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COVID-19 Morning Update

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Florida Department of Health

State health officials have reported 879 new cases of the coronavirus since Sunday, bringing the statewide total to 51,746 confirmed cases.

The Florida Department of Health also reported 15 deaths, Monday, increasing the death toll to 2,252 fatalities.

The total number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations in Florida now stands at 9,424 patients.

Of the 909,928 total tests that have been reported in Florida so far, 5.7% have been positive for the virus.

In the Southwest Florida region encompassing Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, public health officials report 5,364 total confirmed cases of the virus and 372 deaths. Lee County has the highest number of total cases in the region with 1,736 cases and 93 deaths. Manatee County has the second highest number of deaths with 91 fatalities from a total of 988 cases.

Congress has sent another round of stimulus spending to the Senate. North Florida U.S. Rep. Al Lawson said it's an improvement over the first round.

“You know we made a couple of mistakes on the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program), but now we're going to make sure we lower it so even for those businesses under $50,000,” said Lawson.

“I've been checking with a lot of financial institutions to give me a record of how many small businesses they were able to help. So that's coming up next week."

Still, passage in the Senate seems anything but certain as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the package "dead on arrival." Still, Lawson said he hopes increasing public pressure will carry the day. The U.S. unemployment rate is now approaching 15% and thousands of businesses may not survive.

Florida's unemployment rate hit a record high of nearly 13% in April. State officials released last month's unemployment data, Friday, showing a statewide unemployment rate of 12.9%, nearly tripling in one month amid the coronavirus pandemic-induced economic slowdown.

The April data compares to an unemployment rate increase of 4.3% in March and 2.8% in February, before Florida began to experience impacts of the pandemic.

The AP reports, about 1.2 million Floridians had lost their jobs out of a workforce of 10 million when the survey was conducted in mid-April.

The Naples Community Hospital Healthcare System begins COVID-19 antibody testing May 26. Antibody testing determines whether someone has had the coronavirus by detecting the presence of antibodies against the virus in their blood.

The Naples Daily News reports, for now antibody testing will be restricted to hospital employees at greatest risk of exposure. The healthcare system plans to expand antibody testing to include first responders and Collier County School District employees in mid-July.

Broader antibody testing to include people in the business community and those who are asymptomatic is set to begin by mid-August.

Test results can be available in as little as an hour and those tested through NCH can expect to get their results within two business days. By the end of June, NCH plans to conduct up to 2,000 COVID-19 antibody tests per day by the end of June.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is lifting all restrictions on youth activities in Florida, opening the door for summer and sports camps. DeSantis made the announcement, Friday, at a basketball gym in Jacksonville.

“So, I think that a lot of parents are going to be interested in being able to have their kids be involved in activities, but at the same time, this is a parent’s decision,” said DeSantis.

“If you don’t feel comfortable doing it, then don’t do it and that’s fine and I think that the parents are in the best places to make those decisions.”

DeSantis said local governments will be free to create extra restrictions and guidelines for summer sports and summer camps.

DeSantis also pointed out that no one in Florida under the age of 25 has died of the virus.

Floridians who test positive for COVID-19 are likely to receive a call from the state Department of Health. Caitlin Wolfe works as a contact tracer for the Florida Department of Health in in Polk County. She said she checks patients’ names and dates of birth to start the process.

“If we do have the right person, we do need them to verify some of their personal health information first before we move on with the conversation to make sure we are A: talking to the right person and not sharing information we shouldn’t be with anybody else,” said Wolfe.

Contact tracers are required to ask people detailed questions. The goal is to figure out if an infected person has spread the virus to family members and other close contacts.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that communities use this method to contain outbreaks and in turn keep local economies open.

Gov. Ron DeSantis says the state does not use the same lab that has produced 35,000 unreliable COVID-19 test results for AdventHealth.

Over the weekend, AdventHealth announced that the results of more than 35,000 COVID-19 tests performed by a third-party lab are unreliable. That includes 25,000 collected in Central Florida.

Speaking in Orlando Monday, DeSantis said the state of Florida considered using the same lab – but never did.

“The samples have to be refrigerated, properly cared for,” DeSantis said. “This is not just like sending a piece of paper. So apparently what happened was they figured out this lab, I think it was in Texas, just let the samples be spoiled. So they had thousands of samples. That was not from any of Florida’s test sites.”

In a statement released Saturday, AdventHealth didn’t name the third-party lab and said it will contact patients to be retested. The tests were a mixture of positive and negative results.

“That company was actually one that Florida looked to potentially do business with, we never sent them any tests,” DeSantis said. “But obviously after that we’re not going to be doing business with them.”

The issue with AdventHealth’s third-party testing is not the only one in the state. Multiple officials across the state said there appeared to be a data dump of test results over the weekend.

Dr. Raul Pino, an epidemiologist with the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, said Orange County got 6,000 results back on Saturday.

“We have never tested 6,000 people in a day,” Pino said. “We have never tested 6,000 people in two days. We probably test 6,000 people a week in the county, about. So, something happened there. And we’re concerned how much that is skewing our data.”

Separately, more than 500 positive results were confirmed over the weekend in Miami. DeSantis said more than 400 test results were backlogged cases going back three weeks.

Overall, more than 658,000 have been tested for COVID-19.

June 1 marks the official start of the Atlantic Storm Season and emergency management officials are looking for creative ways to protect people during storms, while keeping coronavirus mitigation in place.

In Miami-Dade County Emergency Management Director Frank Rollason says officials are increasing the number of shelters they plan to offer and are working with the school district to open classrooms within the school buildings they use as shelters.

“So, we’ll have more rooms, more open spaces where we can put families together in these rooms, rather than being in the congregate areas,” said Rollason.

Those rooms will help keep people in smaller groups. Rollason said it will let officials isolate people who have COVID-19 symptoms. He said some officials are considering screening people and taking temperatures before letting them into shelters, but he emphasizes, nobody will be turned away.