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Your Friday Update: New Cases Over 9,000 For Second Day In A Row, NBA Arrivals Draw Closer as Cases Rise, Marion County Sees Increase in Hospitalizations, Safe Ways to Celebrate July 4th

Photo: TJ Dragotta

For the second day in a row, Florida records more than 9,000 new cases

Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Florida reported 9,478 new coronavirus cases among residents according to figures from the Florida Department of Health Friday morning.

On Thursday the state reported 9,529 new cases among residents. More than 10,000 new cases were reported statewide, the first time the daily case count has gone over 10,000 since the start of the pandemic.

South Florida beaches are closed for the holiday weekend but officials in Brevard and Volusia Counties have left beaches open with social distancing guidelines in place.

Coronavirus FAQs: Is it safe to dine indoors — or outdoors?

Pranav Baskar, NPR

Some states are allowing restaurants to move back to indoor dining. But is it a safe idea to dine in right now?

People are definitely getting mixed signals about restaurant dining. In states such as Arizona and Tennessee, public health officials are urging people to stay home amid rising caseloads. Meanwhile, those states are offering outdoor and even indoor dining at restaurants.

The first question is, do you really need to eat in a restaurant? If someone in your family is immunocompromised or has symptoms of COVID-19, even if the family member hasn’t been diagnosed, that would argue for avoiding restaurants altogether, says Harvard Medical School physician Abraar Karan.

But if you don’t have such concerns and want a relaxing meal at a restaurant, here are some other points to consider.

First, outdoors is definitely less risky, says Karan. When you’re outside, the risk of contracting the virus is lower. That’s because coronavirus droplets disperse more quickly into the air. A bonus is that there may be more space between tables than in a small indoor setting.

Read the full article here.

Another day, another coronavirus record in Florida

Greg Allen, NPR

Florida’s surge of COVID-19 cases shows no signs of slowing down. The state Department of Heath reported Florida set another daily record Thursday, with 10,109 cases, surpassing Saturday’s record of 9,585 cases. That brings Florida’s total confirmed coronavirus cases to nearly 170,000 and a death toll of 3,617 (with 67 new deaths reported Thursday).

The new record continues a marked upturn in cases that began last month, weeks after Florida started allowing businesses to reopen. Gov. Ron DeSantis has defended that decision, saying that for most of April and May, the number of new cases and the percentage of those testing positive for the virus remained low. But then, DeSantis said, he believes Floridians became complacent. “After Memorial Day, when it fell out of the news,” he said, “people kind of just thought, it was over.”

On Thursday, he met with Vice President Pence and other federal officials in Tampa. Speaking afterward, Pence thanked DeSantis for his leadership in combating the coronavirus and in reopening Florida’s economy. “It’s not an either-or choice,” Pence said. “The economic comeback that’s underway is a demonstration that we don’t have to choose between opening America and the health of our people. We can do both.”

DeSantis has resisted calls for a statewide order requiring face coverings for people in public places. As the numbers of COVID-19 cases have risen, many counties and cities have adopted rules making face coverings mandatory.

One of the most recent to do so is Jacksonville, which is set to host President Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in August.

Read the full article here.

Fauci admits government fault on masks; celebrating July 4 safely

Consider This, NPR

Employers added 4.8 million jobs last month but the U.S. is still down 15 million jobs since February. And those new figures are from a survey before the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. rose in part due to Memorial Day weekend celebrations, when people went out to beaches and restaurants. From a report by NPR’s Allison Aubrey, experts share tips on how to safely celebrate the Fourth of July

There’s been a lot of mixed messaging on masks. Dr. Anthony Fauci tells NPR the government could have done a better job early on. And NPR’s Maria Godoy reports on how to choose the best mask for you.

As Florida virus numbers rise, NBA arrivals draw closer

The coronavirus numbers are rising in Florida and across the NBA.

The league says a total of 35 players and staff from the 22 teams that will take part in the rebooted season have tested positive since such checks became mandated on June 23.

And statewide, Florida reported more than 10,000 new cases in a single day for the first time.

All that news comes less than a week before teams begin arriving at the Disney complex near Orlando.

Marion County has seen a fourfold increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the past several days

Joe Byrnes, WMFE

Marion County has seen a fourfold increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

But the health department administrator says local hospitals are in good shape.

The hospitals had seven coronavirus patients around June 23rd. Now, Mark Lander of the Health Department says 29 are hospitalized, including six in intensive care.

ER visits have also surged, but a lot of those involve younger adults who don’t end up staying at the hospital.

“What you’re having is with those younger individuals becoming exposed, they’re able to expose other individuals, maybe at an older age, you know, 55, 65 and up,” Lander said.

For the Fourth of July holiday, he says, remember COVID-19 is present so follow the health guidelines.

Jobs in June

The Indicator, NPR

The Bureau of Labor Statistics report for the month of June was better than expected, but it revealed an economy that’s still in rough shape, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

There were 4.8 million new jobs created in June. This reflected a lot of businesses, especially restaurants and bars, hiring back workers that they had let go early in the pandemic. But the report is based on data that’s three weeks old, and does not reflect business closures that resulted from a recent spike in coronavirus cases. So the picture portrayed by the BLS in its report may not reflect the reality of the economy today.

Today we take a deep dive into the report with our own ninja squad of economists: Martha Gimbel of Schmidt Futures, Gbenga Ajilore of the Center for American Progress, and Nick Bunker of the Indeed Hiring Lab. They have each chosen one indicator from the June jobs report that tells an important story that you probably won’t find widely reported elsewhere.

Managing COVID cases a challenge for health departments, hospitals

Matthew Peddie, WMFE

As Florida and other states face a spike in coronavirus cases, the challenge for health departments is how to keep cases to a manageable level.

The latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health show more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day.

Amesh Adalja, Senior Scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security said hospitals and health departments have to figure out this new normal.

“This is something now that has established itself in the human population, it is not going to go anywhere until we have a vaccine. And the question becomes: how do we keep the cases to a pace that’s manageable by health department contact tracing teams as well as by hospitals,” Adalja said.

Adalja said Floridians should expect case numbers to get worse before they get better because of the lag in processing test results.

Parasailing business owner reacts to South Florida beach closures

Alex Gonzalez, WLRN

South Florida beaches are closed this holiday weekend to prevent crowds and more coronavirus spread.

David Ide has a parasailing and jet ski rental business on Fort Lauderdale Beach. He says things could be slow because folks can’t access local shores.

“It’s kind of stupid what they’re doing because the same people that would be going to the beach are just gonna go to their house to barbecue in the backyard, so they’re not preventing anything different from happening,” Ide said.

Ide says he’ll still be able to launch kayaking and other water sports from some marinas.

Beaches in Broward and Palm Beach counties are set to reopen Monday and it’s a day later for Monroe and Miami-Dade shores.

Broward County businesses dashboard

Amber Amortegui, WLRN

There’s another new coronavirus dashboard full of information. This one shows Broward County businesses that are violating COVID codes.

The new Broward dashboard shows which businesses have been reported. So far, most of the violations are social distancing and sanitation.

Jo Sesodia is the director of Planning and Development Management. She says a code enforcement inspector will issue either a warning, citation or resolve the complaint if there’s nothing wrong.

“Broward County entered into agreements with our municipalities and each of them is supporting us by entering their information and updating their information in this county-wide dashboard,” Sesodia said.

Sea Ranch Lakes is not included.

Sesodia says businesses can receive fines up to $15,000 dollars for their violations.

“We are taking these emergency orders very seriously. This is an issue of public safety,” Sesodia said.

To anonymously report a business, call the county’s 311 hotline.

FSU walks back remote work policy after backlash

Lynn Hatter, WFSU

Florida State is walking back its remote work policy that prevented parents from caring for their children during work hours. The policy received backlash when the school announced it would re-institute it in August.

The policy states quote: “If a child or dependent is present during scheduled work hours, arrangements must be made for the care of the child or dependent by someone other than the employee and the specifics of the arrangements may be requested by HR to be submitted with the Telecommuting Agreement.”

The university sent the rule out Friday. It sparked a backlash and confusion from employees and accusations the school was being insensitive and cruel.

It also came out amid ongoing questions about whether public schools will be able to convene as normal in the fall.

The outcry sparked coverage in the Washington Post and People magazine. Thursday morning, the university issued a statement walking back the policy, and saying it will allow parents to continue working from home while caring for their children.

Employees will still have to work with their supervisors to work out a schedule around their parenting responsibilities.

Tallahassee’s Downtown Market reopens with safeguards

Tom Flanigan, WFSU

Tallahassee’s popular Downtown Market will reopen Saturday, July 11. New safeguards will be in place to keep vendors and their customers safe.

The Market, which was suspended in March because of the pandemic, will be back, but with some differences.

Six foot spacing will be in place for vendor booths, which will also be set back from the central walkway.

There will be music, but listeners will be asked to keep their distance from the performers, as well as each other. Also, masks will be required for vendors and urged for everyone else.

The Downtown Market will be open every Saturday until November from nine in the morning until two in the afternoon.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner says statewide mask order would be ideal for July 4 weekend

Alex Gonzalez, WLRN

The state of Florida is letting local governments decide whether to institute a mask order.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said face coverings should be required statewide — especially during a holiday weekend.

“Even if you live in one part of our state, you’re constantly traveling through the state whether it’s driving from one part to the other to family members throughout the state. We have Fourth of July coming up, and people going to the beaches that are open. And if we’re all gonna stop this, and we’re gonna try to stop the spread, we all need to be doing this together,” Fried said.

Many Florida cities now require people to wear masks as COVID-19 cases have continued to increase.

The state reached a new record of daily cases Thursday — over 10,000.

Cuba reopens after coronavirus shutdown

Tim Padgett, WLRN

Cuba believes it has managed COVID-19 well enough to re-open the island this week to one of its most important economic sectors: tourism. But you won’t see any visitors riding in vintage cars down Havana’s Malecón.

On official state media like Granma, you’ll see headlines like: “Cuba has recovered and defeated the pandemic.” The island has reported fewer than 2,500 COVID-19 cases and fewer than 100 deaths. But whether or not Cuba really has subdued the new coronavirus, it’s opening its doors again to tourism.

Or at least opening its doors a crack. Under the plan, foreign visitors will have to stay on one of five islands just off Cuba’s north coast, including Cayo Coco. They’ll also have to take charter flights directly to those islands, or to a site in central Cuba.

Before they’re allowed to go to their island hotels, they’ll be tested for coronavirus. Those who show symptoms will be quarantined and sent packing. And those who can stay will be strictly isolated from the Cuban population.

Cuba earns $4 billion a year from tourism, or about a tenth of its GDP. The loss of that revenue in the past few months has further crippled the communist island’s economy and worsened shortages. But Havana, which has seen most of Cuba’s COVID-19 cases, will remain off limits to tourists for now.

Officials this week said most of Cuba except Havana is now entering Phase 2 of the island’s post-pandemic re-opening.

FAU creating COVID-19 dashboard to calculate risk

Jenny Staletovich, WLRN

Wouldn’t it be nice to have your computer tell you if making a second trip to the supermarket this week or getting a haircut tomorrow is increasing your risk of getting the coronavirus?

Florida Atlantic University is creating a tool to help you figure out the risks.

Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation, FAU is building a dashboard intended to gauge behavior and risks.

Xingquan Zsu is a computer engineer overseeing the work. He says the dashboard analyzes groups of people who share similarities – or cohorts – to calculate the risk.

“If I go shopping a lot or I just barely go shopping. And what is my family size? Overall, based on the area of infection, and based on your cohort characteristics, we’re able to give you some sort of risk estimations,” Zsu said.

Zsu says the dashboard will predict risks based on age, where you live and other characteristics.

He says the dashboard is almost like a doctor providing advice.

“We try to figure out behind those numbers, what is happening, and then we will be able to produce some sort of estimation on the risk,” Zsu said.

Another part of the project will skim social media to look for trends connected to the disease and organize diverse data – things like the effects of underlying conditions, disease treatment or genetic mutations – to help researchers better study the virus.

Zsu says the team hopes to have a prototype available by August.

More people than ever expected to light fireworks off at home this 4th of July

Robbie Gaffney, WFSU

First responders are urging residents to follow safety guidelines when lighting off fireworks for Independence Day.

The holiday falls on a Saturday. And many cities and counties have canceled celebrations in order to avoid crowds.

Tallahassee Fire Department’s Robert Clary says if people choose to use fireworks at-home, there’s steps they can take to prevent fires and injuries.

“We ask that you have water available. A metal bucket with some water. And running water that you can use to put out if a fire does seem to happen. When you light the fireworks you can have it to put out and also have a metal bucket with water to put the old fireworks in the bucket so that they don’t spark later,” Clary said.

Clary also says sparklers can cause serious burns and to not let children hold them or any other firework.

Like what you just read? Check out our other coronavirus coverage. 

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Danielle Prieur

About Danielle Prieur

Reporter & Fill-in Host

Danielle Prieur is a general assignment reporter at WMFE. You can hear her reporting on a daily basis on the station. She also fills-in as a host during the morning and afternoon drive times. Her reporting has been featured on NPR, Marketplace, Here & Now, and Vox. Danielle is originally from Rochester Hills, ... Read Full Bio »