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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.8.20

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

A Florida Politics analysis of the Sunshine State’s COVID-19 data, as reported daily by the Florida Department of Health, from March 18 through Tuesday, shows three obvious patterns over the period in which Florida saw cases, hospitalizations, and deaths emerge through March and some of April, dip a bit, plateau, and then rise again.

— The rise and fall and rise again of hospitalizations for COVID-19 lagged the rise and fall and rise of new cases by 11-15 days.

— The rise and fall and rise again of deaths from COVID-19 has lagged hospitalizations by 10-11 days, and lagged the emergence of new cases by 21-26 days.

— Deaths from COVID-19 are increasing again, but not as rapidly as they did in April and May.

Florida’s seven-day averages for new COVID-19 cases first peaked with the Department of Health’s April 8 report, when Florida was averaging 1,214 new cases for the previous week. New case reports then declined, then plateaued in the 700s until June 2.

Examining Florida’s COVID-19 numbers, some disturbing patterns start to emerge.

After June 2, the seven-day average of new cases began climbing again and has done so for 36 consecutive days, reaching the current worst-ever average of 8,766 with Tuesday’s report.

Hospitalizations did not peak until April 23, with an average of 172 new admissions over the previous week.

That came 15 days after cases first peaked.

The daily new hospitalizations average pretty much stayed in the 140-170 range until sagging in late May and early June, reaching a low of 110 on June 9.

On June 13, the second rise of hospitalizations became apparent. Since then, the seven-day average rose almost daily to the current peak of 264 through Tuesday’s report.

So the second rise of hospitalizations began 11 days after the second rise of cases.

Florida’s COVID-19 death toll, as Gov. Ron DeSantis likes to point out, show a different picture. But not entirely.

In the first rise, COVID-19 deaths did not peak until May 8, when Florida was averaging 51 deaths per day over the previous week.

That means the worst point for deaths came 10 days after hospitalizations peaked, and 25 days after cases peaked.

After a slow sag over more than a month, Florida’s average daily death toll did not begin to rise again until June 24.

That is 11 days after the new rise in hospitalizations, and 22 days after the new rise in cases.

The seven-day running average of COVID-19 deaths topped 40 again on July 2 and has reached a second-wave high of 48 through Tuesday’s report, still below what was suffered in early May. Florida’s single-worst day for COVID-19 deaths was May 5, with 72.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: “COVID-19 (China Virus) Death Rate PLUNGES From Peak In U.S.” A Tenfold Decrease In Mortality. The Washington Times @WashTimes Valerie Richardson. We have the lowest Mortality Rate in the World. The Fake News should be reporting these most important of facts, but they don’t!

@MarcoRubio: #COVID19 spreads when people interact. Eventually, no matter what you close, people are going to interact. Protect the most vulnerable, provide clear guidelines & discourage high-risk settings, but #lockdownextension won’t stop spread & they create more problems than they solve.

@Doug_Hanks: Prez @realDonaldTrump wouldn’t have to have to wear a mask while leaving Air Force One at Miami-Dade’s Miami International Airport, spox says. He plans trip here later in this week to Southcom HQ, which isn’t covered by county COVID- rules. Private vehicles exempt from mask regs

@KevinCate: Just because you can get PPP money doesn’t mean you should. Claiming fiduciary responsibility as an excuse is abdicating more important responsibilities to country, customers, and conscience. Save this money for small businesses with no other alternatives.

@RepTedDeutch: In Florida, Gov DeSantis has replaced “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step.” with “We’re not rolling back. Live with it.” The raging outbreak in our state was preventable. The governor isn’t doing his job.

@MarcACaputo: Bracketing today’s Miami event for Ds was FL Sen @JoseJavierJJR, who said DeSantis was the president’s tool: “Trump says jump and DeSantis says, ‘how high? I absolutely think he’s a sock puppet. A sock puppet in good times is embarrassing. A sock puppet in a pandemic is deadly”

@cbquist: if you are a governor or legislator mandating that K-12 classrooms open on a certain date you must also accept the classes taking a field trip to the state Capitol building on that date I am sorry it is right here in the rule book

@ShevrinJones: Today is the best I’ve felt in 8 days and my mom and dad are showing no symptoms. Today is a great day! Thank you all for your prayers and positive energy, keep them coming!

@BSFarrington: Watched the Florida Senate Democratic Caucus press conference on coronavirus on its FB page. When it wrapped up, an @AnnaAkana video popped up called “Should you have sex on the first date?” In the opening seconds, it says, “Thanks for the f***.” Odd juxtaposition.

@MattGaetz: Pensacola has been long known as the “City of Five Flags.” How many of them will survive this time of mob cancel culture & political weakness?

@SStaffordTweet: Call me crazy but not sure most of us Tallahasseans have fully processed just how awful the local job losses, business closures, and tax receipts will be if we don’t play college football. Deducting $100-150m from the local economy is a long term disaster

— DAYS UNTIL —

Disney World Magic Kingdom & Animal Kingdom to reopen — 3; Disney World Epcot and Hollywood Studios to reopen — 7; Federal taxes due — 7; MLB starts — 15; WNBA starts — 16; PLL starts — 17; TED conference rescheduled — 18; Florida Bar exams begin in Tampa — 20; NBA season restart in Orlando — 23; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres (rescheduled) — 23; NHL resumes — 24; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 41; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 42; “Mulan” premieres (rescheduled) — 44; Indy 500 rescheduled — 46; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 47; NBA draft lottery — 48; Rev. Al Sharpton’s D.C. March — 51; U.S. Open begins — 54; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 58; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 59; Rescheduled date for French Open — 74; First presidential debate in Indiana — 83; “Wonder Woman” premieres — 86; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 87; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 91; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 97; Second presidential debate scheduled at Miami — 99; NBA draft — 100; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 100; NBA free agency — 103; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 106; 2020 General Election — 118; “Black Widow” premieres — 123; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 127; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 135; “No Time to Die” premieres — 135; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 146; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 168; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 214; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 380; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 388; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 485; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 583; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 625; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 667; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 821.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida tops 200,000 coronavirus cases” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — More than 4,600 health care providers in Florida received at least $1.7 billion in interest-free federal loans meant to prevent massive job layoffs, a review of data released by the federal government shows. The loans, which went to providers ranging from pediatricians to pharmacists to hospice providers and nearly everything in between, helped keep 200,000 jobs. The majority of the 4,637 Florida health care companies included in the data released by the Small Business Association applied for loans in the $150,000 to $300,000 range. Twenty-two companies, though, were awarded loans between $5 million and $10 million, the highest amounts allowable under the Paycheck Protection Program, passed by Congress in April to bolster businesses during the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

How it’s playing nationally — “Florida invited the nation to its reopening — then it became a new coronavirus epicenter” via Cleve Wootson Jr., Isaac Stanley-Becker and Lori Rozsa of The Washington Post — Hospital leaders, lawmakers, physicians, epidemiologists, advocates and others familiar with the state’s response said a false sense of security set in when grim predictions about the virus’s spread in Florida did not come to pass in March and April. [Gov. Ron] DeSantis declared victory, attending a laudatory news conference at the White House with President Trump. The editor of National Review wrote an editorial titled ‘Where does Ron DeSantis go to get his apology?’ But observers maintain the state then failed to prepare for a surge of the virus, which struck as residents were seeking refuge in air-conditioned indoor spaces, where the virus is believed to be most easily transmitted.

Florida still not reporting how many hospitalized with COVID-19. Ron DeSantis won’t say why.” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — Under pressure last week as COVID-19 hospitalizations soared in Florida, DeSantis’ office said the state would start reporting daily hospitalization data for all 67 counties. DeSantis, however, refused to address the fact that the state has yet to make good on its promise when asked by a Miami Herald reporter. “Obviously not everything is presented in this report but just an unbelievable amount of data is available,” DeSantis said at an indoor press conference held at Florida’s 12th COVID-only nursing facility near Miami International Airport.

Ron DeSantis is staying tightlipped about exactly how many people are hospitalized in Florida with COVID-19.

DeSantis touts Florida’s elder response as country’s best” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — As Florida is seeing more people hospitalized with COVID-19, DeSantis says the state is continuing to improve hospital availability and protect the elderly. Emergency department visits with symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu increased throughout the month of June. And while ICUs still have available beds hospitals are having to isolate more individuals who test positive despite entering the facilities for other ailments. During a Tuesday visit to Miami Care Center, formerly the Pan American Hospital, DeSantis highlighted COVID-19 outpatient nursing home facilities and anticipated manpower assistance from the federal government.

Sean Hannity, DeSantis talk virus” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis, on the Monday night edition of Hannity on the Fox News Channel, got the friendliest possible forum to give his side of the coronavirus narrative. Among the chyron graphics: How Florida succeeded where New York failed. Pilloried all day Tuesday on CNN and MSNBC, the Governor finally had what could be called equal time, with Hannity cueing him up via an extended rant about New York’s Governor and COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. Spinning Florida’s stats in the best possible way, Hannity served as hypeman for a Governor who needed one.

Former COVID-19 data scientist says older patients driving virus surge” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Governor unceremoniously fired a data scientist who did key work on Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard weeks ago, yet the person’s piercing critique of the state’s approach to the virus fight continues. Rebekah Jones, in Tuesday comments, continued her critique of information from the state that she contends is less than accurate. Jones countered DeSantis‘ contentions on a number of fronts, including shifting rationales for what caused the spike in diagnoses in recent weeks, such as the young causing the spread. While there has been an “increase overall,” in Southeast Florida, Jones noted that “we actually see a disproportionate number of the older population.”

Democrats: DeSantis’ virus inaction cost Floridian lives’” via Terry Spencer and Bobby Caina Calvan of The Associated Press — Florida’s Democratic congressional delegation blasted DeSantis’ response to the coronavirus outbreak, saying that his refusal to issue statewide orders requiring masks and impose tougher restrictions on businesses has caused unneeded deaths and spread the disease. They called on the Republican governor to close beaches and again close gyms and bar inside dining at restaurants statewide. They said he has never met with a bipartisan congressional delegation to discuss the virus and his administration’s order Monday requiring school districts to reopen classrooms this fall usurps local authority and endangers families.

Democrats are accusing Ron DeSantis of inaction, which cost the lives of hundreds of Floridians. Image via AP

Senate Democrats warn of looming COVID-19 storm, bash DeSantis” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Senate Democrats hit DeSantis for what they call absent leadership in the state’s COVID-19 response as the second wave of new diagnoses continues to build. Senators called for a mask mandate, transparency in hospital data and leadership on contact tracing and isolating positive individuals, calling the state’s response “terrible.” With the Governor highlighting transitional nursing homes for elderly patients who are stable enough to not be hospitalized but still have the virus, incoming Senate Democratic Leader Gary Farmer pointed to that as a silent admission that hospitals are already feeling the strain. Lantana Democratic Sen. Lori Berman added, “We are at a tipping point. We might even be beyond the tipping point given the numbers that we’re seeing.”

Can DeSantis force Florida schools to reopen in a pandemic? Some school leaders doubt it” via Andrew Marra of the Palm Beach Post — The emergency order — issued by state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, the same day Donald Trump called for schools to reopen — appeared at first to undermine the push by some educators to keep classes online when the school year begins. Though the order said schools can remain closed if county health officials deem reopening too dangerous, a Corcoran spokeswoman heaped doubt on that possibility. “Logically, I don’t think they could say schools aren’t safe if they are allowing people to be out in public,” Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School reopening plans due with three weeks” via the News Service of Florida — A day after Corcoran ordered Florida’s public schools to reopen in August, state education officials held a webinar to address questions about the mandate. K-12 Chancellor Jacob Oliva told school district officials that they need to submit reopening plans and agree to all the points in Corcoran’s emergency order by July 31. For example, school districts need to assure the Florida Department of Education that they agree to reopen next month and that they will offer the full panoply of services required by law.

— “‘This is life or death’: Education union head voices grave concerns over school reopenings” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

—”‘It is just way too much’: Parents, teachers concerned as Florida order requires schools to reopen next month” via News Channel 8

— CORONA LOCAL —

DeSantis sends 100 nurses to Miami’s Jackson Health as it struggles with COVID-19” via David Fleshler of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — About 100 nurses and other medical personnel will be sent by the state to Jackson Health to help Miami’s public hospital system cope with the surge of coronavirus cases. DeSantis announced the decision Tuesday at a news conference in Miami, as the state posted another 7,347 cases and the highest positivity rate since the beginning of the epidemic. “I think that will be something that will be very useful for them as they continue to deal not only with COVID- patients, but also non-COVID patients,” DeSantis said. “So we’re happy to be able to be supportive, and we’re standing by to do more as circumstances warrant.”

Buckling under the pressure of rising COVID-19 cases, Ron DeSantis orders 100 nurses to Miami’s Jackson Health hospital. Image via the Miami Herald.

Miami-Dade Mayor reverses course, will allow gyms to stay open as COVID-19 cases rise” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — People in Miami-Dade County will still be able to hit the I do not know what is going on the Wi-Fi was everything checks out with the Wi-Fi gym to regain their pre-pandemic bodies. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez said gyms and fitness centers would remain open under an emergency order that will go into effect Wednesday as his response to a spike in the county’s COVID-19 cases, positive test rates, hospitalizations and intensive care unit bed usage. He had originally said gyms would shut down. Giménez was going to put restaurants back under takeout and delivery only, then said Monday night that outdoor seating would be allowed.

South Florida students won’t be required to return to classrooms” via Lois K. Solomon of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — South Florida students likely won’t be required to return to brick-and-mortar classrooms next month, despite a state order issued Monday that mandates the opening of school five days a week when the new school year starts. The order leaves the decision to local officials based on health considerations. South Florida school officials say it would be difficult to have everyone return to school safely as the coronavirus pandemic continues its relentless spread. “We do not see a realistic path” to every school in the county opening five days a week this fall, Superintendent Robert Runcie said during a Broward School Board workshop on Tuesday.

Broward clerk of courts hospitalized with coronavirus, she tells event organizer” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward Clerk of Courts Brenda Forman has been hospitalized with the new coronavirus, she has told an event organizer. Forman, 62, has been running for reelection, touting her record as a manager and an advocate for funding for her office. She was scheduled to speak Monday at a virtual meeting of the Broward Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said the organization’s president, Ruby L. Green. “I called her Sunday to confirm,” said Green, a candidate for Public Defender. “She told me she would not be able to join us because she was in the hospital with COVID-19.” Green announced the reason for Forman’s absence during the meeting, which attracted 20 participants. It was not recorded.

No bueno —Fontainebleau Hotel announces more than 1,300 layoffs. No word on when it might rehire” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — The spike in COVID-19 cases has led Miami Beach’s iconic Fontainebleau Hotel to lay off 1,309 workers indefinitely, according to a filing with the state. In a letter dated June 23 and published on the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s website Tuesday, a hotel official said that after recent national media reporting on increased COVID-19 cases in Florida, it had seen a rapid decline in leisure room night bookings. “This weekend alone thousands of group and leisure rooms have been canceled,” it said, referring to the weekend of June 19.

‘Things are not getting better … they are getting worse,’ Fire Chief says” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County children are showing long-term lung damage from COVID-19, two firefighters are in intensive care and hospital admissions, along with cases, are spiking, two top county officials said Tuesday, painting a grim picture of the continuing toll of the pandemic. “Certainly, all indications are things are not getting better, they are not getting steady, they are getting worse,” Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Chief Reginald Duren told county commissioners, adding that 109 firefighters are in quarantine. His remarks came after Palm Beach County Health Director Dr. Alina Alonso said the county is failing to meet four of the six benchmarks that it must hit to declare that the deadly coronavirus is under control.

Lake Worth Beach businesses targeted with anti-mask signs” via Jorge Millan of the Palm Beach Post — Several businesses in the area were the targets over the weekend of a flyer-packing protester pushing back against Palm Beach County’s mandated use of face masks to combat the coronavirus epidemic. The flyers, including one encouraging customers to “ASSERT YOUR RIGHTS,” were taped to storefront windows using blue tape. Stores and shops requiring patrons to use face masks appeared to be the primary focus of the mischief. Heidi Ferguson, who owns Stitches & Rust, said she had a small sign outside her vintage clothing and housewares shop detailing the county’s ordinance passed last month requiring residents and visitors to wear facial coverings inside buildings such as grocery stores and restaurants. “Just an ordinary sign. Nothing that would cause outrage.”

Signs like this are popping up around Lake Worth businesses that require masks to enter. Image via the Palm Beach Post.

Duh —Ravens QB Lamar Jackson cancels weekend event in South Florida, where COVID-19 cases are surging” via Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore Sun — Ravens quarterback and South Florida native Jackson has canceled his annual “Funday with LJ” event this weekend in Broward County, a spokesperson for the event confirmed Tuesday. With strict social-distancing guidelines in place amid the coronavirus pandemic, the city of Pompano Beach had set limits on the event’s attendance, the spokesperson said. Because of the number of people already registered for the event, Jackson decided to cancel the event rather than turn away any. On Monday, Jackson had shared a flyer on Instagram for the two-day event, which advertised some of the activities available — flag football games, Go-Karts, waterslides — and noted, in smaller print, that children had to sign a waiver to participate.

— MORE LOCAL —

5 Central Florida hospitals hit ICU capacity, but region still has beds available for any COVID-19 surge” via Naseem Miller of the Orlando Sentinel — Intensive care units at several hospitals in Central Florida were at full capacity, as the state reported more than 6,000 new cases of coronavirus and 47 deaths. Orlando Health ORMC, Orlando Health Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, AdventHealth Kissimmee, AdventHealth Winter Park and Poinciana Medical Center had no ICU capacity, according to data from the Agency for Health Care Administration, which provides only a snapshot in time. But the picture is more promising when all available ICU beds are averaged for each county: Orange County had 17% overall ICU bed availability, Lake had 17%, Osceola had 12% and Seminole had 10%.

Some hospitals in Central Florida are hitting the limit for available ICU beds, but the overall region is still in decent shape.

Orange teachers protest reopening schools, as school board discusses coming academic year” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — In cars decorated with homemade signs that read, “Keep schools closed. Keep teachers safe” and “How many students must die?” dozens of Orange County schoolteachers paraded around their school district’s headquarters Tuesday, urging school leaders not to open campuses for in-person classes next month. The car parade and protest was organized by the local teachers union to coincide with the Orange County School Board meeting to discuss how to reopen schools in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hillsborough schools to require masks for students, staff” via Jeffrey S. Solochek and Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — When students and staff return to Hillsborough County schools in August, they will need to have masks. Superintendent Addison Davis announced Monday that he had changed his view, which had been to encourage but not require facial coverings, after consulting with several medical, education and community leaders, as well as hearing from many angry parents. “This is a movement that must be taken in order to protect our children,” Davis said. “My responsibility is to take every proactive step I can to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” The plan, he explained, is to have students and staff, visitors and vendors, wear facial coverings in any shared space where social distancing cannot occur. That includes classrooms, hallways and buses.

On further review, concealed permit holders aren’t exempt from Hillsborough mask order” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — Concealed weapons permit holders are not exempt from a county order on face mask requirements. Hillsborough County officials said Tuesday. Its Emergency Policy Group discussed inaccurate information Monday. Further legal research showed there was no such provision in state law, a county spokeswoman said. The county’s Emergency Policy Group voted Monday to tweak its mask order. One of the changes was to clarify that the county measure didn’t conflict with state law regarding concealed carry permit holders.

Pinellas County sees uptick in ICU bed use for COVID-19 patients, but surge bed capacity is unclear” via Veronica Brezina-Smith of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Hospitals in Pinellas County are losing space for COVID-19 patients as more are being admitted to intensive care unit beds. But county commissioners said the hospital systems stand by their initial statements that they have enough resources for a surge. More than 100 COVID-19 patients are being treated in ICU beds in Pinellas County, or 32 percent, which is due to more severe life-threatening cases, Pinellas County commissioners said during a virtual board meeting. Pinellas County Health Director Dr. Ulyee Choe said there is a direct link between bed capacity and workforce. The more nurses and staff members a hospital system has is correlated to the number of beds hospitals can manage during a surge.

St. Pete plans to open coronavirus testing site at Mahaffey Theater” via Veronica Brezina-Smith of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The city of St. Petersburg is preparing to open a COVID-19 testing site at the Mahaffey Theater. The city is working with the county and state on the new test site, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman said during a news conference at the city’s emergency operations center. “One of our goals is to see an increase in testing,” Kriseman said. Following the announcement, the Mayor tweeted more details about the site. The tests will be free and will be given regardless if someone is or isn’t presenting symptoms. It will also be drive-thru only with a limit of four people per car. The site will be open for testing on Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Some Tampa Bay restaurants choosing to close amid safety concerns and dwindling sales” via Helen Freund of the Tampa Bay Times — Absent any reopening rollbacks at the state or local level, a growing number of Tampa Bay restaurant owners are deciding to temporarily close their businesses, either shutting the doors altogether or staying open for to-go and delivery service. Their reasons vary, but usually include some combination of general safety concerns, declining sales and an increasing number of restaurant employees testing positive for the virus. It’s not an easy decision. Many restaurant owners are still trying to dig themselves out of the financial hole caused by a roughly six-week state-mandated shutdown, and most have said PPP funds won’t be enough to sustain the industry in the long run, especially for those who haven’t received rent abatement from their landlords.

Mask ordinance fails at Cape Coral council meeting” via Anika Henanger, Taylor Petras and Jack Lowenstein of WINK — The motion to approve a face mask ordinance in the City of Cape Coral failed during the Monday Cape Coral City Council meeting. Council decided to strongly recommend the use of masks out in public and to stick to education of mask use and public safety during the coronavirus pandemic. Public commenters showed up again in large number to be heard by the mayor and council. The messages from the public varied between approval and disdain for the ordinance that eventually failed.

Fort Myers church fires back at social media claims it intentionally exposed members to COVID-19” via Frank Gluck of the Fort Myers News-Press — A Fort Myers church attended by a 17-year-old Lee County girl who died last month from COVID-19 strongly denied social media allegations that it intentionally exposed members to the coronavirus and ignored safety guidelines on masks and social distancing. In a Facebook post on Tuesday, First Assembly of God called any such claims “false and defamatory.” … “Those allegations are absolutely false and are based upon irresponsible speculation and inaccurate information,” the statement reads. “Because those false reports have been picked up, perpetuated and posted throughout national, local and social media, the church has been subject to a relentless attack and finds itself forced to make this statement in an effort to get the truth out.”

Carsyn Davis of Fort Myers died of COVID-19 after attending a church service that some allege intentionally exposed members to the virus. The church is firing back on those accusations.

High levels of COVID-19 have been found in Florida sewage, but a local spill hasn’t been tested” via Beau Zimmer of Tampa Bay 10 — After 25 million gallons of raw sewage was discovered leaking from a broken pipe into Sarasota Bay, the town of Longboat Key and environmental crews began testing for the standard environmental hazards … E. coli and fecal coliform. Both can cause environmental damage or even make people sick. But no one thought to test for something else that could cause contamination: COVID-19. “Our wastewater is chuck full the virus,” said Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease doctor who has been following studies on high levels of COVID-19 in the sewer systems of South Florida. “As long as we have COVID circulating in our population and people using the sewer systems to relieve themselves, that wastewater is going to have virus in it,” Dr. Marty said.

Leon County ‘full steam ahead’ following state’s emergency order on school reopenings” via CD Davidson-Hiers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Following an emergency order from Florida Commissioner of EducationRichard Corcoran mandating schools physically reopen in the fall, school districts throughout the state are scrambling to figure out what this means for local control of their August reopening plans. In Leon County, district officials have placed decisions into families’ hands about whether children will return in-person or continue remote learning. Only about 25% of families so far have chosen online instruction instead of going back to school buildings.

UCF has spent nearly $5 million on COVID-19 safety measures” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — As one of the largest universities in the nation, UCF has the tall task of protecting more than 69,000 students and more than 13,500 employees, some of whom may be on campus at anytime come Fall. The cost of UCF’s COVID-19 measures has prompted the university to adjust its budget to help manage the continuing expenses. The university may also consider other budget alternatives such as hiring and purchasing freezes. Documents show that UCF will also utilize disinfectant foggers that can kill viruses on contact and post signs that encourage social distancing and the use of masks. No costs, however, were provided for those items.

Orlando Magic player tests positive for COVID-19; Markelle Fultz delays entering NBA bubble” via Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel — The Orlando Magic entered the NBA bubble Tuesday without an unidentified player, who tested positive for COVID-19, and Fultz, whose entry was delayed due to a personal issue. Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said during a videoconference with reporters on Tuesday that Fultz is dealing with a personal matter unrelated to the virus. His absence is excused and the league is aware of his situation, according to Weltman. He said Fultz is following all safety protocols and expects a “seamless transition” for the guard’s return, although Weltman did not have a specific timetable for when that will be.

— CORONA NATION —

U. S. cases rise 1.8%; Texas infections hit record: Virus update” via Bloomberg — Coronavirus cases in the U.S. rose 1.8% as compared to the same time yesterday to 2.96 million, according to data. That matched the average daily increase over the past week and marked a fourth day in which new cases topped 50,000. Deaths rose 0.6% to 130,813. New cases in Texas topped 10,000 for the first time, rising by 5%, or 10,028, from Monday to 210,585. That exceeded the seven-day average daily increase of 3.9%. Sixty more people died, a 2.3% increase, versus an average 1.4% rise over the previous seven days. An additional 588 hospitalized with COVID-19 also topped the state’s seven-day average.

Betty DeVos and the White House leaned on the CDC to justify reopening schools.

White House leans on CDC, pediatricians to argue for reopening schools” via Nicole Gaudiano of POLITICO — The push to reopen comes as parents agonize over whether it will be safe to send their kids back to school this fall and districts wrestle with whether and how to conduct classes. Reopening is vital not just to get the economy going, but to Trump’s reelection prospects. The campaign may be banking on the issue to revive his appeal among disaffected suburban women, whose support will be key. The White House is leaning on CDC reopening guidance and a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics that details the importance of in-person learning and “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”

Betsy DeVos blasts school districts that hesitate at reopening” via Nicole Gaudiano of POLITICO — During a call with Governors, she slammed the Fairfax, Virginia, district for its distance learning “disaster” in the spring and offering a choice of only zero or two days of in-person instruction moving forward. Earlier in the pandemic, DeVos had been more open to kids learning both online and during in-person classes “Education leaders need to examine real data and weigh risk …” she said. HHS Secretary Alex Azar separately backed up DeVos, saying parents should expect schools to deliver a safe learning environment for their children, even during a pandemic. “We must reopen,” he said. “We’ve got to get people back to work, back to school, back to health care, because we can’t stay locked in our homes forever.

Anthony Fauci warns U.S. is ‘knee-deep’ in first wave of coronavirus cases and prognosis is ‘really not good’” via Savannah Behrmann of USA Today — Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the U.S. handle on the coronavirus outbreak is “really not good” and that action is needed to curb the spread. In an interview via Facebook Live, the nation’s top infectious disease expert said, “We are still knee-deep in the first wave of this. And I would say, this would not be considered a wave. It was a surge, or a resurgence of infections superimposed upon a baseline.” New cases in the USA have reached record highs, climbing to about 50,000 a day. Nearly 3 million Americans have contracted the virus, and more than 130,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

U.S. will pay $1.6 billion to Novavax for coronavirus vaccine” via Katie Thomas of The New York Times — The federal government will pay the vaccine maker Novavax $1.6 billion to expedite the development of 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine by the beginning of next year, the company said. The deal is the largest that the Trump administration has made so far with a company as part of Operation Warp Speed, the sprawling federal effort to make coronavirus vaccines and treatments available to the American public as quickly as possible. Operation Warp Speed is a multiagency effort that seeks to carry out Trump’s pledge to make a coronavirus vaccine available by the end of the year,

Months into virus crisis, U.S. cities still lack testing capacity” via Sarah Mervosh and Manny Fernandez of The New York Times — Lines for coronavirus tests have stretched around city blocks and tests ran out altogether in at least one site on Monday, new evidence that the country is still struggling to create a sufficient testing system months into its battle with COVID-19. At a testing site in New Orleans, a line formed at dawn. But city officials ran out of tests five minutes after the doors opened at 8 a.m., and many people had to be turned away.

Protective gear for medical workers begins to run low again” via Geoff Mulvihill and Camille Fassett of The Associated Press — The personal protective gear that was in dangerously short supply during the early weeks of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S. is running low again as the virus resumes its rapid spread and the number of hospitalized patients climbs. A national nursing union is concerned that gear has to be reused. A doctors association warns that physicians’ offices are closed because they cannot get masks and other supplies. And Democratic members of Congress are pushing the Trump administration to devise a national strategy to acquire and distribute gear in anticipation of the crisis worsening into the fall. “We’re five months into this and there are still shortages of gowns, hair covers, shoe covers, masks, N95 masks,” said Deborah Burger, president of National Nurses United.

Protective gear for medical workers is once again in short supply.

Why does coronavirus hit Hispanics harder? Reasons might be found in Wimauma.” via Juan Carlos Chavez of the Tampa Bay Times — About half the COVID-19 cases reported nationwide include data on ethnicity (or 1.06 million) of them. Hispanics make up more than a third of these cases, nearly twice their share of the population as a whole. The number of coronavirus deaths among Hispanics as of Thursday was 14,572, about 18 percent of the total where ethnicity was reported. Studies are underway to explain the trend, but biological factors likely are not a reason. More likely are factors that were in place long before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared March 11, Dr. Marissa Levine said, factors like the limits experienced by many Hispanics in educational attainment, employment opportunities, transportation, health care access, food security and housing.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

Virus loans helped entities tied to Donald Trump evangelical allies” via Elana Schor of The Associated Press — Those receiving loans include the City of Destiny, the Florida church that Trump’s personal pastor and White House faith adviser Paula White-Cain calls home. The City of Destiny got between $150,000 and $350,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP. King Jesus International Ministry, the Miami megachurch where Trump launched his evangelical outreach push ahead of November’s election, received a loan of between $2 million and $5 million according to the data. That church’s pastor, Guillermo Maldonado, was also among a group of faith leaders who met and prayed with Trump at the White House last fall.

Senior Pastor Dr. Robert Jeffress addresses attendees before Vice President Mike Pence made comments at First Baptist Church Dallas during a Celebrate Freedom Rally. Several of Donald Trump’s evangelical allies are beneficiaries of the PPP program. Image via AP.

From small eateries to giant firms: businesses that received federal PPP loans revealed” via Annie Martin and Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — Central Florida businesses ranging from Hawkers Asian Street Fare to companies affiliated with billionaire Joe Lewis’ Tavistock Group received millions of dollars in forgivable federal loans to help pay workers rather than furlough or fire them during the coronavirus pandemic. The list of the businesses that received Paycheck Protection Program loans, includes mom-and-pop eateries, doctors offices, salons, private schools and churches, as well as large law firms and restaurant chains.

Federal pandemic loans flow to health providers” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — More than 4,600 health care providers in Florida received at least $1.7 billion in interest-free federal loans meant to prevent massive job layoffs, a News Service of Florida review of data released by the federal government shows. The loans, which went to providers ranging from pediatricians to pharmacists to hospice providers and nearly everything in between, helped keep 200,000 jobs. The majority of the 4,637 Florida health care companies included in the data released by the Small Business Association applied for loans in the $150,000 to $300,000 range. Twenty-two companies, though, were awarded loans between $5 million and $10 million.

Questions raised over how Florida Democratic Party scored Paycheck Protection Program funds” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The PPP was created to assist small businesses and nonprofits in keeping their staffs employed through the coronavirus crisis. But political parties are explicitly excluded from being eligible for the PPP program. Building funds reportedly are not allowed to spend any money that directly influences an election. That means the 100 employees cited for the Florida Democratic Party Building Fund ought to be someone other than the Democratic Party’s staff. Who are they? A spokesperson released a statement that read, “Congress passed PPP to help ensure employers maintained payroll during this crisis and to keep people employed — and that’s exactly what FDP did.”

Companies connected to Southwest Florida pols banked PPP funds” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A number of Southwest Florida companies connected to prominent regional politics appeared on a now-public list of businesses that received Payroll Protection Program assistance. That included a number of law firms with sitting or prospective officeholders on their payroll. Included on the list was Sarasota 500, the corporate name for Sarasota Ford. The dealership was one of the last that U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan owned for several years, and is still owned by Buchanan’s son Matt. Several law firms with lawmakers on the payroll ultimately ended up receiving funds. Blalock Walters in Bradenton, where state Rep. Will Robinson serves as a principal, collected between $350,000 and $1 million.

Paycheck Protection Program loan keeps Seminole Boosters, Inc. staffed during pandemic” via Curt Weiler of the Tallahassee Democrat — One Florida State-affiliated organization has benefited from the Paycheck Protection Program. A database released by the United States Small Business Administration includes Seminole Boosters, Inc., on its list of 82,708 small businesses or nonprofit organizations that have received a million dollars or more in funding from the Paycheck Protection Program. According to the database listing, Seminole Boosters was approved for a loan between $1 million to $2 million on April 14 in order to continue to support 54 jobs during the pandemic. Andy Miller, President and CEO of Seminole Boosters, confirmed to the Democrat that the organization received $1,017,455 through the Payroll Protection Program, but later returned $130,430 after a further review of the terms of the loan.

United Airlines sees risk of stalled rebound on virus surge” via Justin Bachman of Bloomberg — United Airlines Holdings Inc. warned employees that a jump in coronavirus infections in parts of the South and West is jeopardizing a nascent recovery for U.S. travel. The shares plunged. The airline has seen a sharp drop in bookings, particularly at its Newark, New Jersey hub, as states in the New York City metro area add new quarantine rules for travelers, United executives told employees Monday in a town hall meeting. United “expects demand to remain suppressed until a widely accepted treatment and/or vaccine for COVID-19 is available,” the airline said.

A million jobs lost: A ‘heart attack’ for the NYC economy” via Patrick McGeehan of The New York Times — New York City, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, is mired in the worst economic calamity since the financial crisis of the 1970s, when it nearly went bankrupt. The city is staggering toward reopening with some workers back at their desks or behind cash registers, and on Monday, it began a new phase, allowing personal-care services like nail salons and some outdoor recreation to resume. Even so, the city’s unemployment rate is hovering near 20% — a figure not seen since the Great Depression. What was intended as a “pause” has dragged on so long that for many workers, furloughs are turning into permanent job losses.

— MORE CORONA — 

Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro tests positive for COVID-19 after months of dismissing the seriousness of the virus” via Tara John, Marcia Reverdosa and Taylor Barnes of CNN — Bolsonaro has tested positive for COVID-19, following months of downplaying the virus. Bolsonaro himself announced the result, speaking on Brazilian TV channels. “Everyone knew that it would reach a considerable part of the population sooner or later. It was positive for me,” he said, referring to the COVID-19 test he took Monday. “On Sunday, I wasn’t feeling very well. On Monday, it got worse when I started feeling tired and some muscle pain. I also had a 38-degree [Celsius] fever. Given those symptoms, the presidential doctor said there was suspicion of COVID-19,” Bolsonaro said, adding that he then went to the hospital to receive a lung scan.

Karma in action: After months of flouting social distance guidelines, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tests positive for coronavirus. Image via Getty.

The retired inventor of N95 masks is back at work, mostly for free, to fight COVID-19” via Sydney Page of The Washington Post — Peter Tsai retired two years ago, but the materials scientist says he’s never been busier. When the novel coronavirus began gripping the globe in March, Tsai was summoned from his short-lived retirement. He was in urgent demand because he is the inventor who, in 1995, patented the filtration material used in disposable N95 respirators. The coveted masks are in short supply and are desperately needed by health care workers and others who require protection from the highly contagious coronavirus. Tsai started receiving a ceaseless torrent of calls and queries from national labs, companies and health care workers in need of help.

Millions of Americans have moved due to coronavirus” via Breanna Bradham of Bloomberg — Three percent of U.S. adults have moved either temporarily or permanently and 6% say that someone has moved into their home because of COVID-19, according to new Pew Research Center data. In total, more than one in five adults either moved themselves, had someone move into their home, or knew someone who did due to the virus. Nearly one in ten Americans aged 18 to 29 said they had moved because of the pandemic, and many of them have returned home. Reducing the risk of contracting the virus was the most common reason respondents said they moved (28%), followed by the closure of college campuses (23%) and to be with family (20%).

The bank drive-through makes a COVID-19 comeback” via Orla McCaffrey of The Wall Street Journal — Long before ATMs and online banking, drive-through lanes were a popular customer convenience by the 1950s. The digital age threatened the survival of the mechanical systems, built on 19th-century technology, but COVID-19 has started to reverse their declining fortunes. Banks are reopening decommissioned and unused lanes. Some are installing new ones. Citigroup Inc. reactivated about 30 drive-up teller windows after city and state authorities started telling people to stay home. JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., and Fifth Third also have added drive-through capacity.

— SMOLDERING —

White House struggles to explain Trump’s confederate flag stance” via Jordan Fabian and Mario Parker of Bloomberg — The White House struggled for a second day to explain Trump’s embrace of the Confederate flag, with one of his top aides saying the display of the banner should be debated, not rejected outright. Kellyanne Conway, the senior White House counselor, said in an interview that Trump views the Confederate flag, which many views as a symbol of hate, as a “freedom of speech issue.” “But I think it’s a good conversation for this country to have,” Conway said. “I have this same conversation with my own children.”

White House spokespeople are tying themselves in knots trying to explain and justify Donald Trump’s stance on the Confederate flag. Image via Bloomberg.

Pentagon considering a base-wide ban on Confederate flags” via Missy Ryan and Alex Horton of The Washington Post — Pentagon leaders are considering a ban on Confederate flags at all bases, an official said Monday, in another possible step in the military’s reckoning with racism and its long acceptance of Civil War tributes. The official said the draft policy being considered at the Pentagon’s highest levels would build on recent moves by military services to bar Confederate symbols on facilities they control and, if approved, would represent the first Defense Department-wide prohibition of such iconography.

What it can cost to get arrested at a protest” via Samantha Fields of Marketplace — Protesters get arrested all the time. No big deal. That’s what D’Angelo Sandidge thought, before it happened to him. “Like, OK, they’ll hold you for 24 hours, and then they’ll release you,” he said. But for Sandidge, one of thousands of people arrested in recent days at protests around the country over systemic racism, police brutality and the killing of George Floyd, there have been significant lingering effects. Sandidge was caught and arrested for violating curfew and for resisting arrest by flight. He was held for more than 24 hours, during which he missed the orientation for his new job.

Facebook fails to appease organizers of ad boycott” via Mike Isaac and Tiffany Hsu of The New York Times — Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s two top executives, met with civil rights groups on Tuesday in an attempt to mollify them over how the social network treats hate speech on its site. But the CEO and COO failed to win critics over. For more than an hour over Zoom, the duo, along with other Facebook executives, discussed the company’s handling of hate speech with representatives from the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Color of Change and other groups. The groups said they discussed several demands to help prevent vitriol and hate from spreading on the site. Zuckerberg and Sandberg agreed to hire a civil rights position, but they did not come to a resolution on most other requests.

Goodbye, Columbus: The District of Columbia needs a new name” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — If we can drink beer and eat corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day, surely all Americans can enjoy Barolo and Bolognese once a year — and the Indigenous people whose ruin Christopher Columbus set in motion should have their day, too. But this still leaves a glaring problem behind: a 68-square-mile monument to Columbus here in the mid-Atlantic. It is time for the District of Columbia to say goodbye, Columbus — and get itself a new name. As it happens, the House has already approved one. On June 26, Democrats approved, on a party-line vote, H.R. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, welcoming the nation’s capital as a state, with two Senators and a new name: “Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.”

Remains of the Christopher Columbus statue near Little Italy after protesters ripped it from its pedestal and dragged it into the Jones Falls in Baltimore. Image via Getty.

Washington and Lee faculty vote to drop ‘Lee’ from name” via Rachel Kogan of Campus Reform — The faculty at Washington and Lee University voted Monday to remove the name of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from the school. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the motion was approved during a meeting of 260 faculty members and Washington and Lee University President Will Dudley via videoconference. Seventy-nine percent of faculty voted in favor of the change. But some faculty members at the law school say that removing Lee’s name is not enough, and they want Washington’s name eliminated as well. “It is worth exploring why the faculty has decided to make a collective statement on Lee and why the faculty has not included a demand to drop Washington in their petition,” law professor Brandon Hasbrouck wrote in a letter to Dudley. A motion to amend the resolution to include the removal of Washington failed.

Miami-Dade commission to vote on police oversight panel again” via Alexi C. Cardona of the Miami New Times — For years, community leaders have advocated for a review board to investigate citizen complaints against Miami-Dade police officers. Now, a measure reinstating a long-defunct civilian oversight panel will come up for a public hearing and second vote during Wednesday’s county commission meeting. The county created a police oversight panel in 1980 following riots over the killing of Arthur McDuffie and the acquittal of four Miami-Dade police officers who beat him with batons and flashlights. The panel was defunded in 2009 because of the economic recession. County Commissioner Barbara Jordan tried reviving the panel in 2018 and commissioners passed the measure, but Mayor Giménez vetoed it, saying he wasn’t “entirely convinced” of the need.

Confederate General statue no longer welcome in Lake County” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — After a two-year fight, Edmund Kirby Smith’s future caretakers will have to find a new home for the bronzed Jim Crow-era relic of the Florida-born military leader. Lake County commissioners officially rejected the statue Tuesday. Commission Chairman Leslie Campione authored the board’s one-page letter to DeSantis citing the general’s lack of a “direct connection” to Lake County for the decision that the Lake County Historical Courthouse “is not an appropriate location for this particular artifact.” The letter also cited the role the historic courthouse played in the “Groveland Four” tragedy and “the division and strife created in our community over the decision to place the Smith statue in this particular location.”

Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson recommends removing Confederate monument after staff report” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Robinson is endorsing a city staff report recommending the complete removal of the Confederate monument in Lee Square. City Administrator Keith Wilkins sent a memo to the mayor recommending the monument’s complete removal from city property after staff reviewed the history of the monument and found it does not reflect the city’s “current values nor strive to create a more inclusive city.” The Pensacola City Council will still have the final say on the fate of the monument at a July 14 special meeting.

St. Pete police say they will now ticket protesters for blocking traffic” via Colin Wolf of Creative Loafing — In response to protesters allegedly blocking roads, the St. Petersburg Police Department announced today that they will now enforce stricter pedestrian traffic rules. “For the safety of pedestrians and the community, St. Petersburg officers will be enforcing pedestrian traffic rules,” said a statement. “At first, officers will hand out flyers to educate and warn pedestrians, including protesters. Citations will follow later this week with a $62.50 fine.” “Recent national incidents of vehicles striking protesters who were blocking roadways highlight the importance of following the law and staying clear of traffic,” said the statement.

St. Petersburg police will be ticketing protesters for blocking traffic.

Milton residents voice opposition to potential ‘Black Lives Matter’ mural on city street” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — Activists had been planning to come to the city of Milton to request permission to paint a “Black Lives Matter” street mural on a city street, but before they could even make the request, dozens of “All Lives Matter” supporters showed up to a City Council meeting to condemn the approval of the painting. The issue was brought before the council. Rumors began circulating on social media earlier in the day that Black Lives Matter organizers were going to request permission to paint a city street with the words “Black Lives Matter,” similar to murals that have been painted in Washington, D.C., Austin and, most recently, Pensacola.  However, several people showed up to the City Council’s meeting Monday night to protest the approval of such a mural.

As it should be —He screamed, ‘I feel threatened’ at Florida Costco customers. Now he’s out of a job” via C. Isaiah Smalls II — Florida was the center of another coronavirus confrontation this week. This one involved a man who reacted badly after being asked to put on a mask in a Costco store. In a video shared on Twitter, the man could be seen screaming, “I feel threatened” at Costco customers in Fort Myers. Now, 24 hours after the drama, he has lost his insurance job. Daniel Maples was a salesman at Tedd Todd Insurance. His role in the virus drama went viral on social media when Miami filmmaker Billy Corben tweeted out the brief clip Monday evening.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Trump will visit the Southern Command in Miami in a nod to Venezuelan voters” via Nora Gámez Torres of the Miami Herald — Trump will review the advance of a counternarcotics operation in the Caribbean in a visit to the U.S. Southern Command in Doral. According to the White House, the trip aims to highlight “his Administration’s relentless, whole-of-government approach to curb the trafficking of drugs into our country.” In April, Trump announced an enhanced counternarcotics operation in the Caribbean and the eastern Pacific near Central America. The operation has resulted in significant seizures of narcotics totaling more than $1 billion.

Donald Trump will tour Southern Command in Miami. Image via AP.

Florida’s first aquatic preserve in 32 years a possible snag in federal plans for drilling” via John Haughey of Center Square Florida — DeSantis has made water quality improvements through environmental regulation a priority of his administration. In his 18 months in office, DeSantis has launched a four-year, $2.5 billion plan to address water quality issues in the Everglades, receiving more than $640 million in this year’s budget. DeSantis also has prevailed upon lawmakers to adopt several key policy directives, such as the newly minted Clean Waterways Act, which includes initiatives to reduce nutrient-laden runoff into state waters and increases environmental fines by 50 percent. As a part of that effort, DeSantis resigned House Bill 1061, which designates about 800 square miles of Gulf of Mexico coastal waters off Citrus, Hernando and Pasco counties, including 400,000 acres of seagrass, as the Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve.

— STATEWIDE —

Florida announced as participant in new automated vehicle initiative” via WJNO — The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced Florida as one of its first participants in the Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safety Testing Initiative, a new USDOT-led effort to improve the safety and testing transparency for automated driving systems. “The AV-TEST Initiative is a monumental step into the future of automated vehicles, and we are proud Florida is one of the first states to participate in such an important effort led by USDOT and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,” said Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin J. Thibault, P.E.

Florida will be among the first in the Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safety Testing Initiative.

Despite Governor’s veto, Tarpon Springs still plans to dredge Anclote River” via Rebecca Torrence of the Tampa Bay Times — Last week, DeSantis vetoed $812,100 in state funding to dredge the Anclote River, but Tarpon Springs says they can pay the difference. The dredging project would remove nearly two decades’ worth of silt and sediment from the river, restoring the Anclote to its normal depth of 11 feet, deep enough to support commercial fishing boats and waterfront tourism. Tarpon Springs has already secured more than $4.5 million to dredge the federal channel. The $812,100 that the city requested from the State of Florida would have gone toward dredging the extended turning basin, which is outside of federal jurisdiction.

Complaints detail accusations against Palm Coast mayor” via Frank Fernandez via The Daytona Beach News-Journal — A complaint filed with the state’s Ethics Commission claims Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland misused her office and violated the city’s charter to benefit her employer, Coastal Cloud. The city’s compliance manager, Jay Maher, filed the complaint against Holland with the Florida Commission on Ethics earlier this year. He also sent a separate complaint letter to the State Attorney’s Office regarding possible violations of public records laws by several city officials involving emails from Holland in which she discusses Coastal Cloud. “On many occasions over the last year the mayor has interfered with the performance of City of Palm Coast employees in violation of section 11 of the city charter,” Maher wrote in his ethics complaint.

Why are mosquitoes so bad in Florida this summer and how can we stop them?” via Gabrielle Calise of the Tampa Bay Times — Does it seem buggier than normal this year? Or does it just feel that way as friends opt for outdoor socialization in the time of COVID-19? (The WHO has said that the novel coronavirus cannot be transmitted via mosquitoes). John Bell, the f entomologist at TruGreen, chatted with the Tampa Bay Times to answer our mosquito questions. “Looking at this year, we had a very mild winter. There wasn’t a lot of suppression of mosquitoes. We had early spring, which means our temperatures here in Florida especially rose fairly quickly. We also had a lot of rainfall. So those two factors allow mosquitoes to begin to reproduce. And because of reproducing early, more generations can be produced over the course of the year.”

— LOBBY REGS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Michael Corcoran, Matt Blair, Jacqueline Corcoran, Will Rodriguez, Andrea Tovar, Corcoran Partners: Meat Market Tampa

Jorge Chamizo, Charles Dudley, Melissa Ramba, Floridian Partners: NACM of Tampa, Naples Botanical Garden

Douglas Darling, DDarling Consulting: Microbemauraders

Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick, Rob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: FFT Partners

— IN MEMORIAM —

Ballard Partners is launching a scholarship fund to honor the memory of lobbyist Gregory Turbeville, who died last week at the age of 49.

“The loss of Greg Turbeville has been heartbreaking for the entire Ballard Partners family. We all lost a favorite colleague and dear friend. In our grief, we have been inspired to create a living tribute to honor Greg’s blessed memory. The firm has endowed ‘The Gregory Turbeville Scholarship Fund’ within the FSU College of Music,” firm founder Brian Ballard wrote in a statement.

Ballard Partners is launching a scholarship fund in memory of the late lobbyist Gregory Tuberville, who died last week. 

“The Scholarship fund will honor Greg’s lifelong passion for music. While many knew Greg as a master of public policy and legislative process during his tenure with our firm and during his public service for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Speaker of the House John Thrasher, those who knew Greg well also admired his deep love of music, as well as his enthusiastic support for all things Garnet and Gold,” Ballard said.

The scholarship will support students who demonstrate exceptional academic achievement and financial need.

Friends of Turbeville can help fund the scholarship with donations made payable to the FSU Foundation.

Check payments should include the “Gregory Turbeville Scholarship Fund” in the memo line.

Online contributions can be made via foundation.fsu.edu, with the “Gregory Turbeville Scholarship Fund” listed in the notes section.

“As soon as we can all safely gather together, we will host a Celebration of Life for all those who knew and loved Greg, and we will announce the date, time and location once it is scheduled. We ask that you please keep Greg’s family in your prayers during this difficult time,” Ballard concluded.

Turbeville had a long career in Florida politics, serving as Chief of Staff to Thrasher in the Florida House and later as Bush’s policy director. Appointed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist, Turbeville also served on the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, which made recommendations for revisions to Florida’s Constitution.

— 2020 —

Kanye West says he’s done with Trump — opens up about White House bid, damaging Joe Biden and everything in between via Randall Lane of Forbes — He has 30 days to make a final decision about running for president. At that point, he’d miss the filing deadline for most states, though he believes an argument could be made to get onto any ballots he’s missed, citing coronavirus issues. “I’m speaking with experts, I’m going to speak with Jared Kushner, the White House, with Biden,” says West. His advisors right now are the two people who notably endorsed him on the Fourth: his wife Kim Kardashian-West, and Elon Musk.

Elections official appointed by Florida’s top Trump supporter says president is wrong about claims of mail-voting fraud” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Trump’s repeated, emphatic assertions that voting by mail is riddled with fraud and a way to rig the election are wrong. So says the supervisor of elections in Palm Beach County — the place Trump considers home and where he himself votes by mail. And the elections supervisor who refuted Trump’s claims was appointed to the job last year by DeSantis, one of Trump’s most prominent allies. DeSantis has supported Trump, and Trump has supported DeSantis. “No, he is not correct,” Wendy Sartory Link said about Trump’s assertions. Link is now running to retain the job she was appointed to last year after DeSantis suspended the previous county supervisor of elections, Susan Bucher.

— CONVENTION COUNTDOWN —

Trump’s convention bash upended by Florida’s coronavirus crisis” via Marc Caputo and Gary Fineout of POLITICO — With coronavirus cases skyrocketing in Florida as Trump’s poll numbers drop in his must-win battleground state, it looks like the President won’t get his full-blown festivities there. DeSantis, a close Trump ally, refused to say whether he would lift a rule mandating that indoor gatherings stay under 50 percent capacity — which would hold the Jacksonville convention to 7,500 people. Two octogenarian GOP senators, Lamar Alexander and Chuck Grassley, announced they wouldn’t attend the convention amid the pandemic, which has hit the elderly the hardest.

Tweet, tweet@JenniferJJacobs: Trump told @greta “flexible” on GOP convention in Jax. “When we signed a few weeks ago, it looked good. And now all of a sudden it’s spiking up a little bit and that’s going to go down. It really depends on the timing. … We can do a lot of things, but we’re very flexible.”

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry in self-quarantine after exposure to COVID-19” via Mike Mendenhall of the Jacksonville Daily Record — Curry made the revelation during a virtual news conference on July 7. Curry said he was exposed during a recent family vacation with someone who later tested positive and was symptomatic. Curry says he was tested after the exposure and is negative. The Mayor told members of the news media that he learned of his COVID-19 exposure July 5 and was hosting the news conference from his home instead of City Hall “as a precaution.” “I remain in constant contact with my team at City Hall, emergency management and health care leaders as we continue to respond to this pandemic,” he said.

Lenny Curry is in self-quarantine after exposure to COVID-19.

Republican National Convention will test Jacksonville attendees daily for coronavirus” via Caroline Kelly and Fredricka Schouten of CNN — Erin Isaac, the spokeswoman for the host committee of the Jacksonville portion of the convention, said in an emailed memo that “everyone attending the convention within the perimeter will be tested and temperature checked each day.” When reached by CNN, Isaac repeated that attendees would be tested for COVID-19 and not just receive a more simple health screening. A party official said the GOP will be laying out more information on how the testing and other health protocols will work as the convention gets closer. If Republicans stick to the itinerary they previously planned, Trump will give his acceptance speech there at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on August 27, the last day of the convention.

Why the Paul McCartney shoutout in Jacksonville’s RNC video raised some eyebrows” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — “We’ve hosted the Super Bowl, the Rolling Stones, McCartney and Tim McGraw,” Jacksonville Mayor Curry said. Just six days earlier, the former Beatles frontman shared some thoughts about the band’s 1960s trip to Jacksonville — in support of Black Lives Matter. “In 1964, The Beatles were due to play Jacksonville in the U.S. and we found out that it was going to be a segregated audience,” McCartney wrote in an Instagram post. “It felt wrong. We said ‘We’re not doing that!’”

— MORE FROM THE TRAIL — 

Latest poll: Casey Askar, Byron Donalds lead crowded primary in CD 19” via Jacob Ogles of Florida politics — Naples businessman Askar holds the lead in a crowded Republican field vying in CD 19. That’s according to a St. Pete Polls survey, lawmaker Donalds is in a strong second place. The poll of likely Republican voters in the district pegged Askar’s support just above 30%. Donalds was the favorite of nearly 26% of voters. St. Pete Polls reports a margin of error of 4.3%. Dr. William Figlesthaler came in third with under 16%. House Republican Leader Dane Eagle sits in fourth with under 8%, ahead of Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson at around 5%. With only 12% of respondents undecided, the results suggest any path to victory for these candidates means cutting into Askar’s or Donalds’ support.

Casey Askar and Byron Donalds are taking the lead in a crowded CD19 race.

Set to become Florida House speaker, Miami’s Daniel Perez still draws GOP primary” via David Smiley and Bianca Padro Ocasio of the Miami Herald — In the years after they won leadership races to become future speakers of the Florida House, neither Steve Crisafulli, Corcoran, José Oliva nor Chris Sprowls faced primary challenges from other Republicans. Perez was not so lucky. Just months after Perez’s colleagues backed him in a competitive race to become the likely Florida House speaker in 2024, the 33-year-old, two-term incumbent from Miami-Dade County drew an opponent from the right in Florida’s House District 116. His rival in the Aug. 18 primary is the ardently pro-Trump Gabriel Garcia.

Randy Fine calls out opponent’s handling of rape allegations against campaign manager” via Tyler Vazquez of Florida Today — In an emotional news conference, Fine accused his Republican primary opponent of dismissing sexual assault allegations against her campaign manager. Marcie Adkins, who is running for Fine’s District 53 seat representing south Brevard, has defended herself as well as the accused Robert “Bobby” Burns, who works on her campaign running social media and communications. It When asked on Facebook by a commenter if she wanted to “triple down” in defending her campaign manager, she replied “Triple the praise. He is an awesome guy.”

Ned Hancock, Kaylee Tuck hit mailboxes as HD 55 primary revs up” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Flyers hit mailboxes throughout House District 55 with rancher Ned Hancock promising a “farmer’s work ethic” in fighting a pandemic. In a separate mailer, he criticizes government officials who released prisoners or regulated churches in the outbreak. It’s part of more than $60,000 in marketing materials released by the Avon Park Republican. Financial reports on spending from June 13-26 show he dropped $47,786 in those two weeks alone ahead of the August 18 GOP primary. Republican opponent Kaylee Tuck spent $24,226 in the same period of time. Both candidates have raised more than six figures in the contest, with Tuck tallying $114,662 plus a $5,000 loan while Hancock reported $216,197 worth of donations. Most of that will be spent before the August primary for an open seat in a deep-red district.

Christine Hunschofsky continues to rake in the cash in HD 96 bid” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Hunschofsky is keeping up her advantage in House District 96, as she continues to outpace her opponents in money raised. Hunschofsky added more than $12,000 in the most recent fundraising report covering June 13-26. She’s now raised nearly $57,000 since entering the race in late April and has added more than $10,000 in self-loans as well. She retains nearly $60,000 on hand. That’s leaps and bounds ahead of her next-closest opponent, fellow Democrat Saima Farooqui. Farooqui has raised a little over $4,200 and has less than $2,100 still on hand. Write-in candidate Muhammad Amin, who qualified just before the state’s June 12 deadline, has not reported raising any money through June 26. Amin’s entry means the Aug. 18 Democratic primary will be closed to registered Democrats only.

Christine Hunschofsky is putting up some solid fundraising numbers in her bid for House District 96.

Maureen Porras beats out HD 105 field in latest fundraising report” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Porras came out on top in the most recent fundraising reports for the House District 105 contest. Porras is one of five candidates competing for the seat. She collected more than $5,000 through her campaign from June 13-26, according to newly-filed reports. New Leadership for Florida, a political committee supporting her bid, added another $5,000. Porras has nearly $54,000 remaining in her war chest as she faces former HD 105 candidate Javier Estevez in the Democratic primary. Estevez has been slow to raise money so far. He added just over $1,600 in the most recent two-week fundraising period, giving him a total this cycle of more than $28,000 raised. Estevez also lent his campaign $2,500 in February. He has less than $25,000 still on hand.

— “Meet Steven Meza, a Democrat running for Senate District 33” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

— DOWN BALLOT —

Hialeah Mayor backs Alex Penelas in Miami-Dade County mayoral race” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Hernández says he will support Penelas as Penelas pushes to return to the office of County Mayor in 2020. Penelas previously served as County Mayor from 1996-2004. He’s one of seven candidates competing in the 2020 contest to replace term-limited Mayor Giménez. “In difficult times, we realize the importance of having true and proven leaders in our community who focus on uniting, rather than dividing us,” Hernández said in a Tuesday statement. “Leaders who know exactly what steps they must take to help us overcome the crisis we are living through, both in terms of health and the economy. That leader is Alex Penelas and that is why he has my support, my family’s, and the support of the great community of the City of Hialeah, to become the next mayor of the County.”

Epilogue —David Straz’s campaign consultant files lawsuit for more money” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — Bill Fletcher made at least $2.8 million running Straz’s 2019 mayoral campaign, the most expensive race by far in the city’s history and one that ended in a lopsided loss for Fletcher’s candidate. Straz died in November. But Fletcher says the philanthropist’s estate owes him more money: $112,113 to be exact. The Nashville-based political consultant filed suit in Hillsborough County against Straz’s estate last month, saying Straz hadn’t reimbursed him for campaign expenses. Straz’s campaign was almost wholly self-funded with the retired banker spending more than $6 million in a bid that ended in a rout to Mayor Jane Castor.

Bill Fletcher was paid $2.8 million to help David Straz lose spectacularly. Now he is looking for another $112,000.

— TOP OPINION —

Bob Gualtieri: Criminal justice system is not static — it’s constantly improving” via Florida Politics — The ACLU recently published an article entitled, “Racial disparities in Florida’s criminal justice system are shameful.” The article contained several false statements and painted a bleak picture of our current criminal justice system. Census data states 17% of Florida citizens are Black, while the Florida Department of Corrections reports that 47% of men and women in state prisons are Black. Those numbers cannot be disputed, but the conclusion that Florida’s entire criminal justice infrastructure is racist is too simple an answer. First, sheriffs agree there is always work to be done in creating a better criminal justice system that is fair to all citizens. Even today, there is no universal consensus among researchers as to how race impacts these differences.

— OPINIONS —

DeSantis’ nonresponse to virus is biggest threat to Florida’s economy” via Randy Schultz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — DeSantis is lucky that Florida prohibits petitions to recall the governor. He’s asking for one. On Monday, two days after the state set a national record for COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour period, DeSantis declared, “I think we’ve stabilized at where we’re at.” Pair that comment with the governor’s previous eloquence as the surge grew: “We are where we are.” The governor’s reckless indifference to the pandemic aligns with that of his ventriloquist in the White House. DeSantis wants voters to see the state’s economy recovering. So he closed down too late and, like other Trump toadies, reopened too soon. Though DeSantis vowed, “We’re not rolling back,” he’s already broken that vow. He closed bars and allowed only curbside service. Meanwhile, plenty of other “rolling back” proceeds.

Florida Republicans screwed up COVID-19 response” via Luther Campbell of the Miami New Times — The first failure in dealing with the coronavirus was not making sure everyone had access to testing during the early days of the pandemic in March. For instance, one of the first testing centers at Hard Rock Stadium was initially for only first responders. It took weeks to open it up to the public, but only after critics like me raised hell about it. We should have been rolling out an aggressive testing campaign to get ahead of the virus. Now, as Florida continues to regularly break single-day records for new cases, we are seeing local governments roll back testing sites. The City of Miami recently closed a testing site at Charles Hadley Park in Liberty City, one of the neighborhoods hit hardest by COVID-19. This is typical mismanagement by a banana republic.

Scared Whites will pick up a gun, but are too scared to face the truth about themselves” via Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald — Certain incidents paint a grim picture of how many White Americans are responding in this summer of racial justice uprising. Namely, with the desperate panic of people who think the race war has come to their doorsteps. They’re breaking out guns and circling the wagons in defense of privilege and prerogative. It’s a dangerous, combustible mindset, egged on by the arsonist in the White House. Which makes one all the more thankful for those White people who have not lost their minds. It cannot be easy to learn that much of what you’ve been taught is a lie, that you are the product of a system designed to inculcate and maintain racism in you, to ensure there are voices you never hear, people you never see, stories you never know.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Florida Education Commissioner Corcoran is ordering public schools to fully reopen in August, regardless of the COVID-19 crisis. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz says that’s unwise — and unconstitutional.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Gov. Ron DeSantis travels to Miami to announce the state is sending 100 nurses to help with the region’s spike in COVID-19. He claims it wouldn’t be a problem is Floridians would only follow his game plan.

— However, the Governor’s guidelines were not mandatory, and Democrats in Florida’s Congressional delegation say it’s time for DeSantis to grow a spine. Congresswoman Donna Shalala says his meek guidelines put lives at risk.

 — The Democrats #1 ask of the Governor is a mandatory mask rule, something he would rather leave to local officials. Miami-Dade Mayor Giménez has already made them mandatory in his county, which is now facing the worst surge in the state.

— But Gimenez has now walked back a couple of the new restrictions — including those imposed on gyms and restaurants in his county. The Miami Herald describes it as “moonwalking.”

— Checking-in with a Florida Man arrested for drunken driving on a lawnmower.

To listen, click on the image below:

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

Colin Kaepernick’s deal with Disney includes a Jemele Hill project at ESPN” via Kevin Draper of The New York Times — Colin Kaepernick and the Walt Disney Company announced a production deal that will see the activist quarterback produce “scripted and unscripted stories that explore race, social injustice and the quest for equity” for the media giant’s various platforms, including ESPN. Work has already begun on a documentary series that will explore the last five years of Kaepernick’s life, as he began kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before N.F.L. games to protest racism and police brutality.

“‘Hamilton’ drives up Disney Plus app downloads 74% over the weekend in U.S.” via Todd Spangler of Variety — “Hamilton” delivered for Disney Plus — with the musical movie of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s re-imagining of the founding father’s life spurring a spike in app downloads over its July Fourth weekend debut. The movie premiered on the Disney Plus streaming service on Friday, July 3. From Friday through Sunday, the Disney Plus app was downloaded 752,451 times globally, including 458,796 times in the U.S., according to analytics firm Apptopia. That means that in the U.S., the total Disney Plus downloads were 74% higher than the average of the four weekends in June 2020 over comparable time periods.

The filmed version of ‘Hamilton’ helped push Disney+ downloads up 75%. Image via Disney.

Dress rehearsal performed for Disney cast members ahead of official reopening” via FOX 35 Orlando — Walt Disney World is preparing to reopen the first of its parks on Saturday and to get ready, a dress rehearsal was performed for cast members on Tuesday. Cast members were allowed to visit the Magic Kingdom, as the park tested safety measures ahead of its official reopening. Both Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom will open on Saturday, with Hollywood Studios and Epcot following on Wednesday. Annual passholders will be the next group to preview the parks, as they will be allowed to visit on the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on Thursday and Friday. Reservations must be made to attend on these dates. Visit the Walt Disney World website to do so.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to Republican super activist Peter Cracchiolo andDoug Mannheimer, a partner with Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough. Belated wishes to Caleb Orr, a policy adviser to Marco Rubio.

___

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

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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

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