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Your Thursday Update: Former Gov. Bush on Pandemic-Era Education, Students Need School Supplies at Home Too, Pediatricians Say School Reopening Benefits and Risks Must be Weighed

Photo: CDC @cdc

Former Gov. Bush on pandemic-era education: Don’t abandon accountability

Jessica Bakeman, WLRN

Florida education officials canceled state exams as public schools shifted abruptly online at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush doesn’t want to see that happen again.

He participated in a virtual panel discussion earlier Thursday as part of the National Charter Schools Conference.

“If we excuse away the achievement gap and say it’s not fair to test, then you’re going to see a going back to a system where we had low expectations for low-income kids. And I will not be a party to that. I will do whatever I can to make sure that we do not abandon accountability.”

Bush sees testing as crucial to making sure students receive an equitable education, regardless of their family’s income.

He is the architect of Florida’s school grading system — where student test scores are used to evaluate schools’ performances on an A-to-F scale. He also championed the law that says third graders have to pass the state reading test to move on to fourth grade.

Students need school supplies at home, too. Local foundation raises money to equip kids for virtual learning

Jessica Bakeman, WLRN

It’ll be a very different back-to-school experience this year, with South Florida districts starting online. But students still need supplies to do their work.

The Broward Education Foundation is mixing up its annual school-supplies fundraiser to meet families’ needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dustin Jacobs is a board member for the foundation. He’s also vice president of marketing for BrightStar Credit Union, which is sponsoring the fundraiser.

“Typically, teachers or the schools would come and pick out the supplies. This year, we’re providing packages: markers, pens, notepads, papers, pencils — things like that, that they’ll still need to complete their work, even though they’re working virtually.”

The fundraiser’s goal is to provide a basic 18-piece supply kit to every student in Broward’s 112 Title I schools. Ten dollars buys a kit for one kid, and $250 dollars equips a whole class.

Pediatricians say school reopening benefits and risks must be weighed

Tom Urban, WLRN

As school officials continue grappling with reopening classrooms amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a major group of pediatricians has released recommendations aimed at reducing risks to children and teachers.

The Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in an 11-page paper sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis, pointed to “significant benefits” of children going back to school, but also said those benefits must be weighed against the risks.

In making decisions about reopening campuses, the pediatricians’ report cited a World Health Organization recommendation about positive test rates being below five percent when averaged over a 14-day period, a number Florida has not reached.

Pediatrician David Robinson was an author of the report.

He says sending kids back too soon will lead to even more learning disruption.

“I fear, if we go back to school with an infection rate of 12 percent, or even eight or nine percent, I am very afraid that within three or four weeks, everything will have to be shut down again.”

State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran this month issued an order requiring districts to reopen brick-and-mortar schools at least five days a week in August, unless state and local health officials direct otherwise.

The pediatricians’ document also provides a series of detailed recommendations for trying to curb the spread of the virus when schools reopen.

Among them are that students should be kept in small groups during the school day, children and teachers should maintain distances of six feet from each other in classrooms, and students above age five, teachers and staff members should wear masks.

Florida adds more than 9,000 new coronavirus cases

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

The Florida Department of Health reported 9,956 new coronavirus cases and 253 new coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday.

These latest numbers bring the total number of cases in the state since the start of the pandemic to 461,379 cases and the death toll to 6,709 people.

More than 26,000 people have been hospitalized in the state.

In Central Florida, Orange County leads with the most coronavirus cases at 28,591 positive test results. More than 810 people have been hospitalized in the county and 212 people have died.

In breaking non-coronavirus news, NASA rover is on its way to Mars from Florida base

Brendan Byrne, WMFE

NASA’s Perseverance rover is on its way to Mars, after launching from Cape Canaveral this morning. 

ULA’s Atlas Five rocket launched the next-generation rover. It will take about 7 months to get to Mars. 

Once there, Perseverance is tasked with searching for ancient signs of life and preparing rock and dirt samples for a future mission to bring them back to Earth. 

It’s the third mission launching to Mars this summer – following missions from the United Arab Emirates and China. 

NBA season restarts Thursday at Disney

Abe Aboraya, WMFE

The 2020 NBA season restarts Thursday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex near Walt Disney World.

COVID-19 put the season on hold starting on March 11th.

One big change for the 22-team season: there will be no fans in the stands.

Two games will be played Thursday: the Utah Jazz against the New Orleans Pelicans at 6:30 p.m., and the LA Clippers versus the Los Angeles Lakers at 9 p.m.

Both games will be broadcast on TNT.

The NBA finals are scheduled to start August 17th, and the final game of the season would be no later than October 13th.

Disney has become a hub for restarting sports, hosting the NBA and a Major League Soccer tournament.

Supervisors of elections seeing flood of mail ballots

Steve Bousquet, WFSU

Florida’s statewide primary election is less than three weeks away. More primary voters than ever are voting by mail as a result of a high-profile outreach effort prompted by the outbreak of the coronavirus.

The surge in mail ballots is building. Through Tuesday, more than 850,000 people had returned their mail ballots, and more than three million more mail ballots are in people’s homes. All told, that represents nearly one-third of the 13 million registered voters in the state.

Pete Antonacci is supervisor of elections in Broward County.

“They’re coming in at about three to four thousand a day, so pretty brisk pace of vote-by-mail ballots,” Antonacci said.

Antonacci told WIOD’s Brian Mudd that because of the shift to voting by mail, his decision to schedule only eight days of early voting in the primary – instead of the maximum 14 days – makes even more sense.

“Early voting is not going to be as popular,” he said. “In-person voting is not going to be as popular this cycle because of the virus. It’s going to be an inverted election from past experience. More people voting by mail, diminished amount of in-person voting.”

Voters need to keep in mind that a vote-by-mail ballot must be received at your local elections office by the time the polls close, or else it won’t count. That deadline is 7 p.m. on Tuesday, August 18th. Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer emphasizes that deadline on his web site.

“It’s heartbreaking to get calls on Election Day from someone that intended to come out and vote on Election Day and then was unable to,” Latimer said. “That won’t happen if you request a vote-by-mail ballot. We’ll mail you your ballot to your home. Once you voted, you can either mail it back or drop it off in person.”

Counties such as Hillsborough and Broward are already tabulating the vote-by-mail ballots that have arrived, so that they can keep up with the flow of ballots. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order that allows counties to canvass mail ballots as soon as they perform a public test of their voting equipment that’s required by law.

Voting by mail remains popular with Floridians despite President Trump’s repeated tweets that it encourages fraud – statements debunked as untrue by voting experts. But so far in this election, voting by mail is much more popular with Democrats than Republicans. Through Tuesday, 400,000 Democrats had voted by mail, compared to 319,000 Republicans.

In the pandemic, big tech is bigger than ever. Should consumers be worried?

Consider This, NPR

The CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google faced questions Wednesday from a House subcommittee.

Some lawmakers believe those companies have too much economic and political power.

Former Facebook policy executive Dipayan Ghosh agrees.

Florida hits 216 virus deaths; governor wants schools open

The Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is continuing his push to reopen schools.

He said Wednesday that parents should decide for themselves whether to send their children back into the classroom next month.

Florida’s largest school district is announcing it will not reopen schools for in-person learning for the first six weeks of the school year because of the surge of infections.

Health officials on Wednesday reported a new single-day record of 216 reported deaths. The state’s death toll now stands at more than 6,330.

House COVID-19 oversight panel demands documents from 4 states including Florida

The Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Democratic head of a congressional coronavirus oversight panel has demanded that Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and three other Republican governors provide documents showing how their states are combating the pandemic.

Similar letters were sent to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt.

The request Wednesday by Rep. James Clyburn comes just days after White House coronavirus task force leader Dr. Deborah Birx traveled to Nashville to implore leaders to close bars and residents to wear masks.

There was no immediate response from the governors to the letters. Their states have until Aug. 12 to respond to the House Oversight and Reform subcommittee.

State-run coronavirus testing sites to close ahead of weekend forecast

Alexander Gonzalez, WLRN

Dozens of coronavirus testing sites across Florida are closing because of the severe weather forecast this weekend.

Mike Jachles is chair of the Florida Association of Public Information Officers. During a press briefing Wednesday, he said the state-run sites have to be secured.

“These sites are outdoors. There are many objects that can fly around. So, for the safety of not only our workers but the clients, and to secure the property that’s there, crews will begin striking the test sites in anticipation of the weather.”

The affected testing sites are open Thursday until 5 p.m. They will reopen by Wednesday, August 8th at the latest – or sooner depending on the weather.

COVID-19 testing could be available at other places indoors. People can check with their county health departments.

Rest of the story, pandemic edition

Planet Money, NPR

It feels like a decade has passed since our offices shut down in March.

That’s when we started to grasp the gravity of the pandemic. Since then, we’ve put out shows on every aspect of how COVID-19 is changing our economy.

On the small business fallout. On the race to make ventilators, and to procure masks. On overfilled hospitals, and underpaid grocery store workers.

On today’s show, we check in with some of the people we’ve met along the way.

Relatives speak out in anger over COVID-19 spread at Tamarac Isolation Center

Veronica Zaragovia, WLRN

Older COVID-19 positive patients are being sent to Florida nursing homes after a hospital discharge to recover. But these so-called isolation centers already have COVID-19 outbreaks among permanent residents.

One of these – Tamarac Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, had six COVID-19 patients when we reported about it last week. Now it has at least 41.

Barbara Fleming’s mother died on July 17th – two days after going into the hospital because of COVID-19. She had been living at Tamarac Rehab.

“We’re angry. We’re very upset. My mom was healthy.”

She says at least two other women have died at Tamarac Rehab in recent days.

The state Agency for Healthcare Administration wrote to WLRN in an email saying that, “We continue to closely monitor facilities to ensure the health and safety of residents.”

Kristen Knapp, is a spokesperson for the Florida Health Care Association.

“It’s a very thorough process.”

The group represents hundreds of nursing centers across Florida. She says they each receive additional money for taking in COVID-19 patients.

Andrew Wiseman is the CEO of NuVision. That company owns Tamarac Rehab. Wiseman gave WPLG Local 10 News another reason to take in patients – it’s to help out.

“It’s also that the hospitals are having a problem with a surge in demand and availability of beds. That’s really the crisis.”

To Barbara Fleming, the crisis is that the COVID-19 outbreak happened even before they opened up 50 beds for new isolation patients.

“If they had told me weeks prior, I would have taken my mom out.”

Her mother, Helen Hellinger, died before the isolation center patients arrived.

Neither the state nor the facility has told WLRN how they’re ensuring that the new patients won’t spread the virus to existing residents.

With Miami Marlins battling virus outbreak, will they play again?

MIAMI (AP) — The Miami Marlins have become the talk of baseball while coping with a coronavirus outbreak that forced MLB to suspend their season through at least Sunday.

Thanks to a 2-1 record, this is the latest the Marlins have ever been in first place.

The question isn’t whether they’ll make the playoffs, however, but whether they’ll play another game. For starters, will other teams be willing to play them?

Washington Nationals players voted almost unanimously against making a trip to Miami for three games this weekend, before the MLB called off the series.

Madison School teachers to include Florida Virtual School lessons in their in-person classes

Robbie Gaffney, WFSU

Madison County School teachers will be encouraged to include Florida Virtual School lessons in their in-person classes.

Superintendent Shirley Joseph says that will help make an easier transition from a physical to a digital curriculum if needed.

“So, in case we have to quarantine a class or a group of students, the kids are familiar with what’s going on and they’re familiar with the platform. They’re familiar with the curriculum. And so, basically, they’ll be able to go at home and continue without missing a beat.”

In addition to in-person classes, the district will offer two virtual school options.

One will be live, online daily classes with a Madison County teacher, the other will use teachers from the North East Florida Educational Consortium. Both options will include curriculum from Florida Virtual School.

Más se perdió en la guerra

Radio Ambulante, NPR

En abril, Nueva York fue el epicentro mundial de la pandemia.

Durante las semanas más difíciles, Daniel Alarcón y su hijo de siete años miraban por la ventana una ciudad irreconocible.

¿Qué cuentan ahora, cuando lo peor parece estar atrás?

Un episodio especial antes del lanzamiento de nuestra décima temporada.

What carries me through

StoryCorps, NPR

On this episode of the StoryCorps podcast, how five families are dealing with COVID-19, and having tough conversations along the way.

Despite coronavirus pandemic, survey says Tallahassee economy remains relatively strong

Tom Flanigan, WFSU

There’s no denying Tallahassee’s economy is in worse shape now than it was the same time a year ago. Some national data suggests the Capital City is in much better shape than most American towns.

Last month, the number of jobless people in Tallahassee was almost exactly twice the number out of work in June of 2019. But a new WalletHub survey actually pegs that as one of the better situations in the country.

In fact, the combination of relatively few unemployed, and the low jobless rate, ranked Tallahassee as having the fourteenth strongest economy – despite the pandemic – of any American city.

The nation’s most vibrant economy was found in Lexington, Kentucky. Boston, Massachusetts had the worst.

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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 »