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Your Monday Update: State Adds More Than 6,000 New Cases, The Importance of Black Doctors, WNBA Ready for Orlando Season Restart, Moments of Joy Amidst the Pandemic

Photo: National Cancer Institute

More than 30 NHL players test positive for coronavirus

The Associated Press

The National Hockey League says 35 total players have tested positive for the coronavirus over roughly the past month.

The league says 23 of 396 players checked for COVID-19 at team facilities have tested positive since voluntary workouts began June 8, a 5% rate. In that same period of time, it is aware of 12 additional positive test results.

The NHL and NHL Players’ Association on Sunday night agreed on protocols to start training camps and resume the season. That includes daily testing once games get under way for players, coaches and staff.

Resuming is contingent on each side approving an extension of the collective bargaining agreement and the return to play agreement.

Troopers out in extra numbers this week

Tom Urban, WLRN

The Florida Highway Patrol will be out in extra numbers this week, as people head home following the Independence Day holiday weekend.

Troopers will be making sure those driving during one of the summer’s busiest travel weeks get to and from their destinations safely.

They’ll be focusing on speeders, aggressive drivers and those who are impaired by drugs or alcohol.

FHP Captain Peter Bergstresser’s advice for those traveling is to leave with plenty of time, be patient and don’t drive drunk.

“We are going to obviously focus on impaired drivers and focus on speeding, because those are two big things that always cause a lot of crashes and a lot of heartache for folks,” Bergstresser said.

Troopers also remind drivers to pay attention to the road and avoid texting while driving, which is illegal and just as dangerous as drunk driving.

Florida reports more than 6,000 new coronavirus cases

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

The Florida Department of Health reported 6,336 new coronavirus cases on Monday.

That brings the total number of cases in Florida since the start of the pandemic in mid-March to 206,447. More than 16,000 people are hospitalized in the state and 3,880 people have died.

The state’s positivity rate has risen to more than 18 percent.

So far, Saturday’s case count of 11,458 holds the record for most new coronavirus cases recorded in a day.

As cases continue to spike, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom have moved forward with their plans to reopen and the MLS, NBA and WNBA prepare for their season restarts in Orlando.

Britain announces a $2 billion dollar rescue package for the arts

Frank Langfitt, NPR

The British government will spend nearly $2 billion dollars to help rescue the nation’s theater, museum and arts sectors. Sunday’s announcement came as more than 1,000 theaters remain shuttered across the country because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The rescue package will include grants and loans that theaters, museums, live music organizations and others can use to pay salaries and maintenance costs as they try to survive the COVID-19 recession.

“We were just extremely thankful,” said Kate Varah, executive director of the Old Vic, the famed London theater. “The government is rightly recognizing that investment in thriving sectors at a point of crisis is a good investment, and what we don’t want to do is come out of lockdown to have theaters boarded up, restaurants boarded up [and] shops unvisited wastelands.”

Oliver Dowden, Britain’s culture secretary, said the government would focus money on “crown jewels” such as the Royal Albert Hall, and emphasized that the rescue package was not a panacea for the entire culture and arts sector.

“Sadly, not everyone is going to be able to survive and not every job is going to be protected,” Dowden told the BBC.

Read the full article here. 

The importance of Black doctors

Short Wave, NPR

Though Black Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population, they represent only 5% of physicians. How does that lack of diversity in the physician workforce impact Black patients’ health and well-being?

Dr. Garrick Owen, the CEO and President of Bridge Clinical Research, wanted to know. He set out to investigate ⁠— through a clinical study ⁠— if the race of the doctor mattered in successfully encouraging Black patients to take advantage of preventative healthcare services, like cholesterol and diabetes screenings.

Today on the show, Short Wave host Maddie Sofia and reporter Emily Kwong talk about the implications of his study, “Does Diversity Matter? Experimental Evidence from Oakland,” and the importance of diversity in medicine for improving the health of communities of color.

You can read the study here and listen to a Hidden Brain episode about the research here.

And all this week, Short Wave will be celebrating and recognizing the scientific contributions of Black researchers. Starting tomorrow, we’ll be re-airing some of our favorite past episodes featuring Black scientists and their work.

Read the full article here.

Early coronavirus testing restrictions led to some big ER Bills

Julie Appleby, NPR

Fresh off a Caribbean cruise in early March, John Campbell developed a cough and fever of 104 degrees. He went to his primary care physician and got a flu test, which came up negative.

Then things got strange. Campbell says the doctor then turned to him and said, “I’ve called the ER next door, and you need to go there. This is a matter of public health. They’re expecting you.”

It was March 3, and no one had an inkling yet of just how bad the COVID-19 pandemic would become in the United States.

At the JFK Medical Center near his home in Boynton Beach, Fla., staffers met him in protective gear, then ran a battery of tests — including blood work, a chest X-ray and an electrocardiogram — before sending him home. Because he had not traveled to China — a leading criterion at the time for coronavirus testing — Campbell was not swabbed for the coronavirus.

Because of a loophole in federal rules, that meant his insurer didn’t have to cover the diagnostic exams and tests he underwent in the ER at the time.

A $2,777 bill for the emergency room visit came the next month.

Read the full article here.

Most of WNBAs older coaches OK with Florida virus risk

NEW YORK (AP) — Mike Thibault knows that he could be at higher risk for severe illness if he gets the coronavirus because of his age.

The 69-year-old Washington Mystics coach didn’t hesitate about going down to Florida with his team Monday to prepare for the upcoming WNBA season.

Thibault is one of five head coaches in the league over 60, including three over 65 — which puts them in the higher risk category according to the CDC. No other major sports league has as high a percentage of head coaches over 60.

Want to create a better mask? It’s harder than it seams

Elizabeth Blair, NPR

Five years before the coronavirus pandemic, Bill Gates didn’t mince words: “If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus, rather than a war,” he said at the 2015 TED conference in Vancouver.

Also at the conference, The Gates Foundation invited attendees to don plastic boots, overalls, masks and gloves in a hands-on PPE demo designed to help people experience how difficult it was for doctors — at the time fighting Ebola – to protect themselves while working.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (one of NPR’s funders) was posing a challenge to the conference attendees — founders of large tech companies, award-winning designers and inventors of all stripes — to take the possibility of a global pandemic seriously and solve the problematic limitations of PPE.

With that challenge in mind, NPR tracked down two California brothers determined to create a mask that would fit well, be reusable, durable and incorporate advanced textile technology.

Nick and Billy Smith have design in their DNA. Their parents are architects; their grandfather was an engineer. Growing up in Mill Valley, Calif., the brothers turned their parents’ garage into an industrial arts paradise where they tinkered with all kinds of material including fabric, fiberglass and wood.

Younger brother Nick remembers getting a set of power tools for his sixth birthday. “Somewhat safe power tools — to promote the wood-working,” he says, but still: “At a very young age, I think it became very clear my parents were never going to be able to park in that garage,” he laughs.

Pooling coronavirus tests can spare scare supplies, but there’s a catch

Richard Harris, NPR

Federal health officials are hoping to stretch the supplies used to test for the coronavirus by combining samples from a number of people and running a single test. Chinese health officials used that strategy to rapidly test large populations in Wuhan and Beijing.

The technique, called pooled testing, won’t resolve the testing bottlenecks in the United States. But it could help.

The idea is simple. Instead of running a coronavirus test on every specimen that arrives in a lab, take a sample of that specimen and combine it with samples from other specimens. Then run a single test on that pooled sample.

If it comes back negative, you can assume that all of the original samples are negative. And a single test has done the work of five or 10, if the samples had been tested individually.

Of course, if the pooled test comes back positive, it’s then necessary to test each of the original specimens individually – and that takes more time and more material. But on the whole, if a lab is testing samples that will be negative at least 90% of the time, the lab comes out ahead using the pooled approach.

Read the full article here.

Trump presses ‘cancel culture’ war, but here are 6 numbers that matter more

Domenico Montenaro, NPR

In an unusually divisive speech for a president on the Fourth of July holiday weekend, President Trump on Friday decried a “growing danger that threatens every blessing our ancestors fought so hard for.”

What is it? Terrorism? Polarization? A lack of trust in institutions?

No, Trump said at Mount Rushmore, it’s an attempt to erase American history and values. And one part of that, Trump said, is “cancel culture,” which he described as “driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees. This is the very definition of totalitarianism….”

Cancel culture is a form of group shaming — excluding someone who has done something objectionable or offensive, or withdrawing support from corporations or public leaders for the same reason. It’s often pushed from the left of the political spectrum, and there are certainly those who think it’s gone too far in some instances.

Apart from the merits of the argument, it’s ironic that Trump is arguing for inclusivity. The fact is, there are few quicker than Trump to “cancel” people for not believing the same as he does — or supporting him faithfully. He just doesn’t call it that.

Read the full article here. 

Visiting the Palm Beach Zoo during the pandemic

Natalia Clement, WLRN

South Florida’s beaches may have been closed over the weekend, but summer fun was still open at the Palm Beach Zoo.

On a hot July afternoon, many of the animals were cooling off in the shade or at waterfalls throughout the zoo.

And so were many of the young visitors.

Parents, most without masks, watched over their toddlers running through the water pad, giggling and playing with other kids.

“Getting out in nature, enjoying your family … seeing these amazing animals … it’s a great place to stay in the shade and enjoy a day outside.”

Christine DeMichael is the Palm Beach Zoo’s director of marketing.

She says the zoo has been positively surprised with the number of visitors during the pandemic. About 1,000 people visit each day during the weekends – that’s about 75 percent of the expected attendance from past summers.

The zoo has taken precautions, including ramping up sanitation, making paths one-way and closing high-contact attractions – like the carousel and playgrounds.

Face masks are recommended but not mandatory, as the zoo has limited the number of visitors at one time, providing enough space to social distance.

Jessica Shelley visited the zoo on Saturday with her one-year-old daughter Mia.

“We had a good time. My daughter’s been really into tigers so having her see a real tiger for the first time was really nice,” Shelley said.

COCA uploads creative Tallahassee exhibit

Tom Flanigan, WFSU

Nearly 1oo Tallahassee artists are featured in a new online exhibit. The virtual gallery is hosted by “COCA,” the Council of Culture and the Arts.

COCA’s Amanda Karioth Thompson says it’s one of the largest exhibits her organization has been involved with.

“Ninety-three local artists and 254 individual pieces of artwork. It’s just a cacaphony of beauty and creativity and talent,” Karioth Thompson said.

Painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, printmaking and multimedia are represented in the “Creative Tallahassee Exhibition,” which has its own web site: COCAonlinegallery.thenfolio.com.

A most welcome reminder, says Karioth Thompson, of how much beauty there is in our community, even during times that are often less than pretty.

Bill Creelman on Spindrift and moments of joy amidst the pandemic

How I Built This, NPR

Spindrift is a Massachusetts-based sparkling water company that only uses real squeezed fruit in its drinks.

From launching a new flavor to shipping Spindrift to homes across the country, Bill Creelman hopes that Spindrift still has a place in his customers’ lives during the pandemic.

Two more TSA officers at MCO test positive for coronavirus, officer passes away in Miami

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

Two more TSA officers at Orlando International Airport tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday.

In a message to staff, Federal Security Director Pete Garcia said the officers’ last day at the security checkpoint was July 3. Garcia said the officers will not return to work until they are cleared by a doctor.

These latest positive test results bring the total number of TSOs at the airport who have fallen ill since the beginning of the pandemic to 31.

Miami International Airport LTSO Paul Muao died of COVID-19 on July 3.

TSA Administrator Dave Pekoske said Muao’s coworkers described him as, “a great professional and a dependable friend,” in an agency-wide email sent a day after he passed away.

A theater student gets super-sized attention after superhero video goes viral

Christianna Silva, NPR

Julian Bass loves Spider-Man, a trait you can easily glean by scrolling through the videos he posts to his TikTok and Twitter accounts.

“I just think Spider-Man is so fun. It’s so inspiring to me,” Bass told NPR’s Weekend Edition. “Everything, every little aspect that you could possibly think of about Spider-Man is something that I’m aware of, that I know of.”

In one now-viral video, the 20-year-old theater major at Georgia State University morphs into his favorite heroes using his own special-effects — first a Jedi wielding a blue lightsaber, then Ben 10, before his final transition into Spider-Man. He asked his followers to retweet the video “enough times that Disney calls.” Twenty million views later, Disney wasn’t the only one he heard from.

At first, he said his video gained “some small traction with my immediate circle.”

“And then the verified profiles started commenting,” he said. “The first one for me was The Lonely Island. And then I started seeing Josh Gad, Matthew Cherry. I saw Mark Hamill liked it. I mean if Mark Hamill likes it, I’m a Jedi now.”

Bass said these aren’t just retweets — he’s also getting messages from “bigwigs” such as Marvel co-president Louis D’Esposito and people from HBO Max.

Read his story and watch the video here.

My gym is reopening. Is it safe to work out there?

Patti Neighmond, NPR

Exercise is good for physical and mental health, but with coronavirus cases surging across the country, exercising indoors with other people could increase your chance of infection.

So, as gyms reopen across the country, here are some things to consider before heading for your workout.

Assess your own risk

It starts with you, says Dr. Saadia Griffith-Howard, an infectious disease specialist with Kaiser Permanente.

“You have to make your own assessment of how risky it is based on knowing your medical situation and whether you are someone who’s at high risk for an infection,” Griffith-Howard says.

People 65 years and older are at higher risk for getting a severe case of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So are people with certain underlying health conditions, like diabetes, heart or lung disease, or those who are immunosuppressed.

So if you fall in a high-risk category, Griffith-Howard says it may not be worth the risk.

“If it was someone in my family [who was high risk] I would suggest that they not go to a gym,” she says.

Read the full article here.

Despite rising coronavirus cases, Trump’s focus appears to be elsewhere

Tamara Keith, NPR

President Trump, in a speech on Friday at Mount Rushmore that lasted more than 40 minutes, focused on statues and “cancel culture” and accused his political opponents of fascism.

But he spared just a few words for the pandemic that has killed 130,000 Americans, thanking “the doctors, nurses and scientists working tirelessly to kill the virus.” And that was it.

He gave it a little more attention Saturday night at the White House before a crowd of first responders and their families, touting the number of tests conducted in the United States.

“We show cases, 99% of which are harmless,” Trump said, adding that the country will have a therapeutic or vaccine solution long before the end of the year. It is unclear what he based that claim on.

Even with coronavirus cases spiking from California to Florida, Trump has largely kept his public focus elsewhere: “law and order,” “our heritage,” represented by statues that are a target of anti-racism protests, and job gains — even as governors find themselves forced to bring back shutdowns of bars, movie theaters and popular beaches.

Read the full article here.

U.S. COVID-19 deaths near 130,000; Florida and Texas report record case numbers

Christianna Silva, NPR

Nearly 130,000 people in the United States have died from the coronavirus and more than 2,800,000 people have been infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Both Florida and Texas reported their biggest daily rise in new confirmed cases over the past few days, with Florida reporting 11,443 new resident cases on Saturday and another 9,999 on Sunday.

Texas reported a record 8,258 new cases on Saturday followed by 3,449 on Sunday.

California reported 5,410 new cases on Sunday and Arizona reported 3,536 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday.

“I will tell you, a month ago one in 10 people were testing positive. Today, it’s one in four,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told CBS. “The number of people who are getting sick and going to the hospitals has exponentially increased. The number of people in our ICU beds has exponentially increased. In fact, if we don’t get our hands around this virus quickly, in about two weeks our hospital system could be in serious, serious trouble.”

At least two counties in South Texas say they have hospitals already at full capacity.

This comes after officials in TexasCalifornia and Arizona rolled back their reopening plans.

In Florida, however, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said last week that the state was “not going back” on reopening, saying younger people were driving the spike but that they were at lesser risk than older people.

Florida health officials say the state has reached a dangerous milestone

Brendan Byrne, WMFE

More than 200,000 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Florida.

State statistics released Sunday show about 10,000 new people tested positive in a single day. 

A day earlier, more than 11,000 cases were reported – setting a single-day record. 

Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties continue to have the most cases. Orange County is the fifth highest in terms of positive cases, accounting for 7 percent of the state’s COVID-19 cases.

The state’s positivity rate increased Sunday to 17 percent. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 3,700 people have died in Florida.

NASA astronaut and former virus hunter Kate Rubins will launch to the International Space Station in October

Brendan Byrne, WMFE

Kate Rubins says NASA is concerned over coronavirus – and is already taking precautions to protect its crew. 

“When we can work remotely, we do. When we have to do in-person training – for example with the crews and flight hardware – we all wear masks, we take social distancing measures and we sanitize the hardware as we’re using it. I think we’re just going to continue that all through training,” Rubins said.

Rubins will launch on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from Kazakhstan.

Before she became an astronaut, Rubins led a team of researchers studying viral diseases. She’ll focus on medical research onboard the station.

On her previous 115 day mission, Rubins became the first to sequence DNA in space. 

Private company SpaceX is also set to launch three NASA astronauts and a Japanese astronaut from Kennedy Space Center this fall. 

Trump Cabinet members look to reassure battleground voters

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet and agency leaders are finding time this election year to visit politically important states as their boss campaigns for a second term.

Florida alone has seen more than 30 visits by Cabinet-level administration officials this year.

Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arizona are among other swing states visited by a lot of the top administration officials.

They’re discussing federal funding and initiatives for local interests, as well as talking up Trump. The president is hoping for an energized base to buoy his prospects for a November victory.

Enhanced crowd audio adds another dimension to fanless games

International leagues and networks have resorted to adding crowd noise to broadcasts with stadiums closed to fans due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Two of Europe’s top soccer leagues sought help from a video game publisher while Fox Sports in Australia was able to come up with its own system for rugby and Australian Rules Football.

Discussions about adding crowd noise are continuing within Major League Baseball, the NHL, the NBA and the NFL.

The U.S.-based leagues have said they are evaluating options, but nothing has been finalized.

Miami leaders, political rivals theorize on national TV about cause of COVID-19 spike

Jessica Bakeman, WLRN

Two of Miami’s political leaders — and rivals — speculated about what caused the latest spike in coronavirus cases on national television Sunday.

Both mayors — Miami-Dade County’s Carlos Gimenez and the City of Miami’s Francis Suarez — blamed the increase on residents’ complacency about the virus.

But Gimenez also claimed without evidence that the virus was spread by demonstrators who’ve taken to the streets over the last month to protest racial injustice and police brutality.

“We had thousands of young people together, outside, a lot of them not wearing masks, and we know that when you do that, and you are talking and you are chanting, et cetera, that really spreads the virus. So, absolutely, the protests had something to do with it,” Gimenez said.

Gimenez was speaking on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.” A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found no increase tied to protests around the country.

Suarez argued the culprit was Miami residents’ behavior since businesses including restaurants started reopening. Here he is on “This Week” on ABC News.

“The city of Miami was the last city in the entire state of Florida to open. I was criticized for waiting so long. But there’s no doubt that when we reopened, people started socializing as if the virus didn’t exist. It’s extremely worrisome,” Suarez said.

In mid-June, Suarez himself was photographed without a mask at a Miami restaurant where patrons had flouted social distancing rules meant to slow the spread of the virus.

Suarez tested positive for COVID-19 in March and has since recovered.

Amid Fourth of July celebrations, a somber announcement: A new record high of COVID-19 cases

Jessica Bakeman, WLRN

The holiday weekend came with sobering updates from the Florida Department of Health. The COVID-19 pandemic is raging in South Florida.

Fourth of July fireworks shows were live streamed on Doral and Plantation’s Facebook pages — in hopes people would stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

These joyous events came just hours after a somber announcement from the Florida Department of Health: A new one-day record of nearly 11,500 cases of the coronavirus. These numbers are as high as New York state’s during the height of its pandemic back in April.

The next day brought another 10,000 cases.

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our nation was founded on these three basic, inalienable rights.”

That’s Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, in a video address on the county web site.

“As we celebrate this Fourth of July weekend, I want everyone in Miami-Dade County to focus on that first ideal: our shared right to life,” Gimenez said.

Gimenez recently imposed a county-wide curfew, required the use of face coverings in public and rolled back plans to reopen entertainment venues.

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 »