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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.26.20

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

First in Sunburn — Rep. Matt Willhite will not run for state Senate District 29 — “I greatly respect and appreciate the many words of encouragement from my colleagues in the House, my constituents and supporters, fellow first responders and friends,” Willhite tells Sunburn. “While the encouragement has been humbling, my family and I have decided not to enter the race for Senate District 29. I will continue to run for reelection and be a voice for the residents of HD 86.”

Rep. Matt Wilhite is staying put, will not run for SD 29.

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Must listen — POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon is the latest guest on “Hunkering Down with Peter Schorsch.

Dixon offers a comedic and dry analysis of the current climate, rife with people opting to stay at home rather than venture out into the coronavirus world. Dixon finds the silver lining in the crisis despite it wrecking his May wedding plans. I didn’t get an invite, and I assume it’s because the date got pushed back (hint: that’s not why).

Matt and I discuss a recent analysis he penned, which speculates about a possible three-way Republican presidential primary among Florida politicians Ron DeSantis, Matt Gaetz, and Rick Scott.

We also talk about the prospects of Marco Rubio in 2024 and bed the question: Did that ship sail in 2016?

We also weigh in on the 2022 election when DeSantis faces reelection and speculates on how the 2020 presidential election outcome could play out in that race. But Dixon calls predictions at this point, “kind of stupid.”

Dixon also laments eroding transparency in the DeSantis administration and the frequency with which he’s getting crickets when he requests information.

If you’re feeling a little shy about your coronavirus belly, don’t worry, we share plenty of lamentations about our own belly flab.

Listen here.

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Save the date — The education committee of the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists is hosting an online seminar on “COVID-19: Employer Responsibilities,” which will be geared toward best practices for FAPL members. Presenting the webinar — free to members and $25 for nonmembers — is Tallahassee labor lawyer Robert Sniffen of Sniffen & Spellman, P.A. The event begins at noon, May 28. For additional information and registration, visit fapl.us/event-3842157.

— TOP STORIES —

On weekend dedicated to war dead, Donald Trump tweets insults, promotes baseless claims and plays golf via Anne Gearan of The Washington Post — As the death toll in the coronavirus pandemic neared 100,000 Americans this Memorial Day weekend, Trump derided and insulted perceived enemies and promoted a baseless conspiracy theory, in between rounds of golf. In a flurry of tweets, Trump mocked former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’s weight, ridiculed the looks of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and called former Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton a “skank.” He revived long-debunked speculation that a television host with whom Trump has feuded may have killed a woman and asserted without evidence that mail-in voting routinely produces ballot stuffing. He made little mention of the sacrifice Americans honor on Memorial Day or the grim toll of the virus.

In between bouts of rage tweeting, Donald Trump got in a little golf for Memorial Day. Image via Reuters.

Could a second wave of coronavirus trigger new stay-at-home orders? States can’t agree. via Nolan D. McCaskill and Dan Goldberg of POLITICO — Public health officials have been vocal about the risks of a second wave of COVID-19 as states reopen businesses and more people leave their homes. But unlike overseas, where several countries have moved quickly to reinstate lockdowns at the first sign of a case spike, few state or local governments have even established guidelines for when and how they would restrict activities to contain additional outbreaks. It’s not immediately clear how many states are prepared to respond to a surge in cases brought on by reopening. Some state’s reopening plans acknowledge the possibility of reversing course to protect people, while others don’t mention the threat of additional outbreaks at all.

Public remarks prompted Florida virus data curator’s firing via Brendan Farrington and Bobby Caina Calvan of The Associated Press — The woman who raised questions about Florida’s COVID-19 data after being ousted as the data’s curator had been reprimanded several times and ultimately fired for violating Health Department policy by making public remarks about the information, state records show. State health officials strenuously deny any issue with the information’s accuracy as Gov. Ron DeSantis seeks to make a data-driven case for a step-by-step reopening of the state’s battered economy following safer-at-home orders.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: I have zero interest in moving the Republican National Convention to Doral in Miami, as falsely reported by the Fake News @nytimes in order to stir up trouble. Ballroom is not nearly big enough & would like to stay in N.C., whose gov. doesn’t even know if he can let people in?

@GabrielSherman: Doesn’t baselessly accusing someone of murder violate @Twitter terms of service??

@JoeNBC: I am grateful to live in a country where most Americans listen to doctors, protect their families, and keep bending the curve. We focus too much on bad actors in Washington and around the country, but Americans have been tough and respectful of others during this crisis. #USA

@AnnCoulter: COVID gave Trump a chance to be a decent, compassionate human being (or pretending to be). But he couldn’t even do that.

@Corybe: Imagine if the media had covered the mask story as fact (masks reduce R = fact) rather than a political story (Trump’s not wearing one!) which introduces doubt and division.

@NikkiFried: Voting is a right, not a privilege, @GovRonDeSantis. The voters, the courts, and the Constitution all agree.

@NewsByAngel: Another day of frustrated Floridians surging my inboxes with pleas for help. Many say they’ve applied for @FLDEO benefits in March and still have not seen a dime. I’m continuing to send names/info to DEO and Governor’s Office.

@ChrisSprowls: Universities should not be allowed to hide their ties to the Chinese government or any foreign nation. Doing so risks our national security and our intellectual property. In Florida, we are demanding transparency. Every State government should follow suit.

@CraigTimes: Every #MemorialDay my kids’ Boy Scout troop goes out early in the morning to put flags on the graves of veterans. The work leaves us all hot & sweaty & usually makes my back hurt from bending over so much. Because of #coronavirus, we couldn’t do it today, and I really missed it.

@TCPalmEKiller: Here is your regular reminder that when you’re talking #hurricane predictions, all it takes is 1

— DAYS UNTIL —

English Premier League soccer to restart — 6; Universal Orlando begins phased reopening — 10; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 13; PGA Tour resumes with Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth — 16; “Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre” by Max Brooks released — 21; Belmont Stakes rescheduled — 25; Father’s Day — 26; Apple to hold Developer Conference — 27; “The Outpost” with Orlando Bloom and Scott Eastwood premieres — 38; Federal taxes due — 50; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 52; “Mulan” premieres — 59; TED conference rescheduled — 61; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 83; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 87; Indy 500 rescheduled — 97; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 90; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 101; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 102; Rescheduled date for French Open — 116; First presidential debate in Indiana — 127; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 130; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 137; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 142; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 143; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 150; 2020 General Election — 161; “Black Widow” premieres — 164; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 175; “No Time to Die” premieres — 182; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 211; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 413; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 432; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 528; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 626; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 658; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 711; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 864.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida coronavirus deaths top 2,300 as state reports 879 new cases via Zachary T. Sampson of the Tampa Bay Times — The counties around Tampa Bay have not reported new deaths from the novel coronavirus for two straight days. A holiday weekend, coupled with a steady thaw on pandemic closures, has offered a gasp of relief for Floridians — as epidemiologists warn residents to be vigilant, staying clear of big groups, sanitizing and wearing masks in public to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19. Florida’s numbers will be closely watched over the coming days, both by people here and disease specialists nationwide. Monday marks three weeks since DeSantis’ phased reopening began. Over the previous day, only Pinellas and Manatee added more than a dozen cases, at 14 and 13, respectively. Those two counties, which have each had serious outbreaks of the coronavirus in nursing homes.

Pensacola Beach was packed for Memorial Day weekend. Image via AP.

Fired scientist defends her COVID-19 data role, portrays Florida Dept. of Health as corrupt via Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon of Florida Today — While she specifically makes no implication that DeSantis was involved in efforts to massage or hide information on the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, Rebekah Jones paints a picture of senior FDOH officials overly eager to appease the governor and his plans to reopen the state. In an email last week, Jones said she was removed from the helm of the state’s COVID-19 dashboard as of May 5, because of her commitment to “accessibility and transparency.” Jones further alleged that she was fired for refusing to “manually change data” to favor the reopening plan. She also defended herself against what she called DeSantis’ “shocking and salacious attempt at character assassination” which she said felt like “a cheap political move to avoid discussing the real story here, which is how the COVID-19 data is now being manipulated.”

DeSantis’ ‘whack-a-mole’ approach fails the frail in nursing homes via John Pacenti and Holly Baltz of The Palm Beach Post — DeSantis’ “whack-a-mole” approach to long-term care facilities in the pandemic — as the AARP calls it — has failed. Despite the proclamations, DeSantis didn’t promptly identify outbreaks in elder care facilities and is now scrambling to stem the tide of cases and deaths, a Palm Beach Post investigation has found. Florida National Guard strike teams dispatched by DeSantis last month to test at nursing homes proved to be nothing more than a flyswatter against a viral swarm. COVID-19 fatalities linked to eldercare centers comprise nearly half the deaths in Florida and the percentage rises every day. Yet nursing homes and ALF residents and staff comprise only 2 percent of the state’s population.

Democrat state Senator says DeSantis wants working-class ‘exposed to the virus’” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis, said Sen. Vic Torres, “doesn’t want” the unemployed “to get benefits.” “He wants you to get exposed to the virus. He wants you out there. He doesn’t care what happens to you or your family,” argued the Orlando Democrat. Torres’ comments about what the Governor calls a “smart, safe, and step-by-step” reopening of the state were made on a Saturday afternoon call in support of the Joe Biden Presidential campaign.

FDA investigates lab as tens of thousands of COVID-19 test results in Florida are questioned via Bailey Gallion and Jayne O’Donnell of USA Today — Federal regulators are investigating a Texas laboratory that a Florida hospital chain dropped last week because of delayed and unreliable COVID-19 test results. AdventHealth, which has 45 hospitals in nine states, terminated its Florida contract with MicroGen DX due to concerns about the validity of some of the 60,000 tests MicroGen had processed for the system because the lab left them at room temperature for days. AdventHealth said it is notifying about 25,000 patients who got unreliable or delayed results. It is advising them to seek medical care and retesting if they tested negative but have COVID symptoms.

How COVID-19 is clouding government transparency via Jenna Bourne of WTSP — “A public record is any material made or received by a government agency that facilitates its official business … Documents, texts, emails,” Florida First Amendment Foundation President Pamela Marsh said. “We’ve found that government agencies are taking advantage of this crisis to take an exemption and sort of mold it the way they want it,” Marsh said. The pandemic has had a chilling effect on access to public information. “It’s slowed it down tremendously. Slowed it down to almost a standstill,” Marsh said. “[I’m] incredibly disappointed and scared, frankly. In a crisis like this, we should have access to as much information — accurate information, as we can get, so that we know how to protect ourselves and our families.”

— FLORIDA REOPENING —

ICYMI —Ron DeSantis: Florida’ lifting all restrictions on youth activities’ via Kirby Wilson, C.T. Bowen and Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis announced that he was ending all restrictions on youth activities across the state, including camps and youth sports. The declaration was the governor’s latest move to wake Florida from its coronavirus-induced economic slumber. DeSantis also said he would not prevent municipalities from imposing more restrictive rules. The order was light on specifics. St. Petersburg announced last week that its summer camps will proceed at a limited capacity.

Ron DeSantis is lifting the restrictions on youth activities and summer camps. Image via Twitter.

Universal Orlando to begin phased reopening June 5 via The Associated Press — Universal Orlando Resort will begin a phased reopening on June 5. DeSantis approved the reopening plan Friday with the recommendation of Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings. Park officials had presented details of their plan to the county a day earlier. The plan includes the reopening of Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal’s Volcano Bay. Universal will soon schedule team members for training on its new procedures, with limited previews in the days leading up to the public opening, when Universal will continue to manage daily attendance.

Daniel Uhlfelders’ Grim Reaper Tour gains notoriety and appearance on The Daily Show via Tom McLaughlin of the NWF Daily News — Attorney Uhlfelder has been prowling the Northwest Florida coastline dressed as the grim reaper to bring attention to the hazards of opening beaches with coronavirus still lingering. His Grim Reaper Tour has garnered national notoriety. Uhlfelder was recently interviewed by Michael Kosta and appeared with Kosta for a segment of The Daily Show. Sequestered somewhere in New York, Kosta seemed bent on making fun of Floridians flaunting the coronavirus by flocking to the state’s beaches. He even asked Uhlfelder, who agreed to unmask for the interview, if maybe state residents shouldn’t be doing something better than sunbathing at this time, like learning to read.

Daniel Uhlfelders’ Grim Reaper Tour gets some national exposure on The Daily Show. Image via Twitter.

— CORONA LOCAL —

Do detainee transfers increase COVID-19 cases? Judge orders ICE to disclose data via Monique O. Madan of the Miami Herald — A Miami federal judge has ordered U.S. immigration officials to disclose whether the government’s practice of transferring detainees from one facility to another has contributed to a worrying spike in coronavirus cases inside three South Florida detention centers. The order comes after COVID-19 cases at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Broward County skyrocketed last week after dozens of detainees were transferred there from Miami-Dade. The Department of Homeland Security confirmed that the increase in cases came after 33 detainees were transferred from Krome to BTC on May 14.

Hialeah ALF shuttered by state after dozens of staff, residents, sickened with COVID-19 via Ben Conarck, Bianca Padró Ocasio and Aaron Liebowitz of the Miami Herald — By the time Florida health officials arrived to survey the Salmos 23 V LLC assisted living facility in Hialeah, 47 residents had already been hospitalized with COVID-19. Inspectors found a facility they deemed woefully unprepared to deal with the highly contagious respiratory virus. An employee that the facility knew tested positive for the virus was taking the temperatures of other staff members entering the facility while wearing no personal protective equipment. The inspectors’ initial observation was cited in an emergency order by the state Friday night suspending the facility’s license.

The Salmos 23 ALF in Hialeah was closed by the state after dozens of staff and residents tested positive for COVID-19.

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. The medical director of the facility told inspectors she did order COVID-19 tests for the seven people. It’s not clear from the report if the tests were ever conducted. The report not only highlights the opaque nature of the communications between the facility’s management and state health officials, as well as relatives of those living inside, it adds confusion over the official number of people who have contracted COVID-19, and died from it, in the Florida Keys. The official death count from the disease in the Keys is three people since early April.

Masks mandatory: Miami-Dade beaches to reopen amid COVID-19, but with new rules via Martin Vassolo and Aaron Liebowitz of the Miami Herald — Face masks will be required to enter Miami-Dade County beaches when they reopen June 1 but not when visitors are in the water or maintaining social distance, according to a draft guide to reopen beaches circulated by the county. Sunbathing, walking and jogging will be allowed, as will the renting of beach concessions like lounge chairs and umbrellas. But no groups bigger than 10 people will be allowed to gather, and common areas like picnic tables and playgrounds will stay off-limits. Facial coverings will be required at beach restrooms and at concession stands, and access to restrooms will be limited to observe social distancing.

Back to the beach: Lifeguards prepare for reopening after coronavirus closures via Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald — Lifeguards’ essential duties won’t change but they will expand to include enforcement of social distancing rules. In their interaction with the public, they’ll be wearing N95 masks. While handling medical emergencies on the beach or adjacent roadways, they’ll don extra personal protection equipment. Water rescue protocol will stay the same — they can’t wear masks while swimming — but they’ll be more cautious about contact with a victim. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, lifeguards tried to manage rescues without physical contact.

Not just beaches: Pools in multifamily buildings can reopen June 1 in Miami-Dade via Aaron Liebowitz of the Miami Herald — Swimming pools in private multifamily buildings can reopen Monday, June 1, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced as he continues to pull back on social distancing measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The reopening date aligns with the county’s reopening of beaches. Gimenez has yet to release the rules that people will have to follow, saying only that the pool reopenings will be “subject to certain restrictions.”

Getting ripped, politically: City-county battle over gyms reopens old wounds via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The politics of the pandemic have driven a new wedge between two old adversaries: Ft. Lauderdale and Broward County. The latest trouble erupted when the city gave the go-ahead for commercial gyms to reopen Monday subject to a series of 10 safeguards and in accordance with Ron DeSantis’ full Phase I executive order. Then the county balked and said those gyms should remain closed, that the governor’s executive order gave the county the power to override the city. The fight isn’t so much about gyms as it is about intergovernmental animosity that has festered for decades between two crotchety old neighbors who just can’t get along, to the detriment of civic progress.

South Florida-based Radiation Shield Technologies now hiring seamstresses to help produce PPE via Florida Politics — Radiation Shield Technologies (RST), a company based in Miami-Dade, is looking for industrial seamstresses to help handle new and existing orders for their Demron C full-body PPE suit. “Demron C is developed from the same technology as RST’s Demron line of anti-terrorism Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) protective garments, which for years have been used by the U.S. military and many international first responders and military teams,” according to the company. “Specifically, Demron C is tailored to fit the needs of the health care and first responder community for durable, cost-effective, antiviral PPE.” The suits are reusable as well.

 

— MORE LOCAL —

NBA to Disney? Talks underway for basketball’s return in July via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A spokesman for the NBA said the league and players union are “engaged in exploratory conversations” with the Walt Disney Company to restart play in late July at the Orlando Wide World of Sports complex. The Walt Disney World location would be a one-stop-shop for games, practices, and housing for players, the league added. Should the plan come to pass, it would fulfill a policy goal of DeSantis, who has maintained during the period of economic and movement restrictions he put in place this spring that people are “starved for content” in the sports realm. DeSantis has said that college football stadiums, such as Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, could host NFL games on Sundays.

Finishing the NBA season at Disney World’s Wide World of Sports complex would fulfill a Ron DeSantis policy goal. Image via ESPNWOS.com.

SWFL food banks, pantries see up to triple-figure spikes in demand via David Dorsey, Janine Zeitlin and Rachel Fradette of the Naples Daily News — Organizations such as Harry Chapin Food Bank and other nonprofits have ramped up drive-thru distributions to ease hunger. Some have outgrown church parking lots, shifting to venues like the Lee Civic Center and Hendry-LaBelle rodeo arena to avoid traffic jams. Organizations report feeding two to 20 times more people than usual. Community Cooperative in Fort Myers served more than 800 households from mobile food pantries in April 2019. This April, it served more than 4,000. Midwest Food Bank went from handing out about 700,000 pounds of food a month to Southwest Florida agencies before the pandemic to nearly 2 million pounds in April.

Socially distant Wings of Gold: How the Navy is honoring naval aviators during COVID-19 via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — Seven people from the U.S. Navy’s HT-18 squadron at NAS Whiting Field got their wings of gold last week in a socially distant ceremony with few attendees, a far cry from the pomp and circumstance that usually accompanies one of naval aviation’s most time-honored traditions. The new aviators were “winged” by either a spouse or a close friend in a short outdoor ceremony. The Wings of Gold ceremony at Whiting signals a naval aviator’s official completion of basic helicopter training and their entrance into the “unrestricted naval aviator” territory.

Coronavirus in Leon County: 6-year-old tests positive” via CD Davidson-Hiers of the Tallahassee Democrat — The county total now stands at 372 confirmed local cases. The child encountered someone else who is positive for COVID-19, which suggests others in her family could also have the virus. A 10-year-old girl and 12-year-old girl also have tested positive for the virus in Leon County, the state reports. Of the 40 cases Monday, more than half belonged to people younger than 25 years old.  The state health department reported that more than 1,200 new tests had been administered locally, presumably within 24 hours.  The youngest person diagnosed in Leon County is a 2-year-old boy, and the oldest is an 87-year-old man.

Midtown favorites Finnegan’s Wake, Fifth and Thomas close for good via Marina Brown of the Tallahassee Democrat — The prime movers behind Midtown Tallahassee’s Finnegan’s Wake Irish bar and Fifth and Thomas music venue right next door, announced this weekend that they will not be reopening. “Our leases are expiring and the uncertainty of times going forward have contributed to this decision.” That, coupled with the governor’s call for restrictions on restaurants and bars and the general uncertainty of keeping the venues viable long-term, led to the decision that, though hard, seemed right. Even now, bars must remain closed and eateries can operate at only 50% dine-in capacity.

Assignment editors — Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf will join Congressman John Rutherford, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and other officials for a news conference on Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant program, 2:30 p.m., Jacksonville Fire Station #1, 611 North Liberty Street, Jacksonville.

— CORONA NATION —

A deadly ‘checkerboard’: COVID-19’s new surge across rural America via Reis Thebault and Abigail Hauslohner of The Washington Post — As the death toll nears 100,000, the disease caused by the virus has made a fundamental shift in who it touches and where it reaches in America. The pandemic that first struck in major metropolises is now increasingly finding its front line in the country’s rural areas; counties with acres of farmland, cramped meatpacking plants, out-of-the-way prisons, and few hospital beds. Rural counties now have some of the highest rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the country, topping even the hardest-hit New York City boroughs and signaling a new phase of the pandemic that could devastate still more of America’s most vulnerable towns as states lift stay-at-home orders.

Kansas National Guard members wait for cars during a lull in people seeking tests at a coronavirus testing site in Dodge City, Kansas. Image via AP.

Spike in D.C. numbers, crowds at Maryland, Virginia beaches and boardwalks renew coronavirus concerns via Joe Heim, Rebecca Tan, Laura Vozzella and Julie Zauzmer of The Washington Post — As the total number of coronavirus infections in the Washington region topped 90,000 and fatalities hit 3,880, a one-day spike in the District’s numbers raised questions about whether it can begin reopening as expected on Friday. The District on Sunday recorded five deaths and 144 new infections, just above the seven-day average of 141. The city had eyed May 29 as the date to gradually begin reopening following the mayor’s lengthy stay-at-home order. The stay-at-home and business closure orders were scheduled to run through June 8.

Doctors are tweeting about coronavirus to make facts go viral via Georgia Wells of The Wall Street Journal — Scientists are driven to participate on social media due to “sheer frustration with seeing the misinformation that is going out there,” said Karen James, an independent researcher and an expert in how scientists use social media. Twitter Inc., which this week said it would start labeling misleading tweets about COVID-19, also says it aims to amplify medical voices on the platform. Twitter said it has verified hundreds of COVID-19 experts globally, including scientists and academics. Verifying users adds a blue checkmark to their profiles that confer status and indicates that the company has confirmed the user’s credentials.

Administration leaves testing responsibility to states in report to Congress via Amy Goldstein of The Washington Post — The Trump administration is pledging to buy 100 million swabs by the year’s end and distribute them to states to help expand the nation’s capacity to test for the novel coronavirus. The administration’s report doubles down on the administration’s stance that individual states, not the federal government, should bear primary responsibility for carrying out diagnostic tests to help curb the pandemic. The plan arrived as the nation’s COVID-19 cases exceeded 1.6 million and deaths closed in on 100,000 — both the highest in the world.

Study estimates 24 states still have uncontrolled coronavirus spread via Joel Achenbach, Rachel Weiner and Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post — The coronavirus may still be spreading at epidemic rates in 24 states, particularly in the South and Midwest. It is a snapshot of a transitional moment in the pandemic and captures the patchwork nature across the country of COVID-19. The model shows that in the majority of states, a second wave looms if people abandon efforts to mitigate the viral spread. The model shows potentially ominous scenarios if people move around as they did previously and do so without taking precautions.

COVID-19 patients not infectious after 11 days via Yoolim Lee of Bloomberg — COVID-19 patients are no longer infectious after 11 days of getting sick even though some may still test positive, according to a new study. A positive test “does not equate to infectiousness or viable virus,” a joint research paper said. The virus “could not be isolated or cultured after day 11 of illness.” The paper was based on a study of 73 patents in Singapore. The latest findings may have implications on the country’s patient discharge policy. The discharge criteria is currently based on negative test results rather than infectiousness.

White House goal on testing nursing homes unmet via Alan Suderman of The Associated Press — Nearly two weeks ago the White House urged governors to ensure that every nursing home resident and staff member be tested for the coronavirus within 14 days. It’s not going to happen. Only a handful of states, including West Virginia and Rhode Island, have said they’ve already tested every nursing home resident. Some states aren’t even bothering to try to meet the White House’s request. Many states said the logistics, costs and workforce needs are too great to test all residents and staff in a two-week window. Some say they need another week or so, while others say they need much more time.

Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, speaks with reporters about the coronavirus. Image via AP.

U.S. to restrict travel From Brazil to stem coronavirus spread via Catherine Lucy of The Wall Street Journal — The White House imposed restrictions on travel from Brazil, a hot spot of the pandemic in the developing world. Under the new measures set for this week, foreign nationals who have been in Brazil within 14 days before trying to enter the U.S. would be banned, with some exceptions. The South American nation has the second-most confirmed COVID-19 cases after the U.S. Exemptions to the ban include lawful permanent residents of the U.S., foreign nationals who are married to a U.S. citizen and foreign nationals who are the parent or legal guardian of an underage U.S. citizen.

One final viral infusion: Trump’s move to block travel from Europe triggered chaos and a surge of passengers from the outbreak’s center via Greg Miller, Josh Dawsey and Aaron C. Davis of The Washington Post — The Trump administration’s response to the threat from Europe proved consequential to the majority of the more than 94,000 people who have died and the 1.6 million now infected in the United States. Epidemiologists contend the U.S. outbreak was driven overwhelmingly by viral strains from Europe rather than China. However, the travel mayhem was triggered by many of the same problems that plagued the U.S. response to the pandemic from the outset: Early warnings were missed or ignored. Coordination was chaotic or nonexistent. Key agencies fumbled their assignments. Many travelers were left in limbo.

The coronavirus is deadliest where Democrats live via Jennifer Medina and Robert Gebeloff of The New York Times — The devastation, in other words, has been disproportionately felt in blue America, which helps explain why people on opposing sides of a partisan divide that has intensified in the past two decades are thinking about the virus differently. Democrats are far more likely to live in counties where the virus has ravaged the community, while Republicans are more likely to live in counties that have been relatively unscathed by the illness, though they are paying an economic price. Counties won by Trump in 2016 have reported just 27 percent of the virus infections and 21 percent of the deaths. In some parts of red America, cities have been virtually unscathed and the sparsely populated outlying areas have been hardest hit.

How a small Michigan company reopened, averting a coronavirus outbreak via Steven Mufson of The Washington Post — United Precision Products was deemed an essential business and so it stayed open in March when the rest of the state shut down. Then an employee contracted the coronavirus and ended up in a hospital’s intensive care unit. When a second worker came down with virus symptoms, the company temporarily shut its doors for a week and hired a firm whose technicians came in hazmat suits and sanitized the entire place. Even papers on the desk of the vice president were sprayed and left with the edges curling upward. When the company reopened, testing commenced and positive workers were immediately sent home and told to contact their doctors immediately.

As Trump pushes for reopenings, congregations choose safety over haste via Rick Rojas and Elizabeth Dias of The New York Times — For the most part, churches across the country have not yet thrown open their doors. Instead, as in so many sectors of American life that have been disrupted, religious communities are stepping gingerly toward the post-shutdown world. The coming days bring a significant test. Many houses of worship have laid the groundwork for returning, and expect to resume some form of in-person worshipping next week. The discourse has grown increasingly political. Conservative churches in states under stay-at-home orders have pushed back against restrictions on worship, and Trump weighed in on behalf of one of his key constituencies, threatening on Friday to try to overrule governors who refuse to allow houses of worship to open.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

For economy, worst of coronavirus shutdowns may be over via Harriet Torry and Josh Mitchell of The Wall Street Journal — Truckloads are growing again. Air travel and hotel bookings are up slightly. Mortgage applications are rising. And more people are applying to open new businesses. These are among some early signs the U.S. economy is, ever so slowly, creeping back to life. Current projections have the economy contracting by 6% to 7% this year and unemployment lingering in double-digit percentages for a while. But, for the first time since the pandemic forced widespread U.S. business closures in March, it appears conditions in some corners of the economy aren’t getting worse, and might even be improving.

The latest hopeful economic signs coincide with the slow reopening of several states, including Pennsylvania. Image via AP.

Telecommuting was a hit in the COVID-19 shutdown. So who’s rushing back to the office? via Andres Viglucci and Rebecca San Juan of the Miami Herald — Having discovered the joys, savings and surprising efficacy of having employees work remotely during the pandemic, executives and workers at a broad range of law, accounting and architecture firms, banks, public relations and marketing agencies and trade and business groups say they’re perfectly content to keep doing so — at least in the near future, and quite possibly beyond. No, it probably won’t spell the end of the office, as some pundits have posited. But none of the executives who spoke to the Miami Herald are demanding that employees return to their office desks right away, with some exceptions for essential personnel who need to be in-house, like tech teams maintaining servers.

— MORE CORONA —

A new study says the malaria drug touted (and taken) by Trump looks deadly for coronavirus patients via Dan Vergano of BuzzFeed News — The malaria drug that Trump has said he is taking as a coronavirus preventive, hydroxychloroquine, was linked to a higher rate of deaths and serious heart problems. The drug, also used to treat arthritis and lupus, has emerged as a medical flashpoint in the coronavirus pandemic. Patients given a combination of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, taken with or without an antibiotic as some regimens suggested, died at a higher rate compared to the patients who didn’t get the drug.

How Russia’s coronavirus crisis got so bad via Michele A. Berdy of POLITICO — Many Russians ignored the increasingly stringent lockdown measures instituted in Moscow beginning March 25. They didn’t practice social distancing, traveled all over the city, used services that were supposed to be closed, got together with friends, sniffed, sneezed, coughed and even spat in public. Vladimir Putin has been giving addresses to the nation almost every week promising a safe deliverance from COVID-19 and aid for those who need it, but he is leaving the day-to-day decisions to local leaders and has barely left his residence outside Moscow. Russia has pledged only about 2.8 percent of GDP to aid primarily small- and medium-sized businesses. The American bailout, by contrast, is close to 10 percent of GDP so far.

No social distancing and a mistrust of authority led to Russians to ignore the stringent lockdown measures in Moscow. That led to a rampant spread of COVID-19. Image via AP.

What Ron DeSantis is reading —Coronavirus shutdowns are making golf courses an oasis for stir-crazy Americans eager to get out and tee it up via Jena McGregor of The Washington Post — Across the country, Americans remain deeply divided about leaving the house for work and leisure activities, except, apparently, when it comes to golf, giving an unexpected jolt to a sport that has seen declining popularity. It’s too early to say whether the heightened demand will continue, especially in the middle of an economic recession, or how much the cost of safety protocols will affect course revenue. Some in the golf industry are hoping that the interest in a relatively safe outdoor activity — and the expected return of the PGA Tour to television on June 11, at a time when there are few alternatives for watching live sports — could boost enthusiasm for the game.

College football’s game of chicken with state officials via Laine Higgins and Louise Radnofsky of The Wall Street Journal — The most intense event in college athletics right now is a game of chicken among conferences, universities and state officials over whether they will reopen campus in the fall — and therefore unlock the ability to begin a football season. It’s a game that is playing out in wildly different ways across the country, suggesting that a chaotic run-up to the 2020 season is ahead. Decisions rest not with athletic directors, but university presidents and their bosses — the governor of each state. None of the game’s organizing bodies — the NCAA and big conferences — has the power to dictate a consistent outcome. No one wants to be responsible for stopping the season.

Our romantic relationships are actually doing well during the pandemic, study finds via Lisa Bonos of The Washington Post — A recent poll found that most people in relationships are satisfied with them, despite the expected stresses that might come from, say, working from home together, losing a job, managing kids at home or preventing your family from getting the virus. About three-quarters of Americans with a romantic partner say their relationship has not fundamentally changed since the coronavirus outbreak. Argument frequency and sex lives have changed for the better, but only slightly. About half expect their relationship will emerge stronger — and hardly any think it’ll be worse. Married partners are more likely than unmarried ones to say their relationship has not changed. Most say their relationship isn’t adding to pandemic stress — but women are a little more affected than men.

Couples were confused about whether they could still meet up under Boris Johnson’s new lockdown rules. Image via The Telegraph.

Reopening too soon: Lessons from the deadly second wave of the 1918 flu pandemic via Adriana Usero of The Washington Post — As coronavirus lockdowns loosen and some Americans flock to restaurants, beaches, and other outdoor spaces for Memorial Day weekend, the question of reopening too quickly is striking an eerily familiar tone. The global flu epidemic of 1918 remains the deadliest on record. The research sought an answer to a key question: Was social distancing effective in 1918 as a way of slowing the spread of the disease and saving lives? In fact, statewide orders making masks mandatory and shuttering nonessential businesses were widespread in 1918. But varying levels of enforcement combined with World War I created a variety of outcomes in 1918. That fall marked the disease’s second and deadliest wave in the United States.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Trump says he’s finished hydroxychloroquine regimen to ward off COVID-19 via Courtney Subramanian of USA Today — Trump said he has finished taking his regimen of hydroxychloroquine, a controversial drug he has promoted as a treatment for the coronavirus despite warnings from the FDA and medical professionals. The president has promoted hydroxychloroquine as treatment of COVID-19 while there is little evidence that the drug has been effective to treat or prevent the coronavirus. The study found a 34% increase in the risk of mortality and a 137% increase in the risk of serious heart arrhythmia for patients who were given hydroxychloroquine.

Donald Trump has finished his regimen of hydroxychloroquine to ward off COVID-19.

Trump considers forming panel to review complaints of online bias via John D. McKinnon and Alex Leary of The Wall Street Journal — Trump is considering establishing a panel to review complaints of anticonservative bias on social media in a move that would likely draw pushback from technology companies and others. The plans are still under discussion but could include the establishment of a White House-created commission that would examine allegations of online bias and censorship. Facebook Inc., which also owns Instagram, defended its practices when asked for a response to the nascent proposal. Jon Berroya, interim president of the Internet Association, a trade group, disputed the contention that tech companies tilt left. Conservative groups in particular contend that big tech platforms engage in viewpoint bias in search rankings, news feeds, content moderation and other practices.

Trump to attend Elon Musk’s SpaceX launch in Florida via Gary Fineout and Anita Kumar of POLITICO Florida — Trump plans to travel to Kennedy Space Center in Florida Wednesday to witness the launch of the first Americans into space in nearly a decade. Two NASA astronauts will travel aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, owned by Musk, who leads SpaceX and co-founded the electric car company Tesla. The launch will mark the first time NASA will send astronauts into orbit aboard a spacecraft built by a private company. The president has heaped lavish praise on SpaceX’s owner in the past, calling Musk “one of our great geniuses” and comparing him to inventor Thomas Edison.

Bold —Rick Scott says the Bill of Rights trumps all via Eleanor Mueller of POLITICO — “All Floridians, all Americans, have a Bill of Rights, and we have a right to worship if they want to. I believe people are going to do it safely.” His comments citing the First Amendment came on the first Sunday after Trump labeled the country’s places of worship “essential” and demanded that they be allowed to reopen nationwide despite still-rising coronavirus cases and several reports of the illness spreading among congregants. Input from the president, governors and others in government “doesn’t matter,” Scott said again later. “I have the Bill of Rights, I have the right to worship at a church service if I want to do it. I don’t believe they have a right to stop me.”

No matter what Governors or Presidents say, Rick Scott believes the Bill of Rights trumps all when it comes to religious worship. Image via AP.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell tests negative for COVID-19 via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Mucarsel-Powell says she has tested negative for the novel coronavirus after possible exposure at a nursing home in the Keys. Mucarsel-Powell traveled to the Crystal Health and Rehab Center. That trip came after family members of residents expressed concern to Mucarsel-Powell that they were not notified of positive tests at that facility. Mucarsel-Powell says she went inside the facility during the visit, with permission of the facility director. Mucarsel-Powell says she was wearing a mask at the time. She announced she would enter self-quarantine as a precautionary measure. The Congresswoman argues the incident shows the need to make safety at these facilities a higher priority.

Congressional leaders push to remove gravestones with swastikas, praise for Hitler from veterans’ cemeteries via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Congressional leaders who oversee the budget for the Veterans Affairs are making a Memorial Day push for the removal of gravestones containing swastikas and praise for Adolf Hitler from veterans’ cemeteries. Outrage over the symbols representing Nazism is bipartisan. Memorial Day is to honor the nation’s war dead. The lawmakers said the presence of the swastikas and homages to Hitler don’t do that.

Happening today — Congressman Charlie Crist is hosting a virtual town hall on COVID-19. Expected to appear includes Sen. Darryl Rouson, 6:20 p.m., livestreamed at crist.house.gov.

Former U.S. Rep. Allen West out of hospital after Texas crash via The Associated Press — West was released from a Texas hospital after suffering a concussion, several fractured bones and cuts in a motorcycle crash, according to a post on his Facebook page. West, who is running for chair of the Republican Party of Texas, was driving back from a rally in Austin focused on reopening the state when the accident occurred Saturday. Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Ryan Howard troopers responded to a crash on Interstate 35. An unidentified vehicle had unsafely changed lanes in front of two motorcyclists. He said one of the motorcyclists tried to break and the rear motorcyclist crashed into the front motorcyclist. West was the motorcyclist in front, according to the DPS description of the accident.

— STATEWIDE —

Federal judge guts Florida law requiring felons to pay fines before they can vote via Amy Gardner of The Washington Post — A federal judge has gutted a Florida state law requiring felons to pay all court fines and fees before they can register to vote, clearing the way for thousands of Floridians to register in time for the November presidential election. Republican lawmakers and DeSantis pushed the measure after Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in 2018 to expand voting rights to felons who have completed “all terms of their sentence including probation and parole.” The law’s backers said it was necessary to clarify the amendment, while critics said Republicans were trying to limit the effects of a large expansion of the state’s electorate.

“’A game-changer’: Five takeaways from yesterday’s ruling on felon voting via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — The 125-page ruling covered a lot of ground and made national headlines, for several reasons. When voters in 2018 approved Amendment 4, which restored the right to vote to nonviolent felons who had completed their sentences. And the legal battle over the Legislature’s actions have become arguably the premier voting rights case in the nation. 1. It was big. But we don’t know yet how big. 2. Large groups of felons should now be eligible to vote. 3. It could affect how other states handle felon voting. 4. District Judge Robert Hinkle did not find that the Legislature’s action discriminated on the basis of race. 5. Hinkle blasted Florida officials, including the state’s top elections chief.

A federal judge ruling on ex-felon voting rights is a ‘game-changer.’

What happens if a hurricane hits during the pandemic?” via Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — A mild storm might not require many evacuations. People with newer homes built to withstand strong winds could be safer sheltering in place than leaving their homes. After a storm leaves, new concerns could emerge. Amid the economic crisis, more people could need meals, perhaps for a week or more. And electricity would likely take longer to restore because utility crews would be working under unusual conditions. If a big storm comes this summer, people in harm’s way may hear somewhat contradictory and perhaps confusing orders: Stay at home and remain socially distant from others to avoid contracting the coronavirus. But leave home, even if that means coming into closer contact with other people, to be safe during a dangerous hurricane.

Hurricane sales tax holiday could boost coronavirus-stricken businesses via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — Florida’s hurricane sales tax holiday begins Friday and it couldn’t come soon enough for businesses desperate to boost their revenue. This year’s tax holiday runs through June 4 and exempts sales tax on qualifying hurricane supplies. The holiday comes as many businesses are just reopening their doors after weeks of closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic that has crippled the economy. “These are unprecedented times,” said Edie Ousley, vice president of public affairs for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “Florida has for several years had this sales tax holiday, but I’m certain when lawmakers were finalizing the sales tax holiday for this year, they didn’t have a pandemic on their mind. Nonetheless, it’s really important for Floridians to prepare.”

Stifled by online learning during COVID-19, some Manatee parents want their kids held back via Giuseppe Sabella of the Bradenton Herald — Testing requirements and school grades were canceled for the 2019-2020 school year, and while students would be advanced to the next grade, it was ultimately the parents’ decision, DeSantis said on March 17. “Parents may, at their discretion, decide to keep their child in the same grade for the 20-21 school year,” he said at the time. Many parents have started this process of having their children held back and repeat the school year that was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Bay District Schools announces preliminary plans for returning to school via Faith Graham of MyPanhandle.com — Bay District Schools has announced their preliminary plans for returning to school for the 2020-2021 academic year. The district reviewed feedback from stakeholders, staff, and health experts with their BDS Task Force. The district has decided there will be two enrollment options for students for their preliminary plan. Option one is to return to normal instruction on school campuses all while following CDC guidelines. Option two is to enroll in Bay Virtual School. If students choose option two, they must remain a virtual student throughout the entire semester.

Students with special needs miss traditions but not therapies at Florida Catholic schools via Lisa Buie of redefinED — As schools closed from the pandemic, students at Morning Star Catholic School in Jacksonville realized what they missed most was a creature with four legs and a wet nose. Staff at the school featured Nova, a golden retriever who likes to lean into humans’ legs while being petted, in a video created to help families feel connected during distance learning. Trained by Project Chance to help students on the autism spectrum, Nova and another service dog, Corbin, have coaxed anxious students out of cars, lunched with students who met behavior goals and served as an audience to beginning readers to build their confidence.

Authorities ‘slammed’ in Daytona Beach during Memorial Day weekend with shooting, massive crowds via Lisa Maria Garza of the Orlando Sentinel — Six people were wounded Saturday in a Daytona Beach shooting as massive crowds gathered during Memorial Day weekend. Daytona Police Chief Craig Capri said two people were shot around 7:30 p.m. on South Ocean Avenue near Breakers Oceanfront Park. Police later discovered four people were hit by shrapnel during the shooting. None of the injuries are life-threatening, he said. Capri said the victims are not cooperating with the investigation and police have not arrested any suspects.

Drug distributor employees emailed a parody song about ‘pillbillies,’ documents show via Meryl Kornfield of The Washington Post — As the opioid epidemic raged in 2011, employees of drug distributor AmerisourceBergen Corp., shared an email: a parody of the theme song for “The Beverly Hillbillies,” describing how “pillbillies” drove south to obtain drugs at Florida pill mills. The email was made public this past week as part of a filing in a mammoth federal case in Cleveland, where thousands of cities, counties, Native American tribes and others have sued companies up and down the opioid supply chain.

Marco Island approves ballot language for ordinance banning recreational marijuana via Omar Rodríguez Ortiz of the Naples Daily News — Marco Island City Council approved unanimously ballot language for an ordinance which prohibits cultivating, manufacturing, warehousing, distributing and selling recreational marijuana. The vote took place on May 18 following the efforts of a local political action committee to get enough signatures to put the ordinance on the ballot. State and federal laws currently prohibit recreational marijuana. The committee excluded from the ban medical marijuana and hemp-derived products containing 0.3% or less of THC.

Scott Wilson to stick with Tommy Hazouri in City Council presidency race via Clayton Freeman of The Florida Times-Union — Wilson pledged to stand by his endorsement of Democrat Hazouri in Tuesday night’s vote for the council presidency, regardless of its effects on his own bid for Clerk of Circuit and County Courts. Wilson said he had received pressure from within Republican ranks that if he continued to back Hazouri, he would be the target of a hostile mailing drive in his coming primary campaign in the Clerk of Courts race. He declined to specify the source of the pressure, but said it came from individual Republican members rather than the party’s Duval County executive committee.

Scott Wilson doubles down on his support for Tommy Hazouri as Jacksonville City Council President.

NRA warns Leon County Tax Collector about not taking concealed weapon permit applications via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — The National Rifle Association has taken up arms against the Leon County Tax Collector’s office plan to reopen offices closed last month by the coronavirus. Tax Collector Doris Maloy triggered the standoff with an email blast last week in which she said when the service centers reopen June 1 they will limit interaction between customers and staff. That includes not processing concealed weapon license applications for first-time applicants or conducting driving skills tests. NRA Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer advises Maloy that she would be breaking the law if she opened and refused to process concealed weapon license original applications. Hammer emphasized that lawmakers had preempted all gun regulation to the state and that there are penalties for local officials who usurp that authority.

Happening today — Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper will hear arguments in a suit filed against Florida’s unemployment compensation system, 9 a.m., call-in number: 1-888-585-9008. Code: 903196275.

— 2020 —

Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina if capacity reduced via Rashaan Ayesh of Axios — Trump threatened in a series of tweets to move this summer’s Republican National Convention from Charlotte if North Carolina’s Democratic Gov., Roy Cooper, doesn’t allow the event to be held at full capacity. Mandy Cohen, the state’s health and human services secretary, said last week that the GOP should “plan for the worst” as mass gatherings will be a “very big challenge” if the number of coronavirus cases in the state continues to increase. The Democratic Party has already postponed its convention, scheduled to be held in Milwaukee, from July to August.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper was at the business end of a Donald Trump tweetstorm. Image via AP. 

Florida Republicans would welcome convention after Trump threatens to leave Charlotte via David Smiley and Steve Contorno of the Miami Herald — Florida Republicans said they would “welcome” the Republican National Convention if Trump makes good on a Twitter threat to pull the party’s seminal political event from North Carolina. A change in venue so late in the process would be difficult. One Republican fundraiser questioned whether donors who contributed to the Charlotte host committee would allow their money to be used to sponsor an event in a different state. Local officials spent $48 million in 2012 when Tampa hosted the Republican National Convention, with those costs covered by a federal security grant.

Trump sees a ‘rigged election’ ahead. Democrats see a constitutional crisis in the making. via David Siders of POLITICO — Trump threatened to withhold federal funding because of his assertion that both states were preparing to commit voter fraud through mail-in ballot applications. Then, Trump followed up Sunday with two more broadly-worded warnings that November would be “the greatest Rigged Election in history.” Trump’s increasingly amped-up rhetoric surrounding the integrity of the November election is beginning to bring to center stage a previously muted conversation. His opponents are becoming increasingly anxious that Trump may attempt to undermine the results of the election if he loses — or worse, might attempt to cling to power regardless of the outcome. The idea itself isn’t new. Dating back even before his entry into electoral politics, the president has had a long preoccupation with voter fraud and “rigged” elections.

Trump sows doubt on voting. It keeps some people up at night. via Reid J. Epstein of The New York Times — Anxiety has intensified in recent weeks as the president continues to attack the integrity of mail voting and insinuate that the election system is rigged, while his Republican allies ramp up efforts to control who can vote and how. Joe Biden, for his part, has suggested more than once that Trump might try to disrupt or delay the election. A recent comment by the president’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner about whether the election would be held as scheduled renewed fears that Trump would try to move the election, or discredit the balloting process, if he thought he was going to lose.

The pandemic has already altered how tens of millions of Americans can cast their ballots this year via Elise Viebeck of The Washington Post — In a watershed moment for American voting, nearly 30 states have changed rules or practices for this year’s primaries or the general election in response to the public health threat posed by COVID-19. The new policies affect roughly 86.6 million registered voters. With November less than six months away, the largely bipartisan wave of change has been hit by political turbulence as Trump raises unfounded doubts about the security of voting by mail and threatens to punish states where Democratic leaders are facilitating it.

“‘Always an afterthought.’ Strategists question Joe Biden strategy to win Florida Latinos via Bianca Padró Ocasio and David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Biden’s campaign this week hired a national senior Latino adviser, began to sharply attack Trump over the state’s Latino unemployment rate and moved to host regular Spanish-language virtual chats with Florida allies. Activists still worry that Biden has done too little with Hispanic voters to take back Florida from Trump. Democrats widely blamed narrow losses in races for Governor and U.S. Senate on poor Hispanic outreach. Even though polls have found Biden slightly ahead of Trump in Florida, the Hispanic vote could be critical.

Val Demings is on Biden’s VP list. She says she has the “real-life” experience for the job. via Henry Gomez of BuzzFeed News — Demings said she believes her experience as a social worker and police chief distinguishes her from other women Biden is considering for the vice-presidential nomination. Biden, a former vice president, has promised to pick a woman as his running mate and has confirmed Demings is among the “close to a dozen” his campaign is considering. Demings framed her case around what she would bring to an administration that Biden has pitched as a bridge to a new generation of leaders.

Val Demings says her ‘real-life experience’ would make her a good pick as Joe Biden’s Vice President.

Black activists warn Biden: Don’t pick Amy Klobuchar as VP via Elena Schneider of POLITICO — More than a dozen black and Latino strategists and activists warned in interviews that selecting Klobuchar would not help Biden excite black voters — and might have the opposite effect. Klobuchar would “risk losing the very base the Democrats need to win,” said Aimee Allison, founder of She the People, which promotes women of color in politics. It’s not yet clear how much the opposition of activists matters to Biden. He’s made clear that the electoral politics of his pick matters less than choosing someone who can be a governing partner and step into the top job without worry.

— MORE FROM THE TRAIL —

First in Sunburn — Amanda Makki launches’ Veterans for Makki’ coalition — Heading Veterans for Makki is Marine veteran, Matt Tito. “Pinellas County is home to thousands of veterans that fought, trained, and deployed around the world to ensure our safety and freedom at home,” the Pinellas County Republican said in a statement. “I am blessed to have his support and guidance to help ensure veterans of Pinellas County have a voice and a representative that will work for them.” Tito responded: “I am confident that Amanda is the best candidate to support President Trump’s agenda to ensure our military has the right tools to get the job done.” Lawyer and former congressional health care policy adviser Makki is seeking Florida’s 13th Congressional District currently held by Charlie Crist.

Casey Askar ties coronavirus to border wall in latest ad. via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Askar’s newest advertisement ties an immigration suspension over the pandemic to the need for a border wall. The newest spot from the Congressional candidate contrasts a computer dashboard showing coronavirus spread worldwide against cars lined up at U.S. checkpoints. The ad, entitled “Once and For All,” moves from imagery around the COVID-19 pandemic to footage of Trump standing by portions of the border wall under construction between Mexico and the U.S. Askar states in the ad that more immigrants come to America than any other country on earth. Askar himself immigrated to the United States as a child, a part of his story stressed in prior ads. His family moved to the U.S. from Iraq, fleeing the Saddam Hussein regime on the candidate’s seventh birthday.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Byron Donalds slams Joe Biden over ‘you ain’t black’ comment via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Donalds said he was upset after hearing comments Biden made Friday. “I’ve got so many emotions, so many feelings right now,” Donalds said in a clip posted to Twitter. “I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black,” Biden said. For Donalds, who kicked off his campaign for Congress by declaring himself a “Trump-supporting” “black man,” the comment hit home. Most of all, Donalds said he could not tolerate anyone’s blackness being put into question over their politics.

Ted Deutch Endorses Tina Polsky for SD 29Deutch Is endorsing Polsky to succeed Sen. Kevin Rader, joining 14 other endorsements her campaign rolled out, including Rader, Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky and gun safety activist Fred Guttenberg. Deutch’s district overlaps significantly with SD 29. “I have been tremendously impressed by Rep. Polsky’s leadership in the State House, Deutch said. “I know the voters want a fighter.  In the Senate, Tina will be exactly the kind of fierce leader we need to protect reproductive rights, fully fund our public schools, expand access to the ballot box and implement commonsense gun safety reforms.  That’s why I’m proud to stand with her in this race.”

Ted Deutch is giving the thumbs-up to Tina Polsky in SD 29.

First on #FlaPol —Kevin Rader, Lori Berman endorse Kelly Skidmore for HD 81 via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Rader and Berman are endorsing Skidmore, a former Rep., for House District 81. Skidmore is running to succeed Rep. Tina Polsky who is vacating her seat to run in Senate District 29. Skidmore previously served two terms in the House from 2006 until 2010. Rader caused a series of shuffles after he withdrew his election bid earlier this week. Skidmore announced her candidacy Thursday morning. Skidmore will be competing against Delray Beach lawyer Michael D. Weinstein for the Democratic nomination. The district leans heavily Democratic.

As COVID-19 forces campaigns to go digital, Florida Democrats lag behind GOP via Samantha J. Gross of the Tampa Bay Times — When the COVID-19 pandemic effectively shut down in-person campaign operations for the 2020 election in March, staff and volunteers to the left and the right had to quickly become strategic, nimble and most of all, 100% digital. Democrats are in the process of beefing up their digital staff by hiring 12 organizers for managing social media platforms. Democrats have a long way to go to catch up with Republicans, who have logged over 6.2 million calls to Florida voters since they switched to a virtual campaign March 12, compared to Democrats’ 1.6 million.

Broward Sheriff’s election is all about issues — not race, bigotry. There’s no argument. via Al Pollock with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The election for Sheriff of Broward County has nothing to do with bigotry or politics and everything to do with righteous facts. Gregory Tony diminishes the integrity and honor of the law enforcement profession in which employees are held to the highest standard. Tony, who uses his childhood in Philadelphia’s drug-infested neighborhood like a shield of honor to blind people to the reality of his dishonorable behavior, was not properly vetted and provided fabricated information to obtain a government position. If something is not done to remove Tony from office, it sets an unethical standard.

Hillary Clinton to hold virtual fundraiser for Sybrina Fulton campaign via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — That event will be moderated by Ruth’s List Florida President and CEO Pamela Goodman. Ruth’s List Florida endorsed Fulton in the race for the District 1 seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission. Clinton endorsed Fulton’s bid last September. “I am honored to have Secretary Clinton’s support in this race as we continue fighting for true social and economic justice for all,” Fulton said of Clinton’s fundraising help. “It’s up to each of us to be the change we want to see in the world.” Those looking to tune in to the fundraiser can sign up online. The event will begin at 3:15 p.m. Friday.

Happening today — Leon County Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey will host a teleconference hearing in a lawsuit to determine the qualifications of a candidate seeking to become the state attorney from the 8th Judicial Circuit on the November ballot. Republican candidate Brian Kramer is arguing that Democrat Beverly McCallum does not meet a constitutional requirement for the position, 1:30 p.m., call-in number: 1-877-380-5440. Code: 8502411723.

— TOP OPINION —

A plainer people in a plainer time via Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal — What we did — essentially shut down a great, complex, modern nation for two months out of concern that people would become sick — had never been tried before. It’s something new in history. We will look back on it, however, it turns out, with a certain wonder. In those two months we learned a lot. How intertwined and interconnected our economy is, how provisional, how this thing depended on that. But the biggest things I suspect we learned were internal. No matter what you do for a living, when you weren’t busy introspection knocked on the door and settled in.

— OPINIONS —

America’s seniors, sacrificed on the altar of reopening via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — For frail seniors in the United States, there simply is no haven. The unspoken, if inherent, trade-off in reopening the economy without safeguards is the lives of our elders. With flawed tests yielding false negatives of 12 percent to 40 percent, even facilities trying hardest can’t reliably fight the virus. The lack of protective equipment is also glaring. Virtually all facilities are reusing single-use equipment. Seniors are well aware that the current administration has essentially offered them up as sacrifices on the altar of economic recovery. By opening up commerce without a haven for our seniors, the Trump administration and its gubernatorial mimics have failed America’s moral test utterly.

There is one ingredient essential to reopening the economy, and still no federal plan to get it via The Washington Post editorial board — Diagnostic testing will be critical to our ability to manage lives, jobs, schools and health if there are delays in a vaccine’s development and distribution. Yet we still lack a federal strategy to get there. Diagnostic testing is important, absent a vaccine or therapy, as part of a concerted effort to identify the sick, isolate and treat them, and allow everyone else to get back to business. Right now, testing is the foundation of state decisions about reopening, yet the testing landscape is disorderly and inadequate. Another worrisome question mark is testing accuracy. Quick tests are still producing too many false-negative results.

How to safely reopen ‘closed communities’ such as Florida’s universities via Dr. William Greenough of the Tampa Bay Times — As Florida begins to reopen and the state universities plan to welcome students back to campus in the fall, we can use a less disruptive and more effective measure that has two prongs: quick tests to identify who has the coronavirus and — this is key — then rely on members of a community to locate those who might have had contact with the ones who test positive. This process can work in relatively closed communities such as universities that are less at risk. The first basic step is to promptly identify the earliest cases in any community. Then comes the hard part: Anyone who tests positive must be strictly quarantined for two to three weeks.

Believing that firing of COVID-19 data manager is a ‘nonissue’ just got a lot harder via the Florida Today editorial board — DeSantis’ explanation that the firing of Jones from the Florida Department of Health is a “nonissue,” and that she is an underqualified disgruntled employee of questionable character, just got a lot harder to believe. Jones said she deserves an investigation into what she described as efforts by DOH leadership to manipulate data to help the governor’s reopening plans. Jones gave enough cover for the governor to do the right thing: She wrote in a statement on her website, that she “never stated nor implied that the Governor was involved with asking me to manipulate, delete and hide data.”

Is Wall Street Journal right? Is Florida’ well-managed?’ It depends via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page assailed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week for seeking more federal aid to cope with the coronavirus. If the sole criterion for good management is low taxes, as the Journal’s seems to be, then Florida qualifies. But not if the standard is defined as serving and protecting the public. The multitudes of laid-off workers who couldn’t get through to Florida’s CONNECT unemployment compensation system would hardly rate Florida as favorably as the Journal does. Neither would the motorists driven to despair by the SunPass toll-collection debacle.

Florida’s state education officials have made civic literacy a joke via Bob Holladay of Florida Phoenix — Members of Florida’s State Board of Education, appointed positions that do not really require any expertise in education, amply demonstrated on the morning of May 13 when, with nary a question or a comment, they approved a controversial new rule about civic literacy requirements. Generally students are now required to “demonstrate competency in civic literacy,” under legislation passed by the Florida Legislature in 2017. Civic literacy means an understanding of history and how government works, and people my age are worried that people their age, who are going to run the country sooner instead of later, will be even worse at it than we are.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Florida has entered uncharted territory, according to the latest stats from the U.S. Department of Labor. The Sunshine State now has an unemployment rate of 12.9% — the highest since they started the current counting system back in the 1970s. There are at least 1,218,000 jobless Floridians; more than any time in state history. DeSantis reacts to those numbers, as Sunrise does another deep dive on Florida’s unemployment mess.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— DeSantis isn’t letting those jobless numbers dampen his enthusiasm for reopening the state. He’s saying it’s OK to send kids off to summer camp (as well as other outdoor activities) to get them out of the house and back into social circles.

— The Tallahassee woman who was fired by the health department after going public with her concerns about manipulating COVID-19 data does her first interview since DeSantis threw her under the bus. Although the Governor said she was fired for insubordination, Jones told CNN she was canned for refusing to change the stats to match his desire to reopen smaller counties that didn’t meet the guidelines for reopening

— The DeSantis administration loses another legal battle over the voting rights of former felons. A federal judge says the state cannot demand payment from ex-cons to get their voting rights restored if they don’t have the money. And he’s not just talking about restitution. The judge says court fines and fees are a tax and as such cannot be a precondition to the restoration of voting rights.

— Checking in with a Florida Man arrested for trying to go home. Well, actually, it was for kidnapping.

To listen, click on the image below:

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

Heading back to the drive-in via Peter Tonguette of The Wall Street Journal — Now that most entertainment can be streamed or downloaded at home, it’s easy to forget that for a century, moviegoing involved a physical journey to a movie theater — by car, by bus or on foot. Only one venue, however, actually required patrons to arrive in an automobile: the drive-in movie theater, whose enormous screens and overflowing parking lots used to be as ubiquitous as the golden arches of McDonald’s. During the pandemic, however, Americans are giving drive-ins a fresh look. The doors of multiplexes and art houses are shut, but drive-ins in all but a handful of states have been given the all-clear to start running movies again.

“‘Tenet’ trailer gives glimpse of Christopher Nolan’s mysterious new film via Lisa Respers France of CNN Entertainment — A new trailer for ‘Tenet’ has debuted in Fortnite. It’s the latest Hollywood collaboration for the game and has helped further stoke excitement for the film, directed by Nolan. Starring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, the movie remains largely a mystery since there are scant details in the trailer beyond a hint of a plot that involves espionage and time warping. One other thing not featured in the trailer? The release date.

To watch the trailer, click on the image below:

Blue Wahoos list stadium on Airbnb for $1,500 per night via Chris Bumbaca of the Pensacola News Journal — With no minor league baseball games to be played, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos are getting creative and diving into the hospitality business. The team, the Class AA affiliate of the Minnesota Twins that plays in the Southern League, listed Blue Wahoos Stadium on Airbnb, starting at $1,500 a night (plus fees). Up to 10 guests can stay at the stadium, with four bunk beds and a pair of queen-sized beds available in rooms adjacent to the clubhouse. Visitors will have full access to the stadium, including the batting cages. Per the listing, “guests are welcome to hit from home plate, play catch in the outfield, run the bases, enjoy a picnic in the outfield, or find other creative uses for the field!”

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are the great Marian Johnson of The Florida Chamber of Commerce, as well as Florida Politics contributor Mark Bergin, Jason Harrell, Mike Fischer (it’s his real birthday), Dan Krassner, and Dr. Jason Wilson. Happy birthday belatedly to Rob Johnson of The Mayernick Group and Ashley Ross of Rubin Turnbull & Associates.

___

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.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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