4,857,274 COVID-19 tests that have been reported in Florida so far, the overall positivity rate remains at 13.48%, but the single day positivity rate for tests reported yesterday stands at 5.97%.

The number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations in Florida since the start of the pandemic has increased to 40,807 patients.

Here in the Southwest Florida region including Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, state health officials reported 159 new cases of the virus, Thursday, for a total of 54,977 cases.

There were also 12 new coronavirus-related deaths reported in the Southwest Florida region, Sept. 10, including four new fatalities each in Manatee and Sarasota counties, two new deaths in Lee County, and one new death each in Charlotte and Collier Counties for a total of 1,291 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

State economists project there will be $2.7 billion fewer dollars available in the next fiscal year to maintain current spending levels, with the gap growing in the future. The Joint Legislative Budget Commission, which is made up of House and Senate members, met Thursday to receive a presentation about the state’s long-range financial outlook.

The report provides extensive information about state revenue and expenses and projections for the coming years.

Lawmakers will face additional issues this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, which caused state general revenue to fall.

General revenue, which includes such money as sales taxes and corporate income taxes, plays a vital role in funding schools, health care and prisons.

Chief Economist in the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research Amy Baker gave the presentation.

“At this point, we are projecting for the fiscal years of 19-20 to have -1.3%growth, and for 20-21, the year we are in right now, -4.3% growth.”

Tax revenues began plummeting in April after businesses shut down or dramatically scaled back because of the pandemic. The revenue decline had led to widespread speculation about whether lawmakers will have to return to Tallahassee to cut a budget that took effect July 1.

Republican leaders, including Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, (R-Orange Park), maintain that expanded budget reserves approved during this year’s legislative session, along with cash-conserving vetoes from Gov. DeSantis, will prevent the need for a special session before the November election.

“Situations change minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, week by week and month by month. So, I am quite comfortable with the decisions that have been made by our governor,” said Sen. Bradley.

For months, Democrats have clamored for lawmakers to return to Tallahassee to address the economic hits to the state. DeSantis, who vetoed $1 billion from the state budget for the current fiscal year, continues to anticipate federal dollars will help patch financial holes.

Universities and businesses are opening up across Florida, and public schools may soon follow. Here’s a refresher on measures to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

We still don’t know exactly how big a dose of the virus it takes to get another person infected.

But Michael Tang says we do know what we can do to reduce the spread.

He’s a professor of medicine at the University of South Florida. Take those arrows on the floor at Publix telling you which way to walk down the aisles, shoppers really should follow them.

“Because if you have two people coming towards each other, the airflow kind of gets mixed up in the air, doesn’t move anywhere. But if everybody is going the same direction, the air will actually flow through the aisle that way,” Tang said.

Tang also emphasized hand washing, wearing masks and opening windows to improve ventilation.

“We don’t have any one thing that will take care of the virus, so we need to do everything,” he said.

Dr. Aileen Marty is a professor of infectious disease at Florida International University.

Marty says once students start learning face to face again, the risk of spread will increase.

“But how much it increases depends on the viral load in our community. And so, if we’re doing everything possible to keep that viral load down…” Marty said.

Then, outbreaks on campus are likely to be smaller and less frequent.

A new public service announcement is set to debut soon called “Safe and Easy: Vote By Mail in Florida.”

The groups pushing it say the video provides “steps for how all Florida voters, especially seniors and other vulnerable populations, can safely and securely register and vote by mail.” It was produced in partnership with the Alliance for Retired Americans.

Barbara Devane is secretary of the group’s Florida chapter. She was outside the supervisor of elections’ office today promoting the video:

I haven’t voted by mail for over 20 years – but I did this year, when the virus started raging in Florida, and in Tallahassee, my home town,” Devane said. “It was so easy.”

The three-minute PSA features senior voters from across Florida.

Retiree advocacy groups weren’t the only ones promoting the PSA. Adner Marcelin, president of Tallahassee’s NAACP chapter, was also outside the election supervisor’s office pitching vote by mail as a safe alternative during the pandemic.

“What I am encouraging everybody to do with me today, is to go out to the supervisor election’s office, and get one of these,” Marcelin, said, holing a mail-in ballot,” and that you sign up and return these ballots early.”

Marcelin stressed the importance of the Black vote in Florida’s often very close elections.

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