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COVID-19 Morning Update

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Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 379 new cases of COVID-19 in Florida, Wednesday, for a total of 52,634 confirmed cases.

As the nationwide death toll from COVID-19 hit the 100,000 mark, yesterday, the Florida Department of Health also reported 60 new coronavirus-related deaths, bringing Florida's death toll to 2,319 confirmed fatalities, including 1,089 deaths in long-term care facilities.

The total number of virus-related hospitalizations in the state now stands at 9,639 patients.

Of the 935,271 tests that have been performed in Florida so far, 5.6% have been positive for the virus.

In the Southwest Florida region encompassing Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, state health officials reported 52 new confirmed cases, Wednesday, and 13 new deaths.

In the Southwest Florida region, Lee County continues to see the greatest virus activity with 1,767 confirmed cases and 99 deaths. Health officials reported six new deaths in Lee County, Wednesday, three new deaths in Sarasota, and two new deaths each in Manatee and Charlotte Counties.

Lee Health officials say the largest single-day increase in coronavirus-related hospitalizations at its four acute-care hospitals occurred after the Memorial Day weekend.

Lee Health was treating 95 patients for COVID-19 last Friday, compared to 110 patients on Tuesday; That's a nearly 16% increase in four days. On Wednesday, Lee Health reported 106 coronavirus-related hospitalizations.

Lee Health President and CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci tells the News-Press the patient increase doesn't necessarily indicate a second wave of COVID-19 beginning to impact the region, noting that an increase in positive tests was expected as testing increases and more people begin leaving their homes.

In neighboring Collier County, the NCH Healthcare System did not experience a similar increase in COVID-19 patients.

The patient spike in Lee County may not reflect more exposure during the Memorial Day holiday weekend because the median incubation period for the virus is four to five days. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the time from exposure to the appearance of symptoms can be as long as two weeks in some cases.

A clinic selling unapproved COVID-19 test kits will be refunding customers more than $9,000. The Florida Attorney General’s office investigated the clinic and had them agree to give full refunds and pay civil penalties.

PrecisionMed Pharmacy sent more than 1,000 text messages to people living in the Tampa Bay area. The company was offering to sell at-home COVID-19 test kits, but these kits were not approved for at-home use.

The tests were priced at $85 and more than 100 people bought them. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said her consumer protection team took swift action to protect people from being misled or ripped off.

The Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force approved plans, Wednesday, for both Disney World and SeaWorld parks to reopen.

Disney spokesman Jim McPhee says Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom would reopen July 11, while Hollywood Studios and Epcot would reopen July 15.

McPhee says Disney will not allow character meet-and-greets, and will reduce capacity on rides.

“And restaurants, and retail stores, and transportation. We will temporarily suspend fireworks and parades and other events that create crowds,” McPhee said.

Next, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and Gov. Ron DeSantis would need to sign off on the plans. SeaWorld hopes to open its three Orlando theme parks to the public on June 11.

Other attractions have already gotten local approval. Legoland wants to open June 1, and Universal wants to open June 5th.

With the six-month Atlantic storm season starting June 1, emergency-management officials have changed how Florida will respond to storms as they grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.

Disaster managers are modifying hurricane plans on issues such as evacuations and shelters because of the virus. People who go to shelters are less likely to be crowded into single large rooms.

Caps will be placed, maybe 50 people to a shelter, or evacuees could be spread across complexes such as schools, where each classroom could be used by five to 10 people. Another possibility is that people could find themselves filling hotels that would otherwise be low on occupancy.

Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said its likely more people will be told to shelter in place.

“Now, potentially county emergency managers will be saying ‘Know your home. Know your zone and know your home.’” Said Moskowitz.

“So if you live in a surge zone, yes, you’ll still have to get out. but, if your house is new construction, it’s built to code, and we get a Category One or Category Two storm, perhaps they’ll decide the safest place for you to be is in your home.”

Mixing the forecasts with the coronavirus, the state has created a reserve of 10 million face masks, one million face shields, and five million gloves.

NOAA is forecasting 13 to 19 named storms this season.

There have already been two tropical storms, as Arthur threatened the Carolinas earlier this month and Bertha formed, Wednesday, before making landfall hours later in South Carolina.