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COVID-19 Morning Report

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Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 2,541 new COVID-19 cases, Thursday bringing Florida's total to 693,040 cases. The Florida Department of Health also reported 177 new coronavirus-related deaths, Sept. 24, increasing the statewide death toll to 13,961 fatalities.

Of the 5,186,646 COVID-19 tests that have been reported in Florida so far, the overall positivity rate has reduced to 13.36% and the latest single-day positivity rate fell to 4.44% after rising about the five percent threshold in the previous two days.

Florida has experienced a total of 43,128 coronavirus-related hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic.

Here in the Southwest Florida region including Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, health officials reported 221 new cases of the virus, Thursday, for a total of 57,714 cases.

There were also 16 new coronavirus-related deaths reported in the Southwest Florida region, Sept. 24, including four new fatalities each in Lee and Manatee Counties, three new deaths each in Charlotte and Collier Counties and two fatalities in Sarasota County for a total of 1,396 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

After some universities in the state have threatened punishment for not following COVID-19 guidelines, Governor Ron DeSantis says he’s mulling protections for college students.

Earlier this month, Florida State University President John Thrasher announced students who host or attend large parties are subject to suspension.

Some of the threatened suspensions for not isolating after a positive coronavirus test could be lengthy.

Thrasher wrote in an open letter: “any student who tests positive and is ordered to isolate: Socializing outside of your residence, working out at the Leach Center or engaging in activities such as going to parties may result in your suspension from Florida State University for a minimum of one academic semester.”

DeSantis calls punishments for students who may be asymptomatic, “draconian.”

“We’re looking at perhaps, if there’s something we can do at the state level to provide some type of bill of rights for students. And I understand the universities, they’re trying to do the right thing,” DeSantis said at a media event Thursday. “But I personally think it’s incredibly draconian that a student would get potentially expelled for going to a party.

“That’s what college kids do. And they’re low-risk. I think we’ve got to be reasonable about this, and focus the efforts on where the most significant risk is.”

In recent weeks, the college-age demographic has been a driver of new COVID-19 infections in Leon County.

DeSantis says he thinks it’s “very important” to have in-person instruction at the college level, from an academic and social standpoint.

The governor didn’t get specific as to whether a “bill of rights” for college students is being drafted, or is currently in the works in any way.

DeSantis did indicate he wants universities to change their policy on mandating isolation for asymptomatic students who would be at lower risk for spreading COVID-19.

“If you’re at risk of infecting people, you need to stay home – I’m 100 percent supportive of that,” said DeSantis.

“But I mean, if someone tests positive and its dead virus from two months ago, and they have zero percent chance of infecting anybody, just keep them in a dorm room or wherever for two weeks? I think that’s a problem,” DeSantis said.

Universities, including FSU and University of Florida, have set up “quarantine dorms” for students who wish to isolate there.

Meanwhile, a sorority at Florida Gulf Coast University in Estero was suspended this week due to allegations that members held an off-campus event that violates the school's COVID-19 guidelines.

The Delta Delta Delta sorority was placed on interim suspension until the allegations are reviewed during a student code of conduct hearing. This marks the third Greek organization at FGCU to face such a hearing since the fall semester began Aug. 17.

Two fraternities were previously suspended for the remainder of the semester after they hosted large off-campus parties during the first week of classes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people to get a flu shot. One reason for the push is to reserve medical supplies needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic. The CDC's Dr. Ram Koppaka says it's unclear how the flu will impact the pandemic:

"We have a safe and effective vaccine to prevent influenza that can protect individuals. It can also protect their communities, saving scarce medical resources that can be used to fight the pandemic."

Koppaka says people can catch both the flu and the coronavirus. He recommends getting a flu shot by the end of October to prevent more severe complications from the virus.

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