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Your Friday Update: Florida Adds 180 Coronavirus-Related Deaths, Orlando City Advances Through Tournament, DeSantis Pushes to Reschedule Football Game

Photo: @SnappyShawn
Photo: @SnappyShawn

Florida adds 180 coronavirus-related deaths

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

Florida reported 180 new coronavirus-related deaths on Friday, bringing the total death toll in the state since the start of the pandemic to 7,927 residents.

The state also added 7,686 new coronavirus cases. More than 518,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 since mid-March.

Orange County continues to lead Central Florida with 250 new coronavirus cases for a total of 31,026 residents who have become ill.

Nani has 2 goals and Orlando holds off Minnesota 3-1

The Associated Press

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Nani scored a pair of first-half goals and Orlando City advanced to the MLS is Back tournament title match by holding off Minnesota United 3-1 on Thursday night.

Orlando will play the Portland Timbers, who defeated the Philadelphia Union 2-1 in the other semifinal on Wednesday night.

The championship game will be held on Tuesday.

Mason Toye pulled Minnesota within 2-1 with his first goal of the season in the 83rd minute, and the Lions withstood United's attack down the stretch before Benji Michel's goal for the final margin.

Prices for COVID-19 vaccines are starting to come into focus

Sydney Lupkin, NPR

How much will vaccines against the coronavirus cost? Even though none has finished clinical testing, some clues about pricing are starting to emerge.

Cambridge, Mass.-based Moderna, one of the leading horses in the vaccine race, has already made deals at between $32 and $37 per dose of its experimental coronavirus vaccine in agreements with some foreign countries, rattling consumer advocates, who fear an unfair deal for U.S. taxpayers.

These Moderna prices reflected "smaller volume agreements," Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said during aconference callWednesday to discuss the company's second-quarter financial results. He added that the price would come down for larger volume agreements, hinting at a lower price for U.S. taxpayers.

Still, advocates are worried. Moderna has been developing its vaccine with hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of help from the federal government.

In mid-April, the drugmaker won a $483 million award from BARDA, the federal Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, toward research and development of its coronavirus vaccine. And that awardcould ultimately be worth almost $1 billion if the company meets all its goals under the contract, according to federal records.

Read the full article here.

With $600 unemployment aid gone, homelessness is what keeps this mother up at night

Stacey Vanek Smith, NPR

Back in March, Sandy Villatoro was laid off from her job as a housekeeper at a hotel in downtown Phoenix. But the weekly $600 unemployment payment she had been receiving during the coronavirus pandemic kept her family afloat — until that benefit expired last week.

The mother of two children is still paying off hospital bills from her pregnancy last year. She also needed to upgrade the family's Internet service so her son could keep up with his school's remote learning. At the same time, Villatoro's husband, a roofer whose work has slowed during the pandemic, isn't bringing in enough money to cover the family's bills.

"My bills were piling up," she said. "It was so fast that I couldn't keep up with it."

Initially, her status as a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — which grants protections to people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children — made her nervous about applying for unemployment benefits. But as she learned from a Facebook group, being a DACA recipient doesn't disqualify her from unemployment assistance.

She used the $600 in weekly aid to get ahead on her monthly car payments, hoping that if her unemployment benefits were ever cut off, she might get a break on late payments in the future.

Villatoro prides herself on being a smart budgeter, but without the weekly payments, she's not sure how she will make ends meet in the coming weeks.

"I feel so vulnerable," she said. "I hate asking for help, I hate asking for a handout, but it's something I need at the current moment, my kids need it. It's so hard just to even say I need it."

Read the full article here.

Friendships change. Here's how to deal

Life Kit, NPR

Friendships inevitably shift over time — and during COVID-19, you might be facing more changes than usual.

But those shifts in relationships aren't necessarily a bad thing.

Life Kit consulted the experts about how to take a hard look at friendships — and how to break up with a pal, if that's the best route to take. This episode originally ran on August 21, 2019.

Florida governor pushes to reschedule UF-FSU football game

The Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is pushing to get the annual football game between Florida State and the University of Florida rescheduled.

He said Thursday that keeping the famed rivalry going will be good for the state. The two schools have played each other every year since 1958.

But Florida State is in the Atlantic Coast Conference and Florida is in the Southeastern Conference. The ACC and SEC are limiting teams to an in-conference schedule only.

DeSantis says he's going to work on keeping the rivalry going over the next few weeks.

Florida rescinds quarantine mandate for New York travelers

The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has rescinded an order requiring people traveling from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to the Sunshine State to quarantine or isolate for 14 days.

The order signed by DeSantis and made public Thursday also eliminated detailed requirements restaurant employees had to meet before they could return to work.

DeSantis’ latest order rescinded a mandate issued in March that people must quarantine upon arriving in Florida if they had come from the New York area, which at the time was the epicenter of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Florida on Thursday reported 7,650 new coronavirus cases.

Orange County Public School teacher prepares to return to class

Talia Blake, WMFE
School restarts next week across Central Florida, but most counties still don’t have a solid reopening plan. Sean Griffin is an elementary school teacher with Orange County Public Schools who splits his time between New York and Florida. His prime residency is in New York, but he lives in Florida during the school year while he teaches. Griffin says with the uncertainty of the pandemic, he plans to stay in New York this upcoming school year.

"In my basement, I have a large finished basement. I'm developing a learning pod for the school district that I live in up here. I'm going to take on probably six students at most and kind of have a small homeschool setting down here for students that are going to work virtually." Griffin hopes to return for the following school year that will begin fall 2021. Orange County Public Schools start this school year on Monday.

Third largest school district in Florida goes remote-only for first four weeks

Kerry Sheridan, WUSF The Hillsborough County School Board Thursday voted to delay the opening of school buildings due to COVID-19 concerns. The five-to-two vote means school will start on schedule August 24th, but will be remote, with virtual learning only for the first four weeks. The decision came after a panel of medical experts told the board they would not advise opening until the level of positive coronavirus tests is below five percent. It's currently around 11 percent in Hillsborough County. Board member Stacy Hahn was among those who voted for the delay. "This wonderful brick-and-mortar system that we know is the premier education standard does not exist under the current conditions in our community. We will have interrupted instruction. That is not good instruction." The school board will meet on September 8th to discuss the issue again.

Finger pointing continues over online unemployment system

Sky Lebron, WJCT  Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to lay blame on former Gov. Rick Scott’s administration for the state’s faulty unemployment website. In Jacksonville Thursday, DeSantis said the unemployment system created in 2013 did not justify its 77-million-dollar price tag. DeSantis says Florida’s inspector general is looking into why the unemployment system was so expensive yet so ineffective. “Our system wasn't really that old. I mean, some of these systems are from the 70s. You know, this was one that was supposed to be more modern, and it was only able to handle I think, 2,500 folks, when we had 100,000 people logging in and so I think it's absolutely worth looking for.” In an interview with a Miami TV news station this week, DeSantis said the system was created with intentional filing roadblocks to pay out the least amount of benefits possible. U.S. Senator Rick Scott fired back Wednesday, saying DeSantis is just blaming others rather than taking responsibility for the system’s failure.

Wearing a face mask could be even more important than we thought

Short Wave, NPR A new paper and growing observational evidence suggest that a face mask could protect you from developing a serious case of COVID-19 — by cutting down on the amount of virus that takes root in your body.

How to clear up issues with a vote-by-mail ballot

Danny Rivero, WLRN Statistically, people who vote by mail for the first time are more likely to get their ballot tossed out on a technicality. A record number of people are expected to vote by mail in the coming elections, including Florida’s primary elections on August 18. The most important thing to make sure your vote gets counted - is to read the instructions on the ballot carefully. And once you mail in your ballot or drop it off in person at a drop-off site, it’s always best to follow up. Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections Christina White explains. "As a voter you yourself are able to go onto our website and see that yes, the elections department has received it. And either it was accepted and therefore will be tabulated, or if there’s some sort of deficiency with it. And what I mean by that is if you forgot to sign, or your signature does not match. So I’m encouraging everyone to look at that because if you have a deficiency, you’ve gotta correct it by the deadline in order for that to count." The deadline to resolve any issues with a mail-in ballot is by 5 p.m. two days after Election Day. That’s August 20th at 5 p.m. But like all things, the sooner the better to clear it up.

State granted change of venue in teachers union lawsuit

Ryan Dailey, WFSU Florida’s statewide teachers union is challenging the state’s order to reopen brick-and-mortar schools in the fall. Now, the lawsuit is being moved to a Leon County court. The change to the Second Judicial Circuit, was granted after lawyers for the Department of Education filed a motion to do so. Attorney Angel Cortinas represents the state.

"The state of Florida defendants are entitled to defend their statewide emergency order in a single jurisdiction, in their home venue of Leon County." Lawyers for the Florida Education Association argued the case should be kept in Miami-Dade County’s Eleventh Circuit Court because the area is Florida’s COVID-19 “epicenter.” However, the argument didn’t convince Eleventh Circuit Judge Spencer Eig. "What is the advantage of litigating in Miami-Dade County? If you all, if the plaintiffs had agreed to this motion last week and transferred the case to the 2nd Circuit, then today you all would be talking about public health and education, rather than about civil procedure. And, if I deny the motion, then tomorrow you will be in the 3rd District Court of Appeal talking about civil procedure." FEA President Fedrick Ingram is blasting the change of venue as a, “delay tactic” by the state’s legal team. The FEA filed the suit last month. It alleges the forced opening of brick-and-mortar schools during a public health crisis is unconstitutional.

Florida ports ask Congress for help

Bradley George, WUSF Florida’s ports are asking for help from the federal government. The ports have suffered heavy losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since March, cargo traffic at Florida’s ports has slowed down and cruise ships have sat empty. The Florida Ports Council estimates 169,000 jobs were lost due to the pandemic, and the total economic impact is 23 billion dollars. Ports Council CEO Doug Wheeler says sea terminals have been left out of previous coronavirus relief packages, and that needs to change. "We’re asking from a nationwide standpoint for about three and a half billion dollars and we're looking at about 1.5 of that being directly for seaports themselves nationally, with the additional 2 billion being used for just general maritime sector businesses.” The House has passed a rescue package for ports, but the Senate hasn’t taken up the bill.

FAMU reopening discussed

Blaise Gainey, WFSU Officials at Florida A&M University are moving forward with reopening the campus to returning students. Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer Rica Calhoun explained the school’s approach during Thursday’s board meeting.

"We have three main dates for reopening. The College of Law being on August 10, FAMU [...] on August 19, and the main campus and operations on August 24. The Bragg Stadium site remains open and we’re working toward increasing capacity of the current site for faculty, staff, and students returning to campus." Right now, the University is in phase 4 which includes reconfiguring classrooms to promote social distancing. Certain employees have also started returning to campus. Move-in for students begins August 10.

Carvalho says it took 10 days to get his (negative) COVID-19 test results

Jessica Bakeman, WLRN The new school year will start virtually for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate has to go down before school buildings can open. And turnaround time for testing has to be much quicker. “I was tested two weeks ago. It took me 10 days to get my test. So, to the extent that test results do not come back in 48 hours, it compromises our ability to effectively deploy contact tracing.” A spokeswoman for Carvalho says his test result was negative. The superintendent was speaking Thursday during a virtual luncheon hosted by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. Since the start of the pandemic, Carvalho has said the nation will likely experience, “an unprecedented, historic academic regression.” Now he says he believes students will recover. “I know that in the worst of conditions, human resiliency is adaptive, and past a crisis, it makes up for what it lost. So will we lose a generation? Absolutely not. As long as we’re smart enough to do right by these kids.” Carvalho says Miami-Dade Schools will do that by focusing attention on the students who are struggling the most and making sure all kids have what they need to learn online.

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