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COVID-19 Morning Report

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Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 2,327 new COVID-19 cases, Wednesday, for a total of 2,316,142 infections. The Florida Department of Health also reported 66 coronavirus-related deaths May 26, increasing the statewide death toll to 37,382 fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic.

The latest single-day positivity rate reported by the Florida Division of Emergency Management dropped to a new low of 4.54% on Tuesday. Over the past two weeks the single-day positivity rate has ranged as high as 6.30%.

The Agency for Health Care Administration reports that as of this morning the number of patients with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19 admitted to hospitals throughout the state has decreased to 2,050, which is 203 fewer patients than one week ago. In Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota counties combined there are currently 210 admitted patients with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19.

Lee Health reported Wednesday afternoon that 98 patients are being treated for COVID-19 throughout the health system's hospitals. Currently 68% of Lee Health's ventilator capacity and 11% of ICU rooms are available. The health system reports having 6 COVID-19 patients on ventilators and 17 COVID-19 patients in intensive care.

As of Wednesday morning, the Florida Division of Emergency Management reported that more than 10 million (10,123,898) people have been vaccinated including more than 2 million (2,032,885) people who have received a first dose, and more than eight million (8,091,013) who have either completed a two-dose vaccine series or who have received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Gov. DeSantis Signs Off On $1,000 Bonuses for Teachers, Principals

Governor Ron DeSantis is touting $1,000 bonuses for principals and teachers outlined in the upcoming fiscal year's state budget. DeSantis says the bonuses are a reward for teachers working through the pandemic. He said his decision to allow brick-and-mortar classes to resume faced criticism.“Corporate media was trying to say schools should be closed and so when we went forward with it, we got a lot of blowback for it,” said DeSantis.

“There was a lot of people fearmongering; trying to scare parents, trying to scare students, and we were not going to be deterred by that.”The bonuses will go to bot charter school and traditional public school teachers and principals.

City of Naples Ends COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

The city of Naples plans to stop offering COVID-19 vaccines on Friday, May 28.

During Tuesday's city council meeting, Naples Fire Chief Pete DiMara told council members that vaccine demand has waned as doses have become more readily available through private companies like retail pharmacies. Since late January, the city of Naples has administered more than 8,000 vaccine shots.

The Naples Daily News reports city leaders are also looking to end temporary use permits issued to businesses that have allowed restaurants to use expanded outdoor dining and allowed shops to display merchandise outside.

The city is looking to allow temporary use permits to expire by July 1, when Governor DeSantis's state of emergency declaration, issued via executive order last year, is slated to sunset.

The see-through dividers installed in Naples city council chambers are also being removed.

Cape Coral Pediatrician’s Office Offers COVID-19 Vaccines

Children 12 and older and all adults can get a free COVID-19 vaccination today, May 27 at Mackoul Pediatrics at 206 SE 16th Place in Cape Coral. Shots will be available 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the parking lot. Those seeking a shot should bring identification and insurance cards if they have them.

Nearly 60,000 Utility Lines in Florida Remain Shut Off

Between August 2020 and March 2021 more than 610,000 residential utility lines were cut off by the big five investor-owned utility companies in Florida. Of those, 59,000 haven’t been restored. Florida Conservation Voters executive director Aliki Moncrief said Gov. DeSantis and the state lawmakers dropped the ball during this year’s annual legislative session when they failed to allocate any federal relief money toward helping Floridians pay those bills.

“So, it was really not only a missed opportunity, it was a failure on the part of the legislature and the part of Governor Ron DeSantis to make sure that some of those relief funds actually went to providing people relief,” said Moncrief.

She said it’s now up to local governments that are waiting on funding from the federal American Rescue Plan to provide utility relief for residents.

Gov. DeSantis Signs COVID-19 Fraud Protection Law

Gov. DeSantis signed a bill into law, Tuesday, providing increased protections against fraud and scams stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The AP reports, the new legislation, which passed unanimously through the state legislature, prohibits people from attempting to profit by lying about the authenticity, effectiveness or availability of personal protective equipment, or PPE.

The new law also bars people from making money from distributing a vaccine. It calls on the state attorney general's office to shut down websites or other media platforms that disseminate false information about the vaccine or that fraudulently sell PPE.

Teens in South Florida Launch Pro COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts

More than 10 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in Florida so far. Now, high school and college students are using social media to get more of the youngest eligible people to get their shots in order to protect themselves and those around them.

People often use TikTok to show videos of a dance move or a cooking tip. Coral Gables Senior High student Abigail Felan is using it to promote getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Felan helped gather videos of students saying they got their shot for the nonpartisan nonprofit organization New Voters, which is dedicated to voter registration. Now it’s also explaining that the vaccines make it safer for people to be around each other.

“Especially here in Miami where everyone just wants to go back to the beach, everyone wants to go out,” said Felan.

“Miami is so fun, and for people to be able to do that safely, they have to be vaccinated.”

New Voters got science messaging tips from former CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden. He taught them that the vaccines cannot alter a person’s DNA -- or genetic material.

“It’s not going to change who you are,” said Felan.

On Instagram, New Voters posted a snippet of Frieden explaining that the mRNA vaccines have been in development for some 20 years. That include the Moderna and Pfizer shots.

“Since before you were born they’ve been working on this vaccine,” said Frieden.“Corners were not cut, red tape was cut.”

This week, Moderna reported its data show its COVID-19 vaccines are fully effective in people 12 to 17 years old, two weeks after their second dose. The company will request emergency use authorization for this group from the FDA in June.

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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.
Blaise Gainey is a Multimedia Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.
Verónica Zaragovia