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COVID-19 Morning Report

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Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 3,266 new COVID-19 cases, Tuesday, marking the largest single-day increase since Sept. 19 when more than 3,500 new cases were reported.

This comes one day after the Florida Department of Health reported the lowest single-day increase since June 2.

Health officials also reported 106 new coronavirus-related deaths, Sept. 29, increasing the statewide death toll to 14,313 fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic. On Monday, health officials reported just five new deaths, marking the lowest single day increase in fatalities since May 31.

Overall, Florida health officials have reported 704,568 COVID-19 cases.

Of the 5,297,279 COVID-19 tests that have been reported in Florida so far, the overall positivity rate stands at 13.3% and the latest single-day positivity rate increased to 4.96%.

In the Southwest Florida region including Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, health officials reported 219 new COVID-19 cases for a total of 58,587 cases.

There were also five new coronavirus-related deaths reported in the Southwest Florida region, Sept. 29, including two new fatalities each in Collier and Sarasota Counties and one new death in Charlotte County for a total of 1,413 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Millions of rapid test kits for the coronavirus will soon be on their way to the neediest Floridians - courtesy of the federal government. The announcement came from Gov. Ron DeSantis Tuesday at BayCare Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater.

The state will get 6.5 million rapid coronavirus test kits, DeSantis said. First on the list for distribution will be high-risk nursing homes, long-term care facilities and hospitals. DeSantis said the tests are part of the 150 million kits purchased by the federal government.

The kits can produce results after only 15 minutes, he said.

"All the stuff is right there," DeSantis said. "So if a senior center were to get a couple of these, they pretty much don't need anything else than what's already in the box, locked and loaded, ready to go."

DeSantis says the next priority for distribution would be schools.

"What we're going to be doing is not just nursing homes, not just long-term care facilities," he said. "But we are going to have priority for any senior center, any retirement community."

He expects about 400,000 tests to be done per week.

Manatee County commissioners on Tuesday, repealed the county's mandatory mask rule. The Sarasota Herald Tribune reports, commissioners also voted to replace the emergency resolution with a proclamation that says while masks will no longer be required, businesses are encouraged to require patrons to wear masks.

The move comes after Gov. DeSantis announced, Friday, that Florida is moving into phase three of the state's reopening plan. DeSantis signed an executive order lifting capacity restrictions on bars and restaurants and that prohibits local municipalities from collecting fines and fees from individuals who've violated local mask mandates.

Mandatory mask rules remain in effect in other municipalities of Southwest Florida including in Manatee and Collier Counties, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel Island and the cities of Sarasota and Longboat Key.

Starting Thursday, the airport will offer two types of tests: one that produces results in 48 hours, and another which is ready in about 15 minutes.

The service is available to anyone flying to or from Tampa. But passengers will have to pay for it. The two-day PCR test costs $125, while the shorter antigen test is $57. BayCare will not bill insurance.

Tampa International says it’s the first airport in the U.S. to offer on-site COVID tests. “As a gateway to the West Coast of Florida with a growing market for international travel, Tampa International Airport has a responsibility to explore safe, rapid and affordable ways to keep our travelers, their destinations and our community as safe and healthy as possible,” airport CEO Joe Lopano said in a statement. The tests are a pilot program running through October. Similar trials are underway at London’s Heathrow Airport and German airline Lufthansa.

Health experts say rapid testing will be key to reviving the travel industry, which has suffered massive financial losses since the start of the pandemic.

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