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Your Monday Update: Florida's Top Democrat Unveils Ads Aimed at Mask Wearing, State Reports Fewer Than 5,000 New Coronavirus Cases, Fine Hospitalized With COVID-19

Photo: Kate Trifo
Photo: Kate Trifo

Florida's top Democrat unveils ads aimed at mask wearing

The Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is unveiling a public awareness campaign urging Floridians to keep their distance and wear masks as a way to lower the risk of coronavirus infections.

The campaign unveiled Monday is the latest pressure tactic aimed at Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ resistance to ordering a mandatory mask requirement.

The Democrat Fried’s announcement came after DeSantis launched a series of videos meant to shore up his standing amid criticism over his handling of the pandemic.

Critics have said DeSantis should have shut down the state sooner last spring as the virus was spreading and should order a mandatory statewide mask requirement.

Florida reports fewer than 5,000 new coronavirus cases

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

The Florida Department of Health says the state added only 4,752 new coronavirus cases and 73 coronavirus-related deaths on Monday, a record low for the month of August.

These latest numbers bring the total number of cases in the state since the start of the pandemic to 491,884 cases and the death toll to 7,236 people.

Orange County leads Central Florida with the most COVID-19 cases at 29,927 positive tests since mid-March. More than 850 people have been hospitalized in the county and 239 people have died.

Lawmaker hospitalized with COVID-19

Joe Byrnes, WMFE

State Representative Randy Fine's battle with COVID-19 has taken a turn for the worse.

He reported on Facebook Sunday that X-rays show "pretty serious damage" in his lungs. He has been hospitalized as a precaution.

The Republican lawmaker, who represents southern Brevard County, has been sick with COVID-19 for about 13 days. His wife Wendy and sons had the virus, too, but have recovered, he says.

Fine has chronicled his disease in videos and posts on Facebook

Sunday he reported that he was taken to the hospital after a couple days of wracking coughs that shook his whole body.

"I’m not going to lie," Fine posted."I’m pretty scared."

Cancer's stress deepens with coronavirus pandemic 

Yuki Noguchi, NPR

Alexea Gaffney battles health issues every day on multiple fronts. As an infectious disease doctor in Stony Brook, N.Y., she treats patients who have COVID-19. And two years ago, at age 37, she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.

As a result, the physician and single mom, who is also home-schooling her 8-year-old daughter these days, is still under medical treatment for the cancer. And that makes her more vulnerable to the virus.

Gaffney says navigating life from minute to minute feels like a minefield of risks — ones she mitigates with face masks, protective gowns and lots of hand-washing.

"It doesn't stop me from getting nervous every single day: 'Is this the day that it gets me?' I anticipate living with this kind of fear for a very long time to come," Gaffney says.

The health threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic is particularly intense for people fighting cancer. Medication weakens the immune system. Cancer treatments are often delayed. And many have lost their jobs and, along with that, their health insurance benefits.

recent survey by the American Cancer Society found that nearly half of cancer patients say the pandemic has affected their mental health and their ability to pay for cancer treatment. An even greater share — 67% — say they worry about the impact that relaxed rules around social distancing in their state or community will have on their health.

"Insurance is a major predictor of whether someone can stay in treatment, and so we know it's a risk factor," says Dr. Laura Makaroff, senior vice president for prevention and early detection at the American Cancer Society. "As the pandemic continues, the number of people who are worried about their ability to get care that they need or continue in treatment is going up."

For some cancer patients and their families, daily life can feel like a string of life-or-death choices that pit the risks of catching the virus against other dire downsides: Should I brave the hospital for cancer treatment — or delay it and risk relapse? Should I continue going to work, or looking for work — or stay home and risk the financial fallout? Do I send the kids to school — or try to home-school and keep them isolated from their friends?

Read the full article here.

Osceola County CARES Act portal opens for residents

Abe Aboraya, WMFE

Osceola County residents can apply for up to $5,000 dollars in mortgage or rental assistance. 

Residents who have lost their jobs or had a drop in income from COVID-19 are eligible to apply.

Osceola County Chair Woman Viviana Janer released a public service announcement about the program. 

“Regardless of where you live in the county or your income will have the opportunity to apply for rental and mortgage foreclosure prevention assistance. I know many of you may have sought assistance previously, and I want you to know that we’re streamlining the process.”

The applications are open today through next week, and residents can apply for three months worth of assistance. 

According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Osceola County’s unemployment rate of nearly 23 percent is the worst in the state - followed by Orange, Lake and Polk counties.

Magic build big lead, stay on roll in 132-116 win over Kings

The Associated Press

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Nikola Vucevic had 23 points and 11 rebounds, Aaron Gordon scored 19 of his 22 points in the first half and the Orlando Magic continued a strong restart with a 132-116 win over the Sacramento Kings.

But the Magic lost Jonathan Isaac again when he tore the ACL in his left knee, the same knee he hurt Jan. 1 that kept him out until the restart.

De’Aaron Fox scored 13 points coming off a career-high 39 in the restart opener for the Kings.

They have lost both games in the bubble as they chase the final playoff spot in the West.

Birx warns U.S. coronavirus epidemic is in 'new phase' as cases and deaths climb

Rachel Treisman, NPR

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said on Sunday that the U.S. is in a "new phase" of the pandemic, urging people to follow public health guidance as cases continue to climb in many parts of the United States.

"What we're seeing today is different from March and April," Birx said on CNN's State of the Union. "It is extraordinarily widespread — it's into the rural as equal urban areas."

The U.S. has surpassed more than 4.6 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 154,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Cases have skyrocketed in many Southern and Western states in recent months, and members of the White House's coronavirus task force are warning of emerging hot spots in the Midwest.

The latest national ensemble forecast, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, predicts the U.S. could record as many as 182,000 total deaths by Aug. 22, just three weeks away.

Read the full article here.

Florida to host canceled New York NASCAR race

The Associated Press

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) — Business owners and local officials are predicting the decision to cancel the NASCAR Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International later this month will be a major economic loss for the Finger Lakes region of New York.

NASCAR and Watkins Glen International have cited coronavirus-related health regulations and logistics issues for the decision to move the event to the Daytona International Speedway road course in Florida.

It had been scheduled to take place Aug. 13-16. Schuyler County Administrator Timothy O’Hearn told the Poughkeepsie Journal the NASCAR weekend generates about $50 million in revenue for the region.

Relaxed: Dressed-down look is making NBA coaches happy

The Associated Press

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — NBA sidelines tend to look like fashion runways these days, with coaches generally wearing tailored suits, sharp ties and polished dress shoes.

So Taylor Jenkins of the Memphis Grizzlies went out and bought appropriately for his first chance at being a head coach.

But at the restart of the season at Walt Disney World, the dress code has been relaxed to allow polo shirts, slacks and even sneakers.

And coaches are thankful for the change, with some saying they hope it can be permanent.

Rate of manatee deaths is up this year despite coronavirus pandemic

Jessica Meszaros, WUSF The rate of manatee deaths is above average in Florida so far this year. But there is a gap in state data between April and May due to coronavirus restrictions. "As of July 24th, 388 sea cow deaths have been recorded for 2020 - that's compared to the five-year average of 366 around this time of year." Martine de Wit is a veterinarian with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. She says there's no particular single leading cause of death. But when the state shut down due to COVID-19, researchers stopped performing necropsies on the dead manatees. "We were getting our guidelines back up and running to do it as safely as possible for our staff. But what we did continue was respond to manatees that were in need of rescue." The number of unrecovered manatee bodies averages around 30 by this time of year. But this year so far clocked in 132 manatee carcasses not recovered or fully examined.

In non-coronavirus news: NASA astronauts return to Earth after historic SpaceX test flight

Brendan Byrne, WMFE
Two NASA astronauts are back on Earth after spending two months on the International Space Station. It was the first time NASA astronauts flew on a commercially designed and launched spacecraft.

It took 19 hours for astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to make the trip from the station to splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico. The two-month mission was a critical test of the Crew Dragon capsule, designed to ferry NASA astronauts to the ISS, ending a nearly decade-long reliance on the Russian space agency for rides to the station. Work now begins reviewing the data ahead of the next SpaceX crew launch, says SpaceX President Gweynn Shotwell: "I think based on the results that we've seen so far, there's more data obviously to go look at. But based on the results so far, I'm very comfortable." Three NASA astronauts and a Japanese astronaut are slated to launch on a Crew Dragon from Kennedy Space Center later this year.

Laurel Braitman: From healthcare workers to the rest of us — How can we better cope during the pandemic?

TED Radio Hour, NPR Healthcare jobs are already stressful. Add a pandemic... and ongoing police brutality? And it's a lot. We hear from physicians of color and TED Fellow Laurel Braitman about taking care of ourselves.

Sharing the vaccine

The Indicator from Planet Money, NPR Across the world, there are more than 150 coronavirus vaccine candidates. Governments naturally want to protect their own citizens, ensuring they have access to a vaccine once it's developed. Should it horde the vaccine to make sure all of its own citizens are immunized first, or should it agree in advance with other countries to share the vaccine across borders? Chad Bown of the Peterson Institute talks to us about why it makes economic and political sense for the country that develops the vaccine first to share with everyone else.

High-ranking state official tests positive for COVID-19

Robbie Gaffney, WFSU
Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch has caught the coronavirus. He is the highest-ranking state official known to have tested positive.

The News Service of Florida reports Mark Inch began experiencing mild symptoms after returning from a statewide conference and visiting a North Florida prison. The Florida Department of Corrections is not disclosing the name or location of the conference or whether Inch was physically close with any inmates or workers who tested positive in the prison he visited. He has been going to numerous prisons during the pandemic to provide support, but is now currently self-isolating. This comes as more than 8,000 prisoners and more than 1,000 corrections workers have been infected with COVID-19. As of Friday, 50 inmates have died from complications related to the disease.

Florida Sen. Rick Scott on coronavirus relief negotiations

Alexander Gonzalez, WLRN U.S. Senate lawmakers plan to continue talks Monday over a new coronavirus relief bill. Florida’s former governor and now Republican U.S. Senator Rick Scott spoke on NPR’s Here & Now last Friday. He said it would be a mistake not to reach an agreement. "I hope that everybody will come back with a renewed focus to say, let’s focus on the virus, focus on the unemployed, focus on reopening our economy. We’re borrowing an unprecedented amount of money, and we’re never going to be able to pay for this if we don’t get this economy reopened again." Republicans are proposing one trillion dollars in spending. Democrats are asking for three trillion dollars. Their plan would also extend a 600 dollar unemployment booster until January. That federal payment for coronavirus relief expired last month.

Leon County sees rise in Election Day poll worker applicants

Robbie Gaffney, WFSU In Leon County, there’s an uptick in people applying to be poll workers on Election Day. The deputy supervisor of elections says that’s in part due to an order signed by the governor.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an order in June allowing state employees to take more time off to work the polls. They can now work 16 hours instead of eight on Election Day. Chris Moore is Leon County’s Deputy Supervisor of Elections. “So that allows them to work, you know, the full day of the 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Election Day. And so they’re able to get—use their administrative time for training as well as for Election Day.” Moore says this change is helping increase the number of people signing up to be poll workers. He says in late June, his office received about 20 to 30 applications a day.

Coronavirus Q&A: Running outside, petting dogs, and more

Short Wave, NPR What's the deal with wiping down groceries? How often should you sanitize your phone? Can you greet other people's dogs? In this episode, an excerpt of Maddie's appearance on another NPR podcast where she answered those questions and more.

Pac-12 football players push for opt-out option amid COVID-19 concerns

The Associated Press

A group of Pac-12 football players says it won't practice or play until its concerns about playing during the COVID-19 pandemic and other racial and economic issues in college sports are addressed.

The players posted a statement on The Players' Tribune website and on social media and sent out a news release.

One of the players tells The Associated Press that more than 400 of his peers throughout the Pac-12 have been communicating about the issues they are raising.

The players are concerned about the risks of COVID-19 and think the conference and NCAA lack transparency, uniformity and adequate enforcement infrastructure. The news release listed the names of 13 Pac-12 players, including Oregon star safety Jevon Holland.

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