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COVID-19 Morning Report

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Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 6,771 new COVID-19 cases, Wednesday, for a total of 1,744,619 infections. The Florida Department of Health reported 197 coronavirus-related deaths, Feb. 3, increasing the statewide death toll to 27,472 fatalities.

The latest single-day positivity rate reported by the Florida Division of Emergency Management stood at 10.07% on Tuesday. Over the past two weeks the single-day positivity rate has ranged between 7.63% and 18.29%.

The Agency for Health Care Administration reports that as of this morning 5,790 patients are admitted to hospitals throughout the state with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19, including 416 patients in hospitals in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota counties combined.

Lee Health reported Wednesday afternoon that 146 patients were being treated for COVID-19 throughout the health system's hospitals.

Currently 75% of Lee Health's ventilator capacity and 12% of ICU rooms are available. The health system reports having 11 COVID-19 patients on ventilators and 20 COVID-19 positive patients in intensive care.

As of Wednesday morning, AHCA reports 1,788,326 people in Florida have received a COVID-19 vaccine including 1,367,011 people who have received a first dose, and 421,315 people who have completed the series with two doses.

Audit Requested After Vaccine Doses Spoiled

The Florida Department of Health requested an audit, Wednesday, after more than 1,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses were spoiled in Palm Beach County. The department called on the Health Care District of Palm Beach County to complete the audit by Feb. 12.

The request comes after the district said last week about 1,160 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine spoiled after a refrigeration storage unit was unintentionally turned off.

Speaking at a news conference in Palm Beach County Wednesday, Governor Ron DeSantis said the audit was appropriate.

“We know that there are certain storage requirements with these. Obviously, the Pfizer has more stringent storage requirements, but the Moderna also has certain requirements. People are very conscious about that, by and large, so I think we need to get answers on that,” said DeSantis.

The district released a statement Wednesday, saying it understands the desire of the Department of Health to have the audit and will fully comply with the request.

So far, demand for the vaccine has outpaced supply in Florida.

Lee Health Officials Voice Concerns About Florida’s COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

Lee Health's board of directors sent a letter, Monday, to Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state officials raising concerns about Florida's COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

DeSantis' vaccine distribution plan has shifted doses away from hospitals and to other entities like county health department offices and private enterprises like Publix. The letter from Lee Health's elected ten-member board says the plan is putting frontline health care workers at risk, noting that only about half of the hospital system's employees have been vaccinated.

The News-Press reports, Lee Health received 1,000 vaccine doses this week, but that they're intended for patients under 65 years old with serious medical problems, and not for healthcare workers.

The letter says that frontline medical workers don't have the flexibility to participate in the online vaccine appointment scheduling process due to the nature of their work. Lee Health board members also note that the hospital system has refrigeration equipment that makes it uniquely suited to store the Pfizer-made vaccine, unlike Publix.

In addition to Gov. DeSantis, the letter was also sent to state Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees, Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management Jared Moskowitz and Secretary of the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration, Shevaun Harris.

Lee Schools Quarantine 3 Classrooms This Week

Three classrooms in the Lee County School District have closed to in-person learning, this week, due to cases of COVID-19.

The News-Press reports, on Sunday, students and staff associated with a classroom at Patriot Elementary School in Cape Coral were told they were shifting to distance learning through the Lee Home Connect model for a ten-day quarantine. On Monday, students and staff of two classrooms at Treeline Elementary School in Fort Myers received the same alert.

Since the school year began in August, there have been 11 full classroom quarantines ordered due to cases of COVID-19.

Currently 78% of Lee County School District students are back to in-person learning.

Marco Island Police Chief and Fire-Rescue Chief Placed on Leave

Marco Island's Police Chief Tracy Frazzano and Marco Fire-Rescue Chief Christopher Byrne each face a 30-day suspension in connection to an investigation into use of the city's Eventbrite COVID-19 vaccine appointment registration system.

The Marco Eagle reports an internal investigation by City manager Mike McNees finds that Frazzano's husband, William Frazzano, made an appointment for a vaccine online before the web link was made public on the city's website and social medial accounts.

The investigation also finds that Byrne knew about the breach, but still allowed the police chief's husband to receive the vaccine during the city's first vaccination clinic on Jan. 22.

McNees said Frazzano told Byrne that she'd provided the Eventbrite web link to her husband, believing it would not work until a later time. Once the city manager's decision is final, following predetermination meetings with the chiefs, their suspensions without pay will begin no later than March 1.

Democrats Push To Waive Impacts From Statewide Exams Due To Pandemic

Florida school districts are planning to administer state exams next month, but don’t know how those exams will be used. Lynn Hatter reports as the testing window draws closer, a pair of Florida Democrats want the state to not put much stock into the results.

Florida uses its student assessments to grade schools, provide raises to teachers and promote or retain students. Last year, all three were held harmless from the consequences of poor performance. They’re hoping for the same this year. Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, says tests should go forward, but should serve as a baseline for where students are now.

“Testing data… shouldn’t be used for decisions on student retention or graduation, teacher effectiveness or school grades," he said. " Instead…assessments should be used to inform instruction, identify student needs and support.”

Schools are worried their grades could fall, triggering consequences as severe as closure. Many students are still learning remotely, raising concerns that those kids may not show up for mandatory in-person testing. There isn’t a remote option. And, in order for tests to count, 95% of students at a school have to be tested. Meanwhile, the state is in a tough spot too—if it announces tests won’t count, there’s concern students may not take them seriously, skewing results.

The conversation over testing comes as increasing evidence shows many students have been set back due to school closures and remote learning caused by the pandemic. It’s a concern also raised by Rep. Robin Bartleman, D-Weston, a former teacher, principal and school board member.

“This is no different from what happened at the end of last year because of the pandemic," she said. "As I speak to school board members across the state…this is something everyone can buy into. T’s about helping kids. We’re not saying don’t assess them. We’re just saying use the accountability system differently.”

The two lawmakers are pushing bills that would stave off consequences for bad test performance. In response to a request for comment, the Florida department of Education sent a statement saying in part, “Florida’s districts and schools have proven operating schools and administrating assessments can be done safely.”

The department says more than 840,000 tests have been administered this school year, and that it has already extended the testing windows for certain tests by several weeks.

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