Rapid COVID Tests Heading To Nursing Homes, But There’s A Hitch

Aug 25, 2020
Becton, Dickinson and Co. / PR Newswire

The Trump administration’s latest effort to use COVID-19 rapid tests — touted by one senior official as a “turning point” in arresting the coronavirus’s spread within nursing homes — is running into roadblocks likely to limit how widely they’ll be used.

DeSantis speaks at hard rock stadium
The Florida Channel

A limited number of South Florida football fans can make plans to watch college and professional games in person next month, even as the region remains behind the rest of the state in reopening its economy during the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Ron DeSantis appeared Monday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens and pointed to a decrease in positive coronavirus tests as he supported plans to allow 13,000 fans, about 20 percent of capacity, into the stadium for home games of the Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami Hurricanes.

Prison corridor with inmates in distance
Associated Press

Three Florida inmates died from complications of COVID-19 over the weekend, bringing the death toll among prisoners to 84, according to data released Monday by the state Department of Corrections.

August has been the deadliest month in Florida’s prison system since the start of the pandemic, with 33 inmates and three correctional officers dying of COVID-19. In July, the second deadliest month, 25 inmates died of COVID-19.

Jennifer Mackinday said her life changed in an instant.

In 2005, her brother James suffered severe injuries while serving in Iraq with the U.S. Army—including traumatic brain injury, PTSD, damage to his spine and hearing and vision loss. He was left with lasting disabilities. He was prone to falling. He could walk into traffic without warning. He would forget how to get home.

Jennifer decided to become her brother’s full-time caregiver.

kids wearing masks in classroom
Hernando County School District

More than 700 coronavirus cases have been linked to K-12 schools and higher-education institutions over the course of two weeks as students and employees began returning to campuses across the state, according to a Florida Department of Health report released Monday.

The report breaks down the number of cases tied to elementary, middle and high schools, as well as colleges, universities and trade schools. Altogether, 714 people, including students and employees, have tested positive for COVID-19 since Aug. 10, according to the report.

In Germany, several thousand volunteers attended a pop-up concert as part of an experiment to understand how COVID-19 spreads in large-scale stadium events — and how to prevent it.

coronavirus chart
Florida Department of Health

The number of new COVID-19 cases continues to decline in Florida, with the state reporting its lowest daily total since June 15.

According to Monday’s report from the Florida Department of Health, 2,258 people tested positive for the coronavirus in the state in the 24-hour period since Sunday’s report. That brings the statewide total to 602,829.

child in school writing in workbook
Pasco County Schools

Leon County Judge Charles Dodson has ruled in favor of the Florida Education Association's challenge of the state's requirement that brick-and-mortar schools reopen.

Monday's decision said Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran's order overrode school boards' authority to run their own systems. 

The Food and Drug Administration has given the green light to expand the use of blood plasma in treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

The emergency use authorization announced Sunday involves convalescent plasma — taking antibodies from the blood of people who have recovered from COVID-19. That plasma is then given to patients currently sick in hopes that the antibodies will help fight off the disease.

Insung Yoon / Unsplash

Florida hospitals say they’ve collectively lost nearly $4 billion in the past four months because of the coronavirus.

Hospitals around the state say they’re hemorrhaging money due to increased staffing costs, testing and other protective equipment.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, WLRN has been reporting on array of numbers to try to make sense of how Florida is faring in its battle against the virus, from the rise and fall of available hospital beds to the dreaded positivity rate.

The numbers are supposed to give us a road map about how and when Florida can get back to a more normal life.

But because there’s so much we’re still learning, we decided to dig into the numbers, ask epidemiologists about which ones we should pay attention to and better understand how those numbers are being calculated.

Florida's Cautionary Tale: How Gutting And Muzzling Public Health Fueled COVID Fire

Aug 24, 2020
Dr Cain
Associated Press

On a sweltering July morning, Rose Wilson struggled to breathe as she sat in her bed, the light from her computer illuminating her face and the oxygen tubes in her nose.

Wilson, a retiree who worked as a public health department nurse supervisor in Duval County for 35 years, had just been diagnosed with COVID-19-induced pneumonia. She had a telemedicine appointment with her doctor.

As coronavirus unemployment benefits come to an end - and as hurricane season picks up - Florida food pantries are bracing for another influx of people in need.

Feeding Tampa Bay, the food pantry for 10 counties in the greater Tampa Bay region and beyond, has more than doubled the number of people it provids meals to, in large part because of the coronavirus pandemic, said the organization's spokeswoman Shannon Hannon-Oliviero.

Leslie Cutitta said yes, twice, when clinicians from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston called asking whether she wanted them to take — and then continue — extreme measures to keep her husband, Frank Cutitta, alive.

The first conversation, in late March, was about whether to let Frank go or to try some experimental drugs and treatments. The second call was just a few days later. Hospital visits were banned, so Leslie Cutitta couldn't be with her husband or discuss his wishes with the medical team in person. So she used stories to try to describe Frank's zest for life.

President Trump announced on Sunday that the Food and Drug Administration has issued emergency use authorization to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma from people who have recovered from the virus.

Joined by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn for what he called a "truly historic" announcement, Trump described the treatment as safe and effective.

Schools are reopening across Florida, with a range of safety measures in place to guard against coronavirus. But one key component is missing: the ability to quickly get test results for students and staff.

WUSF's Kerry Sheridan spoke with Dr. Glenn Morris, director of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida, about why that's a critical concern.

Kerry Sheridan: With schools reopening, I was hoping to get your perspective on what issues are still out there with regard to COVID testing, and what pitfalls may come?

The number of cases of coronavirus in Florida surpassed 600,000 on Sunday, an increase of 100,000 in just over two weeks.

A total of 2,974 of the 61,686 tests the Florida Department of Health reported Sunday were positive. It was August 5 when the state reported that the number of cases of COVID-19 passed the half million mark.

Only the state of California has passed the milestone of 600,000 cases.

The number of confirmed coronavirus deaths in the U.S. continues to climb.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Sunday there have been 175,651 lives lost to the virus and 5.64 million total cases. The death count rose by just over a thousand from the day before, the CDC reported.

Isolation, Disruption, Confusion: Coping With Dementia During A Pandemic

Aug 23, 2020
Daisy Conant
Heidi de Marco/Kaiser Health News

Daisy Conant, 91, thrives off routine.

One of her favorites is reading the newspaper with her morning coffee. But, lately, the news surrounding the coronavirus pandemic has been more agitating than pleasurable. “We’re dropping like flies,” she said one recent morning, throwing her hands up.

“She gets fearful,” explained her grandson Erik Hayhurst, 27. “I sort of have to pull her back and walk her through the facts.”

Jerome Antone says he is one of the lucky ones.

After becoming ill with COVID-19, Antone was hospitalized only 65 miles away from his small Alabama town. He is the mayor of Georgiana — population 1,700.

"It hit our rural community so rabid," Antone says. The town's hospital closed last year. If hospitals in nearby communities don't have beds available, "you may have to go four or five hours away."

Masks, social distancing, handwashing, hybrid classes. As college students move in to their dorms in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, they must learn to follow a host of new protocols that university leaders hope will be enough to prevent closures and mass quarantines due to COVID-19.

Rolling a metal cart as he wrapped up his move-in day this week, University of South Florida freshman Matt Williams said he was glad to see some of the safety measures in effect.

“I like how they are making some classes online. I think that is useful,” Williams said.

A six-year-old girl in Hillsborough County has become the youngest person in Florida to die from COVID-19-related complications, Florida Department of Health officials announced Friday.

Further details about the child were not immediately available. Her death was included in the state’s weekly pediatric report, which said her case was counted Monday, August 17.

Politifact Check: DeSantis Says COVID Lower Risk Than Flu For Kids

Aug 21, 2020
Gov. Ron DeSantis
Joe Byrnes / WMFE

Even as his state is a hotbed for COVID-19, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been pushing schools to reopen so parents have the choice of sending children back to the classroom or keeping them home to learn virtually.

The Republican governor has said children without any underlying health conditions would benefit from in-person learning and the stimulation and companionship of being among other young people. He has also made clear that he thinks these benefits far outweigh what he considers to be minimal risks.

A study released Thursday shows that children may play a larger role in community spread of COVID-19 than previously understood.

The research out of Massachusetts General Hospital and MassGeneral Hospital for Children shows that infected children — even those without symptoms — can have higher levels of virus in their airways than adults hospitalized in intensive care units.

Lake  Butler prison arch
Florida Department of Corrections

A third Florida correctional officer has died from complications of COVID-19, the Florida Department of Corrections confirmed on Wednesday, nine days after the officer died.

Johnnie Brown, a correctional officer who was assigned to the Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler, began his career with the Florida Department of Corrections in 2006.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suggests South Florida should join the rest of the state in the second phase of economic recovery efforts.

He says having venues like bars closed down hasn’t helped bring down the positivity rate in this region.

A lot of countries of late claim they’ve developed COVID-19 vaccines. The latest is Cuba, which is set to begin testing its vaccine next week.

Cuban scientists told President Miguel Díaz-Canel this week they’re set to start a phase one clinical trial of their vaccine, called Soberana 01. They said it’s shown promise in mice and rabbits creating antibodies against the new coronavirus, similar to vaccines used previously against the SARS virus.

A week after Wakulla County Schools reopened the local health Department says positive coronavirus tests have been reported. Blaise Gainey has the details.

Children’s Health Insurance Affected By COVID-19

Aug 21, 2020
young boy getting shot from women doctor

The economic upheaval that has left hundreds of thousands of Floridians without jobs might also upend health insurance for children in working families.

There is a growing fear that families dealing with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot qualify for low-cost children’s health coverage offered in state programs yet may not easily transition to Medicaid, the safety-net program for poor, elderly and disabled people.

New Field Of Law Emerges In Response To COVID-19 Pandemic

Aug 21, 2020
Josephine Balzac
Zoom / WMFE

With the challenges of the pandemic come new legal challenges for businesses, governments and other institutions. Brick and mortar schools are preparing to reopen. In Orange County- teachers are back on campus Friday for students who opted for face to face learning. 

So what are the liabilities for schools if kids or teachers get sick? What about businesses reopening? Attorney Josephine Balzac, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Social Entrepreneurship at Rollins College, says there’s a whole new field of legal practice emerging: pandemic law.