Tuesday Reads: Florida Is The Pandemic EpicenterPosted: July 7, 2020
Florida is now “the number one hotspot” for Covid-19. Even though the coronavirus is running rampant in Florida, but the state is planning to reopen schools in next month. CNN: Florida will require schools to reopen in August despite a surge in coronavirus cases.
The state’s Commissioner of the Department of Education, Richard Corcoran, issued an emergency order on Monday requiring all “brick and mortar schools” to open “at least five days per week for all students.”
Florida, which initially avoided the worst of the pandemic in its first few months, now has the third-highest number of coronavirus cases in the US at 206,000 and counting.
Under the order, schools must reopen in full to “ensure the quality and continuity of the educational process, the comprehensive wellbeing of students and families and a return to Florida hitting its full economic stride.”
School openings also will need to be consistent with safety precautions as defined by the Florida Department of Health and local health officials and be “supportive of Floridians, young and adult, with underlying conditions that make them medically vulnerable,” according to the order.
The order appears to follow President Donald Trump’s wishes. He tweeted, “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” which Corcoran retweeted late Monday after announcing the emergency order.
USA Today reports that Florida educators are questioning the order: Can Gov. DeSantis force Florida schools to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic? Some school leaders seem doubtful.
The emergency order, issued by state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, appeared at first to undermine the push by many teachers and some school board members to keep classes online when the school year begins.
Though the order says schools can remain closed if county health officials deem reopening too dangerous, a Corcoran spokeswoman heaped doubt on that possibility.
“Logically, I don’t think they could say schools aren’t safe if they are allowing people to be out in public,” Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, part of the USA TODAY Network.
But as concern about the order spread online Monday, some school leaders across the state said: Not so fast.
Opening schools under current conditions “could be catastrophic,” said Karen Resciniti, president of the Martin County Education Association in Florida. Most educators in her district are hesitant to return to the classroom, even if social distancing is followed and masks are required, she said.
Meanwhile, Trump is planning to hold the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, FL in late August. CNN: Republican National Convention will test Jacksonville attendees daily for coronavirus.
The Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, Florida, will feature daily coronavirus testing for those attending the event, which will be centered on President Donald Trump accepting the Republican nomination at a 15,000-person arena.
Erin Isaac, the spokeswoman for the host committee of the Jacksonville portion of the convention, said in an emailed memo on Monday that “everyone attending the convention within the perimeter will be tested and temperature checked each day.”
When reached by CNN on Monday night, Isaac repeated that attendees would be tested for Covid-19 and not just receive a more simple health screening.
A party official said the GOP will be laying out more information on how the testing and other health protocols will work as the convention gets closer.
The schedule is unclear for the Jacksonville portion of the convention, but if Republicans stick to the itinerary they previously planned, Trump will give his acceptance speech there at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on August 27, the last day of the convention.
The news comes on the heels of Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn saying on Sunday that it was “too early to tell” whether Florida will be a safe place for the convention next month due to a surge in Covid-19 cases in the state.
“I think it’s too early to tell,” Hahn, a member of the White House coronoavirus task force, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.” “We’ll have to see how this unfolds in Florida and around the country.”
Jacksonville is requiring people to wear face masks in public, but the article doesn’t say whether they will be required at the convention.
The Des Moines Register reported yesterday that Chuck Grassley has decided not to attend the convention because of concerns about the virus. I wonder how many other elderly Republicans will decide not to go.
On July 4, The New York Times described the mess that Trump has created by moving the convention from Charlotte, NC to Jacksonville: How the Republican Convention Created Money Woes in Two Cities.
The abrupt uprooting of the Republican National Convention from Charlotte to Jacksonville has created a tangled financial predicament for party officials as they effectively try to pay for two big events instead of one.
Tens of millions of dollars have already been spent in a city that will now host little more than a G.O.P. business meeting, and donors are wary of opening their wallets again to bankroll a Jacksonville gathering thrown into uncertainty by a surge in coronavirus cases.
Organizers are trying to assuage vexed Republicans who collectively gave millions of dollars for a Charlotte event that has mostly been scrapped. The host committee there has spent virtually all of the $38 million it raised before the convention was moved, leaving almost nothing to return to donors, or to pass on to the new host city.
In Jacksonville, fund-raisers are describing the process as the most difficult they have ever confronted: Florida has been setting daily records for new virus cases, freezing money as donors wait and worry about the safety risks of the pandemic.
Big donors are hesitant to support the Jacksonville event.
“I don’t want to encourage people getting sick,” said Stanley S. Hubbard, a Minnesota billionaire who has donated more than $2 million to help Republicans, including President Trump, since the beginning of the 2016 election.
Mr. Hubbard, who donated $25,000 to the R.N.C.’s convention account in 2018, is hesitant to give to the Jacksonville host committee because he thinks it is ill advised to hold the convention in the midst of a pandemic. “Unless this thing goes away, I think it’s a bad choice,” he said.
The threat of the virus and the complicated financial entanglements are just the latest problems to beset an event that Mr. Trump upended last month, after concluding that Charlotte could not guarantee the celebratory coronation he covets. The sudden acrimonious split with Charlotte — and the scramble in Jacksonville to organize in weeks an event that typically takes years — has produced mounting confusion about what the convention will look like and who will pay to help stage it.
Organizers are not holding their breath for generous contributions from big donors, like Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino owner, who has given to host committees in the past but has not indicated he plans to support the Jacksonville event. Instead, they are working down long lists of donors who might be willing to give smaller amounts.
With the coronavirus out of control in Jacksonville and in Florida as whole, you have to wonder if Trump is really going to get his big moment on stage.
The New York Times also has a story on how Florida became the current epicenter of the virus: As the Virus Surged, Florida Partied. Tracking the Revelers Has Been Tough.
Miami’s flashy nightclubs closed in March, but the parties have raged on in the waterfront manse tucked in the lush residential neighborhood of Belle Meade Island. Revelers arrive in sports cars and ride-shares several nights a week, say neighbors who have spied professional bouncers at the door and bought earplugs to try to sleep through the thumping dance beats.
They are the sort of parties — drawing throngs of maskless strangers to rave until sunrise — that local health officials say have been a notable contributing factor to the soaring number of coronavirus cases in Florida, one of the most troubling infection spots in the country.
Just how many parties have been linked to Covid-19 is unclear because Florida does not make public information about confirmed disease clusters. On Belle Meade Island, neighbors fear the large numbers of people going in and out of the house parties are precisely what public health officials have warned them about.
“We have hundreds of people coming onto this island,” said Jeri Klemme-Zaiac, a nurse practitioner who has lived in the neighborhood for 25 years. “This is how this is spreading: People have no regard for anyone else.”
The city of Miami and the Miami-Dade Police Department shut down a party at the house just before midnight on Wednesday, a spokesman for the department said. Officers kicked out perhaps a hundred people, estimated Rita Lagace, who lives next door and saw the attendees reluctantly depart. She predicted the festivities would soon return: Targeting loud parties has always been a game of whack-a-mole in Miami, a city famous for its dazzling nightlife.
Contact tracing efforts are not going well:
The state’s contact tracers, already overwhelmed by the surging number of new cases, have found it especially difficult to track how the virus jumped from one party guest to the next because some infected people refused to divulge whom they went out with or had over to their house.
“We are starting to encounter a fair amount of pushback from younger folks when you call them up and say, ‘We want to know everyone who was at your party,’” said Dr. J. Glenn Morris Jr., director of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida in Gainesville, a college town where local officials have begged students to stop partying. “There’s very much a sense of, ‘That’s none of your business.’”
One more horror story out of Florida:
At just 17, Carsyn Leigh Davis had already experienced more challenges than most people face in their entire lives. From age 2, she battled a host of health issues, including cancer and a rare autoimmune disorder. But not once did Carsyn let the serious ailments get her down, her family said.
So when the high school student from Fort Myers, Fla., died last month after contracting the novel coronavirus, her death — which marked Lee County’s youngest virus-related fatality at the time — sent shock waves through the community. Touching tributes to Carsyn, often pictured smiling broadly, poured forth and thousands of dollars were donated to GoFundMe campaigns.
But it turns out Carsyn’s mom may have deliberately exposed her to the virus and then given her Trump’s favorite remedy.
A medical examiner’s report recently made public, however, has raised questions about Carsyn’s case. The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner found that the immunocompromised teen went to a large church party with roughly 100 other children where she did not wear a mask and social distancing was not enforced. Then, after getting sick, nearly a week passed before she was taken to the hospital, and during that time her parents gave her hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug touted by President Trump that the Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings about, saying usage could cause potentially deadly heart rhythm problems.
Carsyn’s case, which gained renewed interest on Sunday after it was publicized by Florida data scientist Rebekah Jones, drew fierce backlash from critics, including a number of medical professionals, who condemned the actions taken by the teen’s family in the weeks before her death. Florida has more than 206,000 reported cases of coronavirus and 3,880 deaths as of early Tuesday.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
I’ll post more reads in the comment thread. What stories have you been following?