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Your Friday Update: NBA is Coming to Orlando, Authors Retract Hydroxychloroquine Study, Orange County Leaders Hold Virtual Town Hall

Photo: Nick Jio
Photo: Nick Jio

NBA owners approve 22-team season restart plan

The Associated Press

The NBA’s Board of Governors has approved a 22-team format for restarting the league season in late July at the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida.

The notion passed “overwhelmingly," said a person familiar with the situation.

The person spoke to The Associated Press Thursday on condition of anonymity because the vote results had not been released publicly.

The format calls for each team playing eight games to determine playoff seeding plus the possible utilization of a play-in tournament for the final spot in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference postseason fields.

Authors retract hydroxychloroquine study, citing concern over data

Jane Greenhalgh, NPR A large study of the drug hydroxychloroquine has been  retracted by three of its authors. The paper, published in the journal the  Lancet last month, concluded that hydroxychloroquine, taken either alone or with an antibiotic, to treat patients with COVID-19 was of no benefit and actually increased a patient's risk of dying. The publication of the study prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to halt its own study of hydroxychloroquine. The WHO has now resumed the trial. The  Lancet paper analyzed data, purported to be from COVID-19 patients in more than 600 hospitals around the world. The data were collected by a private company called  Surgisphere, whose founder,  Sapan Desai, is a co-author on the study. Concerns were raised about the accuracy of the data and the paper started attracting criticism within days of its publication. In an open letterto the  Lancet more than a hundred scientists and clinicians asked the journal to provide details about the data and called for the study to be independently validated. So the  Lancet launched an independent review and asked Surgisphere to transfer their complete database for evaluation. Surgisphere agreed to the review, but the third party reviewers told the  Lancet that they were not able to access all the data, because the company said this would violate client agreements and confidentiality requirements. It was this failure to independently audit the data that prompted three of the study's authors to retract the paper, saying they "can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources." The  Lancet issued a statement saying it takes issues of scientific integrity "extremely seriously," and there are still many outstanding questions about Surgisphere and the data used in the study. The company issued a statement on its website pledging transparency, and says it is working to address all questions about the data it provided.

Race, ethnicity data to be required with coronavirus tests in U.S.

Rob Stein, NPR All laboratories will now be required to include detailed demographic data when they report the results of coronavirus tests to the federal government, including the age, sex, race and ethnicity of the person tested, the Trump administration announced Thursday. The  new requirement, which will go into effect Aug. 1, is designed to help provide long-sought, crucial information needed to monitor and fight the pandemic nationally. "The requirement to include demographic data like race, ethnicity, age, and sex will enable us to ensure that all groups have equitable access to testing, and allow us to accurately determine the burden of infection on vulnerable groups," said  Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services. The U.S. government has faced intense criticism for failing to gather such data in a timely basis. Many public health experts consider this information necessary to blunt the impact of virus, which has claimed the lives of more than 107,000 Americans. During a congressional hearing Thursday, Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, apologized for the agency's slowness in gathering better data.

"I personally want to apologize for the inadequacy of our response," Redfield said. "We didn't have the data that we needed." Public health experts say what's been needed are detailed breakdowns on how the virus is affecting African American and other minority communities. These groups appear to have been hit especially hard, suffering higher rates of infection, serious illness and death. "One problem that epidemiologists in particular have seen with all of this new lab testing sites data (pharmacies, drive-throughs, non-traditional lab settings) is incomplete data,"  Scott Becker of the Association of Public Health Laboratories wrote in an email to NPR. "The data guidance issued today will aid state and local public health officials to better do their job." Better testing data should help identify groups that are being hit hard by the virus and who require priority access to better testing and treatment. In addition, improved data will help health departments more quickly track down people who might have been exposed to the virus, to try to prevent new outbreaks. "I am particularly encouraged that they plan to include demographic data, which will be important for helping us to better understand observed racial/ethnic and other disparities in case numbers,"  Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told NPR via email. Some state and local health officials, as well as some hospital and commercial labs, have complained that the federal government has issued confusing, contradictory and counter-productive guidance and requirements for testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  has also been criticized for combining the results of different kinds of testing in its tallies of testing, providing an inaccurate picture of the pandemic. The new requirement comes as civil unrest has erupted in many places around the U.S. in response to police brutality and the killings of black people. In announcing the new guidelines, Giroir singled out hospital laboratories and commercial labs for failing to routinely provide detailed demographic information with testing results. Julie Khani, president of the American Clinical Laboratory Association, which represents commercial laboratories, defended the group's members. "Our members have faced obstacles tracking down missing information that is not collected or reported by the provider when the specimen is collected," Khani wrote in an email to NPR, "and that's why we've been engaged with providers, the CDC, public health agencies and others since the beginning of this public health emergency to ensure we're doing all we can to collect this information."

The business of antibody tests

Stacey Vanek Smith, NPR With all the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, people everywhere are desperate for anything that can give them some measure of certainty. The latest thing is coronavirus antibody tests, which purport to be able to tell you if you've been exposed to the virus and therefore might have immunity to it. The Food and Drug Administration deemed these tests to be so important that it streamlined its normal process for approving them, allowing dozens of companies to flood the market with new antibody tests. But with the science around these tests still in its infancy, and experts disagreeing about their usefulness, some worry that this antibody gold rush may be misleading consumers.

Players worry about safety as MLS plans return to training

The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — MLS players remain concerned about the coronavirus pandemic even as they have started to return to training facilities.

The first day of participation at Atlanta United's small group training was voluntary and there was no contact. That may soon change.

Major League Soccer says teams may resume training. That leads to new safety concerns for players.

Restrictions must be lifted before a planned tournament in Orlando next month for all 26 teams. Atlanta United president Darren Eales said the team would use a “case-by-case basis” approach to address players' concerns about participating in the tournament.

Orange County leaders hold town hall to discuss law enforcement and the community

Brendan Byrne, WMFE

As residents continue to protest the death of George Floyd, Orange County is hosting a virtual town hall to discuss law enforcement and the community. 

Orange County’s Ronda Robinson says the aim is to bridge a gap between the community and law enforcement while steering future police policy in Orange County.

“We felt that it was fitting for us to have some type of forum to hear our community and to address and come up with viable solutions to address what is going on as it relates to the recent occurrences," Robinson said.

Leaders like Congresswoman Val Demings, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, and Sheriff John Mina are scheduled to attend along with community and faith leaders. 

She says up to one thousand community members can participate by registering online at Orange County's website.

The county will stream the conversation online and on Orange TV which begins at 3 p.m. Friday.

Coronavirus means losses for Orlando's hospitals in the first quarter

Abe Aboraya, WMFE

The two largest hospital chains in Central Florida lost a combined $837.3 million dollars in the first quarter of 2020. The losses so far are coming from the stock market.

Financial documents reviewed by WMFE reveal a glimpse of how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting AdventHealth and Orlando Health.

The key metric to watch is net income on operations - this is the profit hospitals make on day-to-day operations. Orlando Health made $48.6 million dollars in the quarter that ended March 31, while AdventHealth made $35.6 million dollars. 

That means they aren’t losing money on operations - but the hospitals made $153.6 million dollars less than the year before.

And when you factor in that Florida’s lockdown didn’t start until April, and that both hospitals lost more than $923.6 million dollars in its investments, it could spell trouble for two of Central Florida’s largest employers. 

Both hospital systems have taken out credit lines worth a combined $875 million dollars. Neither hospital agreed to an interview - and neither would say if layoffs are planned.

Phase III vaccine trials, testing on thousands, could start in July

Coronavirus Daily Podcast, NPR

It's been 96 days since the first person in America was reported to have died of COVID-19. And for the first time, the federal government will require states to keep track of who's getting sick and who's dying based on their age, sex, and race and ethnicity.

Around the world, 10 vaccinecandidates have begun human trials.

COVID-19 has killed nearly 110,000 people in America. And black Americans are dying at nearly two and half times the rate of white Americans. NPR's Stacey Vanek Smith and Greg Rosalsky report on the economic reasons why.

Plus, WAMU reporter Jacob Fenston reports on 85-year-old Margaret Sullivan, who feels like she's been"living in a bubble" since the start of the pandemic.

Leon's Hanna on school in the fall

Lynn Hatter, WFSU
Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hanna wants to clear up where he stands on an important issue—reopening schools in the fall. "Tally Moms, all those groups on social media, please spread the word that Rocky Hanna is fully advocating and supporting the reopening of schools for all children this fall. Thank you." Hanna offered more information Thursday about the district’s plans for the fall. He’s promising school will be in session but it will likely look different. The district is considering three courses for families—resuming in-person classes for some, or allowing families to choose between digital school academies or the Leon County Virtual School. The state has not issued any guidance for how districts should go about reopening their classrooms in August. The district is sending out a survey, asking for feedback from parents on what their plans are for the school year.

RNC to conduct official convention business in Charlotte

The Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — President Donald Trump won’t accept his party’s nomination in North Carolina, but the Republican National Committee confirmed that it would still hold meetings in Charlotte.

Trump announced Tuesday that he will not be giving his acceptance speech in Charlotte because the state refused to give in to his demands that the event be held without public health restrictions due to the pandemic.

The RNC plans to visit several cities to evaluate their options. A GOP spokesman confirmed that the convention's official business will be kept in Charlotte.

The RNC’s top considerations to host Trump include Orlando, Florida; Jacksonville, Florida; New Orleans, Dallas and Phoenix.

Gyms in Miami-Dade to reopen June 8

Daniel Rivero, WLRN
As much of the state moves into phase two of Florida’s reopening, Miami-Dade County will start opening up yet another section of its economy. Here’s Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez :

"As we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic I have some really good news for those who want to stay in shape. Gyms, dance studios, karate classes and much more will be able to open up on June 8th with specific rules about social distancing," Gimenez said. The mayor said the next phase of openings will include bars and movie theaters. Beaches are still closed in Miami-Dade County. They will be reopened when a curfew is lifted. The curfew was in response to protests over the killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd.

FAMU discusses plan for fall semester

Blaise Gainey, WFSU
Florida A&M University is planning to shift more classes online for the fall. The school is also limiting what classes will be offered in-person, and anyone on campus will have to follow certain rules related to social distancing. FAMU’s Chief Ethics officer Rica Calhoun:

"University shuttles and vans will reduce ridership capacity and use decals to demarcate distancing expectations where possible. Passengers will be required to wear face coverings in transit and controlled access to buildings will be implemented to certain entrances. Visitors to university offices will be limited to those having a business purpose and those business visitors will be required to wear face coverings." Employees will have to wear face coverings while at work and around other people. Disposable face coverings will be staged at locations throughout campus. Students and employees will be given safety kits that include a face covering, hand sanitizer and other items. Like what you just read? Check out our other  coronavirus coverage.

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