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COVID-19 Morning Report

Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 2,722 new COVID-19 cases, Tuesday, bringing Florida's total to 738,749 cases. The Florida Department of Health also reported 119 new coronavirus-related deaths, Oct. 13, increasing the statewide death toll to 15,722 fatalities.

Of the 5,600,616 COVID-19 tests that have been performed in Florida so far, the overall positivity rate fell slightly to 13.19% and the latest single day positivity rate increased slightly to 4.96%.

In the Southwest Florida region including Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties health officials reported 267 new COVID-19 cases, Tuesday, for a total of 61,699 cases.

There were also 12 new coronavirus-related deaths reported in the Southwest Florida region Oct. 13 including four new deaths each in Manatee and Sarasota Counties, two new fatalities in Collier County and one new death each in Glades and Lee Counties for a total of 1,518 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

A clinical trial is underway to see if a single dose of a vaccine could prevent COVID-19 symptoms. Researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine are leading it.

This adenovirus vaccine study involves a protein from the new coronavirus being injected into the body. The immune system then develops antibodies that fight the intruders.

Dushyantha Jayaweera, M.D., is the principal investigator of the study. “Now the immune system thinks that the coronavirus is here and develop antibodies,” said Dr. Jayaweera.

That's how next time, the real thing comes, the antibodies will attack those viruses.

The trial is in partnership with Janssen Pharmaceuticals. It’s a double-blind and randomized study, meaning neither the researcher or the participants don’t know who’s getting the vaccine and who’s getting the placebo.

Vaccine participants in South Florida must be 18 or older and must not have had COVID-19 before.

They’re paid for a two-year commitment. For more information about the University of Miami vaccine trial, call 305-243-0952.

Some Florida doctors say they’re concerned about large outdoor political rallies where people aren’t wearing masks and standing close to each other. At these events people are usually shouting and that contributes to the spread of the coronavirus through droplets in the air.
Carolyn McClanahan, M.D., is a physician in Jacksonville. She tells her patients to think of people emitting the virus like smoking.
“Even if you’re in an outdoor space and you pack a bunch of people in, and they’re all smoking, it’s just more in the air, more that you’re breathing in, so these sorts of events need to stop,”said Dr. McClanahan.
Both Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and President Donald Trump are campaigning in Florida this week. Doctors urge people to keep wearing masks, not touch their faces and to avoid large crowds.

The Lee County School District is no longer reporting information about COVID-19 infections associated with schools each morning on the district's website.

The News-Press reports, on Tuesday the district replaced its online dashboard with a link to a report from the Florida Department of Health. The state health data lists COVID-19 cases tied to public and private schools as well as colleges and universities in Florida.

School District spokesman Rob Spicker, said the decision was made because the state data is more detailed.

Department of Health data indicates that 65 K-12 schools or school-related facilities in Lee County have experienced COVID-19 cases between Sept. 6 and Oct. 10. 127 coronavirus infections were reported during that time period.

The district plans to continue sending out alerts to school communities in the case of a new positive COVID-19 test.

So far, the virus has prompted 14-day quarantines for two classrooms in the school district including a classroom at Gateway Elementary School Sept. 10 and at Villas Elementary School Sept. 29.

Manatee County Schools will stop asking teachers to instruct both in-person and remote students at the same time, as more children seek to return to brick-and-mortar classrooms in the second quarter.

Going forward, teachers “will not be expected to be teaching multiple modalities within the same period,” superintendent Cynthia Saunders said during Tuesday evening's board meeting, acknowledging concerns from teachers and their unions that the demands were too much.

“Teachers were willing to do whatever they could, but after a quarter, I think many have realized it is a lot for them to be expected to teach many different methods simultaneously,” Saunders added.

The district will also take steps to preserve the hybrid option — originally designed to help prevent overcrowding in schools — for students who want to attend class in-person some days and remote other days.

Last week, Saunders recommended abandoning the hybrid model, which includes around 8,000 students in Manatee County, but board members rejected that idea.

Saunders warned the model will be dropped if schools can no longer make it work.

“If schools have enough students that are requesting hybrid and they can schedule it, it will be available,” Saunders said.

“It will have to be done on an individual school situation,” she said.

Wednesday is the deadline for parents to respond to a survey indicating if they’d like to change their children’s current enrollment from remote to in-person, or vice-versa.

Officials said elementary and middle school students increasingly want to come back to classrooms, after some started the year remote learning from home amid concerns about the coronavirus. High school enrollment has moved in the opposite direction, with slightly more students opting for remote.

Saunders said 80 percent of elementary students now want to be in brick and mortar schools, along with 65 percent of middle schoolers and just under 50 percent of those in high school.

“We are bringing back more students into the building. We of course have to bring teachers back into the building to accommodate so we do not have overcrowded classes," said Saunders.

"We want to make sure we have everything balanced.”

Students who have been enrolled in e-learning will likely get a different teacher if they return to school.

Bus routes needs to be changed, and some classrooms and teachers re-arranged, so Saunders said it may take until the first part of November for all changes to take effect.

A group opposed to the Sarasota County School Board's mandatory mask policy has raised more than $11,000 in an effort to sue the district.

The money is being raised through an online GoFundMe campaign and an organizer of the anti-mask group posted online that the lawsuit could be filed as soon as Friday. They want to make mask wearing optional.

The Herald Tribune reports the district's current policy requires students and staff to wear masks on school campuses with a handful of exceptions, such as if students are eating or exercising.

The school district's current order is set to expire in early November and board members are slated to consider a long-term mandatory mask policy at their meeting on Oct. 20.

Similar groups have filed such lawsuits against school boards in Lee and Hillsborough County.

Southwest Florida Christian Academy's volleyball team is ending its season early due to a confirmed case of COVID-19. The confirmed coronavirus case has also prompted the cancellation of the school football team's Oct. 23 game against Gateway Charter.

The News-Press reports, this marks the first time teams in Southwest Florida has been forced to cancel games due to a case of COVID-19 on their end.

King's Athletic Director Mike Marciano said they've done contact tracing and informed other teams that his athletes have played against in the last five days.

The percentage positive of tests for COVID-19 has been on the rise recently in Monroe County. The 14-day average of COVID-19 tests is now more than 5 percent positive in the Keys. That's higher than rates on the South Florida mainland.

Five percent is a threshold that public health experts — and local governments — often use to gauge whether it's safe to ease restrictions.

Monroe County children returned to classrooms in mid-September. That's the same time bars reopened in the Keys. In late September, Gov. Ron DeSantis moved the whole state into phase three, allowing bars and restaurants to operate at full capacity.

"If you look around, you don't see the social distancing that you did see or that you were hoping for. And you don't see as much mask wearing," said Bob Eadie, administrator for the state Department of Health in Monroe County.

Eadie said the rise in cases is concerning. But he also cautions that small numbers make a big difference in Monroe County, which has a total population of 75,000.

"One case means a lot more for us, two cases means a lot more for us than it would in Miami-Dade or in Broward or in Palm Beach," he said. A few cases can move the percentages a lot more than they would on the mainland.

Since kids went back to classrooms in Monroe County, the school district has reported 12 cases of COVID-19, nine of them students.

Restaurant and bar owners in Miami-Dade County can stay open later at night. On Monday the county pushed back its curfew by an hour from 11:00 p.m. to midnight.

Stephanie Vitori owns the restaurant and food truck Cheeseburger Baby on South Beach. She said extending the curfew is fair, but she will still keep her dining room indoors closed for now.

“I'd rather be safe than sorry; then be 10 steps backward again. If we go backward again, it's over. I can't. No way.”

Until then, Vitori’s restaurant is offering outdoor seating and delivery. The curfew now runs from midnight to 6:00 a.m.

WGCU is your trusted source for news and information in Southwest Florida. We are a nonprofit public service, and your support is more critical than ever. Keep public media strong and donate now. Thank you.

Verónica Zaragovia
Kerry Sheridan is a reporter and co-host of All Things Considered at WUSF Public Media.
Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.