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Wednesday's Daily Pulse

Florida breaks 10-day streak of COVID-19 infection rate below 5%

Health officials on Tuesday reported the COVID-19 testing positivity rate for Florida exceeded the desired 5% level for the first time since Sept. 10. It could be just a one-day blip on the radar, or the first indication that the novel coronavirus is spreading more across Florida communities. The data show that 5.88% of people swabbed tested positive for the first time, in the latest results. The rate was 4.31% in the previous day’s report, and had even dipped to 3.85% Sept. 13, the lowest in three months. More from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Click Orlando, and the Florida Times-Union.

As pandemic drags communities down, banks step up

The coronavirus pandemic, now in its sixth month, has been a crisis of enormous proportions for nearly every sector of the economy. Early on, First Citrus Bank CEO Jack Barrett says banks acted as the economy’s “first responders,” facilitating aid by processing Paycheck Protection Program loans that helped businesses stay afloat and continue to pay workers. But now, as the downturn wears on, and aid programs have begun to dry up, some area banks are turning to their own resources, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations that provide food and shelter to people whose lives have been turned upside down by the virus. [Source: Business Observer]

Florida’s unemployed may see additional benefits by December

Thousands of Florida workers are exhausting their unemployment benefits but some workers may soon see additional benefits kick in. It’s known as extended benefits and it’s been around since 2009. They kicked in when the state’s unemployment rate hit 10% in June. However, the state won’t be ready to disburse the funds until December. [Source: NBC 2]

Florida power companies face legal challenge on disconnections during pandemic

Florida’s power companies are facing their first legal challenge against their moves to resume disconnections during the coronavirus pandemic. Advocacy nonprofit Earthjustice filed a legal motion Tuesday asking Florida’s utility regulators to prevent utilities from shutting off customers' power if they fail to pay their bills during COVID-19. Three of the state’s investor-owned utilities -- including Duke Energy Florida and Tampa Electric Co. -- have resumed disconnections for customers who fail to pay their bills. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]

Stein Mart operates at a profit in its first 17 days of bankruptcy

After big losses sent Stein Mart Inc. into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the Jacksonville-based fashion retailer operated with a profit in the first 2 1/2 weeks after the filing. According to a monthly operating report filed in bankruptcy court on Sept. 21, Stein Mart recorded net income of $20.6 million between Aug. 12 and Aug. 29. Stein Mart filed its Chapter 11 petition Aug. 12 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida, Jacksonville Division. [Source: Jacksonville Daily Record]

ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:

› South Florida architects Swedroe, Rex Nichols join forces. Hotels will be a focus
Two South Florida architecture firms are joining forces. Miami Beach-based Swedroe Architecture and Pompano Beach-based Rex Nichols Architects formed the joint venture Swedroe + Rex Nichols Architects in September, according to a news release. The venture will offer design, construction planning and administration services for single-family residential projects, multifamily, boutique hotels, and commercial real estate developments.

› While national home sales increased in August, Tampa Bay’s numbers were mixed
The national real estate market continued its rebound from the springtime slump caused by the coronavirus in August, marking its third month of positive sales gains. Sales of single-family homes, townhomes, condos and co-ops increased 2.4 percent over July, and were 10.5 percent higher than August 2019, according to statistics released Tuesday by the National Association of Realtors, which touted the sales as the highest since 2006.

› "Historic" water management district budget tops $1 billion.
For the first time in nearly a decade, South Florida’s water managers are working with a budget of more than a billion dollars – a windfall officials said boosts efforts to monitor for toxic algae, fight invasive species and build critical water storage projects.

› Quiet 3PF to hire 300 people for Northwest Jacksonville fulfillment center
Quiet 3PF, the renamed Quiet Logistics, said Sept. 21 it intends to open a Northwest Jacksonville fulfillment center in October and hire up to 300 full-time employees this year. Quiet 3PF, which operates warehouse and logistics centers for other companies, previously posted job openings for a fulfillment center general manager and operations managers.

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› Weather looks OK for three-core Delta IV Heavy launch from Cape Canaveral
Weather conditions this weekend should be mostly favorable for a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy, marking the three-core rocket's third attempt to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. If schedules hold, teams at Launch Complex 37 will likely face 70% "go" conditions for the 12:14 a.m. Saturday liftoff of a National Reconnaissance Office intelligence-gathering satellite, the Space Force said.

› Florida landowner nationally recognized for outstanding conservation efforts
A Florida landowner and the South Prong Plantation in Baker County was awarded the Private Lands Fish and Wildlife Stewardship Award by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Doug Moore has been praised for his proactive conservation and environmental practices and taking great care of fish and wildlife resources.

› Lauderdale businesses cleared to sue FPL over broken water main that forced closures
A judge in Broward has cleared the way for a lawsuit against Florida Power & Light by more than 9,200 businesses who contend a utility contractor was negligent in causing a massive water main break that left more than 200,000 people without water in Fort Lauderdale last year, some for up to two days.

› Health care firm welcomes new COO
Jason Coe, a 25-year veteran of the health care industry, has been named chief operating officer of Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute (FCS) in Fort Myers. Coe, according to a press release, comes to FCS from AdventHealth Tampa, where he also served as COO.