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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.27.20

Your morning review of the issues and players behind Florida politics.

Executive summary:

— The number of people around the world who have contracted coronavirus has surged past 515,000, based on a count kept by Johns Hopkins University. More than 23,000 are dead. Read more here.

— In the U.S., more than 1,100 are dead and over 81,578 infected. Read more here.

— The U.S. now has more coronavirus cases than any other country.

— British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for the new coronavirus. Read more here.

Steve Moody, director of nursing at Central Maine Medical Center, mops the floor of a tent outside the emergency entrance to the hospital where patients are tested for the coronavirus in Lewiston, Maine. Image via AP.

— Italy reported 6,153 new coronavirus infections, pushing the total to 80,539 cases, almost as many as China. Read more here.

— China is temporarily barring most foreigners from entering the country as it seeks to curb the number of imported coronavirus cases. Read more here.

— Nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — almost five times the previous record set in 1982 — amid a widespread shutdown caused by the virus. Read more here.

— House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress would give final approval Friday to the $2.2 trillion economic rescue bill. Read more here.

— The world will run out of places to store oil in as little as three months, according to an industry consultant. Read more here.

— THE NUMBERS —

Florida has 129 new coronavirus cases, and an additional death reported Thursday evening, putting the state’s tally of coronavirus cases at 2,484 and the death toll at 29.

Combining the morning and evening reports, the state added 507 cases and six deaths.

With expanding testing capabilities, reported numbers are expected to continue to rise. Local governments and the state have opened several drive-thru testing sites throughout the state.

A member of the health care staff from the Community Health of South Florida, Inc. prepares to test people for the coronavirus in the parking lot of its Doris Ison Health Center in Miami, Florida. Image via Getty.

South Florida remains the biggest hot spot of COVID-19 cases in the state.

As of Thursday morning, Miami-Dade County had 616 confirmed cases, while Broward County had 504. That marked a 125-count increase in Miami-Dade, 92-count rise in Broward County since Wednesday evening.

Miami-area hospitals received crew members Thursday from two Costa Cruise ships, the Magica and Favolosa. Carnival Corp., which owns the cruise line, said the vessels are empty except for crew members. They remain offshore.

Palm Beach County now has 169 confirmed COVID-19 cases, Hillsborough County has 142, and Orange County has 110.

Of the reported cases, 390 traveled, 405 had contact with a confirmed case, and 243 traveled and had contact with a confirmed case. Officials are still attempting to source 1,317 cases.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: Just finished a very good conversation with President Xi of China. Discussed in great detail the CoronaVirus that is ravaging large parts of our Planet. China has been through much & has developed a strong understanding of the Virus. We are working closely together. Much respect!

@ParkerMolloy: Never has it been more obvious how bad it is that health insurance is tied to employment in this country.

@NYGovCuomo: The Four Seasons Hotel on 57th Street will provide FREE lodging to doctors, nurses & medical personnel currently working to respond to the #COVID19 pandemic. Thank you @FourSeasons. The first of many hotels we hope will make their rooms available.

@RepJoseOliva: Stimulus, bailouts explained: The government borrows/prints $20k in your name, you get $1.5K now and the rest goes to any number of entities and instruments. You and your children spend years paying it back.

@AmyKlobuchar: Thanks to all who sent kind words & prayers for my husband John. He has coronavirus & has been in the hospital for pneumonia & low oxygen. He took a good turn, was just released & is now recovering at home! Thanks to those who cared for him & for all front line health care workers.

@DevlinBartlett: New York City had 319 murders last year. Coronavirus has killed 385, and counting.

@MichaelBD: Conspiracy theorists who are committed to denying the seriousness of this are complaining that videos of NY hospitals aren’t showing the patients. It’s illegal (and unethical) for nurses and doctors to film them.

—@ThisIsMeredith: I feel I must tweet because the press does not reflect our reality. The deluge is here. Our ICU is completely full with intubated COVID patients. We are rapidly moving to expand capacity. We are nearly out of PPE. I anticipate we will begin rationing today.

@Bits9532: I’ve been a Critical Care RN since 1995. ICU beds and vents running out. Co-workers crying, scared, sick … insufficient PPE. People dying alone, family cannot be with them. My last human contact before work, a [Donald] Trump supporter telling me to retire, that I’m a liar. Long day ahead.

Tweet, tweet:

@BillGalvano: So many of our great restaurants are accepting orders for takeout or delivery. As we practice social distancing during #15daystoslowthespread, it’s still a great time to support local restaurants by ordering in from an old favorite, or trying something new. #StayHome #EatLocal

@Conarck: My 89 y/o grandmother, who is isolated at home in CT, just told me she reads the replies to my tweets and then investigates the profiles of people who leave rude replies. So don’t be mean to me or my grandma will judge you.

@KevinCate: I haven’t said anything publicly about my dear friend @AndrewGillum — a man, husband, & father who I love — nor do I intend to any time soon, aside from quoting words he spoke to all of us often. “Nobody should be judged forever by their worst day.”

@MaryEllenKlas: Is today the day? @GovRonDeSantis didn’t schedule a daily COVID-19 briefing for the first time in more than a week. His wife, Casey, is expecting the newest resident of the governor’s mansion, a baby girl. We await the news.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Walt Disney World scheduled to reopen — 4; Quibi launches — 13; Easter — 16; Florida Schools reopen (maybe) — 19; First quarter campaign reports due — 19; Universal Orlando rescheduled to open — 23; Last day of federal candidate qualifying — 26; NFL Draft — 27; Mother’s Day — 44; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 73; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 91; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 107; Federal taxes due — 110; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 112; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 144; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 150; First presidential debate in Indiana — 186; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 194; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 202; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 209; 2020 General Election — 221; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 235; “No Time to Die” premieres — 243.

— CORONA NATION —

The $2 trillion relief bill is massive, but it won’t prevent a recession” via Heather Long of The Washington Post — The relief bill is the largest relief bill in U.S. history and the majority of the money will go to laid-off workers, small-business owners, hospitals, and state and local governments. The bad news is that it won’t be enough to stop a recession. Economists say two key problems remain: fixing the health crisis and getting money to people in time. Many businesses have already laid-off employees. At the same time, aid is expected to take weeks or months to reach Americans. Most economists anticipate more aid will be needed and ending the pandemic is the only thing that will truly turn the economy around.

Poll finds recession fears high amid layoffs and pay cuts from coronavirus fallout” via Scott Clement and Dan Balz of The Washington Post — Americans are feeling the economic fallout from the spreading coronavirus crisis, with a ma­jority saying the outbreak has caused a family member to lose their job or face a reduction in pay or hours — and even more fearing a recession that could be as bad or worse than the one caused by the financial collapse of 2008, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll. More than 8 in 10 Americans support providing cash payments of $1,000 or more to Americans with annual incomes of less than $100,000, and 9 in 10 support providing billions in financial assistance to small businesses.

‘Light at the end of the tunnel’ becomes a Donald Trump team mantravia Quint Forgey of POLITICO — Trump and senior administration officials have begun employing a fresh turn of phrase to describe America’s war against the coronavirus pandemic by insisting that the same social-distancing guidelines the president has suggested rolling back this week are in fact revealing a “light at the end of the tunnel” to the public health crisis. The hopeful remarks from the administration officials also broke with a dire prognosis by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who warned on Wednesday that the coronavirus “very well might” become a “seasonal, cyclic” threat.

Donald Trump is preaching the light at the end of the tunnel. Image via AP.

Trump’s push to open economy could come at cost of lives” via Aamer Madhani, Laurie Kellman, and Kevin Freking of The Associated Press — For decades, the federal government has made calculations on how policies intended to safeguard American health could impact the economy. Now, the push-pull of when to re-open the economy during the coronavirus crisis centers on a similarly bleak question: What’s an economically acceptable death toll? Putting dollar figures on the value of life and health is inherently uncomfortable, one expert said. Trump has grumbled that “our country wasn’t built to be shut down” and vowed not to allow “the cure be worse than the problem.” He also pushed back against suggestions that he is being cavalier about the prospect of more deaths being caused by a premature reopening of the economy.

Not all or nothing: Anti-virus lockdowns could lift slowly” via Christina Larson and Ricard Alonso-Zaldivar of the Associated Press — Scientists are reluctant to predict exactly when restrictions could be safely loosened, but based on what they’ve observed in China — the first country struck by the new virus — some relief could come approximately six to eight weeks after lockdowns are implemented. That is based on the assumption that cases could peak two or three weeks after lockdowns begin, and gradually decline for the next two or three weeks. While we may yearn for a clear timeline for when life will return to normal, scientists say that isn’t exactly the right question. Routines won’t resume exactly as they were for several months, or longer – but that doesn’t mean we’ll all be stuck in total lockdowns until then.

Hospitals consider universal do-not-resuscitate orders for coronavirus patients” via Ariana Eunjung Cha of The Washington Post — Hospitals on the front lines of the pandemic are engaged in a heated private debate over a calculation few have encountered in their lifetimes — how to weigh the “save at all costs” approach to resuscitating a dying patient against the real danger of exposing doctors and nurses to the contagion of coronavirus. The conversations are driven by the realization that the risk to staff amid dwindling stores of protective equipment — such as masks, gowns and gloves — may be too great to justify the conventional response when a patient “codes,” and their heart or breathing stops. Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago has been discussing a do-not-resuscitate policy for infected patients.

Some health care workers resist orders to work without adequate protection” via Lenny Bernstein and Ariana Eunjung Cha of The Washington Post — Confrontations and difficult personal decisions are occurring as hospital administrators enforce rationing of masks, face shields and other equipment for workers worried about protecting themselves. The widespread shortage of masks, eye shields and other protective equipment for health care workers at U.S. medical facilities have become a fact of the pandemic. Nurses and others have complained for weeks, publicly and privately, about the risk of leaving themselves needlessly exposed to a highly contagious respiratory disease. Even with the best of equipment, health care workers suffer disproportionate losses in outbreaks like this. Medical facilities normally operate on a just-in-time approach to receiving supplies, secure that the supply chain can meet their everyday needs, with little incentive to stockpile large amounts of equipment.

Job vacancies and inexperience mar federal response to coronavirus” via Jennifer Steinhauer and Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times — Many federal agencies and departments have a large number of vacancies in senior leadership positions, which has slowed the response to the coronavirus pandemic and shows just how ill-equipped some agencies are. Many other senior officials have little to no experience in dealing with a crisis. About 80 percent of senior positions in the White House below cabinet level has seen turnover in the Trump administration. Even as Steven Mnuchin negotiates the $2 trillion stimulus bill, his own department barely has enough people to administer programs, which will likely cause issues as the IRS will soon attempt to send stimulus money directly to Americans.

Could Obamacare save jobless Americans from coronavirus?” via Susannah Luthi of POLITICO — The moment is shaping up to be a clear test of Obamacare. The key question is whether the pandemic will drive the newly uninsured to the law’s health insurance marketplaces or if they’ll take their chances and forego coverage as the country braces for a possible recession. A major wild card in all of this: Whether Trump will embrace Obamacare, if just temporarily, even as his administration joins the legal battle to destroy it. “This was what the Affordable Care Act is here for,” said Sabrina Corlette, who heads Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms. “The individual market is a true safety net, and that is what it was designed to do — to catch people in this situation.”

The wait is endless. Supplies are gone. My New York hospital is on the brink.” via Clifford Marks of The Washington Post — The coronavirus pandemic has completely upended some hospitals and healthcare in general, especially in places with more coronavirus cases. Hospitals with a large number of COVID-19 patients are running out of supplies and staff are working far more hours than normal. Hospitals are seeing an increase in the numbers of patients who need to be on a ventilator. Entire areas of hospitals normally reserved for traumas or cardiac arrests are now devoted to COVID-19 patients. Many hospital waiting rooms are filled with mildly ill or even well patients concerned they have come in contact with the coronavirus.

As New York’s coronavirus crisis deepens, experts split over how to contain its spread to new areas” via The Washington Post — Marisa Hunter believes she may have contracted coronavirus earlier this month, when severe fatigue and gastrointestinal issues left her feeling weak. She tried to get a test for the virus but was not able to get one, and by the time she spoke to a doctor, her symptoms were resolving. Initially, the 31-year-old social media manager and model left her apartment in Long Beach, N.Y., and went to her mother’s house in Connecticut to recuperate. Then over the weekend, she flew from Connecticut to Bonita Springs, to live with her fiancé.

New Orleans faces a virus nightmare, and Mardi Gras may be why” via Katy Reckdahl, Campbell Robertson and Richard Fausset of The New York Times — According to one study, Louisiana, with more than 2,300 cases as of Thursday afternoon, is experiencing the fastest growth in new cases in the world; Gov. John Bel Edwards said that the current trajectory of case growth in Louisiana was similar to those in Spain and Italy. In a grim irony, there is a rising suspicion among medical experts that the crisis may have been accelerated by Mardi Gras — the weekslong citywide celebration that unfolds in crowded living rooms, ballrooms and city streets — which this year culminated on Feb. 25. It is the city’s trademark expression of joy — and an epidemiologist’s nightmare.

Mardi Gras may have been a ‘viral nightmare.’

2-month-old tests positive for coronavirus in Nashville, youngest reported case in Tennessee” via Yihyun Jeong of the Nashville Tennessean — A 2-month-old who has tested positive for COVID-19 in Nashville is the youngest reported case in Tennessee and is likely among the youngest in the country. Metro health officials confirmed 293 cases on Thursday, 36 new cases in 24 hours. The new cases show nearly a 100 year age range between those reporting the illness in Nashville. The youngest a 2-month-old and the oldest a 94-year-old. Dr. Alex Jahangir, the city’s coronavirus task force chair, said the infant has mild symptoms and is home “doing well.” Officials said 12 people remain hospitalized while 52 people are reported as “recovered.”

UK has enough intensive care units for coronavirus, expert predicts” via David Adam of the New Scientist — The UK should now be able to cope with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, according to one of the epidemiologists advising the government. Neil Ferguson at Imperial College London gave evidence today to the UK’s parliamentary select committee on science and technology as part of an inquiry into the nation’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. He said that expected increases in National Health Service capacity and ongoing restrictions to people’s movements make him “reasonably confident” the health service can cope when the predicted peak of the epidemic arrives in two or three weeks. UK deaths from the disease are now unlikely to exceed 20,000, he said, and could be much lower.

All the coronavirus statistics are flawed” via Derek Thompson of The Atlantic — Officials tracking COVID-19 are swimming in statistics: infection rates, case-fatality ratios, economic data. But in these early stages of the fight against the coronavirus, these figures each have their own particular limitations. But we have to be careful about drawing hard conclusions from that one statistic. Confirmed cases are a function of confirmed tests. After a tragically late start, U.S. testing capacity has doubled in the past week. Is the U.S. currently experiencing rapid growth in coronavirus cases, or rapid growth in coronavirus testing, or both? Not all states are reporting hospitalizations, and once hospitals are full, additional cases might not show up in reported figures.

— CREDIBLE SOURCES —

As coronavirus continues to spread around the world, tech platforms are setting up different options to promote credible info about the virus. While some are not 100% free from misinformation and disinformation, they are trying to curate and create during a time when providing accurate information is essential.

— A new channel from Snapchat — “Coronavirus: Slow The Spread“ — offers official messages from the White House Task Force.

 — Facebook set up a Coronavirus Information Center to provide the latest updates, prevention tips, related stories from news outlets as well as curated live concerts. 

 — Instagram created a “Stay Home” sticker for IG Stories.

 — Twitter’s Moments will curate the latest updates and links to the CDC, which will pop up when there is any search for coronavirus.

 — LinkedIn is offering live videos from verified broadcasters and health experts.

 — Pinterest developed a new Today tab with coronavirus info. 

 — TikTok has a page with curated info on ways to protect yourself, busting myths and providing recommended accounts and videos.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida, home to millions of elderly, doesn’t have enough coronavirus tests. Could it be the next epicenter?” via Alan Gomez of USA TODAY — Hospitals and doctors around the state say they still don’t have nearly enough testing kits and can’t get the ones they have analyzed fast enough, echoing complaints from state health officials across the country. Health officials have completed 27,000 tests so far in Florida, while New York is doing more than 18,000 tests a day. That lack of testing availability means the number of people infected in Florida is likely far higher than the 2,355 coronavirus cases counted by the Florida Department of Health as of Thursday. And it has left hospital administrators scrambling for more testing kits, buying their own laboratory equipment to process tests in house and pleading with people to stay home to slow the virus’ spread.

74,000 Floridians seek benefits, critics demand reform” via Adriana Gomez Licon and Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — More than 74,000 Floridians applied for unemployment benefits last week, a tenfold increase from the previous week as the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic grew. The jump in unemployment applications came as the state’s largest theme parks, including Disney World, Universal Orlando, and Busch Gardens Tampa, temporarily closed their parks until the end of the pandemic. Many workers have had trouble accessing the unemployment benefits portal. Florida’s unemployment rate was 2.8 percent in January. Earlier this week, DeSantis said he was anticipating not only economic consequences from job losses but also other problems such as drug abuse and domestic violence.

A sign is shown outside the closed Mango’s Tropical Cafe along the normally bustling streets of the Art Deco district in Miami Beach’s famed South Beach. Image via AP. 

Florida’s unemployed worry that struggling jobless benefits system could cost them federal help” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — The $2 trillion stimulus bill beefs up jobless benefits for newly unemployed workers, but some out-of-work Floridians wonder whether they’ll get any help at all. The measure includes up to $600 a week for workers on top of state benefits. But CONNECT, Florida’s system for processing unemployment insurance, isn’t keeping up with the surge of laid-off workers applying. The number of unemployment claims surged more than 1,000 percent. In order to relieve strain on the system, DeSantis ordered the requirements that claimants’ search for work be waived. Numerous claimants are unable to access the system or contact unemployment representatives.

Many vulnerable Floridians don’t drive. So how will they get tested for coronavirus?via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — As testing ramps up across the state with the addition of new drive-thru sites, many symptomatic Floridians are venturing out to see whether they have COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Gov. DeSantis has touted the sites as a safe, free and efficient way for elderly people or those especially vulnerable to the virus to get tested without getting out of their vehicles or, in The Villages, golf carts. But what if one doesn’t have a vehicle?

Ron DeSantis orders telehealth, vaccine coverage for state workers” via James Call of The USA Today network — While the country wrestles to contain the spread of the coronavirus, DeSantis has issued an executive order to provide state workers with telehealth services while Florida is under a state of emergency. Telehealth, sometimes called telemedicine, includes doctors treating patients via video chat. Industry sources say more than 80% of Florida residents have smartphones and that puts a telehealth infrastructure mostly in place for state employees and their physicians to use. DeSantis’ order to include telehealth as an option goes into effect immediately. It also includes pharmaceutical services. The order waives any cost to the worker for a flu-related vaccine.

Department of Revenue extends property tax deadline from March 31 to April 15” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Department of Revenue is giving Floridians more than two extra weeks to pay their property taxes as the state deals with the effects of the COVID-19 virus. According to an order from Executive Director Jim Zingale, “The date for citizens and businesses to pay property taxes in all Florida Counties is extended from March 31 to April 15, 2020.” Those payments submitted electronically or postmarked by that April 15 date will be considered timely payments. The order also applies to “property tax returns filed by a railroad, railroad terminal, private car and freight line and equipment company property.” The deadline for those entities was originally April 1 but is also being moved to April 15. That April 15 date coincides with the period K-12 schools will be closed in the state.

New York’s snowbirds, super-rich could stymie attempts to seal Florida borders” via Dana Rubinstein, Anna Gronewold and Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida — In an effort to keep coronavirus carriers away from the epicenter of the outbreak, DeSantis ordered mandatory quarantines for passengers arriving by both land and air from the Empire State, Connecticut and New Jersey. But try as he might. the New Yorkers who want to be in Florida right now are probably already there. Those who still want to go will almost certainly find a way around his possibly illegal attempt to blockade them — some by private jet. “I’m there,” one New York financial services worker told POLITICO. “My wife was living [in Boca Raton] in the winter. I go every weekend. I came down … a couple of weeks ago. The whole thing is just crazy.”

Coronavirus is a get out of jail free card for some offenders in Florida” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — Law enforcement officials across the state are locking up fewer people and are releasing some non-violent offenders in a strategy designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in prisons and jails. Some of the changes came after Department of Corrections officials announced prisons would stop taking in inmates from county jails until March 30. Some are concerned that the state’s decision to stop the flow of county inmates concerned her because it means offenders are losing the opportunity to earn gain-time awards, which allow eligible inmates to reduce their sentences through good behavior.

Big worries, few answers on long-term care facilities” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — DeSantis’ administration said 40 long-term care residents had tested positive for COVID-19. Still, it won’t say how many of those residents have died. The administration also generally won’t disclose the names of the nursing homes or assisted-living facilities where people got sick or provide an updated number of facilities that have infected residents. Officials also won’t say whether the state has done COVID-19 tests on any other people who live in the same facilities as the 40 infected residents. Associations that represent nursing homes and ALFs also don’t want to discuss the number of facilities and refer such questions to state agencies.

Carnival Freedom passengers told to isolate after crew member’s positive COVID-19 test” via Alex Harris and Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — A cruise ship that set sail the day the U.S. State Department warned travelers to stop cruising because of coronavirus just emailed its passengers to say they were potentially exposed to the virus. Passengers on the Carnival Freedom, which left Galveston, Texas, for a six-day cruise on March 8, were asked to quarantine for two weeks after a crew member tested positive for COVID-19, according to a letter sent to passengers. The crew member was hospitalized and received positive test results, said Carnival Spokesman Chris Chiames. Chiames said they isolated crew with any flu-like illnesses or who came into contact with the sick crew member, but he did not respond to a query about how many crew members were feeling ill.

Ted Deutch in self-quarantine after his college-age son returned from Spain with coronavirus symptoms” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — U.S. Rep. Deutch is in self-quarantine after his college-age son returned home almost two weeks ago from Spain and exhibited signs of the new coronavirus. Cole Deutch, 21, was on a study-abroad program. He returned home on March 13 as the coronavirus situation worsened around the world. He’s been experiencing two symptoms associated with COVID-19, the loss of senses of taste and smell, his father said. Deutch said Thursday his son feels good, except for those two symptoms. The Broward/Palm Beach County Democrat said his son, wife Jill, and he are in self-quarantine. He said his son is staying in a separate part of the House. “This weekend will be 14 days.”

Florida teachers lean on each other as online learning draws near” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Over 17 years as a Pinellas County teacher, Traci Andrews often toyed with the idea of online education. But when the statewide transition to remote learning arrived in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Andrews quickly discovered she didn’t know much about how to engage her fourth-graders in a virtual world. She had barely used the Microsoft Teams platform her district would rely on for lessons and communication. So the Skycrest Elementary educator did what teachers usually do when faced with a job-related challenge. She turned to her colleagues.

Disney World, under Orange stay-at-home order, can’t reopen until April 9 at earliest” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — The earliest Disney World will be allowed to reopen is 11 p.m. on April 9 under an Orange County stay-at-home order meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Orange County government confirmed Thursday Disney is included in the order that adds amusement rides and water parks to a list of non-essential businesses that must temporarily stop running for the next two weeks. Disney said on March 12 it would shut down its Orlando theme parks starting March 16 until April 1.

— LIGHT THE WAY —

When drivers cross the Sunshine Skyway at night, they will see the iconic structure illuminated in the colors of the American flag.

It is part of a major effort statewide to show unity in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. According to Beth Frady, communications director for the Florida Department of Transportation, the illumination can spread some unity in a time of stress and despair.

“Many don’t see the human element to FDOT,” Frady said, “but while our facilities aren’t ones you can talk to, they can show our solidarity with citizens.”

The FDOT will light up the Sunshine Skyway in red, white and blue as a show of solidarity for the fight against COVID-19. Image via FDOT.

Transportation officials already programed the lighting under the John Ringling Causeway in Sarasota to brighten the structure in red, white and blue.

FDOT will also lighten the pedestrian bridge over International Speedway Boulevard in Daytona Beach, as will an art feature and tunnel connecting Interstate-95 and the ISB.

The department will continue to see what other infrastructure can become part of the project, but the agency must work with facilities where lighting is already in place. Installing new light is neither an easy project to undertake now or prudent use of taxpayer dollars as state leaders dive deep into the budget to deal with coronavirus response.

“This is all really to honor and recognize those on the front lines of this,” Frady said, “who are making sacrifices day in and day out.”

— CORONA LOCAL —

Deaths rise to 6 at assisted-living facility” via Marc Freeman, Eileen Kelley, Lisa J. Huriash and Brooke Baitinger of the South Florida Sun Sentinel — Six residents of a Fort Lauderdale assisted-living facility have died from the new coronavirus, including three new deaths reported Thursday. The death toll at Atria Willow Wood has been rising since the first resident died March 16, and others have tested positive for the disease. So far at Broward County’s coronavirus hot spot, 16 residents have tested positive, including the six victims, according to the company that owns the 18-acre complex on West Commercial Boulevard. Results from two more tests are pending. DeSantis has blamed Willow Wood for the tragedies, saying employees who were sick weren’t screened, but the company said the governor is wrong, and insists the facility began implementing precautions March 4.

Citing coronavirus fears, Miami will enact a 10 p.m. curfew starting Friday night” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — The city of Miami will enact a 10 p.m. curfew starting Friday night, creating the most severe restrictions yet for the city’s more than 460,000 residents as government leaders push to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19. Miami’s five commissioners, who met via video conference Wednesday night, unanimously voted to set a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. Police would have the ability to stop, question and arrest anyone out in public during this time period. On Thursday, City Manager Art Noriega signed the emergency order that lists six categories of exceptions, including essential city and county personnel like police and fire rescue; utility crews; food delivery services; physicians; travel to and from work for essential business employees; and walking dogs within 250 feet of the owner’s residence.

Miami’s hospitals are going from competitive to cooperative” via Daniel Chang and Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — Normally, hospitals in the Miami area compete with each other for patients, resources, and notoriety. Since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the South Florida area, five nonprofit hospitals have teamed up with one another informally and are sharing information about the number of patients, supplies, and even financial information daily to aid in the area’s response to the crisis. Hospitals are expected to suffer financially from the crisis, as numerous elective surgeries have been canceled, and patients have avoided facilities to avoid coming in contact with the coronavirus.

Shutdown in Cuba due to coronavirus leaves hundreds without work in Miami” via Mario J. Pentón — The Cuban government’s recent decision to close off the island to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, has left hundreds of people without jobs in Miami, home to one of the largest communities of the Cuban diaspora. “The relationship between Cuba and Miami is extremely close, so the blow to the Miami economy due to the closure of the Cuban borders will be felt,” said economist Emilio Morales, president of a Miami-based consulting firm that focuses on Cuba’s economy.

Coronavirus hits Miami’s construction industry: Projects halted, site contaminated” via Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade’s construction industry is starting to show symptoms from the coronavirus outbreak. Work on two major projects — a $300 million Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines headquarters building at the Port of Miami and a University of Miami UHealth Care center in North Miami — has been delayed indefinitely, due to uncertainty about the COVID-19 virus. On Wednesday, Century Homebuilders Group announced two of the construction workers at the firm’s $100 million 850 Le Jeune Road mixed-use project had tested positive for coronavirus. The company has ordered its general contractor to start a deep cleaning and sanitation process on the large project, which will feature 230 apartments, two towers of office space and 40,000 square feet of retail when completed. The site will remain closed until the cleaning is completed.

SOBEWFF, FIU, and Miami chefs provide relief to the hospitality community” via Laine Doss of the Miami New Times — A group of Miami chefs led by Felix Bendersky of F+B Hospitality Leasing has set up the Miami Restaurant Employee Relief Fund on gofundme.com. That effort — backed by Brad Kilgore of the Kilgore Culinary Group, Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine, Michelle Bernstein of La Trova, Michael Beltran of Ariete, and Zak H. Stern of Zak the Baker — has raised nearly $60,000 over the past week to aid Miami’s restaurant and bar staffs. The South Beach Wine & Food Festival and the Florida International University Chaplin School of Hospitality threw a lifeline to displaced employees with a relief fund promising immediate financial support for workers at independently owned restaurants and bars in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.

Broward doctor Alex Hsu dies from coronavirus” via Eileen Kelley of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A Broward County doctor who served the community for close to 40 years has died of the new coronavirus. Dr. Hsu, 67, who died Tuesday, tested positive for the disease, Broward Medical Examiner Craig Mallak confirmed. Officials haven’t said whether Hsu’s case stemmed from him traveling abroad or whether it was work-related. It also was not clear when he became ill. Hsu practiced internal medicine at Northwest Medical Center in Margate. His death is the region’s first for a case where a medical provider has died from the disease.

Two Broward poll workers tested positive” via David Smiley and Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — Broward County Supervisor of Elections Spokesman Steve Vancore said the elections office — which oversees voting in the second-largest county in the state and one of the hardest hit by the global pandemic —has been informed that two of its poll workers have tested positive for the coronavirus and but says that it does not know when the workers contracted it. He said their contact with voters was limited. All 16 poll workers who worked alongside the two workers who tested positive have been contacted by the supervisor’s office.

1st child in Orange County tests positive for coronavirus; stay-at-home order starts” via Ryan Gillespie, Martin Comas and Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — A 9-year-old became the first child in Orange County to test positive for the coronavirus and two more local people died from the pandemic, county officials said Thursday. Dr. Raul Pino said the child is one of the new confirmed local cases, which now total 110. The two new deaths reported Thursday brings the death toll in the county to four. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings expressed concern at the brisk pace with which the number of local cases is rising, one reason he said the stay-at-home order he put in place earlier this week is necessary. “Since we last came to you that number has more than doubled,” he said of local infections. “This is concerning to me and it should be concerning to you.”

Coronavirus fears close some day cares while parents must report to work” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — The number of open child-care centers in Central Florida has dwindled in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, and those still operating are struggling with declining enrollments, scarce supplies and deciding what is best for community health. But the open centers are crucial to parents who still must report to work — from hospital employees to grocery store clerks — so early childhood advocates and parents say they are providing an essential service, even as the new virus makes their jobs more difficult. “If we didn’t have day care, I don’t know what we’d do,” said Ali Thomas, a physician assistant, as she picked up her 11-month-old daughter from the Azalea Park Learning Center in Orange County on Wednesday afternoon.

When coronavirus hit, sick workers were told to stay home. But years ago, Florida blocked sick leave laws” via Chabeli Carrazana and Caroline Glenn of the Orlando Sentinel — As the spread of the novel coronavirus continues to deepen the chasm of income inequality across America, one subject Central Florida understands intimately has risen to take a more prominent place in the national discourse: Paid sick leave. Eight years ago, the question about whether to mandate that employers in Central Florida’s hospitality-driven economy offer their workers paid time off from work in the case of illness was at the center of one of the largest controversies this region has seen in recent memory. At the time, a coalition of advocacy groups collected 50,000 signatures to get a sick leave policy that would have given workers a maximum of 56 hours off a year on the 2012 ballot.

Lake County inmates are sewing masks to protect hospital workers from coronavirus” via the Orlando Sentinel — Inmates at the Lake County Jail are joining an effort with local churches to sew masks to protect healthcare workers on the front lines to combat the spread of COVID-19 as more confirmed cases are being reported statewide. The effort by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office is in partnership with Lake Support and Emergency Recovery, Inc., or LASER, a nonprofit created to aid recovery efforts following natural disasters. The masks will go to patients showing symptoms of novel coronavirus. Inmates are expected to sew at least 1,000 cotton masks using materials provided by the nonprofit and will “continue making them around the clock as the need exists,” Lt. John Herrell said on Thursday in an emailed statement.

— MORE LOCAL —

Hillsborough agrees to keep residents at home in coronavirus times” via Anastasia Dawson and Charlie Frago with the Tampa Bay Times — Hillsborough county’s Emergency Policy group voted unanimously to place the county under a safer-at-home order that was more enforceable than the separate “safer-at-home directive” and the mandatory “curfew order” proposed initially. “We can’t make everyone happy; we just cannot make all 1.45 million people in this county happy. But we can try to do what we can to make sure we keep everyone in this county safe,” said County Administrator Mike Merrill. The new order is only effective for seven days at a time but can be renewed by the group as long as they renew the county’s “state of emergency.”

All 900 appointments for COVID-19 testing at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium booked” via Caitlin Johnson of the Tampa Bay Times — The stadium test site will shut down once all 900 appointments have been completed, likely Friday afternoon. It will not reopen until the county receives more materials. Medical and county officials warned earlier this week that the limited testing kits and protective gear supplied by the state would quickly be used up, leading the county to have to close the site. County staff is hopeful it can reopen a community test site as supplies become available, but when that might happen and how many the county might receive remains unknown.

BayCare Partners to support government-led COVID-19 test site. All 900 slots were booked.

MacDill Air Force Base now reports five coronavirus cases” via Ileana Najarro of the Tampa Bay Times — MacDill Air Force Base is now monitoring five confirmed cases of the coronavirus and is limiting movement and services across the base, said Col. Stephen Snelson, commander of the Air Force’s 6th Air Refueling Wing. Three initial cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, were reported from within the ranks of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, both of which are also headquartered at MacDill in Tampa. Base officials have said they will not announce new cases, only the total number discovered there. Snelson noted that the base is also limiting who comes on base during the pandemic.

Florida Derby jockey Javier Castellano tests positive for coronavirus” via Adam Lichtenstein of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Veteran jockey Castellano, scheduled to race in Saturday’s Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, he tweeted Thursday. “After being in New York with my family last week, I was asked by Gulfstream to come early to Florida to get tested for the virus,” Castellano wrote. “I was asymptomatic all along. Unfortunately, the test came back last night as positive. … “ Castellano, who has been one of the three top earners on the North American earnings list for nine straight years, last raced at Gulfstream Park on March 15 but has not raced there since, Gulfstream Park spokesman David Joseph said.

Why Super Bowl 55 can be the ‘most important Super Bowl of our lifetime’” via Joey Knight and Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times — After years of meticulous planning, Rob Higgins was poised to roll out Tampa Bay’s red carpet for two sports events with global audiences, only to have the carpet pulled out from under him. The coronavirus pandemic robbed the area of six men’s NCAA Tournament games (scheduled for last week at Amalie Arena) and WrestleMania 36 (set for April 5 at Raymond James Stadium). Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, estimates that those two events alone would have generated more than 60,000 hotel-visitor room nights for the region. “I think we’re heartbroken for our hotels and restaurants. They were naturally looking forward to a couple of big economic wins when it comes to this,” Higgins said.

TECO plans to pass $130M in fuel savings to customers to help offset coronavirus losses” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The company is leveraging lower natural gas prices to pass significant savings to customers’ bills beginning in June. Residents can expect to save nearly $90, or about 11%, on their energy bills for the rest of the year, depending on household consumptions. Commercial customers could see 14-20% savings. “Unique times call for unique solutions to help our customers,” said Nancy Tower, president and CEO of Tampa Electric. “We look forward to working with the PSC, the Office of Public Counsel and other stakeholders to provide economic relief to our customers at a time when they need it most.” The company filed updated projected fuel costs with the Florida Public Service Commission and requested to accelerate the refund.

Pinellas deputies and police deliver notices to thousands of businesses” via Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times — As Pinellas County’s “safer at home” order starts Thursday, more than 200 deputies and police officers will deliver thousands of notices to business with a message and warning about keeping distance between each other during the coronavirus pandemic. The notices say people shall not congregate in groups, and groups of more than 10 are prohibited. All persons not part of the same family must remain at least 6 feet apart, and people in lines must adhere to the requirement. Businesses must post the notices in doorways. The 114-word notice comes with it a warning: “Violation of these requirements is a crime punishable by incarceration and/or a fine. Businesses in violation may be subject to closure.”

Grand Prix of St. Petersburg could happen in 2020 after all” via Matt Baker and Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — The IndyCar Series announced Thursday that it intends to reschedule the race, which was wiped out earlier this month because of the coronavirus pandemic. Originally scheduled as IndyCar’s season opener, the Grand Prix is now listed as the series’ “expected finale.” Two weeks ago, it was considered unlikely that the race would be rescheduled. Permitting issues and other red tape stand in the way of the event, but officials are confident they can be worked through. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said the city is “still looking into” things like potential dates and track construction, which affects downtown businesses.

Brevard woman thought it was no ‘big deal;’ now she fights to get tested” via Isadora Rangel of Florida Today — Sandra Sullivan was skeptical about the coronavirus. She posted on Facebook that fears about the virus were overblown. That the number of people infected in China wasn’t that high compared to its population. “What’s the big deal?” she thought. Until she developed a dry cough after visiting Broward County, in the epicenter of Florida’s outbreak, on March 11. Then, she started running a fever. On Tuesday, a doctor diagnosed her with pneumonia and she had reduced oxygen levels. Now, Sullivan believes she could be one of the people who spread the virus when her symptoms were too mild to be taken seriously. She wants others to learn from her mistake and stay home, whether you have symptoms or not.

COVID-19 case confirmed in Collier facility” via the News Service of Florida — A resident of a long-term care facility in Collier County has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to data released by the state. That brought to 41 the number of people infected with the virus in nursing homes or assisted-living facilities. It also increased to eight the number of counties where the virus has been found in long-term care facilities. Citing patient privacy concerns, state regulators won’t release the names of the facilities or the number of facilities that have residents who are positive for COVID-19.

Ocala mayor helps local resident stranded in Peru” via Carlos Medina of the Ocala Star-Banner — Ellen Cecil struggles knowing that she made it out of Peru after a week stranded in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while thousands more are still stuck. On Saturday, the 65-year-old High Springs woman got on a charter flight out of Lima in part due to the efforts of Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn. “I feel really, really bad for those people that are still there,” Cecil said. Some reports state upwards of 5,000 Americans are still stranded in Peru.

Pensacola food truck owner gifts free meal to medical assistant struggling with lost wages” via Jake Newby of the Pensacola News Journal — A Pensacola woman struggling with her income didn’t have to struggle over dinner thanks to the kindheartedness of a local food truck owner. Miriah Franco dropped an innocent comment into the livestream post made by James Ganus, owner and operator of the Fresh Food Factory food truck. “I wasn’t looking for anything free … but I just kind of commented and said, ‘Money’s a little tight right now, but as soon as my next paycheck comes I’ll come by and show you some support.'” Ganus was playfully indignant in demanding Franco get down to the truck as soon as possible so he could give some free meals to her family.

Santa Rosa County infant under 1 is youngest case of coronavirus in Florida” via the Pensacola News Journal — The Santa Rosa child is the youngest person in Florida with the coronavirus. There also is a 2-year-old Santa Rosa boy whose case was reported on Wednesday. The infant was enrolled at the Seaside Child Development Center in Gulf Breeze. Staff immediately contacted the families who use the day care to alert them and to direct them to resources on what steps to take next.

Sarasota man who survived COVID-19 says ‘people should be careful’” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — It started on a Friday morning when Andrew Hall woke up and soon felt ill, “sort of a feverish spaciness” akin to coming down with the flu. That evening Hall was admitted to Sarasota Memorial Hospital and by Sunday he was one of the first people in Sarasota County diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Hall’s experience left him impressed with the work being done to care for coronavirus patients, while also protecting front-line health care workers. It also left him eager to warn people that the coronavirus is a serious threat.

Andrew Hall was treated at Sarasota Memorial Hospital for coronavirus. His wife is still struggling with COVID-19. Image via Andrew Hall.

Area higher-ed institutions establish relief funds for students” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Students at Florida State who are struggling to make ends meet could find some help from the FSU Foundation. The foundation has created two funds, one for students at the main campus and the second for students attending FSU Panama City. All money collected will go to FSU students and will cover a variety of needs from medical bills, rent, living expenses and technology to help distance learning. The Foundation has launched a webpage where donors can pick a fund and send their donation. The university also said proceeds from this year’s FSU’s Great Give, which is postponed until April 7, will be used to support the student emergency funds.

How a coronavirus rumo infected an entire town: Chattahoochee hospital plans rile residents” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — The little North Florida town of Chattahoochee, home of the state’s biggest public mental hospital, has been in an uproar since employees leaked word that the state was sending patients from contagious areas there by the van load. The state’s not doing that — though it might. A typewritten note slipped through the mail slot of Cindy Glass’s Around the Corner Flower Shop said all employees were told that all clients awaiting placement in a state mental health facility would be shipped to Florida State Hospital (FSH), whose sprawling campus dominates this town of 3,000 people. “I’m very upset,” Glass said. “This has been my home since 1989. This is something we know nothing about. And we have a governor telling people to keep people out, so why bring people clear across the state.

Eglin commander declares public health emergency” via Jim Thompson of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Eglin Air Force Base released the following announcement late Wednesday morning: Brig. Gen. Scott Cain, the 96th Test Wing commander, directs Health Protection Condition (HPCON) Charlie effective today to combat the spread of COVID-19 across the Department of the Air Force and our local communities. Cain also declares a Public Health Emergency. Like similar declarations throughout the state, this declaration gives the installation more authorities to deal with the COVID-19 situation, as well as access to resources to protect the base, community, and military mission. The increased health protection levels are aimed at the continued efforts to protect Team Eglin’s people, resources, and to preserve mission capability.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

Steven Mnuchin: U.S. to take stakes in airlines in exchange for grants” via Siobhan Hughes, Alison Sider, and Kate Davidson of The Wall Street Journal — Part of the U.S. $2 trillion stimulus package includes $50 billion in aid for airlines. $25 billion of that number will go to airlines in the form of loans with the other $25 billion going to airlines in the form of direct grants. In exchange for the direct grants, Mnuchin has said that the U.S. will take an equity stake of some sort in the airlines that receive the grants. Several airlines have already taken steps to reduce their footprint, such as through canceling flights, grounding airplanes, and offering temporary unpaid leave. Mnuchin insists that taxpayers will be protected from losses.

Steven Mnuchin says the U.S. could take a stake in airline companies.

Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Honda, Toyota seek to restart factories” via Tom Krisher of The Associated Press — Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Honda and Toyota took steps Thursday to restart North American factories that have been closed to protect workers from the coronavirus. All three Detroit automakers suspended production at U.S. factories a week ago under pressure from the United Auto Workers union, which had concerns about worker safety. The automakers’ moves in the U.S. come as new auto sales are expected to fall dramatically for the month of March. Edmunds.com expects March sales to fall nearly 36% from a year earlier. Plants would reopen in early or mid-April.

Amazon is struggling to pay workers in Quarantine” via Olga Khazan of The Atlantic — Where retail workers once might have received a set number of hours off, the crisis has raised complicated new questions about employee absences. While an asthmatic office worker can easily work from home, many retail and delivery workers with underlying health conditions make agonizing calculations about whether to risk their health or their income. This issue doesn’t appear to be an issue of intentional malpractice by companies, but rather a failure to catch up with the severity and frequency of COVID-19 cases, and to reconcile company policies with fast-changing state and federal guidance that affect the lives of workers and their families.

Insurers scramble to avoid 9/11 style coronavirus backlash” via Zachary Warmbrodt of POLITICO — Anger on Capitol Hill is growing over moves by insurers to deny claims filed by restaurants, retailers and other businesses that believe they have coverage to financially protect themselves from a major disruption like the one they’re now enduring. Insurance trade groups are weighing whether to propose a federal program that would direct funds to businesses disrupted by the pandemic. Insurance lobbyists have already been fighting off attempts at legislation that would have made policies retroactively cover the pandemic. Insurers and lawmakers are working on a plan that would be patterned after the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

NCAA slashes distribution by $375 million” via Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press — Canceling March Madness because of the coronavirus pandemic will cost the NCAA about $375 million that it would have distributed to 350 schools across the nation. Schools that compete in the wealthiest conferences, with billion-dollar television contracts fueled by major college football, might not notice much of a difference in the short term. Schools competing in mid-major conferences are preparing to make sacrifices. The NCAA said $50 million of the distribution will come from its reserve fund while a $270 million event cancellation insurance policy will help pay off the remaining distribution.

During coronavirus pandemic, child care facilities rate as ‘essential’” via Paul Guzzo of the Tampa Bay Times — Schools are temporarily shuttered throughout the state, as are dine-in restaurants, bars and beaches. Those suspensions have upended everyday life for Floridians but are deemed necessary to stop the spread of coronavirus. Still, day care centers remain open and that “creates a reservoir of potential infection,” said Jay Wolfson, the senior associate dean for health policy and practice at the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine. So why has DeSantis refused to close them? Because they are also considered necessary during the pandemic.

Desperate shoppers not desperate enough for odd foods on picked-over grocery shelves” via Mark Price of the Miami Herald — A lot of media attention has been focused on what people are hoarding amid the coronavirus pandemic, but social media is captivated by what we’re leaving behind. It’s admittedly funny when a supermarket is out of almost everything, but can’t give away pineapple pizza, chickpea pasta or anything with the word “corona” on it, like Corona beer. Social media is interpreting these shopping choices as an odd sign of hope: A way Americans are demonstrating that, despite living in desperate times, we’re still not desperate enough to eat a tofu hot dog.

Florida farmers continue food production during coronavirus outbreak” via Sandra Rodriguez of Fox 4 — Florida farmers are keeping fresh food in the supply chain during the Coronavirus outbreak. This is a business with no shortcuts — If farmers don’t work, we don’t have produce on our tables. U.S Sugar is a farming company that has been farming around Clewiston for nearly 90 years. “We’re the oldest and largest sugar cane farming and processing operation here, and we’re one of the largest vegetable producers in the area,” said Judy Sanchez, Senior Director of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs. Right now, farmworkers are playing a crucial role in our nation’s response to COVID-19. Sanchez says there’s been no shortage in demand since the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Brightline lays off 250 after it suspends South Florida service due to coronavirus” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — Virgin Trains USA, the parent company of the Brightline express train, confirmed it laid off 250 out of more than 300 South Florida workers this week after announcing it was suspending its South Florida service amid coronavirus concerns. The company said it hopes to rehire most of the workers once service resumes, but said it was too soon to say when that would be. The layoffs were not limited to local station and track workers: Among those laid off was Bob O’Malley, vice president of corporate development.

Hurt by coronavirus, Hertz implements furloughs, takes other steps to control costs” via Laura Layden of the Fort Myers News-Press — Hertz is hurting. Just as it appeared the Estero-based car rental giant had turned the corner on its ambitious turnaround plan, the coronavirus stopped the company in its tracks. Hertz Global Holdings, parent of The Hertz Corp., announced it is “aggressively managing costs and substantially reducing capital expenditures.” Like many other companies in the tourism industry, Hertz Global said it has been hit hard by the “significant, adverse impact on travel demand from the coronavirus.”

Tesla vows to make ventilators at Buffalo plant that got $750M state subsidy” via Joseph Spector of the Democrat & Chronicle — New York invested $750 million to help build a solar-panel plant in Buffalo. Now the plant might prove helpful in the fight against coronavirus. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company’s solar factory hopes to begin to make ventilators as soon as possible at the sprawling Riverbend plant that has struggled for years to meet the state’s lofty expectations. The decision in Buffalo comes after production at the solar plant has been temporarily shuttered because of New York’s ban last week on all nonessential businesses and services. New York state needs 30,000 ventilators to address a shortage.

— MORE CORONA —

Thousands are crowding into free national parks. And workers are terrified of coronavirus.” via Darryl Fears and Dino Grandoni of The Washington Post — Many national parks have remained open during the coronavirus epidemic. Instead of closing parks, the administration announced that park entrance fees would be waived so that Americans stuck at home could enjoy the outdoors. Some employees worried that the decision could expose them — and possibly their families — to infection from visitors. Park officials have temporarily closed or partially shut 100 of the 419 sites in the system, including the Statue of Liberty, Washington Monument, Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Yosemite. On Tuesday, three more were added to the list: Yellowstone, Grand Teton and the Great Smoky Mountains.

Mystery man leaves doctors, nurses in tears as he holds sign up to hospital window” via Jesse Gomez of the Morristown Daily Record — The unknown man stood outside the back window of the emergency department, placed his hand over his heart and held the poster sign that read: “Thank you all in emergency for saving my wife’s life I love you all.” Hospital staff did not recognize the man but were left in awe by his message. Health care staff across the world are working long hours to treat patients affected by the coronavirus global pandemic. Many emergency rooms are running out of supplies and have been asking for donations to cover unmet needs.

Don’t panic about shopping, getting delivery or accepting packages” via Joseph G. Allen in The Washington Post — A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine is making people think twice about how they might be exposed to COVID-19 if they open a box delivered by UPS, touch packages at the grocery store or accept food delivery. The risk is low. Let me explain. First, disease transmission from inanimate surfaces is real, so I don’t want to minimize that. It’s something we have known for a long time; as early as the 1500s, infected surfaces were thought of as “seeds of disease,” able to transfer disease from one person to another.

The power of Purell compels you!” via Monica Hesse and Dan Zak of The Washington Post — Imagine having enough Purell to cover not just your hands but your entire body, right now. Imagine covering your entire family. Imagine covering the entire country. What about the entire world? Just SQUIRT and disinfect every surface at once? Imagine there were moments that could, in the middle of this chaos, feel completely safe and clean. Purell. Not the only hand sanitizer out there, but the symbolic one. The brand name. The future museum artifact representing the spring of COVID-19. A clear liquid in a clear bottle in a clear glass box that a cyborg mother points out to her cyborg child: “See this? They used to rub this on themselves.”

The icon of the spring of COVID-19. Image via Washington Post.

Surging traffic is slowing down our internet” via Cecilia Kang, Davey Alba, and Adam Satariano of the New York Times — As a wave of stay-at-home orders rolled out across the United States, the average time it took to download videos, emails and documents increased as broadband speeds declined 4.9 percent from the previous week, according to Ookla, a broadband speed testing service. Median download speeds dropped 38 percent in San Jose, Calif., and 24 percent in New York, according to Broadband Now, a consumer broadband research site. Regulators have given wireless carriers access to more spectrum to bolster the capacity of their networks. Most video streaming services are reducing video quality to reduce bandwidth use.

Suddenly Nextdoor is filled with kind neighbors. But also new kinds of shaming.” via Heather Kelly of The Washington Post — The social network known for sniping neighbors and obsessive concern about package theft is finding its more helpful side. Nextdoor, a site for people who live in proximity to each other, is filling up with posts from neighbors who want to help. There are offers to go on grocery runs for seniors, people bartering for in-demand goods like toilet paper and fresh veggies, unsolicited advice on social distancing, and attempts to coordinate musical numbers. The company said there’d been an 80 percent increase in the number of people using the tool daily around the world in March, compared with the previous month.

Peeps production stops, but Easter is taken care of” via The Associated Press — The Just Born confections company said its production facilities in Bethlehem, PA and in Philadelphia closed Wednesday through April 7. The company says it had already produced and shipped the Easter supply of its signature marshmallow confection to outlets. Just Born says the popular Peeps & Company retail store in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, is also closed for now. The company also makes other candies, including Mike and Ikes and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews. Company officials say that inventories of those candies had been shipped prior to the production stoppage, but that they might be in short supply at some retailers.

— ONE GOOD THING —

As the German capital of Berlin locks down due to the coronavirus pandemic, nightclubs in the city are keeping the beat going — online.

Close since March 13 to help slow the spread of the virus, many of the city’s nightclubs formed a streaming platform to let DJs, musicians and artists continue performing.

Last week was the first livestream of the “United We Stream” project, broadcast from the stage at Watergate, a nightclub housed in a former office building by the river Spree in the city’s Kreuzberg district. Shows will come from different clubs between 7 p.m. and midnight.

DJ Monika Kruse performs a set as part of the ‘United We Stream’ event at the club Watergate in Berlin. Image via AP.

The free broadcasts offer a lifeline for many of those in quarantine.

The music “always makes me happy, so now I’m always in a good mood at home,” Stephan Langer told The Associated Press, adding, “I can close my eyes and dance and just feel free.”

It’s free to watch, but the Clubcomission, which represents the clubs that launched the project, is seeking donations to support the clubs and the performers.

So far, it seems to be working. People have not only tuned in but also opened their pocketbooks.

After the first weekend of streaming, produced by the TV channels ARTE and RBB, more than 270,000 euros ($292,000) had been raised.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Rick Scott critical of bailout plan for giving too much to jobless” via John Kennedy of the Gannett Capital Bureau — Scott, who ultimately supported the massive proposal expected to win House approval Friday, said the $600 weekly payouts to those losing their jobs would “disincentive people from returning to the workforce.” “When this crisis is over, we want everyone to go back into the workforce and we should not be creating a perverse incentive not to work,” Scott said in a statement, following the Senate vote. Labor representatives, who held a media call to discuss their campaign urging DeSantis to relax provisions of the state’s unemployment benefits law, condemned Scott’s stance.

Neal Dunn: ‘It’s getting better already’” via Jacqueline Bostick of the Panama City News Herald — The weeks ahead will be better — both medically and economically, according to Dunn, a Panama City Republican. “We started with a medical disaster, and now we’ve layered on top of that an economic potential disaster. So, we cannot continue this way too long,” Dunn said Wednesday. “There are two parts of recovery from it: No. 1, start the economy up and No. 2, make people believe that it actually is starting up, and we’re not going to be falling back into an epidemic.”

Neal Dunn says things are already getting better.

Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel press HHS for additional coronavirus testing supplies” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — U.S. Reps. Deutch and Frankel are pushing the federal government for additional supplies to help test Floridians for the COVID-19 virus. Deutch and Frankel authored a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar Thursday, noting the nearly 2,000 confirmed cases in the state as of Wednesday night. The number of confirmed cases has begun to rise in the state as testing capacity increases sharply. But health officials are still facing limitations in conducting those tests. “Unfortunately, efforts to expand testing capacity in the State have been hampered by shortages of testing supplies,” the letter reads.

D.C. was intentionally classified as a territory in virus-aid bill, lawmakers say” via Jenna Portnoy and Fenit Nirappil of The Washington Post — Sen. Chris Van Hollen said Thursday that the coronavirus relief package deliberately classified the District as a territory instead of a state, which means the city will get less than half of the funding it was expecting. The entirely urban nature of the District means the virus has a strong chance of spreading among residents living in row houses and apartments. D.C. officials and advocates, accustomed to being targeted over social issues such as guns, marijuana and abortion, said denying the District money to fight a public health crisis takes political gamesmanship to a new level.

Meanwhile …U.S. indicts Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro on narcoterrorism charges, offers reward for his capture” via Anthony Faiola and Matt Zapotosky of The Washington Post — The Trump administration unsealed sweeping indictments Thursday against Venezuelan President Maduro and members of his inner circle on narcoterrorism charges, a move that dramatically escalates U.S. efforts to force the authoritarian socialist from power. The United States also offered a $15 million bounty for information leading to Maduro’s capture and conviction. Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department had charged Maduro, along with a host of other current and former Venezuelan officials, with narcoterrorism, money laundering and drug trafficking. Barr and other U.S. officials outlined a detailed conspiracy headed by Maduro that effectively worked with Colombian guerrillas to transform Venezuela into a transshipment point for moving massive amounts of cocaine into the United States.

— STATEWIDE —

April state Cabinet meeting called off” via the News Service of Florida — DeSantis and state Cabinet members have called off a Cabinet meeting scheduled for April 7. “This decision was made in the interest of public health with consideration for staff, agency personnel, and the general public,” a notice published in the Florida Administrative Register said. “As we continue to monitor the situation facing our state, we will regularly reassess the appropriate dates for these meetings to resume, as well as work to ensure that critical operations of cabinet agencies are not interrupted” DeSantis and the Cabinet — Attorney General Ashley Moody, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — last met on Feb. 4. The next scheduled meeting is May 12.

Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet are taking a short break.

Former Jimmy Patronis chief of staff Ryan West to lead healthy kids program” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — West, who has no prior health care experience, will be the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation’s CEO. That agency offers subsidized health insurance through the Healthy Kids program for low- and moderate-income children aged five to 18. The corporation’s leadership has not yet decided West’s start date. Until November, West served as Patronis’ chief of staff. He resigned it was reported that he had launched a business with a lobbyist and onetime top aide to former Gov. Rick Scott. Peter Penrod replaced West in the CFO’s office.

Lawmakers boost prison education funding — for now” via Josh Salman and Ryan McKinnon of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Reforms to address inmate idleness and improve education at Florida’s overcrowded prisons could become the latest casualty of the coronavirus. Florida lawmakers approved a $93.2 billion budget last week that called for more than 14% increases to prison education in what some senators called the best deal for state inmates in decades. But legislators now fear the additional earmarks will become an easy target when they’re expected to reconvene for a special session this summer. At a time when prison reform is finally gaining modest momentum, spending priorities will likely shift to focus more on the virus and economic stimulus.

Coronavirus leads to locking up fewer people” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — In Hillsborough County, law enforcement officials last week released 164 nonviolent offenders. In Pinellas County, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the number of daily arrests had plummeted more than fourfold as deputies try to move to a citation-first approach. And in Leon County, whose crime rate ranks the highest in Florida, booking records a 60 percent drop from the same period during the last week of February. “People are not out as much anymore, and deputies are using more discretion in their enforcement activities … it is not always a physical arrest; there’s also tickets or citations,” Gualtieri, president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, said in a phone interview.

Citizens backs study on Florida property insurance market” via Jim Turner of The Dayton Beach News-Journal — Citizens Property Insurance Corp. will pay for a Florida State University study to determine how increasing rates in the private market can be slowed, as policies are expected to shift to the state-backed insurer of last resort in the coming year. The Citizens Board of Governors on Wednesday agreed to spend $265,695 for an “exposure reduction study” that is expected to be completed in December, ahead of the 2021 legislative session. Board member Carlos Lopez-Cantera, the former Lieutenant Governor, cast the lone vote against the study, recommending a delay, in part, to get a better understanding of how the COVID-19 outbreak will affect the real estate, bond and insurance markets.

Orlando airport, I-4, Virgin Trains construction progresses amid COVID-19” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — With the coronavirus outbreak stalling Central Florida’s economy and employment, three mega-construction jobs worth many billions of dollars are pausing only for safety briefings on how to avoid catching COVID-19. Work continues at Orlando International Airport’s expansion with a new terminal, the remake of Interstate 4 through Orlando, and the Virgin Trains extension from South Florida to the airport. Together, those projects are slated to cost more than $8 billion. They all have financing in place, are projected to reach a peak workforce of nearly 4,000 and will continue into 2022. “They are very busy, they have all the crews they need, and subcontractors are showing up,” said Stan Thornton, the airport’s chief operating officer.

Feds charge ex-aide to Miami mayor. He’s already been accused of groping, sending porn to teen.” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — Rene Pedrosa, the former Miami mayoral aide already accused of groping a teen boy at City Hall and sending him a lewd photo, is facing additional charges — this time in federal court. Federal prosecutors have charged Pedrosa, more than one month after he was first arrested by Miami police on state charges. Pedrosa appeared Thursday in South Florida federal court, and a judge ordered he be held without bond at Miami’s Federal Detention Center. Pedrosa’s defense attorney did not return a phone call seeking comment. A judge will consider a bond during a hearing on April 2. Pedrosa is being charged federally with production of child pornography, receipt of child pornography and coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity.

Judge dismisses ex-West Palm commissioner’s suit against political consultant” via Tony Doris of The Palm Beach Post — Former West Palm Beach City Commissioner Shanon Materio has lost her lawsuit against political consultant Rick Asnani over a campaign mailer she said defamed her. After losing a close race to Christina Lambert in 2018, Materio sued Asnani and affiliated companies, alleging they defamed her in a campaign mailer that accusing her of having an illegal homestead exemption on a Port St. Lucie county house where her parents lived. Circuit Court Judge Glenn Kelley ruled the flyer was protected under freedom of speech laws. He dismissed the case and reserved jurisdiction to award Asnani attorney’s fees.

Former West Palm Beach City Commissioner Shanon Materio lost her case against a political consultant who ran a ‘defamatory’ mailer. Image via the Palm Beach Post. 

Hurricane season 2020 expected to be above average, according to AccuWeather report” via Joe Mario Pedersen of the Orlando Sentinel — The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be another busy year after the already raucous 2019. The start of the season is only two months away but AccuWeather meteorologists released their predictions of an above-average year suggesting 14 to 18 tropical storms. An average hurricane season has about 12 named storms, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Wildlife officials concerned about 43-foot whale and her calf off the Florida Keys” via David Goodhue of the FLKeysNews — An endangered North Atlantic right whale, which officials say could be up to 43 feet long, has been spotted swimming with her calf in the shallow waters off the Florida Keys. The calf is estimated to be about 19 feet long, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Right whales come to the southeast to give birth, or calf, every winter, said Barb Zoodsma, right whale biologist for NOAA Fisheries. But, soon after, the baleen whales typically head back to New England to spend the spring, summer and fall feeding on plankton. But, this mom took her newborn south instead — although she now appears to be traveling in the right direction.

— 2020 —

Live from his basement, Joe Biden pushes for visibility as Democrats worry” via Matt Viser and Annie Linskey of The Washington Post — Since the coronavirus pandemic gained momentum, national attention left Biden in the Democratic primary and has been heavily focused on Trump and House and Senate leadership. Democrats urged Biden’s campaign to try to wrestle a place onstage to better compete with Trump, and abruptly Biden has begun to change course. Utilizing a new camera that was installed in his basement over the weekend, Biden sat for a round of television interviews that his advisers said were meant to open a new phase in which the former vice president will be far more visible to Americans as they navigate the nation’s twin health and economic crises.

>>>CNN is hosting a town hall with Biden on Friday night, who will appear from his home in Delaware, and Anderson Cooper will moderate. H/t to Politico Playbook.

Trump camp threatens local TV stations over Democratic ad” via the Associated Press — President Trump’s reelection campaign is threatening legal action against local TV stations in Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin if they don’t pull a Democratic anti-Trump commercial that uses clips of the president talking about the coronavirus outbreak. The campaign says the ad is false. Priorities USA Action Fund, the Democratic super political action committee that created the 30-second spot and supported Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, responded by soliciting financial contributions to keep the ad on the airwaves.

— MORE FROM THE TRAIL —

The end of door to door? Florida groups scramble to register voters amid COVID-19” via Bianca Padró Ocasio and David Smiley of the Miami Herald — With numerous stay-at-home orders and social distancing the new norm because of the coronavirus, voter registration organizations are having to change their tactics as they prepare for elections this November. Groups are training employees and volunteers digitally and are focusing on more robust vote-by-mail efforts and have even resorted to reaching out to potential voters by phone and text. Andrea Mercado, executive director of New Florida Majority, feels her organization has an advantage because of in-person efforts that took place before the coronavirus pandemic started. Republicans are leaning on a massive collection of voter data to help drive a new focus on digital outreach.

Judge warns state on felons voting fix” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle warned the state’s attorneys to come up with a process to determine whether felons have paid “legal financial obligations” as required by the law and whether those felons have the ability to pay the court-ordered fees and fines. He said that work needs to be done before an April 27 trial in the case — or else. “If the state is not going to fix it, I will,” Hinkle snapped during a telephone hearing Thursday afternoon. Hinkle issued a preliminary injunction in October and ruled that it is unconstitutional to deny the right to vote to felons who are “genuinely unable” to pay financial obligations. A panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Hinkle’s ruling, but DeSantis has requested what is known as an “en banc,” or full court, review.

Casey Askar releases first campaign video announcing Congressional candidacy” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Naples businessman Askar released a campaign video announcing his candidacy to succeed Rep. Francis Rooney. The video tells Askar’s personal story, from his family fleeing Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq to finding success in restaurant franchising in the U.S. “I’ll defend America with everything I have,” Askar says, “because I owe America everything I have. Our country is worth fighting for.” He’s one of nine Republicans in the race.

To view the video, click on the image below:

— TOP OPINION —

Local leaders are showing the way forward” via Jeb Bush with The Wall Street Journal — The coronavirus pandemic presents opportunities for the U.S. as a whole to become stronger and will result in dramatic changes in our society. During the crisis, we have seen local, county, and state officials demonstrate leadership by making tough and once unthinkable decisions in the name of public safety. We should see private-sector creativity use the situation to innovate and help us to become a more nimble society going forward, putting an end to slow and cumbersome approval processes for things like hospitals. Technology will likely play an even bigger role by seeing an expanded use of telehealth and online learning.

— OPINIONS —

I’m a priest, but I don’t think we should pack the churches on Easter” via the Rev. Mary Anne Dorner in the Tampa Bay Times — Trump has called for “packed churches … all over our country … on Easter!” For centuries, Easter has been the culmination of a three-day remembrance of Jesus’ death and resurrection. But this year, Trump is trying to turn it into a political rally. Open up the churches! Pack them with the elderly and the vulnerable! Have generations flee the safety of their homes to gather together to observe this holiday publicly. “It will be beautiful.” Unless, of course, those gathering in large families and/or houses of worship, where we are jammed around dinner tables or church pews, add to the community spread of the coronavirus. How did we get here?

The coronavirus isn’t Donald Trump’s Katrina. It’s his Vietnam.” via Francis Wilkinson of Bloomberg — Lyndon Baines Johnson may have misjudged Vietnam, but at least he was acting, in part, on behalf of what he perceived to be the national interest. Trump’s response to COVID-19 runs strictly on personal pathology. The failure to obtain basic equipment, including masks and ventilators, is akin to sending soldiers off to war without rifles. His initial falsehoods about the imminent spread of the virus, like his consistent inconsistency, reflects Trump’s perception of his self-interest as well as his lifelong recourse to make-believe. Trump lacks Johnson’s institutional knowledge or mastery of government. But Johnson’s weaknesses — ego, vanity, insecurity, selfishness — reappear in Trump at freakish levels.

Rick Scott’s legacy of sticking it to the unemployed lives on through coronavirus” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — One of the final holdups of the $2 trillion stimulus plan to help the U.S. weather the economic fallout from coronavirus was due to four Senators, including Scott, taking issue with the amount of increased unemployment benefits included in the bill. “ … when this crisis is over, we need people to get back in the workforce. We shouldn’t create the opposite incentive.” … Scott has a legacy with unemployment benefits, the largest of which is the requirement that unemployed people receiving benefits show proof they contact five employers per week.

Joe Henderson: Joe Biden attacked the wrong target in Ron DeSantis” via Florida Politics — “Floridians deserve science-based action from Gov. Ron DeSantis,” Biden said in a statement aimed at DeSantis’ reluctance to mandate a stay-in-place order throughout the state. That argument is fair game. Many critics say the Governor hasn’t been decisive in mandating tougher measures to deal with the virus. However, it would be worse if DeSantis were prohibiting Florida Mayors from taking that action in their cities. He has not. Two things stood out about Biden’s gambit. First, welcome back to the campaign trail. We’ve missed you. Beyond that, though, is the danger in going after DeSantis. That’s a risky business. DeSantis is the rare Republican who enjoys crossover support from Democrats.

Florida descends into coronavirus chaos” via Ryan Gorman for Florida Politics — Many states and nations are ordering all their residents to stay at home as the novel coronavirus spreads and upends the economy, health care, and countless lives. DeSantis, however, has not issued a similar statewide order for Florida. One of the reasons DeSantis has used to justify not implementing such an order is that the rest of the state is not seeing the same test results as South Florida is; however, there have been testing issues across the state, leaving those numbers less reliable. DeSantis, instead, is choosing to let local and county level authorities make shutdown decisions.

While the Governor fiddles, local governments like Orange County take charge in coronavirus fight” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — For years, the state government hasn’t trusted local government to make decisions about everything from trimming trees to regulating front-yard vegetable gardens. Now, at an urgent time when state government should be taking the lead on coronavirus, it’s leaving the most consequential decisions to local governments. Not ideal. This crisis should be managed and directed by the top, unlike tree-trimming. But Orange County and other local jurisdictions are increasingly stepping up to fill the vacuum. Orange County was the latest with an extraordinary executive action by Mayor Jerry Demings Tuesday, ordering the county’s 1.3 million residents to stay home for at least two weeks starting Thursday night. Osceola County did the same on Wednesday.

Nate Monroe: The part of life coronavirus hasn’t disrupted — gun violence” via The Florida Times-Union — When gunshots ring out in the night, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office patrol officers and detectives can’t work from home — or self-isolate. They must respond and conduct intensive, hands-on investigations. Some cities have experienced precipitous drops in crime the past several weeks as government officials ordered broad shutdowns of social life and the economy in response to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Not in Jacksonville — at least not yet. From March 14 through March 19 — six days — there were eight homicides in the city, according to a Times-Union database that tracks figures as the police report them. And while there hasn’t been a homicide since the 19th, it’s not for lack of trying.

Lawrence Keefe: Criminals should pay heed — in Northern Florida, law enforcers are very much on the job” via Florida Politics — We in law enforcement are seeing examples of scam artists and other lawbreakers who mistakenly think everyone is so distracted by the virus that they will enjoy a free ride on their criminal misdeeds. They will find out otherwise. An array of federal law enforcement agencies — including the U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI, DEA, ATF, HSI, U.S. Marshals Service, and more — remain hard at work with our partners at the state and local levels to uphold the sacred trust placed in us by the law-abiding citizens we are sworn to serve. Our Assistant United States Attorneys are at their posts. Our law enforcement partners remain on duty. Judges stand ready to hear vital law enforcement matters necessary to keep the public safe and secure.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

The human toll from COVID-19 continues to rise, with Florida’s latest casualty being a 67-year-old doctor from Broward County — which just issued orders for residents to stay at home — as well as two poll workers who dealt with voters during the state’s primary testing positive for coronavirus.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— If you haven’t paid your property taxes yet, you’ve got a little more time. Thanks to the coronavirus, the deadline is extended to April 15.

— DeSantis was on the phone with the White House again and had more to say about the President’s wish for us to get back to work by Easter. The Governor thinks some misinterpreted his remarks. But there’s no mistaking what author Stephen King thinks about DeSantis. The horror writer extraordinaire describes the governor as “not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.”

— With so many people now working at home, scammers have a whole new way to try to steal your information. Attorney General Moody offers tips to secure your system while you work remotely.

— There’s still a lot of business left from the Legislative Session, not least of which a signature on the new state budget. But DeSantis says everything else is on the back burner because they’re locked on coronavirus 24/7.

— Some good news for TECO customers; rates will be likely going down this summer thanks to a drop in the price of natural gas.

— Resident pollster and pundit Steve Vancore will stop by the studio, so he’ll be wearing a surgical mask the entire time. That should sound interesting.

— Checking in with the latest Florida Man stories: One left a humongous tip, while the other came up with a phony masturbation convention in Orlando.

To listen, click on the image below:

— LISTEN UP —

Dishonorable Mention: State Rep. Chris Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, Ernest Hooper and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics and culture. The hosts have a little social distancing fun and then discuss the current story of the U.S. Senators who sold large amounts of stocks ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic. How are they holding up the past week? Who is to blame for the Spring Breakers crowding Clearwater? They also talk about the new Buccaneer QB Tampa Tom Brady!

Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida: Life under coronavirus has been hard to adjust. It seems like every day some monumental change happens. In Florida, schools shut down first. Then bars and nightclubs. Then the Governor ordered restaurants and gyms to close. Then he ordered that quarantine rules for passengers coming from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, a region that has been a coronavirus hot spot. But the governor still has not gone as far as many Floridians would like.

REGULATED from hosts Christian Bax and Tony Glover: A discussion of a wild month of regulatory action resulting from the global COVID-19 crisis. Bax and Glover break down some of the unique challenges facing regulators and the regulated during this moment and share recommendations to keep isolated listeners active and entertained in the interim. Stay safe!

— WEEKEND TV —

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring political consultant Adam Goodman, who is an Edward R. Murrow Senior Fellow for Tufts University; independent journalist and Florida State University professor Diane Roberts; Donna Petersen, Dean of the USF Health College of Public Health and chair of the USF COVIS-19 Task Force.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: Is on hiatus due to coronavirus.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Is also on hiatus due to coronavirus.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with United Way of the Big Bend CEO Berneice Cox.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: A discussion of coronavirus, response, and planning in Northeast Florida, with Dr. Leon Haley, CEO at UF Health Jacksonville and dean of the University of Florida College of Medicine Jacksonville, and Dr. Sunil Joshi, president of the Duval County Medical Society Foundation. Also, a conversation about COVID-19 and its impact on elections/campaigns with Rick Mullaney, director of the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute Director and Moe Vela, a former senior adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg will discuss coronavirus with Congressman Ted Deutch and Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine.

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

Stephen Colbert, Desus & Mero, and more late-night hosts set TV returns” via Amanda Bell of TV Guide — The coronavirus pandemic sent most late-night talk shows (make that most shows, period) on temporary hiatus, but their hosts are finding ways to improvise — and some are returning with full episodes sooner than expected. Many began offering fans their daily takes on the latest headlines via at-home monologues and short videos, and now some, including Colbert and HBO’s John Oliver, will be returning to TV with full episodes filmed from their homes.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert sets CBS return amid coronavirus pandemic. Image via CBS.

Diner leaves $10k tip at Florida restaurant” via WFLA staff reports — As countless servers and other restaurant staff are seeing a dramatic decline in customers and, of course, tips, one customer at a Florida restaurant, Skillets, left a $10,000 tip. According to the restaurant owner, Ross Edlund, the man stated, “I want each person in this restaurant to get 500 dollars.” The restaurant manager then distributed the funds according to the customer’s wishes. The generous tip came the day before Ron DeSantis issued an order closing dining rooms across the state. Edlund says he knows the man who left the tip, but the gentleman wishes to remain anonymous.

Meghan to narrate Disney nature film in first post-royal job” via The Associated Press — Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, has her first post-royal job: narrating a Disney documentary about elephants. Disney announced Thursday that the duchess is lending her voice to “Elephant,” to be released April 3 on the Disney+ streaming service. It’s one of a series of animal- and nature-themed features released to mark Earth Month. The film follows an elephant family on a 1,000-mile journey across the Kalahari Desert.

Zebra, porcupine recently born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom” via the Associated Press — A female Hartmann’s Zebra foal was born early Saturday morning to first-time-mom Heidi, according to a Disney release. The baby zebra is nearly 65 pounds and was standing within 30 minutes of birth, park officials said. After several weeks of bonding, the mother and daughter will be introduced to the Kilimanjaro Safaris savanna. A female porcupette was born to mother Peri on Feb. 25, a release said. Porcupettes are covered in a fine red fur coat, officials said. They’re also born with tiny quills, which begin to harden hours after birth. The baby porcupine and her mother are staying at the park’s Conservation Station. Both babies were born as part of the Species Survival Plan program, which is overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

What James Blair is reading —Yes, Kate McKinnon is set to play ‘Tiger King’s’ Carole Baskin” via Yohana Desta of Vanity Fair — Fans of “Tiger King,” Netflix’s latest true-crime masterpiece, will soon have more Tiger King. Last fall McKinnon signed up to star in and executive produce a limited series based on the podcast “Joe Exotic,” about a polyamorous, big-cat wrangling, former presidential candidate. Like the Netflix docuseries, the podcast follows the life of Carole Baskin, an utterly beguiling, slightly malevolent big-cat enthusiast who wants to rid the U.S. of illegal big-cat zoos. The show currently does not have a network or streaming service, which means there is no certain launch date.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Today would have been Bob Levy‘s birthday. We miss you, my friend. Celebrating today are Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida and Joni James.

___

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter SchorschPhil AmmannA.G. GancarskiRenzo Downey and Drew Wilson.

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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