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Your Wednesday Update: Florida Reports More Than 9,800 New Coronavirus Cases, Virus Will Cause Slowdown in Florida’s Growth, A Whole New Look for the NBA Experience

Photo: Jafar Ahmed

Florida reports more than 9,800 new coronavirus cases

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

Florida reported 9,875 new coronavirus cases and 139 new coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday. 

That brings the total number of cases in the state since the start of the pandemic to 379,619 cases and the death toll to 5,345 Florida residents. 

Orange County continues to lead Central Florida with the most coronavirus cases at 24,700 positive tests for COVID-19. 

More than 660 people have been hospitalized in the county and another 138 have died.

Baseball stadiums may be empty, but you can still hear the crowds

Melissa Block, NPR

When Major League Baseball launches its shortened, COVID-delayed season on Thursday, there will be no fans in the stands. But it will sound like there are.

All 30 teams will be piping recorded sounds of fans into the ballparks, which means you’ll hear those crowd sounds in broadcasts of the games, too. MLB is also launching an interactive website feature called “Cheer at the Ballpark” that will allow fans to cheer, clap or boo virtually, from home. The idea is that audio engineers at the ballparks can then adjust the recorded crowd sounds to reflect the fans’ reactions.

Soccer leagues have been adding recorded crowd sounds to their broadcasts for months and now, baseball is following their lead.

Germany’s Bundesliga was the first to do so in May when that league resumed play. Fan sound wasn’t pumped into the stadiums, so players and coaches didn’t hear it; it was mixed in to broadcast feeds for viewers and listeners at home.

La Liga and the Premier League, the top-level professional leagues in Spain and England, respectively, followed suit.

So how exactly do they do it? We got a glimpse behind the scenes courtesy of Adam Peri, sound supervisor with the broadcaster Sky UK, who has his fingers on the pulse of Premier League matches.

During the broadcast, Peri sits alone in a tiny booth at Sky studios in London. He’s the one responsible for punching crowd sounds into the feed.

In front of him he has a technicolor console loaded with a smorgasbord of audio clips for each team: dozens of chants — scrubbed of any offensive language– cheers, boos, whistles and more, in varying levels of intensity.

Read the full article here.

In non-coronavirus breaking news: Tropics coming alive

Ray Hawthorne, WUFT

The National Hurricane Center is monitoring two systems in the tropics: a tropical wave in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and Tropical Depression Seven over the deep tropics. Meteorologist Ray Hawthorne says the system in the Gulf should stay away from South Carolina.

“Locally, heavy rain will continue over Florida for another day or two. The large high pressure dome that is supplying us the heat will steer the system in the Gulf toward the Texas and Louisiana coasts late this week, with the potential of flooding downpours there.”

Ray says Tropical Depression 7 is likely to become Tropical Storm Gonzalo later this morning midway between Africa and the Windward Islands. He says some strengthening is forecast this week, but a hostile environment may weaken the system as it approaches the Caribbean this weekend.

Leon School Board asks more parents to opt for digital learning

Regan McCarthy, WFSU

Leon County School Board members are urging parents who can to keep their kids home when the school year starts.

A directive from the State Department of Education requires schools to offer in-person classes. But school board member Rosanne Wood says she hopes to see more parents opt for digital learning instead.

She says that will mean fewer kids in the classroom and more ability for social distancing—which she says could make a big difference for people who are more vulnerable to COVID-19.

“Parents are going to be able to choose to keep their children home if they have those risks or their family has those risks. The people who are not going to be able to make that choice are the teachers, and the staff and the principals. And that is a mighty big thing for those teachers to have to come into the school environment and take that risk and make that choice.”

Wood is asking the school board to file a waiver with the Department of Education to allow the district to make its own decisions about when it’s safe to return to brick-and-mortar classes.

The district has asked parents to indicate whether they plan to send their children back to the classroom this fall or stick with distance learning.

So far 18,000 kids have selected in-person classes while between 10 and 11,000 are opting for digital classes.

Wood says parents who selected in-person classes have the option to change that decision and sign their children up for digital learning instead.

Coronavirus infections far higher than confirmed but most Americans still not exposed

Jason Slotkin, NPR

Coronavirus infections in the United States are far higher than what has been confirmed, although the number of Americans who have been exposed is far below what is required for widespread immunity, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The data appeared on both the CDC website and in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine on Tuesday.

The CDC estimated the number of infections is about 10 times higher than the confirmed cases, based on blood samples analyzed for antibodies in 10 regions. Those regions included the New York City metropolitan area, parts of Washington state, Utah, south Florida and Missouri.

Samples were taken from more than 16,000 people through the spring. Researchers relied on samples taken for routine tests, such as cholesterol tests, with more than a third coming from those aged 65 or older. Results for two rounds of sampling for eight of the 10 regions were released by the CDC.

All the regions surveyed showed differences in estimates arrived at through the survey and confirmed cases. In Missouri, for example, that difference was 24 times in April. Though by the second round of sampling, in late May, that dropped to 13 times.

Read the full article here. 

Black mayors call for governors to let them enforce rules to fight COVID-19

Vanessa Romo, NPR

Black mayors in many of the nation’s largest cities on Tuesday formally called on governors to repeal orders prohibiting them from enacting strategies that reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The African American Mayors Association passed a resolution beseeching state leaders to repeal any rules that prohibit local leaders from implementing strategies like requiring the use of face masks.

“State, local and tribal governments are uniquely positioned to determine the level of mitigation required to combat the virus in their communities,” the resolution states.

“The African American Mayors Association deems coordination amongst state and local jurisdictions to be vital to effectively addressing the public health crisis.”

The move comes on the heels of a lawsuit by Gov. Brian Kemp against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms for requiring masks.

Kemp and some other governors around the country argue that only the head of the state can set health policies to fight against the worldwide novel coronavirus pandemic, even as the rate of infections soar.

“As the Mayor of the City of Atlanta, Mayor Bottoms does not have the legal authority to modify, change or ignore Gov. Kemp’s executive orders,” the complaint notes.

Read the full article here. 

Experts say virus will cause slowdown in Florida’s growth

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — State demographers say Florida is still going to be gaining residents over the next several years, but that growth will slow down because of the new coronavirus.

The state Demographic Estimating Conference last week said that it was reducing its population projection for 2025 by more than 200,000 people because of the impacts of the virus.

By April 1, 2025, Florida will have 22.9 million residents, up from this year’s current estimate of 21.5 million residents.

The demographers also say household size will increase, as relatives move in with each other during economically difficult times. That will lead to fewer households in Florida.

A whole new look, for a whole new NBA game experience

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — There’s no bench. The courtside broadcasters will not be courtside.

And the stat crew will be doing their work inside what loosely can be described as an oversized hockey penalty box.

The NBA comes back Wednesday with a very different look.

The league’s marketing motto for the restart of the season at Walt Disney World is “Whole New Game,” and in many respects, that’s very true.

The arenas that will be used for the exhibitions, the seeding games that start July 30 and then the playoffs that are scheduled for mid-August through mid-October all lend themselves to a different feel.

Hillsborough County Schools consider reopening

Susan Giles Wantuck, WUSF

Parents and teachers have questions about plans for reopening schools in Hillsborough County, the 7th largest school district in the U.S., next month in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some of their questions were answered in a virtual town hall Monday night.

Districts across the state are wrestling with questions about how to open, how to handle it if someone shows symptoms of the coronavirus and what if the learning plan your family chooses doesn’t work out for you.

Deputy Superintendent Terry Connor answered that last question.

“It really does dictate for us where to put our staff to meet the needs of all students. So to answer the question, once you commit, we want you to stick with the commitment, but we will look at a case-by-case basis, we’ll take a look if there are extenuating circumstances.”

Superintendent Addison Davis added that if students are constantly transitioning between brick-and-mortar and e-learning, it could affect the district’s class sizes.

He said schools have to stay within state guidelines.

Patients in worse condition after delaying medical attention

Blaise Gainey, WFSU

Gov. Ron DeSantis is asking people who’ve been putting off a much needed trip to the doctor to not feel worried about going in.

Health officials who joined the roundtable held in the Capitol Tuesday say they saw a decrease in people coming in which has now led to worse health conditions.

Advent Senior Vice President of Ambulatory Services for the Central Florida Division Scott Brady explained:

“In March and April, we saw a decrease in heart attacks and strokes significantly and the question was what’s going on? And then as folks started coming in, they started coming in in a more serious state having to stay longer and their condition has been worse.”

Brady says those not coming in were probably just fearful of getting COVID-19 from patients that are in the hospital.

But he assures the public that all patients with the coronavirus have their own section, allowing other patients to not have to share a space with them.

DeSantis believes Florida will soon contain virus outbreak

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Gov. Ron DeSantis is expressing confidence that Florida will soon contain its coronavirus outbreak and that hospitals can handle the current influx of patients.

The governor put forward a positive case even as the state’s average daily death toll is now the nation’s worst.

DeSantis says hospital admissions and the percentage of tests coming back positive seem to be plateauing or declining in much of the state. He also says hospitals have sufficient capacity in their intensive care units and overall.

The state health department on Tuesday recorded another 136 deaths, bringing Florida’s daily average for the past week to 115. That’s the nation’s worst, ahead of Texas at 112.

Wakulla County Schools will reopen August 13th

Robbie Gaffney, WFSU 

Wakulla County Schools will reopen August 13th with a few new safety protocols in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Bus drivers will take students’ temperatures daily. For those walking to school or getting dropped off by parents, their temperatures will be checked when they enter the building.

Superintendent Robert Pearce says it’s hard to socially distance on buses, so masks will be required. In other areas, masks will be encouraged.

“We want to honor their right to make a choice when possible on what they want to do with masks—wearing masks and the mandatory mask wearing. But if we see a situation where social distancing is not very good and we believe that it’s creating a risk—the spread of the disease—we will make changes as we move through.”

The school will supply face masks and face shields for teachers and students. Students won’t be able to use lockers this year.

Pearce says most textbooks will remain in classrooms, and the district is working to have computers accessible for students as well. Classrooms will be wiped down at the end of each day.

Legislation granting death benefits for COVID-19 first responders goes to president

Tom Urban, WLRN

Legislation passed by Congress this week would give death benefits to families of first responders that die from COVID-19.

The Safeguarding America’s First Responders, or SAFR, Act would grant federal death or disability benefits to law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMTs that contract the coronavirus, as if they were otherwise killed or injured in the line of duty.

Currently, families must prove a first responder contracted COVID-19 while on the job.

The SAFR Act would establish a presumption that the officer contracted the disease while on duty.

Ashley Moody was part of a bipartisan group of attorneys general lobbying federal lawmakers to pass the bill.

“We have lost at least four, right here in Florida, already to this horrific disease. We want their families to have access to those benefits, and when they die in the line of duty as a result of COVID, they don’t have to jump through a ton of red tape.”

The legislation now goes to President Donald Trump for his signature.

Florida Democrats running to boost Biden from the bottom up

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Democrats are fielding the largest crop of legislative candidates in decades, contesting all but one statehouse seat up for election in November.

The party is convinced that competing in traditionally Republican areas will help former Vice President Joe Biden eke out a victory in a key battleground state.

Florida’s Democratic Party is long accustomed to being on the losing side of close races.

But now it is making a key pivot in its strategy: going after voters in Republican strongholds. That’s not necessarily to win — but to lose by less in areas long dominated by the GOP.

Republicans outline trimmed-back agenda for 2020 convention

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is set to be officially renominated in a shrunken Republican convention truncated to four hours in Charlotte, North Carolina, before the GOP show moves on to Florida.

The Republican National Committee outlined the agenda for the Aug. 24-27 event.

Its public components were shifted last month to Jacksonville, Florida, amid a tiff with North Carolina’s Democratic governor over the state’s reopening guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump’s plans for a packed arena in Florida have been thwarted by a resurgence in virus cases.

The RNC announced last week that only delegates to the convention will be permitted to attend the first three nights of the event.

Florida health care workers feeling strain of coronavirus surge

Stephanie Colombini, WUSF

As Florida’s coronavirus cases break national records, health care workers say they’re feeling the strain. While most hospitals still have room to take in more patients, some doctors and nurses say they’re being pushed to their limits.

63-year-old Marissa Lee has one word to describe her work experience during the pandemic: chaos. She’s been a nurse for more than 30 years and works in the labor and delivery unit at Osceola Regional Medical Center.

“I supposedly work at the happy floor, but I’ve gotta tell you, nurses on my floor have been exposed to COVID.”

Lee blames inadequate protective gear, along with relaxed visitation restrictions and people outside the hospital not taking the virus seriously for why some of her colleagues are getting sick.

When staff can’t come into work because they’ve been exposed to the virus, everyone else has to pick up the slack.

Lee says nurses are being floated to other units outside their scope of expertise and are being assigned to more patients than usual. She says she can’t always spend enough time supporting the mothers she’s treating because she’s running from one to the next. And she says her friends in the ICU who are dealing with COVID patients are in the same boat.

“Somebody’s going to get neglected – as nurses none of us want any patient to be neglected.”

The experience is taking a toll on Lee who says she recently had to turn down a request to work an extra shift.

“And I’m going, ‘oh my God I’m so exhausted, so I need to go in and help my coworkers, am I going to be any good to them because of my exhaustion’.”

Emergency department staff have been dealing with those issues for months. And Dr. Angus Jameson who works at Tampa General Hospital and is the medical director of emergency services in Pinellas County, says it’s getting worse.

He cited a significant jump in the number of Pinellas residents on ventilators as he told county commissioners during a meeting last week that he was disappointed by attempts to use testing figures to downplay the threat of the virus.

“I have every confidence that our hospitals and our health care providers will work until they drop to help keep our community safe, but you should know that our hospitals are stressed and strained and so are your health care workers.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis is often criticized for his own attempts to diminish the severity of the pandemic in Florida. While he’s quick to emphasize COVID patients only make up a fraction of the people in most hospitals, he has said supporting medical staff is a priority.

DeSantis is sending thousands of outside nurses to hospitals and nursing homes in need and recently told reporters more help is on the way.

“Having this personnel is very important so were supportive of that. I also think the federal government is going to be sending some teams to supplement and potentially the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

This will all be a huge help, according to Justin Senior. He’s CEO of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida. Senior says there’s lots of different ways hospitals can adapt their space and workflow to accommodate the current rise in patients. That includes rolling back on elective surgeries which hospitals in South Florida, the Tampa Bay region and the Orlando area have already had to do. But at a certain point, it may not be enough.

“You can declare surge capacity, you can create additional capacity, start doubling up rooms, but that’s something you can only do very temporarily, or you’re just not going to get the quality results that you need.”

Jackson Health System in Miami has started repurposing space as the city becomes the epicenter of the pandemic. At a recent press conference, CEO Carlos Migoya urged members of the public to do their part in supporting hospitals.

“If we can get everyone to be socially distant and wear masks, that’s the only way we’re going to be able to reduce the number of beds being used in hospitals and being able to deal with the entire disease and reduce the deaths that are happening in our community.”

Nurse Marissa Lee agrees. But she says there’s more to it. She’s calling on politicians and health care executives to listen to frontline workers and do more to protect them.

Distance learning leads to furloughs for some school nurses

The Associated Press

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — School nurses are being furloughed in Palm Beach County as the district prepares to open the school year with remote learning for all students due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Palm Beach Health Care District informed the 223 school heath employees on Monday of the “difficult decision” to furlough them.

They cited the school district’s decision to go with distance learning when school resumes next month.

Last week, the health care district said 60 of the most senior nurses and supervisors will be offered buyouts.

They were given until the end of Monday to either take the buyout, or be furloughed.

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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 »