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Your Monday Update: Orange County Breaks 10,000 Cases; Doctors Call for Schools to Reopen in the Fall, Florida GOP Convention Site Mandates Face Masks, DeSantis Announces Vetoes

Photo: Neon Brand

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Orange County breaks 10,000 case mark

Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Orange County has now had 10,014 coronavirus cases with 57 deaths from COVID-19.

“We had no idea that we would reach this point, certainly not as quickly as we have within the month of June itself,” said mayor Jerry Demings in a press conference Monday.

Demings said there was some good news in the lower daily number of positive cases reported at last count.

“We have seen day over day increases of 900,  a thousand-plus for the last several days of this past week. So when we saw 343, that’s the lowest number at least in a week or so.”

Demings and other local leaders are urging residents to adhere to social distancing guidelines and mask requirements as July 4th approaches.

Read the full story here.

Take a break from coronavirus news: ‘The past isn’t done with us,’ says ‘Hamilton’ creator Lin-Manuel Miranda

Terry Gross, NPR

For Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the hip-hop musical Hamilton, history always informs the present. “The past isn’t done with us. Ever, ever, ever,” he says.

Hamilton tells the story of the nation’s founding fathers, including Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. Miranda wrote the music and lyrics and starred in the original production, which debuted on Broadway in 2015. The production garnered 11 Tony Awards, a Pulitzer Prize for drama and a Grammy for its original cast recording.

Miranda’s been heartened to see the musical’s lyrics — including “I’m past patiently waiting” and “History has its eyes on you” — printed on signs at Black Lives Matter protests around the country.

“When you write a musical that brushes against sort of the origins of this country, it’s always going to be relevant,” he says. “The fights we had at the [country’s] origin are the fights we’re still having. … I’ve always said that slavery is the original sin of this country.”

A film of the original Broadway production of Hamilton, taped in 2016will begin streaming on Disney+ on July 3. Miranda, who stars in the title role, calls the film a “a love letter and thank you” to the company.

Read the full article here.

CDC says singers could be virus superspreaders — but 100 sang unmasked with Pence

Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR

A choir of about 100 performers sang at a megachurch campaign event featuring Vice President Pence on Sunday. They did not wear masks while they sang.

Many epidemiologists and singing experts currently fear that singers may be superspreaders of COVID-19, due to aerosolization of the virus. Singing involves much more forceful and deep breathing than simple talking.

The choir was performing at the Celebrate Freedom Rally, which took place at Dallas’ First Baptist Church and was billed as an event “to celebrate our freedom as Americans and our freedom in Christ with you through worship.” According to CNN, about 2,200 people attended the rally at the Texas megachurch, which can hold about 3,000 people. The singers reportedly wore face coverings between their selections.

Last Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a “pause” on his state’s reopening after saying that Texas is facing a “massive outbreak” of the coronavirus.

Attendees at the First Baptist event went through temperature screenings before entering the megachurch, which boasts a membership of 13,000, and the church “strongly encouraged” those at the rally to wear masks and observe social distancing. It’s unclear whether all performers and speakers were subjected to similar measures. Pence wore a mask except when he spoke.

Read the full story here.

U.S. pediatricians call for in-person school this fall

Anya Kamenetz, NPR

The nation’s pediatricians have come out with a strong statement in favor of bringing children back to the classroom this fall wherever and whenever they can do so safely. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidance “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”

The guidance says “schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being.”

The AAP cites “mounting evidence” that transmission of the coronavirus by young children is uncommon, partly because they are less likely to contract it in the first place.

On the other hand, the AAP argues that based on the nation’s experience this spring, remote learning is likely to result in severe learning loss and increased social isolation. Social isolation, in turn, can breed serious social, emotional and health issues: “child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation.” Furthermore, these impacts will be visited more severely on Black and brown children, as well as low-income children and those with learning disabilities.

Read the full article here.

Hundreds line up for tests as Florida cities close beaches

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Hundreds of people lined up at coronavirus testing sites around Florida on Monday, as the state remained in the virus’s grip.

St. Petersburg Police said on Twitter that a testing site located at Tropicana Field — where the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team normally plays — closed early because it was at capacity, shortly after 8 a.m. In Jacksonville, more than 300 cars lined up for testing at the TIAA Bank Field, where the NFL Jaguars play.

Beaches and bars in South Florida are closing, just days before the normally busy Fourth of July weekend. Monroe County, which comprises the Florida Keys, said Monday it would close beaches.

Fireworks shows have also been canceled in several cities, and some attractions are closing their doors as well.

Florida site of GOP convention orders wearing of masks

The Florida city where President Trump is scheduled to accept the Republican nomination for his re-election bid voted Monday to require masks in public and indoor spaces.

The U.S. is seeing about 40,000 new confirmed cases per day, and states such as Texas and Florida are backtracking, clamping down on bars, restaurants and beaches.

DeSantis announces vetoes

Lynn Hatter, WFSU

Gov. Ron DeSantis has cancelled a billion dollars worth of planned spending for the upcoming fiscal year. State agencies will be required to preserve a portion of their budget, but DeSantis did not veto pay increases for state workers:

“We were able to make the numbers work. And look, a lot of people have worked very hard these past 3-4 months. I know a number of our key agencies have been working around the clock… I wouldn’t have done it if we couldn’t make the numbers work, but we made them work,” DeSantis said.

Most recent estimates show the state has lost nearly 1.5 billion dollars in revenue since the pandemic began. Among the local vetoes—hospital projects in Calhoun and Madison County, water infiltration projects in Bay County and Apalachicola, and workforce and construction projects at Florida A&M and Florida State universities.

Florida saw a significant drop in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19, according to figures released by the Florida Department of Health this morning.

Florida adds 5,409 new coronavirus cases on Sunday

Abe Aboraya, WMFE

Just over 5,409 people had positive test results recorded on Sunday, or about 14 percent of those tested. 

However, the number of tests performed is down too. 

Overall, Florida performed about 30,000 tests fewer than on Friday, when the state hit a record 9,500 positive test results.

Every Central Florida county had more than 10 percent of tests come back positive – except for Lake, Sumter and Marion counties. 

A high percentage of positive tests is an indication that not enough testing is being done to track and quarantine people with the virus. 

FAMU boosts testing

Blaise Gainey, WFSU

Florida A&M University has gotten approval to ramp up testing at its COVID-19 testing site. This comes after several consecutive days of reaching maximum capacity.

Associate Dean of Public Health Cynthia Harris says the increase was needed.

“What we’ve seen is an increase over our 400 maximum capacity. As a result of that very recently we have increased to 500 max. So we have been given authority through the state to test up to 500 per day,” Harris said.

Harris says some days the school has had to shut down its site due to reaching the maximum number of people before its 6 p.m. closing time. The amount of people testing has increased along with the number of positive cases.

Last Friday more than 9,500 people in the state tested positive for COVID-19.

COVID-19 surge could mean lower gas prices

Tom Urban, WLRN

With the number of coronavirus cases in Florida spiking, fuel demand and prices are expected to drop once again.

According to AAA Auto Club, a gallon of regular unleaded gas in Florida now averages two dollars and three cents per gallon, up one penny from last week.

However, crude oil and wholesale gasoline prices both fell last week, as confirmed COVID-19 cases spiked in Florida and many other states.

AAA spokesman W. D. Williams says if more businesses are forced to re-close and people are told to again work from home, simple supply and demand issues will again lead to lower fuel prices.

“The trends and the pressures right now are to slow the gasoline price increase. So, like I say, we could see gasoline prices below two dollars per gallon again, if the trends with the COVID continue to increase,” Williams said.

Right now, gas prices are 14 cents higher than last month, but still down 51 cents over the past year.

Florida’s most expensive gas is found in West Palm Beach, while the cheapest area of the state to fill up is Fort Myers.

How a pandemic challenged Payal Kadakia to rethink her business model

How I Built This, NPR

In the late 2000s, Payal Kadakia was working a corporate job and running an Indian dance company on the side.

When a search for a ballet class yielded a confusing jumble of computer tabs, she had an idea: create the Open Table of the fitness industry – a search engine where users could sign up for classes in one streamlined place.

When that idea failed, Payal pivoted multiple times, eventually landing on the subscription service ClassPass.

Today, ClassPass connects users to hundreds of thousands of fitness classes around the world. It was valued at $1 billion earlier this year, but when the pandemic hit, it flattened the fitness industry, forcing ClassPass to pivot yet again.

Essential vocab for COVID-19: from asymptomatic to zoonotic

Pien Huang, NPR

The world is being flooded with new terms in coverage of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Here’s a glossary in case you’re not up on the latest medical and testing jargon. We start with the nomenclature of the virus. Words are listed in thematic groupings (transmission and testing, for example).

Coronavirus: A category of viruses that can cause fever, breathing difficulties, pneumonia and diarrhea. Seven coronaviruses are known to infect humans, including four that can cause the common cold. Some are potentially fatal. The name comes from the Latin word “corona,” which means crown. Under a microscope, these viruses are characterized by circles with spikes ending in little blobs.

Researchers have identified hundreds of coronaviruses in animals, such as camels, pigs, cats and bats, that are usually not transmissible to humans. In rare instances, a coronavirus mutates and can pass from animals to humans and then spread among people, as was the case with the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic in the early 2000s and now with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the full glossary here.

Former NIH director calls Trump administration’s pandemic response ‘amateur hour’

Joe Palca, NPR

Dr. Elias Zerhouni knows the dangers of infectious disease outbreaks. He was director of the National Institutes of Health in 2005 when bird flu appeared poised to become more infectious to humans. Fortunately, that pandemic never materialized, but he says it served as a warning of what was to come.

Zerhouni has been a member of the faculty of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and head of global research and development for the pharmaceutical company Sanofi.

I asked him about the difficulties of responding to pandemics in general, and in particular the government’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Some of the wording has been edited for clarity.

On the Trump administration’s pandemic response

It was basically amateur hour. There is no central concept of operations for preparedness, for pandemics, period. This administration doesn’t want to or has no concept of what it takes to protect the American people and the world because it is codependent. You can’t close your borders and say, “OK, we’re going to be safe.” You’re not going to be able to do that in this world. So it’s a lack of vision, basically just a lack of understanding, of what it takes to protect the American people.

Read the full interview here.

Justice Department issues warning about fake mask exempt cards

Jason Slotkin, NPR

Public health experts overwhelmingly agree that one of the best ways to slow the spread of the coronavirus is to wear a mask. Still, the seemingly straightforward recommendation to secure a covering over one’s nose and mouth has proven one of the pandemic’s more partisan issues.

The Department of Justice is now warning that a card circulating online is falsely claiming its holder is lawfully exempt from wearing a mask.

A recently issued alert by the department is urging the public not to heed information printed on the fraudulent cards, which purport to carry the authority of the “Freedom to Breathe Agency,” which is neither a federal nor a state agency.

The fake card states that wearing a mask will incur mental or physical risk for the holder. The card also posits that the Americans with Disabilities Act forbids raising questions about the health condition aggravated by mask usage. Penalties are threatened if a business owner does not act accordingly.

“If found in violation of the ADA you could face steep penalties. Organizations and businesses can be fined up to $75,000 for your first violation and $150,000 for any subsequent violations. Denying access to your business/organization will be also reported to FTBA for further actions,” the card reads, according to images that have been posted online.

Read the full article here.

Florida revenues plummet after the coronavirus shutdown

The Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s economy is taking a huge hit because of the coronavirus, according to a revenue report released by the state Senate president.

Republican Senate President Bill Galvano sent a memo to senators Friday saying the state’s revenue in the month of April was down about $780 million from what was originally predicted.

That includes sales taxes that were about $695 million below predictions.

The Legislature approved a $93 billion budget in March.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has until Tuesday to sign the budget for the fiscal year that begins Wednesday, and it’s expected he’s going to heavily use his power to veto individual items in the spending plan.

Global COVID-19 deaths top 500,000

Rachel Treisman, NPR

The coronavirus pandemic reached a new milestone on Sunday, with confirmed deaths surpassing half a million around the world and the number of confirmed cases topping 10 million.

According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, there were 10,063,319 confirmed cases and 500,108 deaths globally by late Sunday afternoon. The number of cases is likely much higher, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcing this week that for every reported case, there were 10 other estimated infections in the United States.

More than 2.5 million of those confirmed cases are in the United States. The countries with the next highest totals are Brazil, Russia, India and the United Kingdom.

Some parts of the world have managed to bring the virus under control. South Korea, which reported about 750 new cases daily in late February and early March, was averaging just a few dozen per day at the end of May, though officials have noted a slight resurgence.

New Zealand had mostly eradicated the virus by mid-May and went 24 days with no new cases before identifying two this month. And China’s capital city of Beijing went two months without reporting a local coronavirus case until mid-June.

Read the full article here.

Hasan Minhaj on police brutality, COVID-19 and the 6th season of ‘Patriot Act’

Christianna Silva, NPR

Hasan Minhaj tackles police brutality, the student debt crisis, U.S. elections, the demise of local journalism and so much more on the sixth season of his show, Patriot Act, on Netflix.

One of Minhaj’s episodes featured an interview with Minnesota attorney general Keith Ellison, the person in charge of the case against the four police officers involved in the death of George Floyd. Minhaj, who said he knew Ellison from “your traditional Muslim fundraisers for the community, for a local mosque or for a local organization” told NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro on Weekend Edition that the interview felt necessary.

“I felt like there is this very interesting national moment where we have bipartisan condemnation of the police officers,” Minhaj said. “You have to capitalize. I remember when Eric Garner was murdered, another famous ‘I can’t breathe’ case, and yet the officers were charged and they walked. And so visiting [Ellison] at his office, one of the things that I was most amazed at was how calm and collected he is about this case. He told me something really powerful to me in the interview: ‘I don’t want to overcharge and I don’t want to undercharge, I just want justice to be served.’ ”

Read the full article here.

Q&A: Are face mask requirements legal?

Lulu Garcia-Navarro, NPR

As the number of new coronavirus cases spikes in several states across the U.S., governors, county officials and business owners have been crafting laws and guidelines that mandate the use of face masks to help prevent the spread of the virus.

But even a simple cloth face covering has become political.

This month, for example, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued guidance that requires most Californians to wear masks in most public settings. Public health officials say masks can prevent wearers, whether or not they’re expressing symptoms of COVID-19, from spreading the virus to others. Newsom’s mandate drew pushback from both residents and local officials, who argued that the governor doesn’t have the legal authority to make masks a requirement.

But according to Lindsay Wiley, the director of the Health Law and Policy Program at American University, there is a legal basis for mandatory masks.

In an interview with NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, Wiley said, “State and local governments have really quite broad authority” to require the public to wear masks during a pandemic. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What’s the legal basis for making people cover their faces?

State and local governments have really quite broad authority, particularly in a public health emergency like this, to issue emergency orders. We’re seeing some potential legal issues arise, though, regarding how these orders are being adopted, whether they’re following the correct political process, whether it’s the right part of government that’s issuing the orders. And then we’re also seeing some court challenges filed arguing that these orders violate individual rights.

Read the full interview here.

DeSantis hoping to reverse coronavirus positivity rate in Florida

Robbie Gaffney, WFSU

Gov. Ron DeSantis says Florida is still in good shape despite rising coronavirus cases. DeSantis is focusing on the positivity rate—which has gone up from four to five percent in May to 12% in June.

“The increased cases are being driven a lot of it because you are seeing much more spread amongst the younger demographic. I think that that positivity rate we’d like to turn that and get that going in a downward direction,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis is asking Floridians to stay vigilant by wearing masks, washing hands, and keeping their distance from others.

Fort Lauderdale, Miami beaches will close for July 4th

Tim Padgett, WLRN

On Sunday, Broward County and its largest city, Fort Lauderdale, announced they too will close their beaches for the upcoming 4th of July weekend to prevent more COVID-19 transmission.

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis heard a lot of angry voices as he made his announcement at Fort Lauderdale Beach near Las Olas Boulevard.

“Miami-Dade’s decision certainly had an impact on what we were intending to do. We were not quite sure what we were going to do for our 4th of July weekend. But certainly when Miami-Dade made their decision, it was incumbent upon us to realize that the influx of visitors and residents that would otherwise go to Miami-Dade would ultimately come north. And I don’t think…that we would have been able to accommodate everybody in a safe way,” Trantalis said.

Miami-Dade County decided to close its beaches for the 4th earlier in the week.

Global lives lost to coronavirus: From a wise and wonderful grandma to a soccer pioneer

NPR 

Our blog covers the globe. And as we in the U.S. mourn the citizens who died of novel coronavirus, we also wanted to pay tribute to lives lost around the world. Since the start of the pandemic, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of nearly 500,000 people worldwide.

We asked writers, activists and global development champions to share a tribute to someone in their country who has passed away from the disease. They include famous people — a soccer trailblazer, an actor from an Amazonian tribe, political leaders — and regular folks — a beloved grandmother, a single mom who reached out to help others during this crisis, the 8-year-old child of Mexican immigrants and others.

‘Little heart of gold’

Eight-year-old Aurea Yolotzin Soto Morales was a playful, intelligent second grader. Her family and friends called her Yoshi. She died on June 1, just four days after she tested positive for COVID-19.

Born and raised in Durham, North Carolina, Yoshi was the youngest daughter of Salvador Soto and Araceli Morales Martinez, both immigrants from Mexico.

The name Yoshi comes from her full name, Aurea Yolotzin. Her mother chose the indigenous Nahuatl name. She translates it into Spanish as “corazoncito de oro,” or “little heart of gold.”

“She was a jokester,” says her mother, Morales Martinez — the type of little girl who liked sneaking up behind her older sister, Jennifer, just to spook her and get a laugh. She loved drawing. She relished tomatoes. She hated wearing shoes and climbed on playground rocks barefoot to dance at the top. The family took trips to Disney World every spring, where Yoshi and Jennifer celebrated their birthdays together, even though they were almost 10 years apart. Yoshi loved these trips to visit her favorite princesses and feast on macarons.

Yoshi’s death marks the first and only pediatric death in North Carolina so far. Latinos are disproportionately affected by the virus, making up 45% of positive cases in the state, according to North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services. Yoshi’s family urges their community to take the virus seriously.

“It is very difficult not to cry when remembering our favorite star,” says Morales Martinez of her daughter. “She gave us light and smiles at every moment.”

Read the full list of obituaries here.

COVID-19 might be mutating says Studer Family Children’s Hospital’s Jason Foland

Robbie Gaffney, WFSU

Young people can’t die from the coronavirus is a myth, says Studer Family Children’s Hospital’s Jason Foland.

He spoke during the governor’s COVID-19 press conference Sunday.

Foland says young people are getting infected and dying, and that now, there’s a theory that COVID-19 is mutating into a less aggressive strain.

“People in the beginning who were getting sick and dying weren’t spreading the virus and on top of that elderly populations were isolating themselves so we’re seeing maybe a less virulent or less strong virus spread throughout the community in a population that doesn’t have a lot of symptoms such as the 18 to 30 year olds,” Foland said.

Foland says there still needs to be scientific studies to back up the less aggressive strain theory.

DeSantis tells younger Floridians to act more responsibly to avoid COVID-19 infection

Tim Padgett, WLRN

Young people now represent the majority of the state’s new cases.

At a press briefing Sunday at Ascension Hospital in Pensacola, DeSantis said the positivity rate for new coronavirus testing in Florida has jumped considerably this month.

And that’s being driven largely by the younger demographic: he said last week half of all Floridians testing positive for COVID-19 were in their early 30s or younger.

“You’re seeing it in those groups who are less at risk. But you’re seeing them test positive at much higher rates. I think 25-to-34 has been pretty close to 20 percent,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis attributed much of that to a “throw-caution-to-the-wind” attitude among younger Floridians regarding indoor socializing in homes and at bars.

“You have graduation parties, you’re going out, you’re doing different things…That’s going to be conducive to transmitting the virus…I mean, they need to be thinking about who they’re coming into contact with who may be in the more vulnerable groups…the folks who are more elderly,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis also announced a new COVID-dedicated nursing facility will open on Wednesday in Miami-Dade County at the former Pan American Hospital Building at Northwest 7th Street and 59th Avenue.

The announcement comes after more than 2,100 new cases were confirmed yesterday in Miami-Dade — a new record for the county.

How coronavirus could widen the gender wage gap

Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR

Mamie Brown is getting up earlier than ever these days.​

“A typical day for me starts about 4:30 to 5:00. I actually naturally wake up. I think part of that’s my anxiety right now,” she said. “And then when I do, very first thing in the morning is catch up on to-dos around the house and paperwork.”

She’s a self-employed lawyer in Fairbanks, Alaska, specializing in helping small businesses with things like contracts and HR issues. But now she and her husband are juggling work and their kids, ages 8 and 4.

When schools closed in the spring, the children’s classes moved online. That forced Brown to rejigger her workday so she could help her children with schoolwork.​

“​I always thought, oh yeah, OK, if I can’t work at 8:00 and 10:00 and noon, I’ll just work at 7:00 p.m. But pretty quickly, you realize that, you know, I have my productive hours, but I have to put my productive hours on hold because my daughter has mandatory things she has to do for her curriculum.”

Read the full article here.

Monroe County to suspend tourism ads

Nancy Klingener, WLRN

The Florida Keys tourism agency is suspending advertising starting Wednesday.

That action came at the request of Monroe County officials, who are concerned about the rising number of coronavirus cases.

They’re expecting big crowds for the Fourth of July holiday. The Monroe County sheriff’s office is also warning about heavy traffic on the Overseas Highway all week.

Florida governor signs into law bill to speed up recounts

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed into law a bill that allows local elections officials across the state to use a secondary system to speed up recounts and verify the accuracy of results.

DeSantis approved the voting systems measure to employ a statewide network used for recounts. So far, DeSantis has opposed other measures to ensure more voting participation during the pandemic.

The law gives the supervisors of elections in the state’s 67 counties the option of employing auditing systems that are separate from the machines and software used for the initial ballot counts.

Critics said the new system had risks because it relies on digital images of the original paper ballots for recounts.

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


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