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Your Monday Update: Florida Reports More Than 10,000 New Cases, Hurricane Center Watching Two Tropical Disturbances, Bahamas Closes Borders to Most U.S. Travelers

Photo: Kelly Sikkema

Florida reports more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

The Florida Department of Health has reported 10,347 new coronavirus cases on Monday, along with an additional 90 new coronavirus-related deaths.

These latest numbers bring the total number of coronavirus cases in the state since the beginning of the pandemic to 360,394 cases, and the death toll to 5,183 deaths.

In Central Florida, Orange County leads with 23,584 cases, 119 deaths and 644 hospitalizations.

For the latest numbers in your area, hover over the map at the top of this page.

In non-coronavirus breaking news: Hurricane Center watching two tropical disturbances

Ray Hawthorne, WUFT

The National Hurricane Center is monitoring two areas for tropical development Monday morning. Meteorologist Ray Hawthorne says the first disturbance is likely to have some effect on the Sunshine State.

“The wave is likely to produce more showers this afternoon and Tuesday over Central and South Florida as it moves through the Peninsula and into the Gulf. However, the disturbance is not expected to organize until after it passes the state later in the week.”

As of early this morning, The National Hurricane Center gives the disturbance a 20% chance of developing as it heads toward Texas or Louisiana Wednesday into Thursday.

A second tropical wave midway between the African coast and the Caribbean also has a 20% chance of developing into a depression later this week.

Bahamas closes borders to most U.S. travelers amidst rising coronavirus cases

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

All international flights to the country are banned, except those coming from the United Kingdom, European Union and Canada starting Wednesday.

In a tweet sent Sunday, the Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said sea vessels carrying commercial passengers will also not be allowed entry into the country by mid-week.

Private and international charter flights are still welcomed in the country along with private pleasure crafts and yachts.

The European Union banned American travelers early last month as cases and deaths continued to rise in the country.

Lawmakers are far apart on a new coronavirus relief bill. Here are 5 sticking points

Domenico Montanaro, NPR

Congress returns from a summer recess Monday as many states experience spikes in confirmed coronavirus cases.

State governments face a precipitous drop in revenue, parents and teachers are debating how kids will return to school in the fall, and millions of unemployed workers face the prospect of their pandemic assistance running out at the end of the month.

But there have been zero negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and they remain very far apart on the contours of what should be in another relief bill.

Pelosi pushed again last week for the $3 trillion HEROES Act the House passed more than two months ago. But that bill, which was approved largely along party lines, was ignored by McConnell — and also met with a veto threat by the president.

McConnell insists he’s writing the next bill on his own and has indicated he’s looking at something significantly smaller — around $1 trillion. Senate Democrats haven’t heard any details and, according to a source on a call with the Democratic caucus last week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he would only engage in talks if House Democrats were included.

McConnell is expected to unveil his proposal early this week, according to an aide familiar with the leader’s plans. After discussions with Senate Republicans at a lunch on Tuesday, the bill could be rolled out if the GOP conference backs the blueprint.

He has repeatedly said no bill would pass without liability protection related to everyone from health care workers, businesses and schools.

Read the full article here. 

Coleman family members protest living conditions in prison during pandemic 

Joe Byrnes, WMFE

About 40 family members of inmates – waving signs and wearing masks – protested outside the Coleman prison complex in Sumter County Saturday afternoon.

They are worried about a COVID-19 outbreak there.

Thammy Castro came up from Miami with her grandfather to support her aunt, an inmate at Coleman’s minimum security camp. Family members say the outbreak there is worse than reported.

“There’s 50 percent of them contaminated. Tomorrow it could be 70, the day after 80, 90, until they’re all contaminated. And what are they waiting for? For someone to die?”

As of Sunday evening, the Federal Bureau of Prisons counted 188 active cases and one death among inmates at four different Coleman prisons. At least 52 staff members have tested positive. 

Organizer Miguel Inda-Romera of Miami says they want better food for the inmates, better medical care and release for more of the sick or vulnerable.

Virginia poultry workers see victory in new COVID-19 protection rules

Lulu Garcia-Navarro, NPR

The employees who work in the poultry plants on the Eastern Shore of Virginia are accustomed to long hours and some of the most grueling work in the country — work that has grown uniquely dangerous amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Many of these workers came to the United States from Guatemala and Mexico, and are not used to having their voices heard. That is, until this past Wednesday, when one of their demands was answered.

Virginia became the first state in the nation last week to require businesses to protect workers from the coronavirus. The state’s new emergency temporary standards obligate businesses to give out personal protective equipment, mandate social distancing guidelines and put in place response plans and training for workers, among other measures. Companies risk up to $130,000 in penalties if they are found to be in violation of the guidelines.

“Workers should not have to sacrifice their health and safety to earn a living, especially not during a pandemic,” the state’s Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, said in a statement on Wednesday. “In the face of federal inaction, Virginia has stepped up to protect workers from COVID-19, creating the nation’s first enforceable workplace safety requirements.”

Read the full article here. 

International students can study in the U.S. this fall — if they can get here

Elissa Nadworny, NPR

There’s a lot Andy Tu was looking forward to as a freshman at Claremont McKenna College, a small private college in California.

He imagined having intellectual debates on the quad and meeting “highly motivated, open-minded friends.”

Coming from an environment that’s “intolerant of unconventional ideas,” he says he was looking forward to being able to express himself freely on campus. He’d even been daydreaming about learning how to surf.

But every morning he wakes up at home in Shanghai, he feels like that iconic American freshman year is slipping further and further away.

“This uncertainty is making me anxious,” he says, “I’m really concerned.”

Due to the pandemic, many international students who are starting a graduate program or their freshman year, like Tu, face a series of hurdles — travel restrictions, limited flights and closed U.S. consulate offices — that make it incredibly difficult to start the fall semester at U.S. colleges.

That’s despite a reprieve last week, where Immigration and Customs Enforcement agreed to allow international students to stay in the country even if their schools opted for online-only learning in the fall.

Read the full article here.

More retail chains require face masks in stores across Florida and the United States

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

More than eleven retail chains will require facial coverings in stores starting this week. 

BJ’s Wholesale Club, CVS, Kohls, Sam’s Club, Schnuck Markets, Walgreens and Walmart’s policy will require shoppers to cover up on Monday.

Kroger, Publix and Home Depot will put similar rules in place on Tuesday and Wednesday and Target will wait until August 1 to join them.

More than 20 states have mandated the use of face masks in public places. Florida is not on that list. 

As virus surges in some US states, emergency rooms swamped

The Associated Press

Patients struggling to breathe are being placed on ventilators in some emergency wards since intensive care units are full, and the near-constant care they require is overtaxing workers who also are treating more typical ER cases.

Some patients have been moved into hallways, and nurses are working extra shifts. A fast-rising tide of new coronavirus cases is flooding emergency rooms in parts of the United States.

In Florida, hospitals say they are in desperate need of remdesivir to treat patients who are filling beds. The governor announced 30,000 vials of the drug were being shipped to the state.

The medication has been shown to shorten average hospitalization times.

Miami-Dade to provide hotel isolation rooms to families fighting COVID-19 infections

Jenny Staletovich, WLRN

Miami-Dade County is expanding a program to provide isolation rooms at hotels to the general public dealing with COVID-19 infections in families.

The rooms had been available to first responders, healthcare workers, people who are homeless and patients referred by the department of health.

But Miami-Dade Mayor Carols Gimenez says the rooms have been largely unused.

“Our frustration has been that we haven’t had enough people take advantage of it. We’ve relayed this to the hospitals. We relay this to the Department of Health. We need to get more of these patients into these hotel rooms so that we can stop the community spread.”

People can now call directly to request a room. They can get a room if they need to isolate themselves from infected family members, if they’re waiting for test results or if they themselves are infected.

Up to 400 more rooms are now available. Gimenez says a spike in cases among 18- to 34-year-olds is putting multi-generational families at risk.

“For everybody that we put into a hotel room to self isolate, we probably can stop the spread to three, four, five people in that house. It also depends on the situation. It could be that we isolate the more vulnerable members of that household and get them away from the household where that individual lives.”

To find out about the rooms, call 305-614-1716.

WNBA players adjusting to life in their Florida bubble

Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm says the WNBA bubble is part summer camp, part Olympic village and part college campus.

The league has all 12 of its teams at a single site, the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

The WNBA hopes teams will be able to play a full 22-game schedule there amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Two weeks into the experiment, players and coaches have been adjusting to their temporary homes.

Players were given the option of living in villas with teammates or by themselves in hotel rooms.

Each team was given two golf carts and they are usually parked in front of the villas.

Jack Nicklaus says he tested positive for coronavirus

The Associated Press

DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Jack Nicklaus says he and wife Barbara tested positive for the coronavirus at the onset of the pandemic.

He says he had a sore throat and a cough, while Barbara had no symptoms of COVID-19.

Both turned 80 earlier this year.

Nicklaus says given their age, they were “a couple of the lucky ones.”

Nicklaus says they have tested positive for antibodies.

He has said he would shake the hand of whoever wins his tournament Sunday.

But he says if the player doesn’t want to, that would be OK.

Manatee superintendent: school reopening plans could be in jeopardy unless more is done to halt spread

Kerry Sheridan, WUSF

Like school districts across the state, Manatee County is working to reopen schools next month.

But as coronavirus cases and deaths continue to climb, Manatee Schools Superintendent Cynthia Saunders says those plans could be in jeopardy, unless more is done to stop the spread of the virus.

“And if we don’t come together with complying with the health recommendations, then it could very well be that we’re not going to be able to have school daily brick and mortar, face to face.”

The Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis last week, asking him to rethink the state’s order to reopen schools next month.

The letter says the rate of positive COVID tests statewide has been 14 percent over the past two weeks, and it needs to be at three to five percent before schools can open safely.

NBA going with shorter games for Disney exhibition openers

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The first exhibition games of the NBA restart will go a little more quickly.

The NBA is tweaking the rules, going with 10-minute quarters instead of the usual 12 minutes in the first exhibition for all teams.

The second and third exhibitions will be played with standard timing.

The change for those initial games is for several reasons.

One is not wanting to overly tax players’ bodies after they went more than four months without games.

Another is because some teams do not have their full rosters at Walt Disney World yet because of coronavirus and other issues.

State economist: predicted drop in Florida tourism is ‘mind-boggling’

Gina Jordan, WFSU

Tourism is one of Florida’s main economic drivers, and the industry’s hit from COVID-19 will be felt for years.

That was the gloomy outlook from Friday’s meeting of the Florida Economic Estimating Conference at the Capitol.

Members wore masks and sat at socially distant lengths to assess predictions about Florida’s economy.

They see tourists starting to move again following the shutdown, but the forecast calls for travel to be “constrained” for possibly the next two years.

“I think it’s still going to be horrific if you lose 35 percent of the tourists you were expecting next year. I mean that’s still, that’s mind-boggling in and of itself.”

Amy Baker is the chief economist for the Florida Legislature. For this year, the group estimates that just 65 percent of the anticipated visitors to Florida will show up.

Baker says international travelers are likely to stay away because they fear getting sick and being quarantined far from home.

“What I think about is, you know, if I’m coming from Germany and I want to take a vacation, am I going to come to Florida right now? I don’t think I would.”

The tourists that do come to Florida may find fewer options for shopping, dining and entertainment. Baker says not all businesses can afford to reopen at 50 percent capacity, like one popular restaurant about a mile from the Capitol.

“Kool Beanz here in Tallahassee, classic example. They decided not to reopen in the short run because they can’t handle in terms of their cost structure a reduced level of people, and probably safety reasons and a hundred other reasons, but that’s part of it.”

Estimators say tourism may start to turn around late this year – if there’s a COVID-19 vaccine or the spread of the coronavirus slows.

Global photos: babies of the pandemic bring love, light — and worries

Everyday Projects, NPR

What is it like to give birth during a global pandemic?

What hopes and dreams — and fears — do the parents have when welcoming a newborn?

We asked the more than 600 photographers who work with Everyday Projects — contributing to Instagram accounts from countries in Asia, Africa, Central and South America, North America and Europe — to document the arrival of a baby born in 2020.

In some cases, the photographer is one of the parents; in other cases they photographed babies in their community — from a safe, social distance.

Read about the moms and babies here.

A reason to smile

StoryCorps, NPR

Whether it’s an accidental punchline, or a couple that makes you root for love, the stories in this week’s episode remind us there are still reasons to smile.

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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 »