Voting Machines Tested In Hillsborough Confirming Accuracy & IntegrityHILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - The first Presidential Debate of 2020, featuring Democratic Nominee Joe Biden and Republican incumbent President Donald Trump focused in part on the integrity of the vote-by-mail process. As the 2020 general election rapidly approaches, Hillsborough County officials have begun testing voting machines to confirm the integrity of the counting process. The DS800 voting machine was just one step in Wednesday's official test where Hillsborough County voting officials checked the logic and accuracy of random samples of their voting machines which confirm the integrity of the ballot counting process. “What that means, the logic, is that the machine can see every single line on the ballot where a vote can be cast. And the accuracy of course, is ‘does it count correctly’,” said Craig Latimer, Hillsborough County’s Supervisor of Elections.  Hillsborough County are getting a jump start on the voting process. “In the state of Florida, we can begin processing vote-by-mail ballots 22 days before the election, or after we conclude the Logic and Accuracy test which is today,” said Latimer.  His expectations for this year’s voter turnout:  “Robust! We usually get about a 73% turnout at a general election. I think it’ll be higher,” he said.  Latimer says the very first results you’re going to see are the early vote and vote-by-mail and then precincts will start rolling in.  “Florida has a great opportunity to be the shining star at this time because we will have unofficial results on election night. We’re going to have vote-by-mail, everything that we’ve had in, up until election day, we’re going to upload the early vote on the Monday before the election by law,” said Latimer.  President Donald Trump has made accusations that the country would see mass fraud due to vote-by-mail ballots not returned, but Latimer says his team has it under control. “Vote-by-mail is safe and secure. It’s not riddled with fraud by any means. It’s a safe and secure to vote and the voter is in control. They can stay on top of it and make sure that vote was counted,” said Latimer. “The legislature has put great laws and safety and security around it, and quite frankly, both presidential campaigns have said Floridians are ok to vote by mail. You know, we encourage people to get their information from a trusted source, and a trusted source in this case is certainly my office.”  Latimer says, after today’s tests and despite a pandemic, he’s looking forward to the votes coming in.  “In the primary, 68% of our voters voted by mail. So we’re seeing that, but it’s ok, we’ve got the equipment to do it, it’s just a matter of ramping up the volume,” said Latimer.  Voters in Hillsborough County can confirm registration status, digitally track ballots, and see when their ballot has been counted by visiting  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
TPA Announces First U.S. Airport COVID Testing Site For PassengersTAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Tampa International Airport, in partnership with BayCare Health System, announced the launch of the country's first airport testing pilot that will offer two types of FDA-approved COVID-19 tests for all departing and arriving passengers. The testing site, located inside the Main Terminal near the Airside F shuttle, will offer both the rapid antigen test and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test. PCR nasal swab test results are the most accurate and broadly accepted internationally. Interested travelers will be able to purchase either test regardless of which airline they're booked on, their gate location or destination. Testing services will be offered on a walk-in basis from Thursday, October 1st to October 31st, seven days a week from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. The pilot program will be open to all ticketed passengers who are flying or have flown within three days and can show proof of travel. The PCR COVID-19 test costs $125 and the antigen test costs $57. At many destinations around the world, government health agencies are requiring travelers to provide a negative PCR test result to avoid quarantine or other restrictions upon arrival. Passengers departing from Tampa to states, countries or territories requiring negative PCR tests are advised to take the test three days before departure and can expect results within 48 hours. The antigen test, which produces results in 15 minutes and is most accurate within five days of the onset of symptoms, offers an added layer of same-day reassurance for travelers arriving at or departing TPA. The TPA site is one of four testing locations BayCare is helping run across the Tampa Bay area. The health system will bring to TPA the same level of expertise, high quality care, testing accuracy and patient privacy as its other sites.   "Tampa International Airport has been a leader of airport health protocols since the earliest signs of the pandemic and was one of the first in the country to mandate masks, install plastic shields and apply social distancing markers through its TPA Ready launch in April," said Gary Harrod, Chairman of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority which oversees TPA. "These innovative efforts go a long way in building traveler confidence and keeping our region safe as we continue to recover from the impacts of COVID-19."     For more information about the TPA COVID-19 pilot testing program, go to
Elton John's Epic Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour: Florida Dates AnnouncedTicketholders for all postponed performances will receive new event information shortly and all original tickets will be honored at the rescheduled performances. ELTON JOHN FAREWELL YELLOW BRICK ROAD TOUR rescheduled North American dates are as follows: Jan 19, 2022                 New Orleans, LA    Smoothie King Center Jan 21, 2022                 Houston, TX                Toyota Center Jan 22, 2022                 Houston, TX                Toyota Center Jan 25, 2022                 Dallas, TX         American Airlines Center Jan 26, 2022                 Dallas, TX         American Airlines Center Jan 29, 2022                 N. Little Rock, AR Simmons Bank Arena Jan 30, 2022                 Oklahoma City, OK  Chesapeake Energy Arena Feb 1, 2022                  Kansas City, MO            T-Mobile Center Feb 4, 2022                  Chicago, IL                United Center Feb 5, 2022                  Chicago, IL                United Center Feb 8, 2022                  Detroit, MI                Little Caesars Arena Feb 9, 2022                  Detroit, MI                Little Caesars Arena Feb 14, 2022                Toronto, ON         Scotiabank Arena Feb 15, 2022                Toronto, ON         Scotiabank Arena Feb 18, 2022                Montreal, QC                Bell Centre Feb 19, 2022                Montreal, QC                Bell Centre Feb 22, 2022                New York City, NY   Madison Square Garden Feb 23, 2022                New York City, NY   Madison Square Garden Feb 25, 2022                Newark, NJ          Prudential Center March 1, 2022              Brooklyn, NY         Barclays Center March 2, 2022              Brooklyn, NY         Barclays Center March 5, 2022              Long Island, NY              Nassau Coliseum March 6, 2022              Long Island, NY              Nassau Coliseum March 19, 2022            Fargo, ND             FARGODOME March 22, 2022            St. Paul, MN          Xcel Energy Center March 23, 2022            St. Paul, MN          Xcel Energy Center March 26, 2022            Des Moines, IA                Wells Fargo Arena March 27, 2022            Lincoln, NE           Pinnacle Bank Arena March 30, 2022            St. Louis, MO         Enterprise Center April 1, 2022                Indianapolis, IN           Bankers Life Fieldhouse April 2, 2022                Milwaukee, WI              Fiserv Forum April 5, 2022                Grand Rapids, MI   Van Andel Arena April 8, 2022                Knoxville, TN              Thompson-Boling Arena April 9, 2022                Lexington, KY         Rupp Arena April 12, 2022              Columbus, OH                Schottenstein Center April 13, 2022              Hershey, PA         GIANT Center April 16, 2022              Louisville, KY              KFC Yum! Center April 19, 2022              Greensboro, NC              Greensboro Coliseum April 20, 2022              Columbia, SC                Colonial Life Arena April 23, 2022              Jacksonville, FL            Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena April 24, 2022              Tampa, FL           Amalie Arena April 27, 2022              Orlando, FL         Amway Arena April 28, 2022              Miami, FL           AmericanAirlines Arena For more information or to purchase tickets and VIP packages, please visit These exclusive VIP offers can include premium tickets, on-stage photo opportunities at Elton John's piano, backstage tours, limited-edition lithographs, custom merchandise, and much more. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Pasco Sets County Record For Most Vote-By-Mail Requests, More ExpectedPASCO COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Pasco County set a record for most vote-by-mail ballots in county history. It's not too late to submit a request to be included in vote-by-mail.  Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley reassures Florida voters that voting by mail is another safe option this season ahead of the November 3rd  General Elections. “We’ve been doing No Excuse, Vote By Mail since 2002,” said Corley. “So we’re in a good place without vote-by-mail processing and tabulation.”  But what makes this year different is the amount of ballots expected to come back via mail. Thursday, Corley’s office says they mailed out over 130,000 vote-by-mail ballots representing about a third of their entire voter roll, making it a historic year.  “To put it in perspective, in 2016, the entire vote by mail ballots cast in the general election was about 68,000. We are sending out 130,000 requests and that’s only the mass mailing. We’re going to keep getting requests through into a good chunk of October.”  They’re also breaking records with the number of early voting days. “We are going to start on October 19th and run through the 31st. We’ve expanded locations. We’re using gymnasiums.” And it has mostly to do with the pandemic.  “We’re still going to have in-person voting, we’ll have safety measures but, you know, because some of the social distancing guidelines, for example, and the expected turnout, there’s going to be lines and waits at early voting election day,” said Corley. But the important part isn’t over. “7:00 pm on election day, that ballot has to be back to our office. You can drop it off a myriad of ways. You can, of course, mail it back,” said Corley. “So don’t delay! Don’t wait until two days before and mail it. It’s too important. I would say, you know, give it about at least a week and you can track it, and if we don’t get it back in time you can certainly go to an election day polling place on election day.”  Corley says you cannot return it to an election day polling place. But if you aren’t someone who requested a vote-by-mail ballot, he has some advice for you too. “We’re doing everything we can but voters need to be a little understanding and patient. It’s a pandemic. And it’s a very expected historic turnout so that’s a recipe for a little bit of a wait time. But if there’s something worth waiting for, I think we’d all agree, voting is it,” he said.  As a reminder, the ballot must be back in the supervisor of elections office by 7:00 pm on election day or the vote will not be counted. You can mail it back in advance or drop it off at an early voting location.  Voters still have time to request vote-by-mail ballots by using the online request form at ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Positive Covid Cases Spike In Pinellas As State Count FlattensPINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - As the U.S. Coronavirus death toll tops 200,000 - now the highest in the world - some Tampa Bay area doctors are discussing the recent increase in positive cases.   “What are you doing?! You are creating fear and panic,” said Virginia Frizzle, a Pinellas County resident.  “I am so for face masks. It’s the minimum that could be required, the minimum that we can do, not only for the person standing across from us, or standing next to us in line at the supermarket,” said Karen Mullins, a Pinellas County resident.  Among a variation of calls from Pinellas County residents Tuesday afternoon, Pinellas County officials listened in prior to voting on the local State of Emergency.  “There may be cases and there may be rises and falls in cases, but nobody’s dying on the street and therefore there is no emergency. For you to force mask wearing on me and have no basis for it…,” said Dawn Lechner, a Pinellas County resident.  This afternoon's Board of County Commissioners meeting was different though. As the U.S. coronavirus death toll tops two hundred thousand, now the highest in the world, local doctors right here in Tampa Bay are discussing their recent increase in positive cases.  Before voting in favor to extend the county’s local State of Emergency, the board brought forward several doctors to speak on the county’s most recent numbers.  “So we are seeing an uptick, in fact, our new cases have gone up two out of the past three weeks,” said Dr. Larry Feinman.  Tampa surgeon, Dr. Feinman says, week over week, state versus Pinellas County, the state has flattened, whereas Pinellas County’s rate has increased.  “Pinellas County’s rate is 77 percent higher in terms of increase as compared to the state in general,” said Dr. Feinman.  Doctor Nishelle Threadgill pointed to the near future where our ability to isolate may diminish over the next few weeks.  “October is the next option for Pinellas County School students that may choose to return to school and I certainly suspect that there will be quite a few who now will also return to those classrooms,” said Dr. Nishelle Threadgill, CMO, Community Health Centers of Pinellas.  Just after the board’s vote to extend the local State of Emergency, the board then discussed separating the mask mandate ordinance from the local State of Emergency due to the amount of time the public comment portion of the meetings was taking.  “Our work is piling up because we have never taken public comment at our work sessions. When we’re taking public comment for hours at a time, things are not getting done that our citizens are waiting for us to get done,” said Janet Long, a Pinellas County Commissioner.  “Commissioner Long I hear what you’re saying but we have yet not finished a meeting. So any work that’s on the agenda has gotten completed in every single meeting, even with people calling in; and I think it’s a real slippery slope when you represent the people, that you don’t want to hear from them, especially on something that is so important as this outbreak and this pandemic,” said Kathleen Peters, a Pinellas County Commissioner.  The board voted 4 to 3 in favor of delegated the extension of the local State of Emergency each week to County Administrator Barry Burton. This will remain overseen by Burton until the board gathers further detail from physicians, giving them reason to discuss the order in detail again.  Doctors during that meeting suggested they come together to create a proposal for the Board of Commissioners explaining potential metrics to begin rescinding the mask ordinance.  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to the story.
Andrea Alvarez with CW44 News At 10Pinellas County, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - You can count on Andrea Alvarez to deliver breaking news in Pinellas County and to get it right.
Positive Covid Cases See 2 Week High In Pasco CountyPASCO COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - The number of positive COVID-19 cases has increased significantly over the last two weeks in Pasco county. Officials held a meeting this Monday morning to review and discuss those numbers along with the future of face mask mandates.  “I want to see the supporting documentation, again, the science, the data, the facts, the information that you all use to come up with your final decision on what you decide to do with the masks because that’s important to me,” said one Pasco county resident during Monday’s Board of County Commissioner’s meeting.  “It’s not fair. It’s not fair to us. This should not be forced on us,” said another during that public comment.  Pasco county residents against a mask mandate showed up to speak out against the order during that meeting. What they didn’t expect to hear is that the county’s positive COVID-19 case numbers have gone up significantly over the last two weeks.  “As of this morning, 8,834 cases. In this past week, we’ve had a 61 percent increase in the last seven days… so we’re heading in the wrong direction at this point,” said Mike Napier, Administrator, Florida Department of Health in Pasco county.  Napier says the county continues to support a drive-thru testing site for residents. “The concern here really is that we were doing pretty well back in the early part of September averaging about 3 percent as a rolling average on our positivity. This last week is the first time in almost a month that we have almost a 6 percent positivity rate and we have 1300 cases,” he said.  Last week, testing was established in Pasco County Schools for those showing symptoms, and as of Friday: “We had a total of 79 students and 26 staff that have tested positive for 105 total cases,” said Napier.  What’s more concerning, according to Napier, is the amount of students and staff who have been exposed to those positive for coronavirus. “We have almost 1,400 students exposed at school which means they’re going to be sent home for that exposure time and making sure they’re staying home for those 10 or 14 days depending on their exposure. And we’ve have 128 staff that were exposed at school,” said Napier.  Each Pasco County Commissioner has a different opinion on mask mandates… “You know, these are the things I see: I’ve been in Wawa, people yelling. I’ve been in Walmart, I’ve been in Target, folks yelling ‘you have to wear a mask, you’ve got the wrong mask. You know, again, I’m all about us highly recommending it but I support it until you tell us otherwise,” said Mike Wells, Vice-Chairman, Pasco County Commissioners.  Napier says he’s working with his surrounding health officers to discuss mask mandate decisions coming from a regional standpoint rather than local. “We know that we have a community that moves from Pasco [County] into Pinellas [County] and Pinellas [County] into Pasco [County], Hernando [County], Hillsborough [County]. We’re actually looking to the academics to be able to come up with something from a regional standpoint,” said Napier.  Pasco County Commissioner Rob Oakley said, “I would hate to see us open it up too early and then it go out of site when we can keep that from happening.”  Officials were sure to point out that it is too early to extrapolate a correlation of increased positivity with the reopening of bars last week. Check back with CW44 News At 10 for updates as we follow this developing story. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. 
New Study: Physician 'Burnout' Contributing To Increase In Suicide RatesPINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on a troubling trend, a rise in suicides among physicians and now their families are asking for more protection and treatment options for doctors during the pandemic. Newly released data shows cases of burnout in healthcare are skyrocketing. Local Signs of a Growing Issue Eight months into the U.S.'s his fight against the spread of COVID-19. Government officials across the nation continue to call on top health officials for their guidance. "So I did reach out to the medical officer for all the HCA system to ask him to poll his board certified physicians and so he did," said Pinellas County Commissioner, Janet Long.  In July of 2020, Pinellas County administrative officials spoke one-on-one with county health officials who pointed to the strain on our healthcare system. Dr. Angus Jameson, Medical Director at Pinellas County EMS revealed, "If I were to give you an honest assessment, I was in the hospital until fairly late last evening in the ER and I can tell you that the ERs are, an interesting place right now. They're stressed at this point, from a physical standpoint but also, frankly, from a human standpoint. Your healthcare workers are exhausted. They've been at this for months. It's not easy." Families of physicians and the medical professionals themselves are standing up to speak out about the fast growing risks our doctors and nurses are facing. Dr. Gary Price, President of the Physicians Foundation noted, "Prior to the pandemic, we actually had an epidemic of physician burnout. Prior to 2020, our surveys revealed that at least 40% of physicians were suffering symptoms of burnout. Unfortunately, the tragic endpoint for that for some is suicide. So there's no question that we've seen the COVID pandemic make what was already a bad situation - much much worse." Physicians have the highest suicide rate of any profession. On Thursday, the Physicians Foundation released new numbers showing that the number of physicians suffering from burnout symptoms has increased to 58 percent.  A Step Toward A Solution Cory Feist has been impacted directly. His sister-in-law, Dr. Lorna Breen was an emergency room physician in Manhattan, working as the city was being pounded with the onslaught of coronavirus cases. Dr. Breen died by suicide in April at age 49. CW44 News At 10 "There's a stigma in this country around getting mental health treatment. There's also a cultural challenge in the healthcare profession in and of itself. It is not viewed as a courageous act to sit down or to tap a colleague on the shoulder and say you need to take a break." Feist is pushing for more action from the Senate and Congress to pass the Dr. Lorna Breen Healthcare Provider Protection Act. The bill would create behavioral health and well being training programs and encourage physicians to seek treatment when needed. Feist continues, "It currently has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. Don't wait. This can happen in the blink of an eye. These folks are putting themselves in harm's way every single day." The Physicians Foundation identifies five warning signs to be aware of. The first is health and the increased usage of medications, alcohol or illicit drugs. Second is emotional changes that can include extreme mood swings or despair. The third is a noticeably negative attitude which can include inappropriate outbursts of anger or sadness. The fourth is relationships and the withdrawal from friends, family and coworkers. Last is temperament, such as anxious, agitated or recklessness. If you need further guidance or you are in a crisis, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255) for free 24/7 support. CW44 News at 10 will continue closely monitoring this issue, be sure to check back for further coverage.  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Rising Drug Costs In Florida Threaten Independent PharmaciesBRANDON, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - In Tampa Bay, there are close to 100 independent pharmacists that are at risk of shutting down because of lack of drug pricing regulations. Independent pharmacies are worried that this will cause pharmacy deserts and hundreds of millions of dollars in losses in Florida's economy. The Local Dilemma Third generation pharmacist, Basil Noriega is keeping his family’s legacy alive everyday as he heads into work. He operates Bill’s Prescription Center, one of the longest running pharmacies in Tampa Bay, established in 1956. “We were one of the first pharmacies in Brandon. Brandon was just kind of a hole-in-the-wall place at the time,” said Noriega. “One of the things he noticed was that the pharmacy that was in Brandon at the time was a little tiny shack. [My father] kind of found his niche. My great-great-grandfather was also a pharmacist,” said Noriega.  But with the threat of pharmacy benefit manager reimbursements, that legacy could soon be lost.  “It started about 10-15 years ago, we started seeing these pharmacy benefit managers coming in and really affecting the reimbursement rates and increasing the cost of medications per patient. The past five years, it’s gotten so bad where you’re seeing independent pharmacies across the nation closing...everyday,” said Noriega.  Think of PBMs as the middle men. They were created to help negotiate drug prices between “big pharma” and pharmacies. They pool money from contracted pharmacies to amass purchasing power, then negotiate rates and rebates with the pharmaceutical companies. Opponents of PBMs contend a greater incentive exists to favor high-priced drugs over cost-effective counterparts due to drug rebate calculations. The issue here: there are no regulations in place stopping PBM’s from increasing prescription costs. “It all boils down to: people are paying more, the government is paying more - for what? It’s for companies behind the scenes to make money,” said Noriega. “I’m getting one right now." Noriega pauses as he's interrupted by a notification of reimbursement. "So yeah this [prescription] costs us $152 and they’re paying us $60… So.”  Of 123 independent pharmacies surveyed, 98% are full MEDICAID providers. 61% of those pharmacies plan to discontinue MEDICAID if below-cost reimbursements continue. Noriega says, without change, we run the risk of losing these small businesses.  Resolving The Issue With Policy “You’re going to create a monopoly where CVS and Walgreens are going to be the only ones that will be able to give you prescription drugs and then they’ll start to dictate the prices,” said Jackie Toledo, (R) member of Florida House of Representatives.  Representative for District 60, Jackie Toledo proposed House Bill 961 in December 2019 that would crack down on PBMs and subsequently lower healthcare costs. “Nothing happened. Another year goes by where we’re not dealing with this issue. So next year, maybe I’ll start with the smaller piece of it,” said Toledo. But the fight is not over. In fact, representative Toledo is working with advocacy groups like PUTT (Pharmacists United for Truth and Transparency) and SPAR (Small business Pharmacies Aligned for Reform).  “It’s costing all of us money and minimizing our access to these prescription drugs,” said Toledo. “You know, when I got into it I started really getting upset with what’s happening. I’ve read books, I’ve seen data. If we don’t stop this from happening it’s going to continue to have an adverse effect on our healthcare system.”  Both PUTT and SPAR Non-Profits have now developed a statewide coalition of advocates with a goal of preserving patient access and keeping drug costs affordable. CW44 News At 10 will continue to follow this story as it develops.  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Clearwater Business Helps Struggling Small Businesses Affected By COVIDCLEARWATER, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Small businesses are becoming a big focus as the pandemic is causing a tremendous strain on local small businesses. Some new statistics show that many won’t survive. A movement is happening right here in Tampa Bay aimed at helping revive those struggling businesses. The movement is called, Save Our Town. Michael Plummer, Jr., owner of Our Town America, a local marketing company headquartered in Clearwater, Florida aims to continue connecting small local businesses with new Florida residents that might not otherwise have a chance to explore their new neighborhood due to the pandemic. “It’s not like they’re walking around, exploring their community as they used to. I mean, they’re [leaving] their house with a destination in mind, ‘I’m going here, going to do that,” said Plummer. “We have people who have been with us for years, decades, and they’re having to close their doors. It’s a struggle out there for every type of business. Every type of business, someone’s taking a hit,” said Plummer. According to Yelp’s Local Economic Impact Report, as of mid-June, nearly 140,000 businesses closed nationwide since March 1, 2020. Of all business closures, 41% of them were permanent. “PoFolks restaurant, right off 34th. It’s just a great restaurant ran by good people and they’ve taken a heck of a hit. Why? People just aren’t dining out the same way,” Plummer related. And Carriage Cleaners, a dry cleaning service in Seminole that Plummer says lost 80% of their business in the first few weeks. “Great, family-owned people. Super nice and, think about it, people aren’t dressing up, going out as they used to. That’s just one of those industries you wouldn’t naturally think of.” Moved by the toll the pandemic has taken on his peers, Plummer sought to utilize his strengths to help guide new strategy for his clients. Among other finer points, Covid-centric thinking seems to be a key to success, “Let them know you’re clean. Those are other issues that are coming up. People are looking for, ‘are they clean, standing up to regulations, are they doing curb-side now, delivery, pick-up?’.” Plummer also suggests to patrons not wanting to watch their favorite local businesses disappear, “Shop now. Shop early for the holidays. Buy gift cards for local restaurants. While you’re at those restaurants, leave a tip. Consider paying your gym membership. They’ve taken a heck of a hit as well.”  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Florida Bars Reopened Monday: Not Soon Enough For Some Struggling OwnersYBOR CITY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Florida bar owners were able to reopen their businesses Monday after an amendment to the state’s Executive Order was lifted. Bars can reopen at 50% capacity as long as they follow social distancing and Covid-prevention rules.  While most bar owners are relieved at the fact they can now reopen their doors for business, Kevin Lilly, Founder and Owner of Rock Brothers Brewing in Ybor says he still has a few things to get off his chest.  “We were the first to close and the last to open. We have specifically been closed very long.. and lost a lot of money. As a brewery, it’s been a double-edged sword because we also brewed more beer in May anticipating the June opening. What do you think happened to my wholesale beer sales when the bars closed? Nothing. Garbage,” said Lilly. He was forced to dispose of the beer.   Lilly did not “reopen” his bar on Monday, however, as he’s been open for three weeks already. After he and his fellow bar owners in the industry began coping with their losses from closing down, they then began asking questions.  “You know, we didn’t really know what to do, obviously. We all kind of accepted this eight-week closure,” said Lilly. “It got kind of… very off putting because we started to see other people open, other people doing things and then we’re going ‘hey.. what’s going on’.” To legally circumvent the shutdown, he began toying with ideas like food and cigar sales. In May, Lilly says he was given some hope. “So what happened in May is that the state told us that we were going to be able to open in June, that’s what they told us,” said Lilly.  He scratched the food and cigar idea to avoid more cost. “So then I went and spent more money to brew beer to be open in June and then two weeks later when they let us reopen on June 5th, they shut us down again,” he said.  This not only set him back the $30,000 he was paying to stay in business but another $10,000 to $20,000 in new beer he had just brewed. On top of this he had no plan and things became hopeless. Nearly three months later though, state officials sat down with Lilly and his fellow bar business owners at a roundtable to discuss a next step.  “The answer from Beshears was, 'all I can say is get your food license'. That was his answer. I said, ‘well number one, why wasn’t this told to us back in June. I would have done this a long time ago,” said Lilly.  So over the last three weeks, Lilly and others have begun incorporating food into their sales. And the lift on the executive order, allowing bars to reopen came soon after. But Lilly wants to be sure the message is clear that bar reopenings are long overdue.  “I had over 100 shows cancelled that were on the books. Looking ahead, I’m having to do everything I can to just get people in the door, give them a safe, enjoyable time and get my room filled with as much private parties and things I can do locally,” said Lilly “Bars are not the enemy. We [need to make] livings too. We have a right to earn money and there are people out there doing a good job.. and we just want to earn a living.”  His recently built food stand won’t go to waste. Kevin Lilly says he plans to revamp it to create a chefs tasting table for whisky, wine and cheese, renaming that section of the bar, Bar 509 after the Florida Statute 509 food license that allowed him to reopen.  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
9/11: HCSO Employees Share Their Stories As First Responders That DayHILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - There were ceremonies and moments of silence across Tampa Bay Friday as many paid respects, remembering 9/11. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department paid tribute to those who lost their lives on that day and to people in our own community who saved countless others. In a video message, several Hillsborough County employees shared their experiences as first responders who working in New York City and Washington DC on 9/11.  A special thanks to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and those who continue to serve and protect despite everything they've already endured.  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Local Musicians Team Up To Produce A Music Video To Bolster Voting In 2020TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - With the 2020 election less than two months away, it's sure to nothing short of historic. A group of local musicians and artists lended their talents to a locally produced music video to inspire the battleground state of Florida to vote.  “I loved the idea that it was a community project that everybody was volunteering their time, that everybody was from completely different musical backgrounds,” said Ashley Smith, Singer/Vocal Coach. “It was going to be a collaboration of the arts and for something that would better our community.”  They’re using their voices to get you to vote. More than two dozen Tampa Bay artists, some of which have still never met each other in person, are using music to inspire their community to cast their ballots come November.  “I’ve participated in voter registration drives in past elections, but this was not the year to go door to door. So I came up with the idea, we could create a music video with an original song,” said Michelle Passoff, Executive Producer. “And I’m not a singer or songwriter so I got on Google and I started “googling” and assembled a diverse group of people aged 16 to 77.”  Little did she know, Passoff was recruiting the perfect team back in march for the project.  “It was easier than I thought it would be. People said yes because they shared the purpose and the goal which is to get out the vote,” said Passoff.  It was that first zoom call that would show it. “I see like 20 people and everybody was talking about voting and so I was like I’m the perfect person for this because I don’t vote,” said Music Producer, Nawlage. “It’s that we get tied up in so many things in life. Like you go to the bank to open up a bank account, it takes you three hours. That’s what we’re accustomed to. They’re going to ask too many questions. You start getting scared. It’s just fear, I think it’s just fear.”  After speaking with his new team, Nawlage took a chance.  “I actually went on the website afterwards and I registered,” he said. After knowing her from past studio sessions, he got in touch with the perfect voice for the song. “And I knew through music, it was going to be the most beneficial, the loudest way to get my voice out there,” said Smith. He had already been manifesting a way to get involved with 2020 voting process in her own style. “We had a meeting of the minds and discussed, like ‘what can we do?’. And we came back to voting. And not just voting for your president but voting on a community level for people who can be your voice; to represent your state or your community within the country and I think that it starts there,” she said.  From videographers to singers and a legal team, there were over a couple dozen people involved in the making and all were volunteers for the project. Nawlage tells CW44 News At 10 that he plans to meet Passoff for the first time in person on Thursday. You can view the full music video here. 
California Doctor Takes Interest In Helping Florida Fight With COVIDTAMPA BAY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - A doctor in California has taken a strong interest in COVID-19 testing in Florida, among other states. He and his team are developing an at-home antibody rapid test and believes testing should increase, regardless of what politicians say.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is facing growing criticism for changing its guidance recently on who should get tested for COVID-19. The revised recommendations suggest many individuals who have been exposed to the coronavirus but are not showing symptoms may not need to be tested. Based in California and with more than 25 years practicing medicine, Dr. Michael Harbour has been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19. The frequent interaction between Silicon Valley corporations and China facilitated Dr. Harbour's first interactions with the virus. He and his team worked diligently with testing and to help contain the virus in that region. Due to his extensive experience, he noticed parallels between his area and some of the harder-hit states such such as Florida. Dr. Harbour relates, “Apple, Facebook and Intel, all headquartered here. They’re going to China for manufacturing and we had a lot of the cases right here, right at my hospital.” He and other medical experts are weighing in on rapid testing, saying there’s a need now more than ever to control the virus. It’s taking anywhere between three to five, up to fourteen days [to receive test results]. You could have infected others [in that time]!”  As Florida became a major hot spot for the pandemic, he and other experts say testing nose-dived in the state, causing concern. “The CDC making a recommendation that we don’t need to be doing this much testing now after somebody comes down with COVID. And what we’ve seen now, this is coming from the highest levels of the administration.”  Dr. Harbour has taken an interest in states like Florida which saw a need for rapid testing, so his team is in the middle of developing one. He states, “You don’t need the full virus to do the test. We’re looking for a particle that’s only found on that virus. You can get a rapid result within 10-15 minutes and you don’t have to send the specimen back to the lab for processing.”  The rapid antigen test will be done inside the doctor’s office and will have the ability to be done almost anywhere. Dr. Harbour says the rapid test “can be done at a school, it can be done in southern Florida before somebody gets on a cruise ship, before somebody gets on a plane.” He expects tens of thousands of kits to be available near the end of September of 2020 and says it could be a game-changer for the nation's COVID-19 pandemic problem. Considering his extensive experience with the virus, Dr. Harbour says he’s checking off every detail. “It’s important to have good U.S. manufacturers making these tests because that’s where a lot of the problems came on early. The United States was importing really poor quality tests from outside the United States, people were getting false positives. I know, because I’ve had people in my family get a false positive test.”  Having been directly impacted by the virus himself, Harbour says, “In my own family, I’ve had two people die of COVID, and one of my cousin's battling for her life.” He says support from the community and is vital in medical developments necessary to fight the virus. “Really listen to their doctors, listen to the medical community. Don’t listen to politicians about how to take care of yourself. They’re not the ones that you would go to for any other medical issue.”  Dr. Harbour says he’s also working with his team to develop an at-home antibody test. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Hillsborough School Board Discusses Child Trauma/Mental Health IssuesHILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - The Hillsborough County School Board met on Tuesday to discuss multiple topics including student trauma and mental health issues and possibly focusing tax dollars toward these issues. In a board workshop Tuesday morning Hillsborough County School Board members discussed the district’s needs regarding new policy proposals and current policies present in their schools. “Anytime that we feel that there’s a necessity, it will be very carefully thought out,” said Addison Davis, Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent. “You know, the importance of volunteers in our school has always been part of the infrastructure. I don’t know what I would do without volunteers to help with reading, with math. The biggest complaint our principals have is all the barriers of getting volunteers to be in the schools,” said Lynn Gray, Hillsborough County School Board The board discussed what they thought would be necessary over the next five years from funding materials needed for classrooms and volunteers needed in schools. “These are items we may need to use whether we're buying a couple of LCD projectors for a particular school, art supplies or a line of investigation science supplies,” said Superintendent Davis. “When we involve the expenditure of funds, which again, public funds are definitely our tax payers, I definitely like the fact that… no greater than fifty thousand. If we don’t start limiting the amount and checking it, we can get lost in a lot of money spent,” said board member Lynn Gray. The board also began the conversation around a policy geared toward students dealing with trauma and mental health issues. “We have to get to a place where we’re not putting children in marked or unmarked cars and taking them away to facilities and that does happen,” said board member, Cindy Stuart. Stuart spearheaded that conversation by introducing her teams ideas on developing a mobile crisis team for those students. “A lot of what happens is kids get pulled into an office, they say something that they may or may not intend to do. Law enforcement then reexamines the child, moves the child to a crisis center type situation. The child is then released to either a parent or guardian. So the whole process is traumatizing for a kid and the child is not getting the resource they need to move forward.” She says she’s seen a disparity in the number of kids that are getting transported to facilities versus the actual number of cases that move forward. “We do have the highest number of Baker Acts in the state and that’s unfortunate. I don’t care how you slice the numbers,” said Stuart. The University of South Florida Baker Act Reporting Center provides numbers to the public from 2015 to 2018 which can be found here. Shifting topics, the board also brought forward the potential for policies regarding the requirement of face coverings across the district. “I thought that, in case we ever had this issue again, God forbid, that we would have something in place,” said board member Karen Perez. They, however  scratched the idea due to it already existing in the emergency order. “In the same spirit, if this is already redundant language, then I’m not sure why we’re bringing it forward. We don’t need to be spending additional dollars to sit here and discuss and advertise and bring it back for a second hearing if this I already covered,” said Stuart. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Tampa Students Surprised With Virtual Guest Speaker, Jill BidenWESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Former Second Lady of the United States of America, Jill Biden made an appearance in Tampa Wednesday. She spoke virtually with students at Pasco Hernando State College, covering topics ranging from the pandemic to social unrest across the country.  Every so often, Dr. Davina Jones, Professor of Speech Communication at Pasco-Hernando State College invites a guest speaker for students into her [now virtual] public speaking course at Pasco-Hernando State College in Wesley Chapel. This week’s guest speaker: former Second Lady of the U.S., Dr. Jill Biden.  Students had no idea who the guest speaker would be, but soon learned that Dr. Biden was there to hear current students’ concerns and better understand what their community needs were.  Dr. Jones asked, “We’re going through all of this, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, we’re in the middle of social unrest, still debating how we treat each other, [do] Black lives matter? Are Black lives equal? We also have an election. How do we feel motivated about voting.” Dr. Biden replied, “My message is simple. You’re - all the students on the screen, you’re future depends on it. Community college students are some of the hardest working people around. It’s not always easy, but you show up when it counts, and I know that many of you are worried about your education and your safety. Or worried about your loved ones who may be out of a job, or how many of your parents or relatives are risking their health, working on the frontlines?”  While speaking to students virtually, she also used the platform to campaign for her husband, Democratic Presidential Candidate, Joe Biden.  “We’ve never seen the stakes in such tangible terms before. We’re living with the consequences of the 2016 election every single day,” said Dr. Biden “And then I’m going to take these conversation back to our campaign so that we are ready on day one to turn this around.”  Dr. Jill Biden went on to talk more about the pandemic and possibilities that could come as a result of her husband’s victory in the 2020 general election.  A former community college professor herself, Tampa was just one virtual stop during her two week tour of different cities and their classes.  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Pasco Cty. Teacher: 'These Kids Are Unnecessarily Struggling To Get Through The Day'PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - It's been one week since students and staff at Pasco County Schools have been back in their classrooms or learning from home.  “We made it through a week of face-to-face without closing down a school. Thank you for your work,” said Don Peace, President of USEP (United Schools Employees of Pasco) when he stood to speak at the Pasco County School Board Meeting Tuesday. “Dismissal, blended class sizes, classroom cleaning and bus safety are all concerns that we’ve been able to work towards resolving,” said Peace.  During Tuesday’s meeting, education officials recapped the first week by speaking with the superintendent's staff about what they saw. “While not perfect, we are very lucky that we did not experience some of the hiccups of our peer districts,” said Vanessa Hilton, Chief Academic Officer, Pasco County Schools.  “We had a great first week of school. I talked to a number of principals and they had indicated to me that it was one of the best school openings that’s they’ve had. I also want to thank the parents for their patience and flexibility,” said Kurt Browning, Superintendent, Pasco County Schools.  “I think they had so much anticipation, so there was really some great relief as they saw the laughter in students’ eyes and heard some voices out on campus and saw the smiles and deep breaths and relief of staff,” added Marcy Hetzler-Nettles, Asst. Superintendent for Middle Schools, Pasco County Schools.  But one Pasco County teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells me he didn’t have the same experience. He submitted a statement reading quote: “The kids have already gotten extremely lax with their masks, taking them off throughout the day. 90% of my day is asking kids on Zoom [meetings] to turn their camera on, kids in class to keep distance or to keep their distance from each other. It's exhausting and its unnecessary! These kids are unnecessarily struggling to get through the day… and we ARE becoming mask police. You're going to see a lot of highly educated and passionate teachers wall if things stay this way.”  The board then detailed safety measures the district put in place prior to reopening as they continue to work in partnership with the county health department - dealing with getting any questions answered. But that partnership has since grown. Superintendent Browning announced Tuesday that three new testing sites are now being established, specifically for students and staff.  “That will quickly allow us to keep our employees at work and keep our kids in school,” said Browning. He says his he expects them to be open sometime next week. “If someone is symptomatic and directed there by our school nurses, then they would drive through, be tested and the county health department would pick those tests up, get them to the state lab and hopefully have results the next day.”  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Recaps First Day Back To Brick And MortarHILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - If you chose the brick and mortar learning option for your child, you may have found yourself waking up to a different routine this morning. Monday, Hillsborough County students headed back into the classroom. We followed the superintendent and his team to some of those locations to give you the inside scoop on the students' first day back.  “Grins from ear to ear when you see kids transition to hallways. Teachers, support staff, leaders, everyone is excited to do what we do best, which is educate children,” said Superintendent Addison Davis, Hillsborough County schools.  “You know, first day coming on, being able to open up schools, doing it in a way that is graceful, but also more importantly that it’s safe,” said Davis. “They’re ready for social interaction. They’re ready to make that connectivity with learning again.”   Superintendent Davis welcomed students back to their first day during his tour of six different Hillsborough County schools.  “Excited to walk Sickles High School, ready to do that right now and just continue to see that great passion, that energy and that focus,” said Davis.  The Hillsborough County School Board gave students an extra week before heading back due to their knowledge of the spread of COVID-19. Now, Superintendent Davis says the district has specific protocols in place if that spread were to impact their campuses.  “If anyone’s positive, first and foremost, we want them to contact their Covid leader at every one of our schools and then that individual will contact the Covid leader within our school district, the Covid Commander, and then we immediately start to engage the Department of Health. And in that we start to contact trace to identify who’s had direct or indirect contact,” said Davis.  Students and staff are expected to quarantine to reduce the possible spread if tested positive for the virus.  “Anybody that’s tested positive, they’ll have to self-isolate for 10 days. Anybody that transitions, that has had that direct close contact, they’ll have to quarantine for 14 days,” said Davis.  It’s a risk district officials say they’ve researched for months now and they’re willing to take.  “We know that Covid’s already out. It’s with us until we find a vaccine. The biggest thing we can do is put proactive strategies to mitigate the spread within every one of our institutions,” said Davis.  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The $29M Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus Is Now OpenWesley Chapel Sports Campus Construction Time Lapse PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Pasco County announces the new 98,000 square-foot Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus of Pasco County (WRSCPC) in Wesley Chapel is officially open. The county expects the facility to spark a new era in sports tourism. “Families come to compete, but also look for opportunities to be entertained off the field. We look forward to having them dine in our restaurants, shop at our stores and enjoy our local attractions, further contributing to Pasco’s economy,” said Tourist Development Council Chairman and Pasco County Commission Chairman Mike Moore. The new sports campus is located between two major international airports and minutes from one of Florida’s major thoroughfares, boasting two 35,500 square-foot multi-purpose courts featuring eight drop-down basketball hoops and 16 volleyball nets; a 5,000 square-foot indoor cheer zone with springboard floor; and two full-size, outdoor multi-purpose fields. The county embarked on building the $29 million sports campus with Pasco’s tourist development tax, set on land generously donated by the Porter family. The Porters, one of area’s leading cattle ranchers, established Wiregrass Ranch in 1942. “This venue is unlike anything else in the Tampa Bay sports market,” said Sports Development and Tourism Manager Consuelo Sanchez. Forty-three out of 52 weekends from August, 2020 to August, 2021 are booked with youth amateur sporting events. A full list of available WRSCPC Amenities includes: • 16 Volleyball Courts • 8 Basketball Courts • Competition Cheer Studio • 16 Pickleball Courts • 8 Futsal Courts • 2 Cheer Competition Areas • Lounge Area • Athletic Training Center • Educational Lab • VIP Mezzanine • Concessions Area • Full-Service Kitchen • Meeting Area by Marriott • On-site hotel, Residence Inn ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Wrongfully Convicted Man Walks Free After 37 Years In PrisonTAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – Wednesday, CW44 News At 10 reported Hardee Correctional Facility inmate, 55-year-old Robert DuBoise was wrongfully convicted of murder back in 1983, according to Hillsborough County officials. After a motion was filed Wednesday morning, DuBoise was released from prison Thursday afternoon, after serving nearly 37 years behind bars. “For the practical purpose of getting him out of prison today, which is the courts intent, I’m going to grant the motion and modify the sentence,” said Judge Christopher Nash, 13th Judicial Circuit Court. 55-year-old Robert DuBoise, who was serving a life sentence after being wrongfully accused of the murder of Barbara Grams back in 1983, was officially released from prison Thursday. “I have no bitterness in my heart. If you keep bitterness in your heart, it just steals your joy from everything else,” said Robert DuBoise After an 11-month long investigation into the 1983 murder, the conviction review unit and the innocence project were able to prove DuBoise’s innocence through newly discovered DNA evidence. “I’m not the only one. They’re project needs support to continue what they’re doing,” said Robert DuBoise. After the judge granted Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren’s motion to release DuBoise from prison, he walked out a free man just hours later. “I said it’s a beautiful day. I thank God for it, it’s a beautiful day,” said DuBoise. Susan Friedman, who has worked closely with DuBoise and his family, says her team has prepared resources for him to get back on his feet. Something he says he looks forward to taking on. “Never used an iPhone, never used a computer, never been to a Walmart, never been to a Home Depot. So it’s a big change, I know. I haven’t… I’m sure it hasn’t set in completely yet,” said DuBoise. “This 37 year old nightmare is over! And I am happy for all of my family, that we finally get some closure,” said Harriett DuBoise, Robert DuBoise’s sister. And now that Robert DuBoise has been released, her team plans to clear his name for good. “What happened in this case should be a model for the rest of the country,” said Susan Friedman.  Susan Friedman declared, “He was only 18 years old and charged with a capital crime and went to death row shortly afterwards. Today is just the beginning for him and we look forward to seeing him fully exonerated. Thank you.” According to the Florida Statutes, DuBoise could be entitled to monetary compensation for wrongful incarceration. The next hearing is scheduled for September 14th where the judge will consider the evidence and could vacate and exonerate DuBoise’s sentence altogether. Check back with CW44 News for this developing story. Timeline of Conviction Review Unit Case of Barbara Grams Murder ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Wrongfully Convicted Of Murder, Florida Man Spends 37 Years Behind BarsTAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – Today, Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren filed a motion to free a man wrongfully convicted of a 1983 murder and attempted rape in Tampa. An 11-month investigation by the Conviction Review Unit of the State Attorney’s Office, in collaboration with the Innocence Project, has determined Robert DuBoise did not commit the crimes for which he was convicted. The motion for DuBoise’s release after nearly 37 years behind bars is based on newly discovered DNA evidence, once thought to be lost. “Wrongful convictions erode the foundation of our justice system. For 37 years, we’ve had an innocent man locked up in prison—while the real perpetrator was never held accountable for this heinous crime,” State Attorney Warren said. “The family of the victim, Barbara Grams, deserves to have the truth, and this new evidence helps reveal that truth to all of us.” In September 2019, the Innocence Project submitted a petition to the Conviction Review Unit, or CRU, on behalf of DuBoise, a 55-year-old man incarcerated at Hardee Correctional Institution. The CRU works to identify, investigate, and remedy wrongful convictions from the past. State Attorney Warren established the unit in November 2018, creating one of the first conviction review units in a Florida prosecutor’s office. Robert DuBoise, man wrongfully convicted of murder and attempted rape of Barbara Grams (Tampa, FL) in 1983. Photo Credit: Hillsborough State Attorney's Office Forensic DNA testing was not advanced enough in 1983 for use in prosecution, so rape kit samples recovered from the victim were collected and stored away. Evidence stored from DuBoise’s trial was presumed to have been destroyed in 1990, making new DNA testing seemingly impossible. However, in August 2020, in the course of her thorough review of the case, CRU Supervising Attorney Teresa Hall was able to locate rape kit samples that were not used during the trial, still intact, at the Hillsborough Medical Examiner’s Office. The samples were retrieved, and the CRU and Innocence Project promptly sent them for DNA testing. The results showed that DuBoise's DNA was not present in the samples. The results identified DNA from two other men—one classified as a “major contributor,” and one classified as a “minor contributor.” One of the men, the major contributor of DNA, has been identified and is a person of interest in an ongoing investigation. While the State Attorney’s Office cannot share the details at this time of this new and ongoing investigation, we have determined that the person of interest poses no threat to public safety in our community. The evidence used to originally convict DuBoise at his trial was very limited and highly unreliable. The only physical evidence placing him at the scene was a supposed bitemark on the victim’s face that an expert claimed matched DuBoise. The scientific community now considers bitemark evidence unreliable in identifying perpetrators in criminal cases such as this, and a current expert has determined the injury was not, in fact, a bitemark at all.
Videoblocks Dog. Not authorized for use outside of CBS Television Properties.Hand held soft focus shot of beautiful brown small dog giving high five with paw to young girl with hipster tattoo, performs tricks in exchange for healthy meat snack for pets. Contributor: DeRepente
Pinellas County School Board Reviews Efforts In First Day Back To SchoolPINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Just one day after Pinellas County Schools reopened for students, district officials weighed in on what they saw during Tuesday’s school board meeting. “As you know, yesterday was the first day of school and we were able to take a few shots of the students beginning the 2020, 2021 school year,” said a board member at Tuesday’s Pinellas County School Board meeting. Let me start out by saying how proud I am of our entire staff, we had a very successful day,” said Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego. Board members discussed numbers gathered from day one of online learning. “Our attendance rate yesterday online was about 93/94 percent. We’ll continue to work with that attendance rate as parents are settling in,” said Dr. Grego. The board also discussed glitches that occurred just before classes began Monday morning. “Fewer than .1 percent of the courses and students were not rostered correctly so we had over 600 thousand sections if you could’ve believed that and we had fewer than 500 glitches,” said Dr. Grego. Superintendent Dr. Grego says some issues happened because the districts virtual platform officials were supposed to widen the bandwidth to ensure a connection for students. “But there is, I’m just being honest with you, we are having a slow go of it and so are other districts so, we’re try to work through that. I think state-wide there’s a much larger demand on Florida Virtual than past years,” said Dr. Grego. Some parents say they are pleased with the first day of school for their children, “As a husband and as a father, I have five children. Three are currently in the school system and I’m just here humbly just to say thanks for at least opening schools, thanks for giving us an opportunity to get back to education,” said one father who has three children in Pinellas County schools. Other people close to the matter aren't giving such glowing reviews. “We’re not ready yet,” said Nancy Velardi, President of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association. “The opening was not a success. Students were too close together for most of the day. Even though Pinellas County is no longer in a crisis, this does not mean that we are ready to open buildings full of people without possibly setting off a resurgence of new cases.” And one board member suggested a backup plan in the case of a district-wide shut down. “I think we need advisement from the medical team on a threshold for what we should expect including metrics to close this district if the community spread increases,” said Dr. Nicole Carr, a Pinellas County School Board Member. Superintendent Grego says buses had up to 44 students on board Monday morning. This averages two students a seat per bus while, he says, some had one student per seat. After receiving calls from parents requesting to transition their student to brick and mortar, he says those decisions will come at a later date.  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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