Connect with us

Emails & Opinions

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.3.20

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

In these strange and unprecedented times, journalists worldwide are busier than ever.

Florida Politics and my team of reporters are no different. Day after day, hour after hour, we are reporting on every detail of the COVID-19 crisis to ensure readers have the information they need to make decisions and stay safe.

The mound of coverage has led to Google searches seeking help with Florida’s struggling unemployment system, often returning results linking to Florida Politics articles on the subject.

I’m not bragging, I promise. But the phenomenon, and the desperation that thousands upon thousands of out-of-work Floridians are facing, has led to a flood of emails and phone calls from people asking me, not the state whose phone lines are bogged down, for help.

Florida’s unemployment woes are quickly leading to desperation.

I write this to make two points.

First of all, I’m answering the calls. In this time of home confinement, things can get pretty lonely, so even just hearing a stranger’s voice brings some modicum of comfort and relief even if the topic is somber.

But more importantly, it highlights an urgent need for action. People are so desperate they’re reaching out to a political blog publisher.

They can’t complete unemployment applications; the system continually crashes under the weight of a historic surge in job losses, and call centers are so overrun with calls the phone system is breaking down, leaving anguished Floridians with nowhere else to turn.

One gentleman called and said he had $400 left in the bank with kids to feed and time running out. Can you imagine that level of despair?

Last week, there were 222,054 applications. On Sunday alone, the state received 21,137 applications.

The problem is so pervasive that even those with access to people in power are having a hard time.

“It’s just a complete boondoggle,” Sen. Joe Gruters said this week. “It’s incredibly disappointing because as a Senator, I’ve had tons of people, I can’t even tell you how many, come to tell me what a disaster it is. My own mother has tried to file over 100 times without success.”

Here’s what I’m doing. I’m tracking down individuals’ representatives in the Legislature and reaching out to them to offer some help.

So this is a call to those in power to do something.

Listen to your constituents. Get them help. Answer their calls. Act. And do it like, yesterday.

Take a page out of Sen. Jason Pizzo‘s playbook. He’s calling on employment officials to put lawmakers and their aides, of which there are nearly 500, to work.

And to the Department of Economic Opportunity, hurry up and hire those new employees and fix your damn website. It cost taxpayers $77 million; it should damn well work.

It’s good that DEO head Ken Lawson is moving forward with old-fashioned paper applications to help ease the burden and that Gov. Ron DeSantis solidified that plan with an executive order Thursday. That’s great news for those seeking relief who might not be as comfortable with navigating a website as others. It’s also great that the Governor authorized new personnel to prop the struggling agency up. Hopefully, it will be enough, but it might not be, which is why the pressure should continue until people stop hitting dead ends.

These are our friends, our family members, our neighbors, and they are hurting.

— EXECUTIVE SUMMARY —

— The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide passed the 1 million threshold Thursday in the latest indication of the pandemic’s growing foothold around the globe, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Read more here

— The White House is expected to announce that all Americans should wear cloth masks if they go out in public. Read more here.

The White House expects to announce that people should start wearing face masks in public.

— The federal-government-run national stockpile has sent out nearly half its ventilators and has fewer than 10,000 still in hand. Read more here.

— New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned Thursday that the state’s supply of breathing machines could be exhausted in six days if the number of people made critically ill by the coronavirus outbreak continues at its current rate. Read more here.

— More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — doubling a record high set just one week earlier. Read more here.

— People changed their travel habits far less in parts of the U.S. that waited to impose stay-at-home orders. Read more here.

— The Democratic National Convention is postponed to mid-August. Read more here.

— TOP STORY —

Some worshippers congregate, and Governors say OK” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO — DeSantis quietly amended a statewide stay-at-home order Wednesday night, handing a legal victory to a Tampa pastor at the center of a brewing national battle over religious liberty in the age of coronavirus. On Wednesday, DeSantis urged state residents to limit travel and gatherings and curbed some business activity, an order that exempted certain “essential” services, including places of worship. After announcing the order, he later amended it, with no public acknowledgment, to override local social distancing orders. The amendment, first reported by the Tampa Bay Times, supersedes “any conflicting official action or order issued by a local official,” making clear that city and county governments can’t impose restrictions stricter than those issued at the state level.

Some states including Florida) are exempting church services from the social distancing requirements.

Florida jobless claims rise as does anger among unemployed” via Bobby Caina Calvan of The Associated Press — Unemployment claims in Florida skyrocketed Thursday — as did frustrations among the newly jobless who have struggled for weeks to file for financial relief amid the coronavirus outbreak that has crippled the state’s economy and sidelined much of its workforce. To alleviate the financial suffering, DeSantis banned evictions and foreclosures for 45 days and ordered other state departments to lend employees to the Department of Economic Opportunity to help it answer phone calls and process unemployment applications. This came after the department’s director took the unusual step of publicly apologizing for his agency’s failures and the anguish wrought on thousands of Floridians unable to get unemployment benefits.

‘I apologize’ for Florida’s unemployment website fiasco, director says” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Lawson, the man in charge of Florida’s broken unemployment website, apologized Thursday for the fiasco and said the department is reverting to paper applications for people seeking relief. The site is dogged by long-standing glitches and a crush of people thrown out of work because of the coronavirus. Lawson said the office received 1.5 million calls in the last week, with a third of them coming from Floridians looking to reset their PINs. The PINs are required to log in to the site.

Bill Galvano tells Senators they ‘may need’ to return to deal with federal aid” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Senate President Galvano on Thursday expressed confidence that Florida’s current budget should be able to absorb the economic punches of the coronavirus crisis but cautioned senators they might have to return to deal with federal aid. The $12 billion Florida expects from the coronavirus relief package could require additional actions this year by the Florida Legislature, meaning a special Session, Galvano cautioned.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: Congress must pass the old, and very strongly proven, deductibility by businesses on restaurants and entertainment. This will bring restaurants, and everything related, back — and stronger than ever. Move quickly, they will all be saved!

@CHeathWFTV: Fun fact: Florida’s SNAP application website doesn’t list “Egypt” as a country of birth in its drop-down box. But, it still lists the USSR.

@JaredEMoskowitz: .@3M Hello again. Director of @FLSERT here. I have money, you have masks yet you won’t sell them to me. Stop selling to foreign governments.

—@RJSzczerba: I haven’t heard anything yet, but was wondering when do we get assigned our Hunger Games districts?

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@MStark17: Wonder how long it’ll be before I can go to the grocery store without waves of near-debilitating anxiety, just normal thoughts upon waking up.

@BiancaJoanie: Someone better fix Instagram and get it back up and running before we’re all forced to stop disassociating.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Passover begins — 5; Quibi launches — 6; Third-season premiere of “Killing Eve” — 9; Easter — 9; First quarter campaign reports due — 15; Last day of federal candidate qualifying — 19; NFL Draft — 20; Florida Schools reopen (maybe) — 28; Gov. DeSantis’ executive order closing bars and restaurants expires — 35; Mother’s Day — 37; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 66; Federal taxes due — 103; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 105; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 136; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 137; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 143; First presidential debate in Indiana — 179; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 187; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 195; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 202; 2020 General Election — 214; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 228; “No Time to Die” premieres — 236; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 264; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 476.

— CORONA NATION —

Experts and Donald Trump’s advisers doubt White House’s 240,000 coronavirus deaths estimate” via William Wan, Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker and Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post — White House officials have refused to explain how they generated the figure — a death toll bigger than the United States suffered in the Vietnam War or the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They have not provided the underlying data so others can assess its reliability or provided long-term strategies to lower that death count. Some of President Trump’s top advisers have expressed doubts about the estimate. There have been fierce debates inside the White House about its accuracy. Jeffrey Shaman, a Columbia University epidemiologist whose models were cited by the White House, said his own work on the pandemic doesn’t go far enough into the future to make predictions akin to the White House fatality forecast.

Army warned in early February that coronavirus could kill 150,000 Americans” via James LaPorta and Spencer Ackerman of The Daily Beast — An unclassified briefing document on the novel coronavirus prepared on Feb. 3 by U.S. Army-North projected that “between 80,000 and 150,000 could die.” It framed the projection as a “Black Swan” analysis, meaning an outlier event of extreme consequence but often understood as an unlikely one. It’s unknown how widely distributed the Army’s death estimate was. The estimate also assumed that the military infections would occur “at the same rate as the population.” As of March 31, the rate of troop infection outpaced that of civilians.

Hospitals may run out of money before they can access federal coronavirus relief” via Michael Wilner and Emma Dumain of McClatchy DC — Hospitals under financial strain from the coronavirus pandemic are laying off and furloughing employees as they await guidance from Washington on how to access billions of dollars in a federal relief fund. In Miami-Dade County, one of the major hospital systems asked its 11,000 employees to voluntarily take leave in the coming weeks due to the “unbelievable strain” on its finances caused by COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The hospitals face a steep decline in revenue from a drop in elective medical procedures, compounded by a sharp increase in expenses.

Donald 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.

Donald Trump is wanting hazard pay for health care workers. Image via AP.

Trump administration moves toward promoting broader use of face masks” via Zeke Miller and Mike Stobbe of The Associated Press — The Trump administration is formalizing new guidance to recommend that many Americans wear face coverings when leaving home, to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. The recommendations, still being finalized Thursday, would apply to those who live in areas hard-hit by community transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. A person familiar with the White House coronavirus task force’s discussion said officials would suggest that nonmedical masks, T-shirts, or bandannas be used to cover the nose and mouth when outside the home — for instance, at the grocery store or pharmacy. Medical-grade masks, particularly short-in-supply N95 masks, would be reserved for those dealing directly with the sick.

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.

No ‘magic pill’: The fight over unproven drugs for coronavirus” via Sarah Owerbohle of POLITICO — The Food and Drug Administration’s rush to greenlight unproven malaria medicines to fight the coronavirus may derail clinical trials of other potential cures for the deadly virus. Dozens of potential therapies are being tested in people. The Trump administration is also considering authorizing another unproven coronavirus treatment for emergency use. The drug, called Avigan, has been publicly endorsed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. An emergency authorization from the FDA could clear the way for off-label use before U.S. clinical trials even begin.

New York’s scramble to brace for peak crisis a siren for the rest of U.S.” via Ben Guarino and Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post — The Empire State Building blinked red this week as New York became the central terrain in the international battle against the coronavirus — a siren not just for battered Manhattan but for state and local authorities across the country racing to avoid a similar fate. New cases this week drove the state’s total above 75,000, surpassing China’s Hubei province, where the virus emerged in December. The grim milestone was recorded as Gov. Cuomo acknowledged having underestimated how overwhelming the situation would become. “It’s more dangerous than we expected,” he said.

A medical worker directs a patient to enter a COVID-19 testing site at Elmhurst Hospital Center in New York. Image via AP.

Social distancing works. The earlier the better, California and Washington data show.” via Geoffrey A. Fowler, Heather Kelly and Reed Albergotti of The Washington Post — Data shows that mandatory social distancing works. The earlier, the better, preliminary data from two weeks of stay-at-home orders in California and Washington show. While insufficient testing limits the full picture, it’s clear the disease is spreading at different speeds in different places in the United States. One coronavirus model is designed to help hospitals and other decision-makers determine what they’ll need in terms of intensive-care beds and ventilators and projects some 94,000 deaths across the entire country.

Social Security recipients won’t need to file tax returns for coronavirus stimulus payment” via Richard Rubin of The Wall Street Journal — Social Security recipients won’t need to file tax returns to receive the $1,200 one-time payments authorized in the new economic-relief law. The move came after Democrats and Republicans in Congress pressed the administration to find a way to get the payments to seniors who already receive direct deposits or checks from the federal government every month and don’t typically file tax returns. Until Wednesday night, the IRS had said that many of these people would need to file a tax return. The IRS has said it would create simple forms so people who have legitimate reasons for not filing returns can supply information such as bank account details for direct deposits.

USDA’s SNAP crackdown delayed but not canceled” via Catherine Boudreau of POLITICO — For the last two years, the Agriculture Department has issued several new rules that would disqualify certain low-income Americans from food stamps, arguing that they should be encouraged to work during a booming economy. Now, states are seeing a surge in new applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the formal name for food stamps, from people who find themselves out of work or getting much less work. One of those rules was set to take effect until both Congress and a federal judge stepped in to block it during the pandemic crisis temporarily. Some state officials and anti-hunger groups argue the reprieve should extend for longer as an economic recession looms and are pressing Congress to expand food benefits.

The 1,000-bed Comfort was supposed to aid New York. it has 20 patients.” via  Michael Schwirtz of The New York Times — On Thursday, though, the huge white vessel, which officials had promised would bring succor to a city on the brink, sat mostly empty, infuriating executives at local hospitals. The ship’s 1,000 beds are largely unused, its 1,200-member crew mostly idle. Only 20 patients had been transferred to the ship, officials said, even as New York hospitals struggled to find space for the thousands infected with the coronavirus. Another Navy hospital ship, the U.S.N.S. Mercy, docked in Los Angeles, has had a total of 15 patients. The Comfort was sent to New York to relieve pressure on city hospitals by treating people with ailments other than Covid-19\]

What everyone’s getting wrong about the toilet paper shortage” via Will Oremus of Marker on Medium — Story after story explains the toilet paper outages as a sort of fluke of consumer irrationality. Unlike hand sanitizer, N95 masks, or hospital ventilators, they note, toilet paper serves no special function in a pandemic. Toilet paper manufacturers are cranking out the same supply as always. Most outlets agreed that the spike in demand would be short-lived, subsiding as soon as the hoarders were satiated. People actually do need to buy significantly more toilet paper during the pandemic because they’re making more of them at home since Americans are now spending more time at home, which helps explain the shortage.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

‘Shady as hell.’ Governor, hospitals stymied by expensive, elusive supplies of masks” via Daniel Chang and Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Hospital CEOs say they have little choice but to pay top dollar for the supplies they need to protect patients and workers from the novel coronavirus. Though Florida has received shipments of masks from the federal government in recent weeks, Ron DeSantis said he is frustrated by the state’s experience buying masks on the private market only to find out the supplies never arrived. Jared Moskowitz, director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, said he has had orders pending with vendors for a month. The most sought-after commodity, and the only one he has had trouble acquiring in large quantities, is the N95 respirator mask, which protects against airborne particles.

Shortages persist despite national stockpile deliveries” via Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post — Florida has received two shipments of medical supplies from the federal Strategic National Stockpile — including 360,000 of the highly sought-after N95 masks, 860,000 of the less protective surgical masks and 134,000 gowns, according to the state’s Emergency Operation Center. A third shipment is on its way, which will bring the total number of N95 masks from the national stockpile to 540,000 and surgical masks to 1.2 million. In all, the state is expected to receive 201,000 gowns, 246,000 face shields and 714,354 pairs of gloves… Despite the deliveries, Florida still does not have enough equipment to adequately protect patients and healthcare workers from the coronavirus, some health experts say.”

Governor orders foreclosures and evictions suspended for 45 days” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Gov. DeSantis has suspended all foreclosures and evictions in Florida for 45 days in response to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. DeSantis announced he had signed an executive order to give people relief facing foreclosure or evictions during a press conference in Tallahassee on Thursday. “I’m not sure you’re going to rent out a lot of new places right now anyway, but nevertheless, you just never know how people act,” DeSantis said. “So, given the circumstances, I think that those suspensions are warranted.” The move comes as the national unemployment filings broke new records again this week with more than 6 million people filing unemployment insurance claims.

Ron DeSantis hits the pause button on foreclosures and evictions for 45 days. Image via Getty.

Coronavirus unemployment crisis deepens in Florida and U.S.” via Graham Brink and Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times — The jobs picture for Florida and the nation went from historically bad to even worse Thursday with the news that 6.6 million laid-off Americans last week filed claims for unemployment assistance — more than double the 3.3 million who applied the week before. So in just two weeks, nearly 10 million people, or about 6% of the entire American workforce, have applied for unemployment benefits. Florida reported 227,000 unemployment claims for the week ending March 28 — more than triple the previous week — but the number likely understates the size of the state’s job losses. The state Department of Economic Opportunity’s overwhelmed unemployment website has blocked untold numbers of laid-off workers from filing unemployment claims

Most Floridians moving about less only in highly-infected areas” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Heading into DeSantis‘ momentous decision to declare a statewide stay-at-home order, Floridians were severely limiting their travel only in a small handful of areas that already were suffering high infection numbers from the new coronavirus. At least that’s what the most recent data show from a commercial data company that tracks GPS movement on mobile phones and other devices. Unacast, a New York-based data-crunching consultant, has been using that technology to track millions of Americans to provide pro-bono data to help public health officials assess and plan for COVID-19 responses.

As medical supplies dwindle, Florida’s emergency management director trolls 3M” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — As his hunt for medical supplies gets more and more ruthless, Florida Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz took to Twitter — for the second time — to troll mask manufacturer 3M. “Hello again,” Moskowitz begins in his attempt to shame the multibillion-dollar corporation on social media publicly. “I have money, you have masks, yet you won’t sell them to me. Stop selling to foreign governments.” The masks in question are the N95 masks that filter out airborne particles that may carry the coronavirus, which causes the deadly COVID-19 respiratory disease. And this is all because Moskowitz — head of emergency management for the third most populous state — can’t get 3M on the horn.

State numbers show available hospital beds” via the News Service of Florida — In all, about 40% of hospital beds statewide were available as of Thursday. In intensive care units, 37% of adult beds and 40% of pediatric beds were available. The Agency for Health Care Administration launched the data site as the state announced that the number of cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, had risen to 8,010. The state said 128 residents had died. The hospital-bed data is available by county, hospital, and statewide. Broward County, which has been hard hit by the virus, had 41.5% of its beds available Thursday, including psychiatric and rehabilitation beds.

State looks to head off COVID-19 long-term care” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Long-term care providers were told to quickly report to county health departments any positive or suspected cases of COVID-19, the deadly respiratory disease caused by the virus. They also were advised that the Florida Department of Health will authorize tests for the transfer of hospitalized residents back to nursing facilities. “If a resident goes into a hospital and they test positive, it is very important that you report this to your local health department so that they can work with the staff and work with your facility to ensure all the necessary precautions are in place,” Department of Health Deputy Secretary Shamarial Roberson said on a conference call with long-term care providers.

Two COVID-19 cases at veterans’ nursing home” via the News Service of Florida — Two residents of a state veterans’ nursing home in Broward County have tested positive for COVID-19. State officials did not know Thursday afternoon when the residents of the Alexander “Sandy” Nininger State Veterans’ Nursing Home were diagnosed or how the residents, both elderly men with underlying health conditions, were faring. Department of Veterans’ Affairs spokesman Roger Murray told The News Service of Florida that “no other resident or staff of our network of state veterans’ homes have been diagnosed” with the novel coronavirus, the cause of the deadly respiratory disease known as COVID-19.

Number of prison workers with COVID-19 climbs” via the News Service of Florida — The number of Florida prison employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 climbed to 16 on Thursday, according to the Department of Corrections. The latest count of workers who were diagnosed with the highly contagious respiratory disease is a jump of four over the dozen cases that were confirmed by corrections officials late on Monday. The most recent cases involve employees who work at Apalachee Correctional Institution in Jackson County, Liberty Correctional Institution in Liberty County, Columbia Correctional Institution in Columbia County, and South Bay Correctional Facility in Palm Beach County.

Floridians with loved ones in prison fear lightning spread of coronavirus behind bars” via Shirsho Dasgupta of the Miami Herald — Brittany Graham last saw her husband in March 2019 and worries that she may never see him again. Thirty-four years old and the mother of three young boys, Graham lives in Port Charlotte in South Florida. Her husband, Lavontaye, lives six hours away, an inmate at the Franklin Correctional Institution in the Panhandle, serving an eight-year sentence for drug trafficking. Years before he was sentenced in 2016, his spleen — the organ that produces antibodies — was removed in 2004, putting him at greater risk of a grave outcome if he were to contract the coronavirus. “He cannot create any antibodies to fight anything, not even a common cold,” said Graham.

Dozens of FHP employees self-isolating amid virus” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — More than 40 Florida Highway Patrol employees are self-isolating because of exposure to the novel coronavirus, including three state troopers who tested positive for COVID-19. Employees have self-isolated after coming into close contact with people who tested positive for COVID-19, the contagious respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. Others have self-isolated because they traveled to virus hot spots or were exposed to people who traveled to those areas. Three troopers had tested positive. It is unclear where all of the employees work or how many could have been exposed to the virus while on the job.

2 cruise ships arrive in Florida after days of negotiations” via Adriana Gomez Licon and Freida Frisaro of The Associated Press — A cruise ship that has been floating at sea with coronavirus patients aboard for two weeks after being turned away from South American ports was finally allowed to dock in Florida on Thursday. The Zaandam and a sister ship sent to help it, the Rotterdam, were both permitted to disembark passengers at Port Everglades after days of negotiation with local officials who feared it would divert needed resources from a region that has seen a spike in virus cases. The final agreement was reached on Thursday afternoon between local, state and federal officials and Carnival Corp., which owns the Zaandam and the Rotterdam, said Broward County officials and Holland America, the company that operates the ships.

A person on a stretcher is removed from Carnival’s Holland America cruise ship Zaandam at Port Everglades. Image via AP.

Coral Princess cruise ship with 12 COVID-19 cases on board hopes to dock in Florida” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — The Coral Princess cruise ship with 12 COVID-19 cases onboard plans to dock at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday. But according to Broward County Mayor Dale Holness, there is not yet a plan in place for the ship’s arrival to Port Everglades “At this point in time we don’t have all the details on the Coral Princess, so it wouldn’t be good for me to discuss something that we are not sure of as to what the conditions are and who is on board,” he said at a press conference.

Disney to begin furloughing employees starting April 19” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Disney’s announcement left many details unknown, including exactly how many employees are affected. The furloughs will apply to executive, salaried and nonunion hourly employees. Disney is set to meet with union leaders to discuss the situation. Walt Disney World Resort employs 77,000 people in Central Florida, making it the largest single-site employer in the United States. “The COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact on our world with untold suffering and loss and has required all of us to make sacrifices. Over the last few weeks, mandatory decrees from government officials have shut down a majority of our businesses,” the company said in a statement.

Duke Energy customers could get smaller bills in May” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Duke Energy has submitted a plan to fast track savings to ratepayers. The utility company announced Thursday that it was seeking to pass on $78 million in fuel savings in a lump sum next month rather than the typical practice of splitting the savings over a year. If approved by the Florida Public Service Commission, Duke said bills sent to residential customers would be about 21% lower. Per the plan, a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity would pay about $27 less in May. Commercial and industrial customers would pay 20% to 45% less in May than they did in April. Rates would return to current levels in June.

— CORONA LOCAL —

Potentially sick Jacksonville-area residents in ‘agonizing’ wait for test results” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — Results from testing at city sites are expected back in five to eight days, according to city spokeswoman Marjorie Dennis. Sometimes the wait for coronavirus test results is seven to ten days. People with positive test results are notified first, followed by those with inconclusive results, then negative results. Mayor Lenny Curry said Monday that Jacksonville will receive 500 rapid coronavirus diagnostic test kits that provide results in less than an hour.

Tony Boselli: Coronavirus ‘buried me,’ Jaguars great says” via the Florida Times-Union — Former Jaguars’ star and Hall of Fame finalist Boselli is recovering after he was hospitalized for five days at the Mayo Clinic for COVID-19. Boselli, 47, also said that his 47-year-old wife, Angie, tested positive for coronavirus, but that her symptoms were far less severe, resulting in no fever, and that she has fully recovered. She never had to be hospitalized. Things got so bad for the Jaguars’ five-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle that he had to be put in the Mayo Clinic’s ICU unit. He was hooked up two IVs, plus needed oxygen to restore his breathing to a proper level. He was admitted to ICU on March 25 and not released until Monday.

Former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Tony Boselli has returned home to continue his recovery from the COVID-19 infection he contracted in March.

Confusion over reported St. Johns infant COVID-19 case” via Emily Drums of The Florida Times-Union — A 0-year-old case in St. Johns County would be Northeast Florida’s youngest case of COVID-19. Previously, a 5-year-old held that title. Now it’s unclear if that case actually exists. …Because the Florida Department of Health’s dashboard has been inconsistent in the past, the Times-Union didn’t immediately mention the case as an “infant,” only saying it was there and could potentially be the youngest case in Northeast Florida.

Online classes will push poorer Broward students further behind more affluent during coronavirus crisis” via Tara Chadwick in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As a parent, I am extremely concerned with the way the Broward County Public School District’s online learning plan is unfolding for those of us with lesser income during this unprecedented coronavirus crisis. I know that many parents in my Fort Lauderdale neighborhood struggle, as I do, to provide our children with the basic necessities, including food, shelter, and a safe space to work and play. Right now, I am barely able to juggle what was already a delicate balance between work, health and caring for my two children as a single working mom. I fear the distance learning plan will only exacerbate the lack of equity that is already all too apparent in our ZIP code.

At least 15 BSO employees, three Hialeah firefighters have tested positive for coronavirus” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The impact of the novel coronavirus continues to be felt sharply across South Florida, as the virus spreads among the region’s first responders. Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said on a conference call that 15 of his agency’s employees have tested positive for the virus. Two have been hospitalized. A Thursday Miami Herald report also details that three Hialeah firefighters have tested positive as well. And a separate Herald report shows the virus has spread among South Florida correctional facilities. A whopping 12 Miami-Dade County employees have tested positive, along with two Broward County inmates.

‘This touches everybody.’ A Key West woman has learned she’s Patient 30 in Monroe County” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — Amy Culver knew something was wrong. It was the cough that began a week ago, a week after she had begun to self-quarantine because she had just returned from Mexico City. That cough went from bad to worse. Fast. “You’re holding onto the counter, you’re just afraid you’re going to pass out,” the 55-year-old Key West woman described it on Thursday. It was the day after her doctor told her she had tested positive for COVID-19, the sometimes deadly disease caused by the coronavirus. Culver announced her diagnosis Thursday in a post on her Facebook page. She made it public to promote awareness of the disease. “People are not being responsible,” Culver said. “They think it’s not going to touch them. This touches everybody. This is a time to be responsible.”

Orlando’s small businesses are scrambling to get loans to stay afloat. But lenders are already overwhelmed.” via Caroline Glenn of the Orlando Sentinel — Small business owners in Central Florida are desperately looking to loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and the Florida Small Business Development Center Network to stay afloat and continue paying staff. Loan administers and lenders are buried by the avalanche of applications that have been submitted. The Small Business Administration said its offices “don’t have numbers at this time,” although some applications have already been approved.

Assignment editors — Sen. Randolph Bracy will host a Farm Share food distribution event to serve his constituents in Central Florida during the coronavirus pandemic, 10 a.m., 832 Courtland Street, Orlando.

West Palm hastily preps for shutdown conditions at City Hall” via Tony Doris of The Palm Beach Post — West Palm Beach’s government still requires 75 percent of its workers to show up, long after many companies within the city allowed workers to telecommute from the safety of their homes. with the virus spreading and city workers’ nerves jangled by the growing threat and the disclosure that a Riviera Beach city worker died Tuesday night, officials this week laid out the beginnings of a plan to reduce the onsite workforce to zero, for an extended period. If City Hall were shut down, the mayor and top level administrators would repair to the city’s Emergency Operations Center, in a fire station on Congress Avenue, where they last hunkered down during Hurricane Dorian.

— MORE LOCAL —

Here’s how many hospital beds are available in Tampa Bay right now” via Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times — The Agency for Health Care Administration on Thursday launched an online dashboard that shows how many hospital beds are available in Florida to handle the coronavirus crisis, including intensive care unit beds. The dashboard consists of real-time data reported by all hospitals in the state, according to ACHA, which regulates those facilities. Available hospital bed capacity among regional health care facilities appears stable, with most reporting that roughly 40% of their beds are available. Hospital capacity rises and falls with the seasons, said USF public health professor Jay Wolfson. Occupancy levels are typically high this time of year because of the tourist season, he said, and can approach 100% in some areas.

Hillsborough officials blast DeSantis for exempting religious services in safe-at-home order” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group unanimously agreed to a new plan for keeping residents and visitors safe in the county that significantly rolls back its previous safer-at-home order that is now usurped by a statewide order. DeSantis’ order removes the county’s ability to restrict religious gatherings at churches or any other religious institution. “So, our hospitals better get ready,” Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller opined. Many community leaders believe this exemption increases the likelihood of the coronavirus’ spread.

That $2 trillion stimulus? Zilch is going to Tampa Bay city coffers.” via Charlie Frago and Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — The largest stimulus in U.S. history has money for the unemployed, small businesses, corporate behemoths and scores of other parts of the economy threatened with decimation by coronavirus. But for cities with less than 500,000 people, there isn’t a dime in direct aid. Individuals who live in the region will still get help. But the lack of federal money into city coffers that doesn’t sit well with the mayors of Tampa Bay’s two largest cities.

Crisis puts Tampa Mayor Jane Castor in national spotlight” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — In the midst of a pandemic, Tampa Mayor Castor is featured on CNN and in Slate as the face of Tampa Bay. CNN host Anderson Cooper had previewed Castor’s appearance as an example of a local leader acting when her state wouldn’t in the face of the coronavirus outbreak. In that interview, Castor also avoided criticizing DeSantis, saying she didn’t think the state response was motivated by partisanship. Slate, the online news and culture site, posted a Q&A with Castor titled “A mayor’s lonely fight against coronavirus in a state run by Republicans.”

Jane Castor has entered the national spotlight.

Thousands of Pinellas businesses will have to close after order from Ron DeSantis, commission says” via Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times — A day after DeSantis issued a vague executive order to limit all activity in Florida to essential services, the Pinellas County Commission unanimously passed an order to close thousands of businesses for 30 days that are not deemed essential in the coronavirus pandemic. The commission and other leaders could not define what is essential under DeSantis’ order. County officials tried getting answers from the governor’s office but didn’t get a response noting the order says people can’t go to nonessential businesses.

Jeff Vinik and family are buying PSAs to help people get the information they need during the coronavirus outbreak” via Ashley Gurbal Kritzer of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Tampa Bay Lightning owner Vinik and his family are funding an information blitz to help people find the aid they need during the coronavirus outbreak. The Viniks will be taking out paid advertisements across different types of media — print, outdoor, television, radio, social and digital — to direct people to the information they need. The public service announcements will be branded with the Lightning logo, “in hopes that people in Tampa Bay will feel this is a credible source,” a team spokesman said.

Struggling Naples florist brings smiles in tough times, giving away flowers” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — Even as business dried up at their floral shop in Naples, Patrick and Mirela Beneš found a way to make others smile. Their family-owned business, Naples Picasso Flowers, has taken a considerable hit from the coronavirus pandemic, which left the shop with bouquets of flowers it couldn’t sell. Rather than just watch the flowers wither and die, the couple decided to start giving them away, handing them out on the streets and leaving them at doorsteps unannounced, with the spirit of love and hope of receiving donations to help keep their business going. In recent weeks, the couple delivered the flowers in one-of-a-kind water buckets with designs painted by their 14-year-old son Dario and 10-year-old daughter Letizia.

As stocks run low in coronavirus fight, TMH and Capital Medical Society seek donated masks” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — As stocks of N95 respirator masks and other supplies run low in doctors offices across Leon and surrounding counties, Capital Medical Society and Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare are appealing for donations. TMH announced Thursday it is accepting sewn-at-home cloth face masks along with commercial-grade personal protective equipment “to provide contingencies due to national supply issues.” The sewn masks won’t be used in known or suspected COVID-19 cases. “We appreciate the outpouring of interest to provide homemade masks for our colleagues, who continue to serve vulnerable patients and community members,” said Anna Saunders, a hospital spokeswoman.

Part of state office building in Southwood closed as employee is tested for coronavirus” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Florida Department of Revenue has closed part of the first floor of its building on Shumard Oak Boulevard in Southwood after learning an employee there was being tested for coronavirus. A person who works in what’s called Building 3 told the Tallahassee Democrat that the lights were out and the doors locked Thursday to a call center on the first floor of the building, where child support cases are handled. “The work area will reopen when the employee’s tests are confirmed negative, or on April 9,” according to Bethany Wester, interim communications director for the department. As of Thursday afternoon, Leon County reported 35 cases of COVID-19.

Tallahassee woman sues after layoff following remote work request” via Nada Hassanein of the Tallahassee Democrat — A Tallahassee worker who says she was fired from her job after she asked to work from home amid coronavirus concerns has sued her employer. The plaintiff, 25-year-old Katherine Webster, and her 9-year-old son have compromised immune systems: She has an autoimmune illness called interstitial cystitis, and her son suffers from diabetes and asthma. Webster told her employer she wasn’t resigning and only wanted to work remotely. A staffing employee then emailed Webster, saying her assignment was over.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

Wait, what? —Most homeowners can skip mortgage payments for up to a year, regardless of what their banks say” via Ron Hurtibise of the Orlando Sentinel — New federal coronavirus relief measures enable most homeowners with mortgage loans to put off making their mortgage payments for a full year. And once we get back to normal, those borrowers will have the option to tack those missed payments to the end of their loan terms. Your credit won’t suffer. The federal CARES Act gives borrowers of federally backed loans the right to contact their mortgage loan servicer and demand what’s called forbearance simply by attesting that the coronavirus crisis has resulted in financial hardship. No documentation of the hardship is required.

This is not a recession. It’s an ice age.” via Annie Lowrey of The Atlantic — We can’t say we’re in a recession yet, at least not formally. A committee decides these things — no, really. The government generally adopts the view that a contraction is not a recession unless economic activity has declined over two quarters. But we’re in a recession, and everyone knows it. And what we’re experiencing is so much more than that: a black swan, a financial war, a plague. Maybe things feel normal where you are. Maybe things do not feel normal. Things are not normal. For weeks or months, we won’t know how much GDP has slowed down and how many people have been forced out of work. Government statistics take a while to generate.

Banks warn of chaotic launch of small business lending program” via Zachary Warmbrodt of POLITICO — Banks are warning that a $350 billion lending program for struggling small businesses won’t be ready when it launches Friday because the Trump administration has failed to provide them with the necessary guidelines and has set requirements for the loans that are unworkable. The banks, which will be responsible for processing loan applications and doling out money, are expecting millions of applications from businesses. The potential failure to deliver small business aid as promised could deal a major blow to public confidence as a crippling recession looms.

Coronavirus costing Trump properties over $1 million daily in lost revenue” via Brian Spegele, Craig Karmin and Justin Scheck of The Wall Street Journal — The coronavirus outbreak is costing Trump Organization properties more than a million dollars in lost revenue daily and may have hurt the firm’s chances of earning a record price on the sale of its Washington hotel. The majority of revenues for Trump’s family business comes from travel and leisure, which have been hit hard by the forced closures and economic downturn caused by the pandemic. More than 500 staff at Trump properties in New York, Washington, Las Vegas and Florida have been laid off or furloughed.

Trump National Doral Miami is estimated to be losing over $200,000 a day while it is closed. Image via Getty.

Trump’s company seeks to ease financial crunch as coronavirus takes toll” via David Enrich, Ben Protess and Eric Lipton of The New York Times — With some of its golf courses and hotels closed amid the economic lockdown, the Trump Organization has been exploring whether it can delay payments on some of its loans and other financial obligations. Representatives of Trump’s company have recently spoken with Deutsche Bank, the president’s largest creditor, about the possibility of postponing payments on at least some of its loans from the bank. And in Florida, the Trump Organization sought guidance last week from Palm Beach County about whether it expected the company to continue making monthly payments on county land that it leases for a 27-hole golf club.

Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp leaders shift focus during crisis” via Alex Heath of The Information — Will Cathcart, who runs WhatsApp, is doing whatever he can to keep the Facebook messaging service from crashing under a crush of users. Fidji Simo, who runs Facebook’s main app, plans to give small businesses a way to fundraise through the site. And Vishal Shah, a top executive at Instagram, is making live broadcasting more appealing on the photo-sharing app. Like most leaders in the tech industry, the people who run Facebook’s highest-profile products have seen their jobs turned upside down over the last few weeks, as the coronavirus pandemic has forced them to ditch plans that now seem irrelevant while turning to other matters that are suddenly immediate necessities.

Farmworkers, mostly undocumented, become ‘Essential’ during pandemic” via Miriam Jordan of The New York Times — It is an open secret that the vast majority of people who harvest America’s food are undocumented immigrants, mainly from Mexico, many of them decadeslong residents of the United States. Often the parents of American-born children, have lived for years with the cloud of deportation hanging over their households. Now their jobs have been declared essential by the government. The pandemic has also put many of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s operations on hold. The fact that they are now considered both illegal and essential is an irony that is not lost on them.

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. However, 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.

Tales from an industry fighting for its life” via André Chung and Tim Carman of The Washington Post — Few have suffered as much from the coronavirus outbreak as those in the restaurant industry, which has either shut down completely or tried to limp along as carry-outs and delivery operations, relying on a handful of employees and the owners themselves, all of whom may be risking their lives (and others’ lives) to keep the business afloat. Restaurants with a strong takeout operation have been hurt less than other restaurants, but even those are still struggling.

Will Airbnb become obsolete after the coronavirus?” via Lionel Laurent of Bloomberg — Until recently, Airbnb encapsulated the first-world problems of living in a global “superstar” city. Over the past decade, the app that connects fly-by-night tourists and short-term renters to “cozy” lofts and five-star “experiences” morphed into a gig-economy nightmare for cities like Paris, Amsterdam and Barcelona. Booming demand fueled an oversupply of tourists, an undersupply of housing for locals, and extra strain on public infrastructure. Scammers and fraudsters prospered. Many cities began a clampdown. That all seems like ancient history now.

Elizabeth Warren calls on Uber, Instacart to reclassify workers as employees” via Edward Ongweso Jr of Vice — In a letter to the CEOs of Uber, Instacart, DoorDash, and Grubhub,  Warren called on the gig companies to provide gig workers with “basic rights and protections” that might protect them during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the letter, Warren stated that “…misclassification of your workers as independent contractors rather than employees creates inherent risk for workers, who are denied access to unemployment insurance and workers compensation, a minimum wage and overtime, health care benefits, the right to be represented by a union, and the legal protections of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”

Instagram pop-up experiences lay off employees as the business tanks” via Ashley Carman of The Verge — Two of the most well-known photogenic experiences — Color Factory and Museum of Ice Cream — are experiencing a fallout in the experiences industry. They’re closing their doors to ride out the pandemic, and employees are being laid off. Revenue is trickling in, barely at all. Although many of these pop-ups have pushed against the narrative that they’re designed for photo-ops, the reality is that they are in-person experiences that aren’t translatable through a Zoom call or other virutal means.

Publix launches contactless payment option at registers to limit spread of COVID-19” via WTSB staff writers — Publix said it would be rolling out contactless payment methods to all of its stores starting Tuesday and should have the project completely finished by Saturday. Customers will be able to put their phones or pay-enabled credit or debit cards near the device instead of inserting their card into the PIN pad. Publix said people can also use its mobile payment option through the app to make purchases. “In these unprecedented times, we recognized the need to make our customers’ trips to our stores faster and more efficient,” said Publix CEO Todd Jones. “By expediting this payment option, we will help customers reduce contact with commonly used surfaces like PIN pads.” 

Meal delivery firms branch out into groceries during crisis” via Sudip Kar-Gupta and Douglas Busvine of Reuters — Uber Eats and Delivery Hero are expanding from providing restaurant meals into supplying groceries to customers stuck at home during lockdowns triggered by the coronavirus crisis. Uber Eats said on Wednesday it is teaming up with French supermarket group Carrefour for a new delivery service. Berlin-based online marketplace Delivery Hero has also made changes to help get groceries to customers. Supermarkets remain open in France and elsewhere while many customers are staying home to avoid catching or spreading infection. Uber Eats will waive delivery fees on certain orders during the month of April.

Small grocery stores, food marts pop up at shutdown restaurants” via Liz Balmaseda of the Palm Beach Post — In a new local dining world now focused on takeout and delivery, some restaurants also have morphed into makeshift food marts, selling everything from groceries to hand sanitizer to, yes, even toilet paper. And some days ago, one Delray Beach-born delivery service jumped into the convenience-store game: Delivery Dudes kicked off Dudes Bodega, a grocery-delivery service that’s available in Boca, Delray and Boynton. The $5 flat-fee service is expected to expand to cities north within the next few weeks.

As coronavirus closes restaurants, many turn to pop-up takeout, convenience stores. Image via Voodoo Bayou.

Ken Griffin’s virus plan now includes emergency trading site in Florida” via Liz McCormick of Bloomberg — Citadel Securities this week opened an office in Florida to help ensure billionaire Griffin’s giant trading firm can continue at full capacity during the coronavirus pandemic — and cope with the explosion in volume the illness has spurred. The firm opened a new, temporary trading floor in Palm Beach on Monday with 24 people, according to a memo from the firm to employees seen by Bloomberg. The market maker debuted the facility two days before Florida’s Governor announced a stay-at-home order for the state of 21.5 million.

— MORE CORONA —

COVID-19 changed how the world does science, together” via Matt Apuzzo and David D. Kirkpatrick of The New York Times — Using flag-draped memes and military terminology, the Trump administration and its Chinese counterparts have cast coronavirus research as national imperatives, sparking talk of a biotech arms race. The world’s scientists, for the most part, have responded with a collective eye roll. “Absolutely ridiculous,” said Jonathan Heeney, a Cambridge University researcher working on a coronavirus vaccine. “That isn’t how things happen,” said Adrian Hill, the head of the Jenner Institute at Oxford, one of the largest vaccine research centers at an academic institution. While political leaders have locked their borders, scientists have been shattering theirs, creating a global collaboration unlike any in history.

U.K. records 569 coronavirus fatalities on deadliest day so far” via Simon Murphy of The Guardian — The U.K. has endured its deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic, with 569 fatalities recorded in 24 hours. As Downing Street comes under mounting pressure over its perceived failure to accelerate nationwide testing to combat the virus, the country’s Covid-19 death toll continues to rise. A total of 2,921 people had died in hospitals after testing positive for the disease as of 5 p.m. on Wednesday, representing a slightly bigger increase than the previous day, when there were 563 deaths. The figures also suggest that U.K. is about a fortnight behind Italy, Europe’s worst-hit country, in terms of fatalities. Italy has recorded more than 13,000 deaths, while Spain passed 10,000 on Thursday.

France converts world’s largest wholesale food market into morgue as death toll surpasses 5,300” via Christina Zhao of Newsweek — As the coronavirus death toll in France continues to grow, the country’s police on Tuesday said the government would be converting part of the world’s largest wholesale food market into a temporary morgue. The cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus-related deaths in France surged to 5,387 today after the European country started adding nursing home fatalities to its official data. Jerome Salomon, head of France’s public health authority, said the number of hospital deaths caused by COVID-19 increased by 12% from one day earlier when the total was at 4,503. Paris, France’s most populous city, is one of the areas that has been hit hardest by the pandemic.

Agonizing decisions being made in Spain’s virus hot spots” via Bernat Armangue and Joseph Wilson of The Associated Press — Raquel Fernández watched as cemetery workers lowered her grandmother’s casket into the grave and placed it on top of the coffin of her grandfather, buried just three days earlier. Eusebio Fernández and Rosalía Mascaraque, both 86, are two of Spain’s more than 10,000 fatalities from the coronavirus pandemic. Like thousands of other elderly victims in Spain, their deaths this week illustrate one of the darkest realities of the crisis: Doctors at overburdened hospitals in need of more resources are having to make increasingly tough decisions on who gets the best care, and age appears to matter more than ever.

Italy and Spain see ‘first positive signs’ in coronavirus crisis, ambassadors say” via Karen DeYoung of The Washington Post — The Italian and Spanish ambassadors to the United States reported signs of improvement in the coronavirus situation in their countries Thursday, where numbers of confirmed infections, hospitalizations and deaths remain high but are beginning to stabilize. “These are just the first positive signs, and they have to be taken cautiously,” Italian Ambassador Armando Varricchio said. “But they show that measures taken both nationally and at the local level have started to pay off.”

Africa faces an ‘existential threat’ as virus cases spread” via Cara Anna of The Associated Press — Some African countries will have more than 10,000 coronavirus cases by the end of April, health officials projected Thursday, as the continent least equipped to treat serious infections has an “enormous gap” in the number of ventilators and other critical items. While cases across Africa are now above 6,000 at what has been called the dawn of the outbreak, the continent is “very, very close” to where Europe was after 40 days, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. John Nkengasong, told reporters. The virus “is an existential threat to our continent,” he said. All but four of Africa’s 54 countries have cases after Malawi on Thursday reported its first.

Two young girls sell groundnuts in front of an informational mural advising on precautions to avoid catching the new coronavirus, in the informal settlement of Nairobi, Kenya. Image via AP.

A global shortage in key ingredient could affect coronavirus testing in Caribbean” via Jacqueline Charles and Jim Wyss of the Miami Herald — A global shortage of a key ingredient in the COVID-19 testing process could lead to a slowdown in some Caribbean nations’ ability to rapidly test for the virus that causes the respiratory disease just when the toll of the global pandemic is expected to surge. Dr. Lisa Indar, deputy director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency, or CARPHA, which is doing testing for 18 Caribbean countries in its regional medical laboratory in Trinidad and Tobago, said the lab is actively looking for reagents. The chemical ingredient is critical to the chemical analysis recommended by the World Health Organization that’s being used to detect COVID-19 in specimens.

Passover during coronavirus pandemic means celebrating in unprecedented ways” via Waveney Ann Moore of the Tampa Bay Times — With the coronavirus continuing its stealthy pace, Jews across Tampa Bay are preparing to celebrate Passover in unprecedented and determined ways. Some families will sit at their Seder table with a laptop to connect with relatives across the state. Some congregations are doing online Passover services. Others are planning smaller events that respect social distancing guidelines.

After the virus: A 5G gold rush?” via John Hendel of POLITICO — U.S. mobile carriers were already planning to spend big on deploying superfast wireless internet in the coming years. Then the coronavirus pushed a massive nationwide adoption of Zoom video conferences, distance learning, online doctors’ visits, and daylong Netflix binges. Industry leaders say the pandemic shows that investments in 5G need to be increased and that the pandemic has shown that demand is there. Some 5G improvements have been postponed because of the pandemic. The wireless industry has also spent years touting its investments in U.S. communications architecture and says 5G will create spillover effects to a broader connected economy, generating new jobs and stimulating commerce.

Carnegie Hall projects $9M deficit, expects cuts next season” via Ronald Blum of The Associated Press — Carnegie Hall is projecting a $9 million operating deficit on its $104 million budget after canceling the rest of its season because of the coronavirus pandemic and anticipates making changes to its schedule for 2020-21. “We’ve obviously sold a lot of tickets for next season, but there’ll be issues like are people from the very beginning going to all come straight back to concerts or will people be a little bit more cautious about large gatherings?” executive director Clive Gillinson said Thursday. “We have no idea what the psychology is going to be around this in every way across society as a whole.” Gillinson said this would be the first deficit since he joined Carnegie Hall in 2005.

Costco adds another new policy in response to coronavirus pandemic” via David Furones of the Orlando Sentinel — Costco is limiting shoppers inside their warehouses to two people per membership card, effective beginning Friday. “This temporary change is for your safety and the safety of our employees and other members, and to further assist with our social distancing efforts,” Costco released in a statement with updated policies on its website. Costco has previously announced it will close U.S. warehouses at 6:30 p.m. on Monday through Friday.

Drop in sales mean Powerball jackpots will get even smaller” via The Associated Press — Look for Powerball jackpots to get even smaller as the new coronavirus keeps more people at home, not out buying lottery tickets, officials said Thursday. It was only last week that the Powerball Product Group announced it would cut guaranteed jackpots in half and reduce the minimum amount the big prize could grow between drawings. On Thursday, the organization said it would toss out even those guarantees and instead decide new jackpots and increases before each drawing. Besides a drop in sales, declining interest rates also have limited the organization’s ability to fund bigger prizes, said Gregg Mineo, chairman of the Powerball Product Group Chairman and director of the Maine Lottery.

Former NFL player turned doctor is now on the frontlines fighting coronavirus” via Jason Duaine Hahn of People Magazine — Far from the football fields he used to compete on, former NFL player Myron Rolle is now in a much different fight. He has been working at Massachusetts General Hospital to save the many patients he’s seen with coronavirus, the deadly virus spreading throughout the country. Rolle was drafted to the NFL in 2010 and left football in 2013 to enroll in medical school to turn his dream of becoming a brain surgeon into a reality. Before pursuing a career in the NFL, Rolle was a standout player at Florida State University.

Scattered but covered: In the age of coronavirus, local Waffle House goes pop-up” via Alicia Devine of the Tallahassee Democrat — Thursday morning, a pop-up Waffle House tent was set up by Waverly Pond. To drum up business and to serve the community, Waffle House Area Vice President Benjamin Boyd and District Manager Matthew Olson are bringing hot waffles and other limited menu items to different neighborhoods through Saturday. Waffle House said it had closed 418 of its restaurants. Waffle House is planning other pop-ups over the next few days. Cash and cards are accepted on site.

A Waffle House pop-up to-go tent was set up at Waverly Pond, Image via Tallahassee Democrat.

Engineer intentionally crashes train near hospital ship Mercy, believing in weird coronavirus conspiracy, feds say” via Meagan Flynn of The Washington Post — On Tuesday afternoon, California Highway Patrol officer Dillon Eckerfield was rumbling down Harbor Avenue on his police motorcycle, in San Pedro when he witnessed a strange sight: a freight train flying off the end of the tracks toward a Navy hospital ship. Eckerfield pulled a U-turn. As he approached, he could see a man in a bright yellow fluorescent vest jump down from the train’s cab and start running. Right away, Eckerfield placed him under arrest. Prosecutors say Eduardo Moreno was “suspicious of the USNS Mercy,” believing officials were lying about its true purpose. He believed “it had an alternate purpose related to COVID-19 or a government takeover,” they said.

Man exposes himself after hacking into online Florida class” via The Associated Press — A man exposed himself to students after hacking into an online class being held by a public school in Florida, school officials said Thursday. The man gained unauthorized access to the Zoom video conferencing instructional lesson on Wednesday and exposed himself to the class, Orange County Public Schools said in a letter to teachers. The letter encouraged teachers to use the “waiting room” function in Zoom, which allows the host to control when a participant joins a meeting. The letter said the case was being handled by law enforcement. Orange County Public School officials didn’t provide further details, but noted that Zoom wasn’t a district-supported application for teachers video conferencing needs.

— THE HUMAN TOLL —

If you could see my hospital, you would know the horror of COVID-19” via Danielle Stansky with The Washington Post —  Stansky is an emergency medicine resident physician in New York City. Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, she had seen patients die without their family members nearby and has had to pronounce a patient dead before she learned their name. Stansky writes about patients’ last moments and them struggling to breathe. These examples of suffering are why people should heed warnings and follow shelter-in-place directives.

Coronavirus has transformed hospitals into nightmares. Image via AP.

Increase in domestic violence feared during virus lockdown” via Ina Fried of Axios — There is already early evidence of increased intensity of abuse of people in unhealthy relationships. But given that many are unlikely to seek help until things are more stable — either by calling hotlines or by leaving for shelters — we likely won’t know the full extent of the abuse until the virus outbreak subsides. With partners and children potentially trapped at home in bad situations, experts worry that there could be more abuse and that the issues people face in bad relationships could get even worse. The police in Seattle — one of the first cities hit with an outbreak — have reported a 21% increase in domestic violence reports.

My husband survived COVID-19. ‘And it was one hell of a ride.’” via The Palm Beach Post — Samantha Hirsh of suburban Boynton Beach, a marketing worker and a stay-at-home mom of a 13-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son, chronicled the ordeal her husband, Craig, a financier, suffered with the ailment caused by coronavirus. … “The amount of anxiety, worry and stress over the past two weeks is hard to even put into words. We know that God is good! We dodged a bullet. I pray that we all continue to stay healthy as well as all of you. The rest of us are not yet in the clear, but so far, we’ve been feeling good,” she said.

John Skipper back working after testing positive for COVID-19” via John Ourand of SBJ Daily — DAZN Group Exec Chair John Skipper tested positive for COVID-19 on March 16 and spent the past two weeks recovering in his N.Y. apartment. Skipper is said to be on the mend; today marked his first day back at work. Skipper was never hospitalized during his sickness. He spent most of the past two weeks in bed, battling a bad cold and persistent fever. He was tested March 16 after feeling unwell. Skipper opted to keep news of his infection quiet in the hopes that his mother, who lives in an assisted living facility in North Carolina, would not worry unnecessarily.

Kevin Thomas Duffy, U.S. Judge in terrorism cases, dies at 87” via Joseph P. Fried of The New York Times — Judge Duffy, a federal judge who presided over decades of high-profile trials in Manhattan, including those of mob bosses, radical revolutionaries and the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, died on Wednesday in Greenwich, Conn. He was 87. Judge Duffy is probably most widely remembered for presiding at the trial of the Islamic militants who were convicted in the 1993 attack on the trade center. He also oversaw another trial in the 1990s involving an aborted plot to blow up as many as a dozen American airliners over the Pacific Ocean.

Sarasota Film Society administrator Tim Calandra dies of COVID-19 complications” via Wade Tatangelo of the Herald-Tribune — Calandra, the community outreach and public relations director of the Sarasota Film Society and frontman for the local blues-rock band Busta Groove, died Wednesday at age 62 from COVID-19 complications at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Calandra had been sick with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 since March 15 and received a positive test for the virus on March 23. Calandra’s family said he had not been traveling, and had not been knowingly around anyone who had been infected by COVID-19.

Newborn baby among 16 additional COVID-19 deaths in Connecticut, as state opens new mobile hospital” via Alex Putterman and Eliza Fawcett of the Hartford Courant — The death of a six-week-old from Hartford has been linked to COVID-19. The baby arrived at the hospital unresponsive and tested positive for the coronavirus post-mortem. Previously, the youngest Connecticut resident to die of COVID-19 had been a 35-year-old man. The vast majority of the 85 deaths in the state have been individuals over the age of 70. Connecticut foresees a peak of 41 single-day deaths in mid-April, before the numbers taper off during May and hit zero before the start of June.

— ONE GOOD THING —

Joe Tavi, an engineer for San Jose-based fuel cell manufacturer Bloom Energy, got an odd request from his boss.

“Can you fix a ventilator?”

California had several broken ventilators, and the Governor asked the company if it could repair them.

Tavi then went to work.

After downloading and studying the 300-page manual for the LTD 1200, the type of ventilator that needed repair, Tavi told his boss that it can be done.

“We won’t be able to do it if we don’t try.”

Soon, the company that knew nothing about ventilators has now fixed more than 500 of them.

Staff work in a ventilator refurbishing assembly line at Bloom Energy in Sunnyvale, California. Image via AP.

Bloom Energy is among the companies tapping their brainpower to lend a hand with much-needed medical equipment.

Despite coronavirus having only mild or moderate symptoms for most people, it can cause more severe illness in some, including pneumonia — an infection that can cause the lungs to fill with fluid, making it difficult to breathe.

It’s for them where ventilators are necessary.

According to The Associated Press, the Society of Critical Care Medicine estimates about 960,000 COVID-19 patients in the U.S. could need a ventilator. Unfortunately, only about 200,000 of the machines available.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is trying to secure at least 10,000 ventilators, only acquiring about 4,000.

Tavi worked with other company engineers to develop a plan, with the help of lots of YouTube videos on ventilator settings and calibrations. The company’s head of supply chain ordered the parts.

Once the team got the ventilators hooked up to balloons, hearing the soft “whoosh” of air as they expanded and contracted, Tavi said it was a personal victory.

“I would think about my mom or my uncle or a family member of a friend or a co-worker needing one of those machines,” Tavi told the AP. “We don’t view it as a number of units we are turning over. We view it as the maximum number of people we could potentially positively impact by having an extra ventilator that works. Even if it’s just one person.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

Betsy DeVos weighs waiving special education. Parents are worried.” via Erica Green of The New York Times — Schools are scrambling to shift classes online as more than 55 million children stay at home. For now, that has upended special education, which is administered through meticulously devised plans called Individualized Education Programs, or IEPs, which require extensive services that are not easily transferred to the internet. Students who qualify require a range of support, such as tutoring and behavioral assistance, hands-on services like physical and occupational therapy, and specialized staff. Such services are critical for school districts to comply with IDEA’s mandate that students with special needs receive an education comparable to that of their peers. The possibility that those obligations could be waived has driven a sharp wedge between school administrators, parents and special education teachers.

Betsy DeVos is looking to cut back on special education. Parents are worried.

Nancy Pelosi announces new House committee on coronavirus” via Rashaan Ayesh of Axios — Speaker Pelosi announced Thursday the creation of a new House committee addressing the coronavirus crisis, led by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.). Pelosi said that the new committee would oversee “all aspects” of the federal response to the pandemic, including the $2 trillion stimulus bill. A lot of lawmakers have raised concerns about the implementation of the massive stimulus, given the overwhelming demand for loans.

In a city defined by power, a virus has seized control” via John Woodrow Cox, Jessica Contrera, Paul Schwartzman, Peter Jamison, Petula Dvorak, Hannah Natanson and Sydney Trent of The Washington Post — Life in Washington, D.C. has been completely upended by the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent shutdown. Mostly, life in D.C. is an adaptation, seeing residents try to maintain as normal of a lifestyle as possible. People walking around the city in masks and gloves give the city a dystopian feel. Some people are trying to visit parks. Some of the busiest places in the area are coronavirus testing centers.

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 the Atlantic hurricane season, which officially starts on June 1.

— STATEWIDE —

Pro-life groups pressure Ron DeSantis to close abortion clinics” via Wendy Rhodes of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — “I don’t want to get into it with the Governor, but, quite frankly, he should have shut down the abortion centers immediately,” said Annie Marie Delgado, founder of Trump Team 2020 Florida. “It is not to target abortion clinics alone, but there are many who need cancer surgery and things like that. That’s essential … abortion is an elective.” To be sure, DeSantis is clearly a pro-life Republican. But pro-life leaders in the Trump base and conservative corners of the state say he is wasting a golden opportunity to stop abortions in Florida amid the coronavirus economic shutdown. As for measures specifically targeting abortions, DeSantis’ office said none of the coronavirus-related executive orders prohibit the procedure.

Nikki Fried calls upon USDA to buy excess crops from Florida farmers” via Robbie Gaffney of WFSU — Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner Fried is calling upon the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase surplus goods from Florida farms to be used in food assistance programs. Fried points to the recently passed CARES Act as a means to purchase goods from farmers. In Tallahassee, local farms are having to adjust to changes brought on by COVID-19. Some farmers are not getting many orders from restaurants and are relying on direct home deliveries and an online farmers market to sell goods.

Nikki Fried is asking the USDA to purchase excess Florida produce.

Joe Gruters on $77 million unemployment website: Someone should go to jail” via Sarah Mueller of Florida Politics — The Department of Economic Opportunity is reverting to paper unemployment applications as its failing website continues to struggle to accommodate Floridians trying to claim benefits. Sen. Gruters is furious that $77 million in taxpayer funding has been spent on what’s essentially a broken-down website. That figure is $14 million more than originally estimated. He blames the vendor Deloitte Consulting and says someone should go to jail. “It’s just a complete boondoggle,” he said. “It’s incredibly disappointing because as a senator, I’ve had tons of people, I can’t even tell you how many, come to tell me what a disaster it is. My own mother has tried to file over 100 times without success.”

’Shut the f*ck up,’ ‘Fat b*tch:’ Zoom meeting featuring Florida lawmakers devolves into chaos, thanks to trolls” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A call featuring Sen. Annette Taddeo, House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee and Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) Executive Director Ken Lawson was supposed to address the state’s ongoing struggle with handling online unemployment applications. Instead, it devolved into chaos as trolls connected to the Zoom meeting and hijacked the conversation. “Can you shut the f*ck up, you ugly a** b*tch? Shut your a** up.” Taddeo then tried to explain they were ending the call and would set up a new link. “As the leader of DEO who’s responsible for the system, I apologize to each and every one of you. I accept responsibility for my system,” Lawson said at the beginning of the call.

Will Weatherford spearheads $1M fundraiser for Metropolitan Ministries for COVID-19 response” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford and his wife Courtney are spearheading a massive fundraising campaign for Metropolitan Ministries in Tampa. The nonprofit social services agency is experiencing one of the most in-demand periods it has ever faced with massive numbers of individuals out of work due to the COVID-19 crisis. Despite a dip in funding, the organization is still distributing 3,000 meals a day in the Tampa Bay area and is emptying its warehouse of nonperishable food items to distribute to families.

Justices won’t revisit major debt penalty ruling” via the News Service of Florida — The court, in a 4-1 decision, rejected a request for a rehearing by attorneys for Death Row inmate Mark Anthony Poole. Chief Justice Charles Canady and justices Ricky Polston, Alan Lawson and Carlos Muniz were in the majority, while Justice Jorge Labarga supported granting a rehearing. The Supreme Court issued a ruling in January that said justices “got it wrong” in 2016 when they required changes such as unanimous jury recommendations on death sentences. The January decision reversing course reinstated a death sentence for Poole, who was convicted in Polk County in the 2001 first-degree murder of Noah Scott, the attempted murder and sexual battery of Loretta White, armed burglary and armed robbery.

I-4 overhaul to get $125 million bailout from state” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — State officials have agreed to an enormous public bailout of the troubled Interstate 4 construction project, now with five worker fatalities, more than a 1,000 damage claims from property and vehicle owners, and an expected completion now year a behind the original schedule. Still not publicly available is the agreement between the state and I-4 Mobility Partners that could shed light on why the state agreed to pay an additional $125 million and what conditions the state may have placed on the builder going forward. I-4′s contractor has blamed several delays and added costs on the state, including a state-designed approach for installing foundations.

Before coronavirus, public transit was one of Orange County’s biggest problems. But will Mayor Jerry Demings still push tax to fix it?” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Before the coronavirus pandemic hit Central Florida along with the rest of the nation, a chief priority of Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings was to shore up the region’s deficient transportation network. Lynx, the public bus system, is chronically underfunded. SunRail, the commuter train, needs more money, too. And so do roads across the county. Demings proposed raising the local sales tax by a penny to pump money into more buses, rail and expanding roads to handle the growing county’s 1.3 million people. At least one county commissioner is already calling for any talk of the idea to be put on hold.

Gender reveal party sparks 10-acre fire in Central Florida” via The Associated Press — A gender reveal party mixed with explosives sparked a 10-acre fire in Florida. It happened Saturday in Brevard County. The county has prohibited open burning because of an increase in fires, and officials are urging people to follow the rules and avoid calls that can strain medical resources during the coronavirus pandemic. A violation of the burn ban comes with a fine of up to $500 and jail time.

— 2020 —

Wisconsin goes it alone, holding elections next week amid fears of infection and voting chaos” via Amy Gardner of The Washington Post — In Tuesday’s Wisconsin elections, more than 100 municipalities will not have enough poll workers to open a single voting location. Tens of thousands of voters who have flooded election offices with mail-ballot requests in recent days are at risk of not receiving them on time. Voters, election officials and civil rights leaders across Wisconsin are angry that the state legislature is going forward with the April 7 presidential primary and local elections even as the novel coronavirus continues its march across the country.

Democrats postpone presidential convention until Aug. 17” via Alex Thompson and Marc Caputo of POLITICO — The Democratic National Committee is postponing the party’s presidential nominating convention in Milwaukee to Aug. 17, the week before the Republican Party’s convention. The delay from July 13 came after likely nominee Joe Biden publicly called for the convention to be rescheduled in response to the coronavirus pandemic. And it followed weeks of behind-the-scenes discussions with party leaders and the campaigns of the two remaining presidential candidates, Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders. DNC officials are also discussing ways to scale back the convention.

The DNC is moving the national convention to August. Image via NBC.

Joe Biden offers to call Trump with coronavirus advice” via Jennifer Epstein of Bloomberg News — Democratic presidential front-runner Biden’s campaign said Wednesday it would be in touch with the White House to set up a call for the former vice president to offer his ideas on combating coronavirus to Trump after a top White House official complained the administration hadn’t heard any suggestions from Biden. A day of back and forth between the president and his likely general election opponent culminated in Trump saying during a press briefing that he would “absolutely” take Biden’s call. Biden has given a series of speeches and TV interviews in which he called Trump’s virus response insufficient and urged him to take more drastic steps.

How will Biden choose a running mate? Look to the Obama model” via Katie Glueck, Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin of The New York Times — Biden has spoken with Barack Obama about the process of selecting a running mate. His allies remain enthusiastic about Biden’s promise of a female vice-presidential candidate. Interviews with nearly two dozen Biden allies and donors over the last week provided the clearest picture yet of the critical early phase in Biden’s efforts to choose a running mate. Biden has listed several requirements for his running mate. Some allies are focused on which potential running mate could most excite progressive voters who are currently unenthusiastic about Biden.

Google to lift coronavirus ad ban” via Sara Fischer of Axios — Google will begin to allow some advertisers to run ads across its platforms that address the coronavirus, according to a Google memo sent to clients. Google had previously banned ads related to the virus in fear that some people would take advantage of the situation and use Google’s self-serve ad platform to buy ads promoting things like fake coronavirus tests or hoarded supplies of hand sanitizer. Google says that it’s planning to allow other advertisers, including political organizations, to run ads related to the coronavirus, and will announce that in the next few days.

How the coronavirus is shaping the 2024 presidential race” via David Siders of POLITICO — The daily split screen between Trump and the nation’s governors over the coronavirus pandemic is advancing the political fortunes of a handful of Democratic state leaders, by contrasting their management of a crisis with the president’s disjointed response to it. “When you’ve got Governors with stratospheric approval ratings, and ratings that are 20 and 30 points higher than the President’s, and you have governors from states like California and New York and Illinois leading the crisis response — all big-name, major league Governors — you’re going to see that leadership reflected in polls for the presidency in future election years,” said Doug Herman, a Democratic strategist. “This is the kind of stuff that gets forged and built into your resume.”

— MORE FROM THE TRAIL —

Can’t knock on voters’ doors, maybe tap their avatars? Politicos scramble to adapt to coronavirus” via Evan Halper and Janet Hook of the Los Angeles Times — A major election is approaching, college campuses are deserted and Democratic activists seeking to register young voters can’t walk up to any actual human beings. So they are turning to avatars. Activists at NextGen America, a Democratic super PAC, are scoping out virtual worlds — video games like Animal Crossing and Minecraft — as they seek to engage idle college students and other Gen Zers in one-on-one conversations about the real-world pursuit of voting.

Grassroots candidates say shutdown makes qualification waiver more pressing than ever” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A group of candidates asking that qualification fees be waived amplified their call in the wake of a statewide lockdown. “It is no longer possible to conduct face to face campaign events, including gathering petitions, with the stay-at-home order for at least the next 30 days,” a joint statement reads. The group of candidates, now at 42, previously called on a change in deadlines for petition gathering to qualify for the ballot. On the day petitions were due for federal candidates, the group held a news conference and issued a call for the qualification fee to be waived or reduced. “They’re going to have to do something,” said Michael Bluemling, Jr., a candidate in Florida’s 21st Congressional District.

Congressional candidate Michael-Bluemling Jr. wants the state to loosen petition requirements due to the pandemic.

Robert Kaplan files to challenge Joe Gruters” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Kaplan last week filed to challenge Sen. Gruters in Senate District 23. He’s previously run before for House, first running as a write-in for an open House seat in 2014 and then for U.S. Senate in 2016. In 2018, he qualified for the ballot and ran in House District 74, losing to Republican James Buchanan. But Kaplan stresses he’s not running to trash anybody. He has known Gruters since 2012. “He means well,” Kaplan said. “I have no ill will toward anyone. I just want to work for the state of Florida, a state I love.”

— TOP OPINION —

Joe Gruters: DeSantis is facing coronavirus with smart solutions” via Florida Politics — Gov. DeSantis has led an aggressive, effective response to the coronavirus crisis. DeSantis is meeting the spread of the virus on multiple fronts with precision and creativity. He has instituted travel restrictions from coronavirus hot spots like New York, New Jersey, and Louisiana. He has allowed different jurisdictions across the state to enact stay-at-home policies which they feel best match their own circumstances. Perhaps no action of DeSantis’ will prove as important as his latest success on our behalf: Florida has secured 100% of its requests for federal medical equipment. This means masks, ventilators, drugs — this means saving Floridian lives. He has successfully fought for these resources because he is a relentless and effective advocate for our state.

Your stay-at-home order comes needlessly late, Gov. DeSantis, but still…” via the Miami Herald editorial board — We wanted so much to say, “Good job, Gov. DeSantis! You’ve been on top of Florida’s coronavirus pandemic since the very start!” But now that DeSantis has issued a 30-day statewide stay-at-home order for all but those seeking essential services, we’ll just say: “Finally.” DeSantis must ensure that there are hospital beds and vital equipment such as ventilators for the surging number of coronavirus cases in the state. Unlike some other governors, DeSantis ignored the obvious for too long, and Floridians likely are sicker for it.

— OPINIONS —

Joe Henderson: DeSantis’ governing philosophy didn’t fit the moment” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — On that January day in 2019, when DeSantis took the oath of office as Florida’s next Governor, he left no doubt what he believed. It was straight out of the Federalist playbook. “Our rights are endowed by God, not government; that we the people loan power to government under the Constitution in order to protect our rights,” DeSantis said. “That government’s role is not to run our lives for us but to provide what Lincoln called an ‘open field and fair chance for one’s industry, enterprise, and intelligence.’“ That’s fine when things are going well, but no single governing philosophy fits every situation. When a global pandemic strikes, though, urgent, decisive leadership is required. Sometimes, you just gotta be the boss.

Republicans were warned. Yet they persisted in defending Trump.” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — Mitch McConnell is blaming Democrats for the Trump administration’s failure to prepare for the novel coronavirus pandemic. In his first substantive remarks on the virus, two days later, he praised the Trump administration’s response to the virus and condemned Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s “partisan political attacks,” “posturing” and “performative outrage” because Schumer called Trump’s coronavirus funding request inadequate. Democrats point to 32 other warnings, requests and statements they made seeking action against the virus.

Governor fails the unemployed and many others during coronavirus pandemic” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald — If the Governor of Florida didn’t operate in the bubble of a political ivory tower covered in ideological vines, he might hear and see the angst and helplessness of Floridians losing their jobs. Day after day, the losses mount as the coronavirus pandemic tanks the local, national, and global economies. Without dogmatic blinders, DeSantis might act with some sense of urgency for a change — and fix the darn state website where people can apply for unemployment benefits.

Jon Costello: Many challenges face the inevitable coronavirus Special Session” via Florida Politics — Inevitably, a Special Session of the Florida Legislature is likely imminent. All this then presents a first-ever logistical nightmare: how to hold a Special Session in the legal sunshine when the ability to gather traditionally in committees, Senate and House chambers, and the halls of The Capitol itself is compromised by virus-necessary safe distances? How can this urgent work be done and not risk the safety of elected officials, staff, advocates that participate in the process, and the public? This is a time for our political leaders, members of the press corps, First Amendment and open government champions, and others to meet with technological wizards — even remotely — to determine how to have an open, transparent Special Session.

Why is Florida banning this tool that could help nurses and first responders?” via Matt Miller of In Defense of Liberty — DeSantis recently issued Executive Order 20-87, which orders owners of short-term rental properties to “suspend vacation rental operations. Vacation rentals are prohibited from making new reservations or bookings and shall not accept new guests for check-in for the duration of this order.” People who violate the order can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 60 days in jail. There are plenty of people in Florida who will conceivably need short-term rentals during this crisis. Short-term rentals can serve as a source of housing for medical workers and first responders who might wish to live away from their families because, through the critical work they’re performing, they are at an increased risk of personal exposure.

Mark Payne: Survival of nonprofits through COVID-19 may help prevent ‘crisis after the crisis’” via Florida Politics — As our society adjusts to the upheavals brought on by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, many Floridians will turn to nonprofit organizations to help them through the tough times ahead. What must nonprofits do to ensure that they survive so they can continue meeting public needs? They must quickly adapt to the new reality, from finding new ways to reach clients confined to their homes to becoming creative in running their own business operations. Nonprofits with similar missions should consider consolidating limited resources to work for the greater good: shared accounting, IT services and other “back office” functions are feasible. Let’s do everything that is possible to stay afloat.

Protect our election by enhancing mail and early voting” via the Sun Sentinel editorial board — Governments are exploiting the coronavirus crisis to curtail democracy. Ethiopia, for one, has postponed what would have been its first fair election. Hungary has banned voting altogether. We like to think that can’t happen in the United States because our Constitution and institutions are strong. 14 states and one territory have postponed their primaries on account of Covid-19. Everything possible must be done to enable Americans to vote by mail and guarantee their votes will be counted. If the Legislature reconvenes to cope with the epidemic’s financial impact, safeguarding the election should also be on the agenda.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Florida is now under lockdown. The Sunshine State becomes the Stay-at-Home state as Gov. DeSantis’ executive order to combat coronavirus takes effect.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— A record number of Floridians filed first-time unemployment claims last week, a number that would have been a lot higher if the state’s unemployment benefits website had been working properly. The director of the Department of Economic Opportunity is apologizing for the fiasco, and vowing it will be fixed.

— Democrats have criticized DeSantis repeatedly for refusing to issue a statewide lockdown for the virus. Now that he’s done it, they say the Governor waited too long and put Floridians in danger because he relied on the White House for guidance.

— Democrats are also requesting a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 crisis. DeSantis agrees, but his order is only good for 45 days.

— The Florida Highway Patrol has a labor shortage of sorts. Three troopers have tested positive for coronavirus, and a total of 40 FHP employees are now self-isolating because they were exposed to the virus or just returned from a hot spot.

— And the update for Florida Man, who has been arrested for violating the coronavirus quarantine in Hawaii.

To listen, click on the image below:

— LISTEN UP

Dishonorable Mention: State Rep. Chris Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, Ernest Hooper and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics and culture. The hosts talk about the intrigue and cultural impact of the popular quarantine documentary Tiger King. They take listener questions from Twitter and Facebook pertaining to the pandemic. Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne had a warrant out for his arrest after defying local safer-at-home ordinance by conducting a service over the weekend. The hosts give their thoughts on the viral megachurch congregation during the pandemic. What does the future hold for the Tampa Bay Times after scaling back printing to Wednesday and Sunday temporarily?

REGULATED from hosts Christian Bax and Tony Glover: REGULATED touches some interesting coronavirus-related content that take us from the Environmental Protection Agency to a megachurch in Tampa.

— WEEKEND TV — 

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

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Dr. Jason Wilson, associate director of the Adult Emergency Department at Tampa General Hospital/University of South Florida Health, and Dr. Michael Teng, associate professor of molecular medicine and dean of Internal Medicine at USF Health.

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

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

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Guests include Sen. Rick Scott, Rick Mullaney, director of the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute Director, and microbiologist Dr. Dean Hart.

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

Marie Kondo’s strategy for finding joy at home during the coronavirus quarantine” via Anne Quito of Quartz — Her KonMari method — a system that entails ruthlessly throwing out items that don’t “spark joy” — may seem counterintuitive during a time when most are stocking up pantries and supply closets. But Kondo says cleaning and organizing can be a calming and perspective-generating intervention. Before rushing to buy more groceries, for instance, she says it’s imperative to take stock of what we already have at home, discarding expired canned goods and arranging items so you can clearly see them. “Calmly assessing that is vital,” Kondo stresses. “It’s not knowing that creates even more spirals of anxiety and fear.” Her prudence applies to shopping for other staples too. “How much toilet paper do you reasonably need?” Kondo asks.

Marie Kondo has tips for finding joy during the quarantine.

Stop trying to be productive” via Taylor Lorenz of The New York Times — When Dave Kyu, 34, an arts administrator in Philadelphia, realized that he would be working from home for the foreseeable future, he began to fantasize about the projects he could now complete around the house. “We went and bought all this paint and cabinet hardware and thought we were going to do the kitchen cabinet project we had wanted to do forever,” he said. Two weeks later, he and his wife haven’t touched their supplies. They have two children and demanding jobs. There’s no extra time. “We realize now it was a silly thought,” Mr. Kyu said. “It’s a lot more stressful than I expected.”

The only thing I want to do is binge-watch apocalypse movies” via Krystie Lee Yandoli of BuzzFeed News — My apocalyptic viewing started ramping up in earnest a couple of weeks ago. Things felt like they took a significant turn on March 11, when the spread of the virus prompted Trump to suspend travel from Europe to the U.S. I was told by my company to start working from home and social distancing, and I witnessed firsthand the eeriness of going to a normally stocked grocery store that was left with barren freezers and empty shelves. All of a sudden, things felt like they were changing, and they wouldn’t be getting better anytime soon. But to be crystal clear: I do not recommend anyone else fall down the same kind of rabbit hole that I have.

‘Top Gun Maverick’ postponed to December due to coronavirus” — “Top Gun Maverick” became the latest would-be blockbuster to be rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Paramount Pictures on Thursday announced that the sequel to the 1986 original will now open Dec. 23 instead of June 24. Most of the season’s top movies have in the last week departed the summer. With the pandemic’s quickening spread, it remains uncertain when movie theaters will reopen, or how much appetite moviegoers will have to visit cinemas when they initially open their doors.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy 50th birthday to Brian Burgess. Best wishes to Alex Heckler of LSN Partners, Robert Mons, a special assistant to Gov. DeSantis, and our ol’ friend Billy Schmidt.

___

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.

Sign up for Sunburn

Receive our team's agenda-setting morning read of what's hot in Florida politics. Delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday.

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

Connect
Sign up for Sunburn

Receive our team's agenda-setting morning read of what's hot in Florida politics. Delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday.