3 To Know: ‘Wedding Beach’ reopens, home prices surge

Marco Eagle
Portrait of a couple married on the beach in Naples.

1. ‘Wedding Beach’ reopens

Looking to get hitched on a beach in Naples? It just got a little easier. The “Wedding Beach” is back in business. 

The city quietly reopened the beach end and access at Eighth Avenue South on Feb. 17, marking the occasion with a small celebratory event, recognizing the hard work of the employees who made it happen.

Due to damage from Hurricane Ian, the access had been closed since the storm hit in late September.

With the reopening, Naples has resumed issuing permits for beach weddings, which it had put on hold, so it could focus on clean-up and ensure safety.

For now, the city will only issue permits for beach ceremonies on the “Wedding Beach,” said Chad Merritt, the city’s director of parks, recreation and facilities.

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Asked when permits will be granted for other stretches in the city proper, he said: “When we are able to recover/repair more of our beach accesses from storm damage.”

Additionally, the city wants to wait for Collier County to complete its sand hauling for the construction of an emergency berm, Merritt said.

“At that point, we will reevaluate our condition,” he said.

The emergency berm is designed to protect coastal property left vulnerable by Hurricane Ian, until there’s a more permanent fix. The barrier will stretch from Marco Island to Barefoot Beach, with nearly half of the sand going on Naples beaches. – Laura Layden/Staff

In the Know: A 1970 Bonita Springs home for sale in Lee County for $369,000 in February 2023. It sold for $38,000 in 1985. A total of $38,000 in 1985 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $105,000 today, according to federal data. Southwest Florida prices continued to rise in early 2023 even as sales cool. Uploaded: Feb. 24, 2023.

2. Looking for Southwest Florida home under $500,000? New numbers show prices still surging

Finding a quality Naples home for under a half-million dollars has become nearly impossible.

“Looking at sales over the last 12 months, the current report shows an entire group of homes (those under $500,000) are nearly gone and will likely never come back to levels we enjoyed before the pandemic,” said CEO Budge Huskey of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty.

The latest Naples Area Board of Realtors data out Feb. 24 shows the median price of a single-family home hit $715,000 in January, up from nearly $675,000 a year ago. The overall NABOR median, which includes those houses and condos, jumped 11% to $600,000.

A surge in showings reflect the interest in the Collier market, partly fueled by a 123% increase in inventory as compared to January 2022.

“With the number of showings nearly doubling in January 2023 compared to December 2022, buyers were excited to see new listings come on the market and took advantage of the opportunity as seen by the huge increase in pending sales over the same period," said NABOR President Nick Bobzien, a broker associate at Downing-Frye Realty. "Inventory between December and January grew nearly 10 percent." Phil Fernandez/Staff

The Lucira COVID-19 and Flu Home Test is a single-use test, which can be purchased without a prescription. A nasal swab is used as with an at-home COVID test; in 30 minutes or less, the test displays the results – positive or negative for influenza A, Influenza B and COVID-19.

3. FDA authorizes combination flu-COVID test for home use

The Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 24 approved the first combination test for flu and COVID-19 that can be used at home, giving consumers an easy way to determine if a runny nose is caused by either disease.

The Lucira COVID-19 & Flu Home test, which can be purchased without a prescription, uses self-collected nasal swab samples and delivers results in about 30minutes, the agency said. While at-home COVID tests are readily available, this is the first home test for influenza A and B, commonly known as the flu. The test was granted an emergency use authorization, which facilitates the availability of 'medical countermeasures' during public health emergencies.

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Jeff Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, called the authorization 'a major milestone in bringing greater consumer access to diagnostic tests that can be performed entirely at home.'

The agency said the test is for individuals 'with signs and symptoms consistent with a respiratory tract infection' and said it can be used on children as young as 2, with adults collecting the samples.

It recommends that tests be reported to healthcare providers and cautions that there is a risk of false positive and negative results. 'Individuals who test negative and continue to experience symptoms of fever, cough and-or shortness of breath may still have a respiratory infection and should seek follow-up care with their healthcare provider,' the agency said.

Citing the impact of COVID and RSV, another respiratory infection, the FDA said it 'recognizes the benefits that home testing can provide' and would work to increase the number of tests available. – Associated Press