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Your Friday Update: Florida Adds More Than 6,000 New Cases, Film Industry Could Give Florida Economy a Boost, Winter Garden Student Gets Coronavirus

Photo: Kelly Sikkema
Photo: Kelly Sikkema

Florida adds more than 6,000 new coronavirus cases

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

The Florida Department of Health reported 6,148 new coronavirus cases and 228 new coronavirus-related deaths on Friday. 

That brings the total number of cases in the state since the beginning of the pandemic to 563,285, and the death toll to 9,141 residents. 

Orange County continued to lead Central Florida with the most coronavirus cases, adding 286 new cases today for a total of 32,861 positive tests since mid-March. 

An Orange County private school student is the county's first case of coronavirus in a child since the school year restarted on Monday.

Film industry could give Florida economy a boost

Gina Jordan, WFSU
Film and TV productions shut down around the country as COVID-19 spread. Film Florida, a not-for-profit trade association, has a new president who thinks show biz productions could be a major part of Florida’s economic recovery. Florida is home to the coming-of-age series David Makes Man. It was filmed in Orlando and began streaming last year on HBO Max. “When an average feature film or TV series films in a location, they spend roughly $20 million in the local community in just 3 or 4 months while hiring approximately 1,500 Floridians,” says Gail Morgan, new president of the Film Florida Board of Directors. National Geographic’s The Right Stuff is another production kicking some money into state and local coffers. Filming recently took place in downtown Tampa and nearby Sanford, with most filming being done in Orlando and the Space Coast. The Right Stuff series about Mercury Seven astronauts will premiere on Disney Plus later this year. “$20 million going directly into the pockets of local individuals and small businesses at the tune of $150,000 per day while generating tax revenues for both the local and state government, that can be an important part in getting Florida’s economy going,” says Morgan, who will continue in her role of Destin-Fort Walton Beach Film Commissioner. She says Florida is losing too many productions to Georgia and other states that offer incentives, like tax rebates. “Florida is only one of 17 states in America that doesn’t have a program, and it’s the only state in the Southeast without a program which puts us at a major competitive disadvantage.” Florida’s film tax incentive program expired in 2016, and the last two legislative sessions saw bills that tried and failed to bring it back. “This legislation has an excellent return on investment (ROI),” Morgan says. “For every one dollar Florida invests, more than 5 dollars will be spent in the state.” That's the ROI often touted by lawmakers and supporters of film incentives over the last decade. State economists found differently in a 2018 report. For now, Film Florida is focused on keeping everyone on the set COVID-19-free. The association was one of the first in the country to release a list of recommendations for maintaining clean and healthy sets. It followed up with two virtual town halls and is also distributing personal protective equipment to production teams.

Magic snap 5-game skid with 133-127 victory over Pelicans

The Associated Press

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Nikola Vucevic scored 23 points on 10-of-11 shooting from the floor and the Orlando Magic showed up for the postseason by beating the New Orleans Pelicans 133-127 on Thursday to snap a five-game skid.

Both teams were missing many of their top players in a regular-season finale that carried no playoff implications.

Orlando was locked into the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and will face the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in a first-round series beginning Tuesday.

New Orleans already was out of playoff contention.

Winter Garden student gets coronavirus

Amy Green, WMFE

Leaders are reporting Orange County’s first coronavirus case in a school. 

Raul Pino of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County says a 9-year-old child tested positive at a private school in Winter Garden. 

“They wear masks at all times in the classroom, so we consider the exposure was minimal to the students and teachers.”

He says eight students in the class were exposed. All are under quarantine, and the child’s family has been advised to get tested. 

When $600 goes away

The Indicator from Planet Money, NPR

Millions of jobless Americans are desperate to know whether their unemployment benefits will be extended, and by how much.

But Congress just went on vacation.

Joe Biden: For the next 3 months, all Americans should wear a mask when outside

Asma Khalid, NPR

Joe Biden is calling for everyone in the United States to wear a mask, well into the fall.

"Every single American should be wearing a mask when they're outside for the next three months, at a minimum," Biden said Thursday afternoon in remarks in Wilmington, Del. "Every governor should mandate mandatory mask-wearing. The estimates by the experts are it will save over 40,000 lives."

His comments came after a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic with his new running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, and public health experts. More than 165,000 Americans have died because of COVID-19.

Unlike President Trump, who took months to wear a mask publicly, Biden has long been consistently wearing a mask and encouraging others to do so. But he's never been so explicit about mandates and a timeline.

In an interview with KDKA in Pittsburgh in June, the presumptive Democratic nominee said he would require masks if he were president.

"I would insist that everybody out in public be wearing that mask. Anyone to reopen would have to make sure that they walked into a business that had masks," he said.

Read the full article here.

COVID-19 death rate for Black Americans twice that for whites, new report says

Scott Neuman, NPR

Black Americans are becoming infected with the coronavirus at a rate three times that of whites and they are twice as likely to die from COVID-19, according to a new report from the National Urban League, based partly on data from Johns Hopkins University.

A key focus of Thursday's report is the impact of the pandemic and how the disease has followed the contours of the larger society in falling especially hard on Blacks, Latinos and Indigenous people.

State of Black America Unmasked paints a "bleak picture" of COVID-19 and people of color, the league's CEO, Marc Morial, said.

The pandemic "exposed the fault lines in America's social and economic institutions," the authors of the report said.

The racial disparities that affect how the disease is spreading in America have been identified since the early days of the pandemic, and some of the numbers released Thursday track closely with earlier reports by NPRThe New York Timesand other media outlets.

"We know that these racial, ethnic disparities in COVID-19 are the result of pre-pandemic realities. It's a legacy of structural discrimination that has limited access to health and wealth for people of color," Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, director of the Equity Research and Innovation Center at Yale School of Medicine, told NPR in May.

Read the full article here.

Mail-in ballots sent to Trump, First Lady in Florida

The Associated Press

PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump has requested a mail-in ballot for Florida’s primary election, despite weeks of criticizing the practice.

Palm Beach County election records show ballots were mailed on Wednesday to both the president and First Lady Melania Trump at the Mar-a-Lago resort, which Trump lists as his legal address.

Both previously voted by mail in the presidential preference primary last March.

Following multiple claims that mail-in voting was unsafe and vulnerable to fraud, Trump tweeted a change of mind about the practice last week at least in Florida.

Voters in Tuesday's primary are mainly choosing party nominees for Congress and the state Legislature.

Players kneeling for anthem met with boos before MLS game

The Associated Press

There was a smattering of boos when players from FC Dallas and Nashville SC collectively took a knee during the national anthem before their game in Frisco, Texas.

Dallas defender Reggie Cannon says he was disgusted by the boos at Toyota Stadium when players and officials knelt to call attention to racial injustice.

Dallas and Nashville had not played a game since the season was suspended on March 12 because of the coronavirus.

Positive COVID-19 tests kept the teams out of the MLS is Back tournament in Florida.

Teachers' union lawsuit moves forward

Blaise Gainey, WFSU A schedule is set for mediation in a lawsuit over a state order requiring schools to start in-person classes this month.  The state is demanding that all schools open or face financial consequences. Ron Meyer is the attorney for the Florida Education Association, a state-wide teachers’ union.  He told Judge Charles Dodson during court Thursday he believes reopening will lead to bad results. “There can be no doubt that just rushing to open public schools here in Florida, brick and mortar, is going to create the same type of mess we are seeing across the country where you open them and then you end up closing them because there’s COVID transmission being identified.” The FEA wants the state to allow school districts to decide what date to open. Dodson will hear a motion to dismiss the case Friday. If he doesn’t dismiss, he’s ordered both sides to finish mediating by midnight Tuesday, August 18. A potential injunction hearing is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday if no agreement can be made.

As ICU bed numbers at South Florida hospitals increase, elective procedures start up again

Veronica Zaragovia, WLRN

Hospitals in South Florida are reporting better numbers. They have more ICU beds available. And their nursing shortage is improving.

Jackson Health System is even gearing up to restart elective procedures. Justin Senior is the CEO of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida.

"They are back to a very busy hospital in downtown Miami with quite a few COVID patients to boot, but they should be back to a full-service, fully operational hospital in terms of all of the scheduled procedures that they do in the next few days."

In July, Jackson paused non-emergency or non-urgent surgeries to deal with the surge in COVID-19 patients and a shortage of nurses.

Memorial Healthcare System restarted its elective procedures earlier this week.

Palm Beach County School Board gives families a choice

Wilkine Brutus, WLRN As parents prepare their children for online-only classes in a few weeks, the Palm Beach County School District updated its re-entry plan at a meeting Wednesday. In a 6-1 vote, the Palm Beach County School Board approved a plan to give families a choice: either have children return to physical classrooms once it's safe or continue with distance learning. Superintendent Dr. Donald Fennoy says the board faces more challenges. "We do have a lot of hard things ahead of us. We have to try to make as many accommodations as we can, but we still have to run Palm Beach County Schools. And so, this tension that we’re facing - I’m not going to say that it’s healthy but ladies and gentlemen, it’s necessary. And there’s no way to avoid it." Board member Debra Robinson is a medical doctor. She voted no and says she’s worried about contact tracing issues. She says the Florida Department of Education doesn’t care about children's safety. "Maybe it’s just because of my professional experience that this weighs heavily. It would be nice if I didn’t lose sleep over this. Right? I’m afraid I know what’s going to happen as a consequence of our decisions." The board meets next week to hash out more details.

Bay District Schools seeks to fill openings

Valerie Crowder, WFSU Bay County has 50 vacant teaching positions that school district leaders are rushing to fill. Human Resources Director Shirley Baker says teacher shortages aren’t unusual for the district. Though she says some teachers have refused to return to the classroom as COVID-19 rapidly spreads throughout the community. “There are some staff who either have family members at home that they have great concern for and we have had some staff who have their own underlying conditions and have made different decisions in terms of whether or not they’ll continue their employment or whether or not they’ll take an extended leave.” Baker says the district is hiring additional custodians and substitutes during the pandemic. She says teachers who must self-isolate at home will need a substitute to monitor their class, even when those teachers can connect virtually with students. Bay County Schools reopen for in-person instruction next Thursday.

FSU head coach denies allegations made by wide receiver

Blaise Gainey, WFSU Florida State University’s Football Head Coach Mike Norvell says he’s been transparent about what the team is doing in response to the coronavirus. He made the statement during a press conference after FSU wide receiver DJ Matthews tweeted that he’d tested positive. Matthews deleted the tweet. Later his teammate, Warren Thompson, posted a letter to Twitter claiming the school has been lying about the condition of players. Norvell says the team has been following appropriate safety measures.

“It’s obviously disappointing to see what was said. We’ve been very open and transparent throughout this process. We’ve had a voluntary camp; we’ve had voluntary summer access. We’ve been very transparent throughout all aspects including an additional team meeting two nights ago.” Norvell says all players were tested prior to the start of returning to campus for voluntary training camp. He says they will continue to be tested every week of training camp. The university is not releasing information about whether or not any of those tests yielded positive results.

20 questions to help decide what's best for your kids (and you) this school year

Life Kit, NPR Families with children are in a serious bind. Whether you're looking for options for child care or need resources to keep your kid entertained, this episode will walk you through some ideas to think about for this school year.

Danielle Prieur is WMFE's education reporter.
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