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COVID-19 Morning Report

Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 6,331 COVID-19 cases, Wednesday, for a total of 944,745 cases. The Florida Department of Health also reported 94 new coronavirus-related deaths, Nov. 23, increasing the statewide death toll to 18,310 fatalities.

Over the past seven days, the single-day average number of new infections reported has increased to 7,529 cases. The average number of daily deaths reported over the past week has increased to nearly 72 fatalities a day.

By comparison, in early October the seven-day average number of new cases in Florida was about 2,200. Back in mid-July the seven-day average had increased to nearly 11,700 new infections.

The latest single-day positivity rate reported by the Florida Division of Emergency Management, using the formula recommended by the World Health Organization stood at 8.48% on Saturday. Over the past two weeks, the single-day positivity rate has ranged between 8.26% and 11.37%.

Here in the Southwest Florida region including Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, health officials have reported a total of 81,510 COVID-19 infections and 1,811 coronavirus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The number of patients being treated for COVID-19 in Florida hospitals has also been on the rise.

Lee Health reported Monday that 132 patients were being treated for COVID-19 throughout the health system's hospitals.

Currently 73% of Lee Health's ventilator capacity and 28% of ICU rooms are available. The health system reports having 9 COVID-19 patients on ventilators and 24 COVID-19 positive patients in intensive care.

Florida Releases Draft of Its COVID-19 Vaccine Plan

When the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, the Florida Department of Health plans to prioritize certain groups of people.

The Florida Department of Health has drafted a game plan for administering the COVID-19 vaccine. For phase one, priority will go to healthcare workers, long-term care staff and residents, first responders, law enforcement officers, and essential employees. In phase two, the Department of Health says vaccines will be more available to the public through clinics. In phase three, pharmacies can administer the vaccine. The Department will partner with agencies like homeless shelters and community-based organizations.

Census Bureau: Florida Ranks Worst for People Fearing Evictions, Foreclosures

Florida has the highest percentage in the nation of people saying they are likely to face eviction or foreclosure in the next two months.

The U.S. Census Bureau has been taking the Household Pulse Survey since the start of the pandemic. In the most recent report, about 7 percent of households in Florida say they are behind on rent or mortgage payments or expect to be.

Of those, more than half say they are likely or very likely to be evicted in the next two months. That figure, 51.2 percent, is the worst percentage in the U.S.

The survey was done October 28 through November 9, and has been done regularly since the start of the pandemic. The survey has a 13 percent margin of error on the evictions question. That means it could be as low as 38 percent who say they are likely to be evicted, or as high as 64 percent.

During the previous survey, just 32 percent said they were in danger of eviction or foreclosure.

Florida’s eviction moratorium has expired, but a federal moratorium from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is in place through the end of the year. Many counties are still offering rental assistance to stem foreclosure, and need to spend the money by the end of the year.

See below for a ranking of answers by state.

Check here to see the Household Pulse Survey rankings by state.

Florida’s October Employment Numbers Show Short-Term Job Gains, But All Sectors Down from Last Year

Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity released employment numbers from October Friday.

The state posted a 6.5 percent unemployment rate for October, which is down .7 percent over the prior month.

But, the number of employed Floridians is down 675,000 since the year before, representing a 6.7 percent dip in employment since 2019. That's out of a labor force numbering more than 10.1 million.

The data show seven out of 10 industry sectors in the state starting to bounce back from COVID-19’s catastrophic hit to the economy. But, compared to last year, all industries are still down.

Adrienne Johnston is the agency’s chief economist.

What we’re seeing is a trend of gaining jobs over the month. So, for the last 6 months we’ve added jobs. When you compare us to last year at this time, we are still down over 300,000 jobs compared to October 2019,” Johnston told media on a press call Friday.

The leisure and hospitality industry, one of the hardest hit by coronavirus restrictions, gained nearly 30,000 jobs over the month. The three major Florida industries that lost jobs since September were government, education and health services and the information sector.

Johnston says jobs “gained” in the past 6 months are likely a mix of people being rehired by the same companies, and getting entirely new jobs.

“What you’re looking were the total number of jobs that existed on payroll in one month compared to the month after that, or for the year comparison,” Johnston explained. “So, it could be people coming back onto payroll, since we had several months where the employment declined – but it could also be people coming into new jobs as well.”

Jackson Memorial Doc Worries About Asymptomatic COVID-19 Super Spreaders

When someone has COVID-19 with no symptoms, they are a big risk to people around them.

“You can actually give the disease to 100 people without even knowing and a few days later you can develop symptoms,” said Dr. David De La Zerda of Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

Even when one person has mild or no symptoms, a person they infect can have a serious, even deadly, case.

“I’m worried that specially after Thanksgiving the surge is going to be really bad,” said Dr. De La Zerda. He said doesn’t want the hospital to reach its capacity.

CDC Urges People to Stay Home for Thanksgiving

Do not travel for Thanksgiving. That’s a direct recommendation, last week, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Henry Walke oversees the CDC’s daily COVID-19 response. He said there is reason for hope.

“We’re all excited about the news regarding the vaccine, but it’s not here yet. When it does arrive, the mitigation steps will still be equally important in protecting ourselves, our loved ones and our fellow citizens,” said Dr. Walke.People who do travel are urged to wear a mask in public, and during a holiday gathering, except while actively eating or drinking.

Pre-Thanksgiving Rapid COVID Testing Available

A local non-profit clinic is offering free COVID- 19 testing ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, in case people want results before they travel.

Free Rapid COVID-19 testing will be made available next Wednesday at the Naples non-profit clinicPANIRA. The first 50 uninsured patients will be able to be tested between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the clinic in Naples. Insurance will also be accepted from those who have it. Walk-in patients are welcome.

The Clinic continues to offer free testing daily to anyone who makes the request; for those tests, patients will have results in 2 to 3 days. PANIRA also offers affordable rapid COVID-19 testing daily with results in 15 to 30 minutes. Both, the molecular rapid test and antibody testing, are being made possible with the support of a Collier Cares Grant.

PANIRA is located at 4975 Tamiami Trail East in Naples, Florida, along US 41 near the Rattlesnake Hammock intersection.

Need A COVID-19 Test? First Register and Make an Appointment

State-supported COVID-19 testing sites have been reporting longer lines of cars again, which means they're filling up. That may limit the number of available walk-up tests. You can avoid getting turned away by making an appointment.

If you go to a state or county-funded site, the COVID-19 test won't cost anything, but before you go, set up an account through patientportalfl.com because staff use online testing accounts to send out results.

Rapid antigen test results usually come back on the same day, while PCR or molecular test results take longer — from 48 to 72 hours. You don’t need to have symptoms in order to get a test but if you are asymptomatic, experts say PCR tests are the most reliable.

All state-supported sites will be closed Thursday, Nov. 26, for the Thanksgiving holiday. To find more information, visit patientportalfl.com to make your appointment. Bring a government issued ID card, a pen and a full tank of gas for drive-through tests.

Check here for more information here about walk-up and drive-thru testing in all counties, including age requirements, which vary by site.

CDC Raises Cruise Travel Warning as More Cruise Lines Delay Sailing Dates

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued its highest warningwhen it comes to traveling on cruise ships worldwide. The advisory comes as the Carnival company - which operates cruise ships out of Tampa - announces more delays in returning to sea.

The Level 4 warning from the CDC states the risk of contracting COVID-19 on cruise ships is "very high." And it came just after three Carnival Corp. lines announced an extension of cancellations well into 2021.

Its Holland America and Princess Cruise lines have suspended sailings until at least the end of next March. The luxury Seabourn line will suspend operations of two of its ships until November of next year.

The flagship Carnival line had already postponed sailings through the end of January 2021. The company says it is developing a plan to reintroduce sailings, focusing initially on cruises out of Miami and Port Canaveral.

The Carnival Legend out of Tampa will not embark until at least March 26.

Also on Monday, Disney Cruise Line announced that it will extend its suspension of all of its cruises though the end of January 2021, including from Port Canaveral.

For cruise lines to start operations again, they will have to implement new CDC measures including: ships will require coronavirus testing on board for crew and passengers and will have space dedicated if anyone needs to quarantine.

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.

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.
Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya works for WMFE in Orlando. He started writing for newspapers in high school. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe worked as a reporter for the Orlando Business Journal. He comes from a family of health care workers.
Tom Urban is the Assignment Manager for .
Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.
Verónica Zaragovia
Cathy Carter is the education reporter for WUSF 89.7 and StateImpact Florida.