Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Phase Two reopening in Florida amid the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing movie theaters, bars, and casinos to operate with limited capacity.
“Those have not been operating up to this point,” DeSantis said. “They now have a pathway to do that. And if you do the dispensing and sanitation, like some other states have done.”
At a news conference at Universal Studios in Orlando, DeSantis said most of Florida is ready to enter a second reopening phase amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The next step will only be in place for 64 counties, excluding Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
The shift marks a chance to reopen bars, movie theaters, and pari-mutuel betting facilities like those owned by the Seminole Tribe. For casinos, specific reopening plans must be submitted and approved by local government jurisdictions and the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, similar to what’s expected of theme parks.
There will still be 50% occupancy limits at those locales.
Bars and pubs will only be allowed to serve seated guests and social distancing should still be accommodated. Restaurants can now seat guests at bar tops.
Other newly opening businesses include tattoo parlors, acupuncture businesses, tanning salons, and massage parlors, all of which must abide by the Department of Health guidance.
Gyms will be able to reopen at full capacity, with appropriate social distancing and sanitization.
A 50% cap remains on theaters, concert houses, auditoriums, playhouses, bowling alleys and arcades.
DeSantis said theme parks have put procedures like temperature checks in place that should be used by businesses as they move forward.
He continued to note Florida has seen no one age 18 or younger die from COVID-19 and that 85% of deaths have been patients over the age of 65.
Happening today — Thursday is the last day of a seven-day disaster preparedness sales-tax holiday. Shoppers will be able to purchase tax-free disaster supplies: Flashlights and lanterns costing $20 or less; coolers and batteries costing $30 or less; radios and tarps costing $50 or less; and generators costing $750 or less.
— AMERICA IN CRISIS —
“Minnesota murder charges upgraded for officer in death of George Floyd” via Stephen Joyce and Stacie Sherman of Bloomberg News — The murder charge against Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police department officer who was recorded kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed Floyd for more than eight minutes, was elevated to a second-degree crime. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced the upgrade.
“Three more officers are charged in Floyd’s death” via The New York Times — Minnesota officials charged three more former police officers in the death of Floyd. Ellison, the attorney general of Minnesota, announced the charges. The three, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao, were charged with aiding and abetting murder, court records show. Kueng was in custody Wednesday, county jail records show; warrants were issued for Lane and Thao.
“Donald Trump confronted Defense chief Mark Esper over comments on protests” via Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg News — Separately, the president later asked top advisers if they thought Esper could still be effective in his position, two people familiar with the discussions said. At a news conference in the afternoon, the president’s press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, tiptoed around whether Esper’s job was safe, saying only that he remained in his post. Esper met with Trump in the Oval Office after telling reporters at the Pentagon that active-duty military forces to perform law enforcement within the U.S. is “a matter of last resort” and that the National Guard was better-suited to the task.
“Ex-Defense chief Jim Mattis rips Donald Trump for dividing Americans” via Kevin Freking of The Associated Press — In an extraordinary rebuke, Mattis denounced Trump’s heavy-handed use of military force to quell protests near the White House and said his former boss was setting up a “false conflict” between the military and civilian society. “I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled,” Mattis wrote. The criticism was all the more remarkable because Mattis has generally kept a low profile since retiring as defense secretary in December 2018 to protest Trump’s Syria policy. He had declined to speak out against Trump, saying he owed the nation public silence while his former boss remained in office.
“Despite suggestions from Trump, Pentagon chief says he does not support invoking Insurrection Act” via Dan Lamothe and Missy Ryan of The Washington Post — Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said that he does not support invoking the Insurrection Act to take greater government control of the response to civil unrest across the United States, appearing to put him at odds with Trump. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Esper made his first direct public comments about the killing of Floyd, a black man whose death in police custody May 25 has ignited nationwide protests. Esper spoke as National Guard forces moved out across the country to assist state leaders in managing the upheaval, fanning fears among some of a heavy-handed or militarized response.
“In rare break, some Republicans reject Trump’s harsh response to unrest” via Carl Hulse and Emily Cochrane of The New York Times — In a rare break with Trump, multiple Senate Republicans faulted his response to civil unrest around the nation, rejecting his move to crack down on demonstrators and rushing to express sympathy with black Americans who have taken to the streets to protest police brutality against them. The day after Trump threatened to unleash the United States military to rout protesters around the nation, the reactions of Republicans, some condemning the president directly, others carefully suggesting that they held a different view, underscored the politically precarious choice they face between endorsing the president’s divisive approach or breaking with him and risking a party backlash just months before the November elections.
“CIA veterans who monitored crackdowns abroad see troubling parallels in Trump’s handling of protests” via Greg Miller of The Washington Post — The scenes have been disturbingly familiar to CIA analysts accustomed to monitoring scenes of societal unraveling abroad, the massing of protesters, the ensuing crackdowns and the awkwardly staged displays of strength by a leader determined to project authority. In interviews and posts on social media in recent days, current and former U.S. intelligence officials have expressed dismay at the similarity between events at home and the signs of decline or democratic regression they were trained to detect in other nations.
“After years of offending, Trump gets defensive about his legacy regarding black Americans” via Eugene Scott of The Washington Post — Following his controversial responses to days of anti-racism protests, Trump has sought to argue he’s done a lot for black Americans, as a way to dispel a belief held by the majority of Americans: The President of the United States is racist. More than half of Americans in a survey answered yes when asked whether they think that Trump is a racist. Trump tweeted a claim that his administration “has done more for the Black Community than any President since Abraham Lincoln.” The tweet is now pinned to the top of his account.
“Yes, the police have high approval ratings. But Americans support police reform, too.” via David Byler of The Washington Post — For decades, the police have enjoyed deep support and trust from the American people. Per Gallup, most Americans have said they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in police every year for more than 25 years. Law enforcement officers are constantly lionized in entertainment. And most Americans who have interacted with the police in the past five years say they had a “satisfactory” experience. Americans venerate the police, but that doesn’t make them blind to law enforcement’s problems and failures. According to a separate survey conducted during the early days of the protests, 61% of American adults believe that race was a major factor in Floyd’s death.
“A Minneapolis school asked people to donate food for students after looting closed stores. ‘Miles of cars’ lined up.” via Sydney Page of The Washington Post — In the aftermath of Floyd’s death, flames raged through the 3rd Precinct police station in Minneapolis. Neighborhood stores were ransacked and closed amid widespread anger and protests. A nearby middle school found many of its students and their families who live blocks from the police station were stuck without access to food. “The area has become a food desert for these families, many of whom don’t own a vehicle to drive elsewhere,” said Amy Nelson, the principal of Sanford Middle School.
“Healing through tragedy-inspired art” via CNN — In the wake of Floyd’s death, artists have been quick to respond with works that seek to memorialize, to provoke and to heal. Los Angeles-based artist and activist Nikkolas Smith is using his work to convey the message that police violence is a reality for many African Americans. In Minneapolis, Greta McLain, Xena Goldman and Cadex Herrera sprung into action to paint a wall mural at the spot where Floyd was arrested. Thirty-three-year-old Shirien Damra says she is relatively new to Instagram, but her memorial image dedicated to Floyd, “Justice for George,” has already received over three million likes since she posted it the day after Floyd was killed.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@ChadLivengood: Jim Mattis speaks: “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us … We are witnessing the consequences of 3 years without mature leadership”
—@marcorubio: The protest today in front of the U.S. Capitol was peaceful but effective. No agitators trying to steal the message Please know those inside could hear you. But change will require listening.
—@mkraju: Senate clears bill to give small-business owners more flexibility in dealing with their PPP loans. Ron Johnson had blocked bill earlier bc he wanted assurances of changes at a later time. A deal has been cut and Senate now sends bill — which House approved 417-1 — to Trump’s desk
—@GovRonDeSantis: I’m pleased to announce that the Original Phase 1 Florida counties (all except Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach) may enter Phase 2 effective Friday, June 5, 2020.
—@Rob_Bradley: Want a tat? Tattoo parlors are back! The reopening of Florida’s economy continues!
—@jessicalipscomb: The Fort Lauderdale cop who forcefully shoved a kneeling woman at a protest Sunday has been reviewed by internal affairs for using force 79 times (!!!) in just three and a half years
—@hannah_natanson: I’ve been trying to find a repeat protester for 15 minutes now for an interview. Everyone I’ve approached has said this is their first day out, & many cited the use of gas and bullets on Monday as the reason. It appears the protest is still drawing new participants on day 5.
—@Mdixon55: “The technological and administrative capabilities of the Re-employment Assistance program may struggle in the event claims volume increases in the future” This is exactly what happened as the state’s unemployment rate spiked a year-ish later
—@Jason_Garcia: Orange County — the tourist capital of Florida — collected $765,900 in hotel tax revenue in April. That’s down 97 percent from a year ago. It’s the lowest monthly total Orange County has ever collected.
—@Daniel_Sweeney: Starting off every morning with @RepJoseOliva emailing at the beginning of his daily coronavirus report “To say that we are living in extraordinary times would be quite the understatement” has become reassuring in its consistency.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Universal Orlando begins phased reopening — 1; PGA Tour resumes with Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth — 7; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 8; “Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre” by Max Brooks release — 12; Belmont Stakes rescheduled — 16; Father’s Day — 17; Apple to hold Developer Conference — 18; “The Outpost” with Orlando Bloom and Scott Eastwood premieres — 29; Disney World Magic Kingdom & Animal Kingdom to reopen — 37; Disney World Epcot and Hollywood Studios to reopen — 41; Federal taxes due — 41; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 43; “Mulan” premieres — 50; TED conference rescheduled — 52; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 74; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 78; Indy 500 rescheduled — 88; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 81; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 92; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 93; Rescheduled date for French Open — 107; First presidential debate in Indiana — 118; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 121; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 128; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 133; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 134; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 141; 2020 General Election — 152; “Black Widow” premieres — 154; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 166; “No Time to Die” premieres — 173; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 222; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 248; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 414; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 423; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 519; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 617; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 649; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 702; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 855.
— FLORIDA REAX —
“Floridians stocking up on guns, ammunition during pandemic, civil unrest” via Staci DaSilva of WFLA — A global pandemic and a nationwide reckoning on race and police brutality has lead Floridians to their local gun shop. “In light of everything going on, now is the time,” said David Guillermo, who lives in Lakeland. With images of violence across the country and a new baby to protect, he found himself at a Polk County gun store. “I just want us to be able to protect ourselves if things were to go how they have been in New York and Lakeland the other day,” said Guillermo. “Hopefully I never have to use my gun but I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.” A peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Munn Park led to unrest a few blocks away Sunday. The next day, Sheriff Grady Judd issued a warning for looters about Polk County gun owners.
“Nighttime clashes end a day of otherwise peaceful protests in Tampa Bay” via Josh Fiallo, Anastasia Dawson, Caitlin Johnston, Tracey McManus, Justine Griffin, Divya Kumar, Jay Cridlin and Christopher Spata of the Tampa Bay Times — Protests in Tampa and St. Petersburg took a chaotic turn around midnight when police in both cities dispersed crowds with force. In the heart of downtown Tampa, officers deployed nonlethal rounds, smoke grenades and pepper canisters. Near St. Petersburg police headquarters, they used smoke and what appeared to be flash-bangs. Dozens of protesters fled, angry and screaming. Dozens were taken into custody. The clashes ended a day of largely peaceful demonstrations across Tampa Bay, as protesters took to the streets in St. Petersburg, Tampa, Riverview and Plant City in the afternoon.
“Two reporters for Tampa Bay Times placed in zip ties while covering protests” via Dennis Joyce of the Tampa Bay Times — Two reporters for the Tampa Bay Times were placed in Zip Ties and briefly detained during late-night demonstrations, one in St. Petersburg and one in Tampa. In Tampa, reporter Divya Kumar was detained as police closed in on demonstrators after declaring an unlawful assembly near Joe Chillura Courthouse Square. Kumar was kept with her hands in Zip Ties for 10 to 15 minutes after midnight before officers released her. In St. Petersburg, reporter Jay Cridlin was detained when St. Petersburg police and Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies closed in on demonstrators after they were told to leave the area of police headquarters on First Avenue North.
“Protests continue in Orlando area after new charges filed against Minneapolis officers in George Floyd’s death” via Cristobal Reyes, Katie Rice and Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel — Floyd protests extended beyond the Orlando metro area Wednesday, with groups gathering in Clermont and DeLand. Meanwhile, the Orlando Police Department prepared for more activity later in the day in the heart of the city. A small group gathered at Earl Brown Park in DeLand on Wednesday afternoon for a Black Lives Matter rally. The rally originally was scheduled to be held closer to downtown DeLand before it was moved to Earl Brown Park. The latest demonstrations come after the Minnesota state attorney general, Ellison, announced he’d elevate the murder charge against former Minneapolis police officer Chauvin from third-degree murder to second-degree.
“Downtown Orlando now under 8 p.m. curfew after another night of conflict between protesters, police” via Monivette Cordeiro and Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel — Downtown Orlando is now under a nightly curfew starting at 8 p.m., city officials announced Wednesday, following another night in which police and protesters clashed after sunset. Police Chief Orlando Rolón said 28 people had been arrested Tuesday night. The arrests were mostly for disorderly conduct and violating the curfew. The earlier curfew will be enforced between Tampa Avenue to the west and Summerlin Avenue to the east and between West Colonial Drive to the north and State Road 408 to the south. The rest of the city is still on a 10 p.m. nightly curfew. “This will be in an effort to obviously help us address the unruliness of the few that are capitalizing on this opportunity,” Rolón said.
“Orlando Police Chief says rocks, bottles, a brick prompted tear gas” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Rolón said tear gas was used on protesters at City Hall after rocks, bottles and a brick were thrown at police officers. Rolón and Mayor Buddy Dyer insisted the city saw many hours of large, peaceful protests, and things did not break down into violence until late, as the city’s 10 p.m. curfew was going into effect and police were asking people to leave. Orlando now is tightening the curfew to 8 p.m. for the central city. Rolón said his officers responded with force only because they were attacked Tuesday night. Twenty-eight people were arrested.
“Orlando pastor to lead ‘walk of mourning’ Friday for black lives lost” via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel — Pastor Tim Johnson of Orlando World Outreach Center and fellow faith and community leaders will hold a “walk of mourning and restoration” Friday for the black men and women who have lost their lives to social injustice. “This is not a march. This is not a demonstration. This is not a protest,” Johnson said. “This is a walk to mourn those who have been the victim of injustice in our nation. We must mourn together to heal together.” Other participants include Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill, Pastor Derrick McRae of Experience Christian Center and Roderick Zak, president of the African American Council of Christian Clergy.
“Man arrested after Orlando Police say he tried to stab officers with syringe during Floyd protests” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando Police arrested a man they say tried to use a syringe to stab officers during the massive George Floyd protests downtown on Tuesday night. Ramsey Keith Moore, 29, of Orlando was arrested and charged with attempted aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon, police said. A news release said Moore tried to stab police officers with an exposed syringe, but that it was not known if the needle had been used, or what the contents of the needle were. Police say the incident happened as protesters gathered near the intersection of Robinson Street and Rosalind Avenue near Lake Eola around 7:30 p.m.
“Orange County Democratic chair: ‘If it takes broke glass’” they via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Orange County Democratic Party Chair Wes Hodge is drawing strong reactions for a Facebook exchange he had with a prominent Central Florida Republican. “If it takes a little broken glass to prevent another black man from losing his life, then break the damn glass,” Hodge replied to Randy Ross. “Glass can be replaced.” Orange County Republicans, including Ross, are calling Hodge out, accusing him of advocating lawlessness and violence. Hodge insisted he does not and has not advocated any violence against people, or looting. But he said the notion that protests need to be entirely peaceful mischaracterizes both the protests’ underlying anger and frustration, and the history of civil unrest being a real agent for real change.
“Trooper’s ‘respect and humanity’ diffused tense standoff in Boca Raton” via Jorge Milian of The Palm Beach Post — On one side, more than 200 people protesting the killing of Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer marched eastbound on Glades Road, intent on taking their demonstration onto Interstate 95. On the other side stood dozens of Florida Highway Patrol troopers, dressed in riot gear and just as intent on keeping the protest from moving onto the highway. A potentially tense situation ended with Florida Highway Patrol Capt. Roger Reyes ordering his troopers to take a knee alongside the protesters to show “respect for their demonstration and the cause they believe in.”
“‘They ignited the situation’: Fort Lauderdale police cracked skull of peaceful protester” via Sarah Blaskey and Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald — LaToya Ratlieff was stumbling away from a cloud of tear gas in downtown Fort Lauderdale choking, coughing and trying not to vomit, when a police officer shot a foam rubber bullet at her head. The round, traveling more than twice the speed of a Major League fastball, smashed into her face just above the right eye, opening up a bloody gash. The impact brought Ratlieff, who was attending an anti-police brutality protest, to her knees. Her eye started to swell shut. Her eye socket was fractured, her medical records show.
“Fort Lauderdale commissioner condemns suspended police officer” via Rebecca Schneid of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A Fort Lauderdale commissioner questioned the discipline of one police officer while praising the actions of another near the end of a peaceful protest that turned violent over the weekend. Commissioner Robert McKinzie condemned the actions of Officer Steven Pohorence, who was suspended after a video showed him shoving a kneeling protester. “In the past, we didn’t wait a second, we’ve fired those guys right away,” McKinzie said in the commission meeting held on video conference. Police Chief Rick Maglione said the department did what it could do now, suspending Pohorence. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating Pohorence’s actions.
“Officer accused of pushing teen during protest has 71 use of force cases on file” via Sanela Sabovic of Local10.com — Fort Lauderdale police officer Steven Pohorence who is accused of pushing a 19-year-old woman during a protest over the weekend has 71 use of force cases on his personnel file. Fort Lauderdale police spokeswoman Casey Liening said that Internal Affairs automatically looks into a case when an officer notes in their report that the use of force was required regardless of whether a complaint was made. According to Internal Affairs investigators, there have been at least 51 incidents in which Pohorence has drawn his gun. His personnel file shows an allegation of unnecessary force and false arrest was made, and in another report, a man accused Pohorence of racially profiling him during a traffic stop.
“Dozens rally on University Avenue against police violence, racism” via Emily Mavrakis of the Gainesville Sun — After word got around social media, more than 60 people joined the two University of Florida students on the corner of West University Avenue and Northwest 13th Street to protest police violence and stand in solidarity with the black community. The group of protesters, mostly UF students and other young adults, held signs that said: “n justice, no peace,” “tolerating racism is racism,” and “police the police.” Many cars passed by with drivers honking in a show of solidarity. The only show of dissent came early on from a woman passing in a car who shouted “Love Trump,” out the window, presumably in response to one protester’s T-shirt, which had something less nice to say about the President.
“GPD, ASO focus on limited restraint tactics” via Sarah Nelson of the Gainesville Sun — In the wake of Floyd’s death while in police custody, law enforcement officials in Alachua County say that officers and deputies are trained to use only enough force to protect themselves while controlling the situation. But neither the Gainesville Police Department nor the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office explicitly forbids holds such as kneeling on a subject’s neck. In Gainesville and Alachua County, officers are trained to avoid a suspect’s neck or head when a person is under arrest. But in cases where a suspect is not complying with orders, any use of force by a law enforcement official must be relative or equal, to the type of resistance from a suspect, according to local officials.
“Jacksonville faith leaders pray, demand justice for police abuse victims and accountability in officer-involved shootings” via Teresa Stepzinski of The Florida Times-Union — A diverse group of Jacksonville religious leaders came together in a prayer conference vigil Wednesday demanding reforms to ensure genuine accountability and transparency, including the creation of a citizen’s council to investigate Jacksonville Sheriff Office police-involved shootings. The faith leaders, along with community activists, gathered on the front steps of Sheriff’s Office headquarters downtown to call for justice for Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, who they described as the victims of “white supremacist killings.” Floyd, Taylor and Arbery were black and the police officers or former officers accused of killing them are white. Their deaths have set off both peaceful demonstrations as well as violent unrest in Jacksonville and other major cities nationwide.
“‘Change … must happen now,’ says Jaguars owner Shad Khan in op-ed on racism, inequality” via John Reid of The Florida Times-Union — Jaguars owner Khan issued an op-ed on social injustice and racism Wednesday, detailing that the events of the past 10 days have been alarming and disheartening. Alarming he wrote, because we know the history of systemic inequity that brought us to this point, not only with the recent killing of Floyd and other African Americans in our country, but also the disproportionate impact the coronavirus has wreaked in communities of color. ″Disheartening because this familiar sequence of killing, followed by protest and civic unrest, followed by inactivity and silence, occurs ever more frequently in our nation.″ Khan said the video capturing the final moments of Floyd’s life offered the latest horrific evidence of injustice in the United States.
“West Palm admits using canister of tear gas on downtown protesters” via Tony Doris of The Palm Beach Post — Responding to witness accounts, West Palm Beach officials Wednesday retracted earlier statements that police didn’t fire tear gas when downtown protests turned violent Sunday night. The city website said police deployed one canister of tear gas and six smoke canisters as they dealt with confrontations at the end of a day of demonstrations calling for justice in the death of Floyd. The tear gas was fired by mistake, Police Chief Frank Adderley said. Both the tear gas and the smoke canisters serve as eye irritants. Mayor Keith James and Adderley on Monday denied an account by downtown restaurateur Rodney Mayo, who said he witnessed the use of tear gas and rubber bullets.
“Man charged with inciting riot, threatening to fight WPB deputy police chief” via Eliot Kleinberg of The Palm Beach Post — A Jacksonville man is the third person in recent days to be hit by West Palm Beach police with the rare charge of “inciting a riot” after officers said he challenged the deputy chief to a fight and egged on demonstrators. The arrest comes as Palm Beach County, and the nation, continue to protest the death of Floyd, at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis. The “incitement” charge by West Palm Beach against Anthony Richard Couse III, is a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Couse also is charged with assault on an officer and resisting arrest without violence.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Senate President: Investigating DOH’s handling of COVID-19 cases would be ‘imprudent and premature’” via Katie LaGrone of Fox 4 — A week after two Florida Senators publicly requested an investigation into transparency concerns within Florida’s Department of Health, the state’s Senate President responds by refusing to get involved. In a letter to Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, a Democrat from Miami, Senate President Bill Galvano states, “it would be imprudent and premature for the legislature to intervene in the midst of a global pandemic.” Since February, Rodriguez said he’s been concerned about the department’s apparent unwillingness to release public health data related to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Florida gets high marks, praise from association, on nursing home COVID-19 efforts” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — God’s waiting room, as DeSantis awkwardly called Florida, is doing far better than most states in protecting nursing home residents from the coronavirus crisis, a federal report and a state association declared. A new report from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services shows that Florida is well below the national average in the per capita number of nursing home cases and deaths among both nursing home residents and staff. Florida has seen 39.8 COVID-19 cases per thousand nursing home residents and 17.9 COVID-19 related deaths per 1,000 residents. That is well below the national average of 62 cases and 27.5 deaths per 1,000 nursing home residents. The report led the Florida Health Care Association to laud Florida’s overall response to the COVID-19 crisis in long-term care centers.
— FLORIDA REOPENING —
“‘All in’: DeSantis ready for NBA at Disney” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis‘ hoop dreams may become realities, with the National Basketball Association, poised to resume its modified season at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. “Let’s just say this: I’m all in from the state’s perspective,” DeSantis told reporters. “I don’t think you can find a better place than Orlando to do this.” The NBA is looking at a 22-team, eight-game season to determine playoff seeding, before moving forward with the playoffs. “I think people are hungry for this,” DeSantis said. “I think they are going to bring more and more fans into the fold and I think here in Orlando would be a great place to do it.”
“Universal Orlando passholders get sneak peek of theme parks’ reopening” via Dewayne Bevil and Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Universal Orlando’s annual passholders grabbed an early look at the future of theme parks Wednesday. They saw new ways of navigating the attractions, boarded rides with sanitized hands, and posed for selfies while 6 feet away from the “Scooby-Doo” gang outfitted in face coverings. The previews, which continue Thursday for passholders, are part of the buildup for Friday’s reopening of Universal’s parks. Wednesday’s visitors were greeted with new restrictions and regulations including temperature screenings, face-covering requirements and pleas to maintain distance between traveling parties. Theme parks around the world are implementing similar health and safety measures.
“New toolkit maps out path to recovery for Tampa Bay Area businesses” via Allison Koehler of 83 Degrees Media — To help stimulate the recovery of the local economy, business, academic, and community leaders in the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County have put together a plan designed to get people back to work safely. The Back to Business Hillsborough Toolkit outlines user-friendly resources needed to resume operations safely. The goal is to restore not only confidence in staff but also customer confidence while adhering to current health and safety guidelines provided by federal, state, and local government agencies.
Happening today — The University of Florida Board of Trustees will hold the first of two days of online meetings for a COVID-19 update and discussion of a university reopening strategy, 9 a.m. Call-in number: 1-646-558-8656. Call-in code: 98654434873.
“No joke: Comedy clubs in Naples, Fort Myers lead arts venues in reopening” via Dave Osborn of the Naples Daily News — Laughter possibly has never been needed more than now. And as Southwest Florida beaches, restaurants and stores began to reopen in recent weeks, comedy clubs have led other entertainment venues in welcoming back customers. Laugh-In Comedy Cafe in Fort Myers reopened more than a month ago, while Off The Hook Comedy Club in North Naples returned May 21. “Actually, we’ve had nice crowds,” said Brien Spina, Off The Hook owner. The club requires its servers to wear masks and gloves and undergo a temperature check before their shift. Patrons are not required to do so but must submit to an infrared temperature check before being seated.
“911 dispatchers left at the mercy of coronavirus as agency’s response faltered” via Megan O’Matz and Brittany Wallman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — “Your safety is our top priority,” a boss reassured employees in the crowded confines of Broward County’s three 911 centers in mid-March. She assured them the agency’s chief concern was protecting them from getting sick. But the Sheriff’s Office also had another priority: keeping dispatchers working. And in two months’ time, 44 of them would contract COVID-19. One of them, a mother of four, would die. An internal trove of emails shows just how unprepared and unsure Sheriff’s Office leaders were in confronting the coronavirus posed to its emergency dispatch operators, who had no choice but to report to work. Their anguish and fear are evident throughout the messages.
“Instead of ‘pomp and circumstance,’ Class of 2020 graduates with pandemic and protest” via Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — The generation born into the chaos of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks will unceremoniously crown their high school experience June 3 of a historically trying year. Their not-so-fond memories will be drive-by graduations and Zoom ceremonies. It’s the last day of school for everyone else in public school, too. The Class of 2020 will have much to say about what it was like to embark into a very real world at this time, but it won’t be like anything graduates imagined. Society at large, often running on fumes of nostalgia for simpler times, feels their pain. Teachers, administrators, radio stations and the super-famous have all tried to dull the ache.
— MORE LOCAL —
“Orange County tourist tax disappears almost entirely” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Orange County’s tourist tax revenue all but vanished in April as the coronavirus crisis and the ensuing shutdowns emptied the county’s hotels, motels and vacation rentals. The county’s tourist development tax proceeds fell an astonishing 97% in April compared with the previous April’s normal totals. In April, Orange County collected $765,900 in bed taxes. In April 2019, the county collected $25,894,600.
“County mask policy still on, following federal judge ruling” via Emily Mavrakis of the Gainesville Sun — A federal judge ruled on a second case involving Alachua County’s mask mandate, and denied an injunction to end the policy. County spokesman Mark Sexton said Judge Mark Walker of the U.S. District Court Northern District Florida denied the motion on all counts. Raemi Glenn-Eagle, an attorney for the case’s five plaintiffs, said the case served as a catalyst that led to the amendment of the county’s original ordinance language. “The county has broadened the language so that you don’t need a doctor’s note or need to share private medical information in order to be allowed inside a store,” Glenn-Eagle said. She said the plaintiffs will need to decide whether to pursue an appeal.
“Jacksonville cinema offers a return to drive-in glory days” via Matt Soergel of The Florida Times-Union — Drive-in days returned to Northeast Florida as the independent Sun-Ray Cinema in Riverside ventured out to the Callahan Speedway to show a well-aged, Southern-fried classic movie under the stars. Burt Reynolds’ 1977 hit, “Smokey and the Bandit,” played on a 32-foot wide LED screen built for the event, with the sound coming over the radio of the 100 cars allowed in. The show was a quick sellout in these shutdown days, as was the movie shown the next night, “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Tickets to both were gone within nine hours of being offered, said Tim Massett, who with his wife owns Sun-Ray Cinema, which had to cancel its regular schedule as the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States.
“Assisted living facility faces moratorium on admissions” via News Service of Florida — State regulators this week hit a Lakeland assisted-living facility with an admissions moratorium after the facility failed to take proper safeguards following the hospitalization of 33 of its residents because of COVID-19. The state Agency for Health Care Administration on Tuesday issued the moratorium on admissions at Grace Manor at Lake Morton. The agency surveyed the facility Monday and found that a resident who had recently tested positive for COVID-19 was seated in the common dining room waiting for his food. The resident was not wearing personal protective equipment and was seated near three other residents and three staff members. “In this instance, the respondent has demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to implement proactive action to protect residents,” the order reads.
“St. Johns County drug court presses on through pandemic” via Sheldon Gardner of The Florida Times-Union — St. Johns County drug court has managed to keep going during the coronavirus threat despite not being considered a “critical” part of the court operations, drug court Judge Alexander Christine Jr. said. For 10 people in May, that meant they were able to graduate from the program The program takes seriously addicted, nonviolent felony defendants and puts them into an intensive drug treatment and accountability program with counseling, drug testing and a number of other requirements to help them succeed.
“SAT testing cancellations leave families in Bright Futures limbo” via Christen Kelley of The Florida Times-Union — With SAT and ACT testing dates canceled due to COVID-19, many St. Johns County graduates are wondering how they’ll be able to qualify for a Bright Futures Scholarship in time. College Board has canceled nationwide SAT dates until August, and while the ACT is expected to hold one more testing date June 13, that’s cutting it close for the Bright Futures deadline of June 30. The number of testing sites has also been slashed, including in St. Johns County where school campuses are remaining shuttered until June 15.
“Horse industry gallops back in Marion County as coronavirus lockdown eases” via Carlos Medina of the Orlando Sentinel — The horse industry in Marion County is gearing up for its return after lockdowns brought on by the coronavirus pandemic caused events to be canceled en masse. The first back is Ocala Breeders’ Sales, which begins its four-day sale of 2-year-old thoroughbreds Tuesday, June 9. The sale lists more than 1,300 horses for sale, about the same number that the canceled April sale usually draws. The pandemic forced the cancellation of auctions, and live racing, including the postponement of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
— CORONA NATION —
“Trump administration selects five companies as the most likely to produce a vaccine.” via The New York Times — The Trump administration has selected five companies as the most likely candidates to produce a vaccine for the coronavirus, senior officials said, a critical step in the White House’s effort to deliver on its promise of being able to start widespread inoculation of Americans by the end of the year. By winnowing the field in weeks from a pool of about a dozen companies, the government is betting that it can identify the most promising vaccine projects at an early stage, speed along the process of determining which will work and ensure that the winner or winners can be quickly manufactured in huge quantities and distributed across the country.
“Hydroxychloroquine, a drug promoted by Trump, failed to prevent healthy people from getting COVID-19 in trial” via Laurie McGinley and Ariana Eunjung Cha of The Washington Post — Hydroxychloroquine did not prevent healthy people exposed to COVID-19 from getting the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to a study being published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study is the first randomized clinical trial that tested the antimalarial drug as a preventive measure, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School who conducted the trial. It showed that hydroxychloroquine, which has been touted by Trump, was no more effective than a placebo, in this case, a vitamin in protecting people exposed to COVID-19.
“Deborah Birx warns against ‘false sense of security’ that outbreak will wane this summer” via Sarah Owermohle of POLITICO — The United States should not expect the coronavirus outbreak to wane over the summer, White House coronavirus coordinator Birx said. “None of us can be lulled into this false sense of security that the cases may go down this summer.” She added that American leaders are preparing actively for the possibility of finding and containing future outbreaks. Much of that will come from state and city efforts to trace contacts and implement surveillance. She said the pandemic, which has infected more than 6 million people worldwide, has been a “wake-up call” for the developed world on the resources and coordination needed to fight a global disease outbreak.
“The number of confirmed cases is rising in 16 states, partly a consequence of expanded testing.” via The New York Times — Police brutality, protests and unrest may have knocked the pandemic from the lead of many U.S. newscasts, but the outbreak is continuing to spread. Even as some Northeast states are seeing improvements, daily case numbers are reaching new highs in others. That is partly a consequence of the country’s vastly expanded testing capacity. Earlier in the pandemic, when test kits were scarce, many people who contracted the virus were not tested and not included in official counts.
“ER visits drop amid coronavirus pandemic” via News Service of Florida — The number of emergency room visits nationally between March 29 and April 25 decreased 42% compared to the previous year, but the number of visits for infectious-disease screenings or exposures increased fourfold, according to a report released Wednesday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of emergency department visits averaged 1.2 million per week during the period, down from an average of 2.1 million visits during the same period last year. The lowest number of emergency room visits occurred during the period from April 12 to April 18, the report said. And while visits increased during the week of May 24 to May 30, they still were 26% less than during the same time in 2019.
“CDC unveils new grading system for cruise ships. It could help crew get home” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — Two and a half months after the cruise industry shut down, the U.S. CDC and the world’s largest cruise companies are nearly in agreement about how to limit COVID-19 outbreaks on ships while cruises remain banned. The CDC is nearing the end of its review of health and safety plans submitted in April by South Florida-based cruise ship companies. The plans outlining how the companies will detect, prevent and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus at sea while cruises are stopped. Companies may be required to put crew members in single-occupancy cabins (as most are already doing), close all group venues, and mandate face coverings for all crew.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Senate passes small business loan revamp, overcoming resistance” via Zachary Warmbrodt of POLITICO — The bill, passed by unanimous consent, would relax rules under the $670 billion Paycheck Protection Program to give borrowers more time to spend the money and use it on a broader set of expenses while still qualifying to have the loans forgiven — a key feature offered in exchange for employers maintaining payrolls. The House last week passed the bill in a 417-1 vote. Passing the bill proved to be a challenge for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Republicans resisted at first. The bill would also give businesses greater flexibility in where they use the money by lowering the amount they must spend on payroll to qualify for full loan forgiveness — to 60% instead of 75%.
“Tourism grants face cuts due to hotel downturn” via Dave Berman of Florida Today — A plunge in hotel business this spring because of the coronavirus pandemic likely will lead to cutbacks in tourism grants for environmental projects to clean up the Indian River Lagoon, as well as for grants to arts and cultural organizations and events. Money for these grants comes from Brevard County’s 5% Tourist Development Tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals. Space Coast Office of Tourism Executive Director Peter Cranis expects Brevard County will receive $10.6 million from the tax in the current budget year that ends Sept. 30, down from his initial projection of $16.6 million, an estimate he made at the beginning of the budget year before COVID-19 became an issue.
“Consumer confidence levels off in Florida” via John Hielscher of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Consumer confidence among Floridians held steady in May after plunging the previous two months as the state economy shut down from the coronavirus pandemic. While consumers were more optimistic about spending money on a big-ticket item, they remained concerned about their current personal finances and the future of the U.S. economy, according to the University of Florida’s Consumer Sentiment Index. In May, the state confidence index inched up one-tenth of a point to 76.4, tracking the slight increase seen at the national level.
“Florida’s medical marijuana market flourishes amid the pandemic” via Prosper Bakiny of The Motley Fool — Florida has long been one of the most important cannabis markets in the U.S., and even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the medical cannabis market continues to flourish there. According to Marijuana Business Daily, demand seems to be higher now in the Sunshine State than it was before the outbreak started. Florida, like most states that have marijuana dispensaries, has categorized them as “essential businesses,” which allowed them to remain open amid emergency measures. The average number of ounces dispensed increased significantly starting in mid-March.
“Hillsborough to set $3 million in grants for businesses damaged in protests” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — Hillsborough County is setting aside $3 million to aid small businesses damaged when public protests turned into looting and vandalism Saturday night. The program will allow up to $50,000 to approximately 60 businesses to make repairs or replace stolen inventory. To qualify, the businesses must be privately held or a sole proprietorship, independently owned and employ less than 25 full-time workers. The Hillsborough County Commission will be asked to approve the program Wednesday.
“Cinema chain AMC warns it might not survive pandemic” via The Associated Press — Movie theater chain AMC warned that it might not survive the coronavirus pandemic, which has shuttered its theaters and led film studios to explore releasing more movies directly to viewers over the internet. All of AMC’s theaters are shut down through June, which means the company isn’t generating any revenue. AMC said it had enough cash to reopen its theaters this summer, as it plans to do. But if it’s not allowed to reopen, it will need more money, which it may not be able to borrow. The company said that even when local governments allow theaters to reopen, AMC may still have problems if entertainment companies delay releasing new films.
“Darden Restaurants CEO resumes taking $1 million annual salary as company ‘building momentum’” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando-based Darden Restaurants CEO Gene Lee is receiving his $1 million annual base salary again as the company recovers from the coronavirus pandemic. Lee’s salary was restored Monday, more than two months after he gave it up in March, a Securities and Exchange Commission document shows. The parent company of Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and other chain restaurants has opened 70% of its dining rooms after closing because of the pandemic. The company will provide an update on how many of its employees have gone back to work during its earnings call in three weeks. Pay reductions for staffers at the Orlando headquarters ended May 31.
“Why some women call this recession a ‘shecession’” via Alisha Haridasani Gupta of The New York Times — The unemployment numbers confirmed what we had all anticipated: The economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic is staggering, or as one research analyst at Bank of America put it, “literally off the charts.” The scale of the crisis is unlike anything since the Great Depression. And for the first time in decades, this crisis has a predominantly nonwhite, female face. “I think we should go ahead and call this a ‘shecession,’” said C. Nicole Mason, president and chief executive of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, in a nod to the 2008 recession that came to be known as the “mancession” because more men were affected. Women accounted for 55% of the 20.5 million jobs lost in April.
— MORE CORONA —
What José Oliva is reading — “Man behind Sweden’s controversial virus strategy admits mistakes” via Rafaela Lindeberg of Bloomberg — Sweden’s top epidemiologist has admitted his strategy to fight COVID-19 resulted in too many deaths, after persuading his country to avoid a strict lockdown. “If we were to encounter the same illness with the same knowledge that we have today, I think our response would land somewhere in between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world has done,” Anders Tegnell said. Tegnell is the brains behind Sweden’s approach to fighting the virus. Gatherings of more than 50 people continue to be banned, but throughout the crisis, Swedes have been able to visit restaurants, go shopping, attend gyms and send children under 16 to school. At 43 deaths per 100,000, Sweden’s mortality rate is among the highest globally.
“U.S. news organizations focus on lives lost in the pandemic” via David Bauder and Hillel Italie of The Associated Press — Many are familiar with some of the boldfaced names of people who died of COVID-19. Most of the pandemic victims aren’t known beyond family, friends and neighbors. The milestone recently reached was a number simple to emblazon in a newspaper, website, and television headlines, 100,000 people in the United States dead from the new coronavirus. Yet since the pandemic started, the nation’s obituary writers have tried to tell the world about the disease’s less famous victims, to make clear there’s a life behind every number.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Trump administration to block Chinese airlines from flying to the U.S.” via Niraj Chokshi and Ana Swanson of The New York Times — The Trump administration said that it would block Chinese passenger airlines from flying into or out of the United States starting June 16 in response to a similar ban by the Chinese government on American companies. The aviation dispute threatens to further chill economic relations and disrupt business ties between the United States and China. Flights between the countries were already sharply curtailed by the pandemic and Chinese restrictions on foreign airlines that effectively halted trips by United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and American Airlines, the major U.S. carriers that go there. China’s aviation regulators said March 26 that they would limit foreign carriers to one flight per week.
“Mark Zuckerberg rejects employee calls to act on Trump posts” via Steven Overly of POLITICO — Zuckerberg stood firm against employees calling for the company to take action against inflammatory posts from Trump, saying on an internal call that his decision to leave them untouched was supported by the social network’s policies. Zuckerberg’s defense came during a private question-and-answer session with employees of the sprawling social network, according to two people on the call. Originally scheduled for Thursday, the call was moved to earlier in the week in response to a swell of employee unrest. The Facebook chief’s continued defense of his decision despite growing censure illustrates his increased willingness to stand behind a politically divisive, and for some, unpopular opinion regardless of the fallout.
“Trump tried to register to vote in Florida using an out-of-state address” via Manuel Roig-Franzia of The Washington Post — The September 2019 registration application listed Trump’s legal residence as 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. That created a potential problem for Trump: Florida law requires voters to be legal residents of the state. A month later, Trump resubmitted his application to use a Florida address and in March he voted by mail in Florida’s Republican primary. The revisions complicate Trump’s own record as a voter at a time when the president has made unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in mail-in balloting. Trump’s original voter-registration application was filed during a time when the president was making a highly publicized move to change his permanent residence from his Manhattan penthouse to Mar-a-Lago.
“Marco Rubio vows to ‘confront the lingering cancer of racial inequality” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Rubio is not, he said, ignorant of root causes of these protests. “This time we must not fail to admit & confront the lingering cancer of racial inequality. Protests demanding this are both a right & a necessity,” Rubio tweeted Tuesday, adding that “there is no right & can be no tolerance for using protests as cover to commit crimes or foment anarchy.” While it’s unclear how Rubio would confront and address that issue, the seeds for the tweet may have been planted in a Twitter exchange hours before with Luther Campbell, a Miami writer and activist who achieved national prominence decades ago with the 2 Live Crew. Campbell appealed to Rubio to “do something great.”
“Mike Waltz backs Trump, says National Guard needed to restore order” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Waltz addressed evening’s protests, seemingly ameliorated in some areas by more than 20,000 deployed National Guard troops in 28 states and the District of Columbia. Waltz noted the Guard works for the governors, who will “deploy and support much like our mission to support border security” to help law enforcement with “logistics, transportation, and other tasks.” But the President of the United States has ultimate authority if lower authorities fail to act, he said.
“Alianza for Progress demands congressional investigation of David Rivera Venezuela deal” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Alianza for Progress, a Latinx advocacy group, says Congress should investigate a deal between Rivera‘s consulting firm and a Venezuela oil company. The group also called out Rubio, a longtime ally of Rivera’s who now serves as interim chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Rivera’s firm, Interamerican Consulting, agreed to a $50 million deal with Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., an oil company that was then connected to the Nicolás Maduro regime.
— STATEWIDE —
“DeSantis was warned of unemployment system woes in 2018” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida —DeSantis’ own transition team warned that the failure of Florida’s unemployment system was among “potential threats” his administration should address, sounding the alarm more than a year before the system collapsed. DeSantis has said he was caught off guard by the failure, but in a memo written during his transition in December 2018, the system was flagged as one of three “potential threats” facing the Department of Economic Opportunity. “The technological and administrative capabilities of the Reemployment Assistance program may struggle in the event claims volume increases in the future,” read the memo written by Ken Lawson, who now is the Governor’s executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity.
“Newest member of Florida Supremes has thin resume, but good optics” via Noreen Marcus of the Florida Bulldog — DeSantis’ choice of Renatha Francis appears to have more to do with conservative politics and good optics than with merit. While she’s never tried a case, she’s a black Jamaican American — the first ever to reach the Florida Supreme Court. Perhaps more important, Francis has the imprimatur of membership and activity in the Federalist Society, the conservative judge-making juggernaut that Trump, among others, looks to for nominees. The court decides issues of life and death, including death penalty cases, interprets the Constitution and state laws, and strives to achieve the equal application of the law throughout Florida’s judicial system. Some well-regarded critics challenge Francis’s readiness to master the complex issues the justices must unravel.
“The DeSantis road going nowhere so far” via Phil Fernandez of the Naples Daily News — Hit the highway, DOT. That’s largely been the reaction at multiple online meetings being held to discuss toll roads the state Department of Transportation has been mandated to construct by DeSantis. Green flagged by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and fueled by the Republican Governor, the legislature drove the projects through at the end of the 2019 Legislative Session. The southernmost freeway would connect the Everglades area and eastern Collier County to metro Orlando and may use the existing State Road 29 right of way for that route. SR 29 borders federal parks like the Big Cypress National Preserve and the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge. That concept has drawn mostly criticism from the very same people who live in those affected areas
“Nikki Fried asks Trump to continue processing timber worker visas” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Fried sent a letter to Trump, requesting the administration continue processing seasonal work visas. “I write to you today as Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture on behalf of our state’s forest industry to request you continue to recognize the importance of maintaining H-2B visa processing that provides the nonimmigrant labor this essential industry needs to remain productive,” Fried wrote. Fried added that the temporary worker visas are critical to U.S. agriculture, timber and forestry, particularly in Florida. The industry has faced several economic impacts in recent years including COVID-19 and retaliatory tariffs from China.
“Plan for remote civil jury trials moves forward” via the News Service of Florida — In a part of what the Florida Supreme Court describes as a “major historical shift,” five judicial circuits have been tapped for a pilot program aimed at using remote technology to conduct civil jury trials. They are the 4th Judicial Circuit, made up of Duval, Clay and Nassau counties; the 7th Judicial Circuit, made up of St. Johns, Flagler, Putnam and Volusia counties; the 9th Judicial Circuit made up of Orange and Osceola counties; the 11th Judicial Circuit in Miami-Dade County; and the 20th Judicial Circuit, made up of Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, and Lee counties. While jury trials have been suspended throughout the state, judges are using online technology and conference calls to conduct many types of proceedings.
“Life insurance search law upheld” via Jim Saunders of News Service of Florida — A divided appeals court upheld the constitutionality of a 2016 state law that put new requirements on life-insurance companies to try to determine whether policyholders have died and to contact beneficiaries. The 2-1 decision by a panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal overturned a ruling by a Leon County circuit judge, who said part of the law violated companies’ constitutional due-process rights. That part of the law applied the new requirements retroactively to policies dating back as far as 1992. But Wednesday’s opinion said changes in the law are “consistent with the remedial purpose of Florida’s unclaimed property laws, supporting the conclusion — as intended by the Legislature — that they apply retroactively.”
“Court won’t ask justices to take up rental platform fight” via the News Service of Florida — A divided appeals court won’t ask the Florida Supreme Court to take up a dispute about whether Airbnb and similar vacation-rental platforms are required to collect and send in county tourist-development taxes. Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon asked the 4th District Court of Appeal to take a step known as certifying a “question of great public importance” to the Supreme Court. But in a 2-1 decision, the appeals court rejected the request. The court in March sided with the vacation-rental platforms in the dispute over the collection of so-called “bed taxes.” The case centers on whether the online platforms, which serve as a sort of high-tech middleman between property owners and renters, should also collect and send in taxes.
Happening today — The Florida State University Board of Trustees will hold an online meeting on the 2020-2021 operating budget among other issues, 9 a.m. For access information, contact email@example.com.
“In Clearwater, graves from another lost black cemetery have been found” via Paul Guzzo of the Tampa Bay Times — Those who grew up in the community of Clearwater Heights were raised on the rumor that unmarked graves were not exhumed when the all-black St. Matthew Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery was moved in the 1950s. That rumor appears to be a fact. In February, archaeologists rolled ground-penetrating radar across the site of the former cemetery. Archaeologists detected 70 “possible graves” that are still there. The radar detected objects that are the shape and depth of graves located on land that was once a cemetery. Still, archaeologists typically classify such findings as “possible graves” or “grave-like objects” until they can dig into the earth to verify the radar’s data.
“Bonnet House Inc. takes title to the Bonnet House estate” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Fort Lauderdale’s Bonnet House is now in the hands of a local nonprofit. The historical landmark had been at the center of a feud between Bonnet House Museum & Gardens and the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. Nearly 40 years ago, the house’s owner, Evelyn Bartlett, placed Bonnet House in the hands of the Florida Trust, believing the Tallahassee nonprofit would honor her wishes to keep the estate and all its revenue under local management. Thanks to the nonprofit’s widespread public support and deft representation by Maxine Streeter of Genovese Joblove & Battista, a settlement was reached earlier this year.
“Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office gets $5 million for 40 new officers” via Teresa Stepzinski of The Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville has received a $5 million federal grant to hire 40 police officers for community policing programs. The money is among $20,875,000 in grant funding through the U.S. Department Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program. The grants were awarded to 14 law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. Middle District of Florida and will allow for the hiring of 167 additional full-time law enforcement officers. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office received the largest allotment, but officials there couldn’t be reached for comment about when to expect the new officers to be on the streets. Clay County received $625,000 for five officers, while Nassau County got $500,000 for four officers, according to the Justice Department.
“Brightline commuter plan panned by Mayor and Tri-Rail, but advances into county talks” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Tri-Rail and Miami-Dade’s Mayor said it would cost the public too much to accept Brightline’s proposal to collect about $60 million a year to operate a county commuter line between Miami and Aventura. But county commissioners still endorsed asking the administration to negotiate a better deal with the for-profit rail company to create the line once planned as a coastal Tri-Rail route. By a lopsided vote, commissioners authorized the Carlos Giménez administration to negotiate for a five-station line. Only Barbara Jordan and Xavier Suarez voted no.
— 2020 —
“Pro-Democrat PAC accuses Trump of voter fraud” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Pro-Democrat PAC American Bridge is calling out Trump after a Washington Post report found Trump attempted to register to vote in Florida while using an out-of-state address. State law requires Florida voters to be in-state residents. “Donald Trump is always projecting and that’s clearly no different when it comes to his dangerous, unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud,” American Bridge spokesperson Jeb Fain argued. The Washington Post reported Trump originally registered to vote in Florida on Sept. 27 of last year. A later application listed Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort as his primary address, leading to Trump’s application being approved.
“With the country in turmoil, Trump’s and Joe Biden’s first stops are to their faithful blocs” via Eugene Scott of The Washington Post — Both leading presidential candidates have prioritized signaling to their most loyal voting blocs that they are best positioned to be the moral leader that America needs. In both cases, those blocs largely consist of voters of faith. Nearly 80% of black Protestants plan to vote Democratic in November. And 75% of white evangelicals and half of white Christians overall plan to vote for Trump. Trump’s success in 2016 also came in part because of white evangelicals.
“Biden leads nationwide, but swing states are another story” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A new survey shows Biden and Trump are neck-and-neck in six presidential battleground states including in Florida. Florida results show Biden earning 48% of the vote and Trump 45%. The survey was conducted from Friday, May 29 to Sunday, May 31 as protests against the killing of Floyd began to expand nationwide. The poll leaves out much of the impact from its respective responses from both Biden and Trump. The survey does, however, show the President’s strength in the battleground states most likely to decide the election when compared to Trump’s standing overall.
“Biden sees fundraising surge in wake of Floyd’s death and Trump’s response to protests” via Brian Schwartz of CNBC — Biden’s campaign for president is seeing a surge in fundraising in the wake of Floyd’s death, particularly as Trump comes under scrutiny for his response to protests across the country. Biden supporters and bundlers have seen a massive uptick in new contributions and donor commitments since the protests began. Fundraisers said that they have each helped to raise between $200,000 and more than $1 million over the past week. In some cases, bundlers say they are raising money at a much faster clip than they had in similar lengths of time. Some are seeing individual fundraising highs compared with the same points in time in previous election cycles.
“Biden running ads in Florida based on Floyd responses” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Biden‘s campaign is running a digital ad in Florida based spotlighting the nation’s response to the Floyd slaying and his Philadelphia speech on that Tuesday. The new 60-second digital commercial “Build The Future” is running on social media in key battleground states including Florida. The spot mixes dramatic images and video from protests, Trump‘s Monday photo-op at the St. John’s Episcopal Church, a White House appearing under siege, white nationalists marching in Charlottesville in 2017, Biden meeting with black leaders and protesters, and delivering his crisis address in Philadelphia. “The country is crying out for leadership, leadership that can unite us, leadership that can bring us together,” he declares in the ad.
— MORE FROM THE TRAIL —
“Democrat challenging Brian Mast endorsed by district’s former congressman” via Christine Stapleton of The Palm Beach Post — Oz Vazquez, the Democrat challenging Mast for the U.S. House seat covering northern Palm Beach and Martin counties, has picked up an endorsement from former Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who represented the district between 2013-2017. Vazquez, the son of Cuban and Colombian immigrants, grew up in Port Saint Lucie. After graduating from Harvard Law, Vazquez worked as a union-side labor attorney, defended seniors and retirees, and served as a Deputy Solicitor General for the State of Florida.
Bob Cortes hires Hunter Lamirande as campaign manager in HD 30 — Former Rep. Cortes has brought on Lamirande to serve as campaign manager for his bid to retake his former District 30 seat in the Florida House. “Hunter is the right person to lead this campaign and help me communicate to the voters across House District 30,” said Cortes, a Republican. “I look forward to working with him to bring our message of more job growth and greater opportunity for all of our region’s residents.” Lamirande is the founder of Point Blank Political and has worked in political consulting for the past 6 years. “I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be joining Team Cortes as the campaign manager,” he said. “Over these next few months, we’ll work consistently to reach out and listen to residents throughout District 30 and win back the seat.”
“Democratic House candidate raises funding to target GOP leadership” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Miami Democrat Bob Lynch will rally financial support for underfunded candidates running for the Legislature on a pro-science message. A candidate in House District 116 challenging Republican Rep. Daniel Perez, Lynch is also donating to candidates in other House races through the state. That included donating $1,000 this weekend to Lisa Stortsrom, the Democrat challenging Venice Republican Rep. James Buchanan. He’s also donating to Kelly Johnson, the Democrat challenging Speaker-Designate Chris Sprowls in House District 85. And he wrote a check to Katherine Norman, a Democrat challenging Republican Party of Florida Chair Joe Gruters.
“Tom Lee endorses Chad Chronister” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — “I support the Sheriff and the men and women he has deputized to keep our community safe. Fighting crime isn’t easy and COVID-19 has presented some unique and unprecedented challenged to our entire community,” Lee, a former Senate President, said. “Through it all, Sheriff Chronister has worked tirelessly, day in and out, to uphold the oath he took to enforce our laws and keep us safe.” Chronister faces former Sheriff’s detective Charles Boswell in the Republican primary. Two Democrats are running for their party’s nomination — Gary Pruitt and Ronald McMullen.
“Joe Abruzzo weighing run for Palm Beach County Clerk” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Abruzzo turned down a run to return to the Senate, the former lawmaker now says he’s considering a campaign to be the next Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller. “This is a public service job I have been looking at for many years,” Abruzzo said in a statement to Florida Politics. “My time in the Senate and the House mirrored much of the responsibilities at the state level of this office,” he said. Abruzzo, a former member of the Coast Guard, most recently represented House District 81 from 2016-2018, which covers portions of southern Palm Beach County.
“Shawn Foster is running for Pasco Republican committeeman” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Foster, a former U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis staffer, is running for Pasco County Republican Committeeman, he announced. “I graduated high school in 1987 and I vividly remember President Reagan’s ‘tear down that wall’ speech,” Foster said. “I am a Reagan Republican and a strong believer in limited government, lower taxes, gun rights, and a firm hand in foreign affairs. Ronald Reagan believed in a country where the government’s role should be limited to the things expressly mentioned in the constitution, focused especially on defending individual liberties.” Two dozen current and former elected officials have already endorsed Foster, including incoming House Speaker Chris Sprowls. Tax Collector Mike Fasano also offered his support.
— TOP OPINION —
“I cannot remain silent” via Mike Mullen for The Atlantic — Whatever Trump’s goal in conducting his visit to St. John’s Church, he laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife, and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces. While no one should ever condone the violence, vandalism, and looting that has exploded across our city streets, neither should anyone lose sight of the larger and deeper concerns about institutional racism that have ignited this rage.
— OPINIONS —
“Steve King was Trump before Trump. It’s good news that Republicans just ousted him.” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — Before there was Trump, there was King. First elected to Congress in 2002, the Iowa Republican found that his brand of anti-immigrant and frequently racist nationalism had traction in the GOP, enough to make him a thorn in the side of Republican leadership and to defeat attempts at immigration reform. “I’m here to support Steve King, a special guy, a smart person with really the right views on almost everything,” Trump said at an event in Iowa for King in October 2014. They were so like-minded “we don’t really have to compare notes,” Trump added, previewing what would become his campaign slogan. On Tuesday night, Republican voters in Iowa ousted King in a primary.
“The police report to me, but I knew I couldn’t protect my son” via Keisha Lance Bottoms with The New York Times — As mayor of Atlanta, the chief of police reports to me, in that moment, I knew what every other parent to a black child in America knows: I could not protect my son. To anyone who saw him, he was simply who he is, a black man-child in the promised land that we all know as America. With each passing second separating me from the peace of mind a mother feels having secured the safety of her children, I could not waste minutes articulating all of those things to my son. I thought of his adoption process, when my husband and I were told there was no wait for black boys. I wondered then if this country’s fear and too frequent hatred of black men began, even subconsciously, at their birth.
“Please stop showing the video of Floyd’s death” via Melanye Price of The New York Times — The nation’s attention has turned again to images that show how law enforcement can be weaponized against black people. These videos are necessary not only because they generate outrage among whites, outrage that is ever-present for African-Americans. But also because the political leaders empowered to stop this are not outraged enough. There is an ethical question though. The news media must rethink their decisions to binge broadcast these images and reconsider how much of the content should be shown. Additionally, citizens need to think more critically about whether to share them on social media.
“The best white statement to make right now may be to shut up and listen” via Molly Roberts of The Washington Post — A lot of white people seem to have determined that the best way not to take up space amid this week’s protests is, well, to take up space. Instagram was bathed in black boxes, a mass demonstration that in its most popular form involved posting an empty image and otherwise remaining silent to allow long-quelled voices finally to rise. And except that even without hashtags, those posts were still clogging people’s feeds with their conspicuous presence, at best bringing some comfort to their peers of color and at worst just showing off their own morality.
“Let’s not create our own tragedy in Tampa Bay” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — The demonstrations in Tampa and St. Petersburg took a markedly bleaker turn as law enforcement in both cities cracked down on what has been a week of largely peaceful protests. It’s vital that Tampa Bay not compound that injustice by sparking our own tragedy however inadvertently. Hundreds of local residents marched in the streets again, expressing their outrage over Floyd’s death and larger concerns about police brutality and racial profiling. The protests ended in chaos after police in both cities dispersed the crowds with force. They fired smoke grenades, pepper canisters and nonlethal rounds in Tampa, and deployed smoke and what appeared to be flash-bangs in St. Petersburg. Dozens of people were taken into custody.
“Dear police, protesters and people online: Let journalists work” via Stephanie Hayes of the Tampa Bay Times — All over the country, journalists have been handcuffed, harassed or injured while covering protests over the death of Floyd. Tampa police detained Kumar after she repeatedly identified herself as a Tampa Bay Times journalist and showed credentials. An officer on a bicycle knocked her to the ground and zip-tied her. In St. Petersburg, Cridlin identified himself verbally, wore a press badge and wrote “press” on his face mask. Officers zip-tied him and forced him to the ground. They were both released a short time later. Journalists are not above the law, and we are not out to break it or interfere. But we are essential workers and have exemptions when there are curfews.
“Pursuing Republican convention for Florida is a fool’s errand” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — While we await the puff of smoke to signal where/if the Republican National Convention will move, maybe to Jacksonville or Orlando, consider a few things. In 2012, an estimated 50,000 visitors came to the Tampa Bay area for the RNC. About 20,000 attended the acceptance speech by nominee Mitt Romney inside what is now Amalie Arena. Meanwhile, consider the voice of experience. Bob Buckhorn was Mayor of Tampa when the Republicans came to town. “Planning for the 2012 convention in Tampa was literally part of our daily agenda for two years,” he said. “I am surprised anyone would think they could pull something like this off in less than three months. There are just so many long, detailed, complicated issues and many moving parts.”
“Diversity of thought is vanishing at Florida Supreme Court” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — DeSantis has appointed two more Florida Supreme Court justices who are members of the Federalist Society, a private organization with virtually exclusive access to seats on the highest courts of our state and nation. You can expect the appointments of Francis and John Couriel to make Florida’s highest court even more stridently conservative than it has lately become. DeSantis, a Federalist himself, promised the Society’s state convention that he would do just that. The practice of appointing judges who pass political or ideological litmus tests is commonly called court-packing. Republicans consistently deplore it unless they’re the ones doing it.
“Why the secrecy? Florida and other states slow to reveal COVID-19 spending” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Taxpayers are spending billions to confront the coronavirus on the front lines buying medical supplies, protective equipment and other essential gear. But even months into the pandemic, many states including Florida are withholding details about what they’re buying and who they’re paying. The scramble began in March as the scope of the outbreak became increasingly clear. The rush was understandable. Disclosure helps keep vendors accountable both for keeping their prices in check and delivering as promised in the rush of spending.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Florida’s Department of Health is reporting a spike of COVID-19 cases. Nevertheless, that did not stop Gov. DeSantis from announcing most of Florida is about to enter Phase Two of the recovery.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— There were more than 1,300 new confirmed cases of coronavirus Wednesday — the largest one-day increase since mid-April. Thirty-six more deaths were reported, bringing the latest total to 2,650 fatalities in the Sunshine State.
— More violence reported across the state in protests of police brutality, while DeSantis thanks peaceful demonstrators and saying rioting will not be tolerated. He’s also sending 500 soldiers from the Florida National Guard to help provide security in and around Washington D.C.
— Florida politicians are lining up to denounce the cops who killed Floyd. DeSantis calls it murder. Same with Sen. Rubio, who says it’s time to deal with America’s racial problem.
— The United Faculty of Florida releases its plan for the safe reopening of state colleges and universities. They believe masks should be required whenever students are indoors.
— Now that hurricane season is underway, disaster planners are facing a trifecta of misery: hurricanes, pandemic, and racial unrest. It’s forcing them to rewrite the rules for responding to a storm.
— Checking in with Florida Man, a sheriff that supports peaceful protests, but is “highly recommending” people shoot any looter who tries to break into their homes.
To listen, click on the image below:
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
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— ALOE —
“MLS, players reach CBA deal and will resume play in Orlando” via Julia Poe of the Orlando Sentinel — Major League Soccer and the MLS Players Association ratified a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, clearing the way for the league to play a summer tournament in Orlando. The union announced the agreement after days of tension. MLS owners reportedly threatened to lock players out if they did not agree to their terms by noon Tuesday, prompting players to skip voluntary training sessions on Monday and Tuesday. The new CBA includes concessions on both sides. The length of the CBA was extended one year past the original verbal agreement, a change the players sought. League owners also reportedly backed off attendance terms attached to a new force majeure clause.
“‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ cast donates $100,000 to bail relief fund for protesters” via Chloe Melas of CNN Entertainment — The cast of the television show “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” has made a 100,000 donation to the National Bail Fund Network. Dan Goor, co-creator of the show, took to Twitter to make the announcement and to “condemn” the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police. Stephanie Beatriz, who stars on the show as Det. Rosa Diaz, made a personal donation to the fund as well. She also urged any actors who portray police officers on television to do the same.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to Jason Attermann, former AHCA Secretary Holly Benson, lobbyist Julie Haines Fess, and Rebecca Romero of Strategic Digital Services.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.