Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.10.20

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

Breaking overnight — Rep. Cary Pigman recovering after serious bike injury — Pigman is at home recovering after suffering serious injuries in a bike accident last week that sent him to the hospital for a lengthy stay, according to House Speaker José Oliva. Pigman, an Avon Park Republican, is an emergency medicine physician and an army combat emergency physician.

“I am certain I speak for the entire House of Representatives when I wish the very best for Dr. Pigman in his recovery and, once again, thank him for his care and concern for all of us during this coronavirus pandemic.”

During a coronavirus scare in the House, Pigman personally took to the House floor to clean the chamber before business resumed. And as lawmakers met last month to pass this year’s state budget amid growing coronavirus concerns, he led the screening of House members and staff and helped write the health safety policies that governed the day.

“Knowing him, I have no doubt he instructed his attending physicians what to do for him,” Oliva wrote in a statement Thursday night.


Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the U.S. coronavirus death toll could be around 60,000 people, about half of earlier projections, because of restrictions like social distancing. Read more here.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is lowering the possible fatalities from coronavirus in the U.S. Image via AP.

— Confirmed coronavirus infections globally climbed to nearly 1.5 million. Read more here.

— Florida reported 48 new coronavirus deaths on Thursday, bringing the state’s toll over 370. The state now has 16,826 confirmed cases of COVID-19, up 683 from Wednesday night.

— A staggering 16.8 million Americans have been thrown onto the unemployment rolls in just three weeks. Read more here.

— U.S. stocks soared today to post their biggest week of gains since 1974, extending a remarkable rally despite evidence of increasing economic strain. Read more here.

— Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today he doesn’t expect the country’s first wave of coronavirus cases to subside until the end of the summer. Read more here.

— British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved out of intensive care. Read more here.

— U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn is at home after testing positive for COVID-19, his office announced Thursday. Read more here.

Christian leaders are adapting to the pandemic during Holy Week, canceling ceremonies and turning to relics and livestreaming. Read more here.


With Holy Week hushed by a pandemic, Pope Francis does social distancing his own way” via Chico Harlan, Stefano Pitrell and Sarah Pulliam Bailey of The Washington Post — The novel coronavirus has forced Francis to scrap his public appearances and postpone his first overseas trip of the year, to Malta. He now recites his Sunday Angelus not from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, but from a Vatican library. This week, he’ll conduct the ceremonies leading up to Easter largely via livestream. Francis continues to hold in-person meetings, sometimes sitting almost knee-to-knee with guests. He eschews wearing a mask, according to photographs and people who have met with him. He has tried to maintain a near-normal daily schedule even as the virus has reached closer, with one positive case discovered in late March in Santa Marta, the residence hall where Francis lives.

Pope hails priests, health workers as ‘the saints next door’” via Frances D’Emilio of The Associated Press — Pope Francis on Holy Thursday hailed priests and medical staff who tend to the needs of COVID-19 patients as “the saints next door.” Francis celebrated the Holy Week evening Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, which was kept off-limits to the public because of restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the new coronavirus. The same precautions forced the pope to forego a symbolic ritual traditionally observed on the Thursday before Easter — washing the feet of others in a sign of humility. The pope began his off-the-cuff homily by honoring the memory of priests who gave their lives in service to others, singling out those who died after tending to sick people in Italy’s hospitals.

Pope Francis attends a Mass for Holy Thursday, inside St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. Image via AP.

Some churches confront virus restrictions on Easter services” via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press — At the holiest time of year for Christians, churches are wrestling with how to hold services amid the coronavirus outbreak. In some cases, that has set up showdowns with local governments over restrictions that forbid large gatherings. Many churches are offering parishioners livestreaming options so they can observe Good Friday and Easter on TVs, smartphones and computers. Others are sending worshippers to drive-in movie theaters for services. Restrictions have created conflicts with state and local authorities. The fallout from the pandemic has upended other rituals. Easter egg hunts have been canceled in favor of virtual events where children go on the internet to find eggs. Families are reconsidering whether to invite grandparents and other relatives to dinner.

Easter and COVID-19: Can Florida’s pastors and governments strike a balance?” via Tim Padgett of WLRN Radio — A big question going into this Easter weekend is whether some pastors in Florida will decide to hold services despite the risks of COVID-19 infection. One conservative Christian leader is trying to help congregations — and state and local officials — make the right call. Sam Rohrer, president of the American Pastors Network in Philadelphia, urge both sides to be cautious. Rohrer says, on the one hand, religious leaders must appreciate their societal responsibility. On the other hand, Rohrer says government leaders must appreciate what he believes is the “essential” societal role of churches during crises like COVID-19 and their constitutional religious liberty rights.

Amid coronavirus constraints, Tampa Bay Christians will celebrate Easter differently” via Waveney Ann Moore of the Tampa Bay Times — From cathedrals to chapels, this Easter week will be different, as the world copes with the crippling coronavirus pandemic. Instead of welcoming crowds of worshippers, most Tampa Bay area churches will become mere backdrops for spiritual leaders and small supporting casts as they deploy technology to sustain and inspire largely invisible congregations. This Palm Sunday, Tampa’s Hyde Park United Methodist Church will debut its new, interactive platform, designed to livestream church services and allow worshippers and church leaders to interact in real-time. Some congregations will go low-tech. One church will have members pull their cars into the church parking lot and listen to their pastor, who will use FM transmitters to broadcast his message to their car radios.

Amid pandemic, South Florida churches hold giveaways ahead of Easter” via Mike DiPasguale of WSVN — South Florida churches are in the giving spirit during Holy Week, as they do their part to help make Easter as normal as possible for children who are stuck at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Generation Church in Coral Gables is closed, but families will still be able to celebrate Easter in their homes. They delivered 200 boxes throughout Miami-Dade County. “We, as a church, don’t need an actual building to be the church, and so just to let people know that we care,” said the Rev. Rich Romero, the church’s lead pastor. In Sunrise, Life Point Church had a drive-thru Easter, a first for the house of worship that’s been in the community for more than 30 years.

Easter eggs with porn inside lead to Florida woman’s arrest” via Spectrum News — A 43-year-old woman accused of placing plastic Easter eggs that contained porn in residents’ mailboxes told arresting deputies she was “educating people.” Abril Cestoni was arrested by Flagler County deputies overnight and charged with multiple counts of distributing obscene material. The found plastic Easter eggs that contained a goldfish-shaped cracker, a sheet of toilet paper, some powdered drink mix, and a piece of paper that had a pornographic image on it. Cestoni also was charged with driving with a suspended license and violating the state order against conducting travel not related to an essential activity. She was booked on a $7,000 bond.

A woman was arrested for leaving Easter eggs with questionable surprises. Image via Flagler County Sheriff.


Tweet, tweet:

@MattGaetz: Like my favorite President, I too am a germaphobe.

@AlexBerenson: Nobody says COVID-19 is not real, that it can’t tax hospitals or kill people, esp. if they are over 75 or have comorbidities. But right now the best CURRENT projection is for 61,000 US deaths. That was the 2017 flu season. Why have we shut the country?

@EWErickson: Another friend with the virus — said he hadn’t left his house in weeks except to go grocery shopping this past weekend. Now he feels like someone is sitting on him while someone else is beating him with a baseball bat. The sudden onset from fine to this is scary.

@Emdrums: Really confused as to why this state “COVID-19 education meeting,” is just Gov. [Ron] DeSantis “interviewing” educators — who are repeatedly praising his leadership — over Zoom.

Tweet, tweet:

@RepJoseOliva: The economy is shuttered, unemployment at historic highs but the stock market is having a great week. No amount of “forward-looking” can account for this disparity. The financial sector is again the greatest beneficiary of this stimulus. This will not end well in the long run.

Tweet, tweet:

@VernBuchanan: As some media outlets in our district reduce or furlough employees due to COVID-19, I want to express my appreciation for all they do to keep people informed. The press plays a unique role in helping all of us follow safety protocols. Thank you!

@BruceRitchie: It’s taken the coronavirus to confirm how many agencies and organizations do NOT put contact information in their news releases or online “newsrooms” — and really don’t seem to want reporters to call them.

Tweet, tweet:


Third-season premiere of “Killing Eve” — 2; Easter — 2; First quarter campaign reports due — 8; Last day of federal candidate qualifying — 12; NFL Draft — 13; Florida Schools reopen (maybe) — 21; Pulitzer Prizes announced — 24; The next supermoon — 27; Gov. DeSantis’ executive order closing bars and restaurants expires — 28; Mother’s Day — 30; TNT’s adaptation of “Snowpiercer” premieres — 37; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 59; Federal taxes due — 96; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 98; “Mulan” premieres — 105; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 129; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 130; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 136; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 147; First presidential debate in Indiana — 172; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 180; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 188; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 189; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 195; 2020 General Election — 207; “Black Widow” premieres — 210; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 221; “No Time to Die” premieres — 229; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 257; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 469; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 476; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 574; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 679.


Coronavirus now leading cause of death in U.S.” via Kaelan Deese of The Hill — A new graph published by Maria Danilychev, a physician, showed COVID-19 is the cause of 1,970 deaths in the U.S. per day, according to Newsweek. It was only last week when Danilychev published a report showing COVID-19 as the third leading cause of death, taking the place of accidents, with fatalities averaging at around 748 per day. The rapid acceleration of coronavirus-related deaths began on March 22, when the daily average of deaths for the virus rose above those related to flu, pneumonia, kidney disease, suicide and other leading causes. In comparison to the COVID-19 numbers, 1,774 deaths are attributed to heart disease and 1,641 to cancer.

Fauci lowers U.S. coronavirus death forecast to 60,000, says social distancing is working” via Dan Keemahill, Erin Mansfield, Dinah Voyles Pulver, Nicholas Wu and Dian Zhang of USA Today — Fauci did not say which model he is using to come up with the estimate. Still, his comments came as a leading model from the University of Washington that experts in the White House have been using also predicted fewer Americans might die from coronavirus than previously thought. That model now projects 60,415 people will die in the U.S. by Aug. 4, compared to previous projections that approached 100,000. After more than a week of new data, including peaks in seven locations in Spain and Italy, the impact of social distancing is “much clearer.”

Some Donald Trump aides eye May 1 start to coronavirus reopening” via Jonathan Swan of Axios — 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.

Bill Barr calls current restrictions ‘draconian,’ and suggests they should be revisited next month” via Matt Zapotosky of The Washington Post — Barr said some of the government-imposed restrictions meant to control the spread of COVID-19 were “draconian” and suggested that they should be eased next month. Barr said the government had broad authority to impose restrictions on people in cases of emergency. Barr said that governments had a right to put restrictions on churches, so long as they were treated no differently than other institutions, but added he was “very concerned” about possible encroachments on Americans’ freedom of religion. Barr said he was also concerned about the “tracking of people” that some experts have advised might be necessary to identify and quarantine those infected quickly.

William Barr wants to end the ‘draconian’ measures to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Lockdowns shouldn’t be fully lifted until coronavirus vaccine found, new study warns” via Emma Reynolds of CNN — Coronavirus lockdowns across the globe should not be wholly lifted until a vaccine for the disease is found, according to a study based on China’s outbreak published in medical journal The Lancet. Authorities ended the 76-day lockdown of Wuhan in Hubei province on Wednesday, as the city at the original epicenter of the coronavirus crisis emerges from the deadly outbreak that is now raging across the globe. Some restrictions will remain in place, however, with officials conscious of the risk as trains and tourist sites were packed across the country. The research could be critical as countries across the world consider how best to ease restrictions to get their economies moving again. Getting it wrong could lead to further outbreaks and new restrictions, the study found, and could be catastrophic for health services and economies.

Pelosi warns Trump not to reopen country too soon” via POLITICO — Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled Thursday that the House is unlikely to return to session later this month, her clearest indication yet that Congress — like the rest of the country — could remain shuttered for weeks or even longer as the coronavirus crisis continues. In a half-hour interview, Pelosi issued a stark warning to President Donald Trump, urging him not to prematurely rush to reopen major segments of the country before the coronavirus is under control, which she said could further send the U.S. economy into a tailspin. “Nobody can really tell you that and I would never venture a guess. I certainly don’t think we should do it sooner than we should,’ Pelosi said when asked if she still planned to bring the House back on April 20, which is the current target date. ‘This has taken an acceleration from when we started this…Little did we know then that at this point, we’d be further confined.”

Trump preparing to announce second task force focused on economic recovery” via Kaitlan Collins, Kevin Liptak, Jim Acosta and Vivian Salama of CNN Politics — Trump is preparing to announce a second coronavirus task force solely focused on reopening the nation’s economy. In recent days, inside and outside advisers have appealed to Trump to formally create a separate task force to streamline the process so it can focus primarily on reopening the economy. Other Trump allies have proposed naming a recovery “czar” from the private sector to oversee efforts to revive the consumer economy and address unemployment after coronavirus forced the closure of businesses across sectors. Advisors have told the President he needs to issue economic guidelines in addition to ones about best health practices.

Cut salaries, taxes to reopen U.S. economy says Art Laffer, conservative fave” via Ann Saphir and Jeff Mason of Reuters — Laffer, an architect of the Reagan era tax cuts that paved the way for historic budget deficits in the United States, has a plan to rejuvenate today’s pandemic-crippled economy. He says we should tax nonprofits, cut the pay of public officials and professors and give businesses and workers who manage to hold on to their jobs a payroll tax holiday to the end of the year. Laffer is a longtime booster of tax cuts as a strategy to increase economic growth. Laffer said that people whose jobs are safe during this pandemic should share in the economic pain of the pandemic by taking a pay cut of 15%.

Cash-starved hospitals and doctor groups cut staff amid pandemic” via Shane Harris, Justin Sondel and Gregory S. Schneider of The Washington Post — Hospitals across the country have deferred or canceled non-urgent surgeries to free up bed space and equipment for COVID-19 patients. But that triage maneuver cut off a main source of income, causing huge losses that have forced some hospitals to let go of health care workers as they struggle to treat infected patients. Hospital executives and analysts emphasize that not all furloughed or fired workers are directly involved in treating COVID-19 patients. Others say the furloughs help reduce the number of people in hospitals, slowing the spread of the virus.

The fatigued fighters battling to save lives” via Kinfay Moroti of USA TODAY — The fight in the COVID intensive care unit is surprisingly quiet. Only the hopeful whooshes of ventilators sound off inside the negative-pressure rooms. Nurses monitor vitals, adjust fluids, and carefully reposition patients. Outside the rooms, they turn their protective gear inside out and get back to the fight. This war is ongoing. More than 15,000 confirmed cases in Florida alone, more than 300 deaths. This week, the U.S. surpassed 10,000 deaths, surpassing the number of battle deaths from six U.S. wars combined. Those suffering need comfort. Too many are dying and dying alone. However, one thing is clear; precious lives are being saved by those risking their own.

Registered nurse Robert Atchison cares for a COVID-19 patient in the intensive care unit at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers. Image via Kinfay Moroti/USA TODAY.

Coughing ‘attacks’ may be prosecuted as terrorism in war on coronavirus” via Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post — Attorneys and law enforcement officials are suddenly grappling with questions amid new regulations aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19. As governors and mayors issue stay-at-home orders and ban gatherings, law enforcement personnel are tasked with making sure citizens comply with unprecedented restrictions on their freedom of movement and, in some cases, their livelihoods, during a crisis unlike any most have ever experienced. And they are doing so in the full knowledge that to enforce laws meant to keep people apart, they must come in close contact with would-be violators. People are using the novel coronavirus itself as a threat by coughing on officers or one another, threatening to cough on those around them, or contaminating merchandise at stores.

HHS, FEMA ask states to take control of drive-through testing sites” via David Lim of POLITICO Florida — The federal government wants states to consider taking control of drive-through coronavirus testing sites, currently run by HHS and FEMA, that have tested more than 77,000 people to date. Officials in several communities home to testing sites are worried they will lose needed supplies and funding as a result of the proposed transition plan. But an HHS spokesperson told POLITICO the federal government would continue to operate the sites if Governor’s request such assistance — and said that the agency would not hold states to the deadline listed in a FEMA memo: 5 p.m.

State to use tests to look at spread of COVID-19” via the News Service of Florida — DeSantis said the state will begin testing asymptomatic people for COVID-19 at sites in Jacksonville, Miami and Orlando to try to understand better how to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. DeSantis said the state would take over operations at the testing centers, which had been supported by the federal government, and begin expanding testing. The Florida Department of Health will develop guidelines, DeSantis said, but the goal is to test asymptomatic residents who have had repeated encounters with infected people. Florida will be able to offer 800 tests a day, a substantial increase from the 250 tests that were available when the federal government supported the sites.

America’s social safety net wasn’t ready for the coronavirus crisis” via Amelia Thomson-Deveaux of FiveThirtyEight — For generations, politicians have proposed and haggled over ways to help people during a garden-variety recession. And in the past few weeks, Congress has tried to strengthen the safeguards that already exist, passing a series of bills to get government assistance and other protections to more people. Most of these benefits haven’t reached Americans yet. The unemployment stimulus checks haven’t yet been distributed. Even after they are distributed, some states have taken steps in recent years to restrict their unemployment insurance program, government aid to jobless workers will still be distributed unevenly.


Florida cases near 17,000, deaths reach 371” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — The Florida Department of Health reported 16,826 cases of the coronavirus, up from 15,698 the previous day. The total case numbers include 16,323 Florida residents and 503 non-Florida residents. Statewide there were 2,298 hospitalizations and 371 deaths.

Ron DeSantis addresses expanding hospital beds, testing and online education tools” via Shelby Danielsen and First Coast News staff — DeSantis again emphasized that the state will by no means use any kind of “government coercion” to close any house of worship, but said people need to continue to follow social distancing guidelines through Easter and Passover weekend. The state is working on “antibody tests,” which can determine if someone had COVID-19 but was asymptomatic so they may not have known. DeSantis said they are well over 150,000 tests for the state. DeSantis also said currently, 43% of hospital beds are available and vacant across Florida. Florida Virtual Schools have made 100 courses available for free during this time.

Ron DeSantis holds an education meeting related to the novel coronavirus.

No word yet from DeSantis or Richard Corcoran on delayed school start date” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis and Corcoran have not decided whether, or how, to push back the date schools reopen following closure during the coronavirus pandemic. DeSantis told reporters Thursday that he is looking at the evidence on an hour-by-hour basis. Opening up schools again, if only for a couple of weeks before summer begins, could help return life to normal for parents, students and Floridians. But that would only come after safety is ensured, and DOE, administrators and parents feel ready, Corcoran added.

Even two weeks back in school would have value, DeSantis says” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — “We’re going to look at the evidence and make a decision,” DeSantis said when asked if he intended to keep schools closed for the remainder of the current academic year: “If it’s safe we want kids to be in school. … Even if it’s for a couple of weeks, we think there would be value in that.” DeSantis said he wanted to focus on the issue because schooling, which affects millions of Floridians, has undergone such rapid and fundamental change because of the COVID-19 pandemic. DeSantis cheered the state’s generally positive approach to a daunting switch away from school buildings and into learning from home. Difficulties certainly exist, he acknowledged, and he said his administration is attempting to address those.

DeSantis’ stay-at-home orders add punch, message to PBC arrests” via Olivia Hitchcock of The Palm Beach Post — In the first seven days since DeSantis told Floridians to stay home except for “essential activities,” law-enforcement officers in the county tacked on a second-degree misdemeanor charge in the cases of three men and one woman. Each of them already faced charges such as drug possession and DUI, as well as theft and lying to police, an analysis of jail records show. That charge of violating an emergency declaration carries a maximum sentence of 60 days in the county jail and a $500 fine. Beyond the threat of another 60 days in jail, the Governor’s orders give law enforcement a reason to approach people when they are in crowds or not socially distancing.

Florida Democrats highlight disproportionate impact of coronavirus on black community” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Sen. Oscar Braynon II and Rep. Shevrin Jones say minority communities are bearing a disproportionate impact from the novel coronavirus outbreak in Florida. That message is supported by data from other states as well, as black Americans are making up a lopsided share of deaths from the virus. Jones called on Ron DeSantis to add testing sites within black communities throughout the state. “We need solutions in the black community that go beyond our status quo expectations,” Jones said.

3,700 people entered Florida via I-10, I-95 from high risk states. None were turned away.” via Pensacola News Journal — Of those 3,700 travelers from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut or Louisiana, not a single person has been told to turn around and go back the way they came. “We go through a series of questions that we ask everyone going through the checkpoint,” said Jared Cash, who has overseen the Florida Department of Health’s operations since they began at the checkpoint. “In the past two weeks, has anyone traveled through New York, New Jersey, Connecticut or Louisiana?” Drivers and passengers alike must answer. “If everyone says ‘No,’ the protocols that we’ve been given are to OK them to go through,” Cash said.

Beach closure fight goes to appeals court” via the News Service of Florida — A Panhandle attorney has gone to an appeals court to try to force DeSantis to close beaches statewide to stem the spread of COVID-19. Daniel Uhlfelder filed a notice in Leon County circuit court that he was appealing the case to the 1st District Court of Appeal. The case was sent to the Tallahassee-based appeals court. The appeal came after Circuit Judge Kevin Carroll dismissed Uhlfelder’s lawsuit, saying the state Constitution gives the Governor discretion about handling emergencies. “I believe that what I’m being asked to do is substitute my judgment for that of the governor on how to respond to this COVID crisis, which has been somewhat of a moving target,” Carroll said during a telephonic hearing.

Woke’ José Oliva bashes bailouts, predicts doom” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — House Speaker Oliva took to Twitter to predict that the federal commitment, already at $2.2 trillion from the giveaway-laden CARES Act, will end in tears. “The economy is shuttered, unemployment at historic highs but the stock market is having a great week. No amount of ‘forward-looking’ can account for this disparity. The financial sector is again the greatest beneficiary of this stimulus. This will not end well in the long run,” Oliva tweeted. “Bailouts and industry-specific incentives have never been part of true conservatism,” he added, responding to a Democratic candidate trying to bait him.

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 Wednesday. 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.

Neal Dunn tests positive for coronavirus” via James Call of The Tallahassee Democrat — Dunn tested positive for the coronavirus. He went to the hospital Monday night when he began to feel ill but was not admitted. He was tested for COVID-19, and the results came back positive. His communications director, Leah Courtney, said Dunn is currently quarantining himself at home, feels great, and is at work on Phase IV of the Trump’s administration’s response to the pandemic. As the coronavirus continues to spread across the country, at least 36 members have announced steps to self-quarantine or otherwise isolate themselves either because, like Dunn, they did not feel well or had come into direct contact with an infected individual.

Neal Dunn tests positive for COVID-19.

Florida is spending up to $100 million to back up its failed unemployment website” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — State officials have signed contracts with two companies just to handle the flood of calls to the system. One contract, worth up to $79 million, is with TelaForce, LLC, in Fort Walton Beach to provide at least 1,000 call takers and 33 supervisors. The other, worth up to $17 million, is with Virginia’s Faneuil, Inc. to provide 250 call takers. The extraordinary sum is $22 million more than officials spent to overhaul the state’s unemployment website seven years ago — and an indicator of how desperate they are to tackle the crippling backlog of unemployment claims. DeSantis vowed “all hands on deck” and told the Department of Economic Opportunity to do whatever it takes to resolve the emergency.

Those just-released Florida jobless numbers? Assume they are probably baloney” via Ben Wieder of the Miami Herald — With so many recently unemployed Florida residents struggling to access the state’s unemployment system, it’s hard to know the true scale of job loss in the state in the wake of the coronavirus and the restaurant, nightclub and retail shutdowns that have followed. Florida saw a decline this past week in the number of unemployment claims filed, with 169,885 claims filed through April 4, compared to 228,484 claims filed the previous week, the most in state history. Florida’s comparatively low number of claims is all the more dubious given that nearly one in seven workers in the state work in the leisure and hospitality industries, hit especially hard by the pandemic.

As COVID-19 ravages Florida, incarcerated people are still doing the state’s hard outdoor labor” via Jerry Lannelli of The Appeal — Florida has the third-highest state prison population in the country, and it is one of numerous southern states that rely on unpaid prison labor for tasks including road maintenance, sewage treatment, and moving services for government buildings. Department of Corrections operates 34 “work camps” in which prisoners are sent out daily in packed buses to perform hard manual labor. Reformers and the families of the incarcerated say they’re terrified that prison laborers could carry the virus into the state’s crowded, unsanitary prison system, where COVID-19 is spreading rapidly. Prison laborers could also bring the coronavirus into the communities in which they’re working.

Traffic tickets down 92 percent as Florida cops focus on coronavirus” via Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times — While Floridians stay home to limit the spread of COVID-19, law enforcement officers across the Sunshine State are stopping fewer motorists as millions of vehicles remain parked. Some police agencies are practicing social distancing by reducing the number of traffic stops officers, deputies and troopers make. Traffic citations across the state plummeted 92% in March compared to March 2019, according to preliminary data from the Florida Highway Patrol. In March 2019, officers issued 163,899 citations for non-criminal violations such as speeding, running stop signs, careless driving and driving without lights. Last month, those violations fell to 13,618, records show.

Jeff Brandes, Nick DiCeglie host tele-town hall to answer COVID-19 questions” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Sen. Brandes and Rep. DiCeglie hosted a telephone town hall Thursday to allow Pinellas County to ask questions about COVID-19 and the impacts they are personally experiencing. Two physicians, Dr. Jay Epstein, an anesthesiologist, and Dr. Julie Shamas, an emergency room physician, were also available to answer questions. About a dozen residents weighed in during the one-hour call with issues ranging from when they could get back to work to whether a delivery worker could spread the virus through sweat.

LiFT Academy aces e-learning transition — LiFT Academy in Seminole serves students with celebrating unique abilities. Ninety-six percent of the school’s 140 students attend on private school scholarships. Of those, 48 participate in the Gardiner Scholarship Program for students with unique abilities When the K-12 nonprofit private school transitioned to online classes, it didn’t miss a beat, allowing accommodations tailored to the needs of their students. Those accommodations could include allowing a child to stand in front of his or her workstation or sit on a balance ball to do schoolwork. Or it could mean building in more frequent breaks, especially for younger students, or encouraging a child to do pushups against the wall if he or she needs to release energy. “We’re masters of accommodation,” said Kim Kuruzovich, executive director of LiFT Academy.

Universal: Parks will be closed at least through May 31, many employees’ pay cut to 80%” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Universal Orlando has extended the coronavirus shutdown of its theme parks and hotels through “at least” May 31, and it will cut many of its employees pay to 80 percent of their normal amount, the resort said Thursday. It will furlough its part-time hourly workers effective May 3, it said. As previously announced, Universal will pay its workers 100% of their pay through April 19. Then on April 20, the wages of executives, salaried and hourly staff will be decreased by 20%. “We will ask everyone to adjust their work accordingly,” Universal Orlando Chairman and CEO Tom Williams announced.


Lenny Curry says reopening Jacksonville’s economy could happen in early May” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — Curry said Thursday morning that the city will follow the lead of the federal and state government in deciding when to ‘reopen the economy’ and there are ‘hints and signs’ that might happen in May. Curry said his office is assessing city fees and regulations to see if those can be changed to give businesses an easier path back to normalcy.”

Jacksonville firefighter tests positive for COVID-19, shuttering city’s busiest fire station” via The Florida Times-Union staff reports — Dozens of Jacksonville firefighters have been temporarily sidelined following confirmation that an employee tested positive for COVID-19 at the city’s busiest fire station. The case appears to be the first confirmed COVID-19 case among the fire department’s ranks. All three shifts of the station’s firefighters and paramedics, 47 first responders, are being asked to self-isolate, Fire and Rescue Chief Keith Powers said. Powers said the fire department will need to “find creative ways” to continue staffing in the area served by the station while it is closed.

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-through 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 who codes.

Jacksonville is expanding its testing program into low-income neighborhoods. Image via AP.

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 on 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.

Emergency loans were supposed to prop up Miami’s small businesses. They’re still in limbo.” via Rob Wile and Kevin G. Hall of the Miami Herald — Despite Trump administration reassurances that the PPP program would serve as an immediate source of funding for small businesses whose revenue streams have stopped cold, small businesses find themselves in limbo as they wait for funds. The program has faced a difficult rollout as many banks seek clarification of how the loans count against their own loan-to-capital ratios. They also want to know whether they face a potential regulatory penalty if a PPP borrower is later found to have engaged in money laundering or fraud. Answers still aren’t available, and neither are most of the loans.

Three Miami Beach construction sites shut down over coronavirus safety violations” via Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald — The City of Miami Beach has cracked down on three active construction sites, issuing 14-day stop-work orders for failing to comply with coronavirus safety requirements. The stop-work orders cite “failure to comply with the CDC safety regulations during the COVID-19 emergency period.” A spokesperson for the City of Miami Beach said all three sites failed to keep proper employee health logs. Sites with more than eight workers are required to screen their employees daily for coronavirus symptoms. Representatives from the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County said no citations had been issued to construction sites for safety violations.

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 biggest costs went to refunding housing and meal plans, as well as planning for a potential 10% summer enrollment reduction.

Barred from Miami hotels, 13 Coral Princess passengers will stay on ship for 14 more days” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — Barred from transferring to Miami hotels, 13 passengers on the Coral Princess cruise ship will remain on board for another 14 days, the cruise company said in a statement Thursday evening. Travel restrictions are preventing the passengers from getting charter flights home, and local authorities will not allow them to stay in hotels, the company said. Meanwhile, seven Coral Princess crew members with COVID-19 symptoms were transferred to four local hospitals Thursday, according to a report from the Miami-Dade emergency management system. The ship left PortMiami at around 6:45 p.m. Thursday.

Miami-Dade is moving elderly residents out of homeless shelters and into hotels” via Douglas Hanks and David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade is securing hundreds of hotel rooms to ease crowding at homeless shelters and also give healthcare workers a place to sleep between shifts. The county may move more than 150 older residents from residential facilities across Miami-Dade. Already, nearly 50 are being moved out of the Chapman centers for the homeless in Miami and Homestead as a precaution against spread in those two county-funded facilities. A staffer at the Miami Chapman center tested positive for COVID-19, raising the alarm of an outbreak there.

Longtime OB-GYN at Jackson South hospital dies after novel coronavirus infection” via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — A popular University of Miami obstetrician and gynecologist who worked at Jackson South Community Hospital in Palmetto Bay died from complications of COVID-19. Luis Caldera-Nieves, 63, is at least the third health care worker in South Florida to die of COVID-19 and the second who worked at a facility run by Jackson Health System. Caldera’s death underscores the risks doctors and nurses face as more patients present to hospitals with symptoms of COVID-19 while protective gear runs low, and testing for the disease remains scarce and slow to produce results.

Miami OB-GYN Luis Caldera-Nieves is the third local health care worker to die of COVID-19.

Miami Beach partners with private clinic to offer in-home COVID-19 tests for seniors” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Homebound seniors in Miami Beach who show COVID-19 symptoms can now request in-home testing through a private clinic that has partnered with the city to make coronavirus tests available to residents ages 65 and up. The clinic plans to conduct 10 tests a day for an indefinite period. The Miami Beach Fire Department will provide a vehicle and staff to accompany a nurse to conduct testing at homes. Testing will be free to those without insurance. The clinic does not require insured patients to share in the cost. The total number of tests available has not been announced.

Fire department salutes South Florida hospital workers with signs, horns, and applause” via Storyful with the Miami Herald — Firefighters in Plantation, Florida saluted local health care workers battling the coronavirus with signs, horns, and applause on April 7. Firefighters held up signs, urging health care workers to  “stay strong” and “stay safe.” One sign read, “thank you, HCA heroes.”

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, Hialeah chief orders haircuts for cops at a local shop” via Bianco Padró Ocasio, Charles Rabin and Aaron Liebowitz of the Miami Herald — Hialeah Police Chief Sergio Velazquez, a big believer that proper grooming and good policing go hand in hand, worked out an arrangement with a local shop, Tony’s Barberia, to trim the hair and beards of cops. When Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez issued an emergency order for all nonessential businesses to shut down on March 19 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, barbershops were explicitly named as one of the shuttered services. Velazquez rescinded his memo, but then later stood by it, even though barbershops have closed.

Retiree-rich Palm Beach county leads Florida in COVID-19 deaths” via Phil Galewitz of KHN — No place in Florida has recorded more deaths from COVID-19 than Palm Beach County. As of Wednesday afternoon, 69 people in the South Florida county of 1.5 million had died after being infected with the novel coronavirus. The death toll outpaces the state’s two more populated counties, including Miami-Dade, which has nearly twice the population and 49 deaths. Health experts attribute the county’s high mortality rate to three factors: a large elder population, with 1 in 4 residents 65 or over; its lack of available testing, particularly compared with its southern neighbors, Broward and Miami-Dade counties; and frequent travel among residents and visitors to and from the New York metro area, the national epicenter of the outbreak.

COVID-19 is robbing Cypress Bay high seniors of ‘memories we can never relive’” via Joseph Mullen for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The coronavirus has disrupted our education, our daily teenage lives. It is robbing us of opportunities to make memories with our friends at graduation, crams us into video conference classrooms, and halts all extracurricular activities. It has led to dejectedness among the class of 2020, as we see our last year of high school suddenly and prematurely adjourned. As seniors, we rue the loss of these precious memories. For me, the feelings of losing something fundamental to my transition to adulthood have turned to feelings of anger at the injustice of both the pandemic and those who would exploit it.

They dealt in illegal Keys rentals during coronavirus pandemic, police say. Now they face charges” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — Key West police issued citations to two more people they said were dealing in illegal vacation rentals, which were shut down by the county and the Governor as part of closing hotels to tourists during the COVID-19 pandemic. “This will not be tolerated,” said City Manager Greg Veliz. “The directives we’ve enacted are difficult, but they’re absolutely necessary to ensure the safety of our community’s health.” Paige Bethel, 28, of Vacation Homes of Key West, was cited for booking a rental starting March 31 and then extending the rental.

St. Lucie County librarians switch from feeding the minds to nourishing the bodies” via Keona Gardner of Treasure Coast Newspapers —  Taryn Bagley has traded feeding the public’s minds to feeding their bodies. Bagley is among the 68 county librarians who was faced with losing her paycheck when the county closed the libraries in March to stem the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19. The county Human Resources Department implemented a plan, often used short-term during hurricane season. The county reassigned 44 librarians and 15 staffers from its Environmental Resources Department to work at the Treasure Coast Food Bank, preparing and packaging meals.


Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik donates $50K to USF student relief fund” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Vinik and his wife Penny Vinik donated $50,000 to the University of South Florida through their Vinik Family Foundation to help provide financial relief to students facing hardship related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The money will go into USF’s United Support fund established to help students affected by unexpected changes related to the global pandemic and necessary social distancing protocols to address it. The funds can be used by students in need of food, toiletries, rent, and other basic essentials that are beyond their reach. “We are pleased to be able to assist the students at USF during this difficult and uncertain time,” Vinik said.

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.

This photo provided by Tabatha Sams shows her with her son Dawson Thilmony. The Orange County mother asked a judge to allow her to keep custody of her son during the coronavirus pandemic. Image via AP.

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 a 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 the uncertainty and frustration. The group left Orlando on March 12 and landed back in the United States late on April 3.

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.

UF-led ventilator design clears first FDA review” via Douglas Ray of The Gainesville Sun — A ventilator envisioned by a University of Florida engineer and built with do-it-yourself parts gained first-step FDA authorization this week, offering hope that it could be in use within weeks at hospitals around the world where COVID-19 patients have overwhelmed supplies of traditional medical equipment. The ventilator, composed of parts readily available for less than $250, can be assembled in less than an hour. UF has made plans and software available free over the internet.

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.

One woman on St. George Island has coronavirus. She’s not about to hide.” via the Tallahassee Democrat —The night before they debarked from what had turned into a month-long South American cruise, just as the Eclipse finished rounding the Baja, Buena Brown and her husband Frank slept with the windows open. They felt the ‘fabulous fresh air,’ she recalled, a break from the ‘super windy and super cold’ weather when the ship passed the mouth of the peninsula as they headed north into U.S. waters. They were ready to return home, after two anxious weeks tacked on to a trip which began the last day of February on the Atlantic side of the continent.

Walton sheriff suggests summer as potential loosening of COVID-19 restrictions” via Jim Thompson of the Northwest Florida Daily News —Sheriff Michael Adkinson suggested that at least some easing of movement and other restrictions imposed to halt the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the spreading new coronavirus, could potentially come by July. “I think by July and August, we’ll be out of ‘lockdown,’ or shelter-in-place, if you will,” he told local entrepreneur Mike Ragsdale during  “30A Beach Happy” podcast. Addressing people who might be wondering what to do with summer vacation reservations in Walton County, Adkinson said, “If I had an August reservation, if I had a July reservation, I certainly wouldn’t cancel it.”

A bright spot during dark times: Farmworker’s story inspires an act of kindness” via Mark H. Bickel of the Fort Myers News-Press — Flor De Maria Miranda Lopez lost her job as a tomato picker. Her crew leader informed Miranda Lopez and her co-workers that due to the pandemic, the company was shuttering the packing house. Like so many others, Miranda Lopez was worried about paying the $525 monthly rent due to her landlord for the trailer she, her partner and two-year-old son live in. The News-Press connected an anonymous donor with Redlands Christian Migrant Association and a money transfer was made to Miranda Lopez so she could pay rent due.

Rockledge police delivering prescriptions to seniors while off-duty” via Tyler Vazquez of Florida Today — Police officers volunteering off-duty to pick up and deliver prescriptions to Rockledge residents over the age of 65 or with underlying health conditions. The new initiative is aimed at shielding the most vulnerable from exposure to coronavirus. By doing this while off-duty, Rockledge officers can keep the deliveries from interfering with calls for service. All officers who participate in the program will be using gloves and masks when picking up prescriptions to ensure there is no contamination. When an officer arrives at the person’s house and signals that they’ve arrived, they then step 15 feet away from the door before making sure recipients get their prescription.


Americans could start receiving stimulus checks starting on April 9” via Susan Tompor of USA Today — Much-awaited stimulus cash will begin flooding into millions of bank accounts next week in the first wave of payouts to shore up the nation’s wallets. Millions of taxpayers will start receiving the extra money to pay rent, groceries, and other bills next week, or possibly as early as Thursday or Friday, some say. The first group, estimated to cover 50 million to 60 million Americans, would include people who have already given their bank account information to the Internal Revenue Service. The first group also would consist of Social Security beneficiaries who filed federal tax returns that included direct deposit information.

Banks brace for new wave of small businesses at troubled loan program” via Zachary Warmbrodt of POLITICO — Banks are warning that a beleaguered $350 billion small business rescue program could become even more backed up when the nation’s self-employed business owners will be eligible to apply for the government-backed loans. Since the Paycheck Protection Program launched April 3, banks have struggled to process a barrage of loan applications amid constant technical breakdowns and a lack of guidance from the Trump administration. Demand for the loans has been huge, with businesses enticed by terms that allow the loans to be forgiven if borrowers maintain their payroll.

U.S. seeing fewest airline passengers since 1950s as coronavirus halts travel” via David Koenig of The Associated Press — The number of Americans getting on airplanes has sunk to a level not seen in more than 60 years as people shelter in their homes to avoid catching or spreading the new coronavirus. The Transportation Security Administration screened 94,931 people on Wednesday, a drop of 96% from a year ago, and the second straight day under 100,000. The official tally of people who passed through TSA checkpoints exaggerates the number of travelers because it includes some airline crew members and people still working at shops inside airport security perimeters. Historical daily numbers only go back so far, but the nation last averaged fewer than 100,000 passengers a day in 1954, according to figures from trade group Airlines for America.

Airline travel plummets due top the coronavirus. Image via Getty.

GM ramps up mask production — Auto giant GM is revving up its efforts to get face masks out the door and into hospitals. The company said this week that it can now produce up to 1.5 million face masks a month at its Warren, Mich., facility. In addition to the production update, GM said it had shared its manufacturing plans with the Original Equipment Suppliers Association and the Michigan Manufacturers Association so they can shift their own manufacturing efforts into a higher gear. “Our ultimate goal is to get more masks to the people who desperately need them,” GM VP Shilpan Amin said. “And we recognize it would be counterproductive for GM — or any other manufacturer — to compete for supplies with existing medical mask companies.”

From Tallahassee to Washington, lobbyists search for every bit of help they can find amid coronavirus crisis” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — Lobbyists from Tallahassee to Washington are also scouring high and low to find every extra bit of help they can amid the crisis. Retailers like Target and restaurant companies like Wendy’s got Congress to fix a corporate tax “glitch.” The tourism industry won a reprieve from the Trump administration on a looming limit on air travel. Business lobbyists persuaded DeSantis to suspend a state tax on loans. Businesses, for instance, often use the sales taxes they charge their customers as a form of working capital before they must turn the money over to the state near the end of each month. Many who are now struggling to conserve cash urged the state to delay the monthly collection deadline, which had been set for April 20. DeSantis granted the delay but only until April 30.

Box office’s best-case scenario? Down 40 percent” via Pamela McClintock of The Hollywood Reporter — Coronavirus caused the greatest calendar migration in the 100-year-plus history of the movie business as virtually all major summer tentpoles were relocated amid the pandemic in a mega-game of dominoes that has reshaped the 2020 and 2021 release slates, and beyond. North American box office revenues will struggle to hit $7 billion for the year, the lowest figure in more than two decades and nearly 40 percent behind 2019. Virtually all of the 5,400-plus theaters in the U.S. were shut by March. The best-case scenario is a two-month closure, but it could last longer.

Postal Service warns of $22 billion hole from coronavirus” via Paul Ziobro of The Wall Street Journal — The U.S. Postal Service is facing a precipitous decline in mail volume and billions of dollars in additional losses as it operates during the pandemic, where hundreds of its workers have fallen sick. A dozen have died from the coronavirus. The quasi-governmental agency, which operates as part of the executive branch, is asking Congress for financial support, even after the Treasury Department extended it a $10 billion loan and increased its annual borrowing limit under the Cares Act last month. The Postal Service projects the pandemic to add $22 billion to the agency’s continuing operating losses over the next 18 months. Losses could hit $54 billion over the longer term and threaten the agency’s ability to operate.

Hearst promises journalists at its newspapers no furloughs, no pay cuts” via Rick Edmonds of Poynter — Bucking the newspaper industry trend, Hearst Corporation has told its newsrooms there will be no layoffs, no furloughs and no pay cuts during coronavirus coverage. Hearst appears to have decided comprehensive local reports on the pandemic and recession are an opportunity to showcase public service work and build audiences. Other chains and individual newspapers have been making a series of disheartening cuts in response to an abrupt print advertising downturn. It helps that Hearst is a private company, a diverse and rich one. Its magazine division with Cosmopolitan and other titles was a growth engine for many years. And along the way, it has made many shrewd investments in digital businesses and established an international footprint.

Hearst Corporation has told its newsrooms such as the San Francisco Chronicle there will be no layoffs, furloughs or pay cuts during the course of coronavirus coverage. Image via Getty,

McClatchy furloughs about 115 employees to deal with the impact of coronavirus” via Kerry Flynn of CNN Business — McClatchy, owner of 30 US newspapers will furlough 4.4% of its employees, lay off four executives and reduce some executive compensation to address the financial pressures from coronavirus. The company, whose newspapers include the Pulitzer Prize-winning Miami Herald, employs about 2,700 people, so the plan translates to more than 115 temporary job losses. The reductions will mostly affect McClatchy’s advertising department, while the editorial department will be spared. Media companies across the country have laid off or furloughed employees or instituted pay cuts to mitigate the loss of ad dollars as businesses shutter.

Regulators set to decide on utility bill cuts” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Public Service Commission has scheduled a special meeting on April 28 to consider requests by four major utilities to cut customer bills in May or during the summer. Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy Florida, Gulf Power and Tampa Electric Co. have filed plans to pass along savings from lower-than-expected fuel costs to customers. Pointing to economic problems facing customers because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, FPL, Duke and Gulf have proposed providing large one-time savings on May utility bills. Tampa Electric’s proposal is somewhat different. It would pass along chunks of the fuel-cost savings to customers from June through August and then smaller savings through the rest of the year.

Real estate deals in peril amid buyer fears” via Alexandra Clough of The Palm Beach Post — With the onset of the pandemic, real estate agents say deals that were in the works are encountering all types of problems, creating havoc in the market. The biggest issue: Buyers trying to back out of purchase contracts. But can buyers cancel due to COVID-19? Real estate lawyers said there isn’t a clear answer. A commonly used contract created by the Florida Association of Realtors and the Florida Bar, dubbed FAR BAR, contains a provision called force majeure. The Latin term means an unforeseeable action that prevents someone from fulfilling a contract. The contract lists acts of God, such as hurricanes or floods. But it does not list pandemics.

Citrus and produce businesses see increase in gift sales amid COVID-19 pandemic” via Sara Marino of TC Palm — Treasure Coast residents are turning to citrus and fresh produce as gifts for themselves and their loved ones, as COVID-19 cases continue to increase statewide. Online sales have risen in the past month, especially for orange juice and grapefruit juice, said Natalie Sexton, vice president of marketing and namesake of Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company. Along with an increase in retail sales, Sexton said the company had anywhere from 30 to 50 orders on its website per day from people sending juices to their loved ones. The juices are being shipped to New York, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Texas, Ohio and Colorado. Other Florida companies have noticed a sizable uptick in sales since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Publix makes aisles one direction because of coronavirus” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — Publix has added directional floor markers to keep customers going one way down aisles to keep them farther apart because of coronavirus. Publix began adding the markings on Wednesday. “This will allow customers and associates to distance themselves better while on the aisle,” spokeswoman Maria Brous said. It is just the latest coronavirus change for the retailer. Publix has also installed plexiglass barriers at registers, customer service desks and pharmacies.


IMF head predicts ‘worst economic fallout since the Great Depression’ from COVID-19” via Martin Crutsinger of The Associated Press — The coronavirus pandemic will push the global economy into the deepest recession since the Great Depression, with the world’s poorest countries suffering the most, the head of the International Monetary Fund said Thursday. “We anticipate the worst economic fallout since the Great Depression,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said. IMF will release an updated world economic forecast on Tuesday that will show just how quickly the coronavirus outbreak has turned what had been expected to be a solid year of growth into a deep downturn. Only three months ago, IMF was forecasting that 160 nations would enjoy positive per capita income growth. Now the expectation is that over 170 countries will have negative per capita income growth this year.

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said the upcoming economic downturn will be the worst since the Great Depression.

HIV service providers sound alarm over coronavirus disruptions. ‘We have to keep our eye on the ball’” via Lautaro Grinspan of the Miami Herald — Pridelines hopes it will help raise awareness of the HIV testing services that are still being offered at the organization’s headquarters, near Little Haiti, despite the coronavirus outbreak. Although Pridelines has long been performing HIV screening at its brick-and-mortar center, the bulk of its tests have traditionally been administered out of mobile units that tested people at places like college campuses or in front of nightclubs. Because of COVID-19, that mobile testing program is now shut down. Health experts agree that those who know their HIV status and have access to medication are at no greater risk than the average person from the coronavirus. The real worry, experts say, lies with the more than 160,000 Americans living with undiagnosed and untreated HIV, whose compromised immune systems could make them more vulnerable to coronavirus.

Instacart users ‘tip baiting’ shoppers” via WFLA/CNN Newsource — Delivery windows for groceries are getting wider, so some people are luring shoppers by offering big tips. Instacart workers say some users then lower, or entirely remove, that tip after their orders are delivered. Shoppers can see information like items requested, store location and tip before accepting orders. So they may make a trip that’s inconvenient or more difficult if the tip is big enough. But, Instacart also gives users the ability to change that tip up to three days after the delivery is made. Instacart is planning to add 300,000 shoppers to meet surging demand during the coronavirus outbreak.

Gen Z was fed up with the status quo. The coronavirus could reinforce their liberal politics.” via Hannah Knowles of The Washington Post — Generation Z has always been politically liberal, increasingly activist, and fed up with the status quo. The oldest members of the generation grew up amid soaring inequality and overwhelmingly backed Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries. Now the coronavirus crisis may solidify their political identity, experts say. As the pandemic and its economic havoc exacerbate disparities, some Gen Zers see grim validation of their support for the government-run programs and social-welfare policies less popular with their parents and grandparents.

Why the coronavirus lockdown is making the internet stronger than ever” via Will Douglas Heaven of Technology Review — Between January and late March, internet traffic increased by around a quarter in many major cities. Demand has skyrocketed for certain online services in particular. Video calls have replaced face-to-face interaction with colleagues, family, and friends alike. There are understandable signs of strain: Wi-Fi that slows to a crawl, websites that won’t load, video calls that cut out. But despite the odd hiccup, the internet is doing just fine. In fact, the COVID-19 crisis is driving the biggest expansion in years. As well as using the internet more overall, we are also using it at different times and in different places. Instead of an after-work peak at 7.30 p.m., there is now a peak just before lunch.

‘Screen time’ has gone from sin to survival tool” via Geoffrey A. Fowler and Heather Kelly of The Washington Post — We’re on Zoom calls six hours per day. The kids have their own iPads. And no need to keep asking, Netflix — we’re definitely still watching. But we should stop being hard on ourselves for staring at screens and start embracing how they’re helping us survive. In this extraordinary moment, that’s just what the doctor ordered. Before the coronavirus outbreak, Brett Vergara abided by the trendy advice that excessive “screen time” was as bad as smoking, but for your brain. He would put his phone on airplane mode at work to make its screen less alluring. Then last month, New York forced him to stay at home with roommates he hardly knows.

MGM Resorts entertainers raise $11 million for furloughed staffers” via Etan Vlessing of The Hollywood Reporter — MGM Resorts International’s emergency relief fund for struggling Las Vegas workers has swelled to $11 million after donations from Jay Leno, David Copperfield and Bill Maher. The MGM Resorts Foundation’s Emergency Relief Fund was launched on March 23, with an initial $1 million donation from the Las Vegas casino operator after it had to lay off employees during the coronavirus spread. The emergency fund aids employees and their families with short-term grants and is aimed at full-time employees, on-call workers and those facing layoff, separation or furlough. MGM Resorts, which has shuttered its entertainment properties amid the virus crisis, adds that it has donated the equivalent of 454,000 meals through local food banks to help reduce hunger.

UFC 249 cancelled after ESPN, Disney halt promotion’s plans” via Greg Beacham of The Associated Press — UFC 249 was canceled after ESPN and parent company Disney stopped UFC President Dana White’s plan to keep fighting amid the coronavirus pandemic. After defiantly vowing for weeks to maintain a regular schedule of fights while the rest of the sports world halted, White confirmed the decision to cease competition. While the UFC won’t have fights in the upcoming weeks, White said he is still pursuing his plan to build an octagon and everything else necessary to telecast small fight shows on an unidentified private island.


In scramble for coronavirus supplies, rich countries push poor aside” via Jane Bradley of The New York Times — As the United States and European Union countries compete to acquire scarce medical equipment to combat the coronavirus, another troubling divide is also emerging, with poorer countries losing out to wealthier ones in the global scrum for masks and testing materials. The huge global demand for masks, alongside new distortions in the private market, has forced some developing countries to turn to UNICEF for help. In Africa, Latin America and parts of Asia, many countries are already at a disadvantage, with health systems that are underfunded, fragile and often lacking in necessary equipment. A recent study found that some poor countries have only one equipped intensive care bed per million residents.


TJ Kim can’t drive yet. But he can fly.

The 16-year-old student pilot from Bethesda, Maryland, is using his flying lessons to deliver much-needed hospital supplies to rural areas.

Each week, he carries gloves, masks, gowns and other equipment to small hospitals, reports The Associated Press. His first delivery, on March 27, was to a 25-bed hospital in Luray, Virginia.

Kim was taken aback by the reception.

TJ Kim, 16, loads medical supplies into a plane in Leesburg, Virginia, before flying to a hospital in Luray. Kim began delivering donated medical supplies to rural hospitals in need after realizing his flight training could be put to good use during the coronavirus pandemic. Image via Thomas Kim/AP.

“They kind of conveyed to me that they were really forgotten about. Everyone was wanting to send donations to big city hospitals,” he told the AP. “Every hospital is hurting for supplies, but it’s the rural hospitals that really feel forgotten.”

Like many other students, Kim was disappointed that coronavirus shut down schools and activities, ending lacrosse season before it ever really started. He is a sophomore at Landon School in Bethesda.

When he heard about the desperate need for medical supplies, Kim devised a plan with his family in Virginia to stay active and serve the community: Operation SOS — Supply Over Skies.

Kim’s latest flight carried 3,000 gloves, 1,000 headcovers, 500 shoe covers, 50 nonsurgical masks, 20 pairs of protective eyewear, and 10 concentrated bottles of hand sanitizer, all going to help supply a hospital in Woodstock, Virginia. His goal is to service all seven rural hospitals — each defined is critical access — in Virginia. The flights will be progressively longer.

Kim’s flight instructor, Dave Powell, was blown away when he first proposed the project, especially since he knew how disappointed TJ had been after lacrosse was canceled.

“For TJ to be more concerned with the needs of others in his melancholy state just reiterated to me how amazing this young man is.,” Powell added.


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.

Trump quietly shuts down asylum at U.S. borders to fight virus” via Maria Verza, Elliot Spagat and Astrid Galvan of The Associated Press — The U.S. government used an obscure public health law to justify one of its most aggressive border crackdowns ever. People fleeing violence and poverty to seek refuge in the U.S. are whisked to the nearest border crossing and returned to Mexico without a chance to apply for asylum. It eclipses Trump’s other policies to curtail immigration by setting aside decades-old national and international laws. The Trump administration has offered little detail on the rules that, unlike its other immigration policies, have yet to be challenged in court. The secrecy means the rules got little attention as they took effect March 20, the same day Trump announced the southern border was closed to nonessential travel.

Donald Trump uses coronavirus as a justification for the biggest asylum crackdown yet.

‘One of the greatest travesties in American history’: Barr drops all pretense about ongoing probe of Russia investigation” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — Attorney General Barr hasn’t been terribly subtle about where he stands on the appropriateness of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. He wrote an unsolicited, extensive memo deriding it in 2017, suggesting that a conspiracy theory involving the Clintons was more worthy of investigation. When an inspector general issued a report in December saying the investigation was properly founded, Barr put out an extraordinary statement disagreeing with that. And now, Barr has gone quite a bit further. He is explicitly leaning into Trump’s long-standing allegation that this was a witch hunt intended to bring down a president.

Michael Waltz warns of China’s influence over WHO” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Waltz says China’s growing influence over the World Health Organization poses a danger for global health. “What China is doing with these international organizations is they’re influencing those that are beholden to China to get their people into places like the World Health Organization and the United Nations, for that matter,” Waltz said. He also discussed a bipartisan initiative to shut down China’s wildlife markets over their links to deadly diseases. Coronavirus is believed to have originated in a wet market in Wuhan. The 2003 outbreak of SARS is also believed to have originated in a Chinese wet market.

Assignment editors — Congresswoman Kathy Castor will hold a virtual news conference joined by Tampa Bay-area veterans’ service providers to discuss the needs and resources available for veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic, 11:30 a.m., email [email protected] for dial-in information.

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.

After Jackson Health furlough reversal, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell continues to press to disburse federal hospital aid” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Mucarsel-Powell held a virtual news conference one day after Jackson Health System reversed a series of planned pay cuts and furloughs to some staff members, though nurses and physicians were exempt. That $100 billion pot within the CARES Act was designed to help hospitals avoid reducing staff. Mucarsel-Powell said at $30 billion of that money is set to be sent Friday. But she argued the government needs to move quickly to send out the full $100 billion. Mucarsel-Powell held a virtual news conference Thursday. That’s just one day after Jackson Health System reversed a series of planned pay cuts and furloughs to some staff members, though nurses and physicians were exempt.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell continues to press to disburse federal hospital aid. Image via Facebook.

Everyone is learning how to work remotely. Lawmakers should, too.” via Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post — There are some functions that only the government is built to perform. These include appropriating the vast sums necessary to shore up the country’s public and economic health, setting priorities for how that money should be spent and overseeing how it is done. Congress should not, however, have to be in Washington to do all of this. Big corporations, small businesses and the rest of us are learning to come together virtually. There is no reason lawmakers should not as well. The House Rules Committee released a memo last month exploring how it might change procedures to accommodate remote voting.

DC community volunteers provide food for locked-down needy” via Ashraf Khalil and Jacquelyn Martin of The Associated Press — In Washington’s Ward 8, the need for food is particularly dire. The area is a notorious food desert, with one full-service grocery store for approximately 70,000 residents. And all manner of health issues strike disproportionately among its residents. Martha’s Table, a food pantry and community aid organization has made it a full-time mission to respond to the skyrocketing need for food. Teams of volunteers fill hundreds of bags, moving them out to cars and vans in giant rolling hampers for distribution around the ward.

Corrine Brown withdraws bid to leave prison early” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — The former U.S. Representative has withdrawn her request to leave prison because of coronavirus concerns. But she hasn’t given up on early release, her lawyer told a judge. “Counsel conferred at length with opposing counsel after the motion was filed,” attorney William Mallory Kent wrote in a new court filing. From that conversation, Kent added that he “believes it would be of assistance to the court for Brown to obtain documentation and records to better support her assertions.”


Does Florida still need that trio of billion-dollar toll roads?” via Craig Pittman of Florida Phoenix — Florida’s controversial new toll roads hit a potential roadblock this week. Two of them are supposed to cut through rural Levy County, near Ocala. But Levy commissioners voted 3-2 on Tuesday to say they do not want them — primarily because of the development they would bring. The road builders’ group, not the DOT, first proposed spending taxpayer dollars on planning the three highways, a position supported by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Both groups donated thousands of dollars to Senate President Bill Galvano’s political action committee. Toll roads and bridges are supposed to pay for themselves. They’re built with borrowed money that’s then paid back using the toll receipts. Many Florida toll roads don’t generate enough revenue to support themselves.

New Healthy Kids chief to earn $145,000” via the News Service of Florida — Florida Healthy Kids Corp. new chief executive officer, Ryan West, is getting an annual salary of $145,000, $4,500 more than his predecessor. Spokeswoman Ashley Carr said West’s benefits package also includes free health insurance, 100 hours of sick leave and 240 hours of annual leave. Carr said West doesn’t contribute to his monthly health insurance premiums, a policy she said also applies to herself and other high-ranking officials, including Chief Operating Officer Austin Noll, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Dykes and Chief Legal Officer Gavin Burgess. Former Florida Healthy Kids CEO Rose Naff said on Thursday that it’s been a long-standing policy to provide free health insurance for the nonprofit corporation’s top executives.

New Healthy Kids chief Ryan West gets a pay bump.

Judge dismisses campus voting case after agreement” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit over early voting sites on college and university campuses, after voting-rights groups and DeSantis’ administration reached an agreement in the case. The deal centered on an issue involving parking at early voting sites, as many college and university campuses have limited space for cars and other vehicles. The long-running legal dispute, filed in May 2018, initially focused on an interpretation of state election laws by former Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, which decided that individual campus buildings did not meet guidelines for early voting sites. Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in July 2018 ruled that the interpretation was unconstitutional and issued a preliminary injunction allowing campus early voting locations.

Tallahassee passes ban on conversion therapy” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Tallahassee City Commission just passed perhaps the strongest ban on conversion therapy in the country. The Commission passed its ordinance unanimously. The ordinance banned not only conversion therapy on minors, but on vulnerable adults. The controversial practice of conversion therapy attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. But the legality of the ban remains uncertain. The Orlando-based Liberty Counsel has sued Boca Raton and Palm Beach County over similar bans put in place in those South Florida communities.

Court to hear arguments in NRA lobbyist appeal” via the News Service of Florida — A federal appeals court is expected to hear arguments in a lawsuit stemming from emails that Marion Hammer received after the February 2018 mass shooting in Parkland. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals posted a schedule that said the case would be heard during the week of July 27 in Atlanta. Hammer, the NRA’s Florida lobbyist, went to the appeals court after U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled against her. Hammer filed a lawsuit against California attorney Lawrence Sorensen and three unrelated men over emails that she alleged were harassing and threatening. Hinkle dismissed Hammer’s claims against Sorensen on First Amendment grounds.

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.

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.

— 2020 —

The two states where Trump’s COVID-19 response could backfire in 2020“via The Atlantic — A handful of swing states will almost certainly decide the winner of November’s presidential election. And in two of them, Michigan and Florida, Trump’s complicated relationship with their governors could expose him to greater political risk as the economic and social price of the coronavirus pandemic mounts. Trump faces mirror-image threats. Michigan voters could interpret Trump’s animosity toward Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer as punishing the state. By contrast, in Florida, Trump’s liability could be his close relationship with Gov. DeSantis, which is seen by many as one reason DeSantis was slow to impose a statewide stay-at-home order. In each place, voters may be even more likely than those in other states to blame or credit the president for how the outbreak unfolds there. And in both cases, Trump’s posture toward the states is now inextricably interwoven with the larger story of their struggle to contain the disease.

Trump allies book fall TV ad time in Florida, N.C.,” via Alex Leary of the Wall Street Journal — With the general election effectively under way, the super PAC supporting President Trump said it will begin Friday to reserve $26.6 million in television time for this fall in two key states: Florida and North Carolina…. In Florida, $18.5 million will be split between the Tampa and Orlando markets. The ads would begin around Labor Day and run through Election Day, according to the group.

Trump’s wild claims of voter fraud blow back on campaign aide” via Matt Dixon and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Days before Trump deceptively called vote-by-mail “corrupt” and damaging to Republicans, his campaign hired an operative tied to a 2012 absentee ballot scheme that sent a Florida Democratic operative to jail. The plot involving Giancarlo Sopo — who has never been charged with wrongdoing — was highlighted in a report on election fraud that Trump’s campaign blasted out to support his wild vote-by-mail attacks. Sopo joined the Trump campaign April 1. “The national news media routinely and condescendingly dismiss any concerns about voter fraud, including state vote-by-mail provisions,” the campaign wrote in an email. The email, in addition to exposing an uncomfortable incident in a staffer’s past, highlights the exaggerated nature of the president’s attacks on voting by mail.

Donald Trump’s mistrust of vote-by-mail brings a renewed spotlight on Giancarlo Sopo.

Joe Biden earns slew of new endorsements, from former challengers to ‘Never Trump’ Republicans” via Felicia Sonmez and Colby Itkowitz — Biden, now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, amassed a diverse slate of new endorsements Wednesday from former primary challengers to friends-turned-foes of Trump. The list includes Sen. Michael F. Bennet, who was a contender in the Democratic primary; Anthony Scaramucci, onetime Trump champion and short-lived White House communications director; and the Lincoln Project, a group of anti-Trump Republicans led by George Conway.

Biden will have a very hard time winning over the Berniesphere” via Matthew Yglesias of Vox — Now that Bernie Sanders has suspended his campaign, Biden has the difficult task of bringing the left into his tent. It’s clear that Biden’s camp is at least somewhat concerned about gaining the support of the more-progressive faction of the party. Many people in that faction of the party don’t trust Biden. To the extent that Biden can court left-wing voters by adopting progressive positions that are broadly popular, it would be smart politics to do so. One advantage a fresh-faced politician has is that, with a limited record, he can alter his public persona relatively rapidly with a speech or two or a few policy rollouts. Biden cannot be as dynamic as he needs to be.

First in Sunburn —Biden plans ‘virtual fundraiser’ with Nikki Fried” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Biden is coming to Florida, virtually, for a fundraiser in late April featuring a virtual fireside chat with Fried. Biden is turning to internet chatting and fundraising, instead of actually noshing, imbibing, and glad-handing with supporters in Florida, due to the coronavirus crisis and social distancing mandates. The Florida fireside chat virtual fundraiser is set for April 29 at a time yet to be announced. Access to the fireside chat will cost $1,000. Logging in as a sponsor or fundraiser co-host requires $2,800 or $15,000, respectively.

VP talk could intensify with Kamala Harris fundraising moves” via Bill Barrow of The Associated Press — Harris made two notable fundraising moves Wednesday that are 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.


Hurricanes, cyber risks and virus imperil Florida vote” via Bobby Caina Calvan of The Associated Press — Elections supervisors from across the state are asking DeSantis for an executive order that would loosen some election rules so local officials can have more flexibility in where they put polling places and when people can vote. With staffing an issue because of continuing worries over the coronavirus outbreak, elections officials say they will be pushing more Floridians to vote by mail, even as they acknowledge that the state is not prepared to conduct upcoming elections entirely through the postal service. In a letter emailed to DeSantis late Tuesday, some Supervisors of Elections asked the governor to allow elections officials to open early voting sooner and to provide more options in selecting polling places. They are also asking for an additional day to send vote-by-mail ballots to those who request them.

Scott Franklin boosts campaign cash in primary challenge against Ross Spano” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Franklin is starting his Republican primary challenge to Spano of Dover with a bang — $266,786 raised in his first two weeks as a candidate, including $160,000 of his own money. Franklin’s first campaign finance report shows fundraising from his March 16 filing until March 31, the end of the first quarter of 2020. None of the other candidates in the race has yet filed for the quarter. Spano, meanwhile, announced the day Franklin filed that he was suspending campaign activity, while criticizing Franklin for filing during the pandemic, and announced last week he’s continuing the suspension. Political insiders say a lack of attention to politics during the pandemic is likely to help incumbents running for reelection.

Scott Franklin bolsters his fundraising against Ross Spano.

FDLE investigation doesn’t faze Clay County voters in Sheriff race, poll says” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Despite a crowded field of challengers, a new poll reveals Clay County voters want to reelect their embattled Sheriff. A survey from St. Pete Polls commissioned by the Darryl Daniels reelection campaign shows the first-term Republican with strong approval numbers. The media release trumpets the top-line: “The poll conducted in mid-March by St. Pete Polls and Slover Consulting show that a strong majority, over 61%, of likely voters, approve of the job that the Sheriff is doing. “When asked who you would vote for, Sheriff Daniels wins by nearly 30 points over his nearest opponent.”


Americans are ready for a comeback. Congress must help unleash it.” via Josh Hawley with The Washington Post — America is experiencing a moment of crisis, but it need not be a period of decline. Americans everywhere are making enormous sacrifices for the sake of their fellow citizens and are ready for a comeback. And Congress must help to unleash it. That is why the next round of coronavirus relief legislation is critical. Congress must get it right. The federal government should cover 80 percent of wages for workers at any U.S. business, up to the national median wage, until this emergency is over. Further, it should offer businesses a bonus for rehiring workers laid off over the past month.


Trump’s reckless attack on voting by mail undermines our democracy” via the Editorial Board of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Trump this week revealed just how out of touch he is about what’s happening in his adopted state of Florida — not to mention his own Republican party — after he railed against voting by mail, calling it “horrible” and “corrupt.” He blasted mail-in voting even though he himself cast a mail-in ballot in the March 17 Florida presidential primary. He also was clueless to the popularity of voting by mail and that the Florida GOP has spent millions in promoting it. Then Trump broke the Republican code. After a Fox & Friends appearance, he tweeted that statewide mail-in voting “doesn’t work out well for Republicans.” In other words, when voting is easy and convenient — as it should be — Democrats win and Republicans lose.

Is DeSantis here to help or hurt the unemployed? He should OK retroactive benefits — now” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Never mind that the state’s online portal for unemployment applications has failed Floridians in their hour, days and weeks of need since the coronavirus pandemic stole their paychecks. Adding to their desperation is a state rule that mandates that applicants’ benefits date to the day they file with the state, not the day that they lost their jobs. DeSantis had said publicly that he supports making unemployment benefits effective from the day applicants lost their jobs, not when they were finally able to file with the state, but an order hasn’t been signed yet.

How DeSantis tripped over his first big bump” via Mac Stipanovich for the Tampa Bay Times — He reacted to events rather than trying to shape them, and those reactions have been judged by his numerous critics to be halfhearted half-measures, too little too late. And his in-person communications to an anxious public have been reasonably frequent but frequently muddled. As a result, Florida’s response to the virus has suffered, as has DeSantis’ standing with voters. Perhaps his high-profile fealty to Trump tied DeSantis’ hands politically. Perhaps his executive branch inexperience accounts in part for his timidity. Perhaps the man we saw in the general election campaign is who he is after all. But as the saying goes, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over, and this pandemic throw-down ain’t over by a long shot.

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 obvious intention to honor.


Gov. DeSantis is presiding over what might best be described as “show and tell” about how the state education establishment is dealing with coronavirus. One thing they did NOT say is when schools will reopen.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— There is another flood of applications at the state unemployment office, but officials say they’re doing a better job getting names into the system.

— Florida set a new logistical record: shipping more masks, gowns, gloves and booties than any other time during the pandemic.

— DeSantis signs a bill reviving VISIT FLORIDA, giving it three more years to prove itself to skeptical lawmakers.

— Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association President and CEO Carol Dover talks about her industry — which is pretty much closed due to coronavirus (unless you’re doing take out).

 — The state’s Public Service Commission is scheduling a special meeting at the end of the month to vote on plans submitted by Florida’s Big 4 energy utilities to refund excessive fuel charges to customers.

 — The USDA releases new estimates on the Florida Citrus crop. Fewer (but larger) oranges are expected.

— Checking in with Florida Man, who could get five years in prison for spitting on a cop.

To listen, click on the image below:



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

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Dr. Andrew Myers, assistant professor of Internal Medicine for Tampa General Hospital/University of South Florida Health; Thomas Mantz, president and CEO of Feeding Tampa Bay, as well as Tampa Bay Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Also, a tribute to the late musician John Prine.

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

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

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with Mark O’Bryant, CEO of Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and Sue Dick, president of the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce. 

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Is preempted by Easter services.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Congresswoman Donna Shalala, Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of the Archdiocese of Miami.


Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida: DeSantis is touting a makeshift hospital being built in the Miami Beach Convention Center. Journalists Zac Anderson and John Kennedy discuss the Governor’s efforts to boost hospital capacity to help meet demand when the coronavirus crisis peaks in Florida, the controversy surrounding an exemption for religious services in Florida’s stay-at-home order and the growing number of coronavirus cases tied to nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the state.

REGULATED from hosts Christian Bax and Tony Glover: REGULATED examines the coronavirus crisis and the resulting mitigation efforts from a legal perspective. Across the country, governments have enacted a patchwork of stay-at-home orders and other regulations that affect commerce, organizations, and individuals. Discussing some of the legal and practical issues is Professor Anthony Kreis, a prolific writer, thought leader, and constitutional law scholar. Kreis is a visiting assistant professor at the Chicago-Kent School of Law. Kreis joined the Chicago-Kent faculty in 2016 from the University of Georgia, where he also completed a Ph.D. in political science and public administration. Kreis earned his law degree from Washington and Lee University School of Law, where he was a classmate of at least one “high profile” podcast host. Follow him on Twitter (@anthonyMkreis) for his timely takes on constitutional law, civil rights, and current events.

— ALOE —

‘Saturday Night Live’ to air show, observe social distancing” via The Associated Press — “Saturday Night Live” will be back on the air this weekend with a show that abides by social distancing rules. The comedy sketch show will include a “Weekend Update” news segment and original content from “SNL” cast members. The material will be produced remotely, the network said, in compliance with efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Part of the pandemic’s fallout was a shutdown of movie and TV production that included “Saturday Night Live.” Its last original episode aired March 7. “Saturday Night Live” suffered a blow this week with the death of veteran producer and music supervisor Hal Willner. He had not been diagnosed with COVID-19, but his symptoms were consistent with those caused by the coronavirus.

“Saturday Night Live” will be back on the air this weekend with a show that abides by social distancing rules. Image via NBC/AP.

Carole and Howard Baskin say ‘Tiger King’ makers betrayed their trust” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — The couple opened their Big Cat Rescue five years ago to filmmakers who they thought were working on a documentary to expose cruelty in the captive tiger trade. The Baskins have worked for years to outlaw the pay-to-play industry, which takes cubs prematurely from their mothers to be passed around to paying customers. The couple sat for interviews for the documentary, thinking the filmmakers were going to focus on their cause. Anyone with a Netflix account knows that’s not what happened.

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 six 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.”


Celebrating today is one of North Florida’s best people, Jeremy Branch, as well as Jose Gonzalez, the director of government and industry relations at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. On the local front, happy birthday to Housh Ghovaee and Chris Krampert. Celebrating this weekend is one of the funniest, most insightful people I know, Chris Carmody of GrayRobinson, as well as Betsy Sullivan Collins, a former legislative aide who is in the Hall of Fame of legislative aides, Amb. Woody JohnsonTom McNicholas, Jared Rosenstein, and the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce’s Chris Steinocher.

Celebrating on Sunday are two of our best friends, Stephanie Lewis Cardozo, external affairs director to Ag. Commissioner Nikki Fried and Fred Piccolo, spokesman to House Speaker José Oliva.


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

Peter Schorsch

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.


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, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Jesse Scheckner, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

Email: [email protected]
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