The Point, Jan. 3, 2022: Omicron-fueled infections push Florida daily case count above 75,000


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The stories near you

• WCJB: ACPS staff are once again required to wear masks, students strongly encouraged. “Alachua County Public Schools are again requiring face masks of everyone but students. When school returns on Tuesday employees, volunteers, and visitors are required to wear masks.”

• Gainesville Sun ($): UF rejects GRU to build power plant; company hoped revenues would stabilize electric bills. “Gainesville Regional Utilities will not get a contract it was seeking to build a plant to supply most of the University of Florida with power. GRU was hoping the revenue from the project could help stabilize customers’ bills in the coming years.”

• News Service of Florida: University system officials urge masks, vaccinations for college students, faculty and staff. “The spring semester starts (this) week amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations driven, at least in part, by the highly-contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus.”

• Mainstreet Daily News: Alachua County weekly COVID cases top 2,000. “Alachua County recorded 2,072 new COVID-19 cases this week as the county’s positivity rate increased seven fold from two weeks ago.”

• News4Jax: Catholic schools superintendent mandates masks for students. “The Diocese of St. Augustine is requiring masks for all of its schools as students return from the winter break. A letter sent to parents reads, ‘Every county in the diocese has exceeded the 10% threshold [for COVID-19 positive cases] and masks will therefore be required indoors at every school.'”

• Florida Politics: Citrus County officials eager, anxious as Suncoast Parkway opening approaches. “The biggest 2021 story in Citrus County won’t actually take place until 2022. That’s when the 13-mile stretch of the Suncoast Parkway opens between U.S. 98 in northern Hernando County and State Road 44 in Lecanto.”

• Citrus County Chronicle: County board to discuss library display policy. “In June, local libraries had a display during LGBT Pride Month and some people complained libraries should steer clear of politics and ideologies.”

• WUFT News: An endangered snail kite was spotted in Paynes Prairie, though its future is unclear. “The snail kite, one of Florida’s most imperiled birds, appeared to be in the midst of a complicated success story after Hurricane Irma flooded Paynes Prairie in 2017. The high water created new habitat for wildlife and allowed an invasive aquatic snail species to continue creeping into northern Florida. The uniquely adapted snail kites followed. “

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Around the state

• Associated Press: Florida breaks single-day COVID-19 record with 75,900 cases. “On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 75,900 new cases of COVID-19 in Florida. That tally raises the 7-day average daily to 42,600, which is twice as high as it was at the peak of this summer’s surge when the delta variant fueled a surge of infections in the state.”

• TCPalm ($): Florida’s environment took a beating in 2021. Could 2022 be even worse? “Looking ahead into 2022, and considering how little was resolved in 2021 that might have resulted in real change, expect this year to look, feel and smell a lot like last year. The list of assaults on the fragile environment seems endless: biosolids, wildfires, invasive species, coral bleaching, aquatic herbicides, Everglades destruction, oil drilling/fracking, lack of biodiversity, and sea level rise, king tides and erosion.”

• Sarasota Herald-Tribune ($): Bradenton company plans to turn bamboo into big business in Florida. “The bamboo species Rizome has chosen to grow in Florida can reach heights of 100 feet. While bamboo could make Rizome big bucks, the plant also has benefits for the environment. Each acre of bamboo sequesters 400 tons of carbon dioxide, which scientists have identified as a major driver of climate change.”

• FLKeysNews ($): Vandals set fire to Key West’s most famous landmark, causing ‘extensive damage.’ “In the early hours of New Year’s Day, two people vandalized Key West’s famous Southernmost Point buoy landmark by setting a fire right beside it. The blaze left a large part of the colorful giant buoy — right where it reads ’90 miles to Cuba, Southernmost Point, Continental U.S.A.’ — charred.”

• WUWF: Florida study documents condition, existence of endangered coastal archaeological sites. “Over the summer, archaeologists with the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) wrapped up a state-funded study of cultural heritage sites threatened by the effects of climate change.”

• WMFE: ‘It just hits you right in the heart’: Why one Floridian has donated 100 gallons of blood. “(Gerry Hazuka) started donating as a road patrol officer at the Orlando Police Department when there was a competition between OPD and the sheriff’s office to see who could donate more. But he got hooked after he met a recipient of platelets: a child with cancer.”

From NPR News

• Health: ICU teams report fatigue and frustration as they brace for omicron surge

• Health: A pediatrician’s advice to parents of kids under 5 on omicron, travel and daycare

• Health: Manufacturers rush to ramp up rapid COVID test production as demand soars

• Health: Omicron is subsiding in South Africa

• Business: Jurors reconvene Monday morning in trial of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes

• Business: 2022 is promising to be big year for electric vehicles

• Politics: Twitter bans Marjorie Taylor Greene’s personal account over COVID misinformation

About today’s curator

I’m Ethan Magoc, a news editor at WUFT. Originally from Pennsylvania, I’ve found a home telling Florida stories. I’m part of a team searching each morning for local and state stories that are important to you; please send feedback about today’s edition or ideas for stories we may have missed to

About WUFT News

Contact WUFT News by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news

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