Disinfectant Company Embrace Technology As Students Return To SchoolTAMPA BAY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Today was the first day of school for Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas Counties. As these schools are reopening one Tampa Bay company says it's working to keep students returning to the classroom safe with new technology. CW44's Andrea Alvarez spoke with disinfectant expert, Jeff DeVengencie of Enviro-Master Services to discuss the Virus Vaporizer™ device that resembles something from a Disney Movie. Imagine a device that could spray disinfectant onto something; and that spray wraps around the item like a web, killing germs. It's making its way to classrooms and daycares all across Tampa Bay, Florida and now the rest of the country. Enviro-Master provides the disinfectant service which can be purchased for a company, school or the like similar to a lawn care or cleaning service. According to the company, the electrostatic spraying service uses and EPA registered, hospital-grade disinfectant and germicide to kill some of the most dangerous disease-causing pathogens. They claim the product is food safe, non-toxic, and can be applied to all surfaces—even food preparation areas. The unique process uses oxygen to kill bacteria and viruses’ so germs cannot build a resistance to the product. DeVengencie explains, "With the products passing through the gun, it puts an electrostatic charge to the product. And that's a positive charge in the product. You can't get that out of your aerosol can of Lysol. It'll wrap around like say, a desk chair, the desk feet, it goes all around, up and around everything and touches everything and disinfects all the total surface rather than just the top of the surface." The idea for this new technology started in Tampa Bay, but DeVengencie says it was developed long before the pandemic. "We started using it as test in 2016. Now with the pandemic that's going on, it's a great, great tool for us to do what we do." And as schools reopen across the state, "on average, students come in contact with over 150,000 germs at school every day. And when you add COVID-19 to the situation, it just brings it to a higher level of what they need to get done." Enviro-Master have made it their goal to help protect students. "The preschools in the daycares have been able to take advantage of what we've been doing and in there it's proven that their coronavirus outbreaks have been low." Microbiologist at the University of Arizona Dr. Charles Gerba conducted a study in UA classrooms with a virus vaporizer device. He found reduced levels of bacteria by 99.2% on surfaces in the room. Five days later, the number was still down at 79.2%. DeVengencie says "It's actually taken us to the whole a whole new level and awareness of what we do. And now with the pandemic, it just makes it aware for everybody to be able to take advantage of what we do." While experts are pushing to get new technology like this into more Tampa Bay school districts, DeVengencie exclaims, "The public school markets, it's a tough nut to crack. Even for our business to get into they have their own protocols." He says the disinfecting doesn't stop here. "We need to help our community be safe in our communities and feel safe to send their kids back to school." ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Shipping Expert Warns USPS Peak Surcharges This Holiday SeasonTAMPA BAY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Shipping industry experts are warning buyers and sellers to begin planning now for peak season shipments as shipping industry is facing new challenges in 2020 due to the pandemic. Experts say they expect major delays due to rate hikes and transportation predictions. CW44's Andrea Alvarez spoke with A.J. Hernandez, the President and CEO of Skypostal Inc., based in Miami, Florida about what is facilitating such a sudden change in the industry. "Everyone's shopping from home. These volumes are here to stay and the infrastructures are not there to manage them." July was a tough month for the shipping industry. International rates were raised confusing a marketplace that experts say was already struggling after the pandemic caused us shut down on international delivery. Hernandez explains, "What happened is the United States went to the governing body called the UPU and they said to the Universal Postal Union, 'You are no longer going to dictate. Either you allow us to set our own rates or we're leaving the UPU.' The argument was that it was cheaper to actually send something from China to the United States than it was from the east side of New York to the west side of the New York." The UPU accepted the United States Postal Service's demands, ultimately causing shipping rates to spike. "There's a 50% rate increase on average for all international services. Not only was there a rate increase, but there are also some services eliminated." Freight forwarders, like USPS, stopped delivery services across more than 100 international markets, sending thousands of businesses that depended on them scrambling to find ways to get shipments to their markets.' "I was shocked, merchants that I spoke to in the last week of June, who did not know about the rate increase. We're talking about big, big merchants of sending thousands of shipments a day overseas," The good news, it creates opportunities for businesses like, Skypostal, Inc., who deal outside of the postal networks. The timing of the hike, Hernandez says, was everything but ideal for the industry as a whole. "Because of COVID-19, we're having Christmas volumes now, so I can only imagine what's going to happen during the peak season." Eventually, the shipping rate hike trickles down to the consumers, which leaves Hernandez with one big piece of advice all around. "My advice to, to the buyers and the sellers is plan. Whether they're sending internationally or domestically, I think they need to add time because there are going to be delays." And those delays are result of transportation shortages across the board. "We're trying to plan and mitigate the risks of the lack of transport. And I think that this is going to be an industry wide challenge. And I'm talking about from planes to trucks to ocean, everything is going to be overburdened." Hernandez added that this year will be different for shipments during the peak season. While you may be familiar with FedEx and UPS raising shipment rates, he says the USPS will be implementing peak surcharges for the first time ever this holiday season, which typically begins in October. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Sheriff Grady Judd: "She Stopped Him Permanently"Sheriff Grady Judd: "She Stopped Him Permanently"
News_8.21.20_AlvarezShipping Rate Hike
Florida Woman Claims 5 Friends Tested Positive For COVID-19, Didn't Take TestPINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - The Pinellas County Board of Commissioners extended the Local State of Emergency Thursday morning through August 28, 2020 - after carefully weighing public opinion and listening to the latest medical advice from local physicians. “Our numbers are looking good. We’re down below 5 percent. We’ve consistently been there for a seven day average, however, we know that continuing these efforts keeps us safer,” said Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton. “We’ve gotten an awful lot of calls and emails today about removing the mandate. Personally, I think we have to wait and see what happens when the schools open,” said Pat Gerard, Pinellas County Commission Chair. The extension keeps the county ordinance in force requiring citizens to wear face coverings and social distance in public places. Board members agreed that with schools reopening and flu season approaching, there should be no changes to the ordinance just yet. “If the coronavirus acts like any other respiratory virus, we will see another spike when the weather is cool, when people are gathered more indoors potentially,” said Dr. Ulyee Choe “Most experts believe that we’re far from over, whether it’s her immunity, whether it’s a vaccine development from the CDC to the NIH, the World Health Organization.” Commissioner Long points to what others are doing as examples to follow. “Look, all you have to do is look around the world and see, what were the measures that were put in place by the various where they have effectively been able to manage the spread,” said Commissioner Janet Long. She also mentioned ideas for schools just days before Pinellas County Schools are set to reopen. “There are examples of schools all over this country of schools that have started and within 8 days had to shut down, send everybody home. I think being cautious is prudent and I do agree that getting through a couple of incubation periods before we even think about it is very, very wise,” said Long. Commissioners then addressed a caller's concern about testing sites. “I had five friends go, sign up, wait in line for an hour in the heat, didn’t get in to be tested but all got calls two days later that they tested positive. They were never tested! Five people I know personally. How many other people were there that we do not know about? So I’m really begging you guys to consider this,” said P. Kelly, a resident and caller during that meeting. Commissioners say they plan to look into the issue immediately. “And I would ask, Barry, if you or Dr. Choe, your team can look at this. I think we need to get answers for that because that keeps popping up and it really undermines faith in the system. If the board agrees, I think staff needs to track that down and get some answers,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Hillsborough County Primary Election: 68% Voted By MailHILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - The 2020 primary elections recently wrapped up across Florida and Craig Latimer, Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections breaks down the voter turnout. Voters didn't seem to turn away, rather voted a little differently. “These are people, like the school board is a taxing authority; these are people that affect your pocketbook a lot,” said Latimer. “The county commissioners that you’re moving forward, they’re the ones that you need to fix potholes in your street and make sure your garbage gets [picked up], and as a matter of fact, in this primary election we had yesterday the Constitutional Office of the Clerk of the Court was decided at the primary election.” Which Cindy Stuart took 53 percent of the vote over former Hillsborough Commissioner Kevin Beckner. When asked if the pandemic had an observable impact on vote-by-mail numbers, Latimer responded, “We did. We had a lot more vote by mail turnout. Ironically, we had 80 percent of our voters voted prior to election day, so that was between vote by mail and early vote.” Of those who voted in Hillsborough County, Latimer says 68% voted by mail, 12% participated in early voting, and 20% voted at the polls on Election Day. That’s only 32% of in-person voters. And you guessed it, COVID-19 played a major role. “You know, we saw this kind of changing leading up to the presidential preference primary back in March. The Coronavirus was really starting to highlight the news and we were really starting to feel the impact, locally. Normally 1/3 of our voters vote by mail and for the first time, over 50% voted by mail and we had a low in-person turnout,” said Latimer. Despite the pandemic, though, many counties had to figure out how to make voting safe to begin with. “We have put a lot of practices in to place, following the CDC guidelines,” said Latimer. And based on feedback at Hillsborough County polls, it worked. “We’ve got a lot of compliments from people that have come for in-person voting that have thanked us for providing a safe and healthy environment,” said Latimer. “I can tell you that I’m so pleased with my staff and the planning that they did.” He says methods from this week are being considered for the November General Election. “It’ll be a much bigger turnout but I can tell you that the practices that my staff has put in place have been very successful and very effective and efficient and we’re going to continue right down that road,” said Latimer. In accordance with the Florida statute, the unofficial results will be certified Thursday after provisional ballots have been canvassed followed by the certification of official results and a post-election audit on August 25th. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Hours From Florida Schools Reopening, Some Teachers Remain AnxiousPASCO COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Pasco County teachers went back to their classrooms today. Teachers who were selected to teach students on campus are getting ready for them to arrive next week. CW44's Andrea Alvarez spoke with a Pasco County teacher who says he's anxious but maybe not in the good sense. “This is the start of my fifth year, so I’ve been with Pasco County for four years,” said Jeremy Blythe, a teacher Pasco County Schools who started his career in the hospitality industry putting his culinary skills to use before becoming a Pasco County Schools Instructor. “I went from complacent at the hotel I was working at in Orlando to putting up my notice and transferring to a school in Wesley Chapel.” said Blythe “It’s really been, probably some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done in my life.” But with COVID-19 putting a halt to his passion, he’s nervous about what happens next. “I know I can speak on behalf of a lot of teachers; we’re just feeling very anxious. I’m feeling very nervous. I have several high markers so I’m already at an elevated risk,” said Blythe. Over the summer, the district gave parents the options to send their child to traditional in-classroom learning, use e-learning, or to go virtual. “The biggest challenge that we’ve had is to match up students who want to be on campus versus those who want to be online and teachers who want to be on campus versus those who want to be online. And we’ve been working really hard to make that happen,” said Stephen Hegarty, Pasco County Schools Public Info Officer. Blythe and other Pasco County teachers began a Facebook group asking that in-person classes don’t begin until positive cases decrease. “We started the group and it just.. it exploded,” said Blythe. “We’re pushing for a safe return to schools. Not that we don’t want to go back to work, not that we don’t want to be with our kids, but we need to do it when it’s safe.” But Blythe says his main concern now is lack of direction. “We just feel like there has been somewhat of a lack of communication in the sense that there aren’t details. We still don’t know exactly what’s expected of us.” However, district officials say that’s what this week is for: “Encouraging teachers to spend some time looking over the plan. You need to know exactly what your responsibility is and you need to know what you need to convey to students about what their responsibility is,” said Hegarty. And because parent response numbers are still shifting, teacher placement could too. “About 65 to 66 percent of parents planned on sending their kids back. Since then, the numbers were down to about 63 percent and that’s been the trend,” said Hegarty. Blythe says, the bottom line is that some teachers are left with making difficult decisions. “You have a lot of tenure teachers who have been around for 20 – 25 – 30 years in this district, they’ve put their life into it and all of a sudden they’re looking at a situation where, ‘do I retire early because of this? What do I do?’ I think we’re all still faced with a lot of decisions that are… next to impossible,” said Blythe. RELATED ARTICLE: Florida Teacher With Medical Condition Says District Denied Request To Teach Virtually Pasco County officials are urging parents to update contact info immediately so that you’ll know when a positive COVID-19 case is detected. Parents, you have until Thursday to make any student placement changes. Then, after one week of school, officials will open that option back up. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Recently Upgraded Fire Safety Equipment Can Protect Against COVID-19HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Hillsborough County Fire Rescue rolls out millions of dollars of new equipment this week in a continual effort to improve firefighter safety. CW44's Price McKeon shows the new items and explains how they could help these first responders when it comes to protecting themselves - even against COVID-19. Pointing to air tanks beside him, "This is the breathing air that a firefighter will bring into a hospital environment and inside the fire where there's smoke and heated gases," said Hillsborough County Fire Chief Dennis Jones. He also shows us the new face pieces that firefighters also wear into a fire. "When you speak with the face piece on before, it was really muffled. These [new face pieces] make the voices crystal clear." Jones elaborates why the county bought the more than 1,000 new facemasks and more than 400 new air packs. "In Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, our previous air packs were becoming obsolete. New codes came out, new standards. And so, we were in the market for new air packs. When we change out air packs, we do a complete change." The cost, about $4 million according to the county. Both, facemasks and air packs will be distributed across the department's 44 fire stations. "The speaking diaphragm is much more advanced, and it's almost as if you're standing next to them," says Jones. That's not all the county says makes these masks safer and more effective. There's also a display inside the masks to show them how much air is left in their air bottles. The outside of the mask doesn't have exterior attachments, which lowers the chance of the mask catching on something while moving in the dark. There's also a specialty filter that can attach to the masks, so if there's a shortage of N95 masks, firefighters can add that filter and it can be used to help protect the firefighters from COVID-19. "Every firefighter gets their own personal facepiece and then every seat on the apparatus has an air pack." Face pieces and air packs are not the only purchases that the department's made recently to improve safety. Earlier this year Hillsborough finished buying all-new bunker gear that is measured and tailored for each firefighter. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Cybersecurity Expert Warns Of Cyber Attacks On eLearning StudentsTAMPA BAY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Cybersecurity experts say hackers already becoming a problem for schools as they attempt to reopen amid the pandemic. As local districts begin to roll out their eLearning systems, experts warn cyber attackers are on the prowl for your information. CW44's Andrea Alvarez has the story. Many schools across Tampa Bay are starting the school year off with virtual or eLearning. While nearly all counties have that online class as an option for students, cybersecurity experts say though that there's more than one lesson that could come out of it. "It's not very complicated to hack anything. It just depends on the level of effort that has to be put in place depends on the complexity." Said cybersecurity expert, Quentin Rhoads-Herrera of Critical Start. Rhoads-Herrera explains the ease of hacking into software systems remotely. "From my own experience, I've hacked into an entire company in an hour. Some have taken months," and now that schools across Florida are reopening online, "The schools are going to these companies buying eLearning software and then distributing that software to students." There's a new focus for cyber attackers, "The schools, it's going to be a new playground for attackers because the first time on a scale of this size that every school has gone to eLearning. I think we're going to learn a lot of lessons." says Rhoads-Herrera. He contends the issue isn't the software itself, but the precautionary measures it takes to implement it. "I think with the rush to gain vendors for eLearning capabilities is really going to expose a lot of schools to hacking that they've never experienced before." Rhoads-Herrera elaborates that schools, mainly grades 12 and under rarely put cybersecurity as a top priority, simply because they never needed to. "Universities, they do have to worry about hacking every year. They have even nation states trying to break into their systems, as we saw with China this year," his advice, "They need to, you know, constantly double-check, triple-check the vendors that they got. I would also say that students and parents need to be aware of the potential of attackers using phishing emails in order to trick parents and students into getting personal information about them, gaining access to their accounts." Furthermore, the rise of remote-learning is expected to take a toll on family finances. According to bankrate.com 61% of families are reevaluating their budgets and careers. Almost 33% of respondents said miscellaneous expenses, such as technology and tutoring would take the biggest toll on finances. 23% cited the lack of work/life balance is their greatest hurdle. 22% said having to cut work hours to help with remote schooling will hurt their finances. 15% of respondents said they might need to stop working altogether. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Tampa Tech Startup Utilizes VR To Train Medical ProfessionalsTAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - When you think of virtual reality headsets, you probably think of gaming. But developers have created a new use for the device that is changing the way medical professionals and students are learning, including one innovative Tampa startup. CW44's Andrea Alvarez was given a demonstration of the virtual reality mask, “That’s incredible!" “The way that physicians are trained hasn’t changed in hundreds of years. They’ve been coming to a location to simulate the stress of the environment," said Erik Maltais, CEO and Co-Founder of Tampa startup company, Immertec. He and his team are taking medical technology, and it’s teachings, to a whole new reality. “We’re a real-time, streaming platform and we use virtual reality to allow doctors to remote into an operating room so they can observe a surgery,” said Maltais. “They can ask questions. They can listen to commentary. They can look to the left or to the right and see everything as if they were in real-person. And all of this happens in real-time,”. But the idea didn’t happen in your typical meeting room. “It started out in my garage, no joke,” said Jon Clagg, CTO and Co-Founder of Immertec. Clagg began toying with the idea of virtual reality back in 2012, when Oculus released their VR headset. “In 2014, Facebook bought Oculus for $2 billion, so, to me, that was a signal that VR was not just for video games, it’s going to be the next medium in computing and I told my friend Erik, ‘this is going to be the next big thing’,” said Clagg. So he and Maltais got to work. Four offices and 23 employees later, their office in Tampa is where software is being created to teach medical professionals and students across the country, regardless of physical location. “There’s plenty of textbooks and a lot of universities and schools for people to go through med school, there’s just simply very limited access to innovative procedures and devices,” said Maltais. He says there’s a benefit to both sides. “We started to investigate and found and we quickly realized that, in healthcare, there’s was a vacuum. There’s 5 billion people on the planet that don’t have access to safe and affordable surgery,” he said. “We saw that virtual reality was a platform that could potentially solve this and that it was worth committing to.” Maltais tells CW44 News At 10, most medical devices typically take about 7 to 10 years to develop and another 7 to 10 hit the market, but that is not the case for these virtual reality devices. For more info, visit Immertec's website. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Hillsborough County's Ninth COVID-19 Testing Site Opened On USF CampusHILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Hillsborough County and the University of South Florida (USF) have opened a free COVID-19 coronavirus public testing site on USF's main campus in north Tampa as of Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. The testing site is in the parking lot adjacent to the USF Health Therapy (MDT) building, 3515 E. Fletcher Ave. The site will operate Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon. There is no charge for the testing, and health insurance is not required. As a reminder, all people who wish to be tested must register for an appointment in advance by going to HCFLGov.net/COVIDTesting. To make an appointment by phone, call (888) 513-6321 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The USF testing site is open to all Hillsborough County residents and offers a convenient location for students, faculty, and staff to be tested for free. In addition to drive-thru testing, this particular location will also accommodate people who arrive on foot or bicycle. The USF testing location is the ninth public site the County has opened since the start of the pandemic. It will be operated by volunteers from the USF Health and Student Health Services clinical staff, as well as USF faculty and staff from other areas. Other Free COVID-19 Public Testing Sites in Hillsborough County Lee Davis Community Resource Center, 3402 N. 22nd St., Tampa Plant City Community Resource Center, 307 N. Michigan Ave., Plant City SouthShore Community Resource Center, 201 14th Ave. SE, Ruskin Tampa Family Health Centers, 12085 W. Hillsborough Ave., Tampa Suncoast Community Health Centers, 313 S. Lakewood Drive, Brandon Raymond James Stadium, 4201 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa Redeemer Lutheran Church, 701 Valley Forge Blvd., Sun City Center Wimauma Opportunity Center, 5128 S.R. 674, Wimauma COVID-19 coronavirus public testing has been a collaboration among Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa, the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County, the University of South Florida, and medical groups in the region, including BayCare, Tampa General Hospital, AdventHealth, HCA Healthcare - West Florida Division, Tampa Family Health Centers, Inc., the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay/Transcare, and Suncoast Community Health Centers, Inc. Locations for some test sites have been offered by Redeemer Lutheran Church in Sun City Center and Enterprising Latinas in Wimauma. What to Bring: Personal vehicles MUST BE under the maximum height of 8 feet. Limit vehicle passengers to those getting a test. Have a photo ID with name and date of birth for all people being tested (can be driver's license, state-issued ID, or passport). Bring the CORRECT confirmation code provided when you made the appointment. This can be a printed copy of the testing confirmation email, a screenshot of the confirmation number, or the code may be provided verbally. A printed code or screenshot on the phone helps the process but is not required. You will be required to provide the following information: o Full name o Current address (where you are staying) o Best phone number to reach you in order to receive test results What to Expect: Testing sites are staffed by health care professionals in medical protective gear who are trained to test for COVID-19 coronavirus. Directional signage and law enforcement will help people through the testing site in an orderly fashion. You will be greeted by a health care provider in personal protective gear who will give you instructions. A minimally invasive test will be administered. Test results are not immediate. Most people will receive results within 10 days. After taking the test, you will be given information on how to access your results and what to do while you await them. Please be patient - calling back to check on your results will not expedite the process. People who are experiencing a medical emergency should dial 9-1-1 immediately.
Florida Teacher With Medical Condition Says District Denied Request To Teach VirtuallyPINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - A Pinellas County teacher is speaking to CW44 News at 10, exclusively, after she says her pre-existing medical condition makes it dangerous to work in a classroom, but that the school district denied her request to teach virtually. “The only choices I have remaining for myself now is A. retire early, or I can take a medical leave of absence under no pay,” said a Pinellas County Teacher who wishes to remain anonymous. She is left with making a tough decision after she says she was denied to teach online classes instead of in-person by the school district. “When I was 30, I was diagnosed with an auto-immune deficiency disease called Crohns,” said the teacher. With more than 3 decades at Pinellas County Schools, her disease caused her to miss work and added limitations. “I couldn’t carry more than ten pounds.,” she explained. But with new obstacles to face, she says there’s more to worry about now with schools reopening. “Both, my physician assistant and my doctor, both of them have recommended that I do not go back into a classroom because I am at such a high risk [due to COVID-19],” said the teacher. According to the Pinellas County School District, employees with preexisting health conditions need to provide documentation to become a candidate for teaching online classes. “We had about three hundred employees that requested the alternative assignment due to the health condition, but until they are able to provide that medical documentation, we have them listed in category four,” explained Paula Texel, the Associate Superintendent of Human Resources Services, during Tuesday’s special called board meeting. Once that documentation is provided, officials say the employee is then moved to category one. But this teacher says that’s not what happened in her case. “The Human Resources Department from Pinellas County Schools sent out to every staff member... it had four things on it. And you marked where you fit in that category,” said the teacher. “On that paperwork, nowhere did it list any autoimmune deficiency disease. My doctor wrote mine in and they basically said, I ‘have an autoimmune deficiency disease which automatically suppresses my immune system, but on top of that, I take the Humira shot and would be at high risk of catching an infectious disease’.” She says she received the call a week ago, “I was not a category one. I was actually a category four, which is the least priority for online classes,” said the teacher. “When I questioned [being classified as a category four], they sent me back an email with their guidelines that they use from the CDC and that was their justification of why I am a category four and not eligible for online,” the teacher said. Earlier this week, district officials met with staff about eligibility guidelines. “We did meet with our principals to remind and to discuss the importance of making sure that we are doing whatever possible to assign these employees in this category to a virtual assignment due to their documented underlying health condition,” explained Texel. But this teacher says her only choice right now is to report back to the classroom. “I didn’t ask for this disease, it’s a hereditary, genetic disease,” said the teacher. “So, I either take the risk and go into the classroom and pray that, ‘please, Lord, don’t let me catch this disease… or I go without money…” Pinellas County instructional personnel, including this teacher, returned to classrooms Thursday. Students return on the 24th , giving her just 11 days to determine her next step. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
St. Pete's Fighting Chance Fund Application Process Closes August 14ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - St. Petersburg business owners impacted financially by COVID-19 have less than two days now left to apply for the city's Fighting Chance Fund. CW44's Price McKeon spoke with one business owner who received relief money and used it in a unique way. Kelly Rodriguez Laureano and her husband own Sofia's on the corner of 24th St. N. and Central. "It's been a really traumatic I think, situation for most small business owners, not just us." The St. Pete small business owner shares a story that we've heard all too often. "It's really frightening to think how it will affect us in the long run," said Rodriguez Laureano. Restaurant owners in the Tampa Bay region and beyond have been forced to make tough decisions: laying off employees that are like family, throwing away thousands of dollars of perishable items only to reopen up to half capacity inside and remain that way for who knows how long. "You worry about [employees] being able to pay their bills and feed themselves and their families." Never giving up looking for fighting chance, Rodriguez Laureano applied to the city's grant, fittingly named, St. Pete's Fighting Chance Fund. She was approved for assistance. "I say, 'do it'. I mean, there's nothing to lose." That's her message to other St. Pete small business owners that were hurt financially by COVID-19. The grant application cutoff is approaching quickly, but Rodriguez Laureano says the application process is incredibly simple. Grant money is still available and applications will still be accepted through 5pm on Friday, August 14, 2020. Small businesses that are brick and mortar are eligible for $4,000. Home-based businesses are eligible to receive $2,000. If you own two businesses, each may apply for the grant, which is exactly what Rodriguez Laureano did. "I think it took me maybe 10 to 15 minutes," said Rodriguez Laureano. Both of her St. Pete restaurants received help from the city. At Sofia's, she thought outside of the box and use some of the money to build a box. More specifically, all of their Basil now is grown in-house. They've built planters to make outdoor seating more appealing which helps the patio scene flourish, hoping to attract more business. Rodriguez Laureano reiterates, "We all are in this together and that's one thing that so great about St. Pete. We are in this together." The grant helped to give her business that fighting chance and she hopes it gives other owners a chance as well. Again, the application process ends Friday, August 14, 2020 at 5pm. You may apply on the City of St. Petersburg's website. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
2020 Census: Officials Urge Residents To Respond SoonPINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - The Census affects local food assistance, roads, healthcare and education funding. As Florida continues to grow, Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch says billions of dollars in funding are at stake, so having an accurate Census count is at the top of the priority list. 2020Census.gov suggests considering of your morning commute: Census results influence highway planning and construction, as well as grants for buses, subways, and other public transit systems. Or think of your local schools: Census results help determine how money is allocated for the Head Start program and for grants that support teachers and special education. The list goes on, including programs to support rural areas, to restore wildlife, to prevent child abuse, to prepare for wildfires, and to provide housing assistance for older adults. “In order for the government to know we’re here, we have to respond to this census,” said Welch. “It’s almost as important as voting. You know, if the government doesn’t know that we’re there, then we don’t get representation [in Congress].” Commissioner Welch chairs the Countywide Census Committee. He says the urgency for all residents to respond quickly to the 2020 Census recently increased after the bureau announced it will end the nationwide count a month earlier than expected at the end of September. As of Tuesday, just over 63% of Pinellas County residents responded. “Unless we want the funding that would normally come to St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Tampa Bay to go to Sacramento… it’s about fair distribution of resources from the Federal Government,” said Welch. But it’s doesn’t stop at Congress; programs throughout Florida get about $44 billion in federal funding based on data collected. But because we’re a growing state and our population is continuously rising, Welch says we need that accurate count. “And when you see things like that CARES Act which is sent for Pinellas County, $170 million to help our businesses, our families get through this COVID crisis, that’s driven by our representation in congress so it does matter,” said Welch. He says, given COVID-19 is keeping most of us at home right now, we’ve been able to turn to technology to get the job done. “Gives folks another reason to respond online,” said Welch. “We’re doing better than every county in the immediate bay area except for Pasco, and so Pinellas County needs to get on board, we want to be the best in the bay area and get that response rate up.” According to 2020Census.gov, as of August 11, 2020, only 60.3% of Florida has self-responded. Here's how Tampa Bay Area counties stack up in the same time frame: Citrus: 65.8% Hernando: 68.5% Sumter: 69.8% Pasco: 63.8% Polk: 58.9% Hillsborough: 61.9% Pinellas: 63.7% Hardee: 43.3% DeSoto: 45.4% Manatee: 56.9% Sarasota: 63% Highlands: 57.1% To monitor reporting in your area, visit the 2020Census.gov website where you can also complete your 2020 Census if you haven't already done so. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Super Bowl LV: Tampa Bay Plans First Fully Free To Public FestivitiesTAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Tampa is set to host Super Bowl LV in just under 200 days and COVID-19 isn't stopping plans to move forward with the festivities. Tampa Bay has hosted the Super Bowl four times and ready for the fifth. As one of the signature events surrounding Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay, Super Bowl Experience presented by Lowe’s, will be free and open to the public beginning Friday, January 29 and will span 2.7 miles, including the Tampa Riverwalk. The event will take place within waterfront parks along the Riverwalk and feature concerts, food and beverage, sponsor activations, NFL Shop presented by Visa and more. Super Bowl LV will be the first time that Super Bowl Experience will be free for all attendees and produced jointly by the NFL and Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee. Julian B. Lane Park will house the NFL’s free football theme park celebrating Super Bowl LV. Fans will have the opportunity to collect Player and Legend autographs, take photos with the Vince Lombardi Trophy and immerse themselves in a variety of exhibits and interactive games. Fans will also be able to enjoy the youth-focused Play 60 Zone and other family-friendly activities throughout Super Bowl Experience. “We look forward to working with the Tampa Bay Host Committee on creating memorable moments that will celebrate Super Bowl LV and bring the community of Tampa together in a safe and meaningful way,” said Peter O’Reilly, NFL Executive Vice President of Club Business and League Events. “We are working hard to ensure all activities during Super Bowl LV week will adhere to the latest public safety guidelines set by medical and public health officials, as safety is our number one priority.” Other parks along the Riverwalk will feature a variety of experiential opportunities including local food and beverage, music and entertainment, health and fitness activities, activation zones, and more. The Riverwalk will transform into a Super Bowl amusement park showcasing the destination’s culture and experiences of Tampa Bay. “Although these last five months have presented us with unprecedented challenges, our partnership with the NFL has never been stronger and we are ready for the opportunity to host the most important Super Bowl of our lifetime,” said Rob Higgins, President/CEO, Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee. “We are thrilled to be able to officially announce our blended-model, Super Bowl Experience in tandem with our friends at the NFL, in addition to our primary social legacy initiative, Forever 55, along with new host committee strategic partners today. We look forward to showcasing our hometown’s incredible growth, unwavering resiliency and very bright future through our community’s host movement leading up to and during Super Bowl LV on February 7th, 2021. We are confident that the positive impacts of this event will be felt in our community for many years to come.” More details about Super Bowl Experience and how to reserve free tickets will be announced at a later date. Fans can sign up to receive updates on the latest Super Bowl information at NFL.com/TampaSB. All NFL activities during Super Bowl week in Tampa Bay will adhere to the latest public safety guidelines set by medical and public health officials, as well as operate in full compliance all local and federal government regulations. For more information on the local host effort for Super Bowl LV, please visit the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee’s official website at TampaBayLV.com. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Latest Reopening Plan In Pinellas County Public SchoolsPINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Pinellas County School officials called a special board meeting Tuesday morning to discuss the latest changes to the districts reopening plans. The board has officially adopted face coverings for students and staff. Other details from transportation to cafeteria seating were also discussed and presented nearly finalizing all plans. Last month, the school board voted on their biggest change to push the start of the school year back by almost two weeks. This allowed more time for teachers and students to prepare. Tuesday’s meeting lasted eight hours as officials went over every detail left on the table!! “We can get the buses moving out of the bus ramps. Even going so far as to find, maybe a place down the street, a parking lot, something like that where the drivers can pull in, wipe down before they pick up that next student,” said Clint Herbic, Assoc. Superintendent, Operational Services. Questions aligning with brick and mortar style schooling ranged from sick leave to directional hallways and eliminating student locker options. “If you have a pending COVID-19 test, you are not to report to work,” said Sara O’Toole, Managing Officer, School Health Services. “The employees and visitors will complete a self-screening tool each day. The district will inform and encourage our parents to conduct that self-screening for their child each day,” said Paula Texel, Assoc. Superintended, Human Resources. District officials say every turn has been accounted for. “We’re going to have to live this to kind of see how this works but these experts are going to be visiting our schools before and after students are coming back to give us advice and also they’re going to be making calls in terms of the quarantine,” said Superintendent of the district, Dr. Michael Grego. “I feel confident in it. We’re doing all we can do. We’re at a point right now where I think we can move forward,” said Bill Dudley, Pinellas County School Board. The district has returned to its normal hours of operation to assist families with registration including some extended hours. For the complete details visit Pinellas County Schools Reopening Plan website. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
West Wing Hotel Converted Into COVID-19 Care Site In Hillsborough CountyHILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - COVID-19 positive patients in Hillsborough County, Florida can now go from the hospital to a hotel for continuing medical care. CW44's Price McKeon explains how this new project works. This boutique hotel on Fowler Avenue is now a new COVID-19 care site. "Hillsborough County has acquired this hotel to turn it into a transitional living facility." Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, Ray Hanson explains the purpose behind the county refitting the West Wing Hotel to accommodate patients recovering from a COVID-19 hospital stay. "For the main purpose of freeing up hospital bed space of patients that don't require hospital care or hospital level care in the hospital setting." The county says the site serves patients who are eligible for discharge from the hospital but still need medical support and may not be able to go straight home from the hospital. "What the county has done to the hotel is they've upgraded the electrical system for the installation of an automatic transfer switch," said Hanson. Hillsborough says the changes made are to accommodate specific needs of a medical facility. Hanson elaborates, "We will have a generator because, obviously COVID-19 is going to be lasting through the hurricane season. And we want to be prepared in case we have a long term power outage." "We're really excited and very thankful for this partnership with the county," Baycare Health Systems teamed up with the county to launch this new project. "This is really allowing us to meet community needs by expanding healthcare resources above and beyond what we have in our hospitals right now." Dr. Jackie Callie says COVID-19 patients who have to be hospitalized tend to take a long time to recover. "...and they tend to have symptoms for quite a while and remain infectious, even when they're ready to be discharged from the hospital." So now there's this option where patients can receive around the clock medical care until they can check out and go home. "...and so by having this opportunity we can house them safely before they go home and could potentially expose others in the household." According to the county, the hotel has 115 rooms. 50 of them will be used by Baycare. About a dozen rooms have been converted to support rooms which are like mini-nursing stations. Other hospitals and Hillsborough can use the remaining rooms if they need to. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Violent Protesters In Beirut Accuse Government Corruption Led To BlastBeirut, Lebanon (CW44 News At 10) - People in Beirut, Lebanon are protesting against the government after a giant explosion killed more than 150 people on August 4, 2020. Demonstrators claimed corruption led to Tuesday's blast which destroyed thousands of homes and a large amount of the country's food supply. Grief has turned to anger in Beirut. Overnight, protesters battled security forces near parliament. They're furious that the government knew about the 2,700 tons of explosive Ammonium nitrate stored at a facility in the port and did nothing about it, despite warnings from customs officials for years. That neglect resulted in Tuesday's deadly blast. Rescue teams continue to search for the dozen still missing next to the smoldering explosion site. Family members wait nearby hoping for a miracle because the alternative is unbearable. Tatiana, the daughter of a missing victim of the blast said, "I think he's there, but I think if we continue to work slowly, probably, time will run out." Others confront their grim new reality. Corporal Georges de Abbas was one of those taken in an instant. He was donating blood when the blast killed him. On Thursday, people in the city greeted Emmanuel Macron with chants calling for a revolution. The French President vowed to help the people, not the politicians, "We need an open and transparent International Investigation to avoid, first of all, things being hidden, but also to stop doubt setting in." For now residents of Beirut start the long process of piecing their lives back together. An insurmountable task to repair a city of broken homes and broken hearts. More than 25 countries including the U.S. have offered aid to Lebanon including desperately needed money, medical supplies and food. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Citrus County Sheriff's Office Nab 55 In Operation Coin TossCITRUS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - According to Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast, the fourth and final quarter of Operation Coin Toss has concluded, resulting in the seizure of more fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine off the streets of Citrus County. Originally started in June 2019, the first quarter of Operation Coin Toss targeted those responsible for drug trafficking and those who sell illegal narcotics. Throughout the entire operation, the Citrus County Sheriff's Office Tactical Impact Unit (TIU) partnered with the US Marshals, the Florida Department of Correction's Probation Services, Citrus County Code Enforcement, and many other community partners. In the Fourth Quarter, TIU focused on reported drug overdoses and intelligence collected through these investigations. By obtaining information on suppliers tied to fatal drug overdoses, TIU was able to conduct covert surveillance and undercover drug purchases resulting in the combined seizure of 40 grams of deadly fentanyl, 143 grams of methamphetamine, 87 grams of heroin, and 30 grams of cocaine. The Fourth Quarter resulted in nine individual residential search warrants and 23 individuals arrested. During the process of conducting covert surveillance and gathering intelligence, an additional 32 individuals were arrested. The final quarter resulted in 55 arrests, 122 felony charges and 43 misdemeanor charges. "The focus of Operation Coin Toss is to dismantle the drug supply chains plaguing the vulnerable population of Citrus County," said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. "We continue to focus our attention on the dealers who are making a profit by exploiting addicts and their loved ones." In addition to seizing illegal narcotics, detectives were able to recover several stolen items and seize firearms from convicted felons. The Fourth Quarter yielded the recovery of a stolen Honda dirt bike, a stolen Suzuki four-wheeler, counterfeit currency making devices, and stolen firearms. There were several firearms that had been illegally modified or had their serial numbers removed. All firearms were seized and resulted in 12 felony firearm charges. "There is a direct correlation between the illegal sale of narcotics and the dealing in stolen property and other property related crimes," stated Major Justin Ferrara. "Focusing on the suppliers of deadly narcotics also allows us to recover stolen property and reduce the indirect crimes associated with drug sales."
SpaceX Astronauts Discuss Their Historic Mission To The ISSCAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - The two American astronauts who were the first to fly to space from US soil and nearly a decade, have been getting reacquainted with life back on Earth. Today they talked about their amazing adventures. After 64 days in space NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico. Just a few days after coming home, they say they're glad to be back on solid ground, "We're excited to be back we're already working through our exercise rehabilitation program to kind of get our Earth legs back." The veteran pilots were the first Americans to blast off from US soil in nine years, and then first to leave Earth on a rocket made by a private company. The rocket carrying the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 30, 2020. Hurley and Behnken joined the crew of the International Space Station a day later. They went on four spacewalks and performed about 100, hours of science experiments. Hurley related, "The mission went, just like the simulators and, and I, I'm obviously from start to finish, all the way there was really no surprises." Behnken added, "The greatest lesson folks could take from our experience is one of perseverance." Behnken's wife, Katherine Megan McArthur is also an astronaut. She'll helm the next SpaceX mission to the ISS in Spring 2021 in the same capsule that took her husband there. Hurley called the experience one of the true honors of his life.
2020 Back-To-School Florida Sales Tax Holiday Is This WeekendFLORIDA (CW44 News At 10) - This weekend is Florida's annual tax free weekend for back to school bargains technology may be the hot ticket item, as many students across the state are returning to classes remotely. During this sales tax holiday period, qualifying items will be exempt from tax, including certain school supplies selling for $15 or less per item; clothing, footwear, and certain accessories selling for $60 or less per item; and the first $1,000 of the sales price of personal computers and certain computer-related accessories purchased for noncommercial home or personal use. This sales tax holiday begins Friday, August 7, 2020, and ends Sunday, August 9, 2020. For more information and a list of qualifying items, please review the Department of Revenue's Tax Information Publication (TIP) on the 2020 Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Job Fair: Raymond James Stadium Hosting The Event On August 22TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Florida is hosting a job fair ahead of the upcoming NFL football season. The job fair is August 22, 2020. Masks are required and temperature checks will be administered upon arrival. A wide range of positions are available, including: parking lot attendants, ticket takers, security, cleaning and food service roles. Representatives from Tampa Sports Authority, Legends, Sentry Events Services and other companies will be taking applications and conducting interviews. The job fair will take place from 9:00am to 3:00pm at the East Club of Raymond James Stadium. Please park in Lot B/C off of Himes Avenue. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Lebanese Government Places Port Officials Under House-ArrestBeirut, Lebanon (CW44 News At 10) - Investigators in Beirut, Lebanon are working to find out if Tuesday's gigantic explosion was caused by negligence. The blast killed at least 135 people including one American, around 5,000 others are injured. The hellscape that was once Beirut's port, now laid to waste by over 2,700 tons of Ammonium nitrate. How such a vast quantity of such volatile material was allowed to rot for over six years in a warehouse so close to the city center is still being investigated. The Lebanese Government is putting the port's managers under house arrest while it pieces together how the Russian-owned cargo ignited. Many here are blaming the country's ruling elite after reports surfaced suggesting officials had repeatedly warned that dangerous chemicals needed to be removed. So few in Beirut were spared, including a little girl, Sophie, in intensive care whose brain is bleeding from shattered glass. Her parents say they also lost their home. Sophie's mother said, "I tried to protect her, but I couldn't..." There are still some moments of hope, like when rescuers pulled a man from the rubble 16 hours after the explosion. There's also music. 78-year-old May Melki survived Lebanon's 15-year civil war, and later, conflicts with Israel. Her home may now be in ruins but her piano skills and resolve are as strong as ever. Melki commented, "Each time these catastrophes happen, we stand up and start again." No further information has been released about the American who was killed or those injured, but a vast search and rescue effort continues. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.