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Your Tuesday Update: Marion County Deaths Spike, Florida Adds Fewer Than 6,000 New Cases, Orange County Schools Summer Meal Service Ends

Photo: Anastasiia Chepinksa
Photo: Anastasiia Chepinksa

Marion County coronavirus deaths spike

Joe Byrnes, WMFE

Marion County added an unprecedented 12 people today to its death toll from COVID-19.

The dead ranged in age from 68 to 90. All but one were from the Ocala area, and seven are from long-term care facilities.

So far the county has reported 76 coronavirus-related deaths, 66 of those since the beginning of July.

The record number of deaths comes as the Ocala City Council considers an emergency ordinance to mandate mask wearing indoors. The ordinance, which is up for a vote this evening, asks business owners to ensure compliance.

Violators would receive $25 civil fines after a second warning.

At the last meeting in Ocala, doctors presented a petition signed by more than 500 medical professionals urging the council to mandate masks. Despite their pleas, the measure failed last time.

Florida adds fewer than 6,000 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

The Florida Department of Health reported 5,446 new coronavirus cases and 245 new coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday.

That brings the total number of cases in the state since the start of the pandemic to close to 500,000 and the death toll to 7,416 people.

Orange County continues to lead Central Florida with the most coronavirus cases at 30,140 positive COVID-19 test results.

Almost 870 people have been hospitalized in the county and 241 people have died since mid-March.

The Salvation Army of Orlando hosts drive-thru food distribution on Tuesday

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

The Salvation Army of Orlando is hosting a drive-thru food distribution on Tuesday at its West Colonial Drive location.

Volunteers will pass out 400 meal boxes to Orange County residents. Each of the boxes contains five pounds of chicken breast, milk, cheese, butter and fresh produce.

The event runs from 1 to 3 p.m. today and is first-come first-served.

Walk-ups are discouraged due to COVID-19.

Orange County Schools Summer Meal Service ends

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

Orange County Schools has officially closed its Summer Meal Service program to prepare for the upcoming school year. 

All regular school food distribution sites including cafeterias will reopen for the fall next week Monday, August 10. 

Parents should have received six breakfasts and six lunches at meal sites today to hold kids over for the rest of the week.

Families can apply to receive free and reduced price meals at myschoolapps.com.

State-run testing sites reopen after Isaias

Abe Aboraya, WMFE

Free COVID-19 testing resumes Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the Orange County Convention Center.

The Orange County site was one of a dozen state-run test sites that shut down ahead of Hurricane Isaias last Thursday. 

Anyone at least five years of age or older with symptoms can get a self-administered swab. Those with symptoms are put in a separate line to get results faster.

Back-to-school tax 'holiday' this weekend

Tom Urban, WLRN
Retailers reeling from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic hope parents use a chance to save some money this weekend. State lawmakers in the spring designated August 7th to 9th as a back-to-school “holiday” in which sales taxes are lifted on clothes and footwear under 60 dollars and most school supplies that cost 15 or less. A third component of the holiday - no sales tax on the first one thousand dollars of non-commercial laptops, personal computers and some related accessories - has been drawing the most attention as county school districts debate when and how students will begin their lessons. Florida Retail Federation President Scott Shalley says many shops will offer extra discounts this weekend. “It provides a shot in the arm for all Floridians. The retail community certainly would like to see folks turn out and prepare for school, and parents and families need to prepare, whether it’s virtual or in the classroom.” Shalley says jobs are also at stake as the retail industry has been hit hard by the economic fallout of the virus. The holiday, and a similar holiday for disaster preparation items held before the start of the on-going Atlantic hurricane season, were the survivors of a trimmed down tax package passed by the legislature. The school shopping holiday is expected to account for about 41.8 million dollars of savings for Floridians.

United Faculty of Florida doubles down on request for online classes

Regan McCarthy, WFSU The United Faculty of Florida says heading back to campus this fall could risk the lives of students and faculty members. The group, which represents university and college faculty across the state wants Gov. Ron DeSantis to call for online learning only next semester. Karen Morian is the group’s president. She says at this point, there’s no time left for making safe back-to-campus plans. “We think we’re beyond that. We think too many of our schools are not making plans that we consider fully safe and with the resurgence, the situation is not right for students to [go] into crowded classrooms and then have those students go out and be in community contact.” The group sent a letter to DeSantis and state education officials last week asking them to call for online-only classes. After saying they’d received “no formal response,” the group sent another set of letters Monday urging a change based on the state’s rising coronavirus numbers.

WHO chief warns 'there might never be' a silver bullet for coronavirus

Laurel Wamsley, NPR

Despite progress made on a vaccine against COVID-19, "there's no silver bullet at the moment and there might never be," the World Health Organization's director-general warnedon Monday.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus' words marked six months since the organization declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern. Tedros said that at that point, on Jan. 30, "there were fewer than 100 cases and no deaths outside of China." Three months later, the world had 3 million reported cases of COVID-19 and more than 200,000 deaths.

Six months on, the figures have only worsened: now 18.1 million global cases and more than 690,000 deaths, according to the tracker at Johns Hopkins University.

Tedros noted multiple vaccine candidates are in the third phase of clinical trials and expressed hope that a number of them will be effective to prevent infection by the coronavirus.

But until then, the world is reliant on "the basics" of disease control, he said:

"Testing, isolating and treating patients, and tracing and quarantining their contacts. Do it all. "Inform, empower and listen to communities. Do it all. "For individuals, it's about keeping physical distance, wearing a mask, cleaning hands regularly and coughing safely away from others. Do it all. "The message to people and governments is clear: Do it all."

And when the disease is under control, he urged, "Keep going!"

Phase three testing is designed to see if a vaccine candidate actually prevents disease. WHO reports that as of July 31, six vaccine candidates are in phase three.

Read the full article here.

Census, cut short a month, rushes to finish all counting efforts by Sept. 30

Hansi Lo Wang, NPR

The Census Bureau is ending all counting efforts for the 2020 census on Sept. 30, a month shorter than previously announced, the bureau's director confirmed Monday in a statement. That includes critical door-knocking efforts and collecting responses online, over the phone and by mail.

The latest updates to the bureau's plans are part of efforts to "accelerate the completion of data collection and apportionment counts by our statutory deadline of December 31, 2020, as required by law and directed by the Secretary of Commerce," who oversees the bureau, Director Steven Dillingham said in the written statement posted on the bureau's website.

These last-minute changes to the constitutionally mandated count of every person living in the U.S. threaten the accuracy of population numbers used to determine the distribution of political representation and federal funding for the next decade.

With roughly 4 out of 10 households nationwide yet to be counted and already delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, the bureau now has less than two months left to try to reach people of color, immigrants, renters, rural residents and other members of historically undercounted groups who are not likely to fill out a census form on their own.

Read the full article here.

The virus is out of control, and kids are headed back to school anyway

Consider This, NPR

Millions of students are getting ready to head back to school. Some already have.

NPR'sAnya Kamentez reports on what happens when positive cases crop up — as they inevitably will.

School nurses understand the challenges of returning to school safely better than just about anyone. But NPR's Clare Lombardo reports many nurses have no input in the process.

Pregnancy and COVID-19. What we know and how to protect yourself.

Short Wave, NPR

How dangerous is COVID-19 for pregnant women and their babies?

It's the million dollar question.

Dr. Laura Riley, the chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Weill Cornell Medicine and the Obstetrician-in-Chief at New York-Presbyterian, explains what we know at this point from the available research and what pregnant women can do to protect themselves.

Miami Marlins travel to Baltimore after nightmarish first stop

The Associated Press

MIAMI (AP) — The nightmarish first stop of the season for the Miami Marlins has finally ended.

On Sunday the Marlins left Philadelphia, where they were stranded for a week after their season-opening series because of a coronavirus outbreak that sidelined half of the team.

The Marlins, minus the affected players who already returned to Miami, traveled to Baltimore, where they are scheduled to resume play Tuesday.

A person familiar with the situation says that for the second day in a row, the Marlins had no new positive tests among players and staff. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the results had not been publicly released.

Magic's Isaac now staring at another, longer knee rehab

The Associated Press

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The Orlando Magic spent their day off dealing with the aftereffects of losing Jonathan Isaac to a torn ACL in his left knee.

ACL tears can take many months, perhaps even a full year, to recover from in most cases.

And given the timing of this injury, it raises the possibility that Isaac could miss much of the 2020-21 season no matter when it starts.

Magic coach Steve Clifford says Isaac's injury is “crushing."

Early voting begins in some Florida counties

Tom Urban, WLRN
Early voting for Florida’s August 18th primary elections began Monday in 28 of the state’s 67 counties. The practice is mandated from Saturday, August 8th through the 15th, but local supervisors of elections have the discretion to begin sooner and to keep early-voting locations open on Sunday, August 16th. Some large counties including Duval, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach and Hillsborough opened their early voting locations Monday, along with several of Florida’s smaller counties. Mark Earley is the Supervisor of Elections in Leon County. He is using all available early voting days, to help avoid large crowds on Election Day. “We do have early voting. We are opening it up for two weeks. I think we’ll be able to keep those sites open for the full two weeks. I don’t expect that kind of staffing problem, but certainly we are also pushing vote-by-mail so people always have some method.” According to the state Division of Elections, there are currently 13.8 million registered voters in Florida. Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 250,000 people.

Florida governor and attorney general test negative after attending sheriffs meeting

Robbie Gaffney, WFSU
Florida’s governor, attorney general, and corrections secretary all attended a Florida Sheriffs Association meeting last week. Five people who attended that meeting have now tested positive for the coronavirus.

The News Service of Florida reports the state’s Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch has tested positive for the coronavirus after attending the meeting and visiting a prison. Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody say they’ve tested negative. Another attendee, incoming House Speaker Chris Sprowls says he feels fine, but didn’t disclose whether he has been tested. The Florida Sheriffs Association says its meeting exceeded social distancing guidelines. People had to sit 10 feet apart and wear masks. A total of five attendees so far have reported testing positive for the virus.

Runcie: Schools won't reopen unless community does its part to slow COVID-19 spread

Jessica Bakeman, WLRN
Broward County will start the new school year virtually at the end of the month. Superintendent Robert Runcie says he hopes to eventually bring students back into classrooms — but only when it’s safe. He delivered a virtual state of the district address Monday morning. “I will continue to ask you — our community — for help: The only way our district will be able to open our school buildings is when the community has lowered the number of COVID-19 cases.” To make that happen, he says people have to follow health experts’ advice: Wear face coverings, wash hands and practice social distancing. Runcie also renewed his push for an infusion of federal dollars into schools struggling to operate during the pandemic. “We ask that everyone fight for our children by advocating for our federal government to pass a coronavirus relief package and provide at least 200 billion to public schools across this country that serve over 50 million students.” Runcie says the funding is necessary to pay for food, devices and internet access for students and personal protective equipment for school employees.

Fried says campaign isn't dig at governor's

Blaise Gainey, WFSU
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is launching what she calls a non-partisan, research-based campaign to slow the spread of the coronavirus. It comes just after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced an initiative Friday to unite Floridians in the fight against COVID-19.

Fried, the only Democrat on the Florida Cabinet, says her initiative isn’t criticism of the Republican governor’s "One Goal One Florida" campaign. “I have not seen the governor’s video; from my understanding it was just a video on Friday. Ours is multi-dimensional, multi-channels from PSA announcements, to videos, to toolkits and certainly would love everyone’s voice united on this and certainly would welcome the governor to create one of these videos himself so that we are speaking in one voice.” Fried’s push includes practicing proper hygiene, social distancing and wearing masks. She calls it "Be SMART Florida.” Fried says when it comes to moving into the next phase of reopening there should be a pause. She also says leaders should consider scaling back to things like outdoor seating only or more limited capacity at restaurants.

You 2.0: Our pursuit of happiness

Hidden Brain, NPR Psychologist  Elizabeth Dunn studies happiness. She says at the heart of her research is a sad idea. "Whatever we have, we tend to get used to it. So no matter how awesome our lives might be, or what wonderful things come into our lives, we tend to get used to them over time, and the pleasure that they provide gradually diminishes." This idea has sometimes been called the hedonic treadmill. "It conveys this idea that we're sort of stuck. No matter how hard we try to get happier, we can't." This week on  Hidden Brain, we kick off You 2.0 — our annual summer series about how to approach life's chaos with wisdom — with ways to understand and step off of the hedonic treadmill.

Airline food for sale. No plane ticket required

Daniel Estrin, NPR Miss international travel? Why not recreate the experience in the comfort of your own home with some airplane food? A leading airline food company in Israel is offering its in-flight meals to the general public as a low-cost delivery option during the pandemic. Tamam Kitchen, which services Israel's El Al airlines, Turkish Airlines and other international carriers flying out of Tel Aviv, piloted the idea in late July as a way to stay in business. The pandemic is still keeping most flights grounded and many of the company's 550 workers are furloughed. After Israel flattened its coronavirus curve this spring, Tamam cooks were back into the kitchen stocking up for what they expected to be a busy summer travel season, but got stuck with lots of tiny meal trays instead. "We have to rethink and reinvent ourselves," said Nimrod Demajo, vice president of operations at Tamam, which is headquartered at Israel's international airport in Tel Aviv. "We came up with this idea, and it was like, you know, like lightning strikes us." Read the full article here.

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