Leesburg cancels its Fourth of July fireworks
Joe Byrnes, WMFE
Leesburg’s Fourth of July fireworks have been canceled due to rising concerns over COVID-19.
Organizers pulled the plug Wednesday afternoon, two days after the City Commission approved the event.
City leaders and Leesburg Partnership CEO Joe Shipes had just had a telephone conference with the chief medical officer at UF Health Leesburg Hospital.
Shipes says he realized that – even with precautions – it wouldn’t be safe to crowd more than 20,000 people along the shore of Lake Griffin.
“To be honest with you, after this and what we had to go through, I don’t think you’re going to see any events until 2021, late 2021. I just don’t see any, I just don’t see any, us doing anything,” Shipes said.
He says the decision has drawn an angry response on Facebook. But what if someone, he says, were to contract the virus there and die? He doesn’t want that.
Orlando theme parks are reopening, but not everyone is going back to work
Matthew Peddie, WMFE
Universal announced layoffs this week – two weeks after reopening.
Disney is moving ahead with plans to reopen next month.
Danielle Raniere, a server at a restaurant on Disney property, has been working in hospitality for 17 years.
She doesn’t know when she’ll go back to work because she’s part time and she hasn’t been able to find another job.
“There are so many people that got laid off in all different kinds of venues and industries. And on top of that, people know we work for Disney. So you go and try and apply and they say ‘we don’t want to take you on, because you’re furloughed, you’re going to go back to your job as soon as you get it back.’ So it’s been really hard for all of us,” Raniere said.
Raniere says she hasn’t received any unemployment assistance either from the state or federal government.
The Indicator, NPR
This is going to be a record-breaking year for corporate debt.
Big companies have already borrowed more than a trillion dollars this year, almost as much as was borrowed in all of 2019.
COVID-19 is a big part of this: The cumulative effect of the pandemic has devastated the world economy, and it’s left many companies with a huge budget shortfall and lots of bills to pay. A lot of companies are making up that shortfall by borrowing.
The question is, when the pandemic ends, and the dust settles, will companies be able to pay back these big piles of debt?
Some companies are already showing red flags. They’re already having problems sticking to the terms of their lending agreements. That’s put both borrowers and lenders into a bind, so they’ve come together to develop an innovative strategy: the temporary suspension of reality.
Dutch minks contract COVID-19 — and appear to infect humans
Pien Huang, NPR
Minks on two fur farms in the Netherlands began getting sick in late April. Some were coughing, with runny noses; others had signs of severe respiratory disease. Soon, they started dying.
Researchers took swabs from the animals and dissected the ones that had died.
The culprit: SARS-COV-2, the novel coronavirus causing a global pandemic.
It’s part of an emerging pattern of animals getting infected with the novel coronavirus with a new concern: The minks are thought to have passed the disease back to humans. Since the discovery, more than 500,000 minks have been culled on fur farms in the Netherlands over worries that their mink populations could spread the virus among humans.
The minks were first exposed to the coronavirus by infected farm workers, according to Wim van der Poel, a veterinarian who studies viruses at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands. Then the virus spread among the animals in the farms like wildfire.
“The animals are in cages with wire tops and closed walls between them,” says Van der Poel, who co-authored a Eurosurveillance paper investigating the mink farm infections that was published this month. “So it probably spread through droplet or aerosol transmission, from the top of one cage to another, when an animal is coughing or heavily breathing.”
Education Dept. rule limits how schools can spend vital aid money
Cory Turner, NPR
In a new rule announced Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos signaled she is standing firm on her intention to reroute millions of dollars in coronavirus aid money to K-12 private school students.
The CARES Act rescue package included more than $13 billion to help public schools cover pandemic-related costs.
The move comes nearly two months after the Education Department issued controversial guidance, suggesting that private schools should benefit from a representative share of the emergency aid. Lawmakers from both parties countered that the aid was intended to be distributed based on how many vulnerable, low-income students a district serves.
While that guidance was nonbinding, Thursday’s rule is enforceable by law.
“The CARES Act is a special, pandemic-related appropriation to benefit all American students, teachers, and families impacted by coronavirus,” DeVos said in a statement. “There is nothing in the law Congress passed that would allow districts to discriminate against children and teachers based on private school attendance and employment.”
The new rule gives school districts two choices about how to spend their aid money.
DeSantis says social distancing, not closing the state, is key to stopping coronavirus spread
Alysia Cruz, WUSF
Gov. Ron DeSantis is encouraging people to follow social distancing guidelines to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. He wants to see a decline in cases before Florida moves to the next phase of reopening.
Speaking at a bill signing in Tampa Thursday, DeSantis talked about the state’s response to the latest surge in COVID-19 cases.
He urged Floridians to avoid big crowds and indoor locations, where poor ventilation can increase the chance of getting the disease.
DeSantis also said the state will move forward carefully.
“I didn’t say we’re going to go on to the next phase. You know, we’ve done a step-by-step approach. And it was an approach that’s been reflective of the unique situation of each area,” DeSantis said.
Citing the high mortality rate and large amount of at-risk people, DeSantis also said nursing homes and long-term care facilities will not reopen to the public until the positive test rate decreases.
Virus-skirting U.S. warships set Navy record: 23 port call-free weeks at sea
David Welna, NPR
Thanks to their efforts to steer clear of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Navy says two American warships that set sail in mid-January broke the modern record on Thursday for consecutive days at sea for U.S. naval surface vessels.
This was hardly in their original mission plan. When the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and the guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto left their home port in Norfolk, Va., 161 days earlier, the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus had not yet even been named.
As they steamed toward the waters off the Middle East, far weightier on the minds of the battleships’ sailors than a deadly virus was a strike by Iran on an Iraqi military base a week earlier and the prospect of further conflict in the Persian Gulf region.
The previous at-sea record of 160 days had been set by the USS Theodore Roosevelt, another U.S. aircraft carrier, in the months following the Sept. 11 attacks.
That vessel was forced to dock in Guam in late March by a COVID-19 on-board outbreak that led to the removal of its skipper and the infection of more than 1,000 crew members after a port call in Vietnam.
Read the full article here.
Mask debate heats up; creating a vaccine for a mutating virus
Coronavirus Daily, NPR
Just two months ago, the Northeast was the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S. On Wednesday, there were just 581 new reported cases of the coronavirus in New York and now visitors from other states are expected to quarantine after they arrive.
More governors across the country are touting the benefits of masks but not all are willing to make wearing them a state policy.
NPR’s Jon Hamilton reports that scientists are closely tracking mutations in the coronavirus to ensure the changes don’t complicate a future vaccine.
Plus, COVID-19 has presented particular challenges for women and reproductive health. Many say that the pandemic is causing them to rethink their plans to have children.
Southern Shakespeare Company takes its SNL spinoff to TV airwaves
Tom Flanigan, WFSU
Its spring festival frustrated by the coronavirus, Tallahassee’s Southern Shakespeare Company is taking to the TV airwaves Saturday night. The company’s “Shakespeare Night Live” event will be shown on WCTV.
If you can imagine Shakespeare’s characters and story lines re-written into SNL-type comedy sketches, Southern Shakes Executive Director Laura Johnson says you’ve got the gist of the company’s upcoming production.
“So just like in the spirit of Saturday Night Live, we’ll have some live and pre-recorded. And then we have the pleasure of having Longineau Parsons and his Tribal Disorder Band along with Stephen Hodges as a guest musician as our house band,” Johnson said.
The sketches were written by Bert Mitchell and Phil Croton and directed by Toby Holcomb. The show airs at seven Saturday night on WCTV.
Affordable housing assistance coming to Florida from Washington
Danny Rivero, WLRN
Millions of Floridians are feeling the financial burden of the COVID-19 crisis, and are finding it hard to pay rent. In order to offset that, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Thursday that help will soon be coming from the federal government.
A total of 250 million dollars from the federal CARES Act is on its way to Florida to help people keep a roof over their heads.
120 million dollars will help subsidize housing costs for families already in affordable housing developments across the state. Some of these communities are the hardest hit by the economic impact of COVID-19.
On top of that, counties will get 120 million dollars for rent and mortgage assistance to distribute. The money will be spread across the state, based on what percentage of a county’s residents have applied for unemployment benefits.
The programs will run between July and December of this year.
Concern over educating workers on COVID-19 measures
Caitie Switalski, WLRN
The CEO of Jackson Health System is concerned people are not complying with measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Carlos Migoya told CNN earlier Thursday a challenge is enforcement and educating people who can’t afford to miss work.
“A lot of these people are just looking for ways to make some money to be able to feed their families and those are the ones we need to educate and make sure they’re complying with the social distancing and masks, which they’re not doing today,” Migoya said.
Jackson Health announced on Twitter Thursday there are currently 211 people hospitalized who have tested positive for COVID-19 in its hospitals
Poll finds climate change still an important issue for Floridians amid coronavirus pandemic
Brendan Rivers, WJCT
The coronavirus pandemic has not significantly changed the way Floridians feel about climate change.
That’s according to a new poll from Florida Atlantic University, which found that 89 percent of respondents agree that the Earth’s climate is changing.
While Florida Democrats are still more likely to accept the science of climate change than Republicans, the study’s lead author, Colin Polksy, says acceptance is growing within the GOP.
“And so that’s remarkable because at the national level, that’s not exactly the same picture one gets looking at the climate change question from a political party angle. In Florida, to make a long story short, the partisanship seems to be melting away,” Polksy said.
The 86 percent acknowledgement rate among Florida Republicans is up 5 points from the last survey.
But at the same time, acceptance among Florida Democrats has fallen from 95 to 89 percent.
How to exercise safely during the coronavirus pandemic
Marc Silver, NPR
NPR science editor Marc Silver shares tips about how to safely exercise outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic.
Thomas County historians are documenting the coronavirus pandemic
Robbie Gaffney, WFSU
Historians in Thomas County are documenting the coronavirus pandemic. Thomasville History Museum’s Amelia Gallo says they’re asking people to donate items that reflect what life is like during this time so it can be preserved for future generations.
“We don’t know when these items are going to be shared or you know, publicized but we’ll have them. Much in the way we wish that a lot of the items would have been documented for the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918 and other important national and international events,” Gallo said.
People can donate items for the project at the Thomasville History Center, Jack Hadley Black History Museum, Pebble Hill Plantation, Thomasville Center for the Arts, and Thomas County Public Libraries.
Florida governor expands school voucher program during coronavirus pandemic
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — More lower-income Floridians will be eligible for vouchers to send their children to private schools under a bill signed by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The program gives corporations a tax credit if they provide money for students to switch from public to private schools.
DeSantis said the new law will allow more families to choose the schools where they want to send their children even during a coronavirus pandemic that has seen most learning moved online.
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