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Your Thursday Update: College Move-In During the Pandemic, How Feds Decide Remdesivir Shipments, Florida Modeled a Smooth Vote-By-Mail Election

Photo: CDC @cdc
Photo: CDC @cdc

Move in, move out: For in-person college, everything rests on the first few weeks

Elissa Nadworny, NPR

The excitement in the air at the University of Georgia is palpable, with move-in days for the fall semester finally here. There are packed cars, overstuffed suitcases, a white shag rug, an old grey futon and a potted succulent named Susie.

But nestled between the familiar college accessories were stark reminders of the coronavirus pandemic: Boxes of cleaning supplies. Masks. Hand sanitizer.

Across the country, hundreds of thousands of college students are making their way to campus to begin the fall semester. At the University of Georgia in Athens about 8,000 students are moving into the dorms this week, beginning an unusual on-campus experience, with a global pandemic as the backdrop.

The state of Georgia has one of the highest rates of coronavirus per capita in the U.S. and unlike other colleges that have transitioned to virtual learning, this flagship university is determined to host students on campus and have many of its classes in person. Nationwide, about 20% of four-year schools are offering classes either partially or fully in person, with another 15% doing a hybrid approach, according to data from the College Crisis Initiative. Those numbers, gathered Wednesday, are continuing to change, as many institutions reverse course.

Read the full article here.

How feds decide on Remdesivir shipments to states remains mysterious

Sydney Lupkin, NPR

By the second week in July, COVID-19 cases in North Carolina were climbing fast.

With nearly 19,000 diagnoses over the previous two weeks, only five states recorded more new coronavirus cases than North Carolina did.

"Today is our highest day of hospitalizations and our second-highest day of cases," Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, announcedon July 9, standing behind a podium in the state's Emergency Operations Center. "Please continue to treat the virus like the deadly threat that it is."

One of the few treatment options for patients seriously ill with COVID-19 is the antiviral drug remdesivir. Authorized by the Food and Drug Administration in May for emergency use in the pandemic, remdesivir is in short supply. The federal government has taken on the responsibility for deciding where vials of the medicine should go.

Between July 6 and July 19, the federal Department of Health and Human Services allocated shipments of remdesivir to 31 states.

North Carolina wasn't one of them.

Read the full article here.

Chaos and confusion: The president, the postal service, and voting by mail

Consider This From NPR, NPR

For months President Trump has tried to suggest voting by mail is not reliable, while 'absentee' voting is. There's no difference.

Georgia Tech still undecided on a starting quarterback

The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Tech is in no hurry to announce a starting quarterback with the scheduled season opener over three weeks away at Florida State.

James Graham, a sophomore, has the edge in experience after starting the final eight games last year. Still, after the team's first padded practice Wednesday, coach Geoff Collins says he's been impressed with youngsters Jordan Yates, Tucker Gleason and Jeff Sims, too.

Regardless who starts at QB, the Yellow Jackets have nowhere to go but up offensively after finishing at or near the bottom of several FBS categories last year.

Disney is nice but for NBA's top teams, no place like home

The Associated Press

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The Lakers and Bucks exited practice to palm trees around them and sunny skies overhead. The weather is good at Walt Disney World.

The service is great. The setting seems ideal.

For the best NBA teams, it’s anything but. The top-four seeds in each conference should be playing in their arenas right now, with home-court advantage in the first two games of their playoff series.

Milwaukee and Los Angeles, both No. 1 seeds, certainly missed the energy of their crowds while dropping their openers. They'll try to bounce back Thursday along with Indiana, another top-four team that lost.

Florida modeled a smooth mail election. Yes, Florida.

The Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Election officials are bracing for a prolonged period of uncertainty after Election Day in November because states aren't ready for an influx of mail ballots.

But Tuesday's primary in Florida shows that delays aren't inevitable in a mail system. Florida is rarely a poster child for elections, but it has years of experience with mail balloting.

Its laws allow election workers to begin processing those ballots weeks before Election Day.

That way, when polls close, the ballots can be swiftly counted. The outcome of the most competitive races were known Tuesday within hours of polls closing.

Orlando City Soccer Club will allow fans at next three home games

Abe Aboraya, WMFE

Orlando City Soccer Club will have three home games over the next three weeks. 

And in a twist for Orlando’s sports scenes, a limited number of fans will be allowed to watch the games. 

The club made the announcement August 19.

Fans will be required to have masks on, except when eating in their seats, and all vendor purchases will be touchless. 

Dr. Raul Pino with the Orange County Health Department had previously expressed concerns about how fans would enter and exit the stadium while socially distanced.

Orlando City Soccer Club’s first home game is next Wednesday against Nashville. 

Governor warns: Don't neglect mental health during pandemic

Amy Green, WMFE
Gov. Ron DeSantis is calling on Floridians to take care of their mental health as the coronavirus pandemic continues to cause fear and isolation. He convened a round table Wednesday in Altamonte Springs of physicians and criminal justice leaders to discuss data trends that together define the degree of our isolation: In Seminole County alone, the numbers of suicides, overdoses and overdose deaths are up. Crime is down, and many believe it is because things like child abuse are going unreported. “What would probably have more bang for the buck? Testing an asymptomatic 22-year-old or putting some of that money toward mental health in schools or fighting some of the substance abuse? And I think probably the latter would have a little bit more bang for the buck. And it doesn’t mean you don’t do all of these things in combination.” Also part of the round table was First Lady Casey DeSantis, who in May announced a multi-agency initiative on mental health and substance abuse called Hope For Healing Florida. Noting that numbers of hospital visits are down, the leaders urged Floridians to seek help when needed.

MEAC release spring sport schedule for fall sports

Blaise Gainey, WFSU
The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference has released its scheduling model for fall sports that will be played in the spring 2021 semester instead. The plan hinges on the status of the global pandemic.

As of right now, plans are to offer football season next spring. Teams will play a slate of six regional conference games, with teams split into divisions. The games are slated to span from Feb. 27 through April 24, with a championship game set for May 1. Volleyball is also typically played in the fall. Its season will instead be bumped to the first weekend of January. The conference plans to develop regional schedules for other sports in the future. Conference officials announced in July that the fall season would be suspended.

Statewide teachers union rests its case in school reopen challenge, state presents Thursday

Ryan Dailey, WFSU
The first day of hearings in the legal battle over re-opening brick-and-mortar schools in Florida wrapped up Wednesday afternoon. Statewide teachers union, the Florida Education Association, is challenging the state’s order that campuses most open five days per week. The suit alleges the state mandate violates a constitutional requirement that public schools be “safe.” The FEA rested its case Wednesday – part of which included bringing expert witnesses. One of those was Dr. Annette Nielsen. She serves on an advisory board for Orange County Schools.

"Numbers are going to increase. You’re going to have kids get sick, you’re going to have teachers become sick. You’re going to have – everyone in the school will have a close contact who becomes sick. So not only will you have illness, but then in response to that, you’ll also have complications. Whether that’s heart issues, dialysis issues – a multitude of issues that you can have." The state begins presenting its case Thursday morning. Leon County Judge Charles Dodson has repeatedly urged the two sides to reach an agreement. If that doesn’t happen, he says he hopes to make a ruling early next week. In the meantime, more school re-openings throughout the state are looming.

Becky, we hardly knew ye

The Indicator from Planet Money, NPR We bought a junk bond back in December. Then COVID-19 sent the economy into a tailspin, and the company that issued the junk bond declared bankruptcy. But that wasn't the end of the story.

Record vote-by-mail ballots statewide

Blaise Gainey, WFSU
Voting by mail played a central role in the 2020 primary. In Leon County, and across the state, more voters cast their ballots through the mail than by any other method.

In Tuesday’s primary election, in-person voter turnout was historically low, but for good reason. In an effort to social distance and avoid spreading the coronavirus, more Floridians than ever sent their votes through the mail. Statewide, more than 2 million people voted by mail, out of a nearly 4 million total votes cast. Brad Ashwell with All Voting is Local, a voting rights group, provided stats. “According to the state numbers, about 2.3 million voted by mail, 558,430 voted early” In Leon County, the vote-by-mail ballots accounted for almost 44,000 votes—the highest mail-in-ballot turnout ever.

When 'Facetime isn't enough': Friends head to D.C. parks to eat and drink

Nina Kravinsky, NPR The outdoors is a big part of how people socialize during the coronavirus pandemic. Some visit from a distance, on a porch or folding chairs in the yard. In Washington D.C., people have been using the green space inside Dupont Circle, a historic traffic circle downtown. On a recent Friday evening, picnickers sat scattered around on benches and grass lawn, many of them eating from takeout containers. Others are dancing around the circle's marble fountain. Grace Guerrero Ramirez and Ari Davis were lying on the grass, eating pizza they had picked up from a nearby restaurant. Some D.C. restaurants began offering indoor seating in late June after Mayor Muriel Bowser relaxed earlier restrictions on businesses. Amid a subsequent surge in coronavirus cases in July, Bowser instituted a mask mandate for most everyone in public, with exceptions for eating and drinking. "We were hungry and wanting to get some food but we're not quite comfortable with sitting down at an actual restaurant," Davis said. Read the full article here.

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