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Coronavirus Live Updates: Florida’s COVID-19 Daily Case Total Is Second-Lowest Since June As State Surpasses 600K

COVID-19 testing
Ted S. Warren

This post will be updated today, Friday, Aug. 21, and through the weekend with the latest information on COVID-19 in South Florida.

WLRN staff continues to add to community resource lists, including this article on where kids and families can get food while schools are closed, and this post about whether and where to get tested for coronavirus.

The dedicated website for the Florida Department of Health, including information about symptoms and numbers of cases, can be found here.

The dedicated website from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can be found here.

To receive WLRN's coronavirus updates newsletter on Wednesdays and Saturdays, sign up here.


Florida’s COVID-19 Daily Case Total Is Second-Lowest Since June As State Surpasses 600K

Updated Sunday at 12:15 p.m.

Florida’s Department of Health on Sunday confirmed 2,974 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s known total to 600,571. There were also 51 Florida resident deaths announced, bringing the resident death toll to 10,325.It is still unclear if there were any new non-resident deaths. On Saturday, the non-resident toll was at 137.

Sunday’s newly confirmed cases is the second lowest single day count reported since June. On Monday, Florida reported 2,678 cases.

Read more at our news partner the Miami Herald.

—Michelle Marchante/Miami Herald

Faculty Union Leader To State University System: Let’s Not Be UNC Or Notre Dame

Updated Monday at 11:32 a.m.

The leader of United Faculty of Florida, a union representing full-time professors at public universities, wants quick action to shut down schools in the event of COVID-19 outbreaks.

“The early results of campus reopenings in this country are not promising as it relates to COVID-19 infections. I certainly hope we will not have the next UNC, Notre Dame, or Purdue,” UFF executive director Marshall Ogletree wrote in an email to State University System Chancellor Marshall Criser III Saturday evening. “But FSU did not get off to a good start.”

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Notre Dame reopened for in-person classes and quickly shifted online because of outbreaks. Purdue University has suspended dozens of students for partying and is dealing with its own cluster of infections.

Florida State University in Tallahassee has launched a dashboard of COVID-19 data that shows 42 students and five employees tested positive for the coronavirus ahead of Monday’s first day of classes. Some will be held face-to-face.

“Depending on the next few weeks and if an infection breaks out, I also urge the [State University System board of governors] to act quickly to close that campus and campus police to break up large gatherings,” Ogletree wrote.

A spokeswoman for Criser said he received the email and gave the following response: "As you are aware, the State Universities designed their reopening plans with the agility necessary to respond to changed conditions and enhance the resiliency of each institution. As stated in our Blueprint for Reopening Campuses, the foundational priority of each university’s plan will be the health and welfare of all students, faculty, staff, vendors, volunteers, and visitors."

In March, the university system was among the first state institutions to take action to slow the spread of COVID-19, directing schools to transition online for at least two weeks following their spring breaks and to prepare for that change to last through the semester, which it did.

Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton began classes for the fall semester Saturday, with some face-to-face instruction planned. At Florida International University in Miami, which will start Monday, “the majority of FIU’s fall schedule — literally thousands of classes — [will be] offered either remotely or online.”

The University of Miami, which is private, began in-person, hybrid and online classes last week. After facing criticism from faculty and students that the university was not being transparent about confirmed cases on campus, the university sent out a memo Friday announcing four on-campus students had tested positive for COVID-19 and dozens more were in quarantine.

—Jessica Bakeman/WLRN

Serving Free Meals During Pandemic Hits School Districts’ Bottom Line

Updated Sunday at 9:40 a.m.

Florida school districts lost nearly $262 million in meal reimbursements and sales revenue during the pandemic, according to a new report from the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

With schools closed from March through the end of the 2019-20 academic year throughout the state, the number of meals provided by school districts plummeted by more than 61%, the report found.

“During COVID-19 school closures, our top priority has been providing access to nutritious meals for Florida’s students and ensuring children don’t go hungry,” Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said in an emailed statement. “Despite navigating supply disruptions, efforts to keep staff and students safe, and the financial challenges highlighted in our new report, National School Lunch Program sponsors have continued doing an outstanding job keeping Florida’s children fed.”

Read the report, released Friday, here.

South Florida school districts have served millions of school meals throughout the crisis, offering grab-and-go packages including multiple breakfasts, lunches and snacks for families one or two days per week at a limited number of school locations, to limit staff members’ exposure and curb the need for families to gather in person.

As WLRN recently reported, Broward County Public Schools took a weeks-long pause in distributing meals, relying on nonprofits to fill the gaps, while the other large school districts in the region, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, have continued to serve free meals through the summer.

—Jessica Bakeman/WLRN News

Statewide Coronavirus Cases Increase By 4,311

Updated Saturday at 11:55 a.m.

Florida surpassed 597,000 positive cases of COVID-19 as Florida’s Department of Health confirmed an additional 4,311 cases of COVID-19 Saturday. Florida has a total of 597,597 confirmed positive cases, according to the state's health department.

Saturday's update also included the announcement of 106 new deaths, increasing the statewide number to 10,274. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties make up 4,385 of those reported deaths. Monroe County has reported 14 deaths due to COVID-19.

-WLRN News

Miami-Dade Preparing To Lift Some COVID Rules Again. Is Another Spike A Given?

Updated Saturday at 11 a.m.

Last week, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez was on a conference call with health experts and local government administrators about pressure the county is feeling to ease COVID restrictions as the infection rate continues to decline.

A familiar, gravelly voice on the other end of the line had a piece of advice.

“Stay the course,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said on the call, according to three participants in the weekly discussion White House health officials hold to monitor COVID progress in Miami-Dade and other hot spots across the country.

Read more at our news partner the Miami Herald.

— Douglas Hanks, Daniel Chang and Ben Conarck/Miami Herald

University Of Miami Responds To Four COVID-19 Cases On Campus, 51 Additional Students Quarantined

Updated Friday at 2:03 p.m.

The University of Miami says a group of students are in quarantine after four students tested positive for COVID-19. From an email to the university community:

“After determining that four students in Hecht Residential College had tested positive for COVID-19 this week, those students, and several others who have shown symptoms, were immediately removed from their floors and are in isolation in another location.

Out of an abundance of caution, the remaining 51 students on floors 7 and 8 in McDonald Tower are being required to quarantine for a short time in their rooms or at home until those students are tested and results determined. All testing will take place today. The students who are in isolation and those in quarantine are receiving continuous support from Student Health Service, University case managers, and Housing and Residential Life. The students are receiving all support services, including academics, and will be provided meal delivery.

Faculty who held in-person classes with students who tested positive will be contacted only if those students were in classes 48 to 72 hours prior to the onset of symptoms or receiving a positive test result.”

The email reiterated that facial coverings are required at all times on campus, unless a student is inside their dorm room. It also said that the consequences for “health-risking behavior” could include suspension.

Before the email was sent, WLRN education reporter Jessica Bakeman spoke with students and employees who were concerned the U was not adequately protecting the health of the community. Read that story here.

-Sammy Mack/ WLRN News

Antigen Testing Opens In Fort Lauderdale

Updated Friday at 1:15 p.m.

An antigen testing site for the new coronavirus is now open in Fort Lauderdale. The current testing site in Holiday Park will also offer rapid antigen tests to diagnose if someone has the virus.

The antigen test works by detecting specific proteins on the surface of the virus. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said at a news conference Friday that quick results are "critical" to getting the virus under control, and that people should be getting tested often.

"It will be available to anyone with COVID symptoms or individuals between the ages of 5 and 17 years old, or over the age of 65 with or without symptoms,” Trantalis said.

Most results will be provided within two hours. However, the FDA warns that positive results are usually accurate, but negative results may need to be confirmed with a diagnostic PCR test.

More on the types of tests for COVID-19, here.

The Holiday Park testing site is open by appointment Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will close early Friday at 3 p.m. due to impending Tropical Storm Laura.

People can make appointments for antigen testing at www.tourhealth.com.

-Caitie Switalski/ WLRN News

Broward County Extends Hours Restaurants Can Be Open

Updated Friday at 12:45 p.m.

Broward County is letting restaurants stay open an hour later.

Previously restaurants had to close at 10 p.m. Now they can close at 11 p.m., according to a new emergency order.

At a news conference on Friday, Broward County Mayor Dale Holness said many had asked for the ability to have an extra seating. Holness also said he is watching the county's positivity rate.

"Ideally what we would like to see is us go below five percent before we do a lot more than we are doing today,” Holness said.

Earlier this week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis mentioned the possibility of moving South Florida counties to join the rest of the state in Phase 2 of reopening soon. Broward County's positivity rate has ranged from 6 percent to as high as 9 percent this week.

-Caitie Switalski/ WLRN News

Florida And Miami-Dade Change Plans To Host Hurricane Evacuees In Hotel Rooms

Updated Friday at 8:02 a.m.

Floridians facing an unprecedented storm season combined with a global pandemic may be more likely to evacuate to a hotel room than a friend’s house this year. But now, their options for getting the government to foot the bill are limited.

Florida’s plan to offer hotel rooms to anyone seeking an isolated place to evacuate from a hurricane has changed, according to guidance given to county emergency managers. Now the state plans to offer that option only to people who are COVID-19 positive, “knowingly” exposed to COVID, under quarantine orders, are older than 65 or have a pre-existing condition. Evacuees will get a hotel room and food covered for up to seven days via the Safer Florida app, which won’t be available for download until a storm is coming.

The state Department of Emergency Management did not respond to questions about the change.

Read more from our news partner at The Miami Herald

- By Alex Harris

After Rush Of Applicants, United Way Closes Pandemic Fund For Now

Updated Friday at 7:43 a.m.

Demand for a cash assistance program operated by United Way of Miami-Dade quickly hit capacity, prompting the nonprofit to temporarily close applications.

The Pandemic Assistance Program will distribute $20 million in federal CARES Act funds to county residents impacted by COVID-19. Five days after the application period opened on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 9,000 applications had already flooded in.

“If’ there’s people who don’t meet criteria out of the first batch of applicants, the application will absolutely be reopened,” said Cristina Blanco, chief communications officer at United Way of Miami-Dade.

Read more from our news partner at the Miami Herald.

-By Yadira Lopez

Florida’s Unemployment Claims Rise; 1,700 Airport-restaurant Workers Face Job Cuts

Updated Friday at 7:38 a.m.

In another round of COVID-19 fallout hitting the travel industry, more than 1,700 airport-restaurant workers from South Florida to Orlando are awaiting word about whether their jobs will be eliminated in mid-October.

The layoff notices come as Florida’s first-time unemployment claims rose slightly for the week ended Aug. 15, breaking a three-week string of declines. The U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday reported the state’s figure at 66,322, an increase of 4,738 from the 61,584 filings the week before.

Nationally, claims jumped back over 1 million, rising by 135,000 from the previous week to 1.106 million.

Read more from our news partner at the Sun Sentinel.

-By David Lyons