Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.5.20

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Florida politics and Sunburn — perfect together.

Coronavirus snapshot — State agencies updated a variety of numbers Monday about the coronavirus in Florida. Sources for the figures include the Florida Department of Health, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Florida Department of Corrections, Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

Some key takeaways:

— 36,897: Total number of cases.

— 1,399: Deaths of Florida residents.

— 1,047,839: Number of “unique” unemployment claims submitted from March 15 to Sunday, as some people filed more than one claim.

— 735,749: Claims processed.

— 478,666: Claimants paid.

— 979,196,419: Dollars paid to claimants.

— 6: Youths in juvenile-justice facilities who have tested positive, an increase of two.

— 25: Workers in juvenile-justice facilities who have tested positive.

— 373: Prison inmates who have tested positive.

— 167: Corrections workers who have tested positive.

— 37: Percentage of available hospital beds statewide.

— 35.7: Percentage of available adult intensive-care unit beds statewide.

H/t to the News Service of Florida.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@JHauserman: Five of the @PulitzerPrizes winners are environment/science-related this year.

@RoyPeterClark: The best newspaper work I read this year — that did not win a Pulitzer — was a continuing series of stories by our @TB_Times on the discovery of desecrated African American cemeteries all over the region. A ghost of our racist past, with folks now trying to do the right thing.

@LtGovNunez: My deepest condolences to the Shula family. As a native Miamian and lifelong Dolphins fan, I am saddened by the loss of Coach [Don] Shula. He exhibited greatness throughout his life both on and off the field. May he Rest In Peace.

Tweet, tweet:

@CarlosGSmith: Will the Inspector-General be investigating why 600+ problems with Florida’s unemployment system (detailed in 2019 audits) were ignored by @GovRonDeSantis? #FLunemployment

@CHeathWFTV: In case you just missed what the Gov just said about waiting 2-weeks to apply and 3-weeks to get paid. That’s policy, not a system. That was how Florida wanted to treat workers; wait 5-weeks for $275.

@SteveLemongello: DeSantis asked about the Broward sheriff he selected who turned out to have killed a man in self-defense when he was a teen: “I don’t even know the guy.”

@MaryEllenKlas: Looks like we’ll be seeing Phase 2 this week: hair salons look like they’ve got @GovRonDeSantis support to reopen. Beach access “did not spark an outbreak” and “we’re getting a good sense of what are true high-risk situations”

@Fineout: That moment when Florida’s Division of Elections director suggested that if voters are unsure if they are eligible to vote, they could seek an advisory opinion from the Dept. of State. (This is a process normally used by election officials, political parties, etc., not voters)

— DAYS UNTIL —

The next supermoon — 2; Mother’s Day — 5; NASCAR season resumes at Darlington Speedway in Darlington, South Carolina — 12; TNT’s adaptation of “Snowpiercer” premieres — 12; English Premier League soccer to restart — 34; PGA Tour resumes — 37; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 38; Father’s Day — 47; Federal taxes due — 71; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 73; “Mulan” premieres — 80; TED conference rescheduled — 82; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 104; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 108; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 111; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 122; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 123; Rescheduled date for French Open — 138; First presidential debate in Indiana — 147; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 157; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 163; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 164; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 170; 2020 General Election — 182; “Black Widow” premieres — 185; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 196; “No Time to Die” premieres — 203; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 232; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 444; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 453; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 549; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 647; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 689; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 732; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 885.

— CORONA NATION —

Donald Trump trots out his latest pandemic fall guy: Anthony Fauci” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — At Trump’s campaign infomercial Fox News town hall Sunday night, in which he declared his superiority to all predecessors, Trump explained why he didn’t act sooner against the coronavirus. “Everybody, even Fauci, was saying, ‘It’s going to pass, not going to be a big deal,’” Trump said, naming the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases along with Democrats to his list of those to blame for his own delayed response. And how does Dr. Fauci defend himself? Let’s ask him. “Mmmph. Mmmph! MMMPH!!!” Ah, of course. I had forgotten. Fauci, who in February said he’s never been “muzzled,” has been muzzled.

Fall guy? Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks at a coronavirus briefing as Donald Trump looks on. Image via AP.

Reopening is a risk for Republican Governors” via Drew Altman of Axios — The hardest-hit areas so far have mostly been in states with Democratic Governors. But the number of coronavirus cases is now increasing more quickly in states with Republican Governors. Coronavirus cases and deaths are both higher in Democratic states than in Republican ones, even after adjusting for population. However, over the last two weeks, reported infections had increased 91% in red states versus 63% in blue states. We see the same pattern for COVID-19 deaths: 170% growth in red states versus 104% in blue states.

The cruel COVID ‘new normal’” via Scott Gottlieb of The Wall Street Journal — Continuing spread at something near current levels may become the cruel “new normal.” Hospitals and public-health systems will have to contend with persistent disease and death. Higher rates of spread may be limited to some areas; a majority of states have more than 250 new cases of COVID-19 every day. But as states begin to open up their economies and Americans return to traveling, the disease will continue to expand. That means we need to double down on screening and isolating sick people to slow the spread as much as possible, which will save lives and prevent health care systems from being overwhelmed. That means channeling resources into places where outbreaks are prone to happen.

Unimpressed by online classes, college students seek refunds” via Collin Binkley of The Associated Press — students at more than 25 U.S. universities are filing lawsuits against their schools demanding partial refunds on tuition and campus fees, saying they’re not getting the caliber of education they were promised. The suits reflect students’ growing frustration with online classes that schools scrambled to create as the coronavirus forced campuses across the nation to close last month. The suits say students should pay lower rates for the portion of the term that was offered online, arguing that the quality of instruction is far below the classroom experience. Colleges, though, reject the idea that refunds are in order. Students are learning from the same professors who teach on campus, officials have said, and they’re still earning credits toward their degrees. Schools insist that, after being forced to close by their states, they’re still offering students a quality education.

China hid coronavirus’ severity to hoard supplies, DHS report says” via Will Weissert of The Associated Press — U.S. officials believe China covered up the extent of the coronavirus outbreak to stock up on medical supplies needed to respond to it, intelligence documents show. Chinese leaders “intentionally concealed the severity” of the pandemic from the world in early January, according to a four-page Department of Homeland Security intelligence report dated May 1 and obtained by The Associated Press. Not classified but marked “for official use only,” the DHS analysis states that, while downplaying the severity of the coronavirus, China increased imports and decreased exports of medical supplies. It attempted to cover up doing so by “denying there were export restrictions and obfuscating and delaying provision of its trade data,” the analysis states.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Coronavirus antibody tests to begin across Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis says” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida will begin testing health care workers and residents for coronavirus antibodies, DeSantis said Sunday, as more drive-thru testing sites begin to open at Walgreens, CVS and Walmart sites. DeSantis visited Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach Sunday, the day before hospitals will be allowed to do elective procedures for the first time since March. Hospital officials and doctors said they were ready to go when Phase One of the state’s reopening begins. But even as the state begins to cautiously reopen, DeSantis stressed the need for more testing. He said the state just received its first shipment of 200,000 coronavirus antibody tests, which will be distributed to hospitals as well as some drive-thru testing sites and possibly walk-up sites.

Ron DeSantis is announcing the first wave of coronavirus antibody tests. Image via AP.

Halsey Beshears: Locals should figure out details on reopening plan” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Saying that Florida should not pursue a one-size-fits-all approach to reopening business across the state, Department of Business and Professional Regulations Secretary Beshears said local governments have the responsibility to work out many details. “Let’s not overthink this,” he said Friday, answering detailed questions about what the state would or would not allow, as businesses begin to reopen Monday under DeSantis’ phase one plan to reopen the economy. Beshears spoke on Zoom before Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings‘ Economic Recovery Task Force working group. His comments come as local governments like Orange County try to make sense of some of the ambiguity in the first phase Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. plan DeSantis unveiled Wednesday.

Democratic super PAC sues state over voting rules in the coronavirus era — Democratic super PAC Priorities USA joined Florida Alliance for Retired Americans and Alianza for Progress sued Gov. DeSantis and other state officials over vote-by-mail and absentee voting rules. As reported by Nolan D. McCaskill and Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida, the suit targets several voting rules, including the Election Day deadline to receive ballots, which the coalition argues should instead be the deadline for voters to send their ballot. The groups also say the requiring voters pay postage on mail ballots is akin to a poll tax. Additionally, the state’s voter assistance ban, according to the suit, restricts speech and the right of association.

Prison workers worry as coronavirus cases mount” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — At least 167 Florida corrections workers had tested positive for the virus as of Monday, exacerbating some facilities’ low staffing levels, increasing the workloads of some guards and escalating tensions as employees worry about bringing the virus home. “We’re going to see the mental-health issue rise up again because this has put a lot of stress on the officers,” Jim Baiardi, who leads the state corrections chapter of the Florida Police Benevolent Association, said in an interview. Some corrections workers have been asked to help at prisons such as Sumter Correctional Institution, where at least a dozen workers and 92 inmates have tested positive for the highly contagious virus, Baiardi said.

Forecasting death: CDC models says 2,000 in Florida by June” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Nationally and in Tallahassee, a great deal of attention and criticism has been paid toward epidemiological models being used to predict how bad the COVID-19 outbreak could be, yet the CDC is using forecasting models that may suggest even worse scenarios than the most commonly-cited. In particular, DeSantis has expressed frustration with reports citing IHME projections, particularly earlier projections that were far higher before Florida began seriously locking down. Yet a consensus of models used by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which do not include the IHME model, is now projecting that Florida’s outbreak would result in 2,000 COVID-19-caused deaths by May 30.

Is surging unemployment just the first domino to threaten Florida’s economy?” via Richard Danielson and Graham Brink of the Tampa Bay Times — The speed and severity of the pandemic recession has business owners worried about the future. A quick return to normal seems out of the question. There’s no guarantee that when businesses reopen, patrons will follow, at least not initially and in the numbers that they did before the pandemic. A recession that was once hoped to have a V-shape, a steep drop, followed by a quick rebound, looks more likely to resemble a U, with its slower recovery.

Assignment editors — Sens. José Javier Rodríguez and Annette Taddeo join Cindy Huddleston, Senior Policy Analyst at the Florida Policy Institute, for a virtual town hall with area residents to discuss the COVID-19 crisis and Florida’s unemployment system, 6 p.m., RSVP at zoom.us/webinar/register.

Details dim about prevalence of telecommuting by state workers during COVID-19 outbreak” via Issac Morgan of Florida Phoenix — With COVID-19 upending many workplaces in the U.S., state and local government employees are telecommuting at rates not seen before. The report shows a 27% increase in teleworking among state and local government employees, “the highest share since 2016,” when it was 22%. Teleworking is “more common in state agencies (64%) than local jurisdictions (19%),” according to the center. In Florida, many state agencies have allowed its employees to work from home, although not all positions are eligible for telecommuting.

Florida college student files class-action lawsuit targeting student fee reimbursements” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — The closure of the state university system due to coronavirus has prompted a class-action lawsuit alleging that student fees have not been returned. The 16-page lawsuit filed in Leon County is aimed at the Florida Board of Governors on behalf of the students of all 12 state-run universities. It targets the on-campus fees associated with college, not tuition or room and board, because without a campus to go to, the services are not available.

MedMen temporarily closes most Florida stores” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — A California-based medical marijuana dispensary has temporarily closed five of its eight Florida locations. MedMen listed temporary closures on its website effective Sunday. It’s not clear whether the closures are related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic or if they will affect six other stores the company plans to open throughout the state. The company had its best month in the state in April, with 123,817 ounces of medical cannabis flower sold, which was a 52% increase from January sales before the pandemic hit.

— CORONA LOCAL —

Miami jail inmate diagnosed with the coronavirus dies at hospital after ‘shaking violently’” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — A Miami-Dade jail inmate diagnosed with the novel coronavirus has died while hospitalized after suffering a “medical emergency” while behind bars, the Miami Herald has learned. It was unclear Monday morning whether Charles Hobbs Jr., 51, was officially killed by COVID-19, the illness caused by the highly contagious virus that has caused a global pandemic and infected over 300 inmates in the county’s three jails. The Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department confirmed Sunday that Hobbs, who had been an inmate at the Metro West Detention Center, had died. If COVID-19 killed Hobbs, he would be the first Miami-Dade jail inmate to die from the illness. Hobbs was in jail awaiting trial on four counts of failing to register as a sex offender.

Miami-Dade jail inmate Charles Hobbs was diagnosed with COVID-19 and soon died in a Miami-Dade hospital after ‘shaking violently.’ Image via Miami Herald.

Within 1 hour, thousands applied for Miami’s financial relief. Two programs closed.” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Miami’s city government has reached capacity for two financial assistance programs for businesses, and thousands of applications were pouring in for a third fund to help renters. Administrators are using more than $3 million in federal funding to distribute loans and grants to residential tenants and business owners impacted by the economic downturn amid the COVID-19 crisis. The city began accepting applications online and over the phone at noon Monday. By 1 p.m., the city had received more than 10,000 applications across the three programs. The load of applicants for two funds to help businesses quickly hit the administration’s limit.

Local nonprofits set to take part in global fundraising endeavor Tuesday” via Jodie Wagner of The Palm Beach Post — Some area nonprofit organizations are among thousands that plan to participate in a worldwide fundraising endeavor Tuesday. As part of #GivingTuesdayNow, a global day of giving and unity taking place as an emergency response to the financial crisis caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin counties, Fresh Rx, and the Cultural Council for Palm Beach County are among those boosting their already substantial fundraising efforts. All three have been raising money for different sectors of the community impacted by COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus.

Airbnb to provide no-cost stays for Jackson health care workers” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Airbnb is partnering with Jackson Health System to provide no-cost stays for health care workers combating the novel coronavirus. The arrangement is part of Airbnb’s Frontline Stays program. The program allows those workers to stay closer to their hospital, and social distance from their family, while they continue to treat those affected by the virus. “Miami-Dade County is developing smart solutions to deal with the challenges of COVID-19 thanks to new partnerships like Airbnb’s Frontline Stays program,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez said.

East Boynton testing site opens for free drive-up appointments, walk-ups” via The Palm Beach Post — An area that is one of Palm Beach County’s coronavirus hot spots opened a free testing site Monday and screened 43 people, five of whom were symptomatic, including the first two patients. The free testing at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in east Boynton ran less than two hours Monday but will keep running for six weeks on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., said DeAnna Warren, CEO of nonprofit Genesis Community Health. St. John sits in one of the ZIP codes that has led the county in virus confirmations, although Bethesda Hospital East also is located there and could skew data, according to the Florida Department of Health.

How will strip clubs work with social distancing? South Florida clubs navigating uncertain terrain ahead of reopening” via Wells Dusenbury of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As businesses across the state begin crafting plans to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, strip clubs are faced with a series of perplexing dilemmas. How do you offer lap dances with social distancing guidelines? Will eager customers be allowed to tuck dollar bills into the g-strings of gyrating strippers? These are among the many questions on the table as strip clubs formulate strategies on reopening in a radically changed environment. With dozens of strip clubs from Miami to West Palm Beach, South Florida is one of the most lucrative regions in an $8 billion market across the country. Despite public paranoia about germs, former Gold Club Pompano general manager Sean Bishop believes people will return once clubs are allowed to reopen.

Five days after reopening, South Beach park closes as crowds defy face mask order” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — After busy crowds — many not wearing face masks — packed the popular South Pointe Park over the weekend, the city of Miami Beach shut down the park Monday, just five days after it reopened under loosened coronavirus restrictions. Miami Beach joined the county, opening city parks, golf courses and marinas Wednesday. The reopening had strict rules, including the use of masks except when visitors are strenuously exercising. In the five days that parks have been reopened in Miami Beach, park rangers have issued 8,880 verbal warnings to parkgoers not wearing facial coverings. After issuing just 1,551 face-mask warnings citywide during the first two days, park rangers issued 2,829 alone Saturday and another 2,432 Sunday.

Due to a lack of compliance with social distancing and mask-wearing, South Pointe Park in Miami Beach closed again after only five days.

Boaters journey to Mar-a-Lago in support of Donald Trump after coronavirus restrictions eased” via C. Isaiah Smalls II of the Miami Herald — A large boating parade in Palm Beach County caught the attention of Trump. Hundreds of boaters, flying their favorite Trump paraphernalia, sailed from Jupiter Inlet to Mar-a-Lago Sunday to show their support of the President. He later expressed his gratitude on Twitter. “Thank you very much to our beautiful ‘boaters,’” Trump tweeted Sunday alongside a video of the festivities. “I will never let you down!” Dubbed “Trumptilla,” the event garnered about 1,200 boats at its height although only 360 actually completed the journey to the winter White House.

— MORE LOCAL —

Brevard gym closes its doors again after brief defiance of DeSantis’ Executive Order” via Bailey Gallion of Florida Today — The Melbourne gym that defied Gov. DeSantis’ executive order and reopened its doors Friday without a green light from the state has since closed shop again under the advice of a local politician. Harbor City Community Fitness’ reopening was short-lived after a phone call from Melbourne Vice Mayor Paul Alfrey, who advised the gym that it was a good idea to close as they pushed DeSantis to allow them to reopen, General Manager Dani Hoddinott said. Alfrey has publicly supported the gym’s quest to be recognized as an essential business that should be allowed to open.

Reopening Jacksonville: People flock back to beaches” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — At high noon Monday, the Atlantic Beach Town Center no longer looked like the ghost town it has often resembled in the weeks since state and local officials issued shutdown orders that shuttered bars, restaurants retail stores and beaches. At 6 a.m. the beaches were officially open without time limitations that kicked people out for the bulk of the day, and the effects were already clear just hours later. People were scattered out across the city’s three beaches by midmorning, most of whom appeared spread apart and complying with social distancing guidelines issued by public health officials.

All sorts of people are flocking to newly reopen Jacksonville beaches. Image via Jacksonville Beaches News/Facebook.

Reopening Jacksonville: Customers returning to Jacksonville restaurant dining rooms” via Teresa Stepzinski, Gene Frenette, Mark Woods and Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville residents are still hungry to eat out. A half dozen customers in the dining room and multiple takeout orders in the kitchen marked the beginning of the lunch rush Monday at Harp’s American Pub & Grill. Within minutes, a steady stream of customers — individuals or in pairs — walked into the popular restaurant and bar that has been a Riverside staple for 30 years. Pausing to read a handmade sign saying “We can only seat 25 people inside,” they sat down at widely spaced tables around the bar or headed to the back outdoor deck. Breakfast and lunch crowds — albeit smaller than pre-pandemic levels — showed Jacksonville residents still have an appetite for eating out.

Ritz-Carlton Sarasota owner to return federal rescue loan” via John Hielscher of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Ashford Group of Companies reversed its earlier stance and over the weekend said it would give back the entire $68 million it borrowed so far through the U.S. government’s Paycheck Protection Program. The 266-room Ritz, one of the poshest accommodations in Southwest Florida, had received the potentially forgivable loan through the program that was designed to help small businesses during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Ashford had earlier told federal regulators that it had no intention of returning the money, saying any flak was “misplaced.” But as criticism grew, Ashford said it would give back the money “due to the agency’s recently changed rules and inconsistent federal guidance that put the companies at compliance risk.”

Federal judge rejects lawsuit over Sarasota County Commission redistricting” via Timothy Fanning of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Hardball politics, not race, was the primary motivator when Sarasota County commissioners adopted new district boundaries after voters mandated that board members represent specific areas, rather than residents countywide. “There is simply no record evidence that the main driver of this was skin color, rather than simple political gerrymandering and ‘hardball’ partisan incumbent protection,” U.S. Judge William Jung said. The lawsuit, which alleged that the county discriminated against black voters when it redrew district maps in November, removed a significant number of black voters and a black candidate, former Sarasota Mayor Fredd Atkins, from a district where the seat was up for election this year.

Tampa to allow restaurants, retail stores to expand outdoor capacity through 14-day pilot program” via Brendan Ward the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Under the plan, named the Lift Up Local Economy Recovery Plan, restaurants and retail stores can legally expand onto public rights of way and private parking areas without needing a city permit. A few examples the city gave were parklets and private sidewalks. Tampa hopes the program will help local businesses expand their capacity, while still meeting DeSantis’ latest order, which allows restaurants and retail stores to open with capacity restrictions. The city has also set up eight “street activation zones,” where it has closed streets to give businesses more space to expand their outdoor space.

Pandemic marketing 101: Tampa communications director shares national headline-grabbing strategy” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Tampa Mayor Jane Castor’s Director of Communications, Ashley Bauman, who has led the city’s crisis communications response, talks about how to navigate these unprecedented times: “Our goal has been to simply keep our residents informed; we work hard to communicate vital information to our residents in the most efficient, consumable ways. Tampa was, is, and always will be a city on the rise. It’s no humble brag when we say we believe Tampa is the greatest city in the world. Our community’s strength and resilience has shone brightly through these difficult times.”

Iconic Pinellas beaches reopen” via Mark Puente and Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — Visitors began trickling onto the sand early, carrying chairs, coolers and towels. Others rode bicycles and stopped to take pictures of beachgoers returning to the sand and water. Little kids lugged fishing poles and wagons stuffed with toys. On Monday afternoon, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said he was pleased with the community’s adherence to social-distancing requirements that came with the county’s decision to reopen access to the 35 miles of world-famous beaches, which had been closed to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Three hundred law enforcement officers were stationed throughout the county in parking lots, at beach access points and on the sands to ensure that visitors were staying at least 6 feet apart from strangers and were not gathering in groups larger than 10.

Pinellas beaches open with most people adhering to social distancing guidelines, with the help of a substantial police presence. Image via Fox News 13.

Restaurants around Tampa Bay reopened Monday. Here’s what it looked like.” via Helen Freund and Mari Faiello of the Tampa Bay Times — Outside Hoots, a brand-new fast-casual restaurant in downtown St. Petersburg, a slow trickle of people peeked their heads inside. An employee stood by the front door, beckoning for passersby to enter. “Come in, come in,” the man said to a group of delivery men curiously eyeing the menu. “Just make sure to keep your distance, please.” Restaurants were allowed to seat 25 percent of their usual capacity indoors and could have outdoor seating with six feet between tables. Parties larger than 10 are not allowed and bar seating is not permitted. And while many restaurant owners decided to remain closed for the time being, those that opened their doors were greeted with a gradual flow of customers throughout the day.

Joy and fear as Tampa Bay begins lifting coronavirus restrictions” via Caitlin Johnston of the Tampa Bay Times — The stay-at-home orders issued in late March to quell the spread of the novel coronavirus united Tampa Bay in many ways these past six weeks. People developed a shared language — “social distancing,” “flattening the curve,” “in this together.” Neighbors, unified in the search for elusive toilet paper and sanitizing wipes, posted on NextDoor when a nearby store restocked. Cabin fever settled in, with few reprieves — no Tampa Bay Lightning playoff games, no date nights at the movies, no long afternoons basking at the beach. Still, DeSantis’ decision to allow people to return to restaurants, stores and parks on Monday sent fissures through the sense of community. People tried to decide for themselves what felt safe and what seemed foolish.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

Florida sales tax collections down by more than $750 million, preliminary reports show” via Jason Garcia and Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida sales tax collections from March are as much as $770 million below estimates for the month. That’s about 25% less than the state expected to raise in sales tax revenue for the month, according to the preliminary reports. April collections are expected to be worse: Walt Disney World didn’t shut down until halfway through March, for instance, and DeSantis didn’t issue a statewide shelter-in-place order until the beginning of April.

The housing market faces its next crisis as May rent and mortgages come due” via Renae Merle of The Washington Post — For 13 years, Danny Catalanotto paid the more than $2,000 mortgage on his Bowie, Maryland, home on time every month. When work as a church organist dried up in mid-March, Catalanotto says, he expected his mortgage company to offer help. Instead, a large Texas-based mortgage-collection firm called Mr. Cooper said Catalanotto could defer his monthly payments temporarily but would have to pay it all back in one lump sum. “It could be $8,000 to $10,000 by then. How do you come up with that if you’ve been out of work?” he said.

Homeowners by the millions are pausing their mortgages due to the coronavirus crisis. Image via AP.

Skipping mortgage payments? Don’t get ripped off.” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Because of widespread uncertainty and lack of clear guidance about mortgage relief options, home loan borrowers will need to be on guard against scams and profiteering if they decide to skip payments because of COVID-19-related financial hardship. Misinformation is rampant, and even mortgage industry experts and consumer watchdogs admit that they are unsure about possible consequences for borrowers who seek help promised by the government. Thanks to federal coronavirus relief measures, consumers with federally backed mortgage loans can access unprecedented relief. Yet consumers have flooded social media pages with complaints that their loan servicers said they could skip payments for only three months and must repay all skipped payments in a lump sum on the fourth month.

Gas prices could bump back up as Floridians return to roads” via Joe Mario Pedersen of the Orlando Sentinel — The end of DeSantis’ stay-at-home restriction is expected to boost optimism within the fuel market, leading experts to believe gasoline demand will soon be on the rise, according to AAA. Florida gas prices are averaging a four-year low at $1.77 a gallon. The price is even lower in Orlando where averages are circling around $1.71 — over a dollar cheaper than the same time last year, according to AAA records. The lowest Florida prices were seen in Jacksonville at $1.61, Pensacola at $1.63 and Panama City at $1.64.

Historic financial decline hits doctors, dentists and hospitals — despite COVID-19 — threatening overall economy” via Todd C. Frankel and Tony Romm of The Washington Post — The health care industry is suffering a historic collapse in business that is emerging as one of the most powerful forces hurting the U.S. economy and a threat to a potential recovery. The widespread economic shutdown deployed to reduce transmission of the novel coronavirus hit hospitals and health care providers with particular force as they prepared to face the pandemic. Most elective surgeries nationwide were postponed beginning in mid-March. Dentists offices were closed. Physicians stopped seeing all but the sickest patients in their offices. Stay-at-home orders didn’t just prevent people from dining in restaurants, they led people to avoid medical services, too, amid concerns about COVID-19.

Florida sees third-sharpest drop in consumer confidence in 35 years” via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times — Floridians’ consumer confidence sharply declined in April, taking the third-steepest plunge in 35 years. According to the latest Consumer Sentiment Index from the University of Florida, the pandemic drove Floridians’ optimism down 11 points over the five areas the index measures, resulting in an index of 75.9. This comes on the heels of a 15.2-point drop in March, the single largest drop Florida has seen since the Sunshine State index began in 1985.

Insurers are telling businesses their policies don’t cover coronavirus shutdown. John Morgan attorneys say they’re wrong.” via Caroline Glenn of the Orlando Sentinel — Lawsuits have been filed in courts across the country, including in Florida, demanding insurance companies pay out claims they are refusing to pay. And in at least eight states, legislation has been introduced that, if passed, would require insurers to cover losses or change policies going forward in the event of more stay-at-home orders brought on by a virus. Morgan & Morgan has thrown its might behind business owners who its attorneys argue are being misled by insurance companies deliberately misinterpreting their own policies.

J. Crew store closings possible as retailer files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection” via Nathan Bomey and Brett Molina of USA Today — J. Crew’s parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after the coronavirus pandemic undermined its turnaround plans. J. Crew was on weak footing before the pandemic began, having racked up an unsustainable amount of debt from a private-equity buyout deal in 2011. COVID-19 plunged the company deeper into crisis mode as it temporarily closed its stores. The company, which leases all of its stores, disclosed in a court filing that it had hired a real estate consultancy and liquidator to help it evaluate its leases and negotiate rent relief. Permanent store closings are possible. With too much debt, J. Crew was not well-positioned to deal with the same challenges that its competitors are facing.

J.Crew is the first major retailer filing for bankruptcy amid the coronavirus pandemic. Image via AP.

Publix sales jump to $11.2 billion as coronavirus boosted business by $1 billion” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — Publix sales soared to $11.2 billion for the first three months of the year, with the grocery store giant estimating business was up about $1 billion because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Lakeland-based company reported Friday sales through March 28 were up 16.1% from $9.7 billion in the same quarter last year. Comparable store sales increased 14.4%. Publix is an employee-owned company so its stock is only available to its workforce and board of directors. The company increased its value to $50.10 a share from $48.90.

— MORE CORONA —

Health data suggests Orange County in ‘good shape’ as businesses reopen” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Health data measuring coronavirus infection rates and emergency room visits for COVID-19 symptoms is trending in the right direction. “All the current data indicates we’re in good shape,” said Dr. Raul Pino, director of the state Health Department in Orange County. He told a committee working on guidelines to reopen businesses in Orange that community testing for the virus is finding fewer positive cases. In Orlando, Mayor Buddy Dyer brought forward a package of changes to city rules designed to allow those restaurants and retail businesses to serve more customers outdoors, where the governor’s order doesn’t restrict capacity.

Central Florida businesses get some good news as they begin reopening for business. Image via WFTV.

Pensacola Mayor proposes closing Palafox so restaurants, retail can operate outside” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Palafox Street in downtown Pensacola could soon be closed to allow restaurants and retailers to use the road for dining and shopping during the coronavirus pandemic, but not all business owners are on board with the idea. Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson said he was supportive of the idea and was working with the Downtown Improvement Board on the best way to implement it as soon as this weekend.

A few shoppers find a few shopping opportunities as malls slowly reopen” via Anastasia Dawson and Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times — The lights were on and the gang was all there: Mickey Mouse. Minnie. Pluto. Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Three-year-old Maddox Evans pulled his legs into the seat of his stroller for a boost as he craned his neck to peer through the glass storefront of the Tampa Premium Outlet’s Disney Store. But something was missing. People. “Oh no,” Maddox’s mother cried out, stroking his wavy brown hair. “I’m sorry, buddy. I just knew this was going to happen.” … “They’re closed?” he asked. “But we’re here. How could they be closed?” DeSantis granted permission for stores to reopen Monday, under phase one of a three-phase return from coronavirus restrictions. But few of the outlet stores here jumped at the chance — just 13 of the 110.

Only a fraction of stores at Tampa Premium Outlet took advantage of a chance to reopen.

Carnival Cruise Line plans limited return to sailing Aug. 1. Two ships will sail from Port Canaveral” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Carnival Cruise Line announced plans to resume some cruising starting Aug. 1, including sailing from Florida’s Port Canaveral and PortMiami. The cruise line had already canceled cruises through June 30 because of the coronavirus pandemic, but that now extends through July. The resumption of service will feature only eight ships in the line’s 27-ship fleet, including Carnival Breeze and Carnival Elation out of Port Canaveral.

Florida clerk has weddings in a parking lot drive-thru” via Lori Rosa of The Washington Post — The wedding that Melanee and Sylvester Carmickal envisioned had an ocean backdrop, seven bridesmaids, 100 guests, and a rotating rooftop restaurant. “We’d been planning it for a year,” Melanee Carmickal said. “It was going to be beautiful. Really special.” … “Then everything shut down because of the coronavirus,” she said. So instead of exchanging vows on St. Pete Beach and celebrating high above in Spinner’s Rooftop Revolving Bistro with guests gazing out at the horizon over the Gulf, the couple drove inland and got married in a Gainesville parking lot Thursday, standing next to their car. The officiant? An Alachua County clerk behind a window, wearing an Elvis Presley wig and cape.

— THE HUMAN TOLL —

3 hospital workers gave out masks. Weeks later, they all were dead.” via Nicole Hong of The New York Times — They did not treat patients, but Wayne Edwards, Derik Braswell and Priscilla Carrow held some of the most vital jobs at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens. As the coronavirus tore through the surrounding neighborhood, their department managed the masks, gloves and other protective gear inside Elmhurst, a public hospital. Their deaths have shaken other nonclinical employees at Elmhurst who hoped that their distance from patients offered some protection against contracting the virus. Elmhurst did not require every employee to wear at least a surgical mask until April 15, the same day Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an order mandating New Yorkers to wear face coverings in public.

‘We don’t know how it will end’: Hunger stalks amid virus” via Ellen Knickmeyer and Jacquelyn Martin of The Associated Press — Before the pandemic, food policy experts say, roughly one out of every eight or nine Americans struggled to stay fed. Now as many as one out of every four are projected to join the ranks of the hungry. Immigrants, African Americans, Native Americans, households with young children and newly jobless gig workers are among those most at risk. Some immigrants, specifically ones in the country illegally, are having a hard time finding food due to their status, which prevents them from accessing government aid programs.

For several immigrants, it is a question of whether to pay for food or bills with dwindling funds. Job loss, ineligibility for federal programs, language barriers, unfamiliarity with the charity network, and a lack of access to technology are keeping some immigrants from accessing available food aid. Image via AP.

A security guard was fatally shot for enforcing the Michigan mask policy, prosecutor says” via Meryl Kornfield of The Washington Post — A Family Dollar store security guard was fatally shot in Flint, Michigan after telling a customer her child had to wear a face mask to enter the store. The argument began when the security guard, Calvin Munerlyn, 43, told Sharmel Lashe Teague, 45, that customers needed to wear face masks in the store. She yelled at him, spit on him, and drove off. 20 minutes later, her car returned to the store and her husband and son stepped out and confronted Munerlyn. Her son pulled out a gun and shot him.

— ONE GOOD THING —

Memphis music therapist Amy Love’s job has changed quite a bit during the coronavirus pandemic.

A couple of months ago, she was helping hospitalized children cope through music therapy. Fears of infecting them, even inadvertently, ended that gig.

Until Love found a way to do her job remotely.

According to The Associated Press, Love has transformed her house into a recording studio, and Love, fellow music therapist Celeste Douglas and intern Abigail Parrish became video stars for kids at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital who feed on their energy, their melodies, their love.

Music therapists for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, from left, Celeste Douglas, intern Abigail Parrish and Amy Love record a session in Love’s backyard in Memphis, Tennessee. The group uploads their weekly sessions to YouTube so patients can continue receiving bedside music therapy. Image via AP.

No instruments? No problem. Love urges their viewers: “Just move around with us!”

For older patients, Love left behind some ukuleles with easy instructions and song selections from Twenty One Pilots and Selena Gomez.

“It’s a really easy instrument to feel really successful with,” Love said. “You can mark up different parts of the ukulele and play it pretty easy. Even with one finger, you can be successful and play a chord.

“What we’re doing is finding new ways to support our kiddos and keep them safe at the same time,” she said.

Remote music classes may not be ideal. Love misses the weekly early childhood music class for the up-to-3 crowd most. But she was resolute: “Music is not canceled.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

Lawmaking in the time of coronavirus: The Senate returns to work, warily” via Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post — In eerily quiet hallways, with masks and disinfectant wipes aplenty, the Senate started to forge its new normal Monday — assembling en masse in Washington for the first time in five weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic. The adaptations made by what is perhaps Washington’s most hidebound institution were unmistakable, if uneven. Most staff members kept masks on. Meanwhile, senators did not always follow health experts’ guidance. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly set the tone for the Republican majority, announcing on the floor that, after weeks of telework, “the time has come for us to continue conducting our nation’s business in ways that are only possible with senators here, in the Capitol.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says the Capitol physician advised against the House coming back into Session as planned. The Senate did not take that advice. Image via AP.

Rep. John Ratcliffe, Trump’s pick for intelligence chief, faces grilling by Democrats in confirmation hearing Tuesday” via Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris and Seung Min Kim of The Washington Post — Trump’s pick to be the nation’s top intelligence official, is expected to face pointed questions Tuesday from Senate Democrats about his qualifications for the job and his willingness to provide candid intelligence free from political considerations. Rep. Ratcliffe’s original nomination last summer was withdrawn after five days in the wake of criticism that the Texas Republican overstated his résumé and lacked the qualifications to serve as the nation’s top intelligence official. Trump put Ratcliffe forward a second time in early March. Although he is expected to receive a grilling from the committee’s Democratic minority, observers said the Republican-controlled Senate would probably confirm him.

— STATEWIDE —

DeSantis orders investigation into vendor, $77 million paid for unemployment website” via Lawrence Mower of the Miami Herald — DeSantis said he would ask his inspector general to investigate the contract with the company that built Florida’s broken unemployment website seven years ago. DeSantis said he wants his inspector general to investigate how the state paid $77 million on the site and how the contract was amended numerous times. “There’s a lot of money that went into this,” DeSantis said. “I think that’s something that’s very important for the people of Florida to know.” The announcement of an investigation into a past administration was a rare rebuke of his predecessor, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott. Deloitte Consulting, the contractor chosen to overhaul the state’s unemployment system, wasn’t picked by Scott, but he did oversee the three-year development and rollout of the site in 2013.

Ron DeSantis calls for an investigation into the flaws in Florida’s $77 million unemployment website.

Florida jury trials suspended until July but other court proceedings increasingly online” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Jury trials have been pushed off again, and now won’t resume before July, the Florida Supreme Court said Monday as the chief justice issued a new order to conduct more judicial business by remote technology. Chief Justice Charles Canady extended the current suspension of jury trials in Florida until July 2, and pushes back legal deadlines until July 6, the Monday after the Independence Day weekend holiday. The new coronavirus is the reason. “In-person jury trials pose a special hazard because they can expose jurors and other courtroom participants to a risk of infection. Future extensions will be considered if needed,” the court said in a written statement.

Judge clears way for challenges to gun law” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — A federal judge has refused to dismiss the National Rifle Association’s challenge to a 2018 state law that blocked people under age 21 from buying guns. Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office argued that Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker should dismiss the case, which challenges a law that the Legislature and then-Gov. Scott approved after a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. But Walker denied the state’s request to dismiss the case. Walker made clear that he was not ruling on the NRA’s underlying arguments that the law violates constitutional Second Amendment and equal-protection rights — only that the case should be allowed to move forward.

Craig Latimer to head Florida Supervisors of Elections association” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Latimer, the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections, will now officially be president of the Florida Supervisors of Elections (FSE,) effective May 11. Latimer was sworn in as the group’s head Monday. The group, founded in 1964, is a professional membership association representing all 67 of Florida’s Supervisor of Elections offices seeking to support fair, honest and accurate elections in the state. Last month the FSE sent a letter asking for more flexibility for local Supervisors of Elections to determine vote-by-mail procedures as voters worry about their health attending polling places as the coronavirus continues its assault on the state.

Judge questions top elections official on felons voting” via Dara Kam of News Service of Florida — Florida Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews’ testimony in the felon voting rights trial Monday was one of the key points of the trial about the constitutionality of a 2019 law requiring felons to pay “legal financial obligations” to be eligible to vote. Matthews told U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle on Monday that she and other state officials have worked for months to create a process to identify felons who have outstanding financial obligations. Matthews said Monday her workers have not started to send files of voters flagged by the new process to county elections supervisors. She also said the state has not finalized a process that would allow individuals to say they can’t afford to pay their court-ordered financial obligations.

DeSantis defends appointment of Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony after shooting revelation” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — DeSantis refused to say whether he maintains confidence in Broward Sheriff Tony after the Florida Bulldog reported Tony shot and killed a man as a teenager. Tony’s attorney argued he acted in self-defense in the 1993 incident. After successfully moving the case to juvenile court, Tony was found not at fault. In 2019, DeSantis appointed Tony as Sheriff following the suspension of now-former Sheriff Scott Israel. In a conversation with Florida Politics, Tony admitted he did not disclose the shooting incident to the Governor before he was appointed head of the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) in 2019.

Ron DeSantis stays mum about his decision to appoint Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony.

Broward Sheriff Tony wouldn’t have been hired as a cop if he revealed he killed a man, former boss says” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward Sheriff Tony wouldn’t have been hired as a cop years ago if he had revealed — as he was supposed to — that he once shot and killed a man, says the police boss who hired him. “Knowing [what we know] now, I would not have hired him,” Duncan Foster, the retired chief of the Coral Springs Police Department, said Monday in an exclusive interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Foster said, “no, no, no” to the idea of hiring Tony as an officer at his agency had he any idea of what had happened in Philadelphia when Tony was a teen. “We just didn’t know,” he said.

Prosecutors drop lockdown violation charges against Pinellas Park game shop owner” via Kathryn Varn of the Tampa Bay Times — Prosecutors have dropped the charges against a Pinellas Park business owner accused of violating state and local stay-at-home orders. The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office dropped the case because business owner Galen Trent Wood, 36, has complied with the emergency orders since his April 16 arrest, said Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett. “The whole idea is to get people to comply,” Bartlett said. “Once they get it into compliance, everything’s OK. But sometimes people don’t take the easiest path.” Wood owns Kitchen Table Games. The business owner was arrested on two misdemeanor charges. One count stems from a state emergency order, which made it illegal to leave home for a nonessential service, said Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri at the time of Wood’s arrest

International Paper gets stricter environmental guidelines; critics say not strict enough” via Kevin Robinson of the Pensacola News Journal — A new slate of state-imposed operational rules will require International Paper to pay $190,000 in penalties, implement a $1 million environmental mitigation project and pay a $10,000 fine each time it fails specific water quality tests. Still, critics say the amount of the term to a slap on the wrist for the corporation, and they fear the new conditions will do nothing to prevent further pollution of Perdido Bay and its surrounding waterways. International Paper is permitted to discharge around 24 million gallons per day of effluent, industrial wastewater from its papermaking process. The effluent released from the facility flows through a 1,400 acre, IP-owned wetland where harmful substances are supposed to be filtered out by vegetation before the wastewater hits Perdido Bay.

— 2020 —

What Joe Biden needs to do to beat Trump” via David Axelrod and David Plouffe with The New York Times — Biden is mired in his basement, speaking to us remotely, like an astronaut beaming back to earth from the International Space Station. Biden is a man of vast experience in government. Biden can turn the tables on Trump. To do this, the challenger needs to behave more like an insurgent, building the capacity to wield facts, humor and mockery at lightning speed in those surreal moments of opportunity that Trump regularly provides. The Biden campaign will need a more robust rapid-response operation to monitor and counter Trump’s attacks.

If he is going to defeat Donald Trump, Joe Biden will have to embrace the role of an insurgent.

Why Biden’s choice of running mate has momentous implications” via Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns of The New York Times — For decades, the Vice-Presidential selection process has had an air of cloak-and-dagger to it. A convergence of forces has transformed Biden’s search for a running mate on the Democratic ticket. His pledge to pick a woman immediately limited the pool of potential candidates and intensified the competition; that decision, coupled with Biden’s garrulous tendency to think aloud about his options, have remade the tryout period into an unusually public audition, and the coronavirus outbreak ensured that it is taking place entirely online and on TV. Biden himself has increasingly pushed into the political foreground the overwhelming reason that his choice may be the most consequential in decades: the expectation downplayed but not exactly denied by the Biden campaign, that the 77-year-old would be a one-term president.

Secretary of the Senate turns down Biden’s request for a Tara Reade document search” via Myah Ward of POLITICO — The secretary of the Senate said Monday that the chamber has “no discretion to disclose” information sought by Biden regarding an allegation of sexual assault against him, further complicating the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s search for exoneration. Biden, in his first direct response to the allegation, said Friday he was not aware of any complaint ever filed against him and called for a record search to see if Reade’s exists. If it does, Biden said it should be released.

— MORE FROM THE TRAIL —

What does the new president of the Florida Supervisors of Elections think of vote by mail?” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Latimer will soon become the next president of the Florida Supervisors of Elections. The change could have a significant effect on how Florida conducts its November elections. With the novel coronavirus a looming threat to in-person voting, it may be necessary for the state to conduct its November elections mostly, or even entirely, by mail. Latimer has long been a supporter of vote-by-mail. In the 2020 March presidential primary, more than half the electorate in Hillsborough County cast an absentee ballot.

Americans overwhelmingly support vote-by-mail push, but Republicans warier” via Joey Garrison of USA Today — Two-thirds of Americans support voting by mail as an alternative to voting in person on Election Day during the coronavirus pandemic. But while Democrats and independent voters overwhelmingly back vote-by-mail, the majority of Republican voters oppose it. The poll found 65% of Americans support vote-by-mail as an alternative, a higher than a 2-to-1 margin over the 32% of Americans who oppose the option. Three percent said they were undecided.

Amy Mercado files to run for Orange Co. Property Appraiser” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Democratic Rep. Mercado filed to run, setting up a primary battle with that office’s controversial incumbent Rick Singh and a likely scramble for her seat in the Florida House. Mercado is a two-term representative for Florida House District 48 covering southern Orange County, a safe district for Democrats with a large Hispanic population. Singh is a two-term Orange County Property Appraiser who has boasted bringing professional accounting and appraisal backgrounds to the office to tighten up property tax appraisals and improve efficiency, but who has been accused in two whistleblower lawsuits of a variety of personal misconducts and was reportedly under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Rep. Amy Mercado is taking a run for Orange County Property Appraiser, seeking to unseat incumbent Rick Singh.

Noelle Branning runs for Lee Co. Tax Collector” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — “I will ensure the office remains a good steward of your hard-earned tax dollars while seeking opportunities to provide additional services to help streamline your interaction with government,” Branning said. Now the Chief Deputy for the Tax Collector’s Office, she’s no stranger to the inner workings there. The North Fort Myers Republican out of the gate also boasts the endorsement of retiring Tax Collector Larry Hart. “I am confident that under her [Branning’s] leadership the agency will continue to move forward,” said Hart, who formally announced his retirement from the post last week.

Former detective who sued Sheriff’s Office files to run against Chad Chronister” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — A Republican candidate, Brian Boswell, has filed to run in a primary against Sheriff Chad Chronister, complaining of “recklessness” and “incompetence” by the sheriff and contending that Chronister has alienated local Republicans. Boswell, 50, is a former homicide detective and veteran of 25 years in the Sheriff’s Office who sued former Sheriff David Gee and other high-ranking officials after retiring in 2017. The suit is still active in federal court. Boswell criticized Chronister for arresting pastor Rodney Howard-Brown when Brown held services at his megachurch in violation of county stay-home-orders, and for releasing jail inmates during the coronavirus epidemic, one of whom later was accused of murder.

— TOP OPINION —

Don’t victimize communities hit by disasters a second time” via Greg Brudnicki for The Hill — As the country’s ongoing struggle with COVID-19 illustrates, there is no substitute for federal financial assistance in the wake of a devastating disaster. Extreme crises call for assistance on a scale so large that immediate- and long-term aid must combine to salve the instant wound — and build a solid foundation for eventual recovery. For communities decimated by catastrophes, the positive impact of these funds is stark. Often, they are the difference between survival or a short path to the decay of irreversible businesses loss and population flight. Still, there is a gap in this multipart solution that leaves already hammered communities in the form of millions of dollars in interest payments for the commercial loans that mandate monthly repayment installments.

— OPINIONS —

Forget what you’ve heard. Here are the new rules for post-pandemic retirement.” via Michelle Singletary of The Washington Post — Fewer employees have pensions that guarantee lifetime monthly payouts. There’s a lot of uncertainly about the financial stability of Social Security. If you’ve got high-interest credit card debt, you need to make it a priority to get out from under this liability. Owning a home is very, very important, but it is not a retirement investment. It’s better to overestimate than underestimate your living costs. Having 100% bonds and no stocks in the long term performs worse than adding just a small slice of stocks. Saving 15% of your income takes into account evolving market conditions and provides a savings cushion for people who may want to retire early, or who won’t see a huge decrease in their spending.

Of COURSE Trump wants Michigan governor to play nice with armed thugs” via Scott Martelle for the Miami Herald — Protesters, several of them carrying semi-automatic rifles, swept into the state Legislature chamber in Lansing, Michigan, Thursday in the second such action by people there who are upset with the state’s stay-at-home directives. How did the President of the United States respond? By urging Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to “make a deal” with the armed protesters. Let’s see; the president thinks “angry” armed men descending on a Legislative Session making demands are “very good people.” Note that this came about two weeks after Trump urged similar throngs in Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia to “LIBERATE” their states and, in the case of Virginia, to “save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!” Clearly, the President isn’t thinking. Or maybe he is and, as usual, thinking only about his own interests.

One year in, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor faces new challenges” via the editorial board of the Tampa Bay Times — The scene from a year ago seems inconceivable today, as hundreds of supporters crowded shoulder-to-shoulder to celebrate Castor’s inauguration as Tampa’s 59th Mayor. The gospel choir worked its magic that morning, and the future seemed bright for Florida’s third-largest city. Now the coronavirus pandemic has changed the world, the city — and the Mayor’s agenda. Castor chalked up some early successes. But, to her detriment, there are times when Castor is still more police chief than a big-city Mayor. The coronavirus has sharpened scrutiny of her leadership. The Mayor has generally has been a stable, influential voice in the local response effort. Her true test, though, will be in the coming year, as the economic fallout from the pandemic poses dire challenges for cities and states.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

The fiscal impact of the COVID-19 crisis is starting to add up. State tax collections were down by more than $750 million in March.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Gov. DeSantis is using his bully pulpit to defend the state’s unemployment system. Well, not entirely “defend.” The Governor admits it’s a crappy system that was designed to fail but insists he is making it work.

— That’s not good enough for Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. She’s demanding a formal investigation into potential mismanagement of Florida’s unemployment system

— As the death toll rises at nursing homes and adult living facilities, a south Florida Congressman says it’s time for Trump and DeSantis to do a better job protecting seniors from coronavirus and be more honest about what’s really going on behind closed doors at senior care facilities

— Sen. José Javier Rodriguez talks about entering Phase One of reopening the state but warns that the people making those decisions are not looking out for the best interests of workers, small businesses or local communities.

— Florida Man has been active: One dressed up as the Grim Reaper to protest reopening the beaches. Another shot and killed a man when he was a teenager; he’s now a South Florida sheriff.

To listen: click on the image below:

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

Dolphins fans mourn Don Shula, who ‘represented everything good about Miami’” via Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald — Shula’s death Monday at age 90 hit hard for Miami Dolphins fans from South Florida and beyond. He was the winningest coach in NFL history and the most important figure in the history of South Florida sports. He spent 26 years with the Dolphins and 33 years overall as an NFL coach, finishing his career with 347 wins, the most in league history. He won back-to-back Super Bowls and orchestrated the perfect season in 1972. Shula’s memory still lives on with Dolphins fans.

RIP Coach: Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula is carried on his team’s shoulders in 1993 after his 325th victory, against the Philadelphia Eagles in Philadelphia. Shula died Monday at age 90. Image via AP.

‘Victories followed Don Shula wherever he went,’ Miami Dolphins Hall of Famer Larry Csonka said” via Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald — It wasn’t hard for Csonka to talk about his former coach, even if it was tough to narrow down what specifically made Shula the winningest head coach in NFL history. “Probably one of the most complicated men I’ve ever met yet one of the most simplistic men I’ve ever met,” Csonka said. “It was his way or the highway when it came to dealing with other men. He’s sort of like a marine drill sergeant. There is no rebuttal. If he didn’t like what I was doing, I would have been blocking for O.J. [Simpson] in Buffalo the next day. We had a clear understanding. There were no ifs or buts. That may be truly missed today.”

Author says prequel to ‘Twilight’ series will arrive Aug. 4” via The Associated Press — Stephenie Meyer’s long-awaited prequel to her “Twilight” series is coming out Aug. 4, the author announced on her website Monday. “The Midnight Sun” is narrated from vampire Edward Cullen’s perspective. Meyer had kept her fans in suspense all weekend with a countdown clock on her site that promised a major announcement. The site soon crashed Monday morning, but the book was also announced by Meyer’s publisher, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Meyer had abandoned “The Midnight Sun” more than a decade ago after part of it leaked online.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday to top political consultant and our favorite Goodman, Max, as well as our wonderful friends, Laura Jolly and Jim Magill, as well as Paul Flemming. An early shoutout to smart guy McKinley Lewis of On 3 Public Relations.

___

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

Staff Reports



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