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Your Wednesday Update: Florida Adds More than 10,000 New Cases, OCCC Testing Site Wait Time Under an Hour, Coronavirus Spreads Through Orlando TSA

Photo: Austin Pacheco

Walmart shopper pulls gun on man in dispute over mask

The Associated Press

ROYAL PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Investigators are searching for a man who they say pulled a gun on a shopper in a Florida Walmart store.

Palm Beach County Sheriff’s officials said in a Facebook post that the dispute happened Saturday afternoon.

Store security video shows the unmasked man pushing a man in a wheelchair through the store.

A shopper wearing a mask approaches them and they exchange words.

The video shows the unmasked man flip the middle finger before reaching for his handgun. Deputies say he made a death threat to the other man before leaving the store.

Census takers to visit homes that have not responded

The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Thousands of census takers are about to begin the most labor-intensive part of America’s once-a-decade headcount.

They will be visiting the 56 million households that have not yet responded to the 2020 questionnaire.

The visits that start Thursday kick off a phase of the census that was supposed to begin in May before it was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The virus forced the Census Bureau to suspend field operations for a month and a half.

Census takers will ask questions about who lives in a household and the residents’ race, sex and relations to each other.

Leon County Schools reopening on shaky ground as teachers union argues against in-person classes

Lynn Hatter, WFSU

Leon County Schools are set to reopen on August 19th.

But whether that will happen is looking increasingly shaky. Sixty-percent of families say they want their children to go to class in-person, but teachers are increasingly wary and school can’t go on without them.

The Leon Classroom Teachers Association wrote a letter to the district expressing concerns about safety. The union’s letter caught Superintendent Rocky Hanna off-guard.

“LCTA had a seat on the task force. And I didn’t hear one time their representative [say] ‘look guys…many of our members aren’t there.’ This is the first inkling we’ve heard about the vast majority of teachers don’t feel good about coming back at all.”

The school board wants Hanna to survey all teachers to get their input on reopening.

Some have said they plan to retire or leave, amid coronavirus fears. The state has told districts they must reopen classrooms unless local health departments advise against it.

Florida adds more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

The Florida Department of Health reported 10,181 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of positive tests in the state since the start of the pandemic to 301,810.

The state also added 112 new resident deaths, bringing the total number of Floridians who have died from the virus to 4,521 people.

More than 19,000 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since mid-March.

Orange County leads Central Florida with more than 19,500 positive resident tests.

Here’s the rundown in other areas of Central Florida so far:

Orange County: 19,589 resident cases, 94 deaths

Osceola County: 4,677 resident cases, 37 deaths

Seminole County: 4,648 resident cases, 28 deaths

Volusia County: 4,321 resident cases, 79 deaths

Brevard County: 3,704 resident cases, 40 deaths

Lake County: 2,859 resident cases, 28 deaths

Sumter County: 714 resident cases, 18 deaths

Wait time at the Orange County Convention Center coronavirus testing site is under an hour Wednesday morning

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

After weeks of four and five hour wait times, there is currently no line at the Orange County Convention Center coronavirus testing site.

The wait time to get a standard coronavirus test or antibody test is currently under an hour.

Anyone with a legal ID who is eighteen years of age or older is eligible to be tested. Leave extra time if you’re getting an antibody test, as it requires a blood draw.

More than 40 TSA officers have tested positive for coronavirus at Orlando International Airport since mid-March

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

In an email sent to staff on Tuesday, Orlando International Airport Federal Security Director Pete Garcia said another TSA officer has tested positive for coronavirus.

Garcia said the officer’s last day at the checkpoint was the busy 4th of July holiday weekend. The officer will not return to the checkpoint until they are cleared by a doctor.

This latest case brings the total number of officers who have gotten sick with the virus at the airport since the start of the pandemic to 43 people.

John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York ranks first in the country for coronavirus cases in TSA officers, with 116 positive tests since mid-March.

Epcot and Hollywood Studios reopen in the United States, Disneyland Paris across the pond

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

Epcot and Hollywood Studios opened to the public on Wednesday after closing mid-March at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom reopened last weekend.

Guests are required to make reservations on the Disney Parks Pass system and wear face masks and submit to temperature checks.

Anyone with a temperature of 100.5 degrees of higher and their party will not be allowed entry into the parks.

In Europe, Disneyland Paris reopened with similar health and safety precautions in place.

Fireworks and parades have been canceled at all Disney properties but in Paris, you can still take photos at designated “selfie spots”.

Mueller has 2 goals and Orlando City downs NYCFC 3-1

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Chris Mueller scored twice in the opening 10 minutes and Orlando City won its second game of the MLS is Back tournament, beating New York City FC 3-1.

Mueller got his first in the fourth minute, scoring off a free kick from Joao Moutinho that never hit the ground.

He added a second in the 10th minute to give Orlando a 2-0 lead. Mueller has three goals in the tournament.

UPDATE: After 10-hour meeting, Orange School Board delays decision on coming academic year

Amy Green, WMFE

Orange County Public School Board members will meet again Friday on what to do about the coming school year.

They adjourned late Tuesday night without making any decision, concluding a difficult nearly 10-hour meeting.

School board members heard hours of public testimony from teachers and parents who overwhelmingly opposed reopening brick-and-mortar schools as the coronavirus surges.

Chairwoman Teresa Jacobs noted the board is bound by a state executive order requiring the schools to reopen, even as she and other board members voiced strong concerns.

“This board can also take a strong position that we are on record that we do not support the face-to-face, not where we are today with the numbers and not given the way it is laid out by the state because it does not comply with the CDC recommendations for social distancing.”

Also before the board is a virtual option called LaunchEd@home, which would combine face-to-face and distance learning according to parents’ preferences

ICE agrees to rescind policy barring foreign students from online study in the U.S.

Rachel Treisman, NPR

In a swift reversal, the Trump administration has agreed to rescind a directive that would have barred international college students from the U.S. if their colleges offered classes entirely online in the fall semester.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement rule change, released last week, would have prohibited foreign students from entering or remaining in the country to take fully online course loads. A number of colleges and universities had already announced plans to offer online-only classes because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The agency’s July 6 announcement was met with immediate backlash.

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued the U.S. government in federal court two days later, calling the directive “arbitrary and capricious” and seeking to have it reversed and declared unlawful.

Many colleges, universities, municipalities and tech companies expressed their support for the legal challenge in their own court filings.

In Tuesday’s session at the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, the universities were expected to make arguments saying that this rule was onerous for schools and even dangerous for students.

Read the full article here.

Coronavirus costs Delta Air Lines nearly $6 billion in 2nd quarter

David Schaper, NPR

Over the last three months, Delta Air Lines lost nearly $6 billion as the company’s CEO said a slow, brief recovery in air travel has now stalled amid a big resurgence in coronavirus infections.

Delta is the first U.S. airline to report second-quarter financial results; it is the first full quarter since the pandemic began, and the results are worse than anticipated.

Delta flew 93% percent fewer passengers in April, May and June than it did in the second quarter last year. Revenue fell 91% compared with the same three-month period last year as the airline said it was losing close to $100 million a day at the start of the pandemic. Atlanta-based Delta said it is still burning about $27 million a day.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian called the losses “staggering,” adding that “it could be two years or more before we see a sustainable recovery.”

Read the full article here.

Florida virus deaths surge, vaccine research moves forward

The Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (AP) — Florida has surpassed its daily record for coronavirus deaths amid rising global worries of a resurgence, even as researchers announced that the first vaccine tested in the U.S. had worked to boost patients’ immune systems.

Florida’s 132 new deaths raised the state’s seven-day average to more than double the figure of two weeks ago.

The worrisome figures were released just hours before the news about the experimental vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc.

Key final testing of the vaccine will start around July 27, tracking 30,000 people to prove if the shots really work in preventing infection. Tuesday’s announcement focused on findings since March in 45 volunteers.

Kings’ Barnes isn’t at NBA restart, says he has coronavirus

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Harrison Barnes of the Sacramento Kings became the latest NBA player to reveal that he has the coronavirus, making the announcement Tuesday and saying he has hopes to join his team at the league’s restart later this summer.

Barnes is the only player who has started all 64 of the Kings’ games this season.

To extend that streak, he’ll need to be cleared and arrive at Walt Disney World before Sacramento’s season resumes with the first of its eight seeding games on July 31 against San Antonio.

More testing in Florida leads to longer wait times and bigger frustrations

Veronica Zaragovia, WLRN

The state of Florida has tested roughly 2.7 million people for COVID-19 so far.

That’s a lot of people – and a lot of frustration. Finding a spot to get tested. Waiting in line for hours. Waiting roughly a week to get the results.

On a recent Sunday Laura Simon of Miami Gardens walked up behind a long line of people near the Miami Beach Convention Center. It’s about noon and really hot out.

“Yeah, I have to because I have to get tested.”

She’s not feeling well.

“Symptoms include body aches, a cough and a fever for one night.”

We’re standing at least six feet apart and behind us a line of cars stretches all the way down 17th street.

“Even if it was longer, like the walk line I would still do it because it would be way shorter than the car line.”

Alex Rubinsteyn, though, decided to try a drive-up test after his fever kept getting worse at the end of June.

“My temperature was 99.9. And then I took it again and it was 100.2. And then I took it again, it was 100.4. And I was just watching this fever building.”

He finds the website to sign up for a slot but it turns out they’re all booked. Then he figured out that by refreshing the site one might open up. Except it took a really long time.

“And on the sixth hour, I finally got a slot. But it’s for the next day.”

The next morning he drives to Marlins Park and finds a really long line.

“It just wraps around. It’s like Seventh Avenue to like Sixth Street to like 12th Avenue and it goes in and seems to spiral into the parking lots. So it’s a very intimidatingly long line. And I waited for an hour and a half and I got maybe halfway through.”

But then he left. And decided to order a home test and did the nose swab himself. It came back negative after some days. Because it all took so long, he never did find out if he had had COVID-19.

“If you swab and then you get the results back in seven days, you know, that’s not ideal.”

That’s Gov. Ron DeSantis bringing up that exact problem at a press conference this week.

“And particularly if you’re, if you have symptoms, I mean, people need to know whether they should isolate or not.”

The state doesn’t have a solution for this, he says, because private labs across the whole country are backed up.

Dr. Randy Katz, meanwhile, has a plea for people to stop turning to ERs as an alternative. He’s the medical director of emergency medicine at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood.

“Sometimes the demand outweighs our capacity. And we have to make decisions on who we can test and who we can’t test. And clearly, we’re going to test the sickest patients, the ones that need to be tested most.”

He says he understands how hard it is to get tested these days, but his department is under a lot of strain. Keep in mind, he adds that coming to the ER will be pretty expensive, even with health insurance.

Peloton founder John Foley on the Home Fitness Experience with Guy Raz

How I Built This, NPR

When John Foley started Peloton, he wanted to bring the intensity of a spin class directly into people’s homes.

Little did he know that the time would come where people would have no choice but to workout at home.

Guy Raz checks back in with the Peloton Founder and CEO to see how his company is faring during the age of COVID-19, and how their instructors are using their platform to advocate for social justice.

Jacksonville teachers protest reopening

Sky Lebron, WJCT

Some parents and teachers are voicing their displeasure with the Duval County Public Schools reopening plan — which lets parents choose in-person or online learning.

A long line of cars circled the parking lot of the district administration building in protest Tuesday — amid calls for physical reopening to be delayed altogether.

The cars snake through the parking lot until a security guard tapes the area off.

Messages written on car windows say, “If I can’t breathe, I can’t teach” and “teachers and students are not martyrs.”

Cez Erika Generoso teaches at Mandarin Oaks Elementary:

“All teachers, we are all dying to be in our classrooms. We just don’t want to do it literally.”

Ben Marcus is a Democratic candidate for state representative in Jacksonville, and he has two kids at Mandarin Oaks. He says opening schools now is just prolonging the virus’s life.

“I’m incredibly concerned that by opening too quickly, we will keep this whole pandemic going for longer than it has to, and infect all sorts of people who would have not been exposed otherwise.”

Organizers are demanding schools not physically reopen until there are two weeks with no new COVID-19 cases in the community.

During roundtable with DeSantis, South Florida mayors critique state’s handling of COVID-19

Ryan Dailey, WFSU

Gov. Ron DeSantis held a roundtable discussion in Miami Tuesday, attended by mayors from across the hardest-hit area in Florida. Most of the local leaders offered critiques of the state’s response to COVID-19.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told the governor a statewide mask mandate needs to come from DeSantis to ensure compliance.

“They’ll say, you know what? I don’t think I need to wear a mask, because so-and-so says I don’t have to. Or, I don’t need to do this, because I’ve seen that one of my leaders is saying I don’t have to,” Gelber said.

“So, I don’t think it’s just about urging. My wife urges me to exercise more and watch what I eat, and she’s failing in both of those regards. I think we need a sense of urgency in our community right now, a true sense of urgency, and I think it needs to come from the president, from the governor.”

Several of the local officials addressed the idea of reopening brick-and-mortar schools for the fall, expressing hesitancy as COVID-19 cases rise. The superintendent of schools for Broward County, one of the state’s most populated, has said he doesn’t plan on opening brick-and-mortar campuses in the area’s current condition.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran recently ordered schools reopen five days a week, and offer all their usual services.

DeSantis sued for not providing sign language interpreters during coronavirus briefings

Robbie Gaffney, WFSU

Gov. Ron DeSantis and his executive office are being sued for not having a sign language interpreter during his coronavirus press conferences. Disability Rights Florida is filing the lawsuit. Its lead attorney says DeSantis is breaking the law.

Lead attorney Ann Siegel says some Floridians who are deaf and hard of hearing depend on that interpreter.

“There are some individuals that studies show are approximately at a four to six grade level in reading, so closed captioning would be written normally at a higher level of reading and it’s also—it’s not as accurate.”

Siegel says closed captioning sometimes skips words or uses the wrong ones, making it hard to understand what is being said. She says her group tried contacting DeSantis several times, but he never answered, prompting the lawsuit.

“In a perfect world, we would like him to immediately start including ASL interpreting services in all of his news briefings.”

A similar lawsuit was filed against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he didn’t have an interpreter during his daily TV COVID-19 briefings.

Instead, viewers had to go online to see the interpreter.

A federal judge in that case ruled Cuomo had to have the interpreter in the same frame as him while on TV.

Schools need federal funding to even think about reopening, says Miami-Dade School Board member

Danny Rivero, WLRN

The state of Florida and the Trump administration are pushing to reopen schools across the nation next month.

That’s a tricky prospect for Miami-Dade County, which has emerged as the center of the pandemic in the country.

Miami-Dade School Board member Dr. Steve Gallon III says schools will need a lot of federal funding to turn the idea into reality.

“We will need to more frequently clean and disinfect high traffic areas and frequent touch points. We will need to add bus routes and drivers to reduce capacity on school buses. Some schools may need to even convert libraries and gymnasiums and other non-instructional spaces to classroom space.”

He estimates the district will need between 65 and 80 million dollars for the changes.

State funding for the upcoming school year is guaranteed up till October, based on the number of students that were in schools before the pandemic.

But after that it’s a big question mark.

“We’re in uncharted waters based on who’s gonna show up, who’s gonna do distance learning, who’s gonna do physical presence. And if the parents don’t show up and the students don’t show up, the funding wouldn’t show up.”

Miami-Dade Public Schools is currently surveying parents about what they hope schools look like when they reopen. A plan should be ready by the end of the month.

Can schools open safely? What other countries have decided

Consider This, NPR

Admiral Brett Giroir of the White House coronavirus task force tells NPR that the United States is still growing testing capacity. Positivity rates in parts of the South suggest there is a long way to go.

Teachers, parents and public health officials around the country are trying to figure out what do to in the fall. The Trump administration says schools should re-open, but individual school districts will ultimately decide. Some already have: Los Angeles and San Diego announced this week school will resume remote-only.

And while Disneyland in Hong Kong shut down after dozens of new cases there, Walt Disney World in Florida reopened after 15,000 were reported on a single day over the weekend.

Tallahassee mayor urges mask use

Regan McCarthy, WFSU

As coronavirus numbers climb locally, Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey is imploring residents to wear masks and follow other safety guidelines issued by health officials.

Dailey made the request through a video posted on social media.

“If you think about it, from the time that we had our first confirmed case in Tallahassee, it took three months for us to hit 1,000 confirmed cases. In less than two weeks, we have more than doubled the amount of positive cases in our community,” Dailey said.

“Folks we do have a spike going on. The best thing you can do to protect your family and yourself and quite honestly the businesses in our community, is to wear your mask.”

The latest department of health update shows more than 2,500 coronavirus cases in Leon County.

That’s after the county added 85 new cases Monday.

A county ordinance requires masks in public buildings including restaurants and stores.

Positivity rate of school-aged kids increases slightly ahead of Palm Beach County school board vote

Wilkine Brutus, WLRN

As the Palm Beach County School District decides how to open schools this year, the county’s health director is raising concerns about child safety amid the pandemic.

The Florida Department of Health’s director for Palm Beach County says the positivity rate for kids under 18 has gone up slightly.

Dr. Alina Alonso says the positive rate went from 29.1 percent to 33.6 percent.

“A third of the age under 18 that we test are positive. And while many of these especially younger children are asymptomatic, when you take x-rays of their lungs and in Miami and in other places across the country, they’re seeing that there is damage to the lungs.”

Alonso warns of possible long-term effects of the virus on school-aged children.

“That is very important, we don’t know how that’s going to manifest a year from now or two years from now. Is that child gonna have chronic pulmonary problems or not? So, this is not the virus that you bring everybody together to make sure you catch and get it over with.”

The district recommended that all public schools in the county begin the new academic year with online distance learning.

Liberty County Schools make fall reopening plans

Robbie Gaffney, WFSU

The Liberty County School District has a rough draft for how it plans to reopen in the fall.

Lunches will be given in bags instead of trays and temperatures for students and teachers will be checked daily. Superintendent David Summers says it’s likely face masks won’t be required for students.

“Students at this time are still going to be recommended that they wear masks, observe all CDC guidelines. But we’re not going that step as of right now to make it mandatory for students to wear masks.”

Summers says the district is still considering whether to require teachers to wear face masks. The schools will partner with the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium to offer virtual classes.

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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 »