Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.23.20

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

Reopening businesses is only half the battle. Consumers will also need to be convinced it’s safe to leave their homes and head down to the store.

A fresh Quinnipiac University Poll found the vast majority of Floridians, 76%, say the economy should remain shuttered until public health officials give the all-clear. Just one in six says the economy should open back up with or without the pratique.

“The state’s stay-at-home order is scheduled to expire at the end of the month of April, but nearly three-quarters of Floridians are not ready to drop their guard,” Quinnipiac’s Tim Malloy said.

Most Floridians are not ready to give up stay-at-home orders until they get the all-clear from officials. Image via AP.

The divide on social distancing is nearly as wide, with 72% of Floridians saying restrictions should remain in place past the end of the month.

How long after? That’s unclear, but few Floridians expect the world to return to normal in the next few weeks.

Nearly half the 1,385 voters polled said they expected the coronavirus pandemic to last at least a few months. More than a quarter said they expected it to linger for a year or more.

Only 18% said they thought it would blow over soon.

Here are two first-in-Sunburn stories that will be driving the day:

Commissioner Fried didn’t stop at rebuking Attorney General Ashley Moody‘s letter asking the Agriculture Commissioner to reopen online concealed carry applications.

After suggesting Moody’s letter was driven by “misinformation” over whether the department’s Division of Licensing is processing applications, Fried took the punches to Gov. Ron DeSantis and embattled Department of Economic Opportunity director Ken Lawson.

“I would have been pleased to provide an update on these matters at any meeting of the Florida Cabinet, which I have called upon the Governor to schedule since March 2,” she said.

As for Lawson: “While my department has processed 100 percent of applications we have received, the Governor’s agency responsible for unemployment had processed approximately 6 percent of received applications as recently as this Monday.”

The exchange began over a letter Moody sent to Fried raising fears that blocking new concealed carry applications during the COVID-19 pandemic could draw lawsuits from Floridians, noting Georgia was already the subject of a similar suit.

But Fried assured that her “understanding regarding the processing of concealed weapons license applications is incorrect.” Merely the fingerprinting process at the division was stopped, she wrote, because of DeSantis’ order asking state agencies to stop nonessential services and to close doors to customers.

Fried noted the department will still accept new applications with fingerprints from a law enforcement agency or tax collectors’ office, the two other approved sites to get fingerprinted.

“Contrary to the misinformation you may have seen, there is no delay in processing applications,” Fried wrote. “In fact, throughout these unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19, our devoted Division of Licensing staff has processed 29,048 new applications and 25,742 renewal applications since March 1, with an average review time of 1 to 2 days.”

Read the full story here.

Here’s the second story…

The Department of Financial Service’s Division of Unclaimed Property has $2 billion in unclaimed assets and wants to know whether any of it may belong to the Chinese Communist Party.

In a Wednesday letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, CFO Jimmy Patronis asked for federal assistance identifying Chinese assets held in Florida. Such an action by DFS could position the federal government for possible retribution against the East Asian hegemon where the novel coronavirus originated.

“Clearly, if another nation attacked our country, and inflicted the kind of economic harm that is being brought to the American economy, we would demand restitution,” Patronis wrote.

President Donald Trump and Congress are weighing whether the United States should penalize China for withholding information about COVID-19, and the CFO believes Florida could be a model for states to identify Chinese resources.

Patronis asked for “technical assistance,” essentially a list of Chinese-based or Chinese-bought companies and their subsidiaries that operate in Florida. The state could then cross reference the unclaimed property in its possession against the Department of State’s list.

“While the national media may debate whether COVID-19 came from a wet market or a lab in Wuhan, everyone agrees it originated in China,” the CFO wrote. “Moreover, there’s no debate that lives could have been saved had the Chinese government been more transparent with the world about the severity, and contagious nature of the COVID-19 virus.”

Missouri this week became the first state to sue the Chinese government for the COVID-19 pandemic, and Mississippi soon followed suit. If Florida could join those suits, Gov. DeSantis said he would want the state to partake.

Fielding questions from reporters Wednesday, he touted a study by a Chinese-paid think tank that named him one of the five governors hardest on China. But he also urged state lawmakers to “hold China accountable” in the 2021 Legislative Session.

Read the full story here.


— U.S. COVID-19 cases rose 3.1% from the day before to 835,000, below the average daily increase of 4.4% over the past week. Read more here.

— New York’s death rate from COVID-19 dropped to the lowest since early April. Read more here.

— California is expanding testing to include some people who show no symptoms of the virus. Read more here.

California is expanding coronavirus testing to asymptomatic people. Image via AP.

Italy posted the biggest number of new COVID-19 cases in four days, while Irish infections rose after three days of declining numbers. Singapore reported more than 1,000 new cases for the third day in a row, pushing the island city-state’s total infections past 10,000. Read more here.


Coronavirus death in California came weeks before first known U.S. death” via Thomas Fuller and Mike Baker of The New York Times — Officials in Santa Clara County, California, announced that two residents there died of the coronavirus in early and mid-February, making them the earliest known victims of the pandemic in the United States. The new information may shift the timeline of the virus’s spread through the country weeks earlier than previously believed. The first report of a coronavirus-related death in the United States came on Feb. 29 in the Seattle area.

CDC director warns second wave of coronavirus is likely to be even more devastating” via Lena H. Sun of The Washington Post — Even as states move ahead with plans to reopen their economies, CDC Director Robert Redfield warned that a second wave of the novel coronavirus will be far more dire because it is likely to coincide with the start of flu season. Having two simultaneous respiratory outbreaks would put unimaginable strain on the health care system. The first wave of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has already killed more than 42,000 people across the country. It has overwhelmed hospitals and revealed gaping shortages in test kits, ventilators and protective equipment for health care workers.

CDC director Robert Redfield says the second wave of COVID-19 will be worse than the first. Image via AP.

Coronavirus model predicts more deaths, but Florida is still past the peak” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The coronavirus peak is still in Florida’s rearview, according to the latest update of one influential outbreak model, but the outbreak could last longer and more people could die. Over the weekend, The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation‘s model suggested the state passed the peak in new deaths on April 2, when 77 people died. The group revised that estimate, to 1,537 deaths based on the model’s most likely prediction. As many as 2,941 or as few as 964 Floridians could die by the end of the outbreak according to the model’s uncertainty range.


Tweet, tweet:

@HotlineJosh: [Donald] Trump, asked about Dr. [Rick] Bright: “I’ve never heard of him.” He was the head of the federal agency tasked with developing a coronavirus vaccine!

@JustinGrayWSB: It really is quite confusing that the President is encouraging some people to “liberate” their states where businesses are closed — but when one state decides to reopen some businesses he says they shouldn’t.

@Speechboy71: More Americans died on Tuesday than have been killed in the 18 1/2 year war in Afghanistan

@SamStein: Will anyone who breathlessly pitched hydroxychloroquine as a miracle drug show a modicum of regret or even self-awareness over this? Doubtful. More likely is they’ll ignore the study entirely

@SKeelrTimes: As a diabetic baby boomer, I’ve been trying to get the shingles vaccination for two years at my local pharmacy, CVS, with no luck. Had the chickenpox at five. The list for the shot is a mile long. Wondering, will this be the case when the coronavirus shot is ready next year?

@SECupp: When pressed by Anderson [Cooper] on whether she’d join casino workers on the casino floor if they reopened, [Las Vegas] Mayor [Carolyn] Goodman‘s response was, “Well, I don’t gamble.” That sums it up, folks.

@MorningMoneyBen: So who is up for road trip to Ga. on Friday for tats, haircuts and some sweet, sweet bowling?

@AnthonySabatini: Florida needs to follow Georgia’s lead and open everything THIS weekend

@CHeathWFTV: Just interviewed an Orlando hotel worker. She’s been out of work since March 17, has not received unemployment. She has cancer and says she’ll have no choice but to go back to work, even if she doesn’t think it’s safe because she is out of money.

@VoteMcKinlay: On @TODAYshow this am: @Publix expected to announce today that it will be helping farmers by buying surplus produce/milk & is expected to donate 150,000 lbs. of produce & 43,500 gals of milk to Feeding South Florida this week. I’m a proud #Publix shopper & news like this is why!

@GrayRohrer: Want to understand Florida Democrats’ problems winning more Hispanic votes in Central Florida? Here it is: @SenRickScott learned passable Spanish while running the state, but local Dems even can’t get vital info to Spanish-speaking public in an emergency

@VernBuchanan: On the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, I’m calling for legislation to combat the growing problem of ocean pollution. Scientists warn the oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050. That’s unacceptable!

@RossTucker: Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] didn’t retire from football. He retired from [Bill] Belichick.


Pulitzer Prizes announced — 11; The next supermoon — 14; Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order closing bars and restaurants expires — 15; Mother’s Day — 17; TNT’s adaptation of “Snowpiercer” premieres — 24; NASCAR season resumes — 31; English Premier League soccer to restart — 46; PGA Tour resumes — 49; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 50; Federal taxes due — 83; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 85; “Mulan” premieres — 92; TED conference rescheduled — 94; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 116; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 120; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 123; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 134; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 135; Rescheduled date for French Open — 150; First presidential debate in Indiana — 159; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 167; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 175; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 176; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 182; 2020 General Election — 194; “Black Widow” premieres — 197; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 208; “No Time to Die” premieres — 216; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 244; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 456; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 463; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 561; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 666.


The death toll doesn’t mean we’re overreacting. It means shutdowns are helping.” via Sandra McCoy and Pia MacDonald for The Washington Post — COVID-19 has killed more than 40,000 people in the United States so far — fewer than the 100,000 deaths originally projected. Hospital systems outside New York, New Jersey and Louisiana have mostly avoided being overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. Some states such as California may have managed to “flatten the curve” and slow the number of infections. Now some people believe this suggests that the U.S. control strategy, with its disastrous economic consequences, was an extreme overreaction. But public health professionals like us see the current mitigation strategy as proportionate and warranted. The lower-than-expected death tolls don’t demonstrate that the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic was a mistake — they show that it’s working.

Shutdowns and stay-at-home orders are helping keep the COVID-19 death toll down. Image via AP.

‘A crippling blow to America’s prestige:’ The government struggles to meet the moment” via Ben White of POLITICO — The global coronavirus crisis crashed into the United States in Washington state in January and quickly brought the richest and most powerful nation in the history of the world to its knees. And so far, the federal response has been too small in scope and short on creative solutions to meet the greatest challenge since World War II. It may take $1 trillion just to keep small businesses alive, based on the current burn rate of the federal small business rescue program. The United States is testing just over 1 million samples per week — a number that is far below what outside public health experts say is needed to safely consider lifting social distancing measures.

Health chief’s early missteps set back coronavirus response” via Rebecca Ballhaus and Stephanie Armour of The Wall Street Journal — On Jan. 29, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told Trump the coronavirus epidemic was under control. The U.S. government had never mounted a better interagency response to a crisis, Azar told the president in a meeting held eight days after the U.S. announced its first case, according to administration officials. At the time, the administration’s focus was on containing the virus. When other officials asked about diagnostic testing, Azar told the president it was “the fastest we’ve ever created a test.”

Donald Trump said his CDC director was ‘misquoted.’ Then his CDC director said he was ‘accurately quoted.’” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — For weeks, Trump’s allies have defended his early effort to downplay the coronavirus threat by saying he was just being optimistic — a cheerleader for the country — and that it didn’t actually affect the response. But a new flap reinforces the potential danger of Trump’s see-no-evil approach to combating the virus. Trump on Wednesday morning took issue with the media’s portrayal of comments from the CDC Director Redfield, who warned that a second wave of the virus this winter could be worse than the one we are currently riding. In a tweet Wednesday, Trump alleged Redfield had been misquoted. Later, Redfield reemphasized that he was talking about the flu and the coronavirus combined, he affirmed his quote, contradicting Trump.

A doctor says he was removed from his federal post after pressing for rigorous vetting of treatments embraced by Trump.” via The New York Times — The doctor who led the federal agency involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine said on Wednesday that he was removed from his post after he pressed for a rigorous vetting of a coronavirus treatment embraced by Trump. The doctor said that science, not “politics and cronyism,” must lead the way. Dr. Bright was abruptly dismissed this week as the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, and as the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response. Bright pointed specifically to the initial efforts to make chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine widely available before it was scientifically tested for efficacy with the coronavirus.

Dr. Rick Bright says ‘politics and cronyism’ led to his dismissal as the director of the agency tasked with finding a vaccine for coronavirus. Image via AP.

Former Labradoodle breeder tapped to lead U.S. pandemic task force” via Aram Roston and Marisa Taylor of Reuters— Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Alex Azar stepped in after Trump’s first HHS secretary was forced out in a travel corruption scandal. At the dawn of the coronavirus crisis, Azar appointed his most trusted aide and chief of staff, Brian Harrison, as HHS’s main coordinator for the government’s response to the virus. Harriosn joined the department after running a dog-breeding business for six years. Five sources say some officials in the White House derisively called him “the dog breeder.”

Some Senate Republicans look for ways the federal government can play a bigger role in coronavirus testing” via Seung Min Kim and Toluse Olorunnipa of The Washington Post — Congressional Republicans have strongly backed Trump’s efforts to respond to the deadly coronavirus pandemic and its crippling impact on the economy, even as many of their home state officials have pushed for more to be done. When it comes to testing, some Senate Republicans are looking for ways to get the federal government to play a bigger role despite Trump’s insistence it is an issue that governors should handle. Senate Republicans remain united in agreement with the president that the administration of coronavirus tests should be left to state and local public health agencies.

In two states, a vast testing gap shows what it means to have no national strategy” via Juliet Eilperin and Chris Mooney of The Washington Post — The White House’s decision to delegate the responsibility for coronavirus testing to the states is starting to shape how those states can respond to the pandemic’s path. While some states with extensive health care resources have made more progress in tracking the virus, others are struggling to catch up. And that discrepancy could become much more critical as restrictions are eased and officials try to determine who can return to work.

Missouri becomes first state to sue China over ‘an appalling campaign of deceit’” via Savannah Behrmann of the USA Today — Missouri became the first state to sue the Chinese government, citing “an appalling campaign of deceit” related to the coronavirus pandemic. The civil lawsuit was filed in federal court by GOP state Attorney General Eric Schmitt, claiming Chinese officials are “responsible for the enormous death, suffering, and economic losses they inflicted on the world, including Missourians.” Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch joined Missouri with the intention to sue the Chinese government over the pandemic as well. The Missouri lawsuit additionally accuses the Chinese government of making the COVID-19 pandemic worse by “hoarding” personal protective equipment, like masks.

The Bronx, long a symbol of American poverty, is now New York City’s coronavirus capital” via Richard Morgan of The Washington Post — Amid this unfolding public health crisis, New York City has been distilled to its essential workforce. The Bronx, predominantly, is where they live, each day cramming into buses and subway trains that take them into Manhattan. As in other struggling communities throughout the country, the coronavirus crisis could hardly have come at a worse time for the Bronx, which had seen its high unemployment come way down and was nearing the outset of Yankees baseball season, the six-month window each year that drives a huge share of the local economy, especially for low-wage workers.

The cold calculations America’s leaders will have to make before reopening” via Peter Baker of The New York Times — The nation’s leaders have the excruciating dilemma of figuring out how to balance life and livelihood on a scale unseen in generations. “Every Governor in the nation is asking that,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, where 2,700 have died and more than 1 million have lost jobs, said this week. “There’s no such thing as zero risk in the world in which we’re living. But we know that not taking measures to control the spread means that’s going to translate into lives lost.” With no cure available for the coronavirus and no vaccine likely for another year or more, Governors in hard-hit states are seeking ways to minimize the number of additional deaths by staging and structuring any reopening.

Las Vegas Mayor: Reopen casinos, let the ones with the most infections then close” via Timothy Bella of The Washington Post — Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman was beaming with optimism, believing that businesses would make it through the coronavirus pandemic. She said she wants to reopen casinos, assuming that 100 percent of the population are carriers of the novel coronavirus. “Assume everybody is a carrier,” the mayor said on MSNBC. “And then you start from an even slate. And tell the people what to do. And let the businesses open and competition will destroy that business if, in fact, they become evident that they have the disease, they’re closed down. It’s that simple.”

The Education Department will ban colleges from giving DACA students emergency aid.” via The New York Times — The Education Department will prohibit colleges from granting emergency assistance to undocumented students, even those currently under federal protection, according to guidance issued to colleges and universities on Tuesday. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ordered higher education institutions to distribute more than $6 billion in emergency relief only to students who are eligible for federal financial aid, including U.S. citizens or legal residents. The directive effectively excluded the hundreds of thousands of students who attend college under the DACA program, an Obama-era policy that protects undocumented immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children. Trump has moved to end the program, but that effort is awaiting a Supreme Court review.

Homeless people forced to stay in makeshift shelters as coronavirus spreads. What they need is real housing” via Trevor Hughes of the USA Today — An estimated 553,000 people experience homelessness on any given night in the United States, a dangerous living situation that’s being exacerbated by the coronavirus outbreak. Amid the pandemic, many have been pushed into shelters or encampments on the playing fields of a city-owned recreation center. But advocates say real solutions are needed — not temporary, makeshift housing — and are warning federal leaders that the nation will only remain as healthy as its less fortunate residents. People living on the streets are generally sicker and more vulnerable than most Americans. The coronavirus outbreak has hammered that point home with deadly seriousness: At least 27 people experiencing homelessness have already died in New York City, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, where nearly 14,000 died, or nearly one-third of the nation’s death toll.

Coronavirus is hitting the homeless population particularly hard. Image via AP.

ICE has tested a tiny fraction of its detainees for COVID-19. Most of them were positive” via Monique Madan of the Miami Herald — According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 425 of its 32,309 detainees have been tested for the coronavirus as of Tuesday. The numbers from ICE reveal that only 1.32% of its detainees have been tested. Out of those 425 tests, the agency says on its website that 253 people tested positive as of Wednesday, meaning that 59.5% of people who had access to a test tested positive for coronavirus. That estimate could be higher because ICE does not update its website in real-time. In the past few weeks, officials have delayed by up to a week in posting positive cases on its COVID-19 webpage.

Inside America’s unending testing snafu” via David Lim and Brianna Ehley of POLITICO — Here’s the latest on why the testing problem isn’t solved yet: Commercial labs say they need billions of dollars to expand testing; the supply chain for basic equipment is global — and everyone’s buying; there are many brands of tests and they aren’t interchangeable; fixing one bottleneck often creates another and coordination between hospitals, labs and government officials is lacking.

Chinese agents helped spread messages that sowed virus panic in U.S., officials say” via Edward Wong, Matthew Rosenberg and Julian E. Barnes of The New York Times — The alarming messages came fast and furious in mid-March, popping up on the cellphone screens and social media feeds of millions of Americans. Spread the word, the messages said: The Trump administration was about to lock down the entire country. “They will announce this as soon as they have troops in place to help prevent looters and rioters,” warned one of the messages, which cited a source in DHS. “He said he got the call last night and was told to pack and be prepared for the call today with his dispatch orders.” The messages became so widespread over 48 hours that the White House’s National Security Council issued an announcement via Twitter that they were “FAKE.”


Florida has second-most deadly day for the coronavirus” via Allison Ross of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida posted its second-highest daily increase in deaths from the coronavirus Wednesday even as the Sunshine State debates when to begin relaxing restrictions and reopening the economy. The state reported 28,576 confirmed cases of the virus, an increase of more than 700 from Tuesday. It said 945 of those people have died after contracting the virus. That’s an increase of 61 deaths from 24 hours earlier. Since the state’s first death more than a month ago, only one day has seen more reported deaths. DeSantis has noted that Florida’s curve of infections is flatter than initial expert projections as his administration focuses on how and when to start reopening the state’s economy.

Majority doesn’t want lockdown lifted unless health officials say it’s safe, poll finds” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Florida leaders plowed ahead with plans to end a statewide lockdown that was imposed to contain the coronavirus, even as new polling shows many Floridians are concerned about easing restrictions too quickly. 76% of Floridians believe the economy only should reopen when public health officials say it is safe. 63% of those surveyed said that if social distancing restrictions are eased they would be uncomfortable going back to work without widespread testing for the virus.

Ron DeSantis announces plan to increase rapid testing in Florida” via Samantha Gross of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis announced two new contracts with laboratories that will increase COVID-19 testing capacity by 18,000 samples per day by using rapid tests. The results will be available in one or two days, said DeSantis, who said he spoke with Abbott Laboratory CEO Robert Ford earlier in the day. Abbott is a Chicago-based medical device company that has developed a rapid point-of-care COVID-19 test. “That’s a lot better than what we’re getting from Quest and LabCorp,” DeSantis said, referring to two of the private laboratories processing tests in Florida.

Ron DeSantis is pushing for increased testing throughout Florida. Image via Getty.

’Hold China accountable’: Governor’s ‘hard-line’ plea to Legislature” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — The comments were made in response to a reporter question Wednesday in Tallahassee regarding Florida suing China, as Missouri is, for failure to disclose key information about the novel coronavirus from Wuhan. The Governor “want[s] to see if Florida can be involved in that,” but had much more to say about coronavirus and a global enemy as implacable as it is dangerous. “Who believes the numbers out of China? Give me a break,” DeSantis said about their sunny side up coronavirus reporting. “They covered it up.”

Gov. DeSantis praises Orange County, Disney for coronavirus response, defends open beaches” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis praised Orange County in his Wednesday news conference, saying coronavirus numbers were declining and much lower than expected. “Orange County with the theme parks?” DeSantis said. “Just think of how many people came through there in January [through] March … All those people from all over the world going there. And you have a situation where it’s down to 24 [new] cases today, 13 the day before. Orange County has 75 total COVID hospitalizations. Central Florida, Orange County, they’ve done a really good job.” DeSantis also criticized people from New York and Washington, D.C., who criticized Jacksonville’s decision to reopen its beaches, which led to large numbers of people heading to the beaches on the first day and the Twitter hashtag, “#FloridaMorons.”

Task force outlines painful road back for education” via Sonja Isger, Chris Persaud and John Pacenti of The Palm Beach Post — The virus that sent 3.1 million grade school and college students home last month isn’t going to disappear. That means when classrooms on all levels reopen, the education landscape will look much different from it did before the deadly coronavirus pandemic. Decisions must be made about finishing up this academic year while delivering both grades and closure. Questions about the when’s and where’s of summer school and the beginning of next school year must be answered as well.

Re-Open Florida: Education working group starts with assumption schools will reopen by fall” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Discussions focused largely on K-12 schools, with some discussions of colleges, universities and utilities at the opening meeting of the Florida Task Force Industry Working Group on Administrative, Education, Information & Technology, Manufacturing, Utilities and Wholesale. The focus on reopening campuses comes as Florida’s schools prepare to finish the 2018-19 school year completely using distance education. It’s a platform put together on the quick in March when the coronavirus crisis led to conclusions that the school buildings could not be reopened coming out of spring break.

Frivolous lawsuits, opening up outdoor spaces at issue for Re-Open Florida task force” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — For the second meeting of the state’s industries hit the hardest by a Florida economy reeling from COVID-19 lockdowns, talks shifted more to the outdoors, but businesses still want swift and clear action. One shared concern raised by business interests is the fear customers could contract COVID-19 at their business and slap them with a lawsuit. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry spoke about his city’s decision to reopen beaches last weekend and to enforce the rules with megaphones and on carts, a minimalist method he said was working. Opening up a larger space could help give Floridians freedom to exercise and enjoy nature.

DeSantis: Re-Open Florida Task Force call troubles may have been intentional” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Hit by a wave of technical issues, the most politicized of the Re-Open Florida Task Force’s working groups was forced to reschedule for Thursday morning. DeSantis believes the seemingly innocent IT blip, all too common as meetings shift electronically amid coronavirus social distancing measures, may not have been so innocent. It was not immediately clear whether the lost day put the task force behind schedule to return its initial findings by Friday, as the Governor has charged it.

Assignment editors — The Re-Open Florida Task Force Industry Working Group related to Agriculture, Finance, Government, Healthcare, Management and Professional Services meeting will resume, 10 a.m. Also, the Industry Working Group Related to Administrative, Education, Information & Technology, Manufacturing, Utilities and Wholesale meets at 11 a.m.; the Industry Working Group Related to Accommodation, Food, Tourism, Construction, Real Estate, Recreation, Retail and Transportation meets at noon; and DeSantis joins members of the Task Force for an Executive Committee meeting at 3 p.m. All the meetings are accessible through The Florida Channel. The meeting agendas are at

Hospitals get seats at table on reopening” via the News Service of Florida — Hospital representatives play a key role in a panel DeSantis has assembled to offer input about reopening the health care system and other parts of the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The CEOs of Jackson Health System in Miami, Memorial Healthcare in Broward County, Tampa General Hospital, Orlando Health and Florida Cleveland Clinic were named to the Industry Working Group on Agriculture, Finance, Government, Healthcare, Management and Professional Services of DeSantis’ Re-Open Florida Task Force. The working group also includes representatives of health care organizations such as the Florida Board of Medicine, LeadingAge Florida and the Florida Behavioral Health Association.

State medical groups want Governor to restore elective surgeries at hospitals and surgery centers” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — The Florida Hospital Association says restarting elective surgeries at hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers should be done on a regional basis, factoring in COVID-19 volumes and each hospital’s resources. The state group representing physicians, the Florida Medical Association, also recommends following federal guidelines for resuming elective surgeries. The physician group points to patients who suffer pain from delays and income losses to doctors. Although DeSantis is prepping to reopen the state and says the COVID-19 curve is flattening, data shows an increase of 440 cases overnight Tuesday statewide to midday Wednesday for a cumulative total of 28,309 cases. There were 26 more deaths for a total of 893 fatalities.

Amid COVID-19, Florida confronts age-old question: Do the old and sick need to be locked up?” Via Samantha J. Gros of the Miami Herald — Florida’s aging prison population is being stalked by a deadly virus. It’s going to cost money to care for those who require hospitalization. 123 inmates and 98 staff members had tested positive for the coronavirus. The actual numbers could be far higher, but the testing of inmates has been limited. Among inmates, the rate of positive tests is extraordinarily high, nearly 42 percent, suggesting just how tall the bar is for getting tested. Our inmates, all over 60, have died from COVID-19 and nearly 4,000 inmates are in medical quarantine because they’ve been exposed to the virus.

Florida’s aging prison population plus the threat of COVID-19 could be a recipe for disaster. Image via WUSF.

Prison coronavirus cases inch up” via the News Service of Florida — 136 inmates and 102 corrections workers have tested positive for COVID-19, an increase of 17 cases from a Tuesday report. Coronavirus has caused four inmate deaths and has been detected in 56 prisons and four probation offices across the state, according to the Department of Corrections. The majority of inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19 are in three prisons: Blackwater River Correctional Facility in Milton, Tomoka Correctional Institution in Daytona Beach and Sumter Correctional Institution in Bushnell. The vast majority of the inmates who have been exposed — 4,186 cases — were in medical quarantine, a practice used to separate people who came into close contact with others who tested positive for the virus or who were symptomatic, corrections officials said.

More juvenile justice workers test positive” via the News Service of Florida — The number of workers at juvenile-justice facilities who have tested positive for COVID-19 increased to 18, with a Broward County facility the hardest hit, according to numbers released by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. The number of youths in the juvenile system who have tested positive remained at four, with all of them at the Miami Youth Academy. The number of infected workers was up from 15 on Monday. The largest concentration of worker cases is at the Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center, with seven, the Department of Juvenile Justice said. The Miami Academy had the next-highest total, with four worker cases. In all, eight facilities have reported cases.

Thousands of Florida businesses didn’t get emergency loans. But some got several.” via Malena Carollo and Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — While less than 3 percent of applicants received a piece of that fund, 21 percent of the total $49 million went to business owners who received more than one loan, often for different locations of a business. One received 10 loans totaling $500,000. This round of loans, ranging from $9,000 to $100,000, came with no interest and a one-year payback period. As of April 15, the most recent data available, 944 loans were distributed.

Nearly 25% of all unemployment claims in Florida have been filed by tourism workers” via Chabeli Carrazana of the Orlando Sentinel — Across the state, nearly 25% of all unemployment applications filed between March 15 and April 21 were done by workers who said they were employed in the hotel and restaurant industry. Add to that workers in the retail and recreation fields, and tourism-related jobs account for about 38% of job losses so far. The figures are preliminary, and they could be higher. 94,500 of the state’s applicants so far did not state their field of work. DEO released for the first time a new dashboard showing the number of applications it has processed. Only 6% had been paid since applications started coming in on March 15.

Congressional Democrats demand fast action to fix Florida’s broken unemployment system” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — In a letter to DMS Secretary Jon Satter signed by every Democrat in the Florida Delegation, Representatives say Florida’s response to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic remains unacceptable. DeSantis recently tapped Satter to address unemployment issues and sidelined the Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson. “We were incredibly disturbed to see newly-released U.S. Department of Labor data that discloses that nearly 3 of every 4 Floridians who managed to file claims between mid-March and early April are still waiting to have them processed,” the letter reads. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Miami Democrat who spearheaded the letter, said flaws in the system inspired a flood of calls to her office. Other Democrats amplified that message as well.

Florida school districts could see 25% cut in state funding” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The coronavirus pandemic could result in cuts of up to 25% in state funding to public schools, Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie predicted. South Florida school districts could be “among the last set of schools to come online when the state decides to reopen schools,” given that the region is a hot spot for coronavirus cases. DeSantis has closed all state schools for the rest of the year, so delays in Broward could mean school may not resume until after the new school year starts in August.

Florida continues reopening beaches, with social distancing” via Freida Frisaro of The Associated Press — Beaches in Flagler County on Florida’s east coast reopened for limited recreation and those in Sarasota on the west coast will follow suit next week as municipalities throughout the Sunshine State start allowing residents to swim, fish, walk and jog on the sand. Distancing guidelines, including staying six feet apart, remain in effect. Most communities are keeping beach opening times to a few hours in the mornings and evenings and are barring any lounging on chairs and towels with coolers.

Post-storm power restoration could be slow during the pandemic, utilities warn — The pandemic might take lengthen the power restoration times this summer Florida Power & Light CEO Eric Silagy said Wednesday. The utility executive said the coronavirus adds on to the worker safety challenges brought by hurricane season, which starts in June. Silagy and Duke Energy Florida President Catherine Stempien said their respective companies have suspended planned power outages. Also, both companies have asked the Florida Public Service Commission, which oversees utilities, to allow them to deliver fuel savings to customers as a lump sum next month rather than spreading them out over a year.

Publix to stock food banks with Florida-grown produce” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — “As a food retailer, we have the unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the needs of families and farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Publix CEO Todd Jones. “In this time of uncertainty, we are grateful to be able to help Florida’s produce farmers, southeastern dairies and families in our communities.” The initiative tackles two problems at once. A new report produced by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, 2020 crop losses could have already passed $500 million this year. COVID-19 is the culprit. Simultaneously, the pandemic’s assault on the economy has led to massive job losses, causing the state’s unemployment benefits system to crumble.

When will Disney World and Disneyland reopen? One analyst predicts it may not be until 2021” via Jayme Deerwester of the USA Today — A financial analyst, John Hodulik, made headlines when he predicted that Disney World, Disneyland and the company’s overseas properties won’t be able to reopen until January 2021. In its statement about the U.S. parks’ status in late March, the company said Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and Disneyland in Anaheim, California, would both remain “closed until further notice.” The company hasn’t commented on Hodulik’s report. J.P. Morgan analyst Alexia Quadrani presented a more optimistic outlook, predicting that Disney could reopen its U.S. parks as early as June.


How Miami-Dade dropped plans to bombard cellphones with emergency alerts from mayor” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — The original plan was for Miami-Dade’s Emergency Management agency to send cellphone text alerts with reminders to stay home during the coronavirus crisis. Then the county had a better idea: send them from Mayor Carlos Gimenez. The alert plan approved by Gimenez’s communications director, Myriam Marquez, meant unique exposure for Gimenez as he runs for Congress to challenge incumbent Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in Florida’s 26th District. Cellphone alerts went out on April 3 and April 6, each preceded by seven sirens and featuring a reminder that it’s “safer at home” from “Mayor Carlos Gimenez.”

Data show South Florida, Central Florida residents stay at home most” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A new GPS-driven model to determine who’s staying home and who’s not finds that residents of South Florida and Central Florida counties are getting out the least, while residents in a handful of rural counties are getting out the most. Data show that people who live in areas hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak tend to be the ones trying hardest to shelter at home. No Florida counties rank among the nation’s most homebound, but a few are in the top quartile.

Masks, temperature checks likely to remain through summer as Orlando tries to reopen” via Stephen Hudak and Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings convened the first meeting of an advisory group tasked with charting a course to reopen Central Florida for business. The group did not set a timeline, but hospital executives on the panel suggested masks, temperature checks and other enhanced sanitation protocols remain in place through the summer as the region tries to reignite a tourism-driven economy that, just months ago, was booming at record levels.

Masks and temperature checks could be Orlando’s price to pay for reopening. Image via AP.

Fort Lauderdale restaurant sues insurer over failure to pay business interruption claim” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The suit by Cafe International Holding Company LLC, owner of IT! Italy Ristorante Café & Bar, is an opening salvo in what insurance experts predict will be a long, hard legal fight by businesses across the nation that might have to be resolved in the U.S. Supreme Court. The company’s suit claims that the business interruption insurance it purchased requires Chubb Limited and its subsidiary Westchester Surplus Lines to pay for loss of income caused by the action of a civil authority prohibiting access to the restaurant.

Palm Beach, Miami-Dade counties to get walk-up testing; 1,600 people swabbed at Broward sites” via Marc Freeman, Brooke Batinger and Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — There’s been plenty of foot traffic at two walk-up COVID-19 testing sites that opened in Broward County during the past week. So far, 1,599 people have been swabbed at the community locations in Pompano Beach and Fort Lauderdale, DeSantis said Wednesday. The program’s success prompted state officials to roll out more walk-up sites in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. No locations have been announced, but there also will be sites added in Orange, Hillsborough, Duval and Leon counties, the Governor said.

Miami-Dade schools see lower virtual attendance in low-income, immigrant communities” via Jessica Bakeman of WLRN — Despite the best efforts of school districts, virtual learning exacerbates the existing inequities in education. That’s true in Miami-Dade County, where early data show the schools with the lowest attendance rates serve big populations of students who are living in poverty or still learning English. “In the midst of this pandemic, we see the manifestation of the pandemic of poverty,” said Steve Gallon III, vice-chair of the Miami-Dade County School Board. “When things get bad for communities, … sadly and unfortunately, things get worse for our children and our families living in poverty.” The district has seen attendance numbers climb as administrators have employed a variety of strategies to get students logged on and engaged, including sending staff to knock on doors. Overall, attendance is now around 92 percent.

Middle School teacher Kristy Figueras uses a spreadsheet of her students’ grades to keep track of them during distance learning. But some are not showing up. Image via Kristy Figueras/Jessica Bakeman/WLRN.

All plop, no fizz: Miami’s event companies, workers can’t get relief” via Kevin G. Hall of the Miami Herald — Florida is in the process of setting up a new process for 1099 workers that will enable them to apply for federal unemployment benefits more easily, although it would still represent less than what they’d earn if counted on an employer’s payroll. But the businesses themselves are still out in the cold. Under terms of the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program passed last month by Congress as part of the federal stimulus plan. The PPP program is great for a well-heeled law firm with a dozen attorneys and its legal assistants. It doesn’t help businesses who provide work for dozens but are now unable to help workers who report their income to the IRS as independent contractors. Such workers file 1099 forms rather than employer-issued W2 forms.

Reopening the Florida Keys is a matter of timing. The big question for leaders is when” via Gwen Filosa and David Goodhue of FL Keys News — The plan in the works involves a phased reopening for residents first. Leaders said the “final phase” will be lifting the two traffic checkpoints in the Upper Keys keeping out tourists and other visitors. For now, county officials said there is no timetable for unbuttoning some of the buttoning up of the Keys since the COVID-19 pandemic forced shutdowns in March. A good starting point, the county said, is possibly after the Keys reports a two-week streak of declining infections.


Fifth death tied to Seminole nursing home; residents test positive in other buildings” via Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times — As more scrutiny falls on the Seminole nursing home, which now has had five residents die from COVID-19, Freedom Square of Seminole told residents Wednesday that at least seven residents in other buildings on the sprawling campus also have contracted the disease. A 90-year-old woman became the fifth resident to die after authorities evacuated at least 95 residents last week from Seminole Pavilion Rehabilitation. Positive tests came back for six residents in what the company calls the “Rehabilitation & Health Center” and for one resident in the independent living center, according to a memo executive director Michael Mason sent to patients’ families on Wednesday. No positive tests were reported in the “Assisted Living & Memory Care” facility, the memo said.

A fifth death is tied to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Freedom Square of Seminole. Image via WFLA.

Sarasota County to open beaches, with restrictions” via Timothy Fanning of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Sarasota County’s world-famous beaches have been nearly empty for a month, but that will change on Monday. County commissioners have decided to open part of the county’s 35 miles of pristine shoreline for biking, running, walking, swimming and surfing. Lido Beach, which is under the city of Sarasota’s purview, will remain closed. Also not allowed are group activities such as beach yoga and drum circles. Parking lots will not reopen, in an effort to keep people from bringing chairs, blankets and umbrellas onto the beach. While commissioners will revisit the issue in the coming weeks, some feared that it would cause vehicles to pile up in surrounding neighborhoods.

Two nursing homes accounts for 23 deaths from COVID-19 in Manatee County” via Kimberly Kuizon of Fox 13 Tampa Bay — Nearly two dozen residents have died due to COVID-19 at two long-term care facilities owned by the same management company in Manatee County: Braden River Rehab Center and Riviera Palms Rehabilitation Center. The two facilities have a combined 328 beds. They are currently housing a total of 46 residents who have tested positive for the disease and another 19 have been hospitalized. At Riviera Palms, 28 employees have tested positive. At Braden River, 26 employees have tested positive.

15th in population, Manatee ranks fourth in Florida for COVID-19 deaths” via Christopher O’Donnell and Allison Ross of the Tampa Bay Times — This fast-growing county of about 400,000 was ordered by the state to send some of its test kits to Orange and DeSoto counties, leaving just 200 for its only drive-through test site. Another 150 kits finally arrived about April 5, but the only instructions appeared to be Mandarin. It took the Florida Department of Health another two weeks to confirm they were unusable. The county lags well behind the state in testing, even as the number of COVID-19 deaths there have spiked.

Florida reports new cases in long-term care facilities in Clay, Duval” via Christopher Hong of The Florida Times-Union — The Florida Department of Health reported new coronavirus cases at a senior living facility in Clay County and a long-term care facility in Jacksonville. Allegro Fleming Island and Harts Harbor Health Care Center were added to the state’s list of long-term care facilities that have had residents or staff test positive for COVID-19. The state’s report didn’t say how many people at each facility have the virus or whether they are residents or staffers.

Pandemic adds to challenges for Panhandle schools” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — Since Hurricane Michael barreled through the region in October 2018, school districts in the Panhandle have slowly worked to return to normal after seeing thousands of displaced families and scores of students in dire need of mental health and financial help. When the coronavirus pandemic began hammering the state last month, it meant schools in one of the poorest stretches of Florida would be juggling two crises, instead of one. “The hurricane prepared us for crazy situations, so I think that if people in Bay County are not flexible by now, they never will be,” Bay County Superintendent William Husfelt said. “We’ve endured a lot during the last year and a half and we are going to get through this again.”

Some Panhandle beaches reopening but it’s ‘not a free-for-all’” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Beaches along the Panhandle are reopening but people abiding by coronavirus distancing guidelines will determine whether they stay open, local officials say. Gulf County opened its beaches on a limited schedule. Wakulla County has opened three of its beaches, giving people the go-ahead to visit Shell Point Beach, Mashes Sands and Wakulla Beach. Visitors will be limited to using only designated beach parking areas, limiting groups to no more than 10 and maintaining distancing practices. Restrooms at public beaches will be cleaned hourly.

Bay County seniors celebrated on billboards” via the News Service of Florida — High school seniors in Bay County won’t have a traditional graduation ceremony this spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, but they will be celebrated. Bay County Superintendent of Schools Bill Husfelt said the district has raised $25,000, which will be used to tout graduating students on billboards, yard signs and special newspaper inserts throughout the Northwest Florida county. The Bay County superintendent said he wanted to do something special for graduating students, who have been through two separate crises over the last two years.

Destin to hold special meeting, might review beach restrictions” via the City of Destin and NWF Daily News — The Destin City Council will host a special meeting to review and discuss all emergency measures regarding COVID-19 which may include lifting of certain beach restrictions. This meeting may be conducted utilizing communications media technology (“CMT”) in accordance with DeSantis’ Executive Order allowing such meetings. The CMT that may be utilized is GoToWebinar. One or more City Council members, the Mayor, members of city staff, and city contractors may appear virtually through GoToWebinar and a physical quorum of the City Council may not be present at the meeting location.

255 tested at Escambia County’s first walk-up COVID-19 testing clinic” via Kevin Robinson of the Pensacola News Journal — Community Health Northwest Florida opened up a walk-up COVID-19 testing clinic in the 172-unit Attucks Court housing complex. In an approximately 4.5-hour operation, the clinic tested 255 people. Testing will move to Morris Court on West Lloyd Street on Friday, then rotate to other locations across Escambia and Santa Rosa counties in the coming weeks. The free mobile testing clinic is the first in the area that requires no pre-screening, and it is part of a joint initiative by local government and the community clinic to ensure the most vulnerable populations have access to quality health care both during the pandemic and beyond.

Walk-up COVID-19 testing begins at Attucks Court in Escambia County. Image via Tony Giberson/Pensacola News Journal.

Polk commissioners want to reopen county beginning May 1” via Kevin Bouffard of The Ledger — The Polk County Commission set a May 1 target for a soft opening of public facilities that have been shut down for a month because of the COVID-19 pandemic. What the reopening will look like was uncertain from the discussion at the commission meeting, but it would probably involve first reopening some recreational facilities, such as parks and trails, where social distancing could be maintained. It would not likely involve reopening county offices to the public by early May. County Manager Bill Beasley told the commission he would present a specific reopening plan at the commission’s May 1 workshop.

Okaloosa, Bay counties vote to reopen beaches with limited hours. Are Santa Rosa and Escambia next?” via Tony Judnich and Tony Mixon of the Pensacola News Journal — Two counties in the Panhandle became the first in the region to move to reopen their beaches after closing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Lawmakers in both Okaloosa and Bay counties voted to open their beaches for recreational activities. The move comes as commissioners in both Escambia and Santa Rosa counties are weighing whether to reopen their respective beaches. Escambia County officials have been publicly floating the idea of reopening the beach for recreational activity while still enforcing social distancing guidelines.

Coronavirus prompts new delay in federal corruption trial of Tallahassee businessman J.T. Burnette” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — The corruption trial of Burnette has been pushed back again, this time because of the coronavirus crisis. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle decided to move the trial from June 1 to a tentative date of Oct. 5, though that could change depending on how long the outbreak lasts and other considerations. Hinkle and lawyers on both sides expressed major skepticism a trial could be conducted in June. Hinkle worried that if one juror came down with COVID-19, it could spread to others.


Steven Mnuchin says he expects most of economy opening by late summer” via Saleha Mohsin of Bloomberg — Mnuchin said he anticipates most of the U.S. economy will restart by the end of August after the coronavirus has led to social distancing measures that have shuttered many businesses. Mnuchin suggested that after Trump signs another $484 billion funding measure into law, the economy will have all the rescue funds it needs to cope with the pandemic-induced shutdown. House lawmakers are set to pass the funding measure to add to the $2.2 trillion virus relief package signed into law less than four weeks ago.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is anticipating most — if not all — of the economy will be open by late summer. Image via AP.

IRS stimulus checks are going to dead people, while needy go without” via Michelle Singletary of The Washington Post — With 22 million people out of work and others barely earning a living, the promise of a $1,200 stimulus payment is a lifeline that could buy a few weeks of financial relief. The CARES Act, signed into law March 27, made cash rebates — technically, an advanced 2020 tax credit — available to 150 million Americans. To rush payments to people, the Treasury Department authorized the IRS to send the first wave of credits to people who had filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019 and who had received refunds. While others wait for much-needed funds, the IRS has rushed out stimulus checks to the deceased. Payments have gone out to surviving spouses and to bank accounts that relatives kept open to settle a dead loved one’s estate.

Congress to keep PPP loans for big hotels, restaurants” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — From an office in Texas, Monty Bennett oversees a nationwide empire of more than 120 hotels — from an Embassy Suites in midtown Manhattan to a Marriott in Beverly Hills, plus Ritz-Carlton resorts in Sarasota, Atlanta and Lake Tahoe, Calif. More than 50 of his hotels and other corporate entities — which are held in separate subsidiaries — have qualified for $58.7 million in emergency “Paycheck Protection Program” loans that Congress set up to help the country’s smallest businesses hang on through the coronavirus pandemic, according to investor filings.

Larry Kudlow: Businesses shouldn’t be held liable for employees and customers getting coronavirus” via Myah Ward of POLITICO — White House Economic Adviser Kudlow on Wednesday said that businesses should not be held responsible for employees or customers getting sick as governors move to reopen state economies. “Businesses, particularly small businesses that don’t have massive resources, should not be held liable — should not be held to trial lawyers putting on false lawsuits that will probably be thrown out of court,” Kudlow told CNBC. Kudlow’s comments come after Trump said the White House was looking at ways to rid companies of liability, shielding them from lawsuits and other legal problems that could emerge if coronavirus affects employees and customers. “We just don’t want that because we want the companies to open and to open strong,” Trump said.

Hedge funds suffer largest quarterly withdrawals since 2009” via Melissa Karsh of Bloomberg — Investors pulled a net $33 billion from hedge funds in the first quarter, the most in more than a decade. The total is about 1% of industry capital and the largest quarterly outflow since investors yanked about $42 billion in the second quarter of 2009. A slew of firms are welcoming fresh money, hoping to buy the market dip and capitalize on those investors that may be ready to open their wallets to take advantage of the market dislocations.

Carmakers headed for 50% sales plunge breathe sigh of relief” via Keith Naughton and Edward Ludlow of Bloomberg — Automakers are headed for a less-drastic U.S. sales collapse than feared. The industry caught a break last week when the Department of Homeland Security guidelines added vehicle sales to its list of essential services. All U.S. states now allow cars to be delivered through showrooms or online. Retail sales were down about 48% last week from J.D. Power’s pre-crisis forecasts, after dropping 51% the week that ended April 12 and 55% the week prior. That marks three straight weeks of improvement from the 59% plunge registered in the last full week of March.

U.S. reels to a meat shortage and prices are getting weird” via Michael Hirtzer and Isis Almeida of Bloomberg — At least seven major U.S. meat facilities that have seen halts in the space of just a few weeks, and all those voices assuring Americans that supplies would be fine now sound like a chorus of concern over shortages. Currently, about 18% of hog-slaughtering capacity is completely offline, and there are also additional slowdowns at pork, beef, and poultry companies across the nation. Meat prices are surging on the disruptions. And with slaughterhouses closing, farmers don’t have a market for their animals.

Magic Leap announces layoffs and shift toward commercial uses” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — Magic Leap, the Broward-based tech firm that has raised more than $2 billion, announced an unspecified number of layoffs Wednesday and said that the company would now focus more squarely on commercial uses of its augmented reality product. In a note posted on the company’s website Wednesday, founder and CEO Rony Abovitz said the economic changes brought by coronavirus made the moves necessary. “To better prepare Magic Leap for the future, we have taken a close look at our business and are making targeted changes to how we operate and manage costs. This has made it necessary for us to make the incredibly difficult decision to lay off a number of employees across Magic Leap,” he wrote.

Monster Jam parent company Feld says layoffs total more than 1,400” via Veronica Brezina-Smith of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Feld Entertainment, the Palmetto-based parent company of shows such as Disney on Ice and Monster Jam, has cut 1,464 employees due to the coronavirus including its entire traveling crew. Feld’s shows are performed in more than 75 countries, with as many as 5,000 shows each year. The immediate cancellation of tours and postponing of motorsports events was followed by layoffs first on March 20. Originally, Feld foresaw an estimated 900 to 1,200 employees being let go. The company has more than 2,500 employees globally.

Monster Jam producer Feld Entertainment will be laying off more than 1,400 workers.

Ticketmaster announces it will offer refunds on postponed events after backlash from angry customers and lawmakers” via Graham Rapier of Business Insider — Ticketmaster has assured customers that it will issue refunds for the tens of thousands of events affected by the coronavirus pandemic. At the crux of the issue is TicketMaster’s status as a middleman between event organizers and fans. The company’s president, Jared Smith, explained in a letter, “For the 30,000 events that have already been postponed or canceled as a result of COVID-19, we have already sent more than $2 billion to event organizers, making it impossible to issue refunds to fans before recouping sales receipts from the organizers, as we’ve done in the past.”


Facebook to label national origin of popular posts” via Barbara Ortutay of The Associated Press — Facebook said it would label posts from popular accounts with their geographic origin in an attempt to curb political misinformation by foreign-based pages that mimic legitimate groups and political parties. The new policy will apply to popular pages about elections, entertainment, and other topics and will stamp every post they make on Facebook and Instagram with its origin. It’s the social network’s latest attempt to fight election-related misinformation. Russia and other countries have been using social media to try to influence political discourse in the U.S. and elsewhere, often by masquerading as local interest groups.

Facebook is beginning to note the country of origin of some popular political posts. Image via Facebook.

The Koch network, avatar of the Tea Party, rejects shutdown protests” via Maggie Severns of POLITICO — Americans for Prosperity decided not to join some of its former collaborators from the Tea Party movement, such as FreedomWorks, in embracing the protests and is helping to organize them online. The move reflects a dramatic shift in tactics within the network. It also demonstrates how the grassroots activist wing of the Republican party — once funded and largely molded by the Kochs — has veered away from the small-government priorities of an earlier era. “The question is — what is the best way to get people back to work? We don’t see protests as the best way to do that,” Emily Seidel, CEO of Americans for Prosperity, said in a statement.

In a pandemic, a new appreciation for people who haul away our garbage” via David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel — There have been shortages of many things, such as hand sanitizer and toilet paper. There’s no shortage of one thing: Garbage. Statistics say there’s more of it than ever in Orlando’s homes. The bins that line Orlando’s streets were designed to hold 96 gallons of trash, but many were jammed so high it would take a jackhammer to close the lids. Mostly gone is the era when clanky monsters rolled slowly down streets with workers perched on the back bumper. Now it’s an automated one-person show. Workers no longer go home smelling like a landfill.

‘It’s a happiness I’ve never known’: Should you live the braless life in quarantine?” via Connie Ogle of the Miami Herald — There are so many things we can’t control as the coronavirus quarantine continues. When schools, stores and restaurants will reopen. When we can go to the beach again. When we will stop being drawn into deep, intimate embraces with the refrigerator, hiding our shame from loved ones under a series of sweatpants. But women have discovered there is one thing they can control: Whether or not they wear a bra. Now, more women work from home and can only be seen from the clavicles up on video chats, they are reveling in the siren song of bralessness, discovering a new way of life that involves truth, beauty and sure, maybe some saggage, but also definitely freedom.


Universal Orlando sees temperature checks, virtual queuing for reopening” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Universal Parks & Resorts chief Josh Sprouls said he doesn’t know when the Universal parks in Orlando and elsewhere will reopen. Still, he expects a “slow ramp-up” and limited attendance at first. Sprouts also said they were looking into whether they could screen all visitors and whether they should recommend masks for guests. Universal also plans to disinfect rides and attractions throughout the day, promote mobile ordering at counter service restaurants, and “expand” virtual queuing for as many attractions as possible.

Virtual queues and temperature checks could be the future of Universal Orlando.

Travelers are booking flights again despite coronavirus lockdown” via Doree Lewak of the New York Post — Airlines are starting to see an uptick in bookings, despite travel advisories in place for domestic travel. The Department of State also advises US citizens to avoid all international travel. And the CDC warns that you could pick up coronavirus if you decide to hit the road. Still, American Airlines reports a slight uptick in bookings at least three months out. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said, “our sales team tells me we’re being asked to work on conventions in the fourth quarter,” he says. “That certainly isn’t going on in the second and third quarters. So there are indications that the world is ready to start traveling again.”

You’re not going back to normal office life for a long, long time” via Maxwell Strachan of Vice — Right now, the biggest question facing the U.S. economy is when workers will be able to get back to work. For those who can’t perform their job duties from their living rooms, returning to the workplace as soon as possible is critical, not just for their families but to their businesses and the broader economy. The situation is quite different for the millions of Americans currently working from home. Many entities, including the Trump administration, urge employers to allow their workers to work from home whenever feasible.

Canada will have a big say on the return of major sports in the U.S.” via Matthew Futterman of The New York Times — The vast country north of the United States has been at the forefront of the sports world’s dramatic response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada’s austere approach to the pandemic and push for long-term social distancing measures stand in stark contrast to the approach of Trump, who has spoken regularly with the leaders of sports leagues about getting games up and running again. League representatives in the United States said they have open lines of communication with government officials in Canada, but that serious discussions about holding games in Canada have yet to occur.


’We are used to death … but not on this scale’: An oral history of the coronavirus crisis” via Del Quentin Wilber of the Los Angeles Times — Dr. Peter Shearer, Mount Sinai Brooklyn: We are used to death. It’s not unusual, but not on this scale. We were walking to a meeting … and we walked past transport workers who were taking a deceased patient to the morgue truck. We have a refrigerated truck to hold the bodies because so many people are dying. After we got a bit down the hall, I turn to the others and asked: “Did we just walk by a dead body and nobody recognized it?” Dr. Charles Powell, Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan: The major challenge is the volume of patients that are so sick. We have never encountered anything like this before. We are not equipped for that at a baseline.

“‘The numbers are low until it’s your child’: The coronavirus can be deadly for children, too.” via Chelsea Janes and Vickie Elmer of The Washington Post — In Michigan, about 1 percent of the 32,967 reported COVID-19 cases have been in patients younger than 20, state statistics show. The average age of coronavirus patients who die in Michigan is 74. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and empirical evidence from doctors at several of the nation’s top pediatric hospitals suggest children, by and large, are less severely affected by the virus. 2 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases had occurred in people under age 18. That mirrored data from China and Italy. Children who test positive appear to experience severe symptoms at a far lower rate than adults.

New study shows nearly 9 in 10 COVID-19 patients on ventilators don’t make it” via Robert Langreth of Bloomberg — A giant study that examined outcomes for more than 2,600 patients found an extraordinarily high 88% death rate among COVID-19 patients in the New York City area who had to be placed on mechanical devices to help them breathe. researchers reported that 553 patients died, or 21%. But among the 12% of very sick patients that needed ventilators to breathe, the death rate rose to 88%. The rate was particularly awful for patients over 65 who were placed on a machine, with just 3% of those patients surviving.

A vast majority of patients on ventilators never get off the machine. Image via AP.

A mysterious blood-clotting complication is killing coronavirus patients” via Ariana Eunjung Cha of The Washington Post — One month ago when the country went into lockdown to prepare for the first wave of coronavirus cases, many doctors felt confident they knew what they were dealing with. Based on early reports, COVID-19 appeared to be a standard variety respiratory virus, albeit a contagious and lethal one with no vaccine and no treatment. They’ve since seen how COVID-19 attacks not only the lungs, but also the kidneys, heart, intestines, liver and brain. Increasingly, doctors also are reporting bizarre, unsettling cases that don’t seem to follow any of the textbooks with which they’ve trained. With no clear patterns in terms of age or chronic conditions, some scientists hypothesize that severe changes in patients’ blood may explain at least some of these abnormalities.

Furry Friends chairman Herb Baum dies” via Sam Howard of The Palm Beach Post — Baum, the retired business executive who helped usher in a new era at Furry Friends Adoption, Clinic & Ranch, has died of the coronavirus. He died in Jupiter after contracting COVID-19. Baum was 83 years old. Baum served as chairman of the board of directors for Furry Friends, also known as The Humane Society of Greater Jupiter/Tequesta and founded in 1985. He told The Palm Beach Post in an interview last fall that he planned to step down from the position, citing the impending completion of the not-for-profit’s new 15,000-square-feet facility at the corner of Capital Street and Jupiter Park Drive. Baum donated the property to the organization and said he wanted to see the project through.

Furry Friends chairman Herb Baum is the latest victim of coronavirus. Image via the Palm Beach Post.

Neighbors remember Wakulla County’s Ron Eudy” via Nada Hassanein of the Tallahassee Democrat — Early Easter morning, Eudy died of respiratory failure from COVID-19, the medical examiner’s office determined. He was 65. His death marked the first coronavirus-related death in the Big Bend. He’d been taking care of his bedridden wife, 45-year-old Kim Eudy, an employee at St. Marks Powder. She contracted the illness after cases were detected at the facility. Ron didn’t have symptoms while taking care of her.

Altamonte Springs woman recovering after coronavirus put her in coma for 6 days pleads ‘stay home’” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — When Cindy Nieves spent a weekend in downtown Orlando in early March, the new coronavirus was far from her mind. Then Nieves, 45, came down with a headache, weakness, and other symptoms she attributed to allergies. Within a few days, the Seminole County resident went from feeling mildly ill to being hospitalized with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. After nearly two weeks in the hospital, including six days in a coma, and a period of self-isolation at home, Nieves is improving but still feeling the effects of the disease.


Fifteen-year-old Sarah Schneider from Maplewood, New Jersey, produced an idea in a Zoom session with her school’s social justice club after they went home for remote learning in the coronavirus crisis.

Schneider’s grandmother, Estelle Slon, is now sharing riddles — she’s full of them — in emails to sick children forced into isolation as they undergo treatment for cancer, blood disorders, and other serious illnesses.

They decided to focus on kids undergoing prolonged medical treatment who are doing without their regular visitors and activities, reports The Associated Press. Sarah’s mom connected them to The Valerie Fund, which organizes pediatric treatment centers free of charge in five hospitals, primarily in New Jersey.

Eight-year-old cancer patient Sophie Chhowalla reads an uplifting note from stranger Sarah Schneider while resting at her home in Berkeley, New Jersey. “I wanted them to know they’re not alone,” said Schneider. Image via The Valerie Fund/AP.

Schneider consulted with Valerie Fund staff for suggestions on what her growing team of pen pals would right, so as not to offend on religious grounds or offer undue hope. She attaches funny animal photos and memes.

Sophie Chhowalla is among Sarah’s recipients. Doctors diagnosed the third-grader in November with an advanced, rare form of cancer.

She is now receiving chemotherapy, which requires an overnight hospital stay every three weeks. She wasn’t able to attend school before the coronavirus pandemic hit but had been participating through a “telepresence” robot, which allowed her to learn alongside her classmates.

After lockdowns began, Sophie lost that interaction. Aside from one parent at a time, she can no longer have friends and relatives keep her company during the hours of treatment and hospital recuperation.

Hospitals and volunteers nationwide are pitching in to ease the isolation of sick kids, many who are immune deficient.

“Prior to this pandemic, they’d have people with them to cheer them up,” The Valerie Fund Executive Director Barry Kirschner told the AP. “Hospitals are obviously very scary places for kids.”


U.S. adds cameras at Mexico border despite drop in crossings” via James LaPorta and Julie Watson of The Associated Press — The Trump administration has been quietly adding military surveillance cameras at the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the coronavirus pandemic. However, fewer people appear to be crossing illegally. It’s the latest move as operations at the U.S.-Mexico border have become increasingly militarized and secretive. The cameras will stay in place until the pandemic has ended. Apprehensions of people crossing illegally have declined by 77% since a peak in May. April figures have not been released yet but are expected to be even lower.

A mobile surveillance camera system manned by soldiers monitors a sector near the Presidio Border Patrol Station at Presidio, Texas. Image via Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf/U.S. Army/AP.

Trump prepares to hit the road” via Gabby Orr of POLITICO — As his own health officials continue to warn against nonessential travel, Trump has privately urged aides over the past week to start adding official events back to his schedule, including photo ops and site visits that would allow him to ditch Washington for a few hours. Speaking at a coronavirus task force briefing this week, Trump noted he hasn’t “left the White House in months.” The president has otherwise stayed within the executive complex for six weeks, an extraordinary stretch of confinement for a president. His itch to get away from Washington comes as his administration pressures governors to begin loosening restrictions on interstate travel, business operations and public gatherings.

Nancy Pelosi scraps proxy voting plan after GOP outcry” via Heather Caygle, John Bresnahan and Sarah Ferris of POLITICO — Pelosi is backing off a plan to muscle through a major rules change to the way House lawmakers vote during the coronavirus pandemic and instead has announced a bipartisan task force to further study the issue before taking any action. Pelosi announced the sudden change of plans during a call with her leadership team morning, saying she would no longer push to change House rules this week to allow members to vote by proxy after vocal Republican opposition.

Rick Scott wants education ‘slush fund’ stripped from relief bill he voted for” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — The first-term Republican echoed the President’s call to have Harvard University pay back nearly $9 million it received via the federal CARES Act, before going further and calling for an end to the educational “slush fund” created by the $2.2 trillion economic rescue package. “It’s ridiculous that wealthy universities like Harvard, which has a $40 billion endowment, would get taxpayer funding during a crisis,” Scott said. “That takes money out of the hands of small businesses and individuals that need it. The university whose mission is to educate the ‘citizen-leaders for our society’ should show some leadership of their own and return this money.”

’Crazy stuff’: Matt Gaetz discounts liberal group’s complaints about office lease” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Gaetz fought back against a claim that he’s is politically privileged with a below-market lease. “If this is a crime, let me know when the prison term starts,” the Pensacola Republican quipped to Florida Politics via text message. The Congressman went on to say that “left-wing groups file crazy stuff against me all the time.” “It goes with the job of being an effective fighter in Congress,” Gaetz added. Liberal pressure group Common Cause lodged multiple complaints about what they say is a below-market office lease; however, the legislator says his rate is in line with other tenants in the Pensacola office building.

Donna Shalala apologizes for not reporting stock trades” via Myah Ward of POLITICO — Shalala apologized for failing to report more than a half-dozen stock sales last year after her election to the House. The Florida Democrat said she sold the stocks to avoid any conflict of interest, but missed the deadlines for reporting the transactions. “I’m a strong supporter of the STOCK Act,” Shalala said, referring to the 2012 law that prohibits members of Congress from trading stocks based on information obtained during their official positions. When pressed further on how she missed the deadlines, Shalala, the House Democrat on the committee overseeing $500 billion in taxpayer money being used to help shore up businesses affected by coronavirus, emphasized that she understands the law.

Corrine Brown released from prison over coronavirus fears” via Jim Piggott of News4Jax — A prison official at Federal Correctional Institute Coleman confirmed that Brown was released at 1:25 p.m. The official told News4Jax that Brown “put a lot of political pressure on” to get released. Bishop Kelvin, who was with Brown the day she reported to prison, said he and everyone who cared for Brown is relieved. “It was a great concern of her and her family, of course, all of us, that she was there, in the Coleman facility during this time. It was very unsettling because, of course, of her age.” Her attorney began working for her release in late February because she believes her underlying health conditions place her at great risk of dying if she were to contract COVID-19.

Corrine Brown gets an early release, thanks to coronavirus.

Roger Stone professes ‘full faith in Jesus’ — but he’s also praying for a pardon from Trump” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Stone, the notorious dirty trickster and one-time confidant of Trump, says he’s placed his “full faith in Jesus,” as he prepares to report to prison. He is also praying for a pardon from Trump. In an interview published Wednesday on the website Real Clear Politics, Stone described himself as “Serene. The matter is in God’s hands. While my new lawyers are excellent, and our legal options are many, the next act in my career will be guided by Jesus Christ, and I have placed full faith in Him.” Stone acknowledged there would be skeptics his professed redemption as “a head fake.” He said he doesn’t care because Jesus knows what is in his heart.

Coronavirus fuels K Street lobbying gush, new disclosures show” via Theodoric Meyer of POLITICO — Airlines, pharmaceutical companies, utilities, and shrimp processors are among the industries that have stepped up their Washington lobbying to influence the federal government’s response to coronavirus. Some industries that have ramped up their lobbying spending are among those most affected by the pandemic. Airlines for America, which successfully pressed Congress to set aside nearly $60 billion in aid for the airline industry, spent more than $1.9 million on Washington lobbying. Gilead Sciences, the maker of remdesivir, a drug that might help treat COVID-19, spent nearly $2.5 million on lobbying in the first quarter.


Jeff Brandes prepares legislation to protect businesses from coronavirus lawsuits” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Brandes is preparing legislation that would protect Florida businesses from being sued if someone contracts the novel coronavirus while working or receiving goods and services on their premises. As DeSantis takes steps to begin reopening the state as soon as May 1, Brandes said businesses, particularly small companies, are worried about liability issues. Brandes said he’s heard from numerous small business owners who are fearful over liability associated with reopening if an employee or customer were to contract the illness even if they were taking reasonable steps to protect them.

Jeff Brandes is crafting legislation that would shield businesses from frivolous coronavirus lawsuits.

Travis Cummings talks ‘unemployment nightmare,’ budget pressures” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Rep. Cummings, a member of the Governor’s task force to “reopen Florida,” discussed the path forward with constituents. The House Appropriations Chair offered comments, addressing recent improvements in the unemployment system, and expressing confidence that the coronavirus may not entirely destroy the state’s budget. He addressed topics with typical candor but walking the line one would expect from a legislator waiting for a budget to be signed. Cummings lauded Jonathan Satter, the head of the Division of Management Services, who “came over from DMS to handle the “unemployment nightmare.” “This makes the 2008 recession look light,” Cummings said.

Florida’s climate change efforts ‘disjointed,’ former state resilience officer found” via Zachary Sampson of the Tampa Bay Times — “Florida resilience is taking shape throughout the state, but efforts are disjointed,” Julia Nesheiwat explained at the end of 2019 in a 36-page report she prepared for her boss, DeSantis. Like a series of islands, local officials work on vulnerability assessments and contemplate raising roads, she said, but their “efforts are siloed, leaving some behind.” Infrastructure standards are outdated, according to the report, and builders “can’t design based on old weather patterns.” Nesheiwat was gone within half a year, taking a job as a homeland security adviser for Trump. The main legacy of her tenure could be the 2019 report. The governor’s office released it Tuesday.

Court rules against charter schools in funding fight” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — A divided appeals court backed the Palm Beach County School Board in a fight about whether charter schools should get a cut of voter-approved tax dollars. A panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal rejected arguments that the school board must share money from a 2018 property-tax referendum with charter schools. Two charter schools, Academy for Positive Learning and Palm Beach Maritime Academy, and two parents filed a lawsuit arguing that charter schools were entitled to a portion of the voter-approved money. But in a 2-1 decision, the appeals court upheld a circuit judge’s ruling against the charter schools.

Collier’s school board proposes referendum for August primary to make funds ‘flexible’” via Rachel Fradette of the Naples Daily News — The Collier County school district is calling for a tax referendum to go before voters in August stemming from anticipated budget shortfalls due to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. The tax-neutral referendum, which does not result in a tax increase, requests capital and operations fund flexibility. The school board is proposing capital dollars, which fund maintenance, facilities, and debt payments, among others, be voluntarily reduced to increase operating funds, or funds for personnel and staff costs, according to the resolution’s language.

Florida Power and Light and Gulf Power plan to merge in 2022” via Palash Shosh of International Business Times — NextEra Energy said that it will merge two of its subsidiaries, Florida Power & Light and Gulf Power on Jan. 1, 2022. FPL is the largest utility in the state with about 5 million customers along most of the East Coast and parts of Southwest Florida and North Florida. Gulf has about 470,000 customers in eight counties in the Florida Panhandle. A filing with the Florida Public Service Commission indicated that the anticipated 2022 merger closing date is linked to the planned completion of a major new transmission line, which will go from Columbia County in north-central Florida to Jackson County in the northwestern part of the state.

Blue Angels, Thunderbirds spotted flying over Florida together” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida may have lost its spring air shows because of coronavirus, but fans of both the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels were treated to a joint training session this week. The two aerobatic teams rarely fly together but did over the coastline near Pensacola on Tuesday. The Blue Angels’ home base is NAS Pensacola, while the Thunderbirds’ home base is at Nellis AFB in Nevada. The reason for the joint training has not been announced by the Department of Defense, which oversees both aerobatic teams’ recruiting efforts. Still, some speculate the dual teams will be venturing to various cities across the country together for a series of flyovers to thank those on the front lines battling the coronavirus epidemic.

— 2020 —

Labor markets in key election states are among worst in U.S.” via Gregory Korte of Bloomberg — Labor markets in key presidential battleground states are among the hardest hit by the virus-induced economic crisis. The data further highlights the pressure on Trump to return Americans to work, without worsening the public health crisis that has killed more than 45,000 people. Workers in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida and Michigan were among the most affected in March. The monthly index is one of the most timely indicators of the health of state labor markets, combining nonfarm payroll employment, average hours worked in manufacturing, the unemployment rate and inflation-adjusted wage and salary disbursements.

Joe Biden to name selection panel for running mate by May 1” via Annie Linskey of The Washington Post — Biden said he intends to name a panel of advisers by May 1 to help him select a running mate, offering the nugget via an appearance on “The Late Late Show with James Corden.” Announcing the committee would officially launch Biden’s search for a vice-presidential candidate, a process that has already informally begun with allies of contenders making their case to Biden’s advisers. Biden has said that he will select a woman for the role and that he expects to whittle down the list of contenders to two or three by July. Biden listed qualities he is looking for in a running mate, utterances that are closely watched by allies of the contenders.

Joe Biden tells James Corden that he should be finalizing a panel to help select his VP by May 1.


Mail voting expected to ‘explode’ in Florida as coronavirus reshapes 2020 elections” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — In Florida, the novel coronavirus could fast-forward the evolution of elections. Elections supervisors and political organizations around the state asked DeSantis weeks ago to provide flexibility under state law to help them administer the upcoming elections. They’re still waiting for an answer. But a significant spike in mail voting in the nation’s largest swing state could have political implications for the 2020 elections and affect campaigns for years to come by pushing a larger percentage of the vote into the weeks before Election Day.

Brian Kolfage endorses Kat Cammack for CD 3” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Kolfage, a decorated Iraq War veteran and the founder of nonprofit We Build the Wall, endorsed Cammack the Republican Primary for Florida’s 3rd Congressional District. Kolfage, started We Build the Wall last year. The organization is dedicated to building private sections of the border wall along the United State’s border with Mexico. It has helped construct over four miles of border wall in less than seven months. Kolfage joins other conservative leaders, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, in endorsing Cammack in the crowded race to succeed retiring Ted Yoho.

Retired U.S. Air Force Sr. Airman Brian Kolfage is endorsing Kat Cammack to replace the retiring Ted Yoho. Image via NBC News.

Democrats will have a primary in CD 19” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — There will be a Democratic primary in a deep red Southwest Florida Congressional race. Florida Gulf Coast University professor Cindy Banyai has qualified to run for office in Florida’s 19th Congressional District, paying her qualifying fee. She will face David Holden, who won the Democratic nomination in 2018. Republicans hold a significant edge in voter registration. As of book closing for the 2018 election, the district has 235,600 Republicans, 138,819 Democrats, and 145,351 no-party affiliation voters.

Directing Florida county’s coronavirus response puts spotlight on House candidate” via Stephanie Akin of Roll Call — Late last week, as Trump fired off a series of tweets calling for the “liberation” of states with stay-at-home orders, Carlos Giménez, a Florida Mayor and congressional candidate, laid the foundation to start reopening parks. Gimenez has the polling and fundraising advantage in a three-way Republican primary to challenge freshman Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in a battleground district in November. He’s also one of the few state or local officials in the country guiding their community’s coronavirus response while also running for Congress.


The pandemic didn’t come out of nowhere. The U.S. ignored the warnings.” via The Washington Post editorial board — Of course, no one can pinpoint the exact moment that lightning will strike. But a global pandemic? Experts have predicted it, warned about the preparedness gaps, and urged action. Again and again and again. Reports issued by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and even the U.S. intelligence community all warned of the dangers of an unleashed pathogen. The question that must be addressed in future postmortems is why all this expertise and warning were ignored.


How bad might it get? Think the Great Depression” via Noah Smith of Bloomberg Opinion — As the economic carnage from the coronavirus pandemic continues, a long-forbidden word is starting to creep onto people’s lips: “depression.” Since the 1930s, economists and commentators have used the word “recession” to describe economic slumps, and none of them have been nearly as severe as the Great Depression. The only time this convention was really challenged was after the financial crisis of 2008. The global nature of the downturn, sparked by troubles in the financial industry, led many to draw parallels with the Great Depression. In the end, the term “Great Recession” stuck.

Ron Sachs: Rebuild America program could save the economy, create jobs, modernize infrastructure” via Florida Politics — There is a way for our nation’s leaders to remedy both afflictions — the physical and fiscal needs of America — at once: Rescue our economy by rebuilding our country’s highways, bridges, airports, and water supply systems and bolstering support for our integral health care systems. A new federalism could get Americans back to work and save our economy. It may not be perfect, but the panacea could be shoring up the nation’s vast public works, transportation network, and health care system needs. All Americans benefit from our railroads, highways, bridges, ports, airports, water and waste systems and other massive public works projects, as well as our electric grid, our schools, and our health care system.

Politics infects medical and economic responses to coronavirus” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — Even with federal stimulus payments and whatever unemployment compensation they can get out of Florida’s badly broken system, millions of our fellow citizens are desperately worried about feeding their families and having a job to go back to, eventually. That creates political pressure for Trump and DeSantis to reopen Florida for business. Only trouble is, if they’re wrong, the consequences are too horrible to imagine. Lockdown too long, and we’ve got an economic disaster not seen since the Great Depression. Open up too soon, and we’ll see a spike in infections and deaths.

Four steps to scaling back social distancing” via Charles Lockwood of the Tampa Bay Times — There is a growing public health consensus that four preconditions must be met to commence a return to some semblance of normality. We need to implement syndromic surveillance networks. We need to increase testing volume, and assemble large public health teams to perform contact tracing. There must be abundant serological testing for COVID-19. We must be able to care for all affected patients without overwhelming health care resources.

FDIC banks of all sizes are playing a crucial role in this crisis for Floridians” via Alex Sanchez of the Tampa Bay Times — FDIC banks of all sizes are also playing a crucial role in this crisis by helping to meet the economic needs of Floridians. To help accomplish this, Congress passed the CARES ACT. That bill contained a section named the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which contained $350 billion to assist small businesses with less than 500 employees keep their doors open by granting a forgivable loan to help pay for the salaries and other related costs. Credit to the creation of the PPP goes to our own Sen. Marco Rubio. I also want to thank Sen. Scott and members of Florida’s congressional delegation who voted for this Act on a bipartisan basis and, of course, Trump and his administration.

Disney gets it right during pandemic; Visit Orlando gets it really wrong” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Disney deserves major credit for leadership during the coronavirus crisis — so much so that top hospital officials credit the theme park with helping stem the spread of the coronavirus. Why? Because Disney was one of the first major attractions to announce it was shutting its doors. Not just one of the first in Central Florida. One of the first in America. Visit Orlando, however, is another story. I mean, when do you think the head of Visit Orlando will once again think it’s a swell time to … visit Orlando? I want health experts making that call — not a guy whose taxpayer-funded $676,000 salary package depends on tourists.


Florida’s death toll from COVID-19 continues to rise as DeSantis insists we’re doing a lot better than some other states. The pandemic is nowhere near as bad in Florida as some of the experts had feared it might be, he adds.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— DeSantis tees off on China, saying Florida may join Missouri’s lawsuit against the country and the ruling Communist Party accusing them of concealing the threat of coronavirus until it was too late to contain COVID-19.

— The Governor’s Re-Open Task Force spends another day trying to figure out when we can start getting back to normal. While there were all sorts of suggestions, only one thing is certain right now: They need a better system for conference calls.

— The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida Larry Keefe is warning you to beware of coronavirus scams, especially is they claim they can speed up your federal stimulus check if you pay them a fee.

— Every Democrat in the Florida Senate has signed onto a letter urging the Governor to make changes in unemployment, increase testing for COVID-19, and do more to secure our food supply. Sen. Gary Farmer, leader of the Senate Democrats, will talk about the letter.

— The latest from Florida Man and his Florida Son, who are both in the same jail.

To listen, click on the image below:


— ALOE —

U.S. Sugar, Duda, Cheney Brothers to provide 6,000 crates of corn for families in need” via Florida Politics — Those shipments will be available at locations throughout the southern portion of the state on Thursday and Friday for individuals to pick up. “The recently-harvested sweet corn was grown by U.S. Sugar farmers, packaged by Duda and will be delivered by Duda and Cheney Brothers,” says a release promoting the event. Judy Sanchez, Senior Director for Corporate Communications and Public Affairs at U.S. Sugar, also added remarks saying the company was looking to help out those in need amid the novel coronavirus outbreak. “As Americans are struggling to find food during the COVID-19 pandemic, the people of U.S. Sugar are answering the call to provide food for local families,” Sanchez said.

For many people, the search for meaning in the coronavirus pandemic starts with the dictionary” via Jessica M. Goldstein of The Washington Post — Traditionally, Merriam-Webster admits new words to its ranks at only a few appointed times of the year. But amid coronavirus fear and yearning, it made an exception and had “this extraordinary release of a couple of dozen words,” all of which are related to the pandemic, on March 18. Among them were “social distancing,” “super-spreader,” “index case,” and “self-quarantine.” The record for the coinage of a term and its addition to the dictionary, though, “has clearly been set by ‘COVID-19,’” Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster editor at large, said; it took only six weeks. The previous record was three years.

Meet the minds behind the bizarre, truth-bombing Steak-umm Twitter account” via Travis M. Andrews of The Washington Post — Many have turned to the Steak-umm Twitter feed as a guiding voice during this pandemic as it tackles issues like misinformation, partisan divides and the importance of science. The feed’s main writer is social media manager Nathan Allebach, the 28-year-old son of the firm’s owners. “The voice is based on a combination of brand features,” he said via email, “like it being a family-owned frozen meat company built by the working class, then me trying to personify it based on those features, my own thoughts, and an adaptable human-esque style that feels like someone you know.”

The Steak-umm Twitter feed has been a guiding voice of sanity during this pandemic. Image via Steak-umm.

Shad Khan’s message to Jaguars fans on eve of NFL draft: ‘enjoy the diversion’” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — “I am expecting the NFL to rise to the occasion and provide three captivating days of coverage and content, and I know our marketing and communications staff will go the extra mile for Jaguars fans following the proceedings at home in Jacksonville and throughout the world,” Khan said. Some Jaguars fans likely will note the “throughout the world” phrasing, mindful of a drumbeat for relocation that never goes away despite capital investments from the city. Though there have been serious questions raised about the drafting acumen of Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell, Khan expressed optimism about the upcoming picks.

SEC poised to break own NFL record for 1st-round draft picks” via The Associated Press — The Southeastern Conference is expected to shatter two of its own NFL draft records. The football powerhouse could have as many as 16 players selected in the opening round Thursday night, a number that would top the previous mark of 12 the league set in 2013 and matched four years later. The SEC also could break its record of total guys drafted (64) set a year ago. Could the heavyweight league really have as many players drafted in the first round as the rest of college football combined? It’s possible.

Tiger, Phil, Tom Brady & Peyton Manning Playing Golf Match in May” via Darren Rovell of Action Network — Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are in the final stages of planning golf showdown in May. The second go-round comes with a twist: Brady and Manning will be joining the duo for a 2v2 match. The match will be aired live on TNT with surrounding content on Bleacher Report. The exact date is unclear, but May 24 is one possible rumored date. All proceeds from the event will go to COVID-19 relief.


Best wishes to our man, Drew Wilson, Sen. Randolph Bracy, Katie Crofoot of Strategic Digital Services, Laura Lenhart of Frontier Communications, and Kenneth Pratt of the Florida Bankers Association.


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 @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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