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COVID-19 Morning Update

Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 509 new cases of COVID-19, Tuesday, bringing the statewide total of 52,255 confirmed cases. The Florida Department of Health also reported seven new deaths, yesterday, for a total of 2,252 fatalities including 1,089 deaths associated with long-term care facilities.

The total number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations in Florida now stands at 9,482 patients.

Of the 924,920 test results that have been reported in Florida so far, 5.6% have been positive for the virus. The rate of positive tests has been trending downward for weeks.

In the Southwest Florida region including Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, health officials reported 75 new confirmed cases of the virus yesterday and no new deaths, Tuesday, for a total of 5,439 cases and 372 deaths.

Lee County continues to have the highest number of cases and deaths in the Southwest Florida region with 1,759 confirmed cases and 93 deaths.

Florida U.S. Senator and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Marco Rubio is warning that foreign actors will seek to amplify American conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic and find new ways to interfere in the 2020 presidential election.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Tuesday, the Republican senator said one possibility could be efforts to convince Americans that a new vaccine against the virus would be more harmful than helpful.

Reflecting on Russian efforts to sow division in the U.S. during the last presidential election cycle, Rubio said, "I'm not sure that we're any less vulnerable than we once were.”

Lee county officials are investing $57.5 million of federal CARES Actmoney to provide financial relief to local residents and small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

The LeeCares initiative aims to get federal relief funds into the hands of those who have been affected financially by business closures resulting from the pandemic.

Small businesses and nonprofit organizations based in Lee County with 25 employees or less can apply for $5,000 relaunch grants. The funds are to reimburse the cost of business interruptions caused by COVID-19-related closures.

The county initiative also allocates money to provide small businesses with personal protective equipment like surgical masks and hand sanitizer.

Lee County residents who have been financially derailed by the Safer-at-Home order can also apply for up to $2,000 in individual assistance for things like rent, mortgage and utility payments.

Applications open May 26, 2020 and county officials have said funds will be distributed until they run out.

The mayors of Tampa Bay's two largest cities are reacting to state Republican leaders floating the possibility that this summer's Republican National Convention could be coming to Florida.

President Trump tweeted Monday about moving the convention out of Charlotte because North Carolina was not opening fast enough from the coronavirus pandemic and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that the sunshine state would welcome the RNC.

However, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman was not as enthusiastic during a Facebook Live event. “Putting on an event of this size and scale takes months and months of preparation, so I don't see how realistically that could even happen,” said Kriseman.

Tampa Mayor and fellow Democrat Jane Castor issued a statement pointing out that when the city hosted the Republican Convention in 2012, it took 18 months of preparation and a price tag of $50 million.

Castor's statement also said, “consideration of this would be irresponsible at this time.”

Gov. DeSantis has filled two state Supreme Court vacancies. South Florida Circuit Court Judge Renatha Francis and attorney John Couriel will make seven justices on the bench. DeSantis has had a list of finalists from the Court’s Judicial Nominating Committee since January, and was supposed to have made his picks by late March. He blamed COVID-19 for the delay as he touted the new justices during press conference, Tuesday, in Miami.

“Judge Francis will be the first Caribbean-American to sit on the Florida Supreme Court,” said DeSantis. “John Couriel is the son of Cuban exiles. His father escaped the tyranny of Fidel Castro via Operation Pedro Pan in 1961.”

The appointments make five picks for DeSantis to the state’s highest court. Former Justices Barbara Lagoa and Robert Luck were both appointed to the federal 11th Circuit court of Appeals by President Donald Trump.

Florida may have lost nearly $900 million in tax revenue last month due to the economic shutdown imposed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The AP reports, state lawmakers approved a $93.2 billion budget for the coming fiscal year in March, but have not yet sent that proposed budget to Governor Ron DeSantis. The new fiscal year begins July 1. Florida officials had expected to take in nearly $3 billion in April, but fell short by about $878 million.

Estero-based rental car giant Hertz Global Holdings filed for bankruptcy protection, Friday, as the company is unable to withstand the hit to its business brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Hertz’s lenders were unwilling to grant it another extension on its debt payments past a Friday deadline, which triggered the filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.

By the end of March, Hertz had $18.7 billion in debt with only $1 billion of available cash.

Andrea Perdomo is a reporter for WGCU News. She started her career in public radio as an intern for the Miami-based NPR station, WLRN. Andrea graduated from Florida International University, where she was a contributing writer for the student-run newspaper, The Panther Press, and was also a member of the university's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.
Mark Schreiner has been the producer and reporter for "University Beat" on WUSF 89.7 FM since 2001 and on WUSF TV from 2007-2017.
Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.