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Coronavirus Live Updates: Broward County Commission Votes On CARES Act Funding Plan For Cities

Screenshot from a previous Broward County Commission COVID-19 update meeting on May 12, 2020.
Broward County Commission
Screenshot from a previous Broward County Commission COVID-19 update meeting on May 12, 2020.

This post will be updated today, Tuesday Aug. 25, and through the week with the latest information on COVID-19 in South Florida.

WLRN staff continues to add to community resource lists, including this articleon where kids and families can get food while schools are closed, and this postabout 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.


Broward County Commission Votes On CARES Act Funding Plan For Cities

Updated Tuesday at 5:45 p.m.

Broward County cities teamed up to present county leaders with a plan to spend federal coronavirus relief money from the CARES Act.

Broward received close to $341 million in June.

At a meeting Tuesday, city managers, mayors and leaders in the arts community asked county commissioners to allocate roughly $102 million of the county's CARES ACT funding.

Commissioner Barbara Sharief argued the county had already taken too long:

"Everytime we come back and we discuss this, we kick the can down the road. I call this the county of perpetual delay. We need to help the cities help the people,” she said. “Why are we still sitting on this money?"

Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry worried too many extra funding needs have popped up in addition to funding cities. Like requests for $6 million from arts and cultural organizations, and the school district asking for money to put nurses in schools:

"What we are all trying to do is just get through the fall,” Henry said. “We had hoped that there would be a CARES Act two that would have been in place by now."

Some of the cities have arts and cultural organizations in their individual plans of how they are looking to spend the money. But Joe Cox, president and CEO of the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale argued to commissioners, they need an allocation of CARES Act funds:

“While donors have generously stepped up, the private donations simply cannot begin to cover the millions we’ve lost in ticket sales, event revenue, since our doors closed in March. We’ve had to lay off 75 percent of our staff,” Cox said. “MODS is not alone in seeing these dramatic losses.”

The county commission approved a motion 8 to 0 to give the county administrator the authority to execute funding agreements with cities, with guidance, worth up to about $102 million.

Exact funding for the arts and for the school district, is still to be determined.

– Caitie Switalski / WLRN News

South Florida Superintendents ‘Optimistic’ About Reopening Schools In September

Updated Tuesday at 2:45 p.m.

With COVID-19 conditions improving in South Florida, local school district leaders are considering opening campuses sooner than they had planned.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said kids could be back in classrooms by mid-September — or even earlier.

“We will be launching a physical school experience for the most fragile students in our community. That includes students with disabilities and others. It will be sometime after the 31st of August, this coming Monday, but shortly thereafter,” Carvalho said Tuesday during a virtual event hosted by WLRN's news partner the Miami Herald.

Miami-Dade is set to begin the virtual school year Monday.

Students in Broward County already started remote learning last week. The Broward district is also considering a pilot program to bring students with disabilities back to campuses first.

Superintendent Robert Runcie also said he was optimistic schools could reopen by “early fall.”

“A key checkpoint for us to revisit our status will be after the Labor Day holiday,” which is Sept. 7, Runcie said.

“So I'm optimistic. I'm encouraged,” he said. “Our goal, again, is to open our schools as soon as possible. … It’s enormously difficult to run a school district under these circumstances, and it places a heavy burden on our parents, and impacts the development of our children."

Both leaders are closely monitoring certain local indicators, like the rate of positive COVID-19 tests and the availability of intensive care unit beds at hospitals in their counties.

Watch the full event, “Learning Curve: Navigating Education Access In A Pandemic,” below or on the Herald’s Facebook page.

—Jessica Bakeman/WLRN News

Delayed Computers, Washable Masks, Live Teaching: Palm Beach County Prepares For New Virtual School Year

Updated Tuesday at 1 p.m.

The Palm Beach County school district spent $25 million on computers and tablets so every student in the district could have one — but they won’t all arrive before the first day of school.

“The challenge is, we are not alone,” the district’s chief financial officer, Michael Burke, said during a news conference Tuesday morning. “There’s school districts across the world trying to get computers with distance learning. And the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted production in China. So getting these devices has proved to be a challenge."

To supplement what the district already had, administrators ordered more than 82,000 computers and have received about 19,000 so far.

Burke said he expects the district will receive about 10,000 more each week. He said the district is asking families who have their own devices to use those until the rest arrive.

At the news conference, Chief Academic Officer Glenda Sheffield said virtual learning will look much different this fall than it did back in the spring, when the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly shifted schools online.

“Live instruction will be required every day, every class period. Attendance will be taken every day, every class period,” she said. “All schools will operate on a normal bell schedule, with the expectation that students will be participating in class.”

If and when it’s safe to hold in-person classes, students will be required to wear face coverings, and they’ll each receive up to five washable masks. Parents will be expected to keep students home if they’re showing symptoms, like a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

Superintendent Donald Fennoy warned parents things could change quickly.

“I wish I could give you a perfect road map for how the months ahead will look, but the reality is this pandemic is constantly evolving. As we’ve said from the beginning, things are changing by the minute, the hour and the day,” Fennoy said.

“I refer to this as the red light, green light time,” he said. “We will pivot as necessary, but we will always make decisions based on the best interest of our students and staff.”

— Jessica Bakeman/WLRN News

Florida Adds 2,673 New Cases Of COVID-19 And Reports 183 New Deaths

Updated Tuesday at 12:23 pm

Florida added 2,673 positive cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, according to the State Department of Health. That's a 400-case jump breaking Monday's record for lowest single-day infection count.

Now the total number of cases has reached 605,502 statewide.

Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties make up more than a third of all cases reporting 263,822 positive tests. Monroe only reported one more infection, bringing its total to 1,695 cases.

Meanwhile, the state added 183 new COVID-19 related deaths. South Florida made up 44 of these new deaths. There are 10,580 deaths statewide and more than 37,000 people hospitalized.

UM COVID-19 Dashboard Launches, 141 Positive Tests In First Week

Updated Tuesday at 8:42 a.m.

There were 141 students, faculty and/or staff members who tested positive for COVID-19 during the first week of the fall semester at the University of Miami. That’s out of more than 2,600 tests performed, with a positivity rate of about 5%.

More than 150 students are either quarantined or in isolation because they are infected or may have come in contact with someone who is. One university employee is hospitalized with COVID-19.

The data was provided on a new dashboard launched by the university Monday, one week after starting a mix of in-person, hybrid and online classes.

“It would have been unrealistic to assume that there would be no cases of COVID-19 this fall, on our campus or anywhere else in the world,” President Julio Frenk said in a video message to the campus community. “What we can accomplish if we all work together is avoiding the type of broad outbreak that would require us to shut down campus.

“Fortunately, at this time all community members who have tested positive are doing well, and those who may have been exposed have safely self-isolated,” Frenk said.

See the dashboard here.

Watch the full video message here.

—Jessica Bakeman/WLRN News

Inmate Covid-19 Death Toll Reaches 84

Updated Tuesday at 7:13 a.m.

Three Florida inmates died from complications of COVID-19 over the weekend, bringing the death toll among prisoners to 84, according to data released Monday by the state Department of Corrections.

August has been the deadliest month in Florida’s prison system since the start of the pandemic, with 33 inmates and three correctional officers dying of COVID-19. In July, the second deadliest month, 25 inmates died of COVID-19. As more inmates and workers get sick, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ response has remained focused on testing and isolating symptomatic people.

As of mid-day Monday, 15,366 inmates and 2,424 corrections workers had tested positive for the virus. Over the weekend, 66 prisoners and 35 workers were diagnosed with the disease.

Corrections and health officials have offered testing to inmates and workers at 49 correctional facilities that have experienced outbreaks. Corrections workers, who can be transmitters of the disease, are encouraged but not required to get tested.

As of last Wednesday, 7,416 workers had been tested for the virus. As of Monday, four prisons --- Santa Rosa Correctional Institution, South Florida Reception Center, Everglades Correctional Institution and Dade Correctional Institution --- each have had at least 100 workers who have tested positive for the virus.

In July, Dade Correctional began to ask employees to work 12-hour shifts up to six days a week to maintain adequate staffing levels due to the high number of sick workers. Infections among inmates have also spiked at several prisons within the last month.

For example, Columbia Correctional Institution has had 1,338 inmate cases; Lowell Correctional Institution has had 993 cases; Mayo Annex has had 948 cases; and Santa Rosa Correctional Institution has had 806 cases.

— By News Service of Florida

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