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COVID-19 Federal Relief Funds

  • 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.
  • Hospitals in Southwest Florida continue to report declines in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Lee Health officials say they plan to comply with a new Biden Administration rule requiring some employers to require workers to be vaccinated or to be tested for COVID-19 weekly.Child advocates and Democrats are criticizing Gov. Ron DeSantis after his administration passed on $820 million in federal funds to help feed children from low-income families who are out of school due to a COVID-19 infection or exposure.The Lee County School District has changed its policy to allow parents to opt their children out of mask-wearing in school without a doctor’s note.Thousands of Sarasota parents turned out for an event last weekend, where physicians were providing medical exemption forms to the school district’s mask mandate.Florida Deputy Secretary for Health Shamarial Roberson, who has been critical in the state’s COVID tracking and response, announced her resignation.Collier County officials have announced plans for spending $74 million in federal American Rescue Plan fundingA consortium of Sarasota arts organizations announced plans to adopt uniform COVID safety policies that require vaccines or proof of a negative COVID test.
  • State health officials reported 4,237 new COVID-19 cases and 32 deaths on Monday. The latest single-day positivity rate reported by the state Division of Emergency Management increased to 10.84%, which is the highest reported since Jan. 28.More than eight million people in Florida have been vaccinated including more than 2.9 million who have received a first dose and more than 5.1 million people who have completed the series.Lee Health is now offering COVID-19 vaccine dose appointments to any Floridian 18 or older. The Health system is encouraging more people to get the vaccine and to continue following CDC guidelines as hospitalizations have increased in recent weeks.FEMA-run vaccine sites in Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando and Tampa are now offering Pfizer vaccine doses with no appointment necessary.The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity reported Friday that Florida’s unemployment rate was unchanged in March, remaining at 4.7%. The jobs report indicates a slight uptick in the number of people deemed out of work, as the hospitality industry continues to lag in job growth amid the COVID-19 pandemic.Eight workers with a Sarasota-based tax preparation business have been arrested on coronavirus relief fraud charges. The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office says they filed 114 fraudulent applications in an effort to receive more than $319,000 in federal CARES Act funding. Another Florida man alleged to have received more than $7.2 million in pandemic relief funds was arrested on an international warrant in Croatia.
  • State health officials reported 6,772 new COVID-19 cases and 44 deaths, Wednesday. So far more than 7.5 million people in Florida have been vaccinated including more than 2.9 million people who have received a first dose and more than 4.6 million who have completed the series.Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran sent a letter to school district officials, Wednesday, advising that mask wearing for students will be optional this fall.School districts in Southwest Florida are planning to scale back their virtual learning options for the 2021-2022 school year. Area school districts are also reporting a surge in new infections after students returned from spring break.Due to reports of rare blood clots, Florida has paused distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Gov. Ron DeSantis says despite the pause, Florida’s vaccine supply is still strong. The state’s effort to vaccinate people in prison is also not affected by the pause.Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is calling on Gov. DeSantis to loosen vaccine residency restrictions in an effort to get more undocumented farmworkers vaccinated.
  • State health officials reported 1,613 new COVID-19 cases and 35 deaths on Monday. So far, more than 7.2 million people in Florida have been vaccinated including more than 2.8 million who have received a first dose and more than 4.4 million people who have completed the series.Governor Ron DeSantis is railing against YouTube and Google and accusing the tech giant of censorship for removing a video of a COVID-19 discussion he had with scientists who oppose government lockdowns, school closures and mask wearing.Florida is suing the Biden administration and the CDC to let cruise ships sail again after being shut down for more than a year during the COVID-19 pandemic.The Florida Education Association is seeking clarity on recently adopted exemptions to testing requirements for this school year.Public school districts in Southwest Florida plan to scale back their distance learning options for students returning to school in the fall.A bill to make pandemic-induced expansions on the use of telemedicine permanent continues advancing in the state legislature.FEMA is now offering financial assistance to help cover the cost of funerals for those who have died of COVID-19.Lee County Commissioners stopped manning toll booths to collect bridge tolls on the outset of the pandemic and now they’re considering making that change permanent. They’re also considering a proposed increase in bridge tolls paid by motorists.A Florida woman was sentenced to 30 days in jail, last week, for deliberately coughing on a cancer patient during a dispute, last year, that was caught on a video that went viral.
  • State Health officials reported 3.406 new COVID-19 cases and 22 deaths Monday. Nearly 6.4 million people in Florida have been vaccinated including nearly 2.7 million who have received a first dose and nearly 3.7 million who have completed the series.As of Monday, all adults 18 and older are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Sixteen and 17-year-olds also became eligible for the vaccine, Monday, but teenagers are restricted to the Pfizer version of the vaccine and must have parental consent.Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order, Friday, banning businesses from using vaccine passports to require people to prove they’ve been vaccinated in order to receive services.The Florida Legislature is taking up budget proposals this week and how to use Florida’s share of federal funds stemming from the American Rescue Plan remains a point of contention in budget negotiations.Lawmakers in the state House and Senate are considering several pieces of legislation to limit local-government emergency orders, create a personal-protective equipment stockpile and establish an Emergency Preparedness and Response Fund for use by the governor.Sarasota city commissioners are taking steps to reinstate a mandatory mask ordinance amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
  • State health officials reported 5,294 new COVID-19 cases and 87 deaths on Wednesday. So far, more than 5.8 million people in Florida have received a vaccine including more than 2.5 million people who have received a first dose and more than 3.3 million who have either completed the two-shot series or received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.Vaccine eligibility in Florida will expand next Monday, April 5, to include anyone 18 and older. Sixteen and 17-year-olds will be eligible, Monday, for the Pfizer vaccine with parental consent.Gov. Ron DeSantis says he’ll take emergency action to prevent government or businesses from requiring the vaccine or a vaccine passport system. Meanwhile, the Biden administration says it will not issue a federal mandate requiring proof of inoculation. The White House will be letting private companies handle the logistics for vaccine passports.Farmworkers in Homestead spoke with Miami-Dade officials this week as they push for vaccine access. Time is short before changes in the growing season prompt migrant farmworkers in Florida travel elsewhere.Attorneys general from 13 states, including Florida, have filed a lawsuit against the Biden Administration over a provision in the federal stimulus that bars state governments from using the relief funds to offset tax cuts.Gov. DeSantis announced Wednesday that principals and teachers at Florida's K-12 public schools will receive $1,000 bonuses similar to the $1,000 bonuses he announced two weeks ago for first responders.
  • Florida is again seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations. The Florida Division of Emergency Management reports, Sunday’s positivity rate increased to 10.09%, which is the highest its been since Feb. 3.Governor Ron DeSantis vows to sign an executive order banning governments and businesses from requiring “vaccine passports.”State lawmakers are planning to reserve more than $300 million in funding for public schools, in case some of the nearly 90,000 students who didn’t enroll amid the ongoing pandemic come back to school in the fall.Florida’s unemployment rate continued to decline in February to 4.7%.Governor DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody have threated to sue the federal government over the ongoing moratorium on cruise ship operations at U.S. ports, saying it’s hurting Florida’s economy.Former Cape Coral City Councilman John Carioscia died Sunday of complications from COVID-19. In his final months in office Carioscia supported an unsuccessful effort to adopt a mask mandate in the city.North Fort Myers business owner Casey David Crowther was convicted, Friday of COVID-19 relief funding fraud related to a $2 million PPP loan he was awarded last year.
  • State health officials reported 11,015 new COVID-19 cases, Monday, for a total of 1,212,581 cases.The Florida Department of Health also reported 112 new coronavirus-related deaths, Dec. 21, increasing the statewide death toll to 20,976 fatalities since the start of the pandemic.