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Palm Beach County Starts Phase 2 Reopening, The Pandemic’s Impact On The Haitian Community, UM’s Dashboard And Understanding COVID-19 Data

Evans St. Fort in a suit and tie standing in the chapel of his funeral home.
Miami Herald
Evans St. Fort, CEO of the family-owned and operated St Fort’s Funeral Home & Cremation in North Miami Beach, stands in the chapel Monday morning, August 10, 2020. The funeral home has seen a 30 percent increase in its business due to COVID-19 related deaths, which are hitting South Florida’s Haitian-American community especially hard.

Palm Beach County enters phase two reopening. How the pandemic has affected the Haitian community in South Florida. Plus, we’ve been looking at a lot of charts and data recently with the pandemic and an election coming up. How do you know which graph to trust?

On this Tuesday, Sept. 8, episode of Sundial:

Palm Beach County Starts Phase 2 Reopening

Palm Beach County entered into phase two reopening Tuesday, so a lot more businesses will now be able to take customers.

Social distancing and mask mandates are still in place. This phase allows movie theaters, libraries, museums, and other entertainment venues to open again at reduced capacity.

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The positivity rate in the county has remained below 5 percentfor the past ten consecutive days. But some fear that will change with moving into phase two near Labor Day weekend, since Florida had a surge in infections after Memorial Day and Fourth of July holiday which caused a tightening of rules.

County Commissioner Hal Valeche said this time things will be different, “now, going into this phase, we are well below where we were in terms of hospital use, ICU use and our positivity rate yesterday was 3.11 percent.”

We spoke with Valeche and Palm Beach Post reporter Jane Musgrave about phase two.

The Pandemic’s Impact On The Local Haitian Community

Pierre Martin was a 69-year-old architect living in Miami. He suffered from heart troubles and diabetes.

He thought he had a common cold and wouldn’t go to the hospital until it was too late.

Martin was part of South Florida’s Haitian diaspora, a community that’s been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

When you talk to community leaders they tell you that the outreach has been very disappointing,” said Miami Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles, she adds that that has been a problem in getting the message out. “All of us in this community, when we’ve been looking at the news and we’re looking at the updates — we heard translations in Spanish, but we did not hear the Creole.”

We spoke with Charles about how this virus is impacting Haitians living in South Florida and the challenges for public health officials overcoming cultural and language barriers.

UM’s Dashboard And Understanding COVID-19 Data

One week after the first day of class, the University of Miami published a COVID-19 dashboard announcing that more than a hundred students had tested positive.

The dashboard was criticized for being misleading because it only showed the weekly totals not the cumulative number of cases in the community.

“The University received several good suggestions for how to make [the dashboard] more user-friendly, and the dashboard has been updated in response to those recommendations, including the addition of cumulative cases since Aug. 16,” said the university’s president Julio Frenk in a statement.

Some of that criticism came in the form of a tweet from Alberto Cairo, a professor of visualization at UM and author of the book “How Charts Lie.”

The university has published a new, more complete dashboard since then — reporting 238 total positive cases in the university as of Tuesday afternoon.

“Always give yourself a minute to understand what it is that a chart is truly showing,” said Cairo. “Whenever you see a chart or a graph or a map showing data, don't assume that that graphic is an illustration ... the graphic is a piece of text, something that needs to be read in order to be understood."

We spoke with Cairo about UM’s dashboard and how we should all be looking at the data around us especially during COVID-19 and with an upcoming election.

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Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the lead producer behind WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.