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COVID-19 Morning Report

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Florida Department of Health

State Reports Lowest Number Of New COVID-19 Cases Since October

The state on Monday reported the fewest number of people testing positive for the coronavirus on a daily basis since the end of October.

The Florida Department of Health said 3,615 people tested positive since Sunday's report. That's less than half the average daily total from last week.

The total number of cases now stands at 1,830,988.

Statewide, 159 people died due to complications from COVID-19. The overall death toll in the state now stands at 29,434 people. While the deaths were recorded Monday, they may have occurred in the days or weeks prior.

The state reported 66,165 tests were administered Sunday — 60,000 less than the average daily number from last week. The rate for those testing positive for the first time was 6.83%.

Florida is now averaging 7,056 cases per day in the last week, compared with an average of more than 10,275 daily cases two weeks ago. That’s a 31 percent drop, according to data from Johns Hopkins University analyzed by NPR.

Florida is mirroring the nationwide trend. The U.S. is averaging 90,416 cases per day, compared with more than 169,495 cases per day Jan. 24.

Another promising statistic: More than 1 million Floridians have been completely vaccinated against COVID-19.

Florida’s vaccination numbers are improving, and retailers like Walmart, Publix, Sam’s Club and Winn Dixie have come online in the last week offering vaccines to Floridians 65 and older. Those new allocations take time to be reflected in state reports.

Just shy of 5 percent of Florida’s population is immunized. Florida still has a long way to go to get to the 70 to 80 percent needed for herd immunity.

Florida continues to lead the U.S. with the most cases of the B.1.1.7. variant first found the U.K.: 379 in Florida. That variant appears to be more contagious and early scientific literature suggests it could be more deadly as well.

State Totals (as of Monday, Feb. 15):

  • Positive Tests – 1,830,988
  • Deaths – 29,434

Daily Changes:

  • State: Positive Tests – 3,615 | Deaths – 159
  • Greater Tampa Bay Region: Positive Tests – 753 | Deaths - 7

Daily Testing (statewide):

  • Tests Received – 66,165 | Positivity Rate – 6.83%

ABOUT THE DATA: The Florida Department of Health produces a daily update around 11 a.m. with information about COVID-19 cases and deaths that were reported over the previous 24 hours. Cases and deaths in the report may have happened days or weeks earlier, according to state officials. The state separately tracks cases and deaths that occurred on specific days on its dashboard and those totals are frequently updated.

Florida COVID-19 daily total of positive tests/deaths for the last two weeks:

  • Feb. 15: 3,615/159
  • Feb. 14: 5,436/96
  • Feb. 13: 7,515/118
  • Feb. 12: 7,617/190
  • Feb. 11: 8,525/180
  • Feb. 10: 7,537/165
  • Feb. 9: 7,023/239
  • Feb. 8: 5,737/126
  • Feb. 7: 6,624/103
  • Feb. 6: 7,486/145
  • Feb. 5: 11,543/215
  • Feb. 4: 7,711/226
  • Feb. 3: 6,979/203
  • Feb. 2: 10,533/140

The Agency for Health Care Administration reports that as of Tuesday morning, the number of patients admitted to hospitals throughout the state with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19 has dropped to 4,700, including 301 patients in hospitals in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota counties combined.

As of Monday morning, the State Division of Emergency Management reports more than 2.3 million people in Florida have received a COVID-19 vaccine including more than 1.2 million people who have received a first dose, and more than 1.1 million people who have completed the series with two doses.

Severe Winter Weather Leads to Delayed Shipments of COVID-19 Vaccine Doses To Florida

Severe winter weather across much of the U.S. is delaying shipments of COVID-19 vaccine doses to Florida. The Herald Tribune reports, icy roads, dangerous low temperatures and power outages have led to emergency declarations in more than half a dozen states including Alabama, Oregon, Oklahoma, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Texas.

Flights into and out of airports in several cities have been delayed or cancelled in Baton Rouge, Chicago O'Hare International, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston.

Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said Florida officials were alerted that vaccine shipments to the state will be delayed early this week, though it's unclear how many doses are being affected or when deliveries will resume.

The Naples Daily News reports, the weather-related delays have led to no first doses of the vaccine being delivered in Collier County this week to eligible seniors 65 and older.

The Department of Health in Collier, however, will be providing second vaccine shots this week.

In Lee County, officials still plan to deliver 3,000 first-time vaccine doses on Wednesday at the county's vaccination site at the Southwest Florida International Airport's old terminal building at 16000 Chamberlin Parkway.

COVID-19 Hospitalizations Down in SWFL

Going along with a national trend, COVID-19-related hospitalizations in Southwest Florida are seeing a marked decline. On Monday, officials with the Lee Health hospital system reported 90 coronavirus-related hospitalizations. The health system hasn't reported hospitalization rates that low since mid-November.

The same is true for the Naples Community Hospital Healthcare System in Collier County. The News-Press reports NCH reported 49 COVID-19 hospitalizations, Friday, which is the lowest since November 23rd.

Lee Health infectious disease specialist Dr. Mary Beth Saunders tells the News-Press it's too soon to know if this downturn is a fluke or marks the start of a longer-term positive trend.

Since the beginning of the pandemic Lee Health has treated and discharged about 5,000 patients with COVID-19 and NCH has discharged more than 2,100 COVID-19 patients.

The Florida Department of Health reports there have been 855 COVID-19-related deaths in Lee County and 431 deaths in Collier since the start of the pandemic.

Pop-Up Vaccine Clinic Coming to Lakewood Ranch

The state of Florida is holding a pop-up COVID-19 vaccine clinic this week at Lakewood Ranch in Manatee County.

The Herald Tribune reports, the state plans to administer 3,000 vaccine doses Feb. 17-19, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Premier Sports Campus. Those doses are in addition to the 5,100 shots the Department of Health in Manatee County had already planned to administer this week.

Appointments for the Lakewood Ranch pop-up vaccine clinic are being given out among those already registered with Manatee's lottery vaccine registration system, but that most of those chosen will be people living in the 34202 and 34211 zip codes.

Last week, the developer of Neal Communities put on a three-day pop-up vaccine clinic administering 3,000 doses in Port Charlotte.

The city of Sarasota was awarded preliminary approval to hold a vaccine clinic at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall two weeks ago, but it remains unclear when that will take place or how many doses will be available.

Jared Moskowitz, Top Florida Official Overseeing COVID-19 Response, Resign

A top Florida official responsible for his state’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak is stepping down.

Jared Moskowitz heads Florida’s Division of Emergency Management and has overseen much of the state’s response to the outbreak. He told the USA TODAY NETWORK that an official announcement of his departure is expected Tuesday by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Moskowitz said he won’t be leaving the job immediately, but will stay on to allow for a “gradual transition.” Moskowitz is a Democrat and former State Representative in the Florida Legislature. He assumed the role shortly after the Republican governor took office in 2018.

Labor Groups Oppose COVID-19 Liability Legislation

A coalition of labor groups announced their opposition, Monday, to bills that would shield businesses and health-care providers from lawsuits related to COVID-19. Lawmakers are quickly moving on the measures, ahead of the 2021 legislative session that starts March 2.

One proposal would give hospitals, nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, doctors and other health care providers protections from COVID-19-related liability claims.

Another bill would give Florida businesses that substantially comply with public-health guidelines broad protection from coronavirus-related lawsuits filed by customers and employees.

During an online news conference Monday, several labor groups and front-line workers said the COVID liability bills would make it nearly impossible for workers who are injured to sue their employers.

Vicki Gonzalez is a registered nurse at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital.

“The pandemic is still not over,” said Vicki Gonzalez who works as a registered nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

“The last thing we should be doing is granting a free pass to any who might make a bad situation even worse.”

The COVID-19 business liability legislation is scheduled to have its first hearing in the House on Wednesday.

Telemundo Launches COVID-19 Vaccine Website For Spanish, Mandarin Speakers

A new website aims to help people, especially Latinos, find information about the COVID-19 vaccines. It also explains who is eligible and where to get them. The site is by Telemundo and Comcast NBC Universal. It can search for locations across South Florida and the U.S.

“We really felt that it was Telemundo’s responsibility as a leading Spanish-language network to really pool our resources together and put that information out there to help them make educated decisions,” said NBC Universal Telemundo Enterprises spokeswoman Christina Kolbjornsen.

The website is PlanificaTuVacuna.com. That means ‘Plan Your Vaccine’ in Spanish. They also have the information in English and in Mandarin.

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.

Abe Aboraya, WMFE
Tom Urban/News Service of Florida
Verónica Zaragovia