There are four days left before primary voters determine who will make the November ballot; Florida Politics is working to keep you, our loyal readers, updated on the most consequential contests in the state.
In some corners, there’s a dearth of exciting primaries, with clear front-runners everywhere — from congressional races at the top of the ticket to commission seats at the bottom.
But in one place — Broward County — a lack of excitement couldn’t be further from the truth.
A new survey from Public Policy Polling shows nearly every race on the Democratic primary ballot will be decided by a few points at most.
The race to succeed longtime State Attorney David Satz is a (legit) four-way contest with Jim Kimok at 13% and Teresa Fanning-Williams, Sarahnell Murphy and Joshua David Rydell each tied at 10%. The rest of the pack is in the low single digits, though with 38% of Democrats undecided it wouldn’t be impossible for the race to break late in favor of one or the other.
The Sheriff race — perhaps the most-watched county election in the state — shows ousted former Sheriff Scott Israel just three points behind his successor, Sheriff Gregory Tony. Four other candidates are siphoning votes with one in six still undecided.
In the Broward Supervisor of Elections race, nearly two-fifths have yet to make up their minds, and as for State Attorney, that race features four candidates in the low double digits a with the leader, Chad Klitzman, holding an inside-the-margin lead.
About the only contest with a clear leader is Clerk of Court, where incumbent Brenda Forman is the pick by one in three voters, while her two competitors, Paul Backman and Mark Speiser, each poll at sub-20%.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@MattMcBradley: If this works out it will be a huge diplomatic breakthrough. The #UAE will become the first Gulf Arab country to normalize relations with #Israel and the first Arab country since #Jordan recognized #Israel in 1994.
—@vmsalama: Big deal, yes. But as a longtime UAE resident, I assure you this was a long time coming and UAE has been largely tolerant of Israel. As far back as 2008, I remember attending conferences in Dubai full of Israeli nationals who were granted exceptions to visit for 1 reason or another.
—@AmandaACarpenter: Someone will ask if he’s a [Kamala] Harris birther and he’ll deny any responsibility by saying something like “Oh! That’s what other people are saying. They have questions. Don’t you think people should be able to ask questions?” And then, everyone is talking about it.
—@LearyReports: The things being said about Harris and eligibility were said about [Marco] Rubio and [Ted] Cruz in 2016 and it was roundly dismissed, except on the fringe.
—@RonaldKlain: I’m just going to put this out there: ballots are not the only thing the Post Office delivers, and if you mess up the USPS, you are messing up seniors getting their medicines by mail; small businesses shipping their products; contractors who still get paid by check.
—@Weinsteinlaw: Not funding the post office to steal the election is treason.
—@RealJamesWoods: The former press flack for Kamala Harris has been hired by Twitter to purge conservative thought and followers for the platform. She’s going to rip through this campaign the way she ripped through Willie Brown’s marriage. Screw anybody in her way. Literally.
—@DaveJorgenson: I’m so tired of explaining to people that journalists need money to live and that’s why there’s a paywall
—@TomPelissero: The #Seahawks cut rookie CB Kemah Siverand this week after he was caught on video trying to sneak a female visitor into the team hotel, per sources. Clear message on the responsibility everyone has in the NFL’s COVID-19 world: Put the team at risk, suffer the consequences.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 4; Florida Bar exams begin online (rescheduled) — 5; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 5; Regal Cinemas reopen in U.S. — 7; Indy 500 rescheduled — 9; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 10; NBA draft lottery — 11; Rev. Al Sharpton’s D.C. March — 15; U.S. Open begins — 17; Christopher Nolan‘s “Tenet” rescheduled premiere in U.S. — 20; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 22; Rescheduled date for French Open — 37; First presidential debate in Indiana — 46; “Wonder Woman” premieres — 49; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 50; Ashley Moody’s 2020 Human Trafficking Summit — 53; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 54; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 59; Second presidential debate scheduled at Miami — 62; NBA draft — 63; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 63; NBA free agency — 66; Florida Chamber’s Future of Florida Forum — 67; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 69; 2020 General Election — 81; “Black Widow” premieres — 85; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 87; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 98; “No Time to Die” premieres — 98; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 111; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 177; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 189; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 322; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 343; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 350; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 448; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 546; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 588; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 630; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 783.
— COUNTDOWN TO PRIMARY 1 —
“It’s the GOP vs. Donald Trump Republicans in primary for Florida’s 13th Congressional District” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — On one side is Amanda Makki, who already knows her way around Washington. She began her career on the Hill as a Congressional staffer before finding success as a lobbyist. Makki, 42, has the backing of top House Republicans, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and his No. 2, Minority Whip Steve Scalise. On the other side is Anna Paulina Luna, a U.S. Air Force veteran-turned-conservative media personality who introduced herself to District 13 voters by firing a military-style weapon at targets and declaring in a video, “I’m sure as hell not a politician.” Endorsing Luna, 31, is U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, one of Trump’s closest allies in Congress.
This article perfectly sums up this race.
A conservative outsider veteran in Luna versus
President Trump and I need BACKUP in Washington, not another lobbyist. https://t.co/tPbayxD9uT
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) August 13, 2020
—“Defiant Ross Spano says he’ll be reelected this year” via Mitch Perry of Bay News 9
“Tea Party Express gets on the Byron Donalds train” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Tea Party Express just hopped on the Donalds train. The conservative group endorsed the Naples Republican days out from a hotly contested Republican primary in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. “Byron Donalds is precisely the successful businessman and Tea Party leader we need in Washington fighting to drain the swamp and helping President Trump advance his conservative agenda,” said Tea Party Express Co-Founder Sal Russo. Billed as the largest Tea Party PAC, organizers stressed a long history with Donalds. Donalds later won election to the Florida Legislature in 2016 and was reelected in 2018. He decided this year to forgo a third term and run for the open Congressional seat. Long tied to the conservative movement, many Florida leaders within the Tea Party Express network praised Donalds.
“Outside spending floods CD 19 airwaves, mailboxes — mostly helping Donalds” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A look at campaign coffers tells only part of the story of who has the resources to win in Florida’s 19th Congressional District, but outside spending over the last few days flooded into Southwest Florida. Much of the outside money went to either boost Donalds or tear down his opponents. One exception was Honesty America. The Super PAC, which has ties to fast food mogul Casey Askar’s campaign, pumped another $13,268 into media placements that will target Donalds. The committee has put up ads against several candidates in the race, including William Figlesthaler and Dane Eagle. But the group may ultimately focus on Donalds. On Tuesday, the Conservative Outsider PAC reported several expenditures. That includes a $142,142 television ad and $9,220 on a mail piece, both hitting Eagle. That group is financially tied to Club for Growth, which has endorsed Donalds in the race. The Conservative Outsider PAC last month received a $250,000 donation from the Protect Freedom PAC, which just received $150,000 from Club For Growth Action in May on top of a $1.2 million donation in January.
“Default granted in Naples congressional candidate’s defamation lawsuit” via Daven Patel of the Naples Daily News — The Collier County Clerk of Court has sided with congressional candidate Askar in his lawsuit against a man he says falsely accused him of misrepresenting his education. The clerk issued a default against Andrew Duskin last week after he failed to respond in a timely fashion to a defamation lawsuit the Naples businessman filed last month. Askar’s attorney Tony Lawhon said the default means that Askar has won the liability portion of the suit and can now seek a judgment for damages, including injunctive relief “that would require Duskin to stop spreading his false claims.”
— COUNTDOWN TO PRIMARY 2 —
“Mystery GOP-connected group in Senate race shuts down after Democrats file election complaint” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The mysterious GOP-connected “progressive” group targeting the Democratic primary front-runner in a key state Senate race shut itself down sometime in the last week after Democrats filed an elections complaint. The group targeted Democratic front-runner Patricia Sigman, using progressive-sounding language and endorsing one of her opponents, Rick Ashby, as the “true progressive,” though he said he had never heard of it. The group’s alleged violations “deprive the public of the ability to know ‘who gave it and who got it,’” according to the complaint, filed with the Florida Election Commission. Floridians for Equality and Justice registered with the state on July 21 but had already created a website on June 2, emailed out questionnaires on June 24 and sent out mailers beginning July 18, according to the complaint.
“Shevrin Jones, Javier Fernández for the Florida Senate” via the Miami Herald Editorial Board — Getting anything done as a member of the minority Democratic Party in Tallahassee is tricky, but Jones has managed to do it well. He pushed for police in Florida to wear body cameras. Touched by the case of a female inmate who had a baby alone in a cell, he has called for “more dignity” for female inmates. He supports the full legalization of marijuana and a ban on assault weapons. On the coronavirus front, Jones says “the state reopened too soon.” It became personal when he contracted the virus. Jones, the first openly gay African American elected to the Florida Legislature, said he decided to donate his antibody-rich blood after he recovered.
“Mysterious robocall falsely claims Barack Obama is endorsing SD 35 candidate Daphne Campbell” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Just days ahead of the Aug. 18 primary, a robocall has emerged falsely claiming Obama has endorsed Senate District 35 candidate Campbell. Campbell, a former Senator who was ousted in 2018 from her District 38 seat, is one of six Democrats competing in the contest. Obama has not endorsed anyone in that six-person field. Yet the robocall stitches together a prerecorded script from Obama and splices in Campbell’s name where appropriate. In the script, Campbell’s name is read by a female voice clearly distinct from Obama’s. We’ve inserted her name in brackets where it appears in the script to make clear Obama does not actually speak her name.
To listen to the ad, click on the image below:
“‘Trump Team’ report cards rankles Southwest Florida pols” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The appearance of report cards made to look like grades from Trump’s campaign has Southwest Florida politics agitated. Fliers showing the candidate grades from Team Trump 2020 Florida angered campaigns denoted with F grades. The concern isn’t the accusation of lack of loyalty to the President; that’s become the universal vernacular of primary season in a presidential election year. Rather, it’s the electioneering language from a group not registered as a political committee in the state of Florida. And it implies a relationship with Trump that seems not to exist. An example of the fliers circulating around Cape Coral shows grades in local House and Senate races. In House District 77, it gives Mike Giallombardo an A and Bryan Blackwell an “F.” In Senate District 27, it gives Ray Rodrigues an A and Heather Fitzenhagen an “F.” But what those grades are based upon is unclear.
“Democrat says she won Florida House seat after Jamie Grant’s resignation” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Jessica Harrington, Democratic candidate for the District 64 state House seat, said she intends to file a state Ethics Commission complaint against Grant, which she said could result in her being declared winner of the seat. Harrington said Grant, who sold his Carrollwood home in September, didn’t file to run for the office with his residential address as the law requires and improperly had his mail-in primary ballot sent to the address of his district office. Grant has denied the basis of Harrington’s accusations. He abruptly announced this week that he’s withdrawing from his reelection campaign to take a state administrative post.
“Literally faking the news: Michael Weinstein commits political version of mail fraud with latest deceit” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — A campaign mailer sent to voters by Weinstein falsely attributes a quote that came out of his own mouth to the Palm Beach Post. Quoting oneself and attributing it to a respected newspaper violates every single standard of political (and ethical) practice. While we don’t want to give additional airtime to Weinstein’s false and bizarre claim that primary opponent Kelly Skidmore operates “straight out of Donald Trump’s playbook” — it is important context to share: Weinstein himself said this about Skidmore; the Palm Beach Post (who endorsed Skidmore!) did not. Yet that’s how his mailer reads. This is a clear attempt to confuse voters, and signals the mindset of a candidate who is far too comfortable walking a thin ethical line.
“In House Democratic primary, Broward incumbent faces competition from a progressive challenger” via Jessica Bakeman of WLRN — Elijah Manley is running to represent the community that raised him in the Florida House of Representatives. If elected, he’d be one of the youngest members ever in the Legislature and only the second out gay Black member. Manley is seeking to oust Rep. Bobby DuBose, a Black Democratic incumbent and incoming co-leader of the chamber’s minority caucus. After four years on the Fort Lauderdale City Commission and now six in the Legislature, DuBose is an established candidate who is highly respected among his colleagues. DuBose’s slate of major endorsements would suggest he has won the trust of his community, as well: teachers, firefighters, public employee unions, local clergy, the Sierra Club, the Sun-Sentinel editorial board.
— DOWN BALLOT —
“‘Unprecedented’ power. Miami’s political families seek office in August election.” Via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — The names on the Aug. 18 ballot need little introduction. [Francis] Suarez. [Keon] Hardemon. [Bruno] Barreiro. [Raquel] Regalado. [Alez] Diaz de la Portilla. This summer, Miami’s political dynasties — families that for decades have sought and held office from Dinner Key to Washington, D.C. — are again jockeying for power. Some are attempting to win their way back from voter-imposed exile. Others are hoping to expand their influence. And in a new twist that may represent the apex of Miami’s Game of Thrones, a father and son are hoping to become perhaps the most powerful political duo in South Florida history by stamping one surname on two of the top offices in the county.
—“Alex Penelas adds another endorsement as he heads to the polls” via Spencer Fordin of Florida Politics
“LGBTQ group revokes endorsement of Miami School Board incumbent for anti-trans stance” via Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — In a rare move, SAVE Dade, a group devoted to protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people against discrimination, has revoked its endorsement of a Miami-Dade County School Board member seeking reelection. SAVE Dade executive director Orlando Gonzales said District 7 incumbent Lubby Navarro asked the group to remove her from their list of endorsed candidates. Gonzales said Navarro informed them that she had received and accepted an endorsement from the Miami-based Christian Family Coalition Florida, which calls itself “pro-family” on its website. In a voter guide posted on the coalition’s website, Navarro is marked as a “highly qualified” candidate who supports prohibiting “biological boys in girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms.”
“Hillsborough Sheriff’s employee lodges ethics complaint against candidate Charles Boswell” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — A Hillsborough County Sheriff employee is accusing Boswell, a candidate for Sheriff, of voter intimidation and a bevy of other voting violations. Boswell is running against incumbent Sheriff Chad Chronister in the GOP primary next week. Edward Raburn filed an ethics complaint with the Florida Elections Commission outlining a verbal confrontation between himself and Boswell on Aug. 5 at approximately 2:50 p.m. In the complaint obtained by Florida Politics, Raburn claims he was “standing in the parking lot of the Quintilla Greer Bruton Memorial Library” working as a campaign volunteer for Chronister’s campaign, wearing a Chronister campaign T-shirt and holding a “Chad Chronister for Sheriff” campaign sign. Raburn said the location is an early voting site and was open to polling at the time of the altercation.
“Campaign rivals accuse Orange Sheriff John Mina of silence on 1999 shooting” via Grace Toohey of the Orlando Sentinel — Two rival candidates of Mina questioned his commitment to transparency after the mother of a 17-year-old killed by Mina in a 1999 shooting spoke out about her son’s death. The Appeal, a policy-focused nonprofit journalism organization, published an article Wednesday in which Joseph Dungee’s mother said Mina has never spoken to her about the shooting, and the Orlando Police Department never gave her details about what happened. In a statement provided to the Orlando Sentinel, Mina denied that he had been silent about the shooting. Rather, he said he has “over the years, … talked about this case and understanding what it’s like to make these kinds of split-second decisions.”
“Investigators’ PAC launches attack ads against Rick Singh in Orange County” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A political action committee created by Miami-based investigators Joe Carrillo and Rick Yabor has entered the Orange County Property Appraiser’s election starting with a blistering television commercial attacking Singh ahead of Tuesday’s primary election. One 30-second commercial from the Florida Public Corruption Task Force PAC, playing on Orlando-market television, opens appearing as if it is an attack ad against Trump. It displays a silhouette profile that looks like Trump while a narrator describes allegations involving sexual harassment, a phony charity, orders for subordinates to falsify or destroy documents, and lavish trips taken at taxpayers’ expense. And then the commercial takes a twist and declares the allegations are about Singh, whose picture replaces the profile.
“Charter school groups behind ads attacking Karen Castor Dentel in Orange school board race” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s leading charter school companies have helped pay for political ads attacking Castor Dentel as she seeks reelection to the Orange County School Board. The glossy political mailers, one calling the former elementary school teacher “public enemy #1,″ were sent to voters in Castor Dentel’s district 6, which stretches from Pine Hills to Dover Shores and includes Audubon Park, Baldwin Park, College Park, Maitland and Thornton Park. The mailers were from a new group called Florida Education News, which through early August received $175,000 from a political action committee called Conservatives in Action. That committee’s biggest contributors, accounting for more than half of its donations, were from charter school management companies and charter school developers in Florida, records from the Florida Division of Elections and the Internal Revenue Service show.
“After campaign signs are removed, tempers flare at early voting site in North Port” via Timothy Fanning of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Nerves were so frayed in the parking lot at the early voting site at Biscayne Plaza in North Port on Monday that those trying to court voters before they went to the polls got into a shouting match so heated that the police were called. The nature of the argument: Someone had removed political signs from someone else’s vehicle, according to North Port Police Department records. Video reviewed by officers shows Mark Frandsen, the former president of the North Port Republican Club, and Conni Brunni, a community activist and volunteer for Sarasota County District 5 candidate Ron Cutsinger’s campaign, shouting and standing within inches of each other’s faces beneath the Republican Party of Sarasota County’s red canopy tent.
— 2020 —
“Joe Biden, appealing to Governors, calls for nationwide mask mandates to fight the virus.” via The New York Times — Biden called on Thursday for governors to require mask-wearing in their states, saying that he believed that all Americans should wear face coverings to fight the spread of the virus. “Every single American should be wearing a mask when they’re outside for the next three months at a minimum,” said Biden, the presumptive presidential candidate for the Democrats. The remarks came after Biden and 00, the presumptive vice-presidential nominee, met with public health officials in Delaware for a briefing on the virus, yet another signal of their intention to make the pandemic a major part of their effort to unseat Trump.
“The epic blandness of the Biden campaign” via John F. Harris of POLITICO — Back in early 2019, a group of about 15 campaign journalists took part in an informal survey of who they expected to be the Democratic presidential nominee. These reporters and editors, I happen to know, are all smart and well-connected. Unfortunately, the survey results cannot be offered as an exhibit for the case. The person who received the most predictions as the eventual nominee was Beto O’Rourke. The person who came in a close second was Harris. Biden was predicted by zero respondents. The survey is an artifact of the past that illuminates two important points about the present.
“Kamala Harris could help Biden with women, young voters, maybe some Republicans too” via Chris Kahn of Reuters — Nearly nine out of 10 Democrats approve of Harris as their party’s vice presidential nominee, and she is more popular than Biden among women, young voters and some Republicans, according to a poll. The Aug. 11-12 public opinion survey also found that 60% of Americans, including 87% of Democrats and 37% of Republicans, considered the selection of Harris — the first Black woman and Asian American nominated for vice presidency — to be a “major milestone” for the United States. The poll showed Biden’s lead over Trump was effectively unchanged after he announced his running mate choice, increasing by 1 percentage point among all Americans to an 8-point advantage.
“‘Forgotten voting blocs.’ Florida’s Black Caribbean voters identify with Harris” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — If the Biden–Harris ticket wins this November, Harris, a first-generation American born to a mother from India and father from Jamaica, would also be the first vice president of Caribbean descent, a fact not lost on hundreds of thousands of immigrants living in the nation’s largest swing state. Harris’ place on the Democratic ticket is drawing praise from Florida’s Black community — an important segment of the Democratic electorate in the state. The Biden campaign has also announced that Harris’ chief of staff is Karine Jean-Pierre, a well-known Haitian-American political organizer.
“Trump says he’s blocking Postal Service funding because Democrats want to expand mail-in voting during pandemic” via Felicia Sonmez and Jacob Bogage of The Washington Post — Trump said Thursday that he does not want to fund the U.S. Postal Service because Democrats are seeking to expand mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic, making explicit the reason he has declined to approve $25 billion in emergency funding for the cash-strapped agency. Trump has railed against mail-in balloting for months, and at a White House briefing Wednesday, he argued without evidence that USPS’s enlarged role in the November election would perpetuate “one of the greatest frauds in history.” During the Wednesday briefing, Trump told reporters he would not approve the $25 billion in emergency funding for the Postal Service, or $3.5 billion in supplemental funding for election resources, citing prohibitively high costs.
“Trump allies plan ‘largest effort ever undertaken to mobilize the Jewish vote’” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Boasting that they are about to embark on “the largest, most sophisticated, most targeted state-of-the-art campaign” in history, leaders of a conservative Jewish advocacy organization announced Thursday that they plan to spend up to $10 million this fall in Florida and other swing states on behalf of Trump. Republican Jewish Coalition leaders said they have been gathering data about Jewish voters across the country in preparation for a targeted campaign to advertise Trump’s successes in the U.S. and the Middle East. At least $1 million will be spent on TV, and more than $1 million on digital ads and mailers, they said. Jewish voters heavily lean Democratic. But in recent years, Republican presidential candidates have performed better among Jewish voters.
“Ohio State football is canceled. Will Trump take the hit?” via Reid Epstein and Nick Corasaniti of The New York Times — The Big Ten Conference’s decision to cancel its football season reverberated this week across Ohio, where the Buckeyes’ football program looms larger than that of any of the state’s major league sports franchises. A pillar of autumn Saturdays will be missing. Dennis Kuchta, a 69-year-old retiree, whose son-in-law played on the offensive line for the Buckeyes, and others in this football-mad corner of the state were looking for someone to blame. “Trump just blew it,” Kuchta said.
“Facebook beefs up anti-misinfo efforts ahead of U.S. election” via Barbara Ortutay of The Associated Press — Beginning Thursday, U.S. Facebook users who post about voting may start seeing an addendum to their messages — labels directing readers to authoritative information about the upcoming presidential election. It’s the social network’s latest step to combat election-related misinformation on its platform as the Nov. 3 election nears — one in which many voters may be submitting ballots by mail for the first time. Facebook began adding similar links to posts about in-person and mail-in balloting by federal politicians, including Trump, in July. These labels will link to a new voter information hub similar to the one about COVID-19 that Facebook says has been seen by billions of users around the world.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Coronavirus: How COVID-19 fuels excess weekly deaths in Florida” via Jim Waymer of Florida Today — Due mostly to COVID-19, the 5,171 estimated deaths in Florida during the week ending July 18 was the highest death toll in the state in almost four years, about a third higher than would be expected, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC tracks weekly excess deaths nationwide to provide information about the death burden potentially related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including deaths directly or indirectly attributed to COVID-19. The federal agency defines excess deaths as the difference between the observed deaths in a specific time period and expected deaths in the same period.
“Florida adds 149 coronavirus deaths, more than 6,000 cases Thursday” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida added 149 new coronavirus deaths Thursday, bringing the total recorded since the pandemic began to 9,047 people, according to the Florida Department of Health. The state also added 6,236 new infections. Since the first coronavirus patient was identified in Florida in March, the state has recorded 557,137 cases. It’s unclear how many have recovered because the Florida Department of Health doesn’t release that information. Thursday’s announced deaths brought the weekly death average up to 168 people dead per day. Hospital admissions due to COVID-19 also increased by 598. The Tampa Bay area added 745 coronavirus cases and 29 deaths Thursday.
“Despite rising caseloads and deaths, Ron DeSantis claims there are ‘positive trends’” via John Kennedy of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Florida added another 6,236 cases of COVID-19 Thursday, along with 148 more deaths, even as DeSantis continued his weekslong effort to steer attention toward any small gain the state makes. Holding a roundtable at the state Capitol, DeSantis hailed what he called “positive trends” among caseloads, hospitalizations and infection rates, even though the state’s own data seems to suggest few signs for celebration. Thursday’s toll brought the total number of Florida COVID-19 cases to 557,132, with 8,913 Florida residents dying of the disease since March.
“DeSantis defends less coronavirus testing, but seeks ‘consequences’ for delays” via Gray Rohrer and Tiffini Theisen of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis on Thursday explained the slowdown of coronavirus testing in Florida by saying fewer people are coming in to be checked out for COVID-19. He also said labs that are late in reporting results should face “consequences,’’ but he didn’t elaborate on what those should be. “I think part of the reason why some of our sites aren’t doing as much is because people aren’t going as much as they used to. If you look at the Orange County Convention Center, at the beginning of July, we were having 2,000 people show up to get PCR tested there; now 700 are going,” he said. Florida’s testing rate has fallen recently, from a high of 528,793 for the week ending July 12 to 424,256 for the week ending on Aug. 2, a nearly 20% drop.
— BACK TO SCHOOL? —
“Ron DeSantis clarifies comparing schools reopening to Osama bin Laden raid” via Antonio Fins of The Palm Beach Post — DeSantis on Thursday clarified comparing the raid that killed bin Laden to the reopening of schools in Florida. Asked about his use of the 2011 Navy SEAL raid as an analogy, DeSantis stressed that the point was not about the level of danger. “It was more about inspiration and about figuring way to get it done than anything about comparing the danger to that,” DeSantis said during a roundtable in Tallahassee. “Obviously that’s a much different situation.” DeSantis made the initial comparison in an address to Florida residents Wednesday evening by citing what the superintendent of a Treasure Coast school district had told him about the start of the school year amid the ongoing threat of coronavirus infections.
“‘Impossible’: School boards are at heart of reopening debate” via Jeffrey Collins of The Associated Press — Helena Miller listened to teachers, terrified to reenter classrooms, and parents, exhausted from trying to make virtual learning work at home. She heard from school officials who spent hundreds of hours on thousands of details — buses, classrooms, football, arts, special education. She spent countless nights, eyes wide-open, her mind wrestling over the safety and education of the 17,000 children she swore to protect. She thought of her own kids, two in high school, and one middle-schooler — the reasons she ran for Rock Hill’s school board six years ago. And she made the hardest decision of her life: a vote to reopen schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Judge moving quickly on school reopening fight” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — A Leon County circuit judge fast-tracked lawsuits challenging Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s mandate that districts reopen brick-and-mortar schools this month. Corcoran’s emergency order requires schools outside of South Florida to reopen five days a week in August and offer “the full panoply of services” to students and families, unless state and local health officials say otherwise. The Florida Education Association teachers’ union filed a lawsuit challenging the order, alleging that the directive violates the state Constitution, which guarantees Floridians the right to “safe” and “secure” public schools. The Orange County teachers’ union filed a similar lawsuit.
“Some Duval teachers are prioritizing drafting wills along with lesson plans. One even penned her own obit.” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — When Whitney Reddick posted her own obituary on Facebook, she didn’t intend for it to go viral. The Jacksonville special education teacher made national headlines over her summer vacation when her plea to Duval County Public Schools and state officials to keep public education virtual during the coronavirus pandemic was shared over and over. “It is crazy,” Reddick said. “I’m seeing my name in publications I’ve never even heard of. Hands down, this is not my first vocal stance, or the first activism that I’ve taken on the issue. So whenever it did take off, I was obviously humbled. I had no expectation of that whatsoever.” Reddick’s obituary of herself said things like “she left us while alone in isolation and on a ventilator at a Duval county hospital in Jacksonville, Florida” and that “even though she shouted from the rooftops … she succumbed to the ignorance of those in power [and] returned to work.” With the coronavirus pandemic still hitting local communities, teachers are being forced to think about a lot more than their lesson plans — they’re considering their own mortality.
“Hillsborough starting school with 1 week of online learning after state rejects 4-week plan” via Ryan Hughes of WFLA — Students in Hillsborough County will now just start the school year with one week of online learning instead of the originally-planned four weeks. A member of the school board for Hillsborough County Public Schools confirmed to WFLA Thursday that the state had rejected the district’s plan to start the school year with four weeks of online learning. The district now says it’s moving forward with just one week of online learning. As the plan stands now, the school will begin with eLearning on Aug. 24. Families who have opted to take part in traditional in-person learning will be able to send their kids back to brick-and-mortar school on Aug. 31. The plan the school board voted on last week would have meant no brick and mortar classes would be held for the first four weeks of the year.
“Palm Beach County students and teachers will have to wear masks when schools reopen” via Lois K. Solomon of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — When Palm Beach County school buildings reopen, students, teachers and all staff members will have to wear face coverings, the superintendent announced Wednesday. No date was set, but the School Board agreed at a special meeting that schools will invite students back one week after Palm Beach County enters Phase 2 of reopening from the coronavirus pandemic. The county is currently in Phase 1. Virtual learning begins for Palm Beach County’s students on Aug. 31. “When campuses reopen, students and staff will be required to wear facial coverings both at school and on the bus,” Superintendent Donald Fennoy told the board. The board held a special meeting to approve a revised reopening plan for the new school year.
“Palmetto High joins list of campuses with COVID-19 exposures. School begins Monday” via Giuseppe Sabella of the Bradenton Herald — Several employees at Palmetto High School have isolated for 14 days after they were exposed to COVID-19 on campus, according to an email from the school principal. “We were alerted today that we had a confirmed case of COVID-19 on our campus,” Principal Carl Auckerman said in a message to families on Wednesday evening. The school district and the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County launched an investigation, known as contact tracing, and found that “a number of school employees” had direct exposure to the infected person, the email continues.
“At least 80 Santa Rosa County teachers laid off, 80 reassigned due to low enrollment” via Annie Blanks of the NWD Daily News — At least 160 teachers in Santa Rosa County were either laid off or reassigned Wednesday, less than two weeks before the start of the new school year, due to declining student enrollment numbers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick confirmed the layoffs to the News Journal on Thursday morning, saying “80-plus” teachers were moved from brick-and-mortar classrooms to virtual/remote positions and “80-plus” were let go completely. The layoffs come the week after the deadline for Santa Rosa County parents to indicate whether their children would return to brick-and-mortar school or choose an online school or remote learning option. About 82% of students said they’ll return to in-person learning this year, while 8% chose the online virtual school and 10% chose remote learning.
“FIU pushes back start of sports seasons” via the News Service of Florida staff reports — While DeSantis continues to lobby for colleges and high schools to move forward with their sports seasons, Florida International University said Thursday it will delay the start of intercollegiate sports until Sept. 16. “The health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff are our top priority,” university President Mark Rosenberg said in a statement. “With this in mind, and based on input from our FIU health care experts, the informed science surrounding COVID-19 and the current circumstances in our South Florida community, FIU will postpone all intercollegiate competitions through September 16. We are making this decision in an abundance of caution.” FIU is a member of Conference USA.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“Miami is a proving ground for rapid COVID tests. Experts say results should be checked.” via Ben Conarck and Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — At the peak of Florida’s July COVID-19 surge, state officials flooded Miami-Dade County’s state-run testing sites with rapid diagnostics designed to be used only on people with symptoms. The tests, which identify a protein on the virus called an “antigen,” are less sensitive than the tests more commonly used, called PCR tests, but antigen tests can produce results in minutes rather than days. Was the trade-off worth it? Florida health officials are still figuring it out, and Miami-Dade has become a proving ground for the tests. Jackson Health System, the county’s public hospital network, started using antigen tests on patients less than a week ago.
“South Florida hospitals seeing more children arriving with dangerous COVID-related illness” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — South Florida’s children’s hospitals are seeing more cases of a rare COVID-related illness that attacks children and teens. Ronald Ford, chief medical officer for Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, said his hospital has treated 18 children with the rare multisystem inflammatory syndrome — seven of them since Aug. 1. Ford says he saw the increase coming when the state’s positive infection rate rose — and he expects more cases in the next few weeks. The syndrome tends to come on fast and attack children who were exposed to COVID-19 three to four weeks earlier. “Some arrive in shocklike states,” Ford said.
“Commissioner says local Democrats won’t stop him from tweeting about hydroxychloroquine” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Even as a local Democratic Party official threatens to call for his removal from public office, Miami Beach Commissioner Ricky Arriola said he will not delete his Twitter account or stop sharing articles promoting the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19. Arriola, a Democrat serving on a nonpartisan city commission, was criticized on social media last Friday for using his public Twitter page to share an opinion article, which called for the jailing of White House adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci for calling the antimalarial medication ineffective against the virus. Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chair Steve Simeonidis told the Miami Herald that he would support recalling the commissioner from office if he continues to promote “dangerous disinformation.”
“Family peddling coronavirus bleach ‘cure’ must pay for recall, judge rules” via Mario Ariza of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A Florida church pastor and his three sons who peddled industrial bleach as a fake coronavirus “cure” have been permanently barred from distributing the product by a South Florida federal judge. Now, in addition to facing criminal charges for allegedly conspiring to sell the bleach as a false cure, the four men must bear the financial burden of recalling and destroying their purported miracle drug. The Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, based out of Bradenton, Florida, caught the attention of federal authorities back in March for advertising a mixture of bleach and fruit juice it claimed could cure COVID-19. There is no known cure for SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“South Florida craft distilleries are sitting on hundreds of gallons of unsold hand sanitizer” via Phillip Valys of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — At ChainBridge Distillery in Oakland Park, Bela Nahori spends his days distilling fruit brandy, basil-infused vodka — and stressing out about the 500-gallon stockpile of hand sanitizer taking up space in the backroom. His distillery stopped making spirits and started pumping out much-needed hand sanitizer for the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nahori donated 5,000 gallons to front line workers and emergency responders, and sold tiny bottles to the public. By June, Nahori stopped, as demand for hand sanitizer plummeted and big brands like Purell returned to stores. He’s barely sold any since and doesn’t know what to do with the surplus of unsold disinfectant sitting in 55-gallon drums next to his copper still.
— MORE LOCAL —
“Hillsborough adds younger children to face mask rule” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — More children must comply with Hillsborough County’s mandatory face mask rule, county leaders said Thursday. Hillsborough County commissioners, meeting for the second time as emergency managers, extended the county’s facial covering order, but reduced the number of people exempted. The order, requiring masks to be worn inside businesses if social distancing isn’t available, is now applicable to all children age 5 and older. The former Emergency Policy Group adopted the face mask rule June 22 and amended it a week later, at the suggestion of Temple Terrace acting Mayor Andy Ross, to excuse children younger than age 8 from complying. The commission disbanded that group last week and assumed control of the county’s coronavirus response. The order approved Thursday also will run concurrently with the county’s COVID-19 state of emergency, effectively eliminating the need for a weekly vote on the mask rule extension.
“Ocala City Council overrides Mayor’s face mask veto” via Carlos Medina of the Ocala StarBanner — With the 4-1 vote to override the veto, the ordinance went into effect immediately and will be valid for 60 days. Mayor Kent Guinn said he vetoed the measure because he feared it would increase demands on the Ocala Police Department, was largely unenforceable, and could foster confrontations between residents. He said calls related to the ordinance will fall well behind those for violent or property crimes. “We’ll try to comply as best we can with the mandate,” Guinn said. “It falls to the lowest of the lowest of the lowest of our priority calls.”
“Prison coronavirus outbreak takes toll on Baker County” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — The exponential jump in coronavirus cases in Baker County grew more intense this week as COVID-19 testing at a prison in the county showed massive increases in infections. The Baker County Corrections Institution recorded 561 positive tests for COVID-19, according to data released by the Florida Department of Corrections. In addition, 25 staff personnel at the facility tested positive. Some 639 people have been moved into medical quarantine at the prison, 15 are in security quarantine and six people are in medical isolation at the prison. The prison started COVID-19 testing about a week ago and now has a higher case count than the entirety of Baker County had when there were 429 cases countywide on Aug. 5. That figure jumped significantly Aug. 7 after the prison cases were added for a total of 630 infections. The prison took measures to isolate all inmates.
“Tallahassee bar suing state over business closures” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — A Leon County bar is one of the dozens in a proposed class action suit suing the state agency behind a statewide closure, saying it has resulted in a devastating loss of business. Just One More, a North Monroe Street bar near Lake Jackson, filed suit last month against Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears and DeSantis. The bar has been closed since June 26 after an executive order barred consumption of alcohol on premises for establishments not licensed to serve food. The idea was to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. The lawsuit says an untold number of establishments around the state are hamstrung, either suffering losses by remaining closed or possibly losing their licenses if they decide to make money.
“Mike Norvell defends FSU football protocols, culture of transparency amid COVID concerns” via Curt Weiler of the Tallahassee Democrat — Norvell has tried to build a culture of openness and transparency, something that is even more important than usual amid lingering concerns over the coronavirus’ impact. That’s why Florida State’s head football coach was so taken aback when he was informed of the latest news as he was leaving the field at the end of FSU’s Thursday morning practice. He was told that a few of his players had expressed concerns on social media while the rest of the team was at practice Thursday morning over perceived deceit from FSU’s leadership which has endangered the team’s safety. Norvell again refused to disclose the number of positive tests FSU has had or the number of players currently quarantining, citing university policy.
— CORONA NATION —
“The true coronavirus toll in the U.S. has already surpassed 200,000” via Denise Lu of The New York Times — Nationwide, 200,000 more people have died than usual since March. This number is about 60,000 higher than the number of deaths that have been directly linked to the coronavirus. When the coronavirus first took hold in the United States in March, the bulk of deaths above normal levels, or “excess deaths,” were in the Northeast, as New York and New Jersey saw huge surges. That suggests that the official death counts may be substantially underestimating the overall effects of the virus.
“COVID-19 death toll rivals fatality rate during 1918 flu epidemic, researchers say” via Lenny Bernstein of The Washington Post — The increase in deaths in New York City during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic rivals the death toll there at the peak of the 1918 flu pandemic, according to an analysis published Thursday. The comparison, published online in the medical journal JAMA Network Open, found that the number of deaths from all causes was roughly equal during the two peak months of the flu epidemic and the first 61 days of the current outbreak. The H1N1 flu pandemic eventually killed 50 million people a century ago, about 675,000 of them in the United States. The current pandemic has claimed at least 746,000 lives worldwide, about 162,000 of them in the United States, according to a tally. There were 31,589 deaths from all causes in New York during the peak period of the flu epidemic, about the same as the 33,465 tallied in the 61 days after the first death on March 11 of this year, the analysis shows.
“Health experts warn about perils of new virus data collection system” via Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times — Nearly three dozen current and former members of a federal health advisory committee, including nine appointed or reappointed by the health secretary, Alex Azar, are warning that the Trump administration’s new coronavirus database is placing an undue burden on hospitals and will have “serious consequences on data integrity.” The advisers, all current or former members of the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee, issued their warning in a previously unpublished letter shared with The New York Times. The letter was made public as both hospital officials and independent data experts around the country were reporting kinks in the new system, which critics say is undermining the government’s ability to understand the course of the pandemic.
“Young people have reported higher levels of anxiety and depression during the pandemic, a new survey finds.” via The New York Times — The collateral damage from the pandemic continues: Young adults and Black and Latino people, in particular, describe rising levels of anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts, and increased substance abuse, according to findings reported by the CDC. In a survey, U.S. residents reported signs of eroding mental health, in reaction to the toll of coronavirus illnesses and deaths and to the life-altering restrictions imposed by lockdowns. The researchers argue that the results point to an urgent need for expanded and culturally sensitive services for mental health and substance abuse. The online survey was completed by 5,470 people in late June. The prevalence of anxiety symptoms was three times as high as those reported in the second quarter of 2019, and depression was four times as high.
“Beset by coronavirus, health authorities brace for flu season” via Jared S. Hopkins of The Wall Street Journal — The approaching flu season threatens to overwhelm doctors and hospitals swamped by COVID-19 patients, sparking intense efforts to get people vaccinated against influenza. Both the new coronavirus and the seasonal flu virus are likely to spread in the fall and winter, and send many more sick patients to doctors’ offices and hospitals already struggling to treat COVID-19 cases, health and industry officials say. To reduce the pressure, drugmakers are making about 200 million flu shots this year for shipment to doctors, hospitals and pharmacies, up 13% from last year and a record. The federal government is also launching a campaign encouraging people to get the shots, while drugmakers and pharmacies explore novel measures to ensure more people get vaccinated, like offering flu shots curbside.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Jobless claims dip below 1 million for first time in more than four months” via Eli Rosenberg of The Washington Post — About 960,000 workers filed for unemployment insurance last week, which marks the first time that initial claims dipped below 1 million since mid-March when the coronavirus pandemic first took hold and workers were told to stay home. The weekly claims figure for the week ended Aug. 8 fell below the 1.18 million claims from last week but remained well above historic highs. The pre-pandemic record for initial weekly claims was 695,000, from 1982, another recession. Another 488,000 new claims were filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which is offered to gig and self-employed workers. All told, more than 28 million people are receiving some form of unemployment benefits as of the week of July 25, down more than 3 million from the previous week.
“Florida’s new jobless claims drop the most of any state” via Mike Schneider and Kelli Kennedy of The Associated Press — Florida’s death toll from the coronavirus topped 9,000 Thursday, while its pandemic-buffeted economy led the nation in a drop in the number of new jobless claims. The jobless claims are still historically high, as the state seeks to claw back economic activity still stunted by the continuing outbreak, and as schools around the state grapple with how to reopen classes safely. Some 55,106 Floridians filed for unemployment benefits last week, federal figures released Thursday show, a decline of 23,180 claims from the previous week — the biggest drop of any state. By comparison, at the same time in August 2019, there were 5,978 new jobless claims in Florida.
“Some of Disney World and SeaWorld’s biggest fans are employees. But thousands remain on furlough.” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — In Central Florida, thousands of employees are sidelined even as the theme parks have reopened for business. Some are unsure if they will ever go back to their old jobs. At SeaWorld Orlando, the company has advertised to hire some new workers when it hasn’t recalled all the furloughed employees, several workers said, and they complained the company isn’t communicating with them. About 10,000 out of the 18,000 Disney hotel housekeepers and food/beverage workers in UNITE HERE Local 737 haven’t returned to work yet, said Jeremy Haicken, a leader of the union. The theme parks, which once never had a slow time in the year, are cutting expenses. After a $2 billion dollar quarterly loss, Disney World plans to shorten park hours so some days in September the Magic Kingdom will close as early as 6 p.m.
“Debt-ridden hotels lobby for taxpayer bailout” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — Hard-hit hotel companies are pushing especially hard for the legislation, which boosters have dubbed the “HOPE Act.” It “would be a huge help for us — and not just for us, but for other property owners that are in the same position that we are in,” said Deric Eubanks, the chief financial officer of Ashford Hospitality Trust Inc., during the company’s second-quarter earnings call last month. Ashford, which owns 117 hotels around the country, including nearly a dozen in Florida, is carrying more than $4 billion of hotel-backed mortgages. But advocates for workers are pushing back. Rather than spending billions to help hotels and other property owners pay off their lenders, they say Congress should focus on combating the public-health pandemic and helping front-line employees.
— MORE CORONA —
“Face masks with valves or vents do not prevent spread of the coronavirus, CDC says” via Reis Thebault and Angela Fritz of The Washington Post — In guidance updated late last week, the CDC warned against wearing masks with exhalation valves or vents, a type of face-covering made for hot and dusty construction work that has become a popular pandemic accessory because of its seemingly high-tech design. 3M, which makes valve masks for construction work, illustrates on its website how they work: inhaled air is filtered through the fabric part of the mask, and hot, humid exhaled air goes out through the valve. The system may be what you want when tearing out a kitchen for remodeling, but the valve defeats the purpose when you’re trying to slow the spread of a virus.
“Thanks to coronavirus and Zoom, we’re looking at the end stages of college as a commodity” via Megan McArdle of The Washington Post — A pandemic is an essentializing force; it strips away the frosting of rhetoric and habit and forces us to confront bare realities. Nowhere is this more apparent than in higher education, which over the past few decades has been one of two sectors that have just kept increasing their prices, the share of national income, and, of course, the share of our attention they claim. As students balked at full tuition for online education, Elizabeth Cohen, a political-science professor at Syracuse University, set off a minor Twitter storm: “Working at a college or university right now is hearing a lot of people say that they should pay less for something you’re working twice as hard to make available for them.”
“‘We’ve hit the iceberg’: NCAA medical adviser warns as fall season sinks” via Juan Perez Jr. of POLITICO — A top NCAA medical adviser gave grim guidance Thursday to the nation’s college sports leaders: it’s time to consider scrapping the fall season. “I feel like the Titanic,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, the executive associate dean of the Emory School of Medicine and a member of an NCAA coronavirus advisory committee. “We need to focus on what’s important. What’s important right now is that we need to control this virus. And not having fall sports this year and controlling this virus, to me, would be the No. 1 priority.” Medical advisers for the Pac-12 Conference and the Big Ten called this week for competitions to be nixed this fall as new information is emerging on potential serious cardiac side effects of the virus, which continues to spread rapidly in many regions. The doctors also cited concerns about athletes traveling on commercial aircraft and the nation’s still-limited capacity for frequent, rapid-turnaround testing.
“Warren Thompson: Florida State has lied, failed to respond to health concerns” via Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida State receiver Thompson alleged Thursday that he has been “lied to multiple times” about safety issues during preseason camp, jeopardizing his health as the Seminoles move toward a football season in the coronavirus pandemic. “It has been shown to myself and the rest, that our leadership is based off an ‘I’ mentality with them only worried about their own future rather than their own athletes,” Thompson wrote on Twitter and Instagram. “I have been ridiculed about speaking up regarding this issue and it needs to be addressed for myself to safely continue the season.” First-year coach Norvell said he doesn’t know what lies Thompson alleges but said the two spoke Wednesday night with “all of the correct and relevant information of where we are.”
“The pandemic will make movies and TV shows look like nothing we’ve seen before” via Steven Zeitchik of The Washington Post — Across the entertainment industry, casts and crew are beginning to return to work after a five-month hiatus. In states with loosened restrictions, such as Georgia and New York, production is starting to crank up under tight controls that alter how sets operate. Instead of crew members freely mingling, they’re being divided into “pods” that limit how production departments such as wardrobe or lighting can associate. COVID-19 officers monitor the health of the cast and crew to determine who is allowed on set. “Zones” dictate where cast and crew can go. These changes might seem technical, but they hint at the far-reaching effects the virus will have on final screen products.
“Goodbye to bartenders: Robots could soon make your drink” via Breanna T. Bradham of Bloomberg — While there seems to be a new video every day of maskless youth blithely partying outside (and inside) bars, many people have actually been drinking less during the pandemic. Half of Americans say they aren’t excited at all about heading back to their favorite watering hole, or any bar for that matter. Indeed, fear of enclosed spaces and sloppy, less-than-socially distanced crowds may change the drinking culture for a long time to come. It’s already threatening the future of your friendly bartender.
“For dogs, the pandemic means more walks but new anxieties” via Karin Bruilliard of The Washington Post — Just as the novel coronavirus pandemic has upended our daily lives, it has also changed those of our pets, many of which are getting a lot more attention and a lot more walks. But for many dogs and their owners, those walks have also changed: They are imbued with new anxieties, altered routines and carefully modified routes. Where once there might have been sociable butt-sniffs between canines, now there are sometimes awkward interactions between strangers who don’t share the same protocols on social distancing for dogs. Passersby are offering fewer caresses, and dog owners are more often turning down other people’s requests to pet for fear of unfamiliar hands depositing the virus on fur. Leashes are helping keep people six feet apart, but more of them on the sidewalks present new entangling hazards.
“‘We need you to make good.’ Marco Rubio, Florida officials urge Trump to help growers.” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement was supposed to be one of the Trump administration’s signature policy achievements, a trade deal to bolster Trump’s standing with voters in key swing states. But Florida’s produce industry was excluded from the deal, which went into effect on July 1, and the state’s political leaders are now urging the Trump administration to push for changes in the USMCA, three months before Election Day. In a virtual hearing on Thursday, Republicans and Democrats from Florida argued to United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that the deal must be revised to prevent Mexican growers from undercutting Florida’s produce industry.
“U.S. cancels private charter flights to Cuba” via Yvonne H. Valdez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The U.S. has suspended private charter flights between the United States and all airports in Cuba, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Thursday. The only charters allowed will be authorized public charters to and from Havana for emergency medical purposes, search and rescue, and other travel deemed to be of interest to the United States. Pompeo issued a statement Thursday saying the request is meant to “strengthen the economic pressure on the Cuban regime as a means to restrict the regime’s ability to repress its people and support the illegitimate [Nicolás] Maduro regime in Venezuela.” The Secretary of State made the request of Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, whose department issued the suspension.
“Nikki Fried, Ted Yoho warn of NAFTA, USMCA impact on Florida agriculture” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Fried testified on behalf of Florida farmers Thursday in opposition to various trade policies impacting the state’s agriculture industry. In her testimony at the United States Trade Representative hearing, Fried criticized the disruption suffered by some workers and industries under the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. She also argued Trump‘s United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement falls short of patching NAFTA’s shortcomings. The meeting was held in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Commerce. “With a $137 billion economic impact, agriculture is Florida’s second-largest industry and first during times of economic downturns like we are currently experiencing due to COVID-19,” Fried told trade experts.
Assignment editors — St. Petersburg Congressman Charlie Crist will deliver masks to Clearwater seniors and meet with Largo Mayor Woody Brown on COVID-19 relief: 10:15 a.m., Pine Berry Senior Living, 1225 S. Highland Ave., Clearwater; 10:40 a.m., Prospect Towers Senior Living, 801 Chestnut St., Clearwater; 11:30 a.m., Central Park Performing Arts Center portico (patio), 105 Central Park Dr., Largo.
— STATEWIDE —
“Florida agency downplayed Deloitte’s history with unemployment before awarding it $135m contract” via Kirby Wilson and Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — The company awarded a potential $135 million state contract doesn’t appear to have been penalized for its past work building Florida’s dysfunctional unemployment system. Neither a negative recommendation by the state’s unemployment agency nor $8 million in penalties appears to have counted against Deloitte Consulting before it was selected for the new contract, according to a review of the Agency for Health Care Administration’s bid process and the company’s applications. A critical factor that boosted Deloitte’s odds in scoring the new contract was that the bidding process the agency created for the job of overhauling the state’s Medicaid data intentionally downplayed each company’s past performance.
“Negative review didn’t doom unemployment website vendor’s bid for a new $110 million Florida contract” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s health care agency forged ahead with a deal to give a consultant a nine-figure deal to revamp its Medicaid system despite warnings from another agency that the company had bungled the state’s unemployment website. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration announced last week it intends to hire Deloitte Consulting for a multiyear project worth at least $110 million. That decision outraged laid-off workers who had spent weeks trying to get their benefits through the dysfunctional CONNECT website Deloitte designed.
“Candidate for utility job gave $50,000 to Senate committee before Senators voted for him” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — With more than $300,000 left in his political committee and only months remaining in his last term as a state legislator, Rep. Mike La Rosa wrote the largest check of his political career on July 2, steering $50,000 to the fund used to elect Republicans to the state Senate. La Rosa, a Republican from St. Cloud, is not running for the Senate but he did have other aspirations in which the Senate plays a role. On June 24, days before La Rosa wrote the hefty check, he applied for the Florida Public Service Commission, the board that regulates the state’s utilities, which pays $132,036 a year.
“Supreme Court to weigh two tobacco cases” via the News Service of Florida — For the second time this week, the Florida Supreme Court agreed to take up a potentially far-reaching case involving a verdict against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. The Supreme Court decided to hear a dispute about $5 million in punitive damages that an Orange County jury awarded to the estate of Valton Sheffield, who died in 2007 of lung cancer. The 5th District Court of Appeal last year overturned the punitive damages award, agreeing with R.J. Reynolds that a circuit judge improperly applied a pre-1999 version of a state punitive damages law to the case. Changes made to the law in 1999 could have shielded R.J. Reynolds from paying punitive damages.
“Jessee Panuccio weighs in on Supreme Court pick” via the News Service of Florida staff reports — The legal battle over one of DeSantis’ latest picks to serve on the Florida Supreme Court took another twist Thursday, with a fight over whether a member of a panel that nominated Renatha Francis for a seat on the high court should be allowed to file a friend-of-the-court brief. Thursday’s wrangling came in a lawsuit filed by state Rep. Geraldine Thompson, a Windermere Democrat who alleges that the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission “exceeded the limits of its authority” by including Francis’ name on a list of nine nominees sent to DeSantis in January. Panuccio, a member of the nominating commission who served as a general counsel to former Gov. Rick Scott, filed the friend-of-the-court brief on Thursday despite the objections of Thompson’s lawyers.
“Florida advocacy group says environmental law hurts its chance to save nature” via Zachary T. Sampson of the Tampa Bay Times — When DeSantis signed the year’s signature environmental bill into law last month, a cadre of activists said he might have effectively killed their movement just as they were gaining a toehold. Folded into the Clean Waterways Act are lines blocking local governments from giving legal rights to parts of nature such as rivers, springs and forests. A proposal like that is already set to be voted upon by residents of Orange County this fall. Unless something changes between now and November, they will cast ballots on a charter amendment that would, with a majority, be illegal as soon as it passes. Speak Up Wekiva’s last-ditch argument hinges on the idea that preemption infringes upon citizens’ ability to self-govern.
“On Rainbow River, something nearly miraculous happened: A developer listened to reason” via Craig Pittman of Florida Phoenix — The people who love the Rainbow River have been sounding the alarm about something they viewed as a major threat: a proposed development that they feared would pollute the water and put thousands more tubers into the river at a time when it’s already at or past its capacity to handle crowds. Jim Gissy wanted to use 89 acres of his riverfront ranch property to build what he called “an eco-friendly resort.” Last week, he surprised the opponents by pulling the plug. He withdrew his permit applications and announced he would not build the resort. The ranch would remain a ranch.
“Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels arrested after sex scandal investigation” via Andrew Pantazi of The Florida Times-Union — Daniels was arrested Thursday on one felony charge and three misdemeanors following a yearlong investigation into a sex scandal. The scandal became public after the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, where Daniels previously worked as the jail’s director, announced an internal investigation into a corrections officer with whom Daniels had sex. Daniels had instructed his staff to arrest the woman in May 2019 on stalking allegations, and his staff told prosecutors they didn’t feel there was just cause to arrest the woman. The woman, Cierra Smith, resigned while under investigation for misconduct claims. Prosecutors requested the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigate Daniels. The Jacksonville State Attorney’s Office, though, couldn’t move forward with prosecutions because of a conflict of interest. DeSantis appointed Ocala State Attorney Brad King as a special prosecutor.
“Bay County commissioner accused of wage theft from immigrant workers in Netflix documentary” via Tony Mixon of the NWF Daily News — Bay County Commissioner Tommy Hamm was accused of wage theft in documentary series called “Immigration Nation,” which recently began airing on the popular streaming service. In episode four, an advocacy group called Resilience Force rounded up a several Mexican workers who claimed they worked for Winterfell, the construction company that Hamm owns. During the episode, the workers claimed to Saket Soni, executive director of Resilience Force, that they worked for Hamm and displayed the vests they were given that had Winterfell displayed on them. They also claimed all the houses they worked on had the Winterfell sign and that they have not been paid by the company or Hamm.
“FSU trustees support Faculty Senate in effort to remove B.K. Roberts’ name from College of Law building” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida State University’s Board of Trustees is backing the Faculty Senate’s efforts to gain legislative support to remove the name of the late Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice B.K. Roberts from the main building of the College of Law. Trustees approved the measure without discussion during Thursday’s meeting, which was held virtually. Trustee Max Alvarez was the lone dissenter, but he did not offer a reason. The resolution was presented by FSU College of Law Professor Erin Ryan, who also serves as vice-chair of the Faculty Senate Steering Committee.
“USF police fire officer, citing racist Twitter bio” via Divya Kumar of the Tampa Bay Times — A University of South Florida police officer was fired after an investigation concluded her racist Twitter bio could harm the reputation of the police department. Presley Garcia, an officer hired in 2018, was placed under investigation in early July after a reporter contacted the police department with screenshots of the Twitter account “@presleyyyg,” which has since been deleted. The account’s bio read “KKK member.” In his letter to Human Resources, recommending the office dismiss her, USF Police Chief Chris Daniel wrote that in the current climate, Garcia’s actions, or inactions for adequately scrubbing her social media of racist language, could bring harm to the image of other officers.
“Arthenia Joyner, Jane Castor among Women’s Hall nominees” via the News Service of Florida — Former state Sen. Joyner and Tampa Mayor Castor are among 10 nominees for the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame, the Florida Commission on the Status of Women announced. Other nominees are suffragist Alice Scott Abbott; Florence Alexander, founder of the management consulting firm Ebon Research Systems; Samira Beckwith, president and CEO of Hope Healthcare; Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a gold-medal-winning Olympic swimmer and attorney; suffragist May Mann Jennings; Alma Lee Loy, the first woman elected chair of the Indian River County Commission; children’s advocate Audrey Schiebler, a founding member of the Alachua County Council on Child Abuse; and community activist E. Thelma Waters.
— TOP OPINION —
“What would a Biden administration look like?” via Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg Opinion — We shouldn’t have expected to learn much from the official rollout of Sen. Harris as former Vice President Biden’s running mate — and for the most part, we didn’t. We already knew that there would be attacks on Trump over the pandemic and the economy, and both Biden and Harris did that. No one expects Biden to be like Trump in his approach to the presidency. But his request of Harris was actually a bit more revealing. Biden is for one thing echoing his own vice presidency, since he has said that his one request of President Barack Obama in 2008 was to play the role he’s offering to Harris now: the last voice in the room. That’s a central position in any administration, even more important than the active role that vice presidents have typically assumed since Walter Mondale.
— OPINIONS —
“Appoint allies for water quality” via The St. Augustine Record editorial board — DeSantis vowed to tackle water quality and preservation on a “war footing.” It was a rallying cry to a righteous cause. But the Governor can’t go to war without generals. And his ranks are puzzlingly bare. Nowhere is that more evident than on the governing board of the St. Johns River Water Management District, where five positions — of nine — are vacant and have been for most of DeSantis’ term. That’s a problem because these boards do important work. In Volusia, Flagler and St. Johns counties, the water management district oversees much of the conservation land in the area. It’s responsible for allocating water-use permits, some of which allow the withdrawal of millions of gallons of water per day from the aquifer.
“In Broward Clerk of Courts race, reject inept incumbent Brenda Forman and elect Mark Speiser” via The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — It appears that Forman, the inept incumbent, could get reelected. She has the potency of incumbency and the political power of “Forman,” the name of the well-regarded former clerk, Howard Forman, her ex-husband. The problem is that Brenda Forman is not up to the job, which pays $179,867 a year. She supervises about 800 people, many of whom are unhappy with her management style. Shortly after she took office in January 2017, some of the office’s most skilled workers quit in disgust. Forman’s election opponents amplify the criticisms. They say her office has lost or misplaced evidence, that training is poor, that her financial statements are inconsistent and that she’s dishonest.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Gov. DeSantis hosted a roundtable discussion to talk about one person who survived COVID-19 thanks to convalescent plasma from her son-in-law.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— While he concentrated on the good news, the Governor did NOT mention the 9,046 fatalities caused by COVID-19 in Florida so far — or the 148 new cases added to the list Thursday.
— As fatalities rise in the state prison system, Democrats in the Florida Legislature renew their call for the state to release nonviolent inmates who have almost finished their sentences and are facing the greatest threat from coronavirus.
— The state teachers’ union and the DeSantis’ legal team square off as a Tallahassee judge takes up the lawsuit challenging the state’s school reopening order. The state is trying to short circuit the lawsuit by asking the judge to toss it without holding a trial
— State officials go to bat for Florida’s agriculture industry as the U.S. Trade Representative holds a public hearing about the damage to Florida seasonal growers — first by NAFTA, and now by the USMCA trade deal.
— Checking-in with Florida Man, a county sheriff who is ordering his deputies not to wear masks in the office or on patrol.
To listen, click on the image below:
— WEEKEND TV —
Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.
Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare; Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell and USF-Tampa associate professor of Africana Studies and Anthropology Cheryl Rodriguez.
Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Host Holly Gregory joins Spectrum News Capital Reporter Troy Kinsey and political analysts Ana Cruz and Berny Jacques.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Joining host Ybeth Bruzual are Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Chris Anderson; Stephanie Schriock, President of EMILY’s List; and Christian Zieglar, vice-chair of the Republican Party of Florida and 2020 Republican Convention delegate.
The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley and First Amendment Foundation Director Pamela Marsh.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Jacksonville University Public policy Institute Director Rick Mullaney; Sen. Joe Gruters, chair of the Republican Party of Florida and Rosy Gonzalez Speers, senior adviser for Down Ballot Elections at the Florida Democratic Party.
This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): South Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Carlos Migoya, CEO of the Jackson Health System.
— LISTEN UP —
Biz & Tech with Blake Dowling of Aegis Business Technology: guest Samantha Vance is the founder and Executive Director of the Ladies Learning to Lead. Vance and Dowling discuss their professional history and each other’s involvement in organizations like the Florida Health Care Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Big Bend, and (of course) Ladies Learning to Lead.
Dishonorable Mention: Rep. Chris Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, Ernest Hooper and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics and culture. Guest Ed Narain discusses Biden’s selection of Harris as his VP candidate. Maya Rudolph benefits from the selection, for sure! The hosts discuss the latest news of college football conferences canceling fall sports. Is it safe to play college football in a pandemic? They also talk about the movements started by Trevor Lawrence, KJ Sails, and other players regarding a player’s association and more.
Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida: Reporters John Kennedy, Antonio Fins and Zac Anderson discuss how Harris could impact the presidential race in Florida, the upcoming Aug. 18 primary election and DeSantis’s latest efforts to open schools, including pushing for college sports.
podcastED: Step Up for Students President Doug Tuthill speaks with Stephen Sugarman the nationally recognized Berkeley Law School professor who was the co-author of several books with his colleague and redefinED guest correspondent John Coons. In this first of a three-part series, Sugarman recalls how he got started in the education reform movement by studying district wealth inequality across the country.
REGULATED from hosts Christian Bax and Tony Glover: Charles Rutherford II is an expert on ASTM’s D37 committee on cannabis. He has more than eight years as a business development director for Boveda’s world-class products and has saved scores of cultivation and packaging facilities a lot of money. He successfully ushered through the first-ever consensus-based global cannabis standards on proper cannabis storage through ASTM and is the leader of the Cannabis Drying subgroup in the Cannabis Focus Group within the National Conference on Weights and Measures.
Tallahassee Business podcast from the Tallahassee Chamber presented by 223 Agency: Lobbyist Chris Dudley of The Southern Group has shaped outcomes at the Capitol while remaining engaged in the Tallahassee community through service as Chair of the Tallahassee Downtown Improvement Authority and as a former Board member of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce. Dudley shares various insights into the industry. After serving as Deputy Chief of Staff to Gov. Jeb Bush, Dudley made the leap into lobbying by joining The Southern Group while the firm was still in its infancy. 20 years later, The Southern Group has become a major force in the Florida government.
The New Abnormal from host Rick Wilson and Molly Jong-Fast: Kurt Andersen has been tooling on Trump for decades — the Spy magazine co-founder once even tricked Trump into cashing a check for 17 cents. Andersen tells hosts Jong-Fast and Wilson that Trump did us all a favor. He showed America just how rigged our system is in favor of the ultrarich. “His final ad [of the 2016 campaign] was all ‘Wall Street has taken all your wealth and ruined the working class. And we must defeat these people of whom my opponent is a puppet,’” Anderson recounts. “Well, yeah, you had a point. But you didn’t actually govern at all on that basis. So maybe, maybe he’s sort of put that critique of the system on the table
The Yard Sign with host Jonathan Torres: Chris Licata, Chris Verkuilen, Anibal Cabrera, and Torres talk Trump’s Executive Orders, Beirut port explosion, Biden VP pick in the upcoming primary election.
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
View this post on Instagram
The devastation taking place in #BiscayneBay is absolutely heartbreaking. Unfortunately, several @miamidadecounty Senators killed legislation last session, which could have put this vital bay on the road to recovery. They prioritized the greedy local tourism agency, @miamiandbeaches, instead of our quality of life. #FightingforFLFamilies
— ALOE —
“NBA lays out plan for player guests to enter Disney bubble” via Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press — NBA players could have some family members or close friends inside the season-restart bubble with them by the end of the month. And that raises the possibility of having a real, albeit small, cheering section for some playoff games. The league detailed the policies for guest arrivals to teams on Wednesday in a memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. The opportunity to bring guests into the bubble at Walt Disney World will be only for teams advancing to the second round of the playoffs, and the earliest any guest could satisfy quarantine rules and be reunited with a player is Aug. 31. In most cases, players would be limited to four guests.
“Disney to stream a new ‘Star Wars’ holiday special with Legos” via Lisa Richwine and Nick Zieminski of Reuters — A new “Star Wars” holiday special produced with Legos will debut on Walt Disney Co’s Disney+ streaming service Nov. 17, the company said Thursday. The special will feature Rey and other characters from the most recent “Star Wars” movie trilogy. It will take place on Chewbacca’s home planet of Kashyyyk and focus on Life Day, an important holiday in the galaxy far, far away. Life Day was first introduced in a 1978 “Star Wars” holiday variety special that was widely panned by TV audiences. In the new special, the hero Rey sets out on an adventure with the droid BB-8 and is “hurled into a cross-timeline adventure through beloved moments in Star Wars cinematic history,” Disney said.
“Amway Center may host WWE SummerSlam on Aug. 23” via Jay Reddick of the Orlando Sentinel — Amway Center may be getting its first live event in more than five months. WWE is negotiating to bring its SummerSlam pay-per-view event to Orlando on Aug. 23, a city spokeswoman said. Though no fans would be allowed inside, it would bring life to an arena that has been dormant since a Billie Eilish concert on March 10. Just days later, the pandemic put an end to most public gatherings of any size. The wrestling promotion, whose last public live event was March 11 with a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of about 400 fans at the company’s training facility in east Orlando, has continued to stage wrestling shows multiple times per week during the pandemic, largely on a closed set, and was declared an “essential business” by DeSantis in April.
“New Florida film industry leader thinks showbiz can give state’s lagging economy a boost” via Gina Jordan of WLRN — Film and TV productions shut down around the country as COVID-19 spread. Film Florida, a not-for-profit trade association, has a new president who thinks shows biz productions could be a major part of Florida’s economic recovery. “When an average feature film or TV series films in a location, they spend roughly $20 million in the local community in just 3 or 4 months while hiring approximately 1,500 Floridians,” says Gail Morgan, new president of the Film Florida Board of Directors. She says Florida is losing too many productions to Georgia and other states that offer incentives, like tax rebates. “Florida is only one of 17 states in America that doesn’t have a program, and it’s the only state in the southeast without a program which puts us at a major competitive disadvantage.”
“Brown booby seabird makes first-ever stop at Current River” via Wes Johnson of the Springfield News-Leader — An ocean-dwelling seabird more common to Florida and South America made an unusual stop recently on the Current River in Ripley County. The Missouri Department of Conservation believes it’s the first recorded instance of a brown booby stopping in Missouri. The bird was first spotted by Debbie Prance-Orosz this past Saturday while she and her family were out enjoying the river. Not knowing what the bird was, she snapped a photo and posted it to her Facebook page. “We first got word of it after it was posted to Facebook this past weekend wondering what it was,” said MDC Forester and avid birder Steve Paes. “We didn’t know where it was, other than somewhere on the Current River. After asking around, I got a tip on its location. On Monday, I set out on the river with Cindy Bridges with the Missouri Birding Society and we eventually found it perched on a dead tree.”
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to former Sen. Joe Abruzzo, John Konkus, Sean Miles, and Meredith Stanfield.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.