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Your Wednesday Update: BCU Gets a Funding Boost During Pandemic, Why Latinx People Are Hospitalized More With Coronavirus, DeSantis Says He's Worried Coronavirus Cases Will Spread at Parties

Photo: Josiah Weiss
Photo: Josiah Weiss

Leaders of Florida’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities are celebrating a funding increase during the coronavirus pandemic

Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference Wednesday at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, days after signing a state budget that included a funding boost for HBCUs during the coronavirus pandemic.

Bethune-Cookman received a 13 million dollar increase, while Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens and Edward Waters College in Jacksonville each got 3.5 million dollars in additional funding. 

Bethune-Cookman president Brent Chrite says HBCUs increase access to higher education for some of the state’s most brilliant- yet marginalized students. 

“With this budget line the state affirms its recognition of the extraordinary contribution and legacy of these three institutions. And today in particular, universities and especially HBCUs are faced with profound and even existential challenges," Chrite said.

FAMU in Tallahassee also received a 1.3 million dollar funding increase. 

Chrite took over leadership of BCU last year, with the university in financial trouble and facing a federal investigation into a student housing project.

Why Latinx people are hospitalized with COVID-19 at four times the rate of whites

Christianna Silva, NPR

As COVID-19 continues to sweep the nation, Latinx people are among those who are being hit the hardest.

"I would equate what we've seen with the Latino population as kind of the perfect storm," said Dr. Joseph Betancourt, the vice president and chief equity and inclusion officer at Massachusetts General Hospital, in an interview with NPR's Morning Edition.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Latinx people in the U.S. are hospitalized from the virus at four times the rate of white people.

"If you equate it to a fire, to really have a bad fire there are three components to it: You have to have the substrate, so the set of conditions that would be very flammable with the spark, you have to have a spark and you have to have material around it that makes the spread of the fire move extensively and quickly," Betancourt said. "And I think in the case of the Latino population, we see all three of those kind of coming together to create this perfect storm."

The set of underlying conditions that Betancourt referred to includes everything from Latinx people being more likely to have preexisting conditions like diabetes to having less access to care to a hesitation to engage with the health care system.

Read the full article here.

Gov. Ron DeSantis says he's more worried about coronavirus spreading at parties than at the beach this weekend

Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Gov. Ron DeSantis says he’s more concerned about people having parties indoors than going to the beach for the July 4th weekend. 

Many South Florida beaches will be closed for the holiday due to the recent spike in coronavirus cases. 

At a press conference in Daytona Beach Wednesday, DeSantis was asked whether Volusia County leaders should do the same. 

"You know, doing things outdoors in Florida is less risky than doing things where you’re packed indoors. So I think having the parks and having beaches, obviously, you know, it needs to be controlled, I think most of the localities like Brevard and here in Volusia have done that, but by and large the virus does not like sunshine, heat and humidity," DeSantis said.

DeSantis said people sixty-five and older should try to limit their exposure to crowds. 

Take a break from all the coronavirus news: Nicole Byer on How to Love Yourself

Sam Sanders, NPR

Ever wonder what it would be like to take hundreds of photos of yourself for a giant coffee table book...wearing only a bikini?

Comedian Nicole Byer has. And did, for her new book: #VeryFat #VeryBrave: The Fat Girl's Guide to Being #Brave and Not a Dejected, Melancholy, Down-in-the-Dumps Weeping Fat Girl in a Bikini.

Sam talks to the "Nailed It" Netflix host about what it was like to make the book, what it taught her about her body and why the store Lane Bryant touches a nerve.

Sumter County coronavirus cases continue to rise

Joe Byrnes, WMFE

The case numbers and test results in Sumter County suddenly look a lot worse and a lot more like the rest of Central Florida.

The county added 23 cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and 11 percent of new tests came back positive.

Four of the new cases are residents of The Villages, a sprawling retirement community.

Health department officials say the risk of severe illness increases with age. Especially if you're older, they say, avoid interactions, practice social distancing, wash your hands and wear a facial covering. 

The median age among the 23 new patients is 43. But they include three girls, ages 6, 11 and 13, and two women in their 80s.

Government arts boost 'does not come close to meeting the demand,' says NEA head

Neda Ulaby, NPR

Mary Maxon was out raking hay on her tractor yesterday morning when a beep on her phone alerted her to the good news. The arts organization she runs on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota had just been awarded a $50,000 grant through the CARES Act.

"We have a 10,000 piece collection and we curate shows all year round," Maxon said, describing the work of the Heritage Center at the Red Cloud Indian School. Up to three hundred Native American artists work with the center; it brings them into classrooms, the gallery, and the annual Red Cloud Art Show, which just celebrated its 52nd anniversary. "We know how to lift these artists up and we know how to sell their work, and we're just raising the voices of this very creative community," Maxon says. "There's no Lakota word for art, but it's essential to the culture."

In the bleak wake of the pandemic, Maxon had to shut down the Heritage Center. She was able to retain her four full-time employees, but she wasn't able to hire two open staff positions. That core staff will be supported by the CARES Act grant, says Maxon, which will also help them to buy equipment and get better trained to move operations online.

The Heritage Center is among 846 arts organizations across all fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico chosen by the National Endowment of the Arts to receive these $50,000 grants. They range from the Women of Color Quilters Network of Westchester, Ohio to southern Colorado's Chamber Orchestra of the Springs, to the Monterey Jazz Festival in California to the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

Nine local arts agencies also received grants of $250,000 to distribute through their own funding programs. The total, $44.5 million, makes up a little more than half of the $75 million allotted to the arts in the CARES Act legislation signed by President Trump on March 27. (A few weeks later, in April, the NEA distributed nearly $30 million of that funding to state and regional arts agencies.)

Read the full article here.

Monroe schools have three dimensional approach to return to classes

Nancy Klingener, WLRN
The Monroe County school district has a draft plan for reopening next month. The new school year in the Keys could happen three different ways, depending on what's happening with the coronavirus. When there are isolated cases and limited community transmission of the virus, all students would return to the classroom. They would be grouped into cohorts that stay together during the school day. When there is sustained transmission of COVID-19 in the community, then students in preK through fifth grades would attend class. Grades 6 through 12 would start attending alternating days, with virtual school when they're at home. And if there is large scale community transmission, everyone will stay home and all classes will be online. School is scheduled to start again in Monroe County on August 13th.

Orlando ranks third highest in the nation for unemployment among U.S. metro areas

Joe Byrnes, WMFE

The Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metro area has the third-highest unemployment rate among U.S. metropolitan areas with more than a million residents.

This new comparison by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics is based on figures for May.

In the Orlando area, 22.6 percent of the labor force were unemployed, an increase of 19.7 percent from the previous year.

The numbers reflect massive job losses in the entertainment, hotel and restaurant industries.

Among the large metro areas, only Las Vegas and Detroit were worse. 

The national unemployment rate was at 13 percent. Florida's jobless rate was 14.3.

Forty-four inmates and 10 staff members at the Marion County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19

Joe Byrnes, WMFE

A lawyer representing at least two sick inmates calls the situation "a nightmare."

Attorney Melanie Kohler says inmates have been complaining of symptoms and asking for COVID-19 tests for some time. They and their families warn of unsafe conditions.

In a letter, Sheriff Billy Woods defends the jail against, "rumors, misinformation, keyboard warriors and lies."

He says they've isolated those in the hard-hit area and other inmates with symptoms. 

The jail is making masks and plans to have them for everybody.

Lake County responded to an outbreak by testing all inmates. Marion County is testing only those with symptoms or possible exposure.

Florida hospital in virus-hit county scales back surgeries

The Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The largest hospital in Florida’s hardest-hit county for coronavirus cases announced it is scaling back elective surgeries and other procedures because of a surge in the outbreak.

Jackson Health System in Miami said in a statement that it would begin limiting nonemergency admissions beginning Monday because of "a steady increase” in the number of coronavirus patients over the past few weeks.

Miami-Dade now has nearly 38,000 confirmed cases and 1,000 deaths.

Health officials reported 6,500 new cases statewide Wednesday, bringing the total to nearly 159,000 cases and 3,550 deaths.

New fireworks law in place for July 4th

Tom Urban, WLRN
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, many public fireworks displays have been canceled and more people will be shooting them off at home. Also, under legislation passed and signed into law earlier this year, Floridians can now legally buy stronger fireworks for use on three holidays, including Independence Day. Prior to this year, people could only buy relatively innocuous devices like sparklers and fountains. Explosives such as firecrackers and roman candles were off limits, unless people signed waivers saying the fireworks were for agricultural purposes. The new law eliminates the need for people to declare why they are buying fireworks. Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who doubles as the state fire marshal, says people need to be careful when using the higher-powered explosives. “Fireworks used in the wrong way are deadly. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher nearby. Make sure your pets are in a safe place. There are just a number of things that, left unchecked, could lead to disastrous outcomes," Patronis said. Specific rules about where fireworks can be used vary from county to county, and some areas of the state have active burn bans. In addition to the 4th of July, the new law allows fireworks to be shot off on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

No rest for the gravediggers of Afghanistan

Diaa Hadid, NPR

Abbas has worked in this Kabul cemetery for more than a decade, since he moved to the Afghan capital for work. He's sometimes called to dig quickly to bury the victims of militant attacks. But the last six weeks are the busiest he's ever seen.

"People bring their dead during the day and during the night," says Abbas, who like many Afghans, has only one name. He believes the cause of death is COVID-19.

"The sickness has spread between the people, and the number of deaths are growing," he says as he scrapes through the hard, rocky ground to dig a new grave in the Omed-e-Sabz cemetery that clings to a windswept mountainside that looms over the Afghan capital.

Abbas says before the pandemic, the gravediggers would bury seven or eight people a day. Now it's more like 20. He sometimes buries family members side-by-side.

Kabul's gravediggers have long been witness to Afghanistan's bloodshed. Now, they're emerging as some of the most important eyewitnesses of how badly the pandemic is affecting the Afghan capital.

The Afghan government reports just over 31,200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 733 deaths as of June 30.

But those numbers aren't reliable at all, says Khushal Nabizada, the director of public health in the Kabul province.

The U.N. reports the positivity rate from COVID-19 tests to be around 44 percent across Afghanistan, which suggests the disease is widespread. Nabizada says the country doesn't have the capacity to do more testing — and that many Afghans are reluctant to self-report, because of the stigma surrounding the disease.

Read the full article here.

Orange County hospitals are running low on isolation beds

Abe Aboraya, WMFE

That’s according to data released Tuesday by the health department at an Orange County meeting. 

It shows that Orange County has more than 400 acute care hospital beds sitting open, and hundreds of ventilators are ready to be used. 

But the county is down 57 ICU beds - and only has 12 isolation beds.

Dr. Raul Pino is with the Orange County Health Department. 

“The first step the hospital will take early will be to stop elected procedures, before we even plan for surge capacity, which is not needed in our county even though our numbers are higher for hospitalizations than they have ever been," Pino said.

Isolation beds keep air flow from contaminating other areas of the hospital.

Orange County has the second highest average daily case count in the state, second only to Miami-Dade.

Hospitalizations tend to lag behind the daily case counts.

When essential workers earn less than the jobless: 'We put the country on our back'

Alina Selyukh, NPR

A strange thing happened this spring.

As co-workers began to get sick, essential worker Yudelka LaVigna took an unpaid leave of absence. When she got her unemployment benefits, she realized something unheard of: She was making more money not working.

"That just kind of opens your eyes," says LaVigna, who's now back at her New York call center job for essential services.

When the government shut down the U.S. economy in a bid to tame the spread of the coronavirus, Congress scrambled to help tens of millions of people who lost jobs. The government rushed one-time relief checks to all families that qualified and tacked an extra $600 onto weekly unemployment benefits, which are usually less than regular pay and vary by state.

But so far, lawmakers have not passed any measure to increase pay for workers who were asked to keep going to work during a highly contagious health crisis. Some companies did create hazard, or "hero," pay — typically around $2 extra an hour or a one-time bonus. Most have since ended it.

Read the full article here.

COVID-19 rise derails plans to reopen bars, restaurants

Matthew Peddie, WMFE
Florida's rapid rise in the number of coronavirus cases is derailing plans for some businesses to reopen. In a Twitter announcement last Friday, the state ordered bars to close effective immediately. Brian Wing is with Green Bench Brewing Company in St. Petersburg. He says they were getting ready to open when they suddenly had to shift gears. Some warning would have helped, he said. "We're trying to play by the rules not just for public health but you know, also selfishly the health of our employees and you know, our customers," Wing said. Betsy Gardner Eckbert is president of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce. She says if the state is going to issue rules, they need to follow up. "Oversight and being able to have these orders and then enforce them is going to be the key piece of it. We see people walking around without masks, but we have a mask order, so that is a really challenging piece of where we are," Gardner Eckbert said.

Sunbelt states rush to line up hospital beds, not barstools

The Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Florida and other states across the Sunbelt are thinning out the deck chairs, turning over the barstools and rushing to line up more hospital beds as they head into the height of the summer season amid a startling surge in confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

With newly reported infections running about 40,000 a day in the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, warned on Tuesday that the number could rocket to 100,000 if Americans don’t start following public health recommendations.

New York Times reporter on governor politics between New York and Florida

Luis Hernandez, WLRN

The coronavirus has become a political pawn in a fight between two governors - New York's Andrew Cuomo and Florida's Ron DeSantis. Back in March, DeSantis ordered that everyone coming into the Sunshine State from New York had to quarantine for 14 days. That was when New York was the epicenter of the virus. Today, Florida is one of a handful of states with rapidly growing COVID-19 cases as New York is leveling off. The New York Time's Patti Mazzei says the back and forth between Cuomo and DeSantis is hurting both sides. "When you see one state doing dramatically better and the other one is starting to worsen, you know, pointing fingers at the state that's in the worse misfortune right now, and this thing can go on for so long, it just seems short-sighted to have this war of words back and forth," Mazzei said. New York last week ordered that anyone coming from Florida had to self quarantine for 14 days.

Pandemic blues or signs of extremism? New guide teaches parents to stay alert

Hannah Allam, NPR The pandemic is causing what extremism researchers worry is a perfect storm for radicalization: millions of young Americans stuck at home on their devices as fear and blame swirl around them. An online guide released Tuesday is the first national campaign to give parents and caregivers specific advice on how to spot signs of extremism in the coronavirus era. It was developed by American University's Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab, or  PERIL, in partnership with the Southern Poverty Law Center. The idea for a parents' guide to radicalization predated the virus, PERIL Director Cynthia Miller-Idriss said, but the project took on urgency because of the  particular risksthat have emerged in the pandemic. One key issue is the reduced access to trusted adults – coaches, teachers, pastors – who act as a network of support for young people. "When you reduce all that to just parents and caregivers, they are just really on the front lines of this," Miller-Idriss said. "And at a moment when extremist groups are also highly circulating online and taking advantage of the pandemic to spread conspiracy theories and misinformation, and trying to recruit and radicalize." Read the full article here.

'SURGE' teams deployed to COVID-19 hotspots in Miami-Dade

Danny Rivero, WLRN

Kathy Burgos has a dozen blue bags hanging from her arm as she walks the hot streets of Miami’s Allapattah neighborhood.

She’s on a march with other Miami-Dade County employees, helping bring masks, gloves and education to one of the state’s hotspots for COVID-19 cases.

“Every day we’re hitting at least 70 homes,” she says. “I know today we have a lot more homes to hit, around 140.”

The effort is part of Miami-Dade County’s three “SURGE” teams — an abbreviation for Strategic Unified Response to Guideline Education. The new teams have been deployed to Allapattah and Little Havana in Miami, and to the city of Homestead.

Burgos is the division director of operations for the Miami-Dade Juvenile Services Department, but her day-to-day work has been shifted to respond to the pandemic.

"But we're used to working in the community," she says. She spots a mother walking her baby and stops her to talk about the work the county is doing. At the end, she gives the mother two bags full of masks and gloves.

Read the full article here.

Jacksonville mandates face masks, as it prepares to host Trump at GOP Convention

Bill Chappell, NPR

Jacksonville, Fla., is now requiring people to wear face masks while indoors and in public spaces where they can't stay 6 feet away from other people, hoping to slow a spike in coronavirus cases.

"Every person over the age of six (6) who is in a public space shall wear a face mask or covering when not able to engage in social distancing,"the mandate states.

The rule does not apply to people who can't wear a mask because of medical reasons. It took effect late Monday in Jacksonville and Duval County, which share a unified government.

In the past week, Duval County repeatedly broke records for daily new coronavirus cases, breaking the 700-case mark as it set new highs on several consecutive days, according to data from the Florida Department of Health.

More than 6,200 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Duval County, including 64 deaths.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry had been criticized for his response to the COVID-19 crisis — particularly his order to partially reopen beaches in April, only one month into a broad shutdown. At the time, Florida's death toll from the virus was reaching new peaks.

Curry has worn a mask at high-profile events, and he has urged others to follow health experts' advice to cover their faces. But he has also spoken against adopting a face mask mandate.

Read the full article here.

Listener questions: past pandemics and property prices

The Indicator, NPR

The coronavirus pandemic continues to hammer the global economy—and Indicator listeners have questions. Lots of questions. Way too many questions for us to answer in a dozen shows, let alone just one.

So we picked a few of our—and your—favorites. And today we answer questions on the economic effects of the 1918 Spanish Flu, the effects of this pandemic on housing prices in the U.S., and the resilience of Australia's economy.

Links to research cited in today's show:

Fight the Pandemic, Save the Economy: Lessons from the 1918 Flu

Fear, Lockdown, and Diversion: Comparing Drivers of Pandemic Economic Decline in 2020

Leon County health director urges residents to follow science, wear masks

Regan McCarthy, WFSU
The director of Leon County’s health department is urging locals to do their part to stop the spread of the coronavirus. In a video posted on the county’s social media, Claudia Blackburn says that includes listening to science and wearing a mask. “Keep taking the precautions to prevent transmission: wear your mask in public, stay six feet away from other people, wash your hands often and stay home if you’re sick. We’ve come this far by doing all these things. Don’t stop," Blackburn said. Leon County commissioners passed an emergency ordinance last week requiring residents to wear a mask inside any public buildings where they can’t easily stay at least 6 feet away from other people. Leon County Republican Party Chair Evan Power is challenging the ordinance in court.

FAMU to receive $50,000 to buy laptops for students

Robbie Gaffney, WFSU
FAMU is using a 50,000 dollar grant to buy more than 60 laptops for students that need one. The university was one of five historically black colleges to be granted money from Vanguard, an investment advising firm. Here's the college’s Shawnte Friday-Stroud: “When we moved to remote instruction we had several—you know many students who left town and so they could not come check out a laptop so our first priority was sending laptops to those students’ homes," Friday-Stroud said. The university estimates up to 500 FAMU students might need laptops for distance learning.

Broward parents call on district to provide full-time schooling this fall

Amber Amortegui, WLRN
Some Broward parents are calling for the option to send their children to school full-time as the coronavirus pandemic continues. They organized a demonstration in Fort Lauderdale Tuesday morning. Anthony and Jennifer Adelson have three kids. He says they both have their own private practices, so full-time, in-person instruction is ideal for their family. “We don’t have anybody helping us. We take care of our kids ourselves, and we juggle our time with them between our practices and their schedules. If their schedule is to be home all the time, it’s a huge issue for us," Adelson said. The Broward County school board will make final decisions about reopening schools at the end of July.

Gaps in the Russian bounties story; Fauci warns of 100k cases a day

Consider This, NPR Dr. Anthony Fauci  told members of Congress Tuesdaythat although he can't predict the ultimate number of coronavirus cases in the United States, he "would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around." The New York Times reported that Russian military intelligence offered money to the Taliban in exchange for killing American troops in Afghanistan.  NPR's Mary Louise Kelly spoke with Aaron O'Connell, a Marine Corp veteran who served on the National Security Council, about Russia's possible motives. Coronavirus testing in the U.S. is up, but not up enough. Public health researchers say only a handful of states are testing at the level needed to suppress the virus. To see how your state is doing with testing,  go to NPR's tracker.

Pence urges Americans to wear masks to stop spread of COVID-19

Scott Neuman, NPR Vice President Pence wore a face mask to a public briefing on Tuesday where the message from the surgeon general and others was clear – Americans should to do the same while in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Pence appeared at the U.S. Health Service Commission Corps headquarters in Rockville, Md., joined by other members of the White House's coronavirus task force, including Surgeon General Jerome Adams. The vice president and others removed their masks only when delivering remarks. "When you do not wear your face covering, we end up in a situation where you see higher rates of disease spread and you end up having to close places," Adams said. "This mask, this face covering, actually is an instrument of freedom for Americans if we all use it." The latest message comes as coronavirus cases in states in the South and West continue to rise. It also comes on the same day that Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the task force, warned that the U.S., which is seeing 40,000 new coronavirus cases a day, could more than double that figure if the public fails to heed guidelines. Read the full article here. Like what you just read? Check out our other  coronavirus coverage.

Danielle Prieur is WMFE's education reporter.
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