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COVID-19 Morning Report

Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 5,730 new COVID-19 cases, Monday, for a total of 1,727,107 infections.

The Florida Department of Health reported 206 coronavirus-related deaths, Feb. 1, increasing the statewide death toll to 27,129 fatalities.

The latest single-day positivity rate reported by the Florida Division of Emergency Management dropped to 11.94% on Sunday. Over the past two weeks the single-day positivity rate has ranged between 7.62% and 18.28%.

The Agency for Health Care Administration reports that as of Tuesday morning 6,114 patients are admitted to hospitals throughout the state with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19, including 443 patients in hospitals in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota counties combined.

Lee Health reported Monday afternoon that 139 patients were being treated for COVID-19 throughout the health system's hospitals.

73% of Lee Health's ventilator capacity and 16% of ICU rooms are available. The health system reports having 12 COVID-19 patients on ventilators and 22 COVID-19 positive patients in intensive care.

As of Monday morning, 1,707,692 people in Florida had received a COVID-19 vaccine including 1,379,346 people who have received a first dose, and 328,346 people who have completed the series with two doses.

Healthcare Industry Seeks COVID-19 Liability Protections

While the Florida Legislature moves quickly to provide broad COVID-19 liability limits for businesses, some lawmakers say additional protections need to be provided for front-line healthcare facilities and employees.

Lawmakers are considering the proposals as the numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths have surged in Florida during the fall and winter.

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a proposal that would give Florida businesses that substantially comply with public-health guidelines, broad protection from coronavirus-related lawsuits filed by customers or employees.

However, the bill would not currently apply to healthcare providers such as hospitals, nursing homes and physicians. During a news conference at a rehabilitation center in Tallahassee Monday, Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said he is working on another bill that would cover the healthcare industry.

“If you are a healthcare professional who continues to work tirelessly to provide care and service to our patients, you shouldn’t have to come to work with the threat of lawsuits over your head,” said Sen. Brandes.

Florida Health Care Association’s Director of Legislative Affairs Kathy Gallin supports the measure. The Florida Health Care Association represents hundreds of nursing homes across the state.

“We should be celebrating our caregivers, not putting them at risk of being sued,” said Gallin.

Some lawmakers have also expressed concerns that workers who allege they contracted COVID-19 on the job aren’t getting workers’ compensation benefits.

A state report shows that nearly 30,000 coronavirus-related workers’ compensation claims were filed as of Dec. 31, including more than 13,000 claims filed by health care workers and educators.

So far, nearly half of the claims filed by health care workers and educators had been denied.

Florida Lawmakers Propose Legislation To Ease Eviction Struggles During The Pandemic

Studies show at least 14 million people nationally are at risk of eviction during the pandemic — including 1 million in Florida.

State lawmakers Monday proposed two bills to help renters in danger of being evicted during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as protect them post-eviction.

The first bill (SB 412 and HB 481) would add an additional step of mediation between landlords and tenants at risk of eviction. It would take into account past rental history, among other factors.

Sen. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat and a co-sponsor of the bill, said housing insecurity is not a new issue, but one that's been exacerbated by the pandemic.

“Studies have shown that the availability of adequate housing has a direct impact on a person's health,” Rouson said. “The more we can do to secure housing, the healthier this community will be."

Tim Dutton with the group, Unite Pinellas, said 180 families a day are evicted in Florida. Another 1 million are at risk.

"About 10% of tenants are represented (by a lawyer) in a hearing (while) about 80 to 90% of landlords are represented," Dutton said.

“This kind of this ends up with outcomes that are not attractive. This mediation approach that's being proposed really sort of levels that playing field in a very big way."

A second bill filed by Rouson (SB 926) would seal eviction records.

“(It's) a bill that will seal the virtues of those who lost their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rep. Dianne Hart, D-Tampa.

“Even with a moratorium in place, many people were not spared from the process of losing their homes, many due to the loss of jobs, or the loss of hours, which was not enough to make full rent payments, even though these circumstances were not in anyone's control,” Hart said.

“Once you have an eviction on your record, it is exceedingly difficult to find another landlord willing to give you an opportunity to rent.”

According to the Office of the State Courts Administrator, there were 47,484 evictions filed between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2020.

Marco Island Police Chief and Fire-Rescue Chief On Leave Pending Investigation

Marco Island's Police Chief and Fire-Rescue Chief have been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

The Marco Eagle reports, city officials are investigating Police Chief Tracy Frazzano and Fire-Rescue Chief Christopher Byrne over allegations of "access and use" of the city's Eventbrite COVID-19 vaccine appointment registration system.

City Manager Mike McNees said late Monday, the city will make a report public after its investigation has concluded. The probe will also determine whether disciplinary action against Frazzano and Byrne is warranted, but no further information has been made available by the city regarding the nature of the allegations.

Overwhelming demand from vaccine seekers crashed the city's website last week as people attempted to secure one of 200 vaccine doses given out last Friday.

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