Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.11.20

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Here's your AM rundown of people, politics and policy in the Sunshine State.

Damn it —Peak of daily COVID-19 deaths still in Florida’s future, model now shows

Despite flattening the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida may still yet see the peak of the disease’s fatal effects in the coming months.

Instead of the pandemic nearly dissipating by June, as in earlier predictions, deaths will instead hit their apex next month and continue into August, according to a model produced by The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). It predicts 5,440 Floridians could die by Aug. 4, around 1,500 more than its last prediction.

Despite a flattening of the curve, new modeling shows that COVID-19 could now peak sometime next month. Image via the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Sunday marked the first update to the model since Phase One of the state’s reopening began in earnest. The University of Washington-associated institute released the previous prediction Monday, day one of Phase One.

The model’s average projection puts the peak in the second week of June, when 60 Floridians could die daily. Deaths could peak at 152 a day in mid-June, or they may peter out from now till August.

Despite the grimmer outlook for Florida, expected in part with society’s reopening, the predicted peak is much lower than what the model showed before the lockdown. When IHME predicted 6,766 Floridians could die by August, it anticipated 174 daily deaths in a peak expected around this weekend.

After the stay-at-home order began, the model predicted 4,000 Florida deaths by early August, with a peak of 112 deaths per day.

The state has more than 20,000 hospital beds at its disposal, according to the model, more than enough to account for even its projected worst-case scenario.


Breaking Sunday evening — Scott Pelley’s piece on Sunday’s “60 Minutes” was a damning, must-watch 14 minutes of journalism, reports Oliver Darcy of CNN. Pelley showed how “dishonest and negligent allegations” from GOP congressman Matt Gaetz on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show jumped to the White House briefing room and to Trump. In the end, the claims resulted in a researcher’s NIH grant — which was supporting research aimed at stopping pandemics — being terminated in unprecedented fashion.

“This politicization of science is really damaging,” researcher Peter Daszak told Pelley. “You know, the conspiracy theories out there have essentially closed down communication between scientists in China and scientists in the US. We need that communication in an outbreak to learn from them how they control it so we can control it better. It’s sad to say, but it will probably cost lives. By sort of narrow-mindedly focusing in on ourselves, or on labs, or on certain cultural politics, we miss the real enemy.”

Tweet, tweet:

@MattGaetz: The Wuhan Institute of Virology takes 10 days to notify the world of the sequence of coronavirus – and American taxpayers are supposed to keep funding them? After the State Dept said they weren’t being safe? Looks like @CBSNews is going all China First.


Happy birthday to my buddy, Alan Suskey, a great dad and husband and loyal friend to many.


— Nearly 79,000 have died of the coronavirus in the U.S., while more than 1.3 million cases have been confirmed, per Johns Hopkins University data.

— As President Donald Trump turns to Governors to handle much of the next phase of coronavirus response, some members of both parties in Congress are pushing their own proposals. Read more here.


Soaring joblessness could shake U.S. economy, politics for years via David J. Lynch of The Washington Post — Mass unemployment on a scale not seen since the Great Depression has erased the economic gains of the past decade and now threatens to linger for years, fueling social discord and shaking an already polarized political system. Almost overnight, it seems, the U.S. economy, which just two months ago boasted abundant jobs and soaring stock values, has become a shambles. Not since the government began collecting official data in 1948 has a smaller share of the U.S. population been employed. The unique character of this economic collapse, triggered by an ongoing public health crisis, may lead to an enduring decline in the demand for labor. While the pandemic rages, companies are developing new ways to operate with fewer people, replacing the lost workers with machines that are impervious to illness.

Donald Trump hears from his coronavirus task force; the nation’s unemployment rate suffer for years after the various state shutdowns closed many businesses. Image via AP.

How Florida slowed coronavirus: Everyone stayed home before they were told to via Adam Playford, Kathleen McGrory, Steve Contorno, Caitlin Johnston and Zachary T. Sampson of The Tampa Bay Times — To a nation in the grips of coronavirus panic, Florida in mid-March looked destined to be the next hot zone. After the state shut down, the predicted tsunami did not arrive. Temporary hospitals sit unused. Ventilators were never in short supply. The death count, though tragically nearing 1,800 today, remains short of what many feared. By the time each county shut down, there had been significant reductions in activity, the cellphone data shows. People in the worst-hit counties were overwhelmingly staying home weeks before Ron DeSantis’ order went out — and even before the much-earlier orders issued by local governments.

What Rob Bradley and Travis Cummings are reading — “Agency warns Medicaid costs could soar by $1 billion via Christine Sexton of the news service of Florida — Florida’s economic collapse due to the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to cause ballooning Medicaid enrollment that might blow a $1 billion hole in the state budget, according to new projections. The dramatic rise in costs could exert additional pressure on DeSantis and the Legislature to cut the budget as businesses shutting down and scaling back have dramatically reduced the primary sources of tax dollars used to pay for state spending. An Agency for Health Care Administration analysis of projected costs and enrollment shows that as many as 437,390 additional people might turn to Medicaid for health care in the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1.


@AnthonySabatini: The threat is not COVID. The threat is the government’s response to COVID. Truly the most un-American thing I’ve witnessed in my life. It’s time to take our country back.

@ZachWeinberg: Fascinating to hear the Uber arguments. I’ve now heard “they charge restaurants too much, and also they’re using VC money to subsidize and gain market share.” How can they charge too much and too little at the same time??? Maybe it’s just a normal business trying to succeed?

@JoshCeb: Trying my damndest to finish reading “All The President’s Men” with my gerbil attention span. It’s scary how little things have changed from the Nixon era. Any of these stories could be told today with the same narrative.

Tweet, tweet:


NASCAR season resumes at Darlington Speedway in Darlington, South Carolina — 6; TNT’s adaptation of “Snowpiercer” premieres — 6; English Premier League soccer to restart — 28; PGA Tour resumes — 31; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 32; Father’s Day — 41; Apple to hold Developer Conference — 42; Federal taxes due — 65; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 67; “Mulan” premieres — 74; TED conference rescheduled — 76; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 98; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 102; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 105; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 116; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 117; Rescheduled date for French Open — 132; First presidential debate in Indiana — 141; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 151; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 157; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 158; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 164; 2020 General Election — 176; “Black Widow” premieres — 179; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 190; “No Time to Die” premieres — 197; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 226; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 438; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 447; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 543; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 641; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 683; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 726; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 879.


Docs show top WH officials buried CDC report via Jason Dearen of The Associated Press — The decision to shelve detailed advice from the nation’s top disease control experts for reopening communities during the coronavirus pandemic came from the highest levels of the White House. Files also show that after reports surfaced that the guidance document had been buried, the Trump administration ordered key parts of it to be fast-tracked for approval. The trove of emails shows the nation’s top public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spending weeks working on guidance to help the country deal with a public health emergency, only to see their work quashed by political appointees with little explanation.

Donald Trump passes Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a briefing about the coronavirus in the White House. Image via AP.

In the early days of the pandemic, the U.S. government turned down an offer to manufacture millions of N95 masks in America via Aaron C. Davis of The Washington Post — A day after the first case of COVID-19 was detected in the United States, and orders were pouring into Prestige Ameritech outside Fort Worth, some from as far away as Hong Kong. Prestige Ameritech could ramp up production to make an additional 1.7 million N95 masks a week. The company viewed the shrinking domestic production of medical masks as a national security issue, though, and wanted to give the federal government first dibs. Communications over several days with senior agency officials, including Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and emergency response, left the company with the clear impression that there was little immediate interest in their offer.

As deaths mount, Donald Trump tries to convince Americans it’s safe to inch back to normal via Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Yasmeen Abutaleb of The Washington Post — Trump and his advisers have shifted from hour-by-hour crisis management to what they characterize as a long-term strategy aimed at reviving the decimated economy and preparing for additional outbreaks this fall. In doing so, the administration is effectively bowing to and asking Americans to accept a devastating proposition: that a steady, daily accumulation of lonely deaths is the grim cost of reopening the nation. Trump and some of his advisers are prioritizing the psychology of the pandemic as much as, if not more than, plans to combat the virus.

Trump flouts coronavirus protocols as security experts warn of need to protect President from a lethal threat via David Nakamura, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — The President appeared puzzled that the aide, Katie Miller, the press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence, had contracted the virus “out of the blue” after testing negative several times under a routine White House screening program put in place last month. During an event with GOP members, Trump suggested “the whole concept of tests isn’t great,” but he declared that he was satisfied with the procedures that are in place to protect him and his top aides.

“‘Scary to go to work’: White House races to contain virus in its ranks via Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — The Trump administration is racing to contain an outbreak of COVID-19 inside the White House, as some senior officials believe that the disease is already spreading rapidly through the warren of cramped offices that make up the three floors of the West Wing. Three top officials leading the government’s coronavirus response have begun two weeks of self-quarantine after two members of the White House staff. The concern about an outbreak of the virus at the White House underscores the broader challenge for Americans as Trump urges them to begin returning to their workplaces despite warnings from public health officials that the virus continues to ravage communities across the country.

“‘What are we doing this for?’: Doctors are fed up with conspiracies ravaging ERs via Ben Collins of NBC News — Health care professionals are dealing with a bombardment of misinformation and harassment from conspiracy theorists, some of whom have moved beyond posting online to pressing doctors for proof of the severity of the pandemic. Beyond emergency rooms and internet platforms, there are hints of how far some coronavirus misinformation has spread. Dr. Rajeev Fernando said that when he takes questions about the coronavirus on radio shows, one out of every two callers refers to 5G towers or conspiracy theories about labs in Wuhan, China.


The movement to reopen Florida has been somewhat subdued. Why is that? via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida’s reopen movement has been a more modest affair compared to those that have disrupted other states. Facebook groups dedicated to reopening Florida have just a fraction of the following of other states’ groups. For example, “Michiganders against excessive quarantine” had some 382,400 members. DeSantis, a staunch conservative, hasn’t gotten much pushback from the reopen crowd because he has built up years of goodwill fighting for many of their causes.

Here are the barbershop, salon rules for reopening in Florida on Monday” via Mark Skoneki of the Orlando Sentinel — Barbershops and salons must operate by appointment only and allow 15 minutes between appointments to sanitize their work stations, according to rules released by state officials. Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday added salons and barbershops to those that could reopen under his plan to restart the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Florida’s coronavirus death numbers are closer to reality than other states” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Florida’s COVID-19 fatality reports likely show a near-complete reality of the death toll while most states hit hard by the pandemic are struggling to report the full picture. According to a New York Times report, confirmed COVID-19 deaths in much of the country do not account for the excess deaths reported by state health officials compared to an average year, a method known to epidemiologists. But Florida, with an estimated 500 deaths more than previous years between March 15 and April 11, reported 442 COVID-19-related deaths during that time, 88% of the anticipated total. Overall, deaths were 3% higher than expected in the state in an average year.

Bid for special coronavirus Session fails as state records highest one-day case total in May via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — A coronavirus divide at the state Capitol has Republican lawmakers voting to wait for a special session related to the public health emergency and Democratic lawmakers asking how long. Meanwhile, the numbers, in terms of human lives and economic costs, continue to rise. This week Democrats fell short of the 60% of members needed to convene a special session to fix a broken unemployment compensation system unmasked by the coronavirus, and to make revisions to the state budget forced by COVID-19. The Republican majority in the House and Senate voted unanimously to wait while most Democrats supported a special session now.

Incoming Senate President: Special Legislative Session unnecessary” via Steven Walker of Fresh Take Florida — Sen. Wilton Simpson is pushing back on the idea of recalling the Legislature to the Capitol for a special session to deal with economic consequences of the pandemic, the upcoming elections or other matters. He may reconsider in June. But Simpson said Florida’s deep $4 billion in reserves can help it weather the financial problems caused by the virus shutdown, and he believes Gov. DeSantis has authority to appropriate pending federal aid and state matching money without approval by lawmakers.

Florida nursing home deaths from COVID-19 spike dramatically: up to 22 at a single home via Kevin G. Hall and Ben Wieder of the Miami Herald — Florida health officials released stark new data late Friday showing that deaths in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities appear to have accounted for 60 percent of the deaths in Florida this past week from COVID-19. The Florida Department of Health reported a total of 665 deaths from COVID-19 at such facilities, an increase of 242 deaths from last week’s report. In the same period, the state’s overall toll increased by 401 deaths. To date, patients and staff at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other long-term care providers have accounted for four out every 10 deaths in the state from COVID-19.

Ron DeSantis said teams of health care workers have responded to 93 nursing homes and assisted-living facilities due to coronavirus. Image via Governor’s Office.

Florida’s lax oversight of nursing homes spills over from one deadly crisis to the next via Carol Marbin Miller and Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — The last time Florida long-term-care facilities faced a disaster, Hurricane Irma, the state took action, mandating that all homes have backup generators to kick in during a power outage. But when the emergency passed, the state declined to enforce the rule, and granted variances to scores of homes that called it a hardship. Now, with the industry in the grips of the worst pandemic in a century, Florida health administrators quietly handed out 95 more variances for May. For some homes, it was the fifth time they had been given a pass. The variances seem to be nearly identical to the ones dispensed liberally to laggard homes since 2017.

State issues testing orders for long-term care facilities via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — The state Agency for Health Care Administration issued emergency orders to bolster testing of staff members at nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. The orders require nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to allow the Florida Department of Health into their buildings for infection control and conducting COVID-19 testing of residents and staff. When the department enters the buildings, the nursing homes and assisted-living facilities will need to require staff members to submit to tests. Also, the long-term care facilities will need to comply with directives about making off-duty staff members available for testing. The orders also apply to “authorized agents” of the department.

What’s in the censored Florida Medical Examiners database of COVID-19 deaths? via Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon and Jim Waymer of the Naples Daily News — Since at least April 20, the Florida Department of Health has blocked the Medical Examiners Commission from releasing their own detailed spreadsheet of the COVID-19 dead. On Wednesday, the state released the medical examiners’ spreadsheet but redacted the narratives and cause of death entries. Before the DOH clamped down, journalists obtained an unredacted version of the spreadsheet from April 15, which recorded the first 601 Florida deaths attributed to COVID-19. The data tells a story of patients denied testing until their second or third hospital visit and reveals deadly clusters of infection at nursing homes and cruise ships. The data also includes details on the underlying conditions of patients and how long they were in the hospital before they died.

DEO extends work search waiver, unemployed to recertify every two weeks via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Unemployed Floridians still won’t need to search for work to claim unemployment benefits. Still, they will need to return to the state’s unemployment portal every two weeks to claim those benefits. DeSantis has instructed the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) to extend its work search waiver through May 30 amid the recovery from COVID-19. The department let lapse a separate waiver that spared the unemployed from reconfirming every two weeks that they are still without a job. Since announcing Phase One of the state’s path out of the COVID-19 lockdown, DeSantis had extended several executive orders designed to help Floridians cope with the economic and health effects of the pandemic.

Audits spotted flaws in jobless aid system that went unfixed via Christine Stapleton of The Palm Beach Post — In 2012, Rick Scott rebranded the state’s unemployment insurance program. As part of Scott’s plan to run the state like a business, the program would be called Re-employment Assistance. The semantic change represented a shift from the notion of government helping jobless workers pay rent and put food on the table to instead putting an end to government handouts and getting the workforce off unemployment as quickly as possible. After seven years of tweaks, scathing audits and unheeded warnings, the rebranded Re-employment Assistance Program is being slammed for low weekly payments and its computer system, called CONNECT, is being blamed for untold frustration and suffering of hundreds of thousands of Floridians left jobless by the coronavirus business shutdown.

Floridians complain about noncompliant businesses via the News Service of Florida — Floridians have filed more than 2,200 complaints to the state over the past two months about businesses failing to comply with executive orders that imposed restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic. The complaints have dealt with issues such as vacation rental properties, restaurants, sale of alcoholic beverages, barbering and cosmetology. Department of Business and Professional Regulation spokeswoman Karen Smith said complaints are assigned to specific divisions with the agency but didn’t say if fines have been issued. The online form requires people filing complaints to list the names of the businesses and the licenses being questioned when the incidents occurred and if they would like to be contacted regarding the allegations.

How and when will Florida reopen schools? Educators have ideas on that. via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — As Florida reopens from COVID-19 closures, K-12 schools play a crucial role in finding some degree of normalcy. DeSantis’ advisory task force envisions them preparing to “resume on-campus learning, full-time,” in August or September. Schools, with three-to-a-seat buses, elbow-to-elbow cafeterias, and cramped corridors during passing periods, do not lend themselves to the six-foot spacing that public health officials say should be the standard. More than offering any specific attack, education leaders share a common thread of seeking flexibility as they adjust to local needs.

Disney surveys guests about returning to theme parks via Ashley Carter of Bay News 9 — Disney is starting to send out surveys to guests, asking them about their upcoming reservations and whether COVID-19 will cause them to change their plans. Disney asks respondents under what conditions would they keep or cancel the vacation plans. Respondents were also asked what would make them more likely to keep their reservations, followed by a variety of options. The questions are posed under the assumption that stay-at-home restrictions have been lifted, and safety and health measures have been implemented at the parks.

A grim reaper lawyer takes on Ron DeSantis and tries to save beachgoers from the coronavirus via Lucy Morgan of Florida Phoenix — Daniel Uhlfelder is practicing law in Santa Rosa Beach in Walton County near a stretch of beaches long popular at spring break and through the summer months. He’s also become a familiar figure on various Florida beaches wearing a Grim Reaper suit and carrying a black sickle to remind everyone that they are risking death from the coronavirus. He now realizes the outfit is attracting all sorts of attention and doing much more to spread his concerns about the virus than merely filing a lawsuit.

Instead of merely filing a lawsuit, attorney Daniel Uhlfelder has mounted his Grim Reaper Tour to warn beachgoers about coronavirus. Image via@DWUhlfelderLaw/Twitter.


16 dead from coronavirus at Wilton Manors nursing home via David Fleshler and Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Sixteen residents of the Manor Pines Convalescent in Wilton Manors have died from coronavirus-related illnesses since the pandemic’s start. Last week’s report on nursing home coronavirus related deaths showed just three such deaths at the Wilton Manors nursing home. No staff at the home have died, according to the report. The state health department reports 656 residents at nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have died due to the virus as of Friday. Additionally, the state reported eight staff members of facilities also died. About 190 of the state’s facilities have reported at least one death so far.

Manor Pines Convalescent in Wilton Manors has become a hot spot for coronavirus deaths.

Face masks are not required at Miami-Dade parks outside of groups via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — More than a week after a Miami-Dade County order was rolled out requiring face masks at parks, the county has released a new interpretation of the rule, which clarifies that masks are not needed outside of groups. The updated interpretation of Mayor Carlos Giménez’s emergency order requiring masks among most park visitors was announced Saturday. Giménez reopened parks, golf courses and marinas on April 29 under strict guidelines to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. The updated interpretation means that park visitors are not required to wear a mask while walking through a park or resting under a tree. If a group of friends gathers or if a visitor is walking among a crowd, masks will be required.

With a pandemic, lost jobs and record heat, Miami’s poor can’t afford air conditioning via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — The unprecedented economic collapse has made life miserable for countless South Floridians, but perhaps none so much as those who lack air conditioning, or must limit the use of their units because they can’t afford the bills. With most people spending more time at home, watching TV, playing video games and running their appliances, bills figure to skyrocket along with AC usage. Temperatures in South Florida in April broke records: more than 6 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than usual. Places people without air conditioning can normally cool off, like malls and movie theaters, are shuttered. And there are health risks. In Miami’s humidity, the lack of AC can also lead to mold and breathing problems, a frightening prospect during an outbreak of a highly contagious virus, experts say.

Florida oncology network that bilked cancer patients gets $67 million in COVID-19 aid via Alex Daugherty and Ben Wieder of the Miami Herald — Florida Cancer Specialists, which employs 250 doctors in 100 facilities across Florida, admitted in federal court on April 30 that it worked with unnamed co-conspirators to limit cancer treatment options for patients, agreeing to pay a $100 million federal fine, the largest amount allowed by law, along with a $20 million state fine. At nearly the same time, Florida Cancer Specialists was awarded $67 million in federal funds from the CARES Act, the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress in March. The $67 million made Florida Cancer Specialists the largest recipient of funds in Florida from a $30 billion pot of money distributed by the Department of Health and Human Services to help health care facilities affected by the pandemic.

Plan to reopen Broward could come in a day or two, but there’s no consensus on extent or timing” via Anthony Man of the Sun Sentinel — It’s time to start reopening Broward, County Commissioner Michael Udine and state Rep. Chip LaMarca said Sunday, citing progress tamping down the new coronavirus and a need to reignite the economy. Not so fast, said County Commissioners Steve Geller and Nan Rich, who warn that reopening too quickly poses significant public health risks because coronavirus is still prevalent and there aren’t enough tools to deal with an outbreak.

Shops tangle with shutdown orders — or defy them — to eke out business. via Andrew Boryga of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Around the region, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel discovered nonessential businesses opening their doors to customers, gambling that they will be undetected by code compliance officers and police. Some have been cited for infractions. Those gambles could soon be put to rest in Palm Beach County but will continue a bit longer for shopkeepers to the south. DeSantis said Palm Beach County would be able to open salons and barbershops, as well as restaurants at 25% capacity. Businesses in Miami-Dade will have to wait until May 18, and Broward is expected to follow that same timetable.

County deciding how to spend $261 million federal infusion via Hannah Morse of The Palm Beach Post — Commissioners gave their initial blessing Friday for how Palm Beach County may spend a quarter-billion-dollar coronavirus windfall from the federal government. Their review started with a broad outline for spending the $261 million by year-end. Nearly one-fourth of the money would go to businesses, with $50 million in grants for companies with 25 or fewer employees and $10 million for grants to larger enterprises. The money must be used for coronavirus-related projects by Dec. 30 and cannot be used for previously budgeted projects.

Council to review extending state of emergency in Town of Palm Beach via Adriana Delgado of The Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County officials approved a tentative plan to reopen the beaches on May 18. Still, the Town of Palm Beach could decide to keep its beaches closed, or fall in line with the county when the council meets on Wednesday. Town Manager Kirk Blouin said he anticipates there could be changes to curfew hours and other restrictions put in place at the meeting because of the coronavirus pandemic. The town declared a state of emergency on March 16, and instituted a curfew and closed its beaches on March 17, ahead of DeSantis’ March 20 executive ordering all beaches in Palm Beach County to close because of concerns over the virus.

“‘It can’t stop us’: UFC 249 marks sports’ return to Jacksonville via Clayton Freeman of The Florida Times-Union — For Jacksonville, opening its doors to the weekend’s biggest sporting event in the world for this weekend, Saturday night opened up a new start. The 22 fighters of UFC 249 brought a new punch to Jacksonville’s sports scene as Saturday night melted into Sunday morning, jarring the athletic world back to life after 57 days in deep freeze amid the uncertainty and chaos of the coronavirus pandemic. They did it all in perhaps the most surreal setting in the history of the arena, drained of spectators due to social distancing measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. But social distancing was in short supply inside the octagon, where the thwack of every punch, kick and knee strike, the bellows of the cornermen, and sometimes the commentary of ringside announcers echoed off row after row of vacant seats until well past midnight.


Why didn’t tourist capital Orlando have more coronavirus cases? via Stephen Hudak and Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando had all the makings to become a coronavirus hot spot. Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando attract millions of people from across the globe to make the city the nation’s most visited. The city’s international airport is among the nation’s busiest. And hundreds of thousands of employees at theme parks, hotels, shops and restaurants spend their workdays in close contact with travelers and then return to their homes in suburbs sprawled across Central Florida, potentially transmitting the contagion throughout their communities. Today, more than nine weeks since the first show canceled at the Orange County Convention Center because of the then-building pandemic, Orange County is better off than every other major population center in Florida, according to health metrics tracked by the state.

1 in 4 Tampa Bay residents have lost a job due to coronavirus via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — One in four Tampa Bay workers have been laid off or furloughed from their jobs. Without income from those jobs, respondents indicated they could only support their households for approximately 19 days. One in three reported a reduction in pay or hours worked and could only support their households for a median of 28 days. The survey also found that 96% of Tampa Bay residents are somewhat or very concerned about the pandemic with most, 76% the most concerned with health risks. Of those respondents, 54% were worried about access to food or supplies and 48% with being able to pay their bills.

Tampa General, Kindred partnership: One big step for Tampa’s medical district via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Soon after taking the helm of Tampa’s largest hospital, John Couris, President and CEO of Tampa General, began sharing his vision for a medical district in downtown Tampa. New plans to build an inpatient rehabilitation facility in Tampa announced last week represent a step forward in establishing Tampa’s medical district. “Tampa is one step closer to establishing our medical district. Through our partnerships with the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine and now Kindred Healthcare, Tampa General is working to become the safest and most innovative academic health system in the country.” Ultimately, the medical district would also include a new free-standing emergency department, the University of Tampa and its nursing program, and USF Health’s training and simulation.

Tampa General Hospital enters a key strategic agreement to help develop the city’s ‘medical district.’

“‘We Are Open’: Andrew Warren partners with The Spring of Tampa Bay for domestic violence support via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Warren is teaming up with The Spring of Tampa Bay for the “We Are Open” campaign reminding victims of domestic violence that resources are still available during the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign spreads the message, “Help for victims of domestic violence never closes.” It aims to reverse troubling statistics showing an increasing number of abuse victims are not reaching out for support, and are instead suffering in silence. Arrests for domestic violence are down, and calls to The Spring of Tampa Bay, the county’s primary domestic violence support provider, have not increased. Combined, the data suggests victims are still suffering, but are doing so without seeking help. Officials predict that’s due to either fear of the virus itself or because victims are unable to get to a safe place where they can call for help.

Florida Tech students will return to campus in the fall, college president says via Eric Rogers of Florida Today — Students at the Florida Institute of Technology can plan to attend classes in person this fall, the college has announced. In a letter to campus, Florida Tech President T. Dwayne McCay said the school was preparing to resume “normal” operations in August, following its move to online instruction in March due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19. he college will continue to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines when students return, McCay said, calling it a “new normal.” All classes will remain online through the summer semester. School officials are still figuring out exactly what that “new normal” will look like. Additional health and safety measures would be announced when they are finalized.

Eglin closes East Pass beach area, effective immediately via Wendy Victoria of NWF Daily News — he 96th Test Wing Commander, Brig. Gen. Scott Cain, ordered the closure of Eglin’s East Pass Beach Area property located adjacent to the Marler Bridge effective May 8. The closure was ordered due to increased activity at EPBA, leading to unsafe conditions, unauthorized commercial activities on federal property, and to protect the Eglin range, a national asset. As a result of these unauthorized activities, barriers were installed to prevent unsafe parking on the shoulder of U.S. Highway 98.

Public beaches in Naples to close Sunday at 12:01 a.m., crowded conditions cited via Michael Braun of the Naples Daily News — Crowded public beaches in Naples has prompted the city to issue a closure order for Sunday, effective at 12:01 a.m., to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. A notice from the City of Naples on Saturday announced the closing and said it was in alignment with CDC guidance and DeSantis Executive Order. All beach accesses, beach restroom facilities, parking areas, the Pier, Lowdermilk Park, and walkways will be closed as well. City Council will hold an emergency meeting at 1 p.m. Monday, to discuss the beach access, boat launches, and the emergency beach closure order.


The coronavirus economy is exposing how easy it is to fall from the middle class into poverty via Heather Long of The Washington Post — For years, many economists and advocates have warned that a large share of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and that it would take only a slight downturn to devastate their lives. Many of the fastest-growing jobs pay less than $30,000 a year, making it hard to save. Meanwhile, the U.S. safety net developed giant holes. Gig and self-employed workers rarely qualified for aid, and many states, often at the urging of GOP leaders, had made it harder to get unemployment or other benefits. Perhaps the biggest red flag was a Federal Reserve report last year that warned that nearly 40 percent of Americans couldn’t come up with $400 for an emergency.

Steven Mnuchin says unemployment will get worse before it gets better amid coronavirus pandemic via Derek Hawkins of The Washington Post — Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday” that he expects the second quarter of this year to be even worse than the first. “The reported numbers are probably going to get worse before they get better,” Mnuchin told Chris Wallace, later adding: “I think you’re going to have a very, very bad second quarter.” Still, Mnuchin expressed confidence in the fundamentals of the economy. He argued that the job market should begin to right itself by September as he echoed Trump’s calls for a phased reopening of the economy. This economic crisis “is no fault of American business, it is no fault of American workers, it is the fault of a virus,” Mnuchin said.

Steven Mnuchin says the economy will get worse before it starts improving.

Still waiting for a coronavirus stimulus check? The direct deposit deadline is coming via Brooke Wolford of the Miami Herald — If you haven’t received your coronavirus stimulus check yet, you still have a chance to get your money through direct deposit. But the IRS deadline to sign up for it is quickly approaching, according to the agency’s website. After the deadline passes, the IRS will send out millions of paper checks that will get to you later this month or in June. You can get your money sooner by signing up for direct deposit before noon on May 13, the IRS says. Once the window to sign up closes, the IRS will send out paper checks and you’ll have to wait.

Some Americans are being turned away trying to buy life insurance via Leslie Scism of The Wall Street Journal — U.S. insurers are doing the once unthinkable, turning away business from some Americans who want a life insurance policy. The driving force behind the action: a collapse in interest rates tied to the spread of the new coronavirus and an expectation from insurers that rates won’t rebound significantly anytime soon. Life insurers earn much of their profit by investing customers’ premiums in bonds until claims come due. In simplest terms, when they price policies, they make assumptions about how much interest income they will earn investing these premiums years into the future. The less they earn, the more they may need to collect in premium or fees to turn a profit. With bond rates low, life insurers can’t sell profitable policies.

Nordstrom to close some stores, including two in Florida. The retailer isn’t alone via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — Nordstrom, the service-focused fashion retailer founded in Seattle in 1901, plans to permanently close 16 of its full-line stores later this year, including two in Florida. Business Insider reported the planned Nordstrom closings earlier this week, and they include the Dadeland Mall location in Kendall and the Waterside Shops store in Naples. Nordstrom defied South Florida’s sometimes-lax service norms when it opened in Coral Gables in 2002 and quickly grew a loyal following. The move, representing about 14% of the Nordstrom holdings, affects its full-line fashion stores and not the 247 discount Nordstrom Rack stores.

Royal Caribbean crew go on hunger strike until company proves it is sending them home via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — Fifteen crew members on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas cruise ship say they are on a hunger strike until the company agrees to send them home. After nearly two months stranded at sea since the industry halted operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic on March 13, the crew members, who have not eaten since Thursday afternoon. The group of 15 from Romania does not want their names used for fear of retaliation from the company, which they say has threatened to punish workers if they talk to journalists. Fasting crew members said they have no plans to stop their hunger strike until the company provides proof that they are going home.

Dairy farmers suffer severe economic loss; Worry about survival via Ingrid Utech of the Highlands News-Sun — The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating financial impact upon the dairy industry in Florida and nationwide. With the closing of food service establishments, schools, colleges, and hotels and the shutdown of the travel and tourism industries, sporting events and other entertainment venues, the markets for the milk produced by Florida dairy farmers are no longer in balance. Dairy economists report that before the pandemic, 66% of milk was sold to retail stores, 15% to food service establishments, and 19% to institutions. Under today’s new normal, retail sales have increased by 15%, while food service establishment sales are down 50%, and sales to institutions are down 60%.

Things were looking up for dairy farmers; then coronavirus hit.

Hotel housekeeper: We want to work; we don’t want to die via Alice Burke of the Orlando Sentinel — I see a lot on the news about Orlando hospitality workers who lost their jobs in the coronavirus crisis. And I see a lot of politicians and executives rushing to “reopen Florida.” But what I don’t hear are workers’ voices in that conversation. As bad as things are while I wait for unemployment benefits, I am terrified to return to work before it is safe. If we only clean rooms after guests check out, the amount of work will be backbreaking. Reopening sounds great until you stop and think through all of the risks. Nobody has asked hospitality workers to be on any task force.

Why can hotels be open but not vacation houses in Osceola and the rest of Florida? Impact could be ‘devastating’ for county via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Some Osceola County property owners and managers say it’s unfair the state is still essentially shutting down vacation rental homes while allowing hotels and motels to operate. The Osceola County board decided to send a letter to DeSantis to voice its support for vacation rentals, in hopes he includes them sooner in his phased-in reopening plan, said Commissioner Peggy Choudry, whose District 1 represents many Kissimmee vacation homes.


great “‘Found unresponsive at home’: Grim records recount lonely deaths via Patricia Mazzei, Rebeca Halleck and Richard A. Oppel Jr. of The New York Times — The agony of how the coronavirus has killed at least 1,669 Floridians, many of them older, is brief and matter-of-fact in the unadorned language of medical examiners. They summarize death in sometimes less than 200 words. A trove of short narratives from nearly all of the state’s deaths so far shows that a substantial number of people have died suddenly after returning home from the hospital or visiting a doctor or a clinic. Many worsened, returned to the hospital and died there.

“‘Overwhelmed by grief’: 3 staff, 1 spouse, 2 residents have died in TDC coronavirus outbreak via CD Davidson-Hiers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee Developmental Center officials are “overwhelmed by grief” as the center confirmed Friday that all six locals who have died in Leon County due to the COVID-19 stem from a viral outbreak at the developmental center. Three staffers and two residents of the long-term care facility who had tested positive for the virus have died. One spouse of a TDC staff member who tested positive also has died of the virus. Currently, 32 residents and 44 staffers have tested positive at the facility.

Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy dies from coronavirus at 75 via The Associated Press — Horn of Siegfried & Roy, the duo whose extraordinary magic tricks astonished millions until Horn was critically injured in 2003 by one of the act’s famed white tigers, has died. He was 75. Horn died of complications from the coronavirus in a Las Vegas hospital. He was injured in October 2003 when a tiger named Montecore attacked him on stage at the Mirage hotel-casino in Las Vegas. He had severe neck injuries, lost a lot of blood, and later suffered a stroke. He underwent lengthy rehabilitation, but the attack ended the long-running Las Vegas Strip production. The darker-haired of the flashy duo, Horn was credited with the idea of introducing an exotic animal, his pet cheetah, to the magic act.

Roy Horn, of Siegfried & Roy, died Friday of complications from coronavirus. Image via AP.

After eight years, weekly prayer sessions end with preacher’s illness, uncle’s death via Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post — Nelson Nelms, a retired farmer and proud Korean War veteran, looked forward to his alone time each week with Bill Taylor, his nephew who is the head pastor at Canal Point Baptist Church. The weekly visits weren’t exclusively about faith. On their last visit, March 16, the uncle and his nephew may have unintentionally shared something else. A few days later, Nelms started feeling sick. He tested positive for coronavirus a week later. Nelms died April 7. Meanwhile, Taylor got so sick, he wound up at Lakeside Medical Center for 11 days, seven in the intensive care unit. He recovered and went home just before Easter. Nelms’ daughter, Alice Gay, caught the virus, too, but has made a full recovery.

Some await God to save them from COVID-19. They should consider the helpers he sent. via Colbert I. King of The Washington Post — Some religious leaders remain firm in their conviction that the shape and form of their rituals and rites of religious services must occur in the same place, at the same time and with the same faces; that without these conditions, communication with the Creator is somehow disabled. Thus, their certainty that COVID-19 is an evil from which control and protection can only come direct from the Almighty. So, hugging and holding hands, passing the collection tray, and practicing a physical communion goes on, as if COVID-19 stops at the sanctuary’s doors.


Domestic violence reports are down, but that’s not always a good thing via Divya Kumar of the Tampa Bay Times — As news of quarantines and lockdowns began to spread this spring, experts braced for what seemed to be a perfect storm for a spike in domestic violence. Added financial stress, isolation from others, an increase in gun sales and possible increases in alcohol and drug use are risk factors in normal times. And emergencies that result in lockdowns have historically led to a higher number of cases. Tampa Bay saw about the same number of domestic violence cases, while some other locations saw fewer people were seeking help, although many of the cases involved greater violence.

Here’s how college students can return to campus in the fall via Lanhee J. Chen and Vanila M. Singh of The Washington Post — A return to in-person instruction should follow a strategy based on the latest science, balanced with efforts to restore campus life, with particular care for those who are most likely to suffer adverse health effects from COVID-19. Institutions should put in place comprehensive testing and contact tracing program for any student attending class in person or living on campus, any faculty member offering instruction, or any support staff or administrators regularly interacting with students. Institutions should consider how they will handle residential and other on-campus environments where social distancing may be difficult. Because faculty and administrators on campuses are more likely to be older or have health conditions that make them more susceptible to COVID-19, special attention must be paid to mitigating risk for the more vulnerable.

Most in U.S. back curbing in-person worship amid virus via Elana Schor and Emily Swanson of The Associated Press — Most Americans think in-person religious services should be barred or allowed only with limits during the coronavirus pandemic, and only about a third say that prohibiting in-person services violates religious freedom. Just 9% of Americans think in-person religious services should be permitted without restrictions, while 42% think they should be allowed with restrictions, and 48% think they should not be allowed at all, the poll shows. Even among Americans who identify with a religion, 45% say in-person services shouldn’t be allowed at all.

Pastor Paul Marc Goulet prays to people in their cars at an Easter drive-in service at the International Church of Las Vegas due to the coronavirus outbreak. Image via AP.

The pandemic is changing how we eat. But not for the better. via Jane Black and Brent Cunningham of The Washington Post — Advocates from chefs to doctors have tried to get Americans to change the way they eat. In a matter of weeks, a virus appears to have done what they could not. Since mid-March, small farms have seen a spike in subscriptions to community-supported agriculture operations, or CSAs, which deliver prepaid weekly bundles of seasonal produce. Buyers stocked up on seeds and plants for their lockdown “victory gardens.” Not so fast. Despite all that cajoling and guilt, Americans in 2018 spent an average of just 35 minutes a day cooking and cleaning up, virtually unchanged from 2008; direct-to-consumer sales languished at less than 1 percent of total food sales.

Small-time drug dealers rethink strategies for the virus era via Samuel Petrequin and Nicolas Vaux-Montagny of The Associated Press — Uncertain supply chains, stricter oversight and customers with financial worries of their own are some of the problems solo entrepreneurs encountered as Europe hunkered down. There’s not much a small-time drug dealer can do except seek a new line of work or adjust. Drug dealers have had to curtail their hours of work since the police are patrolling deserted streets. Pretending to be food delivery couriers and hiding packets of cocaine inside their helmets is a strategy some dealers employed in recent years to avoid busts. But the trick of the trade is unsafe during the pandemic because police officers on lockdown patrols are checking whether bike couriers have official delivery apps on their cellphones.


As coronavirus thwarts wedding plans across the country, with many couples are working around lockdown restrictions by getting married outdoors.

The Associated Press reports on Danielle Cartaxo and Ryan Cignarella, who intended to get married in West Orange, New Jersey, on April 11 at a venue with sweeping views of the New York City skyline.

But instead of rescheduling their Easter Weekend wedding, they took the ceremony outside.

The challenge was finding the right lawn. The two live in Wayne, Pennsylvania, about 100 miles away, but had a marriage license issued in West Orange, where Cartaxo lived until she was 5.

“We still felt like at the end of the day making that commitment to each other was important, and we didn’t want to wait,” Cartaxo told the AP.

Due to the generosity of a total stranger — Janice Berman — the couple was able to marry amid a backdrop of yellow spring blooms. A friend had contacted Berman, who offered her front lawn.

“My husband played the `Wedding March’ for them on a speaker,” Berman said. “We watched from the porch. It was really fun. They were so sweet.”

The couple’s maid of honor and best man maintained a safe distance during the ceremony, as did Cartaxo’s parents. A small, handwritten “Just Married” sign marked the occasion. They’ll celebrate with a party later.

“You have to be grateful in times like this,” Cignarella said. “Sometimes, when you put goodness out into the world, it kind of comes back to you.”

To watch a video of the impromptu ceremony, click on the image below:


Feeling your pain? Virus reaches into the lives of Congress via Laurie Kellman of The Associated Press — The beat against Congress has always been that its members are out of touch with average Americans. But that’s not true when it comes to the brutality of COVID-19 and its march across boundaries of wealth, education and power. Despite their privilege, at least one senator and seven House members have reported testing positive for the disease. Like so much of the world, lawmakers are experiencing a humbling dose of fear, sorrow, anger and isolation. The result is a wide and deep imprint on the same Congress charged with helping a traumatized nation. There are signs that the misery sparked acts of kindness between Republicans and Democrats after years of little cross-aisle contact. “We’re texting friends,” Mario Diaz-Balart, said of “light texts” he and Rep. Ben McAdams exchanged after both suffered and recovered from the virus. “Several of us check up on each other now. So it’s been nice.”

Mario Diaz-Balart speaks during a news conference in Miami. The coronavirus is reaching into the lives of Congress as lawmakers debate the nation’s recovery. Image via AP.

That will show ’em —Marco Rubio wants to name street outside Chinese embassy after coronavirus whistleblower via Kevin Derby of Florida Daily — Rubio is behind a bill to rename the street outside the Chinese embassy in Washington after Dr. Li Wenliang, the doctor who warned the world about coronavirus despite pressure from the Chinese regime. “The Chinese Communist Party may have forcefully silenced Dr. Li for informing the public about COVID-19, but Beijing’s totalitarian censorship cannot erase what the global community now knows,” Rubio said.


Gun group fires lawsuit at Nikki Fried over concealed permits via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The gun-rights group Young Americans for Liberty sued Fried claiming she’s depriving Floridians of their rights. The suit aims to lift a suspension of online concealed weapons permit applications. Fried has defended her move vigorously, repeatedly noting permits continue to be processed, but the online mechanism cannot be used right now because of issues such as fingerprint collection during a pandemic. “Nikki Fried thinks that your right to self-defense is negotiable. She’s wrong,” said Cliff Maloney, YAL President. “This is a blatant disregard for the rule of law, and I will not idly sit by while Nikki Fried uses this crisis to enact her gun-grabbing agenda. I encourage all Americans to join this fight for our rights. We either believe in liberty in times of crisis or we do not believe in liberty at all.”

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

Five Mile Swamp Fire: County estimates $1.9 million in damage, crews pull back as fire quiets down via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — After a five-day, multiagency response to the massive Five Mile Swamp Fire in Milton, Santa Rosa County Emergency Management announced it is pulling back structure fire equipment and personnel, with the fire being at least 65% contained. The Florida Forest Service will retain command of the fire. The Five Mile Swamp Fire started as a controlled burn on private property nearly a week ago but escaped and got out of control. On Wednesday, the fire jumped Interstate 10, forcing a two-day shutdown of the major Florida artery and prompting 1,100 homes to be evacuated.

South Florida prepares for unique hurricane season via David Fleshler of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — If Florida experiences the misfortune of a hurricane on top of an epidemic this year, the encounter will be unlike any previous confrontation with the powerful storms. If you lose power, it may take longer to get it back. If your house is damaged, the in-person insurance adjuster could be replaced by a phone app that will allow you to send your insurance company photos of the damage. At shelters, workers will conduct health screenings and temperature checks. Discussions are underway with the Federal Emergency Management Agency about replacing or supplementing storm shelters with hotel rooms, due to the difficulties of maintaining social distancing at a typical shelter. And the buses that carry people fleeing the evacuation zones could be replaced by ride-sharing services such as Uber.

‘Homicide report’ from shooting death seems to contradict Broward sheriff’s statements” via Charles Rabin and David Smiley of the Miami Herald — A 27-year-old police report documenting the details of the case against Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony — who as a 14-year-old shot and killed an 18-year-old in Philadelphia — confirms his acquittal of any crime. But the Philadelphia police “homicide record” also appears to contradict several statements made by the sheriff over the last week to explain why he had never disclosed the shooting on law enforcement job applications or to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who appointed him to the post — among them that Tony was never charged with a crime or arrested.

State starts investigating Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony’s paperwork via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida’s top law enforcement agency on Friday said it had started a preliminary investigation into Sheriff Tony. The move comes just days after the agency confirmed it had begun reviewing a complaint about whether Broward’s top cop made misstatements about his past on law enforcement documents. Tony signed an affidavit in January that asserts that he has never had a criminal record sealed or expunged, and where he pledged all his answers were “true and correct.” He never revealed to the FDLE, the Governor who appointed him, or his prior police job with the Coral Springs Police Department, that he had been cleared of shooting an 18-year-old man dead in the 1990s in Philadelphia, in the act of self-defense.

The endlessly futile search for a good Broward sheriff via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A preliminary investigation is underway at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement over whether Broward Sheriff Tony told the truth about having a criminal record sealed or expunged. This would be the same FDLE that ran a baseline Level 1 background check on Tony in January of last year, one day before DeSantis appointed him sheriff in place of Scott Israel, a decision that has become a big mess. In about 60 days, Broward Democratic voters will begin filling out their vote-by-mail ballots in the sheriff’s race. And the endlessly futile search for a competent sheriff of Broward County will continue.

Appointed Robin Lanigan to the Duval County Court.

First on #FlaPol — “Craig Johnson taking leave of absence from FCCI after Sarasota arrest via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Johnson serves as the chairman, CEO and President of the Sarasota-based insurance company. The Thursday arrest followed an incident at Wicked Cantina just north of downtown Sarasota, the Business Observer reported. Restaurant employees asked Johnson and others to leave because they were allegedly intoxicated and instigating arguments with other customers. Authorities say Johnson was both physically and verbally abusive to officers after a disagreement at the restaurant. He reportedly said officers would “pay” because of his friendship with the Sarasota sheriff. Johnson denies the allegations. Christopher Shoucair — the insurance group’s executive vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer — will serve as interim CEO and President during Johnson’s leave of absence. John Joseph “Jack” Cox will be the interim board chair.

Craig Johnson is taking some time off after an incident at a Sarasota restaurant.

— 2020 —

Fight over virus’ death toll opens grim new front in election battle via Matthew Rosenberg and Jim Rutenberg of The New York Times — On Tuesday, the White House Council of Economic Advisers released a model that showed deaths dropping to zero by the middle of May. The projection, which the council suggested was to” inform policymakers,” appeared to ignore the conventions used by epidemiologists and was roundly dismissed by experts. But it did provide a useful counterpoint to those who argue it is too soon to reopen the economy. At the same time, the President has increasingly picked up on talk from the political fringes of inflated death counts and plots to ensure his defeat in November. In late April, Trump retweeted a post by a former New York City police official that claimed the number was being inflated by the same people behind the “failed coup attempts” of the Mueller investigation and Trump’s impeachment.

Trump campaign considers drive-in theater campaign rallies after coronavirus destroyed his preferred option via Asawin Suebsaeng of the Daily Beast — Trump is thirsting to hold campaign rallies again. Trump aides and operatives have spent weeks exploring alternatives to the standard Trump 2020 rally that could allow for social distancing while still allowing for a modest number of attendees. Much of the focus has been on sprawling outdoor venues, such as large fields. And one of the top ideas for this coronavirus-era workaround that is currently being floated would rely on repurposing drive-ins for a political gathering. Under such a scenario, Trump-loving attendees would roll up in their cars and be required to mostly remain in their respective vehicles as the President addressed them in-person from the outdoor stage.

Donald Trump might be turning to drive-in rallies since coronavirus has put a hold on his favorite type of appearance. Image via Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast/Getty.

The Southern democrat with the power to shut down Trump’s convention via Maya King of POLITICO — How North Carolina’s Democratic Governor, Roy Cooper, handles his state’s reopening will likely dictate whether Trump and the Republican Party can forge ahead with a full-fledged convention in Charlotte this summer. “Between the governor and the mayor of Charlotte, who is also a Democrat, they really do control whether or not [the Republican convention] will happen,” said David McLennan, director of the Meredith Poll. Trump has been adamant about having a full-scale in-person convention, but as those plans forge ahead, Cooper will have to walk a fine line between protecting and alienating his constituents.

The next front in Trump’s Joe Biden attacks via Jonathan Swan of Axios — Trump’s reelection campaign will unleash a series of tailored, swing-state attacks against Biden, targeting him in Florida, Pennsylvania and the industrial Midwest, campaign officials tell Axios’ Alayna Treene. The pandemic forced a pause, and a lighter touch, on Trump’s original attack plan. Advisers warned against too much overt negative campaigning at a time when thousands of Americans are dying, and voters want the President focused on running the country. “A lot of people have told the President to be careful, or risk seeming tone-deaf to the needs of the country right now,” a Trump administration official told Alayna. In Florida, the campaign will hammer Biden’s recent comments saying he would restore Obama-era relations with Cuba.

Biden campaign launches expansion in the face of Democratic worries — but no word on plans to leave his house via Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post — Biden has greenlighted a significant hiring spree to shore up his campaign for the general election and calm roiling concerns among Democratic leaders about his operation’s scale and reach. The additions, which involve dozens of staffers in all major departments, come as senior Democratic strategists and major donors have expressed concern for weeks about the massive advantages enjoyed by Trump’s campaign. Others have told the Biden team they fear that limiting the candidate to virtual appearances as Trump commands hours of airtime.

Why Joe Biden’s VP will be the person he trusts and admires the most via Rahm Emanuel of The Washington Post — To this day, choosing a running mate remains an explicitly political decision. But, more than most people realize, it is, above all, a very personal choice. Voters could see that Bill Clinton and Al Gore, and their spouses, had genuinely come to like each other, though they had different interests and skillsets. Within two weeks of her boffo introduction at the GOP convention in Saint Paul, Sarah Palin ran afoul of John McCain’s politics and personality and quickly became a drag on the ticket. Biden was an effective vice president because President Barack Obama trusted his political judgment. Biden will need to trust the judgment of his vice president to help him steer the country through.

You’d hope so —Val Demings’ husband Mayor Jerry Demings on possibility she’s Biden’s VP: ‘She’s my pick’” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — If Demings is chosen as Democratic presidential candidate Biden’s running mate, spouse Jerry Demings said he would not give up his elected post. “I definitely will stay on as Orange County Mayor and would just leverage my relationship on behalf of the residents and taxpayers of Orange County,” he said. “We’re really excited for Val and the opportunity she has to perhaps serve our nation at a different level,” Jerry Demings said of his wife, who also served from 2007 to 2011 as Orlando Police Chief, the first woman to do so. “I think she’d do a fantastic job because of her commitment to the American people. She’s demonstrated she can operate on the big stage.”


Time to find a way for Congress to work remotely during COVID-19 pandemic via Ted Deutch for The Palm Beach Post — Members of Congress quickly moved constituent engagement and assistance to virtual town halls and conference calls, drafted and introduced legislation through a new remote filing system, and pursued Congressional oversight through phone calls and letters. Still, much of the formal business that keeps Congress running, voting, legislative debate, and committee hearings, has slowed or stopped entirely. It isn’t a question of technological ability. The technology exists and is already in use by our allies.


With DeSantis calling the shots, Florida will never get a true picture of coronavirus’ damage via Carl Hiaasen of the Miami Herald — Two months into the pandemic, the state of Florida last week finally agreed to release a list of fatalities attributed to the coronavirus pandemic. The information was carefully compiled by medical examiners, actual forensic doctors, and then massively gutted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. As a result, the list is full of gaps that leave many questions about how and why more than 1,300 victims have died. Among the crucial data blacked out are the names of those who’ve died with COVID-19, the circumstances of their deaths, the types of illness triggered by their coronavirus infection, and the probable cause of their deaths (often there are multiple factors).

Thank you, Dr. Stephen Nelson, for refusing to let DeSantis muzzle you over COVID-19 deaths via the Miami Herald editorial board — On Friday, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels flew over South Florida to honor the health care workers in the region who are putting themselves at risk to save the lives of COVID-19 patients. Some medical professionals still are inadequately protected and are bearing the mental burden of seeing patients die despite their best efforts. And some laboring in health care have themselves lost their lives. They are the true definition of heroes and so very deserving of the Friday’s soaring salute. And so are others, in the state’s employ, who also are working hard on our behalf. Dr. Nelson called out the DeSantis administration’s insistence that the less Floridians know about who is getting COVID-19, who is dying from it, and the circumstances of their deaths, the better, at least for the Governor’s press briefings, where he is inclined to take the friendlier questions.

Why is Florida’s unemployment benefits system still not fixed? We all want to know. via Rep. Tina Polsky for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — In our roles as legislators, we reach out directly on behalf of our constituents to our designated contacts at the Department of Economic Opportunity. They try to help. However, there is little they can do. My Democratic colleagues and I have repeatedly asked DeSantis to do what he can with the resources of our massive state government to fix the system. We asked him to use his executive powers to raise the paltry $275/week amount, but he claimed he didn’t have the power. We also asked for a discussion on expanding Medicaid and to anticipate problems with voting in our upcoming elections due to the pandemic.

What John Morgan is reading —Want to thank grocery store clerks? Raise Florida minimum wage to $15 an hour via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — The pandemic has broadened our definition of a hero. Joining the ranks of doctors, nurses, cops and firefighters are grocery store cashiers, home health aides, restaurant servers and fast-food cooks. They’ve been going to work every day during the coronavirus outbreak to keep us fed, stocked up and healthy. The public has responded with words of thanks, generous tips and appreciative sidewalk chalk art. By voting yes on Amendment 2 this fall, which would gradually raise the state’s minimum wage until it’s $15 an hour by September 2026, we will be giving these workers a proper thank you.

Judge will have a message in ex-con voting case via Bill Cottrell of the Tallahassee Democrat — A federal judge who heard arguments on restoring voter rights of felons who’ve served their time appears ready to enunciate what you might call the Nike principle of law. “Just do it.” Judge Robert Hinkle listened last week to the state’s lawyers and attorneys representing ex-cons who’d like to register for the November elections, then left no doubt he’ll rule for the plaintiffs. It might not affect this year’s elections. The losing side will appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court in Atlanta, and then to the Supreme Court. With less than six months before the elections, hundreds of thousands of former prisoners thus wouldn’t have their rights resolved in time.


You can once again get a haircut or a perm in Florida, now that DeSantis has declared that barbershops and beauty salons can reopen during the pandemic. You won’t even need a mask — but the barber will.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— The state issues new emergency orders requiring all patients and staff at adult living facilities to submit to testing if they get a visit from the Department of Health. 

— The stay at home order has lifted in Palm Beach County, which today entered Phase One of the recovery. Broward and Miami/Dade are the only counties still under lockdown, DeSantis is hoping they’ll reopen as soon as next Monday.

As South Florida begins to reopen, the Governor is working on plans to screen airline passengers from overseas — especially South America. He wants to check them for COVID-19 before they get on the plane. 

— The state’s unemployment compensation woes continue. Florida has received claims from almost 1,300,000 residents, but the state has only sent payments to 532,000.

— More media bashing from DeSantis during the pandemic, taking another page from Trump’s coronavirus playbook. He’s taking credit for the fact that Florida wasn’t hit as hard as the experts thought, but the Tampa Bay Times crunched the numbers and found average, everyday Floridians began social distancing and staying at home weeks long before the Governor issued any orders.

— Checking in with two Florida Men who probably should have stayed away from the restaurants when they reopened.

To listen, click on the image below:


— ALOE —

As more Tampa Bay concerts get canceled, a lost summer of entertainment looms via Jay Cridlin of the Tampa Bay Times — The state this week decreed that many Florida businesses could reopen with limitations, including retail shops and restaurants. Bars, clubs and performance venues weren’t included. Even if they had been, the entertainment world can’t just restart by fiat. Artists must want to perform, venues must safely host them, and fans must want to buy tickets. Few venues want to say it out loud, but even if the rest of America reopens, the live entertainment industry could be facing a mostly lost summer. Among Tampa’s big summer concerts that have already been postponed: The Rolling Stones, Justin Bieber, Thomas Rhett and Brooks and Dunn. Concerts by Journey, the Lumineers and Zion y Lennox were canceled outright.

Chess is the new king of the pandemic via Andrew Beaton and Joshua Robinson of The Wall Street Journal — With sports off the air since March, the world’s best grandmasters have broken centuries of convention by cooking up high-stakes tournaments over the internet. The world’s worst pawn pushers have nothing better to do than hone their middle games — or just learn the basics. During this brief period, organizers have developed complex systems to host lucrative events, while accounting for potential cheaters and feed the content-starved masses flocking to the game in unprecedented numbers. hosted almost 204 million games in February alone. By April, that number had surged to more than 279 million for an average of 9.3 million games a day. The number of messages between users shot up by 136% over those two months. Aficionados tuned in just to watch, and not even play, more than 10 million games in April, a jump of 97% from February.

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays one of the world’s oldest games while sheltering-in-place. Image via Twitter/@Schwarzenegger.

What Ryan Smith is reading — “‘The Mandalorian’: Temuera Morrison returns to ‘Star Wars’ universe to play Boba Fett via Aaron Couch and Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter — Sources say Morrison will play Boba Fett, the famed bounty hunter who first appeared on the big screen in 1980’s Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and who seemingly died in 1983’s Return of the Jedi as he fell into a sarlacc pit. Actor Jeremy Bulloch portrayed the character in the original trilogy. Boba Fett is expected to play just a small role in season two of the series after the character was teased.

“‘Black Mirror’ creator says the world is too bleak right now for season 6 to happen via Zack Sharf of IndieWire — “Black Mirror” is one of the buzziest Netflix original shows whenever new episodes debut, but does a world plagued by a viral epidemic really need the added existential dread of the science-fiction anthology series? Creator Charlie Brooker doesn’t think so. “Black Mirror” debuted its fifth round of episodes in June 2019 and often took over a year off in between seasons. The mind behind the anthology smash hit was recently asked about a Season 6 update. Brooker said he’s “not sure if audiences could stomach another season at the moment.”

MLS reportedly eyes hosting games in Orlando via Julia Poe of the Orlando Sentinel — Major League Soccer has joined the NBA in evaluating ESPN Wide World of Sports on Disney World property as a potential location to host games in isolation without fans. MLS is considering moving some or all 26 of its teams to Orlando for a summer relaunch after shutting down all matches and training sessions due to the coronavirus pandemic. Under the plan, MLS teams could play competitive matches without fans and air them on television as early as June or July. MLS commissioner Don Garber has said he hopes to play a full 34-game regular season along with playoffs.


Best wishes to Ashley LigasAlison Morano, and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross. A belated shoutout to Ryan Nobles Wiggins, who was kind enough to allow her beloved Blue Angels fly over Jacksonville and South Florida on Friday. Also celebrating Sunday was Ambassador Mel Sembler.


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

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as 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. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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

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

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