Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.12.20

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

Ronald Reagan’s 1984 “Morning in America” pitch give his presidential reelection bid a leg up. In 2020, The Lincoln Project is trying to kneecap Donald Trump’s campaign for a second term with a different campaign: “Mourning in America.”

The campaigns are polar opposites. Where Reagan’s 1984 political ads touted the positive accomplishments of his first term, “Mourning in American” trots out the embarrassing moments and ill-advised decisions Trump has made since he took office a few years ago.

To watch “Mourning in America,” click on the image below:

The Lincoln Project co-founder Jennifer Horn said the video “highlights the effects of President Trump’s failure as a President and how he’s left the nation weaker, sicker, and teetering on the verge of a new Great Depression. In a time of deep suffering and loss, Donald Trump continues with his failed leadership and his inability to put the country before himself.”

The ad campaign isn’t new — The Lincoln Project has already generated 20 million impressions — but it’s new Southwest Florida.

The group, founded by a host of anti-Trump Republicans including Rick Wilson, said it was rolling out the ads four more cities, including Fort Myers.

“Americans are not only mourning the loss of each other; they are mourning the loss of their routine, families, and livelihoods. Trump and his administration failed at every turn to take the response to COVID-19 seriously until it was too late; now, we face a collective mourning for the America we once knew.”

Southwest Florida backed Trump by a large margin four years ago, but that was a different world, and the election could hinge on whether they lay the blame for the current crisis at the President’s feet.


Happy birthday to one Floridian desperately looking forward to some time at a recently reopened salon: Brad Swanson, President of Florida Internet & Television.

By the way, thank you to all of the internet service providers who have kept the digital infrastructure up and running throughout the extraordinary time.

Happy birthday, Brad Swanson!


JM Family president challenges to dye hair teal, raising $229K for Feeding AmericaEd Sheehy, President of JM Family’s Southeast Toyota distribution subsidiary, engaged fellow associates, dealer partners and the community in a “Hair Color Challenge” to help provide food to families struggling through the pandemic With a contribution to Feeding America, donors could place their vote to dye his hair. Sheehy challenged everyone to raise a minimum of $15,000 before committing to the new look. In just one week, the company’s associates, Toyota dealers in the Southeast and friends of JM Family rose to the occasion by donating more than $229,000 to Feeding America. During the special Zoom meeting, Sheehy unveiled the winning ‘do — a stunningly bright JM Family teal — live on May 5 to coincide with #GivingTuesdayNow.

Ed Sheehy before — and after.


— As of Monday evening, there have been 1,344,512 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 80,087 deaths in the U.S.

— Democrats and Republicans see the pandemic in starkly different terms, according to a Monmouth University poll. Almost 80% of Republicans are confident the country will limit the impact within the next few weeks, compared with just 30% of Democrats. Read more here.

—The U.S. House could reconvene as early as Friday as talks continue on the next stimulus package, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer‘s office said.

— Coronavirus cases are climbing around Washington, D.C., as the federal government presses for thousands of employees to return to work. Read more here.

Visitors walk on the Lincoln Memorial steps near a sign encouraging coronavirus protection measures in Washington, D.C. Image via AP.

— Evidence is mounting that if all people wear masks in public, they are far more effective at stopping transmission than was previously realized. But outside New York, California and a few other states, many Americans resist wearing them. Read more here.


As countries restart, WHO warns about lack of virus tracing via Jim Mustian, Christina A. Cassidy and Lori Hinnant of The Associated Press — A top world health official warned that countries are essentially driving blind in reopening their economies without setting up strong contact tracing to beat back flare-ups of the coronavirus. The warning came as France and Belgium emerged from lockdowns, the Netherlands sent children back to school, and many U.S. states pressed ahead with the lifting of business restrictions. Fears of infection spikes in countries that have loosened up were borne out in recent days in Germany, where new clusters were linked to three slaughterhouses; Wuhan, the Chinese city where the crisis started, and South Korea, where a single nightclub customer was linked to 85 new cases.

Anthony Fauci to warn Senate that reopening too quickly could lead to ‘needless suffering and death’ via The Washington Post — Top federal health officials will be grilled at a Senate hearing Tuesday on whether the country is truly ready to reopen — with Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-diseases expert, expected to warn that moving too quickly could lead to “needless suffering and death.” Meanwhile, many governors get bipartisan raves for their handling of the pandemic, but Republicans face blowback over their reopening efforts.

New York’s ‘patient zero’ has recovered; Mike Pence won’t self-isolate; confusion over returning to work in the UK via John Bacon and Jessica Flores of USA Today — Pence was back to work at the White House after Trump administration officials denied a report that he was self-isolating. The man identified as New York’s coronavirus “patient zero” is home now and says he feels much better. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson “actively encouraged” people who can’t work from home to go to their jobs while shops and elementary schools across Germany and France reopened.

VP Mike Pence self-isolated Sunday after an aide tested positive for coronavirus, but he was back at work in the White House on Monday. Image via AP.

Virus death toll in NYC worse than official tally” via Jim Mustain of The Associated Press — New York City’s death toll from the coronavirus may be thousands of fatalities worse than the tally kept by the city and state, according to an analysis by the CDC. Between March 11 and May 2, about 24,000 more people died in the city than researchers would ordinarily expect during that time period. That’s about 5,300 more deaths than were blamed on the coronavirus in official tallies during those weeks. Some of those excess fatalities could be COVID-19 deaths that went uncounted because a person died at home, or without medical providers realizing they were infected. The report underscored the challenges authorities face in quantifying the human toll of the crisis. Deaths caused by the coronavirus are believed to be undercounted worldwide.

Does Ron DeSantis know what he’s doing? We’re about to find out. via Ben Terris and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — DeSantis is a certain kind of Florida Man. Fact is, DeSantis has a reputation for being smart and strategic. Now, after a month of staying home, with Florida much better off than many of the models predicted, the Governor is feeling bold. He has been getting credit for how he has handled the crisis from people such as Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, who has praised the state’s COVID tracking website on national television and pointed to Florida’s early targeted testing of vulnerable communities in an Oval Office news conference. Still, it’s unclear exactly how well the state has fared. Questions have been raised about whether the DeSantis administration is trying to suppress information.


@Harikunzru: So the President seems to be trying to set up a show trial of the previous President as the centerpiece of his reelection bid

@K8Brannen: The only reason so-called “Obamagate” is being pedaled right now is that there are 80,000 dead Americans, with the death toll steadily rising.

@LennyCurry: Elon [Musk], Consider Florida. Jacksonville, Florida. You can open immediately.

@SteveLemongello: So Tesla, the prestige car for environmentally conscious liberals, is going to bail on CA for a red state with looser labor laws because EMusk doesn’t want to comply with CA’s COVID health orders, do I have that right

@Jason_Garcia: Ryman Hospitality — the owner of the Gaylord Palms near Disney World, one of Central Florida’s largest convention hotels — says it is planning to reopen the resort in mid-to-late June.

@ShannonWoodward: In post-apocalyptic movies and games, there are always old movie posters up, and I’ve always wondered what poster would be left up everywhere in a disaster. I was completely unprepared for it to be Trolls: WorldTour


NASCAR season resumes at Darlington Speedway in Darlington, South Carolina — 5; TNT’s adaptation of “Snowpiercer” premieres — 5; English Premier League soccer to restart — 27; PGA Tour resumes — 30; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 31; Father’s Day — 40; Apple to hold Developer Conference — 41; Federal taxes due — 64; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 66; “Mulan” premieres — 73; TED conference rescheduled — 75; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 97; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 101; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 104; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 115; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 116; Rescheduled date for French Open — 131; First presidential debate in Indiana — 140; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 150; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 156; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 157; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 163; 2020 General Election — 175; “Black Widow” premieres — 178; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 189; “No Time to Die” premieres — 196; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 225; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 437; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 446; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 542; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 640; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 682; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 725; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 878.


As reopening begins, Americans’ concerns about COVID-19 may be easing via William Cummings of USA Today — As President Trump encourages the country to resume economic activity amid the coronavirus outbreak, Americans’ concerns that a family member could contract the illness have eased compared to a month ago. Forty-two percent of Americans said they were “very concerned” that someone in their family could become seriously ill from COVID-19, and 28% said they were “somewhat concerned.” Those numbers were down from 50% and 33%, respectively. Fourteen percent said they were “not too concerned,” and 16% said they were “not at all concerned,” which were up from 9% and 7% the month before.

As states rush to reopen, scientists fear a coronavirus comeback via Donald G. McNeil Jr. of The New York Times — Millions of working people and small-business owners who cannot earn money while sheltering at home are facing economic ruin. So dozens of states, seeking to ease the pain, are coming out of lockdown. Most have not met even minimal criteria for doing so safely, and some are reopening even as coronavirus cases rise, inviting disaster. The much-feared “second wave” of infection may not wait until fall, many scientists say, and instead may become a storm of wavelets breaking unpredictably across the country. The reopenings will proceed nonetheless. The question now, scientists say, is whether the nation can minimize the damage by intelligently adopting new tactics.

As states hurry to get back to business, some fear the second wave of coronavirus is imminent. Image via AP.

Doctors keep discovering new ways the coronavirus attacks the body via Lenny Bernstein and Ariana Eunjung Cha of The Washington Post — Today, there is widespread recognition the novel coronavirus is far more unpredictable than a simple respiratory virus. Often it attacks the lungs, but it can also strike anywhere from the brain to the toes. Many doctors are focused on treating the inflammatory reactions it triggers and its capacity to cause blood clots, even as they struggle to help patients breathe. Learning about a new disease on the fly, with more than 78,000 U.S. deaths attributed to the pandemic, they have little solid research to guide them. “No one was expecting a disease that would not fit the pattern of pneumonia and respiratory illness,” said David Reich, a cardiac anesthesiologist and President of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

More kids fall ill to mysterious Kawasaki-like disease as officials test for coronavirus via Adrianna Rodriguez of USA Today — Both Kawasaki disease and COVID-19 are elusive conditions that doctors are still studying. “Kawasaki disease is one of the great mysteries in pediatrics,” said Dr. Frank Esper, a physician at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Pediatric Infectious Diseases. “It’s something we’ve been dealing with for decades.” Symptoms include a fever of at least 101 degrees that lasts for five days or more, a rash, and swollen glands in the neck. Esper says it predominantly affects children ages 2 to 6, tends to run during “mini-epidemics,” and is more likely to happen in the winter than the summer. While doctors know how to treat Kawasaki disease, they still don’t know what causes it or why some people get it.

Donald Trump uses misleading numbers to praise his administration’s virus response. via The New York Times — Trump made a series of misleading statements at a Rose Garden news conference praising his administration’s response, declaring that “we have met the moment, and we have prevailed,” on testing. Using a misleading benchmark, Trump, flanked by large posters that proclaimed “America leads the world in testing,” announced that more tests had been completed in the United States per capita than in South Korea. “No matter how you look at it, America is leading the world in testing,” he declared, leaving out the fact that South Korea had carried out rigorous testing early and flattened its curve.

Trump visit to Pennsylvania factory that produces PPE materials was scuttled after plant officials expressed concerns about health risks” via Carol D. Leonnig of The Washington Post — White House staff thought they had the ideal event: a presidential visit to thank Pennsylvania factory workers who had recently taken herculean steps to ramp up U.S. supplies of protective equipment. Workers had received national attention after dozens of them lived for 28 days inside their factory so they could ensure they were virus-free and production was not contaminated or disrupted by illness. But factory officials ultimately asked to postpone, worried a visit from Trump could jeopardize the safety of workers and the ability to produce special material.

How misinformation, filtered through Fox News and conservative media, became Trump administration policy via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — 60 Minutes did an investigative story Sunday night on the fate of the EcoHealth Alliance. EcoHealth is a nonprofit that researches pandemics like the coronavirus and its funding was stripped by the Trump administration last month — stripped after a series of overcooked claims about U.S. taxpayer dollars going to a lab in Wuhan, China. Even the TV news magazine’s presentation of how that came about glosses over just how swiftly — and unquestioningly — misinformation became policy. While the story tosses out several unsubstantiated theories about the role the Wuhan lab might have played in the coronavirus outbreak, one word that curiously doesn’t appear in the story is “EcoHealth,” the name of the company to whom the grant was actually awarded.

A divide between red states and blue states is driving the congressional dispute over aid. via The New York Times — When Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah strode into a luncheon with fellow Republicans last week, he was carrying an oversized poster that bore a blunt message: “Blue states aren’t the only ones who are screwed.” Two days later, Sen. Rick Scott made the opposite pitch, arriving at another party gathering with his own placard that showed how rosy his state’s financial picture was compared to those of three Democratic states: California, Illinois and New York. Why should Congress send help to struggling states and cities, he argued, when the bulk of the aid would go to Democratic strongholds with histories of fiscal mismanagement? The two Senators — both former Governors — were taking sides in what is emerging as a contentious debate among Republicans shaping the next sweeping package of federal coronavirus relief.

Rick Scott and Mitt Romney take opposite sides of the debate over which states should get stimulus aid.

What Rick Scott is reading —Coronavirus pandemic renews push for Medicaid expansion in GOP-led states via Stephanie Armour of The Wall Street Journal — The coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the U.S. health care system and economy is fueling renewed efforts in some states to expand Medicaid as millions of people lose their jobs and health coverage. Democratic proponents of the Medicaid expansion argue that the pandemic heightens the need to provide people with coverage, as more than 7 million Americans are projected to lose health insurance by the end of June. Medicaid expansion initiatives will be on ballots this year in Oklahoma and likely in Missouri. Passage in those two Republican-led states faces strong opposition.


Florida reopens barber shops, hair and nail salons via Mike Schneider and Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — DeSantis allowed such businesses to reopen with tight regulations except in hard-hit Miami-Dade and Broward counties, the state’s two most populous. That comes almost six weeks after they were ordered closed statewide — some counties closed them earlier — and one week after sit-down dining was allowed in most of the state’s restaurants, also with heavy restrictions such as limiting capacity to 25% of normal. The state has ordered that barbers, cosmetologists and manicurists wear masks when seeing customers, that they require appointments so that few people will be waiting inside and that they spend 15 minutes between each customer sanitizing the workstation.

Lee Garner cuts a customer’s hair at J Henry’s barbershop in Orlando after salons and barbershops were allowed to reopen because of the coronavirus Monday. Image via AP.

DeSantis stops in Lee County, talks jobless checks, positive trends in COVID-19 test results via Michael Braun of the Fort Myers News-Press — DeSantis touched on all things COVID-19, from unemployment claims to positive trends in the latest results, in a stop at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers. The Governor’s news conference started with a recitation of numbers of total cases — 40,982 as of Monday morning, and 1,735 deaths related to COVID-19: “In 64 of the 67 counties … if you look at the trends at some of the things that we monitor, I think you see a lot of positive trends. Today, the state of Florida is reporting 405 new cases from Florida residents, but we’ve received about 20,000 test results, and that’s about a 2.12% positivity rate.” That rate is the number of tests returned that are positive.

DeSantis waiting to see what funds flow from Washington before acting on state budget via Jim Turner of News Service of Florida — Florida’s next budget remains on hold pending another round of federal stimulus money, which could also dictate how state lawmakers readdress the spending plan. DeSantis said Monday he has put off formally accepting and reviewing a $93.2 billion budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year that was approved by the Legislature in March and takes effect July 1. DeSantis said he is awaiting action from Washington, D.C., on another stimulus package to address the national economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Along with needing to sign the budget before July 1, DeSantis has line-item veto power.

DeSantis, doctors urge people to get needed care via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — After DeSantis began allowing health care providers to reopen for business, the message now is, don’t confuse procedures that were labeled nonessential as unnecessary. “A lot of times people hear the (word) ‘elective’ and they think, ‘Well, is this like cosmetic surgery?’ No,” DeSantis said during a news event. “These are things that are necessary. It may be elective when you schedule it, but you need to do it.” Lawrence Antonucci, President and CEO of Lee Health System, said his hospital system had about 300 surgeries daily before the COVID-19 pandemic. When DeSantis issued an executive order banning all nonessential procedures in March, the number of operations dropped to about 110 a day, Antonucci said.

Dane Eagle says more data needed to decide on Special Session via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — House Republican Leader Eagle says a Special Session remains a possibility. But he says it’s too early now to reconvene the Legislature. “It’s something we’ve been talking about,” the Cape Coral Republican said. “I know the Speaker talks to the Governor frequently. I talk to the Speaker weekly to try to get an update and just to have discussions of what we think is going to happen. And it is too soon to tell.” Eagle spoke to Florida Politics moments after a news conference where DeSantis suggested there was no need to call lawmakers to Tallahassee. Eagle said data would ultimately determine when legislators must take another look at the budget.

Dane Eagle wants more information before he will consider a Special Session.

Feds boost hospital pay for treating nursing home residents via the News Service of Florida — Hospitals that accept transfers of COVID-19 patients from nursing homes can expect to get paid more during the public health emergency. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued “emergency declaration blanket waivers” that, among other things, allow hospitals to establish what is known as “swing beds” and to bill for services under a Medicare rate that usually applies to skilled nursing facilities. Hospitals must call an enrollment hotline before adding swing- bed services. The federal agency also made clear that hospitals must have a plan to discharge patients “as soon as practicable.” DeSantis requested the federal government give Florida hospitals enrolled in Medicare more flexibility in caring for COVID-19 patients.

Roads less traveled: Empty roads let FDOT speed up work on more projects” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Department of Transportation is continuing to take advantage of the reduced road traffic from COVID-19, putting 45 more projects on an expedited timetable. Last month, the department (FDOT) announced a handful of accelerations, including a rework of Interstate 4 in Orlando. With a third of the normal amount of vehicles on the highway, Secretary Kevin Thibault said conditions were safe to close more lanes and advance the project by a month or two. Despite the state beginning Phase One of reopening last week, traffic is still low enough to hit the gas on other projects. The 45 projects will be accelerated through a cumulative 650 contract days.

REFORM Alliance video urges action to flatten the curve in prisons, jails via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — After weeks of hunkering down, the curve has started to flatten, and people across the state are eagerly awaiting a return to normal. Or at least a step in that direction. The situation is different in prisons, however. A new video produced by the REFORM Alliance begins with the seemingly everyday people reciting what they’re most looking forward to post-coronavirus. The video takes a turn midway through when it’s revealed that the speakers are all inmates in federal prisons, and to realize their dreams, they first need to survive the pandemic behind bars. The 75-second video is part of REFORM’s #AnswerTheirCall campaign, which is designed to amplify the voices of people who are incarcerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Desperate cruise employees say they’re losing hope amid reports of overboard deaths via Bianca Padró Ocasio and Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — Fourteen crew members on the Navigator of the Seas cruise ship, currently docked in PortMiami, say they have gone more than 72 hours without food as part of an ongoing hunger strike they hope will pressure the cruise company into speeding up efforts to send them home. The crew of Romanian citizens on the Royal Caribbean International ship, which has been at sea for about two months, has grown so weary of waiting to see proof that they’ll be sent home that on Sunday morning, at least one crew member called 911 regarding arrangements for him to return home, said a spokesperson for Miami-Dade Police.

State halts admissions to Miami nursing home over inability to stem spread of COVID-19 via Amy Keller of Florida Trend — Fair Havens Center, a nursing home in Miami Springs, has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Miami-Dade County and is among the hardest hit in the state. As of last week, 58 residents and 32 staff members have tested positive, and eight have died. Thirty-eight residents have been transferred out of the facility after contracting the virus. In an emergency order, the state halted admissions to Fair Havens, stating that the facility has “demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to ensure that its practices minimize the risk of contagion within the Facility.” During a May 6 visit to the facility, state employees found that 11 COVID-19 positive patients were sharing rooms with patients who were not positive.

Fair Haven has the distinction of having the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Miami-Dade County.

Palm Beach reopens to hopeful business owners and eager customers via Andrew Boryga, Austen Erblat, Phillip Valys, Danielle Ivanov and Joe Cavaretta of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A glimpse of normality returned to Palm Beach County on Monday as restaurants, hair and nail salons began Phase 1 reopening. For many businesses, it was the first time they had been allowed to open in nearly two months. For South Florida, the opening represents the first toe-dip into a more extensive process that will include Broward and Miami-Dade counties, which have the bulk of active COVID-19 cases in the state. Broward County officials indicated that a date to begin reopening could be announced by Tuesday, while Miami-Dade may begin Phase 1 on May 18. Meanwhile, it was all systems go at the ManCave for Men barbershop just off Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach. Before noon on Monday all available appointments were already booked up.

Women’s prisons are already hotbeds of abuse. Now one in Homestead is a COVID-19 nightmare” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — Although Lowell is by far the largest women’s prison in Florida, Homestead has emerged as the COVID-19 hot spot. The number of reported cases among inmates rose from two on Sunday to 73 Monday afternoon. Two staff members are also infected. Perhaps most startling was the rate of positives among the tests that have come back: 70 percent. Seventy-three tests came back positive, 30 came back negative and another 616 test results were pending. The cases mark a steady uptick in testing across the Florida prison system, where 723 inmates and 199 staff members have tested positive. 

Broward residents dying at home because they are afraid to go to a hospital, new reports show” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — More people are afraid to go to the hospital and, as a result, are dying at home. Reports from Fort Lauderdale Fire and Rescue and Broward County Fire and Rescue found twice as many people were already dead when responders arrived at their home in April than a year earlier, and the pattern appears to be continuing in May. In addition, 911 calls have dropped, and the number of people the Fort Lauderdale paramedics have transported to the emergency room fell by nearly 1,000 in April compared to the same month in 2019.

Lake Worth Beach slowly reopens: People’ just very happy to be out’” via Kimberly Miller of The Palm Beach Post — The Casino and Beach Complex in Lake Worth Beach reopened with cheers through a megaphone Monday as employees at popular Benny’s on the Beach celebrated an upgrade to normal business hours and seated dining. While the beach itself remained off-limits Monday, restaurants and shops either reopened for the first time in weeks, or began seating the first sit-down diners since emergency orders shutdown that service in late March. Benny’s has been open for takeout on weekends, but employees excitedly marked Monday’s return to a normal schedule by calling to drivers on South Ocean Boulevard. Barriers to the upper-level parking lot were removed just before noon Monday and curious drivers funneled through to see what was open.

Keys have had 12 positive cases since Friday. They’re all from one nursing home. via David Goodhue of FL Keys News — Between late April and early May, the number of people who tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the Florida Keys hovered between 75 and 80 people. Over the weekend, the number shot up to 92, and health officials say it is slightly higher. All the new cases come from one nursing home in Plantation Key. On Friday, one of the owners of the Crystal Health and Rehab Center reported nine residents and one employee tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, after the Florida Department of Health began a mass testing operation at the 120-bed facility earlier in the week. By Monday, Monroe County’s top health official said the numbers increased to 11 residents and three employees.

She was already under arrest — and then she coughed on a Florida deputy, cops say via C Isaiah Smalls II of the Miami Herald — A Jacksonville woman is accused of coughing on a deputy after claiming to have COVID-19. Sarah McCord, 35, was arrested and charged with battery on a police officer. McCord, who had just been arrested and charged with domestic battery, was on her way to UF Health on March 24 at the time of the incident. The deputy went to remove her from the police car when she “deliberately coughed in his face and stated ‘I have coronavirus,’” according to her arrest report. She was so close to him that he felt her breath on his face, police said. The cough was captured on the deputy’s body camera, JSO says.


New reality coming to Disney World: Visitors could wear masks in the summer heat, CEO Chapek says via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — One of the biggest challenges in reopening Disney World and Disneyland will likely be visitors adjusting to wearing masks in the hot summer weather, Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Chapek said Monday in a CNBC interview. CNBC interviewed Chapek about theme parks and other topics, asking him point-blank whether Disney World could return in July. Chapek declined to comment on that, saying the company is working with state and local leaders as well as medical professionals to decide when it’s safe to resume operations. Chapek acknowledged, “It is a good sign Disney Springs is going to open in Orlando.”

Disney custodians called back to work for Disney Springs reopening via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Nearly 120 Disney World custodians are getting called back to work as third-party restaurants reopen at Disney Springs, a union leader said. Disney Springs officially reopens to the public on May 20. However, some workers could return to their jobs to keep the complex clean as early as Friday in preparation, said Eric Clinton, President of UNITE HERE 362. “It’s great. We’ve got to start somewhere,” Clinton said. “Custodian work, as you can imagine, will become quite important.” Disney will provide masks for the cleaning crews to wear, and the public will also be required to wear them, too. Other social distancing policies will be in place.

Disney Springs workers are called back to begin the reopening process.

Seminole business owner sues county over coronavirus mask order via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — The owner of a computer repair shop in Longwood is suing Seminole County, arguing that the county’s executive order requiring business employees and patrons to wear face masks when standing closer than six feet to slow the spread of the coronavirus infringes on his personal liberties and hampers his business. David Leavitt, who owns Refresh Computers on State Road 434, is asking a circuit judge to throw out the county’s order, saying it violates Florida’s privacy rights outlined in the state’s Constitution. Leavitt, who is the former leader of the Seminole County Libertarian Party, did not want to comment and referred questions to the text of his lawsuit that was filed Sunday.

People did pushups on the street in protest of coronavirus gym closures. The guy who organized it wishes they had. via Salvador Hernandez of BuzzFeed News — Travis LaBazzo was hoping his small protest calling for Florida leaders to reopen gyms would get national attention, so when a news chopper hovered over the group of about 30 people, he called on everyone to drop down and do pushups or squats. One demonstrator put an American flag in his mouth and dropped down to the sidewalk to do pushups. Within minutes, video of the stunt spread quickly across social media. “I’m glad it got out there, but it completely lost the message,” LaBazzo told BuzzFeed News. “People out there saying, ‘You just proved you don’t need the gym,’ but it’s not about that. It’s about thousands of employees that are out of work in Florida.”

Chad Chronister meets with pastor he had jailed. They talk about reopening Hillsborough. via Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times — Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne looked down at his ringing cellphone recently to see who was calling. It was the cop who had him arrested. A month earlier, Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister stood in front of a row of news cameras and blasted the pastor’s “reckless disregard” for the safety of his flock in holding two crowded Sunday services at the River at Tampa Bay church. The pastor called the charges bogus and said Chronister would have to “deal with Jesus” for his decision. On April 22, Chronister called. “One thing led to another, we talked and today he came to the house,” Howard-Browne recalled a week later during his nightly show The Great Awakening.

Commissioner Les Miller says people aren’t following face-covering recommendation via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Les Miller said he visited two grocery stores Friday and was “utterly shocked” at how few people wore facial coverings to protect against the spread of the coronavirus. Miller made his comments Monday afternoon after the Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group meeting. Miller, who said he rarely goes out because he is 69 and has one kidney and a compromised immune system, estimated that 90 percent of the store patrons did not wear face masks, which are strongly recommended by the emergency policy group. Customers also did not follow the one-way aisle markings on the store floors intended to help guide social distancing.

Seminole retirement community surpasses 30 deaths tied to COVID-19 outbreak via Katherine Varn of the Tampa Bay Times — Six more residents of Freedom Square of Seminole died in recent days, according to recently released reports from the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner’s Office. That brings the total to 30 residents and one employee who died as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a Tampa Bay Times count of medical examiner reports. The retirement community at 7800 Liberty Lane includes nursing, assisted living and independent living facilities. The latest residents ranged in age from 73 to 99. Four died on Wednesday — two of them 20 minutes apart — and two on Thursday.

Residents are evacuated from Freedom Square of Seminole. Six more residents have died of the coronavirus in an outbreak at the facility. Image via AP.

Pinellas County evacuates 15 coronavirus patients from two nursing homes” via Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times — A total of 15 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 were evacuated from two Pinellas County long-term care facilities as the number of coronavirus cases in elder-care centers continues to rise in Tampa Bay and across Florida. First-responders were sent to help move residents to local hospitals after outbreaks were discovered at St. Petersburg Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and Gulf Shore Care Center in Pinellas Park. The decision to evacuate the patients came after the county’s Long-Term Care Task Force conducted a conference call with state officials to discuss the situation at both facilities.

“’Sheer bravery that we’ll never forget’: Naples mother who battled ‘like a warrior’ dies after fight with COVID-19 via Jake Allen of the Naples Daily News — From her move to Naples as a non-English speaker with two young children and no driver’s license to her battle with Alzheimer’s disease then COVID-19, Nunzia Guardascione was valiant. All three of Nunzia Guardascione’s children attended school in Naples and Nunzia Guardascione worked for 26 years at Collier County Public Schools in the nutrition services division. Nunzia Guardascione’s family is still trying to process her loss, and Luciana Guardascione said it’s unfortunate her mother had both Alzheimer’s disease and COVID-19, neither of which have a cure. All three of Nunzia Guardascione’s children attended school in Naples and Nunzia Guardascione worked for 26 years at Collier County Public Schools in the nutrition services division at the school’s cafeterias.

A fight for life: St. Augustine Beach Lt. Dan Carswell overcame a near-death bout with COVID-19 via Matt Bruce of The Florida Times-Union — Carswell returned to work this week with a new appreciation for life. Six weeks ago, the 39-year-old St. Augustine Beach police lieutenant was on his deathbed fighting for his life against a severe case of COVID-19. Hooked up to a ventilator in intensive care at Flagler Hospital and showing no signs of improvement, the novel coronavirus seemed on the verge of claiming Carswell as one of its casualties. But Carswell made a miraculous turnaround and credited the doctors and nursing staff at Flagler Hospital with saving his life. He was released from the hospital on April 9 and continues to recover from the virus’ lingering effects.


The coronavirus crisis’ devastation of Florida’s economy is showing up almost universally in first quarter earnings reports by Florida-based publicly traded companies — reporting significant losses in the first quarter of 2020.

Here is a rundown of recent earning reports by Florida-based publicly traded companies:

— In Naples, ACI Worldwide Inc. (ACIW) reported a loss of $24.4 million in its first quarter.

— In Boca Raton, ADT Inc. (ADT) reported a loss of $300 million in its first quarter.

— In Clearwater, Apyx Medical Corporation (APYX) reported a loss of $2 million in its first quarter.

— In Fort Lauderdale, AutoNation Inc. (AN) reported a first quarter loss of $232.3 million, after reporting a profit in the same period a year earlier. On a per-share basis, the Fort Lauderdale-based company said it had a loss of $2.58.

— In Tampa, AutoWeb Inc. (AUTO) reported a loss of $4.1 million in its first quarter.

— In Tampa, Benefytt Technologies, Inc. (BFYT) reported a first quarter loss of $44.3 million.

— In Tampa, Bloomin’ Brands Inc. (BLMN) reported a first quarter loss of $34.6 million, after reporting a profit in the same period a year earlier.

— In West Palm Beach, Chatham Lodging Trust (CLDT) reported said it had funds from operations of $6.3 million, or 13 cents per share, in the period; it had a loss of $27.8 million, or 59 cents per share.

— In Jacksonville, Fidelity National Information Services Inc. (FIS) reported first quarter earnings of $15 million. Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, were $1.28 per share, exceeding Wall Street expectations.

— In Jacksonville, FRP Holdings Inc. (FRPH) reported first quarter net income of $1.6 million — dropping 13% since the beginning of the year. The stock has declined 12% in the last 12 months.

— In Tampa, HCI Group Inc. (HCI) reported first quarter net income of $547,000; shares have declined almost 9% since the beginning of the year. The stock has dropped 1% in the last 12 months.

— In Tampa, Kforce Inc. (KFRC) reported first quarter net income of $9.1 million. On a per-share basis, the Tampa-based company said it had profit of 42 cents, topping Wall Street expectations.

— In Boca Raton, Newtek Business Services Inc. (NEWT) reported a first quarter loss of $7.3 million

— In Tampa, Primo Water Corporation (PRMW) reported first quarter net income of $3.5 million, after reporting a loss in the same period a year earlier. The results fell short of Wall Street expectations. 

— In Orlando, SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. (SEAS) reported a loss of $56.5 million in its first quarter.

— In Miramar, Spirit Airlines Inc. (SAVE) reported a first quarter loss of $27.8 million.

— In St. Petersburg, United Insurance Holdings Corp. (UIHC) reported a first quarter loss of $12.7 million.

— In Orlando, Xenia Hotels & Resorts Inc. (traded under the stock symbol XHR) fell short of Wall Street expectations, with a loss of $36.1 million, or 32 cents per share.


I’d like to meet these people —Previously unemployed Floridians head back to work, unable to cancel unemployment benefits via McKenna King of ABC Action News — While hundreds of thousands of people are waiting on the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to process their unemployment claims, we’re now hearing from people heading back to work, who are trying to cancel their claims. Still, the unemployment benefits just keep coming in. This seems to be happening more often now that jobs are opening back up, and as the story goes, when they try to call or email the DEO, their calls and questions are left unanswered. “The day that I was laid-off I came home, got on the website, filed for unemployment, I believe it was the next day my job called me back to offer me another position,” said Sarah Morgan.

Factories close for good as coronavirus cuts demand via Austen Hufford and Bob Tita of The Wall Street Journal — Factory furloughs across the U.S. are becoming permanent closings, a sign of the heavy damage the coronavirus pandemic and shutdowns are exerting on the industrial economy. Makers of dishware in North Carolina, furniture foam in Oregon and cutting boards in Michigan are among the companies closing factories in recent weeks. Caterpillar Inc. said it is considering closing plants in Germany, boat-and-motorcycle-maker Polaris Inc. plans to close a plant in Syracuse, Indiana, and tire maker Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plans to close a plant in Gadsden, Alabama. Those factory shutdowns will further erode an industrial workforce that has been shrinking as a share of the overall U.S. economy for decades.

Furloughs become factory closings, a sign of the devastation coronavirus is having on manufacturing and the industrial economy. Image via Fox News.

What Michelle Schorsch is reading — “As pandemic drags on, private school worries grow via Ron Matus of redefinED — Christian Life Academy started six years ago with six students in a single room in a church, and it has been growing ever since. This year, the little school on Florida’s southwest Gulf Coast reached 74 students in grades K-8, with 15 staffers, including seven full-time teachers. The ribbon-cutting on the 5,000-square-foot building last August reflected justified confidence that even more middle-class and working-class families would appreciate what the school had to offer. Then COVID-19 happened. Since Florida shuttered brick-and-mortar schools in mid-March, five Christian Life families have unenrolled their children. Two experienced layoffs. One saw a parent’s job shrink to part-time. One decided to home-school to save money.

Florida farmers hoping second round of federal disaster loans save small agriculture businesses via Forrest Saunders of WPTV — Florida’s farmers and ranchers say their business disappeared almost overnight as COVID-19 restrictions shuttered bulk buyers like restaurants. Researchers are now trying to discover how big a bite the virus took as the industry aims to rebound. Many farmers in the state are suffering, whether they work on or off the water. No one is certain how extensive the damage is just yet. Initial numbers show decreased demand already cost Florida’s second-largest industry more than half a billion dollars. The state’s more than 47,000 farming operations and two million-plus employees are now hoping losses don’t grow further.

Holland & Knight furloughs staff, cuts compensation for most via Dylan Jackson of — Holland & Knight has cut compensation for a majority of its workforce and furloughed an undisclosed number of staff members, joining a growing list of law firms that have reduced expenses as the novel coronavirus forces businesses to close. The firm said partner draws had been reduced by an average of 25%. The partner compensation cuts are progressive, meaning higher-paid partners absorb a higher reduction. Associates, counsel and senior professionals will see their salaries reduced by 17.5%. Staff cuts will also be progressive. Holland & Knight would not say how many staff members have been furloughed.


Twitter to label disputed COVID-19 tweets via Amanda Seitz of The Associated Press — Twitter announced it would warn users when a tweet contains disputed or misleading information about the coronavirus. The new rule is the latest in a wave of stricter policies that tech companies are rolling out to confront an outbreak of virus-related misinformation on their sites. Twitter will take a case-by-case approach to how it decides which tweets are labeled and will only remove harmful posts. Some tweets will run with a label underneath that directs users to a link with additional information about COVID-19. Twitter won’t directly fact check or call tweets false on the site. The warning labels might lead users to curated tweets, public health websites or news articles.

Twitter will warn users with a label when a tweet contains disputed or misleading information about the coronavirus. Image via AP.

Packed United flight leaves passengers’ scared,’ ‘shocked’ amid fears of the coronavirus via Chris Woodyard and Dawn Gilbertson of USA Today — A photo of a crowded flight posted on Twitter by a cardiologist returning from the New York City area may hint at the difficulties of social distancing as air travel picks up again. Dr. Ethan Weiss tweeted a photo Saturday showing what appears to be a full United Airlines flight from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco. Though passengers are wearing masks, he said the crowded cabin runs counter to United’s assurances that it would leave middle seats empty to promote social distancing to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In a separate tweet, Weiss included a statement from United’s chief customer officer, sent to all passengers, saying, “We’re automatically blocking middle seats to give you enough space on board.”

A packed United flight from Newark to San Francisco left many passengers shocked and scared. Image via Ethan Weiss/Twitter.

Florida Tech eliminates football because of coronavirus pandemic via Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times — The COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on college sports continued when Florida Tech announced the immediate elimination of its football program. The NCAA Division II school in Melbourne is believed to be the first program to disband football in the wake of the public health and economic crisis. The program was started in 2011. The school spent $3.1 million on football during the 2018-19 fiscal year. That’s about 29 percent of the athletic department’s $10.7 million budget. Florida Tech said it informed the team of the decision via email, which was followed up with a teleconference. It affects 120 players and eight coaches, and the school said it would honor scholarships for up to four years.

Quarantine fashion: Buyers ditch PJs for elevated loungewear” via Kelli Kennedy of The Associated Press — Since people have spent weeks stuck in isolation, their bodies molded into beds and couches with little to delineate weekends from weekdays, a fashion trend is emerging. Loungewear is comfy, everyday clothing with just a bit of refinement. Unfussy and minimal, but pulled together enough for a video conference call with your boss. The trend has tapped into something deeper, revealing that even the slightest effort at putting together “an outfit” during quarantine can provide a mental boost and a sense of normalcy. Think relaxed tailoring, slouchy trousers, soft, silky fabrics, cropped sweatshirts with something special like a puffed sleeve or floral embroidery, or drawstring tassels on baggy linen pants.


Devastated after coronavirus led to the cancellation of her graduate recital, 23-year-old viola student Brooke Mead nearly gave up.

But then, her music career took an unexpected turn.

During an online question-and-answer session with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Mead was invited to perform her recital on the legendary body’s live webcast — the lead-in for a rebroadcast of one of its performances.

Violist Brooke Mead poses for a photograph in Philadelphia. Devastated by the cancellation of her graduate recital because of coronavirus concerns, Mead was invited to perform instead on the Philadelphia Orchestra’s live webcast. Image via AP.

This performance would give her exposure to hundreds of classical music fans around the world, many more than if her performance had gone on as originally planned at Temple University’s Philadelphia campus.

“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster emotionally, just thinking about going from a packed hall to no hall, to having possibly to record yourself, to then having this virtual audience,” Mead told The Associated Press.

In the online session, Mead spoke with the orchestra’s assistant principal cellist, Yumi Kendall, how she should deal with disappointment. Mead had done intern-level work for the orchestra from September to March, and Kendall recognized her name.

“Instinctively, I just raised my hand,” Kendall said. “I was like,’ Oh, OK. I’ll be there. You have an audience of at least one and I’ll definitely be there.”

People taking part in the discussion also spoke up: They wanted to be a part of Mead’s audience, too. The orchestra’s President and CEO, Matias Tarnopolsky, decided without delay to incorporate Mead’s recital into the organization’s online platform.

Mead and Kendall, serving as master of ceremonies for the online recital, ran through the program ahead of time to work out logistical kinks. The live show — work by German composers Johann Sebastian Bach and Jean-Paul Hindemith, and American folk musician Jay Ungar’s “Ashokan Farewell” — went off without a hitch.


Trump made Florida his official residence. He may have also made a legal mess via Manuel Roig-Franzia of The Washington Post — The attempt by Trump and his legal team to squeeze through approval of his proposed Mar-a-Lago hey dock while the nation’s attention is trained on the coronavirus pandemic is now surfacing a potentially nettlesome problem for the President. Digging into local records to build an argument against the dock, a small group of loosely aligned preservationists, disgruntled neighbors and attorneys have unearthed documents that they assert call into question the legality of Trump’s decision late last year to change his official domicile from Manhattan to Mar-a-Lago and to register to vote in Florida using the club’s address. The distinction is significant. The property is taxed as a private club — not as a residence, according to property appraiser records.

Donald Trump’s move to Florida could have legal ramifications. Image via CNN.

Nancy Pelosi wants to go big on aid, but Mitch McConnell sees no urgency” via Lisa Mascaro of the Associated Press — House Speaker Pelosi is poised to unveil the next coronavirus aid package, encouraging Congress to “go big” on aid to help cash-strapped states and struggling Americans. Voting is possible as soon as Friday. But the bill is heading straight into a Senate roadblock. Senate Republicans said Monday they are not planning to vote on any new relief until June. Senate Majority Leader McConnell says there is no “urgency” to act.

Trump and chipmakers including Intel seek semiconductor self-sufficiency via Asa Fitch, Kate O’Keeffe and Bob Davis of The Wall Street Journal — A new crop of cutting-edge chip factories in the U.S. would reshape the industry and mark a U-turn after decades of expansion into Asia. The coronavirus pandemic has underscored long-standing concern by U.S. officials and executives about protecting global supply chains from disruption. Administration officials say they are particularly concerned about reliance on Taiwan, the self-governing island China claims as its own, and the home of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s largest contract chip manufacturer and one of only three companies capable of making the fastest, most-cutting-edge chips. Trump administration officials are in talks with Intel Corp and with TSMC, to build factories in the U.S.

Marco Rubio: ‘We don’t have enough information’ on coronavirus origins” via Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian of Axios Rubio, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said there isn’t yet enough information to determine whether or not the coronavirus outbreak resulted from an accident at a Chinese lab. “I’m not ruling out that it could be a lab accident, and some experts have not ruled it out either,” said Rubio. “Though I can’t prove it and no one can because we don’t have enough information to disprove it or prove it.”


Florida adds COVID-19 with hurricane preparation via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said last week his agency is redeveloping plans about evacuations and shelters, while also adding face masks to the state’s stockpile of storm supplies. “We’re going to have 10 million masks in reserve by the time the hurricane season starts,” Moskowitz said. “And we signed a long-term deal with Honeywell to help get us 12 million N95 masks over the next year directly from the manufacturing plant, with a significant portion of that being delivered during hurricane season.” Moskowitz said evacuations outside of flood zones could take into account details of structures, with people in newer structures built under up-to-date codes given the option to remain home.

Jared Moskowitz says coronavirus means big changes for hurricane season.

Ashley Moody calls on Congress to investigate Chinese government via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Moody called on Congress to investigate the Chinese government’s role in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter sent to the leadership of the U.S. House and Senate Foreign Relations Committees, Moody joined an orchestra of 17 other state attorneys general, all probing the possibility that China misled the international community about the severity of the disease. The letters stated that the “layers of deceit” began last year when Chinese health officials and Taiwanese complaints were censored and muzzled. Moody added that China should be held accountable for the “devastation and destruction” caused by COVID-19.

Jimmy Patronis lays blame on China, demands financial restitution via Jason Delgado for Florida Politics — Chief Financial Officer Patronis is seeking financial restitution for the costs by Florida as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter to a Chinese Ambassador to the United States, Patronis warned that his office would identify Chinese owned or controlled businesses that are pending payment from the state and may withhold the payment to offset the incurred costs. Patronis told former White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Newsmax that his office has also discovered several “wholly” owned Chinese companies with unclaimed property, the value of which is $5 billion.

Janet Cruz calls for ‘waiting week’ waiver on unemployment claims before March 29 via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Cruz is calling on Department of Management Services head Jonathan Satter to issue a clarification to unemployed Floridians about retroactive unemployment compensation claims. In a letter, Cruz explains a series of confusing statements and possible contradictions, leaving jobless residents unsure about what benefits are available to them and when. DeSantis said in an April 8th press conference that those who applied one day, but weren’t able to complete their applications until a later date, should have their original attempt counted as “the day they applied.”

Judge deals blow to plaintiffs alleging harmful impacts from sugar-cane burns via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A U.S. District Judge has poked holes in a lawsuit alleging that the sugar industry’s controlled crop burns are dangerous to nearby residents of the Glades. U.S. District Judge Rodney Smith found most claims in that suit, filed in June 2019, lacking. Smith did allow a claim to move forward, alleging the smoke from burns contains pollutants, but dismissed other allegations. “There is nothing in the amended complaint showing that each of the plaintiffs has been harmed by all of the defendants,” Smith said. Plaintiffs plan to file an updated complaint attempting to show those pollutants do affect Glades residents. A newly amended complaint is due May 22.

BSO spent big on bleed control kits from Sheriff’s ex-company, then his PAC got $5,000 contribution from kit vendor via Dan Christensen of Florida Bulldog — The Broward Sheriff’s Office had paid out as much as $750,000 to buy bleeding control kits from a South Carolina company that Sheriff Gregory Tony did business with before he became sheriff, and where he worked as an executive for more than a year. Last July, two weeks after BSO issued a purchase order for the kits, the CEO and founder of winning bidder North American Rescue LLC funneled $5,000 to Tony’s political action committee. Since becoming sheriff in January 2019, Tony has concealed his former job as director of Community Development for North American Rescue in 2016-2017. He hasn’t mentioned it when his job history was discussed, and he deleted mention of it from his LinkedIn profile.

Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony gave a contract to a business he previously worked for, taking a hefty campaign donation in return. Image via AP.

Okaloosa man sues Florida agriculture commissioner over suspension of online concealed-carry applications via the News Service of Florida — A Northwest Florida resident has filed a lawsuit challenging a decision by state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried to suspend accepting online applications for concealed-weapons licenses because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cliff Maloney, an Okaloosa County resident who is President of the group Young Americans for Liberty, filed the lawsuit in Leon County circuit court, alleging the decision by Fried violated his 2nd Amendment rights and state law. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to require the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees concealed-weapons licenses, to resume accepting applications online.

I-4 slated for massive closure in downtown Orlando for 5 days via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — Interstate 4 will have a massive closure through downtown Orlando starting Wednesday evening as part of DeSantis’ plan to speed up road construction while Floridians are largely sheltering from COVID-19. The Florida Department of Transportation will shut down all but one, westbound lane of Interstate 4 between Princeton Street to the north and Gore Street to the south from Wednesday evening to Monday morning. All westbound lanes may be closed intermittently at night during the weekend. The closure will occur as part of the over-budget, behind-schedule I-4 Ultimate construction project, which is adding toll lanes to 21 miles of the interstate from north of State Road 434 in Seminole County, through Orlando and to the west of Florida’s Turnpike in Orange County.

Florida’s new toll roads project plows ahead with virtual meetings” via Lawrence Mower of the Miami Herald — Florida officials are moving ahead with their plans to build more than 300 miles of toll roads across the state. The Department of Transportation task force panels assigned to come up with recommendations for the roads is set to meet this week over teleconference. The idea to have the meetings at all during the pandemic was criticized by Florida Conservation Voters, an environmental group that has opposed the projects. The idea to create more than 300 new miles of toll roads in Florida has been highly controversial, with environmental groups banding together to oppose the projects. Three previous governors rejected or stalled the concept. 

Ron Salem wants Jacksonville city Council oversight on JEA bonuses via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — The march of JEA reforms could add another item to the November ballot if the City Council decides it wants final approval over future bonuses handed out to utility employees. City Council Member Salem filed legislation that would give City Council the ultimate authority over annual bonuses for JEA workers, a change that would require voter approval in November to amend the City Charter. Controversy swirling around a separate incentive plan helped sink the attempt to sell the utility after a City Council Auditor’s report said JEA employees could reap several hundred million dollars from a JEA sale. Salem’s legislation is aimed at a different incentive program that dates back to 1990.

Jacksonville City Council Member Ron Salem is looking for closer oversight on JEA salaries.

David Jolly named executive chairman of Serve America Movement via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Jolly was named executive chairman of the Serve America Movement, an organization that is active as a third-party in some states and is otherwise a non-partisan political reform organization elsewhere. Jolly found himself increasingly splitting from some of the platform and policies of the Republican Party amid the rise of Trump for whom Jolly was an outspoken critic. Jolly left the party in 2018 to become an independent. He now works as a political contributor for NBC News and MSNBC, where he’s become a leading critic of Trump and his supporters. The Serve America Movement, or SAM, was established in 2016 as a 527 nonprofit political organization, with the stated goals of advancing greater competition and accountability in state and national politics, and to build cross-partisan consensus around issues.

— 2020 —

Joe Biden and Donald Trump teams each raised over $60 million in April” via Katie Glueck and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — Biden and the Democratic National Committee raised more than $60 million in April, a substantial haul that may help soothe Democrats’ worries about his ability to compete financially with President Trump and the Republicans despite their vast cash advantage. Biden, the former vice president, made the announcement in an email to supporters on Monday, and also sought to highlight traction with small-dollar donors: “The average online donation to my campaign was only $32.63,” he wrote.

Kamala Harris emerges as early Joe Biden VP favorite as sting of debate attack fades via Christopher Cadelago and Natasha Korecki of POLITICO — Harris was written off as a possible vice presidential pick for Biden last year after a cutting debate performance where she seemed to suggest he was racially insensitive. Now, Harris is not only in top contention, but Biden aides, surrogates and major donors see her as the best fit at the onset of the process — at least on paper — to join him atop the Democratic ticket. Biden’s campaign has formally started vetting a group of prospects that includes roughly a dozen women. But in interviews, more than two dozen Democrats, including advisers, allies and donors aligned with Biden, returned to Harris as an early front-runner.

Kamala Harris emerges as the leading VP pick for Joe Biden. Image via AP.

Biden adds states director, deputy in hiring spurt via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Biden’s campaign is hiring a states director and deputy as it emerges from a twilight zone period brought on by the coronavirus that has worried Democrats. Jenn Ridder, who managed the presidential campaign of Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has been named state director. Biden’s deputy state director will be Molly Ritner, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee veteran who led Biden’s Super Tuesday states effort. The campaign, which plans to hire more staff rapidly, recently bulked up its senior leadership ranks and its digital operations. “The standards and timing from past elections cycles are irrelevant — no one has ever staffed a presidential campaign during a public health crisis of this magnitude,” a Biden adviser said. “We’re being thoughtful and deliberate about hiring.”


Political fundraising grinds to a halt for Florida’s top politicos during COVID-19 pandemic via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the Florida Phoenix — Like it shut down Florida’s economy, the COVID-19 outbreak has had a similar impact on fundraising for the state’s top politicians. There was little money-raising activity for DeSantis and the three Florida Cabinet members in April, new financial reports show. The Republican Governor’s political committee only collected $317 in April, with most of that involving an interest payment on invested funds. In contrast, DeSantis’ committee raised $1.8 million in the first three months of 2020, with a high of $714,924 collected in January, the report shows. Political committees for Republican Attorney General Moody and Republican CFO Patronis reported no contributions. Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried’s committee report was not yet available.

Marion County firefighters back Kat Cammack for CD 3 — Republican congressional candidate Cammack picked up an endorsement from the Professional Firefighters of Marion County in the crowded race to replace U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District. “As the wife of a local first responder, her passionate advocacy of first responders and their families is clear. The recent COVID-19 outbreak clearly demonstrates that first responders’ duty to serve and protect our citizens puts our families and us at immediate risk. First responders accept the risks associated with servicing our communities and only ask of our elected officials that they support us to that end. Kat has shown throughout your career of public service that you do.” said Daniel D. Garcia, the group’s President.

William Figlesthaler trades lab coat for leather in newest ad campaign via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Figlesthaler paints himself more as a Hell’s Angel than health professional in his newest Congressional ad. The video kicks off with footage of Trump at the Daytona 500 shouting, “Gentlemen, start your engines.” A narrator comes in to announce “the race to support Trump is on in Florida’s 19th Congressional District.” Wearing a Harley Davidson skull wrap and a leather vest with the nickname “Wide Glide” stitched onto it, the Naples Republican roars down the roadway with no helmet and wife Olga on the stump.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Patricia Sigman ad focuses on broken unemployment system via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Sigman has launched a digital video denouncing the state’s unemployment compensation system as “broken and gutted” in her quest to be elected in Senate District 9. Without naming him, the ad begins by drawing a distinction between Sigman, an Altamonte Springs lawyer whose career has been in labor and employment law. and Republican candidate Jason Brodeur, a former state Representative. Sigman and Democrats already have been occasionally targeting Brodeur over his 2014 vote for the system, and they likely want it to be a big issue in the district opening to represent Seminole County and parts of southern Volusia County.

Joshua Hicks to challenge Cord Byrd in HD 11 via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — House District 11 isn’t one of Florida Democrats’ top targets for 2020, but they’ve managed to recruit a serious candidate to challenge Byrd in the Nassau- and Duval-based district. Jacksonville Democrat Joshua Hicks launched his bid for the seat, setting up a general election. Hicks was first inspired to run for the set because he didn’t think Byrd should skate to a third term without a challenge. After getting to know the district, Hicks told Florida Politics it became clear Byrd’s politics don’t reflect his constituents.

Sam Killebrew draws Democratic challenger via the News Service of Florida — Davenport Democrat Jared West opened a campaign account to try to unseat Killebrew in Polk County’s House District 41. Killebrew, who was first elected to the seat in 2016, had raised $50,850 for this year’s reelection bid as of April 30, a finance report shows. Also, with an open campaign account for the race is unaffiliated candidate Matthew Logan Crowley.

Too far: Randy Fine demands apology after opponent ruined Mother’s Day” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Fine is calling on his opponent in the Republican primary to apologize for anti-Semitic comments and denounce her campaign consultant for harassing his mother. In a statement, Fine said Marcie Adkins’ campaign has falsely claimed to have a video of Fine soliciting prostitutes. Fine says the tape is nonexistent. If the allegation didn’t cross the line on its own, their weaponizing of it on Mother’s Day did. Rather than campaign, Fine has spent much of the past two months helping constituents navigate the unemployment system and secure food through a series of Farm Share events.

In just 22 days, Jasmen Rogers-Shaw pulls in more money than Anika Omphroy this cycle via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — In less than one month as a Democratic candidate, Rogers-Shaw has outraised incumbent Omphroy in a primary battle for House District 95. Rogers-Shaw raised more than $30,000 after joining the race on April 9. Omphroy has pulled in just $19,000 since Dec. 2018. The vast majority of the April donations to Rogers-Shaw were smaller sums. More than 88% of the total donations were for $100 or less. Omphroy showed $0 in contributions during April. Rogers-Shaw spent just $1,300 in April, giving her more than $29,000 on hand. That’s more than double Omphroy, who shows only over $13,000 remaining in her campaign coffers.


We all can choose to be the silver lining in the cloud of the coronavirus via Melissa Blechman of the Miami Herald — The world feels like a scary place these days, and as we all hunker down, I keep thinking about what unites and divides us as individuals, communities and Americans — the paradox of our shared vulnerability and our tendency to distance ourselves from those whom we perceive as different. Our denial of this vulnerability has caused increasing pangs of isolation and, writ large, the election of leaders who ravage our social safety net. At a time when millions of Americans are suddenly closer to crisis, needing support from that safety net, we are poorly equipped to respond. More than ever, we see that what separates us from the homeless man on the street is merely a series of moments. If that.


Kamala Harris can be Joe Biden’s Biden via Francis Wilkinson of Bloomberg — The incumbent President shows no interest in the workings of government or issues of public policy, and never will. But Biden’s age makes the credentials of his No. 2 more salient, and women typically need more credentials than men to meet a given (manufactured) political threshold. Stacy Abrams, who has never held statewide office, falls short. That leaves Harris, who was California’s attorney general before her current position. Harris’s presidential campaign was hugely disappointing. She seemed ideally suited to the Democratic electorate, but never won it over. The No. 2 slot entails different opportunities and demands, however.

John Lantigua: Justice for Florida’s farmworkers — the time has arrived via Florida Politics — On April 1, Gov. DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order to stave off the COVID-19 pandemic. He added a list of jobs considered essential to combating the crisis, permitting those workers to be on the roads and in workplaces. Prominent on that list were farmworkers, who plant and harvest crops, and others who help that food reach the tables of Floridians. The irony is that the majority of farmworkers in Florida are undocumented. Until the virus entered the state, certain politicians were spouting anti-immigrant rhetoric and calling for their deportation. Farmworkers were at constant risk of being detained and expelled. Overnight, farmworkers went from being deportable to irreplaceable for the state and the nation.

Meat is not essential. Why are we killing for it? via Jonathan Safran Foer of The Washington Post — Trump’s recent use of the Defense Production Act to order slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants to stay open is misunderstood if viewed only as the next tragic misstep in his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. It marks the nadir of the increasingly broken meat industry. Trump’s “order” was, in fact, the result of meat industry executives requesting his relief from legal liability for worker deaths. Meat is not essential, and slaughterhouse workers in diapers are not brave. They are being oppressed and, in a free society, each of us who continues to underwrite that abuse bears some of the responsibility.

Frank Cerabino: Martin County bans us from its beaches? OK, no Costco for you Martinites! via The Palm Beach Post — Martin County opened its beaches last Monday, a full two weeks before the beaches in Palm Beach County are scheduled to open on May 18. After the first couple of days of being open, Martin County officials estimated that about 60% of the beach traffic was coming from cars driving into the county from the south. That led Martin County Commissioners to discuss whether they could legally restrict beach use solely to their own county’s residents. If I were a Palm Beach County Commissioner, I would be calling for an emergency session to authorize war-powers authority against Martin County. You don’t want us on your beaches. Fine. We’re banning you from our Costco.

Tallahassee needs a plan for the new normal with coronavirus via Michael Dobson for the Tallahassee Democrat — There will be a post-coronavirus world — perhaps a different normal, but a normal nonetheless. As president/CEO of the Dream Foundation, a statewide nonprofit based in Tallahassee, I sent a letter to each elected county and city official asking — actually begging — that they put together a committee of stakeholders to help develop a plan for what that reopening will look like in Tallahassee. As the Governor and the federal government have pressured local governments to open the spigot of economic activity, no county or city will be able to sit idly by. Could Wakulla County become the bastion of economic activity, drawing all to that county while Leon County eschews economic growth and prosperity? Not a chance.


Over the weekend, Florida’s state unemployment office sent out a lot of money, but still has a long way to go before it can get to all the claims already filed.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— When the pandemic began, a test for COVID-19 meant meeting all sorts of criteria and jumping through hoops. Now Gov. DeSantis says there are enough test kits now, and anyone who wants to be tested can do so. And if you work at a long-term care facility, you no longer have a choice. If the state shows up to test the staff, you cannot refuse.

— The Governor travels to Fort Myers for another panel discussion with doctors, who are trying to convince Floridians it is safe to go to the hospital for routine problems that have nothing to do with COVID-19. DeSantis — who himself has a brand-new baby at the Governor’s mansion — says he’s troubled by reports of people refusing to get their kids vaccinated because they’re afraid of taking them to a doctor’s office.

— A North Florida man is suing the state because the website to apply for concealed weapons permit is shut down during the pandemic, even though you can still apply by mail. Nevertheless, Cliff Maloney — President of a group called Young Americans for Liberty — insists his rights are being violated because he can’t apply online.

— Checking in with Florida Man and Woman: one has a problem with fleas; the other, with feminists.

To listen, click on the image below:


— ALOE —

Shanghai Disneyland reopens with strict safety procedures via Brooks Barnes of The New York Times — The elephants are flying again. On Monday, one of the Walt Disney Company’s 14 closed theme parks, Shanghai Disneyland, reopened to visitors on a limited basis, offering a first peek into the kind of escape Mickey Mouse can offer in the age of face masks, social distancing and disinfectants. “It has been an emotional morning,” Joe Schott, President and general manager of the Shanghai Disney Resort, said in a phone interview. “There is light at the end of the tunnel.” From a business standpoint, Shanghai Disneyland will be operating far below its potential. The Chinese government has limited capacity at the park to 24,000 people daily, fewer than one-third of its pre-outbreak capacity.

Shanghai Disneyland offers a glimpse of what the theme park experience could be like very soon.

MLB owners send plan for July start to players’ union” via Fadel Allassan of Axios — MLB owners approved a proposal to send to the league’s players’ union that would start this year’s baseball season without fans around the Fourth of July. Under the plan, spring training would start in early to mid-June. Teams would then play roughly 82 regular-season games, mostly against teams in their own division. The playoffs would be expanded from 10 teams to 14 by doubling the number of wild cards in each league. Teams in jurisdictions where they couldn’t get permission to play in their home stadium would play in spring training stadiums or on neutral fields. The All-Star Game, which is currently scheduled for July 14, would likely be canceled.


Celebrating today is Leslie Dughi of Greenberg Traurig, Jim Eaton, and Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union.


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

Peter Schorsch

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

One comment

  • Ken

    May 12, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    Many Americans protesting around the country firmly believe the Democrats would be more than willing to completely destroy the economy if it meant getting rid of President Trump. American citizens aren’t willing to sacrifice their homes, careers, jobs and businesses for another leftist attempt to remove a President.

    There is no moderate wing of the Democrat party. If you vote for Joe Biden, you are voting for Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren’s platform.. Joe will follow the radical left’s agenda (or Joe won’t get the support) of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Valerie Jarrett,. Rashida Talib, Stacy Abrams, Ayanna Pressley, Nancy Pelosi, Sheila Jackson Lee, Tom Perez, Maxine Waters, Al Green, and llhan Omar. This is the core of the socialists leftist wing of the Democrat party and they are firmly in charge.. Most or all have already endorsed Joe Biden, so he obviously has committed to their leftist agenda.

    Democrat Platform & Goals: Leftist Agenda.
    (Democrat Taxpayers pay close attention, you’ll pay too)

    -End all deportations of illegal aliens, if you get here, you stay. Bernie’s website calls it a “moratorium” on deportations.
    Democrats Yes.
    Republicans No.

    -Citizenship for 20 to 50 million illegal aliens, DACA & TPS recipients with a cost of billions.
    Democrats Yes.
    Republicans No.

    -De-fund & terminate border patrol & ICE.
    Democrats Yes.
    Republicans No.

    -Free Health Care for Illegal aliens, DACA, TPS recipients (taxpayer funded with one estimate at 52 trillion)
    Democrats Yes.
    Republicans No.

    -Ending of all private / employer based health care. “Medicare for all”, Feds run everything.
    Democrats Yes.
    Republicans No.

    -Illegal Aliens eligible for welfare & food stamps. (Elizabeth Warrens plan adopted)
    Democrats Yes.
    Republicans No.

    -Free college for all, including illegal aliens. (tax payer funded)
    Democrats Yes.
    Republicans No.

    -Decriminalization of illegal entry into our country.
    Democrats Yes.
    Republicans No.

    -Student loan bailout. (Taxpayer funded.)
    Democrats Yes.
    Republicans No.

    -Sanctuary Cities & States.
    Democrats Yes.
    Republicans No.

    -Open Borders.
    Democrats Yes.
    Republicans No.

    -Massive tax increases. All Democrat candidates have committed to tax increases of various amounts.

    Democrats Yes tax increases.
    Republicans No tax increases.

    -Reparations for race’s harmed by Caucasians. Joe committed this to “Reverend” Al Sharpton, support for Sheila Jackson Lee’s racist reparations bill in the House.
    Democrats Yes.
    Republicans No.

    -Joe Biden’s two trillion climate change plan.
    Democrats Yes.
    Republicans No.

    -Drivers licenses for illegal aliens.(already happening in states with Democrat leadership)
    Democrats Yes.
    Republicans No.

    -Opposed to ANY voter ID Laws.(Nancy Pelosi wanted this amendment in the first corona virus bill) I wonder why?
    Democrats Yes.
    Republicans No.

    -AOC’s green new deal.(which would create massive unemployment, 100,000 jobs estimated in the transportation industry alone.)
    Democrats Yes.
    Republicans No.

    -Late term abortions up to nine months.
    Democrats Yes.
    Republicans No.

    *Sources: Joe positions are clearly outlined on his website and speeches.

Comments are closed.


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

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