Connect with us

Emails & Opinions

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.9.20

Up and at ’em: Here’s your scoops and other stories driving the day in Florida politics.

Some have compared the fight against the new coronavirus to war against an invisible enemy. If so, there are few better wartime leaders to look to for inspiration than President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

As the nation entered World War II, FDR continued holding fireside chats to encourage, inspire, and unify the public during tough times.

Senate President-designate Wilton Simpson is out with a new video that repurposes one of FDR’s famous addresses for the coronavirus era.

The video highlights a portion of FDR’s 1942 Report on the Home Front: “Some of us are soldiers or sailors, some of us are civilians … but all of us can have that deep and permanent inner satisfaction that comes from doing the best we know how.”

The speech was notable for FDR’s optimism that the allied forces would win the war despite there being a long road ahead. It came after he toured factories, military camps, and training facilities, which gave him a firsthand look at the American people’s “unbeatable spirit.”

The hopeful outlook, and a reminder of that unbeatable spirit, shines through in Simpson’s video as it transitions from black and white footage of those wartime soldiers and workers to modern shots of the boots on the ground today — the first responders, food kitchen servers and utility workers getting their jobs done as the state fights back against coronavirus.

“Working together means working apart,” the video says in a nod to social distancing. “But we are going to win. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different.”

To watch the video, click on the image below:

Breaking overnight: Gov. Ron DeSantis signed seven bills into law Wednesday evening. Among the bills signed are SB 362, which re-authorizes VISIT Florida for three years, and HB 7097, which was this Session’s tax cut package. DeSantis also signed SB 1794 and SB 140; the former makes it harder to get an initiative on the ballot, while the latter makes it easier to use fireworks on New Year’s Eve and Independence Day.

— EXECUTIVE SUMMARY —

— Total positive COVID-19 cases in Florida have increased to 15,698, as of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. There have been 323 deaths statewide.

— New York state alone now has more confirmed coronavirus cases than Italy. Read more here.

— The number of new cases in Italy and Spain crept up again after several days of declines. U.K. PM Boris Johnson is stable and responding to treatment; the country reported its deadliest day yet. The global tally now stands at 1.5 million infections and more than 87,000 deaths.

— Even as coronavirus deaths mount across Europe, New York and other hot spots, the U.S. and other governments are beginning to envision an exit strategy and contemplating a staggered and carefully calibrated relaxation of the restrictions designed to curb the scourge. Read more here.

— In a heartfelt plea for unity, the World Health Organization’s chief sought to rise above sharp criticism and threats of funding cuts from U.S. President Donald Trump over the agency’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. Read more here.

President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Tuesday, April 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Donald Trump threatens to withhold funds to the World Health Organization. Image via AP.

— The outline of the next potential coronavirus aid package is taking shape as Trump seeks $250 billion for small businesses, and Democrats propose tacking on another $250 billion for small communities, protective gear and food stamps. Read more here.

— COVID-19 raced through China much faster than previously thought, a U.S. research team said, suggesting that extremely widespread vaccination or immunity will be necessary to end the pandemic. Read more here.

— Don’t count on the coronavirus fading in hot weather the way some other viruses do, the National Academy of Sciences said. Read more here.

— Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination in the November presidential election, leaving former Vice President Joe Biden as the presumptive nominee. Read more here.

— TOP STORIES —

Some Trump aides eye May 1 start to coronavirus reopening” via Jonathan Swan of Axios — President Trump’s aides, encouraged by virus data showing fewer deaths than once projected, are working behind the scenes to deliver on his vow to reopen America “sooner rather than later.” A senior White House official said there’s a lot of internal energy pushing for May 1, because that’s the end of the White House’s “30 Days to Slow the Spread.” That energy is especially coming from some of the more economic and politically minded aides. “We are looking at when the data will allow the opportunity to reopen,” said the official.

Donald Trump and Florida, a love affair” via Elaina Plott of The New York Times — The Miami-Dade Republican headquarters has the look and feel of a single-family home where the single-family has a special devotion to Trump. Matching love seats open the space, with one positioned under watercolor portraits of the president and first lady, the other decorated with needlepoint American flag pillows. From the corner of the room, a particularly lifelike cardboard cutout of Mr. Trump keeps watch. Then there’s the kitchen, cluttered with Post-it notes, to-do lists, mementos, and a bulletin board with a photo of Kellyanne Conway pinned next to a print of Jesus Christ. “I live here,” Mariela Jewett says with a laugh, but it’s tough to tell whether she’s joking.

Donald Trump loves Florida; much of Florida loves him right back. Image via CNN.

Steven Mnuchin says direct deposits out next week for virus aid” via Lisa Mascaro and Jill Colvin of The Associated Press — Mnuchin is telling House Democrats that direct deposits to Americans will begin next week under the coronavirus aid package. Mnuchin is also telling the lawmakers that $98 billion has been approved for small business retention under a program the Trump administration wants Congress to bolster with another $250 billion in a vote expected Thursday. Lawmakers have raised concerns that the $1,200 direct payments to Americans could be delayed for months for those who do not have direct deposit through the Treasury.

Florida tops 15,000 cases, 300 deaths” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — The Florida Department of Health reported 15,698 cases of the coronavirus in its late Wednesday update, up from 14,747 the previous day. The numbers include 15,234 Florida residents and 464 non-Florida residents. Florida’s death toll increased to 323 by Wednesday afternoon. According to the state, 144,570 people have been tested. The state has confirmed 880 cases in Northeast Florida, up from 825 Tuesday. The region’s confirmed death count remained at 21 Wednesday, the same as Tuesday.

COVID-19 is forcing big changes for Floridians and their rights, but is all of this strictly legal?” via Michael Moline of the Florida Phoenix — In trying to maintain public safety in a COVID-19 world, Florida’s state and local governments have directed people to stay at home, closed businesses, established checkpoints against out-of-state travelers, even arrested a church pastor. That these orders may infringe upon civil liberties seems a realistic danger. Especially disadvantaged are prison inmates close to proving they were wrongly convicted but unable to make their cases because the Florida Supreme Court has postponed jury and civil proceedings within the state’s courts and they can’t get a hearing until the danger passes. Never mind the incongruity of a conservative Republican like Gov. Ron DeSantis using his executive authority to exert such control over the economy. How is this legal?

Florida Democrats howl, Republicans seek nuance after Donald Trump condemns vote-by-mail” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Nationally and in Florida, Democrats now are embracing big-scale, statewide mail-in voting as a safe way for people to cast ballots in the era of coronavirus crisis and social distancing. Yet in Florida, vote-by-mail, in fact, has been very, very good to Florida Republicans for 30-some years. “I think mail-in voting is horrible. It’s corrupt,” Trump said at his briefing. “Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to statewide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.” Republicans in Florida practically owned vote-by-mail for most of 30 years, starting with the 1988 election and the U.S. Senate campaign of Republican then-U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, who put a lot of energy and resources into encouraging absentee balloting, as it was called back then. “There is ample evidence of Republicans winning Florida elections over the years up and down the ticket as a result of a robust and well-executed vote-by-mail program,” said former RPOF Executive Director David Johnson.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: Bernie Sanders is OUT! Thank you to Elizabeth Warren. If not for her, Bernie would have won almost every state on Super Tuesday! This ended just like the Democrats & the DNC wanted, same as the Crooked Hillary [Clinton] fiasco. The Bernie people should come to the Republican Party, TRADE!

@MarcoRubio: Good news! Significant increase today in the number of lenders & loans in #PPP. Daily improvement continues & will accelerate as Treasury guidance has provided more clarity, SBA portals expanding & lenders get more faster. Bad News! Need more money for #PPPloans without delay.

Tweet, tweet:

@EWErickson: I’ve got a lot of conservative pundit friends who want to get the country back open. I’ve got a lot of doctor friends, including a bunch who were skeptical COVID-19, would be bad, but not a one of them thinks it is time to go back to work yet.

@SamuelAAdams: the people who are now saying COVID is overblown are the ones who were saying it wasn’t a problem two months ago. Listen to them and the numbers will go right back up.

@HouseJunkie: Hey Scott, I finally got through at 4:23 this afternoon. There’s a catch, I have been on hold since then. I made 16k calls over 8 days only to sit on hold now over 2hrs. Touche DEO. Still finding ways to pound us in the rear.

@MollyCraneNewman: When the nightly applause started a couple weeks ago, I could hear clapping a dozen blocks over. Every night it’s gotten a little closer and lasted a little longer. Tonight, the entire neighborhood was yelling and cheering, banging pots and pans and blasting Bob Marley. I ♥️ NY.

@a: To stop the spread of the coronavirus, Puerto Rico’s governor has asked the FAA to prohibit flights to the island from New York, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Illinois.

@ElectionSmith: So, it remains unclear if @realDonaldTrump & @FLOTUS had their VBM ballots mailed to them to Mar-a-Lago or if someone picked them up and couriered them. Records indicate the delivery date was March 9, exactly 9 days before March 17 Election Day.

@NewsBySmiley: I just barricaded my study door with boxes of Easter supplies to keep my kids out and shouted, “I don’t want to talk to you!” when my wife pushed through anyway to remind me that I am still a parent. Today is going well.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Third-season premiere of “Killing Eve” — 3; Easter — 3; First quarter campaign reports due — 9; Last day of federal candidate qualifying — 13; NFL Draft — 14; Florida Schools reopen (maybe) — 22; Pulitzer Prizes announced — 25; The next supermoon — 28; Gov. DeSantis’ executive order closing bars and restaurants expires — 29; Mother’s Day — 31; TNT’s adaptation of “Snowpiercer” premieres — 38; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 60; Federal taxes due — 97; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 99; “Mulan” premieres — 106; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 130; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 131; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 137; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 148; First presidential debate in Indiana — 173; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 181; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 189; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 190; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 196; 2020 General Election — 208; “Black Widow” premieres — 211; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 222; “No Time to Die” premieres — 230; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 258; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 470; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 477; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 575; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 680.

— CORONA NATION —

Who gets a shot at life if hospitals run short of ventilators?” via Ariana Eunjung Cha and Laurie McGinley of The Washington Post — No group in America today is more beloved than health care workers. People sing to them from balconies, tweet about their heroism and memorialize them in portraits with faces bruised by masks. Recognizing their sacrifices — as well as their essential role — Pennsylvania officials recently adopted new guidelines giving doctors, nurses and others fighting COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, preferential access to scarce ventilators in a shortage. But the idea makes some uncomfortable. A Maryland panel rejected the priority access, arguing those sick enough to need the life-sustaining machines would be unlikely to return to their jobs anytime soon.

What happens if hospitals run short of ventilators? Image via AP.

U.S. children less likely than adults to get very ill from coronavirus, CDC study suggests” via Brittany Shammas of The Washington Post — The coronavirus has not hit children as hard as adults, preliminary data from the United States suggests, supporting earlier reports of what appears to be a mysterious saving grace of the deepening pandemic. The CDC found that pediatric cases accounted for just under 2 percent of confirmed U.S. cases. Its research also suggested that patients younger than 18 developed fevers or coughs less often than older counterparts and were less likely to require hospitalization, although serious illness has occurred in some children. The coronavirus’ less-severe manifestations in children have been an enduring mystery. Solving it could lead to major progress in understanding how and why the virus sickens and kills those in other age groups, scientists say.

Trump administration plan to provide millions of free face masks fizzled” via Caitlin Owens and Jonathan Swan of Axios — Top Trump administration officials had been developing a plan to give cloth masks to huge numbers of Americans, but the idea lost traction amid heavy internal skepticism. The scale of this undertaking would have been extraordinary, mobilizing an enormous public-private partnership to deliver protective cloth masks to millions of people in one iteration of the idea, maybe even to every American. The concept would have been a partnership among Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, and the Postal Service. “It’s passed from different entities at the White House, and has been a dying a slow death,” said one source familiar with the situation.

The increasingly damning timeline of Trump’s coronavirus response” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — We just learned that a month and a half before Trump indeed acknowledged the gravity of the coronavirus outbreak, his top trade adviser warned that 500,000 Americans could die of it. Axios first reported on the Jan. 29 memo from Peter Navarro, in which Navarro said the virus could claim more than a half-million lives because it was much more serious than the seasonal flu. Despite these warnings, it wouldn’t be until mid-March that Trump would truly acknowledge the gravity of the situation. But it’s merely the latest example of a warning that apparently wasn’t heeded in the early days of the outbreak.

Trump’s promotion of hydroxychloroquine is almost certainly about politics, not profits” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — For weeks, Trump has actively hyped the possibility that the antimalarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine might prove to be miracle cures for COVID-19. His promotion of the drugs has spurred questions about his motivation. Why promote these unproven drugs over and over instead of just continuing to allow them to be used? Why keep focusing on them overtly? Given Trump’s background and his touting his own businesses as President, some speculated that he might be motivated by personal financial interests. It turns out Trump has a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine.

CNN poll: Majority of Americans now say the federal government has done a poor job of preventing coronavirus spread” via Jennifer Agiesta of CNN Politics — A majority of Americans — 55% — now say the federal government has done a poor job preventing the spread of coronavirus in the United States, up eight points in about a week. Eighty percent feel the worst of the outbreak is yet to come, most (55%) feel President Donald Trump could be doing more to fight the outbreak, and 37% say they have grown more concerned about coronavirus in the last few days, far outpacing the 5% who say their fears have eased recently. Just under half (46%) say it is at least somewhat likely that they or someone in their family will contract the coronavirus, and there are deep disparities by socioeconomic status and partisanship in Americans’ level of confidence that they will be able to get treatment should they become ill with the virus.

POTUS is gonna love this —Poll: Barack Obama would be better amid coronavirus, but Trump bests Joe Biden” via Myah Ward of POLITICO — Voters believe former President Obama would be a better leader than Trump amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday. But of 1,990 participants in the survey, a plurality said Trump would be better than Biden, the leading Democratic presidential candidate. By an 8-point margin, more voters picked Trump (44 percent) as a better leader during the crisis than Biden (36 percent), though voters were split evenly in the survey when asked who they would trust to handle the issue.

To protect Trump, White House among first to use rapid coronavirus tests sought by communities” via David Nakamura and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — As communities across the country desperately seek access to emerging rapid-turnaround COVID-19 tests, one place already using them is the White House, where guests visiting Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have been required to undergo the exams since last week. The procedure is the latest of new safeguards aimed at protecting the health of the nation’s top elected officials from the novel coronavirus, which has sickened some prominent global leaders — among them, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a Trump ally moved to intensive care this week.

Donald Trump and Steven Mnuchin during a conference call with banks on efforts to help small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. Image via AP.

What could go wrong? —Jared Kushner’s team seeks national coronavirus surveillance system” via Adam Cancryn of POLITICO — Kushner’s task force has reached out to a range of health technology companies about creating a national coronavirus surveillance system to give the government a nearly real-time view of where patients are seeking treatment and for what, and whether hospitals can accommodate them, according to four people with knowledge of the discussions. The proposed national network could help determine which areas of the country can safely relax social-distancing rules and which should remain vigilant. But it would also represent a significant expansion of government use of individual patient data, forcing a new reckoning over privacy limits amid a national crisis.

Pentagon considers new moves, including stop-loss policy, to maintain force amid coronavirus crisis” via Missy Ryan of The Washington Post — The Pentagon is considering new steps to retain uniformed service members, including the potential revival of the military’s controversial “stop-loss” policy, as the coronavirus crisis limits the arrival of new troops and disrupts its personnel pipeline. Officials said that implementing the stop-loss policy, employed during the George W. Bush administration as years of grueling combat in Iraq and Afghanistan strained the force, was among the measures being considered but was not the preferred option.

In the absence of a national testing strategy, states go their own way” via Juliet Eilperin, Laurie McGinley, Steven Mufson and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — Three months into the coronavirus epidemic, the Trump administration has yet to devise a national strategy to test Americans for the deadly disease — something experts say is key to blunting the outbreak and resuming daily life. In the absence of a national plan, several states are developing their own testing systems, but the emerging picture varies widely. States with more money and robust medical sectors have devised comprehensive plans, while others lag far behind. The White House, meanwhile, is still debating which types of tests should be sent to which regions and how much to focus on testing Americans to see who may have developed immunity to the disease.

States lead the fight against COVID-19. That means we all depend on Medicaid now.” via Josh Pacewicz of The Washington Post — The U.S. government has no real public health care system and can act only by coordinating with public health systems in all 50 states. Some states have used Medicaid to build up a vigorous public health system; others have used it just to insure the minimum number of people possible, delegating daily administration of that insurance to a private business. Each state’s public health response to COVID-19 may be only as good as its Medicaid program. Each governor relies on the advice of an alphabet soup of state health agencies. And each one’s capacities depend on how the state structures its Medicaid program.

Federal medical aid to states falls short, House report says” via Polly Mosendz, Margaret Newkirk and Vincent Del Giudice of Bloomberg News — The federal government has failed to distribute enough personal protective equipment and medical supplies to states reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gave the panel she chairs a spreadsheet documenting states’ requests and what was actually supplied. The Strategic National Stockpile has been depleted of protective equipment, and it has already made its final shipments. This comes as states continue to request more supplies for their health care workers, and hospitals continue to report having to re-use gear for fear of running out entirely.

’Just madness’: Governors mull consortium to end chaos over medical supplies” via Anna Gronewold of POLITICO — Governors are in talks about creating a multistate consortium to oversee the purchase and distribution of medical supplies across the county — a direct response to the White House’s hands-off approach to the issue. With the federal stockpile ill-prepared to supply medical equipment in time to meet the insatiable needs of states hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, the National Governors Association said discussions were underway about how such a cooperative would function. The news came as California announced plans to spend nearly $1 billion to obtain 200 million medical masks a month. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the NGA is having a “conversation” about forming a consortium that would distribute supplies based on need.

How delays and unheeded warnings hindered New York’s virus fight” via J. David Goodman of The New York Times — For many days after the first positive test, as the coronavirus silently spread throughout the New York region, Cuomo, de Blasio and their top aides projected unswerving confidence that the outbreak would be readily contained. There would be cases, they repeatedly said, but New York’s hospitals were some of the best in the world. Plans were in place. Responses had been rehearsed during “tabletop” exercises. After all, the city had been here before — Ebola, Zika, the H1N1 virus, even Sept. 11. state and city officials were also hampered by a chaotic and often dysfunctional federal response, including significant problems with the expansion of coronavirus testing, which made it far harder to gauge the scope of the outbreak.

Most NYC COVID-19 cases came from Europe, Genome researchers say” via Robert Langreth of Bloomberg News — The explosion of COVID-19 cases in the New York City area resulted mostly from infected patients who flew in from the U.K. and several European countries, including France, Austria and the Netherlands. The findings suggest that even after the Trump administration imposed travel restrictions from China, the virus continued to infiltrate the most populous U.S. city via daily flights from Europe. Not all the New York virus samples have European origins. Some appear to have come from the U.S. West Coast, while others seem to link directly to Asia. That indicates that there are numerous chains of transmission in the metro area, as would be expected in such a large outbreak.

Second US study for COVID-19 vaccine uses skin-deep shots” via Lauran Neergaard of The Associated Press — U.S. researchers have opened another safety test of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine, this one using a skin-deep shot instead of the usual deeper jab. The pinch should feel like a simple skin test, a researcher told the volunteer lying on an exam table in Kansas City, Missouri, on Wednesday. The experiment, using a vaccine candidate developed by Inovio Pharmaceuticals, is part of a global hunt for much-needed protection against the coronavirus. Early-stage studies are a first step to see if a vaccine appears safe enough for more extensive tests needed to prove whether it will protect. Even if the research goes well, it is expected to take more than a year before any vaccine could be widely available.

A participant in a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine trial receives an injection in Kansas City, Missouri. This early safety study, called a Phase 1 trial, is using a vaccine candidate developed by Inovio Pharmaceuticals. Image via AP.

Anesthesiologists hailed as special heroes in fight against coronavirus” via Dr. Angela N. Baldwin of ABC News — Health care workers across the U.S. have risen to the occasion in combating the coronavirus pandemic. Skilled practitioners place themselves in harm’s way to save lives — but some medical professions face more dangers than others. Anesthesiologists, in particular, have a vast skill set that makes them extremely valuable to care teams that manage critically ill COVID-19 patients, explains Dr. Yemi Odugbesan, physician anesthesiologist and adjunct professor of anesthesiology at Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

For some black Americans, anxiety about wearing face coverings in public may keep them from doing so” via Eugene Scott of The Washington Post — The recommendation from the White House that Americans wear cloth face coverings is causing concerns among those who fear that doing so could expose some people of color to other kinds of threats. On the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, the government provides information on how to wear face coverings. There is a section called “bandanna face covering.” This is prompting worry, particularly among black Americans, some of who fear they could be mistaken for individuals involved in gang activity or otherwise treated with suspicion.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Rapid testing could help reopen Florida economy” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — South Florida-based Disaster Management Group rolled out a 15-minute COVID-19 test last week that has the potential to get Floridians back to work, even as the new coronavirus continues to spread. In recent weeks, governments and health care providers have opened drive-thru testing facilities across the state to conduct PCR-based coronavirus tests, but those can take two weeks to produce results. The DMG test, however, produces results in minutes whether or not the person being tested has experienced symptoms. That will allow people who have already had the virus and are at low risk of reinfection start clocking back in without government and health officials worrying about them spreading the disease to others.

Ron DeSantis announces 450-bed coronavirus hospital at Miami Beach Convention Center” via Martin Vassolo and Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — The Miami Beach Convention Center, which saw all of its business dry up amid event cancellations during the coronavirus pandemic, will be retrofitted by a federal contractor to house patients if area hospitals become overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases. There will be 400 beds and 50 intensive-care beds for COVID-19 patients, but it can expand to up to 1,000 beds. DeSantis said 184 members of the Florida National Guard medical staff, including 10 doctors, will be available to care for patients at the hospital. “‪We don’t know what a surge may bring, but we have to prepare for that,” DeSantis said.

Ron DeSantis announces the Miami Beach Convention Center will be used as a 450-bed hospital. Image via Twitter.

State prepares for surge in cases with makeshift hospitals” via John Kennedy of USA TODAY — The Miami Beach Convention Center will be converted to a 450-bed hospital to meet what could be a critical health care shortage if Florida experiences a sudden surge in coronavirus cases, DeSantis said. The iconic facility, which has hosted the South Florida Auto Show, Art Basel, Super Bowl events and even the 1964 Muhammad AliSonny Liston heavyweight championship fight, will be set to house patients by April 20, DeSantis said. “We need to be ready, and that’s what this will do,” he said, adding that the state currently has adequate hospital capacity and enough beds for what is forecast to be the peak demand on the hospital system from the coronavirus crisis.

DeSantis bet on containing travel from New York. How’d it work out?” via Christine Stapleton and Eliot Kleinberg of The Palm Beach Post — After Gov. DeSantis reluctantly issued a stay-at-home order on April 1, limiting activity outside the home to “essential services” and “essential activities,” Floridians promptly asked two questions. What is an essential service? Which activities are essential? The answers came swiftly. Shopping for groceries, alcohol and guns in Florida is essential, as is walking the dog. Gyms, spas and dog parks are not essential. Up north, people in the Tri-State region, eyeing a chance to escape the worst U.S. coronavirus hot spots, asked the same question. But for them, the answer was a lot more nebulous.

Florida travelers with coronavirus visited 46 U.S. states, 75 foreign destinations before diagnosis” via Ryan Mills of the Naples Daily News — Travel-related cases dominated the test results in early March when the virus was first identified in Florida. They have become a smaller share of the total number of cases as the virus spreads through communities. In the first 10 days of the outbreak in the state, more than 80% of cases — or 23 of 28 — were travel related. In the days and weeks before they got sick, Florida’s travelers visited cultural meccas like France, Japan, Egypt and Israel. People infected with the coronavirus in Florida are known to have visited every state but Maine and North and South Dakota in the days and weeks before they were diagnosed, the analysis found.

Orlando lawmaker calls for Special Session to fix jobless claims system” via Gray Rohrer and Ron Hurtibise of the Orlando Sentinel — Sen. Randolph Bracy sent a letter Wednesday to House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, and Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, asking them to call a special session “at the earliest convenience.” Bracy wants the Legislature to increase the maximum weekly benefit, which stands at $275 and has remained unchanged since it was set in 1998. He also wants the 12-week maximum duration of benefits increased to 26, which many other states have and which Florida had until the law was changed in 2011 to tie the total amount of weeks to the unemployment rate.

As COVID-19 threatens Florida prisons, reform coalition wants more inmates released” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — As a spreading coronavirus puts increasing strain on Florida prisons, criminal justice advocates want more inmates released. Members of the Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform urged state officials to expedite the process of getting people out of jails and prisons. That could be through commutation of sentences and the release of nonviolent offenders. “Gov. Ron DeSantis has the power to commute prison sentences, and he’s not doing it,” said Micah Kubic, executive director for the ACLU of Florida. “There are roughly 96,000 people in Florida prisons right now, many of which shouldn’t be there in the first place. To avoid a major coronavirus outbreak, we need to safely reduce the prison and jail populations.”

Florida ban on evictions leaves small businesses exposed” via Caroline Glenn and Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — On April 2, about the time the first round of rent checks came due after the coronavirus pandemic shattered the state’s economy, DeSantis stepped in to save renters by suspending residential evictions for at least the next 45 days. But the Governor chose not to stop commercial evictions — and now some small businesses say they are at risk of being forced out. Courts are closed, and some local governments — including the Orange County Sheriff’s Office — are not serving eviction notices of any type. But that hasn’t stopped some landlords from threatening to oust delinquent tenants, raising fears that a long line of eviction suits could be filed as soon as the courts reopen.

Lockdown exemption for religious services not expected to be widely used” via John Kennedy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — With one of the holiest weekends of the Christian and Jewish calendars coming up, Florida religious leaders said Tuesday they have no plans to test the boundaries of Gov. DeSantis’ statewide stay-at-home order. The Governor’s directive limiting social interactions outside the home exempts essential needs, including “attending religious services conducted in churches, synagogues, and houses of worship.” The exemption for religious services has drawn criticism. There are concerns that congregating in churches will spread the virus at a time when health officials are advising against mass gatherings. Florida’s lone statewide elected Democrat, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, cited the religious exemption in slamming the governor’s lockdown order as “filled with glaring loopholes.”

Booze-to-go sales brisk, despite uncertainty about their legality” via Anne Schindler of First Coast News — Mai tais. Margaritas. To-go cocktails, once verboten, are now served curbside. Florida has long permitted package sales at drive-through liquor stores, and more recently begun allowing breweries to refill growlers. But the state has traditionally drawn the line at mixed drinks to go. The coronavirus changed that. Restaurants and bars are now selling sell cocktails, wine and beer in cups and other containers to be consumed off-premises. Mixed drinks are widely advertised on restaurant websites and Instagram pages. But while sales are brisk, the rules are fuzzy.

Takeout cocktails are gaining in popularity during the lockdown. But is it legal? Image via Gary He/Eater.com.

Florida dairy farmers forced to dump excess milk” via The Palm Beach Post — Florida dairy farmers collectively have spewed enough milk into grassy fields and down industrial drains in the past week to overflow an Olympic-size swimming pool. About 70 farms began dumping excess milk April 1 — 135 tankers totaling over 800,000 gallons — according to Joe Wright of V&W Farms in Avon Park. That’s because schools are closed. Theme parks are shuttered. Restaurant dining rooms are empty. The COVID-19 pandemic has all but obliterated institutional milk sales, said Wright, who has been president of Southeast Milk, Inc., a Belleview-based cooperative serving six Southern states, for the past 23 years. “It’s heartbreaking … we’re getting calls from food banks. There is a need for milk,” Wright said.

Coronavirus claims an unexpected victim: Florida vegetables” via The Associated Press — Mounds of harvested zucchini and yellow squash ripened and then rotted in the hot Florida sun. Juicy tomatoes were left to wither unpicked in farmers’ fields. Thousands of acres of fruits and vegetables grown in Florida are being plowed over or left to rot because farmers can’t sell to restaurants, theme parks, or schools nationwide that have closed because of the coronavirus. Other states are having the same issues. Agriculture officials say leafy greens in California are being hit especially hard, and dairy farmers in Vermont and Wisconsin say they have had to dump a surplus of milk intended for restaurants.

How Florida credit unions are helping people during the COVID-19 crisis” via Mark Bergin of Florida Politics — Florida banks, credit unions and financial institutions are doing their part to address the financial needs people and businesses have amid the coronavirus crisis. League of Southeastern Credit Unions and Affiliates President Jared Ross said it’s important for people to work with their credit unions if they have financial concerns stemming from COVID-19. “Credit unions are built on helping their membership and helping their communities,” Ross said.

Coronavirus forces UM to make budget cuts. FIU predicts drop in enrollment.” via Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — The University of Miami in an email announced “financial mitigation actions,” effective immediately, to reduce expenses across the university, including its health care system, UHealth. Florida International University has not announced any cost-cutting measures, according to spokeswoman Maydel Santana. But it has been dealt a financial blow and is predicting a drop in enrollment. FIU leaders have estimated a fiscal impact of nearly $29 million due to coronavirus. The highest costs went to refunding housing and meal plans, as well as planning for a potential 10% summer enrollment reduction.

— CORONA LOCAL —

Miami mandates face masks inside grocery stores and pharmacies to curb coronavirus” via Joey Flechas, Martin Vassolo and Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — The city of Miami escalated the response to the COVID-19 pandemic Wednesday when officials mandated that everyone inside grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores wear masks or face coverings. When City Manager Art Noriega signed the paperwork, he issued an emergency order to South Florida’s most populous city to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. It requires all customers and employees at most retail establishments that are still open to cover their faces while inside. The measure also requires all delivery workers to don masks, as well as all construction workers on job sites. Similar orders have been implemented in Miami Beach, Cutler Bay and Aventura. Monroe County requires all people inside all businesses to wear masks.

Miami is requiring face masks in grocery stores. Image via AP.

Desperate for testing, drivers form long line at Miami-Dade fairgrounds” via Joshua Ceballos of the Miami New Times — Just before noon Wednesday, the line of cars waiting to enter the fairgrounds site on SW 107th Avenue stretched from the entrance at SW 20th Street to SW Eighth Street, about three-quarters of a mile. The test center, which is being run by Florida International University (FIU), the Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition, and the Florida Department of Health, is the latest in a list of drive-thru sites popping up across South Florida as the number of infections continues to rise and many cases presumably go unreported. Officers from the FIU and Miami-Dade Police Departments have been stationed along the street outside the university’s main campus, which is adjacent to the fairgrounds, to direct traffic and allow a few cars to enter at a time.

Officials target April 20 opening for field hospital at Miami Beach Convention Center” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — DeSantis says officials are targeting an April 20 opening date for a new field hospital being set up at the Miami Beach Convention Center. That hospital will be equipped for patients who have contracted the novel coronavirus. Some other field hospitals in the state and around the country are solely designed to help hospitals with an overflow capacity of non-coronavirus patients. DeSantis said upon opening, the field hospital will have 50 intensive care unit beds and another 400 hospital beds. In addition to contracted physicians, nurses, and other staff, nearly 200 members of the Florida National Guard medical team will also work at the facility.

South Florida tourism bureaus imperiled as coronavirus slashes hotel tax collections” via Andres Viglucci of the Miami Herald — Bracing for a steep drop in hospitality tax revenue because of the coronavirus crisis, the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau has made pay and staffing cuts and redirected its promotional efforts to local assistance and recovery programs. The bureau, which uses hotel and restaurant-tax money to attract tourists and conventions, has furloughed six of its 65 employees and instituted tiered pay cuts ranging from 25 percent at the top executive level to 5 percent for workers at the lower end of the scale, said president and CEO William “Bill” D. Talbert III. The bureau also halted pension contributions. Meanwhile, the organization has turned its attention to Miami Eats, a program promoting Miami-Dade restaurants offering takeout food.

Tempers flare as Miami-Dade construction sites take COVID-19 precautions but stay open” via Rene Rodriguez and Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — While the construction industry in Miami-Dade scrambles to raise safety standards to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, public and private sentiment that the job sites should shut down continues to grow. Residents who live inside buildings where cosmetic repair work is being done agonize over the nonstop noise. Other people living near construction sites are stuck in their homes, where they can’t escape the ear-piercing beeps of heavy machinery. “We are so upset,” said Carole Brendel, 67, who lives with her husband, Jurgen, 75, on the 29th floor at 2020 North Bayshore Drive in Edgewater, next to the site where developer Mill Creek Residential is building the 28-story luxury condo tower Modera Biscayne Bay.

Cuba says 25 health workers are sick, orders stricter quarantines to contain coronavirus” via Nora Gámez Torres of the Miami Herald — Cuban authorities warned Wednesday that they have identified several cases of local transmission of the coronavirus and announced that 25 health workers, including 14 doctors and eight nurses, also contracted the disease. Public Health Minister José Ángel Portal said at a news conference that one of the doctors was in critical condition. Two technicians and an ambulance driver are also in the group. Portal said some of the infected staff had contracted the virus from patients who did not initially show symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The minister said that an “important transmission event” took place in the Calixto García Hospital in Havana, one of the largest in the capital.

Broward jail inmate with coronavirus dies at hospital” via Lisa J. Huriash and Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A convicted sex offender became the first Broward County inmate to die from the new coronavirus, underscoring concern over how the pandemic will pose problems for detention facilities across South Florida. Alan Pollock, 64, died at Northwest Medical Center in Margate on Tuesday afternoon, according to the Broward Public Defender’s Office, which represented him. Broward County’s jails have had at least five inmates test positive for the coronavirus, which has been spreading in detention centers across the U.S. Nationwide, the disease has infected hundreds of detainees as court negotiations take place to release inmates from jails and minimize their risk of exposure.

With nine COVID-19 cases in Milton prison, inmates and families are on edge” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — Four inmates and 37 employees at 17 prisons and three probation offices throughout the state have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. The spread of the virus to inmates and prison workers has fueled panic among detainees and their loved ones. Even before COVID-19 showed up in the state’s prisons, corrections officials canceled face-to-face visitations, cutting off one of the ways families and friends can communicate with inmates. Natausha Hunt said officials had kept her in the dark about her 28-year-old son’s situation at Blackwater, a private prison where four inmates have tested positive.

Unemployment forms available at Palm Beach County libraries” via Hannah Morse of The Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County residents who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus can pick up paper unemployment applications at most county libraries. The forms are available in English, Spanish and Creole outside of the library entrances, as county branches have been closed to the public since March 20. The state’s unemployment website has been plagued with problems as it’s facing record numbers of Floridians filing for unemployment. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity ramped up efforts to provide paper applications as an alternative.

Tallahassee Police broke up 72 gatherings, parties amid curfew, statewide stay-home order” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Even after county officials issued a curfew to stop the spread of coronavirus, people in Tallahassee were meeting in large groups. Even after the Governor issued a “safer-at-home” order, effectively directing all Floridians to limit their travels to essential business, large parties were still drawing a crowd. The Tallahassee Police Department responded to 72 large gatherings between March 25 and April 5. Forty-four of them happened in the six days after DeSantis issued a sweeping statewide order meant to limit nonessential gatherings. Twenty-seven of the calls for service came at apartment complexes where callers described large gatherings or full-blown parties.

Tallahassee Police responded to 72 large gatherings between March 25 and April 5. Most happened after Ron DeSantis issued a statewide safer-at-home order.

U.S. Sugar donates vegetables across South Florida” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — U.S. Sugar announced Wednesday that it’s supplying crateloads of locally grown green beans to employees, churches, health care providers, and food banks across South Florida. The Clewiston-based company said it is donating nearly 1,000 crates in all, enough for 120,000 servings. “We are neighbors helping neighbors and trying to share the bounty of our farms with local families when they need it most,” said Judy Sanchez, U.S. Sugar Senior Director for Corporate Communications and Public Affairs. “These communities, where we have lived and raised our families for generations, hold a special place in our hearts. Local families can have faith in knowing the people of U.S. Sugar will always be there for them.”

Jacksonville testing expands into high-risk neighborhoods” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Testing in Duval County expanded Wednesday into northwest Jacksonville as UF Health’s pop-up testing site drew about 80 people to the Emmett Reed Community Center. UF Health will return Friday to the community center for another round of testing and then continue in the coming weeks to set up other locations close to residents who might not be able to go downtown for drive-thru tests. The Emmett Reed Center is located in the 32209 ZIP code, which has one of the highest poverty rates in the city. The ZIP code has had fewer than five COVID-19 cases among its residents. Other ZIP codes in Jacksonville have had more cases, but that also could be a matter of more residents getting tested in those ZIP codes.

Jaguars to distribute 45,000 protective masks” via Garry Smits of The Florida Times-Union — The Jaguars are purchasing 45,000 protective masks in the team’s colors and logo to distribute later this month to companies whose employees must interact with the public and to nonprofit groups. The Jaguars announced the #Masks4Jax campaign Wednesday, saying in a statement that the team is following the lead of former All-Pro tackle Tony Boselli, who recently battled the coronavirus and is now recovering at home. The masks will be locally made and distributed to businesses that are still operating and interacting with the public, and to the nonprofit groups. They will feature the Jags’ logo and will be available late next week and through the end of April.

Coronavirus: Corrine Brown seeks early prison release to avoid virus exposure” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — Former U.S. Rep. Brown is asking a judge to free her from a Central Florida prison to avoid being infected with the coronavirus. “So long as Brown remains in custody, her capacity to protect herself from a serious, or even fatal, infection will be compromised,” attorney William Mallory Kent argued Wednesday in a motion asking U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan to change her sentence to time served. Kent asked the judge for “compassionate release” of his 73-year-old client, citing a 2018 law that lets a judge consider requests like this once an inmate has exhausted appeals for release within the federal Bureau of Prisons.

Here’s why a beloved Gables Irish pub won’t reopen after the coronavirus crisis ends” via Carlos Frías of the Miami Herald — The pandemic that forced America’s restaurants into a takeout and delivery model hastened the end for JohnMartin’s, one of South Florida’s longest-running restaurants, which helped revitalize a sleepy Miracle Mile more than 30 years ago. John Clarke and Martin Lynch, joined at the hip since childhood like their pub’s name, had quietly planned not to renew their lease when it came up in May, said Lynch, 63. He and Clarke, 69, sent an email with the news to their most faithful friends and most trusted patrons on Monday night — what would have been the pub’s 31st anniversary.

— MORE LOCAL —

Shhh! State tries to bury news that $2.3 billion revamp of Interstate 4 is over-budget, behind schedule” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — The DOT sent out the news release on a Friday at 5:58 p.m. in the middle of a pandemic. This is known as the “Friday news dump,” when an agency announces bad news at a time that will ensure the news sees less coverage. The Florida Department of Transportation tried to pull off last month when revealing that the most expensive road project in Orlando’s history was already $125 million over budget. Part of the project is already a year behind schedule. Five workers have been killed. More than 1,000 drivers and property owners have filed claims for everything from misplaced barrels to chunks of concrete that fell through windshields. And now there are $125 million in overruns — with no guarantee there won’t be more. All so we can add toll lanes to the middle of Interstate 4 that will cost as much as $14 for a one-way trip.

Orlando’s I-4 Ultimate Project is behind schedule and over budget. But a Friday news dump tried to downplay that fact.

Sick suspect jailed, isolated and released: Brevard justice in the time of COVID-19” via Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon of FLORIDA TODAY — Corrections deputies at the Brevard County Jail were in fact so concerned that 23-year-old James Jarvis could be infected with the new coronavirus when he was brought there on misdemeanor charges by Titusville Police on Mar. 26 that the deputies made him wear a surgical mask for his mug shot. Deputies also would not let him appear at his own courtroom appearance in the jail for fear he was contagious. Jarvis was also denied the ability to post bail or confer with an attorney. Jarvis didn’t need to be arrested to start with. Brevard County’s public defender Blaise Trettis said his client would have been an ideal candidate to be released with a notice to appear in court as permitted under an administrative order signed on March 19 by the 18th Circuit’s top judge, Lisa Davidson.

Coronavirus has people calling the police and shaming neighbors on social media” via Christopher Spata of the Tampa Bay Times — People made hundreds of calls to law enforcement agencies across Tampa Bay over the past two weeks to complain about neighbors not following stay-at-home orders, at least as they saw it. Often the officers arrived to find nothing enforceable going on. Sometimes the offenders had already left, and sometimes there was no offense to begin with. Other times they found clear violations, explained the issue, and people listened. Very few got more than a warning. Among the 184 noncompliance complaints the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office received from March 27 to April 5 were reports of weddings, sandlot football games and pool parties at apartment complexes with dozens of people. Residents called about church services with 10 worshippers, and others with more than 50.

BayCare ready to implement 15-minute coronavirus test” via Veronia Crezina-Smith of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — BayCare plans to deploy rapid testing devices that can test a patient for the virus in five to 15 minutes. This week, AdventHealth also announced rapid testing that would take roughly 45 minutes for results. Both of these hospital systems receiving quicker results will allow patients to be treated immediately and lessen the burden of testing centers trying to tests hundreds of people at once. Typical testing can have a quick turnaround on results if it is done in hospital labs, however, outside of hospital labs, many people do not get results for days, and some have reported waiting longer than a week.

Tom Brady, Gisele Bündchen donate 750,000 meals to Feeding Tampa Bay” via Brendan Ward of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Only a few weeks after arriving in Tampa Bay and signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Brady and his wife, Gisele Bündchen, are giving back to the community. Feeding Tampa Bay, a local Tampa food bank, announced on Twitter that the couple donated to the organization. While it is not disclosing the exact amount, the donation will go toward providing 750,000 meals for Tampa Bay residents. The organization’s Twitter says $1 can provide 10 meals, meaning the couple’s donation would be at least $75,000. Brady joins other major Tampa Bay sports figures, including the Tampa Bay Rays and Rowdies, who committed $250,000 to Feeding Tampa Bay through direct donations and matching funds for a virtual food drive.

DeBartolo family donates $2.5 million for COVID-19 unit at Tampa General Hospital” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The DeBartolo family donated $2.5 million to Tampa General Hospital this week to help fund a new COVID-19 care unit to add capacity and dedicated space to manage the ongoing pandemic. The new COVID-19 unit will be used to diagnose and treat individuals with or suspected to be infected with the novel coronavirus. The donated funds will help pay for construction and equipment, including negative pressure isolation rooms and ventilators. The hospital has not yet set a timeline for opening the new unit. Currently, the hospital is using an isolation area in its emergency department to screen potential COVID-19 patients as well as an alternate care site that offers outdoor triage and two dedicated COVID-19 units within the hospital.

Collier County wants to know: Where are the rapid COVID-19 tests? Not in Naples” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — Collier County hasn’t received any rapid test kits for coronavirus and local leaders are asking Gov. Ron DeSantis why, hospital officials said. The NCH Healthcare System drafted a letter on behalf of Naples Mayor Teresa Heitmann to the governor seeking his assistance to make rapid tests available in Collier, according to a coronavirus media briefing with Southwest Florida hospitals. The rapid tests can provide results in 15 minutes and DeSantis last week said Florida was scheduled to receive an initial allotment.

Liens filed against SeaWorld over unpaid construction bills” via Gabrielle Rouson of the Orlando Sentinel — More than three weeks after SeaWorld’s parks shut down and lost money coming through the turnstiles, a Winter Park construction firm says the company owes nearly $225,000 in unpaid bills. Wilsten Group sought three construction liens against SeaWorld for a trio of completed construction projects, according to Orange County Comptroller’s records filed Tuesday. The liens which protect companies from the risk of not getting paid are not uncommon in the construction industry, although these come during a particularly tumultuous time for SeaWorld, an Orlando-headquartered company that runs 12 theme parks across the country. More than 90% of SeaWorld employees are indefinitely furloughed. CEO Serge Rivera, at the helm for five months, resigned after feuding with his board, the company disclosed Monday.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

Nearly a third of U.S. apartment renters didn’t pay April rent” via Will Parker of The Wall Street Journal — Nearly a third of U.S. apartment renters didn’t pay any of their April rent during the first week of the month. The numbers are the first hard look at how many Americans are struggling to make rent during the coronavirus pandemic. Only 69% of tenants paid any of their rent between April 1 and 5, compared with 81% in the first week of March and 82% in April 2019. The count includes renters who only made partial payments. Many renters who haven’t yet paid may still pay later this month.

Floridians: use this website to file unemployment claims” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Unlike the old site, the new site is mobile-friendly, allowing people to apply on their phone or tablet. Early reviews show that applicants have not been met with the error messages and other glitches plaguing the old site. The old site has been so crippled by the crush of people thrown out of work because of the coronavirus that the department has had to revert to paper applications this week. The state also Wednesday rolled out a mobile-friendly version of its coronavirus page, which has links to frequently asked questions and the paper applications.

There’s a new mobile-friendly website as an alternative to the DEO’s troubled unemployment website, CONNECT. Image via Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Americans are hoarding cash as recession fears grow” via Dan Kopf and John Detrixhe of Quartz — As coronavirus concerns grow, the amount of physical cash in circulation has risen, jumping 1.8% during the week that ended March 25, increasing to $1.86 trillion in absolute terms. It was the most significant weekly rise since December 1999. Demand account balances — which include things like checking and saving accounts — jumped 16%, the most in nine years, to a record $1.922 trillion in the week that ended March 23. While job losses have caused some account balances to drop, the numbers are likely dominated by wealthier households that have sold investments.

Fed lets Wells Fargo increase Paycheck Protection lending” via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times — The Federal Reserve on Wednesday temporarily lifted a limit on Wells Fargo & Co.’s ability to provide coronavirus relief loans to small businesses through the new Paycheck Protection Program. As a result, the bank said it will expand its participation in the $349 billion program, which provides small businesses with loans that can be forgiven if employers maintain their employee head counts and payrolls at pre-pandemic levels. Within days of the Paycheck Protection Program launching on Friday, Wells Fargo said it would not be able to lend more than $10 billion because of the cap on the growth of its assets.

Dick’s Sporting Goods furloughs most of 40K employees” via WFLA/CNN Newsource — Dick’s Sporting Goods is finding it impossible to function without any sports. The big-box retailer said it is furloughing most of its 40,000 employees. Dick’s said in a regulatory filing that its 800 stores wouldn’t reopen anytime soon. The athletic goods retailer is still filling online orders and offering curbside pickup. The furloughs are effective Sunday. However, workers will continue to receive their benefits.

Dick’s Sporting Goods furloughs most of its 40K employees.

Airbnb paying more than 10% interest on $1 billion financing announced Monday” via Jean Eaglesham and Kirsten Grind of The Wall Street Journal — Airbnb Inc. agreed to pay its new investors interest at a rate of more than 10% and to strengthen its leadership, in return for the $1 billion in additional funding. The terms of the financing, which haven’t been previously reported, show the distress the home-sharing company is under due to the coronavirus pandemic. Investors have also extracted verbal commitments from the company to reduce its fixed costs significantly and to strengthen its management. Some management change agreements were verbal, not written.

Legal cannabis industry sees record sales as customers facing coronavirus crisis stock up” via Jane Wells of CNBC — Steven DeAngelo has seen it all. As the so-called “father of the legal cannabis industry,” he co-founded one of the largest vertically integrated licensed cannabis businesses in California, called Harborside, with four stores and $60 million in annual revenues. But what’s happened in the last month is something new. “We had our largest sales day ever,” he said. “Sales are up 20-25% at all locations.” Across the country, sales are sky-high in states where legal cannabis has been declared “essential medicine” during state shutdowns, allowing stores to stay open. Customers appear to be stocking up, and many stores are shifting to delivery.

— MORE CORONA —

WHO chief calls for ‘unity’ after Trump funding threat” via Susannah Luthi and Carmen Paun of POLITICO — The World Health Organization’s Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus largely deflected questions about the threat by Trump to cut off funding to the U.N.-linked global health body, expressing his hope that American support would continue. Hours earlier, a WHO senior adviser said the organization had to work with China to understand the disease caused by the coronavirus, a response to Trump’s criticism that the global body is “very China-centric.” “We’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We’re going to put a very powerful hold on it, and we’re going to see,” Trump said at the outset of a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House.

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is calling for ‘unity’ after Donald Trump threatened to cut off funding. 

How Europe failed the coronavirus test” via David Herszenhorn and Sarah Wheaton of POLITICO — They failed to hear the warnings that containment would prove ineffective. They failed to heed experts who said no country could fight the virus on its own, failed to perceive that the world’s most advanced health care systems were at grave risk of being overwhelmed. They failed to understand that drastic measures would be needed until Italy — patient zero among EU member countries — frantically imposed travel restrictions that impeded European leaders’ own movements. How Europe once again ended up as a killing field of infectious disease, as it did with plague in the 1300s and influenza a century ago, is less a blame game of individual finger-pointing than a story of collective complacency and dangerous overconfidence.

EU science chief resigns, slamming bloc’s coronavirus response” via Laura Greenhalgh of POLITICO — Mauro Ferrari, an Italian-American scientist who has led the European Research Council since January, said he had resigned following a dispute over the EU’s approach to the crisis — stating he has “lost faith in the system.” In a nearly 1,000-word statement, Ferrari described a breakdown in relations between himself and the EU agency he was appointed last May to oversee, citing an “internal political thunderstorm” involving the highest levels of the European Commission. Ferrari cited a “complete absence of coordination of health care policies among member states, the recurrent opposition to cohesive financial support initiatives, the pervasive one-sided border closures, and the marginal scale of synergistic scientific initiatives” by the EU.

New Zealand isn’t just flattening the curve. It’s squashing it.” via Anna Fifield of The Washington Post — It has been less than two weeks since New Zealand imposed a coronavirus lockdown so strict that swimming at the beach and hunting in bushland were banned. The country shut its borders to foreigners on March 19. The number of new cases has fallen for two consecutive days, despite a huge increase in testing, with 54 confirmed or probable cases reported Tuesday. That means the number of people who have recovered, 65, exceeds the number of daily infections. The speedy results have led to calls to ease the lockdown, even a little, for the four-day Easter holiday, especially as summer lingers on.

Don’t expect a quarantine baby-boom” via Alan Yuhas of The New York Times — The answer is clear, demographers say. Don’t expect a lot of newborns in the next year. In the short term, as the pandemic wrecks swaths of the economy, the coronavirus will probably give couples even more cause not to have children, experts said. “I really don’t think they’re saying, ‘Oh, let’s have a baby amid the greatest epidemic that the country has faced in 100 years,’” said Kenneth Johnson, a demographer At the University of New Hampshire. The coronavirus outbreak will most likely compound some of the economic factors that have affected the U.S. birthrate since the Great Recession.

Flushing out the true cause of the global toilet paper shortage amid coronavirus pandemic” via Marc Fisher of The Washington Post — When the history of the coronavirus pandemic is written, the vanishing of toilet paper might rank as just a footnote in an otherwise dark and frightening account. But it might be a very long, complex and even wise footnote, because toilet paper — or rather, the lack of it — turns out to reveal a great deal about who we are and how we behave in a crisis. It showed David Cohen something about the nature of humanity: As a checkout guy at a supermarket in Asheville, North Carolina, he saw people buying absurd amounts of toilet paper, but he also saw people reach the cashier’s counter and decide suddenly to consider those who have less.

Hand sanitizer will be hard to find for a long, long time” via Gerald Porter Jr. and Edward Ludlow of Bloomberg News — According to the companies making the alcohol-based hand cleaner, higher production isn’t translating into more supply in part because there aren’t enough of the plastic bottles to package it. A vital compound used in the process is also in short supply. The retail squeeze is exacerbated by the fact that health care organizations on the front lines of the pandemic are getting their shipments first. Consumers get to pick from whatever inventory is left over, and it hasn’t been enough to go around. U.S. sales jumped 239% from a year earlier in the four weeks ended March 28.

Hawaii Mayor to arrested Boynton man: ‘Covidiot’” via The Associated Press — A mayor in Hawaii has a choice word for the Florida man accused of trying to flout Hawaii’s traveler quarantine: “covidiot.” Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami isn’t taking credit for coining the word borne out of the COVID-19 pandemic, but said, “I may be the first elected official to bust it out in public.” Bobby Edwards, of Boynton, Florida, was arrested last week after police say he landed on the island without proof of accommodations. A statewide order requires those who arrived in the islands to quarantine for 14 days. Edwards, 31, “was exhibiting belligerent behavior toward airport personnel and toward officers during his arrest,” police said. “Edwards was also showing significant signs of intoxication and was not being cooperative.”

Covidiot: Florida Man Bobby Edwards tried to flout Hawaii’s traveler quarantine, getting arrested in the process. Image via AP.

Instagram draws surge in offers of coronavirus masks with potential risks” via Deepa Seetharaman of The Wall Street Journal — Thousands of Instagram accounts are hawking medical face masks that could be fraudulent or pose a safety risk. Researchers found at least 10,450 accounts on Instagram that have popped up in the past few months selling masks, some of which appear to be scams and most of which aren’t vetted for safety or price concerns. The offers appear through the main page or by using the app’s features, including Stories, where posts vanish after 24 hours, or live video. The ban was part of a broader effort by the company to prevent its services from being abused during the pandemic. Facebook has also altered its search results to promote credible information about the virus and offered the World Health Organization unlimited free ads.

COVID-19 brings us a summer without a superhero” via Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post — COVID-19 has forced studios to postpone the release of some of their most lucrative movies and halt production on future installments of these ongoing series. Yet the threat the virus poses to superheroes isn’t limited to the immediate toll on the box office. When theaters reopen, will the fantasy that a few spandexed do-gooders can save us from disaster seem like a salve or a sick joke? Given how profitable the superhero genre has proved to be, and the extent to which the profits from these movies underwrite the production of other, smaller films, companies such as Disney were understandably reluctant to acknowledge the looming catastrophe.

Interview with Daryl Tol: AdventHealth CEO discusses his hospitals’ COVID-19 readiness” via Mike Lafferty of the Orlando Sentinel — AdventHealth CEO Tol met with the Orlando Sentinel editorial board via video conference to talk about the challenges of COVID-19 and to get ready for a surge of patients. Tol said emergency rooms are less busy for the moment, in part because people are sheltering at home. Fewer cars on the road mean fewer accidents with injuries. He called the scramble for masks, gowns and other equipment “an interesting wild, wild West scenario” but said there’s no shortage of medical personnel willing to treat patients. He also said some of the medical staff are staying in local hotels to remain isolated from their families.

Daryl Tol, President & CEO, AdventHealth, talks about his company’s readiness for a surge of COVID-19 patients.

Judge denies mom’s request for custody of son due to fear his first-responder dad is coronavirus risk” via Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel — A judge has denied an Orange County woman’s request for temporary custody of her son, which she had argued would help protect the boy from exposure to the new coronavirus because his father is a first-responder. Until the COVID-19 crisis, Tabatha Sams and Stephen Thilmony were splitting the time with their 21-month-old son, Dawson James Thilmony. But Sams asked Thilmony to let the toddler stay with her because of his work as a firefighter/EMT with Osceola County Fire Rescue. Thilmony refused, prompting Sams to ask a judge for temporary custody until Florida’s state of emergency due to the viral pandemic ends.

Is Miami buying more booze during coronavirus quarantine? We have the receipts” via Connie Ogle of the Miami Herald — Conventional wisdom tells us when we are stressed, we often turn to alcohol for relief. And we don’t mean the kind of alcohol you have been rubbing maniacally on your doorknobs. But is that true here in Miami and around the country as we struggle through the coronavirus pandemic? Ibotta seems to think it is. The free shopping platform, which offers cashback rewards, has analyzed 33.5 million grocery receipts from shoppers around the country, starting in mid-January 2020. Remember mid-January 2020? It was the best of times. Paper towels and hand sanitizer were abundant. Frozen vegetables existed.

Coronavirus marooned 5 Disney World workers in Peru for 22 days” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — A vacation to Machu Picchu morphed into a 22-day ordeal for five Central Floridians. After Peru’s president closed its borders, the travelers were forced to deal with quarantine in a cramped hostel room, military guards, chlorine sprays, embassies, a food shortage and the prospect of being held in South America for three months. It culminated with a harrowing ride to the airport and a flight to Miami. Those five friends, all Walt Disney World employees, are back home in Florida now. Their days are spent in self-isolation as they mentally recuperate from a trip brimming with uncertainty and frustration. The group left Orlando on March 12 and landed back in the United States late April 3.

As pandemic lingers, charter fishing captains try to stay afloat” via Joey King of the Tampa Bay Times — On a normal spring morning, when March has segued to April and legions of snook scurry in shallow water near robust mangroves, Tom Campbell’s boat and schedule would be packed. His 24-foot Canyon Bay with the half tower and 300-horsepower engine would be hauling corporate types, locals, or even the last wave of spring-breakers across flats and beneath bridges. He’d be baiting one hook after another with pilchards, suggesting where customers should cast for the optimal chance of pulling in that trophy redfish, or at least that evening’s entree. “This time of year, it’s not uncommon to run a dozen (charters) a week,” Campbell said. Yet on this cloudless, cool Thursday morning, Campbell’s boat is empty.

— THE HUMAN TOLL —

Charlotte Figi, the Colorado girl who inspired the CBD movement, dies from coronavirus” via John Ingold of The Colorado Sun — Charlotte Figi, the Colorado Springs girl who, as a gleeful and fragile child, launched a movement that led to sweeping changes in marijuana laws across the globe, has died from complications related to the new coronavirus. In recent weeks, Paige Figi posted on Facebook about a serious illness that struck all the members of her family and sent Charlotte to the hospital. She never explicitly said it was COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and in one reply to a post mentioned that the family had been unable to get tested for the disease. If verified by public health officials, that would make Charlotte the youngest victim of the pandemic in Colorado so far.

— ONE GOOD THING —

During the coronavirus lockdown, several unexpected heroes have emerged — companion animals such as dogs, cats, and even a hedgehog named Quillie Nelson.

Hedgehog Quillie Nelson is held by her owner Rachael Pavlik in Sugar Land, Texas. Many pet owners are taking comfort in their animals as they shelter at home amid the coronavirus pandemic. Image via Rachael Pavlik/AP.

Many are newly adopted or fostered, as people have flood shelters, looking for pets to fill their extra hours of solitude at home.

Laura Evans, her husband and their three children, brought a 12-week-old Yorkshire terrier named Zoe to their Bethesda, Maryland, home after the pandemic hit. Zoe needs constant attention, and the family is happy to oblige.

“We wanted to bring a little light and life to our house,” Evans told The Associated Press. “She’s a cuddly work, homework sidekick. Everyone wants to hang with her.”

Nancy Karan said Shadow allows her to leave her New York apartment for quality time with fellow dog walkers, keeping to strict social distancing. They sleep together at night, “because it’s very comforting just to have his body on my bed,” Karan said.

In Houston, Quillie Nelson and other companions help maintain routines for Rachael Pavlik and her two teens.

“I think having pets during a scary time like this is good for the whole family. It’s good for the children to have a sense of normalcy and a sense of responsibility like they have to get out of bed before noon to feed their animals,” she told the AP.

As the coronavirus worsens, Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, is urging more people to foster and adopt.

“It frees up space in the shelter to take these animals in that may be displaced because their family member, their owner is ill or financially in a troubled situation,” she said.

California Polytechnic State University psychology professor Aubrey Fine said the relationship between people and their companion animals are mutually beneficial.

“In a time of tremendous and unique life challenges, goodness is still around us,” Fine notes. “When you’re looking at souls, animals touch human souls and humans touch animal souls. And together, serendipity can happen.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

Coronavirus crisis highlights Trump’s resistance to criticism — and his desire for fervent praise” via Ashley Parker and Anne Gearan of The Washington Post — President Trump has lambasted governors whom he views as insufficiently appreciative. He has denigrated — and even dismissed — inspectors general who dared to criticize him or his administration. And he has excoriated reporters who posed questions he did not like. The coronavirus pandemic has crystallized several long-standing undercurrents of the president’s governing ethos: a refusal to accept criticism, a seemingly insatiable need for praise — and an abiding mistrust of independent entities and individuals.

Trump’s unfettered attacks on accountability are a life-or-death crisis for democracy” via Walter Shaub of USA TODAY — Trump’s assault on inspectors general is late-stage corruption. The canary in the coal mine was the government ethics program, which began engaging with the Trump team long before the 2016 election. The general public got it, but too many people in positions of influence missed it. Then, there was the open presidential profiteering and clues that hard-to-prove conflicts of interest were significantly influencing policy. Along the way came the firings of the two most critical law enforcement officials, FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. This emboldened Trump and taught him a lesson. He had come into government unaware that “personnel is policy.” Now he both understood that and knew the Senate would let him treat the government like his former TV reality show.

Mitch McConnell moves on quick aid vote while Nancy Pelosi urges more cash” via Laura Litvan, Billy House and Erik Wasson of Bloomberg News — McConnell pressed ahead with his plan for a quick vote Thursday on a $250 billion boost in a small business aid program, putting him at odds with the two top Democrats in Congress who want to double the size of an interim stimulus package. McConnell has offered an amendment to the record $2.2 trillion pandemic response package to boost the total available to the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses to $600 billion. The next stimulus package “must provide transformational relief as the American people weather this assault on their lives and livelihoods,” Democratic leaders said.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., listen as President Donald Trump speaks before he signs the coronavirus stimulus relief package in the Oval Office at the White House, Friday, March 27, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Mitch McConnell is hoping for a quick vote on $250B more in relief.

Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist call on DeSantis to beef up unemployment benefits” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Castor and Crist are calling on DeSantis to use his executive authority to increase the amount of benefits unemployed Floridians can receive and the time frame for which they can obtain them. Because the state of Florida is under a declared state of emergency, DeSantis’ executive authority is broad. As Castor pointed out, he’s already used that increase authority to mandate waivers in the unemployment claims process regarding job hunting. Castor and Crist also called on DeSantis to take swift and bold action to fix the state’s failing unemployment claims system. The website is crashing under the weight of a massive influx in claims related to job losses associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ted Deutch pushes for expedited small business relief amid coronavirus crisis” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Deutch is calling on the federal government to expedite small business loans authorized by the recently-approved federal CARES Act. That act was approved to help the nation through the dire economic impacts of the novel coronavirus outbreak. “The intent of the three-day provision is to provide a critical source of funding to bridge the time between a small business submitting an EIDL application and the business receiving approval of their loan application,” Deutch wrote. Deutch says he’s heard from South Florida businesses that have waited more than two weeks to receive those loans, however.

Neal Dunn tested for coronavirus, awaiting results at home” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat —Dunn, a Panama City Republican, felt ill enough Monday to go to the hospital where he was tested for the coronavirus but not admitted. Dunn, a 67-year old urologist, is currently resting at home. It will take a few days before the tests results are known. “Congressman Dunn emphasizes that we must continue to do what we can to slow the spread, and it’s important for everyone, especially those showing symptoms, to stay home unless they are dubbed an essential employee or need essential items from stores or pharmacies,” said communications director Leah Courtney.

Coronavirus pandemic breeds Washington lobbying boom” via Richard Lardner and Brian Slodysko of The Associated Press — The coronavirus pandemic has gut-punched global markets, put 6.6 million Americans out of work and raised the likelihood of a recession. But in the Washington lobbying world, business is booming. Companies, interest groups and entire industries are seeking help from lobbyists as they navigate a chaotic environment to secure a piece of the record $2.2 trillion financial aid package the Trump administration must quickly pump out to stabilize the U.S. economy. Of the more than 700 registrations filed since the beginning of the year, at least 70 specifically mention the new virus, COVID-19, or a global health crisis.

Secure Democracy votes for Ballard Partners” via Kevin McCauley of O’Dwyers — Secure Democracy, a D.C. group committed to safeguarding every citizen’s right to vote, has hired Trump-connected Ballard Partners to educate policymakers on the need to create a voting system that works for all Americans. The organization contends that voting should not be needlessly difficult for working families, military families, homebound seniors, students, and families that live in rural areas. It has been running ads on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC against Republican “reform bills” that seek to tighten voting eligibility requirements in the name of countering fraud. Brian Ballard, who ran the Trump Victory fundraising organization in Florida, handles the Secure Democracy account with Rebecca Benn, an aide to the late Republican Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi.

— STATEWIDE —

Why Dorian won’t be retired as a hurricane name this year” via the Northwest Florida Daily News — Hurricane Dorian razed the northern Bahamas, splintering homes and feeding them to the sea before turning its fury on North Carolina, where it made landfall Sept. 6 as a Category 1 cyclone. But Dorian’s name won’t be retired this year as is the tradition with deeply devastating storms because the group that oversees the master catalog of monikers has been sidelined by the coronavirus. The World Meteorological Organization, keeper of the six-year rotating list of cyclone names, was scheduled to meet in Panama last month.

CFO to first responders: We’ve got your back — CFO Jimmy Patronis, who doubles as State Fire Marshal, heard pleas for PPE and workers comp coverage from Florida Fire Chiefs Association and Florida Professional Firefighters on Wednesday. Patronis has already called for essential public employees to receive workers comp, and he expressed support for all first responders to be granted coverage after the call. “Last week, I ordered our Division of Risk Management to provide workers’ compensation coverage for front line state employees, and I will continue to work with state regulators to advocate for access to these vital benefits for first responders,” he said in a news release. “These men and women are the boots on the ground, and we must ensure they know they will be protected while they safeguard our communities.”

CFO Jimmy Patronis to first responders: ”We have your back.’

Vance Aloupis pushes state to provide child care for Florida’s first responders” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rep. Vance Aloupis says the state should provide Florida’s first responders with emergency child care as those workers continue to stand on the front lines of the state’s fight against the novel coronavirus. “With more than a quarter-million health care workers in Florida with children under the age of 14, emergency child care will be essential to ensuring that Florida’s front lines are properly staffed as the number of cases of COVID-19 in Florida continue to increase through the end of April and into May,” Aloupis wrote in a recent letter to Office of Early Learning Director Shan Goff.

Florida Supreme Court rejects districts’ challenge to charter school law” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Nine Florida school districts have lost their final legal effort to overturn a controversial 2017 law they contended wrested away some of their constitutionally authorized local control. In a unanimous decision, which included no explanation, the state Supreme Court stated Tuesday it would not take up the districts’ appeal of two lower courts’ rulings that HB 7069 was constitutional. It will not consider the matter for rehearing. School districts took issue with the Legislature’s creation of “schools of hope,” a new form of a state-authorized charter school that school districts did not have control over their approval or denial.

AIF, Space Florida and FloridaMakes team up to connect manufacturers with businesses” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Associated Industries of Florida, Space Florida and FloridaMakes have teamed up to launch an online database for Florida manufacturers to connect with businesses in need of their products. Connex Florida was developed in the wake of Hurricane Irma for disaster risk mitigation, but its functionality is just as suited to the chronic woes of coronavirus pandemic as it is the aftermath of a storm. The statewide manufacturing supply chain, workforce and R & D connection platform is free to use for Florida-based manufacturers, educational institutions, and manufacturing research and development outfits.

Polk municipal elections: State’s longest serving local legislator beaten” via Kevin Bouffard — Two city commission incumbents lost their seats in Tuesday’s municipal election, including Haines City Commissioner Roy Tyler, who had served on that body for 29 years, the longest-serving local legislator in Florida. The other incumbent, Bartow Commissioner Trish Pfeiffer, lost her bid for a third three-year term by a razor-thin 0.55% margin to insurance executive Steve Githens. The margin lies just outside the legal 0.5% threshold for a mandatory recount. The results were colored by the COVID-19 pandemic, which significantly held down turnout at the polls.

Sarasota County to tap economic development fund for business loans” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Sarasota County will use $4.3 million in Economic Development funds to create a loan program to support small businesses suffering because of coronavirus-related social distancing protocols. The process, approved on a 4-1 vote by the Sarasota County Commission, would dole those funds out through loans of up to $25,000 each, which would be both interest- and payment-free for the first year and then repaid at an interest rate of 3.5 percent over the next three years. Small business owners in operation with a county business license for at least three years, who have also applied for relief through the federal Paycheck Protection Program would be eligible.

Sarasota school Board race quietly gearing up” via Ryan McKinnon of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Two seats on the Sarasota County School Board are up for election this year, and candidates have been quietly figuring out how to campaign without shifting the focus away from the current crisis. Caroline Zucker will be vacating her seat in November nearly two decades after she was first elected, and former district administrator Karen Rose is running against school computer specialist David Graham for that seat. Current board member Eric Robinson’s seat is up for grabs as well. Robinson is running for reelection against Sarasota newcomer and longtime business owner Tom Edwards.

Personnel note: League of Southeastern Credit Unions taps Ann Howard as comms director” via Florida Politics — Howard hit the ground running, with the hire being announced as part of an effort to help members of the media learn about the details of the Paycheck Protection Program and other federal coronavirus relief programs. Howard joined LSCU last month. Before taking on the new role, she served as the communications director at the Florida Department of Transportation. She had previously worked as the press secretary for the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles and the communications director at the Florida Department of Corrections.

— NASSAU CO. —

Building upon earlier reporting by Florida Politics on the dispute between Raydient Places + Properties and Nassau County, a separate — yet somewhat related — issue has emerged, one which a local resident calls “the worst-kept secret” in the area.

In testimony Raydient filed in their dispute against the county, they raised questions on where Nassau County Commissioner and Chairman Danny Leeper truly lives. According to Nassau County’s website, Leeper represents District 1. However, discussions on social media and in the media debate whether he lives in the district that he was elected to represent.

According to the testimony, former Nassau County Commissioner Steve Kelley attested that even though Leeper represents District 1, Leeper has not been living there, a violation of the rule requiring commissioners only to serve the district in which they reside.

The big question in Nassau County: Where does Danny Leeper live? Image via NCFL Independent.

Leeper is married to Nassau County Attorney Mike Mullin’s ex-wife and lives with two of Mullin’s children. It would be safe to assume Mullin was already aware of where Leeper resided.

Instead, it appears Leeper has been living in District 2, which was Kelley’s district and is now County Commissioner Aaron Bell’s district. Leeper denies this is his full-time residence (despite his wife claiming a homestead exemption on the property).

Florida law requires that County Commissioners must reside in the district they represent throughout the full term of their office. The District 1 is up for election this year, and sources say Leeper is telling people he plans to run for reelection to this seat.

— 2020 —

Tweet, tweet:

Bernie Sanders’ allies aim to keep shaking up Democratic Party” via Eliza Collins of The Wall Street Journal — Sanders’s allies are aiming to cement his legacy as the politician who pushed the Democratic Party to the left on health care, climate and more now that Biden has been established as the presumptive nominee for president. What Sanders describes as a revolution has shifted Democrats to the left on core economic issues, shaken up their fundraising model, and inspired similarly liberal candidates and activists around the country. Before Sanders exited the race, aides to Biden had begun conversations with some progressive groups. They include the climate change-focused Sunrise Movement. Sanders’s supporters say the current health care crisis could further his progressive proposals such as Medicare for All system, paid family leave, and a higher minimum wage.

VP talk could intensify with Kamala Harris fundraising moves” via Bill Barrow of The Associated Press — Harris made two notable fundraising moves Wednesday that is sure to fuel speculation about her prospects to be Biden’s running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket. Harris set up a joint fundraising operation with the Democratic National Committee, an arrangement that is typically reserved for nominees trying to attract large donations from the party’s biggest boosters. The senator and the DNC filed paperwork for the arrangement Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission, in the first joint fundraising agreement of its kind for Democrats this election cycle. Party officials did not say whether they have asked other former candidates for a similar fundraising arrangement.

Why Trump has received a much smaller approval bump than other world leaders during the pandemic” via Shane Markowitz of The Washington Post — National crises are crucial opportunities for political leaders to take charge, reassure a nation and demonstrate that they’ve got everything under control. If leaders manage the crisis well, they’re often rewarded with significant spikes in approval. Bush’s approval rating, for example, climbed over 30 points after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Approval ratings have begun to soar. Even Trump’s approval rating, which remained remarkably consistent for the first two years of his presidency, has hit all-time highs. But Trump’s modest approval bump — around three percentage points in FiveThirtyEight’s polling average — is quite small compared to those for other leaders.

Trump is pushing a false argument on vote-by-mail fraud. Here are the facts.” via Stephanie Saul and Reid Epstein of The New York Times — Studies have shown that all forms of voter fraud are extremely rare in the United States. A national study in 2016 found few credible allegations of fraudulent voting. Even so, experts say that the mail voting system is more vulnerable to fraud than voting in person. Five states, including the Republican bastion of Utah, now conduct all elections almost entirely by mail. They report very little fraud. Trump, while criticizing mail voting, recently acknowledged that in March he voted absentee by mail in his adopted home state of Florida. In the 2018 midterm elections, Trump voted absentee by mail from New York.

Without proof or explanation, Donald Trump says vote-by-mail makes voter fraud easier, benefits Democrats. Image via Getty.

More voting by mail would make the 2020 election safer for our health. But it comes with risks of its own.” via Barry Burden, Robert M. Stein and Charles Stewart III of The Washington Post — Voting by mail has grown steadily for two decades, increasing from 8 percent in 1992 to 21 percent in 2016 mostly in a few states. At-home voting, when fully developed, may cost less, as states save on polling places and poll workers. But shifting to a new voting system would involve many upfront costs. To make such a mass change possible, some states would have to change their laws to allow widespread at-home voting. Some state legislatures are not meeting; all have other immediate priorities. Partisanship may get in the way.

 “A full vote-by-mail election in Florida isn’t happening in 2020, despite coronavirus, state leaders say” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Voting by mail in Florida has in the past been beset by problems ranging from signature mismatches, delivery delays and tight deadlines. Now, it could be the key to holding full elections if the state is still in the middle of a pandemic and to avoid scenes like what happened in Wisconsin Tuesday, where thousands lined up for hours wearing face masks after the state and U.S. Supreme Court rejected postponing a vote there. On Tuesday, Tammy Jones, president of the Florida Supervisors of Elections, asked DeSantis to take a variety of actions to spread out voters, but she said in her letter, “Florida is not in a position, at this time, to conduct an all-mail ballot election.”

Donna Shalala talked up as Biden’s running mate by New York Times columnist” via Kevin Derby of Florida Daily — Shalala was included in Thomas Friedman’s column in The New York Times over a potential “national unity Cabinet” for Biden. Shalala should play a major role in the federal response to the coronavirus crisis. Having served all eight years during Bill Clinton’s presidency, Shalala is the longest-tenured secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) in American history. Shalala mostly avoided the political games which both Republicans and Democrats have engaged in over coronavirus. At the end of February, Politico reported that Shalala joined several Republicans in storming out of a closed-door meeting with Trump administration officials.

— MORE FROM THE TRAIL —

Rand Paul backing Kat Cammack in race for Florida CD3” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Paul endorsed on Wednesday Cammack, the former Chief of Staff for outgoing incumbent U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho. The quotes, provided by the Cammack campaign, are like a time capsule from a pre-coronavirus era, in which the only thing Republicans had to fear was the rapaciousness of D.C. liberalism. Cammack said it was “truly an honor to earn the endorsement and trust of” Paul. Though Q1 fundraising isn’t in for any of the candidates in the field, Cammack is among the contenders in terms of financial viability as of end of year reports from 2019. She is one of two candidates with over $100,000 cash on hand. The other is Judson Sapp, who ran against Yoho in 2018’s GOP primary and got roughly 30% of the vote.

Rand Paul is endorsing Kat Cammack in the race to replace Ted Yoho, who is retiring his seat. 

Nothing’s happening in CD 19 — other than Florida’s busiest Congressional campaign” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A global pandemic upended politics across the country. That includes Florida’s 19th Congressional District, where a field of a dozen candidates remains confined to homes and offices. And so in what should be one of the most active political territories in Florida, nothing is happening on the ground. Except that two candidates have jumped in the race, and one has dropped out. And a candidate reported raising a third of a million dollars before a pandemic struck, and another raised half a million at the peak of calamity. And one candidate actually tested positive for COVID-19. So actually, there’s been few things going on.

Byron Donalds raises $335K — from more than 3,000 donors — for congressional bid” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Naples Republican Byron Donalds announced he raised more than $335,000 in his bid for Congress. That comes from upward of 3,000 individual donors. “I am humbled by the outpouring of support from the thousands of donors joining my campaign,” Donalds said. The state lawmaker in January announced his run to succeed retiring Rep. Francis Rooney in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. He pulled in an impressive fundraising haul despite working through the regular Legislative Session, which ended just as cases of COVID-19 upended normal politics in Florida. A campaign video announcing his candidacy landed Donalds’ immediate national attention from Fox News and has been viewed on Twitter more than 150,000 times.

Casey Askar raised $500k in 11 days” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Naples fast-food mogul Casey Askar announced he raised $500,000 in just 11 days after announcing his campaign for Congress. Askar announced on March 20 he was running in Florida’s 19th Congressional District to succeed retiring Rep. Francis Rooney. While Askar is new to the race, he’s hit the ground running. That’s in part due to bringing on staff who previously worked for pundit Ford O’Connell, who dropped out of the race days before Askar got in. Askar is only the second candidate to announce totals for the first quarter in 2020. State lawmaker Byron Donalds has raised more than $335,000. This marks the first fundraising quarter for both candidates.

Randy Henderson resigns as Fort Myers Mayor to run for Congress” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Henderson officially submitted his resignation as Mayor of Fort Myers. He won’t leave office until the end of November, but Florida’s resign to run law requires he end his term early. For years, I’ve served the community of Fort Myers, both as Mayor and as Councilman,” Henderson said. “It has been one of the greatest honors of my lifetime to rebuild the City of Fort Myers and watch it flourish.” Florida does not allow rescinding the resignation, so regardless of whether Henderson wins the Congressional race, the resignation stands. The Mayor stressed he has no plans to leave office right now, while the city struggles with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

— TOP OPINION —

In the fog of coronavirus, there are no experts” via Ross Douthat of The New York Times — Since the election of Trump, the American media has become invested in the idea that the modern information landscape is defined by a great struggle between truth and falsehood, facts and misinformation, the real news and the fake. In this drama, there are enemies of truth, and then there is a besieged edifice of expertise, which needs to reclaim ground that’s been lost to trolls, populists and scam artists. This has always been a dubious and self-regarding framework, but in the coronavirus era, it has become particularly useless. Not because it misdiagnoses Trump himself. But because once you look elsewhere, it quickly becomes apparent that no unitary and reliable edifice of truth exists.

— OPINIONS —

We’ll get through this together” via Kathleen Passidomo with News-Press — Travel, businesses, communities and recreation, and more, have come to a screeching halt. The activities that paid our bills, connected us together, and brought joy to our lives are on pause until the outbreak of COVID-19 in Florida is in check. And while this is the greatest challenge our world has faced in modern times, it is not insurmountable. I believe we can get through this — if we work together. Fortunately, we have a strong leader in DeSantis. I can personally attest that he and his staff are working around the clock consulting with health care experts, business leaders, community leaders, and others to learn the full range of risks we face and understand the consequences of the actions we take.

I’m hospitalized with COVID-19. I salute my nurses, who ‘never complain’” via John Enger in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The nurses never complain at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood. I’m 77 years old and was recently diagnosed with COVID-19 and have been a patient here for more than a week in the critical care unit. I marvel at my nurses. Their work is so different from what they are used to. Each time they come into an isolation room like mine, they put on personal protective clothing. It’s discarded the moment they leave the room. Another hindrance to their regular routine is the effect the masks have on their eyesight. Imagine trying to insert a needle to draw blood under those conditions. Again, the nurses never complain. For a 12-hour shift, these nurses work directly with coronavirus victims.

How Tampa General is working collaboratively to combat virus” via John Couris for the Tampa Bay Times — We are leveraging the expertise across the hospital, throughout the community, and around the world to combat this unprecedented pandemic. And based on that information and expertise, we have plans in place, equipment in stock, and practiced scenarios ready to launch, as needed. We will overcome this virus because of the individuals in this country and around the world who are collaborating and leading innovation at an unprecedented rate to meet this pandemic with humanity’s collective might. Businesses and institutions that might have once been considered competitors are now joining forces as allies. We must do what we can — perhaps more than we thought we could — to flatten the curve out of love and deep compassion for the vulnerable, our friends, our neighbors, our family, and ourselves. Now is the time to let love and kindness be the antidote to fear because we will fight this together, and we will beat this together.

Katherine Fernandez Rundle: Public safety response in the wake of COVID-19” via Florida Politics — The State Attorney’s Office is working 24/7 to transition to all-digital operations, hold court hearings and other prosecution duties online, secure the release of nonviolent offenders from jail in a safe way and to protect you and your families while working to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our country. After an unprecedented challenge, our State Attorney’s Office has successfully transitioned to “mission-critical” status effective March 15. We are taking advantage of modern technologies; for example, we now have video kiosks in our State Attorney intake office and in the Juvenile Assessment Center so that we can conduct witness interviews with less trauma in cases involving juveniles. We remain committed to ensuring the safety of employees, their families, law enforcement, and the public at large, as well as those accused of crimes.

Jesus Christ do I miss sports” via Drew Magary on Medium — People are desperate for sports. The people in charge of our sporting leagues recognize this, which is why they’re still feverishly attempting to work out ways to play games in a vacuum. Baseball is thinking about starting the season next month exclusively within the confines of Arizona. The English Premier League, which is based in a country whose prime minister may still be hospitalized with coronavirus by the time you read this, wants to resume play in June. If any of those sports do come back too soon, they could be putting players, coaches, and game officials at risk. Some sports are trying to stay relevant by playing virtual sports and broadcasting them on TV. Not everyone buys into this concept.

No more games on felon voting rights in Florida” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — It’s time for the federal courts to stop indulging Florida for its stubborn refusal to automatically grant felons the voting rights they won overwhelmingly in 2018. He federal judge overseeing the case has already delivered an ultimatum to attorneys representing DeSantis in a lawsuit that challenges a state law implementing the 2018 felon voting rights amendment. The 2019 law requires felons to pay all outstanding legal obligations associated with their case before being allowed to register. Felons should not have to wait another election cycle for a constitutional right that an overwhelming majority of Florida voters supported — and that the state has no apparent intention to honor.

Owning tigers is not conservation” via H. Bobby Fokidis of The Orlando Sentinel — The Netflix reality series “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” about the flamboyant Joe Exotic, former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Zoo in Oklahoma, was released during this time of social distancing and is now a number one hit. Many people view Exotic as a hero, a rugged individualist opposed to government attempts to limit freedom, while pursuing country justice for his “murderous” rival, Carole Baskin. Most people who watched the series would likely agree it feels fundamentally wrong to take helpless tiger cubs from their mothers right after birth and monetize them for selfies. The average viewer would also likely concur that feeding expired meat handouts to animals and zoo staff — and having eight emaciated tigers fight over said meat in an enclosure — indicates an unprofessional operation.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Florida’s toll from COVID-19 continues to climb. The Department of Health is reporting 15,698 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 323 fatalities. Twenty-seven more Floridians died over the past day.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— The Army Corps of Engineers is converting the Miami Beach Convention Center into a field hospital for 450 patients; state officials say they hope they don’t have to use it.

— More complaints about Florida’s unemployment compensation system is leading U.S. Reps. Crist and Castor to call on Gov. DeSantis to increase the size of the checks and the number of weeks of eligibility.

— Coronavirus is blowing up the state budget, and no one knows for sure how much it will cost the state. So, some Democrats who serve in the Legislature are wondering how the governor can go ahead with plans to send more than $500 million in tax rebates to the biggest corporations in the country.

— COVID-19 is having a disproportionate effect on African American communities, so State Rep. Shevrin Jones discusses how he is asking the Governor to increase testing in black communities.

— What’s new with Florida Man? This time, he went to jail for having a Penthouse magazine.

To listen: click on the image below:

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

Tradition stymied: A year unlike any since World War II for Augusta” via Paul Newberry of The Associated Press — For the first since a three-year hiatus during World War II, the Masters won’t be held in its usual slot on the calendar, serving as sort of an unofficial kickoff to spring. The tournament is now set for November, when all those booming drives and tricky putts will be accompanied by the changing leaves of fall rather than azaleas blazing forth in all their colorful glory, the hope of spring replaced by the gloom of approaching winter. Everyone wonders what an autumn Masters will look like, what the world will look like in seven months.

A guard at the main gate to Augusta National Golf Club warns away visitors on what would have been the first practice round for the Masters. Image via AP.

Style + safety: Blue Angels will wear new blue and gold face masks” via Jake Newby of the Pensacola News Journal — The Blue Angels have made some stylish accommodations to their team uniform in the name of safety and prevention. New blue and gold surgical masks are making their way into the hands and onto the faces of the 140-plus team members of the Blues this week, thanks to a sewing project initiated by the team’s flight surgeon and his wife. Lt. Cmdr. Aaron Hicks and Bridgette Lee had the idea last week. “When we were given instruction from the Navy to wear masks when in workplace environments that are not capable of abiding by social distancing at 6 feet or more, we figured it would be a fine idea to have Blue Angel masks,” Hicks said. “And of course, to have them match our uniforms.”

What Peter Schorsch is reading — The cheap thrills and instant gratification of home organization” via Ellen Byron of The Wall Street Journal — Home organization projects can be fraught with emotion. For those on lockdown looking for the biggest payoff, consider attacking the closet. According to Joanna Teplin, a professional organizer, the easiest project that brings instant gratification is a junk drawer. The pantry is also very satisfying when it’s done, but don’t attempt it on a school week if you have kids at home. Another feel-good project is color coordinating your books by lining things up in rainbow order. It makes you happy, and it’s an easy win that costs no money.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to our favorite staying at home Schoonover, Alli Liby-Schoonover of Metz Husband & Daughton. Also celebrating today are Emily Duda Buckley, Jacksonville City Councilman Matt CarlucciMichael Moline of the Florida Phoenix, and forever a Florida Man, NBC’s Joe Scarborough.

___

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.