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News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida and WUSF can help. Our responsibility at WUSF News is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

Latest On Coronavirus: Deaths Spike In Florida Again, Voting Amid A Pandemic, And More

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WUSF will be providing the latest news and information on coronavirus in Tampa Bay and across the state. Here are the latest developments:

Here are the latest figures as of Tuesday, Aug. 4, according to the Florida Department of Health:

497,330 — Positive Tests | 5,446 — Daily Increase | 7,402— Deaths

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Deaths Spike In Florida Again

Deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Florida spiked again Tuesday.

The daily figures from the Department of Health shows the deaths of 245 people were reported statewide since Monday, bringing the total dead to 7,402.

The greater Tampa Bay region reported 67 people died, the second-highest number of deaths in a 24-hour period since the pandemic began.

Sarasota and Hernando counties each reported a single-day high number of deaths. Hillsborough and Polk counties recorded their second-highest daily death tolls.

Health officials reported 5,446 positive tests today, bringing total of number of people who have tested positive to 497,330.

In the greater Tampa Bay area, 829 new positive tests were reported.

A number of testing sites run by the state remained closed in areas affected by Tropical Storm Isaias on Monday, particularly in some south Florida counties hit hard by the coronavirus.

The positivity rate for those who tested for the first time rose slightly, to 10.88%. The results for 56,533] tests came back Monday. [Read more]

-- Lisa Peakes

Voting By Mail Is Popular In A Pandemic, But It Is Not A 'Panacea' 

Floridians are flooding elections supervisors with requests for mail-in ballots as they seek a safer way to cast ballots amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but some experts warn that absentee voting is not a panacea.

Research shows that Black, Hispanic and young voters are more likely to have their mail-in ballots rejected or received too late to be counted on Election Day.

Voting by mail “is safe in a pandemic,” Michael Herron, a Dartmouth College political science professor who has conducted extensive research on Florida elections, told The News Service of Florida.

“That’s obviously a huge benefit. But it has some rigidities that don’t exist in in-person voting,” he said. “The voters have to be very, very attentive to issues of timeliness and signatures. Those just don’t exist in regular, in-person voting.”

Voting by mail is “not a panacea for election administration in the time of a pandemic, and this is because a widespread move to this form of voting risks exacerbating existing inequities in mail-in ballot rejection rates across voters and jurisdictions,” Herron, University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith and Anna Baringer, one of Smith’s students, wrote in a study of Florida’s 2018 general election published in April. [Read more]

-- News Service of Florida

Florida Matters: Send Us Your Questions About Mail-In Ballots

WUSF wants to hear from you.

Florida Matters host Steve Newborn will be speaking with Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley about mail-in voting and other issues ahead of the Aug. 18 Florida primary elections.

What questions do you have about mail-in voting, or the primary in general amid the coronavirus pandemic? Fill out the form below, and let us know if you would like to participate in the show. [Find the form here]

-- Dinorah Prevost

In Hospital Interview, Florida Legislator With COVID-19 Sees Need For ‘Accurate, Timely’ Test Result

State Representative Randy Fine has been hospitalized with COVID-19.

The Republican lawmaker, who represents southern Brevard County, tested positive for the coronavirus about two weeks ago. His wife and two sons also tested positive, but he says they have already recovered.

Fine spoke with me by telephone on Monday. [Read more]

-- Joe Byrnes, WMFE

Fried Launches 'Be Smart Florida' Campaign

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is launching a new campaign aimed at defeating COVID-19. Fried introduced the new initiative, called ‘Be Smart Florida,” Monday morning.

“S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym that stands for; S - social distance, M - mask up, A - avoid large crowds, R - remember to wash your hands, and T - throw away disposable items like gloves, masks, and wipes," said Fried.

Fried says these are proven steps that have helped reduce the spread of COVID-19. She says the campaign will feature videos from Florida athletes, local leaders, and members of Congress. It comes just after Governor Ron DeSantis announced an initiative Friday to unite Floridians in the fight against COVID-19.

Fried, the only Democratic member of the Florida Cabinet, says her initiative isn’t a criticism of the Republican governor’s ‘One Goal One Florida’ campaign. [Read more]

-- Blaise Gainey, WFSU

Universal Orlando Laying Off Undisclosed Number Of Workers

Almost two months after reopening, Universal Orlando is laying off an undisclosed number of workers.

Universal spokesman Tom Schroder said in an email Monday that the Florida theme park resort was reducing its workforce “to reflect current priorities and needs.”

Universal has put the construction of a new theme park, Epic Universe, on pause because of the pandemic.

Universal Orlando closed its doors in March as the novel coronavirus started spreading in the U.S.

It was the first of Orlando’s major theme park operators to reopen when it welcomed back visitors in early June. SeaWorld reopened in late June. Walt Disney World reopened last month.

-- Associated Press

Vote Coming To Disband Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group 

The Emergency Policy Group that has guided Hillsborough County through the pandemic likely had its last meeting Monday. County commissioners are set to vote Wednesday on absorbing the duties of a group made up of local mayors and countywide officials.

County Commission Chairman Les Miller proposed eliminating the group that was activated in March to deal with the pandemic. Miller, who also chairs the emergency group, expressed frustration with repeated moves to revoke mandates to wear masks indoors in public spaces. [Read more]

-- Steve Newborn

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