Your Thursday Update: Two More TSA Officers at MCO Test Positive for Coronavirus, Disney Union Calls for Delayed Reopening, DeSantis Says No Statewide Mask Mandate
Two more TSA workers at Orlando International Airport test positive for coronavirus
Danielle Prieur, WMFE
Two more TSA workers at Orlando International Airport tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday, bringing this week’s total to nine workers who have fallen ill with the virus.
In a message sent to staff, Federal Security Director Pete Garcia says the officers will not return to work until they are cleared by a doctor. The officers’ last day at the checkpoint was Tuesday, June 23.
Garcia said the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority continues to deep-clean security checkpoints.
Seven TSA officers at the airport tested positive for coronavirus yesterday-bringing the total since mid-March to 24 workers who have become sick with COVID-19.
Texas governor hits ‘pause’ on further reopening amid COVID-19 surge
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the state will “pause” any further reopening of its economy for now, a day after he said that Texas is facing a “massive outbreak” of the coronavirus.
“As we experience an increase in both positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, we are focused on strategies that slow the spread of this virus while also allowing Texans to continue earning a paycheck to support their families,” Abbott said in a statement Thursday morning. “The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses. This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business.”
Texas was among the first states to begin the process of reopening, and many businesses are in operation once again. Those businesses that are already permitted to be open may continue to operate under the existing health protocols and capacity restrictions. Bars and restaurants have already opened for indoor seating, and gyms, malls and movie theaters have been allowed to open, too.
Nearly 90,000 Texans filed for unemployment last week, NPR member station KUT reported — about 5,480 fewer new claims than the previous week.
Abbott also halted elective surgeries in four of the state’s largest counties. That move is aimed at expanding hospital capacity as the spike in hospitalizations threatens to overwhelm intensive care units and outstrip available ventilators.
His order suspends elective surgeries at hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties — home to the respective cities of San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and Austin. It directs hospitals in those counties to “postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately, medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition or to preserve the life of a patient who without immediate performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death, as determined by the patient’s physician.”
Abbott said he may add or subtract counties from the list as needs arise.
Read the full article here.
Kentucky Derby rescheduled for September, will take place with fans
Austin Horn, NPR
The Kentucky Derby will take place in the fall with spectators, racing venue Churchill Downs announced on Thursday.
The most famous horse racing event in the world, usually held in May, will now take place from Sept. 1 to Sept. 5. The Kentucky Derby will be on Sep. 5, and the Kentucky Oaks — a race for 3-year-old fillies — will run a day earlier.
Churchill Downs said it worked with state and local health officials to develop a plan that would allow the race to take place amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
The precautions include limited capacity at the historic outdoor venue, no barn access to anyone other than personnel, and an updated code of conduct that says attendees will be “frequently encouraged” to wear masks and to practice social distancing.
“Our team is deeply committed to holding the very best Kentucky Derby ever, and we will take all necessary steps to protect the health and safety of all who attend and participate in the Derby,” Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery said.
“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have established a comprehensive set of operating procedures, which include a multitude of precautionary measures to be followed while fans are in attendance at our facility,” Flanery said.
He added that Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear consulted with the racetrack about the new guidelines.
The Belmont Stakes ran last week in New York with no spectators and drew an estimated 4 million viewers on television. Tiz the Law, who was favored to win at 4-5 odds, took first there. The Preakness Stakes, the third and final race of the Triple Crown, is scheduled for Oct. 3.
CDC: At least 20 million Americans have had coronavirus. Here’s who’s at highest risk
Allison Aubrey, NPR
Millions of Americans have probably had the virus without knowing it.
That’s the conclusion of officials at the Centers of Disease Control and many other experts. “Our best estimate right now is that for every case that was reported, there actually were 10 other infections,” Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, said during a call with reporters Thursday.
Redfield estimates that between 5% to 8% of the U.S. population has been exposed. He points to results from community-wide antibody tests and other surveillance measures that point to this range. But he emphasizes, that leaves more than 90% of Americans who’ve yet to be exposed and remain susceptible.
To date, 2.3 million Americans have confirmed coronavirus cases but by these estimates, the real number could be at least 20 million.
These estimates validate what many public health researchers suspected: that we’ve failed to capture with testing much of the spread of the virus within some communities.
Read the full article here.
Johnson & Wales to close Florida, Colorado campuses
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Johnson & Wales University will close its Florida and Colorado campuses at the end of the next academic year as it pivots away from its image as a hospitality and culinary school to expand its academic offerings.
Mim Runey, chancellor of the Rhode Island-based school, said Thursday that the university’s trustees decided that the North Miami and Denver campuses were not financially sustainable.
She says the coronavirus pandemic may have accelerated the decision to close the campuses, but was not the deciding factor.
Students at the two closing campuses will be eligible to transfer to another Johnson & Wales campus.
Actors union asks Disney to delay opening Florida parks too
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The union representing actors at Walt Disney World says the company should also postpone welcoming back guests at its Florida parks.
They are scheduled to reopen next month after being closed since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Actors’ Equity Association said Thursday that it was unclear how Disney World could “responsibly” reopen as coronavirus cases continue to soar in the Sunshine State.
The news comes a day after Disney said it would delay reopening its California theme parks. Florida reported having more than 114,000 confirmed cases on Thursday, an increase of about 5,000 cases over the previous day. The union represents about 600 actors at Disney World.
Gov. Ron DeSantis says “no” to statewide face mask mandate
Lynn Hatter, WFSU
Thursday marks the second consecutive day the state has posted more than 5,000 new COVID-19 infections. Still, Gov. Ron DeSantis remains adamant about not issuing a state mandate for people to wear face masks.
“There’s an enforcement that has to follow with that and we have a lot of places in Florida where that would not be a good use of resources so I think a more tailored approach would make more sense,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis has left it to individual cities and counties to make their own rules. Some counties have passed their own mandates which come with fines for people not complying. At least two lawsuits, including one in Leon County, have been filed.
Latin America becomes new epicenter of coronavirus
Tim Padgett, WLRN
As the COVID-19 pandemic hits the developing world harder, Latin America has become its new epicenter. A new pandemic forecast for the region is bleak.
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts a big rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths over the next three months in Latin America and the Caribbean.
It says Brazil especially “is at a grim tipping point.” Brazil already has the world’s second highest number of infections and fatalities behind the U.S. The Institute estimates that by October, its death toll will more than triple to more than 166,000.
And that’s only if Brazil improves its lax social distancing efforts. If it doesn’t, the country could see more than twice that number of deaths. Mexico is another big concern: the Institute says the pandemic is on a “tragic trajectory” there.
Across Latin America, coronavirus deaths surpassed 100,000 this week – and the University of Washington researchers fear that could almost quadruple by October. The number of coronavirus cases in the region has tripled in just the past month to 2 million.
Florida jobless claims up slightly last week
Tom Urban, WLRN
Florida had a slight uptick in first-time jobless claims last week, as the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday reported the state had an estimated 93,000 initial claims during the week that ended June 20th.
That’s up from 88,000 new claims the prior week and follows two weeks of declining first-time claims.
Since March 15th, when the coronavirus pandemic began hammering the state, more than 2.4 million unique jobless applications have been filed, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.
Roughly 95 percent of them had been processed as of Tuesday, with nearly 1.54 million eligible claimants paid.
DEO spokesperson Tiffany Vause says the biggest issue remaining for those not getting benefits is remembering to log into the state’s CONNECT unemployment website to update their status.
“It’s really important to continue to tell the agency that you are able and available for work and that you are still unemployed. So, you have to go into CONNECT every two weeks, and claim those weeks,” Vause said.
Of those who’ve applied for assistance, 475,000 people have been ruled ineligible for state and federal benefits for various reasons.
Since March, the Department of Economic Opportunity has paid out 7.29 billion dollars in state and federal benefits.
May’s unemployment rate in Florida was 14.5 percent. The June rate will be announced July 17th.
Deputy at Lake County jail dies after testing positive for COVID-19
Joe Byrnes, WMFE
A 52-year-old corrections officer who worked at the Lake County jail in Tavares has died after testing positive for COVID-19.
Master Detention Deputy Lynn Jones died on Wednesday. He was a 13-year veteran of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.
He was one of 18 staff members at the county jail who tested positive for the coronavirus.
One hundred three inmates also have COVID-19.
Jones tested positive on June 13th and was in isolation at his home in Orange County. But his actual cause of death has not been determined.
A friend at the Sheriff’s Office, Sgt. Fred Jones, describes him as, quote, “a hard-working employee with great interpersonal skills who led by example.”
He leaves behind a wife and three daughters.
A mountain of potatoes with nowhere to go
Nickolai Hammar, NPR
While millions of Americans are struggling to get enough to eat and supermarkets are running out of certain foods, farmers all over the country are trashing their crops. Why aren’t these crops getting sent to stores?
The recent collapse of the restaurant industry has disrupted the U.S. food supply chain, and many of the crops grown specifically for restaurants have no place to go.
Instead of letting his harvest rot, a farmer in Idaho came up with a creative outcome for his mountain of potatoes.
Wall Street-owned loans tricky for hoteliers in virus era
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Since the coronavirus crisis started, hotel owners say they are struggling to get relief on a type of loan that Wall Street investors buy.
These commercial mortgage-backed securities loans are packaged in the form of bonds with the loans on properties such as hotels serving as collateral.
Since the coronavirus halted most travel, many hotel owners have had to lay off workers and they’ve been unable to make monthly payments on their loans.
Hotel owners say that unlike banks that are negotiating with them, the servicers for the CMBS loans have been next to impossible to reach for help.
AP source: Heat’s Derrick Jones Jr. tests positive for virus
MIAMI (AP) — A person with knowledge of the situation says Miami forward Derrick Jones Jr. has tested positive for the coronavirus.
His result came in shortly after the Heat and other NBA teams began mandatory testing in preparation for next month’s resumption of the season.
Jones still plans to play when the Heat get back on the floor at the Disney complex near Orlando next month.
The league expected there would be positive results when mandated testing for the virus began this week by all 22 teams that will be participating in the restarted season.
Florida reports more than 5,000 new coronavirus cases for second day in a row
Danielle Prieur, WMFE
The Florida Department of Health has reported 5,004 new coronavirus cases Thursday, marking the second day in a row where the daily count in the state rose above 5,000.
More than 114,000 people have gotten sick with the virus in Florida since mid-March. An additional 46 people have died from COVID-19 bringing the total to 3,327 people.
Individual county data was not readily available on the state’s dashboard Thursday morning.
Disneyland in Anaheim has delayed its reopening but company executives say Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom in Orlando are still slated to open on July 11.
Florida principal tests positive for COVID-19 days after graduation
MIAMI (AP) — Officials say the principal of a private Catholic high school tested positive for COVID-19 days after participating in a graduation ceremony at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Christopher Columbus High School spokeswoman Cristina Cruz tells the Miami Herald that principal David Pugh tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday.
He experienced a “very mild fever” after Saturday’s ceremony and was tested Sunday. Cruz says the school has been conducting temperature checks for everyone on campus, including Pugh.
The school closed Wednesday and will be sanitized. Employees who came into contact with Pugh were asked to quarantine for 14 days.
Darden Restaurants posts $480 million dollar loss in Q4
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Darden Restaurants Inc. (DRI) on Thursday reported a fiscal fourth-quarter loss of $480 million, after reporting a profit in the same period a year earlier.
On a per-share basis, the Orlando, Florida-based company said it had a loss of $3.86. Losses, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, came to $1.24 per share.
The results exceeded Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for a loss of $1.66 per share.
The owner of Olive Garden and other chain restaurants posted a revenue of $1.27 billion in the period, which fell short of Street forecasts. Eleven analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $1.28 billion.
Darden Restaurants shares have decreased 35% since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has dropped nearly 6%.
Denver’s sweeps of homeless camps run counter to COVID-19 guidance
Jakob Rodgers, NPR
Melody Lewis lives like a nomad in the heart of downtown Denver.
Poking her head out of her green tent on a recent June day, the 57-year-old points to the place a few blocks away where city crews picked up her tent from a sidewalk median earlier this spring and replaced it with landscaping rocks, fencing and signs warning trespassers to keep out.
Lewis then moved just a quarter-mile away, to a new cracked sidewalk, with new neighbors and potentially, homeless advocates fear, new sources of exposure to the coronavirus.
“Where else are we going to go?” Lewis asks. “What else are we going to do?”
Several cities across the U.S. are bucking recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by continuing to do regular sweeps of homeless encampments, risking further spread of the virus at a time when health officials are seeking to gain an upper hand on the still-expanding pandemic.
Such struggles involving COVID-19 highlight the nation’s ongoing problem with housing. And they showcase the challenge public health officials face: Controlling the spread of the coronavirus also risks increasing the spread of other infectious diseases, such as hepatitis A, that thrive amid the trash-and-feces-strewn sidewalks that can be found in some encampments.
In Denver, Lewis and hundreds of others were displaced in late April and early May from sprawling, blocks-long encampments, as part of what city officials say is an ongoing effort to periodically clean city streets and keep infectious diseases down. Most homeless campers moved their belongings just a few blocks, where their tents now line more than a quarter-mile of sidewalks.
Read the full story here.
Both chambers of Congress back for first time during pandemic amid questions on tests
Claudia Grisales, NPR
On Thursday, the House and Senate will be in session at the same time, for the first time, since the pandemic began more than three months ago.
While the 100-member Senate resumed its regular floor business in May, the much larger House of Representatives has met sparingly. With more than 430 members, the lower chamber faces higher risks for an outbreak.
And like many other workplaces around the country, Congress has had to ration tests for the coronavirus. Much of the work by employees, aides and lawmakers is being done remotely. Last month, the House approved new rules allowing proxy voting and hearings by video conference.
“Rationing tests for members of Congress … to me, it’s maddening,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. “Like, this is no way to run a country.”
But there have been some improvements. The attending physician to Congress can now test asymptomatic members, a senior Democratic aide told NPR. Previously, only some sick members could access tests.
Meanwhile, the Capitol remains closed to the general public for tours and visits. And those still meeting there largely adhere to the attending physician’s guidance to maintain social distancing and wear masks.
Eiffel Tower reopens, ending 104-day coronavirus shutdown
The Eiffel Tower has reopened, marking another milestone in France’s recovery from its coronavirus lockdown.
Lifts that usually whisk people up the 324-meter (1,063-feet) tall wrought-iron tower remain closed, so the first visitors had to take the stairs. Of the Tower’s three decks, only the first two reopened.
Those who made the climb Thursday were rewarded with far-away views. The closure of 104 days was the tower’s longest in peace time.
It cost the landmark 27 million euros ($30 million) in lost revenues. Xavier Besa, a tourist from Barcelona, was among the first in line, delighted to find the landmark open when other Paris attractions remain closed.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signs off on teacher pay raises
Lynn Hatter, WFSU
Gov. Ron DeSantis has formally signed off on teacher pay raises. The state is planning on spending about $500 million dollars to bring Florida near the top of states for starting salaries.
The move comes as DeSantis promised cuts to the upcoming state budget to deal with revenue losses from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Although we have not made every decision about the budget, I can report this will be there 100 percent. We’re going to have to make tough choices, but this is important,” DeSantis said.
The teacher pay plan creates a base teacher salary of $47,500. It also comes as the state continues to grapple with a teacher shortage.
Broward County cracking down on coronavirus violators
Caitie Switalski, WLRN
Broward County is cracking down on restaurants and businesses that aren’t complying with coronavirus regulations.
At a news conference Wednesday – Mayor Dale Holness announced a new emergency order that allows the county to close businesses for at least 24 hours if they don’t comply with measures like social distancing, hygiene, or crowd control.
“We want to be able to get back to where we can get people back to work, but if we have to go backwards we will have to. So I’m pleading with everyone, please follow the rules, follow the guidelines,” Holness said.
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said the approach so far to educate the public and give citations hasn’t been effective enough.
“And so the county has elected to operate and put forth further restrictions and being more punitive in the sense that businesses must comply. We can’t afford to continue to have this type of spread continue here in the county,” Tony said.
Repeat violations will be subject to a fine of up to $15,000. People can report complaints by calling 3-1-1 in Broward County. The order goes into effect at 12:01 am Friday.
Florida Dems get advantage over GOP in vote-by-mail requests
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Democrats are amassing a significant lead over Republicans in the number of voters seeking to vote by mail.
As of last week, Democrats had a 302,000 voter advantage over Republicans, with 1.46 million Democrats applying to vote by mail, compared with 1.16 million for the GOP.
The widening gap in vote-by-mail applications between both parties comes as Democrats have more aggressively pushed Floridians to ask for absentee ballots and as President Donald Trump continues to sow doubt within his party about the integrity of absentee ballots.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, elections officials across Florida have been pushing more voters to apply for absentee ballots.
MLS teams arrive in Florida, tournament schedule set
Major League Soccer will open its World Cup-style return tournament in Florida on July 8 with a double header.
Orlando City will play expansion Inter Miami in the first match, followed by a game between the Chicago Fire and Nashville SC.
The games will be the first time the league has been in action since play was shut down on March 12 because of the coronavirus.
The defending champion Seattle Sounders opens play against the Earthquakes on July 10. All games will be played without fans in attendance at the sports complex at Walt Disney World.
Owner of a broken Hertz
Planet Money, NPR
Sometimes bankruptcy means a company is sold for parts, and disappears forever. But other times, they just reorganize: They shed some debt, come back slimmer and stronger. GM’s been through it. Delta too. And in both cases, the company’s stock became worthless. That’s what almost always happens.
Which is what makes the recent case of Hertz so interesting. Hertz is in bankruptcy, but for some weird reason, people keep buying Hertz stock — even though the company itself is warning people that its stock will almost certainly be wiped out within the year.
Today on the show, we take you inside the Hertz bankruptcy — how it happened, how they’re trying to get out of this mess, and how the gamble of a lifetime paid off (at least for one person).
Big business opposes President Donald Trump’s new limits on foreign workers
Joel Rose, NPR
When President Trump suspended the entry of many foreign guest workers, he alienated a powerful ally: big business. The Chamber of Commerce, Silicon Valley and other employers have panned the move.
The White House proclamation will suspend the admission of hundreds of thousands of foreign guest workers at a time when 40 million Americans are unemployed.
“That is a very big deal,” said Ken Cuccinelli, a top immigration official at the Department of Homeland Security, during an interview with the FOX Business channel. Cuccinelli called it an “unprecedented level of effort by a president to clear the American job market of competition like this.”
But many big employers say the move will hurt — not help — the nation’s economic recovery.
“Putting up a ‘not welcome’ sign for engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses and other workers won’t help our country, it will hold us back,” Thomas Donohue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.
“For us to remain globally competitive, we need the best and brightest. That’s been our secret sauce,” said Gary Shapiro, the president of the Consumer Technology Association, an industry trade group.
Read the full article here.
Leon County coronavirus numbers don’t include all test results
Regan McCarthy, WFSU
As Leon County’s coronavirus numbers continue to show steady increases compared to last week, some are raising concerns the data provided by the health department doesn’t show the full picture.
County Commissioner Kristen Dozier says those numbers don’t reflect people getting tested at Patients First.
“We need to have a better understanding of what our numbers are and I think we really need to include those numbers in our daily update,” Dozier said.
Patients First has been in the news lately as long lines of cars have blocked traffic and businesses along the road leading to the drive-up testing site.
Officials say during that time they were testing hundreds of people each day. The lines have cleared up but the testing hasn’t stopped.
The company’s website now directs those looking for a test to first make an appointment online.
A health department official says while Patients First does report positive coronavirus test results to the department, those numbers are not included in the department’s count of total cases.
Supt. Addison Davis presents 3 models for reopening Hillsborough Schools
Alysia Cruz, WUSF
As Hillsborough County students prepare for school in August, Superintendent Addison Davis presented three models for what their return might look like.
During a workshop Tuesday, school board member Melissa Snively said she wants to make sure parents have the chance to determine what is best for their children.
“That’s really what it’s about, making sure that parents have choices for their students. Because distance learning may have really worked well for some students but maybe not for every student and every family,” Snively said.
The model preferred by the majority of the board featured four options for parents: traditional face-to-face schools, e-learning through their school, an expanded county-wide virtual school program, and the Florida Virtual School program.
That model also includes strict cleaning procedures and social distancing, both in classrooms and during transition periods.
And while face masks will be provided to all students and staff, they will not be required. Another community survey will be released on July 1st.
What contact tracing tells us about cluster spread of the coronavirus and protests
Christianna Silva, NPR
As the U.S. begins to open back up, coronavirus clusters — where multiple people contract COVID-19 at the same event or location — are popping up all over the country. And despite drawing massive crowds, anti-police protests in Washington state weren’t among those clusters.
“We did have a rally in Bellingham, which is our county seat, and there was also a protest, and we have not been able to connect a single case to that rally or to the protest, and what we’re finding is in large part that’s due to the use of masks,” Erika Lautenbach, the director of the Whatcom County Health Department in Washington State, tells NPR’s All Things Considered. “Almost everyone at the rally was wearing a mask, and it’s really a testament to how effective masks are in preventing the spread of this disease.”
For the clusters that have popped up, Lautenbach says the state has been using contact tracing to learn more about how they’re contributing to the spread of the virus. For instance, it found that 14 cases were associated with a party of 100 to 150 people in early June. Subsequently, 15 more cases were associated with the original 14.
Read the full article here.
The pandemic isn’t over: Nearly 10 million coronavirus cases worldwide
Coronavirus Daily, NPR
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, started Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing on a somber note: By next week there will be a total of 10 million cases globally.
A reminder, says Ghebreyesus, that the pandemic isn’t over, despite places around the world reopening.
There’s been a lot of news about coronavirus spikes in states like Texas and Florida. But not in Georgia. Why? Georgia Public Broadcasting reporter Grant Blankenship has more.
And we talk to a public health official in Washington State scrambling to identify hotspots in her community.
America can’t fully get back to work without childcare, and many children are suffering without social opportunities. But how to reopen schools, camps and daycares safely? NPR’s Anya Kamenetz talks to childcare centers that have stayed open on how they’ve been trying to keep kids and staff safe.
Florida’s Health Department asks hospitals to change how they report COVID-19 ICU patients
Veronica Zaragovia, WLRN
The way hospitals in Florida update their number of available intensive care unit beds to the state may change.
The department wants hospitals to report only the number of COVID-19 positive patients receiving ICU level of care – and not every single COVID-19 patient in the ICU.
Before, hospitals would report the — “current number of COVID positive patients admitted into ICU beds.”
According to an email from Florida’s Department of Health to WLRN, hospitals are using a portion of their ICU beds for patients with positive cases of COVID-19, including — “those that do not require intensive care”.
This week Gov. Ron DeSantis defended the decision.
“Some of the hospitals had told us they were just using their ICU wing as their COVID wing,” DeSantis said.
Dr. Carol Biggs is the nursing officer at Jackson Memorial Hospital. She says her team puts only patients who need critical care in the ICU.
“We have criteria, what meets the level for critical care. So that’s no different with the COVID patient. When you come in, you’re evaluated for what level of care is appropriate to treat the symptoms that you have,” Biggs said.
Nurses are trained for intensive care and hospitals have a smaller ratio of nurses per patient in the ICU.
Democrats outline modified convention amid coronavirus fears
Alana Wise, NPR
The in-person Democratic National Convention will be scaled down significantly as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with the Milwaukee event now relying heavily on “live broadcasts and curated content,” organizers have announced.
“Convention planners said that host city Milwaukee would anchor the events for the week,” organizers said in a press release Wednesday, “and that programming would include both live broadcasts and curated content from Milwaukee and other satellite cities, locations and landmarks across the country.”
The presumptive Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, will still formally accept the party’s nomination in person during the Aug. 17-20 convention, but the convention committee said state delegations should not plan to travel to Milwaukee and should instead plan to conduct convention business remotely.
Additionally, the main venue is changing. “With fewer people gathering in person at this year’s event, convention planners are modifying the convention campus. All convention proceedings will move from Fiserv Forum to the Wisconsin Center, the convention center located in downtown Milwaukee,” the release said.
“Leadership means being able to adapt to any situation,” Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez said in a statement. “That’s exactly what we’ve done with our convention. Unlike this president, Joe Biden and Democrats are committed to protecting the health and safety of the American people.”
The party’s decision comes as its counterpart, the Republican National Committee, has faced resistance in its quest to hold a mostly normal, in-person convention.
Following a squabble between President Trump and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, the party made the decision to move Trump’s acceptance speech to Jacksonville, Fla., though some of the convention’s smaller events will remain in Charlotte.
Trump administration moving to close federally funded COVID-19 testing sites
Vanessa Romo, NPR
The Trump administration is defending plans to close 13 federally run coronavirus testing sites in five states at the end of the month.
The testing sites are located in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey and Texas. They are the last of 41 federally operated testing sites.
Federal officials say the sites have been closing or transferring to state or local control because it’s more efficient to run testing that way. In other instances they argue there are readily available testing sites nearby.
The move comes as President Trump has repeatedly blamed the rise in coronavirus cases on the expansion of testing, despite evidence that the virus is spreading rapidly in many parts of the country and leading to increased hospitalizations.
In a tweet Tuesday, the president said, “Cases are going up in the U.S. because we are testing far more than any other country, and ever expanding. With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!”
Read the full article here.
With COVID-19 cases rising, some states slow their reopening plans
Rachel Treisman, NPR
As the number of new coronavirus cases surges each day in many parts of the country, some states are hitting pause on their plans to reopen.
Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health said in a Capitol Hill hearing on Tuesday that while states may not need to revert to the strictest possible measures, some may want to consider adjusting their reopening plans.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say an absolute shutdown, lockdown, but if someone is going from gateway to phase one to phase two and they get into trouble in phase two, they may need to go back to phase one,” he said.
Several governors, largely in the South and West, have opted to postpone the next phase of their states’ reopening in light of growing case and hospitalization numbers. States including Oregon and Nevada announced last week they would temporarily hold off on decisions about moving forward, while North Carolina, Louisiana and Kansas have announced timeline delays in recent days.
“It is clear that COVID is alive and well in Louisiana, and as we see more people testing positive and admitted to hospitals, we simply are not ready to move to the next phase, and ease restrictions further as businesses open widely,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said on Monday, noting the state had surpassed 3,000 deaths and 50,000 positive tests.
He said Louisiana will remain in Phase Two, which it entered on June 5, for another 28 days.
That same day, Kansas officials urged local communities to stay in Phase Three of the state’s reopening plan. That was a guideline rather than a requirement because in May, Gov. Laura Kelly transferred reopening decisions to local officials. Kelly has recommended remaining in Phase Three until at least July 6 — two weeks later than initially planned — because of an “increase in disease spread.”
Read the full article here.
Florida residents are getting more and more antibody tests. Do they know what the tests mean?
Jenny Staletovich, WLRN
The day of her 38th birthday in April, Jane Castro decided it was time to finally find out if she’d contracted COVID-19 during a January trip to Arizona State University.
During the trip, the university announced that a man on campus in his 20s had become just the fifth case of the new virus in the United States. Castro got sick once she was back in Miami Beach.
But at the time, there was bigger news: Kobe Bryant had just died in a helicopter crash with his daughter. In Florida, the virus barely made news.
That changed quickly in the weeks that followed. By mid March, Florida was beginning to shut down. Castro’s worry, along with her confusion, mounted.
“I have friends who are telling me, ‘oh, no, positive is a good thing. You’re immune’,” she said.
So she visited a walk-in clinic. Three days later, the results came back negative.
Like thousands of others lining up for antibody tests around Florida — as of June 19, the state reported receiving more than 206,000 test results — Castro was looking for answers.
Since March 14, she’d barely left her North Beach apartment, not an easy restriction for an extrovert who regularly performs at Miami Pride festivities and was a popular former cast member on VH1’s Tough Love Miami.
She missed regular visits with her elderly parents. A positive test would have eased her worries.
But epidemiologists say the tests are not so straightforward and warn that accuracy can vary depending on the prevalence of the disease where the test is administered.
Read the full article here.
Survey: Women are rethinking having kids as they face pandemic challenges
Sarah McCammon, NPR
Whether it’s online-only consultations, closed pharmacies or having to wonder whether going into an office is safe, the coronavirus has upended access to health care.
And it has presented particular challenges for women and reproductive health.
A new survey released Wednesday by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that advocates for reproductive rights, finds 34% of women said the pandemic was causing them to delay getting pregnant, or to have fewer children.
A slightly smaller proportion of the roughly 2,000 women who responded to the survey also said they were struggling to access birth control during the pandemic.
“What we heard from them very clearly was that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, far fewer women want to get pregnant. And at the same time, contraception is harder for them to get,” said Laura Lindberg, the study’s lead researcher, in an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered. “Those two opposing forces mean that people are going to have a harder time delaying pregnancies during the crisis, even as more people say they don’t want to get pregnant right now.”
Read the full article here.
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