Welcome to the world: On April 27, Kathy San Pedro of Ballard Partners gave birth to twins — Celia Delburn at 5 lbs. 6 0z., 18.5 in. and Percy Delburn at 5 lbs. 12 oz., 20 in. Mother and father — Brian Delburn of Tenet Healthcare — and both newborns are doing well. Congratulations to all!
— EXECUTIVE SUMMARY —
—Total positive COVID-19 cases in Florida have increased to 41,923. There have been 1,779 deaths statewide.
—House Democrats proposed $3 trillion in new economic aid, including another round of stimulus checks and money for states and the Postal Service. Read more here.
—About 100 children in New York have had a rare inflammatory illness linked to the virus, officials suspect. Read more here.
— TOP STORY —
“House Democrats unveil $3 trillion aid bill with cash for states” via Erik Wasson and Laura Davison of Bloomberg — House Democrats proposed a $3 trillion virus relief bill Tuesday, combining aid to state and local governments with direct cash payments, expanded unemployment insurance and food stamp spending as well as a list of progressive priorities like funds for voting by mail and the troubled U.S. Postal Service. While there is little chance of the aid package gaining Senate approval and President Donald Trump’s signature as written, passage in the Democratic-led House would give Speaker Nancy Pelosi a marker to set down at the same time both parties are positioning themselves for congressional elections less than six months away. It would also be the opening bid in negotiations with the Trump administration and Senate Republicans.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@ByAmberPhillips: Fauci says it’s doubtful a vaccine will help people go back to school in 2020: “Even at the top speed we’re going we don’t see a vaccine playing in the ability of individual to get back to school this term.” They could know whether vaccine trials work by late fall/early winter
—@JakeTapper: Her name was Lori Klausutis. She was 28. And her family deserves far better than the president and his minions using the tragedy of her death as a crude cudgel to attack a critic. It’s indecent and inhumane.
—@SteveBousquet: FL Rep. Chris Sprowls, the next Republican House speaker, is asked about the failed unemployment website in meeting with Young Republicans. “A total disaster,” he calls it. “A train wreck. A failure of government.”
—@SenPizzo: It’s 4:46 am, on my 21st day in Tallahassee, and I’m still up replying to emails and messages from desperate Floridians needing assistance. On behalf of the legislative branch, I’m truly sorry. You deserve better.
— DAYS UNTIL —
NASCAR season resumes at Darlington Speedway in Darlington, South Carolina — 4; TNT’s adaptation of “Snowpiercer” premieres — 4; English Premier League soccer to restart — 26; PGA Tour resumes — 29; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 30; Father’s Day — 39; Apple to hold Developer Conference — 40; Federal taxes due — 63; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 65; “Mulan” premieres — 72; TED conference rescheduled — 74; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 96; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 100; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 103; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 114; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 115; Rescheduled date for French Open — 130; First presidential debate in Indiana — 139; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 149; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 155; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 156; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 162; 2020 General Election — 174; “Black Widow” premieres — 177; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 188; “No Time to Die” premieres — 195; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 224; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 436; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 445; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 541; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 639; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 681; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 724; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 877.
— CORONA NATION —
“As Donald Trump urges reopening, thousands getting sick on the job” via David Crary of The Associated Press — Recent figures show a surge of infections in meatpacking and poultry-processing plants. There’s been a spike of new cases among construction workers in Austin, Texas, where that sector recently returned to work. Even the White House has proved vulnerable, with positive coronavirus tests for one of Trump’s valets and Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary. The developments underscore the high stakes for communities nationwide as they gradually loosen restrictions on business. “The people who are getting sick right now are generally people who are working,” Dr. Mark Escott, a regional health official, told Austin’s City Council. “That risk is going to increase the more people are working.”
“Mitt Romney says U.S. coronavirus testing is ‘nothing to celebrate’” via Bart Jansen, Maureen Groppe and William Cummings of USA TODAY — Sen. Romney U.S. testing for coronavirus is “nothing to celebrate” because the country “treaded water” during the early stages of the pandemic while other countries such as South Korea tested people aggressively to curb the outbreak. Trump said Monday the country prevailed in testing for the virus because it has conducted 9 million tests so far, which is the most of any country and more per capita than most countries. But Romney said by March 6, the U.S. conducted only 2,000 tests while South Korea completed 140,000. Romney said more aggressive testing was part of the reason why South Korea has had 256 deaths, while the U.S. has more than 80,000.
“Anthony Fauci warns Senate that reopening U.S. too quickly could lead to avoidable ‘suffering and death’” via John Wagner, Mike DeBonis, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Laurie McGinley of The Washington Post — The nation’s top health officials warned on Tuesday the U.S. risks new outbreaks of coronavirus and possibly a broad resurgence if states and cities reopen too quickly. And they cautioned that neither a vaccine nor surefire treatments would be available when schools are slated to reopen in the fall — a grim reminder that life would not soon return to normal even if Americans resume their routines. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-diseases expert, predicted Americans would experience “suffering and death that could be avoided,” as well as additional economic damage, if states ignore federal guidelines, including delaying reopening of most businesses until they see dramatic declines in cases.
“No deaths and an army of hospital workers ready to fight: A rural town’s prescription for a nation weighing what’s next” via Todd C. Frankel of The Washington Post — The pathologist stood in the kitchen on his 40-acre farm and cut the crust from a ham and cheese sandwich for his 7-year-old son’s packed lunch. He took a swig of his morning coffee. He’d been up late answering calls, hustling to launch a clinical trial to test blood plasma as a possible treatment for COVID-19, hashing out the details between rides on his Peloton stationary bike and taking rifle shots at nuisance groundhogs. Now, he needed to get to the hospital, along with his son. “Hey, Damien, we’ve got to go, bud,” Gustaaf de Ridder said as they headed toward his GMC Denali.
“Men may be more vulnerable to coronavirus than women. A new study could help explain why.” via Adrianna Rodriguez of USA Today — An enzyme may help explain why anecdotal reports suggest men are more likely than women to suffer from the coronavirus and its severe complications, a new study shows. The study, published in the peer-reviewed European Heart Journal, found that men have higher concentrations of the enzyme in their blood, which may make them more vulnerable to COVID-19 than women. Researchers measured concentrations in blood samples taken from two groups of heart failure patients from 11 European countries. The enzyme in question is called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). It’s natural to the human body and can be found in the lungs, heart, kidneys and tissues lining the blood vessels. It also enables the coronavirus to infect healthy cells.
“Hospitals emphasizing safety as elective medical procedures return” via Jodi Wagner of The Palm Beach Post — The coronavirus crisis led to a decline in a variety of medical procedures that are performed regularly at all five Tenet hospitals. Delaying these procedures for some patients has had a devastating effect on their health, said Dr. Eric Lieberman, the medical director of cardiac services for Tenet Palm Beach Health Network. “COVID is a horrible virus, but there are other medical issues like coronary artery disease that are equally lethal and really affect a larger group of the population,” he said. “It causes more overall mortality. It is a life-threatening disease.” Now that the ban on elective medical procedures has been lifted, some patients are returning to the hospital for treatment.
“Cases spur COVID-19 testing at disabilities facility” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — The state Department of Health is testing 244 residents and 800 staff members of a Northwest Florida facility for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities after two residents tested positive for COVID-19. Two male residents of Sunland Center tested positive, with the first positive result coming when Jackson Hospital in Marianna administered a test on a resident who was being treated for a separate issue. The resident was asymptomatic and was being tested before he could be transferred back to Sunland, under requirements of a recently issued state emergency rule. The second resident transferred to the hospital also tested positive for COVID-19. The men lived in the same house on the 500-acre Sunland Center campus in Jackson County.
“DJJ says another youth tests positive” via News Service of Florida — The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice on Tuesday said another youth in the juvenile justice system has tested positive for COVID-19. That brought the number of infected youths to seven, along with 25 infections among juvenile-justice workers. The new case involves a youth at Okeechobee Youth Development Center. The six other juveniles who have tested positive for the virus are at Miami Youth Academy, Broward Youth Treatment Center and Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center.
“’It’s a nightmare’: Florida’s unemployment call-takers describe system failures, miscommunication” via David Jones of First Coast News — Over the past 48 hours, First Coast News has conducted interviews with several current and former call-takers responsible for manning the phone lines and responding to the surge of calls from claimants looking for answers to help their claim along. These call-takers paint a picture of a disorganized and dysfunctional system for receiving calls that is compromised by a systemic lack of communication. Accounts of three workers, all said they were assigned to work FDEO phone lines as temp agents through Tampa-based staffing company Kforce, contracted by Fort Walton Beach-based tech company Titan Technologies. According to their accounts, Titan Technologies oversees the phones while Kforce provided the increased staffing to answer them.
“Hospitals join COVID-19 plasma treatment study, seek donations” via Kristina Webb of The Palm Beach Post — People who have recovered from the novel coronavirus could be a lifeline for those still fighting the disease, thanks to a study taking place at two local hospitals. JFK Medical Center in Atlantis and Palms West Hospital west of Royal Palm Beach have joined a nationwide research project assessing the effects of plasma from those who had COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, on critically ill patients, the hospitals said in a news release. To help with the study, JFK and Palms West are looking for people to donate plasma to help those in need. People who tested positive for COVID-19 and have since tested negative can donate plasma through OneBlood, the American Red Cross or another Palm Beach County plasma donation center.
“Florida teachers stressed, worried about students, survey says.” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida teachers are stressed and worried their students — who they say are confused, overwhelmed and disengaged — are falling behind because campuses are shuttered and lessons have gone online, according to a new survey from the state’s teachers union. Teachers also fear that drastic budget cuts are coming to public education and that their family’s economic health could take a hit, the survey found. How do parents feel? The union and the Florida Department of Education are surveying them now for answers.
“Lawsuits seek refunds for university students” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — A federal lawsuit filed against the University of Florida’s Board of Trustees alleges that named plaintiff Dylan Egleston and other spring UF students are entitled to reimbursement of tuition and fees because they were forced to take classes online for part of the semester. That came a week after a UF graduate student filed a lawsuit in Leon County circuit court contending that he and students from throughout the broader university system should receive refunds of fees. The lawsuit filed on behalf of Egleston alleges breach of contract and “unjust enrichment” by UF. It said Egleston enrolled at the Gainesville-based school “to earn a degree that included the service of taking courses at the campus with live teacher interaction.”
“Surveys affirm devastation, but ‘hope on the horizon’ for Florida’s tourism industry” via John Haughey of The Center Square — An industry survey of more than 1,000 tourism-related businesses in Florida said 45% laid off staff over the first 15 days of April and 67% furloughed workers in March. Over the span of the two surveys conducted by Destinations Florida, an industry marketing group, tourism-related businesses that have cut back staffing since the COVID-19 outbreak have laid off, on average, about 73% of their employees. The April survey of 1,009 businesses, published last week, also found that mid-April hotel occupancy was at 13% statewide, down from 84% mid-April 2019. Destinations Florida also reported 72% of respondents applied for federal assistance, but only 17% had received any through the first week of May.
“On-time rent payments fell in Florida at the beginning of May; landlords brace for worse if unemployment system not fixed soon” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — More Florida tenants failed to pay their May rent from May 1 to May 6 compared with last year, triggering concerns those numbers could worsen if unemployment benefits don’t start flowing faster. In Florida, 85.5% of tenants paid their rent in full or in part between May 1 and May 6, a 4.2% drop year over year. Nationwide, 80.2% of tenants paid by May 6 compared to 81.7% the year before, a difference of 1.5%. One reason the national average is lower is that some states have laws giving tenants more time to pay. The data is compiled by RealPage, an analytics company, for the National Multifamily Housing Council, an industry trade group of mid- to large-size apartment complex owners.
“Florida Realtors optimistic market disruption from COVID-19 is temporary” via John Haughey of The Center Square — The COVID-19 emergency’s economic fallout has disrupted Florida’s real estate market, with buyers hesitant to pull the trigger and uncertain owners delaying plans to sell. As a result, Florida home sales have declined between 30% to 40% statewide since mid-March, with new listings for single-family homes down 3.6% and condo-townhouse properties down 10.4% compared with a year ago, Florida Realtors said. “Many buyers and sellers have understandably pressed the pause button,” said Barry Grooms, president of Florida Realtors, which represents about 195,000 Realtors and real estate professionals statewide. Housing prices remain stable statewide because, unlike the 2007-08 Great Recession when the state’s housing inventory was “overbuilt,” demand has been below supply since 2015.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“Alarmed by COVID-19 outbreaks, Miami-Dade considers sick pay for nursing home workers” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Concerned about hospitals receiving an uptick in coronavirus cases from nursing homes, Miami-Dade County’s mayor may want the county to pay the costs of sick leave for employees from the elder-care facilities who test positive for COVID-19. At a staff meeting, Mayor Carlos Giménez raised the possibility of emergency two-week benefits to the portion of the eldercare workforce that doesn’t receive sick pay and carries the coronavirus, participants in the meeting said. While there’s hope federal or state dollars could cover the sick pay, Giménez didn’t rule out local taxpayers footing the bill to encourage testing of workers who could cause outbreaks at places with people most at risk of serious health issues from COVID-19, participants said.
“After slowdown, fatalities surge as Broward contemplates Monday reopening” via Jane Musgrave of the Palm Beach Post — The jump in the number of fatalities brings the state’s death toll to 1,849. In the county, 254 people have succumbed to the highly contagious disease, according to the daily update from the Florida Department of Health. The seven who were reported dead on Tuesday ranged in age from 48 to 91. Following the same trend, the number of confirmed cases also increased overnight. An additional 941 people were diagnosed with the disease meaning there are nearly 42,000 cases statewide, state health officials said. The number of confirmed cases in the county jumped to 4,093 after an additional 204 cases were reported overnight.
“Tito’s Handmade Vodka donates hand sanitizer to Broward Health Foundation” via Brett Shweky of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Tito’s Handmade Vodka recently donated hand sanitizer to the Broward Health Foundation to help those on the front line battling the coronavirus. On Monday, May 4, Tito’s donated 300 spray bottles and a 55-gallon drum of alcohol-based sanitizer to the fundraising arm of Broward Health. The Broward Health Foundation focuses on improving the health of the community by providing necessary resources to support the programs of Broward Health. “We appreciate Tito’s helping our community and the Broward Health family stay safe,” said Bill Diggs, president of the Broward Health Foundation. “This donation will immensely help our patients and our visitors remain healthy.”
“Broward could reopen Monday if the Governor agrees” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward County is planning a limited reopening of its stores and restaurants Monday, ensuring it isn’t the only region left with shuttered businesses in South Florida due to the coronavirus outbreak. County officials say they expect Gov. Ron DeSantis to sign off on the proposal. Bertha Henry, Broward County’s administrator, on Tuesday outlined a plan with county commissioners that calls for retail stores to open at about 25% capacity. Hair and nail salons would open Monday, too. And restaurants could allow 25% seating capacity. But some county leaders said they feared if people don’t wear face coverings and take other precautions during openings, “we could see a spike” from more people getting the coronavirus, said Commissioner Mark Bogen.
“Jacksonville’s work-from-home mandate to expire next week” via Christopher Hong of The Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said his work-from-home executive order will expire next week and that he believes the city is ready to begin the next step of reopening. Curry’s executive order, which requires businesses to allow any employee who can work from home to do so, will expire Monday. Curry said he is working on a plan to bring city employees back to their offices. He said he hopes businesses will continue to allow employees with children or who are vulnerable to suffering complications from the disease to work remotely. He said he has also told DeSantis that Jacksonville is ready to begin “Phase 2” of reopening.
“UFC’s second set of Jacksonville fights set for Wednesday night” via Clayton Freeman of The Florida Times-Union — Mixed martial arts competition returns to VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena for UFC Fight Night Wednesday, the second of three UFC cards set for Jacksonville this week. A light heavyweight bout between Anthony Smith and Glover Teixeira is the featured contest. Like Saturday’s UFC 249, 11 fights will be contested Wednesday without fans due to coronavirus pandemic precautions. The fights will be streamed online via ESPN+ for a subscription fee. UFC is also scheduled to hold another set of fights Saturday night, also without fans at the arena. Some of the Saturday fights will air on ESPN and Bovada projects it will be the fifth-biggest betting card in UFC history.
“Tropical Financial Credit Union reopens lobbies, major banks still under reduced hours” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — In a sign that companies are starting to reopen, Tropical Financial Credit Union reopened on Monday all nine of its branch lobbies in South Florida. The credit union had closed the lobbies and offered only drive-thru service in March, when the novel coronavirus outbreak began to grow significantly in South Florida. On Monday, it reopened the nine branches, installing safety measures for customers and employees. “Some of our members prefer doing their banking with direct human interactions so we felt comfortable reopening our branches with proper health and safety protocols in place,” Tropical Financial CEO Richard Helber said: “Members will still have the option of using drive-thrus, ATMs and online banking.”
“Key West protesters call for U.S. 1 checkpoints to come down” via Daniel Kelly of the Key West Citizen — A group of local residents and business owners gathered at the corner of North Roosevelt Boulevard and Palm Avenue in Key West on Tuesday morning, calling on local government officials to take down the two checkpoints coming into the Florida Keys and start allowing tourists back onto the island chain. Local government officials in late March established checkpoints on U.S. 1 and off State Road 905 restricting entry into the Keys to residents, property owners and workers. As local governments have begun to ease restrictions, a group of protesters held signs and demanded the checkpoints being removed.
“Under coronavirus rules, traffic is way down, but speeding is way, WAY up” via Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald — The dramatic drop in traffic during the coronavirus pandemic has caused a dangerous surge in speeding. Not just typical, impatient, 5-10-mph-over-the-limit speeding, but severe speeding. It’s not because people are late to work or school — there are few work or school destinations while stay-at-home warnings are in place. It’s because streets are empty, tempting drivers’ inner Dale Earnhardt to press the accelerator. “There’s nobody out there, so people are driving faster and more aggressively,” said attorney Ted Hollander, partner at the Ticket Clinic, which has been handling a lower than average number of citations in the past month at its 31 Florida locations, but a higher percentage of speeding tickets.
“FAU medical students collect, donate 23,000 PPE items” via Mary Lou Cruz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Medical students from the FAU COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team at Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine recently collected and donated more than 23,000 personal protective equipment (PPE) items for health care workers throughout Palm Beach County. This pandemic gives new meaning to a scavenger hunt, only this is not a game because it has real-world challenges with life and death consequences. In the hunt, organizers prepare a list of specific items, which the participants then seek to gather. This list of much-needed items not only includes thousands of surgical gloves, face masks, face shields, surgical gowns, surgical caps, bunny suits, boot covers and various sanitation supplies, but it also includes four P100 respirators with eight filters and 1,403 face masks.
“North Palm medical spa hosting blood drive Wednesday; more Gardens-area businesses reopen” via Jodie Wagner of The Palm Beach Post — OneBlood is teaming with Wellness Jar Medical Spa at 1201 U.S. 1, Suite 9, in North Palm Beach to host a blood donation drive Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. In order to follow proper social distancing guidelines, appointments are appreciated and encouraged, although walk-ins are welcome. Anyone who donates blood will get a $10 E-gift card valid at Amazon, Walmart, Target and more, and a complimentary 10-minute session in the Wellness Jar’s Pure Air Bubble. COVID-19 survivor Mike Mangus, who was the first COVID patient admitted to Jupiter Medical Center, will be at the donation drive. He has donated plasma to be used for other patients battling the deadly virus.
— MORE LOCAL —
“Hillsborough resident evicted from motel claims owners violated Gov. Ron DeSantis order” via Florida Politics — Ira Jenkins began living at the Palms Inn motel on Fletcher Avenue in mid-July paying $270 a week for what the motel describes as a studio apartment. He was just one week behind on rent payments when he says the motel put all of his belongings in garbage bags, placed them outside and locked him out of his room. In the lawsuit, Jenkins claims he should be covered under DeSantis’ April 2 executive order suspending foreclosures and evictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic that left hundreds of thousands of Floridians without a job. The order, however, is unclear on extended hotel and motel stays.
What the Piccolo Family is reading — “COVID-19 fears ground SRQ airport almost to a halt. Passengers may already be coming back” via James Jones of the Bradenton Herald — Due to COVID-19 concerns, passenger traffic fell 95 percent in April, compared to April 2019, at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport with 9,742 only passengers traveling through the terminal. Year-to-date, airport passenger traffic is down 8.5 percent for the first quarter of 2020, with 621,192 passengers using SRQ. In preparation for a more normal return to operation, SRQ has made many operational and physical improvements, including a doubling of janitorial staff, plexiglass shields at all customer service counters, numerous added hand sanitizer stations and social distancing markers in queuing lines.
“State attorney calls on Governor to halt release of minors accused of certain crimes” via Cristobal Reyes of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala publicly called on DeSantis to issue an executive order that would allow minors accused of violent crimes and first-degree felonies to stay in juvenile detention, citing concerns for public safety. The Florida Supreme Court in response to the COVID-19 pandemic suspended all trials in juvenile court unless all parties agree to conduct them remotely, a precaution that was recently extended through June. That sparked worries in Ayala’s office about such offenders being released after 21 days, which typically is the maximum amount of time a juvenile can be held under state law without a trial. Sen. Randolph Bracy said he supports the proposal and that he would bring up the issue when he returns to Tallahassee.
“OUC halts study on shuttering coal plants as coronavirus pinches revenues and public dialogue” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando’s electric utility has indefinitely postponed a $1 million study on when to shut down its coal plants, citing plummeting revenues and an inability to communicate effectively with the public because of the coronavirus outbreak. Orlando Utilities Commission also will put off a proposed rate hike later this year as inappropriate during rising unemployment and other economic distress brought on by COVID-19. “At this point, it isn’t really responsible to move forward,” OUC’s general manager, Clint Bullock, said during a commission meeting Tuesday afternoon of the coal-plant study, adding that he wants to engage the public more directly on the issue than through virtual platforms.
“With arts hit hard by pandemic, Orlando rallies to keep theaters, museums open” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — The world is filled with grim economic news about record numbers of layoffs and shuttered businesses. Here in Orlando, however, the community just set a record of a very different kind — the biggest jump in private donations for an annual arts and culture campaign. United Arts of Central Florida announced last week that it not only reached its annual fundraising target to support theaters, museums and educational endeavors … it shattered the goal. But this news is about more than just that. It’s also about this region’s economy. Because the arts is one of our most undervalued industries. We are talking about 14,000 jobs, many of which pay better than the hotel housekeepers and fast-food jobs this community normally subsidizes.
“F-15 jets to fly over Orlando area to honor health workers, first responders” via John Cutter of the Orlando Sentinel — National Guard jets will fly over Orlando and other parts of Central Florida on Wednesday to honor health workers and first responders fighting the coronavirus outbreak. Two F-15C jets from the Guard’s 125th Fighter Wing in Jacksonville will zoom across the region starting over Apopka High School around 11:35 a.m. Wednesday. The planes will cross the region, ending at about 11:49 a.m. over South Lake Hospital in Clermont. The National Guard, U.S. Navy Blue Angels and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds recently have flown in formation over cities across the nation, including the Blue Angels over South Florida last week.
“Winter Park to consider halting construction on controversial $41.7 million library and events center project” via Lisa Maria Garza of the Orlando Sentinel — Winter Park’s commissioners will decide Wednesday whether to stop construction on a $41.7 million library and events center — potentially the latest delay for the controversial project that was first approved by voters four years ago. Newly sworn-in commissioner Marty Sullivan proposed a 90-day stop-work order at Monday’s meeting over budget and environmental concerns. Commissioner Todd Weaver called for a work session Wednesday to question representatives from construction firm Brasfield & Gorrie. If the answers given aren’t sufficient, a special meeting will immediately follow for a vote on his proposal. “I’m not looking to terminate the project, that’s not my goal here,” Weaver said. “My goal is to allow some of these risk assessments to be evaluated before putting foundations down.”
“Status of St. Augustine’s July 4 fireworks show still uncertain” via Sheldon Gardner of the St. Augustine Record — St. Augustine’s city manager decided to reverse a decision to cancel the city’s July 4 fireworks because of the COVID-19 threat after learning that information he relied on was incorrect, he said. He learned that the information he relied on about other cities canceling was partially incorrect. Jacksonville Beach and Daytona Beach have not made decisions yet on whether to cancel, he said.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“IRS issues deadline for direct deposit info for coronavirus stimulus payments” via Susan Tompor of the Detroit Free Press — The Internal Revenue Service wants people to take action by noon Wednesday if they want a shot at receiving stimulus cash more quickly via direct deposit. Bank account information can be entered at “Get My Payment” at IRS.gov. And in other news, the IRS said automatic payments will be sent soon to those receiving Social Security retirement, disability benefits, Railroad Retirement benefits, Veterans Affairs benefits or Supplemental Security Income. If things go as expected, most eligible Supplemental Security Income or SSI and veterans will spot Economic Impact Payments via their Direct Express card no later than mid-May, according to a fact sheet from Direct Express, which is a prepaid card offered to those who do not have bank accounts.
“Why the economic recovery will be more of a ‘swoosh’ than V-shaped” via Paul Hannon and Saabira Chaudhuri of The Wall Street Journal — Until recently, many policymakers and corporate executives were hoping for a V-shaped economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic: a short, sharp collapse followed by a bounce back to pre-virus levels of activity. Now, however, they expect more of a “swoosh” recovery, named after the Nike logo.
“Reopening prompts new agitation over workers’ virus exposure” via Noam Scheiber of The New York Times — Riley Breakell, a Starbucks barista in Connecticut, was reassured in mid-March when the company sent a letter announcing expanded catastrophe pay for those absent because of the pandemic. Even though she couldn’t live on the roughly $250 per week she received from Starbucks while her store was closed for a month and a half, she appreciated the company’s effort to do right by its employees. But after the company said those provisions would cease for those who were able but “unwilling to work” as stores reopened last week, Breakell became increasingly frustrated. “The first letter they sent said you should not have to choose between your health and a job, and now they’re like, ‘Well, if you don’t want to go back, you have to quit.”
“Trump deems farmworkers ‘essential’ but does not make safety rules mandatory” via Helena Bottemiller Evich and Liz Crampton of POLITICO — The lack of federal action has left state and industry leaders scrambling to shield their farmworkers from the coronavirus. As harvest season ramps up, farmers across several major produce states have installed more hand-washing stations, instructed workers to keep their distance and provided face masks — but those efforts have been inconsistent and largely voluntary. Farmworkers have long lived in the shadows of the American economy, an itinerant community that includes low-income citizens, about 250,000 legal guest workers from Mexico and Central America and hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants. Now, labor advocates are warning that continuing to ignore this vulnerable population not only threatens lives but endangers the food supply.
“Volunteers glean ripe tomatoes to feed the hungry” via Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post — “It’s good to be able to pick the tomato and follow it all the way to the consumer,” said Reinaldo Diaz, one of about 20 volunteers with Hospitality Helping Hands, the nonprofit launched by restaurateur Rodney Mayo. With help from CROS Ministries, the boxes and buckets of orange tomatoes were trucked to the Hospitality Helping Hands warehouse in West Palm Beach, where they will be given away with free groceries from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday. With the coronavirus wrecking the economy, demand for the nonprofit’s weekly grocery giveaway has grown each week since April, with cars lining up for more than a mile.
“Steak ‘n Shake permanently closing 51 locations, citing financial woes from coronavirus pandemic” via Caroline Green of the Orlando Sentinel — Steak ‘n Shake is permanently shutting down 51 of its hamburger chains, citing financial woes caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s unclear at this point if any South Florida locations will be affected. Steak ‘n Shake’s parent company Biglari Holdings lost $7.9 million during the first quarter of 2020, financial filings show, and there could be more closings as the coronavirus outbreak persists. Documents did not specify which locations will be closed, and calls to Steak ‘n Shake’s corporate office were not returned.
— THE HUMAN TOLL —
“Lost to coronavirus: A ‘go for it’ life with no regrets” via Hannah Morse of the Palm Beach Post — Richard Retblatt had a request for his family before doctors put him on a ventilator, days before he died of the coronavirus. “He told us that he loved us, that he had no regrets and that we should all get a drink to celebrate him and his life,” said Cori, his youngest daughter. He loved throwing parties, but he loved getting the family together even more. From their quarantine in New York, his four children would FaceTime him at his bed at Boca Raton Regional Hospital. When the coronavirus ultimately took his life on April 1, the Retblatts wanted to give back to the place that took care of him in his final days.
“Lake Worth high school math teacher, 43, dies of coronavirus” via Danielle Ivanov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Dieugrand Nazaire was a quiet, thoughtful teacher during his two years at Lake Worth Community High School. He didn’t dress up with funny ties or write jokes on the whiteboard to capture his students’ attention. His kind heart did that, they say. “Mr. Naz,” as his students affectionately called him, could be found after hours tutoring members of his geometry class in Creole, his native language from Haiti, checking up on their lives and offering extra credit or a few spare dollars when they needed help. Nazaire, 43, died April 22 at Delray Medical Center of COVID-19. Johana Cruz, a graduating senior, was in Nazaire’s geometry class last year. She credits his excellent, clear teaching with dispelling her dislike for math.
— MORE CORONA —
“Loneliness vs. safety: The dilemma of nursing homes during coronavirus lockdowns” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Rosalyn Kane spends her days reading book after book in her apartment at The Palace at Coral Gables, an independent living facility. She hasn’t had a face-to-face conversation with her daughters in two months, nor has she eaten a meal with her friends. She worries about getting the new coronavirus, but she wants a social life again. “It’s been hard,” Kane said. “It’s been two months but it seems a lot longer to us.” Over the weekend, DeSantis issued an executive order that extends the ban on visitors to long-term care facilities in the state for another 60 days and prohibits group activities, including communal dining.
“As wave of ‘pneumonia’ deaths spreads, Nicaragua keeps silent on the coronavirus” via Antonio Maria Delgado of the Miami Herald — Genaro Alberto Mendoza, a former Central American softball star in the 1970s and ‘80s, was taken to the hospital last week with a sore throat in the Nicaraguan city of Chinandega. His family never saw him again. Every time a family member went to the hospital the staff would not allow them to enter the room where the 74-year-old man was held. They said he was improving but that it was better to wait at home. On Monday, however, the hospital told the family that Mendoza had died and they had three hours to show up with a casket for him to be buried in immediately, without the chance of holding a viewing. Otherwise, local officials would have him buried at an undisclosed location.
“Burger King owner says coronavirus may change restaurants forever” via Jonathan Roeder and Leslie Patton of Bloomberg — Restaurant Brands International, the owner of Burger King and Tim Hortons, says the food-service industry needs to change “for the foreseeable future and possibly forever” after COVID-19. In an open letter Tuesday, CEO José Cil said his company is preparing to welcome diners back as some governments start to reopen their economies. One option being considered is “more comfortable and reusable masks that may become part of our standard uniforms.” Restaurant Brands is increasing its digital ordering capabilities by adding its restaurants to smartphone apps, Cil said. He also noted that the company is making unspecified improvements to its drive-thrus and adding curbside pickup service.
“Broadway shutdown extended until at least Labor Day” via Mark Kennedy of The Associated Press — Although an exact date for performances to resume has yet to be determined, Broadway producers are now offering refunds and exchanges for tickets purchased for shows through Sept. 6. “While all Broadway shows would love to resume performances as soon as possible, we need to ensure the health and well-being of everyone who comes to the theater — behind the curtain and in front of it — before shows can return,” said Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, which represents producers.
“Choir practice no safe haven from coronavirus” via News Service of Florida — As DeSantis weighs when to move ahead with lifting additional coronavirus restrictions, a report issued Tuesday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlighted how contagious the virus can be in group settings. The CDC studied an outbreak that stemmed from a choir practice in Washington state. Adults attended one or two 2.5-hour sessions in early March in Skagit County. While the report said no one reported having physical contact, choir members sat near each other, shared snacks and sang during the session. “Among 61 persons who attended a March 10 choir practice at which one person was known to be symptomatic, 53 cases were identified, including 33 confirmed and 20 probable cases,” the report said.
“Ooh, ooh that smell!: Pot use in the age of COVID-19” via Steve Dorfman of the Palm Beach Post — According to a 2018 national survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, some 43 million Americans — ranging in age from middle schoolers to senior citizens — said they’d used marijuana within the previous year. A 2019 Gallup poll found that 12% percent of American adults smoke marijuana regularly and a February article in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted that the number of people aged 65 and older who smoked marijuana (or ate edibles where legal) more than doubled between 2015 and 2018. Of course, much of this increased usage is attributable to recreational marijuana use being legal in 11 states for adults over the age of 21 and legal for medicinal use in 33 states.
— ONE GOOD THING —
Tucked away inside his room at a senior care facility, Bob Coleman knew he couldn’t go out into the world with the coronavirus raging.
As The Associated Press reports, Coleman can share with the world his first love — country music.
“Hello everybody, it’s a bright day in Franklin, Tennessee,” the 88-year-old Air Force veteran crooned into his microphone. “This is Bob Coleman, better known as the ‘Karaoke Cowboy,’ coming to you from Room 3325. … Let’s just jump right into it.”
The hits of Hank Williams, Dwight Yoakam and Brad Paisley began to play, all carefully selected by Coleman. He lives in Somerby Franklin, an assisted living facility about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Nashville.
Coleman is one of several retirees who have turned into DJs for a new online radio hour known as “Radio Recliner.” The 60-minute show began airing last month, starting with quarantined retirees in middle Tennessee. It has since taken off, as much the production side as among listeners, with seniors in assisted-living facilities in Georgia, Alabama, and others jumping at the chance to be a DJ after being secluded because of strict social distancing rules.
Older adults are the age group most at risk from the new coronavirus. This has left many senior citizens in assisted-living facilities not only prohibited from seeing outside visitors but also banned from socializing with neighbors across the hall.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“A bipartisan House bill would extend COVID-19 aid to more VC-backed startups” via Emily Birnbaum of Protocol — A pair of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle introduced legislation in the House that would ensure that more venture-capital-backed startups are eligible to receive small-business loans under the federal stimulus, following a weekslong lobbying blitz from the venture capital and startup world. The bill, co-sponsored by seven other lawmakers, would waive “affiliate” rules for startups that have no majority shareholder, fulfilling the wish of tech trade groups, including the National Venture Capital Association.
— STATEWIDE —
“NHC increases chances of subtropical storm forming near Bahamas this weekend” via Tiffini Theisen and David Harris of the Orlando Sentinel — Forecasters are eyeing an area of low pressure in the Atlantic Ocean that’s likely to develop as it moves northeast. The system has the potential for subtropical development this weekend a couple of hundred miles northeast of the Bahamas, the National Hurricane Center said in a special tropical weather outlook. The chance of formation is 70% over the next five days. “Environmental conditions appear conducive for the gradual development of this system, and a subtropical depression or storm is likely to form this weekend while it moves northeastward over the western Atlantic,” the NHC said.
“Something’s brewing in the tropics, which isn’t unusual before storm season’s start” via Kimberly Miller of The Palm Beach Post — A tropical system itching to form northeast of the Bahamas inspired the National Hurricane Center to issue its first outlook for the 2020 hurricane season on Tuesday, putting the chances of something developing at 70% over five days. For South Florida, the churn of air and moisture is expected to increase the chances for rain and gusting 30-mph winds beginning Thursday, but it may be the beaches that feel the brunt of whatever ultimately grows as seas build through the week. While hurricane season doesn’t officially begin until June 1, it’s not unusual to see an early-season storm gurgle up given the current conditions of the atmosphere and ocean.
“New study shows how states manage the rising costs of natural disasters” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — As natural disasters grow in severity and frequency, new research from Pew, designed to inform D.C. lawmakers, is spelling out how states are managing the rising costs. According to the study, D.C. and 46 other states have a disaster account to cover costs incurred by state and local governments. But while a disaster fund is common — some even have more than one — among the majority of states, the contributions to those accounts vary dramatically from state to state. At the start of the 2018 fiscal year, Florida appropriated more than $15 million to its Emergency Management, Preparedness, and Assistance Trust Fund, according to the study.
“Price gouging numbers continue to climb” via the News Service of Florida — Floridians have received nearly $500,000 in refunds from businesses after allegations of inflated prices linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. The state’s price-gouging hotline has been contacted about 4,400 times, and more than $497,000 has been returned to consumers since a state of emergency was declared in March because of the virus. Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office has contacted 6,300 businesses about price-gouging allegations related to products such as protective equipment. “We want to make sure these essential commodities like cleaning supplies and protective gear are available to them (residents) at a fair price,” Moody said.
“Greyhound racing ban faces revised lawsuit” via the News Service of Florida — After a federal judge rejected a challenge to a 2018 constitutional amendment that is poised to end greyhound racing, an industry group filed a revised lawsuit to continue fighting the measure. Support Working Animals, Inc., and individual plaintiffs filed the amended lawsuit in federal court in Tallahassee. They argue that the voter-approved ballot measure violates a series of rights under the U.S. Constitution. In part, the lawsuit contends that the measure violates equal-protection rights because horse racing will be allowed to continue at pari-mutuel facilities while dog racing will be blocked. “From within the pari-mutuel permitholder group, the greyhound racing industry was singled out for a deprivation of their rights based on political animus,” the amended lawsuit said.
“Money shifted to citrus marketing as forecast dips” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The Florida Citrus Commission agreed to add $277,000 to an ongoing digital ad campaign, with most of the money coming from employee travel plans that were halted because of the deadly virus. “The additional funding for global marketing is going toward extending and enhancing the current digital and social marketing campaign to drive sales of 100 percent orange juice,” department Assistant Director of Global Marketing Shelley Rossetter said in an email after the commission’s vote, which came in a conference call. The campaign, budgeted at $4.5 million for the fiscal year that ends June 30, is targeted at “lapsed” orange juice buyers, primarily parents between the ages of 30 and 60 who haven’t bought juice during the prior month.
“One spark away: How drought is creating ripe conditions for wildfires in Northwest Florida” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — Conditions are ripe for fires to continue burning throughout the Panhandle and residents should take extreme caution when doing any type of burn over at least the next couple of weeks, according to an expert with the Florida Forest Service. Drought conditions and low humidity are allowing for Escambia County’s Hurst Hammock Fire and Santa Rosa County’s Five Mile Swamp Fire to continue smoldering. However, fire crews had both 90% contained as of Tuesday. But anywhere in the area is just one spark away from another catastrophic blaze.
“Riviera workers say pandemic pay policy favors managers” via Tony Doris of The Palm Beach Post — The union representing 200 Riviera Beach employees contends its members, including those forced to work on-site during the COVID-19 crisis, have been unfairly denied pandemic pay. “Front line workers who are reporting for duty are being excluded from a pay policy, while management has chosen to reward themselves,” said Joey Brenner, the negotiator for the city’s Service Employees International Union chapter, said Tuesday. City Manager Jonathan Evans countered that most of the union members had been home, working less than a full week or idle altogether but collecting full pay. In contrast, the 72 managers are putting in extra hours and are entitled to additional compensation under a policy modeled on the emergency pay provisions for hurricanes.
“FCCI insurance CEO fired after arrest at Sarasota restaurant” via Carlos Munoz of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The commercial property and casualty insurance company, founded in Sarasota, announced that the company’s board of directors voted to terminate president and CEO Craig Johnson and remove him from FCCI’s board, effective immediately. “Mr. Johnson is innocent until proven guilty,” his attorney, Derek Byrd, said in an emailed statement. “I would [have] preferred to see the Board of FCCI allow the facts to play out and give Mr. Johnson his due process before terminating him.” His termination follows a personal incident unrelated to the company in which the board determined that Johnson, 51, did not meet the company’s standards, according to a news release.
“JEA executive Herschel Vinyard placed on administrative leave” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — JEA Chief Administrative Officer Vinyard was put on paid leave by interim CEO Paul McElroy in the latest shake-up to the executive team that led the utility during last year’s attempted sale of JEA. McElroy announced in an email to other senior leadership team members that he put Vinyard on administrative leave effective immediately. The email did not elaborate on a reason for McElroy’s decision, and JEA said there is no document related to the matter. Vinyard, an attorney who was secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection from 2011-14, earns a $350,000 annual salary at JEA. Vinyard had been working as an attorney in the Jacksonville and Tallahassee offices of Foley & Lardner.
“Jacksonville police union tells judges to fall in line or ‘find a new line of work’” via Andrew Pantazi of The Florida Times-Union — The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office police union president issued an ultimatum last month: Judges can get in line and impose harsher bonds on those accused of hurting police, or they’ll face the wrath of the union and its supporters. To demonstrate its seriousness, the union targeted one judge in particular, Duval County Judge Eleni Derke. Derke, the Fraternal Order of Police wrote on Facebook, gave “Example A” of why the crime rate was so high by providing an approximately $16,000 bond to Eric Rawls, a 22-year-old accused of ramming a police car. The union said Rawls had “seriously injured” an officer.
What Carol Marbin Miller is reading — “Pace mother beat adopted son with dog chain, chipped his teeth with pliers, sheriff says” via Colin Warren-Hicks of the Pensacola News Journal — Patricia Hyler is accused of abusing her 14-year-old adopted son for years. She also allegedly made him sleep on a dirty concrete floor and forced him to bath by stripping off his clothing in the front yard and spraying him with a hose. The 47-year-old woman was arrested on May 8 and charged with aggravated child abuse. Johnson said further criminal charges are expected to be leveled against her after the Sheriff’s Office investigation. “I’ll be honest with you, as a father, it pisses me off, is what it does,” Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson said at a news conference. “We take it personally. We really do.”
— 2020 —
“Donald Trump casts doubt on mail voting. His campaign promotes it.” via Nicholas Riccardi of The Associated Press — While Trump claims mail-in voting is ripe for fraud and “cheaters,” his reelection campaign and state allies are scrambling to launch operations meant to help their voters cast ballots in the mail. Through its partnership with the Republican National Committee, Trump’s campaign is training volunteers on the ins and outs of mail-in and absentee voting and sending supporters texts and emails reminding them to send in their ballots.
“Trump campaign sets sights on Joe Biden’s Latin America record after Bernie Sanders’ exit” via David Smiley and Bianca Padro Ocasio of the Miami Herald — Biden doesn’t have Bernie Sanders for Trump to kick around anymore. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee went largely unscathed for most of the campaign on issues involving Cuba and Latin America. But now that Sanders is out of the race, the Trump campaign is attacking Biden’s positions in the region — an onslaught that could hurt Biden’s campaign while helping Trump in Florida among Hispanic voters. Trump’s campaign is planning to release ads blasting Biden’s policies on Cuba and Latin America. The ads will focus on an interview Biden gave late last month to Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS4. During the interview, Biden said he’ll restore the Cuba policies that Trump reversed after taking office in 2017.
“The story behind that bizarre pro-Trump coronavirus ad in the Miami Herald” via Jessica Lipscomb of the Miami New Times — On April 26, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 52,000. The CDC announced there were six new possible symptoms of coronavirus that Americans should be aware of. And Trump tweeted that White House news briefings about the virus were “not worth the time & effort!” The very next day, a bright-yellow full-page ad ran on the back page of the Miami Herald’s front section saluting Trump for his leadership, seemingly praising his response to the pandemic. New Times reached out to the Miami Herald to ask who bought the ad and whether the newspaper had vetted it before publication. In an email response, publisher Mindy Marques said the ad was paid for by a company called Polo International Incorporated.
“Democrats will take their first step toward a virtual convention” via Reid J. Epstein of The New York Times — The Democratic National Committee on Tuesday will take its first formal step toward allowing a virtual convention, a last-resort measure that party officials have tried to avoid but that appears increasingly likely as the coronavirus’ threat persists. The party’s rules committee will vote Tuesday on whether to give convention officials the authority to alter the event’s key processes — like switching to remote voting for delegates. The DNC last month moved its convention, initially set to be held in Milwaukee in mid-July, to late August.
— MORE FROM THE TRAIL —
“Shevrin Jones crosses $400K raised in bid for SD 35” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rep. Jones is once again leading a crowded field in fundraising as he pulled in more than $25,000 last month in his bid for Senate District 35. He’s now raised more than $410,000 since announcing his bid early last year. The race features six candidates competing to replace outgoing Sen. Oscar Braynon II, who is term-limited. Braynon has already endorsed Jones as his preferred successor. Jones added more than $12,000 to his campaign in April. He brought in another $13,000 through his political committee, Florida Strong Finish. That was more than enough to lead the field as the effects of COVID-19 continue to put a dent in fundraising numbers statewide.
“Ana Maria Rodriguez back on top in SD 39 fundraising” via Ryan Nichol of Florida Politics — Rep. Rodriguez is regaining her monthly money lead in the Senate District 39 contest after hauling in more than $42,000 in April. The Republican’s campaign collected nearly $27,000. Her political committee, Ethics and Honesty in Government, added another $16,000. Two Democrats, Rep. Javier Fernández and Daniel Horton-Diaz, a former District Chief of Staff for U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, are also running. Fernández, like Rodriguez, is seeking the seat after only one term in the House.
“Florida Senate candidate pushes gun rights for black men and Democrats” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Democratic Florida Senate candidate H. Alexander Duncan wants Democrats and particularly black men to demand Second Amendment rights to guns just as loudly as the mostly Republican, mostly white men seen at many protests around the country. Duncan, running in a crowded Democratic primary in Senate District 9 to represent Seminole County and parts of Volusia County, posted several items on Facebook over the weekend espousing his firm commitment to Second Amendment rights, including a photograph of himself holding his AR-15 rifle, superimposed against the U.S. Constitution and a few rifle cartridges.
“Annette Taddeo endorses Maureen Porras in HD 105” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Porras and Javier Estevez are competing for the Democratic nod in the open race for HD 105. Current Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez is pursuing a Senate seat. “She has worked so hard to get where she is today, and I know she will bring that ethic and attention to detail to Tallahassee. Maureen knows our community and is ready to put in the work and fight for what District 105 needs.” “I am deeply honored to have the support of Sen. Taddeo, who has paved the way for many like me to run for office,” Porras added.
“Broward cops union endorses veteran BSO commander over sitting Sheriff and his predecessor” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — Broward County’s largest police union — embroiled in a bruising battle with the sitting Sheriff and not a fan of his ousted predecessor — on Tuesday instead endorsed a retired top commander with 40 years of experience in the race to lead the Broward Sheriff’s Office. The critical endorsement was somewhat surprising, bypassing the race’s front-runners, current Sheriff Gregory Tony, whose campaign is reeling from a string of controversies, and former Sheriff Scott Israel, who was removed from his post by Florida’s Governor in the wake of the department’s hesitant response to the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting.
“Monique Worrell continues torrid start in Orlando State attorney race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The contest to succeed Orlando’s State Attorney Ayala in Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit was supposed to be a high-profile battle between two prominent, accomplished and charismatic deputies with strong backing. Then it was supposed to be a three-way contest after a popular retired chief judge jumped into the race. Then along came Worrell. Since she entered the race in March, Worrell, a former assistant state attorney, former assistant public defender, former law professor, and former chief legal officer of a national criminal justice reform group in New York City, has dominated fundraising.
“Tallahassee, Leon County candidates socially distance from their donors” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Local candidates appear to have kept a social distance from their own donors last month, posting modest numbers during what would usually be a busy fundraising period. Some just took the month off entirely because of the coronavirus outbreak and stay-at-home orders. Others raised hundreds, rather than thousands, of dollars, if not less. Half the 34 candidates running for city and county office, not including judicial posts, didn’t bring in a single dollar during April, according to the most recent campaign finance reports. Seven incumbents opted not to raise money.
— TOP OPINION —
“State’s future depends on plan to safely reopen schools” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board — The coronavirus has forced government officials across Florida to make many unprecedented decisions. Wednesday, the state Board of Education will start a debate about one of the most important. That is whether — and how — the state can safely reopen schools in August. Florida can’t reasonably begin to restart the state’s economy until parents stop trying to do double duty as employees and teachers. Schools have been closed since mid-March under COVID-19 restrictions. Public and private schools have been trying to make do with distance learning, which at best is an acceptable stopgap. Early results are mostly predictable. Online attendance has been weakest at schools with many students from low-income families.
— OPINIONS —
“Attention armchair patriots, wearing a mask isn’t tyranny — it’s common sense” via Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach post — I have always found that the people who gripe the most about their Constitutional rights are usually the ones who get it wrong. Like this guy in a viral video posted last week as he was being denied entrance to a South Florida Publix because he wasn’t wearing a mask. “You’re terrorists!” the man shouted to the Publix employees. “You’re in violation of my Constitutional and civil rights …” But there’s nothing in the Constitution that says private businesses are forced to welcome inconsiderate, uninformed jerks. In other news, you might have a Constitutional right to carry a weapon, but that doesn’t stop a private business from refusing to serve you if you bring it inside.
He’s only half-right — “Florida avoided COVID-19 catastrophe by ignoring DeSantis, Trump” via Randy Schultz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — New evidence reinforces the idea that Florida escaped a wave of COVID-19 cases not because of Gov. DeSantis but despite him. The Tampa Bay Times asked 15 experts to review cellphone tracking data from before DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order on April 1. The experts concluded that Florida avoided catastrophe because so many residents didn’t wait for the governor. They stayed home on their own. Miami-Dade County, for example, issued its stay-at-home order on March 26. Over the five days before the order, however, more than half the phones in the county never traveled more than a mile. That was a drop of roughly 80 percent from mid-February through mid-March.
What Alan Suskey is reading — “Should Rick Kriseman pull a Mike Bloomberg and seek a third term?” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — In the age of coronavirus, term limits raise a question for St. Pete voters looking for leadership continuity as the city trudges through the pandemic and its ongoing economic recovery. Should the city temporarily buck term limits and allow Kriseman to run for a third term next year? There’s a strong argument for yes. Over the past six years, he’s proven his leadership on a variety of issues ranging from the Tampa Bay Rays and economic development to promoting small businesses and strong environmental policy. Kriseman could encourage City Council to amend the City Charter to allow a third term, even if only temporary. It is possible. And it’s certainly food for thought.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Gov. DeSantis decided not to talk about the COVID-19 crisis — at least not to the media — by skipping the usual briefing. That was fine with Sen. Jason Pizzo, who says he’s tired of the BS over Florida’s failed unemployment compensation system and the fundamental lack of human empathy from some of Florida’s top officials.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Pizzo speaks his mind.
— Dr. Fauci testifies before a U.S. Senate committee, warning about the danger of reopening states too soon. He says it could kill more people and do even more damage to the economy. Florida also got a shoutout during that hearing from the head of the CDC.
— Attorney General Moody says Floridians have received nearly half a million dollars in refunds from businesses accused of inflated prices during the COVID-19 pandemic.
— Florida State University will spend more than $400,000 to fund 26 projects that address questions related to coronavirus. The research will try to explain the effects of COVID-19 and investigate how humans can cope with the changes brought on by the disease.
— The Florida Citrus Commission will spend more money advertising the state’s citrus crop, especially orange juice, which has become more popular during the pandemic. They’ll be using money from the travel budget because no one at the commission is traveling anymore.
— Checking in with Florida Man and his better half, who is accused of stabbing her husband with a screwdriver to protect her sister.
To listen, click on the image below:
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
— ALOE —
“Guy Fieri is the last unproblematic food person” via Scaachi Koul of BuzzFeed News — I know that, for many of us, our weekend was spent dissecting the online dust-up between two internet girls who are likely both too cool to come to my birthday Zoom, Alison Roman and Chrissy Teigen. The drama has forced me to think about all the milkshake-ducking that’s happened in the past several years around famous food folk. Paula Deen’s been out here using the n-word. There are plenty of restaurateurs accused of sexual harassment and misconduct, who then apologize ineffectively through … a pizza dough cinnamon roll recipe. But you know who hasn’t milkshake-ducked yet? A Hot Wheels car come to life, specifically the one my brother never let me play with because it had flames on it, which meant it was the fastest. The Mayor of Flavortown: Fieri.
“Movie-related products still hit stores despite film delays” via Jonathan Landrum of The Associated Press — Despite film delays, toy production and gaming companies are often staying on schedule, releasing a variety of products tied to major titles from “Black Widow” to “Minions: The Rise of Gru” in hopes of weathering through the pandemic. Most products are already in retail stores, appearing on shelves and being sold online several months to a year ahead of the film’s new release date. Some believe toy makers made the right choice to sell products now rather than later, especially since many of the products have already been manufactured and packaged for sale. “The train had already started moving on these toys, and there was no way to stop it,” said James Zahn, senior editor at The Toy Insider.
“Welcome to Florida — the post-pandemic sports capital of the nation” via Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel — Pay no attention to the critics, my fellow Floridians. Let us embrace what we are about to become. Let us relish and revere our soon-to-be status as the post-pandemic professional sports capital of the United States. It’s no a secret that our state has never been known for having the best of professional sports teams (see Jaguars, Bucs and Dolphins), but it’s looking more and more like we may soon have the most professional sports teams. If you’re scoring at home, our state may soon harbor displaced teams from three leagues — the NBA, MLS and Major League Baseball — all here at one time in a desperate attempt to save their seasons amid a global pandemic that has shut down sports for more than two months.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to Tampa City Councilman Bill Carlson, lobbyist Scott Dick, and writer Adam Weinstein.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.