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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.30.20

Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

Good Monday morning. The days seem to be running together, don’t they? What is the difference, right now, between Friday and Saturday … between Sunday night and Monday morning?

And yet life must go on. That is why we start today’s Sunburn with two beacons of light.

Congratulations to Mike and Kristen Grissom, who were married Saturday night at a private ranch in Quincy, Florida. The couple had to cancel their original wedding plans because of the pandemic, but their love could not wait, so they had a very small affair. The officiant was Justin Thames. The bride wore a designer dress by Jesus Peiro of Spain, while the groom sported a custom suit from our friend Arron Gober.

Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Grissom!

Congratulations are also in order for two other good friends in The Process, Anna and Matt Farrar. Anna writes on Facebook, “In the midst of a global pandemic, Alexander Matthew Farrar made his arrival on Wednesday morning and made our world much, much sweeter. He timed his arrival for 7:14 a.m. Wednesday, weighing 7 lbs. and 14 oz, and he’s our little sweet pea.”

Welcome to the world, Alexander Matthew Farrar.

— EXECUTIVE SUMMARY —

— World Health Organization figures show the increase in new infections is now about 70,000 per day — up from about 50,000 just a few days ago. More than 32,000 people have died worldwide. Read more here.

— The U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert warned that the coronavirus outbreak could kill 100,000 to 200,000 Americans. Read more here.

— President Donald Trump, on Sunday, extended the voluntary national shutdown through April 30. Read more here.

— Italy reported more than 750 new deaths Sunday, bringing the country’s total to nearly 10,800 — vastly more than any other country. But the number of new infections showed signs of narrowing again. Read more here.

— TOP STORIES —

Donald Trump extends social distancing guidelines through the end of April” via Dan Goldberg of POLITICO — Trump, who had earlier said he could begin rolling back the guidelines as soon as this week, said the peak number of deaths is now likely to occur in two weeks, requiring the country to remain hunkered down through the end of next month. He said the country should be on the way to recovery by June 1. The President, who last week said he’d like to have the economy “raring to go by Easter,” said that target was only “aspirational.” “Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won,” Trump said at the daily White House Task Force briefing. “That would be the greatest loss of all.”

Donald Trump extends his Easter deadline by 30 days.

Trump beats a retreat on opening the country as coronavirus data, images show dark reality” via Phillip Rucker of The Washington Post — For six days straight, President Trump talked about reopening the country quickly. He wanted people filing into offices again, diners returning to restaurants and shoppers gathering at malls without fear of contagion. Trump mused about a reopening date of April 12, picking it arbitrarily because he thought it would be beautiful to see church pews packed with parishioners on Easter. Then he dug in, seeming to tune out the nearly unanimous assessment of public health experts and governors and mayors fighting to help save lives, which was that Easter would be far too soon because the worst still was yet to come. As the self-described wartime president saw things, the novel coronavirus was a ‘silent enemy’ and America was defeating it. What a difference a week makes.

“America’s Make-or-Break Week” via Ruth SimonEsther FungSuzanne Kapner and Heather Haddon of the Wall Street Journal — The bills are now coming due for big companies and millions of laid-off workers. Decisions made in the next few days will shape how coronavirus impacts the economy,” by Ruth Simon, Esther Fung, Suzanne Kapner and Heather Haddon: “Congress has passed a $2 trillion rescue plan but before those funds start to flow, American companies from the owner of a single liquor store in Boston to corporate giants like Macy’s Inc., must decide what to do about April’s bills: Which obligations do they pay and which can they put off? How many employees can they afford to keep on the payroll? Can they get a break on rent? The decisions they make this week could shape how deeply the economy is damaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

Florida coronavirus cases are growing fast. Here’s what that means.” via Kathleen McGrory and Adam Playford of the Tampa Bay Times — The number of cases is already past the point of easy containment and infections are growing faster and faster, at what statisticians call an exponential rate. Without dramatic steps, they worry that the epidemic will balloon across Florida and place an unprecedented strain on hospitals and health clinics. Thomas Hladish, a University of Florida research scientist who specializes in disease modeling, said that while epidemiologists might disagree on the nuances of their projections, they all agree on the main point. “We do understand the math and the models well enough to say with great confidence that Florida is going to have a huge public health crisis,” Hladish said. “And we are just at the beginning of it right now.”

Florida hospitals could quickly be overwhelmed by coronavirus cases, data shows” via Aric Chokey and Adelaide Chen of the Orlando Sentinel — The number of new cases continues to rise daily, but depending on where they show up in the state, hospitals may run out of open beds — or move out lower-priority patients occupying existing beds — to treat the growing pandemic in the Sunshine State. Researchers at the Harvard University Global Health Institute predict Florida’s hospitals will face bed shortages under various projected rates of spread, from six to 18 months. Even in the best-case scenario — 20% of Florida’s adults needing hospitalization over 18 months — hospitals would be close to 100% capacity. More than 500 people have already entered Florida hospitals, and the burden on the state’s health system could become dire if nothing is done.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@NPRinskeepSo far in 2020, we’ve had a near-war with Iran; a presidential impeachment trial; a string of presidential primaries; and a global pandemic that crashed the stock market and shut down the country and much of the world. Today is March 27 …”

@ScottGottliebMD: This week tragic reality on ground will overtake events. There are multiple epicenters of U.S. spread. We’ll grapple with national epidemic. April will be hard. We’ll get through it. Focus must be on slowing spread nationally, support health care system, build back in May.

@Jack: People need help immediately. The technology exists to get money to most people today (even to those without bank accounts). Square and many of our peers can get it done. US government: let us help.

@KevinMKruse: If all you care about are your TV ratings, remember that President Nixon attracted an estimated 110 million viewers for his resignation speech.

@fran_chambers: In response to my question about the National Strategic Stockpile, the president says the reason that Florida has had 100 percent of its requests for supplies fulfilled, is because the government there advocates for itself better than other states.

Tweet, tweet:

@DrKomanduri: I’m getting tired of saying it. #Florida needs to shut down now. @GovRonDeSantis you really need to do something before all hell breaks loose. It’s getting late in the game, but you can still act to save lives.

@FrankPallotta: I know everyone’s watching Tiger King, but I just wanted to point out that the film classics tab on Apple TV is chock full of incredible films from over the decades. Most classics are less than $5 to rent. Now would be a great time to get familiar with some of cinema’s best.

—@AoDespair: Contrary motherfuckers. Now you wanna watch the show about institutional drift and our inability to address actual problems? I suppose in 2028, when sea level reaches the Poconos, you’ll jump on the miniseries about our susceptibility to fascist demagogues.

@AlexAndradeFL: Guys, I’ve served for almost 2 years as a state representative, and the weirdest thing I just learned about my service is that Joe Exotic was a constituent of mine. #TheMoreYouKnow #HeyCoolCatsandKittens

@Fineout: Just wondering: With the end of the quarter here — Maybe now is not the time for the wave of auto-generated political fundraising emails

— DAYS UNTIL —

Quibi launches — 10; Third-season premiere of “Killing Eve” — 13; Easter — 13; Florida Schools reopen (maybe) — 16; First quarter campaign reports due — 19; Last day of federal candidate qualifying — 23; NFL Draft — 24; Restaurants set to reopen under DeSantis’ executive order — 39; Mother’s Day — 41; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 70; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 88; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 104; Federal taxes due — 107; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 109; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 141; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 147; First presidential debate in Indiana — 183; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 191; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 199; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 206; 2020 General Election — 218; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 232; “No Time to Die” premieres — 240.

— CORONA NATION —

After three coronavirus stimulus packages, Congress is already prepping Phase Four” via Jacob Schlesinger and Joshua Jamerson of The Wall Street Journal — Many expect the debate to begin in earnest by late April. “There’s talk of a multi-trillion-dollar program, given the size of the shutdown,” says Stephen Moore, a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “There’s a general recognition that we need something big to get some juice into the economy,” adds Moore, an outside economic consultant to the Trump administration and some congressional Republicans. The ideas include extending last week’s package to make the benefits last longer, as well as plugging in likely holes in the hastily assembled bill. One item cited by both Trump and Democratic leaders is a desire for more money to shore up state government budgets collapsing under lost tax revenues and new spending demands.

’This is war’: President’s equipment czar to useful powers to fight coronavirus” via Alex Leary of The Wall Street Journal — Peter Navarro, the Trump administration adviser chosen to oversee its wartime powers forcing private businesses into the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, said the full arsenal of federal measures are on the table, from raids on warehouses to compelling suppliers to retool factories. “The vast majority of this nation’s unprecedented industrial mobilization will come patriotically, voluntarily, organically and innovatively,” Navarro, who was appointed by Trump to take on the presidential task-force role of coordinating government-business cooperation to tackle the pandemic. But Navarro refused to rule out more stringent measures. “This is war,” he said. “When there are bumps in the road, Trump is going to knock them down immediately and unmercifully.”

‘This is war’: Peter Navarro is Donald Trump’s ‘equipment czar.’

For Dr. Deborah Birx, urging calm has come with heavy criticism” via Noah Weiland and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — Practically overnight, Birx has become a partisan Rorschach test. Conservative commentators have praised her as a truth-teller, pushing back on coronavirus hysteria. Critics of Trump accused her of squandering the credibility she had developed as a health official in Democratic and Republican administrations. Birx’s comments, especially those dismissing ventilator shortages, startled some health experts. While most hospitals might have sufficient supplies at the moment, many worry about a crush of patients very shortly. Birx has had to oscillate between occasionally competing forces on the task force, which features a set of doctors and scientists who have often registered skepticism with the White House’s attitude toward coronavirus policy.

Bill Gates: Entire country need to shut down for 6-10 weeks to effectively fight coronavirus” via Todd Bishop of GeekWire — Gates cautioned that “there is no middle ground” in the fight against the novel coronavirus, calling for a coordinated effort to effectively shut down normal life across the United States to stop the spread of COVID-19 and minimize the long-term economic impact. Gates has warned for years about the potential for an unchecked epidemic to result in as many as 10 million excess deaths. He said the US should conduct a widespread shutdown similar to that done in China. Gates acknowledged the “gigantic price” of shutting down the country and the economy, but said the alternative is worse.

As Trump declared coronavirus under control, local leaders faced confusion and chaos as cases piled up” via The Washington Post — As a mysterious respiratory illness tore through China and other countries in mid-January, Kyle Coleman, an emergency management coordinator in Texas, took inventory of his team’s personal protective gear at a warehouse in Bexar County. The next day, President Donald Trump, in an interview on CNBC, assured the public: “We have it totally under control.” But Coleman thought it was only a matter of time before it arrived in Bexar County, home to nearly 2 million residents, including those in the city of San Antonio.

Coronavirus threatens to overwhelm cities’ social safety net” via Douglas Belkin and Kate King of The Wall Street Journal — The economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus is testing America’s safety net, and the people holding it aloft are feeling the strain. In Seattle, among the first U.S. cities where the virus was detected, a flood of people have flocked to homeless shelters, slammed suicide hotlines and packed food pantries. People at the center of the rush say that the wave is only beginning to build and that already they are struggling to meet demand. “We have people entering the social safety net who have never used it before,” said Calls to Crisis Connections Director Allie Franklin. “What if this goes on for months?”

’It’s no different from New York’: Urban centers nationwide gird for catastrophic virus outbreak” via Isaac Stanley-Becker, Ariana Eunjung Cha and Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post — While it ravages New York and metastasizes throughout much of the Northeast, the coronavirus is also quickly bearing down on new hot spots, sending doctors and first responders scrambling to prepare for the onslaught. Still unable to conduct widespread testing, and fearful as the federal government fails to marshal critical supplies, officials in Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Milwaukee and Los Angeles are watching caseloads climb and taking extraordinary measures to prepare, all the while hoping that aggressive social-distancing measures might ward off the most dismal projections. The virus is spreading inland “following intense introductions into coastal areas,” said Joseph Eisenberg, professor and chair of the epidemiology department at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.

What it’s like for health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic” via Dakin Andone of CNN — A registered ICU nurse with the University of Chicago Medicine told CNN she’s scared about what the ICU could look like in another week. “The number of COVID patients we are getting is rapidly increasing every day, and all of us collectively worry about what will happen as it gets worse if this is where we are starting,” said the nurse. And she’s not the only one who’s afraid, she added. “When I was working on the COVID unit, some nurses did not want to eat or drink for 12 hours because they were scared to take off and put on the same PPE (personal protective equipment),” she said.

As they rush to save lives, health care workers are updating their own wills and funeral plans” via Rachel Siegel of The Washington Post — As health care professionals work to treat those infected with coronavirus, they face the concept of their own mortality. Healthcare workers in some areas come in contact with the coronavirus daily, and that means they could contract the disease. Though estate planning is a basic tenet of financial planning, such deeply personal and difficult decisions have taken on a painful urgency, especially as doctors brace for a surge in cases in the coming weeks. Healthcare workers are reviewing banking and retirement accounts, college funds, and are making sure their wills are up to date in case the worst should happen.

A lottery for ventilators? Hospitals prepare for ethical conundrums” via Joanne Kenen of POLITICO — In 2015, ethicists and religious leaders wrote New York’s guidelines for allocating ventilators in a pandemic and coalesced around the following principal: scarce resources should go to the person most likely to be saved. And when the number of patients that can be saved is more than the resources available, they decided a lottery is the fairest method of allocation. However, many states do not have guidelines at all. New York’s guidelines are not mandatory but offer a framework. In areas without guidelines, it’s possible the decision to put someone on a ventilator won’t be up to their own doctor.

Medical supplies are displayed before a news conference with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Image via AP.

As toll grows, a new worry: Morgue capacity and bodies as sources of infection” via Jada Yuan and Richard Morgan of The Washington Post — On Thursday, the death toll in the United States topped 1,000. In New York City, the total deaths reached 385, with over 85 people dying in the city that day and about 135 deaths across New York state. Nurses can’t perform usual palliative care and linger with dying patients because of scarce supplies and the need to avoid exposure. The state is worried enough to have asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help in setting up emergency morgues. Few autopsies are being performed, much to the frustration of pathologists around the country. Funeral homes are also being overwhelmed.

FDA issues emergency authorization of anti-malaria drug for coronavirus care” via Dan Diamond of POLITICO — The Food and Drug Administration on Sunday issued an emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, decades-old malaria drugs championed by President Donald Trump for coronavirus treatment despite scant evidence. The agency allowed for the drugs to be ‘donated to the Strategic National Stockpile to be distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with COVID-19, as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible,’ HHS said in a statement, announcing that Sandoz donated 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine to the stockpile and Bayer donated 1 million doses of chloroquine.

Coronavirus modelers factor in new public health risk: Accusations their work is a hoax” via William Wan and Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — In the one month since the first U.S. coronavirus death, America has become a country of uncertainty. New cases of infection and casualties continue multiplying. Much of the coming months and our country’s timeline depends on the peak of the coronavirus’s spread — its steepness, length and timing. One clear warning from the epidemiology of past pandemics is the danger of lifting restrictions — as Trump wants to do in two weeks — too soon. Lifting restrictions too soon means you get overwhelmed hospitals and drawn out sickness people were trying so hard to achieve with restrictions.

Counties without coronavirus are mostly rural, poor” via Morgan Lee and Nicky Forster of The Associated Press — As the coronavirus rages across the United States, mainly in large urban areas, more than a third of U.S. counties have yet to report a single positive test result for COVID-19 infections, an analysis by The Associated Press shows. Counties with zero positive tests for COVID-19 have a higher median age and higher proportion of people older than 60 and far fewer intensive care beds should they fall sick. Median household income is lower, too, potentially limiting health care options. Experts in infectious disease see an opportunity to slow the spread in areas of the country with “natural” social distancing … But they also worry that sporadic testing for coronavirus could be masking outbreaks that — left unattended — might overwhelm rural health networks.

Poll finds universal lifestyle changes, rising stress and growing fears about catching coronavirus” via Dan Blaz and Emily Guskin of The Washington Post — The spreading coronavirus pandemic has brought massive and sudden disruption to the daily lives of most Americans. Trump narrowly wins approval for his handling of the outbreak, but this may represent a rally effect, in which Americans grow more supportive of a president during a national crisis. Confidence in state governments and local hospitals and health agencies is higher than it is for the federal government when it comes to an effective coronavirus response. Stress levels appear to be higher today than they were during the Great Recession that followed the financial collapse of 2008.

In virus times, have Americans found a shared experience?” via Ted Anthony of The Associated Press — As an uneasy March unspooled, as coronavirus dread descended upon the United States, it became commonplace — and, for public figures, quite practical — to point out how, unlike most major events in the 21st century, this was an unusually communal moment. There is power and authority in invoking shared experience. Even while at odds, Americans crave shared experiences — an understandable yearning for a nation quilted together from an unlikely patchwork of backgrounds, traditions and beliefs. And shared adversity can unite people. But as it unfolds before us, this period actually has the increasingly rarest of things — a genuinely shared American experience, a touchpoint that touches all. In an age of fragmentation, what might that mean?

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Ron DeSantis purchases coronavirus drug touted by Trump, orders screening of New York-area drivers coming to Florida on I-95” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida hospitals will soon be receiving shipments of hydroxychloroquine, a drug Trump has called a possible treatment for the disease caused by the coronavirus, DeSantis said, after the state purchased the drug from an Israeli company. DeSantis also said there would be a new checkpoint for drivers coming from the New York City area into Florida via I-95. He ordered a checkpoint for Louisiana drivers coming into the Panhandle via I-10 since New Orleans was another “hot spot” for coronavirus cases. Drivers and plane passengers from those areas will be advised to self-isolate for at least 14 days while in Florida, and violations will be a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine and 60 days in jail.

Ron DeSantis is purchasing a controversial drug touted by Donald Trump to treat coronavirus.

Who’s to blame for Florida’s coronavirus problems? DeSantis points to other states.” via Allison Ross of the Tampa Bay Times — Public health specialists fretted about what would happen as partygoers returned to their homes across the country after spring break vacations. As Florida’s coronavirus numbers skyrocketed, DeSantis pointed the finger at other states for fueling the growing public health menace, singling out travelers from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Louisiana. DeSantis announced he was expanding that effort by having highway troopers stop drivers from Louisiana at different checkpoints and telling them to also self-isolate for 14 days. The orders came as DeSantis was criticized for resisting pleas from health care workers and others to issue a temporary statewide stay-at-home order.

Rep. Hakeen Jeffries rips DeSantis for blaming his COVID-19 mess on New York” via Tom Boggioni of Raw Story — Appearing on “AM Joy,” the New York Democrat hammered DeSantis, who is trying to isolate visitors from New York while trying to put the blame on them for his state’s exploding coronavirus caseload. The lawmaker discussed the problems Donald Trump caused when he hinted at a complete shutdown of New York’s borders that the president later walked back, as well his problems with DeSantis. “This is the same guy who allowed thousands of spring breakers to wildly party on Florida beaches for days, shameless.”

DeSantis suspends new vacation rentals amid coronavirus concerns” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis issued an executive order enacting a statewide ban on vacation rentals. Local jurisdictions had already implemented prohibitions, but the order means that Airbnb, VRBO, and other short-term rental providers are on ice. The order notes that “Florida is experiencing an increase in individuals fleeing to Florida from out-of-state locations where ‘shelter-in-place’ orders are being implemented and/or community spread exists.” From there, the claim is made that “many cases of COVID-19 in Florida have resulted from individuals coming into the State of Florida from international travel and other states, posing great risk to Florida residents.” Exempted from the ban: stays slated to begin no later than March 28.

Florida sets up second checkpoint to stop those fleeing coronavirus hotspots” via News Service of Florida — DeSantis announced the creation of an Interstate 95 checkpoint on Florida’s northern border to screen motorists traveling from the New York City area, in an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Saturday’s announcement came a day after DeSantis said he was setting up a similar checkpoint in Northwest Florida, targeting travelers from Louisiana. The I-95 checkpoint is an expansion of screenings already underway at certain Florida airports aimed at people coming from the tri-state area around New York City, one of the nation’s “hot spots” for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.

Times/Herald reporter barred from DeSantis’ news conference” via David Smiley of the Tampa Bay Times — Mary Ellen Klas, a Herald staff writer who works in the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau, said she was refused entry into the Capitol in Tallahassee to attend a news briefing by the Governor, Lt. Gov., Director of Emergency Management and state Surgeon General regarding COVID-19 testing, access to medicine and efforts to prevent New Yorkers from flying into the state. The reason for her exclusion, she was told by a governor’s spokeswoman: She had earlier requested social distancing. The governor’s office continues to hold briefings that run counter to the recommended 6-foot-rule that public health experts say is necessary for social distancing.

Broward juvenile justice center staffer tests positive for coronavirus. No new admissions allowed” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The agency said the employee was confirmed positive for COVID-19. The person has been out of work for five days and will not return “until a full recovery is documented by a medical professional. The agency said it is working with the Broward County unit of the Florida Department of health to “determine next steps for screening staff and the youth at the program.” As of Sunday morning, the agency said, all staff and youth at the program are asymptomatic. There are 27 people in the program, all of whom “are being continuously monitored and checked for flu-like symptoms.” Parents and guardians and have been notified, the agency said.

Daniel Uhlfelder expands beach closure lawsuit into call for safer-at-home order” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Santa Rosa Beach attorney Uhlfelder is now calling on DeSantis to issue a safer-at-home order statewide after filing a lawsuit this month to close all of Florida’s beaches to protect against the coronavirus. Uhlfelder doesn’t want the Governor to issue a complete lockdown, but argues he is constitutionally required to protect Floridians from COVID-19 instead of taking what Uhlfelder told Florida Politics was a “slow-paced death march.” … “DeSantis’s failure to use the Emergency Powers at his disposal and issue a statewide Beach Closure Order and Safer-at-Home Order is an existential threat to Floridians, many of whom are now more likely to contract this lethal disease than residents of other states,” according to the suit.

Social distancing applies to boats, too, FWC says in new order” via Josh Fiallo of the Tampa Bay Times — Social distancing is no longer for just those on land, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says. The government agency released an order on Friday, just in time for the weekend, that says all boaters must stay at least 50 feet apart while on the water, and that no recreational boat is allowed to have more than 10 people on board. Recent weekends have seen boaters taking to barrier islands and sandbars to have large group parties. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri also spoke about the order on Friday, saying the Sheriff’s Office will have patrols out making sure boaters are following the rules, especially those who go out to sand bars and islands.

Finding their resilience: Senior citizens adjust to life under quarantine” Lois K. Solomon of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that older adults, especially those with preexisting medical conditions, are at highest risk for contracting the virus and advises that seniors stay home, wash their hands frequently, disinfect surfaces and avoid travel and too much news-watching. As a result, seniors have to adapt and change behaviors to prevent and combat feelings of isolation. To maintain their spirits and morale, Francine Rubinstein, a psychologist with Rales Family Services, recommends that seniors venture outside for ten minutes, keep a schedule, call friends on the phone, and learn online games.

Declared as essential businesses, gun stores thrive as other businesses close down” via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Sales have been brisk for Florida’s gun shops since the coronavirus started its march across the U.S. Gun and ammunition supply stores were listed as “essential” when South Florida officials ordered businesses to shut down to slow the coronavirus spread. First-time gun buyers in Florida face another challenge brought on by the attack of the coronavirus. As of Monday, the state closed its offices that conduct fingerprinting necessary to get a concealed-carry gun license. After state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried suspended online and in-person licenses, the National Rifle Association called on law enforcement to ignore open-carry violations during the crisis.

Change in rules: State regulators now say yes to cocktails to go” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Yes, your to-go order from your favorite restaurant now can provide mixed drinks in sealed plastic cups to go. That also includes cans of beer or bottles of wine. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation has reversed an earlier rule and now allows the sale of cocktails and other mixed drinks. Under the coronavirus pandemic emergency, extraordinary actions have been ordered at local and statewide levels, with some rules changing on the fly. DeSantis‘executive order last week closed restaurants for dining in, but extended an authority they never had: to include alcoholic beverages in carry-out or delivery orders of food. However, DBPR guidelines initially banned mixed drinks.

USF may have an answer to coronavirus testing shortage: 3-D printed nasal swabs” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — To help combat the shortage of coronavirus testing kits, researchers at the University of South Florida have developed a 3-D printed nasal swab that’s just as good as the real thing. Testing swabs have been in short supply across the country, including in Tampa Bay, which has bogged down the ability to test potentially contagious people for coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease. Without the swabs, testing is impossible. Nasal swabs resemble Q-Tips, but are designed with medical grade fiber capable of collecting the right amount of material to run a proper test. USF researchers are confident that the 3-D printed swabs can and will be used in hospitals across the country very soon, but didn’t elaborate on a timeframe.

— HONORING PHYSICIANS —

When a health crisis upends our lives, the care of a trusted physician is valuable beyond measure. The past few weeks brought this fact into sharp focus as communities worldwide began grappling with the frightening COVID-19 pandemic. And in each of those communities, countless physicians are continuing to put themselves at risk without hesitation to save lives, provide testing, and reassure vulnerable patients. National Doctors’ Day is today, and there is no better time for all of us to say, “Thank you.”

In my work as a medical association executive for more than 27 years, I’ve had the opportunity to not only collaborate with hundreds of physicians in advocating for patients, but also to get to know them as people: parents, little league soccer coaches, musicians, philanthropists, veterans, mission volunteers. What they all share, regardless of background, specialty, practice setting or generation, is an unwavering dedication to patient care.

They comfort distraught family members in hospital rooms and help them navigate the next steps. They send flowers to cancer patients who are recovering from surgery. They make sure they’re in the operating room as their patients are undergoing anesthesia to be a comforting presence. They do so quietly and without fanfare, all while carrying the enormous responsibility that comes with being a physician, to say nothing of the mounting administrative, bureaucratic pressures.

This Doctors’ Day, the Florida Medical Association pays special tribute to our state’s physicians — people who do the extraordinary every day on behalf of Floridians and simply call it doing their jobs. Thank you for your compassion, commitment, and unfailing leadership all year long.

Tim Stapleton is CEO of the Florida Medical Association.

— CORONA LOCAL —

Mount Sinai Hospital leaders holed up in Florida vacation homes during coronavirus crisis” via Melissa Klein and Beth Landman of the New York Post — Dr. Kenneth Davis, 72, the CEO of the Mount Sinai Health System, is ensconced in his waterfront mansion near Palm Beach. Davis has been in the Sunshine State for weeks and is joined by Dr. Arthur Klein, 72, president of the Mount Sinai Health Network, who owns an oceanfront condo in Palm Beach. As the duo work from “home,” the Upper East Side-based hospital system seems to be imploding. The head of the New York State Nurses Association blasted the ghost leaders. “How can you inspire confidence in your employees who are in the front lines of the epicenter that you have their best interests at heart when you are 1,000 miles away?” said Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, the union president.

Kenneth Davis, CEO of New York’s Mount Sinai Health System, is waiting out the coronavirus crisis in his waterfront mansion near Palm Beach.

Jacksonville to set limits on free coronavirus testing” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — Jacksonville officials are putting a daily limit on the number of people who can get free testing for the coronavirus as the number of those infected continues to tick upward. The number of Duval County cases of COVID-19 increased from 115 to 128 overnight, according to the Florida Department of Health. But demands to get tested for the virus have also increased so much that Sunday, the city placed a daily cap on the number of people who can get free tests at a TIAA Bank Field parking lot. “The [Jacksonville} Department of Health and Human Services has limited tests at this site to 250 a day,” the city’s announcement said. It also advised residents to come back Monday for testing if they didn’t make the cut on Sunday.

Lenny Curry says state to make $10M available for virus response” via Clayton Freeman of the Florida Times-Union — Curry announced on Twitter that the city is expecting to receive $10.9 million from the state of Florida toward coronavirus relief. The funds, Curry said, are classified as “expedited reimbursements from past disasters.” Curry said the money would be available for immediate use. He did not further specify particular programs for the funds. In all, Florida Department of Health records show 120 positive COVID-19 tests within Duval County, including three deaths.

’Why don’t you have a mask?’ Miami-Dade government carries on during coronavirus crisis” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — The largest local government in Florida faces its steepest challenge ever in trying to keep its workforce healthy as a virus sweeps through the Miami-Dade population and faces global competition for the supplies needed to protect workers. The head of social services said there should be plenty of masks for home-care workers next week thanks to a recent delivery. Most county services remain available, even as Miami-Dade is losing workers to quarantine and facing daunting challenges in how employees do their work. Late Tuesday, Miami-Dade shut down its entire permitting building and shifted paperwork online after multiple employees tested positive for COVID-19. It also told the more than 400 county workers inside the building to self-isolate for 14 days.

Miami-Dade’s first coronavirus death, a 40-year-old man: ‘He fought to the end” via Devoun Cetoute, Martin Vassolo, Mario J. Pentón and Ana Claudia Chacin of the Miami Herald — Israel Carrera, 40, who lived in North Miami with his husband, Christian López, died on Thursday. “Israel died this Thursday at Mount Sinai. He fought to the end. He was a very good and helpful man, ” López said. Israel attended an LGBTQ festival in Miami Beach in early March, where several attendees have tested positive for COVID-19. López said it is a mistake to assume that Carrera was infected with the coronavirus at the Winter Festival. He could have caught it at the grocery store or from one of his Uber or Lyft passengers. López said there would be no funeral.

Miami VA hospital employees are being told to wear, reuse one surgical mask per week” via Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — Administration officials at the Miami VA told employees to check out a surgical mask and return it at the end of each week to receive a new one. A spokesperson for the facility said it applied only to employees who are not dealing directly with patients suspected of having COVID-19. Spokesman Shane Suzuki said the guidance was issued out of “an abundance of caution.” “Staff who need replacement masks are instructed to contact their supervisor,” Suzuki said. A report by the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General found that the Bruce W. Carter Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Miami had “inadequate supplies” of N95 masks, air-purifying respirators, gloves, gowns, as well as face and eye protection.

Miami man said unproven drug helped him beat COVID-19. Pro-Trump media gave him star treatment” via Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald — Life took a surprising turn for Miami Shores resident Rio Giardinieri after he says he almost died of a case of COVID-19. He’s been interviewed on Fox News wearing a hospital gown, and broadcasting from what he believes was nearly his deathbed. News outlets across the country have run stories on his recovery. Earlier this week, Trump even tweeted a New York Post article about him. The reason? Life took a surprising turn for Miami Shores resident Rio Giardinieri after he says he almost died of a case of COVID-19. Giardinieri says he was cured after being prescribed the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which Trump has touted as a “game-changer” when used with antibiotics to fight the coronavirus.

Miami Shores resident Rio Giardinieri is touting a malaria drug as a ‘miracle cure’ for COVID-19.

Holland America cruise ship gets initial OK but still waiting to head to Fort Lauderdale” via Lisa Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A Holland America cruise ship, carrying four bodies and scores of patients with coronavirus-like symptoms, has been permitted to cross the Panama Canal, allowing them to continue their journey toward Fort Lauderdale, according to passengers on the ship who said the captain made the announcement on the intercom. The captain read a statement from Holland America that preliminary approval for clearance has been given for two ships but warned passengers it was a “fluid and moving target, and it’s not a done deal until both ships are in the canal,” said Valerie Myntti, a Minnesota resident who owns a house in Boca Raton.

PBC drive-thru testing to open Tuesday by appointment only” via Kimberly Miller of The Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County will open a new coronavirus drive-thru testing site Tuesday with screening for appointments beginning Monday at 8 a.m. The site will be at the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, 5444 Haverhill Road in West Palm Beach. People of any age suffering symptoms of coronavirus, such as a fever and cough, can call the Palm Beach County Health Care District at 561-642-1000 to set up an appointment.

Construction adding insult to illness, longtime Boynton restaurant owner says” via Emily Sullivan of The Palm Beach Post — Takeout and delivery revenues have for decades been a foundation for Josie’s Ristorante, which is still accepting orders as coronavirus’ global spread brings bleak outlooks for local businesses. But owner Stephanie Setticasi says construction there, which is ripping up and blocking off parking spaces with equipment, is making it nearly impossible in a time that already is precarious. A temporary lot and chain-link-fenced pathway are erected, but “a lot of customers don’t want to come in,” Setticasi said. “It just feels like we’re down right now and they’re kicking us.”

Coronavirus spreading in The Villages” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO — At least five residents from The Villages have contracted the coronavirus through community spread or close contact with someone else who had the virus, according to the Florida Department of Health in Sumter County. At least 16 of the 29 residents who tested positive had contracted the virus while traveling, and another eight residents remained under investigation. The Villages last week became one of the first locations in the state to receive a 250-bed mobile hospital from the Florida Division of Emergency Services. Megan McCarthy, DOH Sumter County spokesperson, said The Villages had closed facilities and outdoor squares where residents typically congregate for events.

— MORE LOCAL —

Waiting on test results? It’s taking 8 days or more to process coronavirus cases in Tampa Bay” via Caitlin Johnston of the Tampa Bay Times — Coronavirus test results are taking eight days or longer to be processed. A couple of test providers have wait times of 10 to 14 days. Such wait times leave those who have been tested in limbo for prolonged time periods. Providers have been quick to share the number of people they’ve tested, but information on how many of those tests have been processed is harder to come by. Lisa Keils, who was tested March 19, is still waiting for results and has been quarantined in her bedroom, unable to leave. “I’m pissed off. I want to get out of my bedroom, but I don’t want to go around my mom. Mostly, I just want to know.”

Tampa sets up tent city so homeless can shelter in place” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — Across Hillsborough County, families are hunkering down at home, hoping their isolation will keep them safe from the coronavirus. That isn’t an option for the county’s homeless. With a county-wide order for people to stay indoors now in effect, the city of Tampa is establishing a tent city that will allow up to 100 homeless people to shelter in place. The city will pay Catholic Charities Diocese of St. Petersburg $120,000 to run a temporary homeless camp for the next 30 days. One hundred tents have been pitched and fenced-off on a site that will also include mobile shower trailers, a mobile laundromat and six portable toilets. Its residents will get three meals a day and, if needed, medical treatment.

Hurricane Michael helped BDS prepare for COVID-19” via Tony Mixon of the Panama City News Herald — Oprah Winfrey once said, “Turn your wounds into wisdom,” and apparently that is what Bay District Schools did between Hurricane Michael and the COVID-19 pandemic. Hurricane Michael struck Bay County on Oct. 10, 2018 and ravaged the area, displacing families and causing damage to residents’ mental health. Now with COVID-19, generally known as coronavirus, BDS learned from Michael to be flexible. “The hurricane taught us we can definitely survive starting school over during the school year and we learned that we can do school in places that we hadn’t considered before,” said Bill Husfelt, Bay District Schools superintendent. “I think the hurricane taught us to be flexible, creative and most of all patient.”

Lee County has highest mortality rate among Florida counties with 100-plus COVID-19 cases” via Michael Braun of the Fort Myers News-Press — There are eight Florida counties with 100 or more confirmed novel coronavirus cases. Of those counties, Lee has the highest mortality rate, with six deaths out of 124 COVID-19 cases (4.8%). Palm Beach also has six deaths, but it has 333 confirmed cases for a mortality rate of 1.8%. Broward leads all Florida counties with 11 COVID-19 deaths but with 838 positive cases, its mortality rate is just 1.3%. Dade leads all Florida counties with 1,192 cases. The other counties with at least 100 cases are Orange (246), Hillsborough (218), Duval (125) and Pinellas (113). Of those eight counties, Lee also has had the fewest total number of people tested — 1,391 according to the DOH’s latest report.

Lee County Commission to discuss COVID-19 response after six virus-related deaths” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Lee County commissioners will discuss the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic at a special meeting on March 30. But it’s unclear if they will take up a stay at home order, as Lee Health officials desire. That’s after six individuals in Lee County died from COVID-19, with three of those deaths reported in as many days. Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass said a stay at home order doesn’t make sense to him. That’s not least because the order drafted by county attorneys in line with similar measures around the state has an extraordinary number of exemptions for “essential businesses.” The order allows golf courses and construction businesses to remain open, for example.

Conrad Buchanan, a 39-year-old Lee County man who died from Coronavirus, with wife Nicole and daughter Skye.
Photo courtesy GoFundMe.

Florida sheriff: Man coughs on deputy, says he has virus” via The Associated Press — A Florida man is facing charges that he threatened and assaulted an officer after he coughed on a deputy and said he had the coronavirus, according to authorities. The Martin County Sheriff’s Office said Christian Perez, 23, was initially stopped for reckless driving when he claimed to have the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Sheriff William Snyder said such behavior would not be tolerated. The sheriff’s statement said a deputy gave the man a protective mask to cover his mouth. The man at one point removed the mask, and began intentionally coughing toward the officer, who put the mask back on Perez’s mouth to reduce the risk of infection, according to the statement.

Four Tallahassee doctors reflect on local coronavirus fight before the expected ‘surge’” via Nada Hassanein and TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — As a historic pandemic sweeps through the nation along with orders to stay home to stay well, doctors and other health care workers put on their white coats and their scrubs — and they head to work. The professionals knew what they signed up for when they took the treasured Hippocratic oath. And the novel coronavirus has called them to put that care-taking promise into the ultimate practice during a time when it’s never been more essential.

Coronavirus and education: Monday will be the second ‘first day of school’” via Rocky Hanna for the Tallahassee Democrat — Over the past two weeks, LCS staff worked tirelessly to develop a two-phased, distance learning academic plan for the final quarter of the school year. We have turned on a dime to flip a large school system — based on brick and mortar, with direct instruction — to one using distance learning tools. It has been a challenge, to say the least, but a challenge we can overcome with flexibility, compassion, grace and patience. This week will look very different for both teachers and students. Students must re-engage academically. Monday we are passing the baton back to our school principals. They are prepared for moments like this and are ready to lead, beginning with Phase I.

Amid coronavirus crisis, FAMU orders students out of residence halls, issues refund policy” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida A&M University said it is closing on-campus housing to students in 10 days, unless they meet certain requirements and have no immediate housing options. Students considered higher risk of contracting the coronavirus will be allowed to remain. Those granted permission to remain on campus may need to relocate from their current room to another building or area of campus later in the semester. Refunds will initially appear as credits on the student’s iRattler account by April 20. Students were urged to establish an electronic direct deposit account for a quicker deposit.

Seminole boosters look to strengthen relationships as coronavirus disrupts daily routine” via Jim Henry of the Tallahassee Democrat — Seminole Boosters, Inc., has had to rethink its strategies and the way it works due to the worldwide coronavirus outbreak. Despite working remotely, staff members are making hundreds of telephone calls daily and connecting through technology to strengthen relationships with boosters and identify new clients. The organization is also working on delivering interactive programming and video conferencing with coaches and student-athletes to boosters and donors to keep them engaged and involved in FSU. To help boost business and serve boosters and membership, it wants to offer takeout and delivery services from auxiliary operations such as the University Center Club, the Dunlap Champions Club and 51 on Madison.

St. Johns County family rushed to get parents home to die, a day apart” via Matt Soergel of The Florida Times-Union — Charles R. Redlinger and Bonnie Redlinger were married 63 years and died a day apart last week in the Palm Valley home of one of their daughters, Sandy Antonopoulos. They did not die from the effects of the coronavirus, but the pandemic was a source of stress and urgency for their children, who, as their parents’ health failed, quickly transferred them from a memory-care facility, just as it went under lockdown. Antonopoulos wrote a letter describing her parents’ last days, and their funeral will only be attended by four people because of coronavirus restrictions on the number of people who may attend a funeral.

Bryan Lober, upset with Commissioners over Brevard beach closure, all but suspends policy group” via Dave Berman of FLORIDA TODAY — Brevard County Commission Chairman Lober reiterated his strong disagreement with fellow Commissioners’ opposition to a partial closing of the county’s beaches — saying he hoped their actions to keep beaches open did not result on more people getting sick. In a sharply worded Facebook post, Lober accused the other Commissioners of neutering the special Policy Group that is supposed to be making decisions about how to handle the crisis, and had initially backed the partial closures. As a result, Lober said he was, in effect, suspending meetings of the 10-member panel, barring an “unexpected, immediate, life-threatening emergency beyond the fully anticipated increasing numbers of positive COVID-19 tests.”

Brevard Commissioner Bryan Lober is unhappy with his fellow Commissioners over the half measure of a coronavirus response.

Citing coronavirus, Internet satellite company OneWeb files for bankruptcy” via Emre Kelly of Florida Today — OneWeb, the parent company of an organization that manufactures internet-beaming satellites, filed for bankruptcy, citing the coronavirus pandemic as a significant driver behind the decision. In a release, OneWeb said it filed for Chapter 11 relief in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York and hoped to sell its business “in order to maximize the value of the company.” “It is with a very heavy heart that we have been forced to reduce our workforce and enter the Chapter 11 process,” OneWeb CEO Adrian Steckel said in a statement, confirming COVID-19 as the main reason. “The company’s remaining employees are focused on responsibly managing our nascent constellation and working with the court and investors.”

Ponte Vedra-based company busy disinfecting during pandemic” via Dan Scanlan of the Florida Times-Union — People “started getting serious” about disinfecting their offices and homes to kill the coronavirus about three weeks ago, meaning more people wanted what Ponte Vedra Beach’s AIT Environmental Technology offers, company President Jim Thomas admits. Now his 10 teams of employees are sanitizing lots of places in their protective suits with alcohol-based spray disinfectant that kills all things microbial, he said. It’s “all hands on deck” for customers that last week included the 21,000-square-foot Marsh Landing Country Club. “This is an added measure obviously connected with everybody social distancing and wiping and spraying and washing hands,” Thomas said. ” … A wipe-down doesn’t catch it all, but foggers do.”

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

We can safely restart the economy in June. Here’s how.” via Ezekiel Emanuel for The New York Times — Stop the virus. A nationwide shelter-in-place or quarantine should take place for the next eight to 10 weeks. Hard as it would be, everybody but essential workers would have to remain inside until roughly June 1. Make reasonable exceptions. Counties with few cases of COVID-19 and the ability to test and trace infected people’s contacts, normal life could go on as long as people believed to be infected are quarantined, and those who are known to be infected are rapidly isolated. Mobilize public health resources. Begin a mass education program for Americans to wash their hands, keep six feet away from other people, and stay indoors as much as possible. Create a COVID-19 certification system. Open the economy more fully.

90% fewer passengers are flying than last year because of coronavirus” via Curtis Tate of USA TODAY — Transportation Security Administration airport checkpoint numbers show the number of airline passengers fell below 200,000 on Friday and Saturday as a result of the coronavirus. Only 184,027 people passed through TSA checkpoints on Saturday, and 199,644 on Friday. On the same two days last year, 2.1 million and 2.5 million people respectively passed through TSA checkpoints. Fewer than 2 million passengers a day have flown since March 9, and 1 million a day since March 17. That figure has stayed below 500,000 since March 22. Airlines have sharply curtailed their schedules as coronavirus has swept the globe. Domestic carriers have cut their flights by 70% to 90%.

Coronavirus pandemic compels historic labor shift” via Ruth Bender and Matthew Dalton of The Wall Street Journal — The coronavirus pandemic is forcing the fastest reallocation of labor since World War II, with companies and governments mobilizing an army of idled workers into new activities that are urgently needed. Around the world, former hotel, restaurant and airline staff are moving to grocers, online retailers and hospitals as parts of the economy are shuttered to prevent the spread of the disease — and essential goods and services are strained. Becky Frankiewicz, president of ManpowerGroup North America, a staffing company, said the workforce shifts were shaping up to be the largest her company had seen since it was founded in 1948. “Tens of thousands of jobs open up overnight,” she said. “We have to move within hours.”

After coronavirus, we will have to reckon with the debt” via James Mackintosh of The Wall Street Journal — Moral hazard is dead. Central banks have printed record amounts of money to save financiers and allow indebted governments to keep spending. Inflation is inevitable. If all that sounds familiar, it’s because those were the views of buyers of gold and other inflation protection in 2009. They were wrong then, but they’re at it again — and this time they might be right. Consider Ruffer, a bearish British investment house. It has been warning for a long time that the monetary regime that has held for decades was coming to an end, and thinks the coronavirus crisis means its time finally has come. “Inflation and deflation are not opposites,” says Alex Lennard, investment director at Ruffer. “You can emerge from quite deflationary environments into very rapid inflation.”

After many businesses closed for coronavirus, we will all have to pay the pipe, eventually. Image via AP.

Bank of America fields 150,000 payment deferral requests, but some customers call mortgage relief ‘misleading’” via Megan Leonhardt of CNBC — Bank of America has two different types of mortgage tracks and the relief scenarios vary for each. For clients with loans owned by the bank, Bank of America is offering a month-to-month payment deferral, and those postponed payments can be added to the end of the loan. If customers with Bank of America-owned loans continue to face hardship after one month, they can call again and extend for another month, and so on. But like most other lenders, Bank of America says it also services loans that are owned by outside investors, including Federal Housing Administration mortgage insurance-backed loans. For those loans, Bank of America says it will follow the investor guidelines, which currently allow three months of forbearance.

Cruise stocks sink after missing out on economic-relief bill” via David Koenig and Kevin Freking of The Associated Press — Shares of cruise lines have taken on more water after the industry’s major players were shut out from government assistance. The bill passed by Congress says companies getting loans or loan guarantees must be “organized” in the U.S. under American laws. Most cruise lines are registered in other countries, not the United States. Cruise lines could still get a lifeline from taxpayers. Lawmakers could reconsider aid if it looks like the industry is in serious jeopardy of going under. Trump indicated that he was open to including the cruise industry in future economic aid stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Great American Migration of 2020: On the move to escape the coronavirus” via Marc Fisher, Paul Schwartzman and Ben Weissenbach of The Washington Post — Even as most people stay close to home in this deeply disruptive time, millions have been on the move, a mass migration that looks urgent and temporary but might contain the seeds of a wholesale shift in where and how Americans live. Places far from densely packed cities are drawing people eager to escape from infection hot spots. But virus fugitives often are running into fierce opposition on their routes, including Florida’s effort to block New Yorkers from joining their relatives in the Sunshine State, a police checkpoint keeping outsiders from entering the Florida Keys, and several coastal islands closing bridges to try to keep the coronavirus at bay.

For the class of 2020, a job-eating virus recalls the Great Recession” via David Yaffe-Bellany and Jaclyn Peiser of The New York Times — As the economy barrels toward a recession, college seniors fear they could become the next class of 2009, which entered the workforce at the peak of the Great Recession as companies conducted mass layoffs and froze hiring. The hiring situation will probably get worse over the next few months, as closures and cancellations ripple across the economy. A severe downturn could also jeopardize the career prospects of students who graduate later this year or in 2021. Historically, college students who graduate into a recession have settled for lower-paying jobs at less prestigious companies than people who finished college even a year earlier.

Publix offering rent assistance to tenants in its shopping centers” via Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times — Publix is offering rent relief to its tenants who have closed their businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Lakeland-based grocer is waiving rent for two months to businesses that operate in shopping centers that Publix owns, according to a news release. Publix is also waiving maintenance fees and taxes, regardless of the tenant’s access to other relief.

Instacart’s gig workers are planning a massive, nationwide strike” via Lauren Kaori Gurley of VICE — Instacart shoppers are planning a nationwide mass revolt over the grocery delivery app’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, workers say they will refuse to accept orders until Instacart provides hazard pay of an additional $5 an order, free safety gear (hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and soap) to workers, and expands its paid sick leave to include workers with preexisting conditions who have been advised by their doctors not to work at this time. Workers say the strike will last until Instacart agrees to these terms. In a blog post Friday morning, Instacart announced several “new features and offerings” to address COVID-19, which address none of the gig workers’ demands.

‘Our QuarBNB’: How short-term rentals are being used for self-quarantines during the coronavirus outbreak” via Hannah Sampson of The Washington Post — The last several weeks have been devastating for the entire travel industry, as hotels have seen bookings plummet, airlines have slashed flights, and cruise lines have stopped sailing worldwide. Airbnb is no exception. However, Airbnb is seeing an increase in reservations in remote areas that are easily accessed by a city. People are making Airbnb reservations to escape areas that have larger numbers of coronavirus cases and are using them to self-quarantine away from their families. Some renters are bringing their own supplies to limit outside contact during their stay.

Not remotely possible — some bosses hesitate to let virus worriers work from home” via Tony Doris of The Palm Beach Post — It’s like the old, if-a-tree falls-in the-woods-and-no-one-sees-it… question: If an employee works from home, how do you know she’s working? Equally challenging: Even if an employer trusts employees, can a city or company perform vital functions with a significant portion of its workforce out of hand? As coronavirus fear grips the workforce, workers and employers find themselves struggling to balance core organizational needs with urgent concern that staying behind makes workers targets for the stealthy and fast-spreading disease. “We’re told to practice social-distancing but that’s not being practiced 100 percent,” said one county employee who asked not to be identified, for fear of retribution. “We’re sharing elevators, staircases, bathrooms and doors and our desks are closer together than six feet. So it’s all these make-believe safety precautions.”

— MORE CORONA —

Faith leaders grapple with funerals amid global pandemic” via Jack Jenkins and Claire Giangravé of The Associated Press — Spiritual leaders the world over are facing problems as the death toll from the coronavirus mounts, leaving the faithful in the U.S., Italy and elsewhere struggling to conduct funerals and to abide by government recommendations that advise against gatherings of more than 10 people. In some cases, funerals have been banned altogether. Funeral homes have changed the way they conduct funerals, sometimes limiting the time spent with families and the number of visitors in funeral homes. Some funeral homes have conducted funerals with no one present. The number of deaths in some countries has caused concern that religious infrastructure could be overrun.

Funerals and faith leaders have to address a changing landscape due to coronavirus. Image via AP.

These are boom times for boredom and the researchers who study it” via Michael Rosenwald of The Washington Post — As a scholarly matter, boredom is a relatively new research area in psychology. Historically, boredom was the turf of philosophers, a more dreary, Debbie Downer posse of thinkers. Boredom was somehow overlooked in psychology for centuries. About a decade ago, Sandi Mann, a psychologist at the University of Central Lancashire in England and author of a not-boring book on boredom, looked into the subject and was startled by how little research had been done. “Boredom isn’t good or bad,” said John Eastwood, who runs the Boredom Lab at York University in Canada and is co-author of “Out of My Skull,” a forthcoming book on boredom. “It’s what we do with that signal.”

What the coronavirus crisis has changed about social media, and what it hasn’t changed” via Andrew Marantz of The New Yorker — Many people think society is overreacting to the coronavirus pandemic. The ease of sharing information on social media plays a role and sometimes misinformation gets circulated in large numbers. Other times, information is circulated too quickly. Some would argue that the solution here is simple: more aggressive enforcement. Find all the bad tweets and remove them; repeat until all the bad tweeters are gone. Now its administrators are starting (inconsistently, halfheartedly) to punish some of the people who have correctly internalized those incentives. In the short term, at least, all we can do is treat the problem, not cure it.

Stress-baking and hoarding has led to a retail egg shortage. There are eggs in the pipeline, but maybe not enough” via Laura Reiley of The Washington Post — Americans are stockpiling eggs, and it’s about a week from peak pre-Easter egg buying. Experts say this is an on-shelf shortage, that there are enough eggs in the works. Sales of eggs in shells went up 44 percent for the week ending March 14 compared with a year ago, with retailers ordering six times normal volume. Shelby Myers, an economist with the Farm Bureau, says what we see right now in a broader sense is not a shortage of food but swiftly changing consumer patterns. She says that there are no production shortages on the radar and that economists are projecting record meat and dairy production.

Universal Orlando stops monthly annual-pass payments” via Matthew Palm of the Orlando Sentinel — In an email message to passholders, Universal announced it would stop collecting money from those using its FlexPay plan. “If you are signed up with FlexPay, we have postponed all monthly payments effective March 25, 2020,” stated the message from Bill Davis, president of the resort. “We’ll provide more details at a later date about when payments will resume.” Universal’s theme parks, hotels and CityWalk entertainment district are closed until April 19; annual passes automatically will be extended to make up for the missed days. Earlier this week, Legoland Florida also announced passholders who pay each month would have their payments suspended until the Winter Haven theme park reopens. So far, Walt Disney World and SeaWorld have not followed suit.

Could MLB deal have Yankees playing home games at Rays’ Trop?” via Marc Topkin with the Tampa Bay Times — As part of a deal between baseball owners and players on pay, service time, draft changes and other issues related to the coronavirus-delayed start to the season, the sides also agreed to be open to all aspects of scheduling when/if they do start play. Which could include teams from cities where the coronavirus is widespread, such as New York, shifting at least some games to potentially safer neutral sites such as Tropicana Field. The possibility rests on many variables that have not been worked out, such as a date to resume play and the possibility some areas will allow play before others.

— THE HUMAN TOLL —

A moving Tampa General video praises nurses, doctors on the front lines” via Megan Reeves of the Tampa Bay Times — Tampa General Hospital sent a video message to its staff this week, both preparing and thanking them for what’s ahead in the coronavirus pandemic. It features members of the hospital’s board of directors sharing touching words of gratitude for nurses and doctors on the front lines. They say the challenges coming will be bigger than ever. Others thanked workers for their bravery in the face of the unfolding medical crisis. They promised prayers for medical staff and the families they are leaving at home to care for patients, urging those who need help to reach out. “Every step of the way,” added board member Drew Graham, later saying: “I know you don’t ask to be heroes, but that’s exactly what you are.”

He caught COVID-19 on a cruise ship. His family had to say goodbye over speakerphone” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — They told him they loved him, and they thanked him for being a great husband, father, and grandfather. Then they waited for COVID-19 to shut down the rest of Tom Sheehan’s organs. On Saturday, he died at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Sheehan is one of the more than 50 Floridians who’ve died after catching the novel coronavirus. Passengers said the cruise officials didn’t let them know about the sick people until they were out at sea again the next day. “If the ship had told everyone what was going on, my dad and stepmom would have gotten off in Puerto Rico and flown home,” said Kevin Sheehan, Tom’s son. “But they didn’t tell them. So they stayed on the ship.”

Cruise ships have been particularly troublesome in the coronavirus pandemic.

Crew are stuck on Miami cruise ships with COVID-19 spreading. Some aren’t being paid.” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — As the cruise industry races to get passengers around the globe caught on coronavirus-infected ships home safe, the crew is increasingly trapped on board — some with COVID-19, and some without pay. After cruise companies canceled all new cruises on March 13, most passengers got to go home, but many crew members, hoping to do the same, are still not allowed to get off the ships, even for breaks on land. And some whose contracts have expired as they wait to go home aren’t being paid. One cruise line, Royal Caribbean, said it is paying crew for 30 days past the end of their contracts.

Florida lupus patients can’t get their meds after Trump touts drug to fight coronavirus” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — Mary Killeen-Griffith thought she was prudent when, in early March, she visited CVS, her regular pharmacy, to request refills for all of the medications she takes. But she couldn’t possibly imagine that the one drug she has used for 15 years to treat her lupus — Plaquenil, the brand name for hydroxychloroquine — would suddenly grow in demand and become increasingly difficult to get. This is the drug Trump recently touted in an address to the nation “as a game-changer” in the race to a cure for COVID-19. Many scientists shunned the president’s claim — including among his health advisers — who called the initial studies flawed and that his comments were “risky,” Science magazine reported.

“Prisoners are old, sick and sitting ducks for coronavirus. What now?” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — Many county jails have released inmates to slow the spread of coronavirus. But for state prisons, which house about 94,000 inmates, a number of them elderly or ill, releasing prisoners is complicated, bureaucratic and rare. The number of elderly inmates in state prisons has been increasing over the past five years, a population that is at the most considerable risk from the coronavirus. To prevent people with the virus from introducing it into the prison system, the department has ended visitation, screened anyone entering the prison, restricted workgroups that leave the prison, suspended noncritical inmate transfers and volunteer activities.

John Prine in critical condition with COVID-19 symptoms” via the Associated Press — A message posted on Prine’s Twitter page Sunday said the “Angel from Montgomery” singer has been hospitalized since Thursday and his condition worsened on Saturday. “This is hard news for us to share,” Prine’s family added. “But so many of you have loved and supported John over the years, we wanted to let you know, and give you the chance to send on more of that love and support now. And know that we love you, and that John loves you.”

— ONE GOOD THING —

During the dark days of coronavirus, one good turn deserves another — and another.

In New Jersey, unsurprisingly, that good turn involves pizza.

As reported by The Associated Press, Bryan Morin and his brother Michael run Federico’s Pizza in the Jersey Shore town of Belmar. But across the ocean, the virus was spreading rapidly in Italy, bringing life to a virtual standstill and leading to massive layoffs as businesses closed down.

Bryan Morin could not let that happen at Federico’s.

Staff members of the Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center give a thumbs-up in Neptune City, N.J., as they eat a donated meal from Belmar, New Jersey’s Federico’s pizzeria. Image via AP. 

“I’m the provider for my employees; I supply their salary, and if they don’t have a salary, they won’t be able to afford their rent, their credit card bills, their insurance, their gas,” he said.

Morin decided to “do the right thing and take the hit, and I’ll make it up somewhere down the line.”

Earlier in the month, Morin secured a $50,000 line of credit from his bank. With that money, he promised his workers they’d have a job for at least two months, no matter what. After that, he would reassess conditions and do everything possible to keep the paychecks flowing.

As word of the brothers’ pledge got around, the community rallied round. Customers began helping out: an extra $10 on top of the usual 20% tip, a few bucks earmarked for the kitchen staff.

Next came a surge of pay-it-forward donations.

People — some ordering food, others just wanting to help — called and asked the pizzeria to charge their credit cards for food to be sent to those fighting the pandemic: Doctors, nurses, and staff at a nearby hospital, police, firefighters and EMS squads.

In just two days last week, Federico’s took in nearly $4,000 in deliveries to first responders. The pizzeria also sent 30 free pizzas to Jersey Shore Medical Center, the front lines in the fight against COVID-19 in a state that has the second-most cases in the nation.

“This is such a scary time, and so many people are getting laid off,” Kirsten Phillips, who works the counter, told the AP. “It was so unexpected what he did, but maybe it shouldn’t have been, because he always took care of us. This is really the best job I’ve ever had.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

Worth the click just to see Rubio ratioed — “Dear Marco Rubio: No, journalists are not happy to see U.S. coronavirus cases spike

Stephanie Murphy ends self-quarantine after possible coronavirus exposure” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — In a statement, Murphy said she had no symptoms of the virus and was in good health throughout the two weeks. “Thank you for your well wishes!” Murphy wrote. “I’ll keep practicing social distancing as [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] says ALL Americans should do.” Murphy, 41, said she would self-quarantine on March 18 after U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams, a fellow Blue Dog Caucus member, announced he had tested positive for the virus. Murphy said she was in contact with McAdams a few days earlier.

Greg Steube: Hold Chinese regime responsible for COVID-19’s impact on the American economy” via Kevin Derby of Florida Daily — This week, Steube, unveiled a proposal to “hold China financially responsible for the detrimental economic impact of COVID-19 on the American economy.” The bill would have the White House create a strategy to “hold the Chinese government responsible for the initiation and spread of COVID-19 and will require the Chinese government to be financially responsible for costs associated with the overall economic impact on the United States caused by COVID-19.” So far, there is no version of the bill over in the U.S. Senate and Steube has not reeled in any co-sponsors.

Greg Steube is getting tough on China, wanting to hold the country responsible for COVID-19.

Ted Deutch, Louis Frankel urge HHS send more coronavirus testing supplies to Florida” via the Florida Daily — Two Democrats representing parts of South Florida in Congress — Deutch and Frankel — wrote to U.S. Sec. of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar urging him to rush necessary testing supplies to Florida to enable the state to utilize more of its COVID-19 testing capacity. DeSantis said that the state had acquired hundreds of thousands of test kits, but other supplies like test swabs had trickled in. Their request read, “ … the Florida Department of Emergency Management reported that they have been unable to acquire an adequate supply of swabs and other materials necessary for the collection and transport of patient samples to laboratories for testing.”

Assignment editors — Congresswoman Donna Shalala will discuss the federal response to coronavirus pandemic, 4 p.m. Register for the event at zoom.us/webinar/register.

Spotted Brian Ballard in a New York Times report on companies — as well as the Washington influence industry — that see the coronavirus outbreak as a chance to “cash in, do some good, or both.” A South Carolina-based company called NanoPure recently hired Ballard Partners to help it seek approval for a misting spray disinfectant system to kill bacteria and viruses in airplanes, airports, and other institutional settings.

— STATEWIDE —

Assignment editors — DeSantis will hold a news conference, joined by Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez, Broward County Mayor Dale Holness, Palm Beach County Mayor David Kerner and Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers, 10 a.m., Hard Rock Stadium, 347 Don Shula Dr., Miami Gardens. Later, the Governor will hold a news conference, joined by Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz and Florida National Guard Adjutant General James Eifert, 1:30 p.m., Official FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches, 5444 Haverhill Rd., West Palm Beach.

Ashley Moody urges Floridians to guard against hackers when working from home” via the Florida Daily — Attorney General Moody issued a Consumer Alert urging Floridians to guard against cybercrimes when working from home. To slow the spread of COVID-19, more Americans than ever before are working remotely. The increase in online activity presents more opportunities for hackers and scammers to steal sensitive business or personal data. “Florida businesses are going to great lengths to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by following the advice of health experts and allowing employees to work from home. While this is a vital step to mitigate this health crisis, it creates more opportunities for hackers and cybercriminals to steal sensitive data.”

With more people working from home, Ashley Moody is warning against scams.

Judge hears arguments in Scott Israel reinstatement case, expects order ‘sooner rather than later’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A federal judge says he’s hopeful to have an order “soon” in a case involving former Broward Sheriff Israel‘s push for reinstatement. The Senate voted in October to remove Israel after DeSantis had suspended the former Sheriff. Israel responded with a federal lawsuit, arguing the removal violated his due process rights and that Israel should be returned to the post immediately. Regardless of the outcome, Israel has already filed to run in the 2020 election to regain his post.

Bay County sheriff expects more charges out of Lynn Haven investigation” via Tom McLaughlin of the Panama City News Herald — While it might appear the federal investigation that led to the November indictment of five people in Lynn Haven is drawing to a close, Sheriff Tommy Ford said that is far from the case. Four of five people charged with defrauding the city out of more than $5 million have now entered guilty pleas, and the fifth is facing a June 1 trial. But the end is not in sight. Ford could not speculate on what further federal charges might result from the Lynn Haven investigation, but expects “state charges on other individuals.”

Assignment editors — The 4th Judicial Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission will be holding in-person interviews to fill a vacancy created by the retirement of Circuit Judge Linda McCallum. Applicants include Jeb Branham, Melina Buncome, Corrine Bylund, Gil Feltel, John Henderlite, Jim Kallaher, London Kite, Robin Lanigan, Stacey Myers, Rhonda Peoples-Waters, Jay Plotkin, W. Joel Powell, Anthony Salem, Daniel Skinner, Julie Taylor, and Rebecca Zima. Interviews begin at 9:30 a.m., Duval County Courthouse, 501 West Adams St., Jacksonville. Public access at zoom.us/j/519192770 or by phone at 1-929-205-6099. Access code: 519192770.

— PARTISAN VIRUS —

Coronavirus has not affected the country evenly. New York City and other urban areas have been harder hit than rural regions — and that expose some deep partisan political splits in the U.S.

According to NBC News, Democrats and Republicans appear to be handling the coronavirus pandemic differently.

With more than 102,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, and 1,700 counties having at least one confirmed case, comparing the outbreak to the 2016 election results — Democratic-leaning counties have been hit much harder.

Using data from USAFacts, about 77% of confirmed cases were in the 490 counties that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. And 81% of those Clinton counties had at least one case. In contrast, more than 2,600 counties that voted for Trump in 2016 had only 19% of the cases.

Only half of those Trump counties have a single case.

Coronavirus is hitting blue regions harder, leaving a partisan slant to the federal response. Image via AP.

Those discrepancies lead to differing firsthand experiences with the virus. People in Trump counties are less likely to know someone suffering from the virus, compared to people in Clinton counties.

Places like New York or New Orleans feel an additional disconnect from those in Trump counties — and that is a factor in how Democrats and Republicans see the virus’s impact.

A recent survey from Dynata, the world’s largest first-party survey insights company, shows members of the two parties have very different opinions on the federal government’s reaction to COVID-19. The numbers. Democrats are much more likely to think the federal government is doing too little in the pandemic.

More than 65% of Democrats feel the federal government is not doing enough to protect life in the outbreak as opposed to 24% of Republicans. In opinions on the economy, a major concern of the White House, 52% of Democrats think the federal government has done too little to soften the impact of the coronavirus, compared to only 40% of Republicans.

— 2020 —

Can Trump break a 50% approval rating?” via Giovanni Russonello of The New York Times — More than nine in 10 voters nationwide are concerned about the spread of the virus, according to a Fox News poll released Thursday. Trump has seen a small uptick in his approval rating, which hit record highs in surveys released this week. Three-quarters of Democratic voters give his response to the crisis negative marks while 86 percent of Republican voters say the opposite. Trump gets slightly better ratings for his handling of the coronavirus outbreak than for his job performance overall. A Pew poll found that it was coming especially from those who consider themselves political independents but lean Republican.

Trump camp targets Barack Obama’s Ebola czar” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Joe Biden has had limited success with his live-from-Wilmington, Delaware, coronavirus briefings. His longtime adviser, Ron Klain, is a different story. The nation’s former Ebola czar recently cut a video for the Biden campaign making an animated case against Trump’s handling of the contagion. Now, the president’s reelection campaign is drawing a bead on Klain. Over the past week, the president’s allies have trained their fire on him, seeking to undermine his credibility and use Klain’s high-profile role as the face of Biden’s coronavirus response to bolster their own arguments about Biden’s own competence. “Ron Klain is the puppeteer. To define Gepetto is to define Pinocchio,” said Michael Caputo, a former adviser to Trump.

Ron Klain, the nation’s former Ebola czar recently cut a video for the Joe Biden campaign making an animated case against Donald Trump’s handling of coronavirus pandemic. Image via AP.

Joe Biden leads Trump in new polls despite coronavirus approval bounce” via Steven Shepard of POLITICO — Biden’s lead is far from secure, given the tumultuous situation gripping the country and Trump’s 2016 advantage in the Electoral College. The latest result, in an ABC News/Washington Post poll, shows Biden with just a 2-point lead over Trump, 49% to 47% — well within the margin of error. Biden also led Trump among registered voters in national polls released by Fox News and Monmouth University. The Fox News survey, conducted over roughly the same period last week, shows Biden 9 points ahead of Trump, 49% to 40%. All three polls show a consistent pattern: Trump has equaled or surpassed his previous high-water mark in job approval. But his vote share against Biden in each survey trails his approval rating.

Biden mounts behind-the-scenes mission to win over wary progressives” via Laura Barrón-López and Holly Otterbein with POLITICO — Biden’s campaign is mounting an aggressive behind-the-scenes effort to address the biggest weakness of his candidacy: A lack of enthusiasm among the liberal base. The outreach to left-wing organizations and individuals is focused on young activists, who viewed Biden as one of the least inspiring candidates in the Democratic primary. To appease progressives, Biden has adopted policy stances of some of his rivals in recent days, such as student loan forgiveness pushed by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Other groups are attempting to leverage their support to get concessions on climate change from Biden.

Democratic convention planners look at contingency options” via Reid J. Epstein of The New York Times — Planners for the Democratic National Convention are looking at “contingency options” in case the mid-July gathering in Milwaukee can’t take place because of the coronavirus. “This is a very fluid situation — and the convention is still more than three months away. We are committed to sharing updates with the public in the coming weeks and months as our plans continue to take shape,” said Katie Peters, a convention spokeswoman. Convention planning is also hamstrung by the fact that as long as Sen. Sanders remains in the race, Democrats do not yet have a de facto presidential nominee.

Pete Buttigieg on life after the trail, whether Bernie Sanders should drop out and campaigning during coronavirus” via Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post — How have you been adjusting to life after the campaign, and to the realities of coronavirus? “You know it’s strange. First of all, it’s already a radical shift to go from just the pace of campaigning to not. To do that also in the context of a lockdown is a whole different animal. And yet, in a way, maybe this is the only thing that could actually force me to one place and really detox from the constant motion of the campaign.” Who should Biden be looking at for vice president? “I always said in my campaign that was the most important thing to think about when you’re identifying a future vice president is somebody who’s up to the job.”

Democrats to text 1 million Floridians and urge them to vote by mail” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Democratic Party plans to text 1 million Floridians this week and urge them to register to vote-by-mail. It will require hundreds of the party’s volunteers to message people across the state in the coming days in hopes of converting them into remote voters.

— TOP OPINION —

You have a right to be angry, DeSantis. But not petty and petulant.” via John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times — The decision to bar Times/Herald bureau reporter Mary Ellen Klas from a Saturday news conference to update the public on pandemic developments was selfish and inexcusable. The governor’s action shut out the state’s two largest newsrooms from asking questions, ostensibly because she had asked previously about social distancing in crowded news conferences. The administration’s response was petty and cowardly — unbecoming of a man with DeSantis’ military background. Understand, this is not a journalist’s whine about favoritism or payback. This is about your right to get answers from your Governor. When elected officials begin censoring the news media, the potential for governmental abuses grows exponentially.

When Ron DeSantis shut reporter out of coronavirus briefing, he shut out all Floridians” via the Editorial Board of the Miami Herald — DeSantis denied Klas access to his coronavirus press conference on Saturday. It was vindictive, petty — and illegal. He should be ashamed — not because he thinks he put one over on a reporter, the Times or the Herald. No, to them it’s not personal. Rather, he should be ashamed because, in not allowing Klas to do her job and ask the serious questions that deserve his serious answers, he is really denying access to the Floridians who look to these media outlets for vital information.

— OPINIONS —

A plea from rural America: Urban COVID-19 refugees, please stay home” via David Yamamoto for The Washington Post — Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, issued an executive order mandating that all Oregonians, to the extent possible, stay inside their homes. We were therefore dumbfounded last weekend to see our beaches overrun with nonlocal visitors, and especially to see so many license plates from Washington and California. When outside visitors arrived en masse, our local residents were infuriated. The county commissioners were inundated with calls, emails and texts with photos of the crowds swarming on our beaches and roadsides. Some of our local lodging providers had to close their doors immediately out of concern for their employees. This response may be difficult for people in other parts of the country to understand. Our country’s urban-rural divide is real.

Why no call for volunteer health care workers in Florida?” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — This pandemic is going to get worse. We’re facing an all-hands-on-deck moment, unlike any in our history. And it’s time Florida issued a call for volunteer health care workers willing to step up and help. Florida is home to many retired doctors, nurses and medical workers. You’ve got to believe a good number of them would be willing to help, if asked. Florida is home to many retired doctors, nurses and medical workers. You’ve got to believe a good number of them would be willing to help, if asked. Gov. Ron DeSantis has yet to call the cavalry. Why not? We asked. The state emergency management agency says it is “studying” the need for volunteers.

Coronavirus brings chaos to high school seniors … including my son” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — My son is a senior in high school. And on the last day before spring break, he bounded out of his final class in high spirits. Ahead of him were 10 whole days without school. Except 10 days off from school became 17. And then 32. And now, they know there won’t be any proms, plays or entire spring sport seasons for anyone. Heck, there might not even be graduation. It’s a traumatic finale for a group of kids who also entered the world when it was in trauma — the first class of students born after 9/11. They are the chaos class.

Dominic Calabro, Jim Fogler: In COVID-19 uncertainty, 2020 Census counts even more” via Florida Politics — We are undoubtedly living in unprecedented and uncertain times, but it is during crises that we see the very best in our fellow Floridians. Many have looked for ways to help, and we have a simple suggestion — read your newspaper and complete the 2020 Census. The census has never been easier to complete and can be answered completely online, or over the phone. It will ensure you are counted; your voice is heard, and provide critical data to guide our nation forward. The 2020 Census is not simply a snapshot of our population, but a powerful metric that determines the federal funding and elected representation of our communities for the next 10 years.

— PODCASTS —

Coronavirus has changed everything in Florida — grocery stores with empty shelves, schools closed, dirt cheap airfare (with nobody flying). While hunkering down may be familiar to Floridians during any given hurricane season, this pandemic is more like a 50-state hurricane that’s barreling down on America.

Just like a hurricane, coronavirus also has far-reaching political ramifications, threatening state budgets and altering campaigns, fundraising, retail politics and more. And we’re all in it together.

That’s where the new podcast “Hunkering Down with Peter Schorsch” comes in, a conversation with some of the most influential names in Florida politics, discussing how they are getting ready for self-isolation and the ways coronavirus is shaping politics, people and our way of life.

Among those hunkering down include:

Rick Wilson talking about being a bestselling author, his career as a Republican operative and, of course, Trump.

— CFO Jimmy Patronis touching upon the unthinkable — the looming financial implications of the coronavirus crisis — and how social distancing is affecting businesses across the state.

— Sen. Joe Gruters pointing out how coronavirus is helping shift away from the hyper-partisanship of the past few years.

— Rep. Jamie Grant examining how coronavirus is an economic crisis as well as a public health threat, and offering some self-isolation tips.

— Public affairs pro Anna Alexopoulos reminding us that communication is essential in this time of uncertainty.

New episodes of “Hunkering Down with Peter Schorsch” are available now by clicking here.

___

Trump has backed away from earlier statements about wanting people back at work by Easter. He is now saying that the social distancing guidelines issued by the CDC will remain in effect until the end of April.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Law enforcement checkpoints have now been set up on I-95 to catch New Yorkers entering the Sunshine State, another on I-10 in the Panhandle to nab anyone driving here from Louisiana. New York City and New Orleans are two coronavirus hot spots.

— The National Guard is stationed at Florida’s largest airports to greet flights from the New York City area informing travelers they must self-isolate for 14 days if they want to stay here. DeSantis says that’s already paid off by reducing the flow of coronavirus refugees from up north.

— Florida’s Surgeon General blasted out a text through the state’s public safety alert system advising everyone 65 and older — and anyone with underlying medical issues — to stay at home over the next two weeks.

— In a town hall meeting held by phone, Congressman Deutch is asking the Governor to issue a stay-at-home order for everyone in Florida. And American College of Emergency Physicians President Dr. William Jaquis agrees, saying the next two weeks are critical for the Sunshine State.

— Checking in with Florida Man: One stole hundreds of dollars of women’s lingerie, the other used a forklift to break into a department store and steal a conveyor belt.

To listen, click on the image below:

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

 

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Beaches are officially closed. #stjohnscounty #staugustine #covid_19

A post shared by kevin sweeny (@djmia00) on

— ALOE —

MLB final pitch could be closer to Christmas than Halloween” via Ronald Blum of The Associated Press — Major League Baseball owners ratified a 17-page agreement with the union on Friday in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, with players willing to extend the season as long as needed to cover as close to a full schedule as possible. The deal provides for $170 million in advances from salaries that total more than $4 billion and guarantees service time to players even if no games are played this year. With opening day postponed until mid-May at the earliest, the final pitch could come close to Christmas. It remains unclear whether the All-Star Game will be played on July 14.

‘Mulan’ feels like the movie we could have most used right now” via Brian Lowry of CNN — “Mulan” is just one of several high-profile films delayed by the threat of Covid-19. The Disney release appeared destined to attract a broad audience to a film populated by an entirely Asian cast, in contrast to the ugly rhetoric unleashed by those labeling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus.” The main character behaves heroically out of love and reverence for her father, actually putting herself at risk to save him as well as, it turns out, her country. The movie actually represented another stride not just toward greater diversity among those characters, but in gender roles as well.

Amid the pandemic, Florida drive-in theaters take the spotlight” via Patrick Connolly of the Orlando Sentinel — As many movie theater screens around the country go dark amid the coronavirus pandemic, John Watzke says his theater is doing just fine. In fact, business is booming for this time of year. The Ocala Drive-In, one of only a small handful of drive-in theaters still open in Florida, is providing a bright spot for film lovers during this unprecedented time. “For this time of the year, I’ve seen a very big increase in attendance,” said Watzke, who owns the drive-in. “I just feel like people need some form of normalcy in their life.” Even though visitors are coming in droves and his theater is keeping the projectors on for Central Floridians, Watzke knows this isn’t business as usual.

Drive-ins are making a resurgence in the age of coronavirus.

The Ringer to debut ‘The Wire’ re-watch podcast” via Natalie Jarvey of The Hollywood Reporter — The Spotify-owned podcast network is prepping a new show, “The Wire: Way Down in the Hole,” that will deep dive into every episode of the crime drama, starting with Season One. The podcast is the first of two projects that are in the works for The Ringer and comes amid a boom in classic TV viewing as Americans shelter indoors during the coronavirus pandemic. “The Wire: Way Down in the Hole” will debut in April. The plan is to release 65 episodes, which will be available on Spotify and other podcast platforms.

Add this to my shopping list —This building block waffle maker is like eating Legos for breakfast” via Andrew Liszewski of Gizmodo — A clever inventor has created a waffle maker that makes fluffy, edible interlocking blocks for building syrup-soaked structures. The unique design of the plates automatically produces three different sizes of precut waffle pieces complete with studs on top and tubes on the bottom, so they interlock, allowing towering but hopefully stable structures to be assembled. Creators haven’t yet begun production, but have started a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to raise funds. Delivery is expected sometime in August of this year, but with all going on in the world right now, there’s a very good chance that could be delayed.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday to Democratic activist Susan McGrath, Tony Perfetti, and the man, Trent Phillips. Belated best wishes to Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chris Korge.

___

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

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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

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