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Thousands of acres near Panama City are torched as Florida Panhandle wildfires continue

Florida Forest Service crew members at the Adkins Avenue Fire on Sunday.

COVID Cases Keep Falling

Benigno Enriquez, right, elbow-bumps Miami Mayor Francis Suarez as Suarez hands out masks to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, at a mask distribution event, Friday, June 26, 2020, in a COVID-19 hotspot of the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami. Florida banned alcohol consumption at its bars Friday as its daily confirmed coronavirus cases neared 9,000, a new record that is almost double the previous mark set just two days ago.

The number of new daily COVID-19 cases in the United States has plunged 57% since peaking on Sept. 1. Almost as encouraging as the magnitude of the decline is its breadth: Cases have been declining in every region.

Forecasting COVID’s future is extremely difficult, and it’s certainly possible that cases will rise again in the coming weeks. But the geographic breadth of the decline does offer reason for optimism.

Past COVID increases have generally brooks shoes started in one part of the country — like the South this summer or the New York region in early 2020 — and then gone national. Today, there is no regional surge that seems to have the makings of a nationwide surge.

Yes, there are some local hot spots, as has almost always been the case since the pandemic began. Several of the hot spots are in northern parts of the country, like Alaska, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and a few counties near the Canadian border in New Hampshire and Vermont. This pattern has led to some speculation that the onset of cold weather is causing the increases by moving more activity indoors — and that the entire country will soon experience a rise in caseloads.

That does not seem to be the most likely scenario, however. In most colder regions, including both Canada and the densely populated parts of the northern U.S., cases are still falling. The biggest problem for Alaska and the Mountain West is probably not the weather; it’s the vaccine skepticism. Idaho is the nation’s least vaccinated state, and several other Western states are only slightly ahead of it.

The CDC tracks a range of COVID forecasting models. On average, the models predict that new daily cases in the U.S. will fall roughly another 20% over the next three weeks.

The bottom line: There is no reason to expect another COVID surge anytime soon, but surges don’t always announce themselves in advance.

When the delta variant began spreading this summer, many people worried that it was both much more contagious than earlier versions of the virus and much more severe. Only one of those two fears seems to be true.

Delta is clearly more contagious, which is the main reason that every metric of the pandemic — cases, hospitalizations and deaths — soared this summer. But a typical COVID case during the delta wave was about as severe as a typical case during the earlier stages of the pandemic. During the wave in late 2020 and clarks shoes uk early this year, about 1.2% of positive cases led to death; during the delta wave, the share was 1.1%.

Scientific studies trying to answer the severity question more precisely have come to conflicting conclusions. Some have found delta to be more severe than other versions of the virus, and others have found that it is not. Until the research becomes clearer, the best guess may be that delta is modestly more severe, which could explain why hospitalizations and death rates have held steady even as vaccination rates have risen.

“Delta may be a little more serious, but not materially so,” Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said.

This pattern can influence how you think about your day-to-day activities. If you are vaccinated (and boosted, if eligible) and you were comfortable socializing indoors and without a mask last spring, you can probably feel comfortable doing so again, now or soon. Wachter adds: “Some older people or those with medical conditions may want to be sure that everybody else indoors with them is vaccinated before removing their mask.”

Despite all the encouraging news, one shadow still hangs over the U.S.: The pandemic does not need to be nearly as bad it is.

About 1,500 Americans have died of COVID every day over the past week. For older age groups, the virus remains a leading cause of death. And the main reason is that millions of Americans have chosen to remain unvaccinated. Many of them are older and have underlying medical conditions, leaving them vulnerable to severe versions of COVID.

For older people, the effects of vaccination are profound. In late August, near the height of the delta wave, 24 out of every 10,000 unvaccinated Americans 65 and above were hospitalized with COVID symptoms, according hey dude shoes to the CDC. Among fully vaccinated Americans 65 and above, the number was 1.5 per 10,000.

Even so, many Americans are saying no to a shot. Among affluent countries, the U.S. is one of the least vaccinated, trailing Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and others. Less vaccination means more death.

The low vaccination rate in the U.S. is another consequence of the country’s polarized politics and its high levels of socioeconomic inequality. Only 67% of American adults without a four-year college degree have received a shot, compared with 82% of college graduates, according to the most recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll. And only 58% of self-identified Republicans are vaccinated, compared with 90% of Democrats.

It is a triumph of misinformation: Offered a lifesaving vaccine to counteract a highly contagious virus, many Americans are instead choosing to take their chances.

Florida’s top doctor refuses mask, is told to leave meeting

MIAMI (AP) — Florida’s top health official was asked to leave a meeting after refusing to wear a mask at the office of a state senator who told him she had a serious medical condition, officials have confirmed.

Florida Senate leader Wilton Simpson, a Republican, sent a memo to senators Saturday regarding the incident at the office of Democratic state Sen. Tina Polsky, asking visitors at the building to be respectful with social interactions. Polsky, asics shoes who represents parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, had not yet made public her breast cancer diagnosis.

Polsky told The Associated Press about the tense exchange with state Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo that was first reported by the news site Florida Politics. She said Ladapo and two aides were offered masks and asked to wear them when they arrived for the Wednesday meeting. She did not tell him she had breast cancer, but said she had a serious condition.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cancer patients are at a higher risk to get severely ill from COVID-19 and may not build the same immunity to vaccines.

Ladapo had asked to meet her in Tallahassee as he seeks confirmation in the Senate after being named to the post by Gov. Ron DeSantis last month.

“It was so shocking to me that he treated me in this manner,” Polsky said. “If he is a surgeon general for the next several years, I am really concerned about a future public health emergency and not being able to rely on him for necessary guidance and proper scientific leadership.”

Ladapo offered to go outside, but the senator said she did not want to sit on the metal picnic tables on a warm day when her office was nice and spacious. She said she asked whether there was a reason why he couldn’t wear a mask, but he wouldn’t answer.

Democrats have opposed the appointment of Ladapo, criticizing him for comments and actions related to the pandemic.

A day into his job, Ladapo signed new rules allowing parents to decide whether their children should quarantine or stay in school after being exposed to people who tested positive for COVID-19.

On Thursday at a press conference with DeSantis to oppose vaccine mandates, Ladapo said people were not comfortable with the vaccines because the federal government keen shoes has not been open about the effectiveness and safety of the vaccines, saying there was a “concerted effort” to hide stories of people with adverse reactions.

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has received the full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, meeting high standards required for the vaccine to be considered safe. It has been administered to millions and proven to be effective against hospitalization and death. However, immunity against infection can wane over time.

Authorities in Sweden, Denmark and Norway earlier this month suspended or discouraged the use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in young people because of an increased risk of heart inflammation, a very rare side effect associated with the shot.

Ladapo also wrote an opinion column in the Wall Street Journal saying masks have “little or no effect on respiratory virus transmission.”

The CDC still recommends people with weakened immune systems, and those in high-transmission areas to wear masks. Studies have supported their use, with some finding that cloth masks are less effective.

In the memo sent by Simpson, nike outlet the president of the Florida senate, he said that while there’s no mask mandate in the Senate, senators can request social distancing and masking within their offices.

“It shouldn’t take a cancer diagnosis for people to respect each other’s level of comfort with social interactions during a pandemic,” he said. “What occurred in Senator Polsky’s office was unprofessional and will not be tolerated in the Senate.”

The Florida Department of Health’s spokeswoman Weesam Khoury said the agency was not aware of any specific Senate protocol, but said it would ask members ahead of time and make necessary accommodations such as meeting through Zoom or outdoors.

The Department of Health “will be addressing this directly with members of the Senate, rather than letting this play out publicly,” Khoury said in an email.

Miami school says vaccinated students must stay home for 30 days to protect others, citing discredited info

Students wearing a protective mask, queue up outside classrooms on the first day of school, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, at St. Lawrence Catholic School in North Miami Beach, Florida, U.S. August 18, 2021. REUTERS/Marco Bello TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

In April, a Miami private school made national headlines for barring teachers who got a coronavirus vaccine from interacting with students. Last week, the school made another startling declaration, but this time to the parents: If you vaccinate your child, they’ll have to stay home for 30 days after each shot.

The email from Centner Academy hey dude leadership, first reported by WSVN, repeated misleading and false claims that vaccinated people could pass on so-called harmful effects of the shot and have a “potential impact” on unvaccinated students and staff.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has debunked claims that the coronavirus vaccine can “shed or release any of their components” through the air or skin contact. The coronavirus vaccines do not contain a live virus, so their components can’t be transmitted to others.

David Centner, one of the school’s co-founders, repeated the debunked claims in a statement to The Washington Post, saying the policy is a “precautionary measure” based on “numerous anecdotal cases that have been in circulation.”

“The school is not opining as to whether unexplained phenomena have a basis in fact, however we prefer to err on the side of caution when making decisions that impact the health of the school community,” Centner said.

Despite the Food and Drug Administration’s evidence that the coronavirus vaccines are safe and highly effective, vaccine misinformation online has been a top hurdle for the White House and public health experts when persuading people to get the shots. Almost 219 million Americans have received at least one vaccine dose, which is about 66 percent of the eligible population, according to The Post’s vaccination tracker.

In July, President Joe Biden excoriated social media companies, accusing them of “killing people” by failing to regulate misinformation about the vaccines on their platforms. In August, Facebook released data that showed the most popular piece of content from January through March was a link to an article that cast doubt on hoka shoes the vaccine. Last Wednesday, attorneys generals from 14 states sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, inquiring if the company provided special treatment to those disseminating vaccine falsehoods on the platform.

Unfounded claims about masks and vaccines have trickled down to schools, where students under 12 years old remain at a higher risk of contracting the virus since they are ineligible for the vaccines.

Tensions between parents and school districts have also grown violent at times. In August, a parent at an Austin school ripped a mask off a teacher’s face. A week later, police said the father of a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., high-schooler assaulted another student after she confronted him about trying to bring his daughter onto campus without a mask. He was arrested and charged with child abuse without great bodily harm.

Centner Academy is in Miami’s ritzy Design District, and tuition ranges from about $15,000 to nearly $30,000 per year. The school has become a haven for anti-vaccine parents because it does not require any immunizations for enrollment, citing a parent’s “freedom of choice” and falsely claiming there are “unknown risks associated with vaccinations” that could harm children.

A similar sentiment was shared in an email to parents last week regarding the coronavirus vaccine. School leadership referred to the shots as “experimental,” WSVN reported, and encouraged parents considering getting their child vaccinated to wait several more months until the school year ends.

“We ask that you hold off until the summer when there will be time for the potential transmission or shedding onto others to decrease,” Centner Academy leaders wrote.

The school has a history of spreading inaccurate information about the vaccine and penalizing those who choose to get the shots. In April, Centner Academy employees were told they had to notify Leila and David Centner, the married co-founders of the school, if they received a vaccine. Vaccinated school employees were told they would not be allowed any contact with students “until more information is known” about the vaccines. hey dude shoes School leaders also told those wanting the vaccine to wait until the summer to get the shots.

About a week later, a math and science teacher told students they should not hug their vaccinated parents for more than five seconds, the New York Times reported, referencing the same falsehoods the school communicated in its email about vaccine components “shedding” onto others. Some parents threatened to pull their children out of the school over the comments.

Leila Centner has also spread anti-vaccine information during a meeting with parents and staff and in a WhatsApp group with community members, according to the Times. In late January, Leila and David Centner invited outspoken anti-vaccine advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to speak at the school.

The co-founders also discouraged teachers from wearing masks, the Times reported. When state health department officials visited for routine dining inspections, teachers were allegedly told in a WhatsApp group to put on masks. The school also allegedly provided parents with mask exemption forms for their children.

In his statement to The Post, David Centner said the school’s policies are made as a “prudent precautionary measure.”

“Our top priorities have always been our students’ well-being and their sense of safety within our educational environment,” he said.

Manhunt for Brian Laundrie in Florida wetlands scaled back; FBI collects items for ‘DNA matching’

The manhunt for Brian Laundrie in a Florida nature reserve will be scaled back this week, days after a county coroner said Laundrie’s fiancee, Gabby Petito, died by homicide.

The FBI is now leading the search that will be “targeted based on intelligence,” North Port Police spokesperson Josh Taylor said Monday.

More than 75 law enforcement personnel from 16 agencies nike sneakers joined the search last week in the 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County after the FBI issued a federal arrest warrant over events after Petito’s death. Authorities used a diver unit, dogs, drones and ATV vehicles to search the wetlands.

“I don’t think you’re going to see those large-scale types of efforts this week,” Taylor told USA TODAY. “Hopefully, water will lower in areas hard to currently access.”

The park includes thousands of acres of swampy, subtropical terrain and wildlife including alligators, snakes, bobcats and coyotes. There’s more than 100 miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, along with camping areas and rivers.

On Sunday, FBI agents visited Laundrie’s home and asked his parents for some of their son’s personal items to help with “DNA matching,” the family’s lawyer told NBC News and Fox News. The lawyer did not immediately confirm the visit to USA TODAY. The FBI field office in Denver, which is leading the investigation, would not comment on the case.

Laundrie was last seen nearly two weeks ago when he told his parents he was going hiking in Carlton Reserve after returning home on Sept. 1 without Petito from a cross-country trip to national parks.

‘She touched the world’: Family, friends pay tribute to Gabby Petito at New York funeral

The couple’s trip, which was documented on social media as a romantic adventure, began in July and was set to end in Oregon next month. After Laundrie returned home alone, investigators say he refused to share crucial information with them.

Petito’s body was then found at a campground near Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. Laundrie is considered a person of interest in Petito’s homicide but has not been charged.

Laundrie has been indicted on charges of unauthorized use of a Capital One debit card and several accounts involving more than $1,000, nike store according to documents released Thursday by the U.S. District of Wyoming. The indictment also charges Laundrie with unauthorized access of a device and says he used the bank accounts without permission from about Aug. 30 through Sept. 1.

‘Missing White Woman Syndrome’: Indigenous people left to wonder how to ‘qualify’ for same attention as Gabby Petito

This Aug. 12, 2021, photo from video provided by The Moab Police Department shows Brian Laundrie talking to a police officer after police pulled over the van he was traveling in with his girlfriend, Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito, near the entrance to Arches National Park.
This Aug. 12, 2021, photo from video provided by The Moab Police Department shows Brian Laundrie talking to a police officer after police pulled over the van he was traveling in with his girlfriend, Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, near the entrance to Arches National Park.

Meanwhile, TV personality Duane Lee Chapman, also known as “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” joined the search and promised to find Laundrie before his 24th birthday on Nov. 18. A law firm has offered a $20,000 reward for information that leads directly to Laundrie.

John Walsh, a victims’ advocate and the former host of the TV show “America’s Most Wanted,” is also searching for Laundrie and soliciting tips from the public.

As investigators searched for Laundrie, mourners gathered Sunday in New York to celebrate Petito’s life.asics shoes Her funeral was in Holbrook, New York, near the Bayport-Blue Point community where Petito grew up.

Petito’s father, Joseph, told the crowd at the funeral home that the day was about remembering his daughter, not the sadness of her death, NBC New York reported.

“When you leave here today, be inspired by what she brought to the table, because the entire planet knows this woman’s name now. And she’s inspired a lot of women and a lot of men to do what’s best for them first,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud as a father.”

Van-Life Couple Got Into Physical Fight Days Before 22-Year-Old Vanished, Police Docs Reveal

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A young woman who mysteriously vanished while road tripping across the U.S. with her fiancé got into a physical altercation with him two weeks before he returned to Florida without her, according to a police report obtained by The Daily Beast.

And while the couple’s online postings made the journey appear perfectly idyllic, the strain of having been together nonstop for months on end had in fact escalated tensions between the two, the document provided by the Moab City, Utah, Police Department reveals.

Brian Laundrie, 23, has been named a steve madden shoes person of interest in the baffling disappearance of 22-year-old Gabrielle Petito, police announced Wednesday. The two set off on a cross-country trek on July 2, from North Port, Florida. From there, they traveled to the Monument Rocks formation in Kansas, then headed for Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park. Next, the pair went to the Zion, Bryce, and Canyonlands national parks in Utah. Petito’s mother last spoke to Gabby on Aug. 25, while she and Laundrie were at the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

On Sept. 1, Laundrie returned to the Florida home he shared with his parents and Petito, after the couple’s cross-country journey in a van across the U.S. But Gabby, inexplicably, wasn’t anywhere to be found.

Ten days later, after not hearing from her for more than two weeks, Gabby’s family reported her missing. Police then went to Laundrie’s home and seized Gabby’s customized 2012 Ford Transit Connect van, which the couple was living out of as they visited several national parks. The vehicle was processed for evidence by local cops and FBI agents on Tuesday evening, according to the North Port, Florida, Police Department.

On Tuesday night, Moab City Police Chief Bret Edge released a statement revealing that officers on Aug. 12 responded to an “incident involving Brian Laundrie and Gabrielle Petito.” Neither of them was “the reporting party,” according to Edge.

“Officers conducted an investigation and determined that insufficient evidence existed to justify criminal charges,” the statement said.

However, previously unknown details revealed in the report itself paint a fuller picture of what happened that day.

“On 08/12/21, MCPD officers were dispatched to a report of a domestic problem that had taken place near the Moonflower Co-op,” the report explains. “It appeared that a male and female had left the scene traveling north on Main in a white Ford Transit van with a black ladder on the rear after the male and female had engaged in some sort of altercation. It wasn’t clear, but I believe it was reported the male had been observed to have assaulted the female.”

When cops showed up, witnesses said they had seen Laundrie attempting to “create distance by telling Gabby to go take a walk to calm down,” the report states. Laundrie reportedly grabbed Gabby’s face at one point after she began slapping him, but Laundrie did not strike Gabby, according to witnesses. One bystander told cops that Laundrie seemed to have locked Gabby out of her van, and that she appeared to be hitting him in the arm and trying to climb inside through the driver’s window. The fight had apparently erupted over dispute involving a phone, the report states.

Gabby, who said she feared Laundrie was going to leave her behind in Moab, suffered from “severe anxiety,” the pair told police, who categorized the incident as more of a “mental/emotional health ‘break’ than a domestic assault,” in their report. The two said they were “in ecco shoes love and engaged to be married and desperately didn’t wish to see anyone charged with a crime.”

The couple had been pulled over for speeding that same evening by another officer, who interviewed both of them separately. Gabby, who was “crying uncontrollably,” according to the report, said that she “suffers from [redacted] with [redacted]. She continued, because of her [redacted] and [redacted], combined with little arguments she and Brian had been having that day, she was struggling with her mental health, which led to the incident that was reported to law enforcement.”

Laundrie told the officer that he and Gabby “both suffer from [redacted], and although her [redacted] is more advanced than his, issues between the two had been building over the last few days. This in turn, caused them to argue more than usual,” the report states.

Laundrie explained that the two had been traveling together for the past four or five months, and that this had “created emotional strain between them and increased the number of arguments.”

The officer was able to get Laundrie a hotel room for the night, and Gabby kept the van. They agreed not to contact one another until the next morning, which would allow them to “reset their mental states.”

Neither one was seriously injured, and no charges were filed.

In what may or may not be a coincidence, a couple living out of their van in Moab, Kylen Schulte and Crystal Beck, went missing on Aug. 13—after complaining to friends about a “weirdo” who had set up camp right near them. Schulte—who worked at the Moonflower Co-op, where Gabby and Laundrie were seen fightingand Beck were found murdered a few days later. No suspects have been publicly identified and no arrests have been made in the case.

“As of now, Brian has not made himself available to be interviewed by investigators or has provided any helpful details,” the North Port PD said in a statement issued Wednesday, adding, “Brian Laundrie is a person of interest in this case.”

Laundrie will continue to stonewall investigators as they try desperately to solve the case, according to his lawyer.

In a statement provided to The Daily Beast following the North Port PD’s announcement, Laundrie’s Long Island, New York-based lawyer, nike sneakers Steven Bertolino, said that the “formality” of being named a person of interest hasn’t really changed anything about Laundrie’s situation, since he was already the focus of detectives. And he’s still not planning to say a word.

“Many people are wondering why Mr. Laundrie would not make a statement or speak with law enforcement in the face of Ms. Petito’s absence,” Bertolino said in an email. “In my experience, intimate partners are often the first person law enforcement focuses their attention on in cases like this and the warning that ‘any statement made will be used against you’ is true, regardless of whether my client had anything to do with Ms. Petito’s disappearance. As such, on the advice of counsel Mr. Laundrie is not speaking on this matter.”

Laundrie and his parents, Roberta and Christopher, who own a company that sells and services commercial juicing equipment, were unable to be reached.

Laundrie’s refusal to cooperate has been incredibly frustrating for Gabby’s father, Joe Petito, who moved to Florida in June, partly so he could be closer to his daughter.

“Get out of the house, get into the FBI offices, and start answering some questions,” Petito told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “Do your job as a fiancé, as most would do.”

Petito said he was reluctant to speak negatively of Laundrie in the media because Laundrie is key to finding Gabby.

“My biggest fear is that people overpressure this guy and he hurts himself and then he can’t speak anymore—and then I’ll never find my daughter,” said Petito. “Focus on her, and keep it up until we get her home. I’m begging you of that. No one gives two shits about Brian until we get Gabby home.”

Petito hasn’t heard from Laundrie or his parents, and said he isn’t “anticipating anything” from them.

“As a father, I can imagine the pain and suffering Gabby’s family is going through,” North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said in a statement. “We are pleading with anyone, including Brian, to share information with us on her whereabouts in the past few weeks. The lack of information from Brian is hindering this investigation. The answers will eventually come out. We will help find Gabby and we will help find anyone who may be involved in her disappearance.”

The Laundrie family appears to keep a low profile in their North Port, Florida, neighborhood. Donna Lear, a homeowner who lives a few doors away from the Laundries, said she and her husband have “never seen” Brian Laundrie or his parents in all the years they have resided there. Another neighbor, Andre Obradovich, also said he hasn’t had any interactions with the Laundrie family and was shocked to hear that the young man whose face has been plastered all over the news in recent days is holed up right down the street.

Laundrie’s Instagram profile describes him as a “nature enthusiast” and tells visitors, “Take a hike everyday.”

“Bug bites are better than being brainwashed by the media,” it says.

In a post from last October, Laundrie captioned a picture of himself kissing Gabby: “Never got around to posting these! I’d die just to watch all of our memories on repeat, never loved anyone as much as this girl💕”

Another so-called van-lifer who encountered Gabby and Laundrie while traveling near Moab, Utah, said he never saw any signs of trouble between the two.

“They were holding hands, they were ecstatic about their rebuild,” Jaye Foster told The Daily Beast. “That’s what I find so weird about the whole situation, is that they were both really cool. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong whatsoever.”

The pair said they were headed to Yellowstone next, according to Foster.

“She was such a cool person,” he said. “He was too. That’s what’s freaking me out. They seemed totally fine. What sucks is that I couldn’t see him doing anything like that. It’s crazy as hell. It really, really is.”

Florida grapples with COVID-19’s deadliest phase yet

MIAMI (AP) — Funeral director Wayne Bright has seen grief piled upon grief during the latest COVID-19 surge.

A woman died of the virus, and as her family was planning the funeral, her mother was also struck down. An aunt took over arrangements for the double funeral, only to die of COVID-19 herself two weeks afterward.

“That was one of the most devastating things ever,” said Bright, who also arranged the funeral last week of one of his closest friends.

Florida is in the grip of its deadliest wave of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, a disaster driven by the highly contagious delta variant.

While Florida’s vaccination rate is slightly higher than the national average, steve madden shoes the Sunshine State has an outsize population of elderly people, who are especially vulnerable to the virus; a vibrant party scene; and a Republican governor who has taken a hard line against mask requirements, vaccine passports and business shutdowns.

As of mid-August, the state was averaging 244 deaths per day, up from just 23 a day in late June and eclipsing the previous peak of 227 during the summer of 2020. (Because of both the way deaths are logged in Florida and lags in reporting, more recent figures on fatalities per day are incomplete.)

Hospitals have had to rent refrigerated trucks to store more bodies. Funeral homes have been overwhelmed.

Cristina Miles, a mother of five from Orange Park, is among those facing more than one loss at a time. Her husband died after contracting COVID-19, and less than two weeks later, her mother-in-law succumbed to the virus.

“I feel we are all kind of in a weird dream state,” she said, adding that her children are grieving differently, with one shutting down, another feeling inspired to pass a hard swimming test, and the oldest going about her life as usual.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten tours a classroom at the New River Middle School, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Weingarten is on a nationwide tour of schools to stress the importance of safely returning to five-day-a-week in person learning. Broward County is one of numerous school districts in Florida with a mask mandate for students. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten tours a classroom at the New River Middle School, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Weingarten is on a nationwide tour of schools to stress the importance of safely returning to five-day-a-week in person learning. Broward County is one of numerous school districts in Florida with a mask mandate for students. 

Hospitals have been swamped with patients who, like Miles’ husband and mother-in-law, hadn’t gotten vaccinated.

In a positive sign, the number of people in the ecco shoes hospital with COVID-19 in Florida has dropped over the past two weeks from more than 17,000 to 14,200 on Friday, indicating the surge is easing.

Florida made an aggressive effort early on to vaccinate its senior citizens. But Dr. Kartik Cherabuddi, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Florida, said the raw number of those who have yet to get the shot is still large, given Florida’s elderly population of 4.6 million.

“Even 10% is still a very large number, and then folks living with them who come in contact with them are not vaccinated,” Cherabuddi said. “With delta, things spread very quickly.”

Cherabuddi said there is also a “huge difference” in attitudes toward masks in Florida this summer compared with last year. This summer, “if you traveled around the state, it was like we are not really in a surge,” he said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has strongly opposed certain mandatory measures to keep the virus in check, saying people should be trusted to make decisions for themselves. He has asserted, too, that the spike in cases is seasonal as Floridians spend more time indoors to escape the heat.

At his funeral home in Tampa, Bright is working weekdays and weekends, staying past midnight sometimes.

“Usually we serve between five and six families a week. Right now, we are probably seeing 12 to 13 new families every week,” he said. “It’s nonstop. We are just trying to keep up with the volume.”

He had to arrange the burial of one of his closest friends, a man he had entrusted with the access code to his house. nike sneakers They used to carpool each other’s kids to school, and their families would gather for birthday and Super Bowl parties.

“It is very, very difficult to go through this process for someone you love so dearly,” he said.

Pat Seemann, a nurse practitioner whose company has nearly 500 elderly, homebound patients in central Florida, had not lost a single patient during the first waves. And then the variant she calls “the wrecking ball” hit.

In the past month, she lost seven patients in two weeks, including a husband and wife who died within days of each other.

“I cried all weekend. I was devastated, angry,” she said.

Overall, more than 46,300 people have died of COVID-19 in Florida, which ranks 17th in per-capita deaths among the states.

The majority of the deaths this summer — like last summer — are among the elderly. Of the 2,345 people whose recent deaths were reported over the past week, 1,479 of them were 65 and older — or 63%.

“The focus needs to be on who’s dying and who’s ending up in the hospital,” Seeman said. “It’s still going after the elderly.”

But the proportion of under-65 people dying of COVID-19 has grown substantially, which health officials attribute to lower vaccination rates in those age groups.

Aaron Jaggi, 35, was trying to get nike store healthy before he died of COVID-19, 12 hours after his older brother Free Jaggi, 41, lost his life to the virus. They were overweight, which increases the risk of severe COVID-19 illness, and on the fence about getting vaccinated, thinking the risk was minimal because they both worked from home, said Brittany Pequignot, who has lived with the family at various times and is like an adopted daughter.

After their death, the family found a whiteboard that belonged to Aaron. It listed his daily goals for sit-ups and push-ups.

“He was really trying,” Pequignot said.

The Republican pandemic response is breaking my brain

An elephant.
An elephant. Illustrated | iStock

Nine months after several highly effective coronavirus vaccines started to become available in America, and three to five months after they became available in pharmacies across the country, the pandemic is now as bad as it’s ever been in ecco shoes many states. In Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky, and South Carolina, daily hospitalizations and deaths are at or near the March 2020 peak, while in Florida the previous records have been far surpassed.

At the same time, conservative elites are doing their level best to spread the virus as much as possible, even as COVID-19 is killing conservatives by the thousands. It’s willful, malign negligence on a mind-boggling scale.

I can barely keep up with the number of minor conservative figures who have died of COVID after refusing to take the vaccine. The radio host Phil Valentine is dead after having mocked the vaccine, and so is Newsmax host Dick Farell. The same is true of Texas Republican official Scott Apley. South Carolina party official Pressley Stutts continued to post anti-vaccine conspiracy theories from his COVID ICU bed until he died. And among the voting base, it’s total carnage.

Yet Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is still in a ferocious dispute with his state’s school districts about mask mandates, as his state’s pediatric ICU beds are swamped. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently issued an (almost certainly unconstitutional) order banning any institution receiving public funds from requiring vaccines. South Dakota recently held the Sturgis motorcycle rally again with the furious support of Gov. Kristi Noem — despite the fact that the state is trailing in vaccination and last year the rally created a pandemic charnel house. Unsurprisingly, cases there are once again shooting through the roof.

The story that might have fully broken my brain for good is the recent plague of conservatives poisoning themselves with veterinary deworming paste. The idea is to get a drug called ivermectin, which has been promoted as yet another coronavirus miracle cure by various fringe quacks. Perhaps the most prominent is the former biology professor Bret Weinstein, who has been publishing anti-vaccine propaganda on a podcast and YouTube in the classic passive-aggressive “just asking questions” fashion.

As Jef Rouner explains at Houston Press, the formula is simple and lucrative: raise fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the vaccines with complicated but false arguments that are hard for a layman to untangle, launder extreme claims by interviewing total lunatics, all while recommending unproven miracle remedies the shadowy nike sneakers Big Pharma conspiracy is supposedly suppressing. Then when you get in trouble for spreading antivaccine lies during a global pandemic, scream that you’re being “censored” to get more attention, and watch the subscription numbers jump. Sure enough, Weinstein got on Fox News and other conservative outlets after YouTube demonetized his channel and deleted some videos. He even got a friendly reception from ex-leftist Matt Taibbi, who wrote two articles about ivermectin treating Weinstein as a credible source and a victim of Big Tech censorship.

In terms of science, the story is virtually identical to what happened with hydroxychloroquine — promising initial evidence that has crumbled on further scrutiny. One big study was retracted when it turned out much of the abstract was plagiarized and the data was faked. A meta-analysis examining 14 studies published late last month found highly equivocal results: “Overall, the reliable evidence available does not support the use [of] ivermectin for treatment or prevention of COVID-19 outside of well-designed randomized trials.”

To answer Taibbi’s duplicitous leading question, there are two reasons why it is a bad idea to trumpet the possibility of unproven miracle cures during a pandemic. First, even the promising initial studies did not show ivermectin to be anywhere close to as protective as the vaccines, which are among the most-studied treatments in the history of medicine. Second, spreading overheated rumors about miracle drugs before the evidence is in will lead credulous people to take it without knowledge of proper dosage or considering toxic interactions. Sure enough, deworming paste is flying off the shelves, some doctor in Arkansas is giving it to prisoners, and calls to poison control centers are skyrocketing across the South. Facebook groups are full of stories of poisoned people suffering severe diarrhea and expelling “rope worms,” which turn out to be almost certainly shreds of intestinal lining.

But in terms of politics, the horse paste saga is a perfect window in the conservative mindset that is currently the biggest force fueling the pandemic. The core behavior here is muleheaded, selfish spitefulness, adhered to even at great personal risk. “Freedom” for movement conservatives is entirely one-directional: They get to spray virus fog whenever and wherever they want, and they also get to force you or your kids to not wear a mask.

Because that behavior is so monstrous, there is a large incentive to make up comforting lies about how the pandemic is exaggerated or fake, or the vaccines don’t work — much facilitated by the fact that consuming right-wing media nike store for very long tends to turn your brain into horse paste. Some right-wing voices pushing this line actually believe it, as shown by the lamented dead above. But others are just cynical — Abbott recently came down with COVID, but it turns out he had not only been vaccinated but also had already gotten a booster shot, and was getting daily tests, so had a very mild case.

Finally, because the financial engine of the conservative media complex is tricking gullible retired people into buying brain pills and reverse mortgages, conservatives are easy pickings for cynical and/or deluded grifters hawking snake oil remedies when they do contract COVID after coughing into each other’s face at the Cheesecake Factory to own the libs.

Yet another wave of completely pointless death seems to be motivating a lot of people to finally get vaccinated — but thus far the procrastinators, not the ideological, hard core antivaxxers. Even when Donald Trump tried to argue for the vaccine at a rally in Alabama recently, he was booed. It seems the pandemic will keep burning out of control until just about every conservative vaccine refusenik has gotten COVID. Another few months ought to do it.

More than half of Florida’s students now go to schools with mask mandates, defying DeSantis

HIALEAH, FLORIDA – AUGUST 05: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference held at the Assault Brigade 2506 Honorary Museum on August 05, 2021 in Hialeah, Florida. The governor and other politicians addressed the media on their desire to see America push for democracy and freedom in Cuba and throughout Latin America.

More than half of Florida’s students are now enrolled in public school districts with mask mandates despite threats of sanctions from the administration of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who decreed that only parents can decide whether balenciaga shoes their children wear masks.

On Tuesday night, two school districts – in Orange and Indian River counties – approved mandates to try to stop the spread of the delta variant of the novel coronavirus. They joined eight other districts that recently moved to require a medical exemption from a doctor to opt out.

The state is a hotspot for covid-19 cases, with a positivity rate for new cases at nearly 20% as hospitals keep filling with patients.

Two of the 10 districts that voted for strict mandates – Indian River and Sarasota – supported Donald Trump for president in 2020. DeSantis is counting on voters in these districts for support in his bid for reelection next year. The others – Miami-Dade County, Broward, Hillsborough, Leon, Alachua, Palm Beach, Orange and Duval – supported Joe Biden.

According to Florida Department of Education enrollment tallies for 2020-21, combined student enrollment in those 10 counties is about 52% of total enrollment. There were 2,791,687 students enrolled in that year, and the combined enrollment exceeds 1.45 million.

Since DeSantis’s July 30 executive order, districts have watched covid-19 cases rise, including among young people. On Monday, officials in Orange County said children 5 to 14 years old accounted for the majority of new cases, according to Bay News 9.

Orange County Schools Superintendent Barbara Jenkins told the school board Tuesday night that the district was changing its masking hey dude policy for staff and students by eliminating the parental opt-out and allowing only medical exemptions for at least 60 days.

Also Tuesday night, the school board of the Indian River County school district voted 3-2 for a temporary K-8 mask mandate requiring a medical exemption. “It seems to me, in my view, I’d rather be safe than sorry,” school board Chairman Brian Barefoot said.

He also said the future of the mask mandate will be clearer over the next few weeks when more is learned about the spread of the delta variant and about an expected ruling by a Leon County court judge who is hearing a lawsuit challenging DeSantis’s order. Other lawsuits have been filed against the order as well.

State officials have repeatedly threatened to withhold the pay – or remove – school board members who have voted for mandates. Under the Florida Constitution, the governor can suspend elected officials. DeSantis would have to move against several dozen board members at this point if he opted to do that.

State officials have already started to move against the first two districts that approved tough mask mandates – Alachua and Broward – seeking compensation records for school board members who voted for the mandates. The state’s Board of Education is expected to move against others in the same way this week.

The DeSantis administration says these districts are violating Florida law by imposing these mandates, which violate the governor’s order. Christina Pushaw, the governor’s press secretary, said in an email: “Nobody is above the law, not even school board politicians.”

She also said: “There is no empirical evidence hey dude shoes to support the assertion that the benefits of forced masking of schoolchildren outweigh the potential harms. Masking kids under 12 is not recommended in many EU countries, because their health authorities have found that the risks are not well understood – and the data shows that forced masking of young children has a negligible impact on covid prevalence and spread.”

Public health experts dispute this, saying that masking is an essential tool to help stop the spread of delta in schools, along with vaccinations, and that there is no evidence that children are harmed by wearing masks in school.

Nipunie Rajapakse, a doctor and an expert on pediatric infectious diseases at the Mayor Clinic, said: “Because of the concerns that have been raised about whether there are any negative effects of masking on children, there have been now numerous studies done. These studies have unequivocally shown that there are no negative health effects on children from wearing a mask.”

Florida is the only state where more people are dying of COVID now than ever before. What went wrong?

A few months ago, Gov. Ron DeSantis, Republican of Florida, declared his hands-off approach to COVID-19 “a tremendous success.” Politico announced that he had “won the pandemic.”

But then came the hypercontagious Delta variant, which continues to hit Florida harder than anywhere else in the country.

The result? DeSantis just added another, less flattering distinction to his résumé. When COVID first surged across the Sun Belt last summer, the average number of Floridians dying of the disease every 24 hours peaked at 185, according to the New York Times’s state-by-state COVID database. The same was true over the winter.

Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Aug. 21 announcing the opening of a monoclonal antibody treatment site for COVID-19 patients in Lakeland, Fla. 

A few days ago, however, Florida’s daily death rate cleared 200 for the first time, and today it stands at 228 — an all-time high.

This makes DeSantis nike store the first (and so far only) governor in the U.S. whose state is now recording more COVID-19 deaths each day — long after free, safe and effective vaccines became widely available to all Americans age 12 or older — than during any previous wave of the virus.

Since last spring, Florida and California — two of America’s biggest and most influential states — have been locked in a pitched battle over which kind of pandemic response makes the most sense: less or more. At times, the Sunshine State seemed to have the upper hand — like when Florida avoided the worst of a nationwide winter surge that hit California particularly hard, all while refusing to require masks in public and keeping bars and restaurants fully open.

But Delta may have changed that.

“Vaccines are working to prevent deaths in many other countries that have seen post vaccine spike in cases, and most other states in the U.S. as well. Florida is different,” Dr. Vincent Rajkumar, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, recently explained on Twitter. “What’s different in Florida is that, relative to the vaccination rate (~50%), the relaxation of distancing and masking was disproportionately high. Leaders expressed disdain for masks and mask mandates. The total number of people unvaccinated is high. And hospitals got overwhelmed.”

To be sure, comparing COVID numbers from two different states is always a fraught proposition; there are many factors — the introduction of a new, more devious variant such as Delta; the weather; plain old bad luck — that people and policymakers have little control over. And any declaration of victory (or failure) during such an unpredictable pandemic is likely to be premature. In theory, California could suffer more this winter.

But by looking at how California and Florida are doing this summer, post-vaccination, versus how they did last summer, pre-vaccination — an approach that minimizes seasonal variables such as weather and indoor gathering — you can get a rough sense of what is or isn’t working.

The difference is stark.

Last summer, COVID surged in both Florida and California, just as it did across much of the rest of the Southern and Southwestern United States. California fared better. There, new daily cases peaked at 25 per every 100,000 residents; total hospitalizations peaked at 23 per every 100,000 residents; and new daily nike sneakers deaths peaked at 0.35 per every 100,000 residents.

In Florida, those numbers were more than twice as bad: 55 cases/100,000 residents, 56 hospitalizations/100,000 residents and 0.86 deaths/100,000 residents.

So something about Florida — tourism? humidity? fewer restrictions, even last year? — likely makes it more susceptible to summer spread.

Passengers prepare to board the Celebrity Edge cruise ship in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on June 26, 2021. (Maria Alejandra Cardona/AFP via Getty Images)
Passengers prepare to board a cruise ship in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on June 26. 

The problem, though, is that while California is doing much better this summer than last, Florida, for some reason, is doing much worse.

In California, the current new daily rate case is somewhat higher (35 cases/100,000) than it was during its summer 2020 peak — in part because California is now conducting twice as many tests per day (about 250,000). Yet despite that, and despite the fact that Delta is twice as transmissible as the initial strain of SARS-CoV-2 that was circulating in 2020, current hospitalizations in California (21/100,000) are still lower than last summer’s peak — and deaths, the metric that matters most, remain twice as low (0.17/100,000).

That’s the kind of progress you’d expect after vaccination.

Florida is the opposite. There, new daily cases appear to have topped out at 138 per every 100,000 residents — more than two and a half times last summer’s peak. As a result, the state’s current hospitalization rate (80/100,000) is nearly one ecco shoes and a half times last summer’s peak; new daily deaths (1/100,000) are higher than ever. And they’re both still climbing.

In other words, Florida did roughly twice as badly as California last summer in terms of COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths. This summer, however, Florida is doing roughly four times worse in terms of cases and hospitalizations — and nearly six times worse in terms of deaths.

Medics transfer a patient on a stretcher from an ambulance outside of Emergency at Coral Gables Hospital where Coronavirus patients are treated in Coral Gables near Miami, on August 16, 2021. (Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images)
Medics transfer a patient at Coral Gables Hospital in Coral Gables, Fla., on Aug. 16.

Why has Florida moved in the wrong direction while California has gone the other way? Again, simple misfortune probably plays a part (as do other hard-to-quantify forces). But not every factor is beyond human control. Take vaccination. There are just five counties in California (of 58) where fewer than 35 percent of residents are fully inoculated. In Florida, that number is 23 (of 67). It’s easier for Delta to get a foothold and spread in places where the vast majority of people are unprotected.

Still, vaccination doesn’t explain everything: Statewide, Florida’s full vaccination rate (52 percent) is the same as the national number and just 3 percentage points lower than California’s (55 percent). And Florida has fully vaccinated more of its seniors (82 percent) than California (79 percent).

So as Rajkumar explained, precautions are probably playing a big part as well — and here too the difference between California and Florida couldn’t be more pronounced.

When Delta took off, Los Angeles became the first county in the country to reinstate its public indoor mask mandate. The San Francisco Bay Area followed suit soon after, and nearly every large county in California that doesn’t require masks indoors at least strongly recommends them. No lockdowns, no business closures, no official curbs on indoor drinking or dining — just indoor mask requirements and recommendations.

In contrast, DeSantis doubled down on his opposition to mask mandates, prohibiting local governments and even local school districts from implementing such policies. “Did we see areas like Los Angeles, with heavy masking, having reduced cases to a trickle?” DeSantis once asked, mockingly. Such wisecracks were all part of the governor’s larger message: Now that vaccines are widely available, he argued, requiring additional precautions is not just unscientific and unnecessary — it’s an infringement on your personal freedom.

Parents drop their kids off at Hillcrest Elementary school in Orlando with a sign at the entrance advising for the requirement of face masks for students unless the parents opt out of the mandate by writing a note to school officials. (Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Hillcrest Elementary school in Orlando, where masks are required for students unless the parents opt out by writing a note to school officials. 

At this point in the pandemic, it’s impossible to determine whether mask mandates actually trigger more caution or simply reflect existing attitudes in a particular community. “Because the pandemic has become so politicized, people have already sorted themselves into their different camps,” Vox’s Dylan Scott wrote in June. “By now, you are already either a mask-wearer or you’re not. A government mandate probably isn’t going to affect someone’s behavior in June 2021 as much as it would have a year ago, especially after enforcement has been nonexistent.”

But either way, the behavior associated with mask mandates — that is, universal indoor masking — has been proved to work. In fact, according to a research summary by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “at least ten studies have confirmed the steve madden shoes benefit of universal masking in community level analyses: in a unified hospital system, a German city, two U.S. states, a panel of 15 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., as well as both Canada and the U.S. nationally.”

“Each analysis demonstrated that, following directives from organizational and political leadership for universal masking, new infections fell significantly,” the summary continues, adding that “two of these studies and an additional analysis of data from 200 countries that included the U.S. also demonstrated reductions in mortality.”

Meanwhile, another 10-site study showed “reductions in hospitalization growth rates following mask mandate implementation,” and a separate series of cross-sectional surveys in the U.S. “suggested that a 10 percent increase in self-reported mask wearing tripled the likelihood of stopping community transmission.”

Critical care workers
Critical care workers insert an endotracheal tube into a COVID-19 patient at a hospital in Sarasota, Fla. 

This isn’t to say that if DeSantis had pulled a 180 and issued a statewide mask mandate, Florida would have dodged Delta (though it might not have hurt). Mostly, the damage is done. Behavior — and thus vulnerability to new variants like Delta, which can transmit via vaccinated people — is already baked in.

In mid-July, for instance, both vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans reported regularly wearing masks at exactly the same rate (43 percent), according to the Yahoo News/YouGov poll. But since then, mask wearing by the vaccinated has increased by 22 points (to 65 percent) while mask wearing by the unvaccinated has actually fallen (to 39 percent).

In short, the people who need the most protection from catching and spreading the virus are, paradoxically, masking up even less often now than they were before Delta took off. Instead, it’s the least vulnerable Americans — those who are vaccinated — who have been responsible for all of the recent uptick in regular masking.

A recent survey by the University of Southern California also found that unvaccinated Americans are more likely than their vaccinated peers to go to a bar or a friend’s house and less likely to avoid large gatherings.

“Lack of mask measures, lack of worry about it, lack of vaccination are all kind of the syndrome,” Kevin Malotte, an emeritus professor of epidemiology at California State University, Long Beach, recently told the New York Times. “And I think that’s what we’re seeing correlate with the high rates.”

Marc Ocampo, right, and Camila Lapeyre
Camila Lapeyre, 12, gets a COVID vaccination shot at a Long Beach, Calif., clinic.

And yet this divide wasn’t preordained. Fate did not decree that Floridians would be more inclined than Californians to view wearing masks indoors for a few more weeks — or gathering outdoors more often, or waiting a little longer to drink at the bar — as violations of their personal liberty. Leaders have some power to encourage or discourage such attitudes, and some responsibility for the behaviors they help to normalize (or not).

The good news is that cases finally appear to be peaking in Florida; the state’s seven-day average has fallen by nearly 30 percent over the last week (though testing is down too).

But new cases may be leveling off in California as well, and at a much lower level. Both Los Angeles and San Francisco have registered promising declines over the last 14 days.

In the meantime, 228 people are dying of COVID in Florida each day — more than three times the number dying each day in California, a state that’s almost twice as populous.