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BayCare expands fast testing for Covid-19, flu

Nine BayCare Urgent Care Centers will offer a rapid test that can detect both Covid-19 and the flu, starting Monday, Nov. 16. The test is available to asymptomatic people who want to confirm they are negative for Covid before traveling or visiting loved ones for the holidays, BayCare Health System said in a news release. Patients can get test results in 30 minutes. There's a limited supply, so patients are asked to make reservations using Save Your Spot. The tests will not be billed to insurance but will be available as a self-pay service costing $150.

Credit agency puts St. Pete insurer under review after announcing acquisition

AM Best has placed the credit ratings of Vault Reciprocal Exchange under review, after the St. Petersburg-based insurer said it would be acquired by Cornell Capital  and Hudson Structured Capital Management. AM Best said in a news release that it expects plans for reinsurance and capitalization to improve Vault’s quality of capital, financial leverage and capital flexibility, but it would keep the ratings under review until the deal closes in the first quarter of 2021 and the agency evaluates post-transaction details. AM Best currently rates Vault's financial strength as "A- (excellent)" and its long-term issuer credit rating it "a-." Vault provides coverage to the high-net worth homeowners market and writes business in Florida, South Carolina, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

Pinellas County now has 850 Covid-19 deaths

Pinellas County reported one additional death Friday attributed to Covid-19, bringing the county's death toll from the virus to 850 since the pandemic began in March. The Florida Department of Health updated the total case count in Pinellas County to 28,746 as of Friday, an increase of 260 cases since Thursday. The percent of people who tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday was 5.92 percent, and the positivity rate has averaged 6.49 percent over the past two weeks. Pinellas County hospitals report 162 Covid-19 patients as of Friday, with 28.4 percent of the hospital beds available in the county, and nearly 17 percent of the intensive care unit beds available. 

Minnesota-based real estate firm buys north St. Petersburg apartment complex

Isle of Gateway, a 212-unit apartment complex in north St. Petersburg, has a new owner. TPAF VII Isles of Gateway LLC, an entity associated with Timberland Partners Investments in Minneapolis, Minnesota, acquired Isle of Gateway for $30.75 million, according to a deed filed Friday in Pinellas County. The seller was DHPI Gateway, affiliated with Pebb Capital in Boca Raton. DHPI bought the property in 2016 for $23.5 million, Pinellas County property records show. Isle of Gateway, at 10600 4th St. N., has 11 buildings on 18 acres. It was built in 1986 and has apartments ranging from one bedroom to three bedrooms; most of them were recently updated,Timberland Partners said on its website. Timberland Partners generally targets garden style or midrise apartments with a minimum of 100 units, built in the 1980s, 1990s, or early 2000s vintage, its website said.

Green Book of Tampa Bay offering holiday shopping guide for Black-owned businesses

The Green Book of Tampa Bay, an online guide to Black-owned businesses, has teamed up with One Community and Deuces Live to create a community holiday shopping guide. Visit and click the Holiday Shopping Guide tab on the menu. To have your business, service, or product listed, complete the info and steps at this link.

Tampa biotech advances potential treatment of melanoma

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted orphan drug designation to a potential treatment of melanoma being developed by Morphogenesis, a privately held, clinical stage biotechnology company in Tampa. The designation is for medications that are intended for use in diseases which affect fewer than 200,000 persons in the U.S., and provides sponsors with  eligibility for a seven-year period of market exclusivity in the U.S. following product approval, as well as FDA assistance in clinical trial design and an exemption from FDA user fees.  Morphogenesis' drug candidate is for the treatment of stage IIB to stage IV melanoma. Late stage melanoma is among the deadliest forms of skin cancer, affecting as many as 62,748 Americans.

Eckerd College adds data science minor

Beginning this semester, Eckerd College students interested in learning how to look at data, ask it meaningful questions and gain useful information can minor in data science. The minor was approved by faculty in October after a three-year vetting process. Data Science minors will be required to complete five courses including Intermediate Programming, Fundamentals of Data Science, one statistics course and two other computer science-focused classes.

USF epidemiologist’s Covid-tracking tool receives funding from Florida Blue

Florida Blue has given $100,000 to the USF Foundation to support the SEIRcast COVID-19 Forecasting & Planning Portal, a system developed by USF College of Public Health professor Edwin Michael that provides daily unique, locally applicable epidemic forecasts. SEIRcast has the ability to forecast the pandemic at a county level by taking into consideration the impacts of local transmission conditions, social behavior and decisions and can generate forecasts of outbreaks by adjusting each day to the current transmission and social conditions applicable to a county. The modeling tool also provides predictions for investigating a wide array of “what-if” policy scenarios such as stay-at-home orders, mask mandates or reopenings that might cause cases to fall or surge. A hospital resource planning interface allows health care providers to monitor whether the pandemic will overwhelm resources before the crisis hits.

Super Bowl LV half-time headliner will be The Weeknd

The Weeknd will perform during the Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show on CBS at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Feb. 7.  The Weeknd has amassed a global fanbase, become a multi-award winning artist, and recently, was named one of the most influential people of 2020 by Time Magazine, a news release said. The Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show telecast will be produced by DPS with Roc Nation and Jesse Collins serving as executive producers, and Hamish Hamilton serving as director. Roc Nation is also serving as the strategic entertainment advisors of the live performance.

Cope Notes gets deal with Orange County

Tampa-based Cope Notes, a digital mental health platform, has a contract with the Orange County Department of Mental Health and Homelessness. The county is using Cope Notes’ SMS text-messaging technology to connect 1,000 residents with peer support and psychoeducation on a daily basis, a news release said. Cope Notes has won similar agreements with USF Health and the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, as well as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Mental Health America. Read more about this local startup company here

Pinellas County Schools to reopen Friday

 After assessing conditions following Tropical Storm Eta, Pinellas County Schools and district offices will be open and fully operational tomorrow (Friday). Schools closed early Wednesday in preparation for the storm. 

Pinellas Sheriff’s teams rescue 33 people in high water

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office high water rescue teams helped 33 people after Tropical Storm Eta brought high sustained winds, high tides and flooding throughout the county. No injuries were reported to either civilians or sheriff's deputies, a news release said. The rescue team used humvees, flat bottom boats, and inflatable boats to rescue people from homes and roadways while the sheriff's office dive team assisted in several rescues from vehicle-inaccessible areas. Most of the rescues occurred in the area from Pass-a-Grille in south St. Pete Beach north to Madeira Beach. Rescued people were taken to area hotels or other shelters. Deputies worked overnight with Pinellas County highway crews to clear roadways and as of early Thursday reported no road closures.

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