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Your Tuesday Update: Parts of I-4 in Downtown Orlando Close This Week, Man Points Gun at Customer in Publix Deli Line, Coronavirus Cases Continue to Rise in Florida

Image: Photo via Publix on Facebook

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Minority-owned small businesses were supposed go get priority. They may not have

Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR

The first time Rosemary Ugboajah applied for a small-business relief loan, it didn’t go well. She needed the money for her small Minneapolis-based company, which has created ad campaigns for brands like the NCAA Final Four.

So she went to her credit union.

“They were hard to reach, but eventually I got through to someone and they emailed me back saying they can’t process the loan because they don’t process SBA loans,” she said. “I wasn’t aware of that.”

Lawmakers did set aside $30 billion for smaller lenders, in part with the aim of helping business owners of color — like Ugboajah.

But a new report from the Small Business Administration’s inspector general found that businesses owned by people of color may not have received loans as intended under the Paycheck Protection Program. There was no evidence, the report said, that the SBA told lenders to prioritize business owners in “underserved” markets, including business owners of color — something the CARES Act had specifically instructed the SBA to do.

The report also recommends that the agency start collecting demographic information. Without that information for past loans, it will be hard to know how well the program served business owners of color.

Coronavirus cases in Florida continue to rise during phase one recovery

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

More than 7,400 people have been hospitalized with coronavirus and Florida now has 41,923 coronavirus cases according to the latest figures from the state department of health.

1,779 people have died from COVID-19.

Miami-Dade and Broward County continue to be the epicenter of the pandemic in Florida, with 14,218 and 5,826 cases respectively.

Orange County has the most cases of any county in Central Florida, with 1,468 cases, 275 hospitalizations and 35 deaths.

In Sumter County, home of The Villages retirement community, 241 people have tested positive for coronavirus, 42 people have been hospitalized and fifteen have died. Lake County has 234 cases, 62 hospitalizations and fourteen deaths.

Hover over the map to see case numbers in other counties.

Desantis says unemployment system hit with cases of fraud

Daniel Rivero, WLRN

Governor DeSantis said Florida’s troubled unemployment system has been flooded with people filing false claims. In a press conference Monday, he urged anyone applying to make sure to write in their social security number.

“We’ve got people applying from foreign countries that have never even been to Florida. We’ve got people applying from other states that never from what we can tell have ever even worked in Florida. So there’s just a lot of things that you have to go through in terms of fraud detection. So if you have that social security number, then it makes it a lot easier,” DeSantis said.

Desantis said without the social security number it takes much longer to process the claims.

According to the Associated Press, Florida is the slowest state in the nation when it comes to processing unemployment.

Desantis has called for an investigation into the state’s unemployment website. That website was built under the leadership of former Governor Rick Scott.

Man points handgun at customer in deli line at Orlando store

ORLANDO, Fla. (Orlando Sentinel) — Police in Orlando are looking for a man who pointed at handgun at a fellow shopper in the deli line at a grocery store.

The incident happened Saturday evening at a Publix store. Police say the 73-year-old man was waiting in line when he noticed another customer glaring at him.

He told investigators he asked the man if they knew each other. That’s when the man drew the handgun and pointed it at the man’s face.

A police report says he told the man not to mess with him. The man fled and police are looking for him.

I-4 in downtown Orlando to close 5 days for construction

ORLANDO, Fla. (Orlando Sentinel) — Officials say a section of Interstate 4 through downtown Orlando will be closed for about five days as part of a plan to speed up road construction during the coronavirus pandemic.

All but one westbound lane will be closed from Wednesday night through Monday morning as part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to complete as many road construction projects as possible while people are still working from home during the virus outbreak.

It’s part of the I-4 Ultimate construction project, which is adding toll lanes to 21 miles of the interstate from Seminole County, through Orlando and to west of Florida’s Turnpike in Orange County.

Lake County businesses count their losses during the coronavirus pandemic 

Joe Byrnes, WMFE

An online survey of 561 mostly small businesses in Lake County shows that 41 percent were shut down in April. Thirty percent laid off workers. Many had trouble getting supplies. And the vast majority suffered losses.

Photographers, dentists and barbers were idle. Real estate agents found no appetite for open houses. Restaurants were down to pickup and delivery, and many shops were closed.

Most of the companies sought federal help. But 29 percent had problems with the application process.

Some business owners just wanted to get on with it. Some wanted to wait.

But most appeared concerned with how they could operate or open safely, with the help of masks, sanitizer and social distancing.

Former top health officials: Do more testing and contact tracing or expect outbreaks

James Doubek, NPR

States around the country are gradually reopening their economies, even as most of them fail to meet voluntary guidelines set by the White House for doing it safely.

At least 31 states are partially reopening as of Monday.

“The Trump administration has really not been following — and governors around the country generally — have not been following their own plan,” says Andy Slavitt, the former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Obama.

Slavitt and former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who served under President Trump, talked with Morning Edition‘s Steve Inskeep about federal and state reopening strategy. The two wrote to congressional leaders last month asking for funding for contact tracing and isolating infected people. Both Slavitt and Gottlieb have been advising current officials.

Here are selected excerpts:

Has the administration simply grown impatient with its own approach?

Gottlieb: [W]e all had an expectation that at this point we’d be seeing sustained declines in new cases if we put those measures into place, and we haven’t seen that. And so the reality is we’re opening against the backdrop of much more spread than what we anticipated.

And I think it just increases the importance of what we call the case-based interventions, trying to put in place measures to track down individual cases, do contact tracing, do case isolation of people who are infected. If we don’t lean heavily on those interventions against a backdrop of a lot of spread right now and we reopen the economy in that environment, we’re likely to see renewed outbreaks.

Do you see serious efforts even to try to get where you think you need to be in terms of testing, in terms of contact tracing, in terms of these interventions you just described?

Gottlieb: I’m more confident about the testing. I think that we’re ramping testing aggressively, in part because new technology is coming into the market. We’re doing about 2 million tests a week right now. We just saw the approval of the first antigen-based tests. That’s going to bring about 1.5 million tests per week capacity into the market within the next several weeks.

I think when it comes to the case-based interventions that isn’t as readily available because there’s a lot of political debate around the utility of that. You see a lot of governors going forward. But at a national level, we really haven’t embraced those in a robust way that I would like to see.

Isn’t there a case to be made for a kind of creative reopening whenever a company can figure out how to avoid employees in a crowd?

Slavitt: I think so. Look, I think everybody is in what must feel to them like a no-win situation. And so I think we all should acknowledge that our governors are doing the best that they possibly can in a trade off that’s really difficult to make.

So we should be patient with our governors, adjusting, tinkering, doing a little bit of trial and error. But, boy, it sure would be nice if when they were doing that, they could instantly test because the difference between learning after two days that you got it wrong and 10 days that you got it wrong is fairly dramatic.

DeSantis waiting on guidance from Washington for state budget

Daniel Rivero, WLRN

Governor DeSantis says he would not be comfortable signing next year’s state budget because he’s been waiting to see how things go with the COVID-19 crisis.

On Monday, the governor said signing a budget might have to wait for some guidance from Washington.

“It wouldn’t have been appropriate for me to have signed a budget knowing that we were gonna have these unchartered waters. But it’s also — now that we’re in unchartered waters — I should see what are all my tools to deal with it, and I do think that you’re gonna see an effort on the part of the federal government to help with some of these states,” DeSantis said.

A budget was passed by the Florida legislature before DeSantis ordered most businesses closed across the state. The bill hasn’t reached his desk yet, but when it does he will only have 15 days to sign it.

DeSantis did not rule out a special legislative session to deal with COVID-19’s impact on the state budget.

Senior care advocates worry there is now less oversight for nursing homes

Robbie Gaffney, WFSU

Families are concerned about how their loved ones are being treated in nursing homes during the pandemic. Their worries stem from a statewide order banning visitors from those facilities.

Brian Lee heads the group Families For Better Care.

He says barring visitors shuts out ombudsmen, the people who are crucial to nursing home oversight.

Lee says these people now have to do their check-ups over the phone. To fill some of those gaps, his group has started raising money to give Amazon Echo Shows to nursing home residents.

“They have this feature called drop in and you can immediately have video connection into you know, your mom’s room and see what’s going on. It’s a window into the nursing home universe right now that is slammed shut right now,” Lee said.

Lee says the video call devices are the size of an alarm clock and don’t require upkeep.

DeSantis encourages elective surgeries

John Davis, WGCU

After lifting a moratorium on elective surgeries in Florida last week, Governor Ron DeSantis held a news briefing with surgeons in Lee County Monday encouraging people to schedule their procedures.

Governor DeSantis struck an overall positive tone, noting that the rate of COVID-19 tests in the state coming back positive has been trending downward the past two weeks.

“And a lot of times people hear the ‘elective’ and they think, ‘Well, is this like cosmetic surgery?’ No. These are things that are necessary. It may be elective as to when you schedule it, but you need to do it. If you need medical attention, this is a safe place to be. Come in here, see the doctors and keep yourself healthy,” DeSantis said.

Lee Health President and CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci says since the health system’s surgeons began performing elective surgeries again, they’ve only been doing about 40 to 50 percent as many procedures as they were before the pandemic.

DeSantis is also encouraging more people to visit testing sites around the state, saying they can now accommodate more people than the number that are showing up each day. He touted Florida’s mobile RV coronavirus testing lab, saying the state may add another. And he urged parents to follow their child’s recommended immunization schedule.

The governor said Florida is seeing a decline in immunizations for children.

Democrats developing contingency plans for remote convention

Asma Khalid, NPR

The Democratic National Committee is taking steps to prepare for a possible remote convention this summer, with a resolution being introduced to allow for changes to official proceedings given public health concerns.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, convention planners are exploring a range of contingencies for the August event in Milwaukee where Joe Biden is expected to be officially nominated as the Democratic Party’s candidate for president.

When the DNC’s rules and bylaws committee meets by conference call on Tuesday, it will take up a resolution that would change official proceedings “so as to safeguard the ability of all validly-elected Convention delegates to participate in the Convention in person or by means that allow for appropriate social distancing.”

The DNC seems to be suggesting it’s looking into the option of a virtual convention. It’s now considering ways to ensure all delegates will be able to cast ballots and participate in the convention, regardless of whether or not they can travel to the convention in person.

This comes after the convention was already postponed from mid-July to the week of Aug. 17. While the DNC is making its contingency plans more official, chairman Tom Perez has continued to express optimism about holding an in-person convention.

“We’re not going to put our public health head in the sand, but I’m optimistic that we can do so because we’ve put it off for five weeks,” Perez told ABC’s This Week on May 3.

The Democratic National Convention is scheduled to be held in Milwaukee one week before the Republican National Convention, which is set to be held in Charlotte the week of Aug. 24.

Monroe Mayor points to Naples beach closure as justification for Keys checkpoint

Nancy Klingener, WLRN

Beaches in Naples opened up last week – but closed again over the weekend after large crowds showed up.

Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers spoke about the closure on the county’s weekly emergency management call on Monday.

“The word is that most of the people who were not social distancing at those beaches were not people from Naples, but from the counties to our north. Which I think just provides more ammunition for why the checkpoint has been so helpful to us,” Carruthers said.

Only people who live, own property or work in the Keys are allowed past a checkpoint at the Monroe County line. The county says it plans to remain closed to visitors at least through the end of the month.

Broward County Administrator on parks, social distancing before county moves to open businesses

Caitie Switalski, WLRN

Like other parts of South Florida, Broward County has already opened up some of its parks.

Bertha Henry is the Broward County Administrator. She says, for the most part people are following guidelines, but it requires constant vigilance.

“If you are going to walk up and down Fort Lauderdale Beach — we have not opened the beaches — but the sidewalks where people are just walking up and down you can just see that the distancing is — they’re just not doing it. They’re not wearing the masks,” Henry said.

Henry says there’s an expectation that the county government is monitoring the situation, and will be able to react quickly.

“We know that when things really open up, we had better be keeping a watchful eye on what’s happening so we can address it pretty quickly,” Henry said.

The County Commission is holding a special workshop Tuesday at 11 a.m. They will talk about phased reopening for businesses and restaurants.

Florida adds COVD-19 into hurricane preparations

Tom Urban, WLRN

With another expected active hurricane season starting June 1st, Florida emergency management officials are considering a big new factor: the coronavirus.

The state Division of Emergency Management Director is redeveloping plans for evacuations and shelters, while also adding millions of face masks to the state’s stockpile of storm supplies.

With the respiratory disease expected to still be around this summer, Governor Ron DeSantis says that means changes will be needed at shelters.

“It will be an issue, depending on how prevalent this virus is during hurricane season. So, we’ll have to be ready for it,” DeSantis said.

The Division of Emergency Management says evacuations outside of flood zones could take into account details of structures, with people in newer houses built under up-to-date codes given the option to remain home.

Officials are also looking at protocols for shelters that range from separating people based on temperature checks to non-congregated sheltering in hotels.

The need to revise storm plans amid the pandemic comes as forecast models lean toward an active hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean.

Last year, the six-month hurricane season produced 18 named storms, of which six became hurricanes, three reaching major storm status.

Shanghai Disneyland reopens with anti-virus controls

SHANGHAI (AP) — Visitors wearing face masks streamed into Shanghai Disneyland as the theme park reopened in a high-profile step toward reviving tourism that was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic.

The park will limit numbers of daily visitors and keep some attractions closed in line with social distancing guidelines.

The reopening comes as companies and the ruling Communist Party try to revive the world’s second-largest economy following a shutdown that plunged it into its worst slump since at least the 1960s.

Florida reopens barber shops, hair and nail salons

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s hair and nail salons are reopening in most of the state along with barber shops. Such shops were allowed to reopen Monday except in hard-hit Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

That comes six weeks after the state ordered them closed.

The state has ordered that their workers wear masks when seeing customers. They must also require appointments so that few people will be waiting inside and that they spend 15 minutes between each customer sanitizing the work station.

This move comes one week after sit-down dining was allowed at most of the state’s restaurants.

Click here to read more of WMFE’s reporting on the coronavirus pandemic.


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Danielle Prieur

About Danielle Prieur

Reporter

Danielle Prieur is a general reporter for 90.7 News. She studied journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and interned at 101.9 WDET. She is originally from the metro Detroit area.

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