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COVID Cases On Rise In Florida, Mask Mandates Return, And Website Draws Attention To Missing Cubans

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that the Delta variant of the coronavirus is as contagious as chickenpox.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that the Delta variant of the coronavirus is as contagious as chickenpox.

South Florida has some of the highest vaccination rates in the state, but the region is not immune to the surge of COVID-19 that has been accelerating this month.

Infection rates are climbing, along with hospitalizations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that the Delta variant of the coronavirus is as contagious as chickenpox.

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Miami cardiologist Bernard Ashby is the state lead for the Committee To Protect Health Care, a national organization working for equity in health care. He said the Delta variant has a higher viral load compared to all previous variants of the coronavirus.

“In fact it’s 1,000 times higher and that includes folks who are vaccinated as well,” Ashby said. “A study has shown that even vaccinated folks are capable of transmitting this virus, which is different from the prior variants which the vaccines had a very good protection against.”

Ashby expects COVID cases to continue rising in the coming weeks.

“We will see we're not at the peak currently and we'll see a higher peak of the virus transmission before we start to plateau,” Ashby said.

Local Governments Reinstate Mask Mandates

As COVID-19 cases rise across the nation, Florida is once again a hotspot for new infections. This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its mask recommendations to say that all people, regardless of vaccination status should wear masks indoors in areas where coronavirus cases are surging. That includes all of South Florida.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has prohibited local governments from enforcing COVID mitigation efforts.

But some South Florida governments like the Town of Palm Beach and the City of Coral Springs reinstated mask mandates in municipal buildings.

Coral Springs Mayor Scott Brook said the city is committed to public health and safety.

“We also don't want our own employees to get sick and spread the virus and thus have a shortage, especially in first responders at this time,” Brook said. “So we think [requiring masks] is the safest, most conservative approach and we believe this is in our citizens best interest.”

Broward County’s reinstated mask mandate went into effect Friday. Masks are now required in all county buildings, libraries, buses, the airport and Port Everglades.

But Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis told WLRN on Wednesday he does not expect to require masks in city buildings.

“I would like to think that we can work with the governor's office to try to be able to implement other safety measures that I think are important,” Trantalis said. “We are not planning to require city employees to wear masks in government buildings, but we are really pressing to get folks vaccinated, and that's the key.”

Miami-Dade also reinstated the use of masks for employees and visitors at county facilities.

​​Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava asked businesses to take part again, as well.

“We're calling on our Miami-Dade County businesses to step up and help us to protect our community with smart covid policies and their places of business, and also encouraging everyone, all employees, to get vaccinated.”

Cuba Missing

Thousands of people marched in Washington, D.C., this week in support of the protests in Cuba against the communist government.

Janelle Gueits has been working to list people arrested and missing in Cuba since those protests began on the island. The effort is chronicled at CubaMissing.com.

Gueits said she and her colleagues felt motivated to draw attention to reported cases of forced disappearances inside of Cuba.

“Myself and other volunteers felt called to come together and collaborate to very quickly bring this to life,” she said.

Gueits said the list of missing persons is vetted by lawyers, independent journalists and volunteers both outside and inside of Cuba.

“Cases are verified by speaking directly to a relative that can verify their information, their account,” Gueits said. “So basically, they have to be able to have a specific witness that is providing the information.”

While the total number of people who have gone missing since protests erupted on the island earlier this month is unknown, Gueits said the website has verified more than 700 missing people.

Andrea Perdomo is a producer for WLRN News.