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COVID-19 Morning Report

Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 3,924 new COVID-19 cases, Monday, for a total of 847,821 cases. The Florida Department of Health also reported 58 new coronavirus-related deaths, Nov. 9, increasing the statewide death toll to 17,391 fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic.

Over the past seven days, the single-day average number of new infections reported has increased to 5,108 cases. The average number of daily deaths reported over the past week comes to nearly 58 fatalities a day.

The latest single-day positivity rate reported by the Florida Division of Emergency Management, using the formula recommended by the World Health Organization, has increase to 10% on Nov. 8. Sunday’s rate marks the highest the single-day positivity rate has been in the past two weeks. Over that time period the positivity rate has dipped as low as 6.01%.

In the Southwest Florida region including Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, health officials have reported a total of 71,862 COVID-19 infections and 1,697 coronavirus-related fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic.

Open enrollment for Obamacare is underway as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments in a case that could determine the future of the Affordable Care Act that created plans for people without health insurance.

Health News Florida's Stephanie Colombini talked with Jodi Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids & Families, about how the case and the coronavirus pandemic are making this an unusual enrollment period.

The group is based at the University of South Florida and helps residents navigate the health care marketplace.

How are you and other navigators doing? This pandemic has definitely thrown off the way you work and it's affected the people you serve.

That is very true, all of that. You know, since March, we were on lockdown and we had to figure out how we could continue to provide the assistance that we know we needed to provide.

We also saw a huge increase in the need for people to get help for special enrollments because of COVID. So seeing all of these job changes occur, people are losing the jobs they had. We know that predominantly Americans' access to health coverage is largely dependent on employer-sponsored insurance that you get through your job.

And when people are losing that ability to be dependent on that, they're looking for what their alternative options are in the marketplace, and programs like Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program. So we're having to help them navigate these plans and these programs.

Doing virtual and phone appointments is not necessarily effective for everybody, not everybody has either got the technology or is computer savvy, and doing them over the phone is not always effective if there’s not a lot of health care literacy as well.

We're all doing the best we can, and now during open enrollment, we have been working with the [University of South Florida] College of Public Health and the university to set up our space to be protective so we’re able to do some in-person assistance. But we're limiting that to only those that it would not be effective to do phone or virtual.

What are you hearing from people? There's so much uncertainty, we've got this election and how the Affordable Care Act might change depending on who is in the federal government.

And then we have this Supreme Court case which will determine whether the ACA is constitutional or not, and could completely change the way Americans get health care. Are you hearing from people that these are issues on their minds?

We are. We’re getting questions. As you know, health care is the top issue, between the Affordable Care Act and what's going on with the pandemic. And of course, now is the worst time to take away people's access to coverage.

The thing we're telling people is, right now, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. 2021 coverage for open enrollment is open now. It will be open until December 15. These are things we know.

So what I'm trying to do is drive home, what do we know? We know that to have coverage on January 1, you have to apply and enroll before December 15. And once people make those binder payments, which is your first premium payment, you have a contract with the health insurance plan for 2021.

What will happen with the Supreme Court? I have no idea. I don't think it's as simple as just deeming it unconstitutional, because you're talking about dismantling a large part of our healthcare system.

Now it's been 10 years. There are other things that are tied to the Affordable Care Act, not just the marketplace. You have the protections, pre-existing condition protections, you have the ability for kids to stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26, you have the ability to get preventive care at no extra cost. Those things would go away.

An unconstitutional ruling would definitely cause some chaos, but that might not happen. The court could keep those things intact. Either way, we probably won't know for months. What's your advice for people right now?

I would go back to things that we do know. And right now, if you want coverage for January 1, you have to apply and enroll now.

The other thing is we have more plans than we've ever had. We have well over 100 plans, and we have new insurers in the Florida market. So I think it's important to look at what those options are, and for people to make sure they protected themselves and take everything one day at a time at this point.

State Senator-elect Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) has tested positive for COVID-19. The News-Press reports, a spokesperson for Rodrigues said he learned of the positive test over the weekend in preparation for a minor routine medical procedure.

In last Tuesday’s election, Rodrigues won the race for Florida's Senate District 27, which includes western portions of Lee County.

Just ahead of President Donald Trump's campaign stop in Fort Myers, U.S. Representative-elect Byron Donalds (R-Naples) also tested positive for the coronavirus. Donalds has been outspoken about his opposition to mask-wearing mandates.

Both Donalds and Rodrigues attended a Republican election night watch party at the Ranch Concert Hall and Saloon in Fort Myers where most people in attendance were not wearing masks or practicing physical distancing, despite the well-known CDC guidelines about preventing spread of the virus.

On Tuesday, Democratic President-elect Joe Biden criticized the politicization of the pandemic.

The Bond Community Health Center is taking part in a national study to see if blood thinners can help people with COVID-19. The Center's CEO, Temple Robinson, says one of the suspected side effects of COVID-19 is blood clots.

"We found that one of the big causes of death unfortunately with people who are COVID positive are clots—clots the leg that travel[s] to the lungs, stroke, or heart attack," Robinson says.

The center is inviting people to participate in a study to see if blood thinners will prevent these clots. Robinson says it's unclear why so many people sick with COVID-19 are getting clots.

"The volume and the percentage of people that are clotting are COVID positive, and we weren't seeing this percentage of people clotting prior to them being infected with COVID," Robinson says.

People aged 40 - 80 years old are encouraged to take part in the study. They must be within 14 days of testing positive for COVID-19. Those interested in participating can contact Temple Robinson by calling 850-521-5111 or emailing trobinson@bondchc.com.

Demand for telehealth appointments has increased by 600% over this time last year. However, many of the state’s providers haven’t been trained in how to give virtual care. Dr. Kristen Hicks-Roof is a Registered Dietitian and University of North Florida professor She’s been studying the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the state’s healthcare workforce.

“What you’re seeing is demand that is through the roof, especially here in Florida, which is a wonderful way to reach rural populations and individuals who may not be able to leave their home in this pandemic,” said Kicks-Roof.

“If they’re not trained to provide it, they’re still delivering the care, but they’re not as confident in their ability.”

Hicks-Roof said training in Florida and across the U.S. tends to focus on hands-on, person-to-person care, which doesn’t always translate well over the internet.

She said her research shows community-based providers, like social workers and mental health counselors, have generally received adequate training in telehealth, while clinical providers like doctors and nurses have received “almost no” formal training.

Hicks-Roof presented her research during a meeting of the State University System Board of Governors.

Enrollment at Florida’s Universities is down and officials say one reason is that fewer students are taking the SAT and ACT this year. Submitting tests results is a requirement for getting accepted at any of the state’s public universities.

However, Florida International University Provost Kenneth Furton said nearly every other state in the country has waived that requirement during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The other discussion, or concern among the provosts, is that if students do not take the test, or if they’re not happy with the test, they might apply to other states,” said Furton.

“So, we want to be sure that they’re going to get the best education here and be as flexible here within the current guidelines so that they can come to our SUS system.”

Some school leaders worry keeping the test requirement in place is creating a barrier for students who would otherwise apply to Florida universities.

State University System Board of Governors Chancellor, Marshall Criser, said there’s plenty of time left for students to turn in their applications and students have plenty of opportunities to take the tests even amid coronavirus concerns.

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.

Stephanie Colombini joined WUSF Public Media in December 2016 as Producer of Florida Matters,WUSF’s public affairs show. She’s also a reporter for WUSF’s Health News Florida project.
Verónica Zaragovia
Robbie Gaffney is a recent graduate from Florida State University with degrees in Digital Media Production and Creative Writing. Before working at WFSU, they recorded FSU’s basketball and baseball games for Seminole Productions as well as interned for the PBS Station in Largo, Florida. Robbie loves playing video games such as Shadow of the Colossus, Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Their other hobbies include sleeping and watching anime.