Heard On Sundial: Monroe County Public Schools, Antibody Test Accuracy and Miami Restaurants Reopen

May 27, 2020

On this Wednesday, May 27, episode of Sundial:

Monroe County Public Schools

Monroe County Public Schools have created a task force that’s focused on reopening schools in the fall. So far the county has 104 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which is significantly lower than other South Florida counties.

Monroe County School Superintendent Mark Porter says part of the reason for the low number of cases has been the shutdown of schools and the closure of the Keys to tourists.

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However, one of the confirmed cases is a Monroe County public school teacher in Sugarloaf Key. The discovery of this case in early May prompted the shutdown of the building where the teacher worked so they could conduct a deep cleaning. Porter says this process could happen again if an employee or student tests positive in the fall. 

Porter is retiring this summer. He led the school district through multiple hurricanes including 2017's Hurricane Irma. Many of the residents are still recovering from the storm and Porter said that experience made everyone, including students, more resilient.

The Accuracy of Antibody Testing

Lots of questions remain about the accuracy and uses of antibody tests for COVID-19. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis and some local officials have said that producing antibodies for COVID-19 means you have immunity to the virus. But health experts say there isn’t sufficient research to prove that for certain. 

Some south Florida cities are turning to antibody tests to keep tabs on the spread of COVID-19 among workers.

The Centers for Disease Control and the American Medical Association say people should not get an antibody test unless they’re part of a research study. They also worry that confusing messages over immunity may lead some to be less cautious about social distancing rules that prevent the spread of the virus.

They have also found that testing in places where the virus is not widespread is not as accurate as places with more cases. False positives and false negatives are more common in areas that haven’t been hit as hard.

Only a dozen antibody tests have been approved under those guidelines. Sundial's Luis Hernandez spoke with WLRN reporter Jenny Staletovich about the latest on antibody testing in South Florida and beyond.

Restaurants Reopen With Limited Capacity

Under phase one of Miami-Dade County’s reopening, restaurants are only allowed to seat 50 percent of their normal capacity. Miami Herald food dditor Carlos Frias says many restaurant owners aren’t confident they can make it even with partial openings.

He also says customers have mixed feelings about going out to eat.

“I’ve heard everything from ‘I’m glad to be going back out to dining’ to ‘I’m not ready to go yet,’” Frias said.

Restaurant owners say they’ve had to change their business plan and some are cautiously optimistic about reopening.

Alex Kuk is the co-owner of Temple Street Eatery in Ft. Lauderdale. He emailed the show about adjustments he has had to make at his restaurant.

“We have had to constantly re-evaluate how to do business on every level. Are we confident we will be open for the next 6 months? I don’t know many people in our industry that can answer that at this moment. We are starting to open up and try to get things back to normal, so we hope we have gone through the trenches and can see a light at the end of the tunnel here!”

Each municipality has different guidelines for reopening food spots. In the City of Miami bars with state licenses can’t reopen, even if they serve food. In Fort Lauderdale it’s a different story.