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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.20.20

Wake up right: Get your scoops and other news about Florida politics.

Guess who had a crummy weekend.

After civil rights icon and longtime Congressman John Lewis died, Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio donned their dunce caps, showing Floridians they are either out of touch or not paying attention … or both.

Asked about Lewis’ passing, DeSantis completely ducked the question, whining instead to a reporter that the question was off-topic.

“We’re trying to focus on the coronavirus,” he said.

Are you out of your mind? Lewis survived a brutal beating during a march in Selma, Alabama in 1965 and is one of the nation’s most beloved civil rights icons. But sure, Governor, let’s ignore that so you can continue pretending coronavirus is NBD.

Not to be one-upped. Rubio tweeted a tribute to Lewis but shared a photo of him with a different late Black congressman, Elijah Cummings. Does this mean Rubio thinks “they” all look the same? For Pete’s sake, Senator. Do you not have a staff to help you with this stuff?

No, it wasn’t a good week for Marco Rubio, either. (Bonus: It was his profile pic, too.)

In another case of the bad weekends, the Donald Trump campaign is reportedly investigating Brad Parscale’s campaign spending. This after he was demoted from campaign manager, the political equivalent to putting baby in the corner.

Whether or not Parscale saw this coming is unclear, but what is clear is that he most certainly should have.

Not everyone had a rough weekend though. Hat tip to Fox News’ Chris Wallace for his undeniably bold interview with Trump in which he spends exactly zero minutes questioning whether he should fact check the President in real-time on his claim that former Vice President Joe Biden literally wants to defund the police.

“Sir, he does not.”

It wasn’t all bad news for Trump and Republicans this weekend though. Priorities USA announced it was dropping its lawsuit seeking to change vote-by-mail rules, which could have massively expanded outreach by expanding deadlines and letting more people collect ballots. The GOP is celebrating a major victory on an issue they cautioned could have extreme consequences on election integrity.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

Tweet, tweet:

@DavidJollyFL: The Biden camp should just pay to run this Chris Wallace @realDonaldTrump interview repeatedly on every network between now and Election Day. Great journalism, accurate reflection of all things Trump.

@WalshFreedom: Yea, this Chris Wallace interview is insane, and yea, Trump is utterly unfit, but I’m watching it and thinking that I can’t wait to have a President who doesn’t tell us on national TV that he’s a genius because he can identify an elephant. Or a camel. Or count backward from 100.

@HelenAguirreFer: @GovRonDeSantis provided COVID-19 testing and medical care to Ag workers while @nikkifried did nothing. Well not exactly. According to @FLSERT records, she sent them a few bags of rice and beans. Hope they were Goya!

@FlSecofState: We commend the litigants for working with the State and Supervisors who are making the 2020 elections free, fair and safe. Today’s settlement is a victory for all involved and for all Floridians.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

MLB starts — 3; WNBA starts — 5; PLL starts — 5; TED conference rescheduled — 6; Florida Bar exams begin in Tampa — 8; NBA season restart in Orlando — 11; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres (rescheduled) — 11; NHL resumes — 12; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 29; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 30; “Mulan” premieres (rescheduled) — 32; Indy 500 rescheduled — 34; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 35; NBA draft lottery — 36; Rev. Al Sharpton’s D.C. March — 39; U.S. Open begins — 42; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 46; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 47; Rescheduled date for French Open — 62; First presidential debate in Indiana — 71; “Wonder Woman” premieres — 74; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 75; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 78; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 84; Second presidential debate scheduled at Miami — 87; NBA draft — 88; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 88; NBA free agency — 91; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 94; 2020 General Election — 106; “Black Widow” premieres — 113; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 115; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 123; “No Time to Die” premieres — 123; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 134; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 156; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 202; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 368; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 376; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 473; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 571; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 613; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 655; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 809.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

What went wrong in Florida? Timing, testing, tourism and a COVID-19 crush” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Two months after DeSantis boasted about proving the experts wrong by flattening the curve and getting COVID-19 under control, Florida has become the state that other states don’t want to become. Even with an emergency order reversing the reopening of bars and nightclubs, Florida has witnessed unprecedented, record-breaking growth in the daily number of cases and deaths reported for the last two weeks. With new cases averaging over 11,000 a day and a positivity rate hovering around 16%, Florida has become the new epicenter for the coronavirus pandemic not just in the US but globally. “We don’t want to become Florida,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said as he announced new bar and restaurant closures to slow down a surge of COVID-19.

A flower arrangement at an entrance of Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. Florida’s rapidly increasing number of coronavirus cases is turning Miami into the national hot spot for the virus. Image via AP.

Florida surpasses 350,000 mark for COVID-19 infections; deaths near 5,000” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — The latest report from the Florida Department of Health shows 12,478 new positive and 87 Florida resident deaths. The new numbers posted Sunday by the state health department reflect results received on Saturday. Some 11.85% of the 115,100 new results tested positive. That makes it 350,047 Florida infections in total and 4,982 deaths of Florida residents. Of the total deaths, 2,370 are from staffers and residents of long-term care facilities. Coronavirus tracking by The New York Times shows Florida 3rd among the 50 states for the number of COVID-19 infections. Florida now ranks 7th in the NYT analysis of infections per 100,000 people.

Ron DeSantis says virus antibody tests show 16% positive” via Christopher Condon of Bloomberg — DeSantis said tests administered in his state Friday that aim to detect COVID-19 antibodies indicating whether a person had at some point been exposed to the virus showed a 16.1% positive rate. “That is a significant jump from where we were a month and a half ago,” DeSantis said Saturday during a news conference in St. Augustine. “So there’s a bigger pool of people who have the antibody.” Coronavirus cases in Florida have surged in recent weeks, part of a wave of U.S. infections centered on southern and Western states. The state hit a record number of deaths among residents on Thursday, but both deaths and cases have dropped in the last two days. Florida on Saturday reported a total of 337,569 virus cases and 4,895 deaths among residents. Among other things, the wave in cases has thrown into disarray the Republican National Convention, due to be held in Jacksonville over four days in late August.

Helluva deep-dive — DeSantis’ COVID strategy: Talk about the good, avoid talking about how to prevent the bad” via Mary Ellen Klas and Kirby Wilson of the Miami Herald — As Florida recorded its worst week of coronavirus deaths, a bipartisan group of South Florida mayors met DeSantis on the 29th floor of Miami-Dade County’s government center Tuesday with a request: Please deliver a consistent and urgent message that people need to act responsibly. Tell people to “wear a mask,” they urged. Craft a “long-term strategy,” they said. “The public needs to be told they have to sacrifice,’’ they implored. Help us “speak with one voice,” they warned, because if nothing changed, they would be forced into another shutdown. “You speak to a segment of our population directly,’’ Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told the governor. “And I think the fact that you’re saying that is something that’s imperative and important for them to hear.”

Why DeSantis yanked Florida’s Surgeon General from a coronavirus briefing” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The coronavirus was sweeping Florida in April when state Surgeon General Scott Rivkees warned that people in the state might have to social distance for up to a year. Minutes later, an aide to DeSantis whisked him out of the briefing. The aide, DeSantis communications director Helen Aguirre Ferré, blamed Rivkees’ abrupt removal on a scheduling conflict. But state records challenge that assertion. Rivkees, at the April briefing with reporters, had gone off message. As spring breakers descended on Florida’s beaches in the spring, the DeSantis administration script was to downplay the dangers of the virus among young people. A DeSantis’ public records employee said the office had no record of the state surgeon general meeting with a deputy chief of staff.

Ousted Florida scientist Rebekah Jones’ whistleblower complaint takes aim at DeSantis” via Chris Persaud of The Lakeland Ledger — Florida’s former top coronavirus data scientist filed a whistleblower complaint Thursday against the Health Department, accusing the agency of firing her in retaliation for refusing to manipulate data to support the push to reopen Florida after months of quarantine. The complaint by Jones targets DeSantis directly. “These efforts to falsify the numbers are a pattern and practice in Florida government that goes on to this day,” Jones’ Tallahassee attorney, Rick Johnson, said in a statement. ” DeSantis has routinely given false numbers to the press. His underlings at (the Health Department) follow his example and his direction.” Jones asked to be returned to her job with back pay and other compensation, Johnson said.

In a new whistleblower complaint, Rebekah Jones is directly targeting Ron DeSantis. Image via Rebekah Jones.

Florida hospitals seek more virus medication as cases rise” via Kelli Kennedy and Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — Florida hospitals said Saturday that they are in desperate need of a “lifesaving” antiviral to help treat the coronavirus patients rapidly filling their beds as cases across the state continue to rise at alarming rates. Federal health officials sent more than 17,000 vials of remdesivir to the state 48 hours after meeting with Florida hospitals last week. But the Florida Hospital Associations, which represents over 200 hospitals, said it’s not enough and asked Saturday for an expedited shipment of the drug and a new distribution process to avoid backlogs, which they say can mean life or death in some cases. “This initial shipment did not meet the incredible need we have for this live-saving drug,” Crystal Stickle, the group’s interim president, said in a statement.

DeSantis enacts new emergency rules on senior COVID-19 patient transfers” via Christine sex and of the News Service of Florida — The Agency for Health Care Administration published an emergency rule that allows hospitals to use a symptom-based or test-based approach to confirm that long-term care residents are negative for COVID-19. The rule also gives hospitals the green light to discharge residents with an unknown COVID-19 status to nursing homes, if the facility has a dedicated wing or building with designated COVID-19 staff. The emergency rule replaces a prior emergency rule that required two negative tests 24 hours apart before a patient could be returned to a long-term care facility.

Happening today — LeadingAge Florida is hosting a virtual news conference to announce its report on the coronavirus, 12:30 p.m. media registration at us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register.

Numbers have to ‘flatten’ before drinks can flow” via Tom Urban and Jim Turner of The News Service of Florida — Florida’s bar scene will remain on hold until there is a massive reversal in the growth of positive coronavirus cases, according to the state’s top business regulator. Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears on Friday said no timeline has been set to let people again drink in bars and nightclubs as the state adds thousands of coronavirus cases a day. “These numbers have to stop climbing, it has to flatten, and then there has to be a decrease in that positivity number,” Beshears said. The Florida Department of Health on Friday reported 11,466 new cases and 128 additional deaths, the fourth consecutive day of more than 100 deaths.

Meanwhile … As DeSantis slips in Florida polls, Democratic challengers for Governor are starting to emerge” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis entered this year as one of the country’s most popular governors. Florida Democrats could hardly lay a finger on him. But as DeSantis’ standing slides under the immense scrutiny of his coronavirus response, the Democrats most often discussed as potential challengers for his office, like Agriculture Commissioner Fried and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, are stepping out to criticize the Republican leader more and more. Meanwhile, the mounting economic and public health crises have elevated several other Democrats, especially mayors, widening the field of 2022 contenders. “Eight months ago, DeSantis’ numbers were phenomenal and this would never have been a conversation,” said Reggie Cardozo, a Democratic strategist in Florida. “But it is now.”

— BACK TO SCHOOL? —

Older children spread the coronavirus just as much as adults, study finds” via Apoorva Mandavilli of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — In the heated debate over reopening schools, one burning question has been whether and how efficiently children can spread the virus to others. A large new study from South Korea offers an answer: Children younger than age 10 transmit to others much less often than adults do, but the risk is not zero. And those between the ages of 10-19 can spread the virus at least as well as adults do. The findings suggest that as schools reopen, communities will see clusters of infection take root that includes the home children of all ages, several experts cautioned.

For parents who can afford it, a solution for fall: Bring the teachers to them” via Laura Meckler and Hannah Natanson of The Washington Post — Fed up with remote education, parents who can pay have a new plan for fall: import teachers to their homes. This goes beyond tutoring. In some cases, families are teaming up to form “pandemic pods,” where clusters of students receive professional instruction for several hours each day. It’s a 2020 version of the one-room schoolhouse, privately funded. Weeks before the new school year will start, the trend is a stark sign of how the pandemic will continue to drive inequity in the nation’s education system. But the parents planning or considering this say it’s an extreme answer to an extreme situation. With novel coronavirus infections rising in large swathes of the country, school districts in many big cities and suburbs are planning to start the fall with distance learning, either every day or for part of the week.

For parents with money, homeschooling incorporates an actual teacher.

Florida must delay reopening of public schools, lawsuit says” via Lisa Maria Garza of the Orlando Sentinel — A lawsuit was filed in Orange County on Sunday against DeSantis and other officials to prevent the upcoming reopening of public schools over concerns that students and teachers would be put at risk of catching the coronavirus. The suit alleges that school districts have limited resources and won’t be able to safely transport kids to school, provide enough space for social distancing in classrooms and have other necessary protocols in place that are recommended by health officials to prevent the spread of the virus. Following state orders, the Orange County School Board on Friday approved an Aug. 21 reopening plan, offering both on-campus and online options.

Assignment editors — The Florida Education Association (FEA) President Fedrick Ingram, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García will hold a virtual news conference to discuss litigation over the state emergency order to reopen physical public schools to students five days a week in August, 1 p.m. Registration link for media: floridaea.zoom.us/meeting/register/.  

— CORONA LOCAL —

Broward County put under two-week curfew after seeing 10,000 coronavirus cases over a week” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — After seeing more than 10,000 new novel coronavirus cases in the last week, Broward County has implemented new restrictions and a curfew that will last until August. On Friday, Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry issued a new emergency order that brings a host of new restrictions and closings to the county. Since July 10, Broward has seen 10,208 new cases, according to data from the Florida Department of Health. The county says over the last week, the positivity rates have been as high as 16.58% and hospitals are either at or exceeding ICU bed capacity. As of Wednesday, the county has issued 57 citations and 768 warnings for COVID-19 safety violations.

‘It’s getting confusing.’ Miami-Dade and Florida can’t agree on metrics for COVID-19” via Daniel Chang, Ben Conarck and Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — A long-running difference in the way Miami-Dade County and Florida’s health department calculate the local rate of positive test results for COVID-19, a key measure that shows whether infections are rising or falling in the area, came to a head this week, confusing residents and policymakers on the county commission. On Friday, the rate of positive test results in Miami-Dade on the county’s New Normal dashboard reflected a 14-day average of 27.05%. The state health department’s two-week average was much lower, at 20.5%. “We need to get to the bottom of the issue of positivity reporting,” Jennifer Moon, the county’s budget director and deputy mayor overseeing the reports, wrote in an email Wednesday to Yesenia Villalta, administrator of the Florida health department’s Miami office.

Miami-Dade plans to fine people not following COVID rules” via Freida Frisaro of The Associated Press — Miami-Dade County plans to start aggressively enforcing rules designed to combat the rapidly spreading coronavirus as Florida reported more than 11,000 new cases Friday adding to a caseload that is straining the state’s hospitals. The Miami-Dade County Commission unanimously approved an emergency order that gives all code and fire inspectors authority to issue tickets of up to $100 for individuals and $500 for businesses not complying with guidelines to wear masks and practice social distancing. Police officers have already had this enforcement power. “We’re going to put a heck of a lot of people out there,” Mayor Carlos Giménez told commissioners during a Zoom meeting. “Our people are going to go everywhere.”

People wait in line outside of a COVID-19 testing site in Opa-locka. Image via AP.

This ZIP code had the highest poverty rate in Miami-Dade County. Then came COVID-19.” via Adriana Brasileiro, Yadira Lopez, Lautaro Grinspan and Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald — 23,000 people who live within the 33034 ZIP code, which stretches for nearly 280 miles across parts of Florida City, Homestead and unincorporated Miami-Dade. The ZIP is home to 4,894 households, with a median of 4.1 persons per household. But only 35% of the residents are married, an indication that more than one family often live under the same roof in order to pay the rent. The ZIP code has the highest poverty rate in the county, 40%, even though the median household income is $36,363, which is higher than many other ZIP codes in Miami-Dade. But the per capita income is $10,608, the lowest of any ZIP code in the county and less than half the $27,000 per capita median for the county. This has only gotten direr since the start of the pandemic.

Miami Hurricanes test positive for COVID-19. And NCAA releases these strict guidelines” via Barry Jackson and Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald — The coronavirus has made its way into the University of Miami football program. At least three players have tested positive for COVID-19, prompting the Hurricanes to cancel their mandatory workouts on Thursday. Per school policy, UM declined to confirm whether any players have tested positive. “Out of an abundance of caution and in coordination with our return to campus policy, we elected to postpone today’s workout,” UM said. UM athletic director Blake James previously said the school is not releasing the number of positive tests among student-athletes because it would cause more confusion. Multiple sources had said the football players had all tested negative in previous weeks.

First in Sunburn —Tina Polsky calling for curfew in Palm Beach County” via Spencer Fordin of Florida Politics — Polsky, who is running for an open seat in Senate District 29, urged Mayor Dave Kerner and the Palm Beach County Commission to enact policies that mirror those undertaken in neighboring Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. Both Miami-Dade and Broward counties have instituted curfews in an effort to protect public health, but the epidemic continues to inflict a heavy toll on Florida. Polsky said: “In the absence of leadership from Gov. DeSantis, I am calling on Mayor Kerner and the Palm Beach County Commission to take swift action to keep us safe by instituting an 11:00 nightly curfew. I am also asking that citations be issued to those gathering in groups of 10 or more.”

Tina Polsky is calling on Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner to institute a curfew, like those in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Polk sets 1-day high for COVID-19 deaths” via The Lakeland Ledger — Polk County reached a troubling benchmark for COVID-19 deaths Saturday as the Florida Department of Health reported a record 12 in its daily advisory. That surpasses the previous mark of 10 set Tuesday and pushes the county’s overall death toll to 174. This has been the deadliest week since the pandemic began in Polk as 36 fatalities have been reported. Included in the latest deaths are the third youngest, a 32-year-old male, and the second youngest, a 29-year-old female. A male age 27 in June remains the county’s youngest fatality to COVID-19. Also continuing to climb is the county’s new cases of the novel coronavirus. With 253 more in the latest report, Polk’s rising total passed another milestone, now at 9,030.

Pasco middle school teacher battling COVID-19 dies” via Kavitha Surana of the Tampa Bay Times — A Pasco middle school teacher who saw an outpouring of support from her community after she was hospitalized with COVID-19 has died. After suffering cold-like symptoms, Renee Dermott was hospitalized on July 13. The sixth-grade teacher at Seven Springs Middle School was diagnosed with pneumonia and tested positive for COVID-19. Tanya Murphy, a friend and co-worker, established a GoFundMe online fundraiser to support the family. It posted Friday. By Sunday afternoon it had raised more than $7,800.

Renee Dermott, the Pasco County middle school teacher who died from COVID-19, saw an outpouring of support from her friends, family and community. Image via Nikki Dermott/Facebook.

Pro sports leagues are scoring rapid COVID test results in Florida — while others wait weeks” via Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times — “We’re in a crisis situation where we’re setting records almost daily in terms of how many people are turning positive for COVID-19. And I can’t get the results back on a patient of mine. Meanwhile, these pro sports teams are being tested daily to semi-daily and getting the results back immediately. In some cases, they’re using the same lab,” said Dr. Adrian Burrowes. Florida reported 10,328 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, the fifth consecutive day the state has topped 10,000, and 90 deaths. Over the last five days, the state has averaged a coronavirus-related death every 14 minutes. The typical turnaround time in Florida and throughout the nation has grown, in many cases, from a day or two to more than a week.

— CORONA NATION —

Donald Trump dismisses rising cases as deaths mount” via Derek Hawkins and Felicia Sonmez of The Washington Post — With coronavirus cases rising across the country and the U.S. death toll topping 137,000, Trump on Sunday dismissed concerns about the spike in infections, telling Fox News that “many of those cases shouldn’t even be cases.” “Many of those cases are young people that would heal in a day,” the President told Fox News host Wallace in an interview. “They have the sniffles and we put it down as a test.” While young people make up an increasing share of new cases, the virus has affected people in all age groups. A surge of infections is driving deaths back up again after months of decline, and hospitals in hard-hit states such as Florida, Texas and Arizona are facing an influx of patients that health officials say could soon overwhelm medical systems. Nationwide, hospitalizations were on track to exceed their previous peak of roughly 60,000 reached in the pandemic’s early months.

In a contentious interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News, Donald Trump dismissed the rising death counts from coronavirus. Image via CNN.

Inside Trump’s failure: The rush to abandon leadership role in the virus” via Michael Shear, Noah Weiland, Eric Lipton, Maggie Haberman and David Sanger of The New York Times — Over a critical period beginning in mid-April, Trump and his team convinced themselves that the outbreak was fading, that they had given state governments all the resources they needed to contain its remaining “embers” and that it was time to ease up on the lockdown. In doing so, he was ignoring warnings that the numbers would continue to drop only if social distancing was kept in place, rushing instead to restart the economy and tend to his battered reelection hopes. For scientific affirmation, they turned to Dr. Deborah Birx, the highly regarded infectious diseases expert; she was a constant source of upbeat news for the president and his aides, walking the halls with charts emphasizing that outbreaks were gradually easing. A sharp pivot soon followed, with consequences that continue to plague the country today as the virus surges anew. Trump had missed or dismissed mounting signals of the impending crisis in the early months of the year.

Patients lying in hallways, nurses working extra shifts: As coronavirus surges in some U.S. states, emergency rooms are being swamped” via Jay Reeves of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A fast-rising tide of new coronavirus cases are flooding emergency rooms in parts of the United States, with some patients moved into hallways and nurses working extra shifts to keep up with the surge. Patients struggling to breathe are being placed on ventilators in emergency wards since intensive care units are full, officials say, and the near-constant care they require is overtaxing workers who also are treating more typical ER cases like chest pains, infections, and fractures. Dr. Alison Haddock of the Baylor College of Medicine said the current situation is worse than after Hurricane Harvey, which swamped Houston with floodwaters in 2017. Patients are waiting “hours and hours” to get admitted, she said, and the least sick people are lying in beds in halls to make room for most seriously ill.

Trump administration pushing to block new money for testing, tracing and CDC in upcoming coronavirus relief bill” via Erica Werner and Jeff Stein of The Washington Post — The Trump administration is trying to block billions of dollars for states to conduct testing and contact tracing in the upcoming coronavirus relief bill, people involved in the talks said. The administration is also trying to block billions of dollars that GOP senators want to allocate for the CDC, and billions more for the Pentagon and State Department to address the pandemic at home and abroad, the people said. The administration’s posture has angered some GOP senators, the officials said, and some lawmakers are trying to push back and ensure that the money stays in the bill. The officials cautioned that the talks were fluid and the numbers were in flux. The negotiations center around a bill Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is preparing to unveil this coming week as part of negotiations with Democrats on what will likely be the last major coronavirus relief bill before the November election.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is preparing to announce a new coronavirus aid package, the last one before the November elections. Image via Getty.

Hospitals are suddenly short of young doctors — because of Trump’s visa ban” via Dara Lind of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As hospitals across the United States brace for a difficult six months, with the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic still raging and concerns about a second wave in the fall, some are acutely short-staffed because of an ill-timed change to immigration policy and its inconsistent implementation. A proclamation issued by Trump on June 22, barring the entry of most immigrants on work visas, came right as hospitals were expecting a new class of medical residents. Hundreds of young doctors were unable to start their residencies on time. Trump’s order included the H1-B visa for highly skilled workers, which is used by some practicing doctors abroad who get U.S. residency slots.

‘Superspreading’ events, triggered by people who may not even know they are infected, propel coronavirus pandemic” via Ariana Eunjung Cha of The Washington Post — More than 1,000 suspected clusters, ranging from the single digits to thousands, have been logged in a database compiled by a coder in the Netherlands. A megachurch in South Korea. A political rally in Madrid. An engagement party in Rio de Janeiro. Nearly all took place indoors, or in indoor-outdoor spaces. Even as the Trump administration pressures schools to reopen this fall, the latest research suggests that understanding how and why these events occur, and how to prevent them, is key to reopening safely. In recent days, governors from at least 18 states, including Michigan, have backtracked on plans to loosen restrictions due to outbreaks.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

Trump demands payroll tax cut while GOP eyes benefit cuts for unemployed” via Jeff Stein and Erica Werner of The Washington Post — Trump sought to draw a hard line on the coronavirus relief bill Sunday, saying it must include a payroll tax cut and liability protections for businesses, as lawmakers prepare to plunge into negotiations over unemployment benefits and other key provisions in coming days. “I would consider not signing it if we don’t have a payroll tax cut,” Trump said. Democrats strongly oppose a payroll tax cut, and some Republicans have been cool to it, but Trump said “a lot of Republicans like it.” Trump also said “we do need some kind of immunity” in the bill. Senate Majority leader McConnell has repeatedly insisted the legislation must include liability protections for businesses, health care providers, schools and others. Democrats oppose this, too.

The next disaster is just a few days away” via Paul Krugman of The New York Times — Some of us knew from the beginning that Trump wasn’t up to the job of being president, that he wouldn’t be able to deal with a crisis that wasn’t of his own making. Still, the magnitude of America’s coronavirus failure has shocked even the cynics. How did this happen? One key element in our deadly debacle has been extreme shortsightedness: At every stage of the crisis, Trump and his allies refused to acknowledge or get ahead of disasters everyone paying attention clearly saw coming. My sense is that Republicans have a delusional view of their own bargaining position. They don’t seem to realize that they, not the Democrats, will be blamed if millions are plunged into penury because relief is delayed; to the extent that they’re willing to act at all, they still imagine that they can extract concessions like a blanket exemption of businesses from pandemic liability.

Assignment editors — U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Sen. Annette Taddeo and County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava will host a virtual news conference with other local leaders and Florida workers to call on the Republican-controlled Senate to extend federal unemployment assistance before it runs out at the end of July, 1 p.m. For the Zoom link, RSVP katy.nystrom@mail.house.gov.

Florida jobless rate drops in June as businesses reopen” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — Florida’s unemployment rate dropped to 10.4% in June from the previous month’s 13.7% rate as the state’s theme parks, restaurants, bars and other businesses started reopening after weeks of coronavirus-related lockdowns, the U.S. Labor Department reported Friday. But the state’s economic future remains clouded by recent spikes in Florida’s COVID-19 caseload, as evidenced by this week’s showing that jobless claims almost doubled last week from the previous week, economists said. Additionally, a host of large hotels have said that they are turning temporary furloughs from March into permanent layoffs at the end of July, and on-site consumption of alcohol at bars was banned at the end of June, causing many of them to shut their doors. “Florida was under 11%, which most people thought would be much higher than that. So, you have seen many people go back to work. Still, a long way to go,” DeSantis said.

The reopening of Florida’s economy in June helped restore jobs around the state, although the rise in COVID-19 cases prompted local governments to reimpose restrictions that caused extended payoffs and furloughs in July. Image via AP.

Florida insurance businesses secured hundreds of millions in forgivable coronavirus relief funds” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Unlike restaurants, bars, salons and gyms, insurance companies didn’t shut down at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re not facing uncertain futures like many businesses that depend on retail traffic. And no matter how they were financially affected, their customers can’t avoid buying their product. And yet, thousands of insurance businesses in Florida and the U.S. have taken advantage of Payment Protection Program funds, securing hundreds of millions of dollars in potentially forgivable loans. As with other lucrative businesses that have availed themselves of the money, consumers are justified in asking whether insurance companies really needed it or were merely taking advantage of an opportunity to pad their bottom lines.

— MORE CORONA — 

Doctor who survived COVID-19 bewildered by public disregard” via The Associated Press — Dr. Michael Saag spends much of his time treating patients fighting for their lives and working with colleagues who are overwhelmed and exhausted by the relentless battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s a mixture of emotions, from anger to being demoralized to bewilderment to frustration,” Saag said. In metro Birmingham, where Saag lives, it has been common to see fewer than half the people inside stores wearing masks. The doctor said he got particularly dispirited recently after stopping by a restaurant on the way home from work to pick up a takeout order of sushi. There were as many as 60 people inside, he said.

Workers turn into amateur sleuths to track virus cases” via Joseph Pisani and Alexandra Olson of The Associated Press — Jana Jumpp spends eight hours a day updating a spreadsheet — not for work, but a recent hobby: figuring out how many of Amazon’s 400,000 warehouse workers have fallen sick with the coronavirus. Amazon won’t give a number, so Jumpp tracks it on her own and shares what she finds with others. She relies on Amazon employees at more than 250 facilities who call, text or send her Facebook messages with possible cases. She asks for proof, like messages or voicemails from Amazon, and tries to make sure she doesn’t count the same case twice. Jumpp says workers should know if there’s an outbreak and just how risky it is to head to work. “Amazon is not going to do it, so it’s up to us,” says Jumpp. Unions and advocacy groups have taken up the cause of working to see which companies are keeping their employees in the dark, too, creating lists or building online maps of stores where workers can self-report cases they know about.

Katie Doan, a former Whole Foods employee, started tracking COVID-19 cases at Amazon-owned Whole Foods in April. Image via AP.

Bahamas closes border to U.S. tourists after COVID-19 cases spike, others still welcome” via Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald — Less than three weeks after reopening its borders to international visitors, the Bahamas on Sunday announced that it is closing all of its airports and seaports to tourists from the United States, effective Wednesday. Bahamasair, the country’s national carrier, will cease all outgoing flights to the United States immediately, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said in a national address Sunday.

Disney guests now need to be ‘stationary’ while eating, drinking” via Andrew Kreitz of Tampa Bay 10 — All guests at Walt Disney World are required to mask up, except when eating or drinking, of course. But some new language on the resort’s website advises guests need to be “stationary” when doing so. Disney previously said in its reopening plan guests could take off a mask when eating and drinking “while dining.” It appears the change largely captures the food and drink items that can be purchased “to-go.” “You may remove your face covering while actively eating or drinking, but you should be stationary and maintain appropriate physical distancing,” the policy reads.

Winn Dixie: No plans for mask mandates” via Dalvin Brown of The Florida Times-Union — In a retail landscape rife with stores requiring masks, Winn Dixie won’t. A spokesperson from the grocery chain’s parent company Southeastern Grocers said it isn’t mandating face coverings during the pandemic to avoid “undue friction” between customers and staffers. “We strongly encourage state officials to lead the way in regulating these types of safety mandates,” said Joe Caldwell, director of corporate communications at Southeastern Grocers, in a statement. Jacksonville-based Winn Dixie, which has hundreds of locations throughout the southern states, is “allowing associates to wear face masks” rather than requiring them, according to a statement on the parent company’s website. “We will continue to refine our processes and protocols in our stores, with health and safety as our guide, as long as this pandemic remains a threat,” the website says.

The pandemic has hit restaurants hard, but experts say the ‘ghost food hall’ concept might save them” via Marisa Iati of The Washington Post — Aaron Gordon saw that takeout and delivery at Little Beast, his family-friendly pizzeria in the Chevy Chase neighborhood, was earning 110 percent of the restaurant’s pre-pandemic sales. Dine-in service at any of his restaurants was unlikely to provide adequate revenue for months, even years, Gordon mused, but a takeout and delivery-oriented establishment might thrive. Enter Ghostline, an establishment that will gather several chefs cooking in different styles to offer takeout, delivery and limited patio seating in the Glover Park neighborhood starting Sept. 1, without serving customers inside. Ghost food halls combine “ghost kitchens,” which serve meals exclusively by delivery and food halls, both of which have become popular in recent years.

Due to the pandemic, ghost food halls, focusing on takeout and delivery, are springing up everywhere — reducing the need for indoor dining and service staff.

COVID-19 stole our change, and this is what stores are doing to get more” via David P. Willis of USA Today — In the midst of a nationwide coin shortage, some retailers are asking for customers to use exact change, if possible, or even better, use a credit or debit card for payment. Signs have gone up at quick-stops like Wawa and large retailers like Target and Lowe’s. Supermarkets are requesting exact change too, if shoppers have it. Some Wawa locations are even asking customers to turn in rolled coins for the equivalent bills and a free soda or sub. Stores are posting signs asking customers to pay with exact change, designating certain lanes as credit or debit only, and asking people to consider “rounding up” their cash purchase with the additional money going to charitable causes.

Jack Nicklaus says he tested positive for coronavirus, antibodies” via Doug Ferguson of The Associated Press — Nicklaus revealed Sunday during the telecast of the Memorial that he and his wife tested positive for the coronavirus at the onset of the pandemic. Nicklaus and his wife, Barbara, turned 80 a month apart at the start of the year. He said his wife had no COVID-19 symptoms, while Nicklaus had a sore throat and a cough. Nicklaus said they were home in North Palm Beach, Florida, from March 13 “until we were done with it” on about April 20. “It didn’t last very long, and we were very, very fortunate, very lucky,” Nicklaus said.

— SMOLDERING —

House leaders ‘alarmed’ federal officers policing protests” via The Associated Press — Top leaders in the U.S. House said Sunday they were “alarmed” by the Trump administration’s tactics against protesters in Portland, Oregon, and other cities, including Washington, D.C., and called on federal inspectors general investigate. “This is a matter of utmost urgency,” wrote House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler and others in a letter to the inspectors general of Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security. The Democratic lawmakers are seeking an investigation “into the use of federal law enforcement agencies by the Attorney General and the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security to suppress First-Amendment-protected activities in Washington, D.C., Portland, and other communities across the United States.” The Mayor of Oregon’s largest city said Sunday the presence of federal agents is exacerbating tensions in Portland.

Of course, he did — “Roger Stone, who had sentence commuted by Trump, uses racial slur on air with Black radio host” via Bobby Caina Calvan of The Associated Press — Stone, a political operative whose 40-month prison sentence was commuted this month by Trump, his longtime friend, used the racial slur “Negro” on-air while verbally sparring with a Los Angeles-based Black radio host. The exchange occurred on Saturday’s Mo’Kelly Show, whose host, Morris O’Kelly, grilled Stone on his conviction for lying to Congress, tampering with witnesses and obstructing the House investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election. O’Kelly characterized “Negro” as the “low-calorie version of the N-word.”

During an interview, Roger Stone called radio host Morris O’Kelly, who is Black, a ‘Negro.’ O’Kelly called that the ‘low-calorie version of the N-word.’

Nikki Fried likens Florida Republicans to the officers who watched George Floyd die” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Agriculture Commissioner Fried, addressing the Florida Democratic Party’s Leadership Blue Gala, compared the Republican Party of Florida to the officers who watched one of their own kill Floyd in Minneapolis. The context was the fight against coronavirus, where Fried said that the officers’ “inaction and silence” reminds her of the Republican Party of Florida standing idly by as the virus ravages the state. “They stood by and watched … without intervening,” Fried said of the officers, “whose actions remind me of the Republican Party of Florida.” Fried wondered “where was the Republican Party as over 4,000 Floridians have died of coronavirus and the Governor refuses to issue a mask mandate.”

Disney slashed ad spending on Facebook amid growing boycott” via Suzanne Vranica of The Wall Street Journal — Walt Disney Co. has dramatically slashed its advertising spending on Facebook Inc., according to people familiar with the situation, the latest setback for the tech giant as it faces a boycott from companies upset with its handling of hate speech and divisive content. Disney DIS was Facebook’s top U.S. advertiser for the first six months of 2020. It joins hundreds of other companies that have paused spending, including Unilever PLC, Starbucks Corp., Ford Motor Co., Verizon Communication Inc. and many small marketers. Civil-rights groups including the Anti-Defamation League and NAACP called on advertisers to pull ad spending for July, arguing Facebook hasn’t made enough progress enforcing its policies on hate speech and misinformation.

Drive-in protesters repeat demands for accountability, civilian oversight of Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office” via Teresa Stepzinski of The Florida Times-Union — A couple hundred demonstrators with homemade signs demanding police reform, budget cuts and accountability gathered Saturday for a drive-in protest at Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office headquarters downtown. Protesters taped homemade signs on their cars, trucks, motorcycles and bicycles during the first-of-its-kind protest organized by the Jacksonville Community Action Committee, Northside Coalition of Jacksonville and their community activist partners. Many handwritten on cardboard or construction paper, the signs read: “We Demand Community Control of Police Now!,” “Say No to JSO Budget” and “Indict, Convict, Send Killer Cops to Jail.” Sitting inside or on top of their vehicles, the demonstrators honked their car horns to emphasize their demands. They were joined in the protest by the families of Jacksonville residents killed by Sheriff’s Office police in officer-involved shootings.

Brevard protesters demand release of Gregory Edwards’ jail video at Melbourne event” via Tyler Vazquez of Florida Today — Although Brevard County has not seen the large-scale protests of other cities around the country, a small but dedicated group of activists has been taking to Space Coast streets. On Saturday, around a dozen activists showed up at a Cones for a Cause event supported by Ben & Jerry’s, handing out ice cream in Melbourne and raising awareness of Edwards‘ death at the Brevard County Jail. The death of Edwards, a combat veteran who died after a fight with as many as seven deputies at the Brevard County Jail in 2018, has sparked anger and drawn considerable attention in Brevard County. Activists, journalists, attorneys and others have repeatedly called for the release of a jail security video of the events at the jail that led to his death. 

Community leaders protest promotion of Panama City police officer who posed with ‘black labs matter’ sign” via Jacqueline Bostick of the NWF Daily News — Protesters gathered at the Panama City Police Department on Friday after the promotion of an officer who posed in a controversial photo in May. The officer, Melanie Law, had been exonerated and since promoted from lieutenant to captain following an investigation into a controversial incident in which she posed for a photo with a pair of dogs and their owners, next to a sign that stated, ‘black labs matter,’ during a social justice protest held May 31 on State Road 77 and 23rd Street. The department’s decision became the impetus of a protest Friday morning calling for “further review” of Law’s actions. Protesters also called for diversity training for the PCPD, regular and open dialogue with department administration and the establishment of a citizen review board.

Black Lives Matter protest in Wakulla becomes shouting match with counterprotesters” via Alicia Devine of the Tallahassee Democrat — The first Black Lives Matter protest in Wakulla County had over 100 protesters who were met by almost as many counterprotesters. Counterprotesters began lining the back of the Winn-Dixie parking lot at 11 a.m. Some had Trump 2020 flags blowing in the wind from the bed of their pickup trucks. Black Lives Matter protesters started arriving a half-hour later. The crowds were separated by a line of deputies with the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Department as the two opposing sides shouted differing chants. When one side would shout “Black Lives Matter,” the other would retaliate with “all lives matter.”

NASCAR fans boo Black racer Bubba Wallace, cheer after he crashes at Confederate flag-adorned racetrack” via Matthew Allen of The Grio — That backlash reached a new low during a qualifier run as fans booed Wallace, all while Confederate flags continued to wave at the event. Upon being introduced, fans booed Wallace, who has been in the press since late June after a noose was found in his stall at an Alabama raceway. Wallace has also championed Black Lives Matter. To make matters worse, Wallace crashed during his qualifying run and spectators cheered when his car hit a wall. Wallace insisted, although he stands by his decision to support Black Lives Matter and NASCAR’s June 10 ban of the Confederate flag, that not every NASCAR fan is bigoted.

NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace gets booed repeatedly at Tennessee’s Bristol Motor Speedway, as Confederate flags flew, and the crowd cheered as he crashed into a wall.

Petition urges Trader Joe’s to get rid of ‘racist branding’” via Allyson Waller of the Orlando Sentinel — Trader Joe’s is being urged to follow the example of other national food companies and rebrand products that critics say perpetuate racial stereotypes. An online petition is asking the company to “remove racist branding and packaging from its stores,” including international food items carrying the names Trader Ming’s, Trader José and Trader Giotto’s. Those products and others reflect “a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes,” according to the petition, which on Sunday had been signed by more than 1,500 people. A Trader Joe’s spokeswoman said in a statement that the company had previously decided to get rid of the names and to rebrand its international foods with the Trader Joe’s name.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Matt Gaetz Facebook forum on school opening leaves some viewers wanting more” via Tom McLaughlin of the NWF Daily News — Gaetz’s promise to “drill down into some issues” voiced by parents and teachers regarding the planned opening of Florida schools on Aug. 11 left many who watched wanting more. Judging from comments typed in Friday as a Facebook video featuring Gaetz, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, and Okaloosa County School Superintendent Marcus Chambers streamed live, not everyone is convinced schools can be opened safely. Gaetz and Corcoran, both Republicans, spoke in support of federal plans to open schools quickly even in the face of still mounting COVID-19 numbers.

Donna Shalala calls for Florida to shut down again” via Maria Carrasco of POLITICO — Shalala slammed Trump and DeSantis on Sunday for reopening too soon. “The lack of leadership in the White House and in our governor’s office, they simply have not hit this with a hammer, which is what we needed to do, and starve the virus,” Shalala said on ABC’s “This Week.” “They opened too soon. And they misunderstand what you need to do or they understand it and they’re not willing to do it.” Approximately 65,000 new coronavirus cases were reported nationally Saturday. She said the “simplest thing” DeSantis could do is impose a statewide mask requirement and praised South Florida mayors for implementing such rules.

Donna Shalala is calling for a new lockdown of Florida. Image via AP.

— STATEWIDE —

He was the picture of redemption, now Florida lawmakers are pleading for his continued freedom” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — An Ocala man who rebuilt his life after spending more than 20 years in prison is facing a return to prison because of what amounts to a legal technicality. Several Florida lawmakers hope to stop that from happening. Richard Midkiff is the picture of successful rehabilitation. He was arrested and sentenced for his role in a burglary gone wrong, which ended in murder. Midkiff was driving the getaway car and was sentenced to 38 years in prison. Midkiff’s legal team thought he was safe, but later learned an appeal by the office of Attorney General Ashley Moody was successful because the victims’ family request was in the killer’s plea deal, not Midkiff’s. He could be sent back to prison any day. Commutation is one of Midkiff’s few resources, and might be the only one that keeps him from going back to prison, even if it’s only temporary.

After 20 years in prison, Richard Midkiff is the picture of rehabilitation. But he could be sent back to prison any day.

New pelvic exam law causes uncertainty” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Two state health care licensing boards have been asked to weigh in on whether the new law applies to male patients and examinations where body parts are viewed but not touched. Petitions for declaratory statements were filed this week with the Board of Medicine and the Board of Nursing seeking interpretations of the measure (SB 698), which was signed into law June 19 by DeSantis and went into effect July 1. The petitions were filed by some of the state’s largest medical groups, which say the law has left health care providers confused. The bill prohibits practitioners and medical students from performing pelvic examinations on patients without written consent from the patients or the patients’ guardians.

As grievance talks loom, Disney sidesteps union actors by changing shows” via Matthew J. Palm of the Orlando Sentinel — As Walt Disney World and Actors’ Equity Association members prepare to discuss a grievance filed by the union, Disney is finding ways to work around the absent performers. Actors’ Equity represents about 750 performers at Walt Disney World, including those who sing in “Beauty and the Beast — Live on Stage,” “Finding Nemo — The Musical” and the “Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue.” The union has been pressing Disney to provide regular COVID-19 testing of performers; Disney has said it is confident in the safety protocols already in place. Equity filed a grievance after Disney canceled a planned recall to work for Equity-represented performers when the theme parks reopened this month after the lengthy coronavirus shutdown. Multiple sources familiar with the negotiations confirmed the two sides would meet July 20.

— LOBBY REGS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Brian Ballard, Bradley Burleson, Ballard Partners: The Faith Group

Rhett O’Doski, Ryder Rudd, Sean Stafford, McGuireWoods Consulting: Dascena

Eric Olsen, Hopping Green & Sams: East Central Florida Services, Mosaic Fertilizer

Evan Power, Ramba Consulting Group: Florida Supervisors of Elections

Marc Reichelderfer, Landmarc Strategies: Accountable Care Transactions

Matt Spritz, The Spritz Group: The Shul of Downtown

— 2020 —

Joe Biden leads by double digits as coronavirus takes a toll on the President, Post-ABC poll finds” via Dan Balz and Scott Clement of The Washington Post — Trump faces a significant challenge in his bid to win reelection in November, with former Vice President Biden holding a double-digit lead nationally and the President’s approval ratings crumbling amid a spreading coronavirus pandemic and a weakened economy. The survey portrays an embattled President whose fortunes have declined markedly since the coronavirus arrived in the United States months ago. Biden leads Trump 55 percent to 40 percent among registered voters. That compares with a 10-point Biden lead in May and a two-point edge in March, at a time when the pandemic was just beginning to spread rapidly in parts of the country. Among those who say they are certain to vote, Biden’s lead stands at 11 points.

Polls show Biden routing Trump. Here’s how to read them.” via Steven Shepard of POLITICO

Biden’s new plan to roll Trump” via Mike Allen of Axios — Biden‘s campaign launched a new ad that ran in swing states during Wallace‘s feisty “Fox News Sunday” interview with Trump. The minute-long ad, “Tough,” will air in the major markets in the six core swing states — Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida and North Carolina. “I will not abandon you,” Biden says in the ad. “We’re all in this together. We’ll fight this together. And, together, we’ll emerge from this stronger than we were before we began.” The ad never mentions Trump’s name, but the intention is a stark, dramatic contrast in approach to the virus (“Wear a mask. Wash your hands”), laced with a positive, hopeful message.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

4 things that could swing the 2020 race toward Trump” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — There’s little good news for Trump’s campaign right now. That said, a lot can happen in three and a half months. We got a taste for that Friday when Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced a cancer recurrence while saying her treatment was going well. As the election approaches, pollsters will shift their models to emphasize likely voters, i.e. those who are not just registered but actually primed to vote. There’s some reason to believe that could benefit Trump. One thing that has followed Biden for just about as long as he’s been in politics is his tendency to commit gaffes. There’s another unpredictable way in which the virus could impact the election: by affecting turnout. Many states are moving toward mail-in balloting, for instance, but the GOP is fighting that.

From ‘Sleepy Joe’ to a destroyer of the ‘American way of life,’ Trump’s attacks on Biden make a dystopian shift” via Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — Trump has launched a slash-and-burn campaign against an exaggerated caricature of his Democratic opponent, casting Biden as a destroyer of basic freedoms and a threat to voters’ safety who would “let terrorists roam free” and “abolish the American way of life.” His new dystopian vision, with militant and extreme language not typical in American politics, marks a sharp departure from Trump’s previous effort to cast Biden as “Sleepy Joe,” an establishment politician with deteriorating mental abilities. It marks the latest effort, orchestrated by Trump’s advisers, to shift the conversation from rising coronavirus infections and deteriorating public support for the President’s pandemic response.

Pandemic? What pandemic? Trump reelection ads ignore coronavirus” via Michael Finnegan and Seema Mehta of the Los Angeles Times — The death toll keeps rising as COVID-19 rages across Florida, Arizona and other campaign battlegrounds, but the television ads Trump is airing in those states say nothing about the coronavirus pandemic that has upended life for all Americans. It’s a conspicuous omission. Nearly every day, states that could decide the Nov. 3 election break records of sickness and death. Trump’s ads falsely accuse his Democratic rival Biden of trying to defund police. They claim the former Vice President would endanger children by letting violent crime explode in cities overrun by protesters who vandalize stores and set buildings on fire.

Trump plans Florida fundraising trip in two weeks” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Trump is heading to Florida for a July 31-Aug. 1 fundraising trip featuring events in Doral and Tampa. One will have a side benefit for Trump: putting money in his own pocket because it’s scheduled at the Trump National golf resort in Doral. The Trump campaign hasn’t publicly announced the fundraising trip, but his fundraising network was circulating invitations. Both events offer three donor tiers: $100,000 for a roundtable, photo and reception; $35,000 in donations or money raised from others for a photo and reception, and $5,000 for a reception.

Trump declines to say whether he will accept November election results” via Felicia Sonmez of The Washington Post — Trump declined to say whether he will accept the results of the November election, claiming without evidence that mail-in voting due to the coronavirus pandemic could “rig” the outcome. In the wide-ranging interview with Wallace, the President also continued to play down the severity of the coronavirus crisis in the country, declined to say whether he is offended by the Confederate flag and dismissed polls showing him trailing former Vice President Biden by a significant margin. The interview comes as the 2020 campaign has been upended by the pandemic, which has claimed more than 137,000 lives in the United States. Most in-person events have been canceled, and both political parties are planning to hold smaller-scale conventions to limit the spread of the virus.

You knew this was coming —Trump campaign is investigating campaign spending, Brad Parscale contracts” via Tom LoBianco of Business Insider — “There are two things you cannot do with Trump: take credit for his accomplishments and steal from him,” a friend of the President said. At the end of June, not long after Trump’s campaign held a poorly attended rally in Tulsa, donors including Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus complained to Trump that the campaign had no strategy. “They built a campaign for an easy reelection, which they would have had with the booming economy,” the Trump friend said. They’re doing the full autopsy because the President is pissed. It’s not abnormal for presidential campaigns to conduct internal audits of campaign spending, Republicans familiar with the current review and previous campaigns said.

After the removal of Brad Parscale as Donald Trump’s campaign manager, the President is seeking a full audit of campaign spending.

Progressives don’t love Biden, but they’re learning to love his agenda” via Matthew Iglesias of Vox — Progressive groups overwhelmingly favored confrontational leftists like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren during the 2020 primary campaign. And many pretty clearly favored younger, more diverse rising stars like Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg over Joe Biden. Biden, after all, is not only a paid-up member of the “establishment,” he’s a veteran of the long shadow cast over American politics by Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Biden “envisions a massive public sector role for job creation,” points out Faiz Shakir, who managed Sanders’s 2016 campaign. He doesn’t think Biden has suddenly become a left-wing hero. But he credits Biden, Biden’s team, and mainstream Democrats more broadly with “understanding that in COVID-19 times there needs to be thinking about bold practical measures.”

How Miami plans to host an October presidential debate amid a coronavirus pandemic” via Eric Doherty of the Miami Herald — When Trump and Biden take the stage at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 15, they’ll be debating before a small and socially distanced audience, according to plans crafted by the host facility. And everyone will be required to follow Miami-Dade County’s “New Normal” rules for stopping the spread of the coronavirus, which currently includes wearing face coverings. In addition to following social distancing guidelines inside the building, “all people on-site” must also wear a face-covering inside and outside. The plan is silent on whether Biden and Trump must wear face masks on stage, but the county’s rules currently require facial coverings in all public settings, and anyone who breaks the rules is now subject to a $100 fine.

Democrats try to rally support in virtual convention” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — For the first time, Florida Democrats skipped the soirees, schmoozing and selfies that are a staple of their annual convention. Instead, party leaders held a “virtual” three-day gala, highlighted Saturday night by an online appearance by former Vice President Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. The web event came as COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed in recent weeks and the number of deaths related to the highly contagious respiratory disease continues to soar. The virtual convention, scheduled to last two hours but wrapped up within an hour, featured video clips of state and national party leaders, including Biden and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez.

Priorities USA and others agree to drop voting lawsuit against Florida” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — There were signs that the lawsuit was in trouble. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in late June refused to order changes right away, including a request that taxpayers cover postage costs for mail-in ballots. The decision to end most or all the legal battle is yet another win for Republicans in a key battleground state. The two sides in the lawsuit negotiated an agreement that calls for Florida’s chief election official to educate local election supervisors on prepaid postage and encourage them to use drop boxes and make vote-by-mail request forms available in Spanish. It also calls for Secretary of State Laurel Lee to undertake a public-relations campaign to inform voters of different ways to cast a ballot.

— MORE FROM THE TRAIL — 

CD 3 Republican Kat Cammack tells her story in new digital ad” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Cammack recently launched her first TV ad touting her conservative credentials and dinging her opponents in the Republican primary for Florida’s 3rd Congressional District as “chickens.” Now, the Gainesville Republican is out with a more subdued video chronicling her upbringing and the experiences that led her to move to the district and work for current CD 3 U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, first as his campaign manager and later as his deputy chief of staff. “Growing up in the country, and particularly on a cattle ranch, you learn hard work early,” she says in the minute-and-a-half long video. “It’s up in the morning feeding horses, chickens, dogs, cows, and the same thing at night, and I’m very grateful now looking back that we were instilled that work ethic at an early age.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Democratic candidate Oz Vazquez drops first TV ad in bid to unseat Brian Mast” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Vazquez is releasing his first television ad of the cycle as he competes for a chance to unseat Mast in November. Vazquez is battling former Navy JAG Officer Pam Keith in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 18th Congressional District. “Raised in Port Saint Lucie, Oz was the first in his family to graduate college,” the narrator begins. “When his dad got sick, Oz’ family relied on Social Security and Medicare to get by. In Congress, Oz will make protecting our Social Security and Medicare his top priority and work to finally bring down prescription drug costs for all Florida families. Vote Oz Vazquez for Congress.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Why are questions being raised about CD 19 candidate Casey Askar’s military record?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — As the GOP primary draws near in one the most competitive races in Florida, Askar’s background is coming under further scrutiny each day. Most recently, a letter from the Department of the Navy in response to a Freedom of Information Act request seeking evidence Askar served in the U.S. Marines. The Navy provided no such thing. The candidate’s legal name is Kousay Askar, but all military records have his last name spelled Asker. Florida Politics put in its own FOIA request to the Navy asking for proof of Askar’s service, but the campaign suggested the request be put in using the alternate spelling as well. Askar campaign consultant Kristin Davison acknowledges name confusion as a “fair question.”

Cindy Banyai claims she’s outraising David Holden. Is that really accurate?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Banyai announced she outraised primary opponent Holden in the race for Florida’s 19th Congressional District. But that’s only true if the money put in by Holden isn’t counted toward the total, and then only looking at the second quarter of 2020 exclusively. Holden continues to hold a significant cash-on-hand advantage in the race. “The second quarter Federal Election Commission fundraising reports were filed this week and the results show Dr. Cindy Banyai raised a little over $12,000 more than her primary challenger,” Banyai claimed in a campaign release. Holden’s second-quarter report shows $54,373 raised by his campaign in the second quarter. Banyai’s report shows she raised $45,909 in the same period covering April 1-June 30.

Irv Slosberg floods SD 29 race with another $375K in self-loans as Polsky attracts outside cash” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Slosberg pumped another $375,000 of his own money into his campaign for the Democratic nomination in Senate District 29. Slosberg has now poured in $510,000 of his own money into his campaign since declaring for the contest at the end of May. That gives him plenty of money to play with as he battles Rep. Polsky of House District 81 in the Democratic primary. The race opened when Sen. Kevin Rader announced he would forego a second term. Polsky and Slosberg were the only two Democrats to file for the open seat. First-time Republican candidate Brian Andrew Norton filed for the seat in February. Slosberg raised just over $22,000 in outside money in the nearly two months he’s been in the race.

Shevrin Jones adds another $90K, extends fundraising gulf in SD 35” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Jones has been the favorite of donors in the bid for Senate District 35. The latest fundraising reports confirmed that trend, as Jones added another $90,000. Those reports cover all financial activity from the two-week period spanning June 27-July 10. Jones’ campaign collected more than $18,000 during that period. His political committee, Florida Strong Finish, brought in another $72,000. The Florida Education Association Advocacy Fund dumped $30,000 into Jones’ PC in early July. Floridians United for Our Children’s Future, a PC connected to the Associated Industries of Florida, added another $10,000. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the nation’s largest public employee trade union, contributed $7,000 as well.

Six Democrats seek up-for-grabs Senate seat in jam-packed South Florida primary” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — When voters in Senate District 35, which encompasses parts of northern Miami-Dade and southern Broward counties fill out a mail ballot or head to the polls on August 18, they will see a slate of familiar candidates. The Democratic primary race to replace term-limited Sen. Oscar Braynon has attracted no less than four Tallahassee veterans — state representatives Shevrin Jones and Barbara Watson, former Rep. Cynthia Stafford and former Sen. Daphne Campbell. Miami Gardens City Councilman Erhabor Ighodaro is also running.

Joe Harding picks up PBA endorsement, maintains cash lead in HD 22” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Harding added an endorsement from the Florida Police Benevolent Association as he built his fundraising lead in the Republican primary for House District 22. The PBA lines up alongside Gilchrist Sheriff Bobby Schultz, Levy Sheriff Bobby McCallum, and others backing Harding over his primary opponent, Russ Randall. The PBA endorsement dropped at the same time candidates submitted finance reports for the June 27 — July 10 reporting period. To date, the Williston Republican has raised more than $140,000 from donors and lent his campaign about $21,000. After expenses, he has $118,000 in the bank. Randall, meanwhile, had raised $111,065 and spent $41,388, leaving him with $69,666 on hand on July 10.

—“Florida Democratic Party gives $17K bump to Jennifer Webb in HD 69 race” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics

Donna Barcomb slams Fiona McFarland over ‘Black Lives Matter’ remarks” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Days after McFarland uttered the words “Black Lives Matter,” email and text blasts are scolding the first-time Republican candidate for even using the phrase. Barcomb attacked the choice of words in a text and message to voters. “I do not believe our police, our Sheriff, or our justice system is inherently racist,” the Barcomb blast reads. “Unlike Fiona, I will never, ever defund the police.” But McFarland never specifically said that she would defund the police and is even running a television ad stating that she “will stand with law enforcement to keep our streets safe.” McFarland stated: “Black lives matter. Police also matter. These two ideas are not mutually exclusive.” Barcomb said the use of the particular phrase unmistakably embraces the Black Lives Matter movement at the heart of sometimes violent demonstrations across the country.

What Steve Crisafulli is readingRSLC is raising cash faster than it did in 2016” via Florida Politics staff reports — The Republican State Leadership Committee said this week that it was in a much better position at the end of Q2 2020 than it was at the same checkpoint in the last two election cycles. The committee and its partner group, the State Government Leadership Foundation, raised a combined $10.8 million between April 1 and June 30. The haul is $5 million better than what the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee managed over the same period. RSLC works to elect Republicans in down-ballot, state-level offices. DLCC does the same for Democrats. “The RSLC, its members, and donors know that the direction of our country for the next decade hangs in the balance of state elections this year, and have stepped-up accordingly,” said Bill McCollum, RSLC Chairman and former Florida congressman and Attorney General.

— DOWN BALLOT —

April Griffin barely pays her own taxes, but she wants to collect yours” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — In the past week, Griffin has launched a volley of attacks against Nancy Millan. The snipes have little bearing on the job they’re running for, Griffin doesn’t cast doubt on whether Millan, a longtime Tax Collector employee, is qualified for the job and she doesn’t attempt to paint Millan as untrustworthy or out of touch. There’s a good reason for that: Griffin is smart enough to know people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. For someone running to be Hillsborough’s Tax Collector, Griffin has a poor history of paying her taxes. She has been delinquent in paying the property taxes for a home she owns on Henry Ave. for a decade running, to the point the house was nearly seized and auctioned off to pay the tab.

April Griffin wants to collect Hillsborough County taxes, though she is often delinquent on her own.

— TOP OPINION —

In the worst public health crisis in generations, DeSantis is a massive fail” via The Palm Beach Post editorial board — Once again, Florida is a national laughingstock. But this time, the joke is literally a sick one. Last Sunday, July 12, Florida recorded a chilling national record: more than 15,300 new COVID-19 cases in a single day. If Florida were a country, it would rank fourth in the world in this appalling category. Our new peers: the United States, Brazil and India. On Thursday, Florida chalked up its highest-ever daily death total: 156 COVID-19 fatalities. Which followed the previous high, set just two days before, of 132. On Wednesday, the state’s total of cases since the start of the pandemic crashed past 300,000. And DeSantis arrogantly called the frightening surge “a blip.” This denotes incompetence. And the whole country sees it.

— OPINIONS —

‘No mask, no entry. Is that clear enough? That seems pretty clear, right?’” via Eli Saslow of The Washington Post — I’ll never understand what’s so hard about putting on a mask for a few minutes. It’s common sense. It’s a requirement now in North Carolina. But this is a conservative place, and there are only 900 people in this town. We try hard to get along. We found out how much they cared. It became clear real quick. I’d watch customers pull into the parking lot without their faces covered, and my whole body would start to tense up. Our store is on the Intracoastal Waterway, and people from all over the world dock in the harbor and come in here for supplies. It’s a big petri dish. I put a shield up over my register, and a few hours into my shift it was covered with spittle. Then the local sheriff went on Facebook and said he wasn’t going to enforce the state requirement because he didn’t want to be the “mask police.”

Black Lives Matter isn’t complete without #SayHerName” via Karen Attiah of The Washington Post — Seven years ago, in July 2013, activist Opal Tometi took a cue from her friend Alicia Garza’s Facebook post and registered the website BlackLivesMatter.com. Since then, as we all know, #BlackLivesMatter has become much more than a hashtag, animating mass protest in the aftermath of the police killings of Black men. But there’s another facet to this story, and it’s something new. Historically, Black women have been pushed to the margins of our protest moments. This time Black women’s activism is front and center. Consider #SayHerName, which has emerged as a parallel rallying cry for Black women killed, assaulted and raped by police. The shooting death of Breonna Taylor by Kentucky police in March is the most recent and high-profile example.

Bullying the Miami-Dade school district to reopen in August is just reckless” via the Miami Herald editorial board — The monumental decision on whether to reopen Miami-Dade schools in August is not on Wednesday’s School Board agenda, but it’s likely to pop up. After all, how to deal with this pandemic is the district’s most crucial decision in ages. The burden of deciding whether we continue with online schooling whether we physically return to class return to class physically falls largely on Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and the elected members of the School Board, who rely on his counsel. Carvalho has maintained that he will follow the advice of health experts and the coronavirus dashboard on what is best for the district’s 350,000 students, parents, teachers and staff, and the community. His is the most pragmatic, and empathetic, approach to this scary eventuality.

A consequence of Marsy’s Law secrecy: Less accountability for police who use force” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Given the protests and calls for police accountability that have engulfed America, the last thing the criminal and judicial system needs is less transparency. But that’s what’s been playing out in a Tallahassee courtroom, where the city’s police department is trying to shield the identity of two officers involved in recent shootings. For now, they are known as “John Doe 1” and “John Doe 2.” They might remain that way thanks to Marsy’s Law, which should be renamed “The Law of Unintended Consequences.” It was designed to protect the rights of crime victims. That sounded good to 62% of Florida voters, who passed it as a constitutional amendment in 2018. It hasn’t turned so good for open government, and the state Legislature needs to clarify the law the next chance it gets.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Florida’s number of COVID-19 cases (and fatalities) keep piling up, and Gov. DeSantis tries once again to downplay the danger.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— As for the pandemic, you won’t see any improvement just yet. Quite the opposite. In the past week, Florida set records for COVID-19 deaths and new cases. But DeSantis still insists there’s no need to panic.

— While the Governor tries to minimize fears, Democrats in the state’s Congressional delegation are sounding the alarm. 

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Lois Frankel, Ted Deutch and Shalala are asking DeSantis to step up his game against COVID-19.

— Checking-in with two Florida Men who have taken an interest in animals: One ended up in the hospital after encountering an iguana, and the other is planning an X-rated movie about Carole Baskin and the Tiger King.

To listen, click on the image below:

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

Play ball? Experts send mixed signals on MLB 60-game season” via Jake Seiner of The Associated Press — Thirty baseball teams from 28 cities, trying to play 60 games each amid a coronavirus pandemic that seemingly hasn’t peaked in the United States. “Baseball games can work,” said Dr. David Hamer, professor of global health at the Boston University School of Public Health. “I think it’s feasible.” Public health experts have mixed feelings about baseball’s hopes to open its season on July 23. There is optimism because of the nature of the sport itself, which produces less on-field risk than basketball, football, or hockey. Then again, players and their families face a daunting task staying safe away from the ballpark, especially with teams traveling to and from hard-hit regions, including Florida and Texas.

Arizona Diamondbacks players watch from the stadium seats during an intrasquad game at Chase Field, in Phoenix. MLB has provided teams with a 113-page operations manual detailing protocols for its pandemic-shortened 60-game regular season. Players will be tested every 48 hours. Masks and social distancing are always required, except on the field. Backups will watch games from the stands instead of the dugout. No sunflower seeds. No spitting. No licking fingers. Image via AP.

From Miami radio host to prime time on MSNBC, how Joy Reid is making journalism history” via Caroline Ghisolfi of the Miami Herald — Fifteen years ago, Reid made a dream board with her two greatest aspirations: Write a bestselling book and be invited as a guest on the MSNBC political talk show, “Hardball with Chris Matthews.” Three books and several promotions later, Reid is on her way to take over Matthews’ 7 p.m. weeknight slot and become the first Black woman to host a prime-time talk show on a major network when her show, “The ReidOut,” premieres Monday on MSNBC. “Surprise! There will be a Black lady in prime time,” Reid told theGrio.com, where she served as managing editor from 2011 to 2014 after the news broke. Reid replaces Matthews, who resigned in March amid on-air gaffes and allegations of sexual misconduct in the newsroom. “Hardball” had been on the air since 1997.

Florida man captures video of a shark eating another shark” via Earl Killer of USA Today — Florida paddleboarder and professional photographer Jack Bates frequently sees all forms of sea life during his outings and usually brings a couple of GoPro cameras. He learned a long time ago, you just never know what you will see. On a Tuesday afternoon outing at his favorite beach in Florida, he saw something in about 4 feet of water that he’ll never forget. “It was pretty incredible,” Bates said. “I’m glad I had my camera.” Only a few yards from public beach access, Bates saw a large tiger shark feeding on the carcass of a large dead hammerhead shark.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy belated birthday wishes to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. Celebrating today are state Sen. Darryl Rouson and William Large of the Florida Justice Reform Institute.

___

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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