It’s not getting any better.
As Gov. Ron DeSantis (as well as leaders in other states) push reopening strategies, Florida added 2,016 new coronavirus exposure cases to its daily count Sunday morning.
In addition to an eye-opening spike in COVID-19 cases — the second day in a row over 2,000 — Florida Department of Health officials confirmed there were another 6 deaths.
With 2,016 new COVID-19 cases, the state’s total now stands at 75,568, with the death toll rising to 3,022 (which included 91 non-Floridians). The jump in new cases Friday came without a significant increase in the number of tests received.
This week, Florida has broken records for the epidemic: 2,581 new cases on Saturday — with 49 deaths; 1,902 on Friday and 1,698 on Thursday (largest single-day number of cases to that point).
Infectious disease experts have been warning that reopening could result in the second wave of new cases in Florida as the coronavirus pandemic continues, and recent numbers led Miami officials to consider resuming tighter restrictions. In St. Petersburg, three local bars closed due to employees testing positive for COVID-19.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce is launching a new statewide Safety Council to foster safety, health and sustainability among Florida businesses.
The first of its kind Florida Chamber Safety Council brings together safety professional from companies like ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, AdventHealth, Coca-Cola Beverages Florida, Fisher Phillips, Florida Blue, NextEra Energy Inc., the University of Central Florida and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts to create messaging that will establish an on-the-job safety culture.
“Job creators can do more by pooling their resources and learning from each other. The Safety Council will unify businesses around what matters most — our people — to make Florida the safest, healthiest and most sustainable state in America,” said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
The initiative comes as the Chamber continues efforts to boost Florida’s economy from 17th in the world to 10th by 2030. The council will help ensure growth is done while still ensuring safety in the workplace.
Florida businesses lacked a leading organization to work exclusively on preventing workplace injuries and deaths, leaders said.
The council and its leaders plan to use research to establish benchmarks for training.
The council comes as Florida businesses are reeling from historic job losses as a result of economic shutdowns prompted by the novel coronavirus. As the state reopens its economy, safety in the workplace has taken on a new and unexpected role by forcing employers to consider epidemiology in their standard practices to keep both employees and customers safe from the spread of COVID-19.
In another odd turn for an already odd year, the Republican National Convention is coming to Jacksonville. The flashy, nationally televised portion, at least.
But will the convention move the needle in Florida? Florida Politics’ panel of Influencers says no by an overwhelming margin.
Nearly two-thirds of those polled said RNC 2020 will either make no difference in how Florida votes in the fall (57%) or could even hurt Trump’s chances of carrying the Sunshine State (7%).
As far as who will win the Sunshine State, a plurality says President Donald Trump will defeat former Vice President Joe Biden to earn a second term.
Republicans predict that outcome by a 58-7% margin with 35% saying the election is too close to call five months out.
Democrats do have confidence Biden can pull off the upset, with 54% expecting a W. However, 18% believe Trump will win and 29% are unsure.
With protests and the RNC heading to Jax snatching headlines, the coronavirus pandemic has taken a back seat, but it’s not over.
The past week saw Florida set some grim records — a weeklong streak of 1,000-plus new cases a day and a daily record in new infections.
No matter the cause, a small plurality of Florida Influencers said there’s no reason to roll back from Phase Two of DeSantis’ strategy.
A Florida Politics poll found 38% say the Governor should delay further reopening until the coronavirus pandemic settles down a bit, while 45% say the recent spike shouldn’t factor in at all.
Unsurprisingly, there was an equally strong correlation between party affiliation and how Influencers graded the DeSantis administration’s pandemic response.
Nearly three-quarters of Republicans said the Governor had done either a “good” or “excellent” job so far. Likewise, 84% of Democrats said DeSantis had done a “fair” or “poor” job managing the crisis.
Democrats, by a 66% to 18% margin, were more likely to say the former. Republicans felt the opposite, with 65% recommending the administration stay the course and 19% saying it’d be wise to slow it down a tad.
Ed. note — In the recent debate over ways the media can responsibly cover issues regarding race, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) is urging media outlets to begin capitalizing the word “Black” in its reporting. The Associated Press style does not reflect this yet, although a discussion on the matter is ongoing.
The NABJ believes it is “important that the word is capitalized in news coverage and reporting about Black people, Black communities, Black culture, Black institutions, etc.,” and the group will be updating the organization’s style guidance to reflect this determination.
Basically, capitalizing “Black” would serve to respect the Black diaspora. NABJ also recommends that whenever a color is used to appropriately describe race then it should be capitalized, including White and Brown.
We agree. Florida Politics will now adopt this simple, but meaningful change, as a measure of our commitment to diversity and inclusive reporting.
— DAYS UNTIL —
“Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre” by Max Brooks release — 1; Belmont Stakes rescheduled — 5; Father’s Day — 6; Apple to hold Developer Conference — 7; NBA training camp — 15; “The Outpost” with Orlando Bloom and Scott Eastwood premieres — 18; NBA teams travel to Orlando — 22; Major League Soccer will return to action — 23; Disney World Magic Kingdom & Animal Kingdom to reopen — 26; Disney World Epcot and Hollywood Studios to reopen — 30; Federal taxes due — 30; “Mulan” premieres — 39; TED conference rescheduled — 40; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 46; NBA season restart in Orlando — 46; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 63; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 64; NBA draft lottery — 69; Indy 500 rescheduled — 69; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 71; Rev. Al Sharpton’s D.C. March — 74; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 81; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 82; Rescheduled date for French Open — 99; First presidential debate in Indiana — 109; “Wonder Woman” premieres — 109; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 110; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 117; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 119; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 122; NBA draft — 122; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 123; NBA free agency — 125; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 131; 2020 General Election — 142; “Black Widow” premieres — 145; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 148; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 155; “No Time to Die” premieres — 162; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 169; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 211; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 237; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 403; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 412; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 508; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 606; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 648; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 690; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 844.
— AMERICA SMOLDERING —
“George Floyd is not alone. ‘I can’t breathe’ uttered by dozens in fatal police holds across U.S.” via Katie Wedell, Cara Kelly, Camille McManus and Christine Fernando of USA Today — The phrase “I can’t breathe” has become an international rallying cry against police brutality after the high-profile deaths of Eric Garner in 2014 and Floyd on Memorial Day. But, across the country, dozens of people have died in police custody under similar circumstances. At least 134 people have died in police custody from “asphyxia/restraint” in the past decade alone, even though many apparently did not or could not express difficulty breathing. That is likely an undercount.
“Third consecutive weekend of anti-racism protests expands to suburbs, as ‘Blue Lives Matter’ demonstrators push back” via Toluse Olorunnipa, Jon Silman, Maura Ewing and Kevin Williams of The Washington Post — Protesters around the country took to the streets Saturday for the third straight weekend of demonstrations as national tensions over race and police brutality evolved to include actions in the suburbs and a few counter-protests aimed at defending law enforcement. The scenes depicted a nation that continues to grapple with stark divides along racial lines over issues ranging from the proper role of police in society to how best to reckon with a history marred by racism, slavery and oppression of minorities.
“As public opinion shifts on racism, Donald Trump digs in” via Jonathan Martin, Maggie Haberman and Katie Rogers of The New York Times — NASCAR is demanding that its fans no longer fly Confederate flags at races. The Pentagon and some Republican senators are open to renaming military bases that bear the names of Confederate soldiers. Corporate America is taking stances against racial injustice. A majority of Americans say the police show racial bias in their use of force and a majority of self-described conservatives acknowledge protesters’ frustrations are at least somewhat justified. “I heard they want to close-up all police forces,” Trump said. “It’s not like they want to sort of bring a little money into something else. They want it actually closed. I’m thinking, what happens late at night when you make that call to 911 and there’s nobody there?”
“Lafayette Square clash, still reverberating, becomes an iconic episode in Trump’s presidency” via Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker of The Washington Post — Trump, besieged by a long season of crisis, wanted to create an iconic moment. Less than one hour after federal authorities forcibly removed peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square, the president emerged with military leaders from the fortified White House, the air still thick with the acrid smell of tear gas, to pose for pictures holding a Bible in front of a historical church. The moment was indeed iconic. But it spawned yet another crisis for the president. So indelible were the pictures that night outside the White House that Lafayette Square has come to represent Trump’s inability to meet the moment. ”
“Protests in Trump country test his hold in rural White areas” via The Associated Press — The protest movement over Black injustice has quickly spread deep into predominantly White, small-town America, notably throughout parts of the country that delivered the presidency for Donald Trump. Across Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, more than 200 such demonstrations have taken place, many in cities with fewer than 20,000 residents. The protests in these Republican-leaning areas offer a test of the President’s ability to reassemble his older, White voting bloc. If he cannot replicate that coalition, it would leave Trump with few options, especially since he continues to lose support in suburbs.
“The White House put up a wall. The people ‘made it beautiful.’” via Hannah Natanson of The Washington Post — On their fifth day of demonstrations, the thousands gathered to protest Floyd’s killing literally hit a wall. A tall metal fence had gone up almost overnight to keep them out of Lafayette Square, and away from Trump. Slowly at first, then faster and faster, the fence filled with posters and flowers and paintings and photos, all meant to honor Black men, women and children who have lost their lives at the hands of police. “Black people tend to take things meant to hold them back and turn them into things that make us stronger,” said Dayna Crawmer, who is Black, shortly after tying her own sign to the fence on Sunday. “And that’s what happened here.”
“U.S. military faces a reckoning on how to handle its Confederate symbols without provoking Trump” via Dan Lamothe and Josh Dawsey via The Washington Post — The U.S. military, under scrutiny for its role in efforts to quell protests and its own difficult history involving race, is facing another reckoning as it weighs how to confront a legacy of Confederate symbolism without running afoul of Trump. Momentum toward possible changes had been building in the Pentagon, with the Marine Corps releasing a policy last week prohibiting the display of the Confederate battle flag at its installations. But Trump’s intervention on whether to change the names of the 10 Army bases named after Confederate officers who fought to preserve slavery has left military officials unclear on how to proceed.
“Democrats are avoiding ‘Defund the Police,’ while Republicans harp on it” via Eugene Scott of The Washington Post — Defund the Police is a movement that has gained steam on the left and among activists during the protests over Floyd’s death. Its supporters think that the police are systemically encouraged to react violently to nonviolent people and that the resources spent funding those behaviors would be better spent elsewhere. The political implications of that movement and slogan have been a concern for Democrats, whose 2020 presumptive nominee has the support of the majority of voters. Many Democrats fear that they could lose the White House if their platform is viewed as too radical. The idea is certainly not being embraced among established Democratic politicians including Joe Biden.
“Atlanta police chief resigns after law enforcement fatally shoots Black man” via Rachel Siegel of The Washington Post — Atlanta police chief Erika Shields resigned Saturday after video emerged of another fatal police shooting of an African American, and as protests over police brutality and racism continued for the third straight weekend. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who announced Shields’s departure, also called for the immediate termination of the police officer involved in the shooting of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks after a DUI stop, saying she did not “believe that this was a justified use of deadly force.”
“Feds comb Facebook to hunt down alleged rioters and looters” via Betsy Woodruff Swan of POLITICO — Law enforcement authorities across the country are turning the very technologies protesters are using to organize their anti-police uprising against alleged bad actors in their midst. Investigators are combing through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, seeking to identify potentially violent extremists, looters and vandals and finding ways to charge them after and in some cases before they sow real-world chaos. The technique has alarmed civil liberties advocates, who say the strategy could chill online speech, while law enforcement officials say it’s no different from strategies they’ve employed in the past. The DOJ has cited numerous social media posts and videos when building criminal cases against people for allegedly illegal activity that happened during or alongside recent protests against police brutality.
“Scant evidence of antifa shows how sweeping the protests for racial justice have become” via Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post — The specter of violent, left-wing militants invoked by Trump and a chorus of conservative voices has yet to materialize. Instead, multiracial crowds have appeared in every corner of the United States, as the president sent more than a dozen tweets blaming clashes with police on antifa, the label associated with anti-fascist protesters who infamously sparred with far-right figures after his election in 2016. Federal and local arrest records in dozens of cities make virtually no mention of antifa. Law enforcement officials who had braced for the purported invasion of antifa militants in cities large and small now mostly acknowledge the threat has not appeared.
“County administrator reaches out: ‘I feel the pain, anger and loss’ over Floyd” via Wayne Washington of The Palm Beach Post — In the weeks after a Minneapolis police officer killed Floyd, the nation was convulsed. Peaceful protests, riots and a sometimes brutal law enforcement response played out on television screens across the country. Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker watched those images, too, feeling all of the pain, anger and fear she assumed the county’s 6,000-person workforce felt. Just before 11 p.m. Sunday, she reached out to them. “The video of Mr. Floyd’s murder is very disturbing and unacceptable to not only America but the world. Let us all take a moment and imagine ourselves in the position of the Floyd family. We would all want and demand justice for our loved ones.”
“Depression and anxiety spiked among Black Americans after Floyd’s death” via Alyssa Fowers and William Wan of The Washington Post — Americans were already struggling with historic levels of mental health problems amid the coronavirus pandemic. Then came the video of Floyd’s death at the hands of police. Within a week, anxiety and depression among African Americans shot to higher rates than experienced by any other racial or ethnic group, with 41% screening positive for at least one of those symptoms. The rate of Black Americans showing clinically significant signs of anxiety or depressive disorders jumped from 36% to 41% in the week after the video of Floyd’s death became public. That represents roughly 1.4 million more people.
“Polls show strong support for the protests — and also for how police handled them” via Andrea Benjamin of The Washington Post — Beyond the direct expression of outrage, one purpose of protests is to sway public opinion. By that standard, the demonstrations against police violence that followed the killing of Floyd in police custody appear to have been successful. A poll released this past week found that 69% of Americans think Floyd’s killing signals a broader problem within law enforcement, compared with 29% who consider it to be an isolated incident. In 2014 only 43% of Americans felt that the killing of unarmed African American men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City signified a broader problem.
— FLORIDA REAX —
“Sunday’s competing caravans: One pro-Trump, one seeks police reforms” via Antonio Fins, Hannah Winston and Tony Doris of The Palm Beach Post — Amid renewed national tension from another police shooting, West Palm Beach was the scene Sunday of two rallies, one supporting trump and another one calling for an end to police abuse of Black Americans. Trump Team 2020′s vehicle and boat parades kicked off with parades on Interstate 95 and the Intracoastal. The group’s decorated trucks met in Lake Park for a voter-registration drive. Further south, the Palm Beach Indivisibles caravan seeking police reform organized at Dreher Park where participants decorated their vehicles. Some were accompanied by the Town of Palm Beach residents in order to be able to cross the bridge onto the island.
“In Miami-Dade, dueling rallies in support of Black Lives Matter and Trump” via Aaron Leibowitz, Monique O. Madan, Bianca Padro Ocasio and Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald — Peaceful protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and Trump were held simultaneously around Miami-Dade on Sunday. The events, which will continue to take place through Sunday evening, drew hundreds of people on different sides of ideological fences. Just a few yards away from a religious protest against police brutality at the Torch of Friendship, a “Law and Order” rally organized in front of Bayfront Park drew a mix of Cuban and Venezuelan exiles holding flags from their countries, as well as other supporters of Trump. They said they were showing up to celebrate Trump’s birthday and defend law enforcement.
“This is an unprecedented wave of progressive activism. Are Florida Democrats ready to seize it?” via Kirby Wilson and Samantha J. Gross of the Tampa Bay Times — Interviews with state lawmakers from across the ideological spectrum show that turning activism into state policy is going to be difficult. The next scheduled legislative session isn’t until next March. Already, Sen. Wilton Simpson, the incoming Senate President, says he can’t envision a scenario in which the Legislature passes any reforms that don’t have the backing of law enforcement. Facing what’s likely to be staunch opposition to major criminal justice or other types of reforms, some Democrats are urging lawmakers to be pragmatic.
“As America again looks at symbols, Florida Capitol’s Confederate memorial remains” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Protests over the death of Floyd while in police custody have again sparked awareness of the remaining Confederate symbols in the South, with several memorials and monuments being removed. But one particular, mysterious obelisk, placed early last century, remains and it’s in the Florida Capitol’s front yard. It’s mysterious in part because its origins are almost entirely lost to history. It’s a four-sided, water-stained stone pillar, standing like a sentinel for visitors where U.S. 27 enters downtown Tallahassee, right outside the historic Capitol. Neither the Governor’s office nor the legislature have claimed responsibility for the monument.
“Pensacola City Council starts countdown to enable removing Confederate monument” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — The Pensacola City Council unanimously approved an item to start the 30-day waiting period required by council policy for the city to alter or remove a historical marker. City Council President Jewel Cannada-Wynn said the vote Thursday was not an endorsement to remove the monument. “It is not whether or not we should move or remove or alter the monument,” Cannada-Wynn said. “It is about having this opportunity to discuss it, is what this item does. The item was done through a rare agenda add-on drafted Thursday before the meeting that was sponsored by three council members.
“Mayor Grover Robinson speeds up creation of citizens advisory committee on police” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson announced at the City Council meeting Thursday evening that he was speeding up the creation of a citizens advisory committee focused on the police force. Robinson also called on council members to submit nominations for the committee, which he said will consist of 11 members. Each of the seven council members will appoint one person, and the mayor will appoint four people. Robinson said council members have until June 19 to submit nominations to his office. Previously, Robinson said the committee wouldn’t be created until October after the city held town halls on what the committee would look like and who would serve on it.
“Protesters made Christopher Columbus statue a target. Will Miami reconsider a complicated legacy?” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — Seven protesters vandalized the Bayside Marketplace statue of Columbus and were arrested by Miami police. Another statue, one honoring fellow explorer Juan Ponce de León, was also damaged. Both statues have stood in the Bayfront Park area since the 1950s, each moving from original spots in the 1980s but generating little attention or controversy. Miami police denounced the actions. “In the City of Miami, we support peaceful protests but there will be zero tolerance for those who hide behind the peaceful protesters to incite riots, damage property, and hurt members of the public or our officers,” Miami police said in a release.
“Board members, advocacy group fight school chief’s attempt to sideline deputy superintendent” via Andrew Marra of The Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Donald Fennoy’s attempt to sideline his second-in-command is running into fierce opposition from school board members and an advocacy group for Black students. Three board members and a leader of the Coalition For Black Student Achievement this week lambasted the proposal to transfer Deputy Superintendent Keith Oswald from his post, saying the move was poorly timed and would put the education of Black students at risk. The unusually harsh denouncements marked the stiffest public criticism Fennoy has faced from his bosses since taking office two years ago, throwing into doubt his plans to remake his administration’s top ranks. A vote is scheduled for Wednesday, a district spokeswoman said.
“Jacksonville’s top prosecutor dismisses dozens of charges against protesters” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — Northeast Florida State Attorney Melissa Nelson dismissed charges against dozens of people who were arrested during protests on Sunday, May 31 in Jacksonville. The State Attorney’s Office for the Fourth Judicial Circuit Friday issued a roster of 48 people who were arrested during demonstrations two weeks ago and were all charged with “unlawful assembly [and] resisting without violence” by Jacksonville police officers on the streets of downtown. Monique Sampson, Jacksonville Community Action Committee’s founder and organizer, helped rally many of the protests in Jacksonville. She maintained that police “came prepared to beat people up” during the initial protests that developed in the wake of Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police.
“At Jacksonville’s Day of Action, anguished mother demands answers in son’s January killing” via Teresa Stepzinski of The Florida Times-Union — Saturday’s demonstration at the Duval County Courthouse and march on City Hall was led by Jacksonville Community Action Committee along with Take Em Down Jax and Northside Coalition of Jacksonville. The protest attracted hundreds of people with homemade signs saying “White Silence is Violence,” “Ban Militarized Policing” and “No Justice, No Peace, Defund Police” and “Black Lives Matter.” Saturday’s demonstration focused mainly on the need for police reform, accountability and transparency, especially in officer-involved shootings. Protest organizers read aloud the names of each Black resident killed this year by Sheriff’s Office personnel.
“Tension amid peaceful protests in Tampa and St. Petersburg” via Tony Marrero, Diana C. Nearhos, Chris Tisch, Romy Ellenbogen, Bernadette Berdychowski, Divya Kumar, Josh Fiallo, Luis Santana, John Pendygraft, Joey Knight, Claire McNeill and Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times — Demonstrators took to the streets of South Tampa, Ybor City and St. Petersburg throughout the day with a renewed energy and determination. But this time a new element joined in: The “Back the Blue” supporters, who rallied in support of law enforcement in Tampa and had some tense moments with counterprotesters. The protesters held an impromptu, high-energy drum circle complete with chanting and dancing beneath the interstate overpass of at 16th Street S and Fifth Avenue S.
“Collier County Sheriff’s Office strengthens ‘duty to intervene’ directive” via Devan Patel of the Naples Daily News — Following in the steps of other law enforcement agencies around the country, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office has added explicit language in its policy manual that requires deputies to intervene if another officer uses excessive force. The Sheriff’s Office has had similar language regarding a duty to intervene in both its code of ethics and jail operations policy for several years. “As a CALEA ‘Accredited with Excellence’ agency, we are constantly reviewing our policies and procedures in order to provide the most professional best practices to our community,” Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk wrote.
“Meet the local people driving the fight against racism, police brutality” via Savannah Evanoff of the NWF Daily News — For many in Northwest Florida, the nationwide protests against racism and police brutality sparked by Floyd’s murder didn’t exist beyond a computer screen. All it took was a few social media posts and two days to launch a physical manifestation of the movement, uniting a couple of hundred people for a protest and march from the Fort Walton Beach Landing to Uptown Station on the last night of May. The time had come for action, said organizer Akeem Clayborne. Clayborne teamed up with Marlon McLaughlin, to organize the protest. The Fort Walton Beach natives have been friends since middle school.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@marcorubio: Those who say extremists aren’t behind the violence, looting & vandalism should tell us who they believe is behind it. Are they claiming the legitimate protesters are to blame? Fact is the legitimate organizers have gone to great lengths to stop agitators from hijacking protest.
—@GovRonDeSantis: Excited to be at @HomesteadMiami today to commemorate their 25th anniversary & join them for the second consecutive day of @NASCAR races. The Speedway features a 1.5-mile oval and 2.21-mile road course & generates more than $301M annually for the region. Start your engines!
—@nikkifried: What’s clear now is that @GovRonDeSantis’ reopening plan was never based on data. What we don’t know is what he is doing to address the fact we had over 10,000 new #COVID19 cases reported this week.
—@mattgaetz: I’d rather the US not have a soccer team than have a soccer team that won’t stand for the National Anthem. You shouldn’t get to play under our flag as our national team if you won’t stand when it is raised.
—@perlmutations: The US Soccer team called and you guessed it … said they couldn’t give any less of a f*** about what you two dipshits think. @realDonaldTrump @mattgaetz
—@JimRosicaFL: We’ve already had two dead bodies found and a person who was the victim of a random baseball bat attack. This is Sunday in Tallahassee.
The number of reported COVID-19 cases in Florida continue to sharply rise including Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. But that didn’t stop folks from hitting the nightclubs and bars in Ybor City on Saturday night. #tampacovid19 #yborcity pic.twitter.com/VQkc5IZ3iq
— Luis Santana (@LuisSantana) June 14, 2020
—@jessicabakeman: People really have given up fighting this, haven’t they?
—@bsfarrington: I haven’t wanted to share this news, but my father died late Thursday. But his last message needs to be heard. “In Bill’s memory please help the needy, do something nice for a lonely person or pray for those people that you may disagree with. Isaiah 58:6-11” please do so.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“No-bid Florida COVID contracts flow to Ron DeSantis donors” via Daniel Ducassi of Florida Bulldog — By DeSantis’ emergency decree March 9, state agencies are allowed to suspend normal purchasing regulations and dole out millions of taxpayer dollars to companies without going through formal bidding processes that are typically required. Among those contracts are $2.5 million in testing agreements with BioReference Laboratories. OPKO Health, chaired by South Florida billionaire and philanthropist Phillip Frost, acquired BioReference in 2015 for nearly $1.5 billion. Frost last year agreed to pay a $5.5-million fine to settle Securities and Exchange Commission charges that he engaged in a “pump-and-dump” market manipulation scheme. Ring Power Corporation obtained $6.6 million in state contracts to provide heavy-duty mobile generators. The firm itself has given Friends of Ron DeSantis $35,000.
“DeSantis says coronavirus spike is coming among younger age groups more likely to survive the disease” via Mark Skoneki of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis blamed a spike in COVID-19 cases on greater testing of younger Floridians, which he said were much less likely to get seriously ill or die from the highly contagious coronavirus. “These are the people who are in the low-risk groups,” he said when asked about the increasing number of positive results, especially in age groups of 20 to 45. Some who test positive have shown no signs of having the disease, he said. DeSantis said there have been “outbreaks” in some agriculture communities where farmworkers huddle in close quarters, but he said they usually are younger people, too. He said the numbers are increasing as the state continues to ramp up testing to anyone who wants to be checked for COVID-19.
“Florida fired its coronavirus data scientist. Now she’s publishing the statistics on her own.” via Marisa Iati of The Washington Post — Tension built for days between Florida Department of Health supervisors and the department’s geographic information systems manager before officials showed her the door, she says, permanently pulling her off the coronavirus dashboard that she operated for weeks. Managers had wanted Rebekah Jones to make certain changes to the public-facing portal, she says. Jones had objected to and sometimes refused to comply with what she saw as unethical requests. She says the department offered to let her resign. Jones declined. Jones has now found a way to present the state’s coronavirus data exactly the way she wants it: She created a dashboard of her own.
“More than just health concern at coronavirus test sites: Are you exposing your personal information to security risks?” via Karina Elwood and Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As people get tested, they fill out forms thinking their information will be used only to find out if they have the infectious virus. But, like any time someone shares personal information and in this case a DNA swab there is a risk of identity theft, insurance fraud and the sample being sold or used for research or other purposes without you knowing it. “Pop up community-based testing sites are playing an important role but there are a lot of parties touching people’s information,” said Michael Gusmano, a research scholar with The Hastings Center.
“A numbers game” via Sarah Blaskey, Ben Conarck, Daniel Chang and Nicholas Nehamas of The Wall Street Journal — As bars, gyms, vacation rentals and movie theaters reopened at partial capacity last week in all but three South Florida counties, the number and rate of new COVID-19 cases were rising statewide, a troubling indicator that the disease could be spreading more quickly. The 64 counties that moved into the second phase of reopening on June 5 saw a near 42 percent increase in new cases the week before that could not be explained by increased testing alone, according to an analysis of the Florida health department’s case data. Testing had increased by only 8 percent over the same period. Signs of increased transmission of the virus are also apparent in statewide trends of new cases recorded during the last weeks of May and early June.
— REOPEN FLORIDA —
“As coronavirus rise sets records, state to approve county’s move into Phase Two” via Jane Musgrove of The Palm Beach Post — The Governor’s Office signaled it’s ready to sign off on a plan that would allow Palm Beach County businesses to expand their operations even as both the state and the county shattered daily records for the number of new people diagnosed with COVID-19. “They feel comfortable with our narrowed Phase Two request and a formal response will be forthcoming,” County Mayor Dave Kerner said after talking to top officials in DeSantis’ office. Kerner’s optimism came when the county, for the first time, recorded more than 300 cases in one day and the state recorded an eye-popping 1,902 cases, smashing a record that was only 24 hours old.
“COVID calls canceled” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — The DeSantis administration is canceling weekly phone calls with health care providers meant to keep them abreast of the state’s coronavirus policies and procedures. Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew and State Surgeon General Scott Rivkees held their last regularly scheduled weekly phone call with nursing-home providers Thursday. The last regularly scheduled meeting with hospitals was June 1. Mayhew and Rivkees routinely used the calls — which initially were held on a daily basis but were pared back to just once a week — to convey the administration’s policies to providers and to answer their questions directly.
“‘Getting back to normal.’ Big crowds, few masks on South Beach on first reopened weekend” via Maya Lora of the Miami Herald — Beach cabanas up, colorful umbrellas galore and a large array of music blasting from personal speakers: it could almost be a normal day on South Beach, minus the overwhelming crowds and with the addition of social-distancing ambassadors. It was the first weekend since beaches reopened in Miami-Dade County. It was busy, but crowds seemed below pre-coronavirus levels. Thirst and first-aid stations were still available to those who wanted to rent chairs or other furniture for their day on the beach via the private beach concessionaire Boucher Brothers. An employee for the company said before 3 p.m. that they had sold out of day beds. Social-distancing ambassadors in coral shirts were posted outside designated entrance and exit areas to the beach, where they reminded guests they had to wear masks until settled on the beach in their family units.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“Employers slow to bring back workers as wary consumers remain at home” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — When gamblers returned to the glitz of South Florida’s casinos, the Seminole Tribe had 3,200 workers ready to answer their every beck and call. But hundreds of other employees remained at home, waiting for their own chance. The Tribe’s Hard Rock Guitar Hotel in Hollywood, along with its other gambling parlors, isn’t certain it will have enough business yet to rehire everyone who was furloughed when the coronavirus pandemic wrecked the economy. Business owners are recalling only the employees they need, and that leaves thousands of workers wondering when they’ll see another paycheck, even as the government boasts about reopening the economy.
“A numbers game” via Sarah Blaskey, Ben Conarck, Daniel Chang and Nicholas Nehamas of The Wall Street Journal — As bars, gyms, vacation rentals and movie theaters reopened at partial capacity last week in all but three South Florida counties, the number and rate of new COVID-19 cases were rising statewide, a troubling indicator that the disease could be spreading more quickly. The 64 counties that moved into the second phase of reopening on June 5 saw a near 42% increase in new cases the week before that could not be explained by increased testing alone, according to an analysis of the Florida health department’s case data. Testing had increased by only 8% over the same period. Signs of increased transmission of the virus are also apparent in statewide trends of new cases recorded during the last weeks of May and early June.
“Two Keys jail deputies and one clerk of the court staffer test positive for COVID-19” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — Two Florida Keys corrections deputies tested positive Thursday for the novel coronavirus. The cases are the first for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, which managed to keep its three corrections facilities free of COVID-19 throughout the monthslong crisis. The two officers live in Miami-Dade County, which remains a COVID-19 hot spot, said Bob Eadie, administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Monroe County. Inmates are tested before they enter the jail and their temperatures are taken. If any of the other deputies test positive, the sheriff’s office and Department of Health will begin testing current inmates.
— MORE LOCAL —
“Four North Florida law enforcement agencies awarded $975,000 to address COVID-19” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Four North Florida law enforcement agencies received a grant totaling $975,300 on Friday to address the numerous public safety challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, announced Lawrence Keefe, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida. The awarded police agencies include the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office with $370,107, the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office with $127,963, the Panama City Police Department with $73,818 and the Tallahassee Police Department with $403,412. Agencies can use the funds to hire additional personnel, pay overtime, purchase protective equipment and address the medical needs of inmates.
“Hospital bed usage exceeds 80% in Orange and Seminole, but officials say no cause for concern yet” via Naseem S. Miller, Steven Lemongello and Adelaide Chen of the Orlando Sentinel — More than 80% of general and ICU beds were in use Sunday at Orange and Seminole county hospitals, and health officials say that even though the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients are increasing, so are the elective surgeries and emergency procedures not related to COVID-19. Local officials said that they’re not yet concerned, although they’re watching the numbers closely. Saturday was the first time since the outbreak began that more than 2,000 new cases were reported in a single day. Saturday was the first time since the outbreak began that more than 2,000 new cases were reported in a single day.
“Seminole restaurant closes after 6 customers test positive for coronavirus” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The owner of Kiwi’s Pub & Grill in Altamonte Springs said staff members have begun to experience coronavirus symptoms and one has initially tested positive. Owner Rick Culmer’s Facebook update on his staff came the day after he announced Kiwi’s was immediately but temporarily closing after six people informed him they had tested positive for the virus and had been inside the restaurant during the prior week. Culmer wrote that the Seminole County Health Department told him the restaurant had not been officially “tagged” by any infected people. He added, “one of our staff has now tested positive with the Rapid Test.
“St. Petersburg assisted living facility reports new COVID-19 outbreak” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — A St. Petersburg assisted living facility has reported a new coronavirus outbreak. In an email to Pinellas County Commissioners, Assistant County Administrator Lourdes Benedict said 12 patients at the Grand Villa Senior Living facility tested positive. Of those, three had already been transported to area hospitals an the other nine were on standby. The email did not state to which hospitals patients were being transported. “Testing results continue to trickle in,” she wrote. 77 people have died associated with outbreaks at long-term care facilities in the county, including residents, patients and staff.
“St. Pete bars the Galley, Park & Rec and the Avenue Eat + Drink close after employees test positive for COVID-19” via Justine Griffin, Jamal Thalji, Amy Hollyfield and Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — Three downtown bars within a couple of blocks of one another announced Friday night that they’re temporarily closing after staffers tested positive for COVID-19. The Galley, Park & Rec DTSP and the Avenue Eat + Drink posted Facebook messages alerting patrons that some employees were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. None of the bars offered a timeline for when they might reopen. Late this week, coronavirus records were set in the United States and in Florida. An alarming spike in the state renewed fears of a second wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
— CORONA NATION —
“Trump rally called ‘dangerous move’ in age of coronavirus” via The Associated Press — After months away from the campaign trail, Trump plans to rally his supporters this coming Saturday for the first time since most of the country was shuttered by the coronavirus. Trump will head to Tulsa, Oklahoma, a state that has seen relatively few COVID-19 cases. Health experts question the decision, citing the danger of infection spreading among the crowd and sparking outbreaks when people return to their homes. Trump’s rally will be held indoors, at a 19,000-seat arena that has canceled all other events through the end of July.
“CDC issues new COVID-19 guidelines at a time of protests and rallies” via Lena H. Sun, Chelsea Janes and Toluse Olorunnipa of The Washington Post — The CDC released new coronavirus guidelines to help Americans navigate a changed country, as they face mass protests, spiking cases in many states and Trump’s plans to return to holding big rallies. “They are not regulations. They are not commands,” Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director of infectious diseases, told reporters during the first full CDC briefing in more than three months. “But they are recommendations or even suggestions [on] how you can have a gathering that will keep people as safe as possible.”
“Inmates released to home confinement say too many remain in infected federal prisons” via Laura Cassels of Florida Phoenix — Early releases relate to expanded powers granted to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons by Congress in the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, to reduce infections and deaths from COVID-19. U.S. Attorney General William Barr directed prisons to use those expanded powers to expedite the release of inmates deemed at elevated risk of contracting the disease and posing low risks to public safety. To avoid spreading the virus from prisons to communities, inmates must first complete 14-day quarantines. Medically vulnerable inmates who rank “minimum” as to their risk to the public, and high on chronic health impairments, were given priority for release. This policy leaves many in prison that otherwise might be a good fit for early release.
“Majority of Americans still concerned over coronavirus as country continues to reopen, survey shows” via Rebecca Morin of the USA Today — A combined 86% of Americans say they are very or somewhat concerned with the pandemic, according to a new survey. The findings come as some states are seeing an increasing number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. Robert Griffin, research director for the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, said there was a “steady, slow week over week decline” in concern, but that has since stalled out over the past several weeks. When broken down by political party, Republicans saw a drop in concern by 12 percentage points since early April. More than three out of four Republicans — 79% — say they are very or somewhat concerned with the virus in the most recent survey.
“No summer holidays in US ‘for months’ says America’s top public health expert” via Nick Allen of The Telegraph — British holidaymakers can expect to be banned from traveling to the United States for months under coronavirus restrictions, according to America’s most prominent public health official. In an interview, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said the ban could last until a vaccine is developed, although it may be before that. He said lifting it would be “more likely months than weeks.” Around 3.8 million Britons visit the United States in a normal year, to holiday destinations including New York, Los Angeles, Florida and Las Vegas. The travel ban was ordered by Trump In March. There are some exceptions, including green card holders, those with American spouses and UK government officials, but the vast majority of British citizens are effectively barred.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Marco Rubio vowed to make PPP loans public. Now he asks if they are trade secrets” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Rubio said he would fight to make sure the public knew which businesses received taxpayer-backed coronavirus relief loans that totaled $511 billion. “Bottom line is, we’re going to know one way or another who got this money,” Rubio said in a virtual town hall event on April 29. “Treasury, the SBA is eventually going to have to release that. I always thought they were going to have to, and if they don’t, we’ll make them do it.” After Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the administrator of the Small Business Administration, Jovita Carranza, said this week they do not plan to make PPP loan recipients and amounts public, Rubio changed course.
“Pandemic deepens economic pain at Trump’s company, already suffering from a tarnished brand” via Joshua Partlow, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O’Connell of The Washington Post — The whiplash at Trump’s D.C. hotel is emblematic of the problems faced by his company, which was already suffering from a tarnished brand before the novel coronavirus hit. The fresh wave of political anger directed toward Trump complicates an already difficult recovery for the company. The pandemic in particular has rattled operations at the company. With thousands of Trump’s hotel rooms empty, the company laid off or furloughed more than 2,800 employees and scoured for even the smallest savings. It eliminated flowers, chocolates and newspapers at its New York hotel and turned off lights in common areas in its Chicago hotel to save on electricity.
“Florida extends waiver on important requirement for unemployment benefits” via Lawrence Mower of the Miami Herald — On Thursday, state officials announced DeSantis waived those requirements for another three weeks, through July 4. DeSantis first suspended the work search requirements on March 20, the week after the state saw a historic rise in unemployment claims. The requirements are normally a “great idea,” DeSantis said then, but not during a pandemic that has shut down the economy. DeSantis has extended the waiver four times. Each time, he did so as the deadline loomed, forcing many applicants to fear they’d soon lose eligibility and aggravating some lawmakers. Once when DeSantis extended it, the waiver was set to expire the next day. This week’s extension came two days before the deadline.
— MORE CORONA —
“Beijing goes into ‘wartime mode’ as virus emerges at market” via Anna Fifield and Lyric Li of The Washington Post — A district in central Beijing has gone into “wartime mode” after discovering a cluster of coronavirus cases around the biggest meat and vegetable market in the city, raising the prospect of a second wave of infections in the sensitive capital, the seat of the Chinese Communist Party. The discovery of dozens of infections, both symptomatic and asymptomatic, underscores the perniciousness of the virus and its propensity to spread despite tight social controls. Authorities are particularly alert to cases around markets because that is how the coronavirus spread: It emanated from the Huanan food market in the city of Wuhan, across China and soon across the entire globe.
“How New York’s coronavirus response made the pandemic worse” via Shalini Ramachandran, Laura Kusisto and Katie Honan of The Wall Street Journal — In the first few days of March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio assured New Yorkers things were under control. The virus has hit New York harder than any other state, cutting through its densely populated urban neighborhoods and devastating the economy. Some patients were too sick to have been transferred between hospitals. Squabbling between the Cuomo and de Blasio administrations contributed to an uncoordinated effort. Hospitals often mixed infected patients with the uninfected early on, and the virus spread to non-COVID-19 units.
“How coronavirus wreaked havoc on Georgia elections process during primary” via Will Peebles of the USA Today — Tasks as mundane as grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions have become potentially life-threatening activities for the most at-risk population. Elected officials at every level grappled with tough decisions, torn between health concerns and a struggling economy. The myriad issues surrounding Georgia’s primary election became a topic of national conversation after voter confusion, equipment errors and finger-pointing at the state level on Election Day gave way to accusations of voter suppression as the week unfolded. The virus restricted the amount of training received by poll workers and poll managers, who are usually retirees. The primary was set to be a dry run for the new machines ahead of the much larger general election in November.
“What social isolation may be doing to our brains” via Richard A. Friedman of The Washington Post — Now that the country is slowly emerging from lockdown, we might consider what effect this vast experiment in social isolation has had on not just how we feel but also how we think. Besides depriving us of the company of friends, quarantine also deprives of us roaming around and exploring the outside world, with all its unexpected experiences and chance encounters. We are understimulated and, as a result, many of us have experienced chronic low-level stress. Chronic stress is potentially harmful to the brain, in part because it leads to a persistent increase in the level of the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine.
“Why we’re not going back to the office any time soon” via Megan McArdle of The Washington Post — Ignore those cheerful notes from human resources, assuring you that a committee of the very best people is working hard on getting you back into the office. What that committee has undoubtedly found is that the problem of getting large numbers of people back into the office is difficult, probably insuperable, until we get a vaccine. Since the advent of the Internet, there have been a lot of unfulfilled prophecies about the End of the Office. These prophets failed because, underneath our jackets and button-down shirts, we’re still just glorified monkeys, evolved to do things in a group.
“What if working from home goes on … forever?” via Clive Thompson of The New York Times Magazine — New survey results indicate that half of those who were employed before the pandemic were now working remotely. That’s a significant increase — pre-COVID-19, the paper estimates, the figure was about 15%. The coronavirus crisis is forcing white-collar America to reconsider nearly every aspect of office life. Some practices now seem to be wastes of time, happily discarded; others seem to be unexpectedly crucial and impossible to replicate online. Another attraction for employers: shrinking real estate costs. With fewer employees in-house, firms can shed space. Research also finds that work hours encroach on leisure time. And surveillance is a potential hazard, as privacy advocates note.
“Is this goodbye to make-your-own waffles? Coronavirus may end the hotel breakfast as we know it.” via Hannah Sampson of The Washington Post — Americans aren’t yet returning in droves to hotels. According to data, U.S. hotel occupancy reached just over 39 percent between May 31 and June 6, a slight uptick from the previous week but a steep drop from the same time a year earlier. Still, when guests do get back to hotels, they want to find their favorite amenities. “They still want their breakfast, and you’ve got to be able to provide the breakfast,” Anthony Melchiorri, a hospitality consultant and host of “Hotel Impossible” said. He said hotels have plenty of options, including extending hours, limiting capacity, asking guests to make reservations at staggered times and having staff dish out food that customers might have retrieved themselves.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Trump has trouble lifting glass of water and walking down ramp at West Point graduation” via Dave Goldiner of the Daily News — Trump struggled to lift a glass of water Saturday during his speech to U.S. Military Academy graduates at West Point. Trump started to lift the glass with his right hand but seemed unable to guide it all the way up to his lips. The president used his left hand to steady the glass and tilt it into his mouth. After his speech, Trump also looked unsteady as he walked down a set of stairs after a lethargic speech to the graduates of the Army college. He also had difficulty pronouncing the name of iconic World War II Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The incidents took barely a couple of moments to play out but drew an instant reaction on social media.
“Trump administration revokes transgender health protection” via Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of The Associated Press — In a move applauded by Trump’s conservative religious base, his administration finalized a rule that overturns Obama-era protections for transgender people against sex discrimination in health care. The Department of Health and Human Services said it will enforce sex discrimination protections “according to the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology.” This rewrites an Obama-era regulation that sought a broader understanding shaped by a person’s internal sense of being male, female, neither or a combination. Behind the dispute over legal rights is a medically recognized condition called “gender dysphoria.”
“How Melania Trump blocked Ivanka Trump from encroaching on her domain” via Mary Jordan of The Washington Post — Melania wasn’t prepared to move to Washington, either. It did not help that the campaign revelations of Trump’s alleged serial infidelities still stung. According to several people close to the Trumps, she was in the midst of negotiations to amend her financial arrangement with Trump what Melania referred to as “taking care of Barron [Trump].” Ivanka used the private theater, with its plush red seats, and enjoyed other White House perks. Some said she treated the private residence as if it were her own home. Melania did not like it. When she and Barron finally moved in, she put an end to the “revolving door” by enforcing firm boundaries.
“Ethics probe into Alcee Hastings ends after disclosure he married aide” via John Bresnahan of POLITICO — An investigation into whether Hastings had an improper relationship with one of his aides was dropped following the disclosure that the Florida Democrat has been married to the staffer since January 2019. The Ethics panel also announced that it was creating a special investigative subcommittee to look into allegations that Del. Michael San Nicolas, had an improper sexual relationship with a congressional staffer, broke campaign finance laws and lied to governments. San Nicolas’ former chief of staff has accused the delegate, who was elected in 2018, of having an affair with the woman in question and then hiring her in his congressional office.
— STATEWIDE —
“‘Trumpicans’ throw presidential birthday bash, while Joe Biden supporters are ‘Ridin’ with Biden’” via Skyler Swisher and Austen Erblat of the Orlando Sentinel — South Florida’s political divide played out on streets and waterways on Flag Day with rival caravans showing support for Trump and Biden. Trump’s supporters celebrated his birthday with a truck rally, motorcycle ride and boat flotillas. Biden’s fans countered with a “Ridin’ with Biden” caravan of cars. At Pirate’s Well Restaurant and Bar near West Palm Beach, dozens of trucks flew Trump and American flags. In West Palm Beach, about 50 cars gathered for a pro-Biden procession.
“Anna Eskamani named finalist for EMILY’s List Rising Star Award” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — EMILY’s List has named Eskamani as one of six national finalists for the organization’s Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award. The recognition aims to highlight women lawmakers serving at the state level. “The award honors a woman who demonstrates the sort of commitment to community, dedication to women and families, and determination and civility that have been the highlights of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ career, in and out of office,” read a statement from EMILY’s List. Eskamani is wrapping her freshman term in the House after easily winning the 2018 contest for House District 47.
“Miami police chief admits using ‘offensive’ words decades ago. Black cop union wants him fired.” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina admitted to receiving a letter of reprimand more than two decades ago for using several “offensive” words during a presentation to officers from other departments on the difficulty of working street narcotics. But the chief denied using racial slurs during the presentation. He said he was trying to point out the dangers and difficulties of the detail to experienced officers. Despite claims from Miami Community Police Benevolent Association President Stanley Jean-Poix that he was told Colina referred to Overtown as “Ni—- Town” during the 1997 presentation, Colina said he did not use a racial slur.
“Two more Miami-Dade residents contract West Nile virus, health officials say” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade County has reported two more cases of West Nile virus. On Thursday, the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County said a third and fourth county resident have contracted the West Nile virus infection from local transmission. The month of May saw Miami-Dade’s first two cases of West Nile virus, both in county residents and through local transmission. Drain standing water in garbage cans, gutters, buckets, pools, coolers, birdbaths and pet water bowls. Also throw away old tires, drums, bottles, cans and other broken appliances.
“What’s the Magic Kingdom’s worth? Disney World is suing over its property taxes — again” via Gabrielle Russon of The Washington Post — Disney is suing Property Appraiser Rick Singh over its property taxes, arguing the 2019 appraisals are too high. Disney filed a dozen lawsuits this week in Orange Circuit Court over the tax assessments for its theme parks, resorts, employee buildings and other structures on its sprawling property. For years, Disney and Singh have clashed on the property assessments, and dozens of courts cases are still pending after Disney has sued Singh every spring dating back to 2016. Disney’s property tax bill for Epcot alone was about $7.2 million, if it paid by Nov. 30, 2019, according to documents Disney provided with the lawsuit. Disney said it had the paid the 2019 taxes already.
“FSO gives parents tools to screen kids for vision problems” via Florida Politics — The Florida Society of Ophthalmology is sharing resources for parents and guardians to perform basic, at-home vision screenings for children. Using guidelines from the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), FSO is encouraging parents to screen their children for vision issues that are treatable, or even preventable, if caught early. Still, FSO said only about 20% of preschool-age children get vision screenings. To facilitate screenings, FSO has posted in-depth instructions and eye charts on its website. The materials may also be used to screen adults and determine whether a follow-up visit with an ophthalmologist is necessary. Resources can be found at MDEye.org/HomeVision.
— 2020 —
“Trump rally attendees must agree not to sue campaign over potential coronavirus exposure” via Caitlin Oprysko of POLITICO — Supporters of Trump will soon be able to attend one of his signature, raucous campaign rallies again after a monthslong hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic but first, they must agree not to sue the campaign if they contract the virus after the event. The fine print on the registration page for the June 19 event underscores the continued health risks associated with reviving the “Make America Great Again” rallies, which pack thousands of supporters into arenas for hours at a time, doors for next week’s rally open four hours before Trump is set to begin, for instance. Right above a red “register” button on the page, the site includes a short disclaimer, informing attendees that “by clicking register below, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present.”
“Trump loses 2 pivotal allies in his anti-kneeling crusade: NASCAR and the NFL” via Meredith McGraw of POLITICO — Trump has long had two cherished American institutions standing beside him as he railed against athletes taking a knee during the national anthem: NASCAR and the NFL. This week, they both started to walk away. Bending to the cultural moment, NASCAR and the NFL in recent days reversed course on their approach to athletes protesting racial injustice. Yet Trump stood his ground. The changing tenor from the two leagues could be pivotal for Trump, though. The president has long leaned on the front offices of each organization as he has publicly attacked athletes who took a knee during the national anthem, and privately pressured some team owners to change anthem rules.
“Trump changes Tulsa rally date after controversy over Juneteenth choice” via Jeanine Santucci of the USA Today — After days of controversy over Trump’s choice to hold his first rally since the coronavirus lockdowns in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Juneteenth, the president announced he would change the date of the event. Trump had stirred controversy for his decision over the first of several big campaign events. It will be his first rally since an event in Charlotte, North Carolina, on March 2. Trump has never held a rally in Tulsa, and Oklahoma is a state he won by 36 percentage points in the 2016 election.
“Joe Biden’s VP list narrows: Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Susan Rice, others” via Bill Barrow and Julie Pace — Democrats with knowledge of the process said Biden’s search committee has narrowed the choices to as few as six serious contenders after initial interviews. Among the group still in contention: Warren and Harris, as well as Rice, who served as President Barack Obama’s national security adviser. Those with knowledge declined to name other contenders and said the process remains somewhat fluid. Biden’s vetting committee had conversations with a larger group of women earlier this spring; those continuing on in the process have been asked to turn over financial records, past writings and other documentation.
“It’s not too late to save the 2020 election” via Nathaniel Persily of The Wall Street Journal — On Tuesday, citizens in Georgia stood in lines for hours to vote and some just gave up. The state struggled to handle its primary election, hobbled amid the coronavirus pandemic by a shortage of poll workers and polling places. With Georgia potentially in play between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, more than twice as many voters are expected in November. Hundreds of voting sites are being taken out of commission, either because they cannot accommodate adequate social distancing or because the civic-minded senior citizens who usually staff them aren’t willing to risk their lives to do so. With more voters interested in voting by mail, election officials will have to treat ballot security and cybersecurity as greater priorities.
— CONVENTION COUNTDOWN —
“‘We will put the safety of people first’: Jacksonville Mayor says no safety promises made to lock RNC bid” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — “Clearly the RNC wants a large event with a lot of people,” Mayor Lenny Curry told reporters Friday morning. “I want that too … If COVID-19 presents challenges, we will put the safety of people first.” Curry said it was too early to say what type of safety protocols would be needed during the events, scheduled to be held from Aug. 24 through Aug. 27, when asked whether attendees would be required to wear face masks or do temperature checks.
“Lenny Curry touts $100 million boon from Republican convention, but virus puts projections up in the air” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Curry touts a $100 million benefit from Jacksonville hosting a large portion of the Republican National Convention, but the actual amount of gain will hinge on the same factor that allowed Jacksonville to unexpectedly land the convention in the first place, the coronavirus pandemic. When Cleveland hosted the GOP convention four years ago, it drew about 48,000 visitors, according to Tourism Economics. A $100 million impact for a national convention would be on the conservative side based on studies done on past conventions in 2012 and 2016.
“Republican convention COVID-19 precautions yet to be decided, Jacksonville mayor says” via David Smiley and Francesca Chambers of the Miami Herald — Precautions to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus in Jacksonville during Republican National Convention festivities will be in place this August, but it’s not yet decided what that will require, the city’s mayor said. Mayor Lenny Curry, speaking to reporters during an early-morning video conference called just hours after the Republican National Committee announced that it would move Trump’s nomination acceptance speech from North Carolina to Florida, said the city of 900,000 is still monitoring state and local data around the virus.
“‘We will put the safety of people first’: Jacksonville mayor says no safety promises made to lock RNC bid” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — “Clearly the RNC wants a large event with a lot of people,” Curry told reporters Friday morning. “I want that too … If COVID-19 presents challenges, we will put the safety of people first.” Curry said it was too early to say what type of safety protocols would be needed during the events, scheduled to be held from Aug. 24 through Aug. 27, when asked whether attendees would be required to wear face masks or do temperature checks.
“Republicans and Trump want a Jacksonville convention party. Some locals are worried about the area’s health.” via Annie Linskey and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — Public safety experts, business leaders and local officials expressed anxiety Friday that the decision to move most of the Republican presidential convention to Jacksonville, Florida., will needlessly endanger the health of participants and state residents already grappling with a record-high number of new coronavirus cases. Trump is now expected to give his address Aug. 27 at Jacksonville’s VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, an indoor space that holds a maximum of 15,000 people. Far more visitors could arrive for the festivities that accompany conventions. Roughly 48,000 people flocked to Cleveland for the 2016 GOP convention.
“Jacksonville’s history complicates Republican convention” via Bobby Caina Calvan of The Associated Press — When Republicans descend on Jacksonville, Florida, to officially renominate Trump for a second term, it will be a well-choreographed affair that will unfold against the backdrop of a military town, a bastion of conservatism and a must-win battleground state. When he accepts his party’s nomination in late August for another White House bid, the president will be doing so amid the political and racial divisions deeply ingrained in his host city. Jacksonville is a place still coming to terms with its Southern heritage while trying to become a more cosmopolitan place in the shadows of glitzier Miami and better-known Orlando.
“St. Johns County Republicans see RNC convention as ‘opportunity of a lifetime’” via Colleen Jones of The Florida Times-Union — The official announcement of Jacksonville as the site of the Republican National Convention in August is buoying hopes the event will boost the economy of St. Johns County. The convention, expected to draw at least 50,000 attendees, could also help coalesce support and momentum around the GOP in Northeast Florida, according to local Republicans. But do the potential benefits outweigh any negative impacts, namely, concerns around potential demonstrations, as well as COVID-19 social-distancing guidelines? Isabelle Renault, president and CEO of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce, believes the convention will certainly be a boost to the local economy.
— MORE FROM THE TRAIL —
“With robust slate, Florida Democrats look to change numbers in the Capitol” via John Kennedy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Seeking to catch what they hope is a blue wave this election season, Florida Democrats have fielded candidates in almost all of the 120 state House and 21 Senate seats up for grabs this fall in the nation’s biggest presidential battleground. The state’s candidate qualifying period ended Friday, with Democratic contenders filing papers for every legislative seat on the ballot, except for a Panhandle House seat. Across the state, it appeared 10 House Democrats were poised to win election without opposition, among 22 House and Senate seats across Florida where no Republicans filed to run. Florida Democratic Chair Terrie Rizzo said that her party wanted to make a point of contesting across the state.
“Randolph Bracy, Jason Brodeur avoid primaries in Senate races” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Bracy and Republican Senate candidate Brodeur avoided primary challenges late Friday when potential party opponents failed to qualify for the Aug. 18 ballot. Democratic Sen. Victor Torres picked up a late-entry Republican opponent in Senate District 15. Bracy will face Republican rival Joshua Adams of Winter Park in November in his bid for a second term representing Senate District 11 in Western Orange County. Brodeur can sit back and wait while a crowded Democratic primary sorts out an opponent for him. Five qualified for the Aug. 18 ballot. Torres of Orlando picked up a last-week general election opponent when former Orange County Sheriff candidate Lou Minnis switched to challenge Torres in SD 15 this week.
Tina Polsky announces five new Broward endorsements in Senate bid — Rep. Polsky touted new supporters from elected officials and community leaders across Broward County supporting her campaign for Senate District 29. The endorsements include Broward Commissioner Nan Rich, state Rep. Joe Geller, school safety activist and Parkland resident Max Schachter, Parkland Commissioner Ken Cutler and former Rep. Jim Waldman. Rich said: “Rep. Polsky has been a champion on issues relating to women’s rights. We need her in the Senate in order to protect access to reproductive health, fight for equal pay for equal work and implement protections important to new mothers and babies like paid maternity leave. “
“Debbie Mucarsel-Powell endorses Javier Fernández over her former district chief of staff in SD 39” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Mucarsel-Powell is endorsing Fernández in the Democratic primary for Senate District 39. Mucarsel-Powell made the announcement despite the fact her former district chief of staff, Daniel Horton-Diaz, is also competing in that contest. “I am endorsing Rep. Javier Fernández for District 39 because he understands the importance of finding real solutions to human-made climate change, solving our affordable housing crisis, and fixing Florida’s broken unemployment system,” Mucarsel-Powell said in a Friday statement.
“Jim Kallinger qualifies for HD 9, will take on Allison Tant” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Kallinger threw his hat into the ring Friday for a run at House District 9 in Tallahassee. Kallinger’s experience includes time as the State Representative of HD 35 from 2001 to 2004, President of the Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition and co-chairman of Consumers for Smart Solar. He also serves as a Senior Strategist for Front Line Strategies in political and issues campaigns. Kallinger is the second Republican to join the race for HD 9. Others in the race include three other democratic candidates and one NPA candidate. Kallinger will find a formidable opponent in Tant, who is the former chair of the Florida Democratic Party and an honorary board member of the Children’s Home Society of Florida.
“Rematches on the horizon in three Seminole Co. House districts” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A rematch was officially scheduled Friday in House District 30. There, Democratic Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil of Maitland and Republican former Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs will go another round in the November election. Republican Rep. David Smith of Winter Springs drew a bye into the November election for his House District 28 seat when he attracted no primary challengers. So he’ll await the winner of the Aug. 18 Democratic primary between Baker of Sanford and Lee Mangold, for the HD 28 seat. In 2018 Smith defeated Mangold 51% to 49% to win what that year was an open seat. Republican Rep. Scott Plakon could see a rematch with Democrat Tracey Kagan, assuming Plakon wins his primary.
“Kamia Brown reelected without opposing to Florida House” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Brown has been once again reelected without opposition, which she considers a blessing considering everything else going on. Brown is expecting her first child in September. With the coronavirus crisis making contact risky for her, and with the national unrest inspiring her to work on reform efforts for Florida law enforcement and racial divisions, she figured she could do without a long summer and fall of campaigning. “I continue saying, ‘Thank you, Lord, thank you, Lord,’” Brown said Friday after the qualifying deadline passed and no one filed late to force her into having to campaign for reelection pregnant or with an infant, during a pandemic. “I am very grateful that no one jumped into this race.”
“Travaris McCurdy elected in HD 46 after opponents drop” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — McCurdy is heading back to the Florida Legislature, only this time it’ll be his name on the office door. McCurdy, a former aide to Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy and, prior to that, to then-Sen. now Rep. Geraldine Thompson, won election to the Florida House of Representatives when the last of his potential opponents, Democrat Cynthia Harris, failed to qualify on Friday. Others had withdrawn in recent months. McCurdy will succeed Democratic Rep. Bruce Antone. “It’s a true testament to the work I’ve done in the past,” McCurdy said. “A lot of folks run but they don’t really have receipts. I have receipts, and the people knew it.”
—“6 Democrats to vie for Amy Mercado’s HD 48 seat” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics
“Two Republican challengers emerge for Nick Duran’s House seat” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Two Republicans will compete to challenge Duran in House District 112. Bruno Barreiro and Rosy Palomino have both qualified for the contest. They’ll both be playing catch up to Duran, who has raised nearly $85,000 and still has around $55,000 of that on hand. Barreiro is a former Miami-Dade County Commissioner who left that post to run in 2018 for Florida’s 27th Congressional District. Palomino is a former Miami City Commission candidate and an ex-vice president of the Golden Pines Neighborhood Association.
“Janet Adkins’ political comeback highlights Qualifying Week news in NE Florida” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Adkins, who formerly represented Nassau and part of Duval County, is making a bid for Nassau County Supervisor of Elections. The other two candidates, both Republicans, are not fundraising powerhouses. Justin Taylor has roughly $7,000 on hand, while Stan Bethea has just over $2,000. Adkins is coming off a drubbing in 2016. That year, she left the state House and made an ill-fated bid for Nassau County School Superintendent, getting just 32% of the vote against incumbent Kathy Burns.
“Two more local leaders back Alex Penelas mayoral bid” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Two more Miami-Dade mayors are backing Penelas as he seeks a return to County Mayor in 2020. Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace and City of Aventura Mayor Enid Weisman are endorsing Penelas’ campaign. The duo adds to a long list of local leaders backing Penelas’ bid. “As we continue to face difficult times, it is more important than ever that we lean on each other with the common purpose of recovering and healing our community,” Weisman said. With qualifying in the race wrapped, Penelas is one of seven candidates seeking the office this cycle. Penelas has slowed his fundraising operation due to the COVID-19 outbreak. His team did help to raise $150,000 to help deliver meals to more than 3,700 families in need during the crisis.
“Joe Abruzzo to face write-in candidate in Palm Beach Clerk’s race after Shannon Chessman withdraws” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Abruzzo has secured the Democratic nomination in the Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller‘s race after his Democratic opponent, Shannon Chessman, withdrew from the contest. Chessman works as the Clerk’s chief operating officer. Outgoing Clerk Sharon Bock endorsed him earlier this year after Bock decided against running for reelection. “We are building a countywide coalition of leaders to ensure we have the resources and support needed to run and win the Democratic Primary on Aug. 18,” Abruzzo said.
“Lake to have primaries for commission, School Board, but constitutional officers draw no opponents” via John Cutter of the Orlando Sentinel — There will be primaries for three Lake County Commission seats and two School Board seats, but none for the other constitutional officers, who drew no opponents by Friday’s deadline. No Democrats are running for County Commission seats in Districts 3 and 5, but there are write-in candidates, so only registered Republicans can vote in those August primaries. Lake cities also will hold elections in August or November for various seats.
“Six local incumbents reelected as qualifying ends; ballots set for 2020 contests” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Six Leon County officials were reelected automatically Friday, after drawing no challengers by the end of the qualifying period. And while those contests ended without a fight, others have plenty of competition. The most crowded field, for a County Commission at-large seat left open by the retirement of Mary Ann Lindley, has six candidates and a write-in. There was a bit less activity this year than normal in the elections office, which in pre-coronavirus cycles buzzed with last-minute filers, campaign consultants and party operatives.
—“Nine contested school board races will be on Central Florida ballots” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel
“Veteran Pinellas School Board member wins reelection without a vote” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Pinellas County School Board member Carol Cook is headed back to the dais for another four-year term, after no one challenged her reelection bid in the 2020 campaign. Cook said she was gratified to have continued community support that allowed her to return to the board without opposition. Fellow incumbent Eileen Long, who appeared on track to an unopposed candidacy, received a last-minute challenge from frequent School Board hopeful Chris Hardman, a teacher who also ran in 2006, 2008 and 2016. The departures of incumbents Joanne Lentino and Rene Flowers, meanwhile, left plenty of room for new faces on the board.
“Miami-Dade, Broward school board races are among the most contested on the 2020 ballot” via Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — This is a big election year for the Miami-Dade County School Board. Five out of nine countywide seats, a majority, are up for grabs. Three incumbents are vacating their seats and candidates have swarmed in. The races for those empty, nonpartisan seats are among the most contested on the local 2020 ballot. The contests will be decided on the August primary ballot, unless no candidate in a race wins at least 50% of votes. In that case, a runoff will force the election to the November ballot.
— TOP OPINION —
“While other cities remove Confederate monuments, Lake County is erecting a new one” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Two conservative Florida cities have removed Confederate monuments following protests over Floyd’s killing, and the underlying racism his death represents. In Jacksonville, city crews working Tuesday before dawn took down a statue dedicated to a Confederate infantry unit. Meanwhile, over in Lake County, a government-supported museum is forging ahead with plans to import an enormous bronze statue of a Confederate commander who was a stranger to the county. If there was ever a time to reconsider this hateful idea it’s now.
— OPINIONS —
“The most racist president in modern history revels in violence” via Colbert I. King of The Washington Post — Police brutality, especially the use of excessive force against unarmed Black people, is pervasive and a travesty that has existed for generations with the knowledge and toleration of America’s criminal justice system. Police brutality has even been publicly endorsed. Who was at the lectern giving cops a green light to use unnecessary force? Who was encouraging them to be rough with people they arrest? The speaker was Trump, the President of the United States. With Trump, it’s all about keeping his law-and-order base happy.
“As a Black ER doctor, I see racism every day. It doesn’t have to be that way.” via Khama Ennis of The Washington Post — Structural racism penetrates our everyday lives and won’t be dismantled until it is widely seen. As an emergency room doctor, let me tell you what I see every day. Unless I’ve seen the patient before, there’s always a moment where things shift. The first thing they saw when I walked in the room was a Black woman with natural hair. I wait a moment while they reconcile the cognitive dissonance of who they see in front of them with what they just heard so we can get to the reason they came. But some folks need a bit more help to move forward.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Florida’s daily increases in COVID-19 cases are looking a bit less like a spike and more like a new reality. Time will tell.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Gov. DeSantis says don’t blame the increase on how the state is reopening Florida for business. It’s the result of more testing, he says. Many of the new cases are being discovered in migrant worker communities, prisons and old age homes.
— The rising number of COVID-19 cases hasn’t dampened DeSantis’s enthusiasm for the Republican National Convention coming to Jacksonville in August. And without a trace of irony, he says recent police brutality protests have shown people can gather in large crowds without creating new outbreaks.
— A new law in Florida that says college athletes can make money off their names, images and likenesses. DeSantis says it’s all about fairness, and he’s also hoping this will lure blue-chip athletes from other states and keep homegrown talent at home.
— Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried says during these days of unrest and upheaval, this is a good time for White people to simply listen.
— Checking with two Florida Men, one whose arrest report reads like something from a video game. The other Florida Man — and Woman — square off over the lines at a thrift store.
To listen, click on the image below:
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
— ALOE —
“Amid pandemic and social unrest, Homestead-Miami Speedway looks to heal once again as NASCAR comes to town” via Max Marcovitch of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Homestead-Miami Speedway was born out of a disaster. Construction began on the site exactly one year after Hurricane Andrew tore apart the region in 1992. The Homestead track was a symbolic and economic step toward community resurgence. Such history makes this weekend’s festivities fitting under the present circumstances. As a pandemic persists throughout the nation, killing thousands of Americans each week, NASCAR is looking to be at the forefront of returning to some sort of normalcy. Though the track will be unable to play host to thousands of fans as originally intended, it will welcome up to 1,000 South Florida servicemen and women for Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to my old friend, Travis Moore.
Belated wishes to Josh Aubuchon of Holland & Knight, Allison Carvajal, Courtney Desisto, Annette Hansford, Foyt Ralston and Sen. David Simmons.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson. Among