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Your Thursday Update: Florida Adds More Than 6,000 New Coronavirus Cases, More UCF Students Test Positive for COVID-19, NBA Sets Playoff Matches, Big Twelve Moving Ahead With Season

Photo: Fusion Medical Animation
Photo: Fusion Medical Animation

Florida adds more than 6,000 new coronavirus cases

Danielle Prieur, WMFE 

The Florida Department of Health reported 6,236 new coronavirus cases and 148 new coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday.

That brings the total number of cases in the state since the beginning of the pandemic to 557,137. More than 32,500 people have been hospitalized and 8,913 residents have died.

Orange County continues to lead Central Florida with the most coronavirus cases at more than 32,000 positive tests in residents.

More than 970 people have been hospitalized in the county and 330 people have died of COVID-19 since mid-March.

UCF reports new coronavirus cases weeks before fall semester

Amy Green, WMFE

The University of Central Florida says 11 students have tested positive for COVID-19 as students began moving into on-campus housing over the weekend. 

The university says that’s out of 837 tests administered. Students had to undergo coronavirus tests upon arrival, and UCF says test results have been available within 48 hours. 

UCF says contact tracing and care services have been enacted. Some of the students have chosen to isolate at home. 

Classes begin August 24th. 

Nashville defeats Dallas 1-0 as MLS restarts the season

The Associated Press

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — David Accam scored in the 86th minute and Nashville SC downed Dallas FC 1-0 in the first match for both teams since Major League Soccer shut down the regular season in March because of the coronavirus.

Nashville and Dallas were forced to withdraw from the MLS is Back tournament this past month in Florida because of positive COVID-19 tests.

The game between the teams was the first of the league’s restart of the season. Fans were allowed in the stands at Toyota Stadium, but at a reduced capacity because of local regulations.

NBA sees seven of the eight first-round matches set

The Associated Press

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The NBA playoff field is taking shape, and the final day of the regular season will also provide a preview of a first-round matchup.

Miami and Indiana will play in the first round of the Eastern Conference series. But first, they’ll play on Friday to end the regular season schedule for both teams.

Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, a Houston vs. Oklahoma City matchup is now guaranteed.

So Rockets guard Russell Westbrook and Thunder guard Chris Paul will be facing their former clubs in the first round.

New outbreak in New Zealand leads to new rules and supermarket runs

Laurel Wamsley, NPR

After more than 100 days without any community spread of COVID-19, New Zealand moved to an elevated alert level Wednesday with news of four new cases and another four probable ones.

The country had returned to normal life, but the mystery of the new outbreak's source has led to increased restrictions and concern in the island nation.

The first four cases are members of the same family in the city of Auckland. The new probable cases — based on symptoms but still awaiting test results — are linked to the cases in the Auckland family.

"Two are work colleagues and two are another related household that one of the cases had stayed at in the preceding week," Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand's director-general of health, said of the probable cases in a media conference Wednesday.

At noon Wednesday, New Zealand began a three-day period at alert level two, with Auckland at the higher level three. The country had been at level one since June 9 when life had largely returned to normal.

Under the tighter level three restrictions, most businesses and schools in Auckland are closed, and bars and restaurants may only offer takeout. Elsewhere in the country, level two measures mean people can still go to work and school but are urged to take safety precautions, including social distancing and the wearing of masks.

Read the full article here.

Big 12 is moving ahead with fall football season

Rachel Treisman, NPR

The Big 12 Conference is moving ahead with its football season, announcing that fall sports will continue – with teams following safety precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference hopes to hold its title game in December, as it normally would.

"Our student-athletes want to compete, and it is the Board's collective opinion that sports can be conducted safely and in concert with the best interests of their well-being," said Big 12 Board of Directors chair Victor Boschini, who is also the chancellor at Texas Christian University.

The Big 12 includes schools such as the University of Texas at Austin, Oklahoma University and West Virginia University.

The board announced its decision on Wednesday, a day after the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences officially postponed their fall football seasons out of coronavirus safety concerns. Later on Wednesday, the Big East Conference said it was canceling fall competitions.

The other Power Five conferences, the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference, issued statements on Tuesday saying they were monitoring the situation but had no plans to cancel fall football at that time.

Read the full article here.

An immigration backfire?

The Indicator from Planet Money 

On June 22nd, President Trump issued an executive order to restrict certain types of immigrants and temporary foreign workers from coming to the U.S.

The order applied to future immigrants — not to those already here, or to those who were already approved to move here. Surprisingly, the order targeted not just so-called "low-skill" immigration, which has largely been the focus of the Trump administration's immigration agenda; it also restricted new H-1B visas, which traditionally go to foreign workers in the U.S. tech sector.

The rationale given by the president was that with so many Americans out of work right now, he did not want more people from other countries competing with Americans for the available jobs.

But the modern economy is technologically advanced, and globally connected. If businesses that want to find more workers are restricted from hiring immigrants, those businesses have a number of other options for how to get the work done.

And so it's possible that tightening immigration restrictions on these workers will not result in more jobs for Americans in the future. In fact, it might even result in fewer. Today's show features Maggie Peters, author of "Trading Barriers: Immigration and the Remaking of Globalization".

Actors and Disney World reach deal after virus testing fight

The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Walt Disney World and the union for its actors and singers have reached an agreement that will allow them to return to work.

The deal was reached Wednesday, more than a month after the actors and singers said they were locked out of the reopening of the theme park resort for publicly demanding coronavirus tests.

Actors’ Equity Association signed a memorandum of understanding allowing the actors, singers and stage managers to return to their jobs after Disney agreed to have a state-run drive-thru COVID-19 testing site for workers and others at the Florida theme park resort.

The union represents 750 Disney World workers.

Tribune closing 5 newsrooms including NY Daily News

The Associated Press

Tribune Publishing Company says it's closing the newsrooms of five newspapers including The Daily News in Manhattan, the Orlando Sentinel and The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland.

The Chicago-based newspaper chain said Wednesday that the decision was made as the company evaluates its real estate needs in light of health and economic conditions related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The company says employees will continue to work from home and the newspapers will continue to be published.

The Capital Gazette moved to its current newsroom about a year after a gunman killed five staff members in 2018.

Think tank shines light on understaffed veterans hospitals

Blaise Gainey, WFSU
Veterans hospitals across Florida are understaffed and the Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute says the pressures the coronavirus pandemic has put on the healthcare system makes filling those vacancies even more important.

The Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute is a nonprofit founded by veterans, health care workers and journalists to provide information that will help lead to better healthcare for veterans. The group says Florida is in bad shape when it comes to taking care of its veteran population. That’s partly because of a high number of vacancies at VA hospitals. Brett Copeland is the executive director of the institute. "The Miami VA currently has 310 vacancies, West Palm Beach has 465, Gainesville is at 1,054 staff vacancies, Tampa is at 463 vacancies, and in Orlando there are only 3. So, there’s still a lot of work to do as it comes to staffing up the VA and making sure that basic care can be provided at these facilities." The group says those vacancies are even more problematic during a global pandemic when veterans are directed to private health care providers who may already be facing an influx of patients caused by COVID-19, and who don’t know exactly how to care for veterans. Suzanne Gordon is a healthcare journalist and researcher who helped co-found the institute. "Most private sector providers, the average for example primary care provider, may have 1 to 5 veterans among their 2,100 to 3,100 patients. The VA knows about these problems because that’s all they care for is veterans, it’s a population health system. It’s like a pediatric hospital or cancer hospital." Since March, the Veterans Health Administration has hired more than 24,000 people. The Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute is pushing for more hires to fill vacancies. The group also wants to see care at the hospitals be expanded for all veterans and their families.

Brian Chesky on the realities of travel with Guy Raz

How I Built This, NPR The future of travel is hugely uncertain, and companies are making tough decisions. How is Airbnb handling COVID? How I Built This host Guy Raz talked with the company's CEO and co-founder, Brian Chesky, about resilience and the way forward.

'All voting is local,' groups pitch expanded early voting in Florida for general election

Ryan Dailey, WFSU Early voting for the primary election is reaching its waning days in Florida. But a coalition of groups is already stressing early voting ahead of the general election in November.

The organization All Voting Is Local bills itself as a nonpartisan campaign to “eliminate discriminatory barriers to voting.” On Wednesday, it teamed up with other groups like the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, as well as a former elections supervisor, to call for extended early voting for the general election. Brad Ashwell is All Voting Is Local’s Florida director. He says during early voting in the primary, not all Florida counties have allowed for the maximum time sites can be open. "In Broward County, a county with a history of election problems, they’re only offering nine days of early voting and the minimum number of hours per day. Brevard is offering the minimum number of days and the minimum hours, except for the last five days, where they still fall below the maximum. Seminole County is offering the minimum days and hours, Lee County’s offering the minimum days and hours, Volusia is offering the minimum days and less than maximum hours, Sarasota is offering nine days, but still the minimum number of hours." As Ashwell explained on the call, the maximum number of days for early voting in Florida counties is 14, and the maximum amount of hours per day is 12. The minimums are eight days, and eight hours. Former Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho, who served in the role for 30 years, has been outspoken about voting access and elections security in his retirement. He joined the All Voters Votes’ press call on Wednesday. "Shortly after the March 17th presidential primary, Florida’s supervisors of elections took the unprecedented action of submitting a plan to handle the coronavirus, to Gov. DeSantis." Sancho says the supervisors’ proposed plan was aimed at expanding the window for early voting in the general election. He co-signs the idea. "This is an issue that can be accomplished with a 24-day window for voting, instead of forcing all the voters to crowd on one day." Following the conclusion of early voting in the primary, Ashwell says he intends to start up another conversation with elections supervisors to further expand early voting opportunities in November. "After the primary’s over, we plan to speak with the supervisors about where they might consider placing additional sites." As it stands, the mandatory early voting period for the 2020 general election runs from October 24 through the 31st.

Campaign urges school kids to be superheroes for safety

Tom Flanigan, WFSU Many, if not most, young people dream of being superheroes. A Tallahassee marketing firm is using that fact to convince more students to adopt safe behaviors in school.

Sachs Media Group President Michele Ubben says the project began innocently enough. "I was asked to serve on the Reopen Schools Task Force for Leon County." And one big question was how to get those kids who physically return to school to wear masks, stay socially distant and adopt other safe behaviors? Ubben says her marketing instincts kicked in. "The schools would really benefit from a positively focused campaign that's age appropriate to teach kids the right behaviors and give them the 'why'." Which led to the creation of a multimedia blitz asking the kids to become superheroes by following safe practices to prevent spreading the virus. Ubben says it's being donated without charge to the Leon School District and may go well beyond that. "We have been in touch with the Florida Association of District School Superintendents and have offered it up through their auspices to all the school districts in the state."

DeSantis is thanking teachers for heading back to class

Regan McCarthy, WFSU Gov. Ron DeSantis is thanking teachers, administrators and school districts that resumed in-person learning this week. “Thank you for helping society keep moving forward. Thank you for giving our kids the opportunity to learn in person. And thank you for giving our families what so many want after these long, many months—a renewed sense of normalcy.” DeSantis says he spoke with superintendents and teachers around the state as some students went back into the classroom this week. “The superintendent of Suwannee County, Ted Roush, told me today never before in his 26-year career had he witnessed what he saw during the first day of school—parents not only bringing their kids to school, but also bringing presents and supplies to the teachers as a way to say thank you.” DeSantis notes not all students will be returning to in-person classes. Some families are opting to continue distance learning this year. He says he thinks it’s important for parents to have that choice.

Waze data shows South Floridians still driving less during pandemic, but that's changing

Caitie Switalski, WLRN Our smartphones have noticed South Floridians are driving less during the coronavirus pandemic. Data from the navigation app Waze has been keeping track of just how much less people are driving - and noticing that traffic is creeping back up again.

The app found that earlier on in the pandemic, in April, as people were staying home, the miles driven per day in Miami and in Fort Lauderdale dropped by more than 80 percent. People are getting back on the road again, but the good news is - the amount of traffic jams per day is still way down. Dani Simons heads up Waze's public partnerships, including the one with Miami-Dade County. "The times of day that people are driving and the types of trips that people are taking are definitely shifting. " She says commuting is still down, but Waze is still seeing trips to parks to get fresh air and to the grocery store. As people do start to get back on the road Waze has been working with partners like Brightline to show railroad crossing alerts. An Associated Press analysis at the end of last year found that Brightline has the worst per-mile death rate of the nation’s railroads - with some of those deaths involving cars.

United plans more Florida flights, but virus gets final say

The Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) — United Airlines will add winter flights to Florida from the Northeast and Midwest, hoping to capture leisure travelers.

But a United executive says the airline can scrap flights quickly depending on the rate of coronavirus cases in Florida.

United said Wednesday that it will add up to 28 daily flights from New York, Boston and other cities to four destinations in Florida starting in November.

COVID-19 is making it hard for the airlines to plan, however. Just over a month ago, United announced big plans to add thousands of flights in August, only to scale them back a week later after virus cases spiked.

Hawaii teacher arrested for violating traveler quarantine

The Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) — A Hawaii high school teacher was arrested for violating a traveler quarantine the state mandated to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Authorities say Mark Alan Cooper was arrested a week after teachers reported to work.

He returned to Honolulu from Florida on July 27 and was spotted at a post office a few days later. It's not clear if Cooper had been at Campbell High School before his arrest.

His attorney says he has since completed his 14-day quarantine. An education department spokesperson says Cooper obtained appropriate quarantine leave. Cooper's attorney says he's never had COVID-19.

Danielle Prieur covers education in Central Florida.