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Your Saturday Update: Virus-Weary Texas Braces for Hurricane Hanna, Volusia County Gives Parents An Extension on Back-to-School Decision, Florida Could Lose Seats in the House

Photo: Christina @wocintechchat

Virus-weary Texas braces for Hurricane Hanna’s arrival

HOUSTON (AP) — Tropical Storm Hanna has been upgraded to a hurricane and is moving toward Texas, which has been dealing with a surge of coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

The National Hurricane Center said Saturday morning that Hanna’s maximum sustained winds had increased to 80 mph and that it was expected to make landfall Saturday afternoon or early evening.

The storm was centered about 85 miles southeast of Corpus Christi, Texas.

Local officials in Texas said Friday that they were confident they’d be able to cope with the one-two punch of the storm and the state’s surge in COVID-19 cases. Meteorologists say the biggest concern from Hanna is expected to be flash flooding.

Volusia County gives parents an extension on back-to-school decision

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

Volusia County Schools has extended the deadline for parents to make a decision about how their children will restart school in the fall. Now forms aren’t due until this Thursday at noon.

The district has added parent information sessions next week Monday and Wednesday, including ones in Spanish.

OCPS also extended their deadline, but parents only have until Monday to make their decision.

California, Florida, Texas lose House seats with Trump order

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A new analysis shows which states would be most impacted by President Donald Trump’s order to exclude undocumented immigrants from being counted in the redrawing of U.S. House districts.

Pew Research Center says, without undocumented immigrants, California would lose two seats instead of one, Florida would gain one seat instead of two and Texas would gain two seats instead of three.

Additionally, the Pew analysis shows Alabama, Minnesota and Ohio would each keep a congressional seat they most likely would have lost during the process of divvying up congressional seats.

That process will take place after the 2020 census is finished. Census collection has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Orange County Public Schools extends the deadline for parents to decide how to send children back to school in the fall 

Amy Green, WMFE

Orange County Public Schools says it is extending Friday’s deadline for registering for one of three learning models for the upcoming academic year. 

That’s after receiving only 140,000 registrations. The district is the fourth-largest in the state, educating some 215,000 students. 

Parents can choose face-to-face or virtual learning, or a combination of the two, although school leaders say that under this third model learning will take place entirely at home at least at first. 

The new deadline is Monday. 

Florida voters overwhelmingly favor a mask requirement, according to a new poll by Quinnipiac University

Joe Byrnes, WMFE

Seventy-nine percent of voters in Florida favor a mask mandate, which the governor continues to oppose.

Voters are split on whether he should issue a stay-at-home order.

Eighty-three percent of them see the coronavirus as a serious problem in Florida, and 70 percent say it’s out of control.

The state’s response to COVID-19 has taken a toll on DeSantis’ job approval. He has 41 percent approval now, compared to 53 percent in April.

In the same telephone survey, Florida voters favor Joe Biden over Donald Trump for president by 13 points – 51 to 38 percent.

The poll reached 924 registered voters and has a margin of error of 3.2 percent.

Taha Bawa on making connections in a time of isolation with Guy Raz

How I Built This, NPR

Now more than ever, people are relying on the internet to connect with one another.

For Taha Bawa and his company Goodwall, that is great news. Bawa co-founded Goodwall to create a platform for students and young professionals to connect with one another, and present themselves for a wide range of opportunities, with a focus on Gen Z and Millennials.

Today, Guy Raz checks in with Taha to see how COVID-19 has impacted his platform, and how they’re adapting to the new realities of today.

‘Could already be a second wave’: Some restrictions return as cases spike in Spain

Laurel Wamsley, NPR

A month after lifting its lockdown, Spain announced 922 new cases of the coronavirus. The country has now seen 272,421 total cases and 28,432 deaths.

“It could already be a second wave, but that’s not the most important thing,” María José Sierra, Spain’s deputy chief of health emergencies, told outlets including The Guardian on Thursday. “The most important thing is that we keep following what’s going on, see what measures are necessary, and take them early.”

The new case numbers are tracking far higher in recent weeks than they were in June when the daily average was 132.

Spain’s daily new infection number was down slightly from 974 on Thursday – that day marked the country’s highest daily increase since May 8, as NPR’s Lucía Benavides reported.

The country now finds itself with 280 local outbreaks.

More than 17,800 new cases have been confirmed in the last two weeks, nearly half of them in Catalonia. The region is home to the usually bustling tourist city of Barcelona, where authorities this week reduced the number of people permitted on the city’s beaches amid the surge in cases.

Read the full article here.

It’s a women’s recession

It’s Been a Minute With Sam Sanders, NPR

We’re in a recession, and it’s hitting women especially hard.

So how does it compare to the last recession, and how much of it has to do with childcare?

Sam is joined by Planet Money‘s Mary Childs and Stacey Vanek Smith to make sense of it all.

Then Sam chats with Reverend Jes Kast, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, about how faith and scripture provide solace in moments of uncertainty like this.

ICE confirms new foreign students can’t take online-only course loads in the U.S.

Rachel Treisman, NPR

Newly enrolled international students whose colleges and universities are operating entirely online this fall won’t be allowed to enter the U.S. after all.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed on Friday that its guidance granting visa flexibility to nonimmigrant students only applies to those who were actively enrolled at American schools on March 9.

“Nonimmigrant students in new or initial status after March 9 will not be able to enter the U.S. to enroll in a U.S. school as a nonimmigrant student for the fall term to pursue a full course of study that is 100 percent online,” the agency said.

It told designated school officials not to issue a Form I-20 to an international student in new or initial status who is outside of the U.S. and plans to take classes fully online. (Nonimmigrant students need a Form I-20, or a certificate of eligibility, to apply for a student visa, apply for benefits and enter the country.)

In an FAQ document last updated on July 15, ICE said that newly enrolled international students who are already in the U.S. can stay in the country. It also suggests deferment as an alternative for new students whose schools are modifying operations because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read the full article here.

With the economy tanking, more people seeking unclaimed cash

The Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida is seeing a surge in people making claims for unclaimed property since the coronavirus pandemic has shaken up the state’s economy.

Florida has $2 billion in unclaimed property, and even President Donald Trump is among the millions who have unclaimed money waiting for them.

But Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is focused on helping people who may have an extra need now that the unemployment rate has soared.

He said there has been a huge spike in claims since the pandemic started, including $38 million returned to Floridians in March alone.

Palm Beach County reports COVID-19 data plateau, encourages public urgency

Wilkine Brutus, WLRN

Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner says some of the COVID-19 data has plateaued.

Speaking at a press conference Friday, Kerner said one of the metrics that the county follows very closely is the daily lab positivity rate, which on Thursday sat below the statewide average of 13.3 percent.

“I’m not satisfied with 12 percent, but it’s certainly better than the 16, 17, 18, 20 percent that we’ve seen in other jurisdictions. And that’s how the hospital system gets overburdened very quickly. So, while I’m pleased in many regards, what I’m really excited about, which is the most unexciting aspect of any response, is just the stability and the marathon that we’re in.”

The mayor says the county is at a consistent level of positivity rate, but above the 10 percent that the county wants to be at.

Experts warn: Make a hurricane evacuation plan during the coronavirus pandemic

Alexander Gonzalez, WLRN

Florida emergency officials are urging folks to prepare for hurricane season as soon as possible because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Jenny Staletovich, reporter at WLRN says:

“They really want you to especially have an evacuation plan, not just have your water, and your food, and your flashlight, and all your papers in order. But they want you to know where you live. If you’re in a zone that’s likely to get evacuated, those maps are available on county websites.”

Staletovich says Miami-Dade County is planning to open all its shelters if there’s a hurricane. More shelters mean more people can spread out — helping prevent the virus from spreading.

If you need to look up your evacuation zone, you can find it at FloridaDisaster.org.

The power of workers

The Indicator From Planet Money, NPR

The power of workers has been in decline for decades.

Harvard’s Anna Stansbury talks about the three main drivers behind that decline, and what that means for the U.S. economy.

Okaloosa Public Libraries are giving out free face masks

Robbie Gaffney, WFSU

Okaloosa County Public Libraries will be handing out free cloth face masks on a first-come, first-served basis.

10,000 masks will be split among Okaloosa County Public Libraries. It’s part of a collaboration with the Okaloosa County Health Department to give free masks to the public.

These masks will be handed out in packs of five and are machine washable.

The county is not requiring residents to wear masks, but did pass an ordinance that requires businesses to post signs letting people know whether they mandate customers and employees wear them.

COVID-19 federal unemployment booster set to expire

Alexander Gonzalez, WLRN

A federal coronavirus booster of $600 dollars a week is set to expire next week, and thousands of out-of-work South Floridians could be affected.

Senate Republicans are debating whether that benefit should be included in their relief plan.

Miami-Dade Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel Powell said the House’s package includes an extension of that $600-dollar benefit.

“Give us back what you agreed to. I mean let’s be honest, whether it’s $600 or it’s a floating rate. So we need to see what they come back with, and then I need to take a look at that and see if that’s going to be appropriate for my community down in South Florida. And as you know, Miami has a very high cost of living.”

Republicans are proposing a floating rate. It would be a 70 percent wage replacement, according to the U.S. Treasury Secretary.

Republicans are expected to release their COVID-19 relief plan on Monday.

Moody warns of COVID-19 scams

Tom Urban, WLRN

With many elderly Floridians continuing to be isolated due to the coronavirus pandemic, scam artists are using the emergency to rip them off.

According to Attorney General Ashley Moody, an increasing number of crooks are using high-pressure sales tactics, unsolicited phone calls, requests for wire transfers and computer tech scams to take advantage of people.

She has set up a new website, called “Scams At A Glance”, with information on current and emerging scams, available in English and Spanish.

Moody says Floridians should talk to their vulnerable family members about not becoming victims of fraud.

“As seniors are encouraged to be more isolated, because they are at higher risk of contracting very serious symptoms related to COVID, they are sitting prey.”

Moody says it’s always easier to work to prevent fraud before it happens, rather than to try to recover stolen money after the fact.

To access the “Scams At A Glance” information, visit www.MyFloridaLegal.com.

Coronavirus FAQ: What does it mean if I can blow out a candle while wearing a face mask?

Pranav Baskar, NPR

Each week, we answer “frequently asked questions” about life during the coronavirus crisis. If you have a question you’d like us to consider for a future post, email us at goatsandsoda@npr.org with the subject line: “Weekly Coronavirus Questions.”

Can you blow out a candle with your mask on?

That question became … a thing … this month when Bill Nye (aka “The Science Guy”) made a TikTok.

In it, he dons various types of masks that people are using during the pandemic, as he puts it, to “prevent particles from my respiratory system from getting into the air and then into your respiratory system” — in other words, a way of limiting transmission of viral particles. Nye attempts to blow out a candle about a foot away — a simulation for everyday respiratory exchanges and interactions such as coughs and conversations.

Most of his masks do the job (except for a knitted scarf), though in other versions of this experiment and in tests conducted by NPR mask wearers, a bandanna over the mouth usually allowed the wearer to extinguish the flame.

Basically, you want the flame to stay alive, says Amy Price, a senior research scientist at Stanford University’s Anesthesia Informatics and Media Laboratory. Otherwise, it can be a sign that the mask isn’t acting as a strong enough barrier. If you can blow out the flame easily while wearing a mask, she says, there’s too much air exchange between you and the outside world.

Still, she cautions that the test isn’t foolproof. Outside variables, such as the type of candle and your personal lung strength can affect the outcome. So take your results with a big, big grain of salt, Price says.

Read the full article here.

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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 »