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COVID-19 Morning Report

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Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 738 new COVID-19 cases, Monday, marking Florida's lowest single-day increase in cases since June 2.

There now have been a total of 701,302 confirmed cases of the virus in the state.

The Florida Department of Health also reported just five new coronavirus-related deaths, Sept. 28, increasing the statewide death toll to 14,207 fatalities.

Of the 5,268,827 COVID-19 tests that have been reported in Florida so far, the overall positivity rate fell just a fraction of a percent, Monday, from the previous day to 13.31%. The latest single-day positivity rate increased slightly to 4.22%.

In the Southwest Florida region including Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, state health officials reported 62 new cases of the virus, Monday for a total of 58,368 cases.

There were also two new coronavirus-related deaths reported in Lee County, Sept. 28, for a total of 1,409 deaths in the Southwest Florida region since the start of the pandemic.

The vagueness of last week's executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis lifting some statewide coronavirus restrictions and suspending fines for individuals who violate face-covering mandates has led to some confusion, but the Naples Daily News reports, mask mandates here in Southwest Florida are still in effect.

A spokesman for the governor's office says the executive order ushering in phase three of Florida's reopening plan does not prohibit municipalities from imposing fines and fees on businesses that violate a local mask policy.

On Friday, DeSantis signed an executive order lifting pandemic restrictions on patron capacity in restaurants and bars and suspending the collection of fines and penalties against individuals who've violated local mask mandates.

Officials on Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach were among the first in the region to pass mask requirements. Sanibel City Attorney John Agnew said the island's mask mandate remains in effect for anyone over the age of two while in a business or place of public accommodation.

Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy confirmed Monday that the mask mandate there remains in effect for anyone over six years old while out of their place of residence and when social distancing isn't possible.

Collier County's mask mandate also remains in effect. The current ordinance is set to expire Oct. 22.

Business owner Alfie Oakes, who has called the pandemic a hoax and a scam, has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Collier's mask rule. Oral arguments before a federal judge in Fort Myers are scheduled for Oct. 2 concerning the county's motion to dismiss the suit and a temporary injunction sought by Oakes.

Despite the recently lifted pandemic restrictions, Nova Southeastern University Microbiology professor Bindu Mayi, M.Sc., Ph.D., said people should remain cautious.

“The virus is still out there. The pandemic isn't behind us and I think anyone who is going to go to a bar or to a restaurant have to really gauge who they may be exposed to,” said Mayi.

“Do you really want to expose yourself to this virus?”

Mayi said the coronavirus numbers over the next two weeks will help determine whether Florida reopened too quickly.

She says it will likely be a while before we return to the old normal when we didn't wear masks and practice social distancing.

Mayi said there has to be a safe and effective vaccine to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“If enough of us get vaccinated, that we stop that chain of transmission,” said Mayi.

“When that happens, and we know that by monitoring it over a few incubation periods, it's to make sure that no new cases emerge. With the continual testing, not just here in the United States but across the world.”

Mayi said spread of the virus could be slowed earlier if everybody wears masks and follows other public health guidelines.

Tallahassee Police say they broke up an off-campus party of Florida State University students, Sunday, that involved about 700 vehicles and more than 1,000 party-goers.

The AP reports, police say it was one of a dozen large gatherings they broke up over the weekend as cases of COVID-19 spike among FSU students.

A Leon County Sheriff's office helicopter was used to help disburse the crowd. FSU reported more than 1,400 COVID-19 positive students through Sept. 18.

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