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Fantasy Fest, The Cost Of COVID-19, And Miami-Dade Transit’s New Leader

Participants partake in the 2017 Fantasy Fest parade as they make their way down Duval Street in Key West on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017.
Miami Herald
Participants partake in the 2017 Fantasy Fest parade as they make their way down Duval Street in Key West on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017.

COVID-19 cases are higher than they’ve ever been in the Florida Keys — how are leaders responding? The cost of COVID on individuals and hospitals. Plus, Miami-Dade County transit's new director and his plans to improve transportation.

On this, Wednesday, September 1, episode of Sundial. 

Fantasy Fest

August has been the worst month for COVID-19 in the Florida Keys since the start of the pandemic.

The CDC has flagged Monroe County's community transmission rate as high — it was just over 16% this past week. Despite the alarming spread of COVID, tourism in The Keys continues to boom. And the area's about to get a new influx of guests soon for Fantasy Fest.

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“The concerns are like with any time you have a large event that brings a large number of people from varied locations into one place, that's the classic way of spreading or epidemics,” said Bob Eadie, the administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Monroe County. “Also, if they're variants from the various locations you're bringing [in].”

The 10-day celebration filled with music, costumes and glitter is scheduled to happen in October. It’s back after being canceled last year because of the pandemic.

Still, plans for this year’s event already have some restrictions. It comes just as the state is experiencing the worst of the delta variant.

The Key West City Commission met Wednesday to discuss COVID safety and special events, like Fantasy Fest.

Fantasy Fest
A float goes down Duval Street for the Fantasy Fest parade in 2019

The Cost Of COVID

There are more than 15,000 patients currently in hospital beds across Florida. Some of those patients require ventilators and intensive treatment, which could prove very costly.

For much of the pandemic, COVID patients didn’t expect to receive a large bill after their hospital stay — most insurers waived those costs.

But things are changing now.

“The two Florida plans, we looked at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida and Health Options, both phased out the cost waivers in July. And so people now getting hospitalized with COVID are likely going to get significant medical bills,” said Krutika Amin, the associate director for the program on the Affordable Care Act at Kaiser Family Foundation and a healthcare economist.

More than 70% of the largest healthcare plans across the country have stopped waiving cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found starting this month.

And depending on your deductible, and coverage plan, that could mean paying thousands of dollars out of pocket for treatment.

The Cost Of COVID
Niticia Mpanga, a registered respiratory therapist, checks on an ICU patient at Oakbend Medical Center in Richmond, Texas. The mortality rates from COVID-19 in ICUs have been decreasing worldwide, doctors say, at least partly because of recent advances in treatment.

Miami-Dade Transit’s New Leader

Public transit numbers are creeping back up as many are commuting back into work.

In Miami-Dade County, there’s now a shortage of bus drivers. This comes as the county commission is set to fund a new bus network, which will require more drivers for more frequent routes.

The county has a new leader on transit, Eulois Cleckley, who was the director of transit in Denver, Colo.

“COVID has had a significant impact on the transportation industry,” said Cleckley. “We had people that got up every single day, that left their families, that went to be a public servant and delivered a service for the people that live here in the county. It's our responsibility to make sure that they're safe, making sure that we're helping to support safety protocols and practices.”

WLRN’s Danny Rivero spoke with Cleckley about his plans for improving the bus system and getting more people to ride public transportation.

Miami-Dade Transit’s New Leader

Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.