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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.20.20

Good morning. ‘Sunburn’ has been waiting for you.

Almost overnight, the coronavirus has changed everything. Grocery stores are open; schools, bars and restaurants are closed. At $37, round-trip airfare from Tampa to Las Vegas is cheaper than alcohol-based hand sanitizer ($51, available on Amazon in 10 days).

The public demands information, then short circuits like the New York Stock Exchange when too much of it is bad. Shoppers are emptying shelves of disinfectants, which at least makes some degree of sense, and toilet paper, which makes none.

We’re leery of doors, gas pumps and elevator buttons but haven’t gotten around to thinking about the other 200 surfaces we touched before touching our face. “Social distancing” has crimped courtesies but reinvigorated the idea of personal space. We fill in the gaps with Netflix and Uber Eats — and, just in time, a new podcast.

I’m launching a pop-up pod, Hunkering Down, to learn and share how folks in the Sunshine State are adjusting to the new normal.

It’s time to hunker down with Peter Schorsch.

In quick-hit interviews, I talk to some of the smartest people in the political process about their hopes and fears, do’s and don’ts during this extraordinary moment.

Among the guests are:

— The Southern Group founder Paul Bradshaw discusses how, as a rare poultry breeder, he “lives in the virus transmission world” and immediately knew the scope of what COVID-19 could be.

— Senate President-designate Wilton Simpson talks about how governance in person can be tackled with minimal risk, shares insights into the 2020 Legislative Session, and opens up about when the threat of coronavirus first hit.

— U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz drops in for a salient conversation on politics in the age of coronavirus and of both partisanship and the drive to work together independent of politics.

— Former Rep. Jason Brodeur, now the president of the Seminole County Chamber of Commerce, opens up about the moment the virus first became real as he and chamber leaders faced the possibility that revenue would slow to a trickle and tough choices might need to be made to make payroll.

Allison Aubuchon, one of the brightest minds in the public affairs industry, talks about what it’s like on Day 2 of the kids being home in the Aubuchon household.

Ryan Smith, an accomplished Florida-based political operative, offers three movies and TV shows to watch while you wait out the coronavirus pandemic.

— Political strategist Ryan Wiggins talks about her time in Tallahassee this Legislative Session and how she’s coping with the new threat of the coronavirus and the social distancing that comes with it.

Michael Williams, director of the Florida Prosperity Initiative for the Florida Chamber Foundation, tackles life in the age of coronavirus and social distancing, including how the outbreak has affected his family as he and his wife care for their newborn son, Rocco.

Check it out! You’ve got time. Looks like we’re gonna be here for a while.

— TOP STORY —

Amid coronavirus threat, Florida lawmakers OK $93.2B budget” via Bobby Caina Calvan and Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — Lawmakers adjourned their 2020 Session after approving a $93.2 billion budget — including at least $52 million to deal with the coronavirus outbreak — that is on its way to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature. But the talk was already swirling through The Capitol about returning for a Special Session to address any shortfalls in money allocated to contain the virus. The final day of the session began bizarrely, with House members streaming into the Speaker’s office Thursday morning for coronavirus screening. They were required to answer questions about their whereabouts over the past several weeks, including whether they’ve traveled overseas, been on a cruise ship, or attended large gatherings. They also looked into a facial scanner that took their temperature.

José Oliva and Bill Galvano elbow bump as they meet one last time for the Legislature to approve a $93.2 billion budget. Image via AP.

Ron DeSantis looks to ease virus-caused worker woes” via the News Service of Florida — DeSantis is willing to waive some long-standing requirements that unemployed workers seek new jobs to be eligible for unemployment benefits. DeSantis said he is considering the move to mitigate what could be a major hit to Floridians’ paychecks, as the novel coronavirus causes businesses to shut down or restrict operating hours. “We are going to be looking into seeing what I can waive, to be able to get people cash in their hands, who have been displaced from this,” DeSantis told reporters in Tallahassee. The governor also said that he is “supportive of figuring out what I can do” to protect unemployed workers from being evicted.

State offices ordered closed to public as infections in Florida rise” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida closed its state offices in Tallahassee to the public Thursday, a day after health officials confirmed three cases and one death from the coronavirus in the state’s capital. And a labor union that represents a large contingent of state workers said there has been a “noticeable shift” among state agencies heads toward allowing more workers to telecommute to work during the pandemic. Various state agencies posted notices of the “no public access” policy on their doors and informed workers by a memo that they were to continue to provide services by phone or email — but “not in person.”

’At war with no ammo’: Doctors say shortage of protective gear is dire” via Andrew Jacobs, Matt Richtel and Mike Baker of The New York Times — With coronavirus cases soaring, doctors, nurses and other front-line medical workers across the United States are confronting a dire shortage of masks, surgical gowns and eye gear to protect them from the virus. In interviews, doctors expressed soaring anxiety, fearing they could expose not only themselves to the virus, but their families and others. “There’s absolutely no way to protect myself,” said Dr. Faezah Bux, an anesthesiologist in central Kentucky who in recent days, had to intubate several elderly patients in respiratory distress without the N95 masks and protective eye gear recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Not only can I not protect myself, I can’t protect my patients.”

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@GeoffRBennett: The shortage of face masks is so severe that the CDC is now advising nurses and other health care providers that they can “use homemade masks” like a “bandanna” or “scarf” “as a last resort” — even though it admits the effectiveness “is unknown.”

@BenjySarlin: 2020 is shaping up as a referendum on which party will offer more precisely targeted cash payments to quarantined Americans just as we all thought a month ago

@SamanthaJGross: DeSantis is talking about gifts he gave to legislative leadership to congratulate them. @RepJoseOliva got a baseball bat with an engraved message: “Slayer of the health care industrial complex.”

@AGlorios: .@GovRonDeSantis‘ explanation this evening in Broward County as to why he hasn’t shut down the beaches was 891 words and nearly 5 minutes long.

@JimmyPatronis: As a former small business owner in the hospitality industry, waiving as many regulations that would allow delivery of food, beverages and alcohol would help keep Floridians employed while we all stay

Tweet, tweet:

@CarlosGSmith: This is a good budget. It increases teacher pay, funds affordable housing and the environment. I appreciate the work behind it, but it’s based on pre-COVID19 revenue estimates. The budget’s NOT REAL. It’ll be undone and hard choices will have to be made.

@ShevrinJones: People are scared, worried, and frustrated. Now more than ever #ThePEOPLE are looking to leadership to let them know that everything will be OK. Let’s do that for them.

@AnniePNJ: Okaloosa DOH director to Okaloosa BOCC, in a plea to close the beaches: “I’m calling on you to treat this — maybe we should call this not a Cat 5 plus, maybe we should call this a Cat 10. But it’s not coming from the ocean, it’s coming to us right now from all of our neighbors.”

@SContorno: My girlfriend hasn’t watched many local government meetings before, but she tuned in for the Pinellas Co commission debate closing down the beaches. “All they’re doing is telling each other what a great job they’re doing.” Welcome to municipal government!

Tweet, tweet:

@MearKat00: It’s a great time to send your nieces and nephews educational toys — science experiences, etc. It will be a gift to the little ones and their parents. Also, some of my siblings’ kids will get toy flutes.

@JPoggi: Smart move by Hallmark Channel airing Christmas movies this weekend because we all need a little Christmas right now.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Walt Disney World/Universal scheduled to reopen — 11; Quibi launches — 17; Easter — 23; Florida Schools reopen (maybe) — 26; First quarter campaign reports due — 26; Last day of federal candidate qualifying — 33; NFL Draft — 34; Mother’s Day — 51; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 56; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 80; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 98; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 114; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 118; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start (maybe) — 126; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 151; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 157; First presidential debate in Indiana — 193; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 201; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 209; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 216; 2020 General Election — 228; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 242; “No Time to Die” premieres (now) — 250.

— CORONA NATION —

Pressure grows on Donald Trump as hospitals sound virus alarms” via Jill Colvin and Deb Riechmann of The Associated Press — Insisting the federal government is not a “shipping clerk,” Trump called on states to do more to secure their own critically needed masks, ventilators and testing supplies as the pressure mounted on hospitals struggling to cope with a rising number of coronavirus patients. During another fast-moving day in the capital, Trump and his administration took additional, once-unthinkable steps to try to contain the pandemic. The State Department issued a new alert urging Americans not to travel abroad under any circumstances. And Trump said the government should take partial ownership of companies bailed out during the pandemic, a step that would mark an extraordinary federal reach into the private sector.

Despite urging from medical workers, Donald Trump hesitates to send needed supplies.

New analysis suggests months of social distancing may be needed to stop virus” via Nell Greenfieldboyce of Health News Florida — The United States is facing a grim dilemma: either effectively shut down society for months to prevent transmission of the coronavirus or see health care systems overwhelmed. That’s the conclusion of an influential new analysis by a group at Imperial College London that does computer simulations of outbreaks. “The take-home message of that Imperial College model is that in order to keep from overwhelming the health care system with severe cases, we are going to have to have very tight controls in place on transmission through social distancing. And those controls are going to be so tight that they will be economically and socially very damaging,” says Marc Lipsitch, an expert on infectious disease modeling at Harvard University.

Coronavirus will radically alter the U.S.” via William Wan, Joel Achenbach, Carolyn Johnson and Ben Guarino of The Washington Post — What happens next depends largely on us — our government, politicians, health institutions and, in particular, 328 million inhabitants of this country — all making tiny decisions daily with outsize consequences for our collective future. In the worst-case scenario, America is on a trajectory toward 1.1 million deaths. That model envisions the sick pouring into hospitals, overwhelming even makeshift beds in parking lot tents. Doctors would have to make agonizing decisions about who gets scarce resources. Shortages of front-line clinicians would worsen as they get infected, some dying alongside their patients. Trust in government, already tenuous, would erode further.

Before virus outbreak, a cascade of warnings went unheeded” via David Sanger, Eric Lipton, Eileen Sullivan and Michael Crowley of The New York Times — The outbreak of the respiratory virus began in China and was quickly spread around the world by air travelers, who ran high fevers. First detected in Chicago, and 47 days later, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. By then, it was too late: 110 million Americans were expected to become ill, leading to 7.7 million hospitalized and 586,000 dead. That scenario, code-named “Crimson Contagion,” was simulated by the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services in a series of exercises that ran from last January to August. The simulation’s sobering results drove home just how underfunded, underprepared and uncoordinated the federal government would be for a life-or-death battle with a virus for which no treatment existed.

Sen. Richard Burr offered dire warning about the coronavirus at private luncheon three weeks ago” via John Wagner of The Washington Post — A recording obtained by NPR prompted scrutiny over whether Burr had offered a more frank warning at a Capitol Hill event sponsored by North Carolina business leaders than he and his colleagues were sharing more broadly. “There’s one thing I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything we have seen in recent history,” Burr said, according to the NPR recording, which was not disputed by his staff. “It’s probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.” Critics of Burr, including the North Carolina Democratic Party, were quick to point out that the senator’s comments came on the same day that Trump publicly predicted that the coronavirus would one day disappear “like a miracle.”

State Department to tell Americans don’t travel abroad, come home if overseas” via Dan Diamond, Nahal Toosi and Sam Mintz of POLITICO — The advisory, which appears to be unprecedented, would instruct all Americans abroad to either return to the United States or prepare to shelter in place, given the global threat of the coronavirus outbreak. Americans also would be instructed not to travel abroad. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has approved the advisory. The move would represent a step beyond the department’s current Level 3 travel warning, which merely encourages Americans to reconsider travel abroad. Thousands of U.S. citizens are already stuck in limbo abroad, and the new guidance threatens to create further anxiety and confusion among travelers.

ICE to stop most immigration enforcement inside U.S., will focus on criminals during coronavirus outbreak” via Maria Sacchetti and Arelis Hernández of The Washington Post — Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations division will “delay enforcement actions” and use “alternatives to detention” amid the outbreak, according to a notification the agency sent to Congress. ICE told members of Congress that its “highest priorities are to promote lifesaving and public safety activities.” For now, ICE will focus on people who are subject to mandatory detention because of their criminal convictions.

HUD orders 60-day foreclosure moratorium for homeowners affected by coronavirus” via Renae Merle and Tracy Jan of The Washington Post — Homeowners with loans backed by two government-controlled companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, also will be granted foreclosure relief, according to the Federal House Finance Agency, which regulates the companies. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac back about half of the nation’s mortgages and have operated under government control since the global financial crisis of 2008. “The halting of all foreclosure actions and evictions for the next 60 days will provide homeowners with some peace of mind during these trying times,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said.

Laid-off restaurant workers face uncertain futures with looming rent and plenty of worry” via Emily Heil of The Washington Post — Efforts to help laid-off restaurant workers have sprung up. The U.S. Bartenders Guild is offering emergency grants. The nonprofit Restaurant Workers Community Foundation set up a fund to offer loans to businesses and to help individuals “facing economic hardships or health crises.” Also, in Washington, a spreadsheet called a “virtual tip jar” allowing laid-off restaurant workers to share their Venmo accounts is making the rounds. But even as the community rallies around them, thousands of laid-off restaurant workers around the country have little recourse as their entire industry all but shutters against the virus.

Restaurant workers are increasingly worried about their future in the age of coronavirus. Image via AP.

Jobs quickly being lost in the hotel industry” via the News Service of Florida — Florida hotels and businesses that support the hotel industry have cut nearly 400,000 jobs amid the coronavirus outbreak, according to data released by the American Hotel & Lodging Association. The layoffs have come as officials and industry executives close or limit access to hotels, theme parks, beaches, bars and restaurants to contain the fast-spreading virus. Florida’s tourism industry is vital to the state’s economy, producing billions of dollars in state and local taxes each year. The hotel industry employs roughly 950,000 people in the state, according to the association. The association said in a statement that it expects 44 percent of hotel employees in every state will lose their jobs “in the coming weeks.”

Carnival offers cruise ships as hospitals for non-COVID-19 patients” via News Channel 8 — The cruise line said its ships could serve mainly to treat non-coronavirus patients and provide up to 1,000 hospital rooms and can be quickly provisioned with necessary medical equipment, including intensive care units The temporary hospital cruise ships would be berthed at a pier near the community in need and operated by the ship’s crew, with all maritime operations, food and beverage, and cleaning services provided by crew already on the ship, the statement said.

’Learning loss may be profound’ as schools close doors” via Nicole Gaudiano of POLITICO — The coronavirus outbreak could close down many U.S. classrooms for the rest of the school year, spurring a blow to kids’ math and reading skills, a decline in test scores for years to come and a scramble for some to even finish high school. The impact of the closures on children from lower-income communities raises the most significant concern, but all students will suffer. Schools in other countries have smoothly moved to remote learning, but the U.S. faces barriers not only in computer access but getting those services to students quickly and equitably.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

DeSantis to ‘consider’ stopping evictions in the wake of coronavirus” via Samantha Gross of the Tampa Bay Times — “I need to see what my authority would be and how it would work,” DeSantis told reporters. “If something happens with their business and they get laid off, and then they can’t make the rent payment … those are extraordinary circumstances. So, I would be supportive of figuring out what I can do.” The news comes after Miami-Dade, Orange and Hillsborough counties have made their own announcements suspending evictions locally.

Rick Scott, congressional Democrats urge closing all beaches” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — First Scott, and then all Florida’s Democrats in Congress called for Florida to immediately close all public beaches out of concern for the spread of the new coronavirus. Scott, the former Governor, made his appeal during an appearance on CNN, saying, “I think they ought to do everything they can to stop people from being on the beach, they ought to make sure the only way you can go on the beach if you are there by themself.” DeSantis declined to close the beaches, despite national criticism that has poured in as news reports showed Florida’s beaches crowded, mostly with spring break revelers, some of whom said they did not care about the coronavirus.

Strange bedfellows: Republican Sen. Rick Scott and congressional Democrats are urging Ron DeSantis to close all Florida beaches.

Government, hospitals prepare for increase in COVID-19 cases” via Jeffery Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — With tests for COVID-19 heading to every region of Florida, the state is seeing a huge uptick in cases being discovered, and officials are preparing for a potential surge by ordering more supplies than needed to meet the current demand. To fight the coronavirus pandemic, they are also preaching the gospel of social distancing, shutting down bars and nightclubs, closing beaches and parks and zoos, and trying to make sure hospitals have enough room to accommodate patients who have more extreme symptoms of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. Overnight Wednesday to Thursday, cases grew by 32% to 432, with 393 of them Florida residents, and 30 nonresidents. Nine people are now dead, and 97 have been hospitalized.

Doctors’ orders: Florida Medical Association seeks telehealth expansion” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — With visits to doctors’ offices ever more perilous in the coronavirus era, the Florida Medical Association is seeking an alternative. The ask: an expansion of telehealth services to cover “all in-network providers,” regardless of whether diagnoses relate to COVID-19 or not. Payment for telehealth services should be kept the same as normal visits, and “remote communication products” should be allowed. FMA President Ronald Giffler said the “action is needed in Florida given the uneven response of the health insurance companies doing business in this state.” “Uniformity is desperately needed so that all health care providers can comfortably provide telehealth services during the existence of the state of emergency,” Giffler added.

Florida social workers face limitations trying to help vulnerable families” via Isaac Morgan of the Florida Phoenix — In high-poverty rural areas of Florida, the state’s most vulnerable families struggle to get by and often need assistance from social workers. But now that the coronavirus pandemic has caused a public health emergency in Florida, both public and private social workers are limited in what they can do to help. Candiace Williams is a social worker at the Center for Health Equity, a nonprofit that provides social services and outreach programs in Gadsden County, outside of Tallahassee, and works with pregnant women and children. Williams has had to transition to telehealth services — via the phone — instead of visiting consumers at their homes as usual.

Florida League of Cities launches coronavirus resource website” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — “Our member cities are constantly sharing strategies and working closely with each other, and this webpage is another resource to utilize in this global battle against the coronavirus,” said FLC Executive Director Michael Sittig. “As the information on our webpage continues to grow, we hope cities can use it to see what other cities have done, stay updated with state and federal news and apply what they learn with the resources in their own communities.” The website includes links to cities’ coronavirus pages; local emergency declarations; funding and technical assistance; and other local, state and federal resources. The group will update the site daily.

Duke seeks approval for waiving fees” via the News Service of Florida — Duke Energy Florida on Thursday asked state regulators to allow it to waive customer fees — similar to the way it can waive fees for customers who suffer hurricane damage. The Florida Public Service Commission regulates what utilities can charge customers through a system of what are known as “tariffs.” Duke is allowed to charge extra fees for such things as reconnecting service and late payments. Currently, it can waive some charges if customers suffer damage from natural disasters. But the request would seek to make clear that the utility can waive fees in circumstances such as the coronavirus outbreak and would expand the types of fees that could be waived.

NextEra Energy promises $1.5M in coronavirus assistance” via Florida Politics — Both FPL and Gulf Power have already agreed to suspend electric service disconnections as the economy slows due to widespread social distancing efforts. Now, NextEra Energy Chairman and CEO Jim Robo says the company will be allotting $1.5 million to assist those affected by the virus. “We understand how vital it is to be there for our communities when we’re needed the most — and COVID-19 is no different,” Robo said. “We are steadfastly committed to doing everything we can to assist the most vulnerable in our communities as we all work through this unsettling and difficult time together. Simply put, it’s the right thing to do and I strongly encourage other businesses to join this effort.”

Iconic cap-and-gown college graduations in Florida won’t take place for thousands of students” via Diane Rado of the Florida Phoenix — Last week, the Florida Phoenix wrote about whether the iconic college commencements were going to take place this spring in Florida, given coronavirus concerns and the logistics: The ceremonies are often large-scale events with relatives and friends filling up big auditoriums as college grads walk to get their diplomas. Now, reality has sunk in, with a brief online announcement by the State University System of Florida Tuesday: “Traditional on-campus commencement ceremonies will not be held in May. Instead, each university is directed to develop an alternate schedule or method of delivery.” What that alternate method of delivery will be is not certain — universities will be working on a plan.

The traditional cap-and-gown graduation is just not happening this year.

Florida toll booths no longer staffed: tolls to be paid by transponder, exact change or pay-by-plate” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — The state Department of Transportation will bill motorists according to their license plate information. The $2.50 transaction fee for each toll has been suspended. In pay-by-plate billing, the Central Florida Expressway Authority will charge the same as the posted cash rate. The state system spans 500 miles of tolled expressway from South Florida through Central Florida, including Florida’s Turnpike and parts of state roads 528, 417 and 429 in the Orlando area.

Coronavirus has Florida car dealers bracing for fallout” via Graham Brink of the Tampa Bay Times — Car dealers are a hopeful group. They often have millions of dollars — if not tens of millions — in vehicles sitting on their lots that need to be sold. It helps to think of the glass as half full, even when there are signs that sales could erode. A slowdown in auto sales will ripple across Florida’s economy. The state’s 870 new car dealerships make about $80 billion in sales a year, according to the Florida Automobile Dealers Association. They employ 82,000 people who earn an average of $60,307 a year. New vehicle sales account for nearly $4 billion in state sales tax. That’s more than 14% of the total the state collects each year.

— CORONA LOCAL —

Shevrin Jones asks Governor to waive mortgage, rent payments for three months” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rep. Jones is pushing DeSantis to waive mortgage and rent payments for three months as Floridians deal with the effects of an economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Jones, a West Park Democrat, called on DeSantis this week to temporarily pause evictions and utility shutdowns. Now, he’s asking for those mortgage and rent payments to be suspended for 90 days, along with all late fees and other penalties for nonpayment. “Gov. DeSantis has the power to deliver financial relief for Floridians via executive order and should take decisive action quickly, just as other governors across the country have done. I encourage the Governor to direct all state agencies to suspend fee collection for 90 days,” Jones said.

Shevrin Jones is urging Ron DeSantis to pause evictions and mortgages until the coronavirus crisis passes. Image via Colin Hackley.

Coronavirus, flu or anxiety? ER visits are up in South Florida, but we don’t know why” via Daniel Chang and Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — For the past two weeks, hospital emergency room visits for cough and fever have risen steadily statewide. In South Florida, the state epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, those cases have gone up even more than the state average, data published by the Department of Health indicates. The number of influenza-like illnesses, a separate metric monitored by state health officials, also rose significantly in recent weeks, even as the number of confirmed flu cases has declined. Epidemiologists and public health experts are watching the statistics — and say that although the numbers might reflect more coronavirus, they might also be an indicator of widespread anxiety.

Boca lab conducting ‘drive-up’ tests” via Eliot Kleinberg of the Palm Beach Post — A private lab says it’s the latest to offer “drive-up” testing for coronavirus. Xera Med Research has obtained materials to test 100 people and hopes to get enough by Monday for 100 more, founder and owner Emily Rentz said Thursday. “They drive up and then we come right out to the parking lot,” Rentz said. She said workers take a nasal swab and a blood draw. Rentz said tests are by appointment only. The research lab, with a staff of 10, is in an office complex near Yamato Road and Congress Avenue in Boca Raton. Rentz said the lab sends the samples to either the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or to an out-of-state private lab.

— MORE LOCAL —

How a Jacksonville senior living center fought the coronavirus’ spread” via David Bauerlein and Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — Faced with the nightmare scenario of a coronavirus case in a Jacksonville senior living community, the Camellia at Deerwood used a combination of a clampdown on outside visitors, enhanced safety protections such as surgical masks for staff, and testing of residents to get a handle on the potential for the virus to spread. Over five days starting last Thursday, the Southside complex was the site of the most intense public health response to date in Duval County for the coronavirus. Camellia at Deerwood said in a statement released Tuesday that while four of its residents had tested positive for COVID-19, no more tests of residents were awaiting results.

Most Jacksonville-area nonprofits ‘hanging on’ amid increased demands of pandemic” via the Florida Times-Union — Some of them are navigating for the first time the logistics of serving clients “virtually,” by phone or online, while others are doing so in person but at a social distance. Some have shuttered their offices, with all staff working remotely, while others have established “hybrid” operations, with certain employees at work and the remainder at home. They are trying not to panic about the revenue impact of canceled fundraising events and hoping government contract funding continues uninterrupted. They are banding together, sharing information and resources, and hoping for the best. People who run nonprofits tend to be optimistic, despite frequent uncertainties, said David Thompson, vice president of public policy for the National Council of Nonprofits.

UF Health union warns supplies too short at Jacksonville hospital” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — A union representing employees of UF Health Jacksonville hospital is voicing “serious concerns” about the availability of protective equipment as employees watch for potential cases of coronavirus infection. “There is a massive shortage of personal protection equipment including safety masks, which are currently only distributed to certain employees working with specific patients,” a release from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said Wednesday. “The health and safety of our patients is paramount to all of us at UF Health, but what about us?” Lorenzo Sheppard, president of AFSCME Local 1328, asked in written remarks.

UF Health Jacksonville Is critically low on supplies.

Business restrictions put pause on Jacksonville adult entertainment industry” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — It was supposed to be another night of sequins, pasties and biodegradable glitter — dancers care about the environment too — but the coronavirus had other plans. On Sunday, Jacksonville’s Hamburger Mary’s location on Beach Boulevard canceled its standing “Mixin’ with Vixens” female burlesque show amid fear of the virus spreading. There weren’t enough seats filled. “A lot of people are just scared to go out,” Brittany Moore, the venue’s entertainment director, said. “There have been a lot of cancellations. But we’re grateful to be open.” For now, the restaurant and venue remain open, but with a limit of 50 people per show, a midnight curfew, and curbside food pickup options.

Florida Keys to close all hotels starting Sunday in response to coronavirus crisis” via David Goodhue and Gwen Filosa of FLKeysNews — “We’ve decided today to start to shut down the Keys to tourists,” said Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers. The order, a strategy to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, also extends to vacation rental units where guests stay less than 28 days, and short-term rentals in RV parks. Monroe County has about 16,500 lodging units — hotels and vacation rentals.

Mayor’s order cuts Pensacola restaurants to takeout only, closes entertainment venues” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson is ordering that all restaurants within city limits operate as takeout and delivery only and that all entertainment venues, including movie theaters and bowling alleys, close their doors starting Monday to combat the spread of the coronavirus. “We do not believe that (people) gathering or congregating in these areas can do anything but help the spread of COVID,” Robinson said. The mayor’s order also suspends “social visits” to all nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult family-care homes, long-term care facilities, and adult group homes. Movie theaters, concert houses, auditoriums, playhouses, bowling alleys, arcades and other entertainment venues in the city are ordered closed for two weeks. However, many had already decided on their own to close.

Pensacola gyms, barbershops and other gray area businesses navigate through uncertainty” via Jake Newby of the Pensacola News Journal — While Pensacola businesses such as gyms, barbershops, and spas have not been ordered to shut down amid the continued threat of the coronavirus, owners in those industries are struggling to find a balance between safety and their own need to earn a living. State and local official officials have handed down orders for specific industries, closing bars and nightclubs throughout the state for at least 30 days, while limiting capacities at restaurants to 50%. On Thursday, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson announced further limits for restaurants in the city, restricting them to carryout and delivery only beginning Monday for the next two weeks. Robinson’s order extended to bowling alleys, concert houses, movie theaters and entertainment venues.

—”Eglin Air Force Base member tests positive for coronavirus” via WEAR-TV

All Pinellas beaches will shut down after Friday night” via Tracey McManus and Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times — Citing fears over the growing coronavirus crisis, the Pinellas County Commission voted to close public beaches and parking along the county’s 35 miles of sand after Friday night for two weeks as another strategy to dissuade crowds amid a public health crisis. The unanimous vote on Thursday followed a presentation from Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who made a case for keeping the beaches open. He showed them overhead video footage of the beaches taken by his agency’s helicopter just hours before, and said they showed beach crowds were already thinning out compared to this past weekend. He asked the commission to consider the enforcement challenges in distinguishing between public and private property lines in the sand.

After a presentation from Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the County Commission voted unanimously to shut down beaches.

ONE St. Petersburg resident tests positive for COVID-19” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The condo association sent a notice out to residents Wednesday that a resident self-reported his or her diagnosis to the condo board of directors and management “so that all residents of the condominium could be informed,” according to the notice. “As many of you are aware, the COVID-19 pandemic is serious and can affect individuals of all ages, regardless of whether or not a person shows any symptoms,” the notice warned. The resident said they returned from a domestic trip on Sunday, March 8, and was later tested.

Coronavirus testing site to open at Orange County Convention Center next week” via Katie Rice and Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — A regional community-based testing site for the coronavirus could open at the Orange County Convention Center as early as next week, according to Orange County spokesperson Despina McLaughlin. On Wednesday, local officials said the site might open on Friday but reversed course. “The Orange County Government has volunteered the use of the Orange County Convention Center’s Destination Flat Parking Lot and has made available all county resources to ensure and promote the success of one of the regional COVID-19 Community-Based Testing Sites,” she said. Earlier this week, a spokeswoman for the convention center said drive-thru testing at the center could last two weeks.

What Michelle Schorsch is reading —Coronavirus fallout shuts down Four Seasons Resort for 2 weeks” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel — The luxurious Four Seasons Resort in Orlando will shut down for two weeks as fallout from coronavirus fears continues. The announcement comes one day after the Hyatt Regency Orlando announced it would shut down until early May. The Four Seasons will close on Monday until April 6. “The health and safety of our guests and employees is our top priority,” hotel officials said in a statement, adding that the closure comes “out of an abundance of caution related to the evolving COVID-19 situation, and based on the closure of Walt Disney World Resort.” The statement said the 443-room hotel would continue to take reservations for stays after April 6.

— MORE CORONA —

Coronavirus deniers and hoaxers persist despite dire warnings, claiming ‘it’s mass hysteria’” via Annie Gowen of The Washington Post — Even as Trump has asked Americans to stay at home and has called on the nation to come together to fight the “invisible enemy” known as the illness COVID-19, virus doubters persist. They call reports of more than 200,000 sickened and 9,000 dead worldwide a sham. Republican legislators have continued to brag about their dinners out, some beaches remain packed with spring breakers and Hollywood starlet Vanessa Hudgens was forced to apologize for complaining on Instagram that “people are going to die, which is terrible, but like, inevitable?” The Pew Research Center released a poll that found that 62 percent of adults say the media is exaggerating the risk of the virus.

’Quarantine shaming’: The radical new social norms” via The Associated Press — The chairman of Arizona’s Asian Chamber of Commerce didn’t see much downside to attending a small dinner at a local restaurant to bolster the business and bring together other leaders to discuss how to help Asian American eateries devastated by the coronavirus. That was, at least, until he posted about it on Instagram. The feedback was swift from people who were appalled that Ryan Winkle would promote a gathering — even a small one — as COVID-19 raged and entire cities were urged to self-isolate.

Coronavirus is forcing Americans into some new social norms. Image via Getty.

Social distancing is so hard because it’s contrary to human nature” via Karin Brulliard of The Washington Post — Consider the wild tiger. It consorts with fellow tigers only to mate or, if female, to briefly raise cubs. Otherwise, the tiger roams solo. Tigers are great at social distancing. We are not tigers. Amid a novel coronavirus pandemic, some of us have defied public health officials’ exhortations and headed to bars to be with other members of our species. More of us have stared into the weeks to come and wondered how we would cope without basketball games, book groups, worship services, yoga classes, and dinners with friends. Hermits aside, humans are social animals, even what some call “ultra-social.” For millennia, survival has depended on being part of a group. If distancing seems hard, it’s not just you.

Coronavirus prep: Publix, Target, Dollar General offer ‘senior shopping hours’” via Jennifer Sangalang of the Pensacola News Journal — Amid coronavirus concerns, Publix aims to be that place “where shopping is a pleasure.” Less than a week after the Lakeland-based grocery chain announced it would close its stores two hours early to restock and clean, Publix released times and days for “senior shopping hours.” Older adults and those with underlying health conditions are more susceptible to COVID-19. The company issued a statement Thursday: “Publix is designating Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, 7 to 8 a.m., as senior shopping hours for customers age 65 and over. This change in hours will begin Tuesday, March 24, and continue until further notice. Publix Pharmacy will also be open at 7 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to serve our senior population.”

Nursing home residents are trapped in isolation amid coronavirus. Cards and letters are brightening their days.” via Joel Shannon of USA TODAY — Residential and retirement facilities across the country are limiting visitations to help combat the coronavirus pandemic, leaving residents increasingly isolated. But people are answering the call to brighten residents’ days with cards. “If your children’s schools are closed and looking for something to keep them busy, please consider having them write letters or color pictures and send them to our residents,” reads a Facebook post from St. Anthony’s Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rock Island, Illinois. Similar requests have come from other facilities, a letter to the editor, and even a celebrity. The trend is catching on. The story of a group of siblings who sent cards to nursing home residents made national news this week.

The webcam will see you now: Doctors urge patients to replace in-person visits with apps” via Geoffrey A. Fowler and Laurie McGinley of The Washington Post — If you’re sick, you should see a doctor. But not in person, if you can avoid it. Instead, visit the doctor through an app. During the coronavirus outbreak, using your smartphone could be a matter of life and death. We could all take a lesson from Naomi Azhar, 49, who recently underwent breast cancer surgery and had an appointment for a follow-up in Manhattan. Shortly after leaving her home, she got a call from her oncologist’s office: Would she be willing to have a video chat, using her phone, instead of an in-person visit? “I said, of course, this is much better,” says Azhar, who immediately turned around and went home.

How the NBA moved so quickly on coronavirus testing” via Ramona Shelburne of ESPN — The first reports started landing in NBA commissioner Adam Silver‘s inbox at about the same time he was writing the eulogy for his mentor, David Stern. It was mid-January, and news of the coronavirus in China, where the NBA has 200 employees at offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong and Taipei, had begun indicating that COVID-19 had spread outside the epicenter of Wuhan in Hubei province. Silver monitored the situation closely, staying in daily contact with league employees in China who were witnessing the devastating spread of the virus firsthand. The NBA’s relationship with China had been strained since the fall, following Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey‘s tweet about Hong Kong.

NFL teams put coronavirus clauses in deals” via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN — NFL teams are placing coronavirus-related provisions in their contracts stating that a failed physical will result in forfeited signing bonus money, league sources told ESPN. The problem is that some players might not get a physical for months because of travel logistics related to the coronavirus, which has caused teams to shut down their operations for an indefinite period. If a player signs a three-year, $30 million contract with a $10 million signing bonus this week, for example, but fails a physical in June, he could lose the $10 million and be bound to a three-year, $20 million deal, potentially.

From Bourbon Street to Miami Beach, America’s party people ignored pleas for social distancing” via Meagan Flynn of The Washington Post — Shoulder-to-shoulder tourists in New Orleans sipped Hurricane cocktails and grooved to live jazz. It was St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and there and at party hot spots elsewhere, you might not even know the novel coronavirus had just been declared a global pandemic. Late Saturday, police cruisers paraded down Bourbon Street, using a megaphone to deliver the memo many seem to have missed. “By order of the governor and the mayor, large crowds of people are prohibited from congregating together,” New Orleans officers said, according to video footage. “Your actions are jeopardizing public health. And we are directing you to clear the streets and to go home or back to your hotel.”

In New Orleans, police tell people to go home as part of crowd control efforts to combat the spread of coronavirus. Image via Mayor LaToya Cantrell/Twitter.

Animal shelters call for help, sweeten fostering deals as coronavirus spreads” via Joe Mario Pedersen of the Orlando Sentinel — Lake County Animal Shelter is clear in its message. If you want a cat, but don’t want to socialize to get one, Lake County will bring you a cat! Amid the growing practice of social distancing, Lake County has had to expand its bag of tricks to get animals adopted. One such idea is the new “cuddle shuttle,” said Whitney Boylston, director of the office of animal services. “Are you feeling lonely while social distancing? Here’s a good way to handle it. Shop online for the pet of your choice, and we’ll deliver it,” Boylston said. Not only that, but Lake County, which has 126 dogs and 69 cats, is waiving all fees regarding adoption or fostering.

Virus-shocked Hollywood gets break with streaming services” via Lynn Elber of The Associated Press — Sports are on hold, theaters are closed and so are amusement parks. This disaster-movie scenario has stunned Hollywood. But Americans held captive at home by the coronavirus can turn to Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other streaming services; outliers in an entertainment industry brought to an unprecedented standstill. The recent launch of Disney and Apple services and the upcoming arrival of NBCUniversal’s Peacock and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max unleashed speculation about winners and losers in an increasingly crowded field. With self-imposed or required isolation, the abrupt reality, emerging and niche streamers could draw new subscribers — gains that may even outlast the coronavirus crisis.

— THE HUMAN TOLL —

A deadly coronavirus mix in Florida: An aging population and lots of young visitors” via Patricia Mazzei, Frances Robles and Audra D.S. Burch of The New York Times — At the Florida community of The Villages, the retirement capital of America and the place with the nation’s highest concentration of older people, only 33 people have been tested for the coronavirus. In the Florida Keys, swamped with young spring breakers and travelers from around the world, just 16 people had been tested by Monday night. Ten of Florida’s 67 counties have tested no one at all. A disease that is deadly to the elderly and easily spread by the young has left Florida especially vulnerable. Yet faced with the prospect of dealing a shattering blow to an $86 billion tourism industry, DeSantis has moved more slowly than some other states.

They were together 57 years. The coronavirus killed him” via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald — It took only days for the coronavirus to claim the life of Richard Curren. Curren, and his wife, Sheila Curren, had been “living their lives” at the Atria Willow Wood assisted living facility in Fort Lauderdale when Curren became ill last Wednesday. He felt weak. He began to have trouble breathing. The Currens didn’t think much of it, at first: “He was just sick, and you don’t immediately run to the ER,” said their daughter, Tracy Curren Wieder. But by Sunday night, the burly 77-year-old was gone. Curren is one of three elders whose deaths at the care center are under investigation by state health administrators.

— ONE GOOD THING —

While many European cities sit in isolation from coronavirus, some of the hardest-hit areas take a minute every night to show their gratitude — singing, cheering and applauding.

As The Associated Press reports, the praise is for health care professionals, doctors, nurses and other workers who put themselves at risk every day to address the pandemic.

People applaud from their houses in support of the medical staff working in the COVID-19 outbreak in Rivas Vaciamadrid, Spain. Image via AP.

In Italy, where COVID-19 deaths have surpassed those in China, nearly 3,000 health care workers have been infected with the virus. Italian broadcasts regularly feature doctors and nurses begging people to stay home.

“The word spread mostly through the WhatsApp messaging service,” the AP notes about the nightly ritual of appreciation. “In France, the call went out seemingly spontaneously by text messages hours after a nationwide lockdown went into effect Tuesday. Windows opened promptly at 8 p.m. then and again on Wednesday.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

Stephanie Murphy, Charlie Crist seek federal response to virus misinformation” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Murphy and the mostly-moderate Blue Dog Democrats she helps lead are calling on Trump to launch a national public service announcement campaign on the coronavirus outbreak and to spank social media companies for allowing the dissemination of false information. The Blue Dog Coalition also wants Trump to require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to update data on the pandemic at least twice per day, seven days a week. Murphy, co-chair for the administration of the Blue Dogs, and 18 other members, including Crist, wrote to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, calling for the administration to take immediate actions to combat the surging level of disinformation on the new coronavirus disease.

Amid quarantines and positive COVID-19 tests, Francis Rooney wants Congress working from home” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Rooney says members of Congress should be able to work — and vote — remotely. He said the need became especially apparent after two Congressmen, including Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican, tested positive for COVID-19. “We are in a serious, global pandemic, and Congress should utilize modern technology to permit remote voting. “Votes on spending and response to the pandemic are critical and will need quick action,” said Rooney, a Naples Republican. “Remote voting is the way to effectuate social distancing and follow proper health procedures. The technology exists — Estonia has used it for years.” Other members, including U.S. Rep. Murphy, have gone under self-quarantine after exposure to members tested positive.

Mario Diaz-Balart tested positive for coronavirus, prompting calls for members of Congress to work remotely.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell wants $760 billion infrastructure plan included in coronavirus relief” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Miami Democratic Rep. Mucarsel-Powell says Congress’ response to the coronavirus pandemic should include something that has eluded politicians for years: a $760 billion, long-term infrastructure package. In addition to short-term coronavirus responses like sending checks to every American, allowing businesses to take out no-interest loans, and making coronavirus testing free for everyone, Mucarsel-Powell said the U.S. government should spend billions on building projects to put unemployed Americans to work and jolt the economy once social distancing measures abate.

Meanwhile …Pam Bondi rejoins Trump-connected lobbying firm” via Alex Gangitano of The Hill — Bondi, a former senior adviser on Trump’s impeachment defense team, has rejoined the lobbying firm Ballard Partners. Bondi first joined the firm in January 2019 as chairwoman of the practice before leaving in November to work for Trump. The firm’s founder, Florida lobbyist Brian Ballard, is the former chairman of Trump Victory, the president’s 2016 big-dollar fundraising committee. “All of us at Ballard Partners are proud of Pam’s recent public service in the administration and are very pleased that Pam is rejoining our firm. Pam’s experiences as a lawyer are unparalleled, and our clients will find her to be a world-class advocate on their behalf in Washington,” Ballard said in a statement Thursday.

Never Trump pundit Rick Wilson sparks outrage with ‘#BeInfected’ joke aimed” at Melania Trump via Zachary Petrizzo of Mediaite — Wilson sparked outrage after posting a tweet responding to a story about First Lady Trump set to speak publicly about the coronavirus with the hashtag “#BeInfected.” The frequent CNN and MSNBC guest’s joke aimed at mocking Melania Trump’s #BeBest cyberbullying initiative sparked a quick backlash on Twitter. Explaining his joke Thursday morning, Wilson billed it as “a riff on ‘BeBest,’ and it’s an utter failure in the face of her husband’s continued role as Global Troll in Chief and National Bully.”

— STATEWIDE —

Lawmakers approve state budget, but expect deep cuts because of virus” via John Kennedy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — In an eerily quiet Capitol, Florida lawmakers reconvened Thursday and approved a $93.2 billion state budget — ending the 2020 legislative session amid rising anxiety about the coronavirus’ devastating impact on the state’s economy. The budget is the lone bill lawmakers must pass each year. But the 457-page document is sure to undergo profound changes in the coming weeks as state revenues plunge in an economy all but stopped by the deadly virus’s spread. “We don’t know what the future might bring,” House Speaker Oliva, a Miami Republican, said moments after the House and Senate completed two hours of floor session and debate with unanimous votes on the spending plan for the year beginning July 1.

Gaming deal could bring lawmakers back for special Session — Senate President Bill Galvano said Thursday that a Special Session to pass a new gaming deal might be in the cards. As reported by Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida, a new deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida could bring the state much-needed revenue as the economy reels from the spread of COVID-19. “I would say there’s a distinct possibility that we’ll be back here,” Galvano said when asked about a special Session. DeSantis is on the same page, saying, “it’s definitely possible” and that he’d met with a tribal council leader on Thursday. “They did indicate that they would like, once all of this settles down, to discuss some of these issues.”

Bill Galvano says a Special Session for a new gambling deal could be in the cards. Image via @FLSenate/Twitter.

DeSantis delays decisions on Supreme Court picks” via Florida Politics — It will be a while yet before Florida has a full Supreme Court again, because of the new coronavirus outbreak. Gov. DeSantis said Thursday he is delaying choices to fill the openings created last fall when Trump picked Florida Supreme Court Justices Barbara Lagoa and Robert Luck to fill two openings on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Given the urgency of the coronavirus crisis, DeSantis said he didn’t have time to read all of the candidates’ opinions or other writings to prepare to make a proper decision. He said he’s pushing a decision back to at least May 1. Normally, DeSantis would have until next Monday to name the new justices.

Phone pass code legal fight dropped” via the News Service of Florida — Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office dismissed a legal fight about authorities seeking to force a criminal defendant to turn over a pass code to a cellphone. Moody’s office went to the Supreme Court in January after a panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with Alachua County robbery-case defendant Matthew Tyler Pollard as he fought efforts to get the pass code. But Pollard’s attorneys filed a motion March 5 at the Supreme Court that said the dispute was moot because Pollard had entered a no-contest plea to a count of robbery with a firearm. Moody’s office followed up by filing a notice to dismiss the Supreme Court case.

Thousands of jobless Floridians face meager unemployment benefits, due to cuts under Gov. Rick Scott” via Jason Garcia and Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — When the Great Recession hit and millions of workers lost their jobs, out-of-work Floridians could count on modest help from the state’s unemployment insurance system: Up to $7,150 over 26 weeks. But the thousands of workers suddenly losing their jobs right now amid the coronavirus pandemic can expect far less help from the state: No more than $3,300 over 12 weeks. The thinner state safety net is the result of changes made in 2011 under former Republican Gov. Scott in response to lobbying from some of the state’s biggest businesses, who wanted to cut the taxes they were paying to finance jobless benefits. Those changes further weakened what national experts say was already an exceptionally poor state unemployment program for workers. Florida caps benefits payments at $275 per week — a ceiling that hasn’t been raised in 22 years.

Email I didn’t open — “Tornado Season starts today! Florida municipalities + health agencies use social networks to stay alert and recover during an active 2020 season.”

— 2020 —

Trump wanted to bury Joe Biden after the primary. Now he can’t.” via Alex Isenstadt and Natasha Korecki of POLITICO — Trump’s top political advisers in recent weeks envisioned unleashing a massive advertising campaign against Biden to define him for the general election before he had a chance to recover from the primary. Then the novel coronavirus arrived. With the death toll rising and daily life grinding to a halt, Trump’s sprawling political operation has put on hold any plans to use its nine-figure war chest to unload on the former Vice President. The strategy, mimicking the playbook of Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign against Mitt Romney, was aimed at crippling the lesser-funded Biden before he could unify the Democratic Party behind him and marshal his forces for November.

Donald Trump was ready to bury Joe Biden, but coronavirus got in the way.

Republicans love Trump — except for 4,425 of them in his new home county” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Republicans love Trump, but it’s not universal. Trump received an overwhelming vote of confidence from Florida Republicans, with unofficial returns showing he won 93.8% of the vote in Tuesday’s primary. That represents 1.16 million votes. But there were three other candidates on the Republican ballot, and their presence showed some pockets of party members’ opposition to Trump. Collectively former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh, and perennial candidate Rocky De La Fuente got 6.2% of the vote. The three non-Trumpers performed slightly better — 8% — in Broward. Last year, when he was angry with his home state of New York, Trump declared his permanent home was the Mar-a-Lago Club.

Biden, nominee-in-waiting. And waiting. And waiting.” via Bill Barrow, Alexandra Jaffe and Will Weissert of The Associated Press — In the three weeks since his blowout win in the South Carolina primary, Biden has emerged as the Democratic presidential nominee-in-waiting. But, amid the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, emphasized waiting. Biden holds a virtually insurmountable delegate lead over his last remaining rival, Bernie Sanders, yet the Vermont senator remains in the race. And with several states delaying their primaries to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Biden can’t reach the required majority of pledged convention delegates until May or June. Yet the former vice president, who proudly calls himself a “tactile politician,” can’t chase those votes in public because he’s essentially confined to his Delaware home like any other American in a quasi-national quarantine.

Biden wants a woman as his running mate. Val Demings could be the one.” via Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post — “If what happened on Super Tuesday is any indication of what will happen in Florida’s primary, I think that we’re gonna be in really good shape,” Rep. Demings of Florida’s 10th Congressional District told me during an interview last week. She was right. Despite disruptions due to the coronavirus, Florida saw record turnout that powered the 40-point victory of former Vice President Biden, whom Demings endorsed. Demings wouldn’t engage in direct political talk when I asked her about Biden’s remaining rival, Sen. Sanders of Vermont, especially given his comments about the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Demings’s reticence was unsurprising since we were sitting in her Capitol Hill office, where such talk runs afoul of the rules.

Susan MacManus: Bernie Sanders never had a chance in Florida” via Steve Newborn of WUSF — MacManus, a political scientist, said few people really expected Sen. Sanders of Vermont to do well in Florida’s presidential primary, with the state’s mix of older, more conservative voters and Hispanics who are well versed with the effects of socialism in places like Cuba and Venezuela. “It’s not surprising here, because the pattern is the same,” she said. “Bernie Sanders has had difficulty appealing to black voters, had difficulty appealing to older voters and moderates, and suburban women. And even Florida’s Hispanic voters after his socialism comment. So it was just not a good place to expect him to clean up on delegates.” She says the timing of Florida’s primary didn’t work to Sanders’ advantage, either.

— MORE FROM THE TRAIL —

Primary election overhaul set for November ballot” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — The Florida Supreme Court cleared the way for voters to decide whether to overhaul the state’s primary-election system. Justices approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow registered voters to cast ballots in primary elections regardless of party affiliation. The two candidates getting the most votes in each primary would advance to the general election. The measure will go on the November ballot. If approved, it would be a major change from Florida’s long-standing “closed” primary system, which generally limits primaries to voters registered with parties. “We are very pleased with the court’s decision and look forward to letting all registered voters vote in every taxpayer-funded election,” said Glenn Burhans, chairman of the political committee All Voters Vote.

William Figlesthaler shifts campaign messaging toward public health” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Amid a coronavirus pandemic, Naples Dr. Figlesthaler will continue running in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. But his campaign advertisements, known for unconventional tone and placement, will be replaced with public-service-announcement-style spots. “I will divert all attention away from campaigning and toward combating this virus,” the urologist said. Figlesthaler announced the change in campaign activity at a Fort Myers news conference while wearing his Encore Urology lab coat.

Dr. William Figlesthaler, a candidate for Congress, says his campaign will focus on helping people through the coronavirus pandemic. Image via Jacob Ogles.

Ford O’Connell drops out of race to replace Francis Rooney” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Political pundit O’Connell has suspended his campaign. “After much thought and careful consideration, it is with a heavy heart I announce that I have decided to withdraw my candidacy for the FL-19 U.S. congressional seat,” he said. The Naples Republican said he made the decision in part because of the community risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are in the midst of a global pandemic. Lives are at stake. The time for action is now,” he said.

— TOP OPINION —

America has survived other calamities. We can make it through coronavirus, too” via E.R. Shipp of the Tampa Bay Times — Every day in this COVID-19 time brings new urgencies, new revelations, new insights. The most stunning for me, believe it or not, was realizing that I am one of those people all the health officials and journalists are talking about when they mention vulnerable populations. When they used the word “elderly,” I thought of old folks. Then they broke that word down and said, “people 60 and over.” “Holy cow!” — as comic-book sidekicks and an old New York Yankees announcer were known for saying. I am a few years beyond 60. You’ve really got my attention now, COVID-19.

— OPINIONS —

In the time of coronavirus, people need cash now” via Ebony Scott and Ameya Pawar for the Tampa Bay Times — We know that four in 10 Americans do not have $400 for an emergency, and a large percentage live check to check. With new social distancing measures in place, millions of people will be out of work for extended periods. For these reasons, we are demanding bold solutions from our city, state and federal government to stabilize communities. We must act fast — today — and give our friends and neighbors what they really need now: cash. Over the years, academics have conducted nearly 200 research studies on these efforts, and all draw the same conclusion: Cash transfers are cost-effective and have the strongest track record to reduce vulnerability.

The pandemic is the end of Trumpism” via John F. Harris of POLITICO — Probably for most of us, the coronavirus crisis will soon enough — Six months? A year? — recede in our minds and come to seem like a hallucinatory moment. Maybe it will be like a hurricane that forced everyone to rush inland and then only glanced the coast. Or maybe it will be like a hurricane that really does hit. Even then, human nature being what it is, most people will clean up and move on. Yet no matter how the coronavirus pandemic passes, or how quickly, there is likely in these strange housebound weeks a new political epoch being born. There are two large reasons to believe the political echo of this crisis will last much longer than the crisis itself.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Florida’s 2020 Legislative Session has officially ended, but there are some rumbles about it having to return to The Capitol later this year to respond to the impact of coronavirus.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— In a rare display of bipartisanship, the Florida House and Senate vote unanimously to approve their new budget … all $93 billion. But first, lawmakers had to pass a health screen to enter the House Chamber. Several lawmakers watched from home because they didn’t want to risk coronavirus infection. The legislative meeting itself was a violation of recommendations by the CDC for both social distancing and crowd size.

— The Governor, Senate President and House Speaker are each taking victory lap at the end of the Session, despite a looming economic fallout from COVID-19.

— Seniors face the greatest threat from the virus, so nursing homes and long-term care facilities are off-limits to visitors. Nevertheless, Agency for Health Care Administration Mary Mayhew says residents at more than 19 facilities have already tested positive or are presumed positive

— And the latest with Florida Man, who has the power to infect Congress.

To listen, click on the image below:

— LISTEN UP —

Dishonorable Mention: State Rep. Chris Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, Ernest Hooper, and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics and culture. The latest news on former Mayor Andrew Gillum. The presidential campaign presses on amid the coronavirus pandemic. Does Sanders have a chance to catch Biden with everything going on? What do you think this pandemic will cost financially? Are we doing enough to stop the spread? The hosts chat about the days and weeks of the virus spreading across the nation and world. Jordan’s Law passes the House and Senate! Latvala discusses the process of finally getting the bill passed to the Governor.

Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida: The coronavirus response is quickly eclipsing every other aspect of state government, but Florida lawmakers are still moving ahead with one other bit of state business.

podcastED: Step Up President Doug Tuthill and Equality Florida chief executive officer Nadine Smith talk about their ongoing efforts to ensure every child has access to a safe and healthy learning environment.

The Rotunda with Trimmel Gomes: On the latest episode, former Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic candidate for Governor Gillum announces he’s entering into rehab to seek treatment for alcohol abuse. Gomes looks back on one of Gillum’s first one-on-one interview about his 2018 bid for governor. As state officials urge citizens to isolate during the coronavirus pandemic, social media company Facebook lends a hand with a new “Local Alerts” tool. Gomes talks with U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, about the company’s other initiative called “Boost with Facebook” designed to help small businesses grow.

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

The earliest spring equinox in 124 years arrives Thursday night” via Matthew Cappucci of The Washington Post — An unusually early spring equinox arrives late Thursday night, as days continue to grow longer as sunsets arrive later. The vernal equinox marks the shifting seasons. Equinoxes occur twice a year — once to usher in fall, and once to herald the arrival of spring. During most years, the spring equinox falls between March 20 and 22. But for those in the United States, that’s not the case this year. In fact, space.com reports that the March 19 equinox is earlier than any in the past 124 years. Perhaps the early equinox is fitting in a year when springlike weather arrived weeks in advance in many parts of the lower 48 states.

‘Friends’ reunion special delayed at HBO Max” via Lesley Goldberg of The Hollywood Reporter — HBO Max’s eagerly anticipated Friends reunion special is being delayed. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the unscripted special was set to be filmed next Monday and Tuesday on the show’s iconic and former home at Stage 24 of the Warner Bros. Studio lot in Burbank. Given the current state of the global coronavirus pandemic, production has been delayed until at least May. A formal filming date has not been determined, as it’s unclear when any programming will be able to resume production. Most, if not all, current productions — scripted, late-night, daytime and syndicated, among others — have been shut down as the world begins to self-quarantine and employ social distancing.

Due to coronavirus concerns, the filming of the ‘Friends’ reunion special has been delayed. Image via Warner Bros. Television.

Rising Om Yoga, formerly Hot Yoga Tallahassee, offers virtual classes” via Nada Hassanein of the Tallahassee Democrat — Rising Om Yoga, formerly Hot Yoga Tallahassee, has switched its yoga classes to virtual as officials urge social distancing amid the coronavirus. Students can roll out their yoga mats, stretch into sun salutations, and cat-cow poses under a yoga teacher’s guidance without leaving their homes. Owner Brittani Whittington said she wanted to make the benefits of deep breathing and yoga more easily available to help people cope during a time where many are afraid and isolated at home. “If we move our body, that’s a way to release that stress and anxiety,” Whittington said. “Coping with the unknown, coping with uncertainty — through our practice, we do a lot of breathwork.”

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday to former state Rep. Shawn Harrison and 5th Judicial Circuit Judge Larry Metz, as well as Jacob Engels, Bill Helmich, Chris Licata, Melissa Ross, and Aakash Patel.

___

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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