Connect with us

Emails & Opinions

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.13.20

Here’s your AM rundown of people, politics and policy in the Sunshine State.

A new poll conducted by YouGov on behalf of CBS News indicates that Florida voters are concerned about the state’s efforts to contain coronavirus and that they attribute the state’s response to pressure from the administration of President Donald Trump.

The poll, which sampled 1,229 Florida voters between July 7 and 10, found that 65% of Florida voters believe the efforts to contain coronavirus are going badly.

The poll also asked voters who believe Florida reopened too quickly what they attribute that to, and 68% said it came from pressure from the federal government. Only 32% of voters said Florida reopened too quickly because it believed it was the correct policy.

Florida voters feel that pressure from Donald Trump is one of the reasons for the state’s poor response to coronavirus.

Forty-six percent of Florida voters said that generally speaking, they believe things are going very badly in America. Another 27% said they believe things are going somewhat badly.

On the other side of that question, 7% of Florida voters believe things in America today are going very well, and 20% believe they’re going somewhat well.

Eight percent of Florida voters believe the condition of the Florida economy is very good, and another 32% believe it’s fairly good. But 33% of Florida voters believe the state’s economy is going fairly bad, and another 24% believe that it’s very bad.

The poll also found that support for Democratic candidate Joe Biden goes up along with voters’ concern about the spread of COVID-19.

Sixty-seven percent of Florida voters who are very concerned about the virus say they will vote for Biden, while only 15% of voters who are not concerned will vote for him.

Overall, the poll found that Florida likely voters prefer Biden over Trump by a 48-42 margin.

Among Florida’s likely women voters, Biden leads by a 50-37 margin, and Hispanic likely voters prefer Biden over Trump by a 61-30 score.

For Florida voters who are 65 or older, Trump leads Biden by a 50-42 score. But in a similar CBS poll taken in 2016, Trump led Democrat Hillary Clinton 57-40 in the same demographic.

Among likely voters who have decided to vote for either Biden or Trump, 75% of Florida voters said their preference is very strong and will not change before the election, and another 19% characterize it as strong and probably won’t change.

Only 6% of voters who have decided indicated they might still change candidates.

Trump leads Biden 57-41 among white voters with no college education, and he leads Biden 68-63 in likely voters who are very enthusiastic about voting for their candidate.

Sixty-seven percent of voters who prefer Trump said the main reason is that they like him, and only 17% indicated their vote is to oppose Joe Biden.

Meanwhile, 49% of likely Biden voters said their main motivation is to oppose Trump, and only 30% said their rationale is they like Biden.

Fifty-nine percent of Biden voters prefer to vote by mail, but only 25% of Trump voters do.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: Do RINO’S Pat Toomey & Mitt Romney have any problem with the fact that we caught Obama, Biden, & Company illegally spying on my campaign? Do they care if [James] Comey, [Andrew] McCabe, [Lisa] Page & her lover, Peter S [Strzok], the whole group, ran rampant, wild & unchecked — lying & leaking all the way? NO

@MaggieNYT: Amazing the WH comms shop is doing an oppo dump on its own, decadeslong health expert in the middle of a pandemic. Everything to the WH is an up/down on Trump.

@TamaraLush: A stunning fact: Florida had more cases today than South Korea has had total — and South Korea’s population is 2.5 times larger.

@COVID19Tracking: Florida didn’t just break the record for reported cases. It also shattered the mark for cases per million population. New York, at peak, hit 595. Today, Florida reported 712 cases per million. Arkansas also entered the 500+ tier, where we’ve only seen FL, AZ, and LA.

@JaredEMoskowitz: Thank you to our nurses and doctors and hospital staff. #heros on the front lines. Help is on the way

@KevinCate: If we want schools to open safely, elected officials in the most infectious states must be willing to shut most things down for two weeks & reassess. Like, right now. If you’re not willing to make tough decisions, resign & let someone else.

@FredPiccoloJr: Covid fatality rate in FL 15-24 yo — .02%. Covid fatality rate in FL 15-34 yo — .03%. Covid fatality rate in FL 15-44 yo — .09%. Seasonal influenza mortality rate in the US (2017 CDC) 18-49 yo — .02%. Gov focus on elderly saved lives. Common sense precautions. Back to school.

@CourtyardBrew: Okay so we were planning on reopening next week but now thanks to all you dumb motherfuckers who refuse to wear masks we won’t be reopening. Fuck each and every one of you who refuse to take Covid seriously. Quote me.

@Lin_Manuel: We learned to bake bread in this pandemic, we can learn to make our own adobo con pimienta. Bye.

@GusCorbella: Arguing about adobo and cans of beans. What passes for political principles in 2020. Pathetic.

@Tomgara: The owner of the National Enquirer now owns America’s second-biggest chain of local newspapers

— DAYS UNTIL —

Disney World Epcot and Hollywood Studios to reopen — 2; Federal taxes due — 2; MLB starts — 10; WNBA starts — 11; PLL starts — 12; TED conference rescheduled — 13; Florida Bar exams begin in Tampa — 15; NBA season restart in Orlando — 18; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres (rescheduled) — 18; NHL resumes — 19; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 36; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 37; “Mulan” premieres (rescheduled) — 39; Indy 500 rescheduled — 41; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 42; NBA draft lottery — 43; Rev. Al Sharpton’s D.C. March — 46; U.S. Open begins — 49; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 53; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 54; Rescheduled date for French Open — 69; First presidential debate in Indiana — 78; “Wonder Woman” premieres — 81; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 82; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 85; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 91; Second presidential debate scheduled at Miami — 94; NBA draft — 95; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 95; NBA free agency — 98; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 101; 2020 General Election — 113; “Black Widow” premieres — 118; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 122; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 130; “No Time to Die” premieres — 130; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 141; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 163; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 209; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 375; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 383; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 480; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 578; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 620; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 662; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 816.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

As U.S. grapples with virus, Florida hits record case increase” via Tamara Lush and Pablo Gorandi of The Associated Press — With the United States grappling with the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world, Florida hit a grim milestone Sunday, shattering the national record for a state’s largest single-day increase in positive cases. Deaths from the virus have also been rising in the U.S., especially in the South and West, though still well below the heights hit in April. “I really do think we could control this, and it’s the human element that is so critical. It should be an effort of our country. We should be pulling together when we’re in a crisis, and we’re definitely not doing it,” said University of Florida epidemiologist Dr. Cindy Prins. In Florida, 15,299 people tested positive, for a total of 269,811 cases, and 45 deaths were recorded, according to state Department of Health statistics. California had the previous record of daily positive cases, 11,694, set on Wednesday.

Guests wear masks as required to attend the official reopening day of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Image via AP.

COVID-19 will peak in Florida later this month, AdventHealth CEO says on Face the Nation” via Naseem S. Miller of the Orlando Sentinel — The peak of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Florida will be “sometime in front of us in July,” AdventHealth’s president and CEO said Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation. Terry Shaw said that his projection is assuming that people practice social distancing and wear masks to slow the spread of the virus. His remarks come as Florida on Sunday reported 15,300 new COVID-19 cases, once again shattering its record for a single-day increase in cases since the pandemic began and for the first time breaking a national one-day record. Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, also on Face the Nation, said, “Things are going to get worse before they get better” and that some models show that there’s “possibly going to be a peak in the next two or three weeks.”

Ron DeSantis: Virus spread has ‘plateaued’ in last two weeks” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Although Florida continues to tally several thousand daily COVID-19 cases, sometimes more than 10,000 in a day, DeSantis finds consolation in the details. For the final 14 days of May, the percent positivity rate for prospective new cases was 2.8% before turning upward midway through June. Over the past two weeks, the average rate was 14.5%, including 12.6% for tests returned Friday. “We increased from the end of June into July, but it’s been plateaued for the last two weeks, which is a good sign,” he told reporters Saturday. “We’d rather be plateaued at 4%, but we didn’t want to see it continue to just go up and up.” While the daily positivity rate has been mostly stable in recent days, the weekly cycle of new cases has trended upward.

Ron DeSantis is encouraged by the positive trend in COVID-19 infection rates. Image via A.G. Gancarski.

DeSantis seizes power — selectively — as he confronts crisis” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — The battleground-state Republican has quarantined out-of-state visitors, spent hundreds of millions of dollars without legislative approval, and ignored constitutional deadlines for judicial appointments. He’s also used his emergency power to enact a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions. His administration ordered local schools to open or risk financial ruin. And he’s gotten little to no resistance from Republicans who control the Legislature. Yet DeSantis, as he confronts a growing viral outbreak and polls showing Trump trailing Democrat Biden in Florida ahead of the November election, simultaneously has argued that he lacks authority to alter election law or increase unemployment benefits, issues that could break the wrong way politically for him — and the President.

DeSantis: People, drugs on the way in COVID-19 fight” via Cristóbal Reyes of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis announced deployments of health workers throughout the state as well as new shipments of a promising antiviral used to treat the novel coronavirus as the state continues to see a resurgence in new cases. At a Saturday press conference in Bradenton, the governor said about 1,000 personnel will be sent to hospitals around the state to support local efforts to combat COVID-19. “COVID is very labor intensive,” DeSantis said. “There’s a lot of procedures that go into place [to test and treat it] … so the personnel is something that’s very significant.” He also said a new shipment of Remdesivir, an experimental drug that may speed up recovery from an infection, was arriving today with more expected from the federal government in the coming weeks.

DeSantis downplayed New York help his aides ‘very much appreciated’” via Arek Sarkissian and Anna Gronewold of POLITICO Florida — Florida will start getting shipments this weekend of an antiviral drug that has shown signs of helping severely ill COVID-19 patients — cargo senior aides scored in part from New York just as DeSantis was publicly dismissing the state’s help. Fresh doses of remdesivir were expedited with help from Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, DeSantis told reporters at the Blake Medical Center in Bradenton. While DeSantis was quick to praise the Trump administration, the governor spent the past few days downplaying the notion that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s office had come to Florida’s aid. “They’re not helping us,” DeSantis told reporters during a Jacksonville news conference.

Governor vows to keep Florida bars shut down as virus rages” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis said in Bradenton that the “status quo” of bar closures would remain in place until the “positivity rate is down” for COVID-19 tests. That rate, per the Florida Department of Health, stood at 12.5% in tests processed Friday. The comments came after a group of bar owners in Volusia County sued the Governor and Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears this week. “Right now, we’re not making any changes. Status quo,” DeSantis said, adding that “we want to get this positivity rate down” until Florida is in a more “stable situation.” The Governor said the state “plan” allowed bars to reopen at reduced capacity, but they couldn’t comply.

Ron DeSantis vows to keep the bars closed until there is a slowdown in coronavirus infections. Image via AP.

Recovered from COVID-19? Donate plasma to help patients in hospitals fight the virus” via Naples Daily News staff reports — Hospitals in Southwest Florida need people who have recovered from COVID-19 to consider donating their plasma to help others fight the disease. The NCH Healthcare System in Collier County and Lee Health in Lee County are involved in studies to help evaluate convalescent plasma as a therapy for COVID-19. Both hospitals are facing a shortage of donors for convalescent plasma and need people who have recovered from COVID-19 to step forward. Donating plasma can help save lives. The treatment involves using infection-fighting antibodies in the plasma, which may boost the immune systems of patients currently with COVID-19 and speed their recovery, according to experts.

Assignment editors — U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a member of the bipartisan Congressional Coronavirus Task Force, will join Sens. Oscar Braynon, Annette Taddeo and José Javier Rodriguez, as well as County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava for a virtual news conference with public health experts to discuss the surge in COVID-19 and what steps the state and county can take, 11:30 a.m. For the Zoom link, RSVP to katy.nystrom@mail.house.gov.

— BACK TO SCHOOL? —

Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos want schools ‘fully’ open, but not many are listening” via Laura Meckler of The Washington Post — Trump and DeVos spent much of this week pressuring and cajoling schools to reopen. DeVos, in particular, made clear she means five days a week. School systems across the country have already decided on models where students learn from home part of the time. That includes a charter school network that DeVos has repeatedly praised for its approach during the pandemic. Many schools face the same problem, which is why districts across the country have announced hybrid plans, where students will be in schools some days and learning from home on others.

Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos are calling for schools to open ‘fully,’ but few are listening.

Medical group cited by Trump denounces school funding threat” via The Associated Press — A medical association that the White House has cited in its press to reopen schools is pushing back against Trump’s repeated threats to cut federal funding if schools don’t open this fall. In a joint statement with national education unions and a superintendents group, the American Academy of Pediatrics said decisions should be made by health experts and local leaders. The groups argued that schools will need more money to reopen safely during the coronavirus pandemic and that cuts could ultimately harm students. “Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics,” the groups wrote in the statement.

Trump campaign to open schools provokes mounting backlash even from GOP” via Michael Stratford, Nicole Gaudiano and Juan Perez Jr. of POLITICO — An overwhelming alignment of state and even Republican-aligned organizations oppose the rush to reopen schools. The nation’s leading pediatricians, Republican state school chiefs, Christian colleges and even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have all challenged parts of Trump’s pressure campaign. “Threats are not helpful,” Joy Hofmeister, the Republican state superintendent of public instruction in Oklahoma, said. “We do not need to be schooled on why it’s important to reopen.” Both Trump and Education Secretary DeVos have issued federal funding threats to schools that don’t fully reopen. On Friday, Trump went a step further in blasting online learning — which many school districts and colleges are planning to use this fall as an alternative or supplement to in-person instruction.

No school choice: Schools must open for fall semester” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Department of Education’s school reopening order left some question about whether schools had to reopen come August. Senate President Bill Galvano left no room for doubt. “Yes, the answer is yes. The DOE cannot be ignored … must be adhered to,” he clarified. “School boards cannot ignore this order.” Sitting alongside DeSantis at a news conference in his hometown of Bradenton, the top Senate Republican fielded the question when the Governor was unable to give a confident answer about the order issued by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. As COVID-19 outbreaks spike in Florida, the Commissioner’s mandate said extending school closures can impede students’ educational success and prevent parents and guardians from returning to work.

‘Difficult to achieve’: Alberto Carvalho talks school reopening amid spiking outbreak” via Spencer Fordin of Florida Politics — Carvalho, the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday and discussed the logistics of students returning to school. Carvalho said his district, which is the fourth-largest school district in America, has gone through CDC guidelines and consulted with local and state health departments in advance of reopening. “The issue of social distancing in any one school in Miami-Dade or Broward or Palm Beach or other districts may be difficult to achieve,” Carvalho said. “But there are mitigation strategies that you can take in lieu of the six-feet of distancing like the wearing of masks, which will be a mandatory element when we do reopen, like the use of nontraditional spaces, like cafeterias or media centers or gymnasiums.”

‘How will I be safe?’ Teachers grappling with potential school reopening as COVID-19 cases surge” via Wells Dusenbury and Ramishah Maruf of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — With school slated to begin next month, Broward teachers are facing a potential dilemma: return to work and risk getting sick or stay home and risk losing a job. As COVID-19 cases continue to spread rapidly throughout the state, the Broward County School District is still debating whether to reopen brick-and-mortar classrooms when the fall semester begins on Aug. 19. With over 270,000 students and more than 14,000 teachers, Broward is home to the sixth-largest school district in the country, heightening the risk of transmission. For many teachers, that issue is weighing heavily as the school year creeps closer.

Escambia County educators supportive of school district’s reopening plan” via Kevin Robinson of the Pensacola News Journal — Escambia County School District Superintendent Malcolm Thomas said students will have their choice of one of three instructional models for the 2020-2021 school year: they can return to campus for traditional face-to-face instruction, opt for “remote” instruction conducted via teleconferencing or follow a largely self-guided “virtual” curriculum. Teachers are generally expected to return to campuses in the fall, and Thomas cautioned that space limitations meant social distancing would not always be possible. He also said that face masks would be encouraged, but not mandatory. With COVID-19 cases still hitting historic highs in Florida, there are understandable concerns about the risks of in-person education.

Leon Schools weighs options for clear face masks for certain students, teachers” via C.D. Davidson-Hiers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Leon County Schools plans to invest in specialized face masks for teachers, staff and students throughout the district who would benefit from being able to read facial expressions. Many of these students are those in exceptional student education (ESE) programs or have an individualized education plan (IEP). They are students with autism, or who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, or others with learning differences. District Assistant Superintendent Alan Cox, who oversees health and wellness at the district, said the district is considering several options among specialized masks. Some of the masks are cloth and have a clear plastic strip in the middle. Some others, with more complicated designs, may wrap around the head with a plastic portion similar to a face shield, but includes a mask component, Cox said.

Leon County Schools Assistant Superintendent Alan Cox holds up a specialized face mask that would aid students who rely on lip-reading and facial expressions. Image via Tallahassee Democrat.

Volusia released three options for reopening schools, then deleted them” via Cassidy Alexander of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — In a since-deleted post on its website sharing long-awaited information about what school will look like in August during the coronavirus pandemic, the Volusia County school district outlined three options for students and families — including a new option for students to join traditional classes virtually. The district was scheduled to release details about its reopening plans on Wednesday at a special School Board meeting but posted a message from the superintendent to its website on Friday night. The post was removed by 10 a.m. Saturday, less than 24 hours later. “It was a flat-out, honest mistake,” district spokeswoman Kelly Schulz said.

 FHSAA Fall Sports Task Force’s “Plan B” takes shape, first practices could begin Aug. 10” via Adam Regan of the Pensacola News Journal — The Fall Sports Task Force turned to flexibility in its third meeting where it examined a plan Justin Harrison, the FHSAA’s associate executive director for athletic services, called a “fallback” that would cater to individual schools and districts should practice not begin in 18 days. “There are a lot of unknowns,” said Harrison, who took a rough draft of the plan laid out in last week’s meeting and put it on paper. “Whatever I say may change tomorrow. We don’t have an answer now.”

— CORONA LOCAL —

First Coast counties decrease COVID-19 positive test rates” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — While the rate of positive test results is beginning to slow, the five-county First Coast region added 790 new cases of coronavirus in one day. Jacksonville, with the highest population in the area, led the way again with 577 new cases of COVID-19 by the end of Saturday, bringing the total cases to 12,964. Jacksonville also recorded five further deaths attributed to the illness, which now stands at 81. Meanwhile, for the first time in several weeks, Jacksonville’s positivity rate for all tests administered dropped below 10%.

More COVID-19 cases at Jacksonville group home” via the News Service of Florida — With nine more cases this week, 11 staff members and residents at a Jacksonville group home for people with developmental disabilities have tested positive for COIVD-19. Arc Jacksonville Executive Director Jim Whittaker said six residents and three staff members at the Bert Road group home tested positive for the virus this week. The Duval County Health Department tested all the residents and staff members at Arc facilities after two residents were taken to the hospital the first week in July. Residents at the Bert Road group home who tested negative have been moved to apartments. The residents who tested positive — all of whom are asymptomatic — have remained at the home and are isolated “like a sick bay,” Whittaker said.

Arc Jacksonville Executive Director Jim Whittaker said 11 residents and staff members of the group home tested positive for COVID-19.

A mom’s tale of premature childbirth, coronavirus and separation” via Sonja Isger of The Palm Beach Post — COVID-19 sneaked into the Whitfield house in April despite her family’s best efforts at distancing and mask-wearing. Their caution was driven by the need to protect the littlest Whitfield, a miracle baby who arrived 11 weeks early and was still in the hospital more than a month later. What followed was close to three weeks of isolation, in which mommy and baby connected only in rare video chats or once from four floors of separation, Erica Whitfield gazing up from the parking lot as a nurse held baby Nora to the window. While their symptoms never rose far beyond the discomfort of a bad cold, Whitfield said the weekslong infection and its consequences were nonetheless traumatizing.

’The price of denial’: Teenager died after attending church party as Florida reopened” via Nicholas Nehamas and Sarah Blaskey — The reopening of First Youth Church after three months of remote sermons was going to be a party. Sixteen-year-old Carsyn Davis was a dedicated student at the Fort Myers youth ministry, her family said. Carsyn was among the hundred or so kids to attend the church’s reopening event on June 10. Carsyn didn’t wear a mask when she attended the party, even though she was obese, asthmatic, and had a history of childhood cancer and a rare autoimmune disorder. None of the other kids around her wore masks either — wearing a mask wasn’t required by state officials despite the known risks of indoor transmission. Less than two weeks later the teen died of pneumonia brought on by COVID-19.

Carsyn Leigh Davis, 16, died of COVID-19 two weeks after attending a church reopening where masks were not required.

As virus rages, S. Florida residents cling to government aid. What happens when it runs out?” via Rob Wile and Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — With about one out of every nine Miami-Dade workers and nearly one out of every six in Broward still out of a job due to the coronavirus pandemic, a question lingers in South Florida: How long can the region stave off an even worse economic disaster? Greater Miami ranks as one of the hardest-hit metros in the country, thanks to its reliance on a tourism industry that has instantly dried up. Yet the region seems to have avoided, so far, a more traumatic economic shock thanks to massive government intervention. After a rough start, Florida’s unemployment system has come online to furnish tens of thousands of local workers with as much as $875 per week in unemployment insurance.

School Board chair: Where’s Palm Beach County’s school reopening plan?” via Andrew Marra of The Palm Beach Post — The chair of the Palm Beach County School Board criticized school district leaders Sunday for failing to release their school-reopening plan with only three days left before it is set to be adopted. Board Chairman Frank Barbieri said he was troubled that neither board members nor the public have had a chance to see details of the district’s proposal for how schools will operate when classes resume online next month amid the coronavirus pandemic. The reopening plan is sure to be among the most scrutinized proposals in the school board’s history. Schools Superintendent Donald Fennoy has promised to deliver a reopening plan for board members to consider Wednesday, but he has not released details and has given little indication of what he plans to recommend.

Two weeks then gone? Not even close, say doctors about lingering effects of COVID-19” via Wendy Rhodes of The Palm Beach Post — As the virus persists and researchers collect and analyze data, theories are confirmed and denied, and “facts” are ever-changing. But one thing on which medical experts worldwide now agree is that long-term effects from COVID-19 on the liver, kidneys, brain, lungs, heart, gastrointestinal tract and psyche could be very real for people of all ages. Blood clots triggered by the virus can cause fingers to turn black and “die,” patients can suffer extended bouts of debilitating exhaustion, and immune system disorders can lead to organ failure or death after the virus has left the body. 

The Keys report a record number of new COVID-19 cases. It’s not as bad as it seems, health official says” via Howard Cohen and David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — The Florida Health Department in the Keys reported 74 new cases of COVID-19, which is the highest ever reported in the island chain. But the number is not quite as bad as it appears, according to Monroe County’s top health official. The numbers reflect cases confirmed both Thursday and Friday. The reason all the cases weren’t reported Friday from Thursday is Robert Eadie, the administrator and health officer, gave the department’s epidemiologist the day off. The number of cases has recently been climbing at a greater pace than they had been exhibiting in the Keys when single-day cases would tend toward single-digit growth and the death rate would hold steady for days at a time.

— MORE LOCAL —

Disney reopens as a different world with masks, social distancing and light crowds” via Gabrielle Russon and Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — At the Magic Kingdom, all Disney employees wore face coverings, and workers with high contact with guests, such as ride operators, were equipped with clear face shields as well. Most visitors seemed to be obeying the required mask rule Saturday as well as markers meant to keep them 6 feet apart. Employees were observed enforcing the requirements. “We’re encouraged by our guests’ overwhelmingly positive feedback for our phased reopening and are grateful for their support of the new measures we’ve added,” Disney spokeswoman Andrea Finger said in a statement.

People wear face masks as required to attend the official reopening day of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Image via AP.

As Walt Disney World reopens, Orange, Osceola counties see new peaks of virus infections” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — With Walt Disney World reopening, the counties providing the most homes to employees of the world’s largest tourist attraction saw dramatically new highs in single-day increases in confirmed COVID-19 cases. Sunday’s latest report showed 1,371 new confirmed cases in Orange County in the previous 24 hours, with another 306 new cases in Osceola. It’s the first time Orange County had seen more than 1,200 new cases logged in a day, and the first time Osceola saw more than 250. Both cases, the totals grew by dramatically increased numbers of new test results that came on Saturday, the most ever for either county. The same was seen across the six-county greater Orlando region.

Pinellas County COVID-19 positivity rate plummets in latest data” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The “plateau” DeSantis touted Saturday may be evidenced in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties where the daily positivity rates for new COVID-19 tests dropped for the third day in a row. The rate of new positive tests in Hillsborough dropped to 12.4% Saturday from 12.9% Friday and 14.2% Thursday, all down from a near-record of 19.8% Wednesday. The news is even better in Pinellas where the positivity rate dropped to 5.6% Saturday from 7.3% Friday and 9.6% Thursday. The county’s seven-day average is almost below the 10% threshold for which health officials find cause for concern, at 10.4%. Pinellas County also added just 248 new cases Saturday, a drop from 303 Friday.

’Highly irate:’ Tampa Bay mask rules spur hundreds of police calls” via Christopher Spada and Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times — With most of Tampa Bay now subject to some sort of mandatory mask order, the Tampa Bay Times reviewed law and code enforcement records to get a sense of how that’s going. Hundreds of complaint calls, disturbances and mostly verbal arguments have been reported over masks. At least a couple turned violent. All five mask orders across Tampa Bay counties and cities carry penalties up to $500. But only St. Petersburg appears to have fined anyone. Authorities frequently have arrived to find the offender already gone.

Two medical relief groups leave Immokalee despite climbing COVID-19 cases” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — Two international medical relief organizations have left Immokalee, leaving local health officials to address the rise in COVID-19 cases as the first group of farmworkers return later this month. “This is still very much a crisis,” said Emily Ptaszek, CEO of the nonprofit Healthcare Network in Collier County, which has been working in the community for months to combat the rapidly spreading disease. The rural community in eastern Collier has become a hot spot for COVID-19 infection with 1,680 people tested positive as of Friday, according to state Department of Health data. That’s a 175% increase from the 611 cases reported on June 1, according to the data.

Sarasota-Manatee tourism will continue to shift” via Laura Finaldi of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The COVID-19 pandemic has created a different picture of tourism than what Sarasota-Manatee is used to seeing. Travel restrictions forbid tourists from crucial out-of-state markets from crossing into Florida unless their travel is considered “essential.” The visitors who are here and who will continue to come, it seems, are from nearby. The American Hotel & Lodging Association released a report that found just 44% of Americans are planning overnight vacations or leisure travel in 2020 — and most of those trips are to places within driving distance. The Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, which promotes Manatee County, including the beaches of Anna Maria Island, is currently targeting only in-state travelers, Executive Director Elliott Falcione said.

FSU cuts athletic department budget 20% due to coronavirus pandemic” via Matt Murschel of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida State announced a 20% athletics department budget cut that includes job eliminations, pay cuts and other cost-cutting measures due to the coronavirus pandemic. “I am personally heartbroken over the impact this pandemic has had on our employees, and I am disappointed that I must give you this discouraging news today,” FSU athletic director David Coburn wrote. Coburn cited declines in football season ticket sales and donations to the Seminole Boosters annual fund among the reasons for the revenue shortfall as well as the expenses surrounding replacing the football coaching staff.

— CORONA NATION —

Trump wears a mask on a visit to a military medical center.” via The New York Times — Trump wore a mask in public for the first time, after repeated urging from aides that it was a necessary message to send to Americans resistant to covering their faces. Trump wore a dark mask affixed with the presidential seal during a visit to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he planned to visit wounded troops. He was surrounded by Secret Service agents and others also wearing masks. Anticipation over whether he would wear a mask had been building, after the President had repeatedly dismissed suggestions to wear a mask, frequently appearing in public spaces without one, mocking those who did and ignoring public health rules in several states.

In a turnaround from his previous stance, Donald Trump wears a face mask in public during a trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Image via AP.

Surgeon general now urges face coverings” via The Associated Press — Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the Trump administration is “trying to correct” its guidance from earlier in the coronavirus epidemic that wearing face coverings was not necessary. With virus cases surging and many states and cities now issuing orders to wear masks in public, Adams said he and other administration officials were wrong back in March. But he insists they were going with the scientific knowledge at the time, which suggested that people with COVID-19 who showed no symptoms were not likely to spread the virus. Adams said on CBS’ Face the Nation that “once upon a time, we prescribed cigarettes for asthmatics and leeches and cocaine and heroin for people as medical treatments. When we learned better, we do better.”

As coronavirus surges in Republican territory, so does rage over masks” via Gus Garcia-Roberts of the NWF Daily News — After waiting hours for his turn to speak to the Montgomery City Council on June 16, pulmonologist Dr. William Saliski spoke slowly and in basic terms about what he had seen on the novel coronavirus front lines in his hospital in an area hit harder than any other in Alabama. He described emergency units overrun with COVID-19 patients, roughly 90% of whom were Black, and warned that if the spread continued, “we will be overrun.” He offered a simple partial solution: the council should pass the ordinance it was considering to require people to wear masks in public. “This mask slows that down,” Saliski said while waving a piece of fabric. “Ninety-five percent protection. Something as easy as this cloth.”

—“Woman angry over store’s mask rule assaults employee with shoeboxes” via Tiffani Thiessen of the Orlando Sentinel 

Coronavirus deaths take a long-expected turn for the worse” via Mike Stobbe and Nicky Forster of The Associated Press — A long-expected upturn in U.S. coronavirus deaths has begun, driven by fatalities in states in the South and West. The number of deaths per day from the virus had been falling for months, and even remained down as states like Florida and Texas saw explosions in cases and hospitalizations, and reported daily U.S. infections broke records several times in recent days. Scientists warned it wouldn’t last. A coronavirus death, when it occurs, typically comes several weeks after a person is first infected. And experts predicted states that saw increases in cases and hospitalizations would, at some point, see deaths rise too. Now that’s happening.

‘We do expect deaths to go up,’ warns White House COVID-19 task force’s Adm. Brett Giroir as cases rise” via William Cummings of USA Today — Adm. Giroir, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said that the increasing number of hospitalizations related to COVID-19 were “very concerning,” and he warned there would be an increase in deaths stemming from the spike in cases. “We expect hospitalizations to continue to go up,” Giroir said. More hospitalizations mean more Americans will die from the virus “over the next two or three weeks before this turns around.” Giroir said the overall mortality rate should remain lower than it was during the initial surge in cases in March and April because medical professionals know more about caring for COVID-19 patients and have seen benefits from the drug remdesivir. “Even though the death rate, if you get it, is going down, your chances of surviving are much better, we do expect deaths to go up.”

In an interview, Adm. Brett Giroir broke with the President on several issues including the severity of the coronavirus, mask-wearing and guidelines for reopening schools. Image via Getty.

‘Pushing the frontiers’: Long lines for COVID tests, stressed labs delay results as demand spikes” via Ken Alltucker of USA Today — America’s testing system is once again strained and labs are struggling to keep pace as coronavirus rages faster than ever in the South and West. From Florida to California, large and small labs running 24/7 can’t process samples quickly enough from millions of Americans tested every week. That means COVID-19 test results are delayed a week or longer in hot spot communities, undercutting public health efforts to track, isolate and prevent spread. The number of daily tests reached an all-time high of more than 719,000 on July 3 and averaged nearly 640,000 each day this past week, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

COVID-19 death toll is twice as high among people of color under age 65 as for white Americans” via Lena H. Sun of The Washington Post — The coronavirus proved substantially deadlier to people of color under the age of 65 than to their white counterparts in the early days of the pandemic. The report from the CDC is the agency’s most comprehensive analysis of the demographics of those who died of COVID-19. Researchers analyzed data for about 52,000 confirmed deaths between mid-February and mid-April. The study found stark differences in the age at which people from different racial and ethnic groups died of COVID-19. Among White people, the median age was 81, while for Hispanics it was 71, and for all nonwhite, non-Hispanic people it was 72.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

After the fastest recession in U.S. history, the economic recovery may be fizzling” via David J. Lynch of The Washington Post — If there were still hopes of a “V-shaped” comeback from the novel coronavirus shutdown, this past week should have put an end to them. The pandemic shock, which economists once assumed would be only a temporary business interruption, appears instead to be settling into a traditional, self-perpetuating recession. When states and cities began closing most businesses in March, the idea was to smother the virus and buy time for the medical system to adapt. Without a uniform federal strategy, many governors rushed to reopen their economies before bringing the virus under control.

Rows of United Airlines check-in counters at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago are unoccupied amid the coronavirus pandemic. Image via AP.

It could be years before Florida’s jobs recover from COVID-19” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — South Florida’s tourism-heavy economy is paying a price in jobs lost to COVID-19 — a toll so heavy that some executives don’t see a recovery until two years from now. All three counties have lost a substantial number of jobs in hotels, restaurants and leisure-oriented businesses, but Broward County has taken the biggest hit. Unemployment reached 16% in Broward in May. Palm Beach County fared better at 14.1% and Miami-Dade at 11.3%, just a year after unemployment hovered around 3%. Unemployment in Orange County, home to Disney World, Universal, and other nationally prominent attractions, hit a sky-high 23.2% in May, the second-worst in the state. Only Osceola County, directly to the south, was hit harder, with 31.1% of the workforce unemployed.

Breaking point: As COVID-19 cases surge, Florida restaurants closing for ‘summer breaks’” via Annabelle Tometich of the Fort Myers News-Press — Uncertainty continues to plague the state’s restaurants, which are a driving force in Florida’s economy. Restaurant and food-service jobs accounted for 12% of employment in the state, close to 1.1 million jobs in 2019. In 2018, Florida’s restaurants reported some $50.1 billion in sales, per the National Restaurant Association. 2020 has been nowhere near as kind. And many restaurants are hitting their breaking points. Restaurants that received money from the federal Paycheck Protection Program during the first round of applications in April spent the last of it in mid-June. PPP funds went to restaurants in Southwest Florida far more than any other industry.

Carnival Corp. to sell 13 ships, resume cruises in Germany amid COVID-19 pandemic” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — After record-breaking second quarter losses, Carnival Corporation will begin cruising again during the COVID-19 pandemic in August and shed 13 of its ships by the end of the year. The company previously reported a loss of $4.37 billion, or $6.07 a share, during the second quarter, its largest quarterly loss ever, as cruises remain banned in the U.S. through at least late July. While U.S. health authorities remain focused on curbing COVID-19 outbreaks among crews on cruise ships in U.S. waters, the cities of Hamburg, Kiel and Rostock, Germany, have given the industry the go-ahead to start cruises again next month. The company has already received around 1,000 bookings for the cruises, which went on sale Thursday.

— MORE CORONA — 

Data shows Fourth of July was busy travel day despite pandemic” via WFLA — A new analysis of cellphone data in 10 coronavirus hotspots shows even more people hit the road over the Fourth of July weekend than over Memorial Day, despite warnings from health experts. The analysis comes from data by “Cuebiq,” a private company that the CDC uses to track general movement in the United States. Cuebiq focused on the number of visitors to and from 10 metro area hotspots in the United States. According to the data, nearly all of these metro areas saw an increase in the number of visitors when compared to either Memorial Day weekend or the two weeks prior. Orlando saw the largest increase in visitors compared to the weeks leading up to the Fourth of July.

Despite the pandemic, travel during the July Fourth weekend was busier than expected.

As the pandemic surges, old people alarm their adult kids by playing bridge and getting haircuts” via Tara Bahrampour of The Washington Post — The effects of COVID-19 are most devastating for older people, with a 30% death rate among people over 85 in the United States who develop it. Many in that age group are sheltering in place and skipping social events in an effort to avoid the virus that causes the disease, and younger family members have often stayed away or gotten coronavirus tests before seeing them, to protect them. Others have taken a more relaxed attitude, engaging in behavior that fills their middle-aged children with terror, for both their parents’ health and their own. Whatever the reasons, the dynamic can leave middle-aged people, many of whom may already be worried about their adult children going to protests or beach gatherings, feeling that they must also parent their parents.

Lessons from Walt Disney World’s reopening: Smaller crowds make up for COVID-19 protocols” via Britt Kennerly and Seth Kubersky of USA Today — The parks opened even as the Sunshine State recorded a sharp increase in new infections. On Saturday, the Florida Department of Health reported 10,360 new cases, the 18th consecutive day that at least 5,000 new cases of the novel coronavirus have been announced ⁠and pushing total cases to 254,511. And those making their way back to the “Place Where Dreams Come True” found a smaller, much more sanitized and COVID-19-conscious world. The coronavirus-forced changes were myriad, from touch-free forehead temperature checks to hand-sanitizing stations and six-foot separations between guests in lines.

Virus causes uncertainty for state lotteries” via Michael Casey of The Associated Press — Since March, Texas, Arkansas and Montana and several other states have seen an increase in sales, in part, driven by housebound residents putting cash down for scratch-off tickets. But lottery officials say other states, like Massachusetts and Oregon, confronted revenue drops due to stay-at-home orders that forced the closure of restaurants, bars and some retailers selling tickets. Some also blamed a lack of an online presence, something only a handful states currently allow. State lottery revenues do not make up a huge portion of a state budget. But because the monies are often directed to specific programs like education, environment or veterans programs, they can have an outsized impact when there are upticks or declines in sales.

— SMOLDERING —

A new generation challenges the heartland” via Tim Craig and Aaron Williams of The Washington Post — The number of young people of color living in the Midwest has surged over the past decade, as the older white population has nearly stalled. Forty percent of the nation’s counties are experiencing such demographic transformations. A review of census data released last month showed that minorities make up nearly half the under-30 population nationwide compared to just 27% of the over-55 population, signaling that the United States is on the brink of seismic changes in culture, politics and values. As this young, diverse cohort enters adulthood, it’s challenging the cultural norms and political views of older white Americans.

Orlando activists debate demands for change in how police operate” via Cristóbal Reyes, Grace Toohey and Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — In Central Florida, where activist coalitions have been a ubiquitous presence during street marches and government meetings, a consensus on the movement’s demands has yet to match its passion. “We’re applying pressure in so many places you have no idea about,” Lawanna Gelzer, a longtime community organizer and one of the most visible figures at the local protests, said at a march last week. The local movement has included a variety of voices, with demands ranging from stronger accountability measures for police misconduct, to shifting funding from cops to social programs, to outright “abolition” of law enforcement. Police agencies, meanwhile, have already made modest policy changes.

Community organizer and activist Lawanna Gelzer says there is a lot of pressure to change how police operate in Central Florida.

Arrests, demonstration outside St. Pete Mayor’s house roils protest movement” via Bailey LeFever and Josh Fiallo of the Tampa Bay Times — An unsettling week for the city’s protest movement culminated Saturday when four demonstrators were arrested at two different protests. The first incident took place outside the home of Mayor Rick Kriseman in the Pasadena Estates area. A small group of protesters assembled outside of his home, just as they did the week before. But this time two women were arrested, one of them on a charge of child neglect after police said she allowed her child to block traffic. Hours later, as demonstrators continued their nightly march through downtown, St. Petersburg police vehicles suddenly appeared and officers took three people into custody.

In Parkland, one side of the street chanted ‘Black Lives Matter.’ The other, ‘U.S.A.’” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — Four lanes of road separated Black Lives Matter protesters and protesters supporting police Saturday afternoon in Parkland. The opposing protesters stood diagonally from each other on the corner of Holmberg and Pine Island roads. One side chanted “Black Lives Matter,” “No Justice No Peace, No Racist Police” and “All Lives Matter When Black Lives Matter.” The other “U.S.A,” and held signs that read “We Support the Police.” Each side contained a crowd of around 80 people.

Lynching of Claude Neal: Group urges Marianna tree be removed; nephew wants it preserved” via Nada Hassanein of the Tallahassee Democrat — Neal was lynched in Marianna, Florida, in 1934. A group of six white men kidnapped him and tortured him to death in the woods near the Chattahoochee River. They maimed him, burned him with hot irons and stabbed and shot him over and over. The mob dragged his already dead, mutilated body back to Marianna for display before thousands of people. They hung his body from a tree that still stands today in front of the present-day Jackson County Courthouse. Recently, a Marianna-based group started a petition to cut the tree down and instead install a historical marker.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Anthony Fauci is sidelined by the White House as he steps up blunt talk on pandemic” via Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey and Laurie McGinley of The Washington Post — As the Trump administration has strayed from the advice of many of its scientists and public health experts, the White House has moved to sideline Fauci, scuttled some of his planned TV appearances and largely kept him out of the Oval Office for more than a month even as coronavirus infections surge in large swathes of the country. In recent days, the 79-year-old scientist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has found himself directly in the President’s crosshairs. During an interview Thursday with Sean Hannity, Trump said Fauci “is a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes.”

The White House sidelined Dr. Anthony Fauci after his increasing blunt talk about the COVID-19 pandemic. Image via AP.

Trump rips private Texas border wall built by his supporters” via Nomaan Merchant of The Associated Press — Trump on Sunday criticized a privately built border wall in South Texas that’s showing signs of erosion months after going up, saying it was “only done to make me look bad,” even though the wall was built after a monthslong campaign by his supporters. The group that raised money online for the wall promoted itself as supporting Trump during a government shutdown that started in December 2018 because Congress wouldn’t fund Trump’s demands for a border wall. Called “We Build the Wall,” the group has raised more than $25 million promoting itself as supporting the President.

China sanctions Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and other U.S. officials for criticism” via the Associated Press — China said Monday it will impose sanctions on three U.S. lawmakers and one ambassador in response to similar actions taken by the U.S. last week against Chinese officials over alleged human rights abuses against Muslims in the Xinjiang region. Sens Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, Rep. Chris Smith and Ambassador for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback were targeted, as was the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. The four have been critical of the ruling Communist Party’s policies toward minority groups and people of faith. Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the U.S. move had “seriously damaged China-U.S. relations.”  

Assignment editors — U.S. Rep Kathy Castor will host an online meeting with her Tampa constituents about keeping them and their families safe as COVID-19 positive test numbers increase, 11 a.m., Zoom link available from Rikki.Miller@mail.house.gov.

Happening today — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist will hold a virtual town hall with representatives of NASA for Pinellas County students, families and teachers. Participants include astronaut Mike Fincke and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, 11 a.m., nasaenterprise.webex.com.

— STATEWIDE —

NFL players’ stickup victims recant after payoffs in lawmaker’s office, warrant says” via Nicholas Nehamas, David Ovalle, and David Smiley of the Miami Herald — The case against two NFL football players accused of armed robbery in Miramar took a twist after it was revealed that detectives believe four victims recanted after being paid a total of $55,000 in cash, at the office of a South Florida defense lawyer and state lawmaker. Michael Grieco, who represents accused Seattle Seahawks cornerback Quinton Dunbar. Grieco, a Democrat, won a seat in the state House in 2018. “Grieco’s office was the background that facilitated a cash transaction that later obstructed the integrity of an investigation,” said one of the police reports.

Seattle Seahawks CB Quinton Dunbar and New York Giants CB Deandre Baker are both wanted on four counts of armed robbery after an argument at a party the players attended. Image via the Miami Herald.

Hedge Fund Chatham wins bankruptcy auction for McClatchy’s Newspapers” via Jonathan Randles and Lukas I. Alpert of The Wall Street Journal — Hedge-fund manager Chatham Asset Management LLC emerged as the winner in a bankruptcy auction for McClatchy Co. The sale, announced by McClatchy on Sunday, must be approved by the judge overseeing its bankruptcy. McClatchy publishes some 30 daily papers, including the Miami Herald, the Sacramento Bee and the Kansas City Star. A sale to Chatham would mean roughly one-third of all newspapers sold in the U.S. each day are published by companies controlled by financial institutions.

Polk courts cut staff, reduce hours to offset budget shortfall” via Suzie Schottelkotte of The Lakeland Ledger — Twenty courthouse employees lost their jobs this week, another 21 vacant positions have been eliminated and about 200 court employees will be furloughed one day a week through September to offset a $1.6 million shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Polk Clerk of Court and Comptroller Stacy Butterfield said revenue from traffic fines, lawsuit filing fees, and other court functions has plummeted since March, when the pandemic led to a shutdown across Florida. “This is a financial crisis for us,” she said. “We are funded through those fines, fees and costs that we can retain by statute, and those revenues have been greatly reduced during the pandemic. Revenue from traffic tickets and civil filings are what support all of our court operations.” 

Orange production down as season ends” via the News Service of Florida — Florida’s citrus growing season ended on a sour note, with the production of the state’s signature orange crop down about 6% from the prior season. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday released final numbers for the 2019-2020 season, with growers filling 67.65 million 90-pound boxes, the industry-standard measurement. That number was below the 71.85 million boxes filled during the 2018-2019 season. The industry entered the 2019-2020 season with an optimistic tone, expecting to continue a rebound after a disastrous 2017-2018 season in which Hurricane Irma reduced production. The state saw upticks during the 2019-2020 season in grapefruit and specialty crops. Grapefruit production in Florida ended with 4.85 million boxes, an increase from 4.51 million boxes in the 2018-2019 season.

Flags lowered to honor Wayne Mixson” via the News Service of Florida — Flags were flown half-staff Saturday to honor former Florida Gov. Mixson, who died Wednesday at age 98. DeSantis ordered flags at half-staff at the Capitol, the Leon County Courthouse and Tallahassee City Hall. Mixson was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1978 and 1982 as the running mate of Democrat Bob Graham and served three days as Governor in early 1987. That came after Graham was elected to the U.S. Senate and stepped down as Governor before his term ended to go to Washington.

Former Florida Gov. Wayne Mixson (right) dies this week at age 98. He had served as Governor for three days. Tallahassee Democrat.

— LOBBY REGS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Michael Corcoran, Matt Blair, Jacqueline Corcoran, Will Rodriguez, Andrea Tovar, Corcoran Partners: RareGuru

Jorge Chamizo, Charles Dudley, Floridian Partners: NACM of Tampa

Kasey Lewis, Melissa Ramba, Lewis Longman & Walker: Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists

Jason Unger, GrayRobinson: Contact Network LLC dba InLine

— 2020 —

2020 Watch: How many more Americans will die from COVID-19?” via the Associated Press — The number of Americans dying from COVID-19 is surging again. The daily death toll began falling in mid-April, and it continued to fall — until about a week ago. Daily reported deaths in the U.S. have increased from 578 two weeks ago to 664 on July 10. That’s still well below the heights hit in April, but researchers are expecting deaths to rise for at least some weeks still as infections soar. Overall, more than 135,000 people in America have died as a result of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins. 

Donald Trump gets some good election news: GOP voter registrations outpace Dems” via David Siders of POLITICO — Late last month, the Democratic data firm TargetSmart found that while new voter registrations had plummeted amid the coronavirus pandemic, those who were registering in competitive states tended to be whiter, older and less Democratic than before. Ben Wessel, executive director of NextGen America, said he “got nervous,” and other Democratic-leaning groups felt the same. The report seemed to confirm what state elections officials and voter registration groups had been seeing in the field for weeks: Neither Democrats nor Republicans had been registering many voters during the pandemic. But Democrats were suffering disproportionately from the slowdown.

Donald Trump finally gets some good news; GOP voter registration is outpacing Democrats.

‘Republicans are really fed up’: GOP increasingly splits with Trump as his polls drag” via Courtney Subramanian Christal Hayes of the NWF Daily News — Weeks before Trump accepts his party’s nomination, cracks are deepening within the party as a host of GOP lawmakers distance themselves from the Republican standard-bearer as they weigh their election chances in November. Republicans have increasingly split with Trump on a host of issues shadowing his administration, from his tone on racism and the removal of Confederate statues, to wearing a face mask amid the coronavirus pandemic and questions over intelligence reports of a Russia-backed bounty program on U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It’s a rare moment in the President’s three-and-a-half-year tenure, during which Trump otherwise relished inparty unity on issues such as his impeachment and former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

‘You get made fun of’: Donald Trump campaign office shuns masks, social distancing” via Dan Diamond of POLITICO — Inside the Trump campaign’s headquarters this week, a team of cleaners scrubbed down surfaces and disinfected equipment, a recognition that coronavirus has found its way into the heart of the President’s reelection bid, regardless of Trump’s public dismissals of recent risk. The campaign’s headquarters is normally packed with dozens of staffers, often sitting in proximity to conduct phone calls and other urgent campaign business, said three people with knowledge of its operations. The office was shut down for its first deep cleaning in weeks after a senior campaign official tested positive for the virus. 

The once-mocked ‘Never Trump’ movement becomes a sudden campaign force” via Ashley Parker and Robert Costa of The Washington Post — Groups such as the Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump emphasize guerrilla tactics and scathing ads as they troll the President. The movement seeks to build a national political operation to oust both the President and his supporters in Congress, with a particular emphasis on persuading white suburban voters who consider themselves true Republicans to break from the President. Advisers to the Lincoln Project, which they say has about 30 employees and raised $16.8 million this quarter, will soon expand to include ground operations. Their surgical strike ads air on Fox News in Washington, which are aimed not at persuading disaffected Republicans but simply at needling Trump.

When Val Demings stood by police officers accused of excessive force” via Matt Dixon and Maya King of POLITICO — In 2010, Daniel Daley broke his neck outside a Florida bar after being slammed to the ground by an Orlando police officer young enough to be his grandson. The Orlando police chief defended the officer, 26-year-old Travis Lamont. A jury disagreed that the encounter was defensible, awarding Daley $880,000 in damages. The chief was Demings, now in her fourth year as a U.S. representative. As a Black woman and 27-year veteran of a big-city force, Demings has emerged as an unusually credible voice on the relationship between law enforcement and urban communities. As Biden inches toward choosing a running mate, Demings is branding herself as a police reformer.

In 2010, Val Demings stood firm with police officers accused of using excessive force.

Tammy Duckworth bursts into VP contention” via Natasha Korecki of POLITICO — Duckworth is no longer an afterthought in the Democratic veepstakes. The Illinois senator and Purple Heart recipient has landed squarely in the conversation after a high-profile clash with Tucker Carlson last week and her advocacy against politicization of the military in the weeks prior. The attention hasn’t escaped Biden‘s vetting team. It has stepped up information-gathering on Duckworth recently, scrutinizing her legislative record and talking to her colleagues. A contingent of Duckworth-for-VP backers, including high-dollar donors and a politically active veterans group, has intensified efforts on her behalf in the past two weeks, pushing her as the best choice for Biden’s running mate.

Ready or not: Election costs soar in prep for virus voting” via the Associated Press — The demand for mail-in ballots is surging. Election workers need training. And polling booths might have to be outfitted with protective shields during the COVID-19 pandemic. As officials prepare for the Nov. 3 election, one certainty is clear: It’s coming with a big price tag. The pandemic has sent state and local officials scrambling to prepare for an election like few others, an extraordinary endeavor during a presidential contest, as virus cases continue to rise across much of the U.S. 

Facebook mulls political-ad blackout ahead of U.S. election” via Kurt Wagner of Bloomberg — Facebook Inc. is considering imposing a ban on political ads on its social network in the days leading up to the U.S. election in November, according to people familiar with the company’s thinking. The potential ban is still only being discussed and hasn’t yet been finalized, said the people, who asked not to be named talking about internal policies. Still, there are concerns that an ad blackout may hurt “get out the vote” campaigns, or limit a candidate’s ability to respond widely to breaking news or new information. This would be a big change for Facebook, which has so far stuck to a policy of not fact-checking ads from politicians or their campaigns. Ad blackouts before elections are common in other parts of the world, including the U.K., where Facebook’s global head of policy, Nick Clegg, was once deputy prime minister.

— CONVENTION COUNTDOWN —

It’s Trump’s call on what the GOP convention will look like” via Zeke Miller of The Associated Press — After months of insisting that the Republican National Convention go off as scheduled despite the pandemic, Trump is slowly coming to accept that the late August event will not be the four-night infomercial for his reelection that he had anticipated. After a venue change, spiking coronavirus cases, and a sharp recession, Trump aides and allies are increasingly questioning whether it’s worth the trouble, and some are advocating that the convention be scrapped altogether. Privately, concerns are mounting, and plans are being drawn up to further scale back the event or even shift it to entirely virtual. Officials who weeks ago had looked for the convention to be a celebration of the nation’s vanquishing of the virus now see it as a potent symbol of the pandemic’s persistence.

Donald Trump addresses delegates during the final day of the 2016 Republican National Convention. It is up to the President to determine what shape the 2020 RNC will take. Image via AP.

Republicans tap top fundraiser in mad scramble for convention cash” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — Republicans have tapped a top party fundraiser as they race to lock down money for their convention, a task that’s been complicated by a tight timetable and growing concerns about holding a large-scale event during the pandemic. Jeff Miller, a veteran fundraiser with deep connections to the tight-knit world of Republican donors, will serve as a national finance chair for the late-August convention in Jacksonville. Republicans are scrambling to raise millions of dollars after Trump moved most of the event from Charlotte. They say they’ve received several millions of dollars in commitments toward a fundraising goal of $20 to $25 million, but declined to be more specific.

Joe Gruters says RNC convention will be safe” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Florida had 69,069 coronavirus cases when the Republican National Committee announced on June 11 that the party’s convention was moving to Jacksonville. Since that time the number of Florida cases has more than tripled and questions surrounding the safety of holding a major gathering in the state have only grown. Some Republican leaders have announced they will skip the convention because of health concerns. Florida GOP Chair Gruters said he is confident the convention, which will culminate with Trump’s acceptance speech on Aug. 27, will be safe. “They’re not going to take anything for granted; they’re going to make it safe,” said Gruters, a state senator from Sarasota. Gruters said he does not expect Florida’s big surge in coronavirus cases to derail the event.

Jacksonville RNC costs draw questions from City Council President Tommy Hazouri” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — Mayor Lenny Curry’s office is getting questions from City Council President Hazouri about costs to taxpayers from Jacksonville hosting the Republican National Convention next month. Hazouri outlined seven questions in a memo this week to the Mayor’s Office and said he wants financial information soon so council members can judge sensibly any agreement they’re asked to approve. “I can’t wait until anyone submits an unannounced piece of legislation,” he said. “It’s not fair to us and, quite frankly, it’s not fair to the public.” It’s not clear what arrangements will require council approval, however.

— MORE FROM THE TRAIL — 

Kat Cammack hits the airwaves with first ad in CD 3” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Cammack has released her first ad in the race to succeed Ted Yoho in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District. The 30-second spot, “Chicken,” casts Cammack as the only candidate in the 10-person primary field that will stick to their guns on conservative issues. “My opponents are a lot like career politicians in DC: Chicken,” Cammack says in the ad. “I’ve spent my whole life being tough. When I was younger my family was homeless. Now, I run a small business and was Congressman Yoho’s deputy chief of staff. “I’m Kat Cammack and I approve this message because in Washington these guys will run away from President Trump, guns and the pro-life values that we care about.” The campaign said the ad will be backed with a six-figure, districtwide buy. Her ad drops about six weeks before the Aug. 18 primary and just a day after Judson Sapp rolled out his first TV spot of the cycle.

Super PAC attack labels William Figlesthaler candidacy as midlife crisis” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The same super PAC airing negative ads against Byron Donalds now has a website devoted to trashing Figlesthaler. Honesty America launched the website FreakyFig.com Tuesday. The opposite characterizes the Naples Republican’s run for Congress in Florida’s 19th Congressional District as nothing more than a midlife crisis. The ad tackles Figlesthaler’s personal life and professional history while citing a freshly filed Federal Elections Commission complaint filed by Fort Myers attorney Chris Brown, who said he’s supporting Casey Askar in the crowded Republican primary in CD 19. The complaint alleges a consultant working with Figlesthaler’s campaign, Matt Hurley, set up shell companies in his girlfriend’s name to shield his income and avoid addressing some $750,000 in debt owed to the Atrium and other claimants.

Ethics, elections complaints filed against Cris Dosev in HD 2” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A Republican candidate in Florida’s Panhandle may need to explain some sloppy bookkeeping to the state. Complaints against Dosev, who is challenging Rep. Alex Andrade in a Republican primary in District 2, were filed with the Division of Elections and the state Ethics Commission. Drew Palmer, a Destin resident who has long tracked Dosev’s missteps, submitted his concerns when he saw multiple missteps in Dosev’s state documents. For example, Dosev’s financial disclosures don’t properly list full assets with a Roth IRA and just lists the accounts, Palmer said. Palmer also suggests Dosev failed to report interests in private businesses worth $184,465, a substantial oversight. The financial concerns get documented in an ethics complaint Palmer filed.

Old charges give ammo to new attacks on Jason Maughan” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A video ad from Bonita Springs Republican Adam Botana dubs his primary opponent “Drive-By Shooter Jason Maughan.” The two Lee County candidates face each other in a battle for an open House seat in District 76. The allegations will be familiar to those who remember a nasty 2016 primary when Maughan challenged incumbent Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto. Maughan lost that primary badly after a guilty plea from the ‘90s fueled the narrative around his candidacy. In the years since, Maughan won a seat on the Sanibel City Council and rallied establishment endorsements, including one this week from retired Sheriff Mike Scott.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Lawmakers back efforts to unseat incumbent” via the News Service of Florida — Numerous Democratic state lawmakers are backing a challenger to Rep. Al Jacquet, a Riviera Beach Democrat who has come under fire for making anti-gay comments. Incoming Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer of Fort Lauderdale, Sen. Jason Pizzo of North Miami and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith from Orlando, are the latest lawmakers to back the candidacy of Lake Worth Beach Commissioner Omari Hardy. Hardy, Jacquet and three other Democrats are running in the Aug. 18 primary in Palm Beach County’s House District 88. Hardy, who was raised in an LGBTQ household by two mothers, received a flood of endorsements after he accused Jacquet of making anti-gay comments against him for the second time this year.

— TOP OPINION —

Roger Stone remains a convicted felon, and rightly so” via Robert S. Mueller III with The Washington Post — The work of the special counsel’s office, its report, indictments, guilty pleas and convictions, should speak for itself. But I feel compelled to respond both to broad claims that our investigation was illegitimate and our motives were improper, and to specific claims that Stone was a victim of our office. The Russia investigation was of paramount importance. Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so.

— OPINIONS —

America is being way too calm about COVID-19” via Cathy O’Neil of Bloomberg Opinion — The accelerating resurgence of COVID-19 in the U.S. is filling me with dread. But what’s even scarier is the propensity of Americans to ignore or downplay a malaise that is generating tens of thousands of entirely preventable deaths. It makes total sense that the rest of the world wants to keep Americans out these days. Thanks at least in part to mostly young people socializing in bars and nightclubs, the country has been setting records for daily case counts, now nearing 3 million. Yes, testing has roughly tripled in Arizona, but so has the percentage of people testing positive (from about 7.5% to about 25%). This suggests that more of the people coming in to get tested have a major reason to think they’re sick, and that the tests are missing even more of the people with mild or no symptoms.

Our pandemic response is stalling. And it’s made worse by Trump’s ignorance.” via The Washington Post editorial board — The pandemic response in the United States is stalling. Left to a patchwork of 50 states, absent a national strategy, buffeted by multiple outbreaks from premature openings, and now facing critical decisions about risks of reopening schools, the nation is headed in the wrong direction. A critical pillar of containing the pandemic is diagnostic testing. An average of 634,000 people a day were tested over the past week, but that is way below the nationwide target of 1.6 million daily tests needed for mitigation of the virus. Just as important is the percentage of positive tests, rising in many states, because of both more illness and limited testing.

Trump talks a good game in Miami, but he doesn’t really like its immigrants, either” via the Miami Herald editorial board — “The Trump administration’s war on immigrants, undocumented, legal and almost-legal, continues. Of course, the implications for many in South Florida are huge and they are not good. Last week, the administration threatened to kick international students out of the country if the colleges and universities that they attend do not open for in-person classes, the dangers of the coronavirus be damned. This would be devastating for several local universities, U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala said. “They will have go home if the schools are teaching only online. This will be serious for the University of Miami and for FIU and Florida Memorial,” she said.

COVID-19 data reporting by Florida is unreliable” via Rebekah Jones of the Tallahassee Democrat — While the rest of the world drowned in third-party, speculative and nonscientific coronavirus data at the onset of the pandemic, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) stood proudly and steady in its position as the single-point-source of information in the state. That monopoly over COVID data in the state is partly my fault. I worked very hard for several months to ensure DOH was the only authority over COVID-19 data, and since I was the sole creator and publisher of that data, I trusted its authenticity and accuracy above all else. A few weeks later, on the day Gov. DeSantis announced the full reopening of K-12 schools in August, Scott Pritchard, the lead epidemiologist for Florida’s COVID-19 response since January, abruptly quit after 15 years of service.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Florida set a COVID-19 record Sunday — not just for the state, but for the entire nation.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— The Florida Department of Health reported 15,300 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, setting a new one-day nationwide record. New York previously held that dubious distinction, but Florida beat the record by more than 3,000. When last we heard from DeSantis, the Governor insisted there won’t be any changes in Florida’s reopening.

— Florida added a mind-boggling 70,000 new cases of coronavirus in the past week, bringing the total to almost 278,000. Dr. Ronald Saff of Tallahassee says those numbers would have been a lot lower if DeSantis had done a better job responding to the crisis.

— Florida’s death toll is also rising. Forty-five new fatalities were reported Sunday; the new total is now 4,346. That’s an increase of more than 500 over the past week; it’s keeping the Grim Reaper busy.

— Speaking of which, the man behind the Grim Reaper Tour is Dan Uhlfelder, who will talk about his unusual crusade.

— Checking-in with a Florida Man fired for racist postings on social media. Not Facebook or Twitter, mind you. It was LinkedIn. What kind of moron posts racial rants on a site designed to connect business professionals, you ask? Florida Man.

To listen, click on the image below:

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

Tiger Woods documentary ‘TIGER’ announced by HBO Sports for December 2020” via Mike Chiari of The Bleacher Report — A two-part documentary chronicling the rise, fall, and comeback of Woods entitled TIGER is set to debut on HBO in December. Part 1 will air on Dec. 13, followed by Part 2 on Dec. 20. In addition to being broadcast on HBO, the documentary will be available for streaming on HBO Max. Academy Award winner Alex Gibney will serve as one of the executive producers for TIGER, while Emmy Award winner Matthew Heineman and Emmy Award nominee Matthew Hamachek will direct. TIGER will feature never-before-seen footage and interviews with many of those closest to Woods.

A two-part documentary chronicling the rise, fall and comeback of Tiger Woods is set to debut on HBO in December. Image via AP.

Vintage Super Mario Bros. video game sells for $114,000” via The Associated Press — An unopened copy of a vintage Super Mario Bros. video game has been sold for $114,000 in an auction that underscored the enduring popularity of entertainment created decades ago. A bidder who wished to remain anonymous snapped up an early version of the pioneering Super Mario Bros. game released in 1985 for Nintendo’s NES console during an auction. The $114,000 price eclipsed Heritage Auctions’ previous record amount for a video game, which was a $100,150 bid made early last year for an unopened copy of the same game.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Belated wishes to top Democrat fundraiser Jon Adrabi, as well as former AG Bill McCollum and former Sen. John Grant. Celebrating today are Dan Sweeney (recently elevated to the editorial board of the Sun-Sentinel) and Tampa City Council member Guido Maniscalco.

___

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.

Sign up for Sunburn

Receive our team's agenda-setting morning read of what's hot in Florida politics. Delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday.

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

Connect
Sign up for Sunburn

Receive our team's agenda-setting morning read of what's hot in Florida politics. Delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday.