Vice President Mike Pence will visit Tampa this afternoon to meet with Gov. Ron DeSantis regarding the state’s efforts to combat coronavirus.
Earlier this year, Pence was named chair of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and he has been a regular part of COVID-19 related press briefings.
Florida saw a record-breaking spike in new coronavirus cases this past weekend, and the state’s 14-day moving average for new positive tests continues to climb. There were 6,563 new cases reported Tuesday. And, while 45,366 test results were returned from labs, 15.04 percent of those results were positive. In other words, 15 out of every 100 people tested were infected.
DeSantis has reiterated in recent weeks that he doesn’t plan to make any changes to the state’s reopening plan or enact a statewide face mask mandate. During a news conference in Juno Beach on Tuesday, DeSantis echoed his previous statements, pointing to increased testing and jumps in the number of younger people testing positive for the weeks of spikes in new cases.
“A lot of recent cases are younger people … some with milder symptoms,” DeSantis said. “We did what we did (in March and April) to have a flatter curve. What we can do now … is better than what we could do in March.”
DeSantis was also asked about his feelings on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott‘s decision to pause reopening and recommendations for residents to stay home. Florida’s governor said his recommendations have been similar when it comes to social distancing.
“If I had one message to give the folks, I would say, protect the vulnerable,” DeSantis said. “That’s the number one mission we have.”
If you’re not in those groups considered vulnerable — people 65 and up and those with health conditions — DeSantis said to “understand this is an asymptomatic illness for a lot of young people.”
DeSantis again said the state is “not going back closing things.”
“I don’t think that’s really what’s driving it,” DeSantis said, noting he believes it’s younger people’s social interactions.
— “Democrats aim Polk ad blitz at Mike Pence” via Gary White of The Ledger
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@Redistrict: Fact: when President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, there were 241 Republicans in the House. Since then, 115 (48%) have either retired, resigned, been defeated or are retiring in 2020.
—@MaryEllenKlas: What is @# “fell out of the news?” When @ and his OIG staff refused to respond to reporters questions? We have lists of questions that received “we’re working on that” responses and no response followed. News stories did not stop.definition of how
—@RepValDemings: For your to-do list today: buy a face mask and register to vote.
—@ShevrinJones: Transparent Moment: For those who think it’s a game, it’s not, I have tested positive for COVID. I feel awful, and I don’t wish this on anyone.
—@MarcACaputo: False talking point from FL Education Commissioner @on social distancing & class sizes Some districts are NOT applying small class sizes at the classroom level My daughter’s 4th-grade class should’ve had 22 kids. It had 28
—@AmandaBBevis: People ask me how we’re doing, & I say we’re holding this ship together w/ duct tape & Band-Aids. This working mom is so grateful for the villagers who help us raise our boys. All on our plate would be impossible w/o help. There are many who don’t have access or means. #grateful
— DAYS UNTIL —
The only day that really matters: ‘Hamilton’ premieres on Disney+ — 1.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Ron DeSantis, on Fourth of July coronavirus risk: ‘Take some small precautions’” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis said he doesn’t believe all Floridians need to stay home during the upcoming Fourth of July weekend. But the state’s vulnerable should be extra cautious, the Republican governor said at a news conference in Dayton Beach Wednesday. “You can do a lot of things, if you just take some small precautions, you’re going to be OK,” DeSantis said, adding later: “Be cautious of parents and grandparents in the interactions that you may have.” DeSantis said he is not as worried about the virus spreading at outdoor events held at places like parks or beaches. It’s the indoor events, he said, that are a concern.
“Florida adds more than 6,500 coronavirus cases” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — Four months after the first coronavirus cases were announced, Florida recorded 6,563 new infections Wednesday, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases to 158,997. About a quarter of the daily cases were recorded in the Tampa Bay area. About a quarter of the daily cases were recorded in the Tampa Bay area. Hillsborough County, the fourth most-populous of Florida’s 67 counties. The state also recorded an additional 46 deaths, bringing the total to 3,650 deaths. About 39 deaths are being added each day on average, up slightly from the average throughout most of early and mid-June.
“Democrats criticized GOP leaders on virus response” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — In a conference call with reporters, members of the Senate’s minority party expressed concern that their push for a statewide mandate that people wear masks in public has become a political issue rather than a health measure. The Democratic lawmakers also said DeSantis needs to put a hold on his reopening efforts — which have slowed with the surge in coronavirus cases — and called for lawmakers to return to Tallahassee to address the economic impacts of the pandemic. “For much of this pandemic, the governor’s approach, like the President’s, has been hands-off,” Sen. Annette Taddeo said. “It’s like he’s reluctant to take on a fight to stop the virus, always running after it instead of getting in front of it.”
“Dem lawmakers increasingly frustrated with DeSantis’ timing on foreclosure/eviction moratorium” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — DeSantis waited until four hours before the deadline to extend his COVID-19 moratorium on mortgage foreclosures and rental evictions and one Democratic state House member called it “torture” to keep desperate Floridians in suspense. It was the third extension for the moratorium, first authorized April 2. Legally, the order suspends enforcement of statutes governing evictions and foreclosures in light of the economic dislocation attendant to the COVID outbreak. Reps. Anna Eskamani and Carlos Guillermo Smith, both of Orlando, had been hectoring the governor for days to go ahead and extend the thing.
“Housing advocates cheer, landlords fume at last-minute extension of eviction moratorium” via Rene Rodriguez and C. Isaiah Smalls II of the Miami Herald — When DeSantis announced he was extending the state’s moratorium on evictions and mortgage foreclosures for another month at 8:40 p.m. Tuesday — only three and a half hours before the existing moratorium was due to expire — the reaction was swift and polarizing. Advocates for rent relief, including the attendees at a Florida Housing Justice Alliance news conference taking place in front of the Miami-Dade County Courthouse, burst into cheers and applause. But some landlords and the lawyers who represent them — stuck with tenants who illegally stopped paying rent since Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez’s suspension of eviction proceedings March 12 — seethed with exasperation.
“Disability providers push state for COVID-19 tests” — DeSantis says his administration has made a top priority of protecting frail and elderly people in long-term care facilities from COVID-19, including requiring regular testing of staff members and providing test kits to the facilities. But the administration’s policies have not included providing test kits to group homes and facilities for people with developmental disabilities, advocates for people with disabilities say. “I think it’s just an oversight, and it’s been brought to the right people’s attention, and we are working with them to bring about some resolution,” said Jim DeBeaugrine, interim chief executive officer of The Arc of Florida. “We are in active communications, and I am working on a resolution.”
“There’s one more thing Florida has to worry about. Wild boars aren’t social distancing” via Madeleine Marr of the Miami Herald — Some Floridians are dealing with more than coronavirus, quarantine, campaign season and civil protests. Add wild boars to the mix. In Lehigh Acres, in Lee County, these aggressive animals are not only a bother, but hitting people where it really hurts: their wallets. Wild boars, in the height of the mating season, are going to town in people’s yards, causing thousands of dollars in damage. Boars are also frightening beasts, prone to chase humans who get in their way.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“Shevrin Jones says he’s tested positive for COVID-19” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Jones says he’s tested positive for the novel coronavirus as it continues to spread across South Florida. “For those who think it’s a game, it’s not, I have tested positive for [COVID-19],” Jones posted late Wednesday. “I feel awful and I don’t wish this on anyone.” Jones’ House District 101 covers southern portions of Broward County near the Miami-Dade border including West Park, Pembroke Park, and Hallandale Beach. South Florida has been a hotspot for the virus and has seen surges in the spread in recent weeks. In an interview with Florida Politics, a hoarse Jones described when he first started feeling the virus’s effects. Jones said he didn’t immediately think his symptoms were a sign of COVID-19. That changed when his cough worsened Wednesday morning.
“Miami’s public hospital is once again halting non-urgent surgeries due to COVID spike” via Ben Conarck and Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Slammed with a surge of COVID patients, Miami’s Jackson Health System announced it would be limiting nonemergency surgeries starting next week. The decision, effective Monday, follows a two-week period in which the number of COVID patients at the public hospital network and in the ICUs has doubled, according to Carlos Migoya, Jackson Health’s CEO. As of Monday, the hospital system had about 265 COVID patients, roughly 80 of them in the ICU. The rise in patients has also prompted hospital leaders to advertise for 78 additional nurses, Migoya told the Miami-Dade Commission during a meeting on the pandemic Tuesday. He said they’ve already filled about half those positions.
“South Florida hospitals cut elective surgeries, as coronavirus cases mount” via David Fleshler, Angie Dimichele and Marc Freeman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Jackson Health System, Memorial Healthcare and Baptist Health said they will limit inpatient elective surgeries, as rising coronavirus caseloads threatened to put pressure on their ability to handle more patients. The decisions illustrate the darkening picture of the disease in Florida, where steps to reopen have run up against a series of record one-day totals for new cases over the past week. Attempting to slow the disease before it pushes hospitals to their limits, authorities announced a series of moves designed to limit opportunities for people to congregate at bars, restaurants and beaches. Such steps will take time to have an effect and, in the meantime, hospitals said they would take action to make sure they could accommodate patients with urgent medical needs.
“A Miami ER doctor explained how Florida’s COVID-19 response went from success to disaster” via Charles Davis of Business Insider — Eight weeks ago, conservative media outlets and politicians hailed Florida as a model for addressing the coronavirus pandemic, showing that there was no need to shut down a state for months to ride out the first wave of infections. DeSantis, a former military prosecutor and Republican representative, was all but saying, I told you so. And his allies were singing his praise. Weeks later, the numbers have changed. Florida is reporting more cases than ever before: more than 5,000 a day for a week straight, as of Monday. DeSantis has attributed that increase in part to young people. “You can’t control” them, he said. He’s also attributed it to the larger number of tests.
“Colombian man held at federal lockup in Miami dies of COVID-19 at local hospital” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — Ivan Edgardo Gonzalez-Ramirez died Sunday after he was taken to a local hospital June 22 because of shortness of breath, Bureau of Prisons officials said. While at the hospital, he tested positive for the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. He also had preexisting medical conditions. Gonzalez-Ramirez was one of nine inmates and two staff employees at the Federal Detention Center in Miami who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic struck South Florida in March. Gonzalez-Ramirez, believed to be the first FDC-Miami inmate to die of COVID-19, had been in federal custody since early April when he was extradited from Colombia as the pandemic was escalating in the United States.
“American Airlines flights are about to get busier, but will they be safe?” via Caroline Ghisolfi of the Miami Herald — Boarding a flight at Miami International Airport was a breeze March through June, with waiting times at security checkpoints as low as two minutes, mostly empty hallways and half a dozen rows of free seating at many terminals. But that’s about to change, as American Airlines — the airport’s largest carrier — pushes to satisfy flight demand and fill up the airport. American Airlines will increase its flight schedule by 10% in July by reversing its policy of keeping half of all economy middle seats empty for social distancing purposes. However, public health experts have criticized the airline’s decision as being unsafe. “I’m not sure what went into that decision making,” Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, told a Senate panel Tuesday.
“Miami mandates shutdowns for businesses that violate COVID-19 rules. Here’s the order” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Businesses inside Miami city limits now risk a minimum 10-day shutdown for violating emergency orders meant to limit the spread of COVID-19. The emergency order, signed at 9 a.m. Wednesday by City Manager Art Noriega, outlines mandatory closures for businesses found violating “New Normal” rules created by Miami-Dade County. The regulations range from capacity limits to prevent overcrowding and the wearing of face masks in most circumstances, measures to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. Under the county’s New Normal regulations, businesses that are closed for violations could submit a plan to comply and reopen quickly, often within a day. Under Miami’s new order, business inside city limits faces mandatory closures that last longer.
“Amid COVID-19 surge, Miami Beach sets curfew, bans alcohol sales at stores past 8 p.m.” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Miami Beach is reimposing a citywide curfew as coronavirus cases keep shooting up. The curfew will be from 12:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. every day, City Manager Jimmy Morales told the City Commission in an email Wednesday. The curfew takes effect Thursday. “This will reduce the social interaction and help police with enforcement against loitering,” Morales said. “There is nothing else to do after midnight.” In March, the city imposed a midnight curfew for parts of South Beach, but that order was lifted June 11. Mayor Dan Gelber said the new curfew will be citywide. The curfew order also prohibits retail stores — from supermarket chains to neighborhood liquor stores — from selling alcohol after 8 p.m.
“Fontainebleau stopped paying worker health insurance contributions. Now it’s suing.” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — The Fontainebleau Miami Beach Resort wants to stop paying for laid-off workers’ health insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a lawsuit filed against the hotel workers’ union in federal court last week in Miami, Miami-Dade’s largest hotel is asking a judge to exempt it from contributing to its employee health insurance fund — a sum that has reached somewhere between $3.9 million and $5.35 million for April, May and June, according to the lawsuit. The hotel laid off 2,083 of its 2,151 employees in March, including the 1,077 employees represented by UNITE HERE Local 355, due to what it calls “the worst business conditions the American lodging and hospitality industry has ever known,” the lawsuit said.
“Miami-Dade’s COVID rules allow lap dances?! Mayor said he didn’t know. He’s banning them.” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — The saga of Miami lap dances during the coronavirus pandemic took another turn late Tuesday night when the county Mayor whose administration has allowed the close-contact performances said he didn’t know they were still happening. Gimenez “was unaware that lap dances were authorized at some adult entertainment venues,” Deputy Mayor Jennifer Moon said by text. “They will be prohibited henceforth.” Miami-Dade’s allowing lap dances to resume as businesses reopened captured the optimism Gimenez expressed in May that a thicket of new rules drafted by his administration could let most of the economy reopen as COVID spread eased. With infection rates spiking and hospitalizations on the rise, Gimenez is imposing new rules targeting nightlife and July Fourth crowds.
“Palm Beach County residents sue over mask requirement” via Austen Erblat of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Four Palm Beach County residents have sued the county to force a repeal of the rule requiring that masks be worn in public places. They say that being forced to wear masks infringes on their constitutional rights to free speech and privacy, but lawyers and legal experts say the government has a duty to protect people’s health and safety. The suit is the latest pushback against local governments’ efforts to stop or slow the spread of the coronavirus, as Florida reported a record number of cases in the past week. Plaintiffs Josie Machovec, Carl Holme, Rachel Eade and Robert Spreitzer allege the county’s order violates their rights. The lawsuit calls masks “harmful medical devices” with “well-known risks and potential for serious injury and death.”
“New website exposes businesses ignoring coronavirus rules” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — With coronavirus cases on the rise, inquiring minds want to know which businesses are following the rules aimed at slowing the spread of the virus and which aren’t. On Wednesday morning, Broward County launched an online dashboard on its website. You’ll be able to see whether a complaint has been filed claiming your favorite restaurant, hair salon, gym or any other spot is breaking the rules. The dashboard will update every hour at 36 minutes past the hour with the latest data, said Leonard “Lenny” Vialpando, deputy director of the county’s Environmental Protection & Growth Management Department.
“Most PBC teachers want to return to school. A survey suggests they’re not sure when.” via Andrew Marra of The Palm Beach Post — Even as the coronavirus pandemic worsened, most Palm Beach County teachers said last month that they supported a partial return to in-person classes, a school district survey shows. At the same time, most teachers said they wanted that return postponed, another sign of the deep ambivalence among educators and parents about reopening schools. While 61% of classroom workers who responded to the survey last month said they wanted to resume in-person classes on a part-time basis, they were much less enthusiastic about a full-time return. In all, 10,300 district employees who identified themselves as classroom workers — primarily teachers — responded to the survey, which was administered between June 16 and June 24.
“Treasure Coast to see $91 million in direct funds from new $92.2 billion state budget” via Joshua Solomon of the TCPalm — Treasure Coast lawmakers helped bring home $91 million for local infrastructure and education in the state’s coronavirus-trimmed $92.2 billion budget for the upcoming year. The biggest winner was Indian River State College, which secured $51 million. Most of the money is for its general operating budget. Nearly $34 million is to go to local school education programs, including early learning and pre-K. About $2 million is to go to school district workforce programs, which includes training for industry trades. Martin County’s Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly is to receive $1.6 million to expand services for 50 more people. The program is for the elderly who would typically live in nursing homes but prefer to live at home.
“‘This is going to be a painful thing for people’: Down $1.1 million in utility revenues, Lake Worth Beach will resume cutoffs” via Jorge Milian of The Palm Beach Post — More than 1,800 residential and commercial utility accounts in Lake Worth Beach will be subject to disconnection on July 17, according to a resolution approved unanimously Tuesday by the city commission. Residential customers with past-due accounts can avoid shut-offs by signing up for a payment plan that would allow them to satisfy their outstanding balances over 12 months. Commercial accounts will get 24 months. Ed Liberty, the city’s utility director, said Lake Worth Beach is owed more than $1.1 million from its customers. The city discontinued utility shut-offs on March 17 as the result of the coronavirus pandemic. How much of that outstanding balance the city will be able to recoup is an open question, according to Commissioner Omari Hardy.
“Jason Maughan casts lone vote against Sanibel mask mandate” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Maughan cast the lone vote against a face-covering mandate. A candidate for House District 76, the Sanibel Republican questioned the enforceability of a mask requirement. “I stand with Gov. DeSantis and the Lee County Board of County Commissioners in not forcing citizens to wear a mask against their will,” said Maughan in a statement released by his campaign. “We should be advising citizens to wear a mask when they can’t social distance and allow them the personal responsibility to make the choice for themselves.” The City Council voted 3-1 in favor, with many local businesses supporting the move.
“All Keys cities have now canceled their July 4 fireworks as COVID cases rise in Monroe” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — America’s birthday celebration in the Florida Keys this year won’t include any public displays of fireworks, as yet another shutdown sends a “stay away” message to tourists as COVID-19 cases rise along the island chain. The last fireworks show set to go off in Monroe County July 4 was canceled Wednesday by Marathon city leaders in an emergency meeting called to discuss the issue. “I side with public safety, as you have to when you sit in this seat,” said Councilman John Bartus. A unanimous Marathon City Council reluctantly voted to call off the holiday fireworks. They followed in the footsteps of organizers and city leaders canceling fireworks in Key West, Key Largo and on Big Pine Key.
— MORE LOCAL —
“Publix confirms 20 more Orlando-area stores have had workers test positive for coronavirus, totaling 30” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — Publix said Wednesday that another 20 of its Central Florida stores have had a worker test positive for coronavirus, bringing the total confirmed in the region to 30 locations. The Lakeland-based grocery store giant had previously confirmed 10 stores with cases to the Orlando Sentinel. It has about 125 stores in Orange, Seminole, Lake, Osceola and Volusia counties, so nearly a quarter of its stores in the region have had an employee test positive for the virus throughout the course of the pandemic. “Like other essential service providers, we have seen our own associates and their families personally impacted by COVID-19,” spokeswoman Maria Brous wrote in an emailed statement confirming the stores.
“Despite reprieve, Central Florida faces ‘tidal wave’ of evictions, homelessness” via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel — Despite an eleventh-hour reprieve from evictions and foreclosures until Aug. 1, Central Florida is still heading for a “tidal wave” of homelessness in the coming months as federal unemployment subsidies end, utility companies shut off power to delinquent accounts and landlords are eventually cleared to order out tenants with overdue rent. Jeff Hayward, president and CEO of the Heart of Florida United Way, called on the government, business and nonprofit sectors to join forces as they did four years ago after the Pulse nightclub attack and a decade ago to address homelessness following the 2008 housing market collapse. “We still have 1.4 million people in Florida who are jobless,” Hayward said.
“Orlando International Airport installs PPE vending machines” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — As travel through Orlando International Airport picks up after falling sharply during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic, travelers can expect to see vending machines selling personal protective equipment placed throughout the facility. The Clean & Safe Travels machines, located near several airline ticket counters close to airport entrances, offer face masks, hand sanitizer and other PPE to help passengers stop the spread of the coronavirus, airport spokespeople said. In a written statement, Phil Brown, CEO of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, said the machines were installed to help travelers and airport employees feel safe within OIA. “We want to ensure everyone can easily obtain personal safety essentials needed to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. Prices start at $7.50 for a packet of two masks, and passengers can also purchase PPE at various stores in the terminal.
“ICUs full at three Lee, Collier hospitals as coronavirus cases continue to rise” via Frank Gluck of the Naples Daily News — Cape Coral Hospital, a Physicians Regional Healthcare System hospital in Naples and Lehigh Regional Medical Center in Lehigh Acres had full ICUs, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration’s daily bed tracker. Overall, the region’s hospitals are now at 82% capacity in their adult ICUs, the tracker showed. And the two largest hospital systems roughly doubled COVID-19-related hospitalizations in the past month. Both of Physician Regional’s hospitals were at capacity Tuesday. By Wednesday afternoon, an ICU bed had opened up at one of its hospitals.
“Mask proposal discussed as Nassau County extends state of emergency” via Dan Scanlan of The Florida Times-Union — Nassau County commissioners voted to extend the local state of emergency for the ongoing coronavirus pandemic for another seven days. The five-member board also worked on a countywide proposal on public use of masks as they wore their own in a meeting room with clear barriers erected between each commissioner. County Manager Micheal Mullin said he will take what he heard from the commission and draw up a draft executive order. He said he will also work with officials in Fernandina Beach, Hilliard and Callahan to ensure “we are in sync” on a proposal strongly encouraging mask use and implement it if the commissioners have no issues. Some commissioners suggested their ordinance should encourage mask use for people in businesses for at least 30 days. Changes could be made based on what happens then to coronavirus testing numbers.
“Pasco schools inch closer to mandatory masks” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Pasco County students who want to return to classrooms in August most likely will have to wear masks to be allowed in. School Board members indicated a strong preference for requiring facial coverings as a way to keep COVID-19 at bay while attempting to restart classes after months away because of the virus. They took the lead from top administrators, who recommended the idea after reviewing several models to allow a resumption of face-to-face instruction. Board members had few qualms with the proposal — even with some of the potential problems that have been raised. “It’s difficult to wear all day, I get it. I would just rather be safe than sorry,” Chair Colleen Beaudoin said, suggesting masks for elementary, middle and high schools.
“Florida State just barred many employees from caring for kids while working remotely. Moms ask: ‘What am I supposed to do?’” via Caroline Kitchener of The Lily — When coronavirus hit, companies scrambled to adjust their policies around remote work and child care: With schools and day cares closed many employers realized that they could no longer demand the full attention of their employees during working hours. They would have to be flexible. But now some of that flexibility may be coming to an end. Florida State announced Friday that many employees will have to develop alternative plans for child care. “As FSU looks toward resuming normal campus operations — as conditions allow — we felt a responsibility to provide our employees notice of our intention to return to our standard telecommuting agreement that requires dependent or child care arrangements while working remotely,” FSU associate VP Renisha Gibbs said.
“State suspends Bajas Beachclub liquor license for violating coronavirus closure order” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — State officials pulled the liquor license of Bajas Beachclub on Pensacola Street after the nightclub held a large party over the weekend that regulators say violated a mandate effectively closing bars across Florida. Halsey Beshears, secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, announced the move Wednesday morning on Twitter. “Last night, we suspended the alcohol license of Next Door Entertainment, Inc/Zaioud, Zein dba Bajas Beachclub for opening and operating as a nightclub,” he wrote. In a prepared statement, the nightclub’s owner said he is working with regulators.
“Tampa Bay hospitals brace for a possible surge in patients” via Megan Reeves and Langston Taylor of the Tampa Bay Times — The Tampa Bay area is back on the brink of a possible surge in hospitalizations related to the coronavirus, and data shows the local health care system’s ability to respond has eroded since the spring. Between early April and now, about 38% more people have been admitted to hospitals in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties. Elective surgeries have resumed and doctors say patients who have put off routine care are starting to show up again, all while the state sees record-breaking increases in COVID-19 infections that don’t appear to be slowing down.
“Escambia County down to three ICU beds at area hospitals” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Escambia County is down to just three adult intensive care unit beds as the numbers of patients admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 have doubled in the last week. The numbers leave Escambia County with one of the lowest rates of available ICU beds in the state of Florid with 2.54% of beds available. Only three other counties are lower. Bay, DeSoto and Okeechobee counties have no ICU beds available, but all three counties have a much lower capacity.
— CORONA NATION —
“Donald Trump shifts messaging on masks, saying he’s open to wearing one in public” via Max Cohen of POLITICO — Trump said Wednesday he would have no problem wearing a mask in public, despite avoiding being pictured with a face-covering amid the coronavirus pandemic. “I’m all for masks. I think masks are good,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Wednesday afternoon. The President said he usually doesn’t wear a mask in public appearances because he is far enough from others, adding that people are tested for COVID-19 before they see him. Trump also said he was open to appearing in public with a face covering. “Actually, I had a mask on and I sort of liked the way I looked,” Trump said. While Pence is often seen in public wearing a mask, Trump has yet to wear a mask in public.
“As cases surge, Trump says he believes the virus is ‘going to sort of just disappear.’” via The New York Times — Trump said that he believed the virus was “going to sort of just disappear,” even as cases are rapidly rising nationwide and added that he was “all for masks,” even though he has rarely worn one himself, mocked people who do and has questioned the benefits and even the political meaning of face coverings. “I think we’re going to be very good with the coronavirus. I think that at some point, that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope,” Trump said. As even senior Republican members of Congress and Republican governors in states with rising caseloads issue firmer calls for Americans to wear masks, Trump spoke less skeptically about the precaution than he has in the past.
“Why surviving the virus may come down to which hospital admits you” via Brian Rosenthal, Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Otterman and Sheri Fink of The New York Times — Mortality data from three dozen hospitals indicates that the likelihood of survival may depend in part on where a patient is treated. At the peak of the pandemic in April, the data suggests, patients at some community hospitals were three times more likely to die as patients at medical centers in the wealthiest parts of the city. Underfunded hospitals in the neighborhoods hit the hardest often had lower staffing, worse equipment and less access to drug trials and advanced treatments at the height of the crisis than the private, well-financed academic medical centers in wealthy parts of Manhattan. The pandemic exposed and amplified the inequities, especially during the peak.
“Official U.S. coronavirus death toll is ‘a substantial undercount’ of actual tally, Yale study finds” via Berkeley Lovelace Jr. of CNBC — The number of confirmed U.S. deaths due to the coronavirus is substantially lower than the true tally, according to a study. Researchers found that the excess number of deaths over normal levels also exceeded those attributed to COVID-19, leading them to conclude that many of those fatalities were likely caused by the coronavirus but not confirmed. State reporting discrepancies and a sharp increase in U.S. deaths amid a pandemic suggest the number of COVID-19 fatalities is undercounted. Of the 122,300 excess deaths, 95,235 were attributed to COVID-19.
“FDA to require proof virus vaccine is effective before approving its use” via Thomas M. Burton of The Wall Street Journal — The FDA released guidance outlining conditions for approving a COVID-19 vaccine, including that any vaccine is at least 50% more effective than a placebo in preventing the disease. That 50% benchmark is used routinely for flu vaccines. The FDA said it wouldn’t approve, or give emergency-use authorization, to any coronavirus vaccine unless the maker had clearly demonstrated proof of its safety and effectiveness in a clinical study. In its new guidance, the FDA said it wouldn’t approve a vaccine simply if it leads to antibodies in patients’ bloodstreams, because it isn’t known what level of antibodies confers protection. The agency also said it would require a vaccine maker to conduct further safety monitoring after any approval, and recommended that vaccine recipients be followed for a year after treatment.
“Months into coronavirus pandemic, ICU doctors are split on best treatment” via Sarah Toy and Mark Maremont of The Wall Street Journal — Several months into the coronavirus pandemic, hospital physicians are split on whether long-established treatment protocols for patients in respiratory distress are helping or harming patients with COVID-19. To begin with, physicians don’t agree on the type of lung injury the novel coronavirus causes. A disagreement has roiled the critical-care community, with those in favor of nontypical protocols accusing the other camp of being inflexible and tied to tradition at the expense of patient care during a pandemic. The debate has crystallized around the best way to use ventilators to help COVID-19 patients breathe when they can’t on their own.
“Cases spike in Sunbelt, other states back off on reopening” via Jake Coyle and Jonathan J. Cooper of The Associated Press — California closed down bars, theaters and indoor restaurant dining all over again across most of the state Wednesday and Arizona’s outbreak grew more severe by nearly every measure, as the surging coronavirus crisis across the South and West sent a shudder through the country. “The bottom line is the spread of this virus continues at a rate that is particularly concerning,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in dramatically expanding the round of closings he announced over the weekend. Confirmed cases in California have increased nearly 50% over the past two weeks, and COVID-19 hospitalizations have gone up 43%. Newsom reported nearly 5,900 new cases and 110 more deaths in 24 hours.
“Anthony Fauci says drinking inside bars is one of the most dangerous things you can do right now” via Hillary Brueck of Business Insider — Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had some sharp words Tuesday for America’s most cavalier bargoers, who he said were putting others at risk of death from the coronavirus. “Bars: really not good. Really not good,” the infectious-disease expert said during a U.S. Senate committee hearing. “Congregation at a bar, inside, is bad news. We really got to stop that right now.” Fauci added that he was “quite concerned” about outbreaks in four states — Florida, Texas, California and Arizona — that together are shouldering “more than 50% of the new infections” in the country today.
“Hollowed out public health system faces more cuts amid virus” via Lauren Weber, Laura Ungar, Michelle R. Smith, Hannah Recht and Anna Maria Barry-Jester of The Associated Press — The U.S. public health system has been starved for decades and lacks the resources to confront the worst health crisis in a century. State and local government health workers on the ground are sometimes paid so little, they qualify for public aid. They track the coronavirus on paper records shared via fax. Working seven-day weeks for months on end, they fear pay freezes, public backlash and even losing their jobs. Since 2010, spending for state public health departments has dropped by 16% per capita and spending for local health departments has fallen by 18%. At least 38,000 state and local public health jobs have disappeared since the 2008 recession, leaving a skeletal workforce for what was once viewed as one of the world’s top public health systems.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Companies hit by COVID-19 want insurance payouts. Insurers say no.” via Leslie Scism of The Wall Street Journal — Millions of businesses across the U.S. have “business interruption” insurance. The pandemic, no question, interrupted their businesses. But insurance companies have largely refused to pay claims under this coverage, citing a standard requirement for physical damage. That is a legacy of its origins in the early 1900s as part of property insurance protecting manufacturers from broken boilers or other failing equipment that closed factories. The insurance is also known as “business income” coverage. More than half of property policies in force today specifically exclude viruses. The firms filing the lawsuits mostly hold policies without that exclusion.
“Fed’s $600 billion Main Street Lending Program sees lukewarm interest” via Paul Kiernan of The Wall Street Journal — The government is offering to lend up to $600 billion to help small and mid-size businesses weather the coronavirus-induced recession, but so far interest has been sparse. Under the Main Street Lending Program, commercial banks lend to companies and then sell all but a small portion of each loan to the Federal Reserve. The Treasury Department stands ready to cover the Fed’s losses if companies fail to repay. More than two months after the program was announced, however, some bankers say they are still trying to decide whether to take part. The central concern: Companies in dire need of cash aren’t likely to be approved, while more creditworthy borrowers are likely to find similar or better terms on their own.
“Workers are getting laid off for a second time, as the virus’s surge puts reopenings on hold” via Eli Rosenberg and Abha Bhattarai of The Washington Post — Millions of American workers are suffering from economic whiplash, thinking they were finally returning to work only to be sent home again because of the coronavirus’s latest surge. Stores, restaurants, gyms and other businesses that reopened weeks ago are shuttering once more, and this time Congress appears less inclined to provide additional aid. Other companies that had banked on customers returning and restrictions lifting, such as hotel chains, construction firms and movie theaters, are seeing hours cut and reopening dates pushed back indefinitely as consumer demand stalls. Many governors, including some who had drawn scrutiny for initially playing down the virus’s risks, are issuing new safety restrictions, in some cases just weeks after the first round of guidelines had begun to lift.
“Pay cuts are becoming a defining feature of the coronavirus recession” via Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam of The Washington Post — Workers are twice as likely to get a pay cut now than they were during the Great Recession. Salary cuts are spreading most rapidly in white-collar industries, which suggests a deep recession and slow recovery since white-collar workers are usually the last to feel financial pain. Companies have also trimmed employee hours, leaving many hourly wage workers with leaner paychecks as well. More than 6 million workers have been forced to work part-time during the pandemic even though they want full-time work. Widespread pay cuts are highly unusual, but some business leaders have tried to save jobs by cutting pay between 5 and 50%.
“Who will recover faster from the virus? Europe or the U.S.?” via Steven Erlanger of The New York Times — After the devastating financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, the United States recovered much more quickly than Europe, which suffered a double-dip recession. This time, many economists say that Europe may have the edge. The main reason America did well was the rapid response of the government and the flexible nature of the American economy, quick both to fire workers but also to hire them again. Europe, with built-in social insurance, tries to keep workers from layoffs through subsidies to employers, making it harder to fire and more expensive to rehire. But this is a different kind of collapse, a mandated shutdown in response to a pandemic, driving down both supply and demand simultaneously.
“Another bad month for tourism: Orange County’s tax receipts down 95% in May” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The county known as the world’s biggest tourist destination was shut down almost entirely by the coronavirus crisis once again in May. Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond revealed that the tourist development tax, the tax on hotel beds that closely tracks tourism activity and provides hundreds of millions of dollars annually for a variety of local uses, was down 95% in May compared with the same month last year. That’s only a slight improvement over the 97% drop his office tracked for the April tourist development tax compared with the previous April. In raw numbers, Orange County visitors paid $1,144,300 in tourist development taxes in May, compared with $765,900 in April. Last May, visitors coughed up $22,611,000 in tourist taxes.
“Pasco officials brace for major budget hit due to the coronavirus” via Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times — Summer is prime time for government officials to prepare spending plans for the new fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. But the summer of 2020 holds no comfort and no clarity for Pasco County officials currently trying to predict just how low revenues might go, given the current situation with COVID-19. County commissioners got a brief update Tuesday showing them falling revenues in numerous categories ranging from sales tax to gas tax to tourist tax, which was taking a huge hit as people have stayed home and avoided travel and spending. Impacts are expected to be at least as bad as the Great Recession a decade ago, Pasco budget director Robert Goehrig told commissioners.
— MORE CORONA —
“Coronavirus autopsies: A story of 38 brains, 87 lungs and 42 hearts” via Ariana Eunjung Cha of The Washington Post — Autopsies have long been a source of breakthroughs in understanding new diseases, from HIV/AIDS and Ebola to Lassa fever. Many hospital systems were too overwhelmed trying to save lives to spend too much time delving into the secrets of the dead. But by late May and June, the first large batch of reports were published in quick succession. Among the most important findings, consistent across several studies, is confirmation the virus appears to attack the lungs the most ferociously. They also found the pathogen in parts of the brain, kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract and spleen and in the endothelial cells that line blood vessels, as some had previously suspected. Researchers also found widespread clotting in many organs.
“Texas cases at record; Pennsylvania mandates masks” via Bloomberg News — Texas posted a record 8,076 new virus cases, pushing the total to 168,062, according to state health department figures. Fatalities jumped by 57 to 2,481 for the biggest one-day increase since May 14. The state’s positive-test rate has been above 13% for four days, the longest stretch above that threshold since the pandemic emerged. Pennsylvania required residents to wear masks as U.S. state and local leaders grapple with a surge in coronavirus infections. Coronavirus cases in the U.S. rose by 46,065 from a day earlier to 2.66 million. Florida reported 158,997 COVID-19 cases Wednesday, up 4.3% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 5.7% in the previous seven days. Deaths among Florida residents reached 3,550, an increase of 1.3%, according to the report.
— “NYC delays indoor dining with virus cases soaring elsewhere” via Henry Goldman and Keshia Clukey
“Alexa, just shut up: We’ve been isolated for months, and now we hate our home assistants” via Travis M. Andrews of The Washington Post — As our isolation dragged on with Alexa, Siri and Google’s nameless “assistant “serving as one of our few outlets for conversation, a certain animosity for these devices has grown for some, seemingly exponentially. “Because of quarantining and going through all the events of police brutality and racism, people are frustrated,” said David Rusbasan, a psychology professor at Marian University who has studied aggression and stress. “Talking to Alexa poorly is almost a socially acceptable way to deal with aggressive tendencies as opposed to putting it on an individual.” Companies have marketed these devices by creating a sense of enchantment, portraying them as otherworldly, futuristic, promising.
— SMOLDERING —
“Trump: Black Lives Matter is a ‘symbol of hate’” via Max Cohen of POLITICO — Trump called New York City’s decision to paint ‘Black Lives Matter’ on Fifth Avenue a “symbol of hate,” rebuking his hometown’s embrace of a rallying cry that has stirred nationwide protests against racism. The president’s latest comments attacking the Black Lives Matter movement drew swift condemnation from New York City police reform groups. Trump also criticized cuts to the city’s police department and wrote on Twitter that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to paint Black Lives Matter on the street outside Trump Tower is “denigrating this luxury Avenue.” De Blasio said that the street painting would be completed outside Trump Tower in a matter of days. The mayor’s office ordered the letters painted on Fifth Avenue last week.
“Clay County sheriff says he’ll deputize every gun owner if deputies can’t handle protesters” via Andrew Pantazi of The Florida Times-Union — Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels, no stranger to making viral videos appealing to tough-on-crime politics, released a video Tuesday that said he will make “special deputies of every lawful gun owner in this county” if he feels the county is overwhelmed by protesters. The three-minute video shows Daniels standing in front of 18 deputies as he derides civil-rights protesters as godless disrupters and tells them to stay out of Clay County, a suburb of Jacksonville. “And if you come to Clay County and you think for one second, we’ll bend our backs for you, you’re sadly mistaken,” he said. Daniels, the county’s first Black sheriff, is himself under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement related to an affair he had with a fellow officer back when he was at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and a subsequent false arrest of that officer.
Happening today — The Innocence Project of Florida will hold a Facebook Live event to discuss issues such as racial bias in policing, 11 a.m., facebook.com/events.
“’Pop his ass.’ bodycam videos show protesters throwing things at police. Some officers seem to revel in the return fire.” via Andrew Boryga and Mario Ariza of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Newly released police body-camera footage shows officers firing tear gas and rubber bullets into a chaotic crowd, often pointing out targets by calling out what they are wearing and seeming to revel in their firing. Some videos show Fort Lauderdale officers aiming their weapons at protesters who have their hands up. One of the clips clearly captures the moments before one protester, LaToya Ratlieff, 34, was hit in the face with a rubber bullet. As tear gas clouds a line of officers, Ratlieff can be seen hunched over coughing. Later an officer attempts to shoot a protester behind her through a cloud of smoke, but misses and hits Ratlieff.
“‘Beat it, little f***er.’ Officers laugh after shooting rubber bullets at protesters” via Nicholas Nehamas and Sarah Blaskey of the Miami Herald — Fort Lauderdale police officers laughed and celebrated after shooting protesters with rubber bullets at a May 31 George Floyd rally in Fort Lauderdale, newly released body camera footage shows. “Beat it, little f***er,” Detective Zachary Baro, leader of a Fort Lauderdale SWAT team unit, can be heard saying after officers shot “less lethal” projectiles at a protester. George Kirkham, a former police officer and Professor Emeritus at Florida State University, condemned the behavior captured on the footage. “This is serious misconduct. This is people with badges acting like thugs,” Kirkham said. “It’s like a cancer. If you let it go, it will spread.” Asked for comment, a spokeswoman for the Fort Lauderdale police said the department would have to review the footage.
“Attorney questions ‘bogus’ threat to sue teen for #RacistsofMiamiLakes tweetstorm” via Joshua Ceballos of the Miami New Times — This past Sunday in Miami Lakes, 17-year-old photojournalist Daniel Gonzalez III attended a protest against police brutality and systemic racism. Before he went to bed that night, Gonzalez posted several of his photos to Twitter, labeling the caravan participants the #RacistsofMiamiLakes. he Twitter thread quickly gathered several thousand likes. But by the time Gonzalez woke up Monday, he had received an email from Miami Lakes attorney Douglas Jeffrey threatening to sue him for defamation and his parents for “vicarious liability” and “negligent supervision.” After taking down the Twitter thread, he received messages and comments from a number of lawyers specializing in First Amendment rights who said Jeffrey’s letter was meritless.
“Arrested BLM graffitist: ‘They can continue to paint over us but they will never wipe us out’” via Corey Arwood of the TC Palm — A 22-year-old woman said the graffiti that led to her arrest late last week was her contribution to local protests and to “remind the people of Vero Beach that Black lives still matter.” Sarah Batista, of Sebastian, was arrested Friday around 10 a.m. for spray painting “Black Lives Still Matter,” and hearts, on a downtown convenience store wall. Vero Beach police said Batista’s graffiti was criminal mischief and anyone caught graffitiing there could be arrested, as well. By the time Batista was released from the Indian River County Jail around 1 p.m. June 26, the north-facing wall of Country Discount Beverage on 14th Avenue had once more been covered with Black paint by property managers.
“In race for Congress, Florida’s ‘gator bait’ cheer and its links to racism become an issue” via Lina Ruiz of NPR/WUFT — Judson Sapp, a wealthy executive who runs a railroad contracting business, said he has distributed about 1,000 orange-and-blue “Gator Bait” campaign signs across Florida’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes UF’s campus in Gainesville. Sapp graduated from Florida State University. “There’s a certain amount of irony that the guy who did not go to UF is the only one being extremely vocal about the fact that you should be able to say this,” Sapp said in an interview. Sapp, who has raised more money than any of the 16 other candidates in the congressional race, said he plans to wear a “Gator Bait” shirt or pin the next time he attends a Florida sporting event. He called University President Kent Fuchs’ decision to discontinue the cheer a mistake.
“Activists criticize Tampa police response to drivers clashing with protesters” via Peter Talbot and Kavitha Surana of the Tampa Bay Times — About 100 people gathered in Lykes Gaslight Park Tuesday evening to protest Tampa police response to two activists struck by cars driving through rallies in recent weeks. In both cases, drivers didn’t face charges. In one case, a protester was arrested. Jae Passmore, who was hospitalized June 21 after she was hit and injured during a protest near Hyde Park Village, stood on crutches and called for Tampa Mayor Jane Castor to fire Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan. Members of the Florida Indigenous Rights and Environmental Equality group announced they filed a civil rights complaint with the Department of Justice on behalf of the other activist who was injured.
“Students pressuring FSU to remove Francis Eppes statue from campus” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — A renewed student-driven effort is underway to convince Florida State University’s administration to permanently remove a statue of Eppes from campus. That’s in addition to removing his name from the building housing the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. The statue of Eppes has been a lightning rod on campus for student activists who say the former Tallahassee mayor was a major slave owner and his recognition is undeserved. The controversy resurfaced in July 2018 when the 15-member President’s Advisory Panel on University Namings and Recognitions agreed the statue should be removed from its long-standing location in front of the Westcott Building.
“Seattle cops dismantle ‘occupied’ zone, arrest more than 30” via Martha Bellisle and Lisa Baumann of The Associated Press — Seattle police turned out in force early Wednesday at the city’s “occupied” protest zone, tore down demonstrators’ encampments and used bicycles to herd the protesters after the mayor ordered the area cleared following two fatal shootings in less than two weeks. Wearing helmets and wielding batons and rifles, officers converged on the area at dawn. Officers stood shoulder-to-shoulder on several streets while others created a makeshift fence with their bicycles, using it to push protesters back away from the center of the zone. By late morning, police said 32 people had been arrested for failure to disperse, obstruction, assault and unlawful weapon possession. Police also tore down fences that protesters had erected around their tents and used batons to poke inside bushes, apparently looking for people who might be hiding inside.
“Historic coast guard ship ‘Taney’ to be renamed” via Ben Kesling of The Wall Street Journal — The historic Coast Guard cutter the “Taney” will be renamed as soon as possible so that it no longer pays tribute to the antebellum Supreme Court chief justice Roger B. Taney who delivered the Dred Scott decision, according to a Baltimore museum in charge of the ship. “Taney” has already been removed from the ship’s stern, and Historic Ships said that until a new name is decided upon, the ship will be known by its technical name, the WHEC 37. Historic Ships said it doesn’t anticipate any legal roadblocks to changing the name.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Congress considers college athlete compensation following Florida law” via Megan Sauer of the Tampa Bay Times — Some members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said it’s time to ensure college athletes earn money for their individual names, images and likenesses. This was the second time the committee met to discuss whether college athletes could benefit from third-party endorsements. For now, the NCAA blocks players from opportunities other students could monetize, like participating in commercials or creating a social media presence. The hearing coincided with a national effort pressuring the NCAA and Congress to regulate compensation while preserving the spirit of amateurism across all divisions of collegiate athletics. Florida is one of three states that has already passed laws regarding the compensation of college athletes.
“Republican wanted to vote by proxy but leaders urged against it” via Lindsey McPherson of Roll Call — Francis Rooney, the only House Republican to publicly back Democrats’ proxy voting rule, designated a Democrat to serve as his proxy last week but has yet to cast a vote by proxy after his leadership urged against it. Rooney, who is retiring at the end of this term and has not been present for House votes in four months, filed a letter Thursday with the House clerk designating Virginia Democratic Rep. Donald Beyer to serve as his proxy. But as the House voted on a handful of bills Thursday and Friday, including a policing overhaul and a D.C. statehood measure, Rooney was recorded as not voting. Rooney’s authorization designating Beyer as his proxy does not expire unless he revokes it, which he has not yet done, so he could still vote by proxy this week if he sends Beyer instructions for how he wants to vote.
“Ross Spano using public funds for rule-breaking Facebook ads” via Florida Politics — Scott Franklin is criticizing his opponent in the Republican primary for Florida’s 15th Congressional District for using office resources to promote himself on Facebook. According to Facebook data, Spano’s office spent more than $117,000 of public money to promote posts on Facebook. “I’m appalled to see a self-proclaimed conservative so egregiously abuse his privileges for his own self-promotion,” Franklin said. “This is yet another example of Big-Spender Spano’s misuse of funds and mismanagement of money. He cannot be trusted with taxpayer dollars.” Three-quarters of public funds used to promote himself on Facebook have been spent since Franklin entered the race in mid-March with $87,000 spent since then.
“Alcee Hastings says he’s married; ethics panel clears him” via Wayne Washington of The Palm Beach Post — A U.S. House Ethics Committee investigation into Hastings’ relationship with a member of his staff was closed last month, ending another chapter of ethical questions in a long career filled with them. The House Ethics Committee, chaired by a Palm Beach County colleague, said it closed the investigation after learning that the longtime congressman had married his aide in January 2019. The committee did not name the staff member but The Palm Beach Post and other media outlets have reported that Hastings has been in a long relationship with Patricia Williams, a former attorney who was disbarred for mishandling the money of her clients.
— STATEWIDE —
“Appeals court stops judge’s order granting Florida felons right to vote” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — A federal appellate court has temporarily stopped a judge’s order that granted hundreds of thousands of felons the right to vote, the latest turn in Florida’s battle over felon voting rights. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled in favor of state officials and DeSantis, who asked the court to stop a ruling in May by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle. Hinkle ruled that DeSantis and Florida elections officials can’t keep felons from voting if they can’t afford to pay off all court fees, fines and restitution, finding that the requirement is unconstitutional. The decision is a setback for the hundreds of thousands of felons who were granted the ability to vote under Hinkle’s order.
“Ron DeSantis signs DCF Accountability Act” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — DeSantis signed a bill Tuesday that would create accountability programs within the state Department of Children and Families. The DCF Accountability Act sets up the Office of Quality Assurance and Improvement within DCF and tasks it with creating a grading system to monitor internal programs and contracted vendors throughout the state. Their performance will be analyzed regularly to ensure Florida’s children and families are receiving high-quality care. The bill cruised in both chambers, with both the House and Senate passing the bill unanimously. It had powerful backers: First Lady Casey DeSantis and Senate President-Designate Wilton Simpson.
“DeSantis touts investment in Historically Black Colleges and Universities” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — With Florida rolling over to the first day of the 2020-2021 fiscal year, DeSantis took his afternoon to spotlight the funding he approved this week for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. DeSantis traveled to Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach to tout the $123.2 million included in the budget for research and education at HBCUs, an increase of $18.9 million. The Governor kept that funding in the final budget alongside teacher pay raises and Florida Forever despite issuing more than $1 billion in line-item vetoes because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We could say wait till next year, but it may not have happened next year,” he said. Opa-locka Democratic Rep. James Bush III said the millions of dollars help give Black children the opportunity to achieve a vision to serve humanity.
Essential parts of Complete Florida Plus continue despite veto — The State University System Board of Governors is recreating essential pieces of the Complete Florida Plus Program under a new name after DeSantis vetoed the $29.4 million program in the budget, Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reports. The maneuver sidesteps the veto and another state law that blocks spending on programs that are vetoed. Complete Florida had come under fire in the 2020 Legislative Session after reports of mismanagement by the University of West Florida, which oversees the program. “We are confident that new management will improve oversight and decision-making processes,” the BOG said in a statement.
“Seminole County officials applauding veto of land management bill” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — When DeSantis quietly vetoed Senate Bill 410, a few officials in Seminole County cheered. SB 410, sponsored by Republican Sen. Keith Perry of Gainesville, began as an attempt to restrict his home county of Alachua’s abilities to control growth into rural areas. But it got amended in the closing days of the Legislative Session to extend the effect to up to 13 counties, including charter counties such as Seminole. Once the bill got approved, 23-16 in the Senate and 71-43 in the House Constantine and others in Seminole and in statewide groups, including the Florida Association of Counties, lobbied hard to get DeSantis to veto it.
“Court clears way for case against Parkland school monitor” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Pointing to a failure to call a “Code Red” that could have locked down the school, an appeals court refused to dismiss a case against a campus security monitor who spotted and followed accused gunman Nikolas Cruz before the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. A three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal rejected arguments that former campus monitor Andrew Medina should be dismissed from a civil lawsuit filed by Andrew Pollack and Shara Kaplan, parents of Meadow Pollack. Medina contended that he cannot be held liable because of sovereign immunity. The appeals court said the allegations in the case were adequate to consider whether Medina acted with “willful and wanton” disregard.
“Doug Belden faces ethics investigation over soliciting favors” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Belden, the longtime Hillsborough County Tax Collector, is facing an ethics violation investigation, according to a complaint filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics. The complaint, filed by Hillsborough County Democratic Party State Committeewoman Alma Gonzalez, alleges Belden illegally solicited favors and used his public office for political gain. In her complaint, Gonzalez claims Belden offered to help her find employment with a private law firm if she persuaded potential political rivals not to challenge his reelection. She also said he threatened her with professional ruin if she failed to do so. The complaint points to emails and text messages between July 22 and August 10, 2019.
“Longboat Key pipe may have dumped 28 million gallons of sewage into Sarasota Bay” via Timothy Fanning of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Left unaddressed for nearly two weeks, a leak from a Longboat Key sewage pipe spilled an estimated 26 to 28 million gallons of sewage into Sarasota Bay from the town’s aging sewage line, a Florida Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman said. The DEP will investigate the spill and hold Longboat Key “accountable by identifying necessary restoration and remediation actions,” agency spokeswoman Shannon Herbon said in an email. That includes fines and penalties for violations.
“Holt celebrates funding for new fire station” via Auriette Lindsey of WEAR-TV — The Holt Volunteer Fire Department in Okaloosa County is looking forward to building a much-needed new fire station. A line item for $813,000 survived DeSantis’ veto pen and remained in the state budget signed Monday. County Commissioner Nathan Boyles serves District 3 and makes his home in Holt. He said it’s past time for the department to have new facilities. Boyles said, “Their current building is dilapidated and does not support their mission to provide safety and security to the Holt community.” Captain Shelly Chestnut said in a video posted to Facebook that contractors they asked about fixing up the place recommended tearing it down instead. Rep. Jayer Williamson made the new firehouse a legislative priority this year.
“Dixie Highway near Roosevelt Bridge anticipated to open Friday morning” via Sara Marino of the TCPalm — Portions of Dixie Highway closed because of work being done to the Roosevelt Bridge are expected to open Friday morning. Parts of the road, which is next to the FEC Railway tracks, are under the northbound and southbound spans of the bridge. Florida Department of Transportation officials on Twitter said they have been using a large truck to drive the detour routes planned for trucks to access Dixie Highway from U.S. 1. looking for any potential problems. For about two weeks, the three-tenths of a mile portion of Dixie Highway from Fern Street to Albany Avenue has been closed, frustrating some restaurants and businesses that had recently reopened in Phase 1 of the statewide COVID-19 reopening plan.
— LOBBY REGS —
Heath Beach, Kaleo Partners: ZScaler
Shawn Foster, Sunrise Consulting Group: Catapult Learning, Florida Academy of Pain Medicine
Jeffrey Johnston, Amanda Stewart, Anita Berry, Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies: Biocollections Worldwide
“Jared Kushner changes top Trump campaign staff” via Jonathan Swan of Axios — Michael Glassner, the man who organizes Trump‘s rallies, has been “reassigned,” and Trump’s 2016 Arizona chair Jeff DeWit will join the campaign as the chief operating officer to oversee the final stretch to Election Day. Driving the news: Kushner engineered these moves. Glassner, a Trump campaign original dating back to 2015, has been told he will now be handling the campaign’s various lawsuits, sources say. DeWit, a Kushner ally, is a businessman and former Arizona state treasurer who served as the chief financial officer of NASA under Trump from 2018 until earlier this year. One person familiar with the shake-up defended Glassner as the unfortunate guy whose head needed to roll for the Tulsa rally debacle, where the attendance was nowhere near what the president had anticipated.
“Trump set to headline high-dollar fundraising dinner at a private Florida home next week” via Josh Dawsey and Michelle Ye Hee Lee of The Washington Post — President Trump is set to hold a high-dollar dinner at a private residence in Hillsboro Beach, Fla., next week to raise money for his campaign and the Republican National Committee, according to an invitation sent to top GOP donors, his first in-person fundraiser since mid-June.
“Joe Biden ‘That’s A President’ ad portrays strength vs. gaffe” via YouTube — The former Vice President has another digital ad out promoting his campaign. The 15-second spot features a gruff-voiced narrator who sounds oddly like Biden. “This job is about protecting Americans, not tear-gassing them for a photo op,” the narrator says as images in the video shift to Trump awkwardly holding a Bible in front of a Washington D.C. church where he was criticized for the infamous photo op. The video then shifts to images of Biden looking suave in sunglasses. “It takes strength, courage, compassion, resilience. That’s a President.”
To watch the video, click on the image below:
“‘There’s an imagination barrier’: How Biden is prepping for a woman VP pick” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — The Biden campaign has reached out to two prominent women’s organizations for research and advice in recent weeks as it narrows its focus on vetting and selecting a running mate for the presumptive Democratic nominee. The four co-chairs of Biden’s vice-presidential selection committee have met with operatives from EMILY’s List and the Barbara Lee Political Office, an organization that supports electing Democratic women candidates. The vice-presidential selection committee has also contacted Democratic consultants who have expertise in running campaigns with women candidates.
“Ex-George W. Bush officials launch super PAC backing Biden over Trump” via Alexandra Jaffe of The Associated Press — A group of former Bush administration and campaign officials have launched a new super PAC supporting Biden, the latest in a growing number of Republican groups to come out in support of Biden over Trump. The group, 43 Alumni for Biden, has recruited at least 200 former White House officials, campaign aides and Cabinet secretaries who worked under Bush to join the push against the Republican incumbent. They’re planning to roll out supportive testimonial videos featuring high-profile Republicans and launch a voter turnout effort in key states, aimed at turning out disaffected Republican voters. Many of the members of the group still consider themselves Republicans but see the need to defeat Trump as beyond their personal politics.
— CONVENTION COUNTDOWN —
“Here’s what $1,161,200 will buy you at the 2020 RNC” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — According to a flyer from the campaign, those who annually contributed more than $1.6 million to the reelection effort will receive a reserved hotel room with priority booking on Amelia Island, VIP concierge service, an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour, and private lounge access and priority seating at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Premier donors will also earn access to the Chairman’s Lunch, a Presidential Trustee designation on the Convention Celebration credential and a listing on the Convention Celebration program. In total, 14 packages are available for donors with the smallest, least expensive being the President’s Club. The President’s Club package is available for those who have contributed between $1,000 to $5,600 annually.
— MORE FROM THE TRAIL —
“Anna Paulina Luna raises $410K in Q2” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Luna said she raised more than $410,000 in the second quarter of 2020 for her campaign in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. That brings Luna’s total raised so far to nearly $800,000. Luna is running in a crowded Republican primary for the party’s nomination to take on incumbent Charlie Crist. “I am honored by the outpouring of support from Pinellas County and across the country,” Luna said. “Our people-first campaign is fueled by countless conservatives across Pinellas and the United States that are tired of do-nothing, say-anything politicians like Charlie Crist. I am thrilled at our momentum leading into August and look forward to sending him home in November.” Luna’s latest haul puts her on track to be a financially viable contender against her toughest challenger, Amanda Makki.
“Darren Aquino says it’s time to “pick a side” in coming civil war” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Aquino starts his newest ad with images of a Black Lives Matter protest turning violent. By the end of the ad, he’s holding a gun and explaining it’s time to prepare for war. “Violent mobs. Antifa. Black Lives Matter,” Aquino says. “We are heading toward a civil war. Oh yeah.” Clutching a long gun draped in an American flag and called “Old Glory,” Aquino said the country today faces violent conflict intended to undermine Trump. It’s the latest provocative spot from the New York City mayoral candidate-turned-Southwest Florida political hopeful. A Change.org petition launched last week calling him a racist fascist and demanded he drop out.
To view the ad, click on the image below:
“State attorney requests Governor reassign criminal complaint against congressional candidate Casey Askar” via Devan Patel of the Napled Daily News — Citing a personal and professional relationship with another candidate, State Attorney Amira Fox has requested Gov. Ron DeSantis assign another office to investigate a criminal complaint against Askar, a Naples businessman running to replace Rep. Francis Rooney in District 19. Askar, the founder of the Askar Family Portfolio, has been accused of misrepresenting his post-graduate education at Harvard Business School. In the state of Florida, misrepresentation of education is a first-degree misdemeanor.
“Florida retailers name pro-business picks in open House, Senate races” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Florida retailers are making their choices in open 2020 state races, releasing a list of eight candidates, including a single Democrat who makes the cut. The Florida Retail Federation weighed in with endorsements for upcoming Senate and House races, giving the nod to pro-business candidates including Republicans Jim Boyd in Senate District 21; Jennifer Bradley in SD 5; Jason Brodeur in SD 9, Danny Burgess in SD 20; Ana Maria Rodriguez in SD 39; Ray Rodriguez in SD 27 and Sam Garrison in House District 18. Rep. Tina Polsky, the only Democrat on the list, is running for SD 29. “We are proud to support these business-friendly candidates who are committed to strengthening our economy by enabling Florida businesses to create jobs,” said FRF President and CEO Scott Shalley.
“Michael Waltz, Florida Chamber endorse Ray Rodrigues” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Waltz endorsed Rodrigues in a GOP primary in Senate District 27. The support came the same day Rodrigues shored up support from the Florida Chamber of Commerce. The support could be crucial for Rodrigues, generally considered the front-runner to succeed Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto in the open seat but now locked in a primary with Fort Myers Republican Heather Fitzenhagen. Waltz stressed a significant point of difference between the candidates, their stance on abortion. “Ray Rodrigues is a conservative warrior who has worked tirelessly to protect the unborn because he understands that every life is precious,” said Waltz.
—“Meet Gary Scott, a Republican running for House District 42” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics
“Two first responders’ unions say voters should back Michael Weinstein in HD 81” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Two Palm Beach County first responders’ unions are backing Weinstein in the House District 81 Democratic primary. The Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association and the Professional Firefighters and Paramedics of Palm Beach County both announced support for Weinstein. “Your advocacy for, and understanding of, public safety issues is commendable,” read the endorsement from the Professional Firefighters and Paramedics group. Weinstein is competing against former Rep. Kelly Skidmore for the Democratic nomination in HD 81.
“Nick Duran touts $47K June haul as he defends HD 112 seat” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Duran says he added more than $47,000 in June as he faces a challenge to his House District 112 seat. Former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro and ex-vice president of the Golden Pines Neighborhood Association Rosy Palomino are competing for the Republican nomination in HD 112. Duran won the seat in 2016 and is seeking his third term. Candidates face a July 3 deadline to report all fundraising through June 26. Neither Duran nor the Republican challengers have filed their reports covering that span. A Duran campaign official, however, said the candidate raised $37,500 during June through his campaign. Leadership for Miami-Dade, a political committee Duran chairs, added another $10,000, according to his team. That gives him more than $160,000 still on hand between those two accounts.
— DOWN BALLOT —
“Beverly McCallum not qualified for state attorney, judge rules” via Cindy Swirko of the Ocala Star-Banner — McCallum does not qualify for the job because of a suspension by the Florida Supreme Court last year, a judge has ruled. Opponent Brian Kramer filed the suit to have McCallum disqualified and will become the top prosecutor unless McCallum wins an appeal. “It’s my opinion that she doesn’t constitutionally qualify and that’s why we filed the lawsuit, and the judge agreed,” Kramer said. The circuit is composed of Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union counties. Second Circuit Judge Angela C. Dempsey based her ruling on the precedent set in an earlier case that, when suspended by the state Supreme Court, an attorney is no longer a member of the Bar.
— TOP OPINION —
“Americans sacrificed to flatten the curve. Their leaders have let them down.” via The Washington Post editorial board — When the coronavirus pandemic began, the goal was to “flatten the curve,” to avoid overwhelming the hospital system. The chart of daily new cases in the United States looks like a ski lift, rising ever steeper. We need a colossal effort, a Manhattan Project, to fight the virus, and we don’t have it. Experts have identified the best strategy: test, to find out who is sick; trace, to find out who may be sick; and isolate those who are suffering. Personal habits must accompany this: wearing face masks, hand washing, physical distancing and avoiding crowds in enclosed spaces.
— OPINIONS —
“America has its priorities all wrong” via Jennifer B. Nuzzo and Joshua M. Sharfstein of The New York Times — Political leaders seem to have paid scant attention to safely reopening schools. The consequences of those backward priorities make it even more vital that we extensively prepare to reopen classrooms as safely as possible this fall. Research suggests that the sudden switch to online instruction has cost some students a full year of academic progress. This harm disproportionately affects children in homes without computers and stable internet connections, deepening educational inequality and widening racial and economic divides. The disruption of learning can have lifetime effects on students’ income and health. The American Academy of Pediatrics has concluded that the harm to children from not having in-person education outweighs the risk.
“DeSantis’ silence on masks betrays military lesson: Protect yourself” via Philip Levine for the Orlando Sentinel — The Governor’s job is tough and often thankless. The road ahead is blurry; there is no clear map. This means the right path lies more in leadership and hope than making all the right turns. No one truly knows what is “right.” DeSantis served in the U.S. Navy Reserve, then as the legal adviser to the SEAL Commander Special Operations Task Force in Iraq. Yet it’s time he remembered a rule he once lived by, which could ensure more Floridians survive in the months ahead. As a legal adviser for the SEALs, I am confident DeSantis would always personally wear a combat helmet outside a secured U.S. base there, as would the troops that served beside him.
“Matt Gaetz, Francis Rooney: despite our efforts offshore drilling is still a threat” via Florida Politics — In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill brought disaster to Florida. Our entire state’s economy suffered even though not every community was directly impacted by the spill. Reports have recently circulated that the Department of Interior wants to resume offshore drilling in Florida’s waters after the 2020 election. These reports are deeply concerning to us, to the military conducting crucial operations off Florida’s coast, and to millions of Floridians whose well-being depends on the tourism economy that is existentially threatened by offshore drilling. Our Congressional colleagues in the Florida delegation stand together in recognizing the dangers drilling poses to our state. Leave our home alone.
“Kathleen Peters picked the wrong issue and time to make a stand” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — If Peters has harbored any idea that the Black Lives Matter movement will go away soon, she probably knows by now it won’t happen. She found out the hard way, too. It began during the Commission’s virtual meeting. Peters told Commissioner Ken Welch he should use a different background for his Zoom image. Welch, the only Black on the Commission, appears before a photo of the Black Lives Matter street mural in front of the Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum in South St. Pete. Peters said she received emails from people upset with the background Welch uses. What they’re really saying is they want the issue to go away because it makes them uncomfortable.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Florida’s Department of Health reports more than 6,500 new cases of coronavirus and 45 more fatalities.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— If you’re planning an outdoor party (or headed to the beach) for the Fourth of July, you have the Gov. DeSantis’ blessing. He says it’s safer there than it is inside.
— As the Governor continues to downplay the spike in COVID-19 cases, there’s no going back on reopening, he says. Meanwhile, Democrats in the state Senate accuse him of failing Florida during the pandemic.
— Trump’s new trade deal with Canada and Mexico is now in effect and the state Agriculture Commissioner says it could cost Florida growers $400 million and eliminate 8,000 jobs in the Sunshine State.
— The Governor signed Senate Bill 404, which requires girls under age 18 to get notarized permission from at least one parent before they can have an abortion. Backers of the new law say it’s all about protecting girls and preserving rights of parents, but the head of Planned Parenthood in Florida says it’s just politicians playing their games.
— The latest with Florida Man, who is threatening to deputize every law-abiding gun owner in Clay County to deal with any civil rights protesters. Bonus points because the sheriff who doesn’t like the Black Lives Matter demonstrations is himself Black.
To listen, click on the image below:
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
— ALOE —
“‘Jaws’ is still devouring us. SOS!” via Manohla Dargis of The New York Times — The wave-making Leviathan of summer blockbusters, “Jaws” changed the way Hollywood did business and how people went to movies. That the Mayor in “Jaws” has become a pandemic meme is a testament to the film’s unnerving topicality and our habit of viewing the world through a screen. Critics read “Jaws” different ways: as a take on “Moby-Dick” or the Vietnam War, or as a tale about the return of the repressed. Of course, it is also about a shark that kills people and is killed in turn, which makes it another story about humankind’s domination of nature.
“Baseball stadiums are closed to fans — But this guy’s balcony is open for business” via Jared Diamond of The Wall Street Journal — Chip Messenger is about to become the most popular baseball fan in Southern California. He leases a condominium in the Legend, a luxury building in downtown San Diego, where his private balcony on the 15th floor provides a clear view into Petco Park, the home of the Padres. Under normal circumstances, a residential amenity that amounts to free, long-distance season tickets counts as a fun perk to brag about to friends and colleagues. But during the coronavirus pandemic, it is one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the country to anybody who cares about the sport. Messenger says he will open his balcony to other Padres die-hards desperate for a fix throughout the season — with appropriate health-related precautions, of course.
“Miami Dolphins, NFL teams down to two preseason games” via The Palm Beach Post — The NFL is set to announce that the first and fourth week of the preseason schedule has been scrapped. There had been reports for weeks that the league was considering shortening its preseason from four to two games. One of the reasons for the change is to give teams more time to work on their own after losing on-field time this offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Another is to cut down on travel. The Dolphins were set to open the 2020 preseason at Atlanta on August 14 and then close the preseason at New Orleans on September 3. That now leaves them with two home preseason games — vs. the Eagles on August 20 and vs. the Lions on August 27.
“‘Hamilton’ review: The revolution, now televised” via John Anderson of The Wall Street Journal — The room where it happens is now in your house, as long as you’re a subscriber to Disney+, where a filmed version of the Tony- and Pulitzer-winning “Hamilton” drops on Friday. When it opened at the Public Theater in New York in 2015, Wall Street Journal critic Terry Teachout called the smash-hit-to-be “the most exciting and significant musical of the past decade.” How does it play? With the same verbal and musical fireworks as the stage version, and with the same emotional kick, which is rooted in the casting. The thrust of “Hamilton,” inspired by the is how the “bastard, orphan, son of a whore” became great. “Hamilton” the show does justice to the energy of Hamilton the man through Lin-Manuel Miranda’s sometimes furious volley of words and rhymes and some very memorable musical numbers, which unlike songs without hooks are often hooks without songs.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to Ashley Carr, James McFaddin of The Southern Group and Sandi Poreda of Bulldog Strategy Group.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.