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Lynn Hatter

  • The Florida Board of Education, next week, will consider taking action against 11 Public School Districts with mask mandates that are out of compliance with state rules and an executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis.Sarasota School Board members, next week, will vote on whether to repeal the district’s mask policy.A federal COVID-19 vaccination mandate for hospitals is coming in October. Today marks the deadline for NCH employees to be fully vaccinated or risk losing their jobs. Sarasota Memorial Hospital and Lee Health are not imposing a staff vaccine mandate in advance of the federal mandate.Nearly 40% of COVID-19 deaths in Lee Health hospitals have been in the past two months amid the summer pandemic surge driven by the delta variant.A new report projects Florida will have a shortage of 60,000 nurses by 2035.With weekly unemployment claims rolling in at pre-pandemic numbers, state leaders say they remain optimistic about seeing results from a summer push to get people back into the labor force.Republican state lawmakers are sponsoring a bill that would exempt religious institutions from emergency orders.Florida families with children are now set to receive more than $1 billion in federal pandemic relief funds through a program created by Congress last year to assist children who lost access to free and reduced-price school meals when instruction shifted from in-person to virtual.
  • The Miami Dade and Leon County school districts are preparing to file a new lawsuit against Florida over the state’s efforts to ban student mask mandates. Eleven school districts across the state could face financial penalties for continuing to require student mask wearing.The Florida Department of Health has threatened Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings with fines over a vaccine mandate for county employees, but Demings said the mandate doesn’t violate state law as no worker can be fired for not getting the vaccine.Lee Health continues to report declines in the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in its hospitals.The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this week, announced nearly $1 billion dollars in American Rescue Plan funding for community health centers that treat underserved communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The funding includes nearly $40 million for 45 health centers across Florida.The traditional flu season begins Friday as Florida continues its recovery from the worst surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Health experts urge people to get the flu vaccine now.
  • Lee Health and the NCH Healthcare systems have resumed performing elective surgeries as numbers of hospitalized COVID-19 patients continue to decline.State workers in Florida are still struggling more than a year and a half into the pandemic. Three state prisons have closed due to a lack of corrections officers. Agencies under Governor Ron DeSantis' control began ordering employees back to their offices last October with mask wearing and social distancing optional. Since then, state agencies have disclosed little public information about how their workers are faring.Gov. DeSantis is crediting the recent decline in hospitalized COVID-19 patients to his efforts to increase access to monoclonal antibody treatments, but doctors argue that the treatments are just part of the reason why hospitalizations are on the decline and that the treatments are not a replacement for vaccination.A lawsuit filed by several Florida school districts over mask mandates was recently dismissed, but Leon County School District officials say they’ll refile their suit to reflect recent rule changes from the Florida Department of Health. A dozen other Florida districts are presently defying Gov. Ron DeSantis’ attempts to ban mandatory masking in schools.
  • The Alachua County School District is the first in the nation to receive federal funding from a Biden administration program aimed at supporting school districts facing financial sanctions for imposing student mask mandates.Florida’s supply of federally-purchased monoclonal antibody treatments will be cut by more than half starting next week.The Collier County School District has documented more COVID-19 cases in the first six weeks of this school year than in the entire previous school year.
  • The Florida Department of Health has changed its policy on school mask mandates, saying parents can opt their children out of mask wearing for any reason and that students no longer have to quarantine if they test positive for COVID-19, but have no symptoms. The rule change has led a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Florida school districts seeking to impose stricter mask-wearing policies.The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients across Florida continues to decline. HHS data indicates about 8,000 Floridians were hospitalized with the virus as of Wednesday, which is down by more than 250 patients from the day prior.Sarasota School board members are delaying action on possible changes to its public comment policy at school board meetings. The proposed changes stem from more than a year of meetings with hours of public comment and heated contention among speakers often raising concerns that are not part of the meeting’s agenda.After initially turning down $820 million in federal funds to provide food for poor children, state officials have reversed course and will now accept the money.
  • Governor Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody vowed, Monday, that Florida will fight local and federal COVID-19 vaccination mandates for both public and private workers. DeSantis says any Florida city or county that requires workers to get the vaccine, will be fined $5,000 per infraction.Parents suing to overturn DeSantis’ efforts to ban school districts from imposing student mask mandates are asking the Florida Supreme Court to take up the case after an appeals court, Friday, reinstated a stay on a ruling that allowed districts to keep their mask rules in place.Thousands of people attended a school mask exemption event in Venice, Sunday, where doctors were signing notes to exempt Sarasota school district students from the district’s mask mandate.Hospitals throughout Southwest Florida continue to report a decline in the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, as deaths continue to rise.
  • A Florida judge overturned an emergency motion, Thursday, attempting to reinstate a stay on his previous ruling that allows school districts to keep their student mandatory mask policies in place.Numbers of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Southwest Florida continue to decline, as COVID-19 deaths of hospitalized patients continue to grow.The Fallen Officer Memorial Page lists COVID-19 as the number one cause of death for law enforcement officers nationwide in both 2020 and 2021.
  • CDC data shows Florida had more daily COVID deaths in August 2021 then during the previous pandemic peak of August 2020.COVID-19 is now the leading cause of death for law enforcement officers in Florida.A Venice chiropractor has signed more than 500 medical mask exemption forms for students in Sarasota, prompting the district to tighten its mandatory mask policy.Gov. DeSantis is appealing last week’s circuit court ruling striking down his executive order barring school districts from imposing student mask mandates.Lee Health, Physicians Regional Healthcare System and Sarasota Memorial Hospital reported declines in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, Thursday, while NCH, Manatee Memorial and Lakewood Ranch Medical Center all reported COVID patient increases.A Lehigh Acres couple faces up to 30 years in prison on charges stemming from COVID relief funding fraud.
  • A lawsuit has been filed against the Florida Department of Health for failing to provide information about county-level COVID-19 deaths.During a stop in Fort Myers, Wednesday, Governor Ron DeSantis indicated that the state may resume releasing county-level data on COVID-19 deaths.The number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide has risen dramatically in recent weeks.Florida plans to begin issuing $5,000 fines to businesses, schools and government agencies that require proof of COVID-19 vaccination beginning Sept. 16.Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has sent a letter to the Sarasota County School board, threatening to withhold funding totaling the amount of school board members' salaries over the district's mandatory mask mandate for students. At least ten other school districts face similar funding threats due to their mask policies.Governor Ron DeSantis did not violate the law by ending federal unemployment benefits early for out of work Floridians, according to a judge's ruling, Monday.COVID-19 patients continue to strain resources at Southwest Florida hospitals. Sarasota Memorial Hospital and Cape Coral Hospital now have refrigerated trailers serving as additional morgue space to store dead bodies.
  • A Leon County judge ruled Friday in favor of parents who filed a lawsuit challenging Governor Ron DeSantis’ executive order barring school districts from imposing mask mandates on students. DeSantis has defended his order by citing a new state law called the Parents’ Bill of Rights, but in his ruling, the judge said the law doesn’t prevent school districts from imposing mask rules. The state will likely appeal the ruling, but for now, school districts can keep their mask policies.Although virus-related hospitalizations Florida have recently begun to level off, the number of daily reported deaths continues to climb. Federal data reports about 279 COVID deaths a day in Florida over the past week. A month ago, the average death rate stood at 52 fatalities a day. AdventHealth, Volusia County and Sarasota Memorial Hospital all reported leasing refrigerated trucks to expand morgue capacity amid the spike in deaths and backup at funeral homes.As Florida deals with another surge of COVID patients, supplies of oxygen for healthcare providers are running low and the shortage is affecting other industries outside of healthcare like aerospace.