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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.22.20

Your morning review of the issues and players behind Florida politics.

Coronavirus by the numbers — Various state agencies updated several numbers about the coronavirus in Florida, as well as its effect on unemployment. Agencies reporting include Florida Departments of Health, Economic Opportunity, Corrections, Juvenile Justice and Health Care Administration.

Some takeaways, via the News Service of Florida:

— 48,675: Total number of cases.

— 2,144: Deaths of Florida residents.

— 46.7%: Deaths involving residents or staff members of long-term care facilities.

— 1,719,452: Confirmed “unique” unemployment claims received.

— 1,507,467: Claims processed.

— 2,710,651,616: Dollars paid to claimants.

— 1,209: State prison inmates who have tested positive.

— 243: Corrections workers who have tested positive.

— 19: Youths in juvenile-justice facilities who have tested positive.

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

— 26.7%: Available hospital beds statewide.

— 25.8%: Adult intensive-care unit beds available statewide.


Lockdown delays cost at least 36,000 lives via James Glanz and Campbell Robertson of The New York Times — If the United States had begun imposing social distancing measures one week earlier than it did in March, about 36,000 fewer people would have died in the coronavirus outbreak. The enormous cost of waiting to take action reflects the unforgiving dynamics of the outbreak that swept through American cities in early March. The findings are based on infectious disease modeling that gauges how reduced contact between people starting in mid-March slowed transmission of the virus. The results show that as states reopen, outbreaks can easily get out of control unless officials closely monitor infections and immediately clamp down on new flare-ups.

Image via The New York Times.

Data breach at Florida’s unemployment system may have exposed personal information via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — A data breach at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity may have exposed personal information about people applying for unemployment compensation. A letter from DEO said the information included the person’s full name and Social Security number. It said DEO had purchased a year’s worth of identity fraud protection and that an agency employee would contact the recipient with details about it. The breach is just the latest issue with the state’s beleaguered unemployment system. As of Thursday, the DEO said it had not received any reports of malicious activity.

NOAA predicts Atlantic hurricane season will be unusually active via Andrew Freedman of The Washington Post — The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is forecast to be unusually active, according to a seasonal outlook from the NOAA. Any landfalling storms could create unprecedented challenges for government officials working to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, which scientists expect to continue, albeit possibly at a slower pace, throughout the summer. The NOAA outlook calls for a 60% likelihood of an above-average season, with a 70% chance of 13 to 19 named storms, six to 10 of which will become hurricanes. NOAA’s outlook shows only a 10% chance of a below-average Atlantic hurricane season.

—“Disaster-heavy year risks a FEMA’ Code Red’ for hurricane season via Ari Natter of Bloomberg


@RealDonaldTrump: I will be lowering the flags on all Federal Buildings and National Monuments to half-staff over the next three days in memory of the Americans we have lost to the CoronaVirus …

@RealDonaldTrump: Congratulations to my daughter, Tiffany, on graduating from Georgetown Law. Great student, great school. Just what I need is a lawyer in the family. Proud of you, Tiff!

@MarcACaputo: Amy Klobuchar is Joe Biden’s Tim Kaine

@SContorno: [Ron] DeSantis has used a cyberstalking charge to justify the firing of Rebekah Jones. Meanwhile, he pushed ahead with nomination of Jones’ boss, Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, despite allegations of sexual harassment & creating a hostile work environment.

@Jay_Delg: Today, Rush Limbaugh said @GovRonDeSantis once asked for an honorary degree from the “Limbaugh Institute” to hang in his office. “If anybody has come close to earning an honorary degree from the Limbaugh Institute, it is Ron DeSantis,” Limbaugh said citing this interview.

@HelenAguirrefer: This is an utter lie, you are no more a friend of the truth than Rebekah Jones who is also erratic and exhibits behavior unbecoming of a state employee. It wasn’t her website, it’s FL’s website w/content given by senior epidemiologists & data analysts. You owe them an apology.

@DelaneyJohnA: We aren’t out of this, but where does Jacksonville get it’s apology? Weeks after national shaming over opening the beaches, no spike?? Where is the widespread condemnation of NY for horrible policy of in effect infecting nursing homes?

@AnthonySabatini: The goal was to SLOW the spread of the virus — not STOP the spread If you think government can totally STOP it, then you are a fool Well now it’s been successfully SLOWED — so it’s time to open ALL of Florida to FULL capacity Stop the silly prohibitions on events and gatherings!

@JacobOgles: Like it or not, in times of disaster mass communication outlets and government have a reciprocal relationship with informing the public. It’s sad that hostility between media and administrations is becoming a story

@ShevrinJones: Sen @oscarjb2 is one of the brightest minds I know in the political process. He’s compassionate, he’s calculated, but most of all, he’s my friend. He may be leaving politics for now, but let it be known, Florida is better off because of his seat at the table.

@SteveSchale: It’s time for a national conversation about what things actually require a video zoom call.


English Premier League soccer to restart — 10; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 17; PGA Tour resumes with Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth — 20; Belmont Stakes rescheduled — 29; Father’s Day — 30; Apple to hold Developer Conference — 31; Federal taxes due — 54; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 56; “Mulan” premieres — 63; TED conference rescheduled — 65; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 87; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 91; Indy 500 rescheduled — 93; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 94; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 105; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 106; Rescheduled date for French Open — 120; First presidential debate in Indiana — 131; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 134; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 141; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 146; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 147; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 153; 2020 General Election — 165; “Black Widow” premieres — 168; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 179; “No Time to Die” premieres — 186; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 215; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 427; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 436; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 532; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 630; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 672; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 715; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 868.


Florida has more than 1,200 new coronavirus cases via Marc Freeman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida recorded 1,204 more infections of the new coronavirus on Thursday, the largest one-day jump in a month. The Department of Health said there had been 48,675 people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the outbreak began earlier this year. DeSantis wrote in a tweet that the latest increase in cases is only because the state got a bunch of test results back from various labs all at the same time. DeSantis said 2.5% of Floridians tested positive in the latest daily results. He pointed out that the figure was 1.6% for the 64 counties that were included in his Phase One partial reopening of businesses on May 4.

Ron DeSantis wears a face mask as he listens during a news conference at a COVID-19 testing site at Hard Rock Stadium. Image via AP.

Doctor: Reopening schools too soon could cause ‘super-spreading events’ of coronavirus via CD Davidson-Hiers of the Pensacola News Journal — Reopening Florida schools too soon could create “super-spreading events” of the coronavirus, according to Dr. Suzanne Minor, a family medicine doctor, speaking to the Florida Education Association’s Committee on Reopening Our Neighborhood Schools. The task force met for the first time, online, of course, for its 25 members to introduce themselves and talk about their biggest concerns. Minor, a member of the task force, told the panel if every person infected with COVID-19 spreads it to two or three other people, then children at school in the fall easily can become “contagion agents.”

Infectious disease models aren’t crystal balls but are useful tools in Florida’s fight against COVID-19, modelers say via Ryan Mills and Frank Gluck of the Naples Daily News — In early March, University of Florida research scientist Thomas Hladish put together a simple mathematical model to forecast the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Florida Department of Health had requested his assistance to predict the demand for hospital beds in the state, and Hladish, an epidemiologist and mathematical modeler who specializes in the study of the dengue virus, dropped his normal research to provide quick answers about the COVID-19 pandemic. The results of his work were clear: Florida was in line for a huge public health crisis. “We looked at what had happened elsewhere, we looked at how rapidly the epidemic was growing in Florida, and we said, ‘OK, we’ve seen this story play out before,’” Hladish said.

CVS rolling out 37 new drive-thru coronavirus testing sites across Florida” via Adrienne Cutway of Click Orlando — CVS will open 37 new drive-thru coronavirus testing sites to its pharmacies across Florida, bringing its total number of Sunshine State testing sites to 47. Orlando, Winter Park and The Villages are among the cities that will receive the new locations. Only those who meet the CDC criteria will be able to get tested, and advanced registration is required. Patients will stay in their vehicles and go to a pharmacy drive-thru window where a staff member will provide them with a kit and instruct them on how to self-perform a nasal swab. 

Questions swirl around children’s illness via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Florida Department of Health officials won’t say how many suspected or confirmed cases of “multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children,” or MIS-C, have been reported to county health departments. They have not replied to email inquiries since state Surgeon General Rivkees confirmed Monday that Florida was “beginning to see a few cases.” But Mobeen Rathore, a physician and chief of the University of Florida Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunology, said 12 patients in the Jacksonville area had been treated at Wolfson since mid-April who are now suspected of having had MIS-C. “This is an evolving situation. Our first cases, they weren’t even called MIS-C at that time.” Rathore said.

As Florida releases new COVID-19 death data, one medical examiner defies state’s secrecy via Kevin G. Hall and Shirsho Dasgupta of the Miami Herald — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement released new data on Floridians who have died from COVID-19. And as has been its custom, the state didn’t provide the names of the dead. But one prominent medical examiner refused to go along. Stephen Nelson, the medical examiner for Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties as well as chairman of the state Medical Examiners Commission, did his own records release for his own counties, and it includes what the state left out: names of those who have succumbed to the disease. “It IS all public information,” Nelson said in an email. Nelson’s release drew a sharp with the DeSantis administration, which has released some information only after being pressured or sued by the news media.

Over 1,700 of 90,000 COVID-19 tests must be redone, state says via Wayne K. Roustan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A total of 1,702 people will have to be retested for COVID-19 exposure after their sample swabs were damaged in transit to labs around the state. They were among the 90,000 COVID-19 tests conducted at drive-thru and walk-up sites during the first three weeks of May. State health officials will be contacting people whose samples were damaged. They will be able to get retested at the sites where they were originally tested. Their tests will be a priority at those locations.

More than 1,700 of 90,000 COVID-19 tests from drive-thru and walk-up sites since the beginning of May were damaged in transit to labs and must be retested. Image via Blake Farmer/Kaiser Health News/TNS.


Florida committed $283 million to adding hospital beds. Then they weren’t needed. via Mary Ellen Klas of the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau — DeSantis has chastised the media for quoting public health modelers who predicted the state would run out of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients if he didn’t issue a statewide stay-home order in April. But the Governor’s emergency managers, using those same models, were so concerned about a hospital shortage that they signed $283 million in no-bid deals to build alternative hospitals to hold the overflow, a Herald/Times analysis has found. One of those hospitals, the now-shuttered Pan American Hospital near the Miami airport, received the heftiest of the offers: a $42 million-a-month agreement to repair, lease and operate a 200-bed facility to house COVID-19 patients.

223,927 file new unemployment claims in Florida; Donald Trump resort permanently cuts furloughed workers via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Despite signs of unemployment claims easing nationally, new claims in Florida rose again to 223,927, and more layoff notices continued to pour in as South Florida hospitality and transportation companies moved to slice payrolls. The golfing resort owned by Trump said business was so bad that it elected to permanently sever 250 workers who had been placed on furlough in March. The state reports 194,153 hospitality and restaurant workers filed for unemployment, while 21,407 workers in transportation and warehousing sought help. In retail, 106,896 workers filed claims.

Unemployed: State now has paid nearly 1 million people via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — In the most recent reports by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the state showed 2.1 million applications were received, 1.7 million were confirmed as unique claims, from 1.5 million unique claimants. Those numbers tally the department’s unemployment claims processing efforts through Wednesday. Florida has now sent some form of unemployment compensation, either from state funds or one of two federal aid programs Florida administers for Floridians, to 985,967 people, according to the latest report. Florida has processed 1,507,467 claims.

Expired unemployment filing waiver causes confusion for recipients via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Poor communication between the state agency in charge of unemployment claims and recipients has caused some unemployed Floridians to miss out on weeks of benefits, Senate Democrats say. In mid-April, DeSantis and the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) waived a rule that jobless benefit recipients must return to the department’s unemployment portal every two weeks to “claim their weeks.” But suspending that rule apparently violated federal law, and the department reinstated the requirement last week. But that change wasn’t directly communicated to applicants unless they checked the website or portal, say Orlando-area Democratic Sens. Randolph Bracy and Linda Stewart.

“’Latino communities have been taking it on the chin’ during COVID-19, Democrats say more should be done via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — “Florida and the nation’s economies are on the break of ruin in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Terrie Rizzo, chair of the Florida Democratic Party. “This is the tragic result of Trump’s failed leadership. He failed to prepare us for the coronavirus, and we are paying the price.” Rizzo took part in the call pushing for more help for Latinos struggling through economic effects. Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez and Rep. Javier Fernández also joined the call. “We have seen so much suffering in communities across the country, and Latino communities have been taking it on the chin in particular,” Perez said.

Should tattoo shops reopen? They struggle as authorities disagree. via Anastasia Dawson of the Tampa Bay Times — A guerrilla-style cellphone video has attracted nearly 8,000 views since it was posted to YouTube on Saturday. It opens in the Ybor Cty studio of Atomic Tattoos and Piercing, where Tampa code inspectors and police officers wearing face coverings communicate their confusion in sideways glances, uncomfortable pauses and empathetic nods while the manager implores them to let him stay open. According to the state’s official business portal, tattoo and body piercing shops are part of the Personal Care Industry — the same designation given to barbershops, hair salons, nail salons, massage parlors and spas. But while those businesses were allowed to reopen to customers last week under an executive order from the Governor, tattoo parlors were not, leaving shop owners and tattoo artists in limbo.


Universal Orlando asks to reopen theme parks in June via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Universal Orlando is targeting June 5, just two weeks away, as the day it will reopen to the public if the theme park gets approval from Orange County and DeSantis. It would be the first of the theme parks to reopen in Central Florida after it shut down. Universal executive John Sprouls said the park would open June 3 and 4 for some invited guests and annual passholders to “stress the system.” Universal’s proposal won unanimous approval from the task force, with five members abstaining because of a conflict of interest.

Universal Orlando is shooting for a June 5 reopening. Image via AP.

Legoland to reopen in June via Kevin Bouffard of The Florida Times-Union — The City Commission on Wednesday night gave the nod to the Legoland Florida Resort theme park reopening June 1 after General Manager Rex Jackson detailed the sanitation, social distancing and other restrictions it would operate under during the COVID-19 crisis. Jackson told the commissioners the park will open to a maximum 50% capacity — about 6,000 people — and will highly recommend, although not require, that all guests wear a face mask. It will provide complimentary face masks for guests who don’t bring them. Legoland will bar admission to anyone who has a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher.

No full house as Tampa Seminole Hard Rock Casino reopens via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times — Reopening a casino amid a pandemic means everything from installing thermal-imaging cameras to watch for gamblers with a fever to sanitizing the poker chips. On Thursday, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa welcomed customers back. First to arrive were about 1,000 invitees, the casino’s best customers. Doors were scheduled to open to the public at 7 p.m. Jim Allen, the chief executive officer of Seminole Gaming and the chairman of Hard Rock International, said the casino was “excited about the opportunity to bring 2,000 people back to work.”

Socially distanced slots, masks in the casino — How Miccosukee gambling looks amid COVID-19 via Carli Teproff and Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — When Miccosukee Resort & Gaming opened its doors on Sunday, close to 2,000 people flocked to the West Miami-Dade casino to try their luck at the poker tables or the slot machines. Tribe leadership said Wednesday they have done everything to make it safe for employees and patrons. Patrons now have to pass through a checkpoint before they are allowed in. The checkpoint includes a temperature check and identification check to make sure all guests don’t have a fever and that they are 21 or older. On Sunday, guests in line were given masks and bottled water.

Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida Chairman Billy Cypress is grateful to those gamblers not afraid to visit the casino during the COVID-19 pandemic. Image via

Vacation rentals to reopen in Lee, Charlotte counties via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Short-term vacation rentals are once again allowed in Lee and Charlotte counties, and Sarasota and Manatee have a plan under review. “This represents a lot of income for a lot of people who own property here,” said Lee County Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass. Lee and Charlotte were among eight counties to have plans approved. Under the plans, there must be a long enough time frame between guest stays for owners or property managers to clean and sanitize facilities, and there are strict regulations now on changing linens, cleaning surfaces, and providing soap and sanitation goods for guests.

Vacation rentals approved in 16 total Florida counties” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Department of Business and Professional Regulation has lifted the vacation rental ban in eight more counties raising the total number of cleared counties to 16. The department approved reopening plans submitted by Charlotte, Duval, Lee, Levy, Nassau, Osceola, Pinellas and St. Johns counties with possibly more to come. Those plans, going into effect immediately, will reverse a two-month ban placed statewide by DeSantis. Eight Panhandle county plans were approved Tuesday along the Gulf Coast from Escambia County to Wakulla County.

Embry-Riddle to reopen campus to students June 30 via Zach Dean of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is preparing for takeoff. The school announced that it would reopen its Daytona Beach and Arizona campuses to students on June 30 after a three-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. The decision will make ERAU one of the first universities or colleges in the country to fully reopen. All students and teachers on campus must wear cloth face coverings, classroom capacity will be limited, and class schedules will be adjusted to minimize contact between students and faculty.


Miami-Dade says it won’t rely on Florida for contact tracing, launching larger effort via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade won’t rely on Florida’s program to trace close contacts of people infected with COVID-19 and plans to deploy hundreds of people to ramp up the effort in the county dramatically. Gimenez described a plan to deploy as many as 1,000 contact tracers, dwarfing the effort already underway in the county by the state Department of Health. Contact tracers are foot soldiers in battles against any virus, assigned the job of interviewing people who get sick and trying to get their close contacts tested as well.

FIU shuts down coronavirus testing site after worker tests positive for COVID-19 via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — The COVID-19 testing site staffed by Florida International students and faculty on the Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition grounds had to close Thursday for disinfecting after an asymptomatic member of the site management team tested positive, FIU spokeswoman Maydel Santana said. “As soon as we learned of this positive case on our team, we decided to shut down the site to test every member of the team, disinfect the site according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and mitigate the risk for our team and the residents who count on us,” said Dr. Eneida Roldan, the CEO of the FIU HealthCare Network. FIU could not say when its site will reopen.

FIU HealthCare Network CEO Dr. Eneida Roldan said they followed CDC protocol when one of the workers at the test site was found positive.

Wynwood, Design District and other Miami-Dade shopping spots reopen after COVID-19 via Rene Rodriguez, Andres Viglucci and Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Following the reopening of indoor malls, Miami-Dade’s outdoor shopping districts started turning the lights back on Wednesday as the city and county launched the first phase of the reopening process. Though the mandatory coronavirus shutdown lasted only two months, it seemed a lifetime ago. With stay-at-home orders and nightly curfews lifted, business owners and developers are hoping cabin fever will lead people to seek outdoor distractions and social interaction — even if it has to be done under masks, at a distance of six feet.

Many South Florida renters protected from evictions until late August via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Tens of thousands of South Florida renters will have the right to stay in their residences through late summer, even though DeSantis’ statewide eviction moratorium expires June 2. Judges in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties in recent days issued rulings affirming federal protections for as many as a quarter-million tenants in South Florida who fail to pay their rent. The orders require landlords seeking evictions for nonpayment to disclose to the court whether their tenants receive federal rent subsidies, or whether the tenants’ apartments are being purchased with federally backed mortgage loans.

Some Fort Lauderdale gyms reopened this week. Then the mayor had second thoughts. via C. Isaiah Smalls II of the Miami Herald — Gyms in Fort Lauderdale reopened this week, drawing people from near and far who wanted to get moving again somewhere other than their bedrooms. But the reopening didn’t last long. Four days after Mayor Dean Trantalis ordered them open, he closed them back up again. In allowing their reopening, Fort Lauderdale broke away from Broward County, which has not lifted the shutdown order for gyms and fitness centers. At the time, the city was the first place in South Florida besides the Keys to allow gyms to operate. Broward Mayor Dale V.C. Holness responded by threatening arrest or fines for violating the rules; an action Trantalis later said influenced his new recommendation to close them back up again.

Keys nursing home didn’t report 13 deaths, including 7 possibly from COVID-19, report says” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — A Florida Keys nursing home that has become a cluster for novel coronavirus cases did not report the deaths of 13 people at the facility to the state Department of Health, including seven people who were suspected of having possibly died from the disease. Since the facility, Crystal Health and Rehab Center on Plantation Key, did not report the deaths, the Florida Department of Health has never been able to determine if the people died from COVID-19. The deaths likely occurred between March and April.

COVID-19 patient in Florida Keys nursing home tells of nightmare life in isolation via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — At least 13 residents of a Florida Keys nursing home are in isolation because they either tested positive for the novel coronavirus or they are awaiting test results. One of them, who has multiple sclerosis and is in a wheelchair, says he has been bathed only once in the past six days and has not been able to brush his teeth in nearly two weeks. Guy Rehmann, 64, says most of his clothes are missing, and he and other residents in isolation have no access to the showers. “So far, nothing for my toothbrush or my fingernails being clipped,” Rehmann said in a text Wednesday from inside the Crystal Health and Rehab Center on Plantation Key.

A resident of the Crystal Health and Rehab Center on Plantation Key talks about ‘nightmarish’ isolation as a COVID-19 patient. Image via Facebook.

UCF prepares for fall reopening by requiring masks, downsizing classes” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — UCF is preparing to reopen this fall with measures intended to promote social distancing, including requiring students and employees to wear masks; reserving dorm rooms for residents who need to quarantine, and reducing class sizes or moving them to larger venues. The campus plans to come back to life in August, though it likely will be quieter than when students left midway through the spring semester. UCF will not force students or employees to return to campus if they are at risk and will allow them to study or work remotely when possible. UCF is working on plans with the Florida Department of Health to conduct screening, testing and contact tracing procedures. Virus tests should be widely available.

Pandemic forces St. Pete Pride to cancel 2020 parade, celebration via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — St. Pete Pride announced Thursday it had canceled its 2020 celebration because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The move comes a month after the organization announced it would postpone the June celebration — billed as the largest Pride event in Florida — until the fall. St. Pete Pride was originally scheduled to take place on June 26-28. Organizers estimate that the event draws upward of 200,000 people to the Saturday parade, Sunday festival, and other events. Other Pride celebrations around the country have also been canceled, including New York, the epicenter of the virus in the U.S., and Seattle and San Francisco. St. Pete Pride said 2020 event sponsors would automatically apply next year.

Lower-priced home sales hit hardest by pandemic in Tampa Bay, new numbers show via Emily L. Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — New April home sales numbers released Thursday provide the latest window into how the pandemic has dramatically stunted the housing market — especially for people of modest means. Nationally, sales of existing homes dropped by 17.2% in April compared to last year, according to the National Association of Realtors, hitting the lowest level of monthly home sales since July 2010. In Tampa Bay, that trend was largely replicated, according to official numbers released by Florida Realtors. Hillsborough County saw an 18% drop in single-family home sales in April compared to 2019. Pinellas tumbled 27%. Pasco fared better, with a 12% decline.


Coronavirus hot spots erupt across the country; experts warn of second wave in South via Joel Achenbach, Rachel Weiner, Karin Brulliard and Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post — Several places that have been rapidly reopening their economies are in danger of a second wave of coronavirus infections over the next four weeks. Most communities in the United States should be able to avoid a second spike in the near term if residents are careful to maintain social distancing even as businesses open up and restrictions are eased. The overall national picture remains ambiguous: The daily death toll from COVID-19 is dropping, but increased activity and travel in a population that remains susceptible to infection means the coronavirus has new opportunities to spread.

Waitress Martha Valilee takes an order from Kurt and Edie Hoppe at the Boca Raton breakfast joint Tom Sawyer’s as it opens for business with social distancing. Image via AP.

TSA rolls out new security measures ahead of Memorial Day weekend” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Transportation Security Agency announced several minor changes to the agency’s security screening process. As a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19, passengers will no longer hand their boarding passes to TSA officers. Instead, passengers will be asked to place their boarding pass, paper or electronic, on the boarding pass reader themselves. Passengers are also being asked to put their carry-on food items into a clear plastic bag that will be placed into a bin during the screening process. If officers flag a traveler’s bag during the screening process, TSA may now redirect the traveler outside of the security line to remove the item themselves. The bag would then be subject to a subsequent screening.

Divided by COVID-19: Democratic U.S. areas hit three times as hard as Republican ones via Andy Sullivan of Reuters — Death rates in Democratic areas are triple those in Republican ones. U.S. counties that voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election reported 39 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 residents. Counties that voted for Republican Donald Trump, 13 of every 100,000 people had died from the virus. Democratic counties in 36 of the 50 U.S. states collectively reported higher death rates than Republican counties.

U.S. raises ante in vaccine race with $1.2 billion for Astra via John Lauerman and Suzi Ring of Bloomberg — Beset by criticism of his response to the outbreak, Trump is pushing his way toward the front of the line to secure a shot to protect Americans from the virus and allow business to resume. The U.S. has backed projects underway at Johnson & Johnson, Moderna Inc. and France’s Sanofi, fueling concerns that other parts of the world could fall behind. As companies and governments pour money into development of a vaccine, seen as a key to lifting lockdowns that have crippled economies globally, stock markets are gyrating on developments in research labs. Astra, Sanofi and others have secured funding even as their candidates for a protective jab are still in trials, with no guarantee of success.

Mask shortage for most health care workers extended into May via Lenny Bernstein and Alauna Safarpour of The Washington Post — Front-line health care workers still experienced shortages of critical equipment needed for protection from the coronavirus into early May — including nearly two-thirds who cited insufficient supplies of the face masks that filter out most airborne particles. More than 4 in 10 also saw shortages of less protective surgical masks and 36% said their supply of hand sanitizer was running low. State governments and medical facilities went to extraordinary lengths to obtain, preserve, sanitize and reuse masks designed to be disposed after a single use if necessary.

The striking racial divide in how COVID-19 has hit nursing homes via The New York Times — The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the nation’s nursing homes, sickening staff members, ravaging residents and contributing to at least 20% of the nation’s COVID-19 death toll. The impact has been felt in cities and suburbs, in large facilities and small, in poorly rated homes and in those with stellar marks. Nursing homes where African Americans and Latinos make up a significant portion of the residents, no matter their location, no matter their size, no matter their government rating, have been twice as likely to get hit by the coronavirus as those where the population is overwhelmingly white.

Workers file 2.4 million unemployment claims via Sarah Chaney and Kate King of The Wall Street Journal — Workers filed another 2.4 million unemployment claims last week, a slight drop-off in the wave of historically high weekly filings since the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic began. Meanwhile, the ranks of workers receiving benefits swelled in early May. In the week ended May 9, the number of so-called continuing claims — a proxy for overall levels of unemployment — increased to 25.1 million from 22.5 million a week earlier. The claims totals exclude hundreds of thousands of self-employed and gig-economy workers receiving unemployment benefits for the first time through a temporary coronavirus-related program.


Richard Clarida says economy may need more fiscal, monetary support via Rich Miller of Bloomberg — U.S. policymakers may need to provide the battered economy with additional support beyond the unprecedented actions they’ve already taken, Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Clarida said on Thursday. “Depending on the course the virus takes and the depth and duration of the downturn it causes, additional support from both monetary and fiscal policies may be called for,” he said in the text of a speech to be delivered to the New York Association for Business Economics. While pledging that the Fed will continue to act aggressively to counteract the economic blow from the coronavirus crisis, Clarida also stressed the limit of central bank’s support — it can only lend out money, not spend it — and said budgetary action was essential.

Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Richard Clarida believes the U.S. economy will need more fiscal support.

Big banks plan staffing limits, shift to suburbs after lockdown via Michelle F. Davis, Viren Vaghela and Natalie Wong of Bloomberg — Wall Street in the post-lockdown era is starting to take shape. Big banks are preparing offices meant for thousands to house a fraction of that number, with some of those displaced employees relocating to suburban outposts and some working from home indefinitely. Existing office configurations are ill-equipped to keep workers far enough apart to meet social-distancing guidelines, and cramped mass transit systems won’t work for those facing long commutes. At JPMorgan, some staff will be sitting at different desks, and in some cases, different floors, when they get to work and flexible seating arrangements are enacted.

Telecommuting is not the future via Helaine Olen of The Washington Post — Many observers believe huge numbers of us will continue telecommuting long after the pandemic passes. I predict that the vast majority of cubicle workers will return to the office when this is over. There are serendipitous benefits to in-person collaboration that no number of Zoom meetings or Slack channels can replicate. There is also the psychological pull of keeping workers in the same places as the boss. The workplace can be a time and emotion succubus but, it can also serve as a valuable buffer and escape from household tensions.

How the pandemic is changing shopping via Abha Bhattarai of The Washington Post — Retailers that have spent years trying to get customers to linger, in hopes they’ll buy more than they need, are re-imagining their stores for a grab-and-go future filled with deliberate purchases. Gone, they say, are the days of trying on makeup or playing with toys in the aisles. The focus now is on making shopping faster, easier and safer to accommodate long-term shifts in consumer expectations and habits. Apple is checking shoppers’ temperatures at the door. Best Buy is asking customers to shop by appointment. Macy’s and Nordstrom are doing away with beauty consultations and alteration services, while the Gap is closing off bathrooms and fitting rooms.

Frustrated Amazon shoppers vent at record levels via Jay Greene of The Washington Post — The crush of coronavirus-fueled demand for online shopping clogged Amazon’s operations, flooding it with orders from homebound customers that it was ill-prepared to handle. That led Amazon to prioritize sales of essential items, and left many third-party merchants on the site to take on shipping that the e-commerce giant had previously managed for them. Amazon shoppers are fed up with those third-party sellers on the website at levels rarely, if ever, seen. Customers, who’ve grown accustomed to speedy shipping from Amazon, are increasingly griping about delays, packages never arriving and damaged items in a flood of negative reviews.

Amazon shoppers are beginning to show more frustration over extended delays, third-party vendors, and packages that never arrive.

Seafood industry’s fragmentation makes recovery harder via Liz Crampton of POLITICO — The seafood lobby says assistance from the federal government has not been enough to help everyone along the supply chain. That is leaving fishermen, processors and distributors worried about their ability to stay in business as the economic slowdown from the pandemic ravages the industry. Various sectors are getting a $300 million boost from a coronavirus emergency aid package from Congress. In addition, the Agriculture Department has promised to buy up $70 million of catfish, haddock, pollock and redfish to distribute to food banks and nutrition programs. But fishing boats across the coastal U.S. are staying docked instead of going out to sea. Faced with dwindled demand, processors have had to scale back operations and lay off staff.

Thriving companies getting hundreds of millions in federal coronavirus tax breaks via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — Corporations across America have booked more than $7 billion in savings using tax breaks that Congress passed as part of its plan to stabilize the U.S. economy through the coronavirus crisis. The tax breaks have also rewarded some companies for mistakes they made long before the novel coronavirus emerged. If the goal of the tax breaks was to throw another coronavirus lifeline to corporations, Congress “probably could have done a little better job in terms of targeting,” said David Hasen, a University of Florida professor of tax law.


Coronavirus ‘does not spread easily’ by touching surfaces or objects, CDC says. But it still ‘may be possible.’” via Jessica Flores of USA Today — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has always warned that “it may be possible” to become infected with coronavirus by touching contaminated surfaces or objects. It just “does not spread easily” in that manner, the agency says, nor by animal-to-human contact or vice versa. The CDC still warns that the primary way the virus is spread is through person-to-person contact, even among those who are not showing any symptoms. It can live up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel.

As the nation begins virus tracing, it could learn from this New Jersey city” via Sharon Otterman of The New York Times — Twenty miles to the west of New York City, Paterson, a poor, mostly nonwhite city of about 150,000, has been tracing the virus at a level that could be the envy of larger cities. The team has been able to successfully investigate and trace about 90 percent of the more than 5,900 positive virus cases in Paterson. 306 Paterson residents have died, giving the city a death rate of 5.1 percent among those who have tested positive, compared to 7 percent statewide. The contact-tracing team mostly works from their homes, making calls and entering their interview results into the state’s communicable disease reporting system. Once a week, they put on their masks and come to the city’s small public health headquarters to confer about the crush of cases.

Paterson, New Jersey, could serve as a model to the rest of the country for coronavirus tracing. Image via

Nearly half of accounts tweeting about coronavirus are likely bots via Bobby Allyn of NPR — Researchers culled through more than 200 million tweets discussing the virus since January and found that about 45% were sent by accounts that behave more like computerized robots than humans. It is too early to say conclusively which individuals or groups are behind the bot accounts. Researchers identified more than 100 false narratives about COVID-19 that are proliferating on Twitter by accounts controlled by bots. Bogus ideas on the internet have caused real-world harm. Twitter says its automated systems have “challenged” 1.5 million accounts that were targeting discussions about COVID-19 with malicious or manipulative behavior.

Searching for a Panacea amid a pandemic: ‘We’ve been in continuous operation for 56 years — until the coronavirus’” via Craig Pittman of The Florida Phoenix — Jack Rudloe is the founder of Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory, the only tourist attraction in the coastal town of Panacea about 40 minutes south of Tallahassee. These days the various science labs that for decades have paid him to catch electric rays and other sea creatures for study have cut their orders. “We’ve been in continuous operation for 56 years — until the coronavirus,” Rudloe, 77, said. Rudloe, who launched Gulf Specimen in 1963 with encouragement from marine biology fan John Steinbeck, has been struggling to keep the doors open with just 10% of its normal income. What’s fueling its continued existence, he said, is “pure stubbornness.”


A Trump election conspiracy collapses via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Trump had complained repeatedly about election “fraud” and theft in Broward and Palm Beach counties, which had slowly but erratically updated their vote totals after polls closed on Election Day. With each updated tally, Rick Scott, who was running for U.S. Senate, and DeSantis saw their margins of victory narrow. Both races ultimately went to recounts. Scott claimed without evidence that the counts reeked of Democratic fraud, a conspiracy theory Trump amplified on Twitter. But neither Trump’s unnamed “lawyers” nor the Florida Department of Law Enforcement found evidence of a “big corruption scandal.” The state took more than 17 months to wrap up its investigation and found none of the wrongdoing alleged by Trump and Scott.

Allegations of fraud during the 2018 election floated by Donald Trump and Rick Scott fall apart due to a lack of evidence.

Trump’s promise of ‘Warp Speed’ fuels anti-vaccine movement in fertile corners of the Web via Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post — To further baseless claims about the dangers of vaccines and to portray the scientific process as reckless, critics have seized on the brisk pace promised for the project, which the Trump administration has branded “Operation Warp Speed.” Leading medical experts fear that the ability of their adherents to spread misinformation online could plant seeds of confusion and distrust in the broader public and undermine future efforts to distribute a vaccine. Online activity illustrates how anti-vaccine stalwarts have found common cause with those protesting stay-at-home measures, flocking to their demonstrations and staging their own.

Under pressure, Trump administration weighs extending National Guard deployments via Alice Miranda Ollstein and Daniel Lippman of POLITICO — Trump administration officials are preparing plans to extend the federal deployment of more than 40,000 National Guard members performing coronavirus relief work across the country, after scores of lawmakers moved to pressure Trump to keep the Guards in place past June. If Trump does not approve an extension, states will begin to lose Guard members’ services on June 10, because Guard members would have to self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to civilian life on June 24.

House and Senate lawmakers begin efforts to rework Paycheck Protection Program so businesses can have more flexibility via Erica Werner of The Washington Post — House and Senate lawmakers are preparing new legislation that would make it easier for the government to forgive emergency loans to small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic after a lobbying blitz by firms who argued they needed more assistance. The bills would give companies more time to use funding under the Paycheck Protection Program, allowing them additional flexibility to rehire workers later this year rather than rush to bring people back by June. Restaurant owners, for example, told Trump that they would like to have 24 weeks to use the money, a change the President seemed amenable to. But Congress needs to approve any such change.

Applicants with troubled pasts can’t qualify for PPP loans. Marco Rubio hopes to change that. via Shirsho Dasgupta of the Miami Herald — The Treasury Department is working with lawmakers — including Sen. Rubio — toward a compromise on changing a heavily criticized rule that excludes small business owners with any sort of criminal record from applying for certain loans from the Small Business Administration. On Mar. 27, 2020, Trump signed the bipartisan CARES Act, authorizing the SBA to implement the Payroll Protection Program. There is no mention of felony convictions in the CARES Act itself. Still, an interim SBA PPP rule excludes businesses if more than a fifth of its ownership group is in jail, on parole, under indictment or due to be arraigned, has not contested a felony charge or has been convicted of a felony in the past five years.

Marco Rubio wants to broaden the scope of PPP stimulus funds.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell to self-isolate after visiting nursing home with COVID via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Mucarsel-Powell said Thursday she would self-isolate until she receives the result of a COVID-19 test after visiting a nursing home on behalf of constituents in the Florida Keys. Mucarsel-Powell said she visited the Crystal Health and Rehab Center in Tavernier on Tuesday after hearing from the family members of residents who were upset that the facility did not immediately disclose that 15 residents and six staff members tested positive for COVID-19. After calling the facility and getting no answer, Mucarsel-Powell said she drove there and met with the facility director, who assured her that their meeting area was safe. “I was later notified that this area was unsafe and that I was possibly exposed to COVID-19, which validates my constituents’ serious concerns with this facility,” she said.


State abruptly ends teacher test fee waiver two months early via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — The Department of Education this week sent a memo to teachers announcing it had reached its goal of helping about 50,000 teachers with 100,000 tests, and the waiver would end at midnight Tuesday. In response to the pandemic, the Department of Education, in response to financial stresses caused by COVID-19, waived the fees associated with renewing educators’ credentials and, because so many testing sites were closed, extended the deadlines to meet the criteria.

Florida teacher who sparked inclusion training continued posting homophobic memes via NWF Daily News — Thomas Caggiano refused to honor a transgender student’s pronouns, telling her if she didn’t like it, to switch classes, which is precisely what she did. Outside of school, his distaste for those who identify as transgender and others in the LGBTQ community isn’t a secret, either. To this day, he publicly shares degrading memes on his personal Facebook page. Now, as the school year wraps up, he’s still teaching. Duval County Public Schools launched an inquiry into Caggiano shortly after the Times-Union shared some of his transphobic, xenophobic, and racist public social media posts. During the same time frame Caggiano was apologizing to his principal, and he and his colleagues were receiving inclusion training, the teacher was sharing transphobic posts on Facebook.

Florida high court again reverses itself on death penalty” via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press — The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday reversed its previous ruling allowing any death row inmate to challenge a sentence based on a higher standard for determining whether they are intellectually disabled. The decision marked the second time this year that the new-look court overturned one of its own decisions on the death penalty.”

Justices reverse course on disability issue via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Saying it made a “clear error” in 2016, the Florida Supreme Court scrapped a decision that gave some Death Row inmates another chance to argue that they should be shielded from execution because they have intellectual disabilities. The ruling came a week after justices tossed out a decades-old legal standard about circumstantial evidence in criminal cases, with both opinions reflecting the court’s conservative shift since early last year — and its willingness to rip up old decisions. The ruling came in an appeal by Death Row inmate Harry Franklin Phillips, convicted in the 1982 murder of a probation supervisor in Miami. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that Phillips failed to meet legal tests to prove such a disability.

Judge: Besieged domestic violence foundation must give $1.5 million in assets to state” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — A Leon County Circuit Court judge Thursday granted a request by the state that the court-appointed receiver will take control of all money, accounts, property and assets held by the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence Foundation, which was created with the sole purpose of supporting the embattled Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.”

After Margaret Good stumble, House reminds staff not to campaign on state time via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — House leadership reminded legislative staff they can’t promote their bosses’ candidacies on the clock. A cautionary memo came a week after an aide for Rep. Good came under fire for running social media on the Sarasota Democrat’s campaign for Congress. “As a reminder, legislative staff may not be paid to campaign while holding a position in a legislative office or use legislative resources for campaign purposes,” the message reads. “Examples of legislative resources include, but are not limited to, telephone lines and equipment, facsimile equipment, computers, electronic mail, copiers, printers, office supplies, and legislative employee time during work hours.”

Without being named, Margaret Good gets a warning about campaigning for Congress through her Florida House office.

Some Miami-Dade County cities are staying on top of the census. Others are falling behind via Lautaro Grinspan of the Miami Herald — Although South Florida has much to gain from a complete count in the 2020 U.S. Census — including greater political representation in Congress and billions of additional dollars in federal funding — the region’s self-response rate is lagging behind the rest of the state and the rest of the country. According to Census Bureau data, only 54.1% of households in Miami-Dade County had filled out the census as of May 17. Statewide, over 57% of households have already gotten counted. Nationwide, the number stands at 59.6%. Among the municipalities with the lowest self-response rates is the City of Miami, where only 45.6% of households have gotten counted, a nearly 15-point difference compared to the national response rate.

Brightline says local service will stay shut for months; Orlando route still on track via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — Virgin Trains USA, formerly known as Brightline, announced that it is suspending service between downtown Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach for “the coming months.” It did not say when service might resume. Meanwhile, the private rail company said it would continue construction on the link from West Palm Beach to Orlando. The company also expects to move forward with planned stations in PortMiami, Aventura and Boca Raton. Brightline’s initial March 25 hiatus brought layoffs of approximately 250 employees, including senior staff.

Fort Lauderdale to pay $18 million over incinerator that spewed toxins into predominantly black neighborhood via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Fort Lauderdale is finally ready to make reparations for a municipal incinerator that began spewing contaminants a century ago. Settling the “Baby Wingate” lawsuit will cost taxpayers $18 million — a far cry from the $150 million demanded at one point by 182 named plaintiffs. Fort Lauderdale has already spent more than $5 million fighting the lawsuit. Long ago, between the 1920s and 1950s, Fort Lauderdale operated a municipal incinerator that burned garbage, sending toxic ash through the air. That ash settled in the soil, leaving it contaminated with arsenic, dioxin and lead.

5,000 acres of Old Florida protected from development forever via Tiffini Theisen of the Orlando Sentinel — A 5,200-acre ranch about 60 miles south of Walt Disney World that’s home to Florida panthers, black bears and bald eagles is now protected forever from development. The working cattle ranch, part of a larger area that functions as the headwaters for the Florida Everglades, is located along the eastern edge of the Lake Wales Ridge in Sebring. The land, in a biodiverse region of Central Florida and the Everglades watershed, plays an important role in aquifer replenishment as well as wildlife.

2020 Lionfish Challenge kicks off Friday, winners to be announced in September in Destin via Jake Newby of the Pensacola News Journal — One thing the coronavirus pandemic won’t nix or delay is Florida’s annual Lionfish Challenge, which kicks off Friday and runs until Sept. 7. The challenge is open to recreational and commercial participants statewide. Rewards include prizes awarded for most lionfish, as well as tiered prizes based on how many lionfish are removed from Florida bodies of water. There will also be mini-challenges and biweekly raffle drawings.

— 2020 —

Trump is gambling with a resurrection, with lives and livelihoods via Peter Coy of Bloomberg — David Rocke, a mathematician at the University of California at Davis, has been watching Trump’s touting of (and now maybe even using) the rheumatism drug hydroxychloroquine, his musing about injecting disinfectants, and his egging on of armed anti-shutdown protesters all look to Rocke like a species of what game theory calls “gambling for resurrection.” If you’re behind in a game, big, bold moves can make sense, even if there’s only a small chance they will pay off. If someone does stumble on a miracle cure for COVID-19, or the national economy somehow gets going, then both Trump and the American people win. If the gambles fail, he’s no worse off because he was probably going to lose the election anyway.

Donald Trump is placing a big bet on people’s livelihoods — and lives. Image via AP.

Once again, Democrats are caught in the Trump Trap via John F. Harris of POLITICO — For critics, not speaking out against Trump’s provocations could be reasonably interpreted as complicity or cowardice. Speaking out, however, gives those provocations the centrality upon which the Trump movement depends. The pandemic has proved the adaptability and durability of Trumpism. His immediate predecessor, like many other Democrats and much of the media, has ratified the achievement. Democrats believe the pandemic and Trump’s belated and erratic response to it will be his undoing. Democrats have yet to be validated. They have not seen that “this time he’s gone too far” moment that will cause Trump backers to turn their support away from him mournfully.

Trump tries on MAGA 2.0 for a pandemic era via Anita Kumar of POLITICO — With an economic crisis gripping the nation, Trump is reprising his 2016 slogan, with a twist: Make America Great Again, Again. Trump is trying to defy history by convincing Americans he can restore a coronavirus-decimated economy and become one of the only U.S. Presidents to win reelection during a recession. His argument, which has met with skepticism from economists, is essentially: I’ve already built the economy once, I can build it a second time. “We had the greatest economy ever, and we’re going to do it again,” Trump says regularly. Trump aides and allies have told the President privately he has no choice but to focus his campaign on rebuilding the economy, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

Elizabeth Warren pivots on ‘Medicare for All’ in bid to become Joe Biden’s VP via Alex Thompson of POLITICO — Warren is striking a more harmonious chord, backing down on her call for Medicare for all. The shift is the latest public signal Warren has sent Biden’s way in recent weeks that she wants the job of vice president and wants Biden to see her as a loyal governing partner despite their past clashes, which go back decades. Warren’s governing-centric pitch is an implicit acknowledgment that the political case for choosing her is murkier than for other VP prospects.

Bernie Sanders, seeking peace with Biden, asks his own delegates to turn down the volume via Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post — Sanders, whose delegates staged a raucous rebellion against Hillary Clinton at the 2016 Democratic convention, is trying to engineer a different outcome this year — by turning down the volume on his social media-driven army of 2020 delegates. The campaign of the Senator from Vermont has told some supporters picked to represent him this year to sign agreements barring attacks on other candidates or party leaders, combative confrontations on social media, or talking to reporters without approval. The move, which carried a threat of being removed as a delegate, has the effect of blunting one of the most powerful if divisive tools of Sanders’s movement — its unrestrained online presence and tendency to stoke controversy through other media.

— 2024 — 

The presidential race Florida is really talking about” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO — In August 2018, then-Governor Rick Scott threw what appeared to be a lifeline to the man who desperately wanted to be his successor. Adam Putnam, the baby-faced scion of political and citrus royalty, was the establishment choice going into the GOP primary, but he was struggling to shake an upstart congressman who had made a name for himself on Fox News defending the president in the Russia probe. To have Scott standing beside him for a photo—both men in light-blue button-down shirts, sleeves rolled up in classic Florida-pol style—was the kind of last-minute endorsement that he hoped might salvage his candidacy.


First on #FlaPol —DEM Executive Director Jared Moskowitz to forego SD 29 bid as hurricane season approaches via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Moskowitz has decided against a run for the now-open seat in Senate District 29, choosing instead to remain at his current job leading the Division of Emergency Management. Moskowitz says he is “laser-focused” on that role as hurricane season approaches. His experience running that agency during the COVID-19 crisis, as well as his time serving communities nearby Parkland, could have made Moskowitz a formidable contender in the contest.

As hurricane season approaches, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz is staying put. Image via Andrea Melendez/The News-Press/USA Today Network Florida.

Newly-formed Democratic race for HD 48 draws key endorsement via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith weighed in on the newly-formed Democratic primary race for Florida’s House District 48 by endorsing Samuel Vilchez Santiago. Smith’s endorsement is the first major development as four Democrats entered the contest in the past few weeks seeking to replace Rep. Amy Mercado. “His story as a Venezuelan refugee who overcame adversity at a young age has already inspired many in our community and his years of experience organizing issue-driven coalitions has delivered results,” Smith said in a release.

First on #FlaPol —Former Democratic Rep. Kelly Skidmore to enter HD 81 contest via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Skidmore says she will enter the contest in a bid to succeed Rep. Tina Polsky. Polsky is running for Senate District 29, leaving her seat open. Delray Beach attorney Michael D. Weinstein is also seeking the Democratic nomination. Skidmore represented parts of Palm Beach County from 2006 to 2010. She also served as a staff member for former U.S. Rep. Ron Klein. It “I’ve never lost my passion for the legislative process and enacting good public policy, and this open seat is an opportunity for me to continue serving my community in a meaningful way,” Skidmore said.

First on #FlaPol —Oscar Braynon II won’t run for Miami Gardens Mayor via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Sen. Braynon has had a “change of heart” and will no longer launch a bid to become the next Mayor of Miami Gardens. “This week, I decided not to pursue the office of Mayor of Miami Gardens and will not qualify for it,” Braynon said. “Running for Mayor — a homecoming for me — had been my plan for many months, and I did not arrive at this conclusion lightly.” Braynon formerly served on the Miami Gardens City Council. That made a potential transition back into the Miami Gardens government a natural fit for Braynon. Braynon says he’s chosen to focus on his family rather than add to his 17 years serving as an elected official.

Oscar Braynon is forgoing a run for Miami Gardens Mayor to spend more time with his family.

More Democrats file for long-shot legislative races in 2020 via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — No Democrats currently represent the Naples area in the Florida Legislature. But Hendry County Democrat Laura Novosad just filed in HD 80, adding her name to a list of Democrats running in deep-red parts of Florida. “I’d like to see more Democrats in office,” she said. “That’s for sure.” Fergie Reid, Jr., who heads the national 90 For 90, fully expects a Democrat to qualify in all 120 House districts in Florida, and the 20 Senate seats up for grabs in 2020. That includes Katherine Norman, running against Joe Gruters for his Senate District 23 post. It also includes Kelly Johnson, who is challenging Chris Sprowls for his House seat in District 65.

Broward County mayor endorses Gregory Tony for sheriff via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward County Mayor Dale Holness endorsed Tony for sheriff, providing a lift to a campaign that has been besieged by a barrage of damaging headlines. Holness said in a statement he had been impressed with Tony’s work on a $30 million regional training center and the creation of a real-time crime center. As a first-time candidate, Tony had faced scrutiny for not disclosing on a 2005 job application with the Coral Springs Police Department that he shot and killed an 18-year-old man in 1993 when he was a teenager.


Trump’s coronavirus reaction failed America. But Congress also failed us — and it has for years. via David Jolly with NBC News — Trump was wholly unqualified for this moment. He ignored the threat of coronavirus until it was too late. He fumbled our nation’s response. He misled the public. He assigned blame and claimed glory. He failed us. As an institution, Congress failed to prepare for this moment, failed to identify this moment and failed to summon its broad powers to prevent this moment — Congresses both past and present, of both major parties. It should anger every American that Congress today holds more fundraisers annually than it does congressional hearings. Congress typically works three- and four-day workweeks and takes off up to 20 weeks a year.


Val Demings’ rise makes her a viable running mate for Biden via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — A lot of people are guessing Biden’s vice-presidential pick might be Demings. That’s a testament to how far the Orlando congresswoman has come in a short time. Just six years ago, Demings couldn’t muster enough support to stay in the Orange County mayoral race. Two years earlier, she lost her first congressional race to Daniel Webster. Demings can give a rousing stump speech, which is not a Biden strength. And her law-and-order background would blunt the usual charges that Democrats are soft on crime. Demings was on the House committee that investigated Trump’s Ukraine dealings. She was the only nonlawyer to serve as a House manager in January’s impeachment trial.

Ron DeSantis went off on COVID data manager who feared for the truth. What a big bully! via the Miami Herald editorial board — That was quite a fit DeSantis pitched in Orlando, standing next to the vice president of the United States and uncorking in front of an international audience about one Jones, a Geographic Information Systems manager at the state Department of Health. This week, she joined the ranks of America’s 36 million newly unemployed. The database came to national prominence last month when it drew praise from Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House coronavirus response team headed by Pence. The database reappeared on the national stage when Jones emailed way too many people about her troubles with her supervisors. Jones, 30, is one of the millions who have grown up in a world where people put every unfiltered thought on email and social media.

Jeff Brandes, Megan Callahan: without transportation, health care is out of reach for many via Florida Politics — Far too many of our neighbors struggle under the best of circumstances to access reliable transportation. Without transportation, medical appointments ranging from routine checkups to lifesaving treatments could be out of reach for many Floridians — especially those in underserved populations. My colleagues and I in the Legislature recognized this challenge and took the innovative approach of passing legislation that enabled brokers to partner with rideshare companies like Lyft to provide vulnerable Floridians with nonemergency medical transportation (NEMT). As we look ahead, I expect we’ll see more people have access to forward-thinking NEMT options to get to doctor appointments they may have put off over the past several months.


Florida is releasing unemployment figures for April. We could be setting all sorts of records — not in a good way.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Universal Orlando wants to reopen to the public by June 5; masks and social distancing will be required. Disney and SeaWorld are still working on their plans.

— Gov. DeSantis shut down all short-term vacation rentals when the state went into lockdown more than two months ago, but eight more counties have permission to restart those rentals. Sixteen counties have now been cleared, and vacation rentals are booming in the Panhandle.

— Unions representing schoolteachers and college professors have created two task forces to produce plans for a safe reopening of neighborhood schools and higher education. Sunrise looks at these first meetings, and why they felt the need to do them in the first place.

— The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration releases a new forecast for the upcoming hurricane season. They’re predicting an above-average number of storms, and there’s even a chance it could be extremely active … which is worse.

— With hurricane season bearing down, the head of the state emergency management agency wants to stay on the job. Moskowitz will not be running for an open Senate seat in South Florida.

— Checking in with a Florida Woman … and 14 Florida Men.

To listen, click on the image below:


Dishonorable Mention: State Rep. Chris Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, Ernest Hooper and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics and culture. The hosts discuss current events, Broadway musicals, future episode ideas, is Trump actually taking hydroxychloroquine, and Michael Jackson versus Prince! Are COVID-19 numbers being altered in Florida? Drs. Yael and Paul Leiber join the pod. Chief Scientist, Data & Social Science Dr. Paul Leiber tells what a chief scientist does during COVID-19 and why it’s more important now than ever to understand what the data is saying. Yael Leiber, a school psychologist, talks health of our kids and adults during pandemics, long term impact of germ-a-phobia, and impact on schools.

Fluent in Floridian: Florida Society of Association Executives (FSAE) President and CEO Frank Rudd discusses how FSAE is continuing to support its members during COVID-19. With more than 25 years of experience in the association industry, it’s no surprise Rudd was selected to lead FSAE. Since 2014, Rudd has helped teach other associations how to better serve their members by facilitating collaboration among association management professionals through networking and educational events, online communities and best-practice resources.

Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida: DeSantis plowed ahead with his reopening push this week as gyms, libraries and museums were cleared to welcome people again and Florida universities signaled they would reopen campuses in the fall, even as the Governor faces questions about whether coronavirus data was manipulated to support the reopening. Zac Anderson and Antonio Fins discuss the latest on reopening, the Governor’s efforts to push back more forcefully against questions about the state’s much-maligned unemployment compensation system and Rubio’s new position as the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

podcastED: On June 2, five seniors — Shawn Cuellar, Elisa Hernandez, Katherine Cabrera, Isabel Perez and Ron Mendez — will bid farewell to the school they’ve grown to love, La Progresiva Presbyterian, located in a working-class section of Miami. Principal Melissa Rego has watched each of them grow up, deal with challenges and emerge victorious. Even though their world was turned upside down by COVID-19 — no senior trip, no prom, no graduation — these students are anything but resentful. They have some regrets for what has been lost, but their eyes are trained on their futures: becoming a veterinarian, serving in the military, raising a family.

The New Abnormal from host Rick Wilson and Molly Jong-Fast: Wilson explains why he’s avoiding sushi, tea, helicopters and, perhaps, knives. Jong-Fast wonders what is going on in Michelle Malkin’s mind and unexpectedly wins an “alt-right” prize. And they talk to Daily Beast reporter Olivia Messer about her new story involving Ashton Kutcher, Joe Exotic and some rather suspect coronavirus tests. The hosts debut two new features: Breaking Dumb, and Trump Those F**kbros (or is it the other way around?)

The Yard Sign with host Jonathan Torres: Anibal David Cabrera, Jake Hoffman, Chris Verkuilen and Torres discuss the $3 trillion bailout passing the House, Andrew Cuomo’s COVID policy, Barack Obama speaks out and wonder if California is turning red.


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

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring columnist and USF Tampa Honors College professor Dan Ruth; Tom DeGeorge, owner and president of Crowbar in Ybor City and President/CEO of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce Heather Kasten.

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

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Host Holly Gregory talks one-on-one with Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to Florida about the coronavirus, the economy, and the election.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with John Rivers of 4Rivers Farms and Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Congressman Ted Yoho of Gainesville; Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville; Edward Waters College President Dr. A. Zachary Faison.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Sen. José Javier Rodriguez; Broward County Commissioner Mark Bogen and Challenge Fitness owner Amy Gol.


— ALOE —

If you’re not paying attention to late-night TV right now, you should via Robert Lloyd of the Los Angeles Times — The late-night shows have achieved a new normal: a consistent, thought-through approach to making full-service late-night television remotely, spouses running cameras and children running through a shot. They have evolved, adapted to their altered environment, with new openings and fresh graphics. Every late-night show has managed to construct a creditable version of its older self with available materials. Because host and guest are looking into a camera, we’re placed into the middle of their virtual shared space, rather than looking on from afar as a member of an audience.

“‘Snyder Cut’ of ‘Justice League’ will be released on HBO Max via Frank Pallotta of CNN Business — The “Snyder Cut,” an extended version of the 2017 superhero film from director Zack Snyder, will debut on HBO Max next year. hard-core fans have agitated online to see Snyder’s version of the film, using the hashtag #ReleasetheSnyderCut. The assumption was that it would be darker than the film that was released given Snyder’s comments and his previous work, which includes “300” and “Watchmen.” Justice League” grossed nearly $660 million worldwide. However, the movie was considered a disappointment by some fans.

A Zach Snyder director’s cut of ‘Justice League’ will be coming next year to HBO Max.

Artis — Naples gets a $1 million matching gift to help assuage COVID-19 losses via Harriet Howard Heithaus of the Naples Daily News — Artis — Naples, which took a solar plexus punch in the last three months with a $5 million income loss over the coronavirus pandemic, has new muscle: a $1 million matching gift. Board Chair Kimberly K. Querrey and her husband, Louis A. Simpson, have pledged to match all new or increased donations, up to $1 million, that come to Artis — Naples through Dec. 31. Querrey and Simpson are major supporters of Artis — Naples, the Collier County’s largest performance venue and home to the Naples Philharmonic and The Baker Museum. This new gift will be used to support operations and special initiatives related to the impact of COVID-19 in the coming months, according to a statement from Querrey.


Best wishes to our friends, Rep. Dane Eagle and Eileen Stuart of Hopping Green & Sams, as well as Sam ArdJordan Raynor andJillian Lane Wyant, chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz.


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

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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

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