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Tuesday Update: Almost 2,800 New Coronavirus Cases in Florida, Americans Unhappiest They've Been in 50 Years, Libraries Respond to Rising Demand for Services

Photo: Jason Jarrach
Photo: Jason Jarrach

People with disabilities find the coronavirus has cut them off from their caregivers

Bram-Sable Smith, NPR

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Stacy Ellingen, 34, of Oshkosh, Wis., lost two of the three caregivers she depends on to dress, shower, eat and use the bathroom. The caregivers — both University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh students — returned to their parents' homes when the university canceled in-person classes.

Ellingen, who lives with complications from cerebral palsy, had little choice but to do the same — moving back to her parents' home in Fond du Lac.

Matt Ford, whose arms and legs are paralyzed, already lived with his 76-year-old father, his primary caregiver, in a specially designed house in Verona. One of Ford's other caregivers decided to move into the basement for a while, since it was easier for her to quarantine at his house, rather than to come and go and risk the chance that she would transmit the virus to Ford.

Jason Endres asked his care workers to stay away from the home he shares with his wife Julie in Eau Claire. With masks hard to come by, Endres feared the caregivers could inadvertently spread the deadly virus, ravaging his lungs, which already had been weakened by spina bifida.

The novel coronavirus, which has infected nearly 13,000 Wisconsinites, has exposed vulnerabilities in the state's health care systems, including those designed to serve older people and disabled residents.

Before the pandemic, Gov. Tony Evers in 2019 created a state task force to address a chronic shortage of caregivers. A report released in February described a "crisis" in the direct care workforce, with 20,655 vacant positions in Wisconsin's long-term-care facilities and residential settings, and an average workforce vacancy rate of nearly 26%.

The pandemic is adding hurdles for residents with disabilities who need caregivers to live and work independently. These visiting aides take on demanding duties and are typically paid about $12 an hour in Wisconsin.

Clients with disabilities and their caregivers are weighing tough choices about how to keep each other safe during close interactions, especially as protective equipment continues to be scarce. Some caregivers have stuck around, others have quit. And many clients who lose their caregivers also lose independence.

Every respondent to an April survey of nearly 500 Wisconsinites with disabilities and older adults said the pandemic had disrupted their caregiving service. Wisconsin Watch conducted a dozen interviews with people with disabilities, their family members, and caregivers across Wisconsin, revealing how the crisis has transformed each life in unique ways.

Read the full article here.

Trump plans indoor rally in Tulsa. That has public health officials worried

Tamara Keith, NPR

A packed arena, adoring supporters, "Tiny Dancer" so loud on the speakers you have to shout to be heard. In Tulsa, Okla., on Saturday night — for the first time since the coronavirus shut down events in March — President Trump will hold one of his signature rallies. The campaign says demand for tickets has been incredibly high.

But the pandemic isn't over, of course, and the rally has public health experts worried.

New cases of the coronavirus have surged in Oklahoma in recent days, and Tulsa's top public health official said he wishes the event could be postponed until the virus is less of a concern.

Meanwhile, the Trump campaign is issuing a warning when people register for tickets: "By clicking register below, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present," the disclaimer reads. By attending the rally, it goes on, "guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19" and agree not to hold the campaign or venue liable.

"A very full rally"

There's a reason this event is in Oklahoma, and it has nothing to do with the Electoral College map (Oklahoma is as red as they come, not even remotely a swing state). Oklahoma was not initially hit hard by the coronavirus and is far along in its reopening, with no restrictions on large, in-person gatherings. And so the Trump campaign intends to pack the BOK Center right up to its 19,000-seat capacity.

"We are anticipating a very full rally," said Erin Perrine, the principal deputy communications director for the Trump campaign. "I mean, we've received over 1 million ticket requests."

That number of ticket requests couldn't be verified, but campaign manager Brad Parscale has tweeted increasingly large numbers of people asking to get in. (The campaign uses these signups to gather information on supporters, to be used by its massive data-driven voter targeting operation.)

So, no, there won't be room for proper social distancing. Attendees, who will be traveling from other states and standing in line for hours, will not all be 6 feet apart.

And that's the way Trump wants it.

"We expect to have, it's like a record-setting crowd," Trump said at the White House Monday. "We've never had an empty seat and we certainly won't in Oklahoma."

Of course there have been empty seats, especially if his speech drags on or starts meandering. But the campaign is setting up a situation where people will sit in every seat and stand shoulder to shoulder on the floor of the arena.

Trump said in April that social distancing "wouldn't look too good" for a campaign rally. What he's going to get is a rally that looks just like old times.

Read the full article here.

WATCH LIVE: Guy Raz in conversation with Barre founder about changing business models

How I Built This, NPR 

The founder and CEO of Barre has been featured on How I Built This ... but that was pre-2020 and a lot has changed, especially in the world of fitness. Host Guy Raz is chatting with Sadie Lincoln – live – about resilience. Tune in.

Florida sees highest daily coronavirus count on Monday

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

There were almost 2,800 new cases of coronavirus reported yesterday in Florida, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 80,109 cases.

Nearly three thousand people have died and 12,206 people have been hospitalized with the virus.

Orange County and Brevard County saw their highest daily coronavirus counts on Monday.

Orange County had 182 new positive test results. Almost fifty people have died in the county and 373 people have been hospitalized.

Brevard had 37 new positive tests. Sixteen people have died in the county and 79 people have been hospitalized.

Here's the rundown so far in Central Florida counties:

Orange County: 3,331 cases, 373 hospitalizations, 47 deaths

Osceola County: 817 cases, 161 hospitalizations, 21 deaths

Seminole County: 827 cases, 127 hospitalizations, 13 deaths

Volusia County: 954 cases, 175 hospitalizations, 49 deaths

Brevard County: 597 cases, 79 hospitalizations, 16 deaths

Lake County: 483 cases, 81 hospitalizations, 16 deaths

Sumter County: 266 cases, 45 hospitalizations, 17 deaths

CDC now recommends driving alone. But what if you don't have a car?

Camila Domonoske, NPR

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently took an unusual step of encouraging people to drive alone — the exact opposite of what cities have urged people to do for years.

That's because while cars create deadly accidents and unhealthy pollution, not to mention carbon emissions and stressful traffic, they provide protection from the coronavirus, at least compared to carpooling and public transit.

This is a problem for cities. It's also a dilemma for the millions of Americans without cars, whether by choice or out of economic necessity.

Doug Gordon, a co-host of The War on Cars podcast, has dedicated much of his life to explaining how cars destroy quality of life in cities. He is a vocal advocate for bikers, pedestrians and transit riders.

And for 22 years, he's lived in New York City without a car.

But now, with the pandemic reshaping city life and making public transit more fraught, Gordon and his wife think they might rent a car for a month this summer — much longer than they usually would — as a sort of experiment, to see how it feels to hop behind the wheel whenever they want.

"If someone like me is thinking of getting a car ... if I'm even entertaining it ... then I can't blame people who don't live and breathe this stuff for taking it far more seriously than I am," he says.

Gordon feels weird even imagining it. He knows it would be disastrous for the city if a bunch of people like him suddenly got cars. And if he felt like he could take his kids on public transit safely, he says, "I would immediately stop even thinking about owning a car."

Read the full article here.

Poll: Americans are the unhappiest they've been in 50 years

The Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Americans are more unhappy today than they’ve been in nearly 50 years.

That's according to the COVID Response Tracking Study, conducted in late May by NORC at the University of Chicago.

The survey finds that just 14% of American adults say they’re very happy, down from 31% who said the same in 2018. The survey draws on nearly a half-century of research from the General Social Survey, which has collected data on American attitudes and behaviors at least every other year since 1972.

No less than 29% of Americans have ever called themselves very happy in that survey.

Libraries are dealing with new demand for books and services during the pandemic

Thomas Wilburn, NPR

If you find yourself scrambling for a good novel to escape the novel coronavirus, you're not alone. Across the country, libraries have seen demand skyrocket for their electronic offerings, but librarians say they continue to worry about the digital divide and equality in access — not to mention the complicated questions that must be answered before they can reopen for physical lending.

"Since the library closed on March 16, we've had about seven thousand people register for library cards," says Richard Reyes-Gavilan, Executive Director for the District of Columbia Public Libraries. "We've had over 300,000 books borrowed since mid-March, which is astounding considering that our collections are limited."

By the library's accounting, that's 37% higher than the same period in 2019, and DC isn't alone in an uptake in digital usage: Weekly library e-book lending across the country has increased by nearly 50 percent since March 9, according to data from OverDrive, a service used by many libraries to let patrons check out media for e-readers, smartphones and computers. Audiobook check-outs are also up 14% — not quite as large a shift, likely because fewer people are in their cars commuting to work.

How pandemic reading has (and hasn't) changed

Nationally, there's been a jump in titles checked out virtually across topics, but demand for children's e-books has more than doubled during this period.

By comparison, e-book checkouts for adult fiction across the U.S. have grown by more than a third, and young adult fiction by more than 50 percent. There have been more checkouts of children's books than adult nonfiction on weekdays since the week of March 22.

"The big change we've seen is within juvenile fiction," says Susan Gross, a data analyst with OverDrive. "Typically adult non-fiction is the second most popular type of title that's read, but now on certain days juvenile fiction surpasses adult non-fiction, which we haven't seen before ... our thought on that is that parents are probably trying to enrich their kids' during the school week when they would typically be in school."

Retail sales bounce up 17.7% after record drop as states reopen

Alina Selyukh, NPR

As more states and cities reopened restaurants and shopping centers, U.S. retail spending swung big in May, climbing 17.7%.

Spending is still nowhere near last year's levels because of the coronavirus pandemic, and economists warn of a long and uncertain recovery. But May's upswing follows a historic collapse in March and April, when retail spending nosedived as people avoided outings for food or shopping, especially for clothes and furniture.

Retail sales — a measure that includes spending on gasoline, cars, food and drink — are a key part of the economy, which is sputtering back at different rates across the country after weeks of lockdowns. As businesses reopen, however, several states have reported new spikes in coronavirus cases.

That has added to warnings that Americans' shopping habits may be changed for a long time, if not forever. The pandemic, for example, has accelerated the shift to online orders, including food and groceries, which made online retail the only category to see demand grow even during the April meltdown.

Here's what people were spending in May, compared to a month earlier:

  • Clothing and accessories stores: +188%
  • Furniture stores: +89.7%
  • Sports, music and other hobby stores: +88.2%
  • Department stores: +36.9%
  • Restaurants and bars: +29.1%
  • Gas stations: +12.8%
  • Online (nonstore) retailers: +9%
  • Big-box (general merchandise) stores: +6%
  • Grocery stores: +1.3%

There's another big factor for changes in shopping habits: Mass furloughs and layoffs have left tens of millions unemployed. Companies have started to rehire, but the Federal Reserve is projecting that the unemployment rate will still be more than 9% by the end of 2020.

Read the full article here.

'Dear NPR': In postcards from the shutdown, kids show us life — and learning

LA Johnson, NPR

A few weeks ago, we asked parentsto help us out. Have your kids draw or sketch or write us a postcard, we said, and send it to NPR (digitally, of course).

And children from all over the country (and Mexico!) responded: with drawings and dispatches from the home-school, online-class, mask-wearing, missing-my-friends world they've been living in for the past several months.

So check it out: Here are some of our favorites, along with the notes that the kids wrote on the back of their postcards. (Thanks to the grownups for helping out sometimes!) And you can see all of the other great postcards we received, too.

Oh, and one last thing: Parents and caregivers, we'd love to see more postcards from students. About summer time, reopening, what's going on in the country right now or anything else they'd like to show us through their art. Keep them coming (details here about how to send us a postcard).

Check out the postcards here.

A teacher ponders risk of returning to work while being paid less than unemployment

Scott Horsley, NPR

Lainy Morse is an essential worker who has been out of work since the middle of March.

She teaches preschool and ordinarily provides a vital service for working parents.

"Without us, moms [mostly] can't go back to work," Morse says.

The Portland, Ore., school where she works is temporarily closed but may reopen as an emergency child care center. Morse dreads the idea of going back to a classroom filled with 2-year-olds who don't understand hand-washing, let alone social distancing.

"They always have snotty faces," Morse says kindly, noting that many of her students also spend time with elderly grandparents. "It just feels like an epicenter for spreading disease. And it feels really scary to go back to that."

Morse has considered working temporarily as a nanny, where at least she could limit her exposure to a single family.

For now, she's staying home, grateful for the extra $600 a week in unemployment insurance that the federal government is offering during the pandemic.

"Without that, our family would not be making it right now," she says.

Because preschool teachers are "chronically underpaid," Morse says, unemployment benefits add up to about $500 a month more than she made when she was working.

"That's two weeks of groceries," she says. And that complicates the idea of going back to work in close quarters with small children.

"Part of your job as a preschool teacher is love and affection," Morse says. "It's hard to think about going back to work in this pandemic and getting paid less than we are right now when we're safe and at home and in quarantine."

Morse and her husband — an elementary school teacher — have put off making mortgage payments for the last couple of months, banking the money in case she loses her jobless benefits.

"It's just such an uncertain time," says Morse, who has a master's degree in early childhood education. "Child care is something that everyone always needs, so it felt like a really secure occupation, until recently."

What is the stock market trying to tell us?

Greg Rosalsky, NPR

The United States has been grappling with a global pandemic, an economic meltdown and massive protests — and yet, until recently, the stock market basically shrugged it all off. Between March 23 and late last week, the market surged 45%, erasing the drop it had seen at the start of the pandemic. That is, until last week, when apparently the market rediscovered that there's a freaking pandemic still going on. Public health experts have been warning for months now about the dangers of reopening without a solid plan for testing and tracing. But they're just uptight nerds, right?

Economists consider the stock market a "leading indicator" of the economy, meaning it often signals where the real economy is headed. But it's a notoriously faulty signal. The MIT economist Paul Samuelson famously joked that big drops of the stock market had predicted nine out of the last five recessions.

No one has hard evidence to explain why there seems to be a disconnect between the stock market and the broader economy right now. The best we can do is tell stories about the mass psychology of a gazillion buyers and sellers, who each are telling themselves their own stories about why they're making the trades they're making. That's a central insight from a new book called Narrative Economics by the Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller.

Shiller says we've seen this head-scratching disconnect between the stock market and the real economy before. Despite the mass unemployment and turmoil of the Great Depression, he says, "we had a huge boom in the stock market from 1933 to 1937."

We talked with Shiller late last week about some of the narratives being told about why the stock market has, at least until recently, shaken off the pandemic. Here are some of them:

The "perfect storm of stupid" theory

Basically, Americans are super-bored. They're at home. Sports are canceled. The kids are screaming. The casinos are closed. And around 800,000 additional people have decided to plop down money on the biggest roulette table of them all: the stock market. Bloomberg columnist Matt Levine calls it "the boredom markets hypothesis." Business Insider columnist Linette Lopez calls it the "perfect storm of stupid." Shiller didn't shoot this theory down. "This is just speculation," Shiller says, "but it seems like people want to do something."

Read the other theories here.

With tax deadline looming, IRS faces backlog as it transitions out of COVID-19 crisis

Brian Naylor, NPR

Federal workers are starting to be called back into their offices in some areas, and among the first to be returning are employees of the Internal Revenue Service. It's a busy time.

The coronavirus pandemic prompted the government to extend the deadline for filing tax returns until July 15 — which is just around the corner. Meanwhile, the IRS is still distributing coronavirus relief checks to millions of Americans.

Much of the work of processing tax returns is automated, as some 90% of taxpayers file theirs electronically, according to the IRS.

But a lot of folks still mail in their returns, and those are stacking up.

"I think that the IRS is incredibly behind," Nina Olson, a former national taxpayer advocate, tells NPR. "The overflow has been so great that the IRS had to rent tractor-trailers and even some storage — separate storage — to just store the documents until the employees could come back and work through them."

At the IRS facility in Covington, Ky., just across the river from Cincinnati, about 100 workers have been called back to the office, many to work in the mailroom.

Debbie Mullikin, an IRS employee who heads the local chapter of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents many IRS workers, says the agency's management at the facility has been cautious.

"They are spacing everyone out," she says. "For instance, the day-shift employees sit in desks one, three, five and seven. And the night-shift employees would then sit in two, four, six and eight."

Mullikin says she's glad IRS management is moving carefully.

"I understand that, you know, the United States citizens have a right to expect us to do our jobs. I don't disagree with that at all. I'm just glad that management has seen fit to do it in a fashion that is safe for the employees. No one wants to die to make sure somebody's tax return is accurate."

Tony Reardon, the national president of the union, says so far things have gone smoothly for those workers who have been called back. But he says there are worries about coming back too early.

"They've got to be concerned with things like, you know, is it safe to take the city bus? Is it safe to take the train? What are we doing about our children? Because they're not in school — and, oh by the way, we don't have summer camps for them to go to."

Olson, who now directs the Center for Taxpayer Rights, says it's time to rethink the role of the IRS, which has been long underfunded by Congress and is saddled with an antique computer system.

Olson points out that the agency administers what she calls the nation's largest anti-poverty program — the earned income tax credit — and distributes stimulus checks.

"Why [weren't its employees] designated as essential workers, just like, you know, health care workers? They are essential workers for the health of the economy."

She predicts that it will be a year and a half before the agency catches up with its backlog of work, which could lead to some delayed refund checks for taxpayers.

The great pandemic bake-off may be over

Scott Horsley, NPR

Our national fascination with sourdough starter appears to have stopped. Or at least slowed down a bit.

The price of baking flour fell last month along with the price of eggs, suggesting that the baking craze that gripped hungry and housebound consumers in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic has cooled.

"Sourdough is definitely a commitment," says Kristin Hoffman, who makes instructional YouTube videos for aspiring bakers. "I have heard a couple of people say that they really don't understand why somebody would want to put so much effort into a loaf of bread."

Hoffman's Baker Bettie website saw a surge of interest from first-time bakers in late March and April, when tens of millions of Americans found themselves stuck at home with time on their hands.

"I saw four to five times higher traffic than even during peak holiday-baking season," Hoffman says. "It has started to kind of level back out, now that things are reopening."

Even if the bake-off was a turnoff for some, people are still eating more of their meals at home than they were before the pandemic. And that's putting upward pressure on prices at the supermarket. The Labor Department says grocery prices jumped 1% in May, while the prices of most other goods and services declined. The spike was largely driven by beef prices, which jumped 10.8%. Prices also rose for breakfast cereal and ice cream.

Faced with the challenge of making breakfast, lunch and dinner for themselves, shoppers are spending more time in the long-neglected center aisles of the supermarket. In some cases, they're turning to packaged foods from companies like Kellogg, Campbell Soup and Kraft Heinz.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for marketers," says KK Davey, president of strategic analytics for IRI, a market research firm. "One CEO described it this way: He said, 'Look, I could have spent hundreds of millions of dollars, and I couldn't have gotten this many new consumers.' "

Many shoppers who had shunned processed foods in recent years in favor of fresher or more specialty fare are now going back to the macaroni and cheese and Goldfish crackers they knew as kids.

"Comfort foods and well-known iconic brands that were in particular decline for a while, they've all kind of got a revival, if you will," Davey says.

How long will these new shopping habits last?

Baking coach Hoffman says that while some people are eager to ditch their pandemic cookbooks, others have developed new tastes and talents that will last long after the lockdowns are over.

Read the full article here.

Fifty-seven inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus at the Lake County jail in Tavares

Joe Byrnes, WMFE

The first case was a woman who began to show symptoms early this month. Her results came back on June 8th.

But the vast majority of the infected inmates are men. Some were assigned to a work crew and could have brought the virus with them in that way.

Sheriff’s spokesman Lieutenant John Herrell says all the cases have been minor, so far, or involve no symptoms.

By Wednesday, the Sheriff's Office plans to test all 769 inmates.

Those who have tested positive are in isolation. And the Sheriff's Office has reinstated policies blocking transfers in and out of the jail. 

Herrell says two detention deputies also have tested positive.

Airlines say they will ramp up enforcement of face covering policies

Hannah Hagemann, NPR

Major airlines will ratchet up their enforcement of face-covering policies, according to Airlines for America, an industry association.

Prior to each flight, Alaska, American, United, Delta, Southwest, Hawaiian and JetBlue Airways will communicate to passengers their policy on individual face coverings, which must cover a passenger's nose and mouth.

Once on board, crew members will reiterate the policy. If passengers do not cooperate, the association said in a press release, the airlines will take actions that could include putting people on a no-fly list.

The industry pact comes after Democrats and flight attendantspushed for federal-level legislation that would have required all passengers to wear masks on flights.

United announced that starting Thursday, any passenger who does not follow the airline's mask policy will be put on an internal travel restriction list.

Those on the list will be barred from flying with United for an amount of time to be determined by "a comprehensive incident review," according to a press release.

"We have been requiring our customers to wear masks onboard United aircraft since May 4 and we have been pleased that the overwhelming majority of passengers readily comply with our policy," said United's Chief Customer Officer Toby Enqvist in a statement. "Today's announcement is an unmistakable signal that we're prepared to take serious steps, if necessary, to protect our customers and crew."

Read the full article here.

Florida graduates get augmented reality ceremony

The Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.-- Florida seniors missing out on a live graduation are getting a surprise from their school district thanks to an augmented reality app that makes it look like they are getting their diploma onstage along with a celebratory dance with Flo Rida. Broward Education Foundation teamed up with ImagineAR to create #2020gradsecret. The app allows graduates to record themselves in their homes appearing to accept diplomas from Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, joining rapper Flo Rida for a congratulatory message or dancing. The videos can be shared instantly on social media. Flo Rida called the technology “a trip” and said in a statement he was “happy to help these graduates define a new way of celebrating and social interaction as they move on to the next chapter in their young lives.” Former Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade also joined in on the surprise with a video message for graduates.

WNBA plans to play 2020 season in Florida starting late July

The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — The WNBA has announced plans to play an abbreviated 22-game season in Florida beginning in late July.

The league is still finalizing a partnership with IMG Academy in Bradenton to play the games at the facility and possibly others nearby.

Players would be housed at IMG and teams would hold training camps there as well. The games would be played with no fans in attendance.

The WNBA would use its regular playoff format, with the top eight teams making the postseason and the first two rounds being single-elimination.

The top two seeds would have byes until the semifinals.

The postseason would end in early October. A 36-game season that was supposed to start May 15 was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Oscars postponed 2 months because of pandemic

Mandalit Del Barco, NPR Next year's Academy Awards ceremony will be postponed for two months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of February 28, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and ABC announced the televised ceremony will be held now on April 25. "For over a century, movies have played an important role in comforting, inspiring, and entertaining us during the darkest of times. They certainly have this year," academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a statement. "Our hope, in extending the eligibility period and our awards date, is to provide the flexibility filmmakers need to finish and release their films without being penalized for something beyond anyone's control." The organization recently  extended its eligibility rules for the 2021 Oscars and awards season. Now, to qualify for awards, feature films must be released between Jan. 1, 2020, and Feb. 28, 2021.  For international films and animated features, documentaries and short films, the deadline is Dec. 1, 2020. And submissions for best picture, original score and song, and other general entries must be in by Jan. 15, 2021. The opening of the new  Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will also be delayed from December to next April. It will feature six floors of exhibition and event spaces, a restaurant, museum store and two theaters. "With the unprecedented and devastating pandemic happening around the world and our commitment first and foremost to the health and safety of our visitors and staff, we have made the difficult decision to wait a few more months to open our doors," Bill Kramer, the museum's director, said in a statement. "Thankfully, with COVID-19 safety protocols in place, exhibitions continue to be installed." Next fall's Governor's Awards gala also is being moved to an as yet unspecified date. The academy recently announced initiatives for future awards, including a task force with the Producers Guild of America to develop  representation and inclusion standards for Oscar eligibility by July 31. The changes include setting the best picture category at 10 nominees and offering online screening rooms for members to view films released year-round. There are now term limits for the Board of Governors, and new invited members include director Ava  DuVernay, who has spoken out for more inclusion in Hollywood.

There is no 'second wave.' The U.S. is still stuck in the first one

Coronavirus Daily, NPR Nationwide,  numbers were never trending downward in any big way. Now in some states that are reopening, they are going up. Oregon and Arizona are two of those places. Each state is taking a different approach. Testing is more available than ever before. Some cities are urging people who don't feel sick to get a test, just as a precaution. But WPLN's Blake Farmer reports some insurance companies won't pay for the cost of a test unless it's "medically necessary." Due to the pandemic, a lot of states are making it easier to vote by mail. NPR's Miles Parks says this new process could mean  waiting a lot longer for election results come November.

Florida again approaches 2,000 new coronavirus cases

The Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida again approached 2,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases as the percentage of positive tests remains double its level from early May.

The Florida Department of Health added 1,758 new cases Monday, a slight drop from the weekend when more than 2,000 new cases were reported both days.

That’s about triple the number of daily cases reported in early May.

Since late May, 16 of 18 days have seen at least 1,000 new cases as both more people are getting tested and the state has gradually reopened businesses and gathering spots. The state reports that almost 3,000 people have died.

TCC Board of Trustees discuss reopening campus in the fall

Robbie Gaffney, WFSU
Tallahassee Community College is planning how to handle coronavirus cases when students come back to campus in the fall. The college’s Madeline Pumariega says some COVID-19 prevention measures, like checking someone’s temperature are limited. “The only question with that is the limitation. Just like the limitation of testing. If you test today negative it doesn’t mean tomorrow you’re still negative," Pumariega said. Other measures under consideration include an app to inform students and faculty about the virus, and requiring face masks in certain areas. The college has ordered masks for students so they won’t have to pay for their own.

South Florida universities plan to go remote after Thanksgiving

Jessica Bakeman, WLRN

Universities are planning their calendars around the COVID-19 pandemic. Two Florida schools have announced adjusted schedules for the fall semester.
College students often go home for Thanksgiving and return to their campuses for finals. Not this year — at least at the University of Miami and Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton. Both universities have decided to go remote after Thanksgiving break — to limit the chances that students will get the coronavirus during trips home and bring it back to campus. Finals will be online. UM, which is private, is starting a week early to accommodate the change. FAU is public and will present its broader reopening plan to the State University System’s board for approval next week.

Infectious diseases expert cautions people of all ages to take COVID-19 seriously

Veronica Zaragovia, WLRN

Florida saw daily increases of at least 1,000 new coronavirus cases on most days last week.

Governor Ron DeSantis says that’s a result of more people getting tested in the 25 to 45 age range as well as testing of agriculture workers, for instance.

He says the most serious consequences of the new coronavirus affect people 65 and older, but the effects of COVID-19 are not to be taken lightly by people of any age.

At a recent press conference, DeSantis downplayed the side effects that people 25 to 45 years old face from a coronavirus infection.

"The clinical consequences of them testing positive is usually very, very modest because they’re not in the high-risk groups," DeSantis said.

"This is a serious disease for people of all ages."

That’s Aileen Marty. She’s a professor at Florida International University and an infectious diseases specialist.

It’s true, she adds, that the risks increase the older one is. But...

"Those among us who are fortunate enough not to have such serious disease that they need to be hospitalized are still a source of infection for more susceptible members of the population," Marty said.

That’s why wearing masks and keeping six feet of distance from others remain vital.

High-frequency indicators

The Indicator, NPR

Right now, with COVID-19 still claiming lives and the coronavirus pandemic still keeping many businesses closed, it's hard to keep track of the economy.

Traditional indicators like GDP or jobs numbers aren't much help, because they don't come out that often. And there are big changes in the economy happening every day.

To keep up, we've been following some indicators that are released every week or, in some cases, every single day.

On today's show we bring you five high-frequency indicators. All five are indicators of how people are actually behaving—how much they're traveling, eating out, going to work—in their daily lives. And we tell you what these indicators suggest about the prospects for the U.S. economy.

Palm Beach Schools' African, African American studies conference moves online

Jessica Bakeman, WLRN
The Palm Beach County school district is holding its annual summer institute on African, African American and Caribbean studies. Superintendent Donald Fennoy, who is Black, gave a pre-recorded welcome address. “I’m sure that Black students say to themselves: ‘When I open a history book that includes accomplishments and contributions of my people to society, that fills me with pride and inspires me to succeed.’ That is the value of representation in our school system," Fennoy said. The symposium began Monday — and this year, because of the coronavirus, it’s online and open to the public. The goal is to improve the educational experiences of Black students. National leaders in Black education provided video lectures for the conference. The videos are available on the district’s website and can be viewed anytime.

Broward College Union starts petition to bring back 14 counselors laid off due to COVID-19

Jessica Bakeman, WLRN
In April, Broward College laid off all of its faculty counselors: Fourteen employees whose job was to help students succeed in classes and graduate. The union representing faculty at the college and some students are starting a petition to bring them back. United Faculty of Florida’s Broward College chapter started a Change.org petition pushing the administration to reinstate the faculty counselors. They were let go a couple of months ago, as the pandemic began devastating the economy. The petition says the layoffs came at the worst possible time, as students needed help in the abrupt transition to online learning. The union also sees the move as a way to cut unionized employees and replace them with lower-paid workers without collective bargaining representation. The college has said the cuts were necessary — in addition to eliminating or suspending athletics programs, a pre-school for students’ kids and event venues. All that funding is being shifted instead to hire academic advisors, embed tutoring in classes with the highest failure rates, and establish food pantries.

Gas prices back above two dollars per gallon

Tom Urban, WRLN

Gas prices in Florida now average more than two dollars per gallon for the first time since March. However, fears of another surge in COVID-19 cases are causing recent price increases to level off. According to AAA Auto Club, one gallon of regular unleaded gas in Florida now costs two dollars and two cents, up 12 cents from last Monday and 25 cents higher than one month ago. However, crude oil prices dropped eight percent last week. Experts say this is due, in part, to fears of a potential second round of coronavirus shutdowns. AAA spokesman W. D. Williams says there is a lot of uncertainty in the market right now, with the number of new COVID-19 cases increasing at the same time as most businesses are re-opening and people are again traveling. “America’s economy is rebounding, and people are going back to work, which means they are resuming their normal daily commutes. That means the demand for gasoline is increasing," Williams said. Florida gas prices are still down more than 50 cents per gallon from one year ago. The highest gas prices in the state are in West Palm Beach, with the cheapest fuel found in Pensacola.

Tallahassee book store has special delivery vehicle

Tom Flanigan, WFSU
A tiny electric-powered SmartCar that used to deliver baby chicks is now bringing books to the doors of Midtown Reader customers. Book store owner Sally Bradshaw says it meets a new demand as in-person store visits plummeted. "In a way, the coronavirus was a blessing in that we were able to expand into a new business model and we always said we wanted to compete with Amazon and now we're doing it with the Midtown Readermobile," Bradshaw said. Each delivery, regardless of the number of books ordered, costs five dollars. The service is free for the store's supporting members.

Our Daily Breather: Recipes for staying sane during the pandemic

NPR Music

Hanif Abdurraqib On Finding Comfort In Baking Who: Hanif Abdurraqib Where: Columbus, Ohio Recommendation: Baking Writer Hanif Abdurraqib shared a reflection on the freedom baking can bring: "I'm not normally one for baking — I get that it is mostly all about the following of instructions, but I think that has always made the task more daunting for me and my many anxieties. If I failed, that failure would be speaking to some greater inability, or it might tell me something about myself. But, my anxieties, though busy as ever, aren't very interested in whether or not I fail at the moment." Read the other recipes here.

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