— More than 1.5 billion people — one-fifth of the world’s population — were urged or ordered to stay home Monday to try to blunt the spread of coronavirus. Read more here.
— Compiled by the Financial Times, these charts illustrate the U.S. trajectory compared to many other nations, developed and less developed. The U.S. is skyrocketing on confirmed infections, faster than any other country on the chart. The curve on deaths in the U.S. isn’t much better — and the deaths lag a few weeks behind infections. Read more here.
— A surge in infections has caused a critical shortage of medical supplies in many places. The hunt for ventilators and other critical items is consuming Europe, and the U.S. Deaths around the world passed the 15,000 mark Monday. Read more here.
— The U.S. Senate is stalled on a plan to stabilize an economy racked by the coronavirus. Talks continued this evening and a deal could come anytime, but Democrats were blocking action on the $1.8 trillion package to get stronger protections for workers and restrictions for bailed-out businesses. Read more here.
— Stocks fell about 3% on Wall Street as Congress hit another roadblock in talks to inject nearly $2 trillion into the economy. Read more here.
— “I’m sad to tell you I predict things are going to get worse before they get better.” That’s what Jeff Bezos told Amazon in a message over the weekend. Read more here.
— Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced Monday that her husband, John Bessler, has tested positive for the coronavirus. Read more here.
— TOP STORIES —
“The coronavirus isn’t alive. That’s why it’s so hard to kill.” via Sarah Kaplan, William Wan and Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post — Viruses have spent billions of years perfecting the art of surviving without living — a frighteningly effective strategy that makes them a potent threat in today’s world. That’s especially true of the deadly new coronavirus that has brought global society to a screeching halt. Respiratory viruses tend to infect and replicate in two places: In the nose and throat, where they are highly contagious, or lower in the lungs, where they spread less easily but are much more deadly. This new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, adeptly cuts the difference. It dwells in the upper respiratory tract, where it is easily sneezed or coughed onto its next victim. But in some patients, it can lodge itself deep within the lungs, where the disease can kill.
“Lost sense of smell may be peculiar clue to coronavirus infection” via Roni Caryn Rabin of The New York Times — British ear, nose and throat doctors, citing reports from colleagues around the world, called on adults who lose their senses of smell to isolate themselves for seven days, even if they have no other symptoms, to slow the disease’s spread. The published data is limited, but doctors are concerned enough to raise warnings. “We really want to raise awareness that this is a sign of infection and that anyone who develops loss of sense of smell should self-isolate,” Prof. Claire Hopkins, president of the British Rhinological Society, wrote in an email. “It could contribute to slowing transmission and save lives.”
“Donald Trump says coronavirus restrictions will be lifted ‘soon,’ dismissing health experts” via Zachary Basu and Caitlin Owens of Axios — Trump struck a new tone at Monday’s coronavirus press briefing, suggesting that social distancing restrictions will be lifted “fairly soon” and that the U.S. has learned enough lessons to reopen the economy despite the ongoing pandemic: “I’m not looking at months, I can tell you that right now.” Why it matters: Trump and some of his political and economic advisers are losing patience with public health experts who believe that easing restrictions and returning to normal life before “flattening the curve” could overwhelm the health system. Reality check: We cannot both stop the spread of the coronavirus and reopen the economy.
“New Yorkers flying to Florida to self-quarantine for 14 days, Ron DeSantis says” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis will require anyone on a flight from the New York City area to self-isolate for 14 days upon arriving in Florida in an effort to control the spread of coronavirus, he announced late Monday. In his most drastic move yet, DeSantis will make it a criminal penalty for anyone on those flights to violate the quarantine order. He did not say when the order will take effect or to which flights it would apply. With more than 20,000 cases, New York leads the nation in the number of people infected with the virus. “I would reckon, given the outbreak there, that every single flight has somebody on it who is positive for COVID-19,” he said.
Members of the FL press corps: “We want to feel safe during pressers. Can we have them remotely?” @GovRonDeSantis office:
*holds remote press conference*
*only invites select news outlets*
*alerts those not invited via email one minute before it begins* https://t.co/Nw3hBrFd3L
— Tori Lynn Schneider (@photoriphy) March 23, 2020
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@RealDonaldTrump: Republicans had a deal until Nancy Pelosi rode into town from her extended vacation. The Democrats want the Virus to win? They are asking for things that have nothing to do with our great workers or companies. They want Open Borders & Green New Deal. Republicans shouldn’t agree!
—@JoeBiden: In times of crisis, the American people deserve a president who tells them the truth and takes responsibility. Donald Trump has not been that president. For months, he falsely told us we had nothing to worry about while praising China’s response for managing the coronavirus.
—@AndrewYang: It’s possible to acknowledge the Chinese government’s role in stifling early info and worsening the coronavirus crisis without being racist about it.
—@LindseyGrahamSC: Try running an economy with major hospitals overflowing, doctors and nurses forced to stop treating some because they can’t help all, and every moment of gut-wrenching medical chaos being played out in our living rooms, on TV, on social media, and shown all around the world.
—@MatthewJDowd: I believe President Trump is right about at least one thing today. We must find a balance between protecting citizens health and protecting our economy. Decimating our economy in pursuit of fighting the virus doesn’t do our citizens any good in the short or long term.
—@BenjySarlin: Again, we definitely would tell people NOT to drive if the number of accidents suddenly began doubling every few days and passing by an accident caused you to later get in an accident. And if the flu was like this virus then, well, we’d be doing this.
—@MattGaetz: While the Senate fights over how much to carve out for Boeing and GE, can we PLEASE move quickly for the Health Care and Worker needs of our country?
—@Tim_Cook: Our teams at Apple have been working to help source supplies for health care providers fighting COVID-19. We’re donating millions of masks for health professionals in the US and Europe. To every one of the heroes on the front lines, we thank you.
—@MaryEllenKlas: Listening to @press conference, it’s striking his focus is on the logistics of the state’s response. He said nothing about the thing experts say is needed most: reducing human interaction to a minimum.
—@MStark17: Wonder if @has considered spacing out the customers who line up at its store before it opens, with lines on the ground like other stores have done. The amount of mostly senior citizens I saw this morning, huddled close together and open-mouth coughing, was … alarming.
— Marc R. Masferrer (@MRMasferrer) March 23, 2020
—@ErikPetersen: Dear the Rest of the Country: Those Spring Break kids you keep seeing in Florida are not a “LOL Florida” story — they’re your idiot spawn who came here and don’t know when to go home.
—@RyanReports: PSA: Beaches are closed. Dine-in service is banned. If a reporter tweets about people on the beach or a restaurant not following state/local orders, they are doing their job, not snitching.
—@RudyGobert: Just to give you guys an update, loss of smell and taste is definitely one of the symptoms, haven’t been able to smell anything for the last 4 days. Anyone experiencing the same thing?
—@JoyceCarolOates: is anyone else experiencing a distortion of time? Each day feels monumental & tomorrow seems totally unpredictable; one week ago feels like one month; the future feels foreshortened, like a blank wall just a few inches away. past crises, like raging wildfires, near-forgotten.
—@EugeneInOregon: My wife, who’s a copy editor, tells me that to encourage distancing, the MLA has gone back to two spaces after a period.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Walt Disney World/Universal scheduled to reopen — 7; Quibi launches — 16; Easter — 19; Florida Schools reopen (maybe) — 22; First quarter campaign reports due — 22; Last day of federal candidate qualifying — 29; NFL Draft — 30; Mother’s Day — 47; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 76; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 94; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 110; Federal taxes due — 113; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 114; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start (maybe) — 122; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 147; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 153; First presidential debate in Indiana — 189; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 197; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 205; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 212; 2020 General Election — 224; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 238; “No Time to Die” premieres — 246.
— CORONA NATION —
“Trump weighs restarting economy despite warnings from U.S. public health officials” via Josh Dawsey, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Jeff Stein and John Wagner of The Washington Post — Loosening restrictions on social distancing and similar measures soon would likely require him to override the internal warnings of senior U.S. health officials, including Anthony Fauci, who have said that the United States has not yet felt the worst of the pandemic. Trump said at a news conference that at some point soon, the damage being done to the economy could be worse than the threat of the virus spreading further. He said the decision could be based geographically with areas of the country with a low number of positive cases moving back to a normal routine while areas like New York remain under restrictions.
“The Fed goes all-in with unlimited bond-buying plan” via Jeanna Smialek of The New York Times — The Federal Reserve, determined to try to keep the spread of coronavirus from devastating the American economy, rolled out a series of sweeping new programs on Monday meant to shore up large and small businesses and keep markets functioning. As mortgage markets showed signs of crumbling, companies struggled to sell debt and stresses plagued the entire financial system, the Fed announced several never-before-attempted actions to try to calm the turmoil. The Fed pledged to buy as much government-backed debt as needed to restore normal functioning in the markets for housing and Treasury bonds. It announced that it would buy longer-dated corporate debt, including the riskiest investment-grade bonds, for the first time in its history.
“Apparently, Trump ignored early coronavirus warnings. That has consequences.” Via Michael Poznansky of The Washington Post — The U.S. intelligence community issued multiple classified warnings throughout January and February about the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus from China to other countries, the Chinese government’s initial efforts to play down the severity of the looming crisis and the increasing likelihood it would reach America’s shores. Throughout this time, Trump continued to play down the threat in public. Trump’s apparent decision to ignore his own intelligence experts’ warnings in the early stages of this crisis — to say nothing of the warnings from other experts and organizations — has important implications for how we think about the relationship between policymaking and intelligence broadly, and concerning public health in particular.
“Poll: Half of Americans approve of Trump’s coronavirus response” via Quint Forgey of POLITICO — A Monmouth University poll reports that 50% of respondents believe Trump has done a “good job” dealing with the outbreak, while 45% say he has done a “bad job.” Three percent of those surveyed said they had a mixed review of Trump’s performance, and 1 percent did not have an opinion. The President’s net positive rating is starkly partisan, with 89% of Republicans, 48% of independents and 19% of Democrats assessing that he has done a “good job” handling the public health crisis. Additionally, 46% of Americans now approve of the job Trump is doing as president — an increase from 44% in February.
“Trump has given unusual leeway to Fauci, but aides say he’s losing his patience” via Maggie Haberman of the New York Times — Trump has praised Dr. Anthony S. Fauci as a ‘major television star.’ He has tried to demonstrate that the administration is giving him free rein to speak. And he has deferred to Fauci’s opinion several times at the coronavirus task force’s televised briefings. But Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, has grown bolder in correcting the president’s falsehoods and overly rosy statements about the spread of the coronavirus in the past two weeks — and he has become a hero to the president’s critics because of it. And now, Mr. Trump’s patience has started to wear thin. So has the patience of some White House advisers, who see Dr. Fauci as taking shots at the president in some of his interviews with print reporters while offering extensive praise for Trump in television interviews with conservative hosts.
“Testing blunders crippled U.S. response as coronavirus spread” via Michael Biesecker, Mike Stobbe and Matthew Perrone of The Associated Press — In the critical month of February, as the virus began taking root in the U.S. population, CDC data shows government labs processed 352 COVID-19 tests — an average of only a dozen per day. Outside observers and federal health officials have pointed to four primary issues that together hampered the national response — the early decision not to use the test adopted by the World Health Organization, flaws with the more complex test developed by the CDC, government guidelines restricting who could be tested and delays in engaging the private sector to ramp up testing capacity.
“Tests run short and results come slow in coronavirus-stricken rural communities” via Ian Lovett and Dan Frosch of The Wall Street Journal — The coronavirus outbreak is spreading quickly in some parts of rural America, where resources like tests are in short supply, and health systems are already stretched thin. Some small towns like Lander, Wyoming ., are dealing with infection rates that rival New York City’s. Though many parts of the country are dealing with shortages of testing supplies, rural areas face distinct challenges, such as few potential replacements when workers get sick. Also, many private companies that are now offering coronavirus tests often don’t send couriers to collect samples from remote areas.
“U.S. to pause routine nursing-home inspections” via Anna Wilde Mathews and Jon Kamp of The Wall Street Journal — Federal regulators said they plan to temporarily halt routine inspections of nursing homes to focus on the most dangerous situations, as coronavirus cases mount in the facilities across the U.S. and serious infractions were found at the hardest-hit location. Under the changes, regular inspections of nursing homes, home health and hospice companies, among others, will be paused for at least three weeks. During that time, inspectors will emphasize controlling infections, and focus on facilities at risk from the new coronavirus.
“ICE said it won’t deport people for seeking medical care. Immigrants won’t believe them.” via Jaclyn Kelley-Widmer of The Washington Post — Undocumented immigrants fear stepping into a hospital, worrying that their status will be identified and tracked — if not now, then later. They are not likely to believe such reassurances, given the past several years of ever-increasing monitoring and enforcement, even of sympathetic noncriminal immigrants. The day before the announcement, ICE was continuing its immigration raids, with N95 masks on hand. Further, undocumented and lawful immigrants alike have a new reason to fear seeking health care in particular because of the public charge rule that went into effect in February, which assesses whether green card applicants are likely to ever need public benefits. Using Medicaid generally hurts applicants, with an exception for emergency Medicaid — now including COVID-19-related testing and treatment.
“U.S. domestic passenger flights could virtually shut down, voluntarily or by government order” via Andy Pasztor and Alison Sider of The Wall Street Journal — Major U.S. airlines are drafting plans for a potential voluntary shutdown of virtually all passenger flights across the U.S., according to industry and federal officials, as government agencies also consider ordering such a move and the nation’s air-traffic control system continues to be ravaged by the coronavirus contagion. No final decisions have been made by the carriers or the White House, these officials said. As airlines struggle to keep aircraft flying with minimal passengers, various options are under consideration.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Number of coronavirus cases in Florida up to 1,227, and four new deaths in the state” via Michelle Marchante and Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — Palm Beach County has confirmed a third death as COVID-19 continues to increase in Florida, spiking to 1,227 confirmed cases, according to the Florida Department of Health’s 6 p.m. report. Aside from the 56 additional cases, the state reported four more people who have died since Monday morning, for a total of 18 coronavirus-related deaths in Florida. Two people died in Palm Beach County, one announced in the morning and one in the evening, bringing the total deaths for the county to three. Of the two deaths announced in Palm Beach County, one was an 85-year-old woman who was a Florida resident. She had tested positive for COVID-19, but it’s not clear if she lived in Palm Beach County.
“DeSantis pushes back against calls for statewide stay-home order” via Mary Ellen Klas, Samantha Gross and Lawrence Mower of the Miami Herald — DeSantis took to the airwaves Monday to vigorously defend his decision not to order people to stay home. “You simply cannot lock down our society with no end in sight,’’ he said at a teleconference from the Governor’s office. He said he is more inclined to work with selective communities across Florida to impose restrictions, but “those measures need to be sustainable for the long term.” … “Floridians are willing to do what it takes,” he said, but added, “I don’t think it’s going to be ‘stay in your house for nine months.’ That’s just not going to work.” The Governor’s position is contrary to a mounting number of public health experts and local and legislative officials who want him to issue a temporary, short-term, stay-home order.
“Florida coronavirus job losses leave thousands seeking benefits” via John Kennedy of USA TODAY — Even as suddenly jobless restaurant workers seek help, along with many more from stores and service businesses abruptly shuttered, they’ll find an unemployment compensation system heavily tilted toward protecting employers — not workers. Florida’s weekly jobless benefits are capped at $275, among the lowest in the nation. And the 12 week-maximum that a person can collect matches North Carolina as the nation’s lowest. Bill Herrle, Florida executive director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said his members — and those who work for them — should look more toward Washington, D.C., and a federal bailout package, than expect to last long on unemployment benefits.
“Ken Lawson says DEO dealing with ‘unprecedented number’ of unemployment applications” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Lawson says his agency is handling an “unprecedented number” of unemployment applications as the state deals with the economic effects of the COVID-19 virus. Lawson made those comments in a Facebook Livestream with Rep. Shevrin Jones. With testing for everyone still unavailable, government officials still do not have a grasp on how many people have the virus. That means rather than quarantining those known individuals, officials have had to take the drastic step of recommending everyone stay away from large groups, just in case someone has the virus. Many workers have been asked to work from home.
“Legislative leaders bank on reserves to weather storms” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The Senate and House issued statements reiterating that nearly $4 billion in reserves included in a fiscal 2020-2021 budget approved should help get the state through the crisis. “We are being proactive and vigilant, closely monitoring the developing impacts COVID-19 is having on our economy and state revenues,” Senate President Bill Galvano said in a statement. “I have been working with (the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research) and our Senate staff to gain a better understanding of the data and associated timelines required for various components of our consensus estimates. In the meantime, our state is well-served by the $4 billion reserve set aside during the 2020 Session.”
“Ben Diamond calls on Jimmy Patronis to convene Cabinet for emergency budget analysis” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Rep. Diamond is calling on CFO Patronis to hold an emergency meeting of the Florida Cabinet to discuss and address the fiscal impact of the spreading COVID-19 virus. The legislature approved a $93.2 billion budget last week, which is currently on DeSantis’ desk, waiting for review and possible line-item vetoes. But as Diamond notes, that budget was crafted “based upon revenue projections made by our revenue estimating conference meeting last fall, well before this crisis wreaked havoc on our economy.” … “We should not wait until the next meeting of the revenue estimating conference, or until our Legislature is called into Special Session, to take all proactive steps to prepare for the inevitable and severe fiscal impact this pandemic will have on our state.
“State workers worry as telecommuting lags” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — DeSantis has ordered bars, restaurants and gyms to shut down and encouraged state agencies to allow employees to telecommute, in an effort to curb the coronavirus known as COVID-19. But, despite health officials’ warnings against gatherings of 10 or more people, some state workers are still being asked to report to crowded offices. “There are way more than 10 employees here in this enclosed space. There are more employees in my office with the same concerns, please advise,” Lizbeth Cabanas, a driver’s license examiner with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, wrote to a union representative in an email.
“Florida teachers find creative way to put smiles on students’ faces while schools are closed” via Tasha Cain of WTSP — Schools might have their doors closed until April 15, but that didn’t stop a group of Florida teachers from making their students’ day. Teachers from Warren Hope Dawson Elementary in Riverview got in their cars, formed a caravan, and drove around the neighborhoods where their students live. The teachers all honked and waived from their cars while the kids and their families stood in their driveways. Adrienne Bates is a second grade teacher at Warren Hope Dawson Elementary. She said the drive was a way to show how much teachers love their students. Bates said the idea came from Mrs. Leopold, a first grade teacher there.
“Some Florida universities are shifting summer classes to online only” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — Several state universities are moving some of their summer classes online in anticipation that the novel coronavirus pandemic won’t be easing anytime soon. Campuses are currently doing online and remote classes for the rest of the spring semesters by direction of the Board of Governors. More cases are also popping up on the college campuses.
“Lottery closes offices, but games will continue” via Lulu Ramadan of the Palm Beach Post — The state will continue to sell tickets and host lottery games. Still, participants won’t be able to check results or pick up winnings in-person at state offices. Those offices will only be open to employees. The lottery will send winnings via mail, it said in a news release.
“COVID-19 closes Turnpike plaza restaurants” via the News Service of Florida — Fuel and convenience-store fare remain available at service plazas on Florida’s Turnpike, but restaurants were closed following an executive order from DeSantis. The Department of Transportation said marketplace stores, which are at five of the eight turnpike service plazas, continue to operate. Restrooms and dog-walk areas also remain open. The Department of Transportation closed walk-in SunPass customer service centers in Miami, Doral, Boca Raton, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Ocoee, Niceville and Milton. Call centers remain open.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“Local governments are giving themselves special powers in the time of coronavirus” via the Tampa Bay Times — Safety Harbor’s emergency order, which was ratified by the City Commission in a meeting, allows City Manager Matt Spoor to take “whatever action is necessary to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the community” as it relates to the coronavirus. Safety Harbor is one example of a town in which an unelected city manager has been given extra authority by an emergency declaration to spend money or pass regulations. Clearwater, Dunedin and St. Pete Beach are others. “The speed at which decisions are made and things are changing during this pandemic is unreal,” Spoor said. “It’s impressive, but it’s also scary.”
“Alachua County, Gainesville issue stay-at-home orders” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Alachua County is ordering all non-essential businesses to close and residents to stay at home. The order was announced in a Monday livestream. It goes into effect at 12 a.m. Tuesday. “Alachua County has the highest rate of infections per capita of any Florida county and it must end, starting now. While we appreciate the sacrifices that many have made so far, it is not enough,” Alachua County Commission Chair Robert Karl Hutchinson said.
“Hillsborough votes down coronavirus shelter-in-place plan” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — A group of Hillsborough County elected officials voted to wait on ordering the county’s 1.4 million residents to stay home, defeating an effort by Tampa Mayor Jane Castor to jump-start a regional push. For now, county leaders decided, nothing would change in one of the state’s largest counties, which has more than 70 cases of coronavirus. Castor and Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman voted against a motion by Commissioner Sandy Murman to discuss a 10 p.m.-to 5 a.m. curfew at the county’s emergency policy group’s next meeting. The group also agreed to discuss a shelter-in-place policy at some future date. Castor implored her colleagues to pass the shelter-in-place policy, saying it would cost lives to wait.
— Billy Corben (@BillyCorben) March 23, 2020
“A new study shows we’re already in a coronavirus recession – and it has hit S. Florida hard” via Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald — A new study by the StratoDem Analytics data firm in Cambridge, Mass., suggests economists fear was spot-on. The coronavirus isn’t putting us at risk of a recession. The COVID-19 recession is already here — especially in tourism-centric South Florida. ‘There is no question whatsoever that America slipped into a recession in March 2020,” said James Chung, a partner at StratoDem Analytics.”
“Key West is empty. No tourists, no bars – and no income for struggling workers” via Gwen Filosa of FLKeysNews — This time of year, Key West’s Duval Street teems with tourists. They’re peeling off big bucks for booze, food and tips. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic, the Southernmost City has been left without its economic engine. The tourists are gone. And no one knows when they will be allowed back.
“Key Biscayne will be closed to all visitors because of coronavirus” via Monique Madan and Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — The Village of Key Biscayne will be closed to all tourists and visitors starting at 12:01 a.m. Monday, officials announced. There are some exceptions, though: anyone providing “essential” government functions, workers traveling to or from an “essential business,” and nonresident property owners going to and from their properties, records show. The village joins Monroe County, which also announced Sunday it would ban all visitors from the Florida Keys in hopes of preventing the spread of coronavirus.
— MORE LOCAL —
“St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman pushes for statewide stay-at-home order” via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — Kriseman on Monday supported the idea of a statewide order asking people to stay in their homes. “A statewide, uniform, reasonable order limiting nonessential movement and activity will better protect Floridians and prove far more effective at flattening the curve than multiple policies among 67 counties and hundreds of cities and towns,” the mayor wrote on Twitter. The statement called on Gov. DeSantis to issue such an order to “mitigate inconsistencies and confusion by ordering Floridians to ‘stay at home’ as soon as possible.” He also foreshadowed action St. Petersburg may take if the governor does not. “Without such an order, St. Petersburg and municipalities across the state are likely to move forward on their own,” he said.
“Kriseman: Stay-at-home order on the table for St. Pete” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — In a statement shared on social media, Kriseman upheld his previous position that he would prefer a statewide order. “Without such an order, St. Petersburg and municipalities across the state are likely to move forward on their own,” he added. DeSantis issued a lengthy explanation, arguing not all parts of the state were affected and that such orders would be difficult to enforce, rendering them essentially ineffective, a stance for which many disagree.
“Pinellas beaches ‘sparsely populated’ on Monday after closures” via Mark Puente and Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — Days after Pinellas County closed its world-famous beaches, two law enforcement agencies said they have not had problems with crowds ignoring the orders along the 35 miles of sand. On Monday, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and Clearwater Police Department each said visitors and residents have been compliant since the beaches closed at 11:59 p.m. on Friday and that officers and deputies made no arrests. Pinellas Sheriff’s Cpl. Chuck Skipper said one of the agency’s aircraft flew over the beaches Monday around noon and reported they were “sparsely populated.” The agency, he said, has not been flooded with calls about crowds gathering on the sands. “We have had zero issues today,” Skipper said. “There was virtually nobody out there.”
“Nonprofit mobilizes to replace lost school meals across Tampa Bay area” via Christopher O’Donnell and Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — To try and plug that gap, Feeding Tampa Bay opened 17 meal centers across the Tampa Bay area and prepped to give out about 4,000 meals. The venues operated like a drive-through with families able to pick up either lunch or dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast for every kid in their car. It comes at a time when food pantries have reported donations of unsold food from grocery stores have fallen by as much as 80 percent after the coronavirus prompted panic buying. Hillsborough is planning to give out meals at another 100 schools next week after getting approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to run a program similar to the one it does during the summer, said spokeswoman Tanya Arja.
“Orange County’s hotline for cash assistance during pandemic is overwhelmed on first day” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County’s COVID-19 hotline for cash assistance started ringing at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, its first day of operation. The phone didn’t quiet until long after the screening office closed at 3 p.m. Most of the 100,000 callers got a busy signal. Many likely called multiple times. Only 32 got assigned the required follow-up appointment, the next step before they can receive money to help pay for necessary living expenses. “Need far exceeds the means,” said Dianne Arnold, the manager in charge of dispensing the county dollars to people in crisis. Orange County officials haven’t finalized how much public money they will spend on the effort.
“Public schools start handing out free meals to kids who typically eat breakfast and lunch on campus” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — The campus was closed, but a long line of cars still snaked along the driveway at Evans High School on Monday as parents waited to pick up the free “grab-go” breakfast, lunch and snack items Central Florida school districts started handing out. Evans High in Pine Hills was one of 50 schools in Orange County providing free meals to children beginning Monday. Schools in Lake, Osceola and Seminole counties are doing the same, all trying to provide nutrition to students who rely on public schools for lunch and often breakfast, too. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, all public schools in Florida are shuttered until at least April 15.
“Fifth TSA worker at OIA tests positive for coronavirus” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — The TSA confirmed Monday that a fifth worker at the Orlando International Airport tested positive for the coronavirus. The agency said the employee, who works as a screening officer, last worked March 12 at the airport’s West Checkpoint from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The officer is resting at home and recuperating, the agency said. Other employees who have come in contact with the worker within the past 14 days have been asked to self-quarantine at home. This latest case matches OIA with John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport in San Jose, Calif., for the highest number of TSA employees who have tested positive for the coronavirus.
“Congressional candidate Yukong Zhao calls on Chinese Americans to reject China’s charges” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Zhao is running for the Republican nomination in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, seeking a shot at U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy. He rose to prominence nationally starting in 2015 while leading Chinese American backlash against universities’ admissions programs, seen as discriminatory against Asian Americans. The effort had drawn him national media attention and recognition as an activist leader in the community. Zhao warned that the “foreign adversaries intentionally spread disinformation and conspiracies to attack America and to divide the Chinese American community. Instead of apologizing for their early cover-up of this highly contagious disease, some Chinese officials weaponized public opinions to deflect the blame on the U.S.
“What a local stimulus package for businesses could look like” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Residents may get an idea of what a local stimulus package will look like for Tallahassee-based businesses crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic. On Wednesday, city and county commissioners are expected to hold a virtual emergency meeting to discuss using Blueprint sales tax money earmarked for economic development. The unprecedented meeting comes as an increasing number of restaurants and retailers cry for help as customers are directed by state and federal officials to retreat indoors, avoid large gatherings and exercise social distancing. The 12-member board will need to decide whether to implement grants, loans or some other form of aid that may be a lifeline for businesses struggling to stay afloat.
“Life for Florida State students quarantined in Tallahassee” via Casey Chapter of the Tallahassee Democrat — With Florida State University students out for spring break, and classes going online for the rest of the semester, many are staying at home for the foreseeable future because of coronavirus concerns. And yet there are still a few students in Tallahassee wondering what’s next. Take Savannah Johnson, a freshman at FSU who lives on campus. When spring break began, FSU released a statement that any students living in on-campus residences could not return if they left Tallahassee. Since Johnson had visited her home in Jacksonville, she was forced to stay in a friend’s apartment. With FSU’s plan to make classes go fully online, some students are worried their academics will suffer.
“Blue Angels cancel shows through May 17 due to coronavirus” via the Pensacola News Journal — The Blue Angels have extended their cancellations to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. The Blue Angels returned home to Pensacola on Wednesday to little fanfare as much of the city is sheltering in place. The team’s practice schedule while in town is unclear and yet to be determined, Blue Angels spokeswoman Navy Lt. j.g. Chelsea Dietlin said. The now-canceled shows include two previously planned shows in Florida at MacDill Air Force Base on March 28-29 and in Vero Beach on April 25-26.
“Gulfstream Park’s Florida Derby still on — for now — despite pandemic and county ban on ‘nonessential’ business” via Adam Lichtenstein of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Despite the novel coronavirus pandemic and Broward County’s order to close nonessential businesses, the Florida Derby is planning to go off as scheduled on Saturday, although without spectators. “Right now, we’re scheduled to run,” Gulfstream Park spokesman David Joseph said in an email Monday afternoon. Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry signed an executive order on Sunday that went into effect Monday, ordering the closure of nonessential businesses. “If they do not fit into the essential category listed in the Executive Order, they should not be open,” said Ric Barrick, Broward County’s Assistant Director of Public Communications, in an email. “Any enforcement would be handled by the City that they are located.”
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Coronavirus sparks hiring spree for nearly 500,000 jobs at biggest retailers via Sarah Nassauer and Jaewon Kang of The Wall Street Journal — Walmart, Amazon and CVS are among about a dozen large companies looking to hire nearly 500,000 Americans in coming weeks, a spree that would mark a major shift of the U.S. workforce from smaller businesses and others that have cut staff to survive the coronavirus. At the same time, they are seeking to lure hourly workers to front-line or logistics jobs where they face risks of being near co-workers or consumers who could have been exposed to the deadly respiratory virus. Many of the big chains have started offering enhanced benefits, such as paid sick time and child care services, even for temporary or part-time workers. They have also temporarily boosted their wages or promised bonuses for people who run cash registers, unload trucks, or work in e-commerce warehouses.
“Working from home reveals another fault line in America’s racial and educational divide” via Christian Davenport, Aaron Gregg and Craig Timberg of The Washington Post — While many people across the country are hunkered down at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, armed with laptops and Wi-Fi connections, millions more are required to show up at factories, hospitals and grocery stores to do their jobs. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted yet another fault line in America’s racial and socioeconomic divisions — those who can do their jobs from home and those who can’t. As new communities go into lockdown in hopes of slowing the spread of the virus, the people most at risk for getting sick, because they must venture out, are mostly people of color, those with only a high school education and those whose incomes are likely to suffer during the ongoing crisis.
“Small business survey points to ‘profound’ disruption” via the News Service of Florida — In what the organization described as a “dramatic escalation,” 76% of small businesses have been negatively impacted by the novel coronavirus, according to survey results by the National Federation of Independent Business. “The magnitude of disruption now on the small business sector is profound,” the small-business organization said. About a quarter of small businesses reported being negatively impacted by the coronavirus in a similar survey earlier in March. Businesses in the new study, conducted by the NFIB Research Center, pointed to problems such as slower sales and supply-chain disruptions. The national group did not release state-level data.
“Activist groups ask Governor to cancel mortgage, rent and small business lease payments” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Collectively dubbed the “Florida Housing Justice Alliance” (FHJA), those groups are asking for the payments to be suspended through the period of Florida’s state of emergency, plus an additional 30 days. The alliance is made up of several groups, including SEIU Florida, New Florida Majority, MHAction, Organize Florida, the Community Justice Project and others.
“Papa John’s to hire up to 20,000 new employees” via Haley Cawthon of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — As millions of restaurant industry workers are being laid off across the country, Papa John’s International Inc. is looking to add some of that talent to its stores by hiring up to 20,000 new employees — more than doubling its current staffing levels. The Louisville-based pizza chain said it is committed to the community it serves by delivering meals and carryout during the COVID-19 crisis. “For anyone looking for immediate ways to earn an income, we’re making it quick and simple to apply, interview and be hired at Papa John’s,” said Marvin Boakye, Papa John’s chief people and diversity officer, in a news release.
— MORE CORONA —
“Boris Johnson announces coronavirus lockdown in U.K.” via Annabelle Dixon of POLITICO — British people will only be allowed to leave their homes to shop for essential goods, to exercise once a day, to receive care or help a vulnerable person and to travel to essential work, the U.K. prime minister said. Police will be given powers to issue fines and disperse gatherings. All shops selling nonessential goods, libraries, playgrounds, outdoor gyms and places of worship will close and no more than two people will be allowed to gather in public. All social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies will be stopped, apart from funerals. The restrictions will be kept under “constant review,” Johnson said, and would be relaxed in three weeks’ time if the evidence allowed.
“China is reporting big successes in the coronavirus fight. Should we trust the numbers?” via Jeremy Wallace of The Washington Post — China’s system of limited, quantified vision focused on these indicators out of a belief that close monitoring would generate effort and good results. Decades of rapid economic growth testify to the system’s success — but also gave officials incentives to misrepresent the truth and falsify statistics or look to achieve them through wasteful means. First off, this research highlights the importance of numbers in Chinese political discourse — across a wide bureaucracy, the COVID-19 figures serve as the measure of performance. And past findings suggest there are reasons to pay attention to a number of possibilities, including the strong incentives for distortions in officially released data.
“IOC member says 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be postponed because of coronavirus pandemic” via Christine Brennan of USA TODAY — Veteran International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound told USA TODAY Sports on Monday afternoon that the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are going to be postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic. “On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” Pound said in a phone interview. “The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.” Pound, a Canadian who has been one of the most influential members of the IOC for decades, said the Games would likely be moved to 2021, with the details to be worked out in the next four weeks.
“Nigeria records chloroquine poisoning after Donald Trump endorses it for coronavirus treatment” via Stephanie Busari and Bukola Adebayo of CNN — Health officials in Nigeria have issued a warning over chloroquine after they said three people in the country overdosed on the drug, in the wake of Trump‘s comments about using it to treat coronavirus. A Lagos state official told CNN that three people were hospitalized in the city after taking the drug. Officials later issued a statement cautioning against using chloroquine for COVID-19 treatment. Trump claimed at a White House briefing last week that the Food and Drug Administration had approved the “very powerful” drug chloroquine to treat coronavirus.
“The great empty” via The New York Times — During the 1950s, New York’s Museum of Modern Art organized a famous photo exhibition called “The Family of Man.” In the wake of a world war, the show, chockablock with pictures of people, celebrated humanity’s cacophony, resilience, and common bond. Today a different global calamity has made scarcity the necessary condition of humanity’s survival. Cafes along the Navigli in Milan hunker behind shutters along with the Milanese who used to sip aperos beside the canal. Times Square is a ghost town, as are the City of London and the Place de la Concorde in Paris during what used to be the morning rush. The photographs here all tell a similar story.
“Can you catch coronavirus from a corpse? Here’s what funeral homes are doing to stay safe” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — Elbow bumps edged out the traditional handshakes and hugs among dozens of mourners at a recent wake and service in Hollywood. And this was two weeks ago, before “flatten the curve” became mandatory in South Florida — and much of the country — as officials closed restaurants, bars, gyms and other gathering establishments amid the coronavirus pandemic. Death doesn’t take a holiday — nor does it heed public health advisories issued by the World Health Organization concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. But funeral homes in states hit hard by the coronavirus, like Florida, have to pay attention and make some changes in dealing with the public and preparing bodies for viewing and burial.
“The new town hall: anxiety, fear and few satisfying answers” via Sara Burnett of The Associated Press — Across the country, anxious Americans are finding an audience for their questions — if few answers — in telephone town halls with their Senators and Representatives. These are the socially distanced versions of the constituent meetings that have long been held in community centers, libraries and city halls. But these are not the town halls of the past — there’s little ideological warfare or finger-pointing. Instead, the calls can feel like listening in on painful family conversations. The questions are far more personal than political. Politicians have been measured, mostly dodging overt partisan swipes and trying to focus on sometimes dispensing hard-to-come-by information. The voices on the end of the line are often filled with desperation, fear and confusion.
“Tennis players, from amateurs to pros, look for courts to stay active during coronavirus pandemic” via Kyle Burger of WFTS Tampa Bay — Small outdoor activities might be an excellent way to stay active while practicing social distancing. If you’re thinking tennis — it might not be easy to find a place to play. “Normally I play at Harbor Island,” Mark Ray said. “But they are closed like most clubs.” Public tennis courts seem to be a popular place if you’re looking for a sport with built-in social distancing. You might have to wait your turn at public parks like Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park in downtown Tampa. “It’s been busy in the park,” Dominik Koepfer said. “We actually had to wait thirty minutes for a court.” The park has six public tennis courts and two pickleball courts.
— THE HUMAN TOLL —
“Italy’s coronavirus deaths are staggering. They may be more a preview than anomaly.” via Chico Harlan, Stefano Pitrelli and Claudia Cavaliere of The Washington Post — Italy has become the flashpoint of the coronavirus pandemic, with a death toll at 6,077 and counting — the highest in the world. The virus has killed more than 2,000 Italians in the past four days alone. The staggering toll stands for now as a worst-case scenario for what happens when a country is caught unprepared. Italy’s high elderly population has exacerbated the problem. But while some unique aspects have amplified the scale, doctors and health officials say other countries should regard Italy not as an outlier or an example of missteps, but as a harrowing preview for the hardships they might soon have at hand. Other countries could easily follow the pattern in Italy, with the number of casualties soaring weeks after an initial, drastic spike in cases.
“Coronavirus jeopardizes blood supply, banks call for donations” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — OneBlood, a donation center across Florida, has already canceled 2,300 blood drives they had planned, said Susan Forbes, the senior vice president of corporate communications and public relations. Many blood drives are held at schools or businesses, which have shuttered. That would have led to 37,000 blood donations. OneBlood has put out an urgent call for donations to make sure the blood supply doesn’t dip, especially as the number of patients in hospitals heightens the need for blood. “This will be impacting our operations for months to come,” Forbes said. “This is an unprecedented situation that’s happening to the blood supply.”
— ONE GOOD THING —
While much of the neighborhood is suspended due to coronavirus, and the Jewish center he works for owes him money, a Brooklyn caterer continues preparing meals to serve elderly Holocaust survivors.
Caterer Israel Frischman and volunteer Freida Rothman both have grandparents who survived the Holocaust; they believe it’s their duty to help those who suffered unspeakable horrors then and are alone and isolated in their homes now.
“People have to do what they have to do. They have to be kind,” Frischman told The Associated Press. “Sometimes it doesn’t suit our pockets the right way, but it’s not about what goes into our pocket. … We have to make sure that people have what they need to continue to survive.”
“This is going to go down in history, and you’re going to think back: ‘What did I do to make a difference? How did I make other peoples’ lives easier and better?’” Rothman added, before leaving to deliver meals in Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood.
Many Holocaust survivors in the U.S. are in poverty and often rely on donations to pay rent and for food.
Frischman regularly delivers 30 to 35 kosher meals three times a week to members of the Nachas Health and Family Network in Brooklyn, but currently relies on volunteers to help with deliveries.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Rick Scott to end quarantine, join Senate deadlocked on coronavirus bill” via Wendy Rhodes of the Palm Beach Post — Scott will return to the Senate floor Tuesday after an 11-day preventative self-quarantine. Scott, who is asymptomatic and was not tested for coronavirus, began a self-quarantine on March 12 after learning that several members of the Brazilian delegate, with whom he attended a meeting in Miami on March 9, had tested positive for COVID-19.
“Marco Rubio, Scott join Ron DeSantis’ call to declare coronavirus major disaster in Florida” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — “Federal government resources, as well as coordination between federal and state officials, are critical to Florida’s efforts to effectively and expediently combat the COVID-19 pandemic,” reads a letter from both Senators. The two wrote in support of a request from DeSantis. The letter cites the most recent data from the Florida Department of Health, which at the time listed 1,171 total positive cases. Shortly afterward, DOH updated numbers further. The state now reports 1,227 cases and 18 deaths. “New diagnoses are rising daily,” the letter from Scott and Rubio notes.
“Scott asks Betsy DeVos about school readiness for coronavirus” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — U.S. Sen. Scott is asking U.S. Education Secretary DeVos how the state can prepare schools for an extended period of distance learning as the coronavirus outbreak worsens. Gov. DeSantis has closed preschool and K-12 public school campuses through at least April 15 to help reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus and canceled year-end testing. But as the virus continues to spread throughout the state, officials may need to consider extending the remote learning period. “I am extremely concerned about the outbreak of the Coronavirus and the effect it is having on our nation, including our schools,” Scott wrote.
“Members of Florida delegation want at least $1 billion in relief bill to boost state ports” via Kevin Derby of Florida Daily — At the end of last week, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson rounded up members of the Florida delegation to urge the leaders of the U.S. House and the U.S. House Appropriationsand the Transportation and Infrastructure Committees to help fund the state’s ports. … The letter called for “at least $1 billion to mitigate the impact of the loss of cruise ship revenues, a portion of which should be used to compensate port employees impacted by the disruption” to help Florida’s ports. Other signers besides Wilson include U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, Neal Dunn, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Bill Posey, and Ross Spano.
— “Matt Gaetz blasts GOP Sen. Burr over stock dump: ‘Not fair’ Katie Hill was pushed out but he remains intel chair” via Josh Feldman of Mediaite
— STATEWIDE —
“Coalition of organizations urges Gov, DeSantis to veto bill raising citizen initiative thresholds” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A coalition of 13 organizations, led by the League of Women Voters of Florida, sent a letter to DeSantis. The groups demanded a veto of SB 1794. “This proposal places undue burdens on the citizens of Florida,” the letter reads. “We ask you to please consider the ramifications of this legislation and the message it sends to those who seek change. Your veto of SB 1794 would signify that a citizens’ right to participate in direct democracy should never be up for debate.” The League of Women Voters and Florida Conservation Voters both previously voiced opposition to the legislation. The organizations describe the bill as an “eleventh-hour” measure passed that restricts citizen access to the constitution.
“Florida Democrats celebrate 10th anniversary of ACA passage amid pandemic concerns” via Sarah Mueller Florida Politics — Since former President Barack Obama successfully ushered in his landmark legislation, provisions of it have been weakened by the Supreme Court, Congress and the Trump administration. A federal appeals court in December struck down Obamacare’s individual mandate after a Texas judge declared the entire law unconstitutional. Democratic Congresswomen Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, called the ACA one of the most significant policy victories of this century. They blasted Trump for continuing to support the lawsuit to eliminate the ACA during his news conference. They argue if he succeeds, at least 3.5 million Floridians with preexisting conditions could lose benefits, and the number of uninsured Floridians may increase by 67%.
“Nurse independent practice urged the mid-coronavirus” via the News Service of Florida — DeSantis is being asked to allow advanced practice registered nurses to begin practicing independently of physicians immediately and not have to wait until July 1 when a new law takes effect. Rep. Cary Pigman, who helped champion the law (HB 607) during this year’s Legislative Session, asked DeSantis to allow the nurses to work independently to help in coronavirus response efforts. Currently, advanced practice registered nurses are required to work under the supervision of physicians until the new law takes effect. The supervisory requirements, Pigman said in his letter, are “creating problems as our APRNs seek to administer care for our most vulnerable.”
Nikki Fried, Forest Service distributing $664K for volunteer fire departments — Agriculture Commissioner Fried joined the Florida Forest Service are awarding 40 grants to volunteer fire departments and counties impacted by Hurricane Michael. The funding comes through the Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) Program, a program that provides federal financial, technical, and other assistance to State Foresters to organize, train, and equip fire departments in rural areas to prevent and suppress fires. In July 2019, the Florida Forest Service announced that 100% reimbursement was available for counties impacted by Hurricane Michael, which includes Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Wakulla and Washington Counties.
“After leaked emails, Florida Attorney General investigating Norwegian,” by Miami New Times Alexi Cardona: “In response to the story, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody today announced an investigation into ‘misleading and potentially dangerous sales pitches by Norwegian Cruise Line.’
“Ashley Moody says justices should consider pot issue” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Splitting from the Senate, Moody’s office says the Florida Supreme Court should decide whether a recreational-marijuana constitutional amendment can go before voters. Moody opposes the proposed amendment, which would allow recreational use of marijuana. Still, lawyers in her office said in a brief that the Supreme Court should consider whether the measure meets legal standards to go on the November 2022 ballot potentially. The Senate in January filed a motion contending that the Supreme Court should dismiss the issue because the political committee backing the proposed amendment did not submit enough petition signatures to get on the 2020 ballot. Senate attorneys described the issue as “moot.”
“Miami Beach Police to investigate photo leak from Andrew Gillum hotel incident” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Miami Beach Police have started an internal review after several photos from an incident involving Gillum appear to have been leaked to the media. Miami Beach Police spokesperson Ernesto Rodriguez said the department is reviewing how those photos got out to the public before the completion of public records requests. “It’s unknown how the report was shared,” Rodriguez said in an email, “and yes, it is being looked at.” Gillum was inside that room the night of March 12 with two other men, and the former Democratic gubernatorial candidate denies using the drug. One of those men appeared to have overdosed.
“Climate gentrification threatens Miami’s last affordable housing” via Irina Ivanova of CBS News — The city, whose most exclusive neighborhoods are close to the sea and barely above sea level, is increasingly getting flooded during high tides. The city is moving to raise streets and sidewalks by two feet, at the cost of about $1 million a block, but adaptation will only be a partial help. Water is rising right through the ground, permeating the porous limestone on which much of Miami sits. The sea walls other cities are considering won’t work here. Increasingly, the wealthy residents living near Miami’s shores are looking at another option: Move inland to higher ground, to historically less desirable neighborhoods populated by working-class people.
— 2020 —
“Joe Biden to Trump: Start acting like ‘a wartime president’” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Biden delivered his first shadow briefing on the coronavirus Monday, faulting Trump for giving false information about the pandemic, not taking it seriously enough and not moving faster. “Trump keeps saying that he’s a wartime president. Well, start to act like one,” Biden said, drawing attention to his own coronavirus response plan. “To paraphrase a frustrated President [Abraham] Lincoln writing to an inactive General [George] McClellan during the Civil War, ‘if you don’t want to use the army, may I borrow it?’” But as the atmospherics of Biden’s briefing showed, the former vice president is outgunned in the battle against Trump when it comes to getting his message out.
“Biden is trying to be heard on the virus. Can he break through?” via Thomas Kaplan and Alexander Burns of The New York Times —Biden has been confined over the last week to an unusually small role for the likely — though not yet completely certain — nominee of a major political party. His public comments have been sparing and, for the most part, restrained. He is now ramping up a public schedule, beginning with an appearance on ABC’s “The View” on Tuesday, and his aides said he would offer remarks on camera in some fashion each day.
“Puerto Rico postpones Democratic presidential primary as COVID-19 upends politics” via Jim Wyss of the Miami Herald — Puerto Rico is joining the growing number of U.S. states postponing their Democratic presidential primary, as the novel coronavirus has upended events around the world. Over the weekend, Gov. Wanda Vázquez signed a bill pushing the island’s Democratic primary back from March 29 to April 26. Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory of 3.2 million, cannot vote in the presidential elections but does hold sway in the primary process. The island has 51 pledged delegates and seven automatic delegates, giving its voters more power than about half of U.S. states. Last year, the island moved up its primary from June to March, in hopes of playing a more prominent role in shaping the field of contenders.
Epilogue — “Bernie Sanders wins Democrats Abroad primary” via Zach Montellaro of POLITICO — Sanders has won the Democrats Abroad primary, netting a handful of delegates but doing little damage to Biden’s big lead. Sanders won 58 percent of the vote, which included just under 40,000 Americans living abroad, and Sanders will be awarded nine delegates to the national convention over the summer, according to the release from Democrats Abroad. Biden won 23 percent of the vote and will take home four delegates. Turnout was up 15 percent over 2016, Democrats Abroad said, for the group’s largest recorded primary. In-person voting took place from March 3 through March 10 at sites around the world. Voters could also submit electronic ballots.
“Priorities USA ads pound Trump on coronavirus response” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — “No, I don’t take responsibility at all,” the video clip shows Trump stating as a fever line tracking American cases soars upward from teens to tens of thousands, heading upward from there on a skyrocketing curve. “America needs a leader we can trust,” text on the screen declares after the 30-second television commercial, “Exponential Threat.” That’s one of two TV ads the Democratic-allied committee is releasing through social media in Florida, and fellow swing states Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin and is part of a $6 million TV and digital buy. Priorities USA said it’s considering expanding the campaign to other states as well.
To view the ad, click on the image below:
Meanwhile … “Michael Bloomberg sued by aides for stiffing them on yearlong pay promise” via Christopher Cadelago of POLITICO — Former campaign workers for Bloomberg are suing for fraud, alleging in a nationwide class-action lawsuit that as many as 2,000 employees were promised to be paid through the general election before he laid them off. Plaintiffs in the class action include two organizers who halted the interview process for other jobs to join the Bloomberg campaign, and another former organizer who postponed law school to work on Bloomberg’s 2020 effort. The filing comes on the same day as another class action brought by a former Bloomberg field organizer that similarly argues the employees were tricked into taking jobs they were told would continue for a year.
“DNC insists its convention is on – but many Democrats aren’t buying it” via David Siders and Alex Thompson of POLITICO — “There are no plans to cancel the convention and we are not considering a rules change at this time,” Xochitl Hinojosa, the DNC’s communications director, said Monday after news reports that the party is in the process of devising backup plans. “Contingency planning is a routine part of preparations for any convention.” … There are nearly four months until the convention, many Democrats note. But planned walk-throughs of the convention site in Milwaukee have been delayed, according to multiple Democratic sources, and many convention organizing staffers are working from home.
— MORE FROM THE TRAIL —
“Coronavirus upends the battle for the House” via Sarah Ferris and Ally Mutnick of POLITICO — The impeachment furor that consumed Washington for nearly a year has dissipated amid a far more urgent political storm: the coronavirus outbreak. Any trace of Trump’s impeachment has vanished from Capitol Hill, cable news, and the campaign trail. And long gone is the pervasive sense of anxiety that once gripped vulnerable Democrats after their votes to impeach Trump, which they feared could cost them their seats and possibly control of the House. … Instead, the battle for Congress is more likely to be redefined by a highly infectious and mysterious virus that has spread into every state, pulverized the economy and thrust lawmakers into a crisis-governing mode unseen since the Great Depression. “It’s always about, ‘What meeting are you going to on the virus?’ or, ‘What are you going to do on the virus bill?” said Arizona Rep. Tom O’Halleran, one of the many Democrats in Trump-won districts who had been initially reluctant to pursue the President’s impeachment. “I’ve been through a few decades, and I haven’t seen anything like this,” O’Halleran said of the outbreak, adding that the flood of phone calls he once got on impeachment have subsided.
“As campaigns move online, America’s chief watchdog isn’t following” via Nancy Scola of POLITICO Magazine — In a flash of virus anxiety and social distancing, American electioneering has moved almost entirely online: Digital meetups are replacing voter town halls, campaign rallies are now streamed speeches, and donor one-on-ones are moving to FaceTime. In campaign advertising, that shift was long underway, with money moving from old-school broadcast and print ads to a flurry of custom messages on social media and search engines. As this change has transformed politics over the past several years, and quickly accelerated in recent weeks, one national player has been noticeably silent: The United States Federal Election Commission. The FEC is the nation’s chief watchdog on money in politics.
“Coronavirus changing ‘the very nature’ of Florida campaigns” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Traditional meat-and-potatoes canvassing and glad-handing have totally stopped. Even with millions of people hunkered down at home, there‘s no door-to-door voter contact. Events and rallies are gone. And not only are there no campaign booths at local festivals and fairs, but there are also no festivals and fairs. “It touches every aspect of politics,” said Senate President Bill Galvano, a nearly two-decade campaign veteran. “It will change the very nature of campaigns.” Florida politicians have been overwhelmingly focused on the impact the coronavirus will have on public health. But it also will have a game-changing effect on their state campaigns. Advertising and social media will play more prominent roles, but won’t fill the gap left by the coronavirus-induced implosion of traditional politicking.
“Bipartisan group of candidates call for reduced ballot qualification fees” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A bipartisan group of state and federal candidates wants Gov. DeSantis to waive or reduce the qualification fees to make the 2020 ballot. At a news conference held an hour after the deadline for federal candidates to submit petitions, candidates said removing barriers to the ballot was essential. “We have to work together to make sure the voices of our communities are heard,” said Michael Bluemling, Jr., a Republican running in Florida’s 21st Congressional District. Like many candidates, Bluemling had intended to qualify by gathering upward up 5,000 valid signatures of voters. But after weeks of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention promoting self-isolation, that proved an impossible task.
“Arthenia Joyner to forego state Senate run against Darryl Rouson” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Despite encouragement to run and heavy speculation from the Tampa Bay Times about a potential Joyner/Rouson matchup, Joyner told Florida Politics in a statement that she will instead focus on helping to elect “as many good, qualified, and committed Democrats” to “deliver that brighter future we are overdue.” “The decision whether to run again was a difficult one, especially a question I needed to answer about how I could best move not only this district, but the state of Florida, forward to a better place and a brighter future,” Joyner wrote.
“Republican jumps into race to replace Jennifer Sullivan” via the News Service of Florida — The first Republican candidate has emerged to try to replace her in a Central Florida House District. Eustis Republican Randy Glisson opened a campaign account to run in House District 31, which is made up of parts of Lake and Orange counties, according to the state Division of Elections website. Also in the race is Eustis Democrat Debra Kaplan, who opened an account last year and had raised $9,148 as of Feb. 29, records show. Sullivan, who was first elected to the seat in 2014, had opened an account to run again in November.
— TOP OPINION —
“To combat coronavirus, Florida needs stay-at-home orders now” via Mona Mangat for the Tampa Bay Times — To understand why isolating yourself is so important, we must consider the numbers and the features of this disease. There are more than 35,000 cases of the coronavirus in the United States and 471 deaths nationwide. The virus has been spreading exponentially. As of today, the Florida Department of Health lists 1,171 COVID-19 cases with South Florida emerging as a hot spot for these infections — accounting for almost half of the state’s total. Local leaders have been leading the way as they fight to protect their communities. Risking our lives when there is a better way seems foolish. Success will only be measured in how many fewer lives are lost. The time to act and put patients over politics is now.
— OPINIONS —
“Analysis: Trump struggles to adjust to crisis presidency” via The Associated Press — Trump has never been known for his patience or long attention span. Now, as the coronavirus crisis threatens his presidency, and upends his campaign for reelection, Trump is rapidly losing patience with the medical professionals who have made the case day after day that the only way to prevent a catastrophic loss of life is to essentially shut down the country — to minimize transmission and “flatten the curve” so hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with critical patients. The President also has been furious that his efforts to halt the harrowing drop in the stock market have so far proven ineffective. He has been calling friends and economists at all hours and berated aides and reporters who try to persuade him to recognize the severity of the outbreak.
“A President with no empathy exploits the coronavirus crisis” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — People are dying. Businesses are failing. Workers are losing jobs. But above all, we as a nation must keep in mind the terrible cost born by Trump. “It cost me billions of dollars to become president,” he said at a White House briefing Sunday evening that was, ostensibly, about the coronavirus response. He felt so proud of the sacrifice he’d gladly and selflessly made that he repeated the sentiment four more times. This was in response to a question about whether he had sold investments before the virus-induced market crash, as several senators did. Bizarrely, Trump responded with self-pity. “Look at my legal costs!” he went on. “I’m being sued all over the place, and doing very well, but it’s unfair.”
“Shocking numbers, serious questions, on coronavirus in Florida” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Between Friday evening and Sunday evening, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Florida more than doubled — from 393 to 1,007. It makes you wonder, what is the rate of rise that Florida anticipates over the next four to six weeks? Also, over the weekend, the number of infected people living in assisted living facilities and nursing homes jumped from nine to 33. Duval County has 14, Broward has 12, Baker has 3, and Clay, Orange, Citrus, and Bradford each report one. It makes you wonder, which facilities are these? Do the other patients know? How about family members, who have not been allowed to visit for two weeks now?
“Ron DeSantis is breaking the law” via Adam Richardson of Slate — There’s no denying that Florida is in a state of emergency—although the governor has come under criticism for his reluctance to invoke his emergency powers in ways that might more adequately address the current crisis. But let’s be clear: DeSantis has absolutely no authority to postpone the appointments. In January, quoting Justice Antonin Scalia’s and Bryan Garner’s influential treatise, Reading Law, the Florida Supreme Court said it “adhere[s] to the ‘supremacy-of-text principle’: ‘The words of a governing text are of paramount concern, and what they convey, in their context, is what the text means.’ ” The citizens of Florida used the word shall in telling the governor by when he needs to make appointments. We meant what we said and said what we meant. We could have said something different. We didn’t.
“Why would Tampa Bay need a stay-at-home order?” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — As the number of coronavirus cases rise in Florida and Tampa Bay, state and local officials should avoid an emotional response and be clear-eyed about the impact of further restrictions. There are a number of variables to consider before issuing sweeping stay-at-home orders, and while public health ranks at the top, the effect of further restrictions on families, businesses and the economy cannot be ignored. This new normal is going to evolve over months rather than days, and a knee-jerk reaction to the news of the minute could have more severe long-term consequences than any potential benefit. If Tampa Bay officials are determined to implement more local restrictions on businesses and movement, it would have to be a regional approach.
“Nursing homes should be at top of list for financial relief during coronavirus crisis” via Emmett Reed for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Across Florida, our country, and around the globe, people everywhere are struggling to cope with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. But none are more at risk from this deadly virus than our elder population, especially those in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. The federal government is working to respond appropriately, with relief packages including such provisions as paid sick leave, free testing, and expanded unemployment benefits. The package signed by President Donald Trump on March 18 includes an important provision for a temporary 6.2% increase in federal payments for Medicaid reimbursements. That COVID-19 relief package doesn’t impose restrictions on how state governments can use this Medicaid increase.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Gov. DeSantis is once again refusing to issue any sort of statewide lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus — despite the number of confirmed fatalities rising to 18.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— DeSantis is under attack for his failure to act on coronavirus. Democrats are lining up to unload on the Governor: Donna Shalala, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.
— If you were among the thousands of Floridians who tried to file for unemployment online, chances are you received an error message. Calling the helpline, you got a recording. The Department of Economic Opportunity is trying.
— Florida’s award-winning state park system is closed for the duration. They tried to limit crowds, but that didn’t work. So, a shutdown is now in effect.
— Sen. Scott says forget the corporate bailouts: what people need is a moratorium on rent, mortgage payments, and utility bills. A group called the Florida Housing Justice Alliance loves the idea, and they’re asking the Governor to run with it
— The latest from Florida man, which has one story with absolutely nothing at all to do with the virus — think of it as a psychic palate cleanser.
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
— ALOE —
“ESPN plans to air classic ‘WrestleMania’ events” via Brian Steinberg of Variety — For three Sundays, the Disney-owned sports-media giant will air classic WrestleMania events on its flagship cable network and stream them on its mobile app. The initiative commences this Sunday at 7 p.m. eastern, when ESPN airs WrestleMania 30 from April, 2014. The colorful headlocks, figure-four leglocks and sleeper holds mark the latest example of ESPN working to fill its schedule with unorthodox content in the wake of the nation’s coronavirus crisis, which has put a stranglehold on all kinds of communal gatherings, including sports events.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are State Reps. Adam Hattersley and Anthony Rodriguez, Brian Blanco, our friend Glen Gilzean, Karen Giorno, Zach Hubbard, an aide to Sen. Jeff Brandes, Jena Kingery, Fred Menachem, Giancarlo Sopo, and Kristin Crawford Whitaker, Assistant Vice Chancellor at Board of Governors.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.