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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.7.20

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

The new coronavirus has brought rapid change to the economy, education, international relations, and our social lives. But how will it affect politics and policy in Florida?

There will be impacts in the near future. The state budget still needs a signature or a do-over, and when Phase Two of the reopening will hit — and what it will look like — is on everyone’s minds.

Other impacts are a little further out. Will Election Day be business as usual, or will the expected second wave turn polls into ghost towns on Nov. 3?

No one knows for sure, but there are a handful of political experts who know enough to divine some of the answers. Luckily, the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida is bringing them together Thursday.

At 1:30 p.m., News Service of Florida’s Ana Ceballos, POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon, the Orlando Sentinel’s Jason Garcia and myself will hold a virtual conference to toss around their predictions and share their insights on how Florida’s landscape will change as it wraps up the first act of the coronavirus era.

The usual suspects.

Anybody can tune in to the hourlong forum through Zoom, or by calling (929) 205-6099; access code 84158189014#. Tiger Bay Club Members can also send questions to the group.


Please consider reading my latest blog post — “You can stay at a hotel, but not a short-term vacation rental, and that’s absolutely ridiculous via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — This is not a question about whether the state should ease its restrictions on outside travel are prudent and smart, but they can be implemented and enforced without closing a major industry in the Florida economy.

Hotels have been allowed to remain open even though they present a higher risk of spreading the virus than much smaller vacation rentals. Potentially hundreds of people pass through shared space at hotels, but vacation rentals like Airbnb and HomeAway, are most often single occupancy where social distancing is easier and cross-contamination of germs less likely.

The case for opening vacation rentals is not only obvious, but it’s also economically prudent.


Happening today — The 25th Annual Florida National Day of Prayer will be livestreamed, featuring guests from all over the state. State leaders expected to attend: Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, among others. The Florida National Day of Prayer Livestream can be viewed beginning noon on Facebook Live @hilltoptlh (Hilltop House of Prayer) also on and also on YouTube on Hilltop House of Prayer page.


— As of Wednesday afternoon, there have been 1,223,468 confirmed cases and 73,039 deaths in the US.

— Total positive cases in Florida have increased to 38,002. There are 1,539 deaths statewide.

— Shutdowns to fight the pandemic have plunged the European Union into its worst economic slump since it was founded after World War II. Read more here.


Donald Trump says the coronavirus task force will continue, after all via The New York Times — Trump, contradicting his comments from Tuesday, said the White House coronavirus task force would “continue indefinitely,” though perhaps with different members. His announcement, made on Twitter, came a day after Vice President Mike Pence, who has led the group for two months, said it would probably wrap up its work around the end of May. “We will have something in a different form,” Trump told reporters during a trip to Arizona. But in a series of tweets, Trump appeared to contradict that statement and emphasized his desire to reopen the economy despite a continued rise in coronavirus cases and public health warnings that more commerce will mean more deaths.

Donald Trump speaks before signing a proclamation in honor of National Nurses Day in the Oval Office. Image via Reuters.

April jobs data to show epic losses and soaring unemployment via Christopher Rugaber of The Associated Press — The economic catastrophe caused by the viral outbreak likely sent the U.S. unemployment rate in April to its highest level since the Great Depression and caused a record-shattering loss of jobs. With the economy paralyzed by business closures, the unemployment rate likely jumped to at least 16% — from just 4.4% in March — and employers cut a stunning 21 million or more jobs in April, economists have forecast, according to data provider FactSet. If so, it would mean that nearly all the job growth in the 11 years since the Great Recession had vanished in a single month. Yet even those breathtaking figures won’t fully capture the magnitude of the damage the coronavirus has inflicted on the job market.


Tweet, tweet:

@RepJoseOliva: We are past the limit of acceptable government intervention in a free society. We measure Covid cases, but who is measuring the widespread destruction of people’s personal and financial lives? We must understand this response will not be available to leaders next year. What then?

@Magi_Jay: So, Italy was ~14 days ahead of us in terms of the severity of the outbreak, and they are only now beginning to soft-“reopen.” Important to note that their soft “reopen” looks a lot like our hard close, such that they will, for example, open restaurants for takeout, not dine-in.

@ballmatthew: This earnings season makes clear how big of a mistake it was for Hollywood (esp those w parks) to continually pass on digital ent platforms like Minecraft, Roblox, GTA, Niantic believing they were too faddish, hard, unpredictable, unneeded Combined cost less than most media M&A

@KilroyFSU: Is there any evidence that one-way aisles at Publix help? I literally had to bypass the aisle I wanted to go down, which was empty, by going down the packed next aisle & walked past a bunch of people on the way, that I wouldn’t otherwise have gone near. Seems like a silly policy.


Mother’s Day — 3; NASCAR season resumes at Darlington Speedway in Darlington, South Carolina — 10; TNT’s adaptation of “Snowpiercer” premieres — 10; English Premier League soccer to restart — 32; PGA Tour resumes — 35; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 36; Father’s Day — 45; Apple to hold Developer Conference — 46; Federal taxes due — 69; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 71; “Mulan” premieres — 78; TED conference rescheduled — 80; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 102; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 106; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 109; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 120; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 121; Rescheduled date for French Open — 136; First presidential debate in Indiana — 145; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 155; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 161; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 162; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 168; 2020 General Election — 180; “Black Widow” premieres — 183; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 194; “No Time to Die” premieres — 201; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 230; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 442; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 451; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 547; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 645; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 687; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 730; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 883.


Trump and some top aides question accuracy of virus death toll via Jonathan Swan and Sam Baker of Axios — Trump has complained to advisers about the way coronavirus deaths are being calculated, suggesting the real numbers are actually lower — and a number of his senior aides share this view, according to sources with direct knowledge. A senior administration official said he expects the president to begin publicly questioning the death toll as it closes in on his predictions for the final death count and damages him politically. The U.S. death toll has surpassed 71,000, with more than 1.2 million confirmed cases, according to the latest figures.

Donald Trump and aides believe coronavirus fatality numbers are overstated.

Trump’s demand for payroll tax cut is rebuffed on Capitol Hill as lawmakers spar over next virus aid bill via Seung Min Kim, Mike DeBonis and Erica Werner of The Washington Post — As senators returned to Washington this week to an unusually sparse and eerie Capitol, resistance began to mount against Trump’s favored form of putting more money into workers’ pockets, with lawmakers noting that a payroll tax cut helps only those gainfully employed at a time when record numbers of Americans are filing jobless claims. The payroll tax funds the Social Security and Medicare programs. Bipartisan opposition to a payroll tax cut has not deterred Trump, who has continued to tweet about his idea even as growing opposition from his own party that came into sharper view Tuesday.

Jeb Bush: ‘You can’t open the economy if children are at home’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Bush says Florida can’t fully rebound from the novel coronavirus outbreak until schools are able to open safely. DeSantis announced Florida was closing schools in mid-March. “You can’t open the economy if children are at home,” Bush said. “There’s no possible way. Most families have to have kids in school if they’re going to be able to go to work.” Speaking with Axios on the effect of the outbreak on education and job readiness going forward, Bush also lamented that many school districts were not ready to transition to a remote learning atmosphere before the outbreak.

“‘If this thing boomerangs’: Second wave of infections feared via Eric Tucker and Carla K. Johnson of The Associated Press — As Europe and the U.S. loosen their lockdowns against the coronavirus, health experts are expressing growing dread over what they say is an all-but-certain second wave of deaths and infections that could force governments to clamp back down. “We’re risking a backslide that will be intolerable,” said Dr. Ian Lipkin of Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity. In the U.S., with about half of the states easing their shutdowns to get their economies restarted and cellphone data showing that people are becoming restless and increasingly leaving home, public health authorities are worried. Many states have not put in place the robust testing that experts believe is necessary to detect and contain new outbreaks.

Researchers hypothesize that a highly contagious strain of the coronavirus is spreading, but other experts remain skeptical via Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post — A research paper from scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, not yet peer-reviewed, reports that one strain of the novel coronavirus has emerged in Europe and become dominant around the planet, leading the researchers to believe the virus has mutated to become more contagious. The bold hypothesis, however, was immediately met with skepticism by many infectious-disease experts, and there is no scientific consensus that any of the innumerable mutations in the virus so far have changed the general contagiousness or lethality of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The paper will now have to survive the intense scrutiny of a research community trying to deliver urgently needed information while remaining scientifically rigorous.

Dallas hair salon owner, in act of civil disobedience, chooses to go to jail rather than close her doors via Meagan Flynn of The Washington Post — The owner of Salon À la Mode in Dallas had been operating her business despite a temporary restraining order last week from Dallas County State District Judge Eric Moyé. She kept operating despite a county official’s cease-and-desist letter ordering her to close — a letter she ripped up before a crowd of protesters in a theatrical display of defiance during an Open Texas rally in Frisco, Texas., on April 25. As Shelley Luther faced criminal and civil contempt-of-court charges, Moyé offered her a chance to make things right: She had to admit her actions were selfish and wrong and that she would follow the law.

Dallas salon owner Shelley Luther would rather go to jail than close up shop, despite a restraining order. Image via AP.


Forecasting death: CDC models say 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. Much of the attention and criticism has focused on the widely-cited The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model, which predicts more than 1,900 deaths in Florida by August. DeSantis has expressed intense frustration with reports citing the institute’s projections, particularly earlier projections that were far higher.

Ron DeSantis tours a COVID-19 testing site at Hard Rock Stadium, during the new coronavirus pandemic. Image via AP.

Without explanation, state puts early symptom data back online via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — Data showing early signs of COVID-19 among Floridians, deleted Monday night by the Florida Department of Health, is back in the public view. Questions about why department officials yanked the data, and how the agency interprets it, remain unanswered. The data showed that 171 patients who eventually tested positive for the illness had experienced symptoms in January and February, long before state officials acknowledged the spread of the disease. In January, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would only test for the virus if the patient had been in China or been in close contact with such a traveler. More than 60% of them reported no out-of-state travel. None reported travel to China.

Florida seeks new ways to expand coronavirus testing via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — Florida will look to new ways to expand coronavirus testing, including allowing tests at pharmacies and randomly checking blood donations for antibodies that indicate whether people have recovered from the disease, Gov. DeSantis said Wednesday. DeSantis held a news conference in Miami to show the state’s new mobile testing lab, which will travel to nursing homes and assisted living facilities to conduct rapid testing. It will conduct up to 500 tests a day. He also said the state is giving approval for CVS, Walgreens and Walmart to conduct tests and that he’s looking into the possibility of home testing. Testing at those businesses will start with a handful of locations and then expand.

Contact tracing can help reduce coronavirus infections. How much is Florida doing? via Ben Conarck, Daniel Chang, and Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — While some states preparing to reopen their economies have hired armies of people to trace novel coronavirus infections, Florida won’t say if it has a long-term plan to keep the virus at bay through contact tracing — a labor-intensive method of tracking down newly infected people and their close contacts to isolate them and stop the disease from spreading. Public health experts consider contact tracing a critical part of suppressing a possible second wave of COVID-19. Still, at a news conference, Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees offered little detail on the state’s efforts despite saying that “this is a way that we actually stop the cycle of transmission.”

Florida makes plans for dealing with COVID-19 in a hurricane via Brendan Farrington and Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — As Florida slowly reopens, officials are now contemplating what they should do if the coronavirus outbreak lingers into hurricane season. Hurricane season begins June 1 and usually peaks from late August through September. Florida is often a target for storms, forcing thousands of people to evacuate, with many fleeing to shelters. Plans might include shelters that only accept people infected with the virus, or orders for people to shelter in place, depending on the strength of the building and the power of the storm.

Ron DeSantis: China tried to ‘screw over’ the world on protective equipment via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis is adding personal protective equipment shortages to his grievances against China over the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, as the pandemic ballooned into a worldwide catastrophe, Florida, every other state, and most of the world were competing to acquire the equipment (PPE). “China had known what was going on,” DeSantis told reporters Wednesday in Miami Gardens. “They specifically bought up a lot of this stuff really to try to screw over the rest of the world, which they’re going to need to pay for doing that.” The Governor spoke his mind after announcing the Miami Hard Rock drive-thru testing site has a decontamination system to clean PPE for reuse. PPE includes face masks, gloves, face shields, goggles, and gowns.

DeSantis open to easing in South Florida via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — A day after Palm Beach County commissioners pushed to be divorced from their southern neighbors, DeSantis on Wednesday expressed a willingness to lift restrictions that have prevented businesses in South Florida from beginning to recover from the deadly coronavirus. “We’re in discussions about the next step for these three counties,” DeSantis said at a news conference at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. While acknowledging that there’s “a world of difference” between Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, he stopped short of saying he would ease restrictions in Palm Beach County while keeping them in place in Broward and Miami-Dade.

Silver lining — “COVID-19 responses also keeping Florida flu in check via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Lockdowns and social distancing guidelines in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic also seem to be containing flu outbreaks. The most recent report from the Department of Health shows influenza activity low statewide this season. “The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting health care seeking behavior, which may be impacting the ILI (influenza-like illnesses) and influenza activity trends shown in this report,” officials wrote. “An overall reduction in the number of emergency department and urgent care center visits has been observed in recent weeks, along with changes in the reasons for seeking care at these facilities.”

Monday, Tuesday not good days for people seeking unemployment checks via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — More than three-quarters of Floridians’ claims for unemployment relief processed Monday and Tuesday were rejected, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity. The two-day period resulted in state officials approving just 2,831 claims for unemployment compensation while rejecting as “ineligible” 10,762 others, according to the Employment Assistance report posted Wednesday afternoon, the first publicly posted since Monday. The rejections came as DeSantis was calling the state’s unemployment compensation application system, run mostly through the CONNECT web-based system, “totally shot” and ordering an inspector general investigation into how Florida paid $77 million for a system that doesn’t work.

Judge rejects unemployment claims lawsuit via News Service of Florida — A Leon County circuit judge Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit seeking to force the state to process and pay unemployment claims that have been delayed amid a crush of people losing jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic. After a telephone hearing Wednesday, Judge Angela Dempsey said the plaintiffs did not meet legal requirements for a relatively unusual type of order known as a “writ of mandamus.”… “I believe we all want these claims to be resolved efficiently, and we all feel bad for these folks that are having to wait, but I’m bound by the law of mandamus and by the law as it’s written (in a chapter of state statutes),” Dempsey said.

University system working toward reopening campuses via the News Service of Florida — The chairman of the state university system’s Board of Governors outlined a process aimed at reopening campuses this fall. Chairman said a task force that includes leaders from each university had formed to “create a phased-in approach for each function and operation to determine what resources are needed to open and where to obtain them and to provide specific guidelines to protect the health and safety of our students and faculty. We will all work together on the fall semester reopening of the state university system in a manner that will minimize the risk of the transmission of the virus by using shared experiences by taking advantage of the science and medical expertise at our institutions.

Florida State University System Board of Governors chair Syd Kitson says a task force has created a ‘phased-in approach’ for reopening schools in the fall.

Price gouging complaints lead to refunds via the News Service of Florida — Floridians have received nearly $350,000 in refunds from businesses because of inflated prices related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The state’s price-gouging hotline has been contacted 4,200 times since a state of emergency was declared in mid-March because of the deadly virus. In addition, Attorney General Moody’s office has issued 70 subpoenas as part of investigations into price gouging on high-demand items such as masks, sanitizing supplies, personal protective equipment and COVID-19 test kits. “People that are going to use this crisis to profit while other people are just trying to protect themselves and their families, they need to be put on notice that we haven’t stopped working,” Moody said.

Publix donates more than 1 million pounds of produce in two weeks via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Two weeks after announcing an initiative to stock food banks with Florida-grown produce, Publix said it had secured 1 million pounds of food and 100,000 gallons of milk. “As a food retailer, feeding families is our greatest opportunity to give back, and we are grateful to be able to do so while supporting produce and dairy farmers. During such challenging times, we are even more committed to supporting those in need and doing good, together,” Publix CEO Todd Jones said. Publix announced its initiative in late April, as Florida farmers crop were reporting record crop losses and families throughout the company’s southeastern footprint started turning up at food banks in record numbers.

Assignment editors — Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault, FDOT District 5 Interim Secretary Jared Perdue, and the Florida Trucking Association will provide free lunches to truck drivers, 11 a.m., Southbound I-75 Rest Area near Ocala at Mile Marker 346, Marion County, 3 miles south of Exit 350 (State Road 200).


South Florida to begin reopening ‘soon,’ DeSantis says, but no time frame yet via Anthony Man and Brooke Baitinger of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Citing positive coronavirus trends in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, DeSantis said Wednesday the region likely would start Phase One of reopening “soon,” but he didn’t offer a timetable. “There’s been good trends; there’s been a lot of great work in all three of these counties,” he said at a news conference at the drive-thru coronavirus testing site at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. “We’ll hopefully be able to go forward soon in southern Florida.” The state’s other 64 counties began Phase One reopening on Monday, which DeSantis acknowledged is not as widespread as many would like.

“’We need to get back to a new normal.’ Miami-Dade Mayor alludes to reopening plans” via Samantha Gross, Doug Hanks, and Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — DeSantis and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez made it clear that while excluded initially from the state’s first reopening order, South Florida’s restaurants and retailers will begin to reopen soon. “In order for our state to be successful, we need our South Florida communities to be successful,” DeSantis said at a news conference at the testing site at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. “Miami’s an incredible engine for the state of Florida. Same with Broward and Palm Beach.” Standing alongside Gimenez, DeSantis assured South Floridians watching at home that together, they will “craft an appropriate way forward” to bring back parts of the economy in South Florida that are so crucial to the state, like tourism and hospitality.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez is pushing to get to the ‘new normal’ as soon as possible. Image via the Miami Herald.

South Florida health workers, first responders first in line for coronavirus antibody tests via Anthony Man and Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The plan, for now, is to focus on health care workers and first responders to figure out who’s been exposed and has some level of immunity. The antibody testing will add to the drive-thru coronavirus testing site at Hard Rock Stadium. DeSantis said the Hard Rock site already had conducted 20,000 coronavirus tests. “A diagnostic test is a snapshot in time,” he said at a news conference at the stadium in Miami Gardens. “We now have the ability to test for antibodies.”

“’ There is no pandemic’: Miami Beach staff encounter hostility over face-mask rules via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — The frustration among some in Miami Beach over coronavirus-related emergency measures appears to have spilled from social media into real-life interactions between residents and the city staff attempting to enforce the new laws. In shutting down South Pointe Park on Monday because many people didn’t comply with face-mask requirements, City Manager Jimmy Morales said park rangers had reported “rudeness” from parkgoers. The city’s Code Compliance department released a video of an expletive-filled exchange Sunday outside a Publix in South Beach between a code officer and a prospective shopper who shouted his disapproval of another rule requiring customers wear masks inside grocery stores.

Mayor expects Dolphins, canes games with small crowds or no crowds barring breakthrough via Anthony Chiang and Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald — Whenever sporting events return to Miami amid the COVID-19 pandemic, don’t expect full or close-to-full stadiums and arenas. Not in the near future, and maybe not even for the rest of the calendar year barring the development of an effective antiviral drug or vaccine, Miami-Dade Mayor Giménez told the Miami Herald. “Knowing what we know today and not what we may know tomorrow, I don’t see that being real realistic,” Giménez said Wednesday when asked about that possibility. “

Farm to First Responders program buys local, delivers produce to hospital workers amid COVID-19 via Catie Wegman of TC Palm — In the last three weeks, Margaret Duriez’s “Farm to First Responders” program has raised over $30,000, which bought fresh produce from local farmers to be delivered to about 1,500 health care workers at hospitals in Martin, St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties. First responders are experiencing extreme exhaustion and stress responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Duriez said she could take at least one responsibility off their plates by supplying the staff with a week’s worth of fruits and vegetables. “We’re hopefully saving them a trip to the grocery store after a long, stressful 12-hour shift,” she said. “There’s a lot of gratitude, and we’re also so grateful to be able to support our first responders.”

‘Farm to First Responders’ brings fresh produce to hospital workers on the front lines of COVID-19.

Charter fishing captains report falling business, closures during pandemic via Karl Schneider of Naples Daily News — The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is conducting a survey of agricultural and marine industries to determine how the pandemic is affecting the state. Preliminary results show a majority of charter fishing businesses have not weathered the pandemic well. UF’s survey has gathered responses from more than 200 charter or for-hire marine professionals across 33 counties. Of the respondents, a majority have reported charter business closings due to coronavirus. And the hits started early. UF’s survey didn’t just focus on charter fishing. So far, nearly two-thirds of commercial fishing businesses have reported shutdowns.


2,900 Orange students’ missing in action’ after campuses close via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County schoolkids are absent more often now that schools are shut down, with fewer logging in for daily online lessons than showed up three months ago for in-person classes. Average regular attendance has dropped from about 86% in February to about 80% percent in April, and there are also nearly 3,000 students “missing in action,” meaning they have done no work since distance learning began in mid-March, district administrators said. Most of Orange’s more than 212,000 students are doing class assignments, despite the challenges of campus closures. Still, the absences and the no-shows worry administrators, who expect academic losses as a result. To combat those, Orange officials are planning for an expanded summer school in June — offered online.

Minority-owned small businesses disproportionately affected by coronavirus in Tampa Bay via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Data shows again that minority-owned businesses and those in low-income areas in the Tampa Bay region are struggling significantly more than those in highly educated areas or owned by white counterparts. An analysis of JPMorgan Chase Institute data found small businesses in majority-minority neighborhoods in the nation’s top metro areas have significantly lower profit margins and smaller cash buffers to manage business interruptions than those in majority-white communities. The analysis found more than 89% of businesses in majority Hispanic areas, and nearly 95% of companies in majority African American neighborhoods had a cash buffer of 14 days or less. In white communities, that number was less than 30%.

Minority-owned businesses are enduring more than their share of economic struggles in the COVID-19 pandemic. Image via AP.

Pinellas nursing homes lose three more lives to coronavirus via Kavitha Surana of the Tampa Bay Times — Three more residents of Pinellas County nursing homes have died from the novel coronavirus. Those were half the six new COVID-19 deaths in Pinellas County reported by the Florida Department of Health that day, as the virus continues to rage through Florida’s elder care facilities. Residents and staffers of long-term care now account for at least 534 of Florida’s deaths so far — more than a third of COVID-19 fatalities in the state. The deaths related to the Freedom Square retirement community in Seminole at 7800 Liberty Lane, St. Mark Village nursing home at 2655 Nebraska Ave. and Bardmoor Oaks Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center at 9035 Bryan Dairy Road.

Expansion of Pinellas coronavirus testing off to rough start via Jack Evans and Caitlin Johnson of the Tampa Bay Times — Problems have been ironed out in Hillsborough County, where a scheduling system was overwhelmed with phone calls last week after officials announced anyone could be tested. But similar issues popped up in Pinellas County this week, after the county opened three public, no-cost testing sites. Community Health Centers of Pinellas initially said it would take walk-ins and drive-ups at its locations in Clearwater, Pinellas Park, and St. Petersburg. However, it recommended making an appointment by phone or online. By Wednesday morning, though, it posted online that all appointments were booked up. And on Wednesday afternoon, it tweeted that it would no longer accept walk-ins or drive-ups.

Bay District set to reopen schools on normal schedule in August via Tony Mixon of the Panama City News Herald — Bay District plans to reopen schools on time and a regular schedule next school year, administrators announced on Wednesday. The next school year is set to start on Aug. 11 and will have students and personnel back in the schools. BDS made its announcement following its survey asking parents and employees what they wanted to do — and most opted to start the next school year as planned. The other option was to delay the start of school until after Labor Day, which would push school until mid-June, but only a little over 25% voted that option. According to BDS Superintendent Bill Husfelt, the plan is a fluid situation based on what happens with the coronavirus.

County Commission OKs using coronavirus money to help individuals with housing, food via Dave Berman of Florida Today — Spurred by a plea from County Commissioner Kristine Isnardi to “do the right thing,” commissioners approved allocating some of the money from the county’s federal coronavirus aid package to help local residents struggling to pay for housing and food. By a 3-2 vote, commissioners set aside $4.4 million. The $4.4 million in allocations was not as much money as some of the speakers addressing the County Commission had hoped for. More money could potentially be added later, as could a program to help small businesses hurt by financial losses stemming from coronavirus shutdowns.

Vacation rental ban could cause ‘irreversible’ damage to Franklin County tourism, owners say via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — With peak beach season around the corner, owners of vacation housing companies in Franklin County are worried that a continued prohibition on rentals will all but kill their business. The ban, extended until Phase Two of reopening the state begins amid the coronavirus pandemic, excludes hotels, motels, inns, resorts, and long-term rentals, a caveat that is drawing ire from at least one rental company on St. George Island. “We support your efforts and appreciate all that you are doing, but our tourist community is furious over this disparate treatment, and we respectfully ask you to reconsider before the damage is irreversible,” Collins Vacation Rentals President Alice D. Collins wrote in a letter to the Governor.

Marion County Commission waits for Governor response via Julia Laude of WCJB — The Marion County Commission is still waiting to hear from the Governor’s office after sending a letter requesting more businesses to be open as part of Phase One. The board talked about the request at its meeting Tuesday. Last week, County Commission Chair Kathy Bryant held a news conference with gyms, salons, and restaurants represented, imploring the Governor to loosen restrictions in Phase one of reopening the state. At that Thursday news conference, Bryant asked that the Governor allow gyms and salons to open and operate at 50% percent capacity, and to increase restaurant capacity from 25% to 50%. The commission hoped to hear back from the Governor’s office on this request by Monday, but have not.

Marion County Commission Chair Kathy Bryant is waiting for more guidance on Phase One openings across the state. Image via

Amid COVID-19, Sebastian can open pickleball courts, but can’t hold city council meeting? via Laurence Reisman of TC Palm — Attorney Craig Rappel, who in court papers claims City Manager Paul Carlisle and Mayor Ed Dodd are getting away with running the city on their own by barring lawmakers, the folks who represent city voters, from conducting business in public. It was one thing when Dodd abruptly ended the city’s March meeting after less than 30 minutes. With most of that city business moved to the next meeting on April 22, Carlisle abruptly canceled that evening meeting (which included a proposal to remove the mayor) about 2:30 p.m. that day. Vice Mayor Charles Mauti said he never got word of the cancellation, so he showed up that evening. Council members Damien Gilliams and Pamela Parris eventually did, too, and the three met for about nine minutes.


Private payrolls lose 20.2 million jobs in April, worst drop in ADP report history via Taylor Telford of The Washington Post — U.S. companies shed 20.2 million jobs from their payrolls in April as the coronavirus pandemic brought the economy to a standstill and shuttered many of the country’s businesses, according to data Wednesday from ADP Research Institute. April’s staggering number is the worst in the report’s history, which began in 2002, and is double the last record set in February 2009. The job losses do not fully represent the economic carnage of the pandemic. The report uses data only through the 12th of the month, in keeping with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. More than 8 million Americans filed for unemployment in the weeks that followed.

Layoffs start turning from temporary to permanent across America via Shawn Donnan and Joe Deaux of Bloomberg Businessweek — Although COVID-19 fatalities in the U.S. haven’t started to trend down yet, economists are beginning to see signs that the recession is bottoming out. Decision-makers from Trump down to company chief executive officers are hoping more than $2 trillion in fiscal stimulus, and the gradual lifting of restrictions could set the stage for a significant rebound this summer. Plenty of layoffs that just a month ago were labeled “temporary” are now tagged as “indefinite” or “permanent.” Alongside announcements of sweeping staff cuts by major employers such as Boeing Co. and U.S. Steel Corp. and the accelerating pace of downsizing in brick-and-mortar retailing, such notices are a sign that even as businesses continue to hope for a speedy recovery, they are starting to plan for a slow one.

Boeing’s Everett factory outside Seattle. The aviation giant announced at the end of April that it will cut about 10% of its workforce to compensate for a collapse in air travel. Image via Reuters.

Airbnb to cut 25% of workforce as coronavirus stalls global travel via Rolfe Winkler of The Wall Street Journal — Airbnb Inc. said it is slashing 1,900 jobs — or a quarter of its workforce — and cutting investments in noncore operations, as the home-sharing giant predicted the coronavirus pandemic would change its business even after more people start traveling again. Amid expectations that it would lose $1 billion through the first half the year and its valuation would crater, it has raised rescue capital to backstop its balance sheet as it continues to hope that the sector will recover later this year.

J. Crew and Hertz and the difficult decisions about corporate bailouts via Megan McArdle of The Washington Post — Already this week, there have been two big bankruptcy stories: clothing retailer J. Crew and car-rental agency Hertz, which narrowly avoided the same fate by negotiating an 11th-hour reprieve from creditors. If the disease roars back, then no matter what governors say, people will stay home and more companies will go under, too many to bail out. This means that markets, lenders, and government policymakers are all going to have to start drawing a line between the companies they can help and the ones they should let fail.

Gloom grips U.S. small businesses, with 52% predicting failure. via Alexandrew Tanzi of Bloomberg — A new survey found that 52% expect to be out of business within six months. Just over a third of small firms expect that they can continue to operate more than six months, while 14% are uncertain. Among employees, hourly workers were hit hardest with eight in 10 firms cutting those positions, while 60% of surveyed businesses laid-off salaried workers. A third of the companies polled by the advocacy group expected their payroll reductions to be permanent.

A massive drop in car sales sparks new push in Congress to aid the auto industry via Tony Romm of The Washington Post — A precipitous decline in car sales amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak has caught the attention of Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers are now urging Congress to authorize new aid for the auto industry. Lawmakers began circulating a draft letter emphasizing that the “projected economic fallout for the industry is grave.” In some ways, the challenges facing the automotive ecosystem “exceed those of the 2008 financial meltdown,” referring to the recession more than a decade ago that ultimately yielded an approximately $80 billion auto industry bailout. Car sales were down by about 40 percent just last week.

 “Senators call for second congressional investigation of Carnival’s COVID-19 response via Taylor Dolven and Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — The U.S. House is already investigating Carnival Corporation. Now two senators are calling for a similar investigation in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Citing concerns about Carnival Cruise Line’s plans to begin cruising again on August 1, Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey said the Senate, too, should investigate Carnival Corp.’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their call came in a letter: “We urge the Committee to hold hearings with the leaders of the cruise line industry and public health experts to reassure Americans of the industry’s commitment to implementing robust measures to keep passengers and crew members safe.”


Britain surpasses Italy with most reported coronavirus deaths in Europe via William Booth and Karla Adam of The Washington Post — Britain reported the highest coronavirus death toll in Europe on Tuesday, surpassing Italy, even as officials cautioned that it was difficult to compare figures across nations. Britain said 29,427 people have died of the coronavirus in the country, a count that for the first time exceeds the tally in Italy. Italy, which until now was the hardest-hit country in Europe, on Tuesday reported that the virus has killed 29,315 people there. Even if all deaths across Europe and the world were reported in exactly the same way, which they are not, Italy has a population of 60 million to Britain’s 66 million, so direct comparisons must be adjusted.

Staff wearing personal protective equipment help a patient into an ambulance at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. Image via Getty.

What Peter Schorsch is very, very concerned about — “French farmers sound alarm in cheese market meltdown via Eddy Wax of POLITICO — French cheesemakers are warning that restaurant closures and a downturn in international trade have caused a 60 percent slump in sales of cheeses from Camembert to Roquefort. This could leave a 5,000-ton cheese surplus to rot. Cheesemakers are looking at desperate measures, ranging from destroying tons of luxury stock to derogations from the strict rules normally required to win a protected gourmet label. The drop in demand for high-value cheeses led farmers to create a glut of more storable dairy products such as butter and milk powder.


“’It feels heavy,’ a hospital chaplain sees death after death via Claire Galofaro of The Associated Press — The doctors and nurses gathered at the door asked if he was OK when he walked out of the room, and this time Chaplain Will Runyon shook his head “no.” He had just finished the latest of his “goodbye visits,” where he carries an iPad into hospital rooms so families can watch their loved ones take their last breath. He’d suited up in a gown and mask, a blister forming on the bridge of his nose from wearing one day after day. He stepped into a small office, and wept. “There’s so much death right now; it piles up on you, it feels heavy,” Runyon said. He can feel it in his back, in his feet, like he’s dragging something invisible behind him. “It’s happening so often, over and over, every day.”


Alphabet’s Verily struggles to live up to Trump’s hype on COVID testing via Kristen V. Brown and Gerrit De Vynck of Bloomberg — Verily, along with local health officials, private clinics and large corporations, have scrambled to quickly open thousands of pop-up testing sites across the country to fill gaps in the American health care system. It’s not clear that this patchwork model of testing sites will ever reach the level of testing necessary, or the right people, to ease up on national social distancing requirements and help businesses safely reopen. As of May 4, Verily had facilitated testing for about 42,000 people. That’s a fraction of the nearly 7 million tests done across the U.S. since early January. Even for a company like Verily, backed by Alphabet with its immense financial and human resources, getting a testing program up and running is extremely complicated.

Matt Gaetz showcases proposal to deport illegal aliens during pandemics via Kevin Derby of Florida Daily — Gaetz is behind the “Protect American Nationals During Emergencies by Mitigating the Immigration Crisis Act.” The bill “mandates the deportation of all illegal aliens held in the United States when a national emergency related to a communicable disease is declared.” Gaetz talked about the proposal when he appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News, and the congressman insists the bill is to counter the plan to release illegals when a “national emergency is declared related to a communicable disease.”

Matt Gaetz is floating a proposal to deport illegal aliens as part of the coronavirus pandemic response. Image via AP.

Ted Deutch sends Trump his reopen America report via Antonio Fins of The Palm Beach Post — U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch on Tuesday sent a 34-page plan to Trump, sharing his views on priorities and processes for reopening the U.S. economy from the coronavirus-forced freeze. Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, is one of five Florida lawmakers serving on the White House’s Opening Up America Again Congressional Group. Each was asked to submit their views on reopening the American economy to Trump. Deutch’s plan emphasizes public health as central to restarting the national economy. He said it is not only critical to “significantly increase” testing but also to implement quality controls to prevent false readings while also offering “businesses and individuals” added guidance as to “who, when, and how often” people be tested.


Democratic lawmakers harangue Ashley Moody for Affordable Care Act challenge via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential campaign released a joint statement from 11 Florida Congress members and four state lawmakers. “With more than a million Floridians having filed unemployment claims since mid-March and a virus that continues to wreak havoc on our state, it is critical that we make it a priority to ensure Floridians have access to health care,” the statement reads. The elected officials issuing the statement include U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist, Val Demings, Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy, Donna Shalala, Darren Soto, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson. Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson, Sens. José Rodríguez and Vic Torres and Rep. Shevrin Jones also joined.

Democratic members of Florida’s delegation are urging Ashley Moody to step back from the Affordable Care Act lawsuit.

Moody, Uber announce free rides away from domestic violence via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Moody and the ride-share giant announced a program to help victims of domestic violence, an especially important function while much of the population remain at home most of the day and law enforcement agencies continue to see spikes in domestic violence calls. “Victims of domestic violence need to know that help is still available and there are people who care deeply about their health and safety,” Moody said. “Victims do not have to stay isolated with their abusers. Domestic violence shelters remain open around the state, and through this new program with Uber, I am hopeful that we can connect more victims with the shelter and lifesaving services they need to escape abuse and begin the healing process.”

Justices delve into a major medical marijuana case via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — The Florida Department of Health appealed to the Supreme Court after lower courts sided with Florigrown. This Tampa-based company argues a 2017 state law conflicts with the constitutional amendment. Florigrown has unsuccessfully sought department approval to become a licensed medical-marijuana operator. The case primarily centers on a requirement that the Legislature put in the 2017 law about marijuana firms allowed to operate in the state. That requirement says the companies must be able to handle all aspects of the business — a concept known as a “vertical integration” system. But Florigrown contends that was not the intent of the constitutional amendment and that a vertical integration system limits the number of companies that can take part in the industry.

ACLU files records lawsuit against correction agency via the News Service of Florida — The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida filed a public-records lawsuit alleging that the state Department of Corrections has not provided information related to inmates’ tentative release dates and terms of imprisonment. The lawsuit, filed in Leon County circuit court, follows another case that the ACLU filed last year seeking data from the department about tentative release dates and terms of incarceration. The department provided data in January, but the lawsuit said the ACLU “raised questions about the data’s integrity and completeness” and requested formulas that the agency uses to calculate tentative release dates.

Worst story you will read today — “Two charged with neglect of disabled, underweight West Palm child via Olivia Hitchcock of The Palm Beach Post — For months, a hungry 11-year-old gnawed her thumb. By January 2019, it had “layers of tissue loss.” Eight months later, the girl had chewed down to the bone, West Palm Beach police records state. When her caregivers left her at St. Mary’s Medical Center in August, her thumb was so infected that the staff had to partially amputate it, and she had to be on intravenous antibiotics for six weeks, police said. By then, the girl, who has a host of physical and developmental disabilities, weighed only 45 pounds. On Tuesday, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office authorities arrested the girl’s caregivers on child-neglect charges.

State to review complaint accusing Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony of lying on paperwork via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida’s top law enforcement agency confirmed Wednesday it will look into Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony’s sworn affidavit that asserts that he has never had a criminal record sealed or expunged, and pledging that all the answers he provided were “true and correct.” The move comes days after it came to light that Tony had kept it a secret that he shot and killed a man in 1993. “We did receive a complaint, and we will review the complaint,” said Gretl Plessinger, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. “We do not have an active investigation.” The FDLE didn’t elaborate on the complaint it plans to review.

Sheriff Tony’s secret remained hidden as Gov. DeSantis rushed to appoint him via Skyler Swisher, Lisa Huriash and Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Tony, 41, never disclosed on forms that he had shot and killed an 18-year-old man when he was a teenager living in a rough neighborhood in Philadelphia. Tony said he fired in self-defense and was never found guilty of wrongdoing. Compounding that was a scramble to find a replacement for former Sheriff Scott Israel. The Governor’s office didn’t request state investigators conduct a background check on Tony until Jan. 10, 2019, a day before Tony was named to the post, Gretl Plessinger, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said in an email. Helen Ferre, a DeSantis spokeswoman, hasn’t provided an account of exactly which documents the Governor reviewed when making the selection.

Judge rejects former Broward Sheriff’s lawsuit via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Former Broward County Sheriff Israel’s due-process rights were not violated when the Florida Senate refused to reinstate the veteran law enforcement official after DeSantis suspended him from office, a federal judge has ruled. Israel turned to the federal court following an October special legislative session in which the Senate formally removed Israel from office. The lawsuit alleged that the Senate’s process was unfair and named Senate President Bill Galvano and DeSantis as defendants. But in dismissing the case, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said Israel failed to prove that the legislative proceedings violated his due-process rights.

A judge smacks down Scott Israel’s lawsuit.

Hillsborough County reinstates spring pay for football coaches via Joey Knight of the Tampa Bay Times — Only weeks after informing its prep football coaches they wouldn’t receive the spring portion of their annual supplements due to the cancellation of spring football, the Hillsborough County school district has reversed its field. New Hillsborough superintendent Addison Davis, himself a former coach, informed the coaches their supplements are being reinstated. The announcement came eight days after Pasco County reinstated spring pay for its coaches. The decision to rescind spring pay was met with widespread contempt in a profession that has long since evolved into a year-round grind.

Remember the thick seaweed issue? When we get back to the beach, it may be there … in tons via Kimberly Miller of The Palm Beach Post — A burgeoning field of burdensome sargassum is making its way from the eastern Caribbean to South Florida with researchers estimating an early July arrival depending on winds and current. The bloom of brown macroalgae is not expected to be the deep onslaught experienced in the record-breaking year of 2018. Still, a University of South Florida forecast is calling for an amount similar to 2015, an above-average year that saw Palm Beach County beaches blanketed well into December.

Document shows top JEA executives had most to gain from incentive plan via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — A document obtained by the select City Council committee investigating JEA shows top utility executives could have gained the most from a controversial incentive plan that would have showered millions of dollars in financial gains on them if JEA had been sold. The performance unit plan, which eventually played a significant role in sinking the sales process when details of it became public, would have let JEA employees purchase units and then redeem them in the future based on the utility’s financial performance. The redemption would have occurred in three years. Still, if JEA were sold, the benefit would have been accelerated, and employees holding the units would have gotten big paydays when an investor-owned utility bought JEA.

Top official’s refusal tests mayor’s pledge to cooperate on JEA investigations via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — One of Mayor Lenny Curry’s top officials who served as the lead negotiator during secret JEA sale negotiations last year has refused to voluntarily appear before a select City Council committee investigating the controversy, setting up the potential for an administration official to receive a first-of-its-kind subpoena. Councilman Rory Diamond, who chairs the investigative committee, said Tuesday the refusal of Stephanie Burch, Curry’s deputy chief administrative officer, to appear before the committee is “incredibly frustrating.” The committee’s outside counsel said Burch, through an attorney, refused both the option of providing sworn testimony privately and appearing before the committee in a public hearing. Burch’s refusal to appear voluntarily will test the worth of Curry’s pledge.

PR veteran Ron Whittington tapped for CareerSource Northeast Florida communications via Drew Dixon for Florida Politics — Whittington is now a communications consultant for CareerSource Northeast Florida, Effective May 1, he replaced Candace Moody, who served as vice president of communications for 23 years. Her April 30 departure came as the agency was in the throes of the COVID-19 economic collapse, leaving thousands of people seeking help from the Jacksonville-based agency. Whittington started training for the job in March, with Moody’s help; he saw things get worse as seven of the agency’s offices had to close due to social distancing requirements. “In the middle of April, at the height of this thing, we were getting about 1,200 calls per day,” Whittington said. “It’s dropped down, but at the last count we were at 300 calls per day.”

McDonald’s, Starbucks and other fast-food workers strike across Florida, demanding more coronavirus protections via Chabeli Carrazana of the Orlando Sentinel — Workers, many of them McDonald’s employees, in particular, have been protesting since March across the country for safer working conditions. In response, McDonald’s vowed to make “important changes” last month, ramping up cleanliness and safety standards and sending masks to the areas of greatest need. At Starbucks, the company has provided a $3 an hour hazard pay increase in addition to workers’ regular pay. Fight for $15 workers are demanding $30 an hour during the pandemic — $15 an hour times two. They’re also hoping to raise support for the $15 minimum wage amendment championed by Orlando attorney John Morgan that will be on the ballot in Florida this November.

— 2020 —

Sex assault allegation hasn’t hurt Joe Biden’s standing, poll shows via Jennifer Epstein of Bloomberg — Voters don’t seem to be affected by the allegations of sexual assault against Biden, according to one of the first public polls to ask about the claim since he denied it last week. Voters were split on the credibility of the accuser, Tara Reade, but there was no sign of an immediate impact on the presidential race and only a slight drop in the number of people who had a favorable impression of the likely Democratic nominee. Biden is viewed favorably by 41% of those surveyed and unfavorably by 44%, a slight drop from April. Trump does far worse, with 40% of those surveyed saying they see him favorably while 53% said they have an unfavorable view.

Joe Biden faces a cash crunch, which he needs to make up virtually.

Tara Reade’s accusations have not hurt Joe Biden in the polls.

Democrats face standard of proof they helped lower via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — When Christine Blasey Ford accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual abuse, which national political figure said, “You’ve got to start with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real, whether or not she forgets facts?” If you guessed Biden, you’re right. And who was the party chairman sternly proclaiming, not too long ago, “If you are a candidate for office or an elected official who has engaged in sexual misconduct, you should step aside …” That would be Tom Perez, head of the Democratic National Committee. Of course, it has not been established that Biden “engaged in sexual misconduct” — only that former Senate aide Reade accused him of a gross assault 27 years ago.

Val Demings: ‘I would be honored to serve alongside Biden’ as Vice President” via Mark Skoneki and Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — “If asked, I would be honored to serve alongside Joe Biden and do everything in my power to get this country back on track,” the former Orlando police chief said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Demings, who served as a House manager in the Senate impeachment trial of Trump, criticized the President’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. “At the very least, we ought to be able to have a leader that we can trust,” she said. “We don’t have that right now.” Demings has made the early list of potential running mates for Biden, who was Vice President under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017, for the election in November.


Lawsuit aims to make it easier for Floridians to mail-vote via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — Advocacy groups are suing state and county officials to change rules so that it’s easier for Floridians to vote by mail during the current pandemic. The lawsuit filed this week in federal court in Tallahassee asks a judge to allow ballots to be counted if they are postmarked by Election Day but arrive within 10 days of that deadline. It also wants to allow paid organizers to collect vote-by-mail ballots from voters who require assistance and for the state to pay for postage for mail-in ballots instead of voters. “The pandemic’s impact is not limited to Floridians’ health; it also endangers their right to vote,” the lawsuit said.

Candidates morph into COVID-19 relief workers — and want you to know about it via Elena Schneider and James Arkin of POLITICO — Clayton Fuller was filming his first campaign ad for Congress when he got a call from his Air National Guard commanding officer: He was being activated for coronavirus duty. Now the Republican from Georgia is spending his days far away from the campaign trail, coordinating the cleaning of nursing and veterans’ homes in Alabama. But because he’s under federal orders, he can no longer ask for votes himself — this week, he’s missing two virtual candidate forums. Many campaigns are morphing into mini-relief organizations by channeling their donor and volunteer bases into coronavirus-related work in their communities.

Republican Yukong Zhao sues to get on CD 7 ballot after failing to qualify via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Zhao is suing the Florida Department of State to try to get onto the ballot in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, contending the department failed to follow its own emergency rules adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic, costing him his candidacy. On April 25, the Division of Elections ruled that Zhao was unable to qualify by the deadline for federal office elections. In a lawsuit, Zhao asks the court to order the department, Secretary of State Laurel Lee and others to place him on the ballot. The lawsuit asks the court to order defendants to accept Zhao’s paperwork as timely filed and certify him as a duly qualified candidate for the ballot.

After failing to qualify, Yukong Zhao is suing to get on the CD 7 ballot.

FDLE reviewing altercation involving Fred Hawkins, HOA security guard via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is considering investigating an Osceola County Commissioner who is running for the Florida House of Representatives who was involved in a raucous homeowners association meeting that led to the arrest of a security guard. The security guard, Ailyn DePena, 36, of Orlando, has since been cleared of all charges, including battery and resisting arrest. State law enforcement authorities are looking into what happened when she encountered Osceola County Commissioner Fred Hawkins Jr. and two Osceola County deputy sheriffs during a contentious Turnberry Reserve Home Owners Association election meeting on Nov. 7, 2019.

Keith Truenow picks up $60K in first month of fundraising for HD 31 via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Truenow pulled in $60,000 in his first month of fundraising for an open House seat. “Our campaign set out with an ambitious goal for fundraising our first month and we hit that goal and then some,” Truenow said. “I am truly humbled for the outpouring of financial support for our campaign even during a time where families are budgeting a little tighter.” Truenow said the strong first month of fundraising shows his strong support within the region and a level of trust in the community. The money also came as candidates around the state report slow fundraising because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Christine Hunschofsky rolls out bevy of endorsements after announcing HD 96 run via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — More than two dozen state lawmakers, local leaders and others are endorsing Hunschofsky as she seeks former Rep. Kristin Jacobs’ House seat. Jacobs passed away in late April following a yearslong battle with cancer. Jacobs’ House District 96 encompasses Parkland, where Hunschofsky has served as Mayor since 2016. Several House colleagues join sen. Kevin Rader in endorsing Hunschofsky, including Reps. Dan Daley, Michael Gottlieb and Tina Polsky. In 2018, Hunschofsky oversaw one of the worst mass shootings in the state’s history, when 17 people died in an attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Daniella Levine Cava internal poll shows dead heat in Miami-Dade mayoral race via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — An internal poll from the Levine Cava campaign shows her in a statistical tie with Alex Penelas in the 2020 contest for Miami-Dade County Mayor. The internal poll showed Levine Cava with 22% of the vote, followed by Penelas at 20%, Xavier Suarez at 14% and Esteban Bovo at 11%. The survey has a margin of error of 4.4%. There are currently 11 candidates competing in the contest, however. The poll showed 10% of voters preferring “someone else” other than the four candidates polled, while 23% of respondents were undecided.

Rick Singh gets challenger — time to wrap up criminal probe via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — As much as I like giving voters choices, I also like giving them the full story. And we still don’t have that when it comes to all of the seedy accusations levied against Singh. And voters deserve that — fast. So does Singh. State officials first revealed they were investigating him back in December … of 2018. I was glad they were. There were just too many ugly and specific accusations to ignore — about wasted tax dollars, excessive travel, questionable vendor deals, and falsified documents — all lodged by people high in Singh’s administration: his former finance director and spokeswoman. Yet 16 months later, we still don’t have answers.


Next COVID-19 relief bill should send funds directly to cities like Miami, Hialeah via Francis X. Suarez and Carlos Hernandez for the Miami Herald — COVID-19 has posed an unprecedented challenge to communities across America. In South Florida, our cities are facing the brunt of this tragedy, with more than half of confirmed cases in Florida in the tri-county area. That is why, as Mayors, we took urgent and decisive action, with the county, state, and federal authorities early on. To help cities handle this crisis, we are asking federal leaders to consider $500 billion in additional relief directly to states and municipalities like ours in the next stimulus bill. Without it, we undoubtedly will face serious revenue shortfalls and be forced to make severe cuts to local budgets, which will harm residents’ quality of life.


Why coronavirus is punishing the economy more than Spanish flu via Noah Smith of Bloomberg — The Spanish Flu, unlike COVID-19, tended to kill people in their 20s and 30s — their peak productive years. Additionally, many cities responded to the threat the same way states are now with social distancing. These included closing schools and churches, banning mass gatherings, mandated mask-wearing, and other restrictions. A century ago, less than half of all workers were employed in service industries; now, about 86% are. Manufacturing and agriculture were less vulnerable to the pandemic than retail and other businesses that depended on lots of customer traffic.

New coronavirus is far more dangerous than seasonal flu via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — A fair number of people have let themselves be misled by the notion that the new coronavirus is no more lethal than seasonal influenza. Some are asking, not all of them politely, why social distancing, shuttered workplaces, and a springtime without sports are necessary. In fact, the virus that causes COVID-19 is far more dangerous than ordinary flu. It’s twice as contagious, and those whom it sickens are far more likely to die. Moreover, the widely-quoted figure of up to 60,000 “normal” flu deaths a year is an estimate of doubtful accuracy. The national death toll from the new virus … is a hard count of cases — confirmed by testing — not an estimate.

Virus may make attitudes to immigration healthier via Pankaj Mishra of Bloomberg Opinion — In recent weeks, doctors, nurses and care workers for the British National Health Service have garnered the kind of heartfelt respect and gratitude that New York City firefighters elicited after 9/11. In particular, immigrants, who are disproportionately represented among Britain’s caregivers, janitors, pharmacists, grocery employees, truck drivers, plumbers and electricians, mass transit operators, and teachers, are presently being hailed for their gritty sense of duty, for standing between many people and premature death. Immigrants will be needed, yet again, to rebuild shattered economies. In fact, in aging societies from Japan to Portugal, they were urgently required to fill job vacancies and to broaden the tax base for public spending well before the pandemic erupted.

It’s time to embrace distance learning — and not just because of the coronavirus via Jeb Bush for The Washington Post — It’s time plan for a future in which public education can continue without access to classrooms — not just because of a pandemic but because that’s the future of learning. In the near term, many issues loom. Even if schools could reopen this fall, rolling closures are likely when the pandemic reappears. The benefits are clear: Such changes would better enable students to learn. They would be better prepared for the learning platforms of college and the workforce. Teachers would be able to deploy more innovative and personalized instructional strategies. Distance learning has the capacity to help students go deeper where their interests take them and get more focused attention in areas where they’re struggling.

We’re not doing enough to address the coronavirus pandemic in prisons via Kathie Karreich for the Miami Herald — Two months ago, I was in the classroom at least three days a week teaching writing courses and meeting with my student facilitators, or supervising other instructors’ classes. Or troubleshooting with the administration. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit and forced educators around the world to move to distant teaching. Instructors had to learn how to navigate new technology for their online classes. I did not have that option. I teach in prisons, where the internet is as invisible as COVID-19. I have had no contact with my students since March 11. Not a fleeting glimpse of them on Zoom or a video chat. Instead of worrying about whether or not they are learning, I worry whether they are going to live.

Pinellas beach reopenings off to a good start via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — The images from Monday’s reopening of the county’s beaches showed people behaving responsibly, along with plenty of law enforcement to make sure they did. People kept safe distances between themselves and others. Some even used seaweed to outline their boundaries, and everyone seemed to honor that. Refreshing. The county needed to send the message that not everyone in Florida is a blockhead after the debacle during spring break. Police can’t be everywhere to enforce safety rules, so it comes down to old-fashioned individual responsibility. Republican lawmakers want DeSantis’ support for a liability shield for businesses that reopen.

So-called ‘attacks’ on Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony are not about race. It’s about the facts via Allen B. Jackson for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As an African-American man, I have experienced racism in my life on many occasions. And so I know what racism looks like and what it smells like. The recent revelations about Broward Sheriff Tony are not racial, but they are political. But guess what, that’s politics. I understand politics and the tricks of politics because I ran for county commissioner in 2004 and in 2008. When a heavyweight boxer steps into the ring to fight, it would be crazy for him to think that he’s not going to get punched. The moment Tony accepted the appointment to be sheriff, he stepped into the ring of politics. So how dare he and his supporters complain and cry about being attacked politically.


Gov. DeSantis heads to Hard Rock Stadium to talk about coronavirus testing, show off the state’s new mobile laboratory — and do some China-bashing.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Phase One of Florida’s reopening may have started Monday, but stay-at-home orders are still in effect for three south Florida counties hard-hit by the virus. Miami/Dade’s Mayor says they’re almost ready to reopen.

— Amid a pandemic, the U.S. Supreme Court gears up for the GOP lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. Millions of Floridians could lose their health care coverage if they haven’t already because of furloughs and layoffs. Florida Democrats say it’s a disgrace that our own Attorney General is a part of that lawsuit.

— Legal arguments are done; now, it’s up to a federal judge in Tallahassee to decide the fate of Florida’s law restoring the voting rights to former felons. The ACLU and the NAACP brought on the challenge, saying it’s nothing more than a pay-to-play scheme designed by GOP lawmakers to suppress the vote

— The latest on a Florida Man making his second appearance on the podcast this week. Would you believe a sheriff at a swinger’s club? There are pictures.

To listen, click on the image below:


— ALOE —

The NBA is proceeding with extreme caution via Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press — The NBA says some players can voluntarily return to their team practice facilities starting on Friday, with some particular conditions and only in places where local and state governments have signed off on such openings. It’s unclear how many — if any — players will be back on the floor Friday when the league ban gets lifted. Miami is allowed to open its doors for the first time in six weeks but won’t until at least Monday while it works out specific logistical details. Orlando isn’t going to welcome players back immediately, either. Same goes for Utah, the first NBA team to deal with the coronavirus after Rudy Gobert tested positive March 11, and the league shut down almost immediately.

Video screens show images of Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis in a plaza across from Staples Center, home of two NBA teams, an NHL team, and a WNBA team, in Los Angeles. Image via AP.

Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp farm team swing for June 15 season opener via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — Northeast Florida’s minor league baseball team hopes to officially start its season in about a month after being postponed due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp Double-A Minor League Baseball club announced it plans to host opening day June 15 at Financial Ballpark. The season has already postponed for more than a month due to the pandemic. The Miami Marlins franchise farm club said that’s the earliest expected season opener, meaning it could be postponed again.


Celebrating today are Jennifer Edwards, U.S. Reps. Gaetz and Deutch, and former Rep. Ken Littlefield.


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.

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Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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