— Breaking overnight: The White House and Senate leaders of both parties announced agreement early Wednesday on unprecedented emergency legislation to rush sweeping aid to businesses, workers and a health care system slammed by the coronavirus pandemic. Read more here.
— There are 1,467 total Florida cases, as of 6 p.m. last night. Two people from Pinellas and Lee counties died Tuesday who had tested positive for COVID-19. New Florida cases include 55 additional positive COVID-19 cases (49 Florida residents and six non-Florida residents) reported to the Florida Department of Health.
— More than 400,000 people worldwide have been infected, and over 18,000 have died, according to a running count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
— President Donald Trump said he is hoping the country will be reopened by Easter, as he weighs how to refine nationwide social-distancing guidelines to put some workers back on the job amid the coronavirus outbreak. Read more here.
— Some experts don’t rule out a downturn in the United States that rivals the magnitude of the 1930s Depression. Read more here.
— New York City hospitals have become the war-zone-like epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S. with a “cacophony of coughing” in packed emergency rooms, beds squeezed in wherever there is space, and overworked, sleep-deprived doctors and nurses rationed to one face mask a day. Read more here.
— The International Olympic Committee announced a first-of-its-kind postponement of the Summer Olympics that were to have been held in Tokyo, bowing to the realities of a coronavirus pandemic that is shutting down daily life around the globe and making plans for a massive worldwide gathering a virtual impossibility. Read more here.
— Confusion rippled through Britain a day after a three-week halt to all nonessential activity to fight the spread of the new coronavirus was imposed. Streets were empty, but some subways were full. Hairdressers were closed, but construction sites were open. Read more here.
— Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, has tested positive for coronavirus, a spokeswoman said. Read more here.
“The coronavirus isn’t mutating quickly, suggesting a vaccine would offer lasting protection” via Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post — The coronavirus is not mutating significantly as it circulates through the human population, according to scientists who are closely studying the novel pathogen’s genetic code. That relative stability suggests the virus is less likely to become more or less dangerous as it spreads, and represents encouraging news for researchers hoping to create a long-lasting vaccine. It looks pretty much the same everywhere it has appeared, scientists say, and there is no evidence that some strains are deadlier than others.
“Warm, humid weather could slow coronavirus, new research finds” via Andrew Freedman and Simon Denyer of The Washington Post — The novel coronavirus pandemic that has killed thousands, sickened more than 350,000 and sent major economies into a tailspin may be slowed by the upcoming changing of the seasons, several preliminary studies suggest. However, the research on how the novel coronavirus behaves in various temperature and humidity levels is only just getting underway.
“Coronavirus stayed on surfaces for up to 17 days on Diamond Princess cruise, CDC says” via David Oliver of USA TODAY — A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report indicates the strength of the novel coronavirus to live on surfaces for more than two weeks. The CDC found traces of COVID-19 on surfaces in the cabins of both symptomatic and asymptomatic infected passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship — 17 days after passengers had left the cabins. Of note, the cabins had yet to be disinfected. While the data doesn’t show if transmission occurred from surfaces, the CDC report recommends exploring that further. The report outlines the responses on board several high-profile cruise ships, including both the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess. Between the ships, there were more than 800 COVID-19 cases that led to 10 deaths.
“Florida’s budget to take big hit as sales taxes collapse” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s finances are about to get hit. Hard. That’s because some of the industries that have been forced into near-complete shutdowns as part of the effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus are also some of the same industries that Florida leans upon most heavily to prop up the state budget. Restaurants, hotels and admissions — from venues like theme parks, movie theaters and sporting events — account for 20% of state sales tax collections, according to data from the Florida Department of Revenue. And the economic shock from COVID-19 has already radiated far beyond tourism and hospitality businesses. Commercial landlords, the state’s fourth-largest source of sales tax receipts, have seen tenants stop paying rent.
Why not push to get REC info? In today’s @orlandosentinel talks about how state finances are going to get hit hard. We should at a minimum look at sales tax collection data that comes in on April. Amy Baker is even quoted saying they’re working on models for pandemics. #FlaPol https://t.co/kyG0Sm4Fvz
— Jimmy Patronis (@JimmyPatronis) March 24, 2020
“Betsy DeVos halts collection of defaulted federal student loans” via Michael Stratford of POLITICO — The Education Department is putting a stop to collecting on defaulted federal student loans amid the coronavirus pandemic and ordering private collection firms to stop pursuing borrowers “until further notice,” according to a memo to the companies. The department plans to make the policy retroactive to March 13, the day Trump declared a national emergency, the official said. The new executive actions provide a reprieve for the more than 9 million federal student loan borrowers who are in default on their debt. The decision to halt the debt collection comes as congressional Democrats, labor unions and consumer advocacy groups urged Education Secretary DeVos to hit pause during the pandemic on the sweeping powers that the federal government has to pursue borrowers.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@HillaryClinton: Please do not take medical advice from a man who looked directly at a solar eclipse.
—@NYGovCuomo: We are not willing to sacrifice 1-2% of New Yorkers. That’s not who we are. We will fight to save every life we can. I am not giving up.
—@Rob_Bradley: I fully support the balanced approach that @GovRonDeSantis is taking to #COVIDー19. A “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work for Florida in this situation. Floridians need to continue to practice social distancing and wash hands regularly. We can do this!
—@MikeGrunwald: A DC source asked what it’s like in a state full of moron spring breakers & Fox News-watching seniors & new immigrants who don’t get local news & MAGA’s who think social distancing is liberal bullshit & a Trumpy governor who’s been slow all along. It’s a little scary!
In Florida, our agricultural industry supports more than 2 million jobs.
— Kathleen Passidomo (@Kathleen4SWFL) March 24, 2020
—@NHannahJones: It seems to me that this crisis has forced us to rethink our social hierarchy in radical ways. The people treated as invisible, as doing unimportant work, are now the most essential workers in America. Our lifelines are the grocery clerks, food delivery drivers, mail carriers.
The Great Publix Toilet Paper Run @Publix Seniors lined up clear around the Northeast Shopping Center in St. Pete. Tuesday to take advantage of the seniors only shopping hour between seven and eight. All the toilet paper was gone within 10 minutes of opening pic.twitter.com/FckJOOwj64
— Susan Taylor Martin (@susanskate) March 24, 2020
Fr. Giuseppe Berardelli, a 72-year-old priest who gave a respirator (that his parishioners had purchased for him), to a younger patient (whom he did not know), has died from #coronavirus.
— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) March 24, 2020
— DAYS UNTIL —
Walt Disney World scheduled to reopen — 6; Quibi launches — 15; Easter — 18; Florida Schools reopen (maybe) — 21; First quarter campaign reports due — 21; Universal Orlando rescheduled to open — 25; Last day of federal candidate qualifying — 28; NFL Draft — 29; Mother’s Day — 46; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 75; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 93; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 109; Federal taxes due — 111; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 113; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 146; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 152; First presidential debate in Indiana — 188; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 196; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 204; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 211; 2020 General Election — 223; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 237; “No Time to Die” premieres — 245.
— CORONA NATION —
“Donald Trump sets Easter as possible date for lifting restrictions” via William Cummings, Ledyard King and Maureen Groppe of USA TODAY — Trump would like to have the government restrictions on travel and social gatherings eased by Easter, which comes on Sunday, April 12. “We’re going to be opening relatively soon,” Trump said. “I’d love to have it open by Easter … It’s such an important day for other reasons, but I’ll make an important date for this too. I would love to have the country, opened up and just raring to go by Easter.” Asked if it’s possible to return to normal by Easter, Trump said: “I think it’s absolutely possible. Now, people are going to have to practice all the social distancing and things we’re doing now. … But we have to get our country back to work.”
“The struggle to argue for opening the economy without sounding as if you’re OK with more people dying” via Amber Phillips of The Washington Post — Here’s a massive messaging problem facing Trump as he indicates he wants to curtail his administration’s social-distancing recommendations as soon as next week: How do you argue for reopening the economy when science says doing so will cost lives? Trump’s comments have driven to the forefront of a public debate over whether and when to put people back together in public. Those who think we should, and soon, are struggling with how to articulate that in a way that doesn’t sound callous. They haven’t been successful. The chief example of this is Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is 69, old enough to be in a high-risk category for the virus. He literally said he would be willing to risk his life to go back to work.
“Hopes for united fight against coronavirus recession hurt by nations’ go-it-alone style” via David J. Lynch of The Washington Post — The United States and other major governments have made little progress coordinating their spending, trade and tax policies in response to the coronavirus pandemic, instead bowing to nationalist sentiments as a global economic downturn intensifies, according to economists and former government officials. On Tuesday, there was a sign that might be changing with a joint statement by the finance ministers and central bank governors of the Group of Seven nations that promised “whatever is necessary to restore confidence and economic growth” and urged all countries to take steps to offset the deepening economic decline. Yet more than three years of Trump’s uncompromising “America First” approach is taking its toll on crisis-fighting efforts.
“Congress, White House close in on $2 trillion stimulus deal to blunt coronavirus fallout” via Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis, Paul Kane and Jeff Stein of The Washington Post — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin — the top White House negotiator — all said they expected resolution imminently. However, lawmakers were still reviewing details, and the situation was fluid and could quickly change. The package would extend extraordinary — and unprecedented — taxpayer assistance to potentially millions of American and foreign companies that have been hammered by the fast-moving economic crisis. It would extend one-time cash payments to most Americans, aimed at flooding the economy with money. The bill is being rushed through Congress without public hearings or formal review, and it’s unclear how effective the measures would be in arresting the economy’s sudden fall.
“Nancy Pelosi proposal would ban corporations receiving coronavirus aid from lobbying” via Theodoric Meyer of POLITICO — House Democrats drafted the bill, the text of which is circulating on K Street, even as Pelosi also negotiated with Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Schumer this weekend on a separate package that McConnell is trying to pass through the upper chamber. A procedural vote to advance the Senate bill failed. While McConnell’s bill includes some restrictions on how much companies that receive coronavirus relief loans, Pelosi’s proposal goes much further. House Democrats’ bill would ban corporations from paying bonuses to their executives or paying any compensation to fired executives until the corporations repay their coronavirus relief loans to the federal government.
“Trump will use Defense Production Act to secure thousands of test kits” via Quint Forgey, Sarah Owermohle and Megan Cassella of POLITICO — FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor said the Trump administration would formally implement the Defense Production Act to secure medical equipment sorely needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic. “So, just a little while ago, my team came in, and we’re actually going to use the DPA for the first time today,” Gaynor told CNN. The FEMA Administrator said triggering the act would help access “about 60,000 test kits,” and added that the administration would insert “DPA language” into the mass contracts for the federal government’s order of 500 million personal protective masks.
“Health care workers might get coronavirus shots this fall, vaccine company CEO says” via Arthur Allen of POLITICO — By the fall the FDA would at best have only initial data on the vaccine’s safety and its ability to produce antibodies and shape an immune response. The vaccine by then might have been tested in a few hundred people who probably wouldn’t have been exposed to the disease. By the fall, the FDA would at best have only initial data on the vaccine’s safety and its ability to produce antibodies and shape an immune response. The vaccine by then might have been tested in a few hundred people who probably wouldn’t have been exposed to the disease.
“Volunteers sew masks for health workers facing shortages” via Tammy Webber, Dee-Ann Durbin and Anne D’Innocenzio of The Associated Press — Scores of people are answering pleas from hospitals, doctors and nurses so desperate for personal protective equipment amid the viral pandemic that they’ve turned to the public, saying do-it-yourself face masks are better than nothing. And for those sitting at home worrying as the virus strains hospitals and the economy teeters, sewing masks makes them feel less helpless. Deaconess spokeswoman Pam Hight said the hospital system realized it could face a shortage if local infections skyrocket like they have elsewhere. So officials produced and posted a how-to video that has been shared across the country.
“Key medical glove factories cutting staff 50% amid virus” via Juliet Linderman and Martha Mendoza of The Associated Press — Malaysia’s medical glove factories, which make most of the world’s critical hand protection, are operating at half capacity just when they’re most needed. Health care workers snap gloves on as the first line of protection against catching COVID-19 from patients, and they’re crucial to protecting patients as well. But medical-grade glove supplies are running low globally, even as more feverish, sweating and coughing patients arrive in hospitals by the day. Malaysia is by far the world’s largest medical glove supplier, producing as many as three out of four gloves on the market. The industry has a history of mistreating migrant workers who toil over hand-sized molds as they’re dipped in melted latex or rubber, hot and exhausting work.
“Coronavirus in N.Y.: ‘Astronomical’ surge leads to quarantine warning” via Alan Feuer and Brian M. Rosenthal of The New York Times — Federal and state officials expressed growing alarm on Tuesday about the coronavirus outbreak in New York City, warning that it could reach its peak much sooner than expected and advising people who have passed through or left the city that they should place themselves in a 14-day quarantine. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, indicated that the health authorities were now treating the New York City region as a coronavirus hot zone, akin to areas of China and Europe overwhelmed by the virus. Dr. Birx said that about 60% of all the new cases in the United States were in the New York City metropolitan area, adding that a surge in cases on Long Island showed that people leaving the city were spreading the virus.
“’Cacophony of coughing’: Inside NYC’s virus-besieged ERs” via Michael Sisak, Jim Mustian and Jennifer Peltz of The Associated Press — Faced with an infection rate that is five times that of the rest of the country, health workers are putting themselves at risk to fight a tide of sickness that’s getting worse by the day amid a shortage of needed supplies and promises of help from the federal government that have yet to materialize fully. “You’re on 100% of the time — no matter what,” said Dr. Jolion McGreevy, medical director of The Mount Sinai Hospital emergency department. “It’s been a month of full force, and that’s certainly very stressful.” Nearly 14,800 people in New York City have been diagnosed with coronavirus as of Tuesday, accounting for more than half the cases in the hardest-hit state in the nation.
Um no, they’re not — “Texas’ Lieutenant Governor suggests grandparents are willing to die for U.S. economy” via Adrianna Rodriguez of USA TODAY — The Lieutenant Governor of Texas argued in an interview on Fox News Monday night that the United States should go back to work, saying grandparents like him don’t want to sacrifice the country’s economy during the coronavirus crisis. Republican Lt. Gov. Patrick, 69, made the comments on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” after Trump said he wanted to reopen the country for business in weeks, not months. Patrick also said the elderly population, who the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted are more at risk for COVID-19, can take care of themselves and suggested that grandparents wouldn’t want to sacrifice their grandchildren’s economic future.
“Spring break partier apologizes: ‘Don’t be arrogant and think you’re invincible’” via James Weber of the Cincinnati Enquirer — The Milford High School graduate who gained notoriety last week for indulging in spring-break partying during a pandemic despite warnings against large gatherings has apologized. Brady Sluder said he has realized he’s not invincible after all. “I wasn’t aware of the severity of my actions and comments,” Sluder posted in an apology on his Instagram account on March 22. “I’d like to take this time to own up to the mistakes I’ve made and apologize to the people I’ve offended.” Sluder drew attention for a TV interview from Miami. in which he downplayed the seriousness of the new coronavirus pandemic.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Ron DeSantis asks Trump to declare Florida major disaster as death toll increases” via Dan DeLuca and Evan Pflugradt of TC Palm — DeSantis sent a letter to Trump formally requesting that he declare a major disaster as Florida responds to COVID-19. The letter requested the inclusion of the following Individual Assistance Programs in the declaration: Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Crisis Counseling, Community Disaster Loans and the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Program. The declaration is submitted as a result of the COVID-19 response for the incident period beginning Jan. 20, for all 67 counties. In addition to the Individual Assistance Programs, the declaration requests additional resources and support from FEMA.
“‘Dumbest s—’: DeSantis takes heat as he goes his own way on coronavirus” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — While New York, California and other states shutter their economies to keep the coronavirus at bay, DeSantis is refusing to follow the herd. His cure-can’t-be-worse-than-the-disease approach has put the Republican Governor under a glaring spotlight locally and nationally as cases of the virus in Florida surge past 1,400. It’s a philosophy that aligns DeSantis with other conservatives, including Trump and Florida House Speaker José Oliva. “That is the dumbest s— I have heard in a long time,” said state Sen. Oscar Braynon. “This is a day-by-day crisis. Italy damn near saw 1,000 people die in one day, and there are people proclaiming we got this, and have it solved in 15 days?”
“Lawmakers continue calls for Governor to issue stay-at-home order” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A group of Senate Democrats is continuing to push DeSantis to close all nonessential businesses and issue a statewide shelter-in-place order amid the COVID-19 virus outbreak. So far, DeSantis has rebuffed those calls, leaving the decision to local governments most impacted by the virus. Sens. José Javier Rodríguez and Annette Taddeo — both of whom represent parts of Miami-Dade County — were among the batch of Senators who released statements pushing DeSantis for additional action. “Strong measures taken now to reduce the rate of transmission will prevent a catastrophic breakdown of our health care system and save lives,” Rodríguez said.
“DeSantis bucking advice of health professionals, local and state lawmakers” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Against the urging of state and local leaders and national health professionals, DeSantis has refused to order a statewide shutdown of all nonessential businesses and mandate that all residents stay at home to help prevent a wider spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. Meantime, the number of Florida cases continues to rise. As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, the number of positive cases rose to 1,467, with 1,379 of those Florida residents and 88 nonresidents. There are now 20 Florida deaths listed. “You have some people who say this virus is much ado about nothing. I was never in that camp and said it was a serious public health threat,” DeSantis said during a televised news conference.
“’Wishy-washy’ coronavirus response from DeSantis draws comparisons to Trump” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis appears to be in lockstep with Trump in response to the coronavirus outbreak by refusing to order residents to stay at home and casting blame at Democratic-led states for the crisis — positions that frustrate critics calling for an immediate lockdown of the state. Several cities and counties, including Orange and Leon counties and Tampa, issued stay-at-home orders of their own, without waiting for DeSantis. The response to the outbreak has been largely patchwork from state to state, with DeSantis and other Governors holding back on ordering shutdowns while others, like New York’s Andrew Cuomo and Ohio’s Mike DeWine, have issued strict shelter-in-place orders. Within Florida, the responses have been what Rep. Sen. Lori Berman called a “piecemeal approach.”
“Wave of claims swamps Florida’s unemployment agency. ‘It is impossible to get through’” via Alex Harris and Lawrence Mower of the Miami Herald — Frustrated applicants have flooded social media to report a slew of problems: getting kicked off the website by errors, getting locked out of accounts and failure at reaching a human being on the phone — no matter how often they call. Anthony White, a bartender at the Nautilus Hotel in South Beach, said he sets his alarm every morning so he can call the unemployment office the moment it opens. It’s still not early enough. White is one of the tens of thousands turning to the state Department of Economic Opportunity, the agency in charge of Florida’s unemployment benefits. Many are finding an agency that’s understaffed and unprepared for the onslaught.
“Florida’s coronavirus quarantine for New Yorkers: Plane landed. Now what?” via Allison Ross and Douglas R. Clifford — The flight from Newark, New Jersey, landed at Tampa International Airport only 12 minutes after DeSantis’ executive order went into effect. Most of the 14 passengers scattered throughout the plane had not yet heard that DeSantis had ordered all travelers like them to self-quarantine for two weeks upon landing. Clutching copies of the three-page executive order provided by a JetBlue crew member, the passengers on JetBlue Flight 905 collected their bags and dispersed across Tampa Bay into the quiet night. It’s unclear how, or if, authorities will keep tabs on them.
“Ashley Moody, Nikki Fried warn of scams, price gouging” via the News Service of Florida — Attorney General Moody and Agriculture Commissioner Fried are trying to focus attention on scams and price gouging that stem from the crisis. Scams include text messages claiming to offer victims yet-to-be-approved stimulus package money, crooks going door-to-door in lab coats posing as federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention employees, and seniors being offered free COVID-19 test kits in exchange for personal information. Also, as of Monday night, Moody’s office had received 628 complaints about price gouging related to products such as cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and face masks.
“Question mark on use of Medicaid for COVID-19 testing” via the News Service of Florida — States have been given authority to extend Medicaid to help pay the costs of COVID-19 testing for uninsured residents under a federal coronavirus relief measure passed last week. But DeSantis avoided directly answering whether Florida would take advantage of the new policy, which would allow the full costs of testing uninsured adults to be borne by the state Medicaid program. DeSantis said Florida would make sure people can get free tests and access to any necessary follow-up care. “The thing I would say to people about the coronavirus is, if you are somebody who is symptomatic and you go in, you are going to get a free test,” DeSantis said. “We are going to treat everybody.”
“Advocacy groups release plan to prevent COVID-19 outbreak at correctional facilities” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — “As our country takes measures to protect against coronavirus, we can’t afford to forget about the millions of people under the control of our criminal justice system,” said Jessica Jackson, Chief Advocacy Officer at REFORM Alliance. The plan has five prongs and goes by the acronym “SAFER.” The recommendations: Suspend jail for technical violations; suspend probation office visits and payment of fines; adopt smart alternatives to incarceration; free medical visits and treatment, hand sanitizer, soap, and protective gear; extra precautions for guards and staff; release elderly and vulnerable to home confinement.
“Mike Caruso tests negative for coronavirus after having to miss budget vote” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rep. Caruso says he tested negative for the COVID-19 virus after feeling ill last week and missing an in-person vote on the state’s budget. He eventually decided to get tested at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital (TMH) on March 16. “I had a fever of 101 when I got to the hospital,” Caruso said. Caruso said the COVID-19 test came back negative on Saturday. But Caruso did test positive for a variant of the flu. Caruso said he’s feeling well now, and the symptoms have passed, but he does note his wife is now feeling sick. He described her symptoms like a headache, aches, high temperature and cough. Caruso said he would seek to get her tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus as well if those symptoms don’t improve.
“Are we moving about less? Fascinating commercial website tracking us says yes” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Unacast, a New York-based data crunching consultant, has unveiled its pro bono COVID-19 toolkit with the first tool rating states and counties on whether the GPS data is showing that people, indeed, are going nowhere now. The company has been tracking people by device GPS for years, so it has a baseline of what “normal” travel behavior is in each county and state. The grades are based on how much that has changed in the past couple of weeks. In many, the changes have been profound, with drop-offs of 30%, 40%, 50% or more in total movement of people with trackable devices. The company’s Social Distancing Scoreboard, rolled out Tuesday, gives Florida a B grade overall, based on an overall score of a 39% reduction of travel compared with normal. An A grade goes to places that topped 40%.
“75,000 Florida college students petition for pass/fail grading, citing coronavirus” via Megan Reeves of the Tampa Bay Times — Thousands of Florida college students are petitioning administrators to expand pass/fail grading, following a state order this month to all public universities to move classes online to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Some classes are designed with that grading, and in others, students can apply for it. The petitions are asking that the application process be open to all students. As of Tuesday afternoon, a combined 75,000 students had signed petitions for six of the state’s largest schools.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“A new study shows we’re already in a coronavirus recession — and it has hit South Florida hard” via Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald — A new study by the StratoDem Analytics data firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 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. “The big question is how deep it’s going to get and where it’s going to hurt the most.” Using forecasts from large financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley, the study finds the national gross domestic product (GDP) during Q2 of 2020 (April 1-June 30) will average -18.1%.
“Baby boy, 2-year-old girl test positive for coronavirus in Broward, officials say” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — A baby boy and a 2-year-old girl have tested positive for COVID-19 in Broward County, the Florida Department of Health announced Tuesday. The health department’s data list the boy’s age as zero, making him the youngest person in the state known to be ill with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Health officials have also listed the case under “unknown” for travel-related. DOH did not state whether the baby boy had been in contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus. State health officials have also listed the 2-year-old girl’s case under “unknown” for travel-related and did not indicate whether she had been in contact with someone who had tested positive.
“Miami-Dade orders 10-person limit on all public gatherings except on transit” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — County Mayor Carlos Giménez issued an order limiting the number of people who gather in public to 10 in an effort to further push residents to practice social distancing and curb the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Tuesday’s order marks another escalation in the local government’s efforts to stop people from congregating, urge social distancing and prevent more infections. The order makes an exception for people on public transit vehicles, those waiting at a bus stop, Metromover stop or Metrorail stop, and those traveling in larger vehicles that can fit more than 10. There are also exceptions for government employees and contractors working for the government who are providing services on public streets, alleys and sidewalks.
“More testing is available for COVID-19, but getting results can take days or more” via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — Tests can take 24 to 48 hours to turn around once a sample is placed in an analyzing machine, experts say. But the long wait for results can be due to a number of factors, from the growing number of tests being processed during the pandemic to the type of machine that runs the test and whether the test involves a hospitalized patient or a police officer or firefighter, whose test are prioritized. Most of the testing sites operated by the state in partnership with local governments and hospitals are advising people that results can take three to five days, though one hospital official running a private testing site said he has been delivering results in under two days.
“Monroe County to close U.S. 1 to tourists into the Florida Keys due to COVID-19 concerns” via David Goodhue and Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — The county decided to place a checkpoint on U.S. 1 at mile marker 112.5 on the 18-mile stretch leading to Florida City on the mainland. There will also be another one on State Road 905, Card Sound Road, which is the other, less-traveled road into the Keys, said Kristen Livengood, the county’s spokeswoman. Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers said during a news conference that there were no immediate plans to close the road. It’s not immediately clear what changed, but Sheriff Rick Ramsay, who said he was not the one to make the decision, said many city leaders in the Keys wanted the highway closed to tourists.
“Opposition mounts against letting ship with 77 sick people dock at Port Everglades” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Fearful of the new coronavirus spreading more quickly in South Florida, two Broward County commissioners and a state representative want to stop a ship from docking in Port Everglades. The boat has 77 people showing symptoms, and local leaders worry it would be a health risk to let them disembark. The Holland America cruise ship called Zaandam is hoping to end its voyage at Port Everglades on March 30 after being denied permission to dock in Chile. At an emergency meeting Tuesday, County Commissioner Michael Udine said he wanted the port to turn the ship away. He argues the passengers boarded this ship after the coronavirus was well-known to be an issue. “They knowingly put themselves at risk,” Udine said. “Under no circumstances should that ship be at Port Everglades.”
“Jaguars owner Shad Khan donates $1 million to Northeast Florida’s response to crisis” via John Reid of the Florida Times-Union — Khan’s $1 million commitment from Khan includes allocations to the following organizations: Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund will receive $400,000, which will, in turn, lift up a range of nonprofits to ensure immediate support for children, families, seniors and veterans struggling during this time. Feeding Northeast Florida will receive $75,000 to support their work in bringing meals to local residents. The Clara White Mission will receive $75,000 to provide food and care for the homeless population of downtown Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Public Education Fund will receive $50,000 to provide needed supplies and technology to students and teachers. The local chapter of the American Red Cross will receive $50,000 in support of Anheuser-Busch’s initiative to support the continuation of blood drives.
“Meet the Jupiter scientists on the front lines of finding a vaccine” via Sean Howard of the Palm Beach Post — Dozens of scientists at Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter are banding together in the global push to develop drugs and vaccines needed to wind down the coronavirus pandemic. At last count, 37 scientists at Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, plus another 100 at Scripps facilities in California, are working on coronavirus research, Director of Communications Stacey Singer DeLoye said. Their work largely falls under three categories: research to help develop drugs, vaccines and antibody treatments, said Michael Farzan, a professor who co-chairs Scripps’s Department of Immunology and Microbiology. “We don’t know that anything’s going to be helpful but everybody’s trying to provide some helpful piece on the margins, hoping to pull everyone forward,” said Farzan, who is based in Jupiter.
“Leon County issues ‘stay-at-home order,’ curfew amid coronavirus pandemic” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — While the Governor has rejected calls for a statewide lockdown, local officials in Tallahassee announced a “stay-at-home order” Tuesday following the lead of other areas with confirmed cases of coronavirus around the state. Large public gatherings were halted almost two weeks ago as the virus began to spread throughout, and tests slowly began to be administered more readily. Tuesday’s stay-at-home order by Leon County Commission Chairman Bryan Desloge and Mayor John Dailey set restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people to go into effect at 11 p.m. Wednesday. Any gathering of more than 10 people would be dispersed by law enforcement and punishable by a fine. A curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. also goes into effect Wednesday.
“Lee County school board to hold first virtual meeting, but does it meet Sunshine Law?” via Pamela McCabe of the Fort Myers News-Press — Keeping in line with directives from the Florida Department of Education and DeSantis, the Lee County school board will meet via a virtual, call-in meeting that will be posted on the school district’s YouTube channel. But questions had been raised whether the 1 p.m. meeting is a violation of Sunshine Law. As of 6:30 p.m. Monday, the plan was for the meeting to be recorded and then posted online, but the district has since decided to stream the meeting live on YouTube. At this time, the district is “not encouraging” people to show up at the board room, housed in the Lee County Public Education Center on Colonial Boulevard in Fort Myers.
“Orange County stay-at-home order given, starts Thursday” via Ryan Gillespie and Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — The order will take effect at 11 p.m. Thursday and covers all 13 municipalities in the county. It is an attempt to “flatten the curve” — or ensure that medical facilities aren’t overwhelmed as more cases of the virus emerge. Only people traveling for essential business, including trips to work, the grocery store or pharmacy, will be allowed on the streets. The order will be in effect for two weeks, but Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said it could be extended then. Residents are allowed to exercise outside but are discouraged from doing so in groups.
“Welcome to Orlando. You’re from New York? Come with us” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Orlando International Airport and health officials, transportation, and National Guard officials are talking Tuesday about what to do with the thousands of people who fly in every day from the three states DeSantis is redlining because of the new coronavirus outbreak: New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The airport might wind up screening them when they get off the planes, and isolating them in a room for processing. DeSantis, on Monday, ordered that visitors from those three states undergo 14 days of quarantine or self-isolation, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is particularly rampant in those states.
“Orlando airport plunges into silence from coronavirus response” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — At Orlando’s airport, the lights are on, the luggage conveyors are chugging along and TSA is on duty, but the place suggests a ship about to sink into the coronavirus storm, with remaining passengers clamoring for life rafts. Traveler counts are down by nearly 80 percent, plunging from nearly 70,000 outbound passengers daily to about 10,000, said airport director Phil Brown. Hundreds are flights are still arriving and departing, but typically with a dozen or 20 people on each plane, Brown said.
“Universal Orlando: Theme parks now staying closed through April 19 due to coronavirus” via Dewayne Bevil and Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Disney World and SeaWorld Orlando are currently scheduled to remain closed through the end of March. Universal’s shutdown, which began March 16, includes Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure theme parks, Volcano Bay water park, Universal CityWalk entertainment district and Universal’s lineup of hotels. “Taking care of our Universal Orlando team members remains one of most important priorities, and we remain committed to paying them through this closure period,” Universal spokeswoman Alyson Lundell said in an email.
“West Palm restaurateur makes a passionate plea to city — we need help and fast” via Tony Doris of the Palm Beach Post — Last Friday was the worst day of Rodney Mayo’s life thanks to the coronavirus. With state orders to close restaurants except for takeout, the lifelong West Palm Beach resident, whose Subculture Group owns 17 restaurants and bars, laid off 650 employees. By 4 a.m. Saturday, though, he had a plan: to turn his Howley’s restaurant at 4700 S Dixie Highway into a production line for free meals for hospitality employees, seniors and others laid off. With a rehired kitchen staff and a small army of volunteers, Mayo’s effort provided more than 5,000 meals in its first three days. On Monday, the city commission voted to bolster the effort, pledging $12,000 to keep it going.
“Palm Bay Mayor calls for City Manager’s resignation over COVID-19 communications” via Rick Neale of FLORIDA TODAY — Palm Bay Mayor William Capote has requested City Manager Lisa Morrell‘s resignation, citing communications during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. In a “no confidence” letter, Capote said it is imperative that Palm Bay’s City Manager provide information and reports to the City Council and the public during the pandemic. “Unfortunately, I have found the dissemination of information to the public to be atrocious,” Capote wrote. “The messaging to the public has been muddled, and you have failed to be sufficiently proactive in communicating with the media and the press to ensure that important information is disseminated to the public in a timely manner,” Capote wrote.
— MORE LOCAL —
“Tampa International Airport reports 70% loss of business activity” via Veronica Brezina-Smith of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — In August 2019, the airport released its 2020 projections, which stated parking and ground transportation are expected to generate $81 million in revenue; airlines will account for $76.2 million; rental cars are projected to bring in roughly $45.6 million in revenue; concessions are the next most significant factor, projected to rake in $33.3 million; commercial area rentals will create approximately $13.4 million in revenue; cargo is expected to bring in $5.8 million; and the remaining revenues will come from general aviation and other sources. With the virus affecting the tourism and travel industry, the airport now expects those numbers to decrease. Despite the loss of activity, the airport does not expect to cut any workers at this time.
“Hillsborough lawmaker hosts blood drive as shortage intensifies” via Mitch Perry of Bay News 9 — As concerns about the coronavirus have led to a massive shortage of blood donations in the U.S., a state representative did his part Tuesday to turn the situation around by hosting a blood drive outside his Riverview office. According to The New York Times, as of last week, more than 4,500 of the Red Cross’ blood drives have been canceled, resulting in nearly 150,000 fewer donations. OneBlood, another blood donation group, has posted similar dire numbers. That’s what led Rep. Adam Hattersley to organize a blood drive event Tuesday.
“’More eyes on our community’: Lawmen concerned about youth crime during coronavirus threat” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Law enforcement in Tallahassee is stepping up to make sure its officers are more visible while businesses are all but empty and schools are closed. But it is still too early to tell what effect, if any, a quasi-lockdown will have on capital city crime. The Leon County Sheriff’s Office has about 30 more deputies available for patrols from staff that would normally work at schools or in the courthouse. “We’re trying to be as innovative as we can in those deployments to make sure that criminal element knows we’re out,” said Sheriff Walt McNeil. “We probably have more eyes on our community than we’ve ever had because of the availability of our resources.”
“Florida State AD David Coburn: ‘The (financial) model … is going to be changed forever” via Tashan Reed of The Athletic — Florida State’s men’s basketball team — which held the top seed in the league tournament, was ranked No. 4 in the country and seemed primed for another deep run in the NCAA tournament — was moments away from tipping off its first game when ACC commissioner John Swofford announced that the ACC tournament was canceled in response to COVID-19. Still wearing its jerseys, FSU remained on the court and was named the ACC champion for the first time since 2012. The bittersweet nature of the coronation could be seen clearly on coach Leonard Hamilton and the player’s faces. “It was surreal,” Florida State Athletic Director Coburn, who was in attendance, said via phone Friday.
“Jewish leaders in Florida plead amid coronavirus: Don’t come here for Passover” via Aaron Leibowitz and C. Isaiah Smalls II of the Miami Herald — Dozens of leaders in the Orthodox Jewish community in Florida along with a group of medical professionals signed a “warning letter” to their communities late last week. The message: Don’t travel to Florida for Passover next month and risk spreading the novel coronavirus. “To all those from out of state considering spending Pesach here in Florida: It’s Halachically prohibited and medically irresponsible to come for Pesach,” the letter begins. In other words, the letter suggests, traveling for Passover would be a breach of Jewish religious law. Passover this year runs from April 8 to 16. “We have a Halachic requirement to keep our communities safe,” the letter says.
“Storage firm offers discounts to students displaced by pandemic” via the Business Observer — PODS Enterprises LLC has cut its rental, delivery and transportation fees by 10% for college students who have lost their on-campus housing as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic. Students in the United States and Canada can take advantage of the six-month offer, according to a news release. PODS will deliver customers a weather-resistant container that can be transported locally or across the country, or kept in one of the Clearwater-based firm’s secure storage centers. “Here in North America, with little to no notice, college students are being asked to leave campuses,” states John Koch, president and CEO of PODS, in the release.
“Florida woman yells ‘go Donald Trump!’ After buying out store’s toilet paper” via Manuel Madrid of the Broward/Palm Beach New Times — A Florida woman apparently bought every last package of toilet paper, paper towels, and napkins from a Dollar Tree in Pompano Beach. The video, which went viral this weekend, begins with the woman standing on the curb, loading dozens of boxes of paper products into the back of a black truck with the help of a man standing in the truck’s bed. A woman filming the incident narrated as the loading continued: “Look at this wonderful woman who just told me to f — myself and mind my own f-ing business, who just bought the entire store out of paper towels, toilet paper, so that nobody else can have any. It’s really lovely.”
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Millions of Americans are benefiting from Florida farms during the coronavirus epidemic” via Florida Politics — As images of empty store shelves are filling social media feeds and appearing in TV news stories during the global coronavirus pandemic, farmers in Florida are continuing to grow food that will increasingly stay in demand as social distancing and sheltering-in-place measures become the new normal. A recent document prepared by the Florida Chamber of Commerce shows Florida accounts for 56% of our nation’s domestic citrus production. Florida is also the second-largest producer of fresh vegetables. In South Florida alone, farmers there grow enough fresh produce to provide nearly 180 million Americans with food annually. Statewide, Florida farmers harvest more than 245,000 acres of fresh vegetables, making Florida a Top 10 state for production.
“The coronavirus recession is here. Will it linger in Florida?” via Richard Danielson and Graham Brink of the Tampa Bay Times — It’s not official — not yet, anyway — but economists say the coronavirus recession is here. The private, nonprofit National Bureau of Economic Research will make the formal call, probably next year, after looking back on the data. A common rule of thumb is that recessions are characterized by at least two quarters — six months — of falling gross domestic product, though the bureau itself says they’re not always defined that way. Some economists have dispensed with the formalities because of how quickly spending has slowed or stopped in major sectors of the economy. The well-regarded UCLA Anderson School of Management last week came right out and said the recession has started in an update to an economic forecast that it made just four days earlier.
“In Florida, most gig workers can’t get unemployment. Welfare may be next best option” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — The past decade saw an explosion of gig work in the U.S. South Florida was no exception: According to the U.S. Census, there are now nearly half a million “non-employer” firms, or solo-practice businesses, in Miami-Dade County, and another several hundred thousand in Broward. Those figures likely include writers, designers and coders but undercount the number of Uber and Lyft drivers, of which there are thousands in the region. Now, as the U.S. and South Florida economies grind to a halt, these workers face extraordinary uncertainty. That’s because, according to legal experts, most gig workers cannot file for unemployment benefits.
“What happens at work when touch is part of the job?” via Gabrielle Calise of the Tampa Bay Times — It’s a hard time for those with careers that revolve around human contact. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are urging people to practice social distancing to curb the spread of the coronavirus. But how can you give a massage, apply hair extensions or wax someone’s upper lip from 6 feet away? Sue Lang, 63, decided to cut back on taking appointments at her hair salon, Colourations at Salon Vachon in Seminole. It was a preventive measure, her part in reducing the spread of COVID-19. But she knows for many customers, going to the hair salon was one of the last places where life felt normal.
“Orlando’s Marriott Worldwide Vacations to furlough staff, shutter U.S. sales centers over coronavirus pandemic” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel — “Without a doubt, these shutdown decisions have been some of the most difficult and heartbreaking of my career,” CEO Stephen Weisz said during a conference call. The company, the largest timeshare firm in the world with more than 140 resort and club locations, has seen occupancy rates nationwide drop from 87% in mid-March to about 30% this week, prompting Weisz to make the decision. Among seven properties and two corporate offices in Central Florida, Marriott Vacations Worldwide employs 3,300 people.
“Rum to the rescue? How Bacardi is tweaking production to fight the coronavirus” via Jim Wyss of the Miami Herald — While the coronavirus may be driving us to drink, there’s a more pressing issue: washing our hands. Now, one of the world’s largest rum factories, the Bacardi plant in Puerto Rico, has tweaked its production lines to pump out ethanol needed to make hand sanitizers. Olein Refinery, a Puerto Rican manufacturer, is using the Bacardi alcohol to produce more than 1.7 million 10-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer, much of which is being given to police, nurses, nonprofits and others on the front lines of the coronavirus.
“Steakhouse at Trump’s Doral property lays off 98” via Jeff Ostrowski of the Palm Beach Post — BLT Prime Doral, a high-end steakhouse, told state officials that it’s laying off 98 workers. The restaurant is operated by ESquared Hospitality. “We cannot predict when the restaurant will reopen and/or when it will begin rehiring staff,” ESquared Chief Executive James Bader wrote in a letter to Florida’s labor agency. The fancy eatery’s menu featured a Wagyu rib-eye for $94, a New York strip for $57 and filet mignon for $52.
“Hallandale official: Gulfstream Park won’t shut down, threatens legal action” via Adam Lichtenstein of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Gulfstream Park plans to continue racing and hold Saturday’s Florida Derby as scheduled, despite Broward County’s ban on nonessential business and the city of Hallandale Beach asking the horse racing track to shut down and postpone The Derby, Hallandale Beach Vice Mayor Sabrina Javellana told the Sun-Sentinel. Despite the novel coronavirus pandemic, Javellana said the track has threatened legal action against the city if it tried to prevent racing. “They need to stop the racing,” Javellana said. “We can’t just bend to their will just because they say they’re going to sue us or [take] whatever legal action They’re a powerful entity, but we can’t just allow that to go on. They’re blatantly violating the Broward County order.”
— MORE CORONA —
“Big tech could emerge from coronavirus crisis stronger than ever” via Daisuke Wakabayashi, Jack Nicas, Steve Lohr and Mike Isaac of The New York Times — While the rest of the economy is tanking from the crippling impact of the coronavirus, business at the biggest technology companies is holding steady — even thriving. Amazon said it was hiring 100,000 warehouse workers to meet surging demand. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said traffic for video calling and messaging had exploded. Microsoft said the numbers using its software for online collaboration had climbed nearly 40 percent in a week. Companies were already dumping their own data centers to rent computing from Amazon, Microsoft and Google. That shift is likely to speed up as millions of employees are forced to work from home, putting a strain on corporate technology infrastructures.
“The evening news is back” via John Koblin of The New York Times — Ten million people watched “The Voice” last week, the biggest audience for the NBC reality show in a year. It was no match for another nonfiction program: the nightly newscast. As Americans, housebound because of the coronavirus crisis, watch more TV than usual, they have returned to the network news programs that have not been at the center of the national conversation for years. ABCs “World News Tonight” and the “NBC Nightly News” had an average of about 12 million viewers for their newscasts last week, among the most significant totals for all network shows, according to Nielsen. That’s roughly the same as the average for “Monday Night Football.”
“Journalism needs a stimulus. Here’s what it should look like” via Craig Aaron of Columbia Journalism Review — The coronavirus COVID-19 has upended everything, including business as usual in Washington. In a matter of days, facing the reality of a nationwide shutdown and a worsening economic crisis, Congress got serious about spending money — a lot of it. A recovery package in the trillions of dollars is expected soon. While the most powerful lobbies in Washington are ready with their wish lists, the media and policymakers aren’t talking enough about how they could help journalism. The public needs good, economically secure journalists more than ever. To support that work, we need a journalism stimulus now. Free Press is asking for at least $5 billion in emergency funds right away and that Congress put a foundation in place to help sustain journalism over the long term.
“International Baccalaureate, Cambridge cancel spring exams” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Hundreds of students across the Tampa Bay area won’t be taking their annual International Baccalaureate or Cambridge International exams this spring as scheduled. The two worldwide programs have canceled the assessments because of coronavirus concerns. It’s the first time that IB has called off its tests, many of which students take two years to prepare. If you think the teens are happy about it, you’re wrong. N’Dia Webb, a senior at Strawberry Crest High School in eastern Hillsborough County said she and her classmates had studied so hard for the exams, which are the culmination of their IB coursework and help determine whether they qualify for a special diploma. They were ready to knock the tests out of the park.
“Will coronavirus intimacy lead to a baby boom? Or a divorce tsunami?” via Petula Dvorak of The Washington Post — The jokes about intimate, hunker-down time usually fall into heh-heh sex giggles. The sex toy industry is reporting a burst of sales. Condoms and pregnancy tests are almost as scarce as toilet paper and hand sanitizer. “All this talk of baby booms nine months from now? Maybe,” Lauren Cooper Jerle, who is finding a new rhythm in her Minnesota household as the hubs began working from home: “I’m wondering if the amount of divorce decrees will be even higher. Reason for divorce: COVID-19.” Jerle’s prediction in that March 13 post was followed by similar forecasts from scores of others about the possibility of a huge rise in breakups. COVID-divorce may be bigger than the coronababies.
“Disinfecting wipes to fight coronavirus can clog up pipes and lead to sewage mess” via Adriana Brasileiro of the Miami Herald — Is self-isolation stressing you out? Imagine if your toilet and sewage pipes backed up into the house you’re not supposed to leave. That nightmare possibility increases if residents flush all the disinfecting wipes they’re suddenly running through to stop the spread of coronavirus, the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department warns. The department is pleading with residents not to flush wipes — bleach wipes, baby wipes, sanitizer wipes, dust wipes and even “flushable” wipes — but putting them in the trash instead. Those wipes don’t break down in wastewater like toilet paper and human waste. They accumulate, mix up with grease, clog the pipes and lead to sewage overflows.
“Pet peeves: Animals react to having their humans on coronavirus lockdown” via Aitor Hernández-Morales of POLITICO — Think of the poor kitties. With large swaths of Europe on coronavirus lockdown, pets across the Continent are suddenly having to get used to having their human companions around 24 hours a day. While some are responding with puppyish glee, others seem less than thrilled. “He’s visibly unhappy,” said Sara Polo of her Siberian cat Baloo, with whom she shares her Madrid apartment. Before the Spanish government put the country in lockdown, Polo spent most weekdays at work and weekends out of town, meaning her furry friend had the apartment pretty much to himself. “He can’t make sense of why I am here,” she said. “When I try to work out in the living room, he attacks my yoga mat.”
— THE HUMAN TOLL —
“Coronavirus adds peril to the already at-risk: ‘if I get this stuff, it’s going to kill me.’” via Cleve Wootson of The Washington Post — As millions of Americans distance themselves from one another in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the struggle is particularly acute for those whose existing ailments can be fatally exacerbated by the disease — people whose lungs have been compromised by pulmonary disorders, whose immune systems have been suppressed by chemotherapy or whose blood sugar spikes dangerously as their bodies fight even common colds. They have become the most stringent of the social distancers, filling refrigerators and medicine cabinets and hoping that supplies last until the worst is over. Wary of hospital waiting rooms filled with coughing people, when they get sick, they are turning to self-diagnosis and, at times, simply guessing. And they clean. A lot.
“’I don’t feel safe at all.’ As cruise ships sail on, crews fear COVID-19 infection” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — As the number of people infected on cruise ships continues to climb each day, cruise companies are still downplaying the risk of COVID-19 transmission at sea. “Cruise ships are not a source for coronavirus,” said Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald in an interview with Axios. “We have hundreds of cruise ships out there … A cruise ship is not a riskier environment.” The CDC has released evidence to the contrary. Approximately 200 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. across 15 states were confirmed to be returned cruise travelers from Feb. 3-March 13. More than 25 cruise ship voyages have had confirmed cases of COVID-19, and at least 10 deaths have been linked to cruise ship travel.
“Handling your kid’s disappointment when everything is canceled” via Erinne Magee of The New York Times — Whether they’re forced to skip a musical performance, a tryout for a spring sport, a visit to their grandparents or a family vacation, merely telling children that disappointment is a part of life doesn’t cut it. In fact, breaking this news may also spark anxiety in parents. So how can parents help kids process their disappointment? I asked a few experts for their advice. First, check your own emotions. When breaking the news of cancellations, parents should focus on validating their children’s emotions, whether that is disappointment or fear or something in between, said Dr. Neha Chaudhary, M.D., child and adolescent psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.
— ONE GOOD THING —
From her Washington, D.C., home, Donna Borak hosts free virtual meditation class daily for anyone who is looking for “a respite during such a moment of uncertainty.” Borak invites everyone to join in: children, loved ones or pets.
“Even your plants.”
As social distancing has become crucial to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, people worldwide are turning to technology to overcome physical barriers. They establish new connections and comforting others overwhelmed by unwelcome news about the virus or burdened by sudden economic hard times.
Borak seeks to create a space for togetherness — for stressed-out parents, managers or laid-off employees to take a break. So far, participants in her class — held on Zoom video conferencing — have mainly been friends and family. She also shares sessions on Instagram.
“While a meditation class for 15 minutes doesn’t solve financial stress or help to explain what will happen next or address serious health care concerns, to me, it’s an opportunity not to be alone and to not exist in isolation,” she told The Associated Press. “I didn’t want anyone to feel alone.”
“Going forward, for every time that we opted out at the last minute of attending an event or a happy hour or a dinner, we’ll hopefully feel differently about it when we come back together again,” she added. “We need each other.”
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Trump agencies steadily push rollbacks as pandemic rages” via Ellen Knickmeyer of The Associated Press — As Americans stockpiled food and medicine and retreated indoors and businesses shuttered in hopes of riding out COVID-19, federal agencies in recent days moved forward on rollbacks that included a widely opposed deregulatory action by the Environmental Protection Agency. The proposed rule would require disclosure of the raw data behind any scientific study used in the rule-making process. That includes confidential medical records that opponents say could be used to identify people. Federal agencies should suspend steps toward enactment for any nonessential rule changes, Attorney General Maura Healey of Massachusetts, one of those signing the appeal, said in a separate email.
“Coronavirus is fueling Rick Scott’s embrace of government” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — Scott came to politics fed up with big government and riding the tea party wave after the financial crisis a decade ago. The coronavirus seems to have given him a fondness for exercising the levers of power. The Florida Republican emerged Tuesday from a self-imposed quarantine ready to jump back into the fray, where Congress is racing — and struggling — to put together its third coronavirus stimulus package.
“Stephanie Murphy seeking input from health care workers on coronavirus response” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Murphy, a Winter Park Democrat, is asking health care workers in her district to join her in a couple of teleconferences to discuss coronavirus, preparing for a more public town hall teleconference set for next Monday. “This unprecedented health and economic disruption will affect so many aspects of our community in different ways, so I want to listen to the people I represent to see what I can do to help them weather this crisis,” Murphy stated in a news release. “I’m especially interested in hearing from our brave local health care workers who are on the front lines of our response to this pandemic, and they have earned our full support and gratitude.”
“Charlie Crist calls for early release of benefits to support low-income families during coronavirus crisis” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Crist sent a letter to DeSantis asking him to release Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits early as low-income and vulnerable Floridians take steps to shelter in place during the coronavirus pandemic. Crist wants SNAP recipients to have access to their April benefits now so they can stock up on enough food to limit necessary trips to the grocery store. “The Centers for Disease Control has requested that individuals practice social distancing, limiting their contact with others. However, most recipients of SNAP benefits do not have the resources needed to live at home for an extended period, living hand to mouth on monthly payments to purchase the food that they need to feed themselves and their families,” Crist wrote.
Awww, that’s too bad — “NRA to cut salaries, brace for layoffs as coronavirus disrupts fundraising, internal memo states” via Beth Reinhard of The Washington Post — More than 800 people worked at the NRA in 2018, according to its latest tax filing. However, that number includes part-time workers who would not be affected by the reductions. Schedules for hourly workers will be reduced from five to four days a week, the memo said. Some top NRA officials, including chief executive Wayne LaPierre, are taking salary reductions greater than 20%. In 2018, compensation for top officials, including LaPierre, surged by 41% and legal fees more than tripled even as the organization sharply reduced spending on programs central to its mission. LaPierre received a total of about $2.2 million from the NRA and related entities in 2018, including a base salary of $1.27 million.
— STATEWIDE —
“DeSantis faces virus outbreak, veto requests” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist wants DeSantis to veto legislation targeting e-cigarettes (SB 810). Supporters of the group 1000 Friends of Florida are being encouraged to tell DeSantis to nix a bill (SB 410) that would change how most county governments manage growth. A coalition of voting-rights groups called on DeSantis to reject a measure (SB 1794) that would impose a series of new restrictions on ballot initiatives. The coalition includes organizations such as the League of Women Voters of Florida, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, the Florida AFL-CIO, Florida Conservation Voters, the NAACP Florida State Conference and the Sierra Club Florida.
Assignment editors — DeSantis will hold a news conference, 10:30 a.m., State Logistics Response Center, 2702 Directors Row, Orlando.
Environmentalists want Governor to veto water bill — On Tuesday, dozens of environmental groups banded together to urge DeSantis to veto his priority bill setting new water quality regulations in the state, Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reports. The groups say the bill, which directs local governments to draft plans for septic tanks and sewage treatment plants, doesn’t make meaningful regulatory changes “Florida’s waters are polluted because our regulatory system is broken and those in charge of protecting our waters are unduly influenced by polluters and their lobbyists,” the groups wrote in a letter. Conversely, the Governor has lauded the plan, a strong indication he will sign the legislation into law.
“Ashley Moody issue subpoenas for price gouging” via the News Service of Florida — Moody said she issued more than 40 subpoenas because of alleged price gouging on “essential commodities” through accounts on Amazon. The subpoenas, which went to third-party sellers who use Amazon, involve allegations of excessive prices on items such as face masks, hand sanitizers and disinfectants during a state of emergency declared because of the coronavirus. “Floridians are searching for essential products needed to stay safe and healthy during this COVID-19 pandemic,” Moody said in a prepared statement. “Sadly, when they find these products for sale online, they often discover that the price tag makes them unattainable. This is unacceptable and unlawful.”
“If Florida shuts down, will medical marijuana dispensaries stay open?” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — As municipalities like Miami-Dade and Broward counties have started to close nonessential businesses in an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, they have exempted what are deemed “essential” businesses like health care providers, gas stations, banks and news outlets. But what about medical marijuana treatment centers? They’ll remain open for business. According to statute, the dispensaries are considered an essential service and are to be treated like retail pharmacies. Many of the dispensaries use delivery services to get medication to patients, as well as offer drive-thru windows or online ordering and pick up at the stores.
“Receiver opposed in domestic violence coalition case” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — A nonprofit foundation supporting the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence is asking a circuit judge to reverse a recent decision that put the embattled agency under the control of a receiver. The decision by Leon County Circuit Judge Ronald Flury, at the request of Attorney General Ashley Moody, came amid investigations into allegedly exorbitant executive compensation paid to Tiffany Carr, the former CEO of the coalition and the head of the foundation. Moody early this month filed an emergency motion asking Flury to put the coalition and its fundraising arm, the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence Foundation, in the hands of a receiver and to preserve the assets of both organizations.
“Jury trials to remain suspended through mid-April” via the News Service of Florida — As the novel coronavirus continues to spread throughout the state, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady has extended the suspension of jury trials and other in-person court proceedings through April 17. Canady’s order extends deadlines in previous administrative orders aimed at complying with health officials’ recommendations to curb COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus. In a video message, Canady addressed the impact of COVID-19 on the state’s justice system. “We are all facing an unprecedented challenge. The pandemic is now affecting everyone. We are living our lives in a way that none of us would have contemplated a few short weeks ago,” the chief justice said.
“New UCF president could get $600K annual pay” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Incoming UCF President Alexander Cartwright could be entitled to an annual salary of $600,000 — 20% higher than his predecessor’s pay — according to a proposed five-year contract up for university trustees’ approval on Tuesday morning. The University of Central Florida trustees tapped Cartwright to serve as the school’s next president last Friday, selecting him unanimously over one other finalist. They’re slated to vote on a contract for Cartwright with a proposed salary of nearly 20% more than what he earns in his current role as chancellor at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Cartwright’s contract with UCF would start on April 13. His appointment is subject to approval from the Board of Governors.
“Another area code eyed for Tampa area” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The North American Numbering Plan Administrator, which oversees telephone numbering across the U.S. and other countries, has proposed creating what is known as an “all-services overlay” as numbers in the 813 area code — all of Hillsborough County, Oldsmar in Pinellas County and parts of Pasco County — are forecast to be exhausted during the third quarter of 2022. Under the plan, which the Florida Public Service Commission will consider, a new area code would be added — or overlaid — in the same area. Current customers would keep the 813 area code and their numbers, but new customers and additional lines would receive the new area code. Also, all local calls in the area would require 10-digit dialing.
“Personnel note: Mike Tanner elected Florida Bar President-elect” via Florida Politics — Jacksonville attorney Tanner was elected the president-elect designate of The Florida Bar, the association announced Tuesday. Tanner will take over as President-elect in June after current President-elect Dori Foster-Morales’ ascends to Florida Bar President. The Florida Bar said Tanner won the election over fellow Board of Governors member Renee Thompson by less than 100 votes — Tanner received 8,647 to Thompson’s 8,558. In addition to Tanner’s election, The Florida Bar announced the winners of elections to four board circuit seats.
“Fourteen people apply for two Big Bend circuit judge openings” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Current prosecutors, local lawyers and former judges have applied to fill two vacancies on the 2nd Judicial Circuit bench. The circuit’s Judicial Nominating Commission received 14 applicants for the vacant seats of Circuit Judges James Hankinson and Martin Fitzpatrick, it said in a news release. The circuit covers the Big Bend, comprising Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, and Wakulla counties. Three of the 2nd Circuit’s top prosecutors have thrown their names into contention for the position. Felony Division chiefs Georgia Cappleman and Jon Fuchs applied, as did State Attorney’s Office general counsel Eddie Evans.
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Stuart Brown, SKB Consulting Group: CapTel
Al Cardenas, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: RSM US
Nick Iarossi, Christopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Drummond Press
Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick, Rob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: Pella Corporation
— 2020 —
“Trump and Joe Biden face off on a dramatically altered political landscape” via Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey and Matt Viser of The Washington Post — Trump calls himself a “wartime President” and former Vice President Biden says the nation must “put politics aside,” but both leaders have allowed their campaigns to launch deeply personal offensives against the other in recent days. Few are willing to predict with any certainty how the events of the last few weeks will affect what is still expected to be a close election in November. But Democrats are hopeful that the crisis will put into sharp relief the arguments they have been making for months. Republicans, by contrast, are hopeful that Trump’s role as head of the federal response to the novel coronavirus will insulate him against the coming Democratic critiques about his leadership.
“Two political handicappers say the Electoral College map now leans toward Democrats” via Chris Cillizza of CNN — In the past five days, two of the most prominent nonpartisan political analysts in the country have released new projections that show presumptive Democratic nominee Biden with a clear edge over Trump in the Electoral College map. “The President is an underdog now in his bid for a second term,” wrote Stu Rothenberg, founder of the Rothenberg Political Report, in a column published late last week. “That doesn’t mean he can’t win. It simply means that he is in a more difficult place than he was before, in part because Democrats have united behind a consensus candidate who has potentially broad appeal.”
— MORE FROM THE TRAIL —
“Running for office during a pandemic is difficult — especially for local politicians” via Leigh Giangreco of The Washington Post — Fending off sickness is nothing new for candidates, some of whom develop their own idiosyncratic strategies for avoiding run-of-the-mill colds and flu. But recently, as schools closed down, employers mandated telework and sporting events were canceled, candidates pursuing every level of elected office have been grappling with the repercussions of losing physical contact with voters. The loss of personal contact may be taking an especially severe toll on local politicians. Presidential campaigns can move their efforts online in a sophisticated way, but those running for local office generally don’t have the digital resources that a major party presidential campaign does.
“Laurel Lee will ‘closely assess’ accommodations for candidate qualification” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — As a growing number of candidates demand that qualification requirements be waived, Florida officials promised only to monitor the situation. “As is always the case, the Florida Department of State will closely assess all conditions that affect the August and November elections, including any ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Lee, Florida Secretary of State, in a statement to Florida Politics. “We, like you and the rest of the nation, are monitoring the coronavirus pandemic, and we will recommend any appropriate accommodations or decisions as we move closer to the election dates and understand more about the ongoing impact to our state.”
“Pembroke Pines Mayor endorses Shevrin Jones in SD 35” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis says he’s endorsing Rep. Jones as Jones seeks a Senate seat in 2020. Jones is one of six candidates seeking to replace term-limited Sen. Oscar Braynon II in Senate District 35. Jones currently represents House District 101, which spans Pembroke Pines, West Park and Hallandale Beach. “We face challenging times as a county, state, and country, and it’s clear now more than ever that we need experienced, proven leadership fighting on our behalf in Tallahassee,” Ortis said in a Tuesday statement. “Shevrin has been a fierce advocate for our community on the issues important to Pembroke Pines — from economic opportunity and public safety, to smart investments in infrastructure and local schools.”
— TOP OPINION —
“Laid off? Bad news: Florida’s unemployment system was set up to hose you” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Floridians everywhere are losing their jobs right now. Yet when they file for benefits that might help keep a roof over their heads, they run headfirst into a rough reality: Florida’s unemployment system was set up to stiff them. Benefits are among the cheapest and shortest-lasting in America, capping out at $275 a week and currently lasting only 12 weeks. They’re hard to obtain (the state’s application hotline sometimes simply won’t accept calls) and tough to keep (thanks to cumbersome requirements). In fact, the benefits are so hard to get and run out so quickly that very few unemployed Floridians — only one out of every nine — receive them at any given time.
— OPINIONS —
“Is our fight against coronavirus worse than the disease?” via David L. Katz for The New York Times — We routinely differentiate between two kinds of military action: the inevitable carnage and collateral damage of diffuse hostilities, and the precision of a “surgical strike,” methodically targeted to the sources of our particular peril. The latter, when executed well, minimizes resources and unintended consequences alike. As we battle the coronavirus pandemic, and heads of state declare that we are “at war” with this contagion, the same dichotomy applies. This can be open war, with all the fallout that portends, or it could be something more surgical. The United States and much of the world so far have gone in for the former. I write now with a sense of urgency to make sure we consider the surgical approach.
“Donald Trump barrels toward calamity” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — If Trump succeeds in getting Americans to mix again in public at the height of the pandemic (many governors are unlikely to be so foolhardy with their constituents’ health), he will be risking the lives of hundreds of thousands if not millions. Just a week into his tepid embrace of social distancing, he’s ready to abandon the fight against the virus and instead force Americans to accept a new strategy for dealing with a pandemic: survival of the fittest. For what? It won’t work: The economy won’t bounce back if people don’t feel safe.
“A plea to Floridians: Follow coronavirus guidelines so we can get our lives back” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — We’re pleading with our fellow Floridians during this public health crisis: Just follow the rules. That means going out as little as possible and getting no closer than 6 feet to someone else when you’re at the store or even outside getting exercise. Don’t hug. Don’t shake hands. Keep your hands off surfaces as much as possible. None of this is easy. We aren’t wired to avoid contact with others. We are, for the most part, social by nature. In normal times, it’s one of our better characteristics. Now, in these abnormal times, we have to change our habits until this crisis passes.
“Shut down Florida, Gov. DeSantis, for at least a few weeks” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Conceding just a little, the Governor finally directed Floridians over 65 to stay at home. But while they’re the most vulnerable, everybody is vulnerable. The blunt truth is that the longer DeSantis postpones stay-at-home for everyone, the worse it will be for everyone. The longer he stalls, the longer young people who believe themselves invincible will pick up and spread the disease. Isolating only their grandparents now, will not protect them later. Every responsible public health physician and epidemiologist is pleading with the public to stay at home and save lives. But it takes a Governor to make such an order effective and enforceable. Sixteen Governors have done what DeSantis refuses to do.
“Gov. DeSantis needs to start acting like an Italian Mayor” via Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post — DeSantis needs to reconnect with his inner Italian. I know it’s in there. All eight of DeSantis’ great-grandparents emigrated from Italy. So, buried in his DNA is an Italian’s intrinsic talent for telling people off in the most colorful and creative ways — often involving some appendage choreography. DeSantis needs to let that out. It’s time to start loosening his hands and sharpening his tongue. Because we need a governor now who can be a forceful advocate for locking down all of Florida. None of this 14-day, self-quarantine nonsense if you decide to leave New York for Florida. None of this ignorant, dystopian, “we can’t let the cure be worse than the problem” moral bankruptcy.
“Tampa Mayor shows how not to respond to coronavirus” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Tampa Mayor Jane Castor did exactly the wrong thing by going it alone, unilaterally announcing a stay-at-home order without Hillsborough County and without immediate specifics. Regardless of her good intentions, this erodes the necessary spirit of cooperation with county officials — not to mention the prospect of regional cooperation in a crisis. Practically speaking, it creates an almost impossible situation for residents, law enforcement and workers as they try to navigate the new normal in Florida’s third-largest city. The last thing anyone needs to see now is the Mayor and County Administrator trooping off with their lawyers to the closed courthouse to litigate a turf dispute.
“Greg Newburn: Legislators must call a Special Session to address COVID-19 in Florida’s prisons” via Florida Politics — If you think COVID-19 is daunting now, imagine what it will be like inside Florida’s enormous prison system, where social distancing is impossible, quality health care doesn’t exist, and hand sanitizer is banned as contraband. Nothing that happens in prison stays in prison for long when it comes to disease — thousands of corrections staff enter and leave daily, exposing themselves to illness and putting all of us on the outside at greater risk. To save lives, preserve hospital beds, and slow the spread of the coronavirus, the Florida Legislature must call a Special Session and pass measures that allow for the immediate release of the most vulnerable from our prisons.
“Coronavirus pandemic makes politics more relevant, not less” via Randy Schultz for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — We would be in much better shape if the country had a different president and different policies. After Joe Biden won the Florida primary and ran the table on Bernie Sanders, the usual buzz didn’t follow. Some commentators wondered whether, in this time of coronavirus upheaval, politics still matter. Actually, politics matter more than ever. Voters make political choices that give people the chance to govern. Only then do we learn whether those political choices were right. The pandemic has shown that Trump was the wrong choice.
“Terrible, horrible thoughts while on a social distance walk” via Stephanie Hayes of the Tampa Bay Times — This is the best weather we’ve had all year. We will stay 6 feet apart, and all will be well. The Pinellas Trail is, like, 15 feet wide, but the walking side is small, and nobody stays in their lane. Someone is going to shame us. If a woke celebrity tweets my photo, I will die. That woman sneezed into her elbow. Sneezing is not really a symptom. I have seen the meme that explains it. I was sneezing all morning, too, because the houses in this neighborhood are made of pollen and Spanish tile. This is such a sad time. When did we become so wary of each other? When there was a pandemic.
“Because of coronavirus, I’m an FSU senior stuck at home, worried about my future” via Maria Hiers for the Tampa Bay Times — Many students support themselves by working at bars, coffee shops and local businesses. With their bosses increasingly having to make layoffs, our present lives are threatened by financial instability. I was let go from my post-grad job as a photography assistant for performances and productions. My boss said she’d love to be able to work with me, but right now, there’s no work. Provide opportunities for graduates and find yourself surprised that Generation Z’s lazy reputation is often undeserved. Thousands of us would fetch a bone for a dollar or forfeit our last roll of toilet paper to make rent.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Gov. DeSantis is pondering the President’s latest pronouncement — he wants America back to work by Easter.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— DeSantis is also doubling down on his refusal to order any sort of statewide lockdown. He says people in New York and California have already demonstrated that it doesn’t work that well. In fact, the National Guard is now greeting people who arrive in Florida after taking flights from the New York City-area to inform them they have to self-isolate for at least 14 days after arrival.
— State officials are also worried about a cruise ship called Zaandam. The Holland-America liner has at least 42 infected people on board, and they are hoping to dock next week in Broward County, which happens to be the epicenter of Florida’s coronavirus epidemic.
— Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried talks about getting calls on coronavirus scams. Fried offers a few hints on how to protect yourself from fraudsters. She was also the first official in Florida to call for a statewide lockdown, so she gives her reaction to the Governor’s rejection of that advice.
And two Florida women prove that the title “Florida Man” knows no gender.
To listen, click on the image below:
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
— ALOE —
“Amazon unlocks batch of kids’ shows free to stream for all customers” via Todd Spangler of Variety — With millions of kids cooped up at home, Amazon is opening up free streaming access to more than 40 children’s shows — including its original series — to all customers worldwide. The content, previously available only to Prime Video customers, includes Amazon original series “Just Add Magic,” “Pete the Cat” and “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” and select seasons of PBS Kids shows including “Arthur,” “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” “Odd Squad” and “Wild Kratts.” In Europe, third-party content includes “Peppa Pig” and “Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom.” To access the free kids’ titles, users must sign in with a valid Amazon account, which is free.
“‘Time for Kids’ to make issues available outside classroom” via Melynda Fuller of MediaPost — “Time” is offering its child-focused spinoff “Time for Kids” to students, families and teachers at home for free amid the COVID-19 outbreak and school closures. The move marks the first time the edition is available to readers outside classrooms in its 25 years of publishing. Free access is supported by Google, AT&T, HP and PwC Charitable Foundation. The access includes a digital library featuring all editions of Time for Kids published in 2020, financial literacy magazine “Your $” and educational resources and activities. Time for Kids content is available across printable PDFs and digitally published pieces on the magazine’s website and is released in grade-specific editions.
“For drive-in theaters, an unexpected revival” via Alyson Krueger of The New York Times — Drive-in movie theaters may seem like a blast from the past, something out of the 1950s or ’60s. Numerous baby boomers haven’t gone for decades; Gen Xers and millennials, perhaps never. While most drive-in theaters open for the summer, some of their owners have decided to get an early start this year to provide families an escape insulated by their cars during the pandemic. Spencer Folmar, a filmmaker, believes so strongly that drive-in theaters are not just the past, but the future that he is building what he claims will be the world’s largest one in Eustis, with 500 spots, about a 45-minute drive from Orlando.
“In times of stress and self-distancing, take solace in ‘binge baking’” via J. Miller of the Palm Beach Post — Binge baking isn’t a new idea for me. I actually started using the term when we’ve gone on vacation for the past couple of years. In the weeks before going away, I sit down and figure out what I’m going to cook for family meals. I like to have my grocery list sorted out, bringing what I can from home to avoid waste and to save time at the store when I get to where I’m going. Once that’s sorted, I realized that there were things that I wanted to make — for myself. Somehow that “me” list kept growing. Until I realized I was binge baking. There was no other way to describe it. But, hey, that’s my vacation.
“Wild Florida keeps its drive-thru safari open amid coronavirus shutdowns” via Patrick Connolly of the Orlando Sentinel — Normally, Wild Florida also offers airboat tours, a gator park and up-close animal encounters. Those have been temporarily shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the drive-thru safari persists, as it keeps visitors distant from one another in their own cars. Throughout the whole experience, I never left my hatchback. I may have thought about getting out and running when a too-curious emu poked its head inside my open passenger window, perhaps looking for food. But otherwise, I was content to traverse 85 acres of environments from South and North America and the plains of Africa from the comfort of my own air-conditioned vehicle. I happily enjoyed my own tunes while taking in the sights.
“Six-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady looking forward, not behind” via Fred Goodall of The Associated Press — “I don’t want to talk about the past because that’s not relevant to what’s important in my future and what’s going on this offseason for me,” Brady said during a 32-minute conference call in which he declined to discuss specifics about his decision to leave his old team. The three-time NFL MVP reiterated that while he cherished “two decades of incredible experience and learning from some of the best players and the best coaches, and the ownership” of the Patriots, he’s excited about moving forward with the Bucs, who have a 12-season playoff drought.
What Rob Bradley is reading — “Review: Pearl Jam come roaring back with superb new album” via Mark Kennedy of The Associated Press — Trust Pearl Jam to still surprise us in 2020. The Seattle rock gods have made an album we didn’t know we needed. “Gigaton” is a fascinating and ambitious 12-track collection with a cleaner, crisper sound that is studded with interesting textures, topped by Eddie Vedder’s still-indignant voice. “Gigaton” marks the band’s first coproduction with Josh Evans, who previously worked with Soundgarden and Chris Cornell. He’s helped pull out more experimentation, certainly from the messy last studio offering, “Lightning Bolt.”
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to the even-more-incredibly-talented-than-last-year Sara Clements of Maguire Woods, state Rep. John Cortes, the Port Tampa’s Matt Floyd, and former Sen. Maria Sachs. Belated best wishes to state Reps. Adam Hattersley and Anthony Rodriguez.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.