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COVID Cases On the Rise, Governor's Anti-Fauci Merchandise, And Updates On Civil Unrest In Cuba & Haiti

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Coronavirus cases are on the rise again in Florida mainly among two groups of people — the young and the unvaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s projected data shows the highly contagious Delta variant is now the most dominant strain of the virus.

WLRN is here for you, even when life is unpredictable. Our journalists are continuing to work hard to keep you informed across South Florida. Please support this vital work. Become a WLRN member today. Thank you.

Dr. Ali Mokdad is the chief strategy officer for Population Health at the University of Washington. He said many of the new coronavirus cases in the state are unvaccinated people.

“We are tracking vaccine hesitancy in every state at the county level and the zip code level, and there are areas in Florida that vaccination rates are very low,” Mokdad said. “And unfortunately, you will see a rise in cases among these places and hospitalization and mortality. So that's why we're seeing a rise in cases among young adults and mortality, unfortunately, as well.”

Mokdad said more work is needed to help people to overcome vaccine hesitancy.

“We have over 3.4 billion vaccine doses provided globally, and we haven't seen any side effects that anti-vax people are putting out in social media,” Mokdad said. ”And that's the problem, quite honestly — social media, people putting out unfounded rumors.”

DeSantis Puts Anti-Fauci Merchandise Up For Sale

While COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis’ re-election campaign came under criticism for selling merchandise branded with the catchphrase, “Don’t Fauci My Florida.” The phrase references Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist who has served as an adviser to seven presidents.

Florida Politics reporter A.G. Gancarski said the new merchandise is a result of DeSantis “playing to his base.”

“[DeSantis] had a couple weeks in Surfside where he worked with the White House very closely, said nothing but good things about the Biden administration coming through,” Gancarski said. “But in the end, it's retail politics and retail politics involves retail and what's better retail for the Hard Right in this country, than anti-Fauci merchandise?”

Gancarski said one of the top selling anti-Fauci items is a beer koozie.

Cuba and Haiti

Two Caribbean countries are in crisis. Last week, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home, propelling the country into a state of emergency.

A few days later, thousands of Cubans took to the streets to protest their government and call for an end to the country's communist regime. Similar demonstrations took place throughout Florida, drawing large crowds and statements from local and federal officials.

Despite the uncertainty, violence and famine Cubans and Haitians are currently experiencing, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas warned residents of those countries earlier in the week to not consider fleeing to the United States.

“The time is never right to attempt migration by sea,” Mayorkas said. “To those who risk their lives doing so, this risk is not worth taking. Allow me to be clear: If you take to the sea you will not come to the United States.”

Calvin Hughes is a news anchor for WPLG in South Florida. He has been following the developing story in Haiti, following the president’s assassination.

“There are still a lot of questions about who was the mastermind, and I think that is the main question that police are trying to get to and they want to unravel,” Hughes said. “But even the head of the country’s national security at the National Palace was arrested or detained. They haven't exactly come up with the charge just yet. But right now, nearly 30 people have been arrested.”

And in Cuba, WLRN Americas Editor Tim Padgett said a “full powder keg” of factors lead to the uprising that began on Sunday.

“The pandemic has just really deteriorated the Cuban economy. Its main cash cow, tourism, has fallen by about 75 percent over the past year,” Padgett said. “And then you couple that with the economic sanctions that President Trump put in effect during his presidency that have cut off a lot more money to the island. That has really made things difficult.”

Padgett said the demonstrations started in a town near Havana.

“Where people had been experiencing days of electricity outages and they were sweating and hot and just frustrated and angry,” Padgett said. “They came out protesting, screaming and shouting, 'We’re not animals here!' and that 'We're not afraid, we're not afraid,' which is significant because there's always been this feeling that Cubans were too afraid to confront the regime there.”

Andrea Perdomo is a producer for WLRN News.