COVID-19 News

August 2, 2020
DOC Secretary Inch Tests Positive for COVID-19

Florida Corrections Secretary Mark Inch and Deputy Secretary Ricky Dixon have both tested positive for COVID-19, the prisons agency said in a press release. Inch returned from a statewide conference and a visit to Columbia Correctional Institution and began experiencing mild symptoms. He and Dixon were both tested July 30, the agency said. More than 1,200 of the inmates - more than half of the population - at Columbia C.I. have tested positive for the coronavirus, the agency said late last week. Inch was still experiencing symptoms of the virus this weekend, but didn't require hospitalization, and is self-isolating, the press release said. Dixon was self-isolating as well, but was asymptomatic. Officials contacted people who were in contact with the two and encouraged them to get tested for the virus. Department of Corrections

COVID Info Roundup

Latest Florida Department of Health News Release

Florida reported 9.28 percent of COVID-19 tests were positive in its Aug. 2 release and 7,104 new cases. The new positive percentage of under 9.3 percent was the lowest that metric has been in weeks, and below the 10 percent officials have said is a goal for the rate of tests coming back positive. Officials added 62 more deaths to the total death count. The 7,104 new cases were the fewest on a Sunday since June 21.  Department of Health / DOH COVID Dashboard / County-by-County Aug. 2 Update

COVID Tracking Project Florida 

Florida Atlantic University COVID Tracking Page

Johns Hopkins University COVID Tracking Florida Page

News

  • Florida's 1,230 Deaths in Past Seven Days Was Record. Orlando Sentinel
  • Florida and Miami Report Big Drop in COVID Cases. Miami Herald
  • More than 7,100 new cases of coronavirus were reported Sunday in Florida, but deaths were down at 62. Associated Press
July 31, 2020
Florida Again Adds More Than 250 New Deaths to Count, New Cases and Positivity Steady

Florida continued to add high numbers of deaths to its total fatality count for the coronavirus pandemic, reporting Friday that 257 more deaths of Florida residents have been attributed to the virus. The number was the most added to the count in one day for the fourth day in a row, and was slighly higher than the number reported on Thursday. The number of new cases and the percentage of tests coming back positive have been generally flat for several days. Florida reported about 9,000 new positive cases on Friday, just over 10.5 percent of the 97,600 people tested. So far, the total death toll from the COVID-19 virus in Florida is 6,843. Department of Health 

Florida Employers: Universal Laying Off Some Employees

Universal Orlando Resort laid off an undisclosed number of workers Friday, though it didn't say publicly how many. The layoffs came a day after its parent company revealed the stark financial picture of the coronavirus’ impact in an earnings report. A company spokesman said in an email to the Orlando Sentinel that Universal will provide severance pay, subsidized health benefits and reemployment assistance, to laid off workers. "We are prioritizing daily operations and shorter-term projects and continuing our pause on longer-term projects such as Epic Universe as we allow the tourism industry to recover,” the company official said. Orlando Sentinel

Envision Sending Doctors, Nurses, Anesthetists to Florida to Help With COVID Staffing

Envision Healthcare is sending nurses, nurse anesthetists and emergency doctors to Florida to a South Florida health system and hospitals in Orange, Pinellas and Duval counties to bolster staff as the coronavirus pandemic continues, the company announced in a press release. The company is working with the Florida Division of Emergency Management on the effort. The company didn't name the hospital systems where the staffers will go or say how many it was sending. Envision has 6,000 healthcare workers already based in Florida. Envision Healthcare Release

Local Outlook: Jax COVID Positivity Rate Down to Lowest Since June

The rate of tests for COVID-19 coming back positive dropped to 6 percent on Thursday in Jacksonville, the lowest it has been since June, officials said. The rate of infection positives has been trending downward this week in the city, averaging just under 8 percent over the past seven days. Jacksonville hasn’t had a positive test rate above 10 percent since July 22 when it was 11 percent. The record high for the city was about 21 percent set earlier this month. Florida Politics

Miami City Budget Proposal Envisions Eliminating Vacant Job, Closing Some Service Centers

Miami’s municipal government's $1.1 billion proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year could require the closure of five city service centers and eliminate 100 vacant jobs as the city braces for the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposed spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, shows a city already tightening the belt to maintain existing services and pay its 4,000-person workforce, with a grim revenue forecast for the next few years. The city expects the ailing economy to seriously slow property value growth, leading to less tax revenue in 2021 and beyond. This year, Miami commissioners voted to advertise the same property tax rate as last year, setting a ceiling for the rate that will receive final votes in September. Miami Herald

July 30, 2020
State Closes Drive-Through and Walk-up Testing Sites Ahead of Tropical Storm Isaias, Which Could Affect Florida as Early as Friday

State-supported testing sites for COVID-19 will temporarily close at 5 p.m. Thursday ahead of the arrival of an expected tropical storm this weekend. the Division of Emergency Management said. The sites in 23 counties offer walk-up and drive-through testing. The Division of Emergency Management said Tropical Cyclone Nine – now Tropical Storm Isaias – is expected to bring heavy rains and strong winds that could affect South Florida as early as Friday. The sites have tents and other equipment that could pose a hazard in high winds. County health departments continue to offer free COVID-19 testing. Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center said Thursday afternoon that Isaias is forecast to strengthen into a hurricane Friday or Friday night. On Thursday, the storm was bringing heavy rain and tropical storm force winds to the Dominican Republic. Division of Emergency Management / Latest on Isaias from Weather.com / Sun Sentinel

Universal Theme Park Revenue Dropped More Than 90 Percent in 2Q

Universal theme parks revenue fell 94 percent during the second quarter while most of its parks were closed because of the pandemic, its parent company said in an earnings report Thursday. Comcast, which owns Universal, said theme park revenue came in at just $87 million for the three month period. Theme park losses contributed to Comcast's overall drop in revenue of 12 percent – though the earnings number beat Wall Street expectations. Orlando Sentinel

Palm Beach County Increases Fines for Pandemic Rule Violations

Palm Beach County commissioners on Thursday amended the county's emergency management code to increase penalties for people who violate pandemic rules. Violating such a rule will now be a second-degree misdemeanor. A person who doesn't wear a mask while a customer in a business could face a $25 fine. A business owner who doesn't require customers to wear masks could be fined up to $250 for a first offense. Palm Beach Post

Positive COVID-19 Test Rate Roughly Flat, More than 250 Additional Deaths Added to Statewide Death Toll

The Department of Health said Thursday that 12 percent of test results came back positive in the latest batch of 95,000 tests, adding 9,956 new COVID-19 cases to the state's count for the pandemic. The percentage of people testing positive was about the same as it was a day earlier. The state also added 253 deaths to the fatality count for the pandemic, though not all deaths occurred Wednesday. Since the beginning of the pandemic in March, Florida has reported 6,586 deaths related to COVID-19, and more than 461,000 cases. Department of Health

Economy Shrank by 33 Percent in 2Q

The U.S. economy shrank at an annualized 32.9 percent rate in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday. It's the biggest U.S. quarterly annualized drop in gross domestic product on record. While astonishing to see on paper, the depth of the contraction was widely expected – and it wasn't as bad as some projections. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been expecting a bigger drop of 34.7 percent.

"It's basically reporting something that we all already knew – that economic activity came to a screeching halt as the virus altered the contours of our lives," economist Justin Wolfers said on Twitter. On a quarterly basis, the Q2 decline was 1.8 percent. Personal consumption, which typically makes up about two-thirds of all economic activity in the U.S., subtracted 25 percent from the Q2 total, with services accounting for nearly all that drop. Economists also said that without the historic federal fiscal package of nearly $3 trillion, the economic contraction would have been deeper. Axios / CNBC / Wall Street Journal / Reuters / Benzinga

July 29, 2020
Sen. Rob Bradley Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley said he has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and is self-isolating, Florida Politics reported Wednesday. Bradley, of Fleming Island, said he doesn't know how he contracted the virus. His wife, Jennifer Bradley, who is running for the seat Rob Bradley is vacating was tested for the virus, but the results were negative. Bradley is at least the third Florida legislator to test positive for the virus, following Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, and Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park. Florida Politics

Teachers' Petition Urges DeSantis to Let Local School Districts Decide Whether to Open

Nearly 32,000 Florida teachers signed a petition urging Gov. Ron DeSantis to rescind a state order saying schools should open in August and to let local school boards decide when it's safe to go back to campuses, the state's largest teacher's union, the Florida Education Association said. The union said it sent the petition to DeSantis on Tuesday, asking him to provide "thoughtful leadership" and not require schools to open when there is still "high risk" of coronavirus infections in Florida. Several school districts have already said they won't open immediately for in-person learning, but will start school with online classes before opening physical classrooms later in the summer or fall. Orlando Sentinel

New York Sends Supplies to St. Petersburg for New Testing Site

The state of New York is sending more than a hundred thousand surgical masks and thousands of gowns, gloves, N95 masks and other equipment to the city of St. Petersburg for the opening of a new testing site that will provide 500 free tests a day. "We know what you're going through," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. "Anything else you need, we're here." Cuomo said during his daily COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday – at which he was joined by phone by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman – that his city would send the items to St. Pete, and noted that New York benefitted from outside help when the pandemic was at its worst there earlier this year. St. Petersburg will use the materials at a new testing site at the Pinellas Community Church. Tampa Bay Times / WUSF / Tampa Bay Business Journal

Miami-Dade Schools to Start With Online Classes Only

Miami-Dade public school students will start the new school year with online-only classes, with the hope of being able to offer optional in-person classes starting in October, the county's superintendent said Wednesday. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho also said Miami-Dade schools will push back the opening date from Aug. 24 to Aug. 31. "In light of the viral surge in our community, we believe it is in the best interest of our students and employees to delay the return to the schoolhouse and commence the 2020-2021 school year from a distance," Carvalho said. Officials hope they can open classrooms for those students whose families want to send them to a physical classroom by Oct. 5, the superintendent said. At a separate event in Clearwater, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he thinks most districts will offer in-person classes soon. “I don’t think you’re going have a school district in the state that is going virtual for the whole semester,” DeSantis said.  Miami Herald / WPLG / CBS4 Miami / Sun Sentinel (DeSantis Event)

Broward County Extends Curfew Through Monday

An overnight curfew has been working to reduce the number of parties and large gatherings in Broward County, according to the county's mayor, who announced Wednesday the curfew will stay in place through this coming weekend. The curfew will now be in effect until 5 a.m. Monday under an order signed Wednesday. The 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew doesn't apply to people going to or from work at an essential business, and it doesn't apply to people traveling back into town or leaving town. Sun Sentinel / WPLG / Executive Order

Florida Adds 216 to Coronavirus Death Toll

Florida added another 216 resident deaths to its fatality count from the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday, a second straight day during which the death toll grew by a record number. The virus has now killed 6,333 people statewide since the spring. The Department of Health also said 9,446 new coronavirus cases were added to the state's count, bringing the total to more than 451,000. Miami Herald

Latest School District COVID Plan News

Here's the latest in back-to-school news from districts around Florida: 

Monroe

Students in the Florida Keys won't return to physical classrooms for at least the first four weeks of school, and the start of the school year may be delayed by a week or so, perhaps until Aug. 17. The Monroe County school board is expected to make a decision on the start date this week. Virtual instruction only will go through Sept. 11, according to incoming schools superintendent Terri Axford. 

Monroe Reopening Plan 

Latest News

 

Miami-Dade

Miami-Dade public school students will start the new school year with online-only classes, with the hope of being able to offer optional in-person classes starting in October, the county's superintendent said Wednesday. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho also said Miami-Dade schools will push back the opening date from Aug. 24 to Aug. 31.

Miami-Dade Reopening Plan

Latest News

  • Miami-Dade Schools to Delay Reopening, Start With Online Only Classes Miami Herald / WPLG

 

Collier

The Collier County Public School Board voted unanimously this week to push the start date for the upcoming school year to Aug. 31. Collier is planning a choice-based hybrid model for conducting classes, with parents able to choose on-campus classes, two types of virtual learning, or homeschool. All students and staff will be expected to wear a face covering when on a school campus. 

Collier Reopening Plan

Latest News 

  • Collier Pushes Start Date Back, Parents Concerned About Mask Requirement WINK News
  • Collier Board Delays School Start Naples Daily News

 

Pinellas

More than 60 percent of families in Pinellas County who answered the district's survey have said they want their child to begin the school year learning from home.  Students in the Tampa Bay area county will have the option of taking live online classes through their assigned school or taking classes through the existing Pinellas Virtual School for remote learning. The district also will open school buildings allowing children to attend classes in person - something 40 percent of families in Pinellas who answered the survey said they'll do. The families of 40,000 children answer the survey by the deadline - about 40 percent of the district's roughly 100,000 students. The district will try to track down those families to give them another chance to respond, but if they don't, they'll be assigned to in-school learning. 

Pinellas Reopening Plan

Latest News

 

Orange

Students in Orange County will start the school year with online classes only beginning Aug. 10, with those opting to attend face-to-face classes to start on campus learning on Aug. 21, the school system announced. The district had planned to delay the start from Aug. 10 to Aug. 21 with students either in online or in-person classes. But teachers and their union said that unfairly delayed their first paycheck until September. The compromise announced Monday means students will study online at first through the district's live, virtual class platform for nine days before continuing either in the classroom or online.

Orange Reopening Plan

Latest News

 

Santa Rosa

The Santa Rosa County School Board last week approved a virtual learning option for students and will vote next week on proposals for a face mask policy and a postponed school start date. Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick is pushing to have the district delay the start of school until Aug. 24 to give the district time to accommodate requests for remote learning during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Santa Rosa Reopening Plan

Latest News

 

Most school districts in Florida have completed at least preliminary plans for how to begin classes in the fall, though questions remain about when some districts will be ready to open school buildings for some students to attend in-person classes. While the state has mandated in-person learning be an option, and that schools must be open five days a week, many school districts are also planning to give parents the choice to let students learn virtually. Some districts have hybrid plans that include both. All districts have to have their plans approved by the state Department of Education by the end of July.

 

LobbyTools' Database of School District Reopening Plans

 

July 28, 2020
Curry Optimistic That Virus has Peaked in Jacksonville; But Agreed with Decision to Cancel RNC

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry expressed guarded optimism Tuesday that a surge in coronavrius cases over the past month has leveled off and started to show signs of declining, but he still supports President Donald Trump's decision to cancel the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville. Curry said the percentage of test results showing COVID-19 virus infections has been going down, and reports from the city's hospitals show they have seen a stabilization in the number of patients suffering illnesses from the virus. Florida Times-Union

Positive COVID-19 Tests in Florida Prisons Spike

Since Friday afternoon, the number of Florida inmates testing positive for COVID-19 has increased 20 percent. In total, at least 6,217 inmates had tested positive at correctional facilities across the state as of Monday afternoon, according to the most recent data released by the state's Department of Corrections. Separately, at least 46 inmates had died from COVID-related illnesses as of Monday, with a 28 percent in COVID-related deaths in just the last 72 hours, according to department data. At least 22 Florida inmates have died from the virus so far this month, making July the deadliest month for inmates in the state since the pandemic began. ABC News

PSC to Hold Workshop on Pandemic Effects on Wednesday

The Florida Public Service Commission will hold a workshop on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on customers and utilities on Wednesday. The PSC will hear from representatives of Duke Energy Florida, Florida Power & Light Company; Florida Public Utilities Company; Gulf Power; and Tampa Electric Company, as well as the Office of Public Counsel. Members of the public can't attend in person because of public health rules. Public Service Commission

Majority of Pinellas Families Opt for Online Schooling

More than 60 percent of families in Pinellas County who answered the district's survey have said they want their child to begin the school year learning from home. Students in the Tampa Bay area county will have the option of taking live online classes through their assigned school or taking classes through the existing Pinellas Virtual School for remote learning. The district also will open school buildings allowing children to attend classes in person – something 40 percent of families in Pinellas who answered the survey said they'll do. The families of 40,000 children answer the survey by the deadline – about 40 percent of the district's roughly 100,000 students. The district will try to track down those families to give them another chance to respond, but if they don't, they'll be assigned to in-school learning. Tampa Bay Times

Another 186 Coronavirus Deaths Reported Tuesday, Along with More than 9,000 New Cases

The state Department of Health reported Tuesday that 186 Florida residents were added to the list of fatalities from the COVID-19 virus, the most added to the count in a single day since the start of the pandemic this spring. The new reported deaths, which may not have all occurred on Monday, brought the total number of deaths in the state from the virus to 6,117. The number of new cases of infection was also up slightly in Tuesday's report from the day before at 9,230, though that number remained lower than last week's average number, which was well above 11,000 new cases a day. The state continued to report increased hospitalizations, with 585 new patients. Florida Department of Health / Orlando Sentinel / NBC 6

Orange County Schools Will Start Aug. 10 with Online Only Classes for Nine Days, Then Offer In-Person Learning Option

Students in Orange County will start the school year with online classes only beginning Aug. 10, with those opting to attend face-to-face classes to start on campus learning on Aug. 21, the school system announced. The district had planned to delay the start from Aug. 10 to Aug. 21 with students either in online or in-person classes. But teachers and their union said that unfairly delayed their first paycheck until September. The compromise announced Monday means students will study online at first through the district's live, virtual class platform for nine days before continuing either in the classroom or online. "The nine days will provide opportunities for all staff and students to become comfortable with the LaunchEd platform, as it will be the default should a classroom or school need to pivot from face to face during the pandemic," the district said in a news release. "Teachers can also establish communications with parents and students as we work out any problems and answer questions." Orlando Sentinel / WESH / Orange County Public Schools

LobbyTools' Database of School District Reopening Plans

Key Provisions of the Proposed HEALS Act

Republican leaders Monday night released their latest coronavirus relief proposal, the $1 trillion HEALS Act. Democrats and some Republicans have already expressed some concerns about what's in the bill, or not in the bill, so it is being seen as a starting point for negotiations on a final measure. Congressional leadership is hoping a bill will pass by mid-August. Here's a look at the basics of what's in the proposal. Axios

July 27, 2020
Hospitals Looking for Nursing Help, Offering Perks to Boost Staff During Pandemic

Florida hospitals are trying to lure nurses from as far away as Alaska with hazard pay and perks like free lodging and meals as they try to bolster their response to the coronavirus pandemic and fill in spots left empty by burned-out staff and personnel who have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus and have to quarantine at home. The Sun Sentinel reported that 51 hospitals in Florida have requested more than 2,400 additional nurses, according to Florida Office of Emergency Management records. The governor's office has said it is working with staffing agencies to help alleviate healthcare worker shortages, especially in hard-hit South Florida. Several hospitals are recruiting heavily on their own, however, and some healthcare workers said last week that help through government channels isn't coming fast enough. Sun Sentinel

Fewer Than 9,000 New COVID Cases Reported, Positivity Rate at 11.4 Percent Statewide, But Deaths Now Over 6,000

The number of new COVID-19 cases and the report of new deaths from the virus dropped notably in Florida for the first time in weeks in Monday's report from state health officials. The state said there were just under 8,900 new cases, the lowest daily addition since July 7. State officials also added 77 fatalities to the state's death toll during the pandemic, the lowest number since July 13. More than 6,000 people have now died from the coronavirus statewide during the entire pandemic. There was also good news in virus metrics in Palm Beach County, one of the state's harder-hit counties. There, the percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus dropped to 8.8 percent, its lowest level in two weeks, and below the 10 percent goal state officials have said they have for the key measurement of virus prevalence. Statewide, officials said the positivity rate Monday was at 11.4 percent, better than rates well above 15 percent that were reported in recent weeks, but still above the 10 percent goal. Department of Health / Palm Beach Post / Sun Sentinel / Tampa Bay Times

Judge Upholds Palm Beach County Mask Requirement

Palm Beach County's mask requirement doesn't violate the constitution, a Palm Beach County judge ruled on Monday. "The right to be ‘free from governmental intrusion' does not automatically or completely shield an individual's conduct from regulation," Judge John Kastrenakes wrote in an order signed Monday. The judge's decision was in line with similar rulings made in lawsuits challenging regulations in Alachua and Leon counties. Palm Beach Post

Miami Marlins Cancel Home Opener After COVID Outbreak in Team

Twelve players and two coaches with the Miami Marlins have tested positive for COVID-19, leading the baseball team to postpone its home opener Monday against Baltimore. The Marlins are coming off a three game series in Philadelphia and after the first positive tests came back the team remained there rather than fly back to Miami. ESPN

July 24, 2020
Florida Tops 400,000 Total COVID Cases, Thursday's Positive Test Rate Increased Slightly to 13.3 Percent

Florida topped 400,000 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic with another 12,444 added to the total on Friday. The total number of cases reported has increased by 100,000 in the past nine days. Only California and New York have had more total confirmed cases during the pandemic, according to federal officials. The state's total number of cases is now over 402,300. The state Department of Health said Friday that the percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive on Thursday was 13.31 percent, up slighly from the day before. Department of Health / Sun Sentinel

Okeechobee School Start Delayed a Week

Okeechobee County schools will start one week later than originally planned, opening on Aug. 17 because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The county's school board voted unanimously Thursday to accept Superintendent Ken Kenworthy's recommendation to give teachers more time to prepare for starting school under the district's COVID-19 plans. WPTV

LobbyTools' Database of School District Reopening Plans

Leon County Superintendent to Recommend Delaying School Start

Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna is recommending that schools postpone the start of classes until Aug. 24. Teachers would return on Aug. 10. Hanna plans to present a final school reopening plan, with the Aug. 24 start date, at the board's meeting next week. WTXL  

LobbyTools' Database of School District Reopening Plans

Coronavirus Forces Delay to Start of High School Football Season

Florida high schools will delay the start of football and other fall sports seasons, easing the threat of a revolt by urban districts where the COVID-19 virus pandemic has been a bigger problem. The Florida High School Athletic Association board voted 11-4 Thursday night to push the first day of practices from Monday to Aug. 24 with games starting no earlier than mid-September instead of mid-August. The decision came as Florida has experienced a sharp increase in coronavirus deaths over the past two weeks, including another 136 recorded Friday as the state's total confirmed cases topped 400,000. The Miami-Dade school board had threatened to leave the FHSAA if a decision to begin at the normal time hadn't been changed, because schools in hard-hit Miami likely won't start on time and its programs would have likely been excluded from competing for championships. Associated Press

OPB Staff Quarantined After Positive COVID-19 Test

Staff in Gov. Ron DeSantis' Office of Policy and Budget were sent home and will quarantine for 14 days after an employee in the office tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. The staffer had left work sick, but returned to the office. "The employee in question was told not to return to work until they tested negative for COVID-19," said Meredith Beatrice, spokesperson for Gov. Ron DeSantis. "The employee came to work anyway, and was immediately sent home." Beatrice didn't say how many people from the Office of Policy and Budget were sent home, but said it is the governor's policy that "employees exposed to a sick co-worker are required to quarantine for 14 days." Miami Herald

Trump, GOP Cancel Republican National Convention Events in Jacksonville

President Donald Trump announced the GOP would scrap plans for Republican National Convention activities in Jacksonville in the interest of public safety amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in Florida. National media reported Trump was swayed in part by several Republican lawmakers saying weren't going to Jacksonville or were considering not going, and was concerned attention at the made-for-TV event would be sparse. "I looked at my team and I said the timing for this event is not right. It's just not right," Trump said at the White House. "To have a big convention, it's not the right time." Trump told Sean Hannity that he is "setting an example" with the last-minute change, which he hopes will encourage citizens to practice social distancing. CNN / Fox News / Florida Times-Union

July 23, 2020
Nearly 80 Percent of Florida Voters Polled Support Mask Requirement

About 8 in 10 Florida voters say people should be required to wear masks in public in the state, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll of registered voters in Florida released Thursday. There is overwhelming support for requiring face masks among all ages and every other listed demographic group. The poll found 79 percent of people thought masks should be required in public, while 20 percent believe they shouldn't. Eighty-three percent say the spread of the coronavirus is a serious problem in the state, while 16 percent say it is not. Quinnipiac Poll

Santa Rosa Board Approves Online Learning Option, Will Vote Next Week on Start Date, Face Masks

The Santa Rosa County School Board on Thursday approved a virtual learning option for students and will vote next week on proposals for a face mask policy and a postponed school start date. Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick is pushing to have the district delay the start of school until Aug. 24 to give the district time to accommodate requests for remote learning during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Pensacola News Journal

LobbyTools' Database of School District Reopening Plans

HHS Sending Financial Help to Nursing Homes, Will Require Weekly Staff Testing in Florida

The Department of Health and Human Services is sending $5 billion to skilled nursing facilities, such as nursing homes, President Donald Trump announced. "Nursing homes in higher risk areas will be receiving more funding," Trump said in his coronavirus briefing on Wednesday. "This money can be used to address critical needs, including the hiring of additional staff, increasing testing and providing technology support so residents can connect to their families." To receive some of the money, nursing homes must participate in an online COVID-19 training program. The federal Center for Medicaid Services also announced nursing homes in states with COVID-19 positivity rates above 5 percent – which includes Florida – must test nursing home staff each week. Skilled Nursing News / Department of Health and Human Services

Florida Adds 173 More Fatalities to COVID Death Toll

Florida health officials added 173 more COVID-19 fatalities to the state's death toll on Thursday, the most of any day throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The previous high was 156 deaths a week ago. Health officials say a total of 5,632 people have now died from COVID-19 complications in Florida. The Department of Health also reported 10,249 more cases on Thursday. While that number was up slightly from a couple of recent days, it is significantly lower than the nearly 14,000 cases reported July 16 and more than 15,000 cases reported on July 12. Still, the new infections reported Thursday bring the total cases to 389,868, the third highest in the country behind California and New York, according to COVID Data Tracker from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sun Sentinel