© 2023 90.7 WMFE. All Rights Reserved.
Public Media for Central Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Your Thursday Update: More than 60,000 People in Florida Have Coronavirus, Orlando Church Donates $500,000 to Local Nonprofits, Universal Reopens to the Public on Friday

Photo: Guneet Jassal
Photo: Guneet Jassal

More than 60,000 Floridians have coronavirus

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

Florida’s coronavirus case tally has climbed to 60,183 cases. Statewide, 10,652 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and 2,607 people have died.

Orange County has the most coronavirus cases in Central Florida, with 2,085 cases and 337 hospitalizations. Forty-three people have died from COVID-19 in Orange County.

Osceola County has 679 cases, twenty deaths and 157 hospitalizations.

In Sumter County, home of the Villages retirement community, seventeen people have died. Sumter County has 259 cases and 45 hospitalizations.

Hover over the map for case numbers in other counties.

Orlando church donates $500,000 to nonprofits hit by COVID

The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (Orlando Sentinel) — Orlando's First Presbyterian Church made a donation of over $500,000 to Central Florida’s nonprofits to help ease some of the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus.

Senior Pastor David Swanson says the church pooled money from virtual collection plates, and used leftover funds from a capital campaign, bequests and an annual missions drive.

Checks ranging between $5,000 and $50,000 will be given to 14 agencies that feed and shelter people who've been furloughed or lost their jobs during the pandemic. Swanson said the church normally gives about 10 percent of worshipers' offerings over the course of a year.

Universal takes first steps toward reviving Orlando theme park biz

The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Harry Potter fans and roller coaster lovers are streaming back into Universal Orlando Resort this week.

Universal Orlando reopened to passholders Wednesday and Thursday, and it will allow the general public back in Friday.

The reopening marks one of the first major steps toward reviving Florida’s theme park industry after parks were closed in March to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

Visitors are required to wear face masks and get their temperatures checked before entering. Crosstown rival SeaWorld Orlando is set to reopen next week, and Walt Disney World plans to welcome back visitors next month.

How I Built Resilience: Live with Jenn Hyman

How I Built This, NPR

As Rent the Runway faces the economic challenges of the pandemic, co-founder Jenn Hyman is focused on recovery and empowering women's lives through clothing.

These conversations are excerpts from our How I Built Resilience series, where Guy talks online with founders and entrepreneurs about how they're navigating these turbulent times.

'I didn't deserve it': pandemic shut down his barbershop, then a fire destroyed it

Jim Zarroli, NPR

Trevon Ellis spent years building up his north Minneapolis barbershop, the Fade Factory, luring customers with smart haircuts, snacks and friendly conversation.

It took just one terrible night to destroy it all.

"Inside is totally burned down," Ellis says. "Everything was burned to a crisp."

The recent wave of protests against police brutality has left a trail of chaos and destruction in many city neighborhoods, with countless businesses looted and damaged.

Among them are some African American businesses, which were already hard hit by the coronavirus lockdowns and are decidedly more vulnerable to the economic downturn.

The number of black-owned businesses has grown sharply over the years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but most are tiny operations financed not through bank credit but personal funds and loans from friends and family.
They "are not mom and pops. They're mom  or pops," says Ron Busby, president and CEO of  U.S. Black Chambers Inc. Ellis, 42, was trained as a barber more than a decade ago and began renting space in a barber shop in a rough part of Minneapolis. He printed out business cards with his name on them and passed them out everywhere he went. "If you're motivated and self-driven, which is what it takes to be a barber, the financial part of it is limitless," Ellis says. A self-described "people person," Ellis loves chatting with customers, hearing their confidences and, in the process, leaving them looking better than when they came in. "If they can look at theirself in the mirror or get compliments from people that see them with a nice haircut, it actually makes people more positive, more lighthearted," Ellis says. When the lockdowns began in March, Ellis was forced to shut his shop down. While some of his regular customers begged him to cut their hair on the sly, he says he worried about contagion. The weeks since then have been rough financially and boring as well. "I slept a lot, but you only can sleep so much. You only can surf the Internet so much. There's only so much social media you want to feed in your brain because you can't believe everything you see or hear on there," Ellis says. He had been hoping the restrictions would be lifted soon and he could reopen the Fade Factory. Then, sometime late Saturday, someone broke into the shop, poured some kind of dark liquid on the floor and lit the place on fire. Firefighters in Minneapolis were so overwhelmed by emergency calls that it took them hours to show up, and by then the Fade Factory was no more. After Ellis' plight made the local news, a stranger set up a  GoFundMe page, which had raised more than $53,000 as of Wednesday afternoon. Ellis says he will use the money to rebuild his shop in the same neighborhood. He says he knows why people protested and doesn't blame anyone in particular. What he doesn't understand is why his shop was targeted. "Whoever torched that barbershop, I didn't deserve it, the community didn't deserve it and definitely that building owner didn't deserve it," Ellis says.

New curfews follow police confrontations in Florida

The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Following a night in which officers used tear gas on demonstrators who threw rocks and bottles at them, Orlando officials are moving up a curfew by two hours for the city’s downtown.

Protesters continued a fifth day of demonstrations in Florida against police abuse. Peaceful rallies with thousands of people in Orlando, Tampa and St. Petersburg a day earlier took a more confrontational turn late at night, after city curfews.

Officers in the three cities responded to fireworks, thrown bottles and rocks with tear gas, smoke grenades, pepper canisters and other measures to disperse crowds.

Medical examiner's autopsy reveals George Floyd had positive test for coronavirus

Scott Neuman, NPR A full autopsy report on George Floyd, the man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police last month, reveals that he was positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The 20-page report also indicates that Floyd had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death, although the drugs are not listed as the cause. The  report released Wednesday by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office is dated May 25, the same day Floyd died. In video taken by bystanders, Floyd, 46, is shown repeatedly pleading that he cannot breathe as he is held face down with a knee on his neck by former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, as other officers stand by. The incident has sparked nationwide — and even worldwide — protests. Floyd's death has been ruled a homicide. The autopsy report concludes the cause of death was "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression." That conclusion, death due to heart failure, differs from the one reached by an independent examiner hired by the Floyd family, which listed the cause of death as "asphyxiation from sustained pressure." The medical examiner's report does not mention asphyxiation. Preliminary results from that report were released publicly on Monday. According to prosecutors, who filed charging documents last week, the results "revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation." The medical examiner's report also details blunt-force injuries to the skin of Floyd's head, face and upper lip, as well as the shoulders, hands and elbows and bruising of the wrists consistent with handcuffs. Signed by Andrew M. Baker, M.D., it says Floyd had previously tested positive for the novel coronavirus on April 3. A post mortem nasal swab was taken and confirmed that diagnosis. The report notes that since a positive result for coronavirus can persist for weeks after the disease has resolved, "the result most likely reflects asymptomatic but persistent ... positivity from previous infection." In addition to fentanyl and methamphetamine, the toxicology report from the autopsy showed that Floyd also had cannabinoids in his system when he died. Floyd also had heart disease, hypertension and  sickle-cell trait — a mostly asymptomatic form of the more serious sickle-cell disease, an inherited blood disorder that primarily affects African Americans. Also on Wednesday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison  announced upgraded charges of second-degree unintentional murder against Chauvin. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 12-and-a-half years in prison. "To the Floyd family, to our beloved community, and everyone that is watching, I say: George Floyd mattered. He was loved. His life was important. His life had value. We will seek justice for him and for you and we will find it," Ellison said in announcing the new charges on television. Three other officers at the scene were also charged for the first time on Wednesday with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

AP source: NBA presents players with plan for season restart

The Associated Press

A person with knowledge of the situation says the NBA has told the National Basketball Players Association that it will present a 22-team plan for restarting the season to the league’s board of governors on Thursday.

The person says all 22 of the teams coming to the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex on the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida, would play eight games to determine playoff seeding starting around July 31 before the postseason begins.

The plan would have 13 Western Conference teams and nine Eastern Conference teams going to Disney.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the league has not released its proposal publicly.

NIH Director hopes for at least one safe and effective vaccine by year's end

Sarah McCammon, NPR As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases globally approaches  6.5 million, scientists are racing to develop a vaccine. Currently, there are  10 vaccine candidates in development around the world that are in the beginnings of human trials. Some will be ready for large-scale testing as soon as the beginning of July, says Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health and a member of the White House coronavirus task force. These phase 3 trials involve roughly 30,000 volunteers for each candidate vaccine, with half the volunteers receiving a placebo, he says. "That is a phenomenal thing to be able to say, considering these things usually take several years," and considering how recently the virus was identified, Collins tells  All Things Considered. He hopes that at least one vaccine that's been proved safe and effective against the coronavirus will be ready in 2021. Here are excerpts from the interview. Who ultimately decides which vaccines move forward? Is that up to your agency? Or what the president has called his Operation Warp Speed vaccine task force? These vaccines are put forward by various companies. They are in different phases of being ready. They have to first go through a phase 1 trial to see whether they, in fact, in a small number of volunteers, do produce a decent level of antibodies — which would tend to predict that they're going to work against this coronavirus. And they have to also show in a small number of volunteers that they're safe. And not all of them have even quite yet gotten to that point. The ones that do — we want to have a whole menu of vaccine opportunities because these don't always work. ... So it is a very good thing that we're going to end up with several different vaccines that are going through this large-scale testing in the course of the coming months. And my hope is they'll all work. ... But if some of them drop out along the way, we just want to be sure that by the end of this calendar year, we have at least one or maybe two or maybe three that have shown that they're both safe and they're effective. And let me emphasize that word 'safe.' This brand that we're using,  Operation Warp Speed, is supposed to convey the speed with which we're trying to move because of this intense public health need. But it is not a means of compromising safety. We will not do that. We're just skipping over some of the steps that tend to go slowly for regulatory reasons and for business reasons and trying to make those go faster. We are not compromising on safety. Has the president's term [warp speed] made it difficult for you as a public health official to message exactly how this works? Not really. I kind of like the idea of conveying that we're in a hurry here — I just need to quickly explain after I say that what that means. One of the things we're doing is to make sure that when a vaccine looks like it's got some promise, it's going into one of these large-scale trials — let's assume it might work. And let's go ahead and start manufacturing lots and lots of doses [at that point], with U.S. government support, so that if it  does work, you don't then have to wait for many months to have the vaccine ready to distribute. ... This so-called "at-risk manufacturing" — you wouldn't normally do that because some of this is going to go to waste. But when you consider what's happening here and the people's lives at risk, it seems like the right thing to do. That's part of the warp speed idea. How will you make sure that once the vaccine is ready, it is equitably distributed and that anyone who needs one can get one? The first doses ... will need to go to the people who are at highest risk. ... particularly health care providers, people in long-term care facilities. ... But the goal would be certainly to start scaling this up as soon as you have a vaccine that's safe and effective, so that by 2021, maybe even in the first or second quarter, we would have 100 million doses or so, so it wouldn't have to be rationed so severely. But first, there won't be enough for everybody.

What it's like to be a Florida contact tracer during the COVID-19 pandemic

Alexander Gonzalez, WLRN
Between Florida re-opening -- and the protests -- more people are sharing the same space. And that’s an opportunity for COVID-19 to spread. To slow the spread the spread the government is using contact tracing.

Contact tracing is kind of like the stuff of whodunit mystery stories. "So it’s about doing that investigative work. You almost feel like Sherlock Holmes in a way," Algarin said. Until recently, Angel Algarin was a contact tracer for the Broward County Department of Health -- helping gather clues that piece together the story of coronavirus spread. Algarin is also getting his doctorate in epidemiology at Florida International University. "When you have, like, a birthday party, then that’s when we start talking about, like outbreak management, and we start identifying -- from the other potential cases, we can ask, 'Hey, do you know anybody else who might have been at this party?' So that way we can follow up with those people," Algarin said. Tracking down those transmission routes is a classic public health technique. Not new to COVID-19. It’s done all the time -- all over the world -- for all kinds of contagious diseases -- HIV, Hepatitis. The goal is to protect people from getting sick. Contact tracing is based on the idea that someone who’s sick will infect a certain number of other people. According to the World Health Organization, it’s likely two or three in the case of the coronavirus. In Florida, if you test positive for COVID-19 you’re likely to get a call that sounds something like this. "Hello, my name is Angel Algarin. I’m calling from the Florida Department of Health. Is this person here? And if they say, yes, I’m calling to ask you if you received your results." Contact tracers ask several detailed questions that help them figure out the likelihood that you infected someone else. "When those symptoms happened or occurred? We ask them about when they last traveled. We ask about, um, some conditions that might suggest they’re immunocompromised," Algarin said. "We walk through what the symptoms of concern are. What people need to be on the lookout for," Wolfe said. Caitlin Wolfe is another contact tracer -- for the Polk County Department of Health and an epidemiology doctoral student at the University of South Florida. "I share my house with my husband and my son. If I come down with this virus, if I am a confirmed case, my husband and my son would need to be followed from 14 days where they last had contact with me to see if they come down with the virus," Wolfe said. According to the CDC, coronavirus incubates for two weeks or so. "If I’m the original case, and my husband is being monitored, you know, let’s say eight days later, he tests positive. Ideally we would have been hunkering down so we would not have close contacts outside the house. But, you know, let’s say he made a grocery store run two days before he started feeling sick and had come into contact with a cashier there, you know, they would want to be doing a case investigation of my husband at that point to then monitor his close contacts so that we can interrupt these chains of transmission," Wolfe said. Wolfe is a veteran tracer. In 2015, she was part of the World Health Organization’s Ebola response team in Liberia. Contact tracing was crucial in stopping that outbreak. "Really, anytime you have diseases that can move easily from person to person, contact tracing comes into play. You need to make sure that you have enough people to make all the phone calls that need to be made. You know, epidemics don’t take a day off," Wolfe said. The Florida Department of Health says it’s working on expanding the number of contact tracers. The agency recently hired a third-party call center to add more people. In the coming weeks, the state is expected to have around 2,000 contact tracers. To respond to the outbreak, Florida would need about 3 times that, according to a baseline estimate by the National Association of City and County Health Officials. "What do you think about that recommendation? I mean, isn’t that concerning?" Gonzalez said. "No, it’s not actually," Roberson said. Dr. Shamarial Roberson is the agency’s deputy director. "And as we reopen, we have a very comprehensive plan, including hiring additional employees. So we have the ability to bring people in as short as less than 24 hours and get them trained. We can move contact tracers across the state to target the areas of need. So we’ll watch the numbers, and based on the cases we have, we’ll make changes accordingly," Roberson said. Contact tracing goes beyond re-starting the economy. Increasing those efforts helps communities prepare for an expected second wave of the virus this fall.

Lauderhill officials worry about designated COVID-19 isolation center

Veronica Zaragovia, WLRN
The state’s Agency for Health Care Administration lists five facilities that are known as COVID-19 Isolation Centers. These treat COVID-19 positive patients who need nursing facility level of care. After a hospitalization discharge, they need a place to recover.

In South Florida, that isolation center is called Nspire Healthcare in Lauderhill. And the city’s leaders say this one shouldn’t have been chosen. Governor Ron DeSantis says these centers were chosen to stop contagion of the COVID-19 disease. "That's something that's very, very important because allowing folks to stay in long-term care facilities, if they're not appropriately isolated, you know, that will lead to spread going forward," DeSantis said. Lauderhill Mayor Ken Thurston says in theory this is a good idea. But he says what’s not a good idea, is that the state chose this Nspire Healthcare location. "This is the one with most deaths. This is the one that had the most positive testings, so you say, well, we'll just turn it into a covert positive facility," Thurston said. The city has asked for information about why and how this facility was chosen. And what kind of protection its employees and patients have. In an email, the president of Nspire Healthcare said it has worked closely with local health departments and state officials to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 in its facilities.

Lawsuit targeting Parkland Shooting Commission advances during Zoom-Bombed virtual court hearing

Jessica Bakeman, WLRN
The commission tasked with investigating the Parkland shooting got sued because some members of the public argue they got shut out of a meeting. The lawsuit moved forward during a virtual court hearing Wednesday. It got Zoom-bombed. Last October, South Florida gun control activists were on their way to Orlando to speak at a meeting of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission. But the commission finished its agenda early and moved up the public comment period by nearly three hours. The March For Our Lives activists didn’t make it in time — and so, they sued. “I think it's unreasonable to think that it's going to be like clockwork — bing bang bong — they’re going to hit every agenda item at the anointed time on the agenda," Brodeen said. Karen Brodeen is an attorney representing the commission. During a virtual court hearing, she argued the lawsuit should be thrown out. Leon County Circuit Court Judge John Cooper disagreed. “Yeah, here’s an analogy: let’s say I have 10 hearings set, and I get finished with all those other hearings early, and my 2:00 hearing comes up, and I start at 1. Those who were planning to be there at 2 might not be there," Cooper said. Ironically, perhaps — the public court hearing over public meetings was ultimately electronically locked to the public after users chimed in with interruptions, filled the chat box with expletives — and one displayed a photo of Hitler. “You are in a courtroom. You cannot make facial expressions, interrupt or post pictures of Adolf Hitler on your site and think I’m going to let you stay in the proceeding," Cooper said. As for the lawsuit, he denied the commission’s motion to dismiss.

Key West returning to events with Fourth of July

Nancy Klingener, WLRN
As a tourist destination, the Keys rely on events to bring people to the island chain. But large gatherings are discouraged during the coronavirus pandemic. Key West is already planning on its first big gathering since restrictions have eased. City Manager Greg Veliz: "Basically I wasn't going to be the one that canceled Fourth of July," Veliz said. "It was an application from the Rotary Club of Key West to put on a fireworks display off a pier in the Atlantic Ocean. They've been doing it for 45 years." James Olive is with the Rotary Club. "We're trying to keep it alive as long as we can. And if it becomes evident that we can't, we won't," Olive said. Commissioners were worried about the crowds that usually come to the beach closest to where the fireworks are set off. Veliz says this will be a first step for Key West - and that living in the new normal comes down to personal responsibility. "We can impose different rules for different closed-in locations but at some point people are going to have to take responsibility for their actions," Veliz said. Commissioners approved the application. After 4th of July, the next big event on the Keys calendar will be the lobster mini-season at the end of that month.

Where'd the money go, and other questions

Planet Money, NPR These are confusing times. We know it because we see your emails: Lately, we've been getting more questions than anytime in recent memory. Today on the show, we try tackling a few. We look into where the money actually goes when the economy crashes, check in on some C-list celebs, and ask why housing prices are still going up right now. Also, we get our own dancehall jingle. Like what you just read? Check out our other  coronavirus coverage.

Danielle Prieur is a general assignment reporter and fill-in host at WMFE.