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COVID-19 Morning Report

Alberto Carvalho, Oliver angel, Ariah Olawale
Lynne Sladky/AP
FILE- In this Aug. 23, 2021, file photo, Miami-Dade schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, center, walks with students Oliver Angel, left, and Ariah Olawale, right, outside of iPrep Academy on the first day of school, Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, in Miami. The on-again, off-again ban imposed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to prevent mandating masks for Florida school students is back in force. The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, that a Tallahassee judge should not have lifted an automatic stay two days ago that halted enforcement of the mask mandate ban. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

DeSantis, Moody Push Back Against Vaccine Mandates

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody said Monday that Florida will fight local and federal COVID-19 vaccination mandates for public and private workers.

Appearing near Gainesville, where the city commission last month voted to require employees to show proof of vaccination or be fired, DeSantis said such mandates will have a “huge impact” on public safety, if law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMTs are fired.

DeSantis said any Florida city or county that requires its employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine will be fined $5,000 per infraction.

He also said Florida will stand up against a White House directive to require COVID-19 vaccinations and tests for large numbers of public and private workers.

“They go back and find some statute from decades ago. They find some obscure regulation, and then they take that as a pretext to be able to do ridiculous, unforeseen expansions of government power,” said DeSantis.

Attorney General Moody said the state will back employees who are risking their jobs by not getting mandated vaccines.

“This is about, very simply, how much power do our government officials have, when we have never given them that power?” said Moody.

The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed the lives of nearly 49,000 Floridians since March 2020, with more than 2,400 deaths announced last week by the Florida Department of Health.

Parents Ask Florida Supreme Court to Take Up Mask Lawsuit

Parents suing to overturn Gov. Ron DeSantis’s effort to ban school mask mandates, are asking Florida’s top court to take up the case. The request to move the case to the Florida Supreme Court came hours after an appeals court reinstated a stay on a ruling that allowed districts to keep their mandates in place.

In their request for a Florida Supreme Court hearing, attorneys for the parents write that an immediate resolution to the case is needed because the school year is already underway and that the issue is of "great public importance" because the Delta variant is more transmissible, Florida is a COVID-19 hot spot, and that children are now more vulnerable to the virus.

The request came hours after an appellate court reinstated a stay on a lower court ruling that said the Governor’s executive order attempting to block school mask mandates was a step too far. In his ruling, Circuit Judge John Cooper noted the state can’t punish districts for mandating masks without first giving them an opportunity to prove that those policies are reasonable. Cooper also cited the Parents Bill of Rights—the same law the administration has used to justify its ban on mask mandates—and noted the law allows for governmental entities to impose upon parental rights if they can show there is a compelling state interest.

The appellate court cited concerns over standing and jurisdiction in its decision to lift the stay. The move effectively paved the way for the state to keep punishing defiant districts with financial penalties.

There are currently more than a dozen districts with mask mandates, and others are considering defying the governor and instituting their own mask requirements.

There are also several lawsuits pending in federal and administrative law court over the Governor's executive order.

The federal government is offering a grant program to supplement funding to districts that are hit with financial fines for requiring masks. The U.S. Department of Education also announced an investigation of several states trying to ban school masks, suggesting such bans violate the rights of children with disabilities.

Thousands Seek Doctor’s Note at School Mask Mandate Exemption Event

Thousands of people turned out for a school mask-exemption event in Venice, Sunday, where two physicians were signing forms to exempt students from the Sarasota County School District's mask-wearing policy.

The Herald Tribune reports, the event was held at a wedding venue called The Hollow, and also included a cookout, and an appearance from former President Donald Trump's first national security advisor Michael Flynn.

Sarasota School district officials imposed a 90-day mask mandate last month, that does allow for medical exemptions.

The district tightened its policy on what type of medical professionals were qualified to sign medical exemption forms after Venice chiropractor, Dan Busch gave out hundreds of mask exemptions during the first weeks of school.

A school district spokesman said Monday, they were bracing for up to 2,000 new medical mask exemptions stemming from the weekend event.

SW Florida Hospitals Report Continued Decline in Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients

Hospitals across Southwest Florida continue to experience declines in the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, as deaths continue to go up.

Lee Health reported Monday morning having 423 hospitalized COVID patients in its hospitals, including six pediatric patients. While the overall patient census remains high, this marks the lowest number of COVID patients since early August.

Lee Health is at 94% of staffed operational bed capacity with 91% of ICU beds full. Lee Health reported, Sept. 13, having 80 COVID patients in intensive care, including 70 on ventilators.

Lee Health reported eight more deaths of COVID patients, Monday, for a total of 1,048 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Last Friday, the Florida Department of Health reported 2,448 deaths, marking the largest weekly increase in fatalities to date.

The NCH Healthcare system in Collier County reported treating 157 COVID patients, Monday, which is down from 180 patients last Friday. One of those cases is a pediatric patient, compared to six pediatric COVID patients, Friday.

82% of NCH’s hospitalized COVID patients are unvaccinated.

The Naples Daily News reports, NCH hospitals were operating at 138% of staffed bed capacity, Monday, with 49 COVID patients in critical care, including 33 on ventilators.

Physicians Regional Healthcare System, also in Collier, had 74 COVID patients, Monday, which is down from 87 on Friday.

Sarasota Memorial Hospital reported treating 216 hospitalized COVID patients, Monday, down from 242 patients on Friday. 85% are unvaccinated.

Sarasota Memorial's expanded intensive care unit was treating 69 COVID patients Monday.

Sarasota Memorial Hospital has reported 21 new COVID deaths, just since Friday, for a total of 151 fatalities in the past five weeks, and 417 COVID deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Manatee Memorial Hospital in Bradenton reported having 93 COVID patients, Sept. 13, while Lakewood Ranch Medical Center reported having 39 COVID patients.

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