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Your Friday Update: Guidelines for Repair People in the Home, Zoom Call Eviction Hearings, Florida Adds Almost 4,000 New Cases

Photo: Barn Images
Photo: Barn Images

Coronavirus FAQs: Home repair guidelines, toilet plumes, manicures and self-spraying

Pranav Baskar, NPR Each week, we answer "frequently asked questions" about life during the coronavirus crisis. And we ask readers to send in their queries. Some of the questions we get are a little ... unusual. They may not be the most critical health questions. Yet they are definitely interesting. So this week, here is a sampling of both frequently and infrequently asked questions. If you have a question you'd like us to consider for a future post, email us at  goatsandsoda@npr.org  with the subject line: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions." Is it safe for a repair person to work in my home? When it comes to bringing home a repairperson, it's essential to weigh the need for the fix against the potential transmission risk. "It all depends on how urgent they think the repair is needed," says  Dr. Mark Kortepeter, professor of epidemiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health. "Everything we do has to be a risk-benefit calculation, and I wouldn't stop a necessary repair if it's really needed — just like I wouldn't stop going to the grocery store." Some repairs can be really necessary for the comfort and safety of your home life, Kortepeter says — and if that's the case, he says there are things you can do to ensure the risk of spreading the virus is low as it can be. To limit particle exchange with the service worker, ask them to do the usual things: wear a mask, take off their shoes and use hand sanitizer before they begin working. For your own protection and theirs, everyone in your family should also wear a mask for the duration of time they're doing work in your house, he says. While they're working, it's a good idea to stay out of the room until they're done with the job, and disinfect the area in addition to any doorknobs or surfaces the repairperson may have touched during their visit. If they ask to use your bathroom, it can be awkward to say no, so Kortepeter says to just try not to enter right after they've flushed. For extra caution, Harvard Medical School physician  Dr. Abraar Karan also recommends calling the repair company in advance to inquire if it screens workers for COVID symptoms and potential virus exposures. You should also consider who is at home, says Karan. If there's a high-risk, immunocompromised family member, consider postponing the repair or avoiding that individual's contact with the technician as much as possible. Read the full list of recommendations here.

Zoom call eviction hearings: "They'll throw everything I have out on the street"

Chris Arnold, NPR Many state and local governments have decided it isn't safe yet to hold in person eviction hearings in court during the pandemic. But apparently it's okay for people to be put out on the street during the outbreak if you do it after a Zoom call. That's what's happening in some states around the country as eviction moratoriums expire and courts hold remote eviction hearings for people who can't pay their rent. "My company closed due to the pandemic," Deanna Brooks told the judge in a Zoom hearing this week in Collin County, Texas. She said she's had trouble getting documentation to collect unemployment because her former employer has been unresponsive. So she hasn't paid rent since April. "I haven't been able to get unemployment or anything." Brooks is a Navy veteran and says she has a heart condition. The judge postponed her case until next week to review whether she is covered by a limited moratorium in Dallas, where she lives. NPR contacted Brooks after the hearing. "I'm scared," she says. Brooks told NPR she has no friends or family she can move in with and has been in and out of the hospital with heart trouble. "They'll throw everything I have outside on the street," she says. "I have nowhere to go. I feel like very depressed, very stressed out, and I don't know what to do." Her landlord, Estates on Frankford, declined to comment. Read the full article here.

Your end of the week coronavirus numbers update: Florida adds almost 4,000 new cases

Danielle Prieur, WMFE Florida had it's highest recorded daily coronavirus case count on Thursday-almost 4,000 new coronavirus cases in a day as Gov. Ron DeSantis blames this spike on increased testing.

Experts around the country warn if social distancing precautions aren't followed, Florida could become the next epicenter of COVID-19.

Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Volusia, and Brevard all had their highest daily number of new cases since the beginning of the pandemic in March.

Across the state, more than 87,000 people are sick and 3,104 people have died. More than 12,700 people have been hospitalized with severe symptoms.

Here's the rundown so far:

Orange County: 4,157 cases, 389 hospitalizations, 48 deaths

Osceola County: 911 cases, 165 hospitalizations, 23 deaths

Seminole County: 1,092 cases, 129 hospitalizations, 14 deaths

Volusia County: 1,103 cases, 183 hospitalizations, 53 deaths

Brevard County: 736 cases, 88 hospitalizations, 16 deaths

Lake County: 631 cases, 89 hospitalizations, 19 deaths

Sumter County: 275 cases, 45 hospitalizations, 17 deaths

If you live in Orange County, a mask mandate takes effect midnight on Saturday. Anyone visiting, working or living in the county must wear a mask anytime they are in public spaces.

Insurers may only pay for coronavirus tests when they're "medically necessary"

Blake Farmer, NPR In the wake of the massive turnout at anti-racism demonstrations around the country, public health officials are encouraging protesters to get tested for the coronavirus. As purely precautionary testing has become more common, some insurance companies are arguing they can't just pay for everyone who's concerned about their risk to get tested. Lynne Cushing of Nashville, Tenn., says she had been pretty strict about social distancing until the recent protests, which she felt compelled to attend. "I had hoped to kind of stay on the edge or the periphery a little bit," she says. "But I didn't think about the fact that everyone's going to be chanting. There's going to be all this forced air coming out of people at the demonstration." So a few days after marching in her mask, she went to a curbside clinic for a COVID-19 test. Cushing knew health plans had to cover the test and can't even charge a co-pay. "Because I have health insurance, I'm lucky in that regard," she says. The  Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed by Congress requires health plans to fully pay for testing deemed "medically necessary." But as testing expands enough to allow people without symptoms to be tested, a gray area is beginning to appear. The coverage mandate can be up to interpretation. "This is a very live and active debate right now," says health policy research professor  Sabrina Corlette of Georgetown University. "That requirement may only apply if you've been referred for a test by a health care professional after presenting with symptoms of the disease," she says. The  guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says full coverage is required "when medically appropriate for the individual, as determined by the individual's attending health care provider in accordance with accepted standards of current medical practice." Health plans have been erring on the side of paying the full cost, though hospitals have reported some self-funded plans  trying to impose co-pays and deductibles. But the nation's largest insurer, UnitedHealthcare,  makes the same distinction, that full coverage does require a test to be deemed medically necessary. The concern is that an open-ended commitment to pay for testing would lead to runaway costs for health plans. "These are some very big numbers that we're looking at," says Kristine Grow, spokesperson for America's Health Insurance Plans. Read the full article here.

Pandemic panic in Pakistan: "People are just literally fighting for beds"

Diaa Hadid, NPR Last week, Zain Tafneesh's family drove from hospital to hospital trying to find a bed for her 86-year-old grandfather. He had COVID-19 and was struggling to breathe. "We were helpless, we were begging," Tafneesh says. "Imagine that old man was in the car crying for oxygen, and the hospitals were showing no mercy." Finally, Tafneesh's uncle called a powerful friend in the army, who got her grandfather into a public hospital near the Pakistani capital Islamabad. Tafneesh said that hospital had initially turned him away, claiming they had no space. The bed provided had likely been reserved for health workers who contract the virus. "People are just literally fighting for beds," says Dr. Samar Fakhar, a resident surgeon at the government-run Khyber Teaching Hospital, in the northern Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The current surge of COVID-19 cases – which came after the government lifted its weeks-long lockdown at the end of May — is roiling the country. Pakistan now has one of the highest numbers of daily new cases in the world: 5,358 on Thursday, June 18. The total case count is 160,118 – and expected to reach more than a million by the end of July.

Florida governor says spike in COVID-19 due to more testing

The Associated Press

MIAMI (AP) — Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is downplaying a continued rise in confirmed coronavirus cases after the state reopened by saying more young people with no symptoms are being tested.

He also hinted Friday that recent protests over the death of George Floyd might drive up positive tests, and said some people have started to disregard advice to wear masks, social distance and avoid large crowds.

Florida has had nearly 90,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, resulting in more than 3,100 deaths. The state has allowed bars, restaurants and some theme parks to reopen, and since then cases have spiked.

Advocates worry Blacks, Hispanics falling behind in census

The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Halfway through the extended effort to count every U.S. resident, civil rights leaders worry that minority communities are falling behind in responding to the 2020 census.

Both the National Urban League and the NALEO Educational Fund are sounding the alarm Blacks and Hispanics are trailing the rest of the nation in answering the census questionnaire.

The count helps determine where $1.5 trillion dollars in federal funding goes and how many congressional seats each state gets.

An analysis shows that neighborhoods with concentrations of Black residents had a self-response rate of 51%. That compares to 53.8% for Hispanic neighborhoods and 65.5% for white-dominant neighborhoods.

Apple closing 11 stores again in states seeing a spike in coronavirus cases

Bobby Allyn, NPR Apple said Friday it has decided to close 11 stores in four states in which coronavirus infections are surging. The decision comes just weeks after the company had reopened those locations. The states where the stores are closing, starting Saturday, are in  Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and  Arizona. "We take this step with an abundance of caution as we closely monitor the situation and we look forward to having our teams and customers back as soon as possible," an Apple spokesperson said in a statement. Last month, Apple  started to reopen about 30 of its 271 stores in the U.S., requiring customers to have temperature checks and wear a mask before entering the stores. Employees also have to wear face coverings at all times and observe social distancing. Apple said it would regularly conduct deep cleanings of all surfaces and device displays. In some states, reopening the economy has led to increased infections. In North Carolina, Arizona and Texas, virus-related hospitalizations have recently hit records. Read the full article here.

Disney cancels Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in 2020

The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Walt Disney World has canceled the 2020 version of its after-hours Halloween party at Magic Kingdom and announced changes to an annual food and wine festival.

Park officials announced Thursday night that the Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, which usually begins in mid-August, won't return this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The extra ticket event features a parade, character meet-and-greets and trick-or-treating.

Park officials say Epcot will reopen July 15 with  A Taste of Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. Disney closed its parks in mid-March and will reopen in phases beginning July 11.

Disney to roll out new reservation system when parks reopen

The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — When Walt Disney World reopens its Florida theme parks next month after shutting down during the coronavirus pandemic, they’ll be rolling out a new reservation system.

The company announced Friday that the new Disney Park Pass System will operate through disneyworld.com on either a desktop or mobile device.

Registration through a My Disney Experience account will be required. Visitors must have a valid park ticket or an annual pass to get reservations.

The system isn't yet available, but will be rolled out before the parks reopen starting July 11. Disney closed in mid-March to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Universal Orlando and SeaWorld reopened earlier this month.

Does more testing in Florida really equal more cases of COVID-19? Depends on who you ask

Gina Jordan, WFSU Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters this week Florida is seeing more positive cases of COVID-19 due to more widespread testing. The same reason has been offered by President Donald Trump as cases spike in other states as well. DeSantis attributes the record increases in daily coronavirus cases to lots of testing, which now regularly includes people who don’t have symptoms. He notes high-risk areas are being heavily targeted for tests, like nursing homes, prisons, and migrant worker communities. “These are folks who are living in close confines, a lot of people together for extended periods of time, and that provides the good venue for the virus to transmit.” In April, as the state was moving into Phase 1 of reopening, DeSantis predicted more testing would lead to more positive cases. Now, he’s explaining why Florida’s Phase 2 reopening will continue despite more COVID-19. “You will see more cases because you’re identifying those subclinical cases that just would not have been tested previously, and I said that, you know, you could. 2,000 cases a day in a state this big. That was something that was definitely in the offer for this, and it’s just because of how you’re doing the testing.” “It is not exactly that simple,” says Adrian Barbu, a professor in the statistics department at Florida State University. “Some people are tested multiple times. So if you test the same person multiple times, it’s not like a random sample of the population. Imagine you have only one person, and you’re tested a million times. How is that telling you anything about how many cases are in all the population in Florida?” Now that cases are spiking around the country, the Policy Lab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has a national model that shows Florida may be the next epicenter of the pandemic. The lab’s doctor, David Rubin told WUSF the model does take into account increased testing, as DeSantis suggested. “Particularly when we see forecasts that have been increasing in several weeks, involving multiple surrounding areas and then are supported by additional data like hospitalizations or an increased test positivity rate, I think we have a fairly clear signal of concern for Florida that needs to be addressed.” Dr. Anthony Fauci agrees. He is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases -- and the immunologist of record for the U.S. government. He recently told the Wall Street Journal the rise in cases cannot be explained by increased testing.

Orlando area's jobless rate at 22.6%, Osceola County's at 31.1%

Joe Byrnes, WMFE State unemployment numbers released Friday show that Central Florida, and especially Osceola County, continued to suffer from huge job losses in May. Florida's adjusted jobless rate increased to 14.5 percent. And the local picture is much worse. The Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford area's unemployment rate rose 5 percentage points since April to 22.6%. That reflects the loss of 217,000 non-agricultural jobs compared to May of last year. Osceola County has the state's highest unemployment rate at 31.1%. And the next three hardest-hit counties are also in Central Florida: Orange County at 23.2%, Lake County at 20.6%, and Polk County at 19.1%.

 FAA says business travel will be slow to come back to airlines

Brendan Byrne, WMFE Speaking at a virtual event hosted by Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, FAA administrator Steve Dickson said business travel will be slow to come back to airlines.  Before the virus, business travel accounted for some 70 percent of airline business. Dickson said he thinks leisure travelers will return to the air before business travel picks up.  Still, he worries international travel will lag behind.  “I think, because of the trajectory of the virus around the world [...] international travel at any kind of large scale it'll be you know on out a little bit, a little bit further," Dickson said. Orlando International Airport says travel is even lower than forecasted. Earlier this week, MCO said only about 10,000 passengers passed through the airport in a single day--a 74 percent drop in traffic compared with projections. FAA administrator Dickson is also concerned about a lack of funding to a FAA trust that supports airport renovations and upgrades to airline infrastructure. A tax holiday declared in the CARES Act has limited money to the fund. He says he’ll work with Congress to help fund the trust. 

California Gov. Newsom makes face masks mandatory amid rising coronavirus cases

Vanessa Romo, NPR Californians are required to wear face coverings in high-risk settings as the state continues to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the statewide  order on Thursday. It follows new guidance from the California Department of Public Health that asymptomatic or presymptomatic people can still spread the disease. "Our numbers are going up, not going down. Hospitalization numbers are just starting to creep back up, and I'm very concerned by what we're seeing," Newsom  toldLos Angeles' ABC7. "We think the most impactful thing we can do, short of going back to a stay-at-home order, is wearing face coverings when we can't practice physical distancing," the governor added. In the latest guidance, the Department of Public Health explained, "The use of face coverings by everyone can limit the release of infected droplets when talking, coughing, and/or sneezing, as well as reinforce physical distancing." People will be required to wear masks or other coverings in public spaces, including while taking public transportation, seeking medical care, shopping and in most work scenarios. Read the full article here.

DCF Secretary says mental health services need to be more accessible

Robbie Gaffney, WFSU Members of the state’s suicide prevention coordinating council say the pandemic will likely increase how many people will die this year by suicide. The group is drafting recommendations to help people in crisis.

In 2018, more than 3,000 Floridians died by suicide. Now, in 2020, that number is more than 1,000 so far. Jane Bennett with the Florida Suicide Prevention Coalition is recommending the state use technology to reach people who might need help. Bennett says there needs to be a better effort to educate people on how to access mental health services. “I know a lot of people that I’ve been coming across have said that they’ve been looking on YouTube for resources and explanation of what’s the process," Bennett said. Bennett sits on Florida’s suicide prevention coordinating council. The group has not yet released any official recommendations.

Florida faces fewer ICU hospital beds as COVID-19 numbers soar

Veronica Zaragovia, WLRN Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration is reporting that fewer than one in four intensive care unit beds is still available statewide. The potential shortage of ICU beds is especially risky for people 65 and older, who are most likely to require intensive care treatment if they contract the virus that causes COVID-19.

Florida now has its highest number of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, with more than half of known cases in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe Counties. Meanwhile, New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo says he’s considering ordering a quarantine for travelers coming to New York from Florida. That possibility comes several months after Republican Governor Ron DeSantis imposed a similar order here for travelers coming from New York.

Back to school for real? Texas officials say yes

Laurel Wamsley, NPR Will students  actually go back to school this fall? In Texas, state officials say yes. Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath confirmed Thursday that the state's public schools will open for students to return, if they wish. "It will be safe for Texas public school students, teachers, and staff to return to school campuses for in-person instruction this fall," the commissioner said in a statement. "But there will also be flexibility for families with health concerns so that their children can be educated remotely, if the parent so chooses." He did not offer any information on whether students would be required to wear masks and whether there would be social distancing precautions. "Detailed guidance on what this will look like will be issued by [Texas Education Agency] early next week," Morath said. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has said that in-person schooling is a priority for him. "I will tell you that my goal is to see students back in classrooms in seats, interacting personally with teachers as well as other students," Abbott  told reporters earlier this week. "This is a very important environmental setting for both the students, for the teachers and for the parents. And so we believe that students in schools is the best outcome." If students do return to school in person, there are indications that it may be a bumpy ride. Many players on the University of Texas football team convened last week in Austin for voluntary workouts,  member station KUT reports. Today, the university announced that 13 players have tested positive or are presumed positive for COVID-19. The players are now self-isolating. Not everyone thinks it's wise for the halls to fill with students and staff so soon, as the number of new coronavirus cases in Texas  continues to grow. Zeph Capo is the president of the teachers' union  Texas AFT. "It sounds like they're under the misguided conception that August is going to be back to normal as usual," he told KUT. "And frankly I just don't believe that we're in normal times."

Think these times are surreal? Add a small dose of Dalí to your day

Susan Stamberg, NPR Just after Sept. 11, I went to my favorite Washington, D.C., museum —  The Phillips Collection — to look at still lifes. The one I remember best was a small oil by Édouard Manet, painted as he was dying. Peonies. So richly textured you could almost smell the flowers. ( You can see them for yourself here.) The painting took me away from dark thoughts for a while. Art helped me, as it always does, to get through a terrible time. Now it's another terrible time, and museums are closed against a killer virus. But they're offering beauty, strength and fascination on their websites. In an informal series, I'll flag some online exhibits for you to enjoy whenever you need a break from worrying. We'll start with an art-based word that pops up every day in these topsy-turvy times: surreal. It was coined by French poet Guillaume Apollinaire who described life after World War I as "totally new, lyrical, human, joyful, and ... surreal." But we're using it now for life as weird. Unsettling. In art, a prime surreal example is at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. It's Salvador Dalí's  most famous paintingThe Persistence of Memory. The surprisingly small picture is full of clocks you cannot count on. They melt down from a scrawny tree limb, pour off the side of a table, drape over what's thought to be a self-portrait but looks like a weird sea creature. Legend has it that while Dalí's wife, Gala, (really? Gala Dalí?!) was at the movies, Salvador's eyes fixed on some Camembert cheese that just happened to be around. Hours passed. The cheese began to melt off the plate. "And he thought, 'Voilà!' " says Hank Hine, executive director of the  Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla. He'd found his inspiration. Learning the pandemic would close the place down, Hine found inspiration for his museum. Its website reports on some  2,000 Dal í oils, watercolors, prints and photographs in the collection. But the closure prompted new thinking. Hine had  a video put together to show the museum's current exhibition, " Midnight in Paris: Surrealism at the Crossroads, 1929." That's two years before Dalí started melting his clocks, a period when artists were searching for new visions. Read the full article here.

Wearable art fights coronavirus spread

Tom Flanigan, WFSU Protective face masks don't have to be unattractive. Nearly two-dozen Tallahassee artists have created beautiful art works that also slow the spread of the coronavirus.

621 Gallery Executive Director Lauren Baker says this is the latest virtual exhibit. "It's an exhibition that's been put together, comprised of local artists who've all come together to help the community out and also help us out at the Gallery by creating face masks that are a response to the COVID-19 epidemic," Baker said. Not only are they available for viewing; Baker says the masks are also for sale with the proceeds benefiting the Gallery. "These masks will be available on the 621 website for the rest of the month and into July, so please go on and check it out. It's a great way to support the local arts," Baker said. As well as a way to make an artistic statement while you're flattening the curve of the virus.

Updated national model points to Florida as the next COVID-19 epicenter

Alysia Cruz, WUSF

According to an updated national model, Florida could be the next epicenter for the coronavirus pandemic. The projections point to the rising number of new cases in Hillsborough County and the surrounding areas over the past week. "The model from the Policy Lab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia says the Tampa Bay area is at an elevated risk for spread of COVID-19." Dr. David Rubin is a researcher at the lab. He says the model takes into account increased testing in the state, which Gov. Ron DeSantis has pointed to as a reason for the rise in cases. "Particularly when we see forecasts that have been increasing in several weeks, involving multiple surrounding areas and then are supported by additional data like hospitalizations or an increased test positivity rate, I think we have a fairly clear signal of concern for Florida that needs to be addressed," Rubin said. He says while some of the current spike can be attributed to travel over Memorial Day weekend, it doesn’t fully account for the more than 400% growth in positive cases since last week. Officials from Policy Lab say that if the current social distancing practices are maintained, Hillsborough County could see more than 400 new cases daily by mid-July.

Members of Congress ask why more coronavirus aid hasn't been spent on nursing homes

Ina Jaffe, NPR Despite the huge outbreaks of COVID-19 in nursing homes, the federal agency that regulates them has failed to distribute much of the money it received under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, according to two members of Congress. In a  letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut note that the CARES Act designated $200 million to the agency that regulates nursing homes to help the facilities deal with the coronavirus. That included up to $100 million to beef up state oversight of nursing homes to make sure that they're "adhering to standards for quality of care, infection control, and maintaining sufficient staffing to minimize the spread of the virus and protect patients and staff." But the letter notes that only $1.5 million has been distributed to just a handful of states. Murray and DeLauro question why the money was doled out through a laborious bidding process that wasn't even announced for a month after the CARES Act was passed. They ask "why it took so long to decide on this business-as-usual approach" and why the agency has decided to allocate only $80 million for this purpose, $20 million less than Congress allowed.

Miami Transplant Institute hopes more people will donate organs, as waiting list grows

Veronica Zaragovia, WLRN Transplants from both living and deceased organ donors are back on at the Miami Transplant Institute after a partial hiatus because of the pandemic. The Institute still faces a persistent problem: not enough organ donors.

More than 100,000 people awaiting transplants around the country are in need of a donated organ. But finding the right organ for the right recipient can be tricky. And you only have so much time. "Before that organ goes to trash, basically, nobody is going to use it, they call us." Dr. Rodrigo Vianna leads the Miami Transplant Institute, an affiliation between Jackson Health System and UHealth – University of Miami Health System. Those calls usually come from organizations that work a bit like an old-school matchmaker, figuring out who needs what, where. "And they say, look, this already has been turned down for a lot of centers, you know, they don't believe they could be good. Would you guys be interested?" Vianna said. Last year the Institute performed more transplants than any other hospital in the US. But Vianna says they could still do more if more people were willing to be donors—even upon death. "People don't think about this until there's somebody close to you that needs one. And then you're like, 'Oh my God, why are people not donating?' Well, you know, you're also not donating until somebody close to you needs one," Vianna said. Vianna also says people who need transplants shouldn’t avoid hospital treatment because they’re afraid of a coronavirus infection; he says having failing organs puts you at higher risk of infection on its own.

Palm Beach virtual summer camp has kids wild about wildlife

Natalia Clement, WLRN Wild About Wildlife is built on half-day learning sessions that mix animal observations with experiments and games. Hannah Campbell is the director of education at Loggerhead Marinelife Center. She says keeping the camp interactive is a priority. “They are right there live with the teaching scientist in front of these animals or talking about these animals using either teaching tools like bio facts or in our case at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, right in front of a sea turtle patient so they can really see the sea turtles ... ask questions about them and then learn whatever that topic at hand is," Campbell said. The sessions are recorded to provide flexibility, and complemented by activities through Google Classroom. “They can comment on each other's posts or post something they learned that day," Campbell said. Campbell says the idea is to give campers the feeling you’d get from an in-person camp, which so many kids will be missing this summer. Valerie Owens registered her daughter Riley for all of June. “It’s the convenience for me and it’s all about keeping her active over the summer. It also allows me to work with her … where we can learn together," Owens said. The camp has proven popular not only within the county, but also nationally — so much so that organizers doubled the number of registration spots. For more information on how to register, go to visitmanateelagoon.com.

General tapped to lead 'Operation Warp Speed' vaccine drive faces skeptical senators

David Welna, NPR A headlong race to come up with a viable vaccine for COVID-19 that is being championed by a science-averse American president seeking reelection prompted some skeptical questions Thursday on Capitol Hill. The occasion was a  confirmation hearing for  Gen. Gustave Perna to lead  Operation Warp Speed, the official moniker for the Trump administration's frenetic drive to roll out such a vaccine this year. Perna is a four-star general who, as head of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, is the Army's most senior logistics officer. He was nominated last month by Trump to be the chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed as well. "The virus is our enemy and is impacting our way of life," Perna told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee who were there either physically or virtually to grill him. "If confirmed, I will dedicate myself to defeating this enemy." Perna said when he was tapped for the job in mid-May, he initially thought the administration's goal of having a viable vaccine by the end of the year was merely aspirational. "I have recently come to the conclusion that it is more and more likely to occur," Perna assured the panel. "The key to our success is to ensure we rely on science to assess our options, effectiveness and risk." Read the full article here.

Miami-Dade mayor says he's cracking down on businesses that violate COVID guidelines

Jenny Staletovich, WLRN Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Thursday he’s issuing a new emergency order cracking down on businesses that fail to follow social distancing guidelines. Miami-Dade, and all of Florida, have seen cases climb sharply following the reopening. "The reopening has been vital for our economy and everyone's mental and physical health. We are not going back. We're gonna get tough," Gimenez said. Gimenez says he was troubled by social media posts showing businesses that followed the guidelines being bullied by customers who didn’t want to stick to the rules. "Just because we're all getting a little stir crazy, adjusting to the new normal does not mean that we can start breaking rules. So Miami-Dade, your education period is over. No more warnings. From now on, we see a violation. We close a business immediately. No more, no more subtle reminders," Gimenez said. Gimenez says businesses that violate guidelines will be shut down. And before they can reopen, they’ll need to file a proposal on how they plan to comply.

India reports record spike in COVID-19 cases, but nixes another nationwide lockdown

Lauren Frayer, NPR India reported a record spike in coronavirus cases Thursday, even as the prime minister ruled out a new nationwide lockdown. With 12,881 new infections registered, it's the first time India's daily tally has exceeded 12,000. For most of this week, only the United States and Brazil  have been adding more new cases daily. The Health Ministry  confirmed a total of 160,384 active cases Thursday, and 12,237 deaths since the pandemic began — in a population of nearly 1.4 billion. But testing rates are very low. Hospitals in the biggest cities, Mumbai and New Delhi, are overflowing. Social media is flooded with  desperate pleas from families searching for COVID-19 tests and hospital beds. Patients, unable to get admitted,  have died in parking lots outside clinics and hospitals. India has about  one doctor per 1,500 citizens. In rural areas, where two-thirds of Indians live and rely almost solely on government hospitals, the ratio is  one doctor to more than 10,000 people. The World Health Organization's  standard is one doctor per 1,000 residents. While government hospitals are overcrowded, some of India's elite private clinics are  charging up to $950 a day for intensive care with a ventilator. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi rejected media reports that his government is considering another nationwide lockdown, and  told a gathering of chief ministers that they should be looking to minimize restrictions in their states. Despite Modi's stance, individual states maintain their own restrictions. The southern state of Tamil Nadu imposed a fresh 12-day lockdown on Monday. Read the full article here.

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