Tuesday marked a turning point in the coronavirus pandemic in the United States as President Donald Trump delivered markedly solemn remarks about the impending doom and the “very tough two weeks” ahead.
It was a remarkable shift from the President’s former tone that flooded airwaves with dismissive claims that the virus was under control, and life would go back to normal sooner rather than later. Gone was his self-congratulatory tone or not-so-humblebrags about television ratings.
With that shift in mind, Trump’s foes on the left have a shift of their own to make.
Borrowing a phrase from the film Miller’s Crossing, now is not the time to say, “I told you so.”
Americans are hungry for resolution. They’re out of jobs. Their bank accounts are dwindling. Their security is in jeopardy of not only financial ruin, but contracting an illness that could kill literally anyone, not just the elderly or infirm.
There is no appetite for taunting or “I told you so” gloating.
What they are hungry for is unity.
Call for relief, but do so while offering a lending hand to an administration you might otherwise loathe. Uphold your values, but reach across the aisle. Embrace your political enemies (figuratively speaking, of course) as friends because whether Democrat or Republican, Libertarian, or NPA, we are all suffering this pandemic, we are all fearful of its unrelenting grasp.
And when you’re sharing information, quote scientists and doctors, not the left’s shining stars such as Rachel Maddow or Anderson Cooper.
And why wouldn’t you do that? You, Democrats, who lob criticism at anyone who looks to Fox News as the ultimate authority on policy. How does clinging to liberal news make you any more credible?
Want to be taken seriously by your constituents with diverging political views, concede them their China argument. Yes, calling it the “China virus” is racist and wrong. Still, there is no question China failed the world with its lack of transparency in the early days of this crisis, wasting precious time and squandering vital data that could have been used to minimize the disease’s spread to other countries, including the U.S. It’s OK to be mad at them for that, it doesn’t make you a racist.
Table your ideological pandering. The time will come to renew debate over the Green New Deal or Medicare for All. On the latter, your argument could emerge from this virus stronger than ever.
Add to that some advice for both sides of the aisle. Those statistics you post on Facebook, those are people’s lives, not numbers.
The uptick in deaths aren’t a cause for political mudslinging; they’re grandmas who will never bake another cookie, grandpas who will never pull another quarter from behind a child’s ear, moms who will never read another bedtime story, dads who will never again play catch in the yard.
The low numbers in areas slower to succumb to this demon of a pandemic are not evidence of why social distancing is unnecessary, they’re bright spots of hope that show that maybe, just maybe, there’s time to get this right.
— EXECUTIVE SUMMARY —
— The majority of Americans approve of how state and local governments are handling the coronavirus outbreak, but fewer than half say the same about the efforts of Trump and the federal government. Read more here.
— U.S. stocks and markets around the world fell Wednesday sharply as the economic and physical toll caused by the coronavirus outbreak mounts. Read more here.
— Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order Wednesday as local pressure mounted for him to abandon the county-by-county approach he had implemented. Read more here.
— Wimbledon has been canceled for the first time since the tournament paused during World War II. Read more here.
— TOP STORIES —
“Ron DeSantis issues statewide stay-at-home order” via Mary Ellen Klas and Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — After weeks of resisting a statewide stay-home order, DeSantis signed an executive order limiting all activity in Florida to essential services over the next 30 days to try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The order, which will go into effect Friday at 12:01 a.m., is intended to follow the direction of the White House. The order does not define what services are “essential.” Rather, DeSantis defers to lengthy guidelines written by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Miami-Dade County, where residents have lived under shutdown orders for weeks.
“More evidence indicates healthy people can spread virus” via The Associated Press — Scientists offered more evidence Wednesday that the coronavirus is spread by seemingly healthy people who show no apparent symptoms, and the federal government issued new guidance warning that anyone exposed to the disease can be considered a carrier. A study by researchers in Singapore became the latest to estimate that somewhere around 10% of new infections may be sparked by people who carry the virus but have not yet suffered its flu-like symptoms. In response to that study and others, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed how it defined the risk of infection for Americans. It essentially says that anyone may be a carrier, whether that person has symptoms or not.
“China concealed extent of virus outbreak, U.S. intelligence says” via Nick Wadhams and Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg — China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country, underreporting both total cases and deaths it’s suffered from the disease, the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report to the White House, according to three U.S. officials. The officials asked not to be identified because the report is secret, and they declined to detail its contents. But the thrust, they said, is that China’s public reporting on cases and deaths is intentionally incomplete. Two of the officials said the report concludes that China’s numbers are fake. The report was received by the White House last week, one of the officials said.
“NFL to begin season as scheduled in September” via CNN — Football fans can get their gear ready. It appears the NFL isn’t planning any delays due to COVID-19, at least not yet. During a conference call Tuesday, league officials announced the season would start in September, and teams will play their full 16 game schedule with fans in attendance. And, international games are still “a go.” The coronavirus outbreak prompted other sports like professional baseball and soccer to postpone seasons. The NFL hasn’t been completely unaffected. Teams are engaged in virtual workouts this offseason.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@Pontifex: Let us # for all who work in the media, who work to communicate, to inform us, so that people are not so isolated, and to educate children. We pray for all those who are helping us bear this time of isolation.
—@RedSteeze: The attitude of “well what can we do” about China’s abuses is what got us here. It has to change. Ignored the Uyghers, ignored crackdown on media. Ignored Hong Kong violence. Ignored wet markets. Can’t do it anymore.
—@AlbertEMartinez: Reminder: this is all happening — the public health crisis, the economic crisis, the stolen childhoods of millions of American kids, the deaths of countless Americans — because the amoral communist dictatorship that runs China lied about a pandemic they unleashed on the world.
—@KyleGriffin1: Trump: “I’m number one on Facebook. Did you know I was number one on Facebook? I just found out I’m number one on Facebook. I thought that was very nice.”
—@PiperK: Jim Acosta asked the key question: “What would have happened if we had started social distancing in January? Would there have been fewer deaths?” No one will answer, except [Dr. Anthony] Fauci, who says, “Probably yes.”
—@DrVox: They will frame this catastrophe as a success and their base will buy it, even as they are filling up local morgues.
“You’re hurting old people like me. Well, not me… I’ll never see you.”
— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) March 31, 2020
—@Rob_Bradley: April is going to be a difficult month. We can do this together, Florida. The order by @will require Floridians to do what has already been asked of them. Do the right thing! PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING, WASH YOUR HANDS and STAY AT HOME unless you need to go out.
—@JeffreyBrandes: Cities should consider reopening public libraries for select hours to assist in filing unemployment benefits. Many Floridians don’t have access to a computer other than public library facilities. Following CDC guidelines for cleaning and separation, of course.
—@RPetty: There will be challenges in adapting to remote learning for Florida families. Rob & Anne-Marie beautifully share some of their own personal challenges (linked in article). But we must move forward. Our children deserve our best despite the challenges.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Passover begins — 6; Quibi launches — 7; Third-season premiere of “Killing Eve” — 10; Easter — 10; First quarter campaign reports due — 16; Last day of federal candidate qualifying — 20; NFL Draft — 21; Florida Schools reopen (maybe) — 29; Gov. DeSantis’ executive order closing bars and restaurants expires — 36; Mother’s Day — 38; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 67; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 85; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 101; Federal taxes due — 104; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 106; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 138; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 144; First presidential debate in Indiana — 180; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 188; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 196; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 203; 2020 General Election — 215; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 229; “No Time to Die” premieres — 237; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 477.
— CORONA NATION —
“’The campaign panicked’: Inside Donald Trump’s decision to back off of his Easter coronavirus miracle” via Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair — The national debate set off by Trump’s announcement that he wanted churches packed on Easter was, like so many Trump crises, a self-inflicted one. In the days after Trump tweeted that “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” his medical advisers implored Trump not to relax the government’s social distancing guidelines. Trump dug in. Trump’s latest tonal and tactical shift was driven by several factors, both personal and political. Trump learned that his close friend, 78-year-old New York real estate mogul Stan Chera, had contracted COVID-19. Trump also grew concerned as the virus spread to Trump country. “The polling sucked. The campaign panicked about the numbers in red states,” a former West Wing official said.
“Trump says he may restrict flights from New York over virus” via Mario Parker and Josh Wingrove of Bloomberg — Trump said his administration is weighing whether to halt flights from some of the cities hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak — including New York and Miami — but is wary of further harming the airline industry. “We’re certainly looking at it but once you do that you really are clamping down on an industry that is desperately needed,” Trump said. Trump did not specify which cities would be affected.
“Trump says he’s looking at hazard pay for health care workers” via Mario Parker and Josh Wingrove of Bloomberg — Trump said his administration is considering ways to compensate health-care workers with supplemental hazard pay as they grapple with the coronavirus outbreak. “They’re like warriors, they’re like soldiers,” he said of doctors, nurses and other health-care workers dealing with the pandemic. The administration has previously signaled it would pursue hazard pay for health workers as part of a phase four emergency plan with the U.S. Congress. The call for additional pay has come amid reports that many hospital employees are caring for coronavirus patients without adequate protective gear, like masks.
“AP poll: Less than half back Trump’s pandemic response” via The Associated Press — Americans give high marks to state and local governments for their handling of the fast-moving coronavirus pandemic that has swiftly remade everyday life. But less than half approve of the job done thus far by Trump and the federal government, according to a new survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Even so, and while he remains deeply polarizing, the poll finds Trump’s approval ratings are among the highest of his presidency. Forty-four percent of Americans support Trump’s oversight of the pandemic, in line with his overall 43% approval rating. That’s at the high end for the Republican president during his more than three years in office.
“Mike Pence: Coronavirus impact in U.S. may be ‘most comparable’ to Italy” via Fadel Allassan of Axios — Pence told CNN that White House modeling suggests “Italy may be the most comparable area to the United States” in terms of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. “We truly believe that while some of the initial estimates even in this modeling suggest that without every American putting into practice those guidelines of wash your hands, avoid groups of more than 10, use drive-thrus through restaurants and the like, that we could have literally seen between 1.6 million and 2.2 million losses.” Asked whether the U.S. has gotten off to a “late start” in terms of responding to the pandemic, Pence argued that “we could have been better off if China had been more forthcoming.”
“Protective gear in national stockpile is nearly depleted, DHS officials say” via Nick Miroff of The Washington Post — The government’s emergency stockpile of respirator masks, gloves and other medical supplies is running low and is nearly exhausted due to the coronavirus outbreak. As coronavirus hot spots flare from coast to coast, the demand for safety equipment is both immediate and widespread, with health officials, hospital executives and Governors saying that their shortages are critical and that health care workers are putting their lives at risk while trying to help the surging number of patients. “The stockpile was designed to respond to a handful of cities. It was never built or designed to fight a 50-state pandemic,” said a DHS official.
“Memos from CDC to White House lay out rationale for possible widespread use of face coverings” via Lena H. Sun and Laurie McGinley of The Washington Post — Federal officials debating whether to recommend that face coverings be routinely worn in public are responding to increasing evidence that infected people without symptoms can spread the coronavirus. Simple cloth masks that cover the mouth and nose can prevent virus transmission from such individuals when they are out buying groceries or seeking medical care. If adopted by the coronavirus task force, the recommendations would represent a major change in official CDC guidance that healthy people don’t need masks or face coverings.
“Which states are resisting tougher coronavirus measures?” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — Many states are requiring people to remain in their homes except to purchase essential items. Others are resisting such requirements in fighting the spread of coronavirus even as their numbers are rising higher and higher. And there are increasing worries that things will continue to deteriorate. Until today, Florida had resisted a statewide stay-at-home order until today, when Ron DeSantis announced an order to take effect later this week. Neither Trump nor Pence has been willing to issue a nationwide order.
“The other way the coronavirus will ravage our cities” via Adam Harris of The Atlantic — New York City is sputtering. Bars, restaurants, hotels, and theaters have closed; tens of thousands of people have already lost their jobs; hundreds have died. The city has become the epicenter of the novel coronavirus. It needed an “economic nap” to fight it, Scott Stringer, the city’s comptroller, told me. But COVID-19 is bludgeoning the city’s coffers. New York City stands to lose $4.8 billion to $6 billion in tax revenue. Back in late February, Stringer told reporters at a press conference in Manhattan that the city had not “done enough to prepare to weather a storm we cannot imagine.” Versions of this story are playing out across the country.
“Call for virus volunteers yields army of health care workers” via The Associated Press — The work is exhausting and dangerous, the situation bleak. But an army of health care workers heeded New York’s call for help reinforcing hospitals overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic. So far, at least 82,000 people have volunteered for the state’s reserve force of medical workers — a group that includes recent retirees returning to work, health care professionals who can take a break from their regular jobs, and people between gigs, according to health officials. Few have made it into the field yet as hospitals and state regulators vet enlistees and decide how to deploy them. But Cuomo said Tuesday that’s about to change. By Thursday, hospitals expect to hire about 1,500 volunteers to rescue a medical workforce that needs relief, particularly in New York City.
“Low pay, high risk: Nursing home workers confront coronavirus dilemma” via Emma Cott, Ben Laffin and Elie Khadra of The New York Times — Many nurses are struggling to deal with the risks involved in working in a nursing home environment. The emotional toll of these risks weighs heavily on nursing home staff. Their jobs are usually low paying and involve long hours. The nature of nursing home work prevents workers from practicing social distancing with their patients. Many facilities are running out of protective gear, which means that eventually, workers will have to start reusing gear, an unusual situation.
“Captain of aircraft carrier with growing coronavirus outbreak pleads for help from Navy” via Matthias Gafni and Joe Garofoli of The San Francisco Chronicle — The captain of a nuclear aircraft carrier with more than 100 sailors infected with the coronavirus pleaded Monday with U.S. Navy officials for resources to allow isolation of his entire crew and avoid possible deaths in a situation he described as quickly deteriorating. So far, none of the infected sailors has shown serious symptoms, but the number of those who have tested positive has jumped exponentially since the Navy reported infections in three crew members on March 24. A senior officer on board the massive aircraft carrier, who wished to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak to the media, said between 150 and 200 sailors had tested positive.
“Federal prisons start 14-day lockdown to fight virus” via Josh Gerstein of POLITICO — Federal prisons are ordering inmates confined to their cells for the next two weeks to fight the spread of coronavirus in the cramped confines of U.S. government-run penal institutions. The lockdown will begin Wednesday and could be extended, the Bureau of Prisons said in a statement late Tuesday. Some exceptions will be allowed to maintain regular programs and sanitation, the statement said. A tally released Tuesday by the federal prison system reported 29 inmates and 30 staff have tested positive for Covid-19. Union groups have asserted the numbers are higher than the official count. One federal prisoner has died from the virus.
“`A battlefield behind your home’: Deaths mount in New York” via The Associated Press — New York authorities rushed to bring in an army of medical volunteers as the statewide death toll from the coronavirus doubled in 72 hours to more than 1,900 and the wail of ambulances in the otherwise eerily quiet streets of the city became the heartbreaking soundtrack of the crisis. As hot spots flared around the U.S. in places like New Orleans and Southern California, the nation’s biggest city was the hardest hit of them all, with bodies loaded onto refrigerated morgue trucks by gurney and forklift outside overwhelmed hospitals, in full view of passing motorists. And the worst is yet to come. “How does it end? And people want answers,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “I want answers. The answer is nobody knows for sure.”
“New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s repeated comments downplaying the coronavirus” via Aaron Blake and JM Rieger of The Washington Post — New York Mayor de Blasio was confronted over the weekend over past comments in which he minimized the threat and urged people to go about their lives, including as recently as mid-March. Throughout the crisis that has now hit New York City harder than any other area of the country, de Blasio offered comments that, like Trump’s, downplayed the threat and suggested that the city was ready for what lay ahead. The mayor also repeatedly told people that transmission of the disease was very unlikely in casual encounters and in public places. De Blasio, on March 9, also downplayed the option of closing schools.
“Gun background checks smash records amid coronavirus fears” via The Associated Press — Background checks required to buy firearms have spiked to record numbers in the past month, fueled by a run on guns from Americans panicked about their safety during the coronavirus crisis. According to figures from the FBI, there were 3.7 million background checks done in March — the most for a single month since the system began in 1998. It eclipsed the previous record, set in December 2015, when 3.3 million checks were conducted. Background checks are the critical barometer of gun sales, but the FBI’s monthly figures also incorporate checks for firearm permits that are required in some states. Each background check also might be for the purchase of more than one gun.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Aiming while blind: DeSantis ‘targets’ coronavirus with insufficient data” via Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — On Tuesday, DeSantis again rebuffed calls from scientists and political critics to issue a statewide stay-at-home order, taking political shelter behind the White House coronavirus task force, which hadn’t yet issued a stay-at-home advisory. “We’re going to follow their guidelines,” DeSantis told reporters. “If they do something, that would carry a lot of weight with me.” Hours later, the White House Task Force did make that recommendation, with experts noting that even under conservative estimates, the coronavirus death toll in the U.S. could reach 100,000. That gave DeSantis the impetus he needed to reverse course. Despite the paucity of tests and data, the Governor has pointed to coronavirus-free rural counties as a reason not to issue broad shelter-in-place rules.
“DeSantis ‘willing to accept’ Floridians from cruise ship with virus-infected passengers, status of others remains unclear” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — DeSantis expressed confidence Wednesday that officials would make accommodations to accept Florida residents stuck on a Holland American cruise ship carrying COVID-19 virus patients. As for foreign nationals and residents of other states? Their fate remains unclear as the ship is less than one day away from Port Everglades. “Clearly, we’re going to be willing to accept any Floridians who are on board,” DeSantis said Thursday. “My understanding is that most of the passengers are foreign nationals. I think that they’re working on ways to deal with that.”
“DeSantis said New York stay-at-home order caused flights to Florida to spike. But did they?” via Allison Ross of the Tampa Bay Times — When New York issued its stay-at-home order amid the coronavirus crisis earlier this month, it caused a flood of New Yorkers to flee to the Sunshine State, DeSantis has repeatedly said. DeSantis has used that supposed spike in flights from the New York area as part of his rationale for requiring a 14-day quarantine of people from that area who come to Florida. It’s unclear exactly which numbers the Governor has relied on in detailing that sudden influx of New Yorkers. Data from FlightAware of incoming flights to the Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Palm Beach airports shows the total number of incoming flights has dropped steeply compared to a few weeks ago, including flights from the New York City area.
“Florida long knew its jobless assistance website was a train wreck. It blew off warnings” via Kevin G. Hall of the Miami Herald — When the Labor Department releases its weekly data on Thursday for first-time claims for unemployment insurance benefits, the actual number for Floridians reported as already out of work and seeking benefits will be artificially lower than reality, potentially far lower, because of an unfolding disaster at a vital Florida agency. The federal numbers released every Thursday are reported to the Labor Department by the states, and in Florida people simply can’t get through to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s system. The problems with the assistance program’s website are not a surprise. There were plenty of warnings about the underlying infrastructure of the state agency’s website, highlighted in a March 2019 report by the Florida Auditor General’s Office.
“State waives one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits during coronavirus crisis” via News Service of Florida — Florida has lifted a requirement that people qualifying for unemployment benefits must wait a week before their first checks are sent. With jobless claims surging as businesses have closed or scaled back because of the novel coronavirus, state Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson on Tuesday signed an order that temporarily waives the one-week waiting period before people can start to collect benefits. Lawson noted in the order that “strict compliance” with the rule “would prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the emergency.”
“Will Florida schools reopen in May, or just finish the year online?” via Marlene Sokol — English teacher Venus Freeman misses Armwood High School. She misses her students. She misses grading their essays the old fashioned way, on paper. But, although the switch to online learning might be one of the biggest challenges in her 30-year career, she has trouble imagining re-opening the schools in early May, as planned. Not as long as death tolls mount from COVID-19. Teachers have been voicing similar opinions as state and district leaders continue to talk about returning to school in a month.
“Can Florida schools conduct business as usual during coronavirus” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — The Hillsborough County School Board tried to conduct business during the pandemic. The state recommended schools remain closed through April 30th. Several districts have gone along with the recommendation; however, one school system went a step further. Some school systems are trying to figure out what to do about senior ceremonies. And finally, Duval County schools are expanding their free meal program.
“FEA President Fedrick Ingram on the dawn of new learning for K-12 schools: ‘You lose that feel, that touch’” via Issac Morgan of Florida Phoenix — Fedrick Ingram anticipates many challenges for teachers and parents when it comes to providing and receiving quality education for their kids during the COVID-19 pandemic. But Ingram said that he is confident that they’ll continue to rise to the occasion. Many families in rural areas don’t have the proper resources for their kids to participate in online learning and are worried about putting food on the table, Ingram noted. Ingram said that many parents in rural and urban settings are struggling financially and rely on the breakfast and lunch programs offered by schools to feed their children. Ingram said during the phone interview that “there are a lot of unknowns” about how the coronavirus pandemic will affect school districts’ budgets and if people will lose their jobs next year.
“State Board of Education identifies distance learning challenges, possible achievement gaps” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — The State Board of Education heard an update on how K-12 students are faring after the recent recommendation from the state that school campuses remain closed through May 1st. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and Pasco County Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning discussed the latest efforts school districts were making to take care of students and transition them to online learning. Corcoran says he’s proud that Florida’s moving forward with required instruction, unlike some other states. California, Virginia, Kansas and Alabama are just some of the schools which have closed schools for the rest of the school year. Some states are offering optional distance learning; others like Florida are mandating it.
We've been made aware of a post that is circulating as an #AprilFoolsDay joke that Governor Ron DeSantis announced that students will repeat a year of school.
THIS IS NOT TRUE.
— Florida Department of Education (@EducationFL) April 1, 2020
“Want a Florida beachfront hotel? Get coronavirus.” via Marc Caputo of Politico — Coronavirus patients could soon isolate in style: Taxpayer-subsidized rooms at Florida hotels, including the luxurious Fontainebleau Miami Beach. Under a plan that Gov. DeSantis has floated to federal planning agencies, the state is prepared to use hotels as quarantine or rehabilitation sites to break the chain of viral transmission. With hotels empty and desperate for money, and public health officials demanding isolation centers, the state sees an elegant solution. “We’re being contacted by major hotel chains offering to house first responders and potentially to be isolation centers,” said Jared Moskowitz, director of emergency management.
“Possibility of coronavirus outbreak in prisons sparks fear” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — “The problem with the prisons is that we are a little gated community — and once it hits there, it’s going to hit. And the window is closing on the department (Florida Department of Corrections) to be able to get this under control,” Jim Baiardi, who leads the state corrections chapter of the Florida Police Benevolent Association, said in an interview. On the front lines, prison employees who are reporting to work are worried that they don’t have gloves, face masks and hand sanitizer to protect them from the highly contagious and rapidly spreading coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19. Mothers of inmates are frantically reaching out to state lawmakers for help.
“Florida warned nearly 900 bars to follow DeSantis’ emergency order to close” via Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times — In the nine days after DeSantis stopped beer from flowing in taps, Florida inspectors and liquor agents told nearly 900 bars that were defying the order that they needed to close, according to records from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. On March 17, DeSantis issued an emergency order for all bars and nightclubs to close for 30 days, but the bars that also sold food could remain open and only sell food for that period. Statewide, 150 inspectors and liquor agents conducted about 8,700 compliance examinations. Between March 17-26, state employees in the Tampa Bay region visited 1,067 establishments, the second-highest in the state, records show.
“Florida loves its toilet paper and booze during hard times” via Graham Brink of the Tampa Bay Times — Many people are spending their time during the pandemic consuming alcohol. Sales at stores nationwide were up nearly 28 percent for wine, 27 percent for liquor and 14 percent for beer in the week that ended March 14. Virtual happy hours, where people visit with friends and family using video calling services like Zoom, appear to be helping prop up sales. Online scheduling platform Doodle recorded a 296 percent increase in the boozy meetings in March compared to February. Drizly, an alcohol delivery app that links customers with local liquor stores in 26 states, including Florida, reported a 300 percent increase in sales from earlier in the year.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“Tale of two cities: Research shows risk of Miami-Dade’s gradual coronavirus response” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Social distancing is working, but timing and discipline are everything. Those are the takeaways of new research emerging into the effectiveness of mitigation measures aimed at the spreading novel coronavirus that demonstrates communities that acted more quickly and aggressively had better results than those that implemented partial, or gradual measures. Compare Santa Clara County in California and Miami-Dade County. Data from smart thermometer company Kinsa Health found that as social-distancing measures are enacted across the country, there has been “a significant drop in illness levels” as measured by the company’s internet-connected thermometers. The number of people who got sick in a community depended on how early mitigation efforts were implemented. Santa Clara County imposed social-distancing restrictions starting on Feb. 10.
“Miami-Dade hotel occupancy plunges to 19.6 percent. Monroe County down to 7.2 percent” via Michelle Kaufman of the Miami Herald — Hotel occupancy in South Florida plummeted to new lows last week following closures and restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak. In Miami-Dade County, occupancy was at 19.6% from March 22-28 compared to 86.6% during the same week in 2019, according to the latest STR report, which provides analytics for global hospitality sectors. It was the first report showing the full impact of hotel shutdowns. Broward County hotels were at 24.1% occupancy compared to 86.3% last year. Palm Beach County was at 21.2% compared to 84.2% last year. The region’s steepest decline was in Monroe County, where just 7.2% of the hotel rooms were occupied in contrast to 92.1% the same week last year.
“Miami-Dade Schools got ahead on online classes, but immigrant students were left behind” via Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — While Miami-Dade County Public Schools officials patted themselves on the back for quickly moving instruction online, they left 800 of their most vulnerable students offline. A group of recently arrived immigrants, ages 16 to 18, at Miami Jackson Senior High, and their teachers say they were forgotten about as the district rapidly rolled out online teaching to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. They are among 800 students who attend the General Educational Development program at one of seven Success Management Academies, which are programs housed on high school campuses. The academies fall under the umbrella of adult education.
“‘We’re in crisis.’ Domestic workers in Miami suffer economic blow from the coronavirus” via Lautaro Grinspan of the Miami Herald — Before she “lost everything” when the novel coronavirus hit, Guadalupe, a 64-year-old domestic worker, spent one day a week at the home of six different families. Setting up shop in the kitchen, her job was to prepare a week’s worth of meals. But as the spread of the virus jolted nerves and triggered official orders to shelter-in-place, Guadalupe’s steady source of income has run dry: all six of her employers have opted to end the cooking service, including two families for whom she has worked for more than a decade. Out of the six families she used to work for, just one has told Guadalupe that they would keep paying her during the time she can’t come into work.
“Longtime University of Miami health care employee dies from coronavirus, university says” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — A longtime University of Miami medical employee has died from COVID-19, the university said Tuesday. The employee, who worked at the University of Miami Health System, passed away recently, said Joanna Palmer, the director of medical communications. “The University of Miami Health System is mourning the recent loss of a longtime employee, who recently passed away as a result of COVID-19 complications,” UM said in a statement. “The entire health system family is grieving and sends an outpouring of love and condolences to family and friends who have asked for privacy during this difficult time.” The university did not say when the employee died or how old they were. UM has notified anyone who had been in contact with the person.
“Farm Share, Lyft partner to deliver food to South Floridians in need amid coronavirus outbreak” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Farm Share — a 501(c)(3) organization aimed at alleviating hunger — is partnering with the ride-sharing service Lyft to deliver food to South Floridians impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 virus. Farm Share has several warehouses throughout the state of Florida. The organization regularly partners with lawmakers to help distribute food to those in need. But with social distancing efforts in effect aimed at stopping the virus’s spread, that’s made large-scale distribution efforts difficult. Monday, Gov. DeSantis announced South Florida would be operating under a “safer-at-home order.” Wednesday, DeSantis announced that directive would extend to the entire state effective 12:01 a.m. Friday.
“Feeding Florida ramps up food delivery efforts” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Feeding Florida is redoubling its efforts to get food on the tables of the people who hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The group said its 12 member food banks are working alongside state partners and local agencies to provide meals to Floridians and set up mobile distribution sites at schools and other locations. “Our network has adapted to this public health crisis swiftly and expertly, thanks to the experience our food banks have in responding to natural disasters,” Robin Safley, Executive Director of Feeding Florida, said in a news release. The organization said demand is up 30% and is expected to rise as the corona-crisis continues. Those who can are encouraged to donate food, time or money so the operation can handle the increased load.
— MORE LOCAL —
“Jerry Demings warns Orange County residents to brace for much worse in a month” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Citing a University of Washington COVID-19 model that projects thousands of Florida deaths, Orange County Mayor Demings warned the community Wednesday to brace for the worst to come and a peak still a month away. The Wednesday evening update from the Florida Department of Health shows Orange County with 458 cases, the most of any county in the state outside the huge outbreak in South Florida. Demings said he believes Orange County and Central Florida are a couple of weeks behind New York City and Miami. Elsewhere in Central Florida, Osceola County now has 140 cases, up 30 since Tuesday; Seminole County, 128 cases, up 25; Lake County, 71 cases, up 5; Volusia County, 93 cases, up 13; and Brevard County 47, up 10.
“Tampa Bay leaders unsure what DeSantis’ order means for local residents” via Josh Solomon and Anastasia Dawson of the Tampa Bay Times — Local leaders scrambled Wednesday afternoon to understand the implications of DeSantis’ order to shutdown the state starting Friday morning, many saying they awaiting advice from their attorneys. In some ways, the Governor’s order appears more restrictive than the local orders. In at least one notable way, the Governor’s order is less restrictive. The additional layer of rules means it’s unclear what local provisions may have to change. “The Governor’s guidance and order is very comprehensive,” wrote Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister in a statement. “We are examining it now.”
“In Tampa, police calls drop, but shootings tick up amid coronavirus” via Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times — Tampa police have seen an alarming rise in gun violence despite the city being largely shut down. The violence is centered in east Tampa. It has risen even as police calls for service have dwindled. Investigators believe some of the violence has spilled over into the jurisdiction of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Tampa police chief Brian Dugan speculated that since nightclubs and other gathering places are closed, it might be easier for feuding parties to find each other in their own neighborhoods.
“Hillsborough County to open quarantine site at two hotels in Tampa” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Hillsborough County will open a quarantine and isolation site beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday to house individuals who can care for themselves, but unable to stay in their homes. The location, two adjoining hotels the County is leasing, is ideal for individuals who may have contracted the coronavirus and want to isolate away from family members to keep them healthy. The sites will allow residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus to receive shelter, food, telemedicine support, and basic services, including laundry and sanitation. The county signed a six-month lease with both hotels to provide shelter and services for quarantined individuals.
“Pinellas County secures Clearwater hotel to quarantine 50 homeless people” via Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times — For patients to gain entry, each person must be referred by the Florida Department of Health, county administrator Barry Burton said. The county will release details about the facility and costs once the agreement is completed, he said. “We need a place to isolate them,” Burton said. “We’re also looking at alternative sites. We’re ramping it up.” The county, Burton said, is preparing for an uptick in coronavirus cases. As of Monday, Pinellas had 129 confirmed cases and five deaths. The homeless are considered at high risk for the coronavirus because they often have poor health. The city will pay Catholic Charities Diocese of St. Petersburg $120,000 to run a temporary homeless camp for the next 30 days.
“DeSantis accelerates construction on $864M Howard Frankland Bridge project” via Veronica Brezina-Smith of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Florida is taking advantage of desolate roads to kick-start construction projects slated for the future, including the Howard Frankland Bridge project which affects Hillsborough and Pinellas counties’ traffic. On Wednesday, Gov. DeSantis ordered the acceleration of road construction in the state during a press conference, including the $864 million Howard Frankland Bridge project. “We have roads that if you were to do a lot of construction on would cause massive traffic in normal situations, that may not be the case now, so I have told the secretary of transportation here that they need to accelerate $2.1 billion in transportation projects,” DeSantis said.
“Tampa Bay’s construction industry is still going vertical in the face of coronavirus” via Ashley Gurbal Kritzer of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Construction in the Tampa Bay region is one of the least affected industries by a coronavirus. It’s too soon to say whether any disruptions in the supply chain could lead to a materials shortage. A group of Hillsborough County elected officials on Monday voted down a countywide shelter in place order, though Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said there are discussions around a citywide order. Even if that happens, construction would be considered an essential industry. More trade workers heading to the Tampa Bay region looking for work. That would be a boon to the construction labor market.
“Tampa Bay stares down $880 million in likely hotel loan defaults as the industry pleads for a ‘second’ stimulus” via Craig M. Douglas and Ashley Gurbal Kritzer — The hotel industry is warning it will default on at least $86 billion in collateralized loans within the next several months and deliver another financial shock to the U.S. economy without more intervention by the federal government. The pandemic could not have hit at a worse time for Tampa Bay hotels, which are at the peak of their busy season in March and April. Instead of being packed to the brim with spring breakers, however, the region’s hotels are seeing occupancies plunge in recent weeks.
“Sheriff David Morgan: Deputies will not arrest people for leaving home under new order” via Kevin Robinson of the Pensacola News Journal — Escambia County Sheriff Morgan assured citizens Wednesday that deputies would not be stopping and arresting people for leaving their homes under the Governor’s new stay-at-home order. The sheriff said his office started to receive a flood of calls from concerned citizens after DeSantis instructed Floridians that effective at 12:01 a.m. Friday, citizens are only to leave their homes for essential services for the next 30 days. In a short Facebook video, the sheriff said his department interpreted the governor’s order as a warning and a request for people vulnerable to COVID-19 to limit their travel and gatherings as much as possible.
“Gainesville business owners feel sting of slowed economy” via Emily Mavrakis of The Gainesville Sun — Lilly Kline isn’t affiliated with the University of Florida, but the day the large institution at the heart of Gainesville shut its doors a few weeks ago, she became worried for the future of her two clothing retail stores. Seven part-time student employees worked at the Urban Thread stores, located at 802 W. University Ave. and 1236 NW 21st Ave., before she decided to close them in mid-March temporarily. She also has two full-time employees. She continues to pay them but doesn’t know how long that can go on now that she’s not generating any revenue. “We were open for three days after the school closed with no business at all,” Kline said.
“Leon County commission chairman concerned about continued church services” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — County officials are concerned over reports that some Tallahassee churches continue to be packed on Sundays even in the face of a coronavirus-based order limiting gatherings to 10 people. They’d hoped to rely on Gov. DeSantis’ safer-at-home executive order, but that measure deems “attending religious services conducted in churches, synagogues and houses of worship” to be essential activities. The executive order does direct churches to follow health guidelines for gathering size and social distancing, but County Commission Chairman Bryan Desloge pleaded with churches to put a hold on large services.
“After local outcry, Georgia senator who tested positive for coronavirus leaves St. George Island” via Karl Etters — The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office stationed a deputy to monitor Sen. Bruce Thompson’s vacation house in the St. George Plantation after the Republican arrived at his beach house on the island late Tuesday night in a caravan of three cars. “As a result of surveillance on Senator Bruce Thompson’s residence on St. George Island, Senator Thompson called Sheriff A.J. Smith to advise he would return to Georgia,” FCSO wrote in an email. Smith criticized Thompson’s arrival in one the counties in Florida without a confirmed case of the deadly coronavirus.
“Panama City’s navy surface warfare center develops DIY ventilator” via Jacqueline Bostick of the Panama City News Herald — A new ventilator prototype developed by a team of engineers and experts at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City may help medical staff breathe a sigh of relief. The project was a race against time. The Department of Defense gave teams at different universities and agencies two weeks to develop the prototype. More ventilators will free medical personnel of the burden of choosing who will get the lifesaving help and who doesn’t. If the team wins the DoD challenge, which includes hundreds of submissions across the country, the prototype could become a patented product and deployed quickly for use against COVID-19 at home and abroad — by purchase or do-it-yourself.
“UF student government meeting ‘Zoom bombed’” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — An online University of Florida student government meeting was bombarded this week with images of swastikas and pornography in what’s known as a “Zoom bombing.” UF President Kent Fuchs said on Twitter that he had ordered an investigation into the attack, adding that there is currently no evidence a UF student was the perpetrator. The hijacking practice has become more prevalent in recent weeks as office workers, and students turn to video conferencing services to continue working and learning through the novel coronavirus outbreak. On Monday, the FBI issued a statement warning Americans about such attacks and providing recommendations to help schools, businesses, and others avoid them.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“If the virus hadn’t caused the crash, something else would have” via Satyajit Das of Bloomberg — Shortfalls in revenue and cash flows, caused by the coronavirus shutdowns, have simply exposed the vulnerabilities of a structurally unsound economic and financial system. Asset prices were priced for perfection and inflated. Weaknesses of the banking system were ignored. Declines in trading liquidity were disregarded. Investors moved to private markets and unlisted securities, which are difficult to value or liquefy in anything other favorable markets. Most economic actors did not build enough buffers against shocks. Struggles to cope now reflect the lack of cogent health policy, as well as diminished spending on health, due variously to austerity policies and privatization.
“Why the global recession could last a long time” via Peter S. Goodman of The New York Times — The world is almost certainly ensnared in a devastating recession delivered by the coronavirus pandemic. Now, fears are growing that the downturn could be far more punishing and long-lasting than initially feared — potentially enduring into next year, and even beyond — as governments intensify restrictions on business to halt the spread of the pandemic, and as fear of the virus reconfigures the very concept of public space, impeding consumer-led economic growth. The situation looks uniquely dire in developing countries, which have seen an investment rush for the exits this year, sending currencies plummeting, forcing people to pay more for imported food and fuel, and threatening governments with insolvency.
“SBA loans to charge 0.5% interest, can be forgiven if used to save jobs” via Bob Davis, Amara Omeokwe and Ruth Simon of The Wall Street Journal — Borrowers will be charged just 0.5% interest in the new federally-funded loan program to help keep small businesses afloat, and the loans will be forgiven as long as they keep their employees on their payrolls for two months. Business owners can begin applying Friday, followed by independent contractors and people who self-employed on April 10. The government says it will forgive the loans if they keep their workforce largely intact and use the loans for eligible expenses such as rent and utilities. The loan is due in two years, with payments deferred for six months. Interest accrues during the deferral period.
“White-collar job security exposes huge gap with service industry” via Jeff Green and Saijel Kishan of Bloomberg — While retailers, movie theaters and restaurant chains are furloughing hundreds of thousands of employees as revenue dries up, other employers are still able to do business with social distancing and have the cash flow available to retain workers. Some are choosing to go even further by publicly committing to keeping headcount steady because it reassures workers, provides stability for their communities and ensures they’re ready to resume normal operations eventually. The decisions by CEOs at companies such as General Motors and BP to keep paying their workers in the shrinking economy are in stark contrast to service sector and retail giants. A Bloomberg tally suggests major retailers have already trimmed more than 600,000 jobs, and millions more in cuts may be looming.
“It’s April 1 — here’s what you need to know about paying your rent or mortgage” via Renae Marie of The Washington Post — As renters and homeowners grapple with mass layoffs and business closures, housing advocates are growing increasingly concerned the country will soon face a housing crisis to rival the one that nearly took down the economy a decade ago. Federal officials have imposed a nationwide halt to foreclosures and evictions for more than 30 million Americans with home mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration or two government-controlled companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But the federal moratoriums do not cover more than 40 million renters or 5 million homeowners with mortgage loans not backed by the government. And while the halt to foreclosures and evictions will keep many people in their homes temporarily, a more significant financial shock is brewing.
“Renters, property managers feel pressure as rent comes due amid coronavirus pandemic” via Andrew Wigdor of the Naples Daily News — With businesses closing throughout the nation, employees are being let go by the thousands. Some residents have been left with few options to pay their rent as April 1 quickly approaches. Property owners and managers have also been placed in a unique situation, as they often need rent money for property upkeep and mortgages. To combat this issue, some cities and states, such as New York, have enacted temporary moratoriums on evictions. Florida has not implemented a statewide measure, but some areas of the state have paused eviction enforcement. Some state lawmakers and officials called Tuesday for DeSantis to take action in ordering a moratorium, but the Governor has not moved forward on this as of yet. Both Lee and Collier courts are still allowing eviction cases to be filed at this time.
“Eggs and orange juice are the best-performing assets this year” via John Detrixhe of Quartz — Few commodities are performing well in markets this year. Panic buying at grocery stores has made eggs and orange juice the best performing assets this year. Egg orders from some retailers have jumped by as much as six times their normal levels. Orange juice is in demand because of panic buying, and also likely because consumers are hoping it will keep them healthy during the pandemic. There are signs that the OJ high won’t last. Some wellness influencers on social media, meanwhile, are reportedly touting vitamin C, found in orange juice, as protection against COVID-19.
“Florida Forestry keeps the toilet paper rolling” via the Southeast AGNEW Radio Network — With stores struggling to maintain supply in toilet paper aisles and many Floridians now under stay-at-home orders, shoppers can rest assured: harvesting Florida’s forest products remains a necessary operation. This means that working forests like the UF/IFAS Austin Cary Forest (ACF), located just northeast of the main University of Florida campus, are carrying on with their usual activities, including logging operations. While alternative sources for toilet paper exist, including hemp and bamboo, that traditional wood pulp remains the preferred choice for sustainability and comprises the vast majority of Florida’s forest product.
— MORE CORONA —
“Golf gets OK in stay-at-home advisory for retirement haven” via the Associated Press — Golf will go on in one of the largest retirement communities in the nation, though other activities will be curtailed amid concerns the coronavirus is starting to take hold in there. Officials in central Florida’s Sumter County, where most of The Villages retirement community is located, issued a stay-at-home advisory Tuesday recommending that residents remain at their houses except to get groceries, seek medical attention, work, care for another person or exercise outdoors.
“Over half of Americans are postponing weddings—till when, few know” via Matt Gross of Bloomberg — With more than 265 million Americans, about 80% of the country, now under some sort of lockdown order, the $54.4 billion wedding industry is reeling. Based on surveys, Shane McMurray, founder of the Wedding Report, estimates that 6.5% of couples are canceling their weddings, 28% are trying to shift their dates to later in 2020, 22.5% are postponing to 2021, and 43% have no plans to do anything yet. “Obviously, April and May will be pretty dismal,” he says. “This year we’ll likely lose between 25%–30% of weddings.”
“Wimbledon canceled for first time since World War II due to coronavirus outbreak in U.K.” via Dan Wolken of the USA TODAY — The most important Grand Slam tournament of the year is officially off the tennis calendar. In a move that had been signaled strongly over the last week, the All England Club canceled Wimbledon for 2020, citing the “likely trajectory” of the coronavirus outbreak in the United Kingdom and the logistical impossibility of setting up the event at a point later in the summer. In explaining the decision, the club noted that government restrictions on mass gatherings, movement, and travel would impact infrastructure preparations for the tournament.
“‘Alcohol is soooo good’: Trolls are breaking into AA meetings held on Zoom video calls and harassing recovering alcoholics” via Aaron Holmes of Business Insider — A Tuesday-morning Alcoholics Anonymous meeting was going as planned. Then, halfway through the session, members heard a man’s voice shouting misogynistic and anti-Semitic slurs, along with crass references to drinking. Meeting organizers quickly muted the intruder and removed them — but by then, the meeting had derailed, and more than half of the participants had left. The digital break-in was one of the latest instances of “Zoom-bombing,” a tactic in which trolls scour the internet for links to videoconferences and then harass participants. The FBI in Boston on Monday issued a warning about Zoom-bombing after trolls disrupted two schools’ videoconferences.
“Could we come out of the coronavirus crisis with new, more healthful habits?” via Daphne Miller of The Washington Post — Not everyone is reporting a decline in self-care since the start of this pandemic. Among those lucky enough to have access to food and safe housing, and not be sickened by COVID-19, there are some indicators that the pandemic itself, and the massive shutdown it has triggered, is forcing the adoption of more-healthful behaviors. Many people are doing online exercise classes, and others are spending more time at parks that happen to be still open. Home cooking from scratch, an activity generally considered to be a good indicator of healthful eating, also appears to be on the upswing. Home gardening has become more popular too.
“Disney donates masks, rain ponchos to health care workers on front lines of crisis” via Scripps National — Disney says it recently donated more than 100,000 N95 masks to the states of New York, California and Florida. Disney also says it has provided 150,000 rain ponchos to MedShare, a humanitarian aid organization, for distribution to hospitals in need. Nurses and others on the front lines of the crisis can use the ponchos to protect their clothing and prolong the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), while also freeing up gowns. These efforts follow Disney’s recent donation of more than 270 tons of food to local food banks from Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort, Disneyland Paris, and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa.
“Trader Joe’s says ‘no returns’ for customers who hoarded items in coronavirus panic” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Trader Joe’s has a message for coronavirus hoarders: If you bought a bunch of supplies in bulk, you’re stuck with them. According to a post from TMZ, at least one location is dropping its otherwise lenient return policy when it comes to those who hoarded supplies amid the COVID-19 virus outbreak. The outlet spotted a sign at a Southern California location announcing the change. “Due to the current circumstances, we are unable to accept returns on overbought products. Thank you,” the sign reads.
“Order a quarantine pizza and help this Florida chain donate 10,000 pizzas to the hungry” via Connie Ogle of the Miami Herald — Pizza is the official food of coronavirus quarantine. And one of South Florida’s favorite chains is making sure families in need get some. Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza is donating 10,000 pizzas to Feeding Florida’s South Florida food bank families. Over the next two weeks, for every pizza purchased, Anthony’s will donate a large pizza to Feeding Florida. “Right now, there is an urgent need to take care of our neighbors. It’s what we’ve always done and will continue to do,” said founder Anthony Bruno in a press release. “A hot meal can provide some comfort and nourishment to families in our community.”
“St. Pete chocolate maker donates candy for hospital workers’ kids” via Kathy Saunders of the Tampa Bay Times — This week, Schakolad Chocolate Factory is making Easter Bunnies and other chocolate treats for baskets for the nurses and staff at St. Anthony’s Hospital to give to their children. Jane Rakestraw of Schakolad Chocolate Factory said she plans to provide enough chocolate for 200 baskets. Each will include a solid chocolate bunny, a chocolate-dipped marshmallow Peep, two chocolate-dipped pretzel rods, chocolate foil-wrapped eggs, and jelly beans valued at $24.
— THE HUMAN TOLL —
“The other way the coronavirus will ravage our cities” via Adam Harris of The Atlantic — New York City stands to lose $4.8 billion to $6 billion in tax revenue. The money helps the city fund schools, repair roads, and pay off debts. Back in late February, city comptroller Scott Stringer told reporters that the city had not “done enough to prepare to weather a storm we cannot imagine.” Versions of this story are playing out across the country. Cities and counties are looking for ways to cut their budgets as tax revenue and economic activity decline and medical costs soar. The $3.8 trillion municipal-bond market — loans used for things like building schools, hospitals, and golf courses — has essentially frozen. Some areas are worried they won’t feel the relief enough.
“The interminable body count” via Elaine Godfrey of The Atlantic — We likely won’t have an estimate of how many Americans have died as a result of the pandemic for a very long time — maybe months, maybe a year. We will almost certainly never know the exact number. “It sounds like it could be totally obvious — just count body bags,” said John Mutter, an environmental science professor at Columbia University. “It’s not obvious at all.” “When you die of coronavirus, what do you actually die of? [In some cases] your lungs fill up with fluid, just like it’s pneumonia. So do you die of the virus, or do you die of pneumonia?”
— ONE GOOD THING —
Emiliano Moscoso’s chain of restaurants, Sierra Nevada, serves hamburgers and milkshakes in Colombia’s capital of Bogota. As the coronavirus outbreak worsens, the poorer districts of that same city, a rising number of people are going hungry because they have lost their livelihoods in the coronavirus outbreak.
Working with delivery startup Rappi, Moscoso’s “Solidarity Menu” allows people to order and pay for food online that his employees will prepare for delivery to families in poor neighborhoods.
According to The Associated Press, Moscoso said that more than half of the burgers would go to Venezuelan migrants who have fled hunger in their home country; many are at risk of the virus because they live in close quarters in shelters or are homeless. Many are working in Colombia’s vast informal economy, selling everything from flowers to pens in the streets of its major cities.
“The other day, I delivered 600 burgers to two tough neighborhoods of Bogota, and there were families who had not eaten for days,” Moscoso told the AP. “It’s very moving what’s happening with just nine days of a lockdown. I can’t imagine what will happen with 20, 30 or 40 days, and people not being able to go out and make a living.”
Official estimates say that 798 people in Colombia have been infected with coronavirus; 14 have died.
Moscoso is not making a profit from Solidarity Menus, he said, but the project is keeping his staff active. He vows not to lay off any employees, among them people with Downs syndrome and who are deaf.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“The U.S. needs to know what went wrong” via David Ignatius of The Washington Post — A review of the Trump administration’s performance would find many negatives but also some pluses. Trump’s public statements appeared to minimize the virus and its impact until recently. What accounts for the failure to translate this concern into action? One explosive issue in any inquiry would be whether Trump discounted intelligence warnings because of concerns about the impact of the virus on his reelection campaign. Indeed, the question implicates a broader set of concerns about the politicization of intelligence, in particular, Trump’s firing in February of Joseph Maguire and Andrew Hallman, the acting director of national intelligence and his deputy, respectively, and then the replacement of the top two officials at the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).
“Trump’s coronavirus claim is his biggest lie yet — and it could be working” via S.V. Date of HuffPost — Trump faces his greatest challenge yet: making Americans forget the two months he dismissed concerns about a deadly pandemic as a “hoax.” If recent polling showing a significant bump in his approval ratings is any indicator, though, Trump may well be succeeding ― setting himself on a path to reelection. To make this work, Trump has been pushing the biggest lie of his adult life ― a revisionist history in which he did everything correctly, that nobody could have anticipated such an outbreak, and his leadership alone is saving millions of lives. “It’s hard not to be happy with the job we’re doing. That, I can tell you,” he said last week.
“FEMA braces for a multi-front war as hurricane season looms” via Betsy Woodruff Swan and Daniel Lippman of Politico — Federal emergency managers are bracing themselves for the herculean task of handling multiple natural disasters while the coronavirus pandemic taxes their resources. According to current and former Department of Homeland Security officials, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is considering setting up a second National Response Coordination Center to handle disasters unrelated to the global outbreak. A second center would basically gear up for Atlantic hurricane season, which officially starts on June 1.
“Census Day arrives with U.S. almost paralyzed by coronavirus” via The Associated Press — Census Day — the date used to determine where a person lives for the once-a-decade count — arrived Wednesday with a nation almost paralyzed by the spread of the coronavirus. But census officials vowed the job would be completed by its year-end deadline. The virus’s spread forced the U.S. Census Bureau to suspend field operations for a month, from mid-March to mid-April, when the hiring process would be ramping up for up to 500,000 temporary census takers. The bureau has delayed the start of counts for the homeless and people living in group quarters like college dorms and nursing homes and pushed back the head count’s deadline from the end of July to mid-August.
Thank you, Syl — “Trump-connected lobby shop gets laundry machine company deemed ‘essential’” via Lachlan Markay of The Daily Beast — The Long Island-based company Laundrylux inked a lobbying deal on March 21 with the firm Ballard Partners. The firm pleaded the company’s case with the Department of Homeland Security. A week after Ballard’s work began, DHS came out with a new list of such industries, and it included “laundromats, laundry services, and dry cleaners.” What makes a company essential during the pandemic is not entirely clear. Getting the official sign off to stay open amid the outbreak can be the difference between survival and insolvency for many businesses. Industry groups have raised concerns about the lack of clear standards for inclusion on the list.
— STATEWIDE —
“Florida wildfire threat and drought increasing from a record hot, dry March” via Jonathan Erdman of The Weather Channel — Florida seared through what was for some locations a record hot and dry March. That combination raised the threat of wildfires and drought heading into the heart of the state’s dry season. Daytona Beach, Fort Myers, Orlando, Pensacola and Sarasota, each sweltered through their hottest March on record. This persistently dry, hot pattern dried out soil and vegetation. This typically happens in spring, but the extreme lack of March rain and blistering heat raised the fire danger much higher, mainly south of I-4. As of the morning of April 1, 95 wildfires were active across the state, involving just under 1,900 acres. Some counties implemented a burning ban.
“Abnormally warm Gulf of Mexico could intensify the upcoming tornado and hurricane season” via Matthew Cappucci of The Washington Post — Water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are running more than three degrees above average, increasing the prospects for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes this spring and potentially stronger hurricane activity in the summer and fall. The last time Gulf of Mexico waters was similarly warm in 2017, it coincided with an above-average tornado season through the spring, and then Category 4 Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas Gulf Coast at the end of summer. The balmy Gulf waters have already contributed to abnormal warmth across the Deep South, where virtually the entirety of the Interstate 10 corridor through Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia is wrapping up one of its top five warmest Marches on record.
“Vaping enthusiasts hold virtual rally to voice desire for gubernatorial veto” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Critics of a flavored vape ban passed by the Legislature held a virtual rally to make their point. The Florida Smoke-Free Association saw supporters with homemade placards organized in front of webcams. Most were waving signs made on home print paper. Some donned face masks with the message “Veto SB 810.” Digital demonstration was born from the event, which consisted of supporters sitting in front of webcams holding up signs. The issue itself has been a difficult one for the Florida Smoke-Free Association, which favored a House version of legislation that raised Florida’s vaping age to 21 and looked to curb the availability of flavored vaping products to young consumers.
“Challenge to wireless technology law rejected” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Ruling against the Florida League of Cities and three communities, a Leon County circuit judge has dismissed a constitutional challenge to a state law expected to help telecommunications companies install new wireless technology on city-owned utility poles and in public rights of way. Circuit Judge John Cooper sided with Secretary of State Laurel Lee and the Florida Department of Revenue in their requests to toss out the case. The league and the cities of Fort Walton Beach, Naples, and Port Orange filed the lawsuit, arguing in part that the state law infringes on home-rule powers and amounts to an unconstitutional “taking” of property.
“Employer of Pulse shooter cleared of negligence” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — A state appeals court rejected negligence lawsuits filed against the employer of shooter Omar Mateen. The decision by a three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal was a defeat for survivors and representatives of the victims of the June 2016 shooting that killed 49 people and injured dozens of others. It upheld a ruling by a Palm Beach County circuit judge, who dismissed the lawsuits against G4S Secure Solutions (USA), Inc. Mateen had been employed by the Palm Beach County-based company since 2007, working as a security guard. He carried a gun in the job and had what is known as a Class G firearms license, which requires 28 hours of classroom and range training.
“UCF Provost Elizabeth Dooley, on leave since January, to step down” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — UCF Provost Dooley, who has been on paid administrative leave since January while an investigation is underway, is stepping down from her role “for personal reasons.” Dooley is entitled to a salary equal to nearly 82 percent of the $470,440 total compensation she received as provost starting Friday. After spending the summer term preparing for the change, she’ll serve a nine-month term as a faculty member. Dooley was the first woman and first African American to serve as provost at UCF. The university has not disclosed why she was on leave. A related investigation is ongoing.
“Colleges say lawmakers left them poorly positioned to handle coronavirus impacts” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — The novel coronavirus pandemic is stressing Florida colleges and students. That’s the message the State Board of Education heard Wednesday from Jim Murdaugh, President of Tallahassee Community College and Chair of the Council of Presidents for the Florida College System. Murdaugh says unlike university students, college students don’t live in dorms. They have to work and pay rent and buy food. Like some K-12 students, food insecurity is also an issue for some college students. So is mental health and housing. Murdaugh says the Legislative Session did not position colleges well to meet the challenge posed by COVID-19. He says the state’s colleges only received $22.9 million from lawmakers to raise base funding.
“Latest census estimate calls The Villages America’s fastest-growing metro” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The U.S. Census Bureau found The Villages to be the nation’s fastest-growing metropolitan area. According to new estimates released by the bureau, the sprawling retirement community in Sumter, Lake, and Marion counties grew by 42% between 2010 and 2019, reaching 132,000 population. No other metro area in America came close to such growth. People are leaving rural areas for metro areas for urban and suburban areas. More than half of America’s counties, the vast majority of them already low-population, lost people in the 2010s according to the estimates through 2019, the bureau said.
— 2020 —
“Who are the voters behind Trump’s higher approval rating?” via Trip Gabriel and Lisa Lerer of The New York Times — While public perceptions are fluid in a crisis, a notable twist in polling at this point is that independents are driving Trump’s bump in approval, and some increased Democratic support is a factor as well. Gallup called that “highly unusual for Trump” in reporting its latest survey. Approval by independents rose by eight percentage points from early March, while Democratic support was up by six percentage points. Polling experts said that it was normal for the country to rally around a president during a national crisis, and that Trump’s dominance of the airwaves alone was enough to sway a slice of voters who don’t normally tune in to politics.
“Why Trump’s approval bump isn’t helping him against Joe Biden” via Robert Griffin of The Washington Post — As the novel coronavirus pandemic worsens across the United States, the economic implications are grim. The volume of unemployment claims has skyrocketed, and public assessments of the economy have cratered. Americans aren’t blaming Trump for this dismal economy. The percentage approving of Trump has actually increased slightly in Nationscape surveys as well as polling averages. Democrats remain firmly in Biden’s camp, even as a few more of them say that they approve of Trump. His approval bump may be concentrated among voters who are unlikely to support him in November.
“Top Biden surrogate Barack Obama delayed by pandemic — and Sanders” via John McCormick and Ken Thomas of The Wall Street Journal — Under normal circumstances, Biden might be preparing to wrap up his primary fight against Sanders in April and then deploy his most powerful campaign surrogate: Obama. But the coronavirus pandemic has paused the contest between the former vice president and Vermont senator for weeks, which means Biden’s ex-boss is staying on the sidelines even after he became the most likely Democratic nominee. That is delaying what might have been a period of boosted fundraising and postponing Biden’s ability to unite his party behind him.
— MORE FROM THE TRAIL —
“Florida congressional candidate tests positive for COVID-19” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Congressional candidate Darren Aquino has tested positive for COVID-19. The Naples Republican said he was tested for the coronavirus eight days ago and learned he tested positive in the last few days. “It’s rough being infected, but I’m pushing through,” Aquino said. A former New York City mayoral candidate, Aquino hasn’t visited family in New York City since December. For the moment, he’s quarantined in his own home and said he’s primarily worried for his wife, Sihar. One physician told Aquino he’s “not out of the woods yet,” but Aquino said with the proper medical treatment, he remains confident and optimistic.
“Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Daniella Levine Cava crosses $2.5 million raised” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Levine Cava says she’s exceeded $2.5 million added to her campaign after a haul of more than $200,000 in March. The current District 8 County Commissioner has been one of the best fundraisers in the contest as she campaigns to be the county’s first female Mayor. Former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas has led in that regard, adding more than $3.5 million through February. Levine Cava is one of eight candidates competing to be the county’s next Mayor.
— TOP OPINION —
“A fear-filled lockdown” via Paul Theroux for The New York Times — This peculiarity that we are now experiencing, the nearest thing to a world war, is the key theme in many of Shakespeare’s plays and Jacobean dramas, of old ballads, apocalyptic paintings and morality tales. It is the essence of tragedy and an occasion for license or retribution. As Hamlet says to his father’s ghost, “Time is out of joint.”
— OPINIONS —
“Republicans were warned. Yet, they persisted — in enabling Trump’s coronavirus debacle.” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — That notorious cut-up Mitch McConnell got an early jump on April Fool’s Day this year, blaming Democrats for the Trump administration’s failure to prepare for the novel coronavirus pandemic. “It came up while we were, you know, tied down in the impeachment trial,” he said Tuesday. “And I think it diverted the attention of the government.” If anybody was diverted, it was McConnell, who, along with most of his GOP colleagues, again put lockstep defense of the President ahead of the national interest. During the three weeks of the impeachment trial, public health experts gave stark warnings about the growing biological threat. In that same time, several Senate Democrats (and a few Republicans) urged a more robust mobilization. You know who said nothing? McConnell.
“What is our exit strategy on coronavirus?” via Charles Lockwood of the Tampa Bay Times — Defining the coronavirus exit strategy for when the quarantines, stay-at-home orders, and shutdowns come to an end is a difficult question to answer. This is the first major epidemic that has been tracked exclusively through nucleic acid studies. The problem with these tests, unlike tests that detect antibodies to the virus, is that they only identify actively infected patients. Previously infected patients, now immune, will produce antibodies that clear the virus but test negative with nucleic acid tests, which is a flawed strategy to test and treat the coronavirus. Social distancing must be used even after the economy starts to reopen. A vaccine will be needed to prevent future outbreaks.
“Nate Monroe: While DeSantis turns Florida into strange experiment, locals show leadership” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Florida mayors from both political parties have now had to make the difficult call of whether to issue stay-at-home orders, but their efforts are stymied by one man: DeSantis. DeSantis has repeatedly dismissed the notion of issuing a statewide stay-at-home order, emphasizing a hokey philosophy that “locals know best” and — oddest of all — expressing skepticism residents would follow such an order. Isn’t some compliance better than no compliance? The Governor has also latched onto the idea that some parts of Florida have shown fewer positive coronavirus cases than others, and so perhaps not every community needs the same order. That would make sense if anyone had any actual idea what the spread of COVID-19 actually looked like in Florida.
“Coronavirus has warped our sense of time” via Zachary T. Sampson of the Tampa Bay Times — Time has become a joke. “At least it’s Friday,” someone says on Monday. Or, “What a year the last week has been.” There’s Before Times and After Times. Anything regular is not anymore. Cooking, reading, dating, voting, paying rent. Then there’s time itself. The forward momentum of living never changes. But how we experience time does, said Kristin Kostick, a medical anthropologist at the Baylor College of Medicine. People catalog major events as anchor points, she said, which mark the separation between Time A and Time B. With breaking news providing more and more anchor points, time can feel slower. But emotion warps our sense of time further, with fears that the worst might lie ahead.
“Florida’s pioneering medical reforms” via Sal Nuzzo and Vittorio Nastasi for The Wall Street Journal — Many states are struggling with shortages of ventilators and personal protective equipment. Florida repealed most of its certificate-of-need requirements last year. Within weeks, three hospitals that had previously had their expansion plans stymied announced immediate plans for new transplant services. Florida enacted substantial reforms to facilitate the adoption of telemedicine. These included a registration process allowing professionals in other states to provide telemedicine services without obtaining an additional license to practice in Florida. Florida passed comprehensive scope-of-practice reform for advanced practice registered nurses, physician assistants and pharmacists.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Gov. DeSantis finally decided to impose a statewide lockdown at one minute after midnight in hopes of containing the coronavirus pandemic in Florida.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— The governor’s reversal is a win for Florida Democrats, who have been urging him to do this for nearly two weeks. The long delay has prompted some to begin calling him the Florida Man of coronavirus. Sen. Perry Thurston talks about how he had dogged the DeSantis right up to the last minute.
— The epidemiological model used by the White House predicts Florida will have 6,500 fatalities by June.
— While highways are almost empty, the Governor pushing to speed up some major highway projects that normally would create all sorts of delays. Those projects in Tampa, Palm Beach County, Miami-Dade and Orlando add up to more than $2 billion.
— It’s been almost three weeks since the state’s price gouging hotline was activated, and Attorney General Ashley Moody says they’ve already received more than 1,200 complaints.
— Schools are still empty as kids learn their lessons from home; the Pasco County School Superintendent says there is one good thing has come out of this — parents are more involved than ever in their kid’s education
— The latest on Florida Man, including a man who repeatedly stabbed a police dog in the head. The guy is dead, but the canine is recovering.
To listen: click on the image below:
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
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This photo, taken by Southwest Airlines employee Dayartra Etheridge, shows health care workers and flight crew aboard a flight from Atlanta to New York, holding their hands in the shape of a heart before the plane took off. About 30 health care professionals, all from Atlanta-area hospitals, were on the regularly scheduled flight to help with the coronavirus outbreak in New York. (Photo by Dayartra Etheridge via AP)
— ALOE —
“Cast members still raise American flag in closed Walt Disney World theme park” via Fox 13 News — Florida’s theme parks may still be closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that isn’t stopping cast members at Walt Disney World from continuing to raise the American flag in the Magic Kingdom. Walt Disney World President Josh D’Amaro posted a video of Disney Security cast members doing just that on Wednesday. “While our world looks very different today, one thing endures … the American flag still flies over Walt Disney World,” D’Amaro wrote on Instagram. “I’m inspired how our Security Cast Members continue to raise it each and every morning at the Magic Kingdom while they are on duty protecting the magic.”
“Peacock, Nickelodeon nab NFL playoff games as league expands postseason” via Rick Porter of The Hollywood Reporter — The NFL has approved expanding its playoffs from 12 to 14 teams, with two extra games taking place during the wild-card round. Under the new format, only the top seed in each conference will receive a first-round bye; previously, the top two teams had wild-card weekend off. NBC and CBS will broadcast the additional games, and they’ll also air in a couple of new places- on NBC’s Peacock and CBS All-Access, as well as a separately produced broadcast tailored to a younger audience will simulcast on Nickelodeon.
“J.K. Rowling starts Harry Potter At Home for housebound families” via The Associated Press — Rowling is hoping a dash of Harry Potter will help families confined to their homes during the coronavirus pandemic. The author has launched an online initiative, www.harrypotterathome.com, which features quizzes, games and other activities. For April, Rowling also has partnered with the audio publisher-distributor Audible and the library e-book supplier OverDrive for free audio and digital editions of the first Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” (The U.S. edition is called “Harry Potter’s and the Sorcerer’s Stone”). Rowling’s British and American print publishers, Bloomsbury and Scholastic, will contribute materials to the Potter website and to their own websites.
“John Krasinski wants some good news. With special guest Steve Carell, he’s bringing it to us.” via Sonia Rao of The Washington Post — Krasinski launched a new YouTube series over the weekend called “Some Good News” and, like a good chunk of America, turned to “The Office” to lift his spirits. In the series premiere, he enlisted his former co-star Carell to celebrate the NBC sitcom’s 15th anniversary. Krasinski began the show by saying he has long wanted to watch a show entirely dedicated to good news. Connected via Zoom thanks to Carell’s technologically savvy wife, Nancy, the former co-stars reminisced on the years they spent playing Dunder Mifflin Paper Company boss Michael Scott and salesman Jim Halpert.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to our good friends Danny Kanner and Gary Yordon. Also celebrating today is Karen McAllister.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.