As Florida hits the peak of the pandemic, President Donald Trump’s voter support is not entering a valley. More of a plateau, in fact.
A new survey from St. Pete Polls shows a near-even split on presidential job approval, 49%-48%, with the balance unsure. On his COVID-19 response exclusively, there was just 1% attrition on the pro-Trump side, for an even score with 4% unsure.
The measure also put POTUS head-to-head with his all-but-certain general election opponent, former VP Joe Biden.
The result is a statistical tie, with just 0.8% of space between them, advantage Biden, and 4.2% of voters unsure which major party septuagenarian they’d pick if the election were now.
St. Pete Polls also measured Gov. Ron DeSantis’ job approval.
No break from tradition here — he remains more popular than the President by several points.
As of Friday, he was in good graces of 53% of voters, while 38% said his performance was lacking. Another 9% were unsure, giving him a plus-15 score overall.
Though a noticeable erosion from his pre-corona popularity — he was up 20-plus in similar polling two months ago — his poll numbers have been uncharacteristically high for the year and change since he took office.
Though not a polled question, the end of exponential growth in cases and deaths is a universal want. The virus’ Florida peak may have already come and gone, according to some public health experts.
If the model is accurate, the April 16-17 poll may well have captured the nadir of gubernatorial support. If so, plus-15 is a low-watermark that no one in the Governor’s mansion will lament.
Matthew Gotha, a former cabinet affairs director for Nikki Fried, died Friday night.
The cause of death has not been released. He was 36 years old.
Gotha began working in politics in his early 20s, serving as a legislative aide for then-Sen. Dave Aronberg and working on the 2006 Attorney General campaign of his uncle, Skip Campbell. In 2014, Gotha served as the campaign manager in Campbell’s successful run for Coral Springs Mayor.
Gotha then went on to serve as Chief of Staff for Broward County Commissioner Mark Bogen, including during Bogen’s stint as County Mayor.
Following news of Gotha’s death, remembrances flowed in from across the South Florida political sphere. All remembered a man who united all those around him in support of a common goal.
Former Sen. Joe Abruzzo said Gotha’s “passion for government was contagious.” Rep. Dan Daley recalled his “magnetic” personality, which allowed him to turn acquaintances into friends quickly. Rep. Chip LaMarca echoed them from across the aisle. South Florida consultant Evan Ross, who worked with him on Fried’s campaign, remembered him as “brash, blunt, passionate, and fiercely loyal.”
To Fried, Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat, Gotha was more than an early believer or loyal staffer — he was family.
“Matt Gotha walked into my life and changed it forever,” she said.
“We are all living through extraordinary times, and I hope that Matt’s memory inspires us all to love one another, support each other, and be present for those we love. Matt was the soul of Team Nikki, and he, his mother, and his family will be forever in our hearts.”
— EXECUTIVE SUMMARY —
— The European Center for Disease Control says the continent now has more than 1 million confirmed cases and almost 100,000 deaths from the new coronavirus. Read more here.
— South Korea reported just eight more cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, the first time a daily increase has dropped to single digits in about two months. Read more here.
— In New York, the daily toll of coronavirus deaths has hit its lowest point in more than two weeks. Read more here.
— Pressure continues to grow on governments to loosen restrictions ease the economic pain of lockdowns. Read more here.
— The Trump administration and Congress are negotiating an aid package to replenish a loan program for small businesses that ran out of money. Read more here.
— TOP STORIES —
“Sunlight destroys virus quickly, new govt. tests find, but experts say pandemic could last through summer” via Jana Winter and Sharon Weinberger of Yahoo News — Preliminary results from government lab experiments show that the coronavirus does not survive long in high temperatures and high humidity, and is quickly destroyed by sunlight, providing evidence from controlled tests of what scientists believed — but had not yet proved — to be true. A briefing on the preliminary results, marked for official use only and obtained by Yahoo News, offers hope that summertime may offer conditions less hospitable for the virus. However, experts caution it will by no means eliminate, or even necessarily decrease, new cases of COVID-19.
“Florida’s coronavirus peak already passed, death count lower, model now says” via David Harris and Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — When released March 31, data touted by the Trump administration painted a bleak picture for Florida: Nearly 7,000 deaths, not enough ICU beds and a peak that didn’t come until May. But now the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation out of the University of Washington predicts a much lesser toll. Released Friday, it projects the state will see between 775 and 3,430 deaths by May 29 with a median projected death toll of 1,363. The same data projects 60,308 deaths nationwide, significantly lower than the original estimate, which was between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths. The models now assume current social distancing measures in place continue until infections are minimized, and containment is implemented.
“Gov. Ron DeSantis orders schools closed rest of academic year” via Kelli Kennedy of The Associated Press — DeSantis said Saturday that schools would remain closed for rest of the academic year, calling it a fairly easy decision since the prospect of reopening for just a few weeks in May offered little educational benefit. DeSantis, a Republican, said he understands the social impacts of kids not being able to see friends. He said he plans to ease some restrictions in the next phase so that “kids will have a little bit more to be able to do,” but he didn’t elaborate on what that would look like or when it might happen.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@BrianStelter: >> @‘s intro to @ : “Today marks 50 days, 50 days since the first coronavirus death in the United States, a day on which the vice president of the United States told me — quote — ‘We’re ready.’ It is now devastatingly clear we were not ready.”
—@MattZeitlin: This idea that New York was always going to be hammered by coronavirus because of its essential new yorkness is the same logic that’s responsible for our leadership’s unwillingness to learn from any other large, dense city *including on how to handle coronavirus*
—@MayorGimenez: I’ve seen a lot of buzz on social media from people who think beaches in Miami-Dade County are opening up. This is not the case. Although we’re consulting with medical experts on the future opening of public spaces, there is currently no timeline for opening beaches.
—@JoeSampsonFL: Know we’re an easy target but agree or disagree with reopening, I don’t understand why Jax is the story here. Where has the national/international media been on the other Florida beaches (Daytona, Melbourne, Cedar Key, etc.) that never closed at all?
—@DeFede: As expected, the first email I received on ICE needing to do more to prevent the spread of COVID in detention centers, is from someone whose position appears to be that if a detainee dies in ICE custody, it’s their own fault for coming here. And yes he misspelled border
—@Fineout: As this crisis has unfolded, lots of journalists have been working long & hard to produce important stories in Fla. As someone who aggregates it daily, we all need to be mindful of professional courtesy & that means acknowledging the work of others … This doesn’t just apply to the large national news organizations, but to everyone — including the metro dailies, other digital sites, etc. If someone had it first, it doesn’t hurt to just note it. Everyone is better informed if important info is spread as far as it can go … No news organization, no reporter can get it all … just give all the information a reader needs regardless of whether you were the first source or not. (I promise to try to live to this as well.)
—@BSFarrington: Ironically, I’m a reporter, but I’m finding it hard to watch/read the news once I’m off the clock. It’s so constant and depressing, and sometimes I just need to pause, breathe and look at a plant. Or listen to a song. Or just sit in silence. Thanks for listening.
—@SaraSneath: Every fish tested in the Gulf of Mexico has some trace of oil in it. Dolphins living in Barataria Bay have high rates of chronic lung disease and lower birthrates. And the coastal wetlands nearest the spill site may never fully recover.
— DAYS UNTIL —
NFL Draft — 3; New estimated peak for COVID-19 in Florida — 13; Pulitzer Prizes announced — 14; The next supermoon — 17; Gov. DeSantis’ executive order closing bars and restaurants expires — 18; Mother’s Day — 20; TNT’s adaptation of “Snowpiercer” premieres — 27; NASCAR season resumes — 34; English Premier League soccer to restart — 49; PGA Tour resumes — 52; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 53; Federal taxes due — 86; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 88; “Mulan” premieres — 95; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 119; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 123; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 126; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 137; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 138; Rescheduled date for French Open — 153; First presidential debate in Indiana — 162; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 170; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 178; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 179; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 185; 2020 General Election — 197; “Black Widow” premieres — 200; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 211; “No Time to Die” premieres — 219; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 247; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 459; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 466; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 564; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 669
— CORONA NATION —
If you read one thing — “The coronavirus in America: The year ahead” via Donald McNeil of The New York Times — It is not clear to anyone where this crisis is leading us. More than 20 experts in public health, medicine, epidemiology, and history shared their thoughts on the future during in-depth interviews. Some felt that American ingenuity, once fully engaged, might well produce advances to ease the burdens. The path forward depends on factors that are certainly difficult but doable, they said: a carefully staggered approach to reopening, widespread testing and surveillance, a treatment that works, adequate resources for health care providers — and eventually an effective vaccine. Still, it was impossible to avoid gloomy forecasts for the next year. The scenario that Trump has been unrolling — that the lockdowns will end soon, that a protective pill is almost at hand, that football stadiums and restaurants will soon be full — is a fantasy, most experts said.
“Congress, Donald Trump administration close to deal on new aid package” via Nolan D. McCaskill, Burgess Everett and Rishika Dugyala of POLITICO — Congress and the administration are quickly nearing a deal on more than $400 billion in emergency funding for small businesses hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. A deal could be announced as early as Sunday or Monday. On a conference call with Trump and Republican Senators on Sunday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Republicans that the only portion of the package not agreed upon focused on coronavirus testing. McConnell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also said the money for state and local government funding, as well as food stamp aide requested by Democrats, would not be included in the deal.
“Trump team pledges adequate testing to reopen, despite reports of shortages” via Brianna Ehley of POLITICO — Vice President Mike Pence said the U.S. has enough coronavirus testing capacity to reopen the country, even as states say they are struggling to keep up with demand. Trump told reporters that the U.S. had run 3.78 million tests so far, “more than any other country.” He touted the administration’s efforts to dramatically ramp up testing after an initial rocky rollout in the first months of the coronavirus outbreak. Many states have been forced to ration tests by giving priority to those who are hospitalized and populations, like the elderly, at high risk.
“No plan in sight: Test troubles cloud Trump recovery effort” via Matthew Perrone and Michelle R. Smith of The Associated Press — The United States is struggling to test enough people to track and control the spread of the novel coronavirus, a crucial first step to reopening parts of the economy, which Trump is pushing to do by May 1. Trump released a plan to ease business restrictions that hinges on a downward trajectory of positive tests. Trump’s plan envisions setting up “sentinel surveillance sites” that would screen people without symptoms in locations that serve older people or minority populations. Experts say testing would have to increase as much as threefold to be effective. The plan pushes responsibility for testing onto states.
“Trump’s $19 billion relief package for farms hurt by coronavirus includes payments for farmers” via Courtney Subramanian and John Fritze of the USA Today — Trump announced a new $19 billion relief package to assist American farmers who have been financially hurt by the coronavirus outbreak. The aid package includes a mass government purchase of $3 billion in dairy, produce, and meat products and $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers to bolster their income. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said while the aid program is not enough to address farmers’ losses, the Agriculture Department will receive an additional $14 billion boost to help them recoup economic losses in July.
“‘Nothing to worry about’ and ‘it’s being contained’: How Trump officials downplayed the coronavirus” via Andrew Kaczynski, Em Steck and Nathan McDermott of CNN Politics — A day after the White House requested $1.25 billion in emergency funding to address the growing worldwide coronavirus crisis, Larry Kudlow, the President’s chief economic adviser, said publicly on February 25, was “contained.” That day the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost almost 900 points, marking a total loss of about 2,267 over four days. The U.S. already had 53 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and the CDC warned there would be “community spread” within the country. However, the number could have been much higher, as testing for the virus was severely limited.
“Scores of NYC workers have died on the front lines of the coronavirus fight” via Sally Goldenberg and Danielle Muoio of POLITICO — At least 138 municipal workers have succumbed to the highly-contagious virus. The tally, which rose by the hour, provides a glimpse into the toll the illness has taken on some of the lowest-paid employees whose jobs demand their presence at a time when most New Yorkers have retreated to their homes. The tally of workers who have fallen to the virus includes 27 in the police department, seven in the Department of Correction, one sanitation worker, and five members of the fire department.
“Hundreds of nursing homes with cases of coronavirus have violated federal infection-control rules in recent years” via Debbie Cenziper, Joel Jacobs and Shawn Mulcahy of The Washington Post — Forty percent of more than 650 nursing homes nationwide with publicly reported cases of the coronavirus have been cited more than once by inspectors in recent years for violating federal standards meant to control the spread of infections. Since 2016, the nursing homes accrued hundreds of deficiencies for unsafe conditions that can trigger the spread of flu, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and skin diseases. Dozens were flagged by inspectors only months before the coronavirus pandemic struck the United States.
“With no school, calls drop, but child abuse hasn’t amid virus” via Amy Beth Hanson of The Associated Press — With schools closed and teachers unable to report suspected cases of abuse and neglect, child welfare agencies have lost some of their best eyes and ears during a stressful time for families who have lost jobs and are locked down together during the coronavirus pandemic. States are reporting fewer calls to child abuse hotlines, not because officials believe there are fewer cases but because they’re going unreported. Agencies are now asking others to fill in the reporting gaps that have emerged with school closures. Calls are increasing to domestic violence hotlines, an indication that some children may be trapped in unsafe homes.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“With reopening on the table, Gov. DeSantis and President Donald Trump align again” via John Kennedy of USA TODAY — As he often does at daily coronavirus briefings, DeSantis ticked off a list of supplies being deployed across Florida. One million N95 masks; 100,000 face shields; 500,000 gloves; 35,000 hospital gowns; even 60,000 containers of hand sanitizer. But in the opening 90 seconds of his Tuesday briefing, another number also emerged. DeSantis mentioned Trump’s White House four times — all favorably. Florida’s Governor, whose victory in 2018 was largely powered by Trump tweets and campaign cash from the president’s allies, has emerged as one of the beleaguered White House’s biggest promoters throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Now, with Trump ready to launch a phased-in reopening of the nation’s economy, there is little doubt DeSantis is ready to embrace that message. According to DeSantis, the pair talk almost daily.
Assignment editors — DeSantis’ Re-Open Florida Task Force will hold an organizational and informational meeting via conference call, 2 p.m., call-in number: 1-888-585-9008, access code: 508-806-165
“If hospitals get overwhelmed, Florida is silent on who survives” via Steve Contorno and Allison Ross of the Tampa Bay Times — Who lives, and who dies, if coronavirus patients overwhelm hospitals and force doctors to ration beds, ventilators and care? It’s a distressing but vital question to ask during a pandemic. In Florida, however, it’s one health officials wouldn’t answer. State officials have punted this ethical dilemma to health care providers, who, in response, have filled the void with a patchwork of protocols as Florida nears its peak period of hospitalizations for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Experts say standardized, ethical guidelines for rationing care is crucial in a crisis when medical supplies are scarce. Without them, patients could be discriminated against or receive unequal care, and it opens the door to legal liability for health care providers.
“Spike in pneumonia deaths in Florida shows an earlier, deadlier arrival of coronavirus, experts say” via Aric Chokey and Mario Ariza of the Orlando Sentinel — It was midway through March and Florida’s peak flu season was winding down. Then a steep, sudden and alarming spike in pneumonia-related deaths appeared — signaling the arrival of a killer: the new coronavirus. Experts say the grim spike likely included coronavirus deaths recorded, instead, as pneumonia. And the timing could mean the virus was already spreading unchecked through Florida communities as early as late February, weeks before the state began taking social-distancing measures.
“PolitiFact Florida: DeSantis said obesity is a top risk factor in COVID-19 hospitalizations. Is it?” via Amy Sherman of The Tampa Bay Times —DeSantis said he understands why there were recommendations to close gyms due to the spread of germs. But he expressed concern people may not be getting enough physical activity. “The No. 1 group of people who have been susceptible to COVID-19 if you look in New York and some of these other (places), obesity is, like, the No. 1 factor in whether you really get hit hard,” he said.Overwhelming research shows age as the leading risk factor in the severity of the disease, however early research also shows obesity is a risk factor in hospitalizations.
“In much of North Florida, COVID-19 outbreak is nursing home crisis” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Throughout much of North Florida, the coronavirus crisis has mostly been a nursing home and rehabilitation center emergency, with at least a third of COVID-19 cases and deaths traced to long-term care facilities in seven counties. In Jefferson County, an outbreak at the Cross Landings Health and Rehabilitation Center in Monticello appears to have sickened 19 people and killed one, representing more than two-thirds of that county’s cases. In several other North Florida counties, Escambia, Okaloosa, Levy, and Madison, officials about one in five COVID-19 cases reported have been attributed to long-term care facilities.
“Coronavirus pandemic spurs battles over money, power and safety in Florida nursing homes” via Melanie Payne and Ryan Mills of the Fort Myers News-Press — Nursing homes are demanding more protection from the state for their vulnerable populations. The powerful nursing home trade associations are seeking protection for their members from financial losses they could incur as a result of the pandemic. After weeks of refusing to disclose the names of facilities that had coronavirus infections, drawing the ire of advocates for seniors, DeSantis ordered the release of the names. Of the 686 deaths reported by the Department of Health, 141, or 20%, were associated with long-term care facilities.
“Amid rebukes over secrecy, Florida prison system begins to reveal ravages of coronavirus” via Samantha J. Gross and Ben Canarck of the Miami Herald — The Florida Department of Corrections acknowledged that more than 4,500 inmates are being isolated in one way or another as COVID-19, the highly infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has spread throughout the third-largest prison system in the country. Forty-five inmates and 71 staff members had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the FDC. Four inmates had died, all of whom had been incarcerated at Blackwater River Correctional Facility, a compound near Pensacola run under contract by the Geo Group. The new data was made public amid a growing chorus of criticism by a handful of lawmakers, including state Sen. Jeff Brandes.
“Inmate COVID-19 cases soar at Tomoka, Sumter” via News Service of Florida — The number of Florida inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19 jumped to 113 on Sunday, more than doubling the tally of infections among prisoners over three days, according to figures released by the Florida Department of Corrections. Along with the 113 inmates, 80 corrections workers had tested positive for COVID-19. Four inmates had also died, all of whom had been incarcerated at Blackwater River Correctional Facility. At Tomoka Correctional Institution, 47 inmates had tested positive for the disease as of Sunday, a jump from seven cases reported by corrections officials on Friday. Meanwhile, Sumter Correctional Institution saw the number of cases among prisoners increase from three on Friday to 24 on Sunday, corrections officials said.
“Youths at juvenile facility positive for COVID-19” via the News Service of Florida — The four cases at the Miami Youth Academy are the first confirmed COVID-19 cases involving youths in Florida’s juvenile justice system. The department also announced that 10 employees at six juvenile facilities have tested positive, including two workers at the Miami Youth Academy. Four workers have tested positive at the Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center, while the Palm Beach Regional Juvenile Detention Center, the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center, the Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center and the Broward Youth Treatment Center have each had one infected worker.
“Florida students will suffer learning losses this spring, educators say” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Since schools turned to remote instruction as a way to stall the spread of coronavirus, many experts have spoken at length about access and equity for students, and how it will impact children. The “summer slide” is a common problem in education. But researchers worry this year’s learning losses could be much worse. Miami-Dade County Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has become a national leader in the push to prepare for a very different learning environment in the summer and fall. It’s work that should have already begun, he argued. At some schools in his district, more than a quarter of students have not logged in to their assignments. “If you don’t begin to plan right now, in my opinion, you are actually contributing to it,” Carvalho said.
“Florida lent laptops to thousands of students. Do they know how to use them?” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — Schools spent a fortune on laptop computers in the early weeks of the COVID-19 shutdown, hoping to level the playing field for home learning. But teachers say the strategy has revealed something surprising: Students of all ages, including those in elite high school programs, are struggling with simple tasks like uploading a photo or creating a Word document. These gaps had gone largely undiagnosed in many of their classrooms. “What I am experiencing with my students is a strange unfamiliarity with the technology we all thought they were so proficient with,” said Nancy Velardi, an English teacher at Pinellas Park High School.
“Packed Florida beach offers glimpse of what may come when outdoor spaces are reopened” via Adriana Brasileiro and Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — In a scene that may repeat itself across Florida as the state takes the first steps toward a return to normal life, cheering crowds flocked to beaches in the Jacksonville area on Friday and Saturday, as they reopened for “essential activities” but still under social-distancing restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The “essential activities” permitted at Jacksonville Beach include “recreational activities consistent with social distancing guidelines such as walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming, taking care of pets and surfing” … “Folks, this could be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life, but please respect and follow these limitations,” said the Jacksonville mayor, Lenny Curry. “We’ll get back to life as we know it, but we must be patient.”
“#FloridaMorons trends after people flock to reopened Florida beaches” via Meryl Kornfield and Samantha Pell of The Washington Post — Aerial snapshots of people flocking to a reopened beach in Jacksonville made waves on the Internet on Saturday. Local news aired photos and videos of Florida’s shoreline dotted with people, closer than six feet apart, spurring #FloridaMorons to trend on Twitter after Gov. DeSantis gave the go-ahead for local beachfront governments to decide whether to reopen their beaches during a news briefing Friday. On the same day that Florida reported 58 deaths from the coronavirus — its highest daily toll since the pandemic began — DeSantis told reporters that it’s essential that Floridians get exercise outdoors. While DeSantis never ordered statewide closures of beaches, his comment Friday gave the green light to local officials such as Curry.
“DeSantis: Crowds impacted, but NASA’s May launch of astronauts is ‘critical’” via Emre Kelly of Florida Today — DeSantis on Saturday said NASA’s selection of next month for the first crewed mission in nearly a decade is critical. However, he cautioned that crowds might be impacted due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. “I think that NASA’s mission is absolutely essential to this county and our state,” DeSantis said. “The reports I’ve been getting were that even though this has been a real major shock to the economy, a lot on the Space Coast has been going very well.” If schedules hold, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch a Crew Dragon capsule with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station on May 27.
“Despite coronavirus, NASA and SpaceX aim to launch astronauts from KSC in May” via Emre Kelly, Rick Neale and Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon of Florida Today — Despite the continuing threat of the coronavirus pandemic, NASA said it plans to launch astronauts from Kennedy Space Center next month, the first time it’s done so in nearly a decade. If schedules hold, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch from Kennedy Space Center at 4:32 p.m. with astronauts Behnken and Hurley on a trip to the International Space Station. A high-profile mission like this would be prone to delays caused by any number of technical or scheduling issues.
“Maker of N95 masks says it’s targeting Florida’s fraudsters and profiteers” Mary Ellen Klas and Ben Weider of the Tampa Bay Times — The company that makes the coveted N95 masks needed by health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic has taken notice of the frenzied scramble by unconventional companies to become suppliers of the masks in Florida. The company filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Orlando this week against Orlando-based Geftico, LLC, which it says fraudulently claimed it had access to 3M masks and attempted to sell them to the federal stockpile at 500% above the average list prices.
Assignment editors — U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, former secretary of Health and Human Services, state Sen. Lori Berman, vice-chair of the Committee on Health Policy, Dr. Brent Schillinger, past president of Palm Beach County Medical Society, and Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo will host a video conference to urge Trump and DeSantis to ensure that the health crisis is under control before reopening the economy, 9:30 a.m. Register at zoom.us/webinar/register.
Happening today — Rep. Javier Fernandez and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava will host a virtual information session on COVID-19, presented by the LGBTQ-advocacy group SAVE, 2 p.m. Register at zoom.us/webinar/register.
Happening today — Sen. Linda Stewart and Rep. Amy Mercado will hold a virtual meeting about a COVID-19 hot spot and provide information on food assistance, 4 p.m. Register at zoom.us/.
“Trump’s Mar-a-Lago furloughs all 153 ‘nonessential’ employees during coronavirus pandemic” via Shannon Donnelly of USA TODAY — Two of the Trump Organization’s properties in South Florida – the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach and Trump Doral in Miami – furloughed all “nonessential” staff, a total of 713 people. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, 153 people will be furloughed, according to a WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) letter sent to Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity. The furloughed workers include both indoor and outdoor staff and range from dishwashers to tennis pros to executive assistants. At Trump National Doral in Miami-Dade, 560 workers were furloughed. Both furloughs are temporary, although when workers will be called back remains unknown.
“Miami-Dade beaches won’t be reopening soon. Next up: return to parks, golf and boats” via Douglas Hanks and Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez is closing in on a plan to allow parks, marinas and golf courses to reopen, but beaches will have to wait. Three local mayors said earlier Sunday that Gimenez told them beaches wouldn’t be part of a pending plan to end closures of parks and other recreational facilities under a new set of restrictions aimed at reducing close contact by people. Beaches are “probably going to be the last thing that’s reopened with regard to open spaces,” Key Biscayne Mayor Mike Davey said.
“Miami residents amassed in hundreds for David Guetta’s online concert. Cops weren’t happy” via Devoun Cetoute and Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — Miami residents can’t resist going outside during the coronavirus pandemic when EDM is blasting. As David Guetta livestreamed a two-hour show to raise money for coronavirus relief, over a hundred people amassed on the streets. Miami police weren’t having it. On Saturday, the producer and DJ, in partnership with the Miami Downtown Development Authority, played a two-hour concert streamed across the world to raise money for four nonprofit groups, including Feeding South Florida, which will fund more than one million meals in the area. The concert drew in about 6.2 million people watching on Facebook. But watching the concert from the safety of your own home wasn’t enough for more than 200 people who crowded together on the streets near One Miami Condo.
“26-year-old man becomes first Miami-Dade homeless coronavirus death, Homeless Trust says” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — As Miami-Dade nears 200 novel coronavirus deaths, a 26-year-old man has become the county’s first homeless person to succumb to the illness, reported the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust. The man was a resident at the Chapman South Homeless Assistance Center in Homestead. The trust said the man, who it did not identify, visited Chapman’s health clinic on Friday with a fever. He was immediately taken to Jackson South, where he passed away a few hours later. “We are devastated and crushed. I am so proud of the work we are doing, which makes this news incredibly difficult to swallow,” Ron Book, chair of the Homeless Trust, said in a statement.
“Miami’s Jackson Health System faces another threat: Headhunters trying to poach its staff” via Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — In between the crush of intense shifts as a respiratory therapist at Miami’s public hospital, Micheline Plantada said she often checks her phone to find several missed calls and texts from staffing agencies seeking to lure her away from Miami. Though Jackson Health System has yet to be inundated with COVID-19 patients like hospitals in the New York City metro area and elsewhere, Jackson officials say they don’t feel they’re out of the woods yet. But staffing agencies have mounted attempts to poach the public hospital’s most crucial workers. Plantada, who helps manage ventilators for critically ill COVID-19 patients, said the offers — as high as $7,000 per week plus room and board — are both aggressive and enticing.
“Miami prosecutors stop firm’s sale of coronavirus ‘cure,’ calling it a fraud scheme” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — U.S. prosecutors in Miami halted the sale of a potentially dangerous drug that claims to cure respiratory disease, COVID-19, in the first federal enforcement action since the pandemic hit South Florida last month. The temporary injunction, signed by U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams Friday, was filed as a complaint accusing Genesis II Church of Health and Healing and its principals of selling and distributing an illegal product called Miracle Mineral Solution that claims it will cure COVID-19 and other diseases. The complaint named the Genesis “church” — actually a Florida-based company that sells the MMS product through its website — as a defendant, along with its four principals, Mark Grenon, Joseph Grenon, Jordan Grenon, and Jonathan Grenon.
“Public defender reports alarming coronavirus issues in Broward County Jail” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward County Jail inmates diagnosed with COVID-19 are reporting alarming conditions, according to the county Public Defender’s Office. Among the allegations are a lack of testing, and jail guards are “ignoring inmates for fear of being exposed to the virus.” The issues were raised in a letter dated Friday night to Sheriff Greg Tony from Public Defender Howard Finkelstein and his chief assistant, Gordon Weekes. Given that there is “uncontroverted medical opinion that jails are incubators for COVID-19 because of the inability to socially isolate and provide adequate opportunity for hand-washing,” they demanded that Tony arrange for testing for every jail employee and inmate.
“Baptist Health developed its own coronavirus lab test. The feds just approved it.” via Ben Conarck and Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — Baptist Health South Florida has received emergency approval from federal regulators to begin using a test it developed on its own for the novel coronavirus, one of a dozen hospital labs across the country to receive the clearance. The test has a turnaround time of 24 hours or less. It is not considered rapid or particularly high volume, carrying the ability to test 40 to 80 samples a day. The development is significant for Miami’s biggest not-for-profit hospital system, allowing it to reduce its reliance on off-site private labs that can take several days to return results, even for extremely sick patients.
“South Florida company steps up big with COVID-19 antibody test” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Disaster Management Group launched its 15-minute COVID-19 antibody test last week. The DMGtest is a serological test that detects antibodies in the blood to determine if the body has been exposed to COVID-19, whether or not the candidate ever experienced symptoms. The DMG test received an FDA waiver after meeting accuracy guidelines and is expecting full FDA approval soon. These rapid antibody tests are more cost-effective, and the results are quicker than current COVID-19 diagnostic testing techniques, which detect the DNA of the virus in the body.
“First, a hurricane, then an algae bloom. Now, Keys fishermen try to weather a pandemic” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — With restaurants mostly closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, most other Keys commercial anglers are calling it an early season, which is scheduled to end May 10. Still recovering from Hurricane Irma in September 2017, when the spiny lobster industry lost more than 150,000 traps, the red tide algae bloom of 2018-19, and a trade war with China that saw a drop in lobster prices last season, Keys commercial fishermen now face the severe economic fallout from the pandemic. The federal government is offering $300 million to the industry, but that is against the $9.5 billion the CARES Act allocates to the agriculture and livestock industry.
“‘I have to get rid of this cough’ — how one Gardens woman bucked the deadly virus” via Wayne Washington of The Palm Beach Post — The overwhelming majority of people who get COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus, survive. Lonnie Martens, a 59-year old retired attorney who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, is one of those survivors. Martens does not know how she contracted the virus. “I really have no idea,” she said. “That’s the scary part.” After a cough that just wouldn’t go away on March 30, she got a call from MedExpress. She was positive for coronavirus. Oddly enough, the day she got her test results was the day the symptoms went away. Lonnie said some divine intervention gave her a lift.
— MORE LOCAL —
“Hillsborough superintendent appoints transition team” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — A committee of educators, former educators and community leaders from three counties will form a transition team to help Addison Davis, the new superintendent of Hillsborough County Schools, make key decisions in running the nation’s seventh-largest school district. The committee will investigate everything from the Achievement Schools initiative for chronically low-performing schools to Hillsborough’s extensive menu of choice and magnet programs. They will consider student test scores, school morale, efficiency, and lack of efficiency as they seek to help a new superintendent, the first outsider hired in a half-century, establish priorities and effect change.
“Pinellas nursing home outbreak: 39 residents and 19 employees of Freedom Square test positive so far” via Kavitha Surana of the Tampa Bay Times — A retirement community rocked by a massive outbreak of coronavirus infections released updated numbers of infections Sunday. So far, 39 patients and residents and 19 employees of Freedom Square of Seminole have tested positive for the virus, Executive Director Michael Mason said in a statement. Three patients have died. More testing is expected in the coming days, Mason said. So far, 124 residents and patients and 136 employees have been tested for the virus. Of the residents and patients, 56 tested negative and 29 test results are pending. Twenty-four employee have tested negative, and 93 tests are pending. Freedom Square operates a sprawling campus that includes memory care, assisted living, nursing and rehab and independent living facilities. There are about 700 residents.
“Low-income families could see rents go up during the crisis” via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — The letter came April 1, the very day DeSantis announced he was shutting down the state of Florida. Rent was going up for Jason and Catherine Zoubek, the letter said. They are tenants of FairView Cove, an apartment complex in east Tampa managed by the affordable housing company Concord Management. Tenants all over Florida in income-restricted units controlled by Concord Management got a customized version of the same letter and faced the same fate. The letter pointed out that residents had been notified of the rent increase since last fall and reminded them they had federal stimulus money on the way. None of that lessened the blow for Jason Zoubek, who emailed Hillsborough County commissioners the next day.
“Tampa Bay Times gets federal loan to help with revenue losses caused by pandemic” via the Tampa Bay Times — The Tampa Bay Times and its related companies received a loan of $8.5 million under the federal government’s program to support businesses harmed by the coronavirus pandemic. For the first eight weeks after a loan is made, the government will forgive repayment of expenses for payroll, plus some rent, utilities and mortgage interest. The crisis hit local businesses hard, and advertising revenues at the Times have fallen by 50%. In response, the company reduced newspaper printing and delivery to Wednesday and Sunday and furloughed dozens of employees, mostly in production, delivery and sales. Even so, the company has said, the expenses saved by those changes will cover only half the sharp decline in advertising revenue.
“Orlando senior-care facility says it doesn’t belong on the state list of coronavirus cases” via Lisa Maria Garza of the Orlando Sentinel — An Orlando long-term care facility is trying to get its name removed from a list released by the state Department of Health of facilities where patients, residents or staff have tested positive for the coronavirus. Twenty-six long-term care facilities in Central Florida are among 303 in the state with positive cases, according to the list released under orders from DeSantis. Encore at Avalon Park, an assisted living and memory care facility, is included in the list but does not currently have any COVID-19 cases. The state did specify how many cases were at each nursing home and assisted-living facility, nor whether the victims are staff or residents.
“Leon County Schools partnering with 4R to distribute meals to families” via Casey Chapter of the Tallahassee Democrat — Leon County Schools has partnered with 4Roots and 4R Restaurant Group, of 4 Rivers Smokehouse fame, to supplement the district’s current free meals food program while schools are shuttered during the coronavirus. The Feed the Need Florida program, which is sponsored by 4R Restaurant Group, launched in Orange County in March. The meals provided will include two breakfasts and two lunches on Mondays and Wednesdays, and three breakfasts and lunches on Fridays for families to take home during the weekends. The Feed the Need program provides food not only to students but also to their families, hoping to fight food insecurity among the community.
“Clay County long-term care concerns continue” via Clayton Freeman of The Florida Times-Union — Coronavirus concerns continued to grow for Clay County long-term care facilities after Sunday morning’s report of the Florida Department of Health, listing two more deaths in locations in the county. The department listed the deaths of a 75-year-old man and a 77-year-old woman, neither of which had recently traveled outside the area. Both were listed among Clay County’s long-term care deaths. In all, six of the 11 deaths in the county are connected with long-term care. The department has now recorded 93 long-term care cases in Clay County; a total surpassed only by Miami-Dade (340), Broward (170), Palm Beach (145), Manatee (112) and Pinellas (108). Manatee County, which includes Sarasota, increased sharply from 68 confirmed cases to 112 within 18 hours.
“Citing hellish conditions, COVID-19 cases, Florida suspends 2 nursing home administrators” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — Cross Landings Health Care & Rehabilitation Center in Monticello, a town near Tallahassee, is the focus of emergency suspension orders on Mark Daniels’ and Sebrina Cameron’s nursing home administrator licenses. The suspension orders, one for each administrator, said Daniels’ and Cameron’s “antagonistic relationship with the team members that were sent to try to assist and Cross Landings’ staff and repeated failure to enact or enforce reasonable safety measures are more than mere mistakes, but rise to the level of negligence and incompetence.”
“What’s the good word? Cards are flowing to shut-in Space Coast seniors” via Britt Kennerly of Florida Today — Amid a global pandemic that’s left people of all ages shut off from normal activities, a kind greeting or gesture from a friend or even a stranger takes on greater meaning. Such words and actions are flowing through social media — and locally, in a salute to pre-FaceTime and Zoom days, through in-your-hands cards and letters, too. An online invitation to share good vibes with area shut-in seniors resulted in a landslide of messages set for delivery, with the bulk of more than 300 missives going out this week to seniors in assisted living, memory care units and other senior residences across Brevard County.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Record government and corporate debt risks ‘tipping point’ after pandemic passes” via David J. Lynch of The Washington Post — The United States is embarking on a rapid-fire experiment in borrowing without precedent, as the government and corporations take on trillions of dollars of debt to offset the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic. The federal government is on its way this year to spending nearly $4 trillion more than it collects in revenue, analysts say, a budget deficit roughly twice as large relative to the economy as in any year since 1945. Business borrowing also is setting records. Giant corporations such as ExxonMobil and Walgreens, which binged on debt over the past decade, now are exhausting their credit lines and tapping bondholders for even more cash.
“First, the coronavirus pandemic took their jobs. Then, it wiped out their health insurance.” via Amy Goldstein of The Washington Post — No one has a count of exactly how many people have lost their health plans, but there are clues. About 22 million workers have filed unemployment claims since mid-March and that includes only the people who have gotten through to clogged state workforce offices. The Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, estimates that 9.2 million U.S. residents were at high risk of having lost coverage during the past four weeks. Another firm forecasts that perhaps 12 million to 35 million people will lose job-based insurance because of the pandemic, on top of the 27.5 million who were uninsured before the virus arrived.
“Walmart to require all employees wear face masks as part of coronavirus response” via Kelly Tyko of the USA Today — Walmart and Sam’s Club will require all employees to wear masks or other face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Shoppers also will be encouraged to wear face masks as part of the retailers’ updated COVID-19 response. The employee policy is for U.S. stores, clubs, distribution and fulfillment centers, and corporate offices. Employees can bring their own masks if they meet specific guidelines, or the retailers say they will provide them after employees pass the daily health screens and temperature checks, which were first announced on March 31.
“Ruth’s Chris steakhouse gets $20 million from coronavirus aid program” via Charity L. Scott — The owner of the high-end Ruth’s Chris Steak House chain is among the first public companies to disclose it has received a government-backed loan to keep people on its payroll. Many small-business owners are still waiting for their banks to process an application or hear back about whether they qualify or will receive financial assistance from the PPP fund. Banks say only small portions of approved loans have been disbursed to businesses. The Treasury Department and lawmakers, citing strong demand, have discussed adding $250 billion in funding to the program, although the legislation has been caught in a partisan fight. The program stopped accepting new applications on April 16 as its funds were exhausted.
“Shake Shack to return $10 million government loan intended for small businesses” via Allyson Chiu of The Washington Post — Shake Shack is returning all $10 million it received from a federal loan program intended to help small businesses amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the popular burger chain announced in a statement late Sunday. “Our people would benefit from a $10 million loan but we’re fortunate to now have access to capital that others do not,” the company’s executives, Danny Meyer and Randy Garutti, wrote in a letter shared on LinkedIn. “Until every restaurant that needs it has had the same opportunity to receive assistance, we’re returning ours.”
“More airlines banish the dreaded middle seat” via Chris Woodyard of the USA Today — More airlines are temporarily banishing one of the most dreaded aspects of modern air travel: being assigned a middle seat. In good times, leaving a third of the plane’s seats unfilled would be considered financial suicide for airlines. But with few people flying and the need to space out those who are, now it’s deemed a necessary public-health move. Delta, Alaska and Spirit are among the air carriers that say they’ve temporarily abolished booking middle seats.
“‘Cartels are scrambling’: Virus snarls global drug trade” via Jim Mustian and Jake Bleiberg of The Associated Press — Coronavirus is dealing a gut punch to the illegal drug trade, paralyzing economies, closing borders and severing supply chains in China that traffickers rely on for the chemicals to make such profitable drugs as methamphetamine and fentanyl. One of the main suppliers that shut down is in Wuhan, the epicenter of the global outbreak. Virtually every illicit drug has been impacted, with supply chain disruptions at both the wholesale and retail levels. Traffickers are stockpiling narcotics and cash along the border, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration even reports a decrease in money laundering and online drug sales on the so-called dark web.
— MORE CORONA —
“‘Biological Chernobyl’: How China’s secrecy fueled coronavirus suspicions” via Quint Forgey, Daniel Lippman, Natasha Bertrand and Lauren Morello of POLITICO — Trump’s allies have seized upon an alternate origin story for the novel coronavirus: that the disease emerged from inside a Chinese laboratory, not an outdoor market. The search for the virus’ origin has been made even more difficult by the fact that even Beijing doesn’t know the truth, one of the people briefed said, and doesn’t seem to be looking for it. Without an ironclad, high-confidence finding as to the virus’ origin, the intelligence community is unlikely to completely discount the possibility that it spread after a lab experiment gone wrong. China has denied both versions of the theory: that it was engineered in a lab, or that it was a natural bat coronavirus that leaked out.
“Coronavirus reminds us what functioning communities look like” via Jenny Anderson of Quartz — Somewhere between work, kids, house, family, and friends, the idea of caring for those who lived nearby and yet were mostly strangers to us became an abstract notion. Coronavirus changed all that. Our concerns have become local, our networks street-long as well as piped in via technology from around the world. We see what functioning communities look like as we start to use the muscles needed to build them. In the days following the designation of COVID-19 as a pandemic, the number of groups on the hyperlocal social-media site Nextdoor rose by 15 times, with users largely discussing how to help those in their community. Will elevating the collective remain a priority?
“Trump wants movie theaters to open soon. That’s more complicated than you’d think” via Frank Pallotta of CNN Business — Trump outlined a plan Thursday to reopen the economy. In the first phase, large venues like movie theaters can operate “under strict social distancing protocols.” But opening a movie theater — and, more importantly, getting audiences back in the seats — isn’t as easy as just turning on a projector. Movie theaters are cultural institutions that can be more affordable than going to restaurants or sporting events, and many parents are eager for something to do with their kids outside of the house. Even if they do open, will audiences show up? There’s another issue with reopening movie theaters: no new big movies. Most blockbusters have been delayed to late summer or fall, with some films pushed back into next year.
— THE HUMAN TOLL —
“Manatee County’s first African American commissioner, Gwen Brown, dies from COVID-19” via Michael Moore, Jr. of the Herald-Tribune — Brown died early Friday because of complications related to the coronavirus. Her death was announced to the public by Commissioner Carol Whitmore Friday during an emergency meeting of the County Commission held to discuss COVID-19 and the temporary curfew. In addition to being Manatee County’s first African American Commissioner, she also served as the first African American chair of the Manatee County Board of Commissioners. As a commissioner, she also served on the Manatee County Port Authority and Manatee County Civic Center Authority. “I’ve known Gwen Brown for a very long time, and I know the heart she had for her community, so I extend condolences to her family,” said Commission Chair Betsy Benac.
“Rosa Zamanillo hadn’t left her elder-care home in 3 years. COVID-19 got her anyway” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Zamanillo was 90, and Residential Plaza had been her home for eight years. She wasn’t exhibiting any symptoms and that “she was fine,” even after tests came back April 8 that she had tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus. Two days later, her hospice doctor warned: “she doesn’t have much time left.” Her son, Jorge Zamanillo, says he understands the challenges facing the industry whose primary clients are elders who are more vulnerable to the pandemic than any other age group. But he is angry and hurt at the way his mother was treated and the absence of information he and his family received.
“A beloved bar owner was skeptical about the virus. Then he took a cruise.” via Ginia Bellafante of The New York Times — Decades before he would embark on a cruise to the Mediterranean, confident that the coronavirus would have little to do with him, bartender Joe Joyce was known to the world as a social creature, the kind who would do well on a boat full of strangers. Joyce opened JJ Bubbles in Bay Ridge in 1977. JJ Bubbles and Joyce largely thrived — a son sent to Harvard, a daughter to graduate school at Brown, a getaway place bought in New Hampshire — until the cruelest interventions of the pandemic, last month.
“4 family members of Virginia bishop who died of coronavirus now battling it themselves” via Minyvonne Burke of NBC News — The New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in North Chesterfield, outside Richmond, announced during an Easter Sunday address that Bishop Gerald O. Glenn had died of COVID-19. Glenn’s daughter, Mar-Gerie Crawley, said in a Facebook post days later that she, her husband, her sister and her mother, Marcietia Glenn, “are all currently fighting this virus.” … “We will continue to believe God for healing,” she wrote. “I don’t have the words right now to express myself. I pray that God would give me the strength to in the future.”
“He left his family to save strangers. He’s unsure if he’ll make it back.” via Kent Babb and The Washington Post — Jim Mullen left his job as a lawyer to return to his old profession, nursing, to leave his comfortable home and go to New York to work in a hospital, helping deal with the ongoing pandemic. Sometime that first night, after stacking another dead body into a refrigerated truck, Mullen decided he wouldn’t tell his wife everything. Jim walked in the emergency room at his hospital in the Bronx and immediately saw a patient drooling blood onto his chest, heard oxygen monitors sounding alarms in every direction, and felt something he hadn’t expected when he signed up three days earlier: fear.
“Broadway star Nick Cordero has his right leg amputated because of COVID-19 complications” via Rasha Ali of the USA Today — Cordero’s wife, Amanda Kloots, said the Broadway actor made it through surgery to have his right leg amputated because of complications from coronavirus. She said her husband was taken off his ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine. Unfortunately, Cordero was still having issues with blood flow to his right leg, she shared. “We took him off blood thinners, but that again was going to cause some clotting in the right leg, so the right leg will be amputated,” she said. Cordero was admitted to the hospital for what was thought to be pneumonia. An initial coronavirus test came up negative. He tested positive for COVID-19 in a subsequent test.
“Rodrick Samuels, family ‘teddy bear,’ protected, provided” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel — Rodrick “Rod” Samuels never let anyone mess with his younger brother while growing up in Mount Vernon, N.Y., just outside of the Bronx. The former high school quarterback often served as his family’s protector and sometimes provider, even as a teen. “I was a church boy,” said his brother Bishop Shawn Smith of Orlando, with whom Samuels lived. “He would fight for me, would defend me if people bothered me because I didn’t like to fight.” Samuels, 49, died Wednesday of coronavirus after being hospitalized last week at AdventHealth in Orlando. Family members say he will be remembered as a caring man — “a teddy bear” — who cared deeply for family, made people laugh and occasionally had to answer for his actions.
“Retired Seminole police officer dies from coronavirus after over 40 years of service” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — A recently retired Seminole Police officer died Friday night after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, police said. Calvin “Cal” Harrison, 78, has been an officer for most of his life. He started his policing career in 1978 and retired in February. On March 27, Harrison was hospitalized at Cleveland Clinic Hospital in Weston and was being treated for coronavirus symptoms. He died late Friday night. During Harrison’s many years of police work, he made headlines in 1995 when he was shot in the head responding to a woman being raped and robbed in her Hollywood home, the Miami Herald reported in 1995. After recovering from the shooting, Harrison continued his career with the Seminole Police Department.
“Royal Caribbean crew member from Oasis of the Seas cruise ship dies in Broward hospital” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — A Royal Caribbean crew member died in a Broward hospital Saturday. He had been a bartender on the Oasis of the Seas. Colleagues who remain on the ship cried out as the captain announced the death over the loudspeaker, according to a recording obtained by the Herald. “It is with great sadness that I now let you know that our fellow team member, bartender Dexter Joyosa, passed away at a Broward hospital this afternoon,” the captain said. “He was close to all of us, and he was a fantastic employee.” At least three crew members from cruise ships have died in South Florida hospitals from COVID-19 in recent weeks.
“Lost to coronavirus: Becoming a widow in quarantine” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — The virus came for Dorothy Bernstein’s husband first, then it stole her solace. Bernstein was left to grieve in solitary confinement the loss of her husband of 60 years. Julian “Dick” Bernstein died March 28 at Boca Raton Regional Hospital from pneumonia and COVID-19. Dorothy Bernstein also tested positive for coronavirus but suffered a milder case with coughing and a low fever. Coronavirus has so shattered life’s conventions that even the small comfort of family and friends after a death is gone. “That’s the hardest part for my children, too,” said Dorothy, 81. “Even if they got here, they’d be quarantined for 14 days, and they couldn’t have been near me until just recently.”
“‘I’ve never had that feeling that I was going to die before’” via Nick Moschella of The Palm Beach Post — Todd Kuntze recounted his battle with coronavirus from his fiance’s home in Fort Lauderdale. It’s been nearly three weeks since he spent six days in Fort Lauderdale’s Holy Cross Hospital, but Todd estimates his back-to-normal gauge is still dragging at “around 45 percent.″ He gets winded taking out the garbage, and when his still-frequent coughs rise from his battered lungs, he leans against something solid to help absorb the blows. A rise in Todd’s oxygen levels and clearer chest X-rays led to his release from the hospital. Despite the coughing and stamina issues, he continues to improve overall, and his next checkup will include a CT scan and chest X-ray.
— ONE GOOD THING —
Although the coronavirus pandemic is creating havoc worldwide, bad news is never the entire story — there are also numerous instances of sacrifice, human decency, and good works rarely reported.
As reported by The Associated Press, a Norwegian mom tried to soften the blow of birthdays under quarantine for her two teens by asking via social media that people reach out to them. Other stories of good deeds have been both grand and small, some as simple as chalk-written messages on a sidewalk thanking health care workers at a New Orleans hospital for their efforts.
Common themes include music and food. A Rio firefighter is sharing his love of music from a hydraulic ladder 150 feet, playing the trumpet for cooped-up apartment dwellers; a virtual rendition of “Bolero” from the National Orchestra of France, with each musician playing alone at home; the virtual Corona Community Choir with members around the world, performing on Sundays.
As for food, there have been plenty of good news; benefactors are feeding health care workers, the poor, the elderly shut-ins, as well as volunteers feeding hungry animals at a revered Hindu temple in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Meals from Brooklyn caterer Israel Frischman go to shut-in Holocaust survivors. One day after the AP ran the story, donations poured in, and now Frischman has enough money for several more needed meals. And in Columbia is the “Solidarity Menu,” started by Emiliano Moscoso, who employed his hamburger chain of restaurants to feed poor neighborhoods in Bogota.
The movement of essential medical supplies is also another theme: From the professional cyclist in Italy who has gone from racing against competitors to racing medicine to those in need; to Yale student Liam Elkind’s delivery service. A month after reporting on Elkind’s “Invisible Hands” effort, he says it has ballooned. “We’re making over 1,000 deliveries a week now, and over 10,000 volunteers have joined our group. I feel like I haven’t slept in decades, but, honestly, I’ve never felt more energized,” he told the AP.
The best note of all: After reporting on each of the stories, AP reporters circled back for follow-ups — with each subject saying their efforts have grown through the goodwill of others.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“To air or not air Trump briefings? Pressure on at networks” via David Bauder of The Associated Press — When Trump began the coronavirus briefings, they were undeniably news. Yet the events evolved beyond health updates to give some journalists the sense they’re being used. Three markers stand out: the March 30 parade of corporate executives, including a pillow manufacturer praising the president; the April 1 discussion of drug smuggling by law enforcement officials; and Monday’s video, a seeming response to newspaper investigations that were critical of Trump’s early actions during the crisis. Top cable executives wouldn’t talk for attribution about their decision-making process since the situation is so fluid. Many on-air personalities have said they’d rather the networks not air Trump’s briefings.
“Marco Rubio pitches fixes for depleted Paycheck Protection Program” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rubio is issuing a series of suggestions for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as that program remains in limbo due to lack of funding. He authored a letter to SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, pushing them to contemplate improvements to the program while negotiations are underway. Among those suggestions: approve new lenders during the funding lapse and release additional guidance outlining the terms for how loans will be forgiven. Rubio also wants nonbank lenders to be able to administer loans to underserved communities.
“Rubio included in Time magazine’s special look at the coronavirus” via Kevin Derby of Florida Daily — This week, Time magazine released an issue entitled “Finding Hope” looking at the coronavirus and included a prominent elected official from the Sunshine State in its contributors. Time brought in “leading doctors, scientists, politicians, artists, athletes and entertainers” to “address the coronavirus pandemic by sharing insights into how to navigate this new reality and offering solutions to the challenges we must all now face, through op-eds, interviews with Time and more.”
“GOP’s growing ‘open it up’ caucus urges fewer virus restrictions amid warnings from fellow Republicans” via Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post — A growing number of Republican lawmakers across the country are pushing for a more rapid reboot of the American economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that the risk of spreading more sickness and even death is outweighed by the broader economic damage that widespread stay-at-home orders have wrought. The emerging “open it up” caucus has spoken out on key conservative media platforms. The election-year calls from conservatives to reopen the U.S. economy, at the cost of the health and lives of Americans, amounts to a different calculation from what many Republicans made in the past.
“A health IT firm pitched itself Directly to Jared Kushner, Mike Pence, and Alex Azar. They had help from a Trump-linked lobbyist.” via Dan Friedman of Mother Jones — A Baltimore company last month managed to pitch surveillance technology for monitoring coronavirus cases around the country directly to Vice President Mike Pence, Health and Human Services Director Azar, and Kushner. And on Wednesday, Ballard Partners, a plugged-in D.C. lobbying firm known for ties to Trump, filed a lobbying disclosure indicating it has represented the company, called Audacious Inquiry, since March 23. The eponymous lobbying firm is headed by Brian Ballard, a longtime Florida politico who represented the Trump Organization in Tallahassee before expanding his business to Washington after Trump’s election. Their client, Audacious Inquiry, recently launched a project it is pitching to help policymakers track data entered by health care providers on coronavirus.
“Restaurants vs. insurers shapes up as main event in D.C. lobbying fight” via Brody Mullins and Ted Mann of The Wall Street Journal — Restaurants and their allies are lobbying Trump and Congress to press insurance companies to cover “business interruption” claims stemming from the coronavirus, even where restaurants have policies that exclude losses from pandemics. While insurers do offer coverage, those policies are significantly more expensive than standard business-interruption policies, and few restaurants carry them. Restaurants and some U.S. lawmakers say the business-shutdown orders in states and cities should constitute business interruptions under their existing policies.
— STATEWIDE —
“Despite crisis, Senate President remains ‘confident’ in Florida’s financial situation” via Mitch Perry of Bay News 9 — Senate President Bill Galvano remains bullish about Florida’s economy. The Bradenton Republican told state legislators that despite the dramatic reduction in sales revenue in the state over the past month, he remains confident in the Sunshine State’s ability to recover financially. In a memo, Galvano told legislators that with state reserves and $12 million coming to the state and local governments in Florida from the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill, Florida could handle the damage to state revenues from the economy essentially being shut down.
State universities prep for virus’ financial toll — State universities are starting to revise their budgets for the coronavirus era, and the hits could be massive. As reported by Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida, FSU is estimating a 5% drop in enrollment, which, paired with a 5% cut in state funding, would slash the institutional budget by $48.4 million next year. That’s on top of an estimated $74 million in pandemic costs university through August. “We will be OK going into the fall; I can assure you of that,” FSU President John Thrasher said at a Board of Trustees meeting. “After that, depending on if we have classes remote or not, that will have a big, big impact on the budget for next year.”
“Arguments pushed back in major gun case” via the News Service of Florida — After the state’s lead attorney requested a delay, the 1st District Court of Appeal has pushed back arguments in a battle about a 2011 state law that threatened tough penalties if city and county officials approve gun regulations. The Tallahassee-based court issued an order scheduling the arguments on July 14. State Deputy Solicitor General James Percival submitted a filing this week asking for a continuance. The filing said Percival’s wife expects to give birth to twins, and it will be difficult to “obtain help from extended family members and friends during this time given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.” The state is asking the appeals court to overturn a circuit judge’s ruling that said parts of the 2011 law were unconstitutional.
Appointed — Lody Jean to the 11th Circuit Court.
“Wakulla property appraiser charged with making wrongful purchases, paying himself extra money” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Wakulla County Property Appraiser Brad Harvey was arrested and charged with making almost $27,000 in fraudulent charges on his government-issued credit card and illegally paying himself more than $176,000. DeSantis issued an executive order indefinitely suspending Harvey from office without pay. Harvey faces two counts of organized scheme to defraud for the incidents which range back to 2017. FDLE investigators found that in 111 additional disbursements of county money he paid himself more than $176,000 extra over those three years.
“10 years after BP spill: Oil drilled deeper; rules relaxed” via The Associated Press — Ten years after an oil rig explosion killed 11 workers and unleashed an environmental nightmare in the Gulf of Mexico, companies are drilling into deeper and deeper waters, where the payoffs can be huge but the risks are greater than ever. Industry leaders and government officials say they’re determined to prevent a repeat of BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster. Yet safety rules adopted in the spill’s aftermath have been eased as part of Trump’s drive to boost U.S. oil production. And government data reviewed by The Associated Press shows the number of safety inspection visits has declined in recent years, although officials say checks of electronic records, safety systems and individual oil rig components have increased.
“GrayRobinson bringing in Kristen Bridges to coordinate messaging” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Bridges, who most recently served as senior vice president of Bascom Communications & Consulting, will be directing communications across GrayRobinson’s 14 Florida offices and the one in Washington D.C., giving the firm its first in-house, centralized messaging guru for legal, business development, and public relations efforts. “She’s fantastic,” GrayRobinson President Dean Cannon said. “At GrayRobinson, especially with the addition of or Washington D.C. office last year, we now integrate legal and lobbying services at the local, state, and federal levels. We were working with Kristen as part of the Bascom Communications & Consulting team. Part of what she brings to us is familiarity with that intersection of legal, business, and political issues.”
— 2020 —
“Did gender keep Democratic women from winning the presidential primary?” via Danielle Kurtzleben of NPR — It has been a little over a month since Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the race. At the time, only Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, two older white men, were left as the viable candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, highlighting that the Democratic Party would not diversify the top of the ticket this year. As of November, 83% of Democrats said they were “enthusiastic” about voting for a woman. Only 53% said they were “enthusiastic” about white men. When Warren bowed out, she was explicit in calling out sexism. Only 33% of likely voters of any party said they thought their neighbors would be comfortable with a female president. 1 in 6 didn’t say they were comfortable with a woman president.
“His campaigning limited, Joe Biden sketches out his would-be administration” via Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post — Biden has committed to choosing a woman as his running mate. He’s vowed to nominate an African American woman to the Supreme Court. And now, he’s toying with the idea of creating new Cabinet posts and possibly even naming potential agency secretaries before the election. The presumptive Democratic nominee is sketching out an increasingly detailed portrait of the kinds of people he would surround himself with if he became president. His moves reflect a campaign trying to project know-how and preparedness, qualities it hopes will contrast in the minds of many voters with Trump.
New ad via the Biden campaign — “Unprepared”:
“Trump campaign concludes there is more to be gained by attacking Biden than trying to promote president’s pandemic response” via Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, Annie Linskey and Toluse Olorunnipa of The Washington Post — Trump’s campaign is preparing to launch a broad effort aimed at linking Biden to China, after concluding that it would be more politically effective than defending or promoting Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The decision by top campaign advisers reflects polling showing a declining approval rating for Trump among key groups and growing openness to supporting Biden in recent weeks. The shift represents a remarkable acknowledgment by aides to a self-described “wartime president,” leading during what might have been a rally-around-the-flag moment, to effectively decide it is better to go on the attack than focus on his own achievements.
“Sexual assault advocates are grappling with the allegations against Biden” via Madison Pauly of Mother Jones — This week, some news agencies published investigations into claims by Tara Reade, that Biden sexually assaulted her more than 25 years ago. The allegations have been profoundly jarring for survivor activists, many of whom have long considered Biden a political ally on sexual violence policy and would like to see Donald Trump defeated in November. Advocates also said they were disappointed about the response from lawmakers who have made fighting sexual violence and harassment part of their political brands. “For me, this is extremely painful,” said an advocate who had worked with Biden’s office on sexual violence issues during the Obama administration.
— MORE FROM THE TRAIL —
“Kat Cammack reports six-figure haul in crowded CD 3 primary” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Cammack raised another $103,000 for her campaign in the first quarter, keeping her in the top tier of the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho. Cammack’s Q1 report is her second six-figure effort in as many tries. She entered the race in December, shortly after Yoho announced he would not seek a fifth term in the North Central Florida district, and raised just over $100,000 in Q4. Cammack’s to-date total of $207,000 puts her in third place among the nine candidates seeking the Republican nomination. She is also No. 3 in cash on hand, with $166,000 heading into April. However, her fundraising total is not bolstered by candidate loans or self-contributions, setting her apart from the two candidates leading her in the money race.
“How coronavirus blurs the line between campaigns and public office in South Florida” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Were it not for a long-sleeved polo shirt identifying him as a state official, state Rep. Javier Fernandez might have been unrecognizable Saturday morning to the dozens of people who flocked to a South Miami community center to receive bags of free food as part of a coronavirus relief effort. The Miami Democrat was nearly incognito in a ball cap, face mask, and latex gloves as he handed out unemployment benefits applications in pre-addressed envelopes to motorists waiting for Farm Share volunteers. “I do what I do because I was elected to serve my constituents, and I think all of us, including my opponent, we’re all in this to help the communities we serve,” Rodriguez said.
“Rolle to the polls: Former Miami-Dade commissioner announces run for District 2” via Daniella Pierre of The Miami Times — You could call him the commissioner in waiting. Former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Dorrin Rolle has announced he is seeking election again for Miami-Dade County Commission District 2. And this time he doesn’t have to face his previous main contender — County Commissioner Jean Monestime, who is pursuing the county’s top job. But Rolle does have to wait to see what happens to Monestime. Monestime announced his run for mayor of Miami-Dade County back in October 2019, but his term as commissioner doesn’t end until 2022. If Monestime qualifies for the mayoral race, he’ll have to resign. Rolle is positioning himself in case Monestime succeeds.
“Dozens more endorse Ginger Bowden Madden for State Attorney” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Ginger Bowden Madden added depth to the roster of elected officials supporting her campaign for First Circuit State Attorney. The Bowden Madden campaign announced 31 endorsements on Saturday, ranging from state lawmakers to city council members. Among those lining up behind Bowden Madden were Sens. Doug Broxson and George Gainer and Reps. Brad Drake, Mel Ponder and Jay Trumbull. “I am deeply honored by the public support of these respected leaders,” she said. “My mission will be to work with these men and women to keep the Panhandle as Florida’s safest community.” Bowden Madden, the daughter of legendary FSU football coach Bobby Bowden, is one of two Republicans running to replace retiring State Attorney Bill Eddins. The First Judicial Circuit covers Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties.
— TOP OPINION —
“Consumed by the fire” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — For years, Jacksonville has been the murder capital of Florida, outpacing the state’s most populous counties. Other major cities across the United States and in Florida have seen crime fall to historic lows. Here, the violent crime rate and murder rate have consistently moved in the opposite direction. Cities throughout the world have witnessed “stunning crime drops in the weeks since measures were put into place to slow the spread of the virus,” The Associated Press reported last week. Even in “regions that have the highest levels of violence outside a war zone, fewer people are being killed, and fewer robberies are taking place,” the report said. Jacksonville, remarkably, has seen the opposite.
— OPINIONS —
“‘How do we overcome fear?’: Americans need confidence before life can return to normal.” via Ashley Parker of The Washington Post — Trump released a set of guidelines for beginning to reopen the country amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. But what Trump says won’t much matter if skittish elected leaders, business owners, and customers don’t trust that they will be safe returning to their daily lives, and at the moment, most Americans don’t have that confidence. The dilemma is exacerbated by a President with credibility problems, as well as a nationwide testing shortage and the improbability of a vaccine anytime soon.
“For once, at least we aren’t fighting each other” via Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post — It is breathlessly ironic that the world’s superpowers are closing in on a cease-fire, not because springtime demands it or because war is senseless, but because the pandemic is damaging enough without our additional help. COVID-19 is on a global killing spree, pitting us together against a virus rather than against one another. Cease-fire from what, you ask? From armed conflict. Think of it as the first part of a more unified global campaign against the virus. For weeks, the U.N. secretary-general has been calling on leaders to support a global cessation of hostilities so the world can focus on the COVID-19 pandemic. This rare moment of reason is based upon the idea that all nations need to work together to fight the global health crisis.
“Hold firm on PPP, Mr. Trump” via The Wall Street Journal editorial board — Democrats continue to hold a small-business relief program hostage to their spending demands, and Trump said the two sides are negotiating. The President wants $250 billion to prevent more layoffs and bankruptcies. Still, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are demanding hundreds of billions more for hospitals and city and state governments. Congress already provides about a third of all state funding, and the $2.2 trillion Cares Act passed out more. State tax revenue will fall in the lockdown recession, but states are getting help there from a new Federal Reserve lending program. Giving more grants to the states will slow the recovery because it provides Governors an incentive to stay locked down for longer.
“DeSantis identifies COVID-19 nursing homes. Too bad it’s too little, too late” via the Miami Herald editorial board — No doubt, it’s been personal for thousands of families in Florida who have been kept in the dark about the health and well-being of elderly moms and dads, aunts and uncles and grandparents in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities — hotspots for the coronavirus. But on Saturday, these families scored a long-overdue victory. DeSantis ordered state health officials to release the names of eldercare facilities where cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed among staff and residents. Unfortunately, that’s all the public received. No total number of cases, nor the number of deaths. Unfortunately, this is simply more of his incremental, baby-step approach to Florida’s whole coronavirus crisis. He’s dragged his feet on everything from closing the beaches to his eventual stay-at-home order.
“DeSantis must give Florida elections supervisors power to innovate” via the USA TODAY Network editorial board — The coronavirus is attacking Americans’ health, our economy and our voting systems, too. We saw it in Palm Beach County on March 17, Election Day for Florida’s presidential primary and some local elections. More than 800 poll workers, leery of contagion, called in to say they wouldn’t show up. On Election Day, another 600 poll workers simply never reported to work. We can’t afford a repeat of this kind of chaos in the August primary or, especially, the November general election, when Trump will be up for reelection presumably against former Vice President Biden. The March election was a lightly attended affair, with just 27% of eligible voters turning out. The November faceoff will bring out voters in hordes.
“Bored games” via James Danckert of The Washington Post — “Boredom is rage spread thin” is an aphorism often attributed to the philosopher Paul Tillich. The observation highlights the way listlessness summons a kind of simmering hostility toward the world — a feeling that the world is not enough. But if we can take a breath and try to avoid knee-jerk reactions to boredom, we’ll be better off. Letting boredom happen allows us to think about what it is telling us. Maybe right now, we can’t pursue all the things we normally find meaningful, but spending the time deliberately thinking about what matters most is never a bad thing. Then we can choose to act. The scope of what we do matters less than the fact that we are the ones doing the choosing.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Gov. DeSantis has decided kids will NOT be going back to school on May 4, after all. The class of 2020 will finish off the school year virtually. Both DeSantis and the Florida Education Association president weigh in.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— The Governor has also decided to reveal more information about the COVID-19 problem in nursing homes and seniors living centers, which now number over 300.
— The state’s unemployment rate for March shot up from 2.8 to 4.3%, but that does not include hundreds of thousands of Floridians who could not get through the phones or the web portal to file a claim. So, it is not really an accurate reflection of just how bad things are right now.
— At some point today, DeSantis will announce the members of his new task force on Economic Rebounding and Resurgence of Florida after the pandemic. The panel expects to have a short-range plan by the end of the week.
— Beaches in Jacksonville and Saint Johns County have reopened, where officials have imposed time limits and insist on social distancing while in the sand. But pictures of people returning to the beach led to a new trend on Twitter over the weekend: #FloridaMorons.
— Sunrise remembers Gotha, who passed away Saturday at the age of 36. Rep. LaMarca offers his remembrance.
— The latest in Florida Man, with not one, but two stories that revolve around golf carts.
To listen, click on the image below:
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
— ALOE —
“Why Walt Disney World would be the ideal spot for the NBA to salvage its season” via Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports — Many ideas have been pitched to save the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season. One that seems to be garnering support from our country’s leadership: sequestering the entire league and playing games at a single site. The idea is to quarantine all the players, coaches, trainers, officials, broadcasters, and everyone else necessary for competition in one place. Think of something akin to the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, but with real stakes and actual rosters. The challenge comes with finding somewhere that can provide the necessary housing, basketball facilities, and the ability to create an absolutely mandatory bubble.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to state Rep. Randy Fine, our friend Bill Rufty, and TallyMadness 2020 finalist Justin Thames. Belated wishes to Towson Fraser, Jennifer Motsinger of the Tampa Bay Builders Association, Madeline Pumariega and my friend and certainly one of the best reporters in Florida, Christine Sexton.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.