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Your Tuesday Update: Gov. Ron DeSantis Extends Eviction Moratorium, Polk County Adds Five Deaths In One Day, EU Leaves U.S. Off Approved Travel List

Photo: The Florida Channel
Photo: The Florida Channel

Gov. Ron DeSantis extends statewide eviction and foreclosure moratorium

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

Gov. Ron DeSantis has extended a statewide eviction and foreclosure moratorium for another month, until August 1 at midnight.

This is the third time DeSantis has extended the moratorium since the pandemic began in mid-March. Housing advocates like State Representative Anna Eskamani celebrated on Tuesday night.

In a tweet, Eskamani called the order "only a bandaid" and said, "we gotta get all Floridians their unemployment benefits."

Last Thursday, DeSantis said 250 million dollars in CARES Act money had been allocated for rent and mortgage assistance.

Polk reports five more COVID-19 deaths

Joe Byrnes, WMFE

Five more senior citizens have died of COVID-19 in Polk County.

The county’s death toll so far is 98, an increase of 78% in the month of June.

Statewide, Florida reports 58 additional deaths, bringing the number of residents who have died to 3,505.

In Polk County, the newly reported deaths include a 99-year-old woman who tested positive back in April. The other patients ranged in age from 71 to 88.

And the number of people coming to the emergency room with COVID-19 symptoms has risen sharply in recent weeks.

Polk County's median age for new cases remains in the 30's, and the rate of positive tests has stayed above 10 percent for several days.

In neighboring Osceola County the rate of positivity has been the highest in Central Florida. In recent days, about one in five tests have come back positive.

It used to have the worst positivity rate in Florida. Now Lee County claims that unfortunate distinction, with a third of those tested having the virus.

Florida doctor: infections will rise for weeks to come

The Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — As Florida enters the height of summer tourist season, the state’s largest cities and counties have halted business re-openings, closed beaches and mandated masks, hoping the measures will slow the blooming coronavirus outbreak.

But a University of Florida epidemiologist warns that things are likely to get worse before they get better.

Dr. Cindy Prins says Florida is likely to see an increase in cases in the short term, even though cities are now mandating masks and social distancing measures.

She says Florida is unfortunately "a couple of weeks late to the game of really being able to get this under control.”

Governor continues to oppose statewide mask mandate

Tom Urban, WLRN
With the confirmed number of coronavirus cases in Florida continuing to rise, almost all large cities now require people to wear face masks while indoors and when social distancing is not possible. Jacksonville, recently named the host city for the 2020 Republican National Convention, on Monday became the latest to implement a facial covering mandate. The Florida Department of Health on Tuesday announced another 6,012 people have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the state to over 150,000. Currently, facial covering requirements and penalties vary greatly from city to city and county to county, leading many to ask Gov. Ron DeSantis to implement a statewide standard. Speaking to reporters at the capitol this week, DeSantis continued to say he won't impose a statewide requirement. “We’ve left it to the locals to make decisions about whether they want to use coercive measures or impose any type of criminal penalties. You know, we are not going to do that statewide," DeSantis said. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat, has been asking for a uniform standard since last week. She says the only way masks work is when everyone is using them. “We have to make sure that we are all in this together. The masks are not to protect yourself. It’s to protect those around you. So, if we are all doing this together, we can help stop the spread of it and really slow it down," Fried said. DeSantis has said that many smaller, more rural areas of Florida have seen fewer COVID-19 cases, adding that not all areas of the state need to be under the same guidelines. Critics feel it’s difficult to gain compliance when one city may require facial coverings indoors, but the neighboring town has no requirements.

TED Radio Wow-er

TED Radio Hour, NPR

School's out, but many kids—and their parents—are still stuck at home. Let's keep learning together. Special guest Guy Raz joins Manoush for an hour packed with TED science lessons for everyone.

This reverse parade will allow July Fourth revelry from a social distance

Tana Weingartner, NPR

A typical Fourth of July usually has lots of flags, fireworks and parades. But this year is anything but typical as the pandemic has benched marching bands, banned floats, and sidelined spectators.

In Montgomery, Ohio — a small suburban Cincinnati community of about 10,000 where lawns are lush green and American flags abound — the annual Fourth of July parade is a long tradition. So when the pandemic threatened to cancel the annual parade, they decided to retool it.

This year Montgomery is having a reverse parade where the units are stationery and motorists drive through, says Julie Machon, as she stands in a driveway overlooking a large high school parking lot. Each of the 50 or so parade entrants will have their own space safely apart from each other, kind of like a big flea market, according to Machon, the city's recreation director. Spectators, however, will stay in their cars and weave up and down the aisles.

The fire department will suspend a giant American Flag from a ladder truck. The marching band is out but a small ensemble of students will play patriotic tunes. There will be classic cars, the American Legion and Purple Heart Veterans, and performers from the Cincinnati Circus Company, where Ali Weibul is creative director.

Read the full article here.

Have a corn dog: fair food without the fair

Kiley Koscinski, NPR

It's a grim year for fans of summer fairs. The 165th annual Big Butler Fair in Pennsylvania's Butler County has been called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The week of fair games, fried food and barns full of prize-winning animals has been a tradition for Butler County since the American Civil War.

Canceled fairs are an obvious blow to local 4-H and Future Farmers of America clubs who have been training animals for months to compete in livestock shows. But it's a big hit to food vendors, too.

"I mean, we panicked," Shelby Seivers said. She owns Three Rivers Concessions with her husband Josh. "This is our livelihood. We don't have [other] jobs that we go back to."

The season starts in January for the Seivers. They head to Florida and other southern states to set up trailers at events all over the East Coast. "We run concessions nine or 10 months out of the year," she said. But summer fairs in Western Pennsylvania are the busiest time of the year. The financial hit could permanently harm the business.

Read the full article here.

EU sets new list of approved travel partners. The U.S. isn't on it

Bill Chappell, NPR

U.S. travelers won't be among those allowed to visit the European Union when the bloc begins opening its external borders on July 1. EU ambassadors endorsed a list of 15 travel partners on Tuesday, including South Korea, Japan and China — countries that were hit early by the pandemic but have been able to bring the coronavirus under control.

The U.S. was seen as a long shot to make the travel list, which requires that only those countries with epidemiological situations — taking into account both the infection rate and current trends — that are equal to or better than the EU's can send tourists and other nonessential visitors to the open-border region.

When the EU began discussing its travel list earlier this month, many U.S. states were seeing a worrying spike in cases — a trend that has only worsened.

As ambassadors at the European Council debated the final list, the U.S. shattered its record for daily new cases, reporting 39,972 new cases on June 26, compared with its previous mark of 36,291 cases, which was set on April 24.

Read the full article here.

Orange County to discusses mask enforcement 

Abe Aboraya, WMFE

Orange County’s Economic Recovery Task Force will meet later this afternoon to discuss an executive order requiring residents to wear masks in most situations.

The committee will discuss compliance strategies with the county attorney at 2:30 pm.

Government mandates to wear a mask in public have become a flashpoint, with public health experts saying it will help slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Tune into All Things Considered later this afternoon for more. 

Florida reports 6,093 new coronavirus cases on Monday

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

Florida reported 6,093 new coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 152,434.

More than 14,000 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 and another 3,604 have died.

Here is the rundown so far in Central Florida:

Orange County: 10,314 cases, 446 hospitalizations, 58 deaths

Osceola County: 2,026 cases, 197 hospitalizations, 24 deaths

Seminole County: 2,566 cases, 164 hospitalizations, 16 deaths

Volusia County: 2,105 cases, 213 hospitalizations, 57 deaths

Brevard County: 1,793 cases, 110 hospitalizations, 17 deaths

Lake County: 1,302 cases, 108 hospitalizations, 22 deaths

Sumter County: 345 cases, 48 hospitalizations, 17 deaths

Florida governor signs $92.2B budget after slashing $1B

The Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fa. (AP) — Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is cutting more than $1 billion from the budget the Legislature approved in March.

He signed the now $92.2 billion budget Monday, two days before the fiscal year starts.

He said the cuts were deeper than he wanted because revenue is dropping because of the coronavirus.

But he said he still preserved teacher and state worker raises, a boost for child welfare and $625 million for environmental projects.

Survey finds confusion among public about pandemic news

The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — For a story that has dominated the news for four months, a survey out Monday illustrates the difficulty that many Americans have in finding information that they trust about the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pew Research Center found only 3 in 10 Americans say they trust President Donald Trump and his administration to get the facts straight all or most of the time when speaking about COVID-19.

The public gives higher marks to their governors and the highest to health authorities like the Centers for Disease Control.

The survey also shows a widening partisan divide in beliefs about the pandemic.

Sarasota city leaders approve mandatory mask ordinance

Cathy Carter, WUSF 
The Sarasota City Commission has approved a measure requiring the wearing of face masks in public spaces. Violations could result in penalties up to 500 dollars.

Citing concerns over the spread of coronavirus, the city of Sarasota is joining a growing list of Florida cities that require the wearing of face masks in public spaces. City leaders say they received more than 200 emails about the proposed mask mandate. Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin told commissioners a majority of respondents supported the measure in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. But most people who signed up to speak at the meeting were against the wearing of face coverings. Rosalyn Coons was one of them. "We are on a slippery slope relinquishing freedoms that we have in this nation and allowing this tyrannical ordinance,” she said Benjamin Casey, a homeless student at New College of Florida, urged commissioners to vote in favor of the mask ordinance. "If I contract COVID, I'll not only lose my job and source of income for several weeks to be free of it but I also have the chance of losing my housing at my school," he said. Sarasota City commissioners approved the ordinance by a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Hagen Brody said though he was in favor of mandating masks indoors, he opposed the measure because it includes outdoor spaces where social distancing is not possible. "Outdoors is totally unenforceable,” he said. “I think it just has a host of problems we aren't even capable of predicting." City Manager Barwin acknowledged that most people are aware of social distancing practices and other CDC-recommended guidelines to help slow the spread of COVID-19, but said that “such recommendations are not being practiced voluntarily on a community-wide basis” and that the commission agrees that making face masks mandatory is necessary for the health and safety of the community. The measure goes into effect at midnight Wednesday and would be in effect for 60 days.

With big summer films delayed, AMC Theatres puts off U.S. reopening

Rachel Treisman, NPR The nation's largest movie theater chain is delaying its U.S. reopening until the end of July because film companies have postponed release dates of two anticipated blockbusters. AMC Theatres  announced that a first round of approximately 450 locations will resume operations two weeks later than initially planned, to coincide with the updated August release dates of Warner Brothers'  Tenet and Disney's  Mulan. "Our theatre general managers across the U.S. started working full time again today and are back in their theatres gearing up to get their buildings fully ready just a few weeks from now for moviegoers," CEO Adam Aron said in a June 29 statement. "That happy day, when we can welcome guests back into most of our U.S. theatres, will be Thursday, July 30." The company said it expects its more than 600 U.S. theaters to be "essentially to full operation" by early August. AMC Theatres made headlines earlier this month when it announced patrons will be required to wear masks,  reversing course on a controversial reopening plan that had only encouraged them to do so. Read the full article here.

South Florida beaches close for July 4th holiday weekend

Alex Gonzalez, WLRN
Palm Beach County is joining the rest of South Florida in closing its beaches over the July 4th weekend. Speaking on WPTV on Monday morning, Mayor Dave Kerner said that he’s concerned about the recent spike in COVID-19 cases. "What we’re protecting against is an influx of thousands of people from the counties to our south to our beaches here. And then intertwine the issue that we have community spread in our community at unprecedented levels. We unfortunately have to take this action," Kerner said. Palm Beach County beaches will be closed this Friday through Sunday. Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties have also closed their beaches.

Broward County says it's bringing in more contact tracers

Alex Gonzalez, WLRN
Broward County is bringing in more contact tracers to combat the spread of the coronavirus. During a news conference Monday, Mayor Dale Holness said 340 contact tracers will be working for the Broward Department of Health. "That’s a big part of what we need to do, to find folks who are carrying the virus and get them to quarantine, isolate themselves, so that we limit the spread in the community because we’re seeing a serious community spread at this point," Holness said. Health experts say both contact tracing and increased testing help keep local economies open. The majority of COVID-19 cases in the state are coming from Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. Officials are monitoring certain metrics, including the percentage of positive cases and increasing hospitalizations.

Sen. McConnell says Americans must have 'no stigma' in wearing face masks

Alana Wise, NPR A growing number of leading Republicans are publicly embracing expert-recommended face masks as a means to slowing the spread of the deadly coronavirus, in the wake of more than 125,000 Americans killed by the virus. In recent months, the topic of wearing masks has become politically divisive, despite official health guidance that they are one of the best defenses to restricting the spread of the deadly respiratory disease, COVID-19, from one person to another. Speaking on the Senate floor on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed wearing face masks as part of a "new middle ground" between a return to normal life and strict coronavirus restrictions. Experts have said they are effective in slowing the spread of the virus but mandates have been criticized by some Republicans as economically damaging and an affront to American ideals of freedom. "We need new routines, new rhythms and new strategies for this new middle ground in between. It's the task of each family, each small business, each employer and all levels of government to apply common sense and make this happen," McConnell said.

"We must have no stigma, none, about wearing masks when we leave our homes and come near other people. Wearing simple face coverings is not about protecting ourselves. It is about protecting everyone we encounter." Read the full article here.

Tampa Bay area struggles to keep up with increased demand for coronavirus tests

Stephanie Colombini, WUSF
As coronavirus cases in Florida have surged, so has the demand for testing. Tampa Bay area health officials are struggling to keep up.

More than 7,000 appointments are scheduled at Hillsborough County testing sites this week, up from about 4,500 last week. Those figures don't include people who go without appointments, as some have opted to just show up because slots aren't available until well into July. Emergency Management Director Timothy Dudley acknowledges the large increase in demand for tests and says meeting it isn't easy. "Appointments are tied to the number of collection kits we have available, and then also we have to have the staffing which consists of medical volunteers here in our community," Dudley said. The state is taking over testing at Raymond James Stadium, which officials say will conduct 1,000 tests a day, 5 days a week. BayCare opened a new site at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on Monday morning but had to shut it down for the day about an hour later when supplies ran out. 357 people were tested.

Democratic lawmakers say DeSantis' veto decisions were made 'behind closed doors'

Robbie Gaffney, WFSU
Gov. Ron DeSantis' veto of 1 billion dollars in the state budget is causing Senate Democratic lawmakers to say the decision was behind closed doors. Fort Lauderdale Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer says there should have been a special legislative session to determine what would get cut from the budget and not doing so, leaves Democrats out of the conversation. "Of this billion dollars that has been cut the vast majority is coming on the backs of local projects and programs that our cities and our counties and our communities count on. Funding that helps ordinary people on a day-to-day basis," Farmer said. Among the items cut was an affordable housing program known as SHIP, as well as local public works projects.

Palm Beach County residents will receive masks by direct mail

Wilkine Brutus, WLRN
Palm Beach County will directly mail millions of reusable and disposable masks to each residence in July. The announcement came just a day after the county’s mandatory mask order went into effect. Speaking at a press conference Friday, County Mayor Dave Kerner said the county purchased 1.5 million masks for all 660,000 homes in the county as COVID-19 cases continue to spike. "We want to make sure that every member of this community, no matter where you live, has access to the personal protective equipment that is needed to keep yourself safe. And members of the public and community at large safe," Kerner said. The county also purchased 1 million masks for members of law enforcement, fire safety and first responders.

Atlanta Hawks arena to host voting site, team challenges rest of NBA to follow

Stephen Fowler, NPR The Atlanta Hawks have committed their arena as an early voting site for Georgia's upcoming elections. The basketball team has also challenged other NBA franchises to become civically involved ahead of the November election. In a press conference Monday, leadership from the Hawks and Fulton County, where the team is based, announced that hundreds of State Farm Arena staff will be trained as volunteer poll workers, parking around the area will be free for voters, and several team-controlled billboards will push "get out the vote" messages beginning in July. "We aim to be a community asset, and in order to fulfill that goal, we need to be more than just a basketball team," Hawks CEO Steve Koonin said. "We'll utilize our arena for all aspects of voting." The partnership comes as election administration in Georgia —  especially in Fulton County — is under scrutiny following the disastrous June 9 primary that saw  long lines and voting machine issues lead to accusations of voter suppression and investigations by both Democrats and Republicans. Read the full article here.

Keys cases on the rise since reopening to tourists

Nancy Klingener, WLRN

The number of COVID-19 cases has been on the rise since Monroe County reopened to visitors June first. Bob Eadie is the Monroe County administrator for the state Health Department. "It's almost like it's business as it used to be and the thing is, it's not. We are teetering on the edge of a real huge outbreak," Eadie said. Eadie and other officials say they don't know if or when the checkpoints might return and visitors be ordered out again. They say that depends on hospitalizations from the disease. "It won't take too much before we're starting to overload our system. And it won't take too much until we're overwhelmed after that," Eadie said. The Keys tourism agency has suspended advertising for two weeks and is hanging banners along the island chain to remind people that masks are required in public places.

After SCOTUS decision, the future of abortion rights; mask mandates

Consider This, NPR On Monday, the Supreme Court issued a major decision on access to abortion. The court struck down a Louisiana law that required doctors who perform abortions at clinics to also have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. NPR's Sarah McCammon reported from  the clinic at the center of the case last year. With coronavirus cases surging in North Carolina, officials issued a statewide mandate for face coverings, and are hiring bilingual contact tracers to work with the state's Latinx community. Warehouses are a big source of temporary jobs in New Jersey, especially for undocumented immigrants. Workers often have to travel in crowded vans, despite guidelines to social distance. Now,  WNYC's Karen Yireports, some of them are getting sick. Like what you just read? Check out our other  coronavirus coverage.

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