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Health News Florida

Latest On Coronavirus: Florida's Positivity Rate Drops, Schools' Protocols Still Not Clear, 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 Thursday, Aug. 6, according to the Florida Department of Health:

510,389 — Positive Tests | 7,650 — Daily Increase | 7,747 — Deaths

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Florida's Positivity Rate Drops

The Florida Department of Health reported 7,650 people tested positive for the coronavirus since Wednesday.

In addition, the rate of positive tests for those who were tested for the first time was just over 8 percent, down from Wednesday's positivity rate of almost 11 percent.

The statewide total of people who have tested positive is now 510,389. In the greater Tampa Bay area, 1,116 new positive tests were reported Thursday.

The state's daily figures shows the additional deaths of 120 people from COVID-19 complications were reported in Florida since Wednesday, bringing the total dead to 7,747.

That includes 15 new deaths recorded in the greater Tampa Bay region. [Read more]

-- Lisa Peakes

School Reopening Plans Not Clear On Coronavirus Outbreak Closures

Most Florida school districts will reopen with some students learning from home and others learning in person.

But what happens when the coronavirus spreads through a school? Most re-opening plans don’t address that, or do so vaguely.

When a student does test positive for COVID-19, plans call for each school district to oversee contact tracing with guidance from the Florida Department of Health. The student's classmates may have to quarantine at home.

But the plans are unclear on what constitutes an outbreak. [Read more]

-- Daylina Miller

DeSantis Lifts Travel Restrictions On New Yorkers

Governor Ron DeSantis has rescinded an order requiring people traveling from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to Florida to quarantine or isolate for 14 days.

The original mandate was issued March 23 and required that people quarantine upon arriving in Florida if they had come from the tri-state region, which at the time was the epicenter of the pandemic.

In June, as conditions in the north improved, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut issued orders requiring travelers from Florida to quarantine for 14 days when entering their area.

Thursday's order from DeSantis also got rid of detailed requirements for when restaurant employees should be kept from reporting to work because of coronavirus concerns.

-- Associated Press / News Service of Florida

With Fewer Layoffs, Florida Jobless Claims Dropped Last Week

The number of Floridians filing new jobless claims dropped last week by more than 17,500 from the previous week.

New figures released Thursday show there were 73,955 new claims for unemployment benefits filed last week in Florida, a drop from the previous week’s 91,462 claims.

The report from the U.S. Department of Labor noted that last week there were fewer layoffs in the agriculture, construction, manufacturing, retail and service industries than the previous week.

Since the pandemic started in March, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has confirmed 3.2 million jobless claims and paid out $12.8 billion in benefits to Floridians.

-- Associated Press

Florida Teachers, State In Court To Argue Whether Schools Are Safe To Reopen

With some students set to return to classrooms on Monday, state officials and Florida’s largest teachers union are locked in a legal battle over an order requiring schools to reopen this month amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Florida Education Association last month filed a lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and other defendants, alleging that a July 6 order issued by Corcoran violates the state Constitution, which guarantees Floridians the right to “safe” and “secure” public education.

But the governor and Corcoran this week asked a Miami-Dade County circuit judge to toss out the lawsuit, calling it a “misguided effort to obtain a judicial mandate that forbids any school in the state from providing in-person instruction to any student.” [Read more]

-- News Service of Florida

Survey: Tampa Bay Residents Grim On Pandemic Recovery

A new survey says people in the Tampa Bay region are becoming more pessimistic about a quick economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Every month since April, the Tampa Bay Partnership has polled nearly 400 people in the region on their thoughts about the economy, a vaccine, schools, and how leaders are handling the pandemic.  

Rick Homans, the partnership’s CEO, said one number in the latest survey that jumped out at him has to do with people who have lost their job since March.  

“In May, 21% felt they could not find a new job at equal pay. That number has now shot up to 43%,” he said. “And that's a significant jump in terms of people's outlook negative outlook for the future and feeling like they may be a long way from a personal economic recovery.” [Read more]

-- Bradley George

What Parents Can Buy Tax-Free During Florida's Back-To-School Sales Tax Holiday

Florida residents will get a break on the cost of school supplies this weekend during the state’s back-to-school sales tax holiday.

The Florida Legislature passed the annual tax break during this past legislative session. It begins on Friday, Aug. 7, and ends on Sunday, Aug. 9.

The break will be especially timely for parents whose incomes have been impacted during the coronavirus pandemic.

Certain items of clothing, including sports equipment, are exempt from the tax holiday. Click here for a complete list of eligible and non-eligible items from the Florida Department of Revenue. [Read more]

-- Carl Lisciandrello

Hillsborough Commissioners Vote To Abolish Emergency Policy Group

Hillsborough County Commissioners voted Wednesday to absorb the duties of the Emergency Policy Group, which has guided the county through crises – including the coronavirus pandemic -- for the past several decades.

The unanimous vote means the dissolution of the group composed of three county commissioners, the sheriff, mayors of Hillsborough's three cities and the school board chair.

Commissioner Kimberly Overman said the county board will have more of a mandate to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

“It's my firm belief that the BOCC is the best body to achieve the type of proportional representation necessary to insure the interest of all county residents,” Overman said.

Commissioners voted to meet once a week. Their first meeting will be Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

-- Steve Newborn

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