COVID-19 News

November 30, 2020
COVID Infections in Nursing Homes Surged Last Week

The number of residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities contracting COVID-19 increased significantly last week from the week before. The Florida Department of Health reported Friday that 1,402 residents tested positive for the virus – a 17% increase from the 1,192 residents who state health officials reported were COVID-19 positive 14 days prior on Nov. 13. Over a 30-day period, infections in Florida residents surged 87%. Of the long-term care residents who've tested positive, 3,864 have been transferred to either a hospital or another facility for treatment. News4Jax / Miami Herald

Moderna to File for Emergency Coronavirus Vaccine Authorization Today

Moderna Inc. said it will ask federal officials for emergency authorization for its coronavirus vaccine candidate today after final data from a late-stage trial showed it was 94.1 percent effective and had no serious side effects. Moderna Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel told the New York Times that if it's authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, the first doses of the two-shot vaccine could be given as early as Dec. 21, and that the company was "on track" to produce 20 million doses by the end of December. New York TimesWashington Post

State Reports More Than 7,000 New COVID Cases, but Average Daily Positive Test Rate Down Slightly

The Florida Department of Health on Sunday reported 7,363 new cases of novel coronavirus and added 59 deaths to the state's fatality count since the start of the pandemic. More than 27% of the new reported cases came from Miami-Dade County. Sunday’s 7.85% was the highest single day positive percentage the state has reported since Nov. 17. The average daily positive test rate in the state over the last seven days, however, has been 7.07% after being 7.69% for the seven days before that.  Miami Herald

November 25, 2020
DeSantis Gives Update on COVID Vaccine Preparation, New Therapies

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday used a video taped message to elaborate on the state's priorities for distributing a coronavirus vaccine. "We are going to set priorities focusing on specifically those
most vulnerable, elderly residents in long-term care facilities, as well as our frontline health care workers who are interacting with vulnerable patients day in and day out," the governor said. "As more vaccine becomes available, we of course are going to want to get that into the broader senior community first, and then into the broader community at large." The governor also noted as good news the arrival of additional therapeutic drugs at hospitals that could help keep patients from having to be hospitalized. DeSantis also said the state has set aside 500,000 rapid tests. "Over these next few weeks, all long-term care facilities will be able to test all staff, all visitors, and all contractors," he said. "We have all longed for the day when our longterm care residents can return to normal and that day is finally within our grasp." DeSantis Video

November 24, 2020
Miami Beach Police Can Now Issue Face-Mask Citations to People Who Violate COVID Order

Miami Beach police officers have again been authorized to start issuing citations to people who refuse to wear a facial covering in the city's commercial districts during the holiday season. The move by the city comes despite a September executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis that suspended the collection of COVID-related fines, leading the city to stop enforcing its local mask mandate. Under the new order from city officials, police will first offer a mask to anyone not wearing one. If the person refuses to wear it, they may be cited. The new enforcement plan goes into effect Wednesday and will last at least through the Thanksgiving weekend. It's not clear if the citations will come with any penalties. Miami Herald

Florida Prison Population Drops Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

State analysts say the number of inmates in Florida prisons has dropped and point to a backlog of prosecutions during the coronavirus pandemic as a major reason. The Criminal Justice Estimating Conference, which makes projections for legislators, said the prison system had 82,027 inmates at the end of October and that the number is projected to go as low as 80,792 at the end of November. In June 2020, after the pandemic started, the system had 87,736 inmates, according to the group's most recent report. The decreases have come as the court system has dramatically scaled back face-to-face proceedings, including trials, to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady issued new orders setting out a phased approach to reopening courts, with a focus on holding remote proceedings when possible. Orlando Sentinel / CJEC Executive Summary

Gators Report No COVID-19 Cases in Football, 10 Among All Athletes

The University of Florida reported no positive cases of COVID-19 among the Gators football team during the past week, but 10 new cases among athletes overall. The data is based on test results from Tuesday of last week through Monday, during which the school said 145 tests were performed on members of the football team and an additional 309 among other athletes. Orlando Sentinel

US Coronavirus Response Over Holiday Weekend Mostly Depends on Voluntary Efforts

Government officials around the country grappling with rising coronavirus infection rates and hospitalizations are trying to impose increased restrictions on gatherings to stem the spread of the COVID-19. But most rules are unenforceable, and in some places officials won't really try, so officials are banking on voluntary compliance. But many Americans don't have much interest in following the rules or suggestions. "To the degree that there isn't a collective buy-in here, it sort of blunts the impact of the measures themselves," said one official. Associated Press

November 23, 2020
AstraZeneca's and Oxford's Coronavirus Vaccine 'Highly Effective'

AstraZeneca said Monday that late-stage trials showed that its COVID-19 vaccine with Oxford University was up to 90% effective in preventing disease. The results are based on interim analysis of trials in the UK and Brazil of a vaccine developed by Oxford and manufactured by AstraZeneca. No hospitalizations or severe cases of COVID-19 were reported in those receiving the vaccine, AstraZeneca said. The trial looked at two different dosing regimens. A half dose of the vaccine followed by a full dose at least one month apart was 90% effective. A second regimen using two full doses one month apart was 62% effective. The combined results showed an average efficacy rate of 70%. Tampa Bay Times

First U.S. Coronavirus Immunizations Could Arrive on Dec. 12

The head of the U.S. effort to produce a coronavirus vaccine says the first immunizations could happen on Dec. 12. A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee is set to meet Dec. 10 to discuss Pfizer Inc.'s request for an emergency use authorization for its developing COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech recently announced that the vaccine appears 95% effective at preventing mild to severe COVID-19 disease in a large, ongoing study. Dr. Moncef Slaoui, head of the Operation Warp Speed, the coronavirus vaccine program, says plans are to ship vaccines to states within 24 hours of expected FDA approval. Tampa Bay Times

Trips Down 50% for Thanksgiving, but Millions Still Stick to Travel Plans Despite Warnings

The number of people flying for Thanksgiving is expected to be down by more than half from last year with officials asking people to avoid travel, but more than 1 million Americans were still flying each day over the weekend heading into the holiday week. Next Sunday, coming out of the holiday weekend, is expected to be the busiest day of the holiday period. While down from last year, the 3 million people who went through U.S. airport checkpoints from Friday through Sunday marked the biggest crowds since mid-March, when the COVID-19 crisis took hold in the United States. Among the travelers are expected to be students, with many colleges having ended in-person classes, propelling students to return home. Associated Press

Federal Aid is Set to Expire but Florida is Unlikely to Increase Jobless Benefits

When federal aid for jobless benefits runs out Dec. 31, hundreds of thousands of unemployed Floridians will again rely on state-paid benefits that currently max out at $275 a week and 12 weeks, among the lowest in the country. House Speaker Chris Sprowls said he's not focused on whether the state should raise the benefit cap, but rather on getting people back to work, though Senate President Wilton Simpson is open to examining the level of benefits. Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson both say they'll investigate how the CONNECT system, the state's jobless benefits system, failed in March when it was inundated with claims as the coronavirus spread. Hundreds of thousands of Floridians went several months without receiving benefits. Simpson supports a full review of Florida's unemployment benefits system, including "reviewing the level of benefits, requirements to receive benefits, and the associated impact on businesses who pay into the system," spokeswoman Katie Betta said in a released statement. Meanwhile, the state has been reliant on federal CARES Act funding to buttress its jobless benefits, and that money expires at the end of the year. Since March 15, the state has paid out nearly $18.7 billion in benefits, with more than $15 billion coming from the federal government. If Congress doesn't pass another stimulus package in the lame-duck session, out of work Floridians will be solely reliant on the state's benefits. Orlando Sentinel

Miami to Distribute $8.5M in Business Grants and Grocery Gift Cards for COVID Relief

Miami's city government will distribute $8.55 million in two COVID-19 relief programs meant to help support small businesses and help families buy groceries. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez requested a special commission meeting Wednesday to discuss how to quickly distribute the money, which will be reimbursed by Miami-Dade County using federal CARES Act dollars. Under federal rules, the money must be spent by Dec. 31. Commissioners unanimously approved spending $3.55 million on about 14,000 grocery store gift cards worth $250 each. People living within Miami city limits who provide a state-issued ID and sign a sworn affidavit that they have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic will be eligible for the gift cards. Miami Herald

November 20, 2020
Pandemic Prompting Florida Leaders to Look to Online Sales for Tax Cash

With the nation relying even more on online sales amid the pandemic, Florida lawmakers desperate for dollars may be ready to enforce tax collections on e-commerce. Florida's tax collections are in their worst shape in generations, but an effort gaining strength at the Capitol could help plug a gaping budget hole by demanding that online sellers begin collecting Florida sales tax and turning it over to the state. Lawmakers have been wary of such proposals for years. They fear a backlash from Floridians benefiting from the current, "honor system," in which customers are supposed to pay the 6% sales and use tax to the state when buying online. Few actually do, however, costing the treasury about $480 million annually. Florida budget writers next year will be looking at a $2.7 billion budget shortfall caused by an economy cratering from the virus. Sarasota Herald Tribune

Medicaid Enrollment Could Reach 4.6 Million in Florida

Florida continues to see increasing Medicaid enrollment, with an estimate that as many as 4.6 million people will rely on the health-care program in the upcoming fiscal year, according to the state's Medicaid office. A revised projection of enrollment for the 2021-2022 state fiscal year, which will start July 1, includes about 220,000 more people than economists previously projected. "We are seeing increases still. Pretty big increases," Tom Wallace, the state Agency for Healthcare Administration’s assistant deputy secretary for Medicaid finance analytics, told members of the Social Services Estimating Conference on Thursday. While enrollment in Medicaid programs is increasing nationwide because of the pandemic, Wallace said Florida is experiencing some of the biggest increases. Florida, which did not expand Medicaid eligibility under the federal Affordable Care Act, has seen a 16% increase in enrollment since March. Sun Sentinel

State Unemployment Falls to 6.5% But 659,000 Floridians Still Out of Work Amid Pandemic

Unemployment fell statewide to 6.5% in October, down from an adjusted rate of 7.2% in September and a sharp decline from May, when joblessness surged to 14.5%, according to numbers released Friday by the Department of Economic Opportunity. In metro Orlando, where the tourism industry has been hit particularly hard, unemployment dropped to 8%, down from 9.8% in September and down from a pandemic-worst level of 22.6% last May. For most of the pandemic, the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford area was the worst in the state for unemployment, until September when metro Miami topped the list. It did again in October, with a rate of 8.8%.  At the county level, Osceola County continues to see the highest rates of unemployment in Florida at 10.4%, followed by Miami-Dade County at 8.8% and Orange County at 8.5%. The DEO characterized the latest figures as a sign of Florida's recovering economy, noting it's the sixth consecutive month of job gains. Overall, however, nearly 660,000 Floridians remained out of work in October. Orlando Sentinel

Pfizer Seeking Emergency Use of its COVID-19 Vaccine in U.S.

Pfizer said Friday it is asking U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine, starting the clock on a process that could bring limited first shots as early as next month and eventually an end to the pandemic. The action comes days after Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech announced that its vaccine appears 95% effective at preventing mild to severe COVID-19 disease in a large, ongoing study. About 25 million doses may become available for U.S. use in December, 30 million in January and 35 million more in February and March, according to information presented to the National Academy of Medicine this week. Recipients will need two doses, three weeks apart. The U.S. government has a contract to buy millions of Pfizer-BioNTech doses, as well as other vaccine candidates than pan out, and has promised shots will be free. Florida Politics

Visit Florida: Tourism Off More Than 30% During 3Q

Preliminary estimates show the number of tourists who visited the state during the third quarter was about 22.1 million – a nearly 32% drop from the third quarter of 2019, Visit Florida said. Foreign travel remained nearly non-existent during the third quarter – domestic visitors made up 99% of travelers, Visit Florida said. While overseas travelers essentially disappeared, the domestic market dropped considerably as well, with in-country visits down 25.2% year-over-year during the quarter. Still, there was good news in the numbers – the drop was less severe than the contraction seen in the second quarter. Visit Florida

Biden Pushes for New COVID Aid

President-elect Joe Biden called on Congress to enact billions of dollars in emergency COVID-19 assistance before the year's end. Biden transition aide Jen Psaki said that "there's no more room for delay," ahead of Biden’s first in-person meeting since winning the election with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. Prospects for new virus aid this year, however, remain uncertain. Tampa Bay Times

Sen. Rick Scott Says He Tested Positive for COVID

Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott said he has tested positive for COVID-19. Scott said on Twitter that he tested positive after receiving several negative tests and is "feeling good and experiencing very mild symptoms."

Scott said he'll work from home until it's safe to return to Washington. "I remind everyone to be careful and do the right things to protect yourselves and others," the former Florida governor wrote on Twitter. "Wear a mask," Scott said in a second Tweet. "Socially distance. Quarantine if you come in contact with someone positive like I did. We will beat this together, but we all must be responsible."

DeSantis: Distribution Plans Made for Vaccines, New Treatment for COVID Available for Hospitals Now

Gov. Ron DeSantis gave an update on Florida's COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan as well as new treatments for the virus. Florida is prepared to distribute vaccines pending approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the governor said in a video announcement. "The State of Florida has been working to procure the new treatment for our hospitals and has also made plans to assist in the distribution of a safe and effective vaccine, which we believe will be delivered relatively soon," the governor said. He also discussed a new IV therapy for people in early stages of treatment for the virus that may prevent longer hospitalizations, and said more than 3,000 doses of the treatment have been sent to hospitals. "This has arrived just within the past few days, and they plan on sending a similar amount every week for the foreseeable future. We are going to continue to work with hospitals and other providers to ensure that qualifying individuals have access to this treatment." Governor's Press Release and Video

November 19, 2020
COVID-19 in Courtrooms Prompts Duval County to Halt Two Trials

Two court trials scheduled to begin this week in Duval County were put on hold over possible exposure of jurors to a person who believed he was exposed to COVID-19. Attorney Regina Wright said her client tested positive for the virus after being exposed last week to a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office fingerprint examiner who had tested positive. "I raised that concern that if he was exposed or if he were positive, then that obviously was a concern for me because I didn't want to expose my family to the virus," Wright told News4Jax. Wright said she found out her client was positive from a prosecutor. The Florida Times-Union reported a second defendant slated to go on this week also tested positive for coronavirus. News4Jax

CDC Warns Thanksgiving Travel Could Increase Chances of Contracting COVID

The Centers for Disease Control said Thursday that people who travel for Thanksgiving next week will increase their chances of contracting COVID-19. "Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year," the CDC said in a travel advisory on its website. People who do decide to travel should get a flu shot, wear a mask in public, and stay six feet away from people they don't live with. For those who decide to host people for Thanksgiving, the CDC recommends holding gatherings outdoors if possible, with people keeping six feet apart and wearing masks and just one person serving the food. Centers for Disease Control / Associated Press

Bar Exam Will Be Given Remotely in February

The Florida General Bar Exam scheduled for late February will again have to be conducted remotely, the Board of Bar Examiners said. The Supreme Court has approved holding the exam remotely – as was done in October, The Florida Bar News reported Tuesday. The board said the decision was based on rising COVID-19 infection rates that would raise the prospect of canceling the exam if it were scheduled to be given in person. The remote exam is scheduled for Feb. 23 and 24. Florida Bar News

COVID Cases Have Increased Steadily in Florida, but Still Below July Peak

Florida health officials have reported a steady increase in the number of new coronavirus cases each day over the past month and a half, but the numbers are nowhere near the peak in July. A seven-day average of nearly 6,300 new COVID-19 cases was reported this week by the Florida Department of Health. That's up from early October, when the seven-day average for new cases was about 2,200. In mid July, the state reported a seven-day average of nearly 11,700 new cases. Associated Press

End-of-Year Deadline Approaching for Distributing CARES Money

Sarasota County has distributed over $30 million in federal CARES Act money to help small businesses and struggling households, as well as arts and cultural programs and nonprofit organizations, after a slow start in distributing the money back in the summer. As of Thursday, more than $2.5 million in individual assistance has been paid to more than 750 households and over $28.2 million to more than 550 small businesses. Officials say the county will likely end up distributing nearly $55 million to businesses and individuals. Local governments have until Dec. 30 to distribute all of the COVID-19 relief money. If they don't, they will have to return any remaining funding to the federal government unless Congress extends the deadline. That could be an issue in neighboring Manatee County, which could lose as much as $30 million in federal assistance if it can't get the money out to recipients. Herald Tribune

November 18, 2020
Simpson: K-12 Spending Cuts, University Tuition Increases Can't Be Ruled Out

Senate President Wilton Simpson hasn't ruled out cutting K-12 spending as lawmakers try to balance the budget in the coming year with a reduction in tax revenue due to COVID-19 restrictions. Speaking to reporters Tuesday while lawmakers were in Tallahassee for the organizational session, Simpson said entities receiving state funding will have to defend their budgets when lawmakers begin to craft an annual spending plan. And education, "is a place where we spent a lot of resources when we had times of plenty," Simpson said. "And now that we're in times of lean, that's something we're going to have to look at." Simpson also said the possibility of tuition increases at state universities is "something we're going to look at." News4Jax

In Miami, a Sign of Widespread Transmission: More 'Non-COVID' Patients Have the Virus

Over the last week, 898 patients at Miami's public hospitals tested positive for the novel coronavirus, but more than half of them – 471 – were admitted for other reasons, largely to emergency rooms, without typical COVID-19 symptoms. Public health experts say it's another indicator of increasingly widespread transmission of the virus in Miami-Dade County. Patients who show up for anything from a car accident to abdominal pain are later testing positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, said Vicky Perez, a nurse and the director of critical care at Jackson North Medical Center. "They're in the community. They're working. They're going to restaurants, and they don't know they have it," Perez said. "That's why it's so important to wear a mask, stay six feet apart, and don't go out unless we have to." The number of non-COVID patients testing positive has been climbing for more than a week and comes on the heels of worsening coronavirus metrics for Miami-Dade and South Florida in general. A spokeswoman for Memorial Healthcare System in Broward County said the hospital network was seeing a similar uptick in non-COVID patients showing up at hospitals and testing positive for the virus. Miami Herald

Corcoran: 'Full Parental Choice' for Online or on Campus Education Expected for Next Semester

Florida's public schools will continue to offer online options for students next semester, even as the state's school leaders remain convinced in-person classes on campus are best for most students. "We will have full parental choice" in the spring, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said at the State Board of Education meeting in Tallahassee Wednesday. "The governor will take nothing less than full parental choice." Corcoran said he expects to release a new order spelling out how schools will operate during the coronavirus pandemic by Thanksgiving. The new order will allow the live, online options districts offered this semester to continue, he said. Corcoran told superintendents last month he wanted to continue to give parents options but also offer incentives for districts that enroll more students in face-to-face lessons. Statewide, a little more than 60% of students now are on campus. Orlando Sentinel

Five Florida Hospitals Will Be Among the First with the COVID-19 Vaccine

The new COVID-19 vaccine is on its way to five Florida hospitals. Memorial Regional Hospital in Broward County, Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, AdventHealth Orlando, Tampa General Hospital and UF Health Jacksonville will be first to receive the vaccine beginning in mid-December with another shipment expected in January. Hospitals that receive the vaccine before government approval will store it until they are allowed to use it. Infectious disease specialists say a COVID positive test rate over 5% shows the virus is not under control, and all three major South Florida counties have exceeded that level this month. Sun Sentinel

Simpson: Budget Will Dominate the 2021 Session: 'We are going to tighten our belts.'

New Senate President Wilton Simpson acknowledged in his opening remarks during Tuesday's organizational session of the Legislature that trying to find the budget essentials in a time of declining revenues – with tax collections down severely because of business shutdowns – will take up much of the Legislature’s time next year, even as the state continues to face an ongoing pandemic. "Over the last several years, we voted many times to set aside money to prepare for a rainy day," Simpson said. "Senators, it's raining. In fact, it's pouring." The president noted that the Revenue Estimating Conference has lowered the estimate of General Revenue for this fiscal year by $3.4 billion, and by another $2 billion for the next fiscal year. The reserves left unspent in previous years will help, he said. "It will help a lot, but to be clear, it will not solve our problems," Simpson said. "We cannot fix our situation by simply spending down our savings account. We need to make structural changes to the budget. ... We are going to tighten our belts. There will be things that we did in times of plenty that need to be eliminated in these times of lean. We have less revenue, therefore we will have less government." Read Simpson's Opening Remarks from the Nov. 17 Organizational Session

Simpson: Limitations on Lawsuits Related to COVID Likely to Come Up Early in '21 Session

Senate President Wilton Simpson says the Legislature could consider a COVID-19 lawsuit limitation proposal early in the 2021 legislative session. "That is certainly a viable option, and it would happen pretty early in the session, I would guess," Simpson said Tuesday to reporters when asked about lawsuit limitations. But the new Republican Senate president, who took over in charge of the chamber with Tuesday's organizational session, said he wouldn't support legislation to prevent people from filing lawsuits against "essential" businesses. News Service of Florida

Miami to Distribute $8.5M in Business Grants and Grocery Gift Cards for COVID Relief

Miami's city government will distribute $8.55 million in two COVID-19 relief programs meant to help support small businesses and help families buy groceries. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez requested a special commission meeting Wednesday morning to discuss how to quickly distribute the money, which will be reimbursed by Miami-Dade County using federal CARES Act dollars. Under federal rules, the money must be spent by Dec. 31. Commissioners unanimously approved spending $3.55 million on about 14,000 grocery store gift cards worth $250 each. People living within Miami city limits who provide a state-issued ID and sign a sworn affidavit that they have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic will be eligible for the gift cards. Assistance will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Miami Herald

Nassau County Opens 2nd Round of COVID-19 Relief Grants Thursday

The Nassau County Commission has approved another round of CARES Act relief funds for rental and mortgage payments for residents who have been financially affected by the pandemic. Any activities – reduced hours or income, termination or layoff from employment – that occurred between March 1, 2020 and Dec. 30, 2020 due to COVID-19 are eligible. Residents can submit applications from Nov. 19-30. News4Jax

November 17, 2020
States Around the Country Again Are Putting COVID Rules in Place as Cases Rise

With rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths around the country, some states are reimplementing restrictions aimed at again trying to slow the spread of the virus. Several states are limiting social gatherings, mandating face masks and encouraging residents to stay home. Others are restricting business hours of operation and limiting restaurant capacity. According to a list kept by AARP, 36 states and the District of Columbia now require people to wear face coverings in public statewide. USA Today

Demand for Coronavirus Testing Rises as Thanksgiving Approaches

Coronavirus test sites in the Tampa Bay area are seeing an increase in demand as case numbers rise across the state and people hope to get results before Thanksgiving. "We've seen a big demand since Friday," Pinellas County spokeswoman Ashley Johnson said. "We do have the holidays coming up, and I know people are planning on traveling. We've also seen an increase in cases around us and around the country." Demand is rising in Hillsborough County, too, where more than 3,250 tests were conducted from Friday to Monday. That's a thousand more tests than those conducted during the same time period a week before. Tampa Bay Times

Gators Cap Basketball Attendance at 2,200 per Game for Upcoming Season

The University of Florida will cap attendance at 2,200 for the men's and women's basketball seasons due to COVID-19 safety precautions, the school announced Tuesday. The Gators' schedule begins Nov. 25 at the Mohegan Sun tournament in Uncasville, Conn. The men's team's first home game is Dec. 6 against Stetson. UF officials said the athletics department arrived at the 2,200 number in consultation with UF Health. The arena will have increased hand sanitizer stations and all seating will be spaced out in pods of two and four seats, the school said. News4Jax

Health Modelers Worry About COVID Cases Continuing to Rise

Academic modeling of coronavirus infection rates raises the prospect of thousands more cases of coronavirus per day by the first of the year in Florida if people don't take health precautions seriously, a professor at the University of South Florida's Florida Health Information Center said. Jay Wolfson, senior associate dean of USF's Morsani College of Medicine said the daily COVID caseload in Hillsborough County has grown about 40 percent in the last two weeks and that by the middle of January the region could see 15,000 or more cases in a day if people continue to go about their daily business without following health guidelines. "The next three months or so are going to be extremely challenging," Wolfson said, "but we can get over this thing if we put politics aside and do the things we know work: wash your hands, wear your mask, stay away from groups of people even if its your family." Florida's Department of Health reported more than 10,100 infections in a single day Sunday – the highest daily caseload since the height of the summer surge in mid-July, though it was boosted by a higher-than-normal testing load and the number declined with a drop in testing on Monday. Wolfson did point to some good news – the state should see lower death rates from the virus than during the summer surge because doctors now understand more about treatments and how the virus works. Tampa Bay Times

Quarantining Rick Scott Says Florida Still 'Open for Business'

U.S. Senator Rick Scott is quarantining for a second time due to possible exposure to the novel coronavirus, but he remains upbeat about the state's battle against it nonetheless. Scott, appearing on the Fox Business Network Tuesday morning, said Florida "absolutely would be open for business" during the third wave of the pandemic. Florida has reported upwards of 890,000 cases of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, with more than 4,600 of them tallied Monday. "We're open for business," Scott told host Stuart Varney. "We're going to do this safely. We're wearing our masks, social distancing." And, he added, Floridians are isolating if the situation mandates it. Florida Politics

November 16, 2020
South Florida COVID-19 Hospitalizations Rise 44 Percent; Hospitals Say They Still Have Adequate Space

Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties saw a 44% increase in coronavirus patients over the past two weeks, an increase paralleled across Florida, according to state figures. With about 3,200 Floridians currently hospitalized with COVID-19, the numbers are still well below the July peak, when hospitalizations topped 9,000. Hospitals still have ample space, staff and supplies, and say they are far better prepared than in the early days of the pandemic. Orlando Sentinel