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COVID-19 Morning Report

Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 4,504 new COVID-19 cases, Thursday, for a total of 2,258,433 infections. The Florida Department of Health also reported 71 coronavirus-related deaths May 6, increasing the statewide death toll to 36,257 fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic.

The latest single-day positivity rate reported by the Florida Division of Emergency Management dropped to 6.38% on Wednesday, which is the lowest it's been in at least the past two weeks. Over the past two weeks the single-day positivity rate has ranged as high as 10.17%.

The Agency for Health Care Administration reports that as of this morning 3,102 patients with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19 are admitted to hospitals throughout the state. COVID-19 hospitalizations in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota counties combined have increased to 255 patients.

Lee Health reported Thursday afternoon that 95 patients were being treated for COVID-19 throughout the health system's hospitals.

Currently 72% of Lee Health's ventilator capacity and 15% of ICU rooms are available. The health system reports having 10 COVID-19 patients on ventilators and 19 COVID-19 patients in intensive care.

As of Thursday morning, the Florida Division of Emergency Management reported more than 9.1 million (9,101,152) people have been vaccinated including more than 2.4 million (2,437,366) people who have received a first dose, and more than 6 million (6,067,040) who have completed the two-dose series. Including those who have received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, more than 6.6 million (6,663,786) people in Florida have been fully vaccinated.

Local Emergency Declarations and COVID-Restrictions Sunset Following Governor’s Executive Order

Following Governor Ron DeSantis' executive order to end all coronavirus-related restrictions imposed by local governments, Lee County Commissioners voted, Tuesday, not to extend the county's local state of emergency for a 59th time.

The News-Press reports, the county's state of emergency declaration never required the public to wear masks, but government employees and members of the public inside government buildings had been required to wear face coverings inside. Those mask requirements are now coming to an end, although county workers who wish to continue wearing masks may do so.

In Sarasota, commissioners had been looking to reinstate a city-wide mask ordinance that had been in effect from last July until February, but DeSantis' executive order prompted them to cancel a public hearing about the ordinance that had been scheduled for May 4.

Keys Rescind Mask Ordinance, but Commissioner Warns to Watch Out for Immuno-Suppressed People

Monroe County no longer has a mask ordinance. Commissioners rescinded it, Wednesday, to stay in line with Gov. DeSantis' order invalidating all local COVID-19 regulations.

However, commissioners say businesses are still free to require people to wear masks on their premises, and could trespass people who refuse. “The risk of this has not terminated,” said Monroe County Commissioner David Rice. He said the public should be aware that vaccines may not work for those who are on medications that suppress their immune systems.

“We need to pay special attention to those folks because I for one would not go around one of them without a mask, out of concern for their fragile condition,” said Rice.

The city of Key West also let its mask ordinance lapse this week as well.

COVID Restrictions Loosen at Florida Courthouses

Florida courthouses are relaxing some coronavirus restrictions. On Thursday, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady amended orders so that temperature checks, health screenings and mask wearing will no longer be required to enter state court buildings.

The AP reports, mask wearing and physical distancing will still be enforced in actual courtrooms.

At the onset of the pandemic last spring, many court proceedings in Florida were moved to online video conferencing and jury trials were stopped completely, although, those have since resumed.

CDC Releases Rules for Cruise Ship Trial Voyages

Trial voyages for cruise ships in U.S. waters will begin soon with volunteer passengers prior to paying customers being allowed to take cruise vacations. Passengers on the trial cruises will be required to wear face coverings and to physically distance.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave cruise companies final technical guidelines, Wednesday, for the trial voyages.

The AP reports, volunteer passengers must be at least 18-years-old and must either be fully vaccinated or free of medical conditions that could put them at higher risk for severe COVID-19 infection. At least 75% of those on the trial voyages must be tested for the virus at the end of their trips.

Disney And Universal End Temperature Checks for Guests

Central Florida theme parks are adjusting their coronavirus safety measures as CDC guidelines change.

Universal Orlando no longer requires temperature checks as guests enter the park. WaltDisney World will begin phasing out the checks for cast members beginning May 8 and for guests on May 16.

Both companies say they are following guidance from health and government officials. Earlier this week, Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order lifting local rules requiring mask-wearing and social distancing.

Universal has also dropped social distancing to 3 feet, while Disney remains at 6 feet.

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Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.
Talia Blake