Connect with us

Emails & Opinions

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.1.20

Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

Some states are keeping stay-at-home orders in place; others are going as far as allowing tattoo parlors and movie theaters to open their doors.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to reboot the state economy splits the difference between those extremes, and Floridians largely support the measured approach he outlined Wednesday afternoon.

Ron DeSantis’ measured, phased reopening of Florida splits the difference between other states’ more extreme measures.

A refresher course: Restaurants and retail will reopen capped at 25% occupancy; hospitals will be allowed to restart elective surgeries if they help nursing homes contain outbreaks. In hard-hit South Florida, the current rules stand until the pandemic further wanes.

According to new, exclusive polling, more than three-fifths of Floridians believe DeSantis’ timing was either on the money or overly cautious. Meanwhile, just 38% say the Governor’s plan is premature.

Though most appreciate the “safe, smart, step-by-step” plan, few are chomping at the bit to go shopping or grab a table at their favorite spot.

Anxiousness, excitement, relief, or a mixture of all the above are the norm, with two-thirds admitting a spike in stress when they leave their homes. A third also fear they will be unemployed for the foreseeable future.

Somatic symptoms and agoraphobic tendencies aside, Floridians have adjusted well to hunkering down.

Only two-fifths of parents are still adjusting to balancing work with the kids at home; 72% of those who’ve been teleworking believe remote work will become more regular; and people are thinking more about their futures, including more than a third who now dream of pursuing further education.

But perhaps the most critical measure in the Governor’s mansion is residents’ widespread agreement that the state’s response is headed in the right direction and that DeSantis, albeit by a slim margin, deserves credit for flattening the curve.

>>>Please read my latest blog post — “Imagine where Ron DeSantis would be today had he chosen unity over grievance.

— MCDONALD TO BASCOM —

Kristen McDonald Grissom has joined Bascom Communications & Consulting as a senior communications consultant. She leaves a position with Hill+Knowlton Strategies as a senior account manager, where she had worked since 2017 advising clients on pending bills, litigation messaging and crisis management, as well as helping clients to embrace new ideas.

Congratulations to Kristin McDonald Grissom, the newest senior communications consultant at Bascom Communications.

From 2012 to 2016, she managed communications for the Florida House Majority Office, serving under three different leaders. The Panama City native and Florida State graduate got out of the blocks fast, moving from a communications internship with Gov. Rick Scott to press secretary for the Republican Party of Florida in a year. Grissom deftly represented the party on a wide range of issues or throwing out lifelines when PolitiFact came calling.

She served as the party’s spokesperson through the 2012 election cycle, including two televised primary debates and the Republican National Convention in Tampa. In 2014, Grissom was named to the list “30 under 30 Rising Stars in Florida Politics.”

Those who know her describe her as calm, confident, kind, and someone who can be trusted to be deliberative.

She joins the team led by Sarah Bascom and alongside BCC executive vice presidents Lyndsey Brzozowski and Chad Tucker and vice president Kelsey Swithers. She’ll put her experience to good use for Bascom, a firm that has managed war rooms and protected brands, all while advising some of Florida’s most influential trade associations, elected officials, CEOs and Fortune 100 executive teams.

Congratulations, Kristen!

— EXECUTIVE SUMMARY —

— Some countries are reporting remarkable milestones: no new coronavirus cases. Among them is South Korea, above, which has reported no new domestic cases since Feb. 29 and just four among people who came in from outside the country. Hong Kong has reported no new cases for five straight days. Australia and New Zealand are also on similar paths.

— America has about one-third of all confirmed coronavirus infections on the planet, with 1,054,261. It has more than one-quarter of all confirmed coronavirus deaths, at 61,717. Far behind in second place is Italy, with 205,463 infections and 27,967 deaths. Read more here.

Once a hot spot for the pandemic, Italy is now far behind the United States in the number of coronavirus cases, deaths. Image via AP.

— U.S. stocks ended their best month in three decades on a slightly sour note, following European stocks lower amid dismal data, dire economic warnings, and more corporate results that reflected the coronavirus’s toll. Read more here.

— An unprecedented plunge in fossil fuel use, driven by the COVID-19 crisis, is likely to lead to a nearly 8% drop in global emissions of greenhouse gases this year, according to new research. Read more here.

— TOP STORIES —

3.8 million Americans sought jobless benefits last week, extending pandemic’s grip on the national workforce” via Rachel Siegel and Andrew Van Dam of The Washington Post — More than 3.8 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week as the coronavirus pandemic’s economic toll burrowed deeper into the American workforce. The outbreak and subsequent recession have wiped away all jobs created since the Great Recession. Economists estimate the national unemployment rate sits between 15 and 20%, compared to about 25% at the peak of the Great Depression. For comparison, 4.4 million people applied for benefits for the week ending April 18, and 30.3 million have sought benefits in the past six weeks alone. That figure represents roughly 1 in 5 American workers.

Bill Gates says virus vaccine could take a little as nine months” via Nathan Crooks of Bloomberg — Gates doesn’t think life will return to normal until there’s a viable vaccine that can stop its spread. The good news is that it may take less time than many have been predicting. “Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he thinks it’ll take around eighteen months to develop a coronavirus vaccine,” Gates wrote in a blog post. “I agree with him, though it could be as little as 9 months or as long as two years.” Even if it takes 18 months, that would still be the fastest that scientists have created a new vaccine, Gates said, adding that he thinks eight to ten of the 115 current COVID-19 vaccine candidates look promising.

Bill Gates says a coronavirus vaccine could be available in as little as nine months. Image via AP.

New report on virus and kids fuel uncertainty in school” via Jason Gale and Thomas Mulier of Bloomberg — Levels of the virus in the respiratory tract — the main route via which the pathogen is transmitted — doesn’t appear significantly different across age groups, Christian Drosten, director of the Institute of Virology at Berlin’s Charite hospital, and colleagues found. They advised caution in reopening schools and kindergartens. The findings add to a contradictory body of work over children’s response to COVID-19 and the role they play in its spread, with another report showing kids aren’t passing the virus to adults. The World Health Organization said Wednesday more research was needed on the topic.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@trvrb: I know all the discussion is about a possible “2nd wave,” but I’ve found this odd given that we haven’t finished the first one. I would think quite possible that, nationally, we’re in for a scenario of a long plateau.

@JoeBiden: With rent due in a few days and folks across the country worried they won’t be able to make their payments, it’s clear more needs to be done to provide relief. We need to freeze rent immediately for people who have lost their jobs and place a temporary ban on evictions.

@NikkiFried: We’ve offered our employees to help with unemployment. We’ve offered our laboratories to help relieve the strain of #COVID19 testing. The offers are still on the table, @GovRonDeSantis. We’re here to help.

@NickPrimrose: Another important point to note re: ballot order lawsuits nationwide. While Democrats/Marc Elias claim Florida gives an unfair advantage to Republicans, they are silent in states where the Democrat party get the top position and “windfall” on the ballot based on statute.

@JimRosicaFL: Planning question: Under @GovRonDeSantis’ “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan for Florida’s Recovery,” when is Cinco de Mayo this year?

— DAYS UNTIL —

World Press Freedom Day — 2; Gov. DeSantis’ Phase One of reopening begins — 3; Pulitzer Prizes announced — 3; The next supermoon — 6; Mother’s Day — 9; NASCAR season resumes at Darlington Speedway in Darlington, South Carolina — 16; TNT’s adaptation of “Snowpiercer” premieres — 16; English Premier League soccer to restart — 38; PGA Tour resumes — 41; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 42; Father’s Day — 51; Federal taxes due — 75; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 77; “Mulan” premieres — 84; TED conference rescheduled — 86; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 108; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 112; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 115; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 126; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 127; Rescheduled date for French Open — 142; First presidential debate in Indiana — 151; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 161; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 167; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 168; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 174; 2020 General Election — 186; “Black Widow” premieres — 189; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 200; “No Time to Die” premieres — 207; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 236; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 448; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 457; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 553; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 651; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 693; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 736; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 889.

— CORONA NATION —

Amid a rising death toll, Donald Trump leaves the grieving to others” via Peter Baker of the New York Times — As the death toll from the coronavirus over eight weeks surpasses the total American military casualties in eight years of major combat in Vietnam, Trump has led no national mourning. In his daily news conferences, he makes only perfunctory references to those who have died as he stiffly reads opening remarks, exhibiting more emotion when grieving his lost economic record than his lost constituents. … Empathy has never been considered one of  Trump’s political assets. He views public displays of sadness as weakness and has made a point of stressing resolve, even at the risk of overlooking the deep pain afflicting so much of the country. His favorite words in his televised appearances of recent weeks are ‘powerful’ and ‘strong.’ He talks of ‘incredible’ days ahead without dwelling on the miserable days of now. He plans fireworks while Americans plan funerals.

53 days after Trump said anybody could get tested, Anthony Fauci says the U.S. is still a month away” via JM Rieger of The Washington Post — When Trump said on March 6 that anyone who wanted a coronavirus test could get one, it was immediately questionable. Contamination had delayed an effective coronavirus test from the federal government for weeks. Hospitals were required to obtain approval from the Food and Drug Administration to develop coronavirus tests nearly a month after the United States declared a public health emergency. The United States’ top infectious disease expert, Fauci, illustrated again how far off Trump’s March 6 claim was. Fauci was asked on CNN when everyone who needs a test will be able to get one. “Hopefully, we should see that as we get toward the end of May, the beginning of June,” Fauci said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says we are nowhere near Donald Trump’s March 6 promise to make coronavirus testing available to everyone. But we are getting closer.

Studies leave question of ‘airborne’ coronavirus transmission unanswered” via Joel Achenbach and Carolyn Y. Johnson of The Washington Post — A growing number of studies have found evidence that the coronavirus can remain suspended in the air in aerosol particles. That raises anew the question of whether and to what extent the virus can be transmitted as an aerosol, although the evidence is far from conclusive, and no such infections have been documented. The consensus so far is that the virus, although very contagious, spreads through respiratory droplets generated when people breathe, speak or cough and doesn’t infect people through particles that can linger in the air for hours, in the way that measles and some other viral diseases can.

Nearly seven weeks into the shutdown, here’s why so many are still getting sick” via Kyle Swenson and Jenna Portnoy of The Washington Post —Large swaths of the population venture out only rarely, wrapped in masks and gloves. But hundreds of new coronavirus cases are still reported each day as the virus continues its devastating march through nursing homes, jails and other institutional settings. Doctors and public health officials said it increasingly is infecting people who cannot afford to miss work or telecommute — grocery store employees, delivery drivers and construction workers. Sometimes they, in turn, infect their families.

U.S. intel: No, new coronavirus is not man-made” via The Associated Press — U.S. intelligence agencies are debunking a conspiracy theory, saying they have concluded that the new coronavirus was “not man-made or genetically modified” but say they are still examining a notion put forward by the president and aides that the pandemic may have resulted from an accident at a Chinese lab. In recent days the Trump administration has sharpened its rhetoric on China, accusing the geopolitical foe and vital trading partner of failing to act swiftly enough to sound the alarm to the world about the outbreak or to stop the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Trump officials are said to press spies to link virus and Wuhan labs” via Mark Mazzetti, Julian E. Barnes, Edward Wong and Adam Goldman of The New York Times — Senior Trump administration officials have pushed American spy agencies to hunt for evidence to support an unsubstantiated theory that a government laboratory in Wuhan, China, was the origin of the coronavirus outbreak, according to current and former American officials. The effort comes as Trump escalates a public campaign to blame China for the pandemic. Some intelligence analysts are concerned that the pressure from administration officials will distort assessments about the virus and that they could be used as a political weapon in an intensifying battle with China over a disease that has infected more than three million people across the globe.

Summer won’t save us from the coronavirus pandemic” via Zahra Hirji of BuzzFeed News — It’s become a popular idea, fueled in part byTrump’s claims that the virus would “disappear” in the warmer months “like a miracle.” According to the results of a new Pew Research Center survey, 22% of about 10,000 US adults polled in April said they’d heard the virus would go away in warmer weather. But scientists are warning that’s unlikely to happen. “Don’t expect miracles,” said Roger Shapiro, an associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard University. While the links to seasonality are promising, Shapiro and other scientists stress that the disease has already spread worldwide regardless of warm weather and that much of the population is still vulnerable to infection.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Warnings ignored, labs slashed, expertise lost. Actions a decade ago crippled Florida’s response to COVID-19” via Lulu Ramadan and Pat Beall of Gannett/USA Today — Over the past decade, politically popular budget cuts crippled the Florida Department of Health’s ability to track diseases and test for viruses. Written warnings of an inevitable viral epidemic had started piling up just before then-Gov. Scott‘s 2011 decision to slash millions from the only state agency capable of handling an epidemic. So did pleas for money to fix safety issues at labs and hire people who could track diseases. Elected officials, agency heads and experts responsible for the state’s public health system knew an epidemic capable of killing thousands and decimating the state’s economy would come. But Florida didn’t fix the problems. It contributed to them. Officials for years warned that Florida was ill-equipped to respond to outbreaks.

Then-Gov. Rick Scott slashed millions from the only state agency capable of handling an epidemic. 

Ron DeSantis declined coronavirus help from Florida’s top Democrat” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said her office offered the DeSantis administration lab space and help processing unemployment applications as the state grappled with the coronavirus, but her offers were rejected or ignored. Fried said she offered 40 employees in March when DeSantis called on state agencies to send workers to help process a massive backlog of unemployment compensation claims. The system had been overwhelmed in March by hundreds of thousands of applicants. The commissioner spoke directly to the Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson about offering assistance, Fried spokesperson Franco Ripple said. “This was offered twice to DEO’s leadership team and was declined.”

Assignment editors — DeSantis will hold a news conference regarding COVID-19, 11 a.m. Eastern time, Little Talbot Island State Park, 12157 Heckscher Dr., Jacksonville. Later, the Governor will join Congressman Matt Gaetz and Florida National Guard Adjutant General James Eifert for a news conference, 1 p.m. Central time, University of West Florida, Softball Complex, 11000 University Parkway, Campus Dr., Pensacola.

Only 2 percent of Florida residents have been tested. It’s much lower in rural areas.” via Mary Ellen Klas and Ben Weider of the Miami Herald — To date, the state has tested less than 2% of the population — far short of the amount many experts suggest is necessary to determine the true levels of infection. The recommended numbers vary, but the dean of the University of South Florida’s College of Medicine told Gov. Ron DeSantis last week that Florida needs to test at least 150 people for every 100,000 residents every day — that’s about 33,000 people every day, more than double the current rate. … After a month of expanding testing in Florida, the state’s rate of positive tests, at roughly 9%, falls under the World Health Organization’s target of 10% or less, which suggests that enough tests are being given to document the extent to which the virus has spread, not just the most extreme cases.

More than 432,000 jobless claims filed in Florida last week” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — Florida had the highest number of new unemployment claims of any U.S. state last week as more than 432,000 Floridians filed for jobless benefits. The U.S. Department of Labor said 432,465 initial claims for jobless benefits were filed in Florida last week, down slightly from the previous week’s more than half-million claims. Nationwide, more than 3.8 million laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week as the U.S. economy slid further into a crisis that is becoming the most devastating since the 1930s. Roughly 30.3 million people have now filed for jobless aid in six weeks. More than 2 million jobless claims have been filed in the state since mid-March, and state workers have verified more than 916,000 claims.

Unemployed Floridians will again have to certify they are looking for work” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Unemployed Floridians will soon have to recertify that they are still unemployed to receive their state and federal benefits. When Phase One of DeSantis‘ reopening plan begins on Monday, the plan will not extend the executive order that let people obtain unemployment benefits without confirming every two weeks that they’re searching for work. That order will instead lapse May 8, the final day of the public health emergency. This week, the state began rolling through unemployment claims after clearing a backlog over the weekend. DEO approved 10,490.

Florida’s reopening. Will you stay home or will you go?” via Tracey McManus, Romy Ellenbogen, Divya Kumar and Bernadette Berdychowski of the Tampa Bay Times — Beginning Monday, restaurants, retail stores, museums and libraries can operate at 25% indoor capacity. Bars, gyms, salons and schools will remain closed during the first of DeSantis’s multiphase reopening plan. Before deciding whether to leave home, Dr. Marc Yacht, who spent 20 years as the director of the Pasco County Health Department, said residents should seriously consider their own health and the safety of others. He said even with state restrictions lifting, the elderly and people with chronic medical problems should still avoid leaving home for anything that’s not essential. He recommends masks, gloves and staying at least six feet from others for everyone else gathering in public.

Lawyers take aim at Florida’s broken unemployment system with two class-action lawsuits” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — The department overseeing Florida’s broken unemployment system — and the company that created it — are now being sued for its disastrous handling of coronavirus-related unemployment claims. In a lawsuit filed in Leon County Circuit Court last week, Tallahassee attorneys Marie Mattox and Gautier Kitchen are asking a judge to order the Department of Economic Opportunity to pay unemployment benefits to their clients immediately. And they’re requesting the case be extended to the hundreds of thousands of other Floridians who have been waiting more than a month for help. A judge is expected to weigh in on the case during a hearing next week. Still, Mattox and Kitchen said a lawyer for DEO is trying to delay by arguing the situation is not an emergency.

As Florida tourism falters, public employees fret about jobs” via Bobby Caina Calvan of The Associated Press — As one of Florida’s tourist meccas, the city of Miami Beach is usually bustling, its restaurants and bars overflowing and its streets pulsing with traffic. Out-of-town money kept the city’s coffers brimming — until the city budget began bleeding millions of dollars because of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, Mayor Dan Gelber says the city is losing about $3.5 million a week because of lost revenue from empty hotels, idled restaurants and bars, and its shuttered world-famous shoreline. Even as Florida starts to ease stay-at-home orders and begins lifting restrictions on restaurants and other hard-hit businesses, public sector workers are fretting over job losses that could arrive in the weeks and months to come because of the economic downturn.

Florida tourism should first focus on residents taking in-state vacations before reaching out to international visitors, according to recommendations presented to a business subcommittee. Image via AP.

Laid-off hospitality pro walks to Tallahassee to raise awareness for the unemployed” via Amy Drew Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel — “You can go anywhere, and if you have diverse experience, it’s easy to step right into a role and excel,” said Beau Guyott, waxing poetic about the hospitality industry. That’s what he was doing in his new post at The Ben, a luxury waterfront hotel in West Palm Beach. Then came COVID-19. Then came layoffs. He’s just one of the dozens of restaurant professionals in his network who’ve suffered the same fate. Florida’s handling of the subsequent unemployment crisis, he says, is another story entirely. And so on April 18, he embarked on “The Walk to Tallahassee,” a 417-mile journey on which he’s been interviewing fellow restaurant professionals, those out of work and those struggling to stay in business, and one that will culminate with a visit to DEO.

Florida housing officials take action to curb rent spikes on low-income families” via Josh Solomon and Emily L. Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida housing officials filed an emergency rule that penalizes landlords and property managers who raise the rent on low-income tenants during the coronavirus pandemic. Officials with the Florida Housing Finance Corp. implemented the rule after reports were published that landlords across the state could legally raise rent on more than 210,000 families in low-income, rent-controlled housing, even as the economic shutdown in response to the pandemic has kept many from working. Florida Housing is a public corporation created by the state to administer money to affordable housing programs.

Who will enforce order limiting restaurant, retail capacity to 25%?” via Jeff Weiner and Grace Toohey of the Orlando Sentinel — It is unclear who will ensure that businesses follow the rules. State and local officials have given conflicting explanations, the latest example of a disconnect between the Governor’s Office and city and county governments. In an FAQ, the Governor’s Office provided a concise answer to a question Floridians might have before returning to shops and restaurants as soon as Monday: How is the order enforced? “By law enforcement,” the FAQ said. “Violation of the Governor’s Executive Order is a second-degree misdemeanor.” The next question: “Where can I report a business that violates the Governor’s Executive Order?” The answer: “Local law enforcement.”

Florida attorney plans ‘grim reaper beach tour’” via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Attorney Daniel Uhlfelder has a plan to walk Walton County’s beaches dressed as the Grim Reaper. Now it looks like he may have a whole entourage clinging to his cloak Friday when he embarks upon his Grim Reaper Beach Tour to deliver a message of “go home” to the masses. Uhlfelder, a customary use advocate who has built a vast Twitter following advocating for opening all of Walton County’s beaches to the public, took to his favorite social media outlet on Tuesday, April 21, to announce his idea for the beach tour.

Attorney Daniel Uhlfelder plans to cross Walton County dressed as the Grim Reaper. Image via Twitter.

Vacation rental ban continues in Phase One of COVID-19 reopening” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The statewide ban on vacation rentals will continue in Phase One of DeSantis‘ plan to reopen Florida. For more than a month, guests have been unable to schedule vacation rentals through services like Airbnb or HomeAway. And with Phase One, starting Monday, that won’t change — at least for another two weeks. Earlier this month, DeSantis extended the vacation rental ban until Thursday. On Wednesday, the Governor issued a carry-over order that extends the ban until Phase One begins on Monday and another order that carries the ban through Phase One.

— CORONA LOCAL —

Jacksonville will start taking applications at 10 a.m. Friday for stimulus payments” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville residents can start applying for a new city program offering $1,000 per household to those who have seen their pay take a hit because of the upheaval caused by the coronavirus. The stimulus money is available to those who were employed as of Feb. 29 and have seen at least a 25% cut in their income since then. The city has set aside $40 million for the program, which would enable $1,000 checks for 40,000 households. “This will be first-come, first-served, so we do expect appointments to fill up quickly,” Mayor Lenny Curry said. “As soon as the first 40,000 appointments are filled, the system will no longer take appointments.”

Jacksonville restaurants readying to reopen dining rooms” via Teresa Stepzinski of the Florida Times-Union — Reopening offers the hope of recouping some of the revenue lost during the shutdown. “This is uncharted territory for everybody,” said Executive Chef Sam Efron, co-owner with his wife, Kiley Wynne Efron, of award-winning Taverna San Marco in Jacksonville. Taverna and many other locally-owned restaurants in Northeast Florida are scrambling to survive the economic devastation inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic. “The truth is, our whole industry is on the verge of collapse,” said Kiley Efron, who’s also wine director for the restaurant, which opened in 2009. The margin between success and failure in the restaurant industry is as paper-thin as sliced prosciutto, the Efrons and other Jacksonville-area restaurateurs said.

Taverna San Marco is one of several Jacksonville-area restaurants preparing to reopen its dining rooms. Image via Facebook.

20,000 people have tested positive in South Florida” via Marc Freeman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Since the coronavirus pandemic began, 159,878 people have been swabbed in the South Florida counties of Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties. State data released on Thursday shows that 20,058 of those tested have been diagnosed with COVID-19. If you do the math, 12.5% of all tests have come back positive. Miami-Dade, the epicenter for infections in the state, has had 84,619 people screened for the disease and 12,063 infections. That’s a positive rate of 14.3%, which leads Florida. With 2.7 million people, Miami-Dade is the most populous county in the state, according to the most recent census data. DeSantis said these statistics are why South Florida will not be included in the first reopening phase starting Monday.

Miami-Dade ‘not over the hill’ on coronavirus but hospitalizations are leveling off” via Daniel Chang and Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — The number of inpatients with COVID-19 at Miami-Dade County’s hospitals has leveled off at about 650 to 700 each day for the past two weeks as the county begins a gradual reopening starting with marinas, parks and golf courses. But with Miami-Dade still outpacing the rest of the state in the rate of new COVID-19 cases and deaths — and epidemiologists warning that it generally takes two to four weeks of dropping numbers to show solid progress against the disease — the novel coronavirus remains a threat in the hardest-hit county in Florida. “We still have many cases. We’re by no means over the hill yet,” said Mary Jo Trepka, an infectious-disease specialist at Florida International University.

Repurposed for COVID-19, antiviral drug offers hope at two South Florida hospitals” via Ben Conarck — For more than a week, doctors at two South Florida hospitals have been administering a closely watched antiviral, remdesivir, and studying the effects it has for treating COVID-19. Fewer than 20 patients in South Florida have received the drug so far. On Wednesday, the prospects became more encouraging for the medicine, developed by California-based Gilead Sciences initially to treat Ebola virus, when the early results from a clinical trial were made public. In South Florida, the drug has been used, under conditions set by the company, for six patients at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach and nine patients at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood.

Miami-Dade school leaders start planning for a fall reopening” via WLRN News — Temperature checks before students board school buses. Personal protective equipment like masks for teachers. Staggered start and end times for classes. A “hybrid” of online and in-person instruction. Reduced enrollment numbers. These are all possibilities under consideration by leaders of Miami-Dade County Public Schools as the district plans to reopen campuses in the fall with the uncertainty of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic hanging over the future like fog on the horizon. “We are going to prepare for every eventuality as we pray and hope that none of them come to pass,” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said.

— MORE LOCAL —

Local view of Governor’s orders: Jerry Demings sees them as ‘very sensible’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Demings, who is awaiting his own task force’s reports on what to do about local stay-at-home orders, the coronavirus crisis, and the economy, called DeSantis‘s plan “very sensible” and expects Orange County would follow it. Demings cautioned that he sees “a bit of ambiguity” in Phase One of reopening Florida’s economy in DeSantis’ “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step.” plan. Instead of any recommendations that group might make that say otherwise, Deming indicated he sees no reason that Orange County would not seek to stay in sync with DeSantis’ plans.

Jerry Demings calls Ron DeSantis’ phased reopening strategy ‘very sensible.’ Image via the Orlando Sentinel/Twitter.

Universal Orlando’s new Epic Universe theme park will be delayed because of coronavirus pandemic” via Gabrielle Russon and Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Universal is pausing construction of its Epic Universe theme park in Orlando as its parent company stands to lose $500 million in profits if the parks remain closed for the entire second quarter. The new park was set to open in 2023, the company previously had disclosed. However, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts did not say how much delaying construction would affect the project’s overall timeline. Orange County Mayor Demings said senior Universal officials told him Wednesday the project would be delayed for a year.

Hillsborough schedules county safer-at-home order to expire” via C.T. Brown and Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — Saying they want to avoid confusing the public and support DeSantis, Hillsborough’s Emergency Policy Group voted Thursday to schedule the county’s safer-at-home order to expire at the same time the governor’s new order partially reopening the state comes into effect Monday. Only Tampa Mayor Jane Castor pushed back, saying that she didn’t understand the purpose of rescinding the order when the county might need to tighten up restrictions in the future.

Tampa General, AdventHealth and other Florida hospitals come together to share coronavirus data” via Veronica Brezina-Smith of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Competing hospitals in Tampa Bay are banding together to share as much data on coronavirus patients as possible. Tampa General Hospital is partnering with analytical software company SME Solutions Group Inc. and other hospitals in Tampa Bay and Southwest Florida to share data among 51 hospitals. The hospital and systems participating are TGH, AdventHealth, BayCare Health System, HCA Healthcare, Lakeland Regional Health, Lee Health and Manatee Memorial Hospital.

Escambia County, Pensacola to follow first phase of DeSantis’ coronavirus reopening plan” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Phase One of DeSantis’ plan to safely reopen Florida amid the coronavirus pandemic begins Monday. Although Pensacola announced its own plan earlier this week, Mayor Grover Robinson will align his plan with DeSantis’. Robinson announced the framework of his own plan to reopen the city using a similar approach that could’ve started as early as Friday, but Robinson said on Thursday that the city’s Phase One won’t begin until Monday and will be identical to the state’s. Escambia County also announced Thursday it would follow DeSantis’ plan as well. The Governor’s order allows for local governments to put in place stricter guidelines, but Robinson said the city’s guidelines will follow the state’s at least for now.

More than 300 Gadsden County inmates in quarantine following positive coronavirus tests” via CD Davidson-Hiers of the Tallahassee Democrat — As Gadsden County tracks 95 confirmed cases of COVID-19, Gadsden Correctional Facility quarantined more than 300 of its female inmates after the women were possibly exposed to someone with the coronavirus. The facility in Quincy is fourth in the state of for the number of inmates in medical quarantine. Separately, six Gadsden CF inmates and 14 staffers have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the department. As of Thursday, the corrections department reports that 324 inmates are in medical quarantine, which is more than half the number of all people in the county who have tested for the virus. According to the Florida Department of Health, 522 people in the county have tested.

Nassau County plans to reopen beaches” via Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-Union — Nassau County commissioners convened a meeting where they agreed to reopen county beaches starting Friday. Several dozen people had emailed commissioners supporting the reopening. At the same time, about a half-dozen expressed opposition or raised concerns about having precautions in place to prevent the spread of the virus. Only about 4% of the people tested in Nassau County are infected, County Health Director Eugenia Ngo-Seidel told Commissioners but added that three county residents remain hospitalized and scores of residents have contracted the virus since last month. Commissioners celebrated the comparatively low number of cases the county has experienced so far, saying restrictions that have been in place had an effect.

Nassau staff bringing masks to beach reopening” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — “It has been a while since the public has been allowed on our beaches. We just want them to do it responsibly,” Sheriff Bill Leeper said during a news conference about the reopening. “Have fun, be safe, but be smart.” Deputies will patrol the beaches when they reopen at 6 a.m. to be sure people are orderly, Leeper said. Staff and volunteers from the county’s emergency management office will be at the Peter’s Point beach access off South Fletcher Avenue distributing cloth masks and sharing contact information for answers to coronavirus questions, said Greg Foster, the county’s emergency management director.

Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper wants people to enjoy the newly opened beaches, but responsibly.

Collier Commissioners agree to reopen county beaches” via Karl Schneider of the Naples Daily News — Collier commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday to reopen the county’s beaches, including parking lots and restrooms starting at sunrise Thursday. Commissioner Penny Taylor wanted to place time restrictions on the opening of the beaches, but the motion moved forward without those restrictions. Commissioner Andy Solis also voted against the motion saying it would create a hot spot. “I spoke to two medical professionals over last 24 hours, and one asked: ‘Why would you want to create an attraction for a hot spot when your beaches are open, and others are closed?’” Taylor said.

Pensacola Beach businesses hopeful for busy beach reopening Friday” via Madison Arnold of the Pensacola News Journal — Pensacola Beach businesses are trying to preparing for Friday’s opening of the beach after being closed for more than a month. Still, they don’t quite know what to expect. The Dock on Pensacola Beach chose to close while the beach was closed, but will open to provide takeout orders starting Friday, bartender manager Scott Nelson said, although he isn’t sure what kind of business the beach reopening may bring. Pensacola Beach will be open from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset beginning Friday morning. Several restrictions are in place, such as no access to the area under the pier or public restrooms, and beachgoers are supposed to practice social distancing.

Pensacola economists tell Triumph Gulf Coast Florida is facing worst economy since Great Depression” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Pensacola economist Rick Harper told the Triumph Gulf Coast Board that the economy is facing the most severe recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s because of the coronavirus pandemic. Harper told board members during a conference call meeting that economic forecasts are showing that the U.S. could lose more than 30 million jobs, and the unemployment rate could reach 16% this year. “We haven’t had a 16% unemployment rate since the Great Depression,” Harper said. Harper told the board that the economy would not enter a depression because of the federal government’s monetary policy. However, he pointed out the U.S. will more than triple its expected budget deficit for the year.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

Worst economy in a decade. What’s next? ‘Worst in our lifetime.’” via Ben Casselman of The New York Times — The coronavirus pandemic officially snapped the United States’ economic growth streak in the first three months of the year. U.S. gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services output, fell at a 4.8% annual rate in the first quarter of the year. That is the first decline since 2014, and the worst quarterly contraction since 2008, when the country was in a deep recession. Widespread layoffs and business closings didn’t hit until late March in most of the country.

US consumer spending plunges record 7.5%, reflecting virus” via Martin Crutsinger of The Associated Press — U.S. consumer spending plunged 7.5% in March, reflecting the growing impact of the coronavirus pandemic as Americans complied with stay-at-home orders. The Commerce Department said that the spending decline was the sharpest monthly drop on records that go back to 1959, exceeding the previous record, a drop of 2.1% in January 1987. Personal incomes also fell sharply last month, declining by 2% with wages and salaries, the most significant part of incomes, falling by 3.1% as millions of Americans started getting layoff notices. The report said that the country experienced substantial declines as “consumers canceled, restricted, or redirected their spending.”

U.S. consumer spending plunged 7.5% in March, reflecting the growing impact of the coronavirus pandemic as Americans complied with stay-at-home orders. Image via AP.

States made it harder to get jobless benefits. Now that’s hard to undo.” via Emily Badger and Alicia Parlapiano of The New York Times — The state unemployment systems that were supposed to help millions of jobless workers were full of boxes to check and mandates to meet that couldn’t possibly apply in a pandemic. States required workers to document their job searches, weekly; to register with employment services, in-person; to take a waiting period before their first check, up to 10 days. Such requirements increased in the years following the Great Recession, as many states moved to tighten access to or reduce unemployment benefits. With them, most states cut the share of jobless workers they helped. Effectively, many states have been trying to scale up aid with systems built to keep claims low.

Cruise companies refuse CDC terms to repatriate crew, call transport ‘too expensive’” via Taylor Dolven — Cruise companies are allowed to disembark and repatriate people still trapped on ships around the U.S. by private transportation as long as their executives sign an agreement with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that holds the companies accountable for the process. They are refusing to do so. In conversations with the CDC, cruise company officials have complained that arranging private transportation for disembarking crew is “too expensive,” according to a spokesperson for the agency. The standoff is preventing about 100,000 crew members and some passengers from leaving cruise ships lingering in and around U.S. waters, including dozens of U.S. citizens.

With little hesitation, struggling news outlets accept federal aid” via Marc Tracy of The New York Times — Is it a conflict of interest for news outlets to accept federal money under the Paycheck Protection Program? On April 3, the small publication Seven Days applied for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, which is meant to help small businesses through the coronavirus pandemic. Five days later, its front page showed a caricature of Trump tossing toilet paper rolls labeled “CA$H” to people in need. The News Media Alliance has also asked the federal government to relax the rules covering which companies qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program so that struggling newspapers in small and mid-size cities run by large companies may be able to receive funds.

— MORE CORONA —

Conservative Americans see coronavirus hope in progressive Sweden” via Tina Nguyen of POLITICO — American conservatives have developed a fascination with Sweden’s hands-off approach to the coronavirus, an unexpected twist for a country that once served as a Republican punchline for Bernie Sanders jokes. On the surface, Sweden’s approach to containing the coronavirus pandemic is a libertarian dream. By some metrics, Sweden has fared roughly as well as many of its European neighbors, all of which have instituted much stricter lockdown measures. Swedes are quick to point out that their model relies on elements that are antithetical to American conservative philosophy, namely a high degree of trust in government, in addition to natural factors such as a less-dense population.

Some American conservatives are praising the way progressive Sweden handled coronavirus. Image via Getty.

Stair climbs, masks, no bars: Welcome to post-lockdown hotel” via Dara Doyle of Bloomberg — Hotels could open on a phased basis in the not too distant future. When the lockdown finally ends, and global travel resumes, expect a night at a hotel to feel rather different. Walks up stairwells, face masks, breakfast in rooms, and no gym or gin and tonics at the bar. Breakfast will be delivered to rooms where it’s not possible to adequately socially distance in restaurants, and guests will then dispose of the remnants hygienically. No meeting rooms or event space will open in the short term; no drinks will be sold at the bar. Staff will likely wear masks.

Cruise companies refuse CDC terms to repatriate crew, call transport ‘too expensive’” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — In conversations with the CDC, cruise company officials have complained that arranging private transportation for disembarking crew is “too expensive,” according to a spokesperson for the agency. The standoff is preventing about 100,000 crew members and some passengers from leaving cruise ships lingering in and around U.S. waters, including dozens of U.S. citizens. Crew members still stuck on board say they feel like an afterthought after watching their companies move mountains to repatriate passengers on charter flights and other private transportation after the industry shut down March 13. Only a handful of ships still have passengers on them, including Carnival Corporation’s Coral Princess, floating off South Florida.

This is how bad things are for museums: They now have a green light to sell off their art” via Sebastian Smee of The Washington Post — Even if they’re by less famous artists and consigned to storage, along with perhaps 90 percent of any given museum’s collection, art can still be valued at eye-watering amounts. Set beside, say, a scary budget deficit or the prospect of having to lay off employees, this knowledge can take on an almost voluptuous glow. To counter the constant temptation to regard artworks as a way to get quick cash, the museum world heavily polices the sale of works from permanent collections, otherwise known as deaccessioning. According to the Association of Art Museum Directors, museums may now “use the proceeds from deaccessioned works of art … to support the direct care” of their collection.

— THE HUMAN TOLL —

’Is my dad alive?’: Outrage as deaths mount at veterans home” via Alanna Durkin Richer of The Associated Press — Desperate for information as coronavirus deaths mounted at the Massachusetts veterans home where her father lived, Susan Kenney drove there with her question written in big letters on her car window: “Is my dad alive?” He was. But not for long. Kenney’s father and 69 others have died after contracting the virus at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in what has become the deadliest known outbreak at a long-term care facility in the U.S. As state and federal officials investigate what went wrong, outrage is building among family members and workers who say leadership failed to protect the veterans and allowed the virus to spread unchecked. “Somebody screwed up there,” Kenney said, choking back tears. “Somebody needs to be held responsible.”

This photo by Susan Kenney shows a message written on the window of her car seeking information about her late father, Charles Lowell, who had been residing at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Image via AP.

Barry, Carole Kaye, FAU donors, die of COVID-19 less than a week apart” via Lois K. Sullivan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Barry and Carole Kaye, million-dollar donors to Florida Atlantic University, have died of complications from COVID-19. An FAU spokesman confirmed the deaths. Barry Kaye, an insurance salesman who was 91, died April 21, while Carole Kaye died five days later at age 87, according to an obituary posted at Legacy.com. The Kayes had moved from Boca Raton to New York 11 years ago when their insurance business crashed. Barry Kaye was a colorful high school dropout and former disc jockey who had once auditioned to be the host of “The Tonight Show.” He became widely known in South Florida in the early 2000s for his life insurance seminars. Carole Kaye was born in Somerville, N.J., and worked with Barry in the insurance business.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Coronavirus casts unwelcome spotlight on Trump’s health secretary” via The New York Times — Two of Trump’s top health officials were stewing last month in a drab room at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as Trump and health secretary Alex Azar were concluding a laboratory tour. One of the officials, Dr. Jerome Adams, the Surgeon General, was invited to join the President and the Secretary to shake hands. The other, Seema Verma, who leads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was not. Furious, she left for the airport to catch a commercial flight home to Washington. The episode illustrated why Azar’s future as Secretary of Health and Human Services is a constant question.

The coronavirus pandemic casts an unwelcome spotlight on Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

Roger Stone launches his appeal” via Josh Gerstein of POLITICO — Trump’s longtime political adviser Roger Stone is appealing his conviction and three-year-plus prison sentence for seeking to impede congressional and FBI investigations into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016. A lawyer for Stone filed a formal notice asking the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to review the case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller that led to trial last November, where a jury found Stone guilty on all seven felony charges he faced. The new filing doesn’t offer arguments against Stone’s convictions or sentence. Still, it includes Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s ruling earlier this month denying Stone’s bid for a new trial based on claims of juror misconduct and bias.

— STATEWIDE —

Timing of DeSantis Supreme Court picks unclear” via the News Service of Florida — The Governor told reporters last month that, under a coronavirus state of emergency, he would delay a March 23 deadline until May 1 to make the appointments. As the new deadline approaches, the Governor has not indicated whether he is ready to announce his picks. Helen Aguirre Ferre, a spokeswoman for DeSantis, said the Governor “will announce his decision as soon as he can.” Ferre would not say whether the Governor plans to delay the selection of the justices. “Given the unprecedented nature of the coronavirus pandemic that still has Florida in a public health emergency, Gov. DeSantis indicated that he would not make a decision regarding a Supreme Court appointment prior to May 1,” Ferre said.

Gun rights group threatens Nikki Fried with lawsuit over concealed carry applications” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A gun-rights group threatened to sue Agriculture Commissioner Fried for suspending online applications for concealed weapons permits. Young Americans for Liberty sent a letter demanding Fried stop “infringing” on the rights of Floridians. “This is a politically motivated attempt by Commissioner Fried to exploit the COVID-19 crisis and restrict the rights of Floridians,” said YAL President Cliff Maloney. Fried announced on March 20 the department would delay concealed weapons license applications because of the COVID-19 crisis. Fried has said it’s impossible to properly process certain parts of the application, such as fingerprints. But more than a month later, Maloney said it’s clear Fried, Florida’s only Democrat holding statewide office, is taking advantage of the situation.

Pro-gun groups are threatening to sue Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, accusing her of using the COVID-19 pandemic to infringe on gun owners’ rights.

Florida Education Association pushes for more diversity in efforts to reopen schools in 2020-21” via Isaac Morgan for Florida Phoenix — When DeSantis created a task force to “reopen” Florida, an education working group was chosen to participate, with top-level education leaders participating. There was just one teacher — a special-education teacher in Orange County, but no school board members, guidance counselors, mental health professionals, parents, students and other key people who are essential in schools. “To dominate an education committee with people who are outside of the education space is an insult — we would like to see some people who actually do the work,” Fedrick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association, said. The FEA is now pushing for new groups that could have a say in reopening both PreK-12 schools and colleges and universities in 2020-21.

Jeff Brandes: New 2nd District Court of Appeals building likely for downtown St. Pete” via Megan Holmes of The CatalystAccording to Sen. Brandes, the 2nd District Court of Appeals, which is currently housed in a Stetson Law building in Tampa, will move to Pinellas County. It’s most likely home? A state-owned property in downtown St. Petersburg, along Mirror Lake. The Sebring State Building could prove to be the perfect site for the new 2nd District Appellate Court, whose jurisdiction runs from Lakeland to St. Petersburg and as far south as Naples. Historically, the court has been located in Lakeland but was temporarily moved to Stetson Law’s building in Tampa. Its lease there expires in 2023.

Film Florida releases recommendations to keep coronavirus off set” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Film crews raring to get back to the studio need to be just as vigilant as the rest of us to ensure the reopening isn’t a flop. Like other industries, film and television production has been mostly shut down since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the industry starts heading back to work, Film Florida has released a comprehensive list of recommendations for film, TV and digital media professionals to keep the virus at bay. Many are best practices for any workplace; the statewide trade association says workplaces should check each employee’s temperature when they clock in; limit all areas to essential personnel; and encourage diligent hand washing.

When a community looks for help in a pandemic, and knows where to find it” via Andrew Meacham of Florida Politics — The most significant health care crisis in a century has brought to the fore some of the nation’s biggest voices, and few are bigger than Ballard Partners. In an industry built on trust and personal connection, just how would COVID-19 affect its effectiveness, not to mention the business itself? In Tampa Bay, Ballard’s experienced and wholly committed four-member team — Ana Cruz, Todd Josko, Jan Gorrie and Carlos Ramos — wake up every day knowing just how much the community is looking to them to come through. For local businesses on the ropes. For local government needing help. For people looking for a reason to believe that tomorrow would be just a little bit better and safer than the day before.

What happened at the treasured Big Cypress National Preserve was ‘horrendous’” via Craig Pittman of Florida Phoenix — Forty-six years ago, when the federal government bought the Big Cypress Swamp and created the 729,000-acre preserve, the government left a loophole. The feds did not buy the mineral rights under the land. Three years ago, the Collier Resources Company dispatched a Texas oil company into the preserve, which used a massive machine that sends sound waves into the ground to determine how much oil might be under 110 square miles of the preserve. The Burnett Oil Co. left behind a mess: Muddy tire ruts 2 feet deep and 15 inches wide. Dwarf cypress trees that had been cut down or driven over. “It was horrendous,” said Alison Kelly, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

— GORDON PROMOTED —

MDW Communications has promoted Landon St. Gordon to the position of Senior Director.

St. Gordon has been with the leading Florida-based political marketing firm since 2015 when he began as a campaign marketing associate. In that time, he has worked on more than 80 successful political campaigns across Florida and around the country, including for Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Demings.

As part of a team for multiple historic victories for LGBTQ candidates, St. Gordon played a crucial role in electing the first openly gay mayor of Fort Lauderdale, Dean Trantalis, and the first openly gay female judge in Broward County, Betsy Benson. He also led the nationally recognized digital efforts for Equality Florida, one of the largest LGBTQ statewide advocacy groups in the country. St. Gordon was a featured presenter at the 2019 Equality Federation Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

“Landon has been an absolutely integral part of our team,” said MDW Communications President Michael Worley. “His talents continue to elect progressive candidates up and down the ballot, and I’m thrilled to have him take on this elevated role.”

Among his achievements at MDW, St. Gordon was the recent recipient of the American Association of Political Consultants Gold Pollie Award for his work in the 2019 Miami Beach Municipal Election.

— PERSONNEL NOTES —

Jimmie T. Smith to head Florida efforts for Concerned Veterans for America” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Former Rep. Smith will serve as Coalitions Director for Concerned Veterans for America’s Florida chapter. “As a veteran, it has always been a privilege to serve, but to me, service doesn’t have an expiration date,” said Smith, an Army veteran. “CVA has a strong record of leadership in advocating for policies to help veterans and all Americans live better lives, and I look forward to continuing my service to support my fellow veterans, their families, and our larger communities here in Florida and across the country.” The veteran’s advocacy group has been involved in politics and issues, including health care access during the pandemic. The group has also hosted regional events, speaking with leaders about issues directly impacting veterans.

Former Rep. Jimmie T. Smith gets a new gig as a veterans’ advocate.

John Cleveland named new Center Director at Moffitt Cancer Center” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Moffitt Cancer Center is naming Cleveland its new Center Director and Executive Vice President after a series of abrupt resignations at the center last year. Cleveland has served as Interim Center Director since the controversy. Those resignations were triggered by several individuals’ involvement in a controversial Chinese initiative aimed at partnering with American researchers. Cleveland also has experience working with the National Cancer Institute, The Scripps Research Institute, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He will have a central role in attempting to steer the center through recovery from the storm of the last few months.

Derek Silver joins Becker’s lobbying team” via Florida Politics — Full-service law firm Becker announced Friday that Derek Silver is joining the firm a Government Relations Consultant in the firm’s State and Local Lobbying Practice. Silver spent the 2018 Legislative Session working on education policy in the Florida House and served as the Jewish Coalition Coordinator for Gov. Ron DeSantis’s gubernatorial campaign. After DeSantis’ victory, Silver was named to the transition team and subsequently worked as the Deputy Director of Government Affairs for the Office of Insurance Regulation. During his time at OIR, he worked on a variety of insurance issues including property, health, life, and automobile insurance. “I look forward to working with Becker’s top-notch, experienced lobbying group and serving their diverse group of clients throughout Florida,” Silver said.

— 2020 —

Joe Biden will address Tara Reade’s allegation on MSNBC on Friday” via Lisa Lerer and Sydney Ember of The New York Times — Biden will publicly address an allegation of sexual assault for the first time in an appearance on morning television on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Friday, after weeks of silence on the issue that had prompted frustration from Democrats and attacks from Republicans seeking to weaken him for a general election contest against Trump. The decision followed intensive discussions in the Biden campaign about how to confront the allegation more forcefully. The planned appearance came as scrutiny of the charge intensified along partisan lines on Capitol Hill on Thursday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed support for Biden’s presidential bid while Republicans weaponized the accusation to attack congressional Democrats as hypocritical.

On Friday, Joe Biden will publicly address Tara Reade’s allegation of sexual impropriety.

Biden reaches deal to let Bernie Sanders keep hundreds of delegates” via Stephen Ohlemacher and Bill Barrow of The Associated Press — Biden has agreed to let former primary rival Sanders keep hundreds of delegates he would otherwise forfeit by dropping out of the presidential race in a deal designed to avoid the bitter feelings that marred the party in 2016 and helped lead to Hillary Clinton’s defeat. Under party rules, Sanders should lose about one-third of the delegates he’s won in primaries and caucuses as the process moves ahead, and states select the people who will attend the Democratic National Convention. The rules say those delegates should be Biden supporters, as he is the only candidate still actively seeking the party’s nomination. The Biden campaign says it will work with Sanders and state parties to fill those positions with Sanders supporters.

— MORE FROM THE TRAIL —

Bill Foster endorses Anna Paulina Luna in crowded CD 13 primary” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Former St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster is endorsing Anna Paulina Luna for Congress. “Anna Paulina Luna is a passionate and persuasive voice for change,” Foster said. “She will be a champion for Pinellas County and is the best choice for Republicans ready to take back the House and send a principled advocate to Washington. I am proud to give her my full support.” Luna is running for Florida’s 13th Congressional District in a crowded Republican primary. Foster served one term as Mayor before losing a contentious reelection bid to current Mayor Rick Kriseman in 2013.

Anna Luna is one of the GOP opponents who are backing term limits.

Former St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster gives the thumbs up to Anna Paulina Luna for Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

Rival candidate sues to disqualify Carlos Giménez from CD 26 race” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Republican candidate Omar Blanco is suing to disqualify Giménez from a South Florida congressional race after a qualifying check from Giménez misspelled his own name. Last Friday marked the qualifying deadline for congressional races. Giménez, who is term-limited out of his post as Miami-Dade County Mayor, opted to pay the $10,440 qualifying fee to appear on the ballot in Florida’s 26th Congressional District. But the check used to pay the fee noted that it came from “Carlos Giminez for Congress.” The Mayor’s congressional committee is named “Carlos Gimenez for Congress,” not “Giminez.”

Linda Chaney launches bid to unseat Jennifer Webb in HD 69” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — She is a former St. Pete Beach City Commissioner, USF alumna and the co-founder of a mobile mammography business that is now owned by AdventHealth. She currently works at the health care system as a mobile mammography manager. Her campaign announcement featured some jabs at Webb, who flipped the seat in 2018 after now-County Commissioner Kathleen Peters to forego reelection to a fourth term. “This campaign is going to be about giving our district the voice they deserve. Our current representative has not governed in the manner in which she campaigned, and all too often is on the wrong side of issues that affect so many of us on a day-to-day basis. Our district needs effective, strong representation that can deliver results for our community,” Chaney said in a news release.

Behind the scenes: The unraveling of Margaret Good’s campaign” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Upon news Good replaced longtime campaign manager Kevin Lata with out-of-state flak Alex Koren, the Republican Party of Florida fired a fresh shot. “Margaret Good’s new campaign manager jumped ship from another campaign in New Mexico just six weeks before their primary election. Or was he fired?” reads a hot statement from the RPOF. As previously reported by Florida Politics, the only campaign manager gig on Koren’s resume appears to be running the high-profile campaign for ex-CIA operative Valerie Plame in New Mexico. The RPOF statement reads. “Who quits a front-runner’s campaign after four months to join a long-shot campaign? Answer: NOBODY!”

— TOP OPINION —

Admit it: You are willing to let people die to end the shutdown” via John F. Harris of POLITICO Magazine — Asked if a premature move could “cost your constituents their lives?” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis was blandly indirect in his answer. While he might wish to have “next week’s information and next month’s information available to me today,” the Democratic governor said, “that’s not the world we live in.” During a pandemic that likely will continue for months. To my ear, he was saying something like this: Yes, some people are going to die of COVID-19 who wouldn’t if I keep a full lockdown in place. I hope not too many or too fast.

— OPINIONS —

Trump is angry about his poll numbers. And he has good reason to be.” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — By this point, it has become evident that Trump has no appetite for bad news from campaign aides. After previously getting bad poll numbers and firing some of his pollsters, Trump this time trained his ire at campaign manager Brad Parscale. If you overlay these numbers on the 2016 map and assume that the other states would fall as they did then, Biden currently has the inside track on winning as many as 352 electoral votes, more than double the 148 for which Trump is favored.

What’s right and wrong with Gov. DeSantis’ plan to reopen Florida” via the Sun-Sentinel Editorial BoardDeSantis is taking measured steps to gradually reopen most of Florida. Based on what we know, it’s the right approach. That’s the first problem: We don’t know enough. Outside of South Florida, restaurants and retail stores can reopen at 25 percent capacity, starting Monday. Outdoor dining is allowed if people follow social distancing limits. Elective surgeries can resume statewide, but bars, gyms and movie theaters will stay closed, as will schools. Groups of more than 10 people will still be off-limits. People are expected to wear face masks to help protect themselves and others from the coronavirus, but those who don’t won’t face fines.

Peter Schnebly: Florida needs to make sure small businesses like mine have a seat at the table” via Florida Politics — Last week, DeSantis announced the executive team for the Re-Open Florida Task Force — to my dismay, none of those represented small businesses. We have no representation on the executive committee and must rely on our working group chairs to adequately convey our concerns to the Governor and the rest of the executive committee. As the owner of a combination winery, brewery and restaurant in South Florida that employs over 40 workers, I believe this is a mistake. There are over 2.5 million small businesses in Florida, employing about 42% of the state’s private workforce. Any real discussion of making sure our state is on a path to prosperity should begin with us, not just with the largest corporations and businesses.

The pulp nonfiction parallels between coronavirus masks and Florida oranges” via Frank Cerabino of The Palm Beach Post — It dawned on me in late February that I ought to buy a mask for this yet-to-arrive coronavirus. I thought I was being proactive. But when I started looking on Amazon … the best I could do was get a mask delivered in two weeks — but that delivery date turned out to be too optimistic. The reason: the supplier in China was backlogged. The irony did not escape me. My mask to protect me from the virus that originated in China also originated in China. So, I sympathize with Florida’s citrus growers, for they too now have a strangely similar set of circumstances. Despite the pretty picture on the Florida license plate, growing citrus in Florida has gotten ugly. A lot of the blame goes to a mottled, brown insect that originated in China.

Agriculture isn’t the “bad guy” in Florida’s clean water fight” via Thomas D. Waite for Florida Today — When it comes to exposing our country’s systemic vulnerabilities, COVID-19 is, unfortunately, a gift that keeps on giving. Right now, our food source is in the spotlight as Florida farmers face a looming agricultural catastrophe of rotting, uneaten produce while, ironically, the country braces for possible food shortages. The pandemic is giving us a huge reminder of the importance of Florida’s agricultural industry in the chain of America’s food supply. Florida growers cannot stop growing, because we cannot stop eating. Sadly, this is an often-missed fact when Floridians get into the ever-present environment versus food production debate. Due to the COVID effect, this may be a good time to reconsider the way some of us view agriculture as the only “bad guy” when it comes to nutrient water contamination.

Joshua Rydell: A tale of two criminal justice systems” via Florida Politics — I know from firsthand experience how broken the system is. We must remake our justice system in a way that is fair and equitable for everyone in our community regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, gender, financial status, or any consideration. What we have is a conviction-based system, not one based on true justice. Many of the career staff at the Broward County State Attorney’s Office are striving to do good work but have been indoctrinated with bad policies. Without leadership from the top, they have been unable or unwilling to change a tragically broken system. What’s required in Broward County are top-down reforms aiming to end mass incarceration while keeping our community safe.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Florida House Democrats are trying to engineer a Special Session on coronavirus. Rep. Evan Jenne says enough lawmakers have now submitted a formal request to the Secretary of State — and she is legally required to poll the entire Legislature.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Senate Democrats hold an online news conference to demand more changes in the state unemployment system. Sunrise talks with five of them to hear why.

— Despite spending more than $100 million to try to patch the system together, Florida’s unemployment compensation system is still leading to anger, frustration, tears — and even a lawsuit. New numbers from the U.S. Labor Department show more Floridians filed first-time unemployment claims last week than any other state in the nation.

— Two stories featuring Florida Man and Woman, including a judge who’s in trouble for defending her son.

To listen, click on the image below:

— LISTEN UP —

Dishonorable Mention: State Rep. Chris Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, Ernest Hooper and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics and culture. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor discusses making decisions during the pandemic with ever-changing information. DeSantis heralded Hillsborough County as a leader in the state on their handling of the pandemic. Castor weighs in on that and reopening the city.

Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida: DeSantis got the ball rolling this week on lifting the lockdown he put in place to contain the coronavirus. Zac Anderson and John Kennedy discuss the balance the Governor is trying to strike as he works to restart the economy without compromising public health, and also touch on some of the ways the coronavirus continues to impact the state, including the ongoing threat to nursing homes and the significant backlog in unemployment claims.

podcastED: Step Up For Students President Doug Tuthill and Florida’s 2020 Teacher of the Year Dre Graham discuss Graham’s new role as executive director of the Department of Education’s Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice. How does a music teacher from a Title I district school in Tampa come to oversee the office responsible for managing Florida’s vast choice programs? After a year touring every Florida school district, how will Graham operationalize the opportunity he has to rewrite narratives and bring people together?

The New Abnormal from host Rick Wilson and The Daily Beast: Wilson and Molly Jong-Fast discuss goat blood, Trump’s 4th Filet o’ Fish of the day, and how to put the fancy in sycophancy. Then the duo talks to Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng, The Daily Beast’s Trumpland reporters, about whether Jared Kushner has any real responsibilities — or is just padding out his college application.

The Yard Sign with host Jonathan Torres: The weekly political podcast offers a unique perspective on local, state, and national news and politics with young professional conservatives discussing the political news of the day. In addition to the revolving cast of panelists, each episode will feature candidates, experts, and elected officials. This week, a conversation with Rep. Byron Donald, a Republican running for Florida’s 19th Congressional District

— WEEKEND TV —

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

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Sens. Joe Gruters and Janet Cruz, as well as Dr. Michael Teng, associate professor of Molecular Medicine and Dean of Internal Medicine for USF Health.

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

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

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with Robin Safley of Feeding Florida and Dr. Tom Serio.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Agriculture Commissioner Fried, Florida State College at Jacksonville President Dr. John Avendano, Rory Diamond of K9s for Warriors and The Fire Watch Executive Director Nick Howland.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis and Florida International University President Mark Rosenberg.

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

NASCAR to resume season May 17 with seven races in 10 days” via Jenna Fryer of The Associated Press — NASCAR will resume its season without fans starting at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina with the premier Cup Series racing three more times in 10 days. NASCAR joins the UFC as the first major sports organizations to announce a specific return to play plans since the coronavirus pandemic shut down U.S. sports in mid-March. “NASCAR and its teams are eager and excited to return to racing and have great respect for the responsibility that comes with a return to competition,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “NASCAR will return in an environment that will ensure the safety of our competitors, officials and all those in the local community.”

NBA reportedly eyes Disney World as option to host games” via Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel — The NBA is looking at using the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World as a possible venue to complete the season if conditions permit during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic. Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press reported via Twitter that Disney chairman Bob Iger was on a videoconference with the NBA’s board of governors on Wednesday. In the same tweet, Reynolds wrote that some state lawmakers have been touting the idea of utilizing Disney as the site to resume the NBA season for some time. The complex already has a court, the HP Field House, where high-level basketball games are played.

The hp Fieldhouse at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Disney World could be used to finish the NBA season. Image via ESPNWOS.com.

LeBron James says no one wants to cancel NBA season” via Luke McGrath of Bloomberg — Los Angeles Lakers star James says reports about NBA executives calling on the league to cancel the season are absolutely not true. “I’m ready, and our team is ready. Nobody should be canceling anything,” James said. A CNBC report cited NBA team executives and players’ agents saying they were concerned with liability issues surrounding resuming play. One possible scenario being discussed to resume action includes playing games at the Walt Disney World Resort property in Orlando.

Disney: New face masks for sale, benefiting nonprofit organization” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Disney is selling themed cloth face masks — think Mickey Mouse, Marvel heroes and “Star Wars” — as part of the fight to contain the coronavirus pandemic. The company will donate all profits from the mask sales in the U.S., up to $1 million, to Medshare, a nonprofit organization that distributes medical supplies, it announced Thursday. The masks are being sold through the ShopDisney website and are expected to be shipped to customers in June. The cloth coverings are sold for $19.99 in sets with four different designs. Series include Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel and classic Disney characters.

Home project during shutdown turns wall into Epcot icon” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney World fan Ginny Phillips couldn’t come to Epcot, so she brought the theme park to her house.  She borrowed the iconic Spaceship Earth design, flattened it, and painted it on a hallway wall as one of her coronavirus-containment home improvement projects. The result: about 100 square feet of meticulously arranged silver triangles that effectively put the big ball on a flat surface. It’s so precise it could be mistaken for wallpaper. “As far as measurements, I just did that. Like, I kind of want them to be 18 inches, and I just measured down to see where it looks good. I just invented it,” said Phillips, who lives in Spring Hill, Tennessee, and is Disney World annual passholder.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy May Day birthday to Stephen Lawson, Julia Mazzone, and Sarah Rumpf. Early happy birthday wishes to Golden Rotunda recipient Adam Giery of Strategos Group.

___

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

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

Sign up for Sunburn

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

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Connect
Sign up for Sunburn

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