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Your Friday Update: Only 15 Percent of Adult ICU Beds Available in Florida, ACHA Says 7,000 Floridians Hospitalized With Coronavirus, State Adds More than 11,000 New Cases, Fans Prepare to Return to Disney World

Photo: Javier Matheu

Only fifteen percent of adult ICU beds are available in Florida

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

Out of the 5,080 ICU beds it has for adults, Florida only has 917 of those available as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the state on Friday.

The availability of pediatric ICU beds is higher at 36 percent availability with 225 open children’s ICU beds out of 395 beds total. That’s still a concerning number as schools prepare to restart in August.

Here’s the rundown of ICU bed availability in Central Florida so far:

Orange County: 18 percent availability for adults, 42 percent availability for children

Osceola County: 8 percent availability for adults, 100 percent availability for children

Seminole County: 10 percent availability for adults, no pediatric data available

Volusia County: 17 percent availability for adults, 100 percent availability for children

Brevard County: 25 percent availability for adults, no pediatric data available

Lake County: 14 percent availability for adults, no pediatric data available

Sumter County: 20 percent availability for adults, no pediatric data available

To see how many available ICU beds are in your county, click here. 

Almost 7,000 people are hospitalized with coronavirus in Florida

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

The Agency for Health Care Administration reported 6,974 people are hospitalized with coronavirus in Florida on Friday.

Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties lead with the most hospitalizations, at 1,578, 969 and 606 hospitalizations respectively.

In Central Florida, Orange County has 478 people who are severely ill and in hospital.

Elsewhere in Central Florida, here are the rundowns so far:

Osceola County: 183 hospitalizations

Seminole County: 164 hospitalizations

Volusia County: 135 hospitalizations

Brevard County: 112 hospitalizations

Lake County: 124 hospitalizations

Sumter County: 14 hospitalizations

To see how many hospitalizations are in your county, click here.

Florida’s curve no longer flat amid new surge of virus cases

MIAMI (AP) — Florida appeared to be successfully “flattening the curve” of new coronavirus cases in the spring after its bars, gyms and beaches closed.

But two months after businesses began reopening, the state is facing an alarming surge in COVID-19.

On Thursday, officials reported 120 deaths in one day, the highest number since the previous record of 113 in early May.

Hospitals in June and July have seen their numbers of coronavirus patients triple, with new patients outpacing those being discharged.

Hospital networks are scrambling to hire more health care workers to expand their COVID units and some have said they would again halt or reduce non-emergency procedures to free up space.

Florida adds more than 11,000 new cases

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

The Florida Department of Health reported 11,433 new coronavirus cases on Friday.

That brings the total number of people who have tested positive for the virus in the state to 244,151.

More than 17,600 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 and 4,203 people have died.

Elsewhere in Central Florida, here’s the rundown so far:

Orange County: 16,148 cases, 536 hospitalizations, 78 deaths

Osceola County: 3,658 cases, 214 hospitalizations, 31 deaths

Seminole County: 3,967 cases, 200 hospitalizations, 21 deaths

Volusia County: 3,454 cases, 288 hospitalizations, 72 deaths

Brevard County: 3,104 cases, 173 hospitalizations, 27 deaths

Lake County: 2,298 cases, 145 hospitalizations, 26 deaths

Sumter County: 589 cases, 79 hospitalizations, 18 deaths

Fans, experts alike prepare for Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom to reopen on Saturday

Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Nearly four months ago, Disney World closed its doors as the coronavirus pandemic gripped the country. 

This weekend, the theme parks reopen.

But with coronavirus cases continuing to surge, it’s a very different experience for visitors: smaller crowds, no fireworks and no character meet-and-greets. 

90.7’s Matthew Peddie caught up with Seth Kubersky, Orlando Weekly columnist and co-author of the Unofficial Guides, as he toured the Magic Kingdom during yesterday’s soft re-opening for annual passholders.

Listen to their conversation here.  

Latin American leaders infected with coronavirus, area is new hotspot

Tim Padgett, WLRN

Health experts call Latin America and the Caribbean the world’s new hotspot for COVID-19 infection. The pandemic isn’t sparing the region’s leaders.

Thursday night the Western Hemisphere was still absorbing this week’s news that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro had tested positive for COVID-19.

Then interim Bolivian President Jeanine Añez and Venezuelan Socialist Party leader Diosdado Cabello announced they too were infected.

And they’re not the only Latin American leaders who’ve contracted the new coronavirus. Last month Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández revealed he and his wife had tested positive. He was just released from the hospital last week.

Health experts hope these high-profile cases will prompt people in Latin America and the Caribbean to take the pandemic more seriously.

The region’s number of cases tripled last month to more than 2 million. And researchers at the University of Washington warn it could see an equally “tragic” rise between now and October.

Elections officials face changing situation ahead of November

Tom Urban, WLRN

Face shields, temperature checks and disposable pens are just some of the safeguards Florida officials plan to employ to combat COVID-19, as they brace for elections in August and November.

Elections supervisors are taking measures to avoid problems that erupted during the March primaries, when they were faced with cancellations of early-voting and Election Day polling sites, last-minute poll-worker absences and limited supplies of hand sanitizer and other disinfectants.

Many are buying no-contact thermometers to check poll workers’ temperatures and planning to set up curbside tents so voters can drop off mail-in ballots without getting out of their cars.

Some have sent out information cards to let voters know if polling sites have changed and are asking people to vote by mail this year.

Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley has worked in the elections industry for more than three decades.

He is asking people to vote before Election Day if they can.

“We are trying to protect your availability to vote. That is something fully beyond my capability to 100 percent guarantee that in-person voting opportunity, especially on Election Day. We are just trying to make sure you have at least one mechanism to cast that ballot,” Earley said.

Earley has seen requests for mail-in ballots double, and he calls vote-by-mail an “insurance policy” for voters, amid the uncertainty caused by COVID-19.

Voters throughout the state will encounter a variety of protective measures if they decide to cast ballots in person during the August 18th primary elections and November 3rd general election.

Some counties will test the temperatures of poll workers, while others might require temperature checks of voters on Election Day.

Supervisors warn that Floridians who show up in person to cast ballots on Election Day will need to be patient.

Trump’s reelection campaign gets a reboot as virus persists

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign will take baby steps back out onto the road in the coming days after a multiweek hiatus.

The break came amid a massive surge in coronavirus cases across much of the nation and after the debacle of his planned comeback in Oklahoma.

Trump is facing a deficit in the polls and is eager to send a signal that normal life can resume despite a rampaging virus that has killed more than 130,000 Americans.

He’ll be holding his first in-person fundraiser in a month on Friday in Florida and then making another try at a rally on Saturday, this time in New Hampshire.

Fantasy Fest in Florida Keys canceled because of coronavirus

The Associated Press

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — The risk of coronavirus transmission has prompted organizers in the Florida Keys to cancel this year’s Fantasy Fest.

Key West’s annual masking and costuming festival had been scheduled for October, but festival director Nadene Grossman Orr said Thursday that the 41st edition will not be staged.

The festival was developed in 1979 to bolster off-season business in the tourism-based economy.

It grew to generate some $30 million in annual revenues for the Florida Keys island chain.

The island chain reopened to visitors June 1 after being closed to nonresidents for some 10 weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Practices begin at Disney, as teams begin restart routines

Full-scale practices inside the NBA bubble at the Disney complex have started.

The Orlando Magic became the first team to formally return to the floor.

By the close of business, all 22 teams participating in the restart were to be checked into their hotel and beginning their isolation from the rest of the world for what will be several weeks at least.

And by Saturday, all teams should have practiced at least once.

Vote-by-mail ballots on the way to Broward voters

Caitie Switalski, WLRN

Ballots for people to vote by mail are on the way to Broward voters.

The county elections office put more than 240,000 ballots in the mail today. Over 60,000 more will be sent out next week.

Supervisor of Elections Peter Antonacci says more people have requested to vote remotely during the pandemic.

There were issues processing vote-by-mail ballots in Broward County in 2018. The county recently purchased an additional machine to keep up with the new demand.

“We’ve added it to our four others. And we believe that, and with additional temporary labor, we’ll be able to handle the volume,” Antonacci said.

Antonacci says voters who don’t trust that their mailed ballots will be counted – can drop them off instead.

“Make sure you guard your privacy, if you don’t want to put it in the mail, bring it to one of our drop boxes or to an early voting site. It’s a safe way to vote,” Antonacci said.

Early voting begins on August 8th. Election Day is August 18th.

Rubio working on another round of PPP funding

Bradley George, WUSF

Congress could approve more help for small businesses hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Florida Senator Marco Rubio is a major player in that effort.

Rubio chairs the Senate Small Business Committee, and he was one of the architects of the original Paycheck Protection Program.

In an interview with CNBC, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he’s talking to Rubio about what another round of PPP funding would look like.

“I think any extension around the PPP is going to be much much more targeted to the businesses that really need this money and the smaller businesses. So we’re already working on a plan for that,” Mnuchin said.

The Small Business Administration says PPP saved more than three million jobs in Florida.

But some of the recipients are facing scrutiny, including the Florida Democratic Party, which says it will return a 780,000 dollar loan.

HCA hospitals restricting elective inpatient surgeries to free up capacity for COVID-19 patients

Daylina Miller, WUSF

One of the largest, private health systems in Florida is again restricting elective surgeries because of rising cases of the coronavius.

HCA Healthcare West Florida Division hospitals will delay certain inpatient surgeries and procedures to free up hospital beds for COVID-19 patients.

HCA hospitals in Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando, Citrus, Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties will be calling patients to postpone certain surgeries to free up hospital capacity – which includes beds and medical staff.

Hospital officials say the decision comes after reports that more than 40 hospitals in the state have zero ICU capacity.

Earlier this week, the hospital chain delayed the same inpatient surgeries and procedures for hospitals in Pinellas County.

BayCare Health System last week cut back on the number of non-emergency surgeries for the same reason.

Florida reports highest single-day jump in COVID-19 deaths

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida is marking another grim milestone as health officials report 120 new deaths from the coronavirus — the highest one-day jump yet amid a surge in new infections.

The number of deaths announced Thursday was the highest since the 113 reported in early May.

The cumulative death toll has now surpassed 4,000 as new infections climbed by nearly 9,000 to more than 229,000.

Meanwhile, the number of new jobless claims in Florida continues falling — dipping to more than 67,000 last week — amid fresh worries that the ranks of the unemployed could again swell as restaurants and other establishments re-close to stave off new infections.

Tallahassee Memorial Hospital is making its COVID dashboard public

Lynn Hatter, WFSU

The hospital keeps a running tally on the number of patients its treated with the virus, along with those currently hospitalized.

The move comes as the state is no longer releasing daily hospitalization data.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’s office said it would begin daily hospitalization reporting for all counties, but that has not happened yet.

According to the state’s coronavirus dashboard, more than 17,000 people have been hospitalized from the virus.

According to TMH’s figures, it has treated 118 coronavirus patients, and is currently treating 27 people.

COVID will come back ‘stronger’ during flu season

Wilkine Brutus, WLRN

When the US got its first cases of COVID-19, there was a hope that hot summer weather would eventually help suppress the virus.

It hasn’t worked out that way, but Palm Beach County’s top health official says the virus could still get worse in the fall.

“It will come back stronger in November when flu season is here.”

That’s Dr. Alina Alonso speaking to WPTV on Wednesday. Another complication? It will be flu season too.

“We’ll have to be dealing with the flu and the COVID and most people are going to have, to you know; if they get the flu, they’re going to think it’s COVID. If they get COVID, they might think it’s the flu,” Alonso said.

That could complicate efforts to develop and distribute flu vaccines quickly.

In Palm Beach, Alonso says county officials will remain in phase 1 of reopening until the COVID positivity rate decreases. It’s currently hovering around 10 percent.

Walton County Food Bank to receive grant for infrastructure improvement

Robbie Gaffney, WFSU

Food For Thought in Walton County is one of six food banks to receive grant money from the Walmart Foundation.

A total of 100,000 dollars is being given out to help rural food banks improve their infrastructure.

That includes expanding how much food they can store and serve as well as coaching from public health specialists on nutrition. Living Healthy in Florida’s Karla Shelnutt:

“COVID-19 has resulted in a significant increase in the unemployment rate in Florida, which has led to more and more families visiting food banks and pantries for assistance. Many of these programs have been unable to meet this increase in demand,” Shelnutt said.

Shelnutt says the grant money will help rural food banks meet that demand. Funding will go to banks in Flagler, Highlands, Levy, Putnam and Palm Beach Counties.

9 employees of Miami TV station test positive for COVID-19

The Associated Press

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. (AP) — Nine employees of a Miami-area television station have tested positive for COVID-19.

WPLG announced on Wednesday that the station is taking every precaution, including the testing of 147 employees and their family members this week.

Many of the station’s employees are quarantined at home, including news anchor Nicole Perez and her reporter husband Roy Ramos, and anchor Louis Aguirre, who all tested positive.

Perez told the station that she’s feeling cold-like symptoms and has felt run-down. She says she’s more concerned about her husband, whose symptoms have been far worse.

Future of high school sports uncertain for fall season

Danny Rivero, WLRN

High school sports are facing an uncertain future for the fall season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Practice for sports like football, swimming and volleyball is still scheduled to start on July 27.

But a task force within the Florida High School Athletic Association has recommended pushing the start date back.

Beau Johnson is a part of that group, and he’s also a football coach and athletic director in the Florida Panhandle. He recommended splitting the state into different regions.

“Those people in Miami and Tampa and Fort Lauderdale are going through a lot different stuff than what we’re going through at Port St. Joe, Franklin County, so forth and so on. For this one year we may have to seriously consider letting regions of the state get approved to do certain things at different times,” Johnson said.

If different parts of the state start at different times, it could make it impossible to schedule statewide playoffs and championships. And that could have an impact on students who rely on big moments in big games to get noticed for college scholarships.

The statewide association is evaluating the recommendations and is expected to make a final decision in the coming week.

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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 »