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Your Wednesday Update: Trump Considers Giving Convention Speech From White House, Florida Adds Fewer Than 6,000 New Coronavirus Cases, Love Conquers Travel Bans

Photo: Chris Montgomery
Photo: Chris Montgomery

Trump considering giving convention speech from White House

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he's considering delivering his Republican convention speech from the White House.

Such a move would mark an unprecedented use of public property for partisan political purposes.

Trump told Fox News on Wednesday that he's thinking about delivering the speech from the White House because of the security and cost advantages.

The Republican convention is scheduled for Aug. 24-27, with Trump’s speech capping the final night.

The speech was going to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, until Trump feuded with the governor over health restrictions. Trump then moved it to Jacksonville, Florida, but scrapped that plan because of a resurgence of the coronavirus there.

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

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

Florida added 5,409 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday bringing the total number of cases in the state to 502,739 since the start of the pandemic.

The department of health also reported 225 new coronavirus-related deaths. A total of 7,627 residents have died from the virus since mid-March.

Orange County leads Central Florida with more than 30,000 COVID-19 cases in residents.

In the NBA bubble, the race for No. 8 out West is quite wild

The Associated Press

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The best race in the bubble is the race for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and the right to face LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs starting in a couple weeks.

The Lakers have already clinched the No. 1 seed, and now get to sit back and watch the mayhem that’s about to happen.

Here’s the scenario: There are nine days left in the race, with six teams, all with five games remaining, fighting for one spot.

Can love conquer travel bans? Couples divided by pandemic are rallying to reunite

Joanna Kakissis, NPR

Rezan al-Ibrahim understands separation.

A web developer who fled the war in Syria and now has asylum in the Netherlands, he's in a long-distance marriage with his wife, Aysha Shedbalkar, an Indian American math teacher, because of the Trump administration's ban on Syrians.

"She had taken this year off work to stay with me in Amsterdam," he says. "Then the pandemic hit."

They became one of thousands of couples separated by coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

Many are unmarried. In several countries, partners without formal residency, who often visit as tourists, have been largely barred from entering during the pandemic.

The United States restricts travel from places including Brazil, China and much of Europe. The European Union has allowed visitors from a dozen nations, but most countries like the U.S. — where the coronavirus is still surging — remain blocked.

Reuniting is especially difficult for same-sex couples.

"It's easier for some countries to just classify us as friends and not let us in," says Robert Garrison, 42, a high school French teacher in Los Angeles. He usually spends every school break in France with his French partner of four years but now is not allowed into the country.

Read the full article here.

Jessie Woolley-Wilson on the reality of virtual education with Guy Raz

How I Built This, NPR

As debates over virtual learning continue, there are a few companies working to reinvent remote education and improve the student experience.

One such company is DreamBox Learning.

How I Built This host, Guy Raz talked with their President and CEO Jessie Woolley-Wilson, about the realities and future of online learning.

NBCUniversal laying off workers amid pandemic pain

The Associated Press

Comcast’s NBCUniversal is having company-wide layoffs, according to a spokeswoman.

The coronavirus pandemic is hurting operations.

The Wall Street Journal reports that less than 10% of workers are affected, according to an unidentified person familiar with the matter.

NBC's full-time staff is 35,000 people. In its most recent quarter, NBC’s revenue slid 25% to $6.1 billion. Advertisers have pulled back from TV, movies are delayed as theaters are largely shut down and theme parks were closed for most of the quarter.

Other entertainment companies are also feeling the effects of the pandemic.

U.S. lawmakers are trying to hammer out a new coronavirus relief bill

Nicole Darden Creston, WMFE

U.S. lawmakers are trying to hammer out partisan differences over a new coronavirus relief bill, after the $600-a-week Pandemic Unemployment Assistance expired last week.

Some Republican lawmakers want to reduce or eliminate the PUA, saying that the additional $600 per week is a disincentive for people who are out of a job to go back to work.

But economic analyst Hank Fishkind says the numbers just don’t support that idea.

“There was a big study done by Yale last week, and the data are pretty compelling. So, while certainly some people would decide that they’re better off not taking a job and the unemployment that is by far a very small component of the labor force. Most people will be happy to take jobs if there were jobs available.”

Fishkind points out that unemployment assistance is often terminated for people who decline to return to their jobs. 

COVID-19 etiquette: Six common conundrums (and a printable pocket guide)

Life Kit, NPR

Last week, I was inside a convenience store, and a deliveryman was stocking up sodas in the refrigerated aisle without wearing a mask. It made me feel uncomfortable. We were in a small, windowless space together. If the deliveryman had been sick and shedding virus, it could have easily spread through the air inside the store.

As I waited in the checkout line, I felt my anxiety growing. What should I do in this situation? Should I say something?

That's when I could have really used the advice of Elaine Swann, founder of the Swann School of Protocol, an etiquette training institute. She trains people on good manners, for example, how to engage in small talk or which fork to use at the dinner table. Now, amid the coronavirus pandemic, she has been helping people navigate some tricky new social dilemmas — like my convenience store situation.

Although we are living through a pandemic, says Swann, people still want to treat each other with kindness and respect — and "conduct themselves so that they're not offending others, not hurting other people's feelings."

Read the full article here and get the pocket guide.

The Ocala City Council approves a mask ordinance requiring face coverings indoors

Joe Byrnes, WMFE

The vote came on a day when Marion County reported a record 12 deaths from the coronavirus.

The emergency ordinance was offered by Councilman Matthew Wardell. It passed 4-to-1.

Council President Jay Musleh says he supports wearing masks but opposes the idea of a mandate.

"I didn't support your ordinance, but I support what it asks people to do. Put a mask on and wear it if you're going to be inside and you can't social distance."

The mask mandate applies, not to individuals, but to businesses, churches and government offices.

They must require workers to wear masks. They also have to post signs, make announcements and make reasonable requests to visitors who aren't wearing one. 

There are exceptions for small children, certain health conditions and religious objections.

FSU jazz greats give driveway concert

Tom Flanigan, WFSU
For a jazz-loving Tallahassee couple, their home's driveway became a live music stage Tuesday.

Carol Fiore was speechless to find world-famous jazz trumpeter and FSU Music Professor Scotty Barnhart at her door. "Surprise, surprise, surprise! We've got pizza; the guys are on their way...." And within minutes, a sextet comprised of Florida State's resident jazz greats was wailing away in front of the Piney Z neighborhood home. Stan Fiore, now ninety-eight and recovering from a hip fracture, was overjoyed. "This is wonderful for these professors to come out here and play for me!" A sentiment shared wholeheartedly by his wife Carol. "They've taken my breath away! Coming over there, doing this. It's such a treat!" A treat also for the six world-class musicians, obviously delighted to be able to be out playing again for an appreciative audience.

MacDill Air Force Base welcomes new commander

Stephanie Colombini, WUSF
Service members and families at MacDill Air Force Base welcomed their new commander in a socially-distanced ceremony Tuesday. Colonel Benjamin Jonsson takes over command of the 6th Air Refueling Wing after Colonel Steve Snelson stepped down in May to take another assignment. Jonsson spoke in front of a small crowd spread out in an auditorium on the base. Attendees all wore masks. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor was among them. In his welcome speech, Jonsson addressed her and other community leaders who work closely with MacDill. "Your generosity, your support and your partnership are clearly what make this wing and this base, so special. I look forward to getting to know you and being part of this world-class partnership." Jonsson takes over as the area still grapples with the coronavirus pandemic. He'll have to get to know those under his command as many of its members continue to work from home.

An artful pivot

The Indicator from Planet Money, NPR The performing arts industry — an industry worth tens of billions of dollars — has been hit harder than almost any other part of the economy. Its very business model requires what the lockdowns have been designed to prevent: live audience events, where people are packed into enclosed spaces, like theaters and concert halls and opera houses. It will be some time before people can gather in that way again. Most performing arts organizations operate on tight margins at the best of times. And live arts performances are usually quite speculative endeavors, financially. So the business shutdowns necessitated by the response to the spread of coronavirus have put these kinds of companies under particular strain. Still, as in other industries, performing arts companies are adjusting and innovating in a bid to make it through. Today we look at one company, the Wilma Theater, to see how it's responding to this existential threat. And how its story reflects the struggles of performing arts organizations all across the country.

Florida caregiver advocates for in-person visitation at nursing homes

Alexander Gonzalez, WLRN
A Florida caregiver is calling for in-person visitation at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Mary Daniel is from Jacksonville. She started a Facebook group to address the emotional challenges that seniors face during isolation. During a roundtable meeting with state leaders Tuesday, Daniel said technology can’t replace human touch. "Our goal is to get to our loved ones. They need a hug from us. Not a picture of me on FaceTime. Not me at the window. They need us. I mean we will be the most stringent rule followers that you have ever seen because we understand what the risk is." The governor says the state is working on a plan to allow visitors back into long-term care facilities. A visitation ban remains in place statewide.

Broward weighs piloting in-person classes for some students with disabilities

Jessica Bakeman, WLRN
Students with disabilities are among those who are struggling the most under virtual learning. When they’re not at school, they’re not always able to get the specialized attention and therapies they need to thrive. Because of that, Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie initially proposed allowing students with disabilities to resume in-person classes three days a week. But now he has scaled back that plan. He announced Tuesday his new recommendation that the district start a small pilot program in just a few schools, beginning no sooner than August 31st. The district hasn’t finalized the other details. “If we can find staff and families of students with disabilities who are willing to participate, this pilot effort will allow us to better learn and understand the issues and challenges which may come up, and how we can mitigate them.” Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco denounced the plan during a virtual school board meeting Tuesday morning. She said teachers understand that students with disabilities need extra help they can get only at school. “Nobody’s denying that they need it. Every child needs to be in a school setting, in a classroom setting. But no child should be put under some type of situation or condition that they might get deathly sick and die.” Fusco said the plan would endanger the district’s most medically vulnerable students. Her union and others representing school employees are planning a virtual press conference Wednesday to further express their opposition. The Broward School Board will discuss the district’s overall reopening plan next Monday, August 10.

FAMU COVID-19 test site to have antibody testing, separate lane for seniors and symptomatic individuals

Robbie Gaffney, WFSU
The COVID-19 testing site at Florida A&M University will soon offer antibody testing.

Antibody tests tell people whether they have been infected with COVID-19 in the past.

Gov. Ron DeSantis says that knowledge is valuable.

“We’ve seen the antibody rates increase throughout Florida and some days we’ll test 15, 16, 17% of the test takers will be positive for antibodies. Now, it’s not scientifically representative because it’s just first-come, first-serve. But I think that there’s a surprising amount of antibodies out there.”

Many state-sponsored coronavirus test sites will also offer special lanes for people who are symptomatic or 65 years of age and older. DeSantis says those tests will get priority meaning those results will come back more quickly.

Dr. Alina Alonso praises a downward COVID-19 metric in Palm Beach County

Wilkine Brutus, WLRN
Palm Beach County’s health director says the most important indication that shows how much virus is in the community is trending down. Speaking at a virtual commission meeting Tuesday, Dr. Alina Alonso says the trend for the daily lab positivity rate has sat below the recommended 10 percent goal in the last 14 days. And between 8 and 9 percent in the last few days. She says that’s a very positive sign. "I really like the analogy of the Titanic. We are not going to sink. We’re going to get through this. Our community is responding and following our lead." Alonso says parties and family events remain the reason for the spikes as she urges more educational PSAs from the county.

Rafael Nadal opts out of U.S. Open, citing coronavirus concerns

Alana Wise, NPR Rafael Nadal will skip this year's U.S. Open, the defending champion announced in a  series of tweets on Tuesday, citing concerns over the coronavirus and his desire not to travel amid the pandemic. Spain's Nadal would have attempted to tie Roger Federer for most men's Grand Slam titles — 20. Nadal is the second player to pull out of the tournament in recent days. Ashleigh Barty, the world's No. 1 women's singles player, announced last week that because of the pandemic, she  would not compete in the tournament, which starts Aug. 31. As cases of the coronavirus continue to surge, U.S. sport franchises have had to assess how to safely allow players to compete in an industry that typically relies on throngs of cheering fans and close interactions between players. The MLB, the NBA and the NHL have all launched regular seasons, none with fans in attendance. Still, the virus has already infiltrated the MLB, particularly within the  Miami Marlins, where at least 17 players and two coaches have tested positive for the virus. League-wide, more than 80 players and two dozen coaches have been confirmed positive. In the NBA, teams have been strictly sequestered in a " bubble" at Walt Disney World Resort outside Orlando, Fla., where the remaining regular season games will be played. Eight teams did not qualify for the abbreviated season.

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