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Your Wednesday Update: Jacksonville Lobbies for GOP Convention, Teachers Call on State To Rethink School Reopening, Some Leaders Call on Eviction Moratorium Extension

Photo: History in HD
Photo: History in HD

Is it safe yet to get your physical or a dental checkup?

Alan Yu, WHYY Many hospitals, clinics and dental offices in some places around the U.S.  are beginning to open now for routine, preventative care that was postponed in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. But still, patients wonder: Is it safe to go? Michael LeVasseur, a visiting assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Drexel University in Philadelphia, says a lot of his friends and family members have been asking him that question, along with other queries about the pandemic. So many questions, that he put together  two YouTube videos to try to address them at once. LeVasseur's general advice is to contact your doctor — the best advice for you may still vary, depending on your situation and where you live. But he says he's confident that physicians who are accepting patients will be cleaning their offices regularly and taking other precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Neal Goldstein at Drexel University and  Aimee Palumbo at Temple University, both epidemiologists, urge a number of specific precautions that concerned patients can ask medical and dental staff about when scheduling an appointment:

  • Do the staff and patients wear masks at all times?
  • Do the staff have enough masks and protective equipment?
  • Will there be a limit on how many people can be in a waiting room?
  • Are the staff being tested for COVID-19?
  • How often are staff cleaning the waiting rooms and offices?
  • If you don't drive, can you take public transit while keeping your distance from other people and washing your hands before and afterward?

Many of the offices and hospitals opening back up for elective and routine medical appointments in the Philadelphia area  highlight other precautions they are now taking, too, such as  screening patients by phone a day or two ahead of the appointment for any sign of illness,  checking for fever at the hospital entrance and testing patients for COVID-19 ahead of procedures. Read the rest of the article here.

Where are the business bankruptcies?

The Indicator from Planet Money Economists warned that lockdowns due to coronavirus would set up a huge battle between landlords and their corporate tenants, as falling revenues would make it impossible for companies to pay their rent. They said the result would be a wave of bankruptcies, but weirdly, that wave hasn't arrived. It turns out there's a hierarchy of forbearance, where everyone, from banks to landlords to businesses, are giving their clients a break on paying their bills - at least for awhile. That, combined with a fear of the unknown has frozen the economy, and that freeze has kept the wave of bankruptcies at bay. For now.

Protesters in Florida demand end to racism, police abuse

The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — For a fourth day in a row, Floridians held rallies to protest racism and police brutality.

The protests on Tuesday follow the death of George Floyd, who pleaded for air while a white Minneapolis police officer put his knee on the handcuffed man’s neck for several minutes.

Around 2,000 peaceful demonstrators outside Orlando City Hall chanted “Black Lives Matter!” and “George Floyd” as cloudy skies threatened rain.

In Miami, about 200 people gathered to march at a Miami courthouse holding signs that read “Enough is Enough” and “No justice. No peace.”

The rallies continued four days of protests in Florida that started over the weekend.

IMG Academy, MGM top WNBA list of sites to play

The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Two people familiar with the situation say the WNBA has decided to hold its games at just one location if there is a season this year and that the MGM Resorts in Las Vegas and the IMG Academy in Florida are the top candidates.

There is still no date when the WNBA's 2020 season will tip off.

The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the possible locations haven’t been publicly announced.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told the AP last month that the league was considering a handful of scenarios, including playing at one or two sites.

Big wins for Leon County 4-H team

Tom Flanigan, WFSU Fourteen Leon County 4-H Club kids brought home some big wins from this year's State Forestry Contest without ever leaving home. Club Leader Alex Boswell says the coronavirus situation switched the contest from an actual to a virtual format. "Normally in the contest they get a stem of a tree that you can identify the leaves and the leaf arrangement on the tree and that completely went away. So they didn't have the trees in hand or any of that on the table to show them. They were doing this based strictly on pictures, which in my opinion is a lot harder," Boswell said. But apparently not for the kids. The local "Wild About the Woods" group came away with two third place, one second place and three first place wins in the statewide competition.

Hurricanes and coronavirus mean double trouble

Tom Flanigan, WFSU Should a major hurricane come anywhere near Leon County this year, Capital Area Red Cross Director Sharon Tyler says emergency sheltering will be a challenge. "If you had all 500 of them in Chiles High School you'd have 10 or 15 volunteers a shift. Now you'll have them possibly in 7 to 10 schools at least, so that'll require more volunteers," Tyler said. She says all shelter logistical support will be strained. Meanwhile, the county's other emergency planners may cope with fewer personnel if coronavirus cases rise and deplete their organizations' personnel ranks.

Jackonsville lobbies for GOP Convention

Cyd Hoskinson, WJCT Jacksonville, in Northeast Florida, is reportedly high on the list of potential backup sites for this year’s Republican National Convention. And that may be why the city’s mayor, Lenny Curry, is not doubling down on his offer to hold the convention there this August.

In a Tuesday afternoon tweet, Mayor Curry said Jacksonville welcomes the opportunity to host the convention. The city is ready for world class events, he tweeted, and ready to show the world we’re open for business. Dean Black, Chairman of the Duval County Republican Party, has also been quick to jump on the bandwagon. In a statement released Tuesday, Black called Duval County “Trump Country” and said Jacksonville is uniquely positioned to, quote, “host this grand event and welcome our President, his team, and supporters from across the country.” Organizers of the GOP convention say they plan to start visiting potential alternative sites after North Carolina’s governor told them they should prepare for a scaled-back event if they want to keep it in Charlotte during the coronavirus pandemic. As of right now, the convention is scheduled to start Monday, August 24th and go through Thursday, August 27th.

Legoland reopens to smaller crowds

Mary Shedden, WUSF
Legoland officially reopened this week, with smaller crowds and fewer employees. Reporter Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel visited the Winter Haven park and said she saw families having fun, despite social distancing guidelines that limited people on rides, or in lines. "But I think there are just a lot of people who are really excited to go to a theme park. I think there are people nervous about wearing a mask, you know, in the summer, but theme park fans are excited to go on a roller coaster again," Russon said. Russon said that fewer than nine hundred of Legoland's two thousand workers are back on the job. Floridians will see the state's larger theme parks open in the coming weeks, starting with Universal parks on Friday June 5. Sea World Orlando and Busch Gardens in Tampa open next Thursday. And Disney World announced it will reopen its parks starting on July 11th.

Some House members call for further suspension of eviction moratorium

Blaise Gainey, WFSU
Some members in the Florida House are asking Gov. Ron DeSantis to be proactive and extend an eviction moratorium further. This comes after DeSantis extended the suspension hours before the deadline on Monday. Orlando Democratic Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith:

“We know these issues related to foreclosure and evictions during this crisis are not going to let up anytime in the next several weeks. We see that Floridians are still struggling to obtain their unemployment benefits from DEO, which is helping to pay their rent and their mortgage," Guillermo Smith said. Guillermo Smith along with other house members are calling for the moratorium to be extended to July 25.

Latin American leaders urge Trump to stay in WHO

Tim Padgett, WRLN

Last week President Trump announced he would pull the U.S. out of the World Health Organization, or WHO.

The head of the WHO’s Americas division urged the U.S. to consider the effect that could have on Latin America’s coronavirus crisis.

The Pan-American Health Organization, or PAHO, is part of the WHO – and it relies on the U.S. for almost two-thirds of its funding.

In an online briefing, PAHO director Carissa Etienne said that aid is critical now as COVID-19 ravages much of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The region has reported well over a million new coronavirus cases – and Brazil now has the world’s fourth-highest number of coronavirus deaths.

Etienne urged the U.S. to continue being “an important partner” of the PAHO even if it leaves the WHO. Trump accuses the WHO of being manipulated by China amid the COVID pandemic.

Etienne also warned Latin American and Caribbean countries not to loosen pandemic lockdown and social distancing measures too soon.

Scientists say the region has yet to reach its infection and death peaks, especially in Brazil – where President Jair Bolsonaro has dismissed the pandemic as a “hoax.”

Statewide teachers union demands a halt to state tests, school grades next year

Jessica Bakeman, WLRN  Florida’s largest teachers union wants another year without state exams, teacher evaluations and school grades.

The Florida Education Association has long been critical of the state’s accountability system — which was established more than two decades ago. The policies use student test scores to rate the performance of teachers and schools. During a virtual press conference Tuesday afternoon, union president Fedrick Ingram said teachers need to focus on helping students catch up. “We can’t do that with the pressures of a test. We can’t do that with the pressures of a school grade. We should not be condemned to failure because we’re racing against a clock to set benchmarks so that students have to pass a test that we suspended this year. And our students are still going to college. Our students are still graduating," Ingram said. Ingram is also the former president of the United Teachers of Dade. The union’s request to the state is part of a larger set of recommendations for reopening schools. The committee that came up with them includes elected officials like Miami Beach City Commissioner David Richardson. Richardson — a former state lawmaker — says the governor shouldn’t be the one to decide how to spend federal relief funding for schools. “We feel very strongly that the Legislature should come into special session to determine the best spending for these federal dollars rather than leave these decisions under emergency powers," Richardson said. Like what you just read? Check out our other  coronavirus coverage.

Danielle Prieur covers education in Central Florida.