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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.10.20

Don’t miss your first look at stories driving today’s agenda in Florida politics.

After more than a decade of experience as a state government communications director, Jenn Meale Poggie is joining Sachs Media Group as senior account manager of public affairs.

In that time, Poggie has held senior roles in the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. But since former Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam left office, Poggie has taken time off to get married and grow her family.

Congrats to Jenn Meale Poggie, who is joining Sachs Media Group as senior account manager of public affairs.

Now, she is making her first foray into the private sector for Sachs Media, a Tallahassee-based public relations firm.

“Jenn is an exemplary talent whose vast, respected experience and diverse skills deepen our leadership bench with outstanding strategic thinking, a powerful network of relationships, and proven communications skills,” said Sachs Media Group Founder and CEO Ron Sachs. “Her top-level background makes her a very strong, major addition to our team.”

Poggie brings experience in national media relations, crisis communications and public safety initiatives.

“Jenn will play a key role in leading significant accounts that involve statewide outreach, important public policy issues, and insider knowledge of state government,” said Michelle Ubben, president and partner at Sachs Media. “We run on talent, so it’s exciting to welcome a superb professional like Jenn to our great team.”

Poggie is making the transition to public relations amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted business operations everywhere. But she isn’t deterred by the new normal, and with her years in state government, she has already built relationships with much of the company’s leadership team.

“I am thrilled to be joining the high-caliber, talented team at Sachs Media,” she said. “During the course of my career, I have seen firsthand how the firm’s effective strategic campaigns have advanced positive public policy, changed public behavior and achieved its clients’ vital missions.”

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More great news for our friends at Sachs Media Group:

 

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@Geraldo Rivera: There are reasons to vote against @realDonaldTrump. If he loses though, I’ll blame Republican traitors.

@MarcoRubio: 82% of #COVID19 deaths in #Florida were people over 65, about half of who were residents or staff of nursing & long-term care facilities. So then why don’t we make it our singular priority to protect people over 65, especially those in nursing & long-term care facilities?

@RobertMaguire_: Social media from friends and family in Taiwan — which acted quickly to address the pandemic and has only seen SEVEN deaths — is like looking at an alternate universe: Maskless friends snap dinner pics at packed restaurants, parents pick their kids up at schools that never closed …

@Golikehellmachiwhen unemployed Floridians don’t see any of T the moon rump’s unemployment money (setting aside whether it materializes at all), who throws who under the bus first? Trump, or [Ron] DeSantis?

Tweet, tweet:

 

Tweet, tweet:

 

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— DAYS UNTIL —

Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 8; Florida Bar exams begin online (rescheduled) — 9; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 9; Regal Cinemas reopen in U.S. — 11; Indy 500 rescheduled — 13; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 14; NBA draft lottery — 15; Rev. Al Sharpton’s D.C. March — 19; U.S. Open begins — 21; Christopher Nolan‘s “Tenet” rescheduled premiere in U.S. — 24; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 26; Rescheduled date for French Open — 41; First presidential debate in Indiana — 50; “Wonder Woman” premieres — 53; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 54; Ashley Moody’s 2020 Human Trafficking Summit — 57; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 58; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 63; Second presidential debate scheduled at Miami — 66; NBA draft — 67; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 67; NBA free agency — 70; Florida Chamber’s Future of Florida Forum — 71; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 73; 2020 General Election — 85; “Black Widow” premieres — 89; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 91; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 102; “No Time to Die” premieres — 102; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 115; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 181; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 193; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 326; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 347; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 355; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 452; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 550; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 592; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 634; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 787.

— COUNTDOWN TO PRIMARY 1 —

Candidates spend big in CD 15 as Ross Spano faces opposition from both sides” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Candidates in Florida’s 15th Congressional District spent big in July as the push toward the Aug. 18 primary shifted into full gear. All but one candidate dipped into six-figure spending throughout the month. Democratic Jesse Philippe hasn’t filed financial reports for the month, missing the Aug. 6 deadline to do so. As of June 30, the most recent report available for the candidate, Philippe had raised less than $16,000, meaning his July report likely didn’t show the aggressive spending represented in the more competitive candidates’ reports. The race is one of Florida’s most hotly contested, with candidates from both parties going hard after Spano, whose campaign finance snafu in 2028 continues to haunt him as he wards off what has become a more difficult first reelection campaign than it should have been. Spano drew a primary opponent in Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin.

Ross Spano faces aggressive attacks from both sides.

Pam Keith ad says Brian Mast ‘betrayed’ CD 18 voters” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Keith is releasing her first TV ad targeting Mast as Keith seeks his seat in Florida’s 18th Congressional District Keith is competing against lawyer Oz Vazquez for the Democratic nomination. Mast is also facing a primary challenge from retired police sergeant Nick Vessio. Keith’s new 30-second ad is titled “Betrayed” and launched with fewer than two weeks remaining until the Aug. 18 primary. “Donald Trump lied, calling COVID a hoax. Mast was silent,” the ad’s narrator begins. It should be noted fact-checkers have ruled Trump did not call COVID-19 a hoax. Rather, he used the phrase in response to Democrats’ efforts to pin the blame for the virus on him. Trump called those efforts to blame him for the virus’s spread a “hoax.”

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

 

—“Mast nears $4M raised in CD 18 reelection bid” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Laura Loomer crosses $1M raised ahead of CD 21 primary” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Loomer added another $216,000 to her campaign ahead of the Aug. 18 primary for Florida’s 21st Congressional District. That haul puts her over $1 million raised for the cycle so far. Loomer is largely raising that money from pricey fundraising services. Much of her incoming cash has been sent right back out to pay for fees associated with those various services. For instance, around a third of Loomer’s pre-primary haul — nearly $70,000 — was spent on “email fundraising fees,” “online fundraising fees” and other similar charges to help the insurgent candidate raise money. Loomer also paid more than $59,000 to the Fort Lauderdale-based firm Voter Infusion for text messaging. Nearly $12,000 went toward a company called The Blackout Bureau for similar services.

—“Scott Caine gives Bill Posey a run for his money in CD 8” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

—“3 Dems in race to flip CD 15 seat” via Gary White of The Ledger of Lakeland

—“Jen Perelman takes on party and principle in primary bid” via Spencer Fordin of Florida Politics

—“Sheldon Adelson maxes out contributions to Carlos Giménez in CD 26” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Assignment editorsKat Cammack meets voters at an early voting location, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., Millhopper Library, 3145 NW 43rd St, Gainesville.

— COUNTDOWN TO PRIMARY 2 —

—“Republican Marva Preston builds war chest in SD 3” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

This is over the top — “Shady tactics suggest GOP is scared it picked a loser in Jason Brodeur” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — A secretive political committee with GOP connections is spending big bucks to support a Democratic candidate in Seminole County. Perhaps that sentence confused you since it said a Republican-linked firm was supporting a Democrat. If it did, that’s probably because you’re a normal person who doesn’t immerse yourself in the skankiness of Florida politics. Republicans are worried that their chosen candidate in a key state Senate race is going to lose. So they’re trying to take down a promising Democrat before she has a chance to take out their guy. Brodeur voted in 2011 to create the failed unemployment system. He was named Florida’s biggest recipient of money from opioid-makers in 2018. And he made national headlines when he filed a dangerously bad bill that attempted to imprison doctors who discussed gun safety with their patients.

Does the GOP think they have a loser in Jason Brodeur? It’s a stretch.

Irv Slosberg has now spent more than $1 million of his own money in bid for SD 29 seat” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Slosberg is spending big once again, as he’s now dropped more than $1 million in his bid to secure a Senate seat as the Aug. 18 primary closes in. That spending spree has come in just over two months, as Slosberg declared for the seat in late May. Slosberg is competing against Rep. Tina Polsky in Senate District 29. He added another $335,000 in loans to his campaign in the most recent reporting period, which covered July 25-31. Slosberg also spent nearly $234,000 during that same span. In the previous reporting period, Slosberg barely added any money, allowing Polsky to easily top him in fundraising. Slosberg has largely self-funded his campaign, raising only $42,000 in outside money since launching his campaign. Polsky collected more than $58,000 in the most recent one-week reporting period alone.

Anna Eskamani seeks to oust fellow House Democrats that lack ’basic Democratic values’” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — An Orlando Democrat who’s become an icon among the left-wing core of the party amid buzz about her running for governor in 2022 is breaking an unwritten rule and endorsing three challengers to fellow Democratic House incumbents. She says she’s doing it not as part of an ideological struggle within the party but to rid the Florida House Democratic caucus of members who voted with Republicans on abortion and school choice bills, or made anti-LGBTQ remarks. “It’s about ethical leadership and basic Democratic values,” Eskamani said.

Michele Rayner grows cash lead in HD 70 race to replace Wengay Newton” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Rayner leads the House District 70 race by far in both overall funds raised and cash on hand, according to the latest campaign finance reports filed with the Florida Division of Elections. Rayner is running against three other Democrats in the race to replace Newton who is not seeking reelection to run instead for Pinellas County Commission. Rayner has raised nearly $97,000 to date including $12,020 in the last week of July. It was Rayner’s second-best fundraising period to date behind March when she first filed for the race and raised more than $20,000. However, that period covered nearly a month while the most recent report spanned just seven days. Rayner maintains just shy of $20,000 on hand heading into August. Rayner’s contributions show broad support with 52 individual contributors donating $231 on average. Rayner spent more than $15,000 during the week, most of that to Statecraft Digital in Orlando for digital advertising.

Adam Botana holds 16-point lead on Jason Maughan in HD 76” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The latest polling shows Botana with a double-digit lead on Maughan in a Southwest Florida House primary. A St. Pete Polls survey of likely Republican voters in House District 76 found nearly 35% would vote for Botana is the primary were held today. Just over 19% would pick Maughan. Pollsters report a 5.6% margin of error. That’s after both sides have pumped more than $300,000 into a race, selling their business background and loyalty to Trump — and on publicizing the other candidates’ arrest records. With more than 46% of voters still undecided, there’s still room for Maughan to catch up, but time is running out before the Aug. 18 primary.

Kevin Rader: Sorry, Michael Weinstein — Kelly Skidmore has stronger ties to HD 81; you should apologize, not attack her supporters” via Florida Politics — Last week, Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon rightly observed that Weinstein portrayed sexist double-standards when he attacked Skidmore as a “career politician” for serving four years in the Florida House while commending men like his father for serving 14 years in the Florida Senate and many years as chief judge in Broward. Weinstein was infuriated by Gannon’s editorial and quickly trotted out the Ted Yoho-esque “some of my best friends are women” defense in a column of his own, pointing to his mother and wife. This defense just added to the insult. I have heard from many women who wholeheartedly agreed with Gannon, and having served many years in public office myself, know better than to suggest that it is not all right for women to pursue the same.

Michael Weinstein is accused of having a sexist double standard about ‘career politicians.’ Image via Facebook.

Florida Keys state House race turns ugly with attack mailers and texts” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — Rhonda Rebman Lopez’s campaign is denying it is behind a series of mailers attacking both her opponent for the District 120 state House election and a candidate for a county commission seat in the Florida Keys. However, at least one of the mailers targeting James “Jim” Mooney, one of Rebman Lopez’s two opponents running in the GOP primary, was sent by South Florida First, a political action committee. She is registered with the state as chairperson. The others were sent by an electioneering communication office called Voters Response, which shares the same street address in Tallahassee as South Florida First. One of the mailers, asks, “Who is the real Jim Mooney?” Then it ticks down three other questions. The first, bulleted with the Soviet hammer and sickle, asks: “Communist Sympathizer?” The others ask: “Fiscally Irresponsible?” and “Tax and Spend Liberal?”

—“Dollars pile up in congested HD 4 Republican primary” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics

—”Michele Rayner grows cash lead in HD 70 race to replace Wengay Newton” via Janelle Irwin of Florida Politics

— DOWN BALLOT —

Amy Mercado blasts Rick Singh over ‘Hispanic female’ comment” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Mercado called on Orange County Property Appraiser Singh to apologize for comments he made implying she was picked to run against him because she is a “Hispanic female.” Singh refused, and called Mercado’s concerns a “bogus issue.” In an interview published Monday in the Orlando Sentinel, Singh said Mercado, who along with Khalid Muneer is challenging Singh in the Aug. 18 Democratic primary, was recruited by business interests tied to Disney because of her gender and ethnicity. “They went out and found someone with a larger name ID” than another one of his 2020 opponents who dropped out, Yesinia Baron, “and of course a Hispanic female, [because] they’re targeting minority Democratic women,” Singh said.

Amy Mercado is calling out Rick Singh for a racially insensitive comment.

Bay County judge candidate says incumbent violated rules when using the state seal” via Jacqueline Bostick of the Panama City News Herald — A candidate running for Bay County Judge Group 1 said he has filed complaints with the state after noticing incumbent Judge Tim Campbell used the Florida seal in his re-election campaign. ‘He’s breaking code for using the great Seal of Florida in a campaign,'” Crawford said in an interview last week. ‘Either he didn’t know the law, or didn’t care about the law and wanted to use it anyway. It’s not acceptable for a judge,’ he added later.”

Big developers bundle campaign cash for commission incumbents” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Prominent developers, builders and real estate people well known for bundling campaign donations for their favorite candidates are throwing considerable financial support behind two Tallahassee city commissioners facing tough primary competition. The Commissioners, Elaine Bryant and Curtis Richardson, are running in the Aug. 18 primary. Bryant, who was appointed in 2018, is locked in what appears to be a close contest with challenger Jack Porter. Prominent developers, builders and real estate people well known for bundling campaign donations for their favorite candidates are throwing considerable financial support behind two Tallahassee city commissioners facing tough primary competition. The most prolific donors can get around the limits easily by giving through multiple corporate entities, a perfectly legal practice that irks proponents of campaign finance reform.

Lee Sheriff Carmine Marceno running on record, leadership; opponents say he’s not qualified” via Ryan Mills of the Fort Myers News-Press — Marceno, 48, is now running his first campaign, facing off in the Aug. 18 Republican primary against Jim Leavens, a 30-year veteran of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. The winner will likely be the favorite in November’s general election against Democrat Robert Neeld and two candidates without party affiliation, Carmen McKinney and Coach Ray. Marceno is approaching Election Day with several advantages — name recognition, a decreasing crime rate, a flush bank account and key endorsements, including the Mayors of Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Sanibel. Marceno’s critics say he doesn’t have the experience to be sheriff — he was never a detective, never led a district or a specialty bureau and had little command experience before he was appointed sheriff. 

Miami-Dade judicial candidate Joe Perkins misrepresents editorial board’s intent” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Perkins, a candidate in the race for Miami-Dade District Court, Group 55, has twisted our words in an email ad sent to Miami-Dade voters. Perkins’s ad is right: He “did not get the endorsement” from the Miami Herald. And he’s correct that our recommendation said that “he would be a judge favored by attorneys, prosecutors and public defenders.” But he takes those words out of context, presenting them as a compliment when our complete paragraph made clear that it was not meant as praise. The ad’s offending sentence: “We are grateful for this recognition of our broad and diverse support …” Our concern [was] that defendants and others in the court system would come in second in his courtroom.

Joe Perkins takes a Miami Herald non-endorsement completely out of context. Image via Twitter.

Republican newcomers face off in primary race seeking to replace Collier Commissioner Donna Fiala” via Patrick Riley of the Naples Daily News — Three Republicans — Mark Batchelor, William Douglass and Rick LoCastro — are facing off in the Aug. 18 primary election. The winner is set to go head-to-head with Democrat John Jenkins at the Nov. 3 general election. Jenkins recently faced calls from his own party to drop out of the race after his arrest in connection with a drug-related charge. His campaign coordinator has said she is confident that after the investigation the charges against Jenkins will be dropped or dismissed. As of Friday morning, he remained in the running. Two other Republican candidates are no longer in the race: Cliff Donenfeld did not qualify and Jacob Winge dropped out in May, citing the difficulties of running a campaign during a pandemic.

Growth, development shape race for sprawling, rural Collier Commission District 5” via Patrick Riley of the Naples Daily News — In Collier County’s largest commission district by area, where builders plan rural communities and environmentalists worry about preserving wildlife habitat and wetlands, growth and development issues frequently bubble up. The topic is helping shape the race for District 5 and four candidates are vying to represent the vast area. Commissioner Bill McDaniel, a Republican, has held the seat since he was elected in 2016 and now faces Republican challenger Mike Petscher in the Aug. 18 primary. The winner of that contest will go up against Raymond Christopher, who switched from running as a Republican to no party affiliation, and Democrat David Turrubiartez Jr. in the general election Nov. 3.

Another election, another chance for write-in candidates to disenfranchise Florida voters” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — If you ever wondered what it feels like to single-handedly deny tens of thousands of people the ability to cast a vote, just ask Janette Martinez. She’s one of this year’s poster children for why Florida needs to reform the rules for write-in candidates, who have the state’s permission to legally disenfranchise voters nearly every election cycle. Martinez is running for Osceola County Commission as a write-in candidate in a district that covers the northwest part of the county. It’s the same district where her friend, incumbent Commissioner Peggy Choudhry, is running in a primary against two other Democrats. But because Martinez qualified as a write-in candidate for the general election this fall, that disqualified the majority of voters in Osceola, including more than 50,000 Republicans and 76,000 independents, from casting a ballot, closing what otherwise should have been an open primary for all voters.

—”Cash pouring in for Monique Worrell’s State Attorney campaign” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

— 2020 — 

History professor who has accurately predicted every election since 1984 says Donald Trump will lose” via Allison Gordon of CNN — History professor Allan Lichtman has correctly predicted the winner of each presidential race since Ronald Reagan‘s reelection victory in 1984 using his “13 keys” system. Now, Lichtman and his “13 keys” are ready to call 2020. In an interview, Lichtman was definitive in his answer: “The keys predict that Donald Trump will lose the White House this year.” “The secret is keeping your eye on the big picture of incumbent strength and performance. And don’t pay any attention to the polls, the pundits, the day-to-day ups and downs of the campaign. And that’s what the keys gauge. The big picture,” Lichtman explained. When asked if the key model could account for something as cataclysmic as the COVID-19 pandemic, Lichtman remained confident.

History professor Allan Lichtman has correctly predicted every election since Ronald Reagan. He believes Donald Trump will lose in 2020.

Ahead of Florida bus tour, Corey Lewandowski talks Trump reelection strategy” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida politics — Lewandowski will be on a three-day journey starting in Kissimmee and Orlando with former Attorney General and current Ballard Partners lobbyist Pam Bondi, former Never-Trumper and current Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez and Eric Trump. In 2016, Lewandowski said Trump capitalized on an element of surprise. Democrats “never believed Donald Trump was running for President.” The President outworked the Democrats with rallies galore. This time around? It’s a rally-free environment due to the pandemic, creating unique challenges for a President who relied on rallies as the energy in 2016. The change of campaign managers was an organic process, he said. The President, meanwhile, has a “promises made, promises kept” record to run on.

Trump antagonizes GOP megadonor Adelson in heated phone call” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — When Trump connected by phone last week with Adelson, perhaps the only person in the party who can cut a nine-figure check to aid his reelection, the phone call unexpectedly turned contentious. The 87-year-old casino mogul had reached out to Trump to talk about the coronavirus relief bill and the economy. But then Trump brought the conversation around to the campaign and confronted Adelson about why he wasn’t doing more to bolster his reelection. One of the people said it was apparent the president had no idea how much Adelson, who’s donated tens of millions of dollars to pro-Trump efforts over the years, had helped him. Adelson chose not to come back at Trump.

Joe Biden campaign, women’s groups are working to blunt sexist attacks on his vice presidential pick” via Annie Linskey and Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post — The all-hands-on-deck approach within the Biden campaign is being separately bolstered by some of the country’s leading women’s groups, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, EMILY’s List, She the People and UltraViolet, who have been strategizing for months about how to best defend Biden’s vice-presidential pick from sexist and racist insults. Even before the nominee is named, some being considered by Biden are beginning to face the same sorts of attacks, playing on negative stereotypes, that the campaign and independent groups have vowed to confront. The posture by Biden’s campaign and women’s groups is meant to be far more aggressive than the way gender attacks were dealt with in 2016.

Joe Biden’s campaign and women’s groups are preparing for sexist attacks on his eventual vice-presidential pick. Image via AP.

The wallets of Wall Street are with Joe Biden, if not the hearts” via The New York Times — As Wall Street donors arrived at a fund-raiser for Biden. at a Midtown Manhattan restaurant, campaign staff members asked if they wanted to sign up for pictures with the candidate. More than a few of the bankers and private-equity investors politely declined, opting to mingle over glasses of wine instead. It was Feb. 13, and Biden had just been thrashed in the New Hampshire primary after finishing poorly in the Iowa caucuses but planned to “play my heart out to the very end,” executive Jon Gray recalled. And finance executives have played a critical role in helping him do it.

New registration numbers show GOP gains” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida has nearly 14 million registered voters, an increase of just over a million since the last presidential election, and the latest statistics seem to favor the Republicans. Not necessarily home Trump, though. Depending on turnout the narrowing of the partisan gap between the two parties should augur well for down-ballot races, at the legislative and county levels. That’s significant in the long term because maintaining Republican control of the Florida House and Senate, or maybe increasing GOP strength, will be important in redrawing legislative and congressional district boundaries in the coming term. What’s a little surprising in the raw data is that the Republicans gained 377,196 voters since the 2016 general election, while the Democrats picked up 290,181.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida’s coronavirus stats dip: 77 deaths, 6,229 new cases” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — That compares to 187 new deaths and 8,502 confirmed cases reported Saturday. Still, the average number of deaths reported over the last seven days is 158. And the number of hospitalizations due to the virus crept up slightly. The state reported 6,857 patients treated in hospitals because of the virus, compared to 6,836 the day before. Miami-Dade County had the most hospitalizations with 1,510, followed by Broward County with 909.

Many who have died of COVID-19 in Florida’s prisons were eligible for parole” via Grace Toohey of the Orlando Sentinel — When Florida’s parole board reviewed his case in late 2018, it had been decades since Stephen “Steve” Maxwell last resembled the “bad boy” sentenced to prison for a crime spree in the 1970s, his longtime friend Nancy Watson said. Maxwell was eligible for parole on robbery, battery and kidnapping charges. The state Commission on Offender Review decided not to grant it at the time but indicated he would likely be released this December. Instead, Maxwell, 68, died in April from complications of COVID-19 at Sumter Correctional Institution in Bushnell. There are at least 13 cases in addition to Maxwell’s in which the inmate had been eligible for parole upon their passing.

‘It ain’t the flu’: Rep. Randy Fine released after COVID-19 hospitalization” via Tyler Vazquez of Florida Today — Fine was released from the hospital after a five-day stay related to severe COVID-19 symptoms and lung damage. Fine tested positive for the novel coronavirus and experienced somewhat mild symptoms for nearly two weeks before being hospitalized. In a Facebook live broadcast Friday, he expressed deep gratitude for the “miracle workers” at Holmes Regional Medical Center who he credits with saving his life since he was admitted to the hospital Sunday. “They don’t get to social distance. They come right over to you,” he said of the health care workers who helped him pull through the worst of the disease. “I had sort of COVID pneumonia that’s not regular pneumonia covering 30% of my lungs,” Fine said. “My blood oxygen was critically low apparently.”

Randy Fine, recovering from COVID-19, says it is definitely not “the flu.”

This Florida lawmaker tried donating plasma after getting COVID-19. FDA policy turned him away.” via Samantha J. Gross of the Tampa Bay Times — Rep. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat currently running for the state Senate, says he was turned away Friday while attempting to donate his plasma at a OneBlood truck set up in the parking lot of the Pembroke Park church where his father’s a pastor. Jones, who went to donate plasma with his father, mother and brother, all of whom recently recovered from COVID-19, said his donation was “deferred” after he answered “yes” to a screening question that asked if he had sex with a man in the last three months. Jones is one of Florida’s few openly gay lawmakers. The question is part of a Food and Drug Administration rule called the Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM) policy, which generally bars gay or bisexual men from donating blood for a 12-month period. The FDA implemented a new rule in April that reduced the period from 12 to three months of abstinence before a gay or bisexual man can donate.

— BACK TO SCHOOL? —

Amid controversy and worry, Orange County schools start academic year Monday” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County’s public school students return to classes Monday, the first in Central Florida to usher in a school year that will be marked by required face masks, deep teacher unease and reliance on online education in the face of COVID-19. Orange’s students will start the year at home, turning on their laptops to log in to live, online classes, following the same “bell schedule” used on campus. Nearly 30% have signed up to shift to in-person classes on Aug. 21, when Orange campuses open for students. The rest will continue to study online. The academic year will start in Orange as teachers, and their unions, argue statewide that schools should not be opening at all, given the number of coronavirus cases in Florida. Three lawsuits, two filed in Orange, challenge the state’s efforts to compel public schools to open this month.

Orange County schools will soon open amid uncertainty and unease by students and teachers. Image via AP.

Department of Health not giving schools guidance puts Duval in ‘double bind situation‘” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — When the Florida Department of Education ordered state schools to reopen this fall, it was presented to superintendents as a choice: brick-and-mortar five-days-per-week or coordinate with your local department of health But a new review revealed that a directive from DeSantis‘ administration suppressed county health directors’ ability to advise school districts about remaining closed or reopening during a pandemic. Jacksonville is no exception. “I have been transparent,” Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Diana Greene said on Tuesday at a school board meeting. “I said, ‘we haven’t been getting any direction from DOH [the Duval County Department of Health].'” It was at that meeting the school board voted to send a formal letter to the Duval County Department of Health, requesting guidance. And they’re not the only school district still waiting for feedback.

Most Hillsborough voters don’t want kids to return to schools yet” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — A majority of Hillsborough County voters don’t think it’s safe to send kids back to school in-person Aug. 24 and even more believe students should return to e-learning until COVID-19 is under control. A survey found 57% of voters polled don’t feel it’s safe for children to return to school in-person yet with only 33% believing it is safe; 10% were unsure. The disparity is even larger among respondents asked whether they think students should stay home and participate in e-learning until COVID-19 numbers improve. More than 60% of respondents said they should stay home while less than 32% said they should not. Only 8% were unsure. The difference in support for kids using e-learning compared to whether respondents think school is safe appears to come down to the number of unsure respondents, which indicates some would rather err on the side of caution than send kids into a potentially dangerous situation.

Florida teacher posts own obituary on Facebook prior to returning to school” via Stacy Shanks of Click Orlando — A Florida teacher wrote and posted her own obituary on Facebook on Tuesday as the reopening of schools draws closers. Whitney Reddick, a teacher with Jacksonville public schools, told Action News Jax the social media post was “her way of protesting the reopening of schools with brick and mortar education.” Reddick is one of the thousands of Florida teachers returning to the classroom soon and told Action News Jax, “she does not believe it is safe for teachers to do so, and would rather see a 100% virtual start in Duval County.”

— CORONA LOCAL —

More than numbers on the COVID front line in Jacksonville” via Mark Woods of the Florida Times-Union — As director of critical care for Baptist Health, Jennifer Fulton isn’t just on the front line of dealing with the pandemic. She’s one of the people involved in setting up that front line at five area Baptist hospitals. At the time, she sounded upbeat. Fulton, 43, grew up in New York. Before we caught up again last week, she mentioned that the ICU had been busy. When she found a few minutes to get on the phone, she sounded different. At times, her voice cracked. She sounded weary. They all are, she said. “It’s not just me,” she said. “It’s our nursing staff. When we put our heart and soul into trying to save these patients and then they pass away …”

The stress of COVID-19 is starting to show in front-line workers like Dr. Jennifer Fulton.

Gym owner arrested again for violating Broward COVID-19 rules” via Wayne Roustan of the South Florida Sun Sentinel — For the third time in two weeks, a Plantation gym owner has been arrested for not requiring customers to wear masks in accordance with Broward County’s emergency order to combat COVID-19. Michael Ryan Carnevale, 31, owns the Fitness1440 Plantation gym. He was arrested July 27 for failing to meet the list of safety requirements outlined in the county’s order. Carnevale was arrested again Thursday and the gym was shut down. He was released from the Broward County Jail Friday and reopened his gym in the parking lot. He was arrested hours later, with his wife, Jillian, because patrons were not wearing masks.

She caught COVID caring for others. She’ll survive a grueling recovery. Her hands may not” via Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald — Rosa Felipe was one of the first health care workers tending to the sick on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic to contract COVID-19. That was in early March, just before she was hooked to a ventilator, when she gasped to a friend, “I’m drowning.” Felipe is on the verge of going home. She is a survivor among the 573 Jackson employees who have tested positive; three of their co-workers died. But in her case, one of the most severe at Miami-Dade’s public hospital and the largest medical center in the state, the bargain for beating the disease is especially cruel. She expects to lose her hands and the career she loved.

— MORE LOCAL —

One of Florida’s biggest disparities: How coronavirus spread in Pinellas’ Black community” via Ian Hodgson of the Tampa Bay Times — In Pinellas, Black residents are 2.5 times as likely to contract the coronavirus than white residents, state data shows. That’s one of the largest disparities in Florida. Among the 12 counties with over 500,000 people, only Duval has a similar gap. The infections are centered in a handful of neighborhoods on the south side of St. Petersburg, where most of the city’s Black residents live. There’s no one clear reason why the virus has spread so quickly among Pinellas’ Black residents. But experts and community leaders like Jabaar Edmond point to a history of systemic neglect and failure on the part of state and local government that has left Black residents in jobs that expose them to the virus.

’Isolation has taken its toll:’ COVID puts older adults at greater risk for anxiety, depression” via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel — Some days it’s hard to tell who is suffering more from the isolation brought by the COVID-19 pandemic — Bill Warren, a 98-year-old World War II veteran who hasn’t been allowed visitors at his Winter Park nursing home for nearly five months, or his 64-year-old daughter waiting in agony as she watches his emotional health deteriorate from afar. “This isolation has taken its toll on him,” said Linda Warren, who has tried to keep in touch with her father, a retired engineer, by “visiting” from outside a window or reading to him via Amazon’s Alexa. “I can see more and more confusion and depression setting in.”

Isolation is taking a toll on seniors’ health and well-being, something that can’t be fixed with a Zoom call. 

‘It’s hard burying three people in one week’: Pensacola family reflects on loved ones lost to COVID-19” via Jake Newby of the Pensacola News Journal — In the face of unthinkable tragedy, a Pensacola family is responding with unimaginable strength. Granddaughters Shanaita Kirkland and Rakisha Collins lost their grandmother and two uncles in a span of five days this summer when Voncile Rich, Sylvester Rich and Arthur Rich all died of COVID-19 complications between July 29 and Aug. 2. The family said their newfound commitment to weekly Sunday get-togethers will start this weekend, one day after the funerals. They plan to keep their relatives’ memories alive while taking every precaution possible. Kirkland and Collins said they now know all too well how deadly the virus can be, and they implored the public to take it seriously.

Six months after it was created, COVID-19 phone line stays hot in Okaloosa County” via Tony Judnich of the NWF Daily News — Almost half a year after it was established, the Florida Department of Health-Okaloosa County COVID-19 information line continues to buzz along with hundreds of calls per day. From 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, county residents, visitors and the general public can call the line at 1-850-344-0566 for answers to questions about the disease and details on testing sites and test results. The call center for the information line was established in March, at the onset of the coronavirus crisis. “It varies, but we can get anywhere from 300 to 700 calls a day,” Allison McDaniel, state DOH-Okaloosa County public information officer, said Friday. “It’s been pretty steady in the hundreds” each day since the center began operating. So far, most callers have called to schedule a test for COVID-19 or find out the next scheduled testing date.

— “COVID-19 stalls dozens of Treasure Coast murder prosecutions as jury trials put on hold” via Melissa E. Holsman of by Treasure Coast Newspapers

 

— CORONA NATION —

U.S. tops 5 million confirmed virus cases, to Europe’s alarm” via Nicole Winfield and Lisa Marie Pane of The Associated Press — With confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. hitting 5 million Sunday, by far the highest of any country, the failure of the most powerful nation in the world to contain the scourge has been met with astonishment and alarm in Europe. Perhaps nowhere outside the U.S. is America’s bungled virus response viewed with more consternation than in Italy, which was ground zero of Europe’s epidemic. Italians were unprepared when the outbreak exploded in February, and the country still has one of the world’s highest official death tolls at 35,000. But after a strict nationwide, 10-week lockdown, vigilant tracing of new clusters and general acceptance of mask mandates and social distancing, Italy has become a model of virus containment. Much of the incredulity in Europe stems from the fact that America had the benefit of time, European experience and medical know-how to treat the virus that the continent itself didn’t have when the first COVID-19 patients started filling intensive care units.

A sign informs customers at the Edison Hotel restaurant about wearing a protective face mask during the coronavirus pandemic along Ocean Drive in Miami Beach. Image via AP.

Trump attempts to wrest tax and spending powers from Congress with new executive actions” via Jeff Stein, Erica Werner and Renae Merle of The Washington Post — Trump on Saturday attempted to bypass Congress and make dramatic changes to tax and spending policy, signing executive actions that challenge the boundaries of power that separate the White House and Capitol Hill. At a news event in Bedminster, N.J., Trump said the actions would provide economic relief to millions of Americans by deferring taxes and, he said, providing temporary unemployment benefits. The measures would attempt to wrest away some of Congress’ most fundamental, constitutionally mandated powers tax and spending policy. Trump acknowledged that some of the actions could be challenged in court but indicated he would persevere. The White House and Democrats have clashed for weeks about what to do with the $600 enhanced weekly unemployment benefit that expired at the end of July.

— “Criticism and constitutional issues greet Trump’s executive orders” via Nolan McCaskill of POLITICO 

Trump’s go-it-alone stimulus won’t do much to lift the recovery” via Jim Tankersley of The New York Times — The executive actions Trump took on Saturday were pitched as a unilateral jolt for an ailing economy. But there is only one group of workers that seems guaranteed to benefit from them, at least right away: lawyers. Trump’s measures include an eviction moratorium, a new benefit to supplement unemployment assistance for workers, and a temporary delay in payroll tax liability for low- and middle-income workers. They could give renters a break and ease payments for some student loan borrowers. Even conservative groups have warned that suspending payroll tax collections is unlikely to translate into more money for workers. Trump’s own aides concede the orders will not provide any aid to small businesses, state and local governments or low- and middle-income workers.

Shortages threaten Trump’s plan for rapid coronavirus tests” via David Lim and Rachel Roubein of POLITICO — The Trump administration is gambling that a new generation of fast, cheap coronavirus tests can bring the U.S. outbreak under control. The challenge now is getting enough of these tests to pursue that strategy. The rapid antigen tests, which hunt for proteins on the virus’ surface, give results in less than 30 minutes. They are less accurate than lab tests now in widespread use, which detects the virus’s genetic material and takes hours to analyze. Getting more test results in a matter of minutes, rather than days, could help public health agencies move faster to quarantine the sick and trace their contacts. Nursing homes have been told it could be months before antigen tests are available in sufficient numbers. And states, which have spent months scrambling for protective equipment and testing supplies on the open market, are now competing for the tests. Other rapid tests on the market are still hard to come by.

Health care workers at a coronavirus testing site. Shortages are hamstringing the search for a rapid COVID-19 test. Image via AP.

Federal spending on COVID-19 vaccine candidates tops $9 billion, spread among 7 companies” via Karen Weintraub and Elizabeth Weise of USA Today — The federal government has allocated more than $9 billion to develop and manufacture candidate vaccines. More than $2.5 billion more has been earmarked for vials to store the vaccines, syringes to deliver them, and on efforts to ramp up manufacturing and capacity. And they’re not done yet. So far, the largest sums have gone to pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and collaboration between Sanofi and GSK, as well as biotech firms Moderna and Novavax — all of which have candidate vaccines being tested in people. To save time in the development process, the companies have been running trials simultaneously that they usually run in sequence. None of the candidate vaccines use the whole virus, so they cannot cause COVID-19. Once the immune system is trained to recognize the spike protein, it should be able to rapidly clear the virus should the person be exposed again.

Forty percent of people with coronavirus infections have no symptoms. Might they be the key to ending the pandemic?” via Ariana Eunjung Cha of The Washington Post — Efforts to understand the diversity in the illness are finally beginning to yield results, raising hope the knowledge will help accelerate the development of vaccines and therapies or possibly even create new pathways toward herd immunity in which enough of the population develops a mild version of the virus that they block further spread and the pandemic ends. The coronavirus has left numerous clues, the uneven transmission in different parts of the world, the mostly mild impact on children. One mind-blowing hypothesis is that a segment of the world’s population may have partial protection thanks to “memory” T cells, the part of our immune system trained to recognize specific invaders. Some experts have gone so far as to speculate whether some surprising recent trends in the epidemiology of the coronavirus might be due to preexisting immunity.

Hispanic, Black children at higher risk of coronavirus-related hospitalization, CDC finds” via Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post — Hispanic children are approximately eight times more likely and Black children five times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than their White peers, according to a study. The report acknowledged that most pediatric cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, are asymptomatic or mild and that hospitalization rates among children remain relatively low. But like COVID-19 in adults, Black and Hispanic children are far more likely to experience symptoms warranting hospitalization. The report calls for an improved understanding of the broader social forces that affect health so that racial and ethnic disparities in pediatric hospitalization rates can be mitigated.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

The U.S. economy is on the verge of a ‘lost year’” via Heather Long of The Washington Post — The U.S. economy is facing one of its most uncertain moments ever as the deadly coronavirus remains a constant threat. According to a survey, people are growing more pessimistic about how America’s leaders have handled the virus and the nation’s ability to contain it, which only digs a deeper hole for the economy. As soon as the virus flares in a part of the country, cellphone data show people immediately stay home instead of venturing out to restaurants, stores and entertainment. As so much hangs in the balance, the bulk of the federal government aid for small businesses and unemployed has expired. When uncertainty is high, it usually triggers more layoffs, less investment and more business closures.

Without $600 weekly benefit, unemployed face bleak choices” via Ben Casselman and Gillian Friedman of The New York Times — On Saturday, with negotiations in Congress stalled and on the verge of collapse, Trump signed four directives aimed at providing economic assistance, including financial help to the unemployed. But for many of the 30 million Americans relying on unemployment benefits, it could already be too late to prevent lasting financial harm. Without a federal supplement, they will need to get by on regular state unemployment benefits, which often total a few hundred dollars a week or less. There are already signs that the economy has slowed down this summer as virus cases have surged in much of the country.

The loss of the $600 weekly unemployment benefit will cause many people to make some hard choices. Image via The Washington Post.

It is the state’s largest PPP loan scheme. Three from South Florida have been charged” via Jay Weaver of The Miami Herald — Three South Florida people have been charged with collaborating in a $24 million loan scheme to bilk a federal program meant to aid businesses ailing from the coronavirus pandemic, authorities said. It is the state’s largest alleged fraud case involving the SBA’s relief program. The defendants, arrested this week and granted bonds in Fort Lauderdale federal court, are accused of submitting 90 loan applications to the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program. The SBA guaranteed more than $17 million in bank-issued loans to the defendants and other co-conspirators, according to FBI criminal complaints filed by the U.S. Attorney Office against each of them. The three are accused of participating with others in a conspiracy to apply for falsified loans from the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program in connection with a related South Florida scheme that extended to Ohio where other defendants have been charged, prosecutors said.

— MORE CORONA — 

The winter will be worse” via Joe Pinsker of The Atlantic — “There really is no easy way to socialize during late fall [and] winter in large parts of the country if you’re not doing it outside,” Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said. He did, however, bring up a possibility that could spare him, and the rest of us, this discomfort: the widespread use of cheap, quick coronavirus tests. “Imagine those tests get better and they become ubiquitous — could you go and hang out with a friend if you both tested negative that morning, in a community that doesn’t have a large transmission? I would feel comfortable” doing that, he said. But “I probably wouldn’t give them a hug and sit right next to them.”

Immunology is where intuition goes to die” via Ed Yong of The Atlantic — The immune system is very complicated. Arguably the most complex part of the human body outside the brain, it’s an absurdly intricate network of cells and molecules that protect us from dangerous viruses and other microbes. Picture a thousand Rube Goldberg machines, some of which are aggressively smashing things to pieces. Now imagine that their components are labeled with what looks like a string of highly secure passwords: CD8+, IL-1β, IFN-γ. Immunology confuses even biology professors who aren’t immunologists. Immunity, then, is usually a matter of degrees, not absolutes. And it lies at the heart of many of the COVID-19 pandemic’s biggest questions. Why do some people become extremely ill and others don’t?

Virus-quieted oceans open window for Shark Week researchers” via Lynn Elber of The Associated Press — The coronavirus pandemic forced people to stay put, but it gave sharks a travel passport and scientists a rare opportunity. Ocean spots cleared of fishing boats and other intrusions by COVID-19 quarantines saw increased and even unusual marine life behavior — and Discovery Channel’s Shark Week jumped through hoops to capitalize on the brief window. “It really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study these sharks without the impacts of human activity,” said Howard Swartz, Discovery’s senior vice president for production and development. Along with the scientists, local production crews scurried to take advantage of the ocean solitude before those nations gained relative control of the virus and began lifting restrictions on internal travel and business activity.

This image from Discovery Channel shows a shark breaking through the water in a scene from ‘Shark Lockdown,’ one of three programs kicking off Shark Week 2020. Image via AP.


— D.C. MATTERS —

In Florida, where Social Security is vital, Democrats blast Trump payroll tax pledge” via Antonio Fins of The Palm Beach Post — Democrats on Sunday ratcheted up their assertion that Trump’s order to suspend payroll taxes will “defund” Social Security without offering relief to millions of unemployed Americans. On Saturday, speaking to reporters and watched by members of his New Jersey golf club, Trump issued an executive order suspending payroll taxes through the end of the year. And he also promised that, if reelected, he will make the tax freeze permanent. Florida Democrats immediately seized on the potential ramification of the pledge, which would deprive Social Security of its main funding source. “Amid yesterday’s train wreck of neglect, Trump still manages to needlessly imperil seniors’ Social Security and Medicare benefits,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in a statement. “The only certainties his executive orders deliver are more debt for working families, deeper state and local layoffs and a continuing refusal to address the testing and tracing measures needed to pull us out of this pandemic quagmire.”

Florida Democrats are blasting Donald Trump for his pledge to suspend payroll taxes. Image via AP.

Census Bureau dropouts complicate door-knocking efforts” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — Door-knockers started heading out last month in six areas of the country in a test-run of the most labor-intensive part of the 2020 census, and their ranks have increased with each passing week as more locations were added. But next week, the full army of 500,000 census-takers will be in the field for the first time, knocking on the doors of more than a third of U.S. households that haven’t yet responded to the once-a-decade head count. Bureau officials acknowledge that they’ve had door-knockers, also known as enumerators, come to training but then not show up for work. The door-knockers wear cloth face masks and come equipped with hand sanitizer and cellphones. Some enumerators are uncomfortable with the technology, as iPhones have replaced the clipboards of censuses past. The pandemic has forced training to be held mostly online and there’s less in-person interaction with supervisors should enumerators need help.

— STATEWIDE —

We knew this storm season would be bad, but NOAA’s forecast just upped the ante” via Kimberly Miller of The Palm Beach Post — NOAA ratcheted up the angst Thursday in an already busy hurricane season with a revised forecast that calls for the highest number of named storms the agency has ever predicted. An update to the Climate Prediction Center’s May forecast calls for as many as 25 named storms, including up to 11 hurricanes. Of those 11 hurricanes, as many as six will be major tropical cyclones of Category 3 or higher. The new numbers include the nine already-named storms that have formed since May. A normal hurricane season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes. Thursday’s update is a regular fine-tuning released ahead of the peak of hurricane season, and one the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration normally does via news release.

‘Can you hear me?’ America’s first trial-by-Zoom comes to Duval County” via Andrew Pantazi of the Florida Times-Union — America’s first Zoom trial with a binding verdict will come Monday to Duval County, to the court’s remote civil division CV-E. After months where criminal and civil justice has come to a halt, Duval County will see its first virtual trial Monday, a one-day affair for a lawsuit against a gentleman’s club. Every aspect of the trial, from jury selection to deliberation, is being held virtually. On Thursday and Friday, potential jurors sat in front of their phones, iPads and laptops as a judge and the plaintiff’s attorney asked them questions.

Virgin Trains no more: Brightline severs ties with Richard Branson empire” via Sam Howard of The Palm Beach Post — Less than two years after Brightline announced a “strategic partnership” with Virgin Group and rebranded its trains as Virgin Trains USA, the rail service now says its parent company has scrapped the agreement. Brightline leaders wrote in a monthly report published Friday that Virgin now “has no remaining affiliation with us.” The company will drop Virgin from its branding and will instead be named Brightline Trains LLC, according to the report. Brightline’s parent company informed Virgin of the termination July 29, but the report said Virgin disputes the validity of the notice. A Brightline spokeswoman did not respond Saturday to requests for comment. The cancellation represents an abrupt and apparently acrimonious end to the ties between Brightline and Virgin Group, the global business empire led by eccentric British billionaire Branson.

Brightline is severing ties with Richard Branson and Virgin Trains USA.

Simon Property and Amazon’s reported talks to convert department stores into fulfillment centers will have major implications in Florida” via Ashley Gurbal Kritzer of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Simon, based in Indianapolis, has been in talks with Amazon for months, The Wall Street Journal reported. The WSJ says that Simon and Amazon have discussed converting vacant Sears and JCPenney Co. Inc. stores into fulfillment centers. Some of the discussions have reportedly centered around buying out occupied space from the retailers. In Florida, Simon has 22 properties — the most of any state. Amazon has been gobbling up distribution space and striking deals to build new throughout the Sunshine State. In the Tampa Bay region alone, the e-commerce giant has recently confirmed the development of two new projects: a 110,000-square-foot last-mile fulfillment center in Pasco County and a massive, multistory fulfillment center in Temple Terrace.

— TOP OPINION —

The coronavirus is never going away” via Sarah Zhang of The Atlantic — What does the future of COVID-19 look like? That will depend, says Yonatan Grad, on the strength and duration of immunity against the virus. Grad, an infectious-disease researcher at Harvard, and his colleagues have modeled a few possible trajectories. If immunity lasts only a few months, there could be a big pandemic followed by smaller outbreaks every year. If immunity lasts closer to two years, COVID-19 could peak every other year. At this point, how long immunity to COVID-19 will last is unclear; the virus simply hasn’t been infecting humans long enough for us to know. Even if the virus were somehow eliminated from the human population, it could keep circulating in animals — and spread to humans again.

— OPINIONS —

We are only beginning to suffer the consequences of Trump’s failures” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — “Elections have consequences.” Republican leaders were enraged when President Barack Obama reminded them of this after his 2008 victory. But Trump has given new and macabre meaning to the phrase. For now, five months after we put our way of life in mothballs, we see how much ruin and unnecessary suffering has been caused by his election and his attempt at reelection. Former Trump national security adviser John Bolton said his former boss’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic is a national security concern. Our suffering for Trump’s failures is just beginning. We have sacrificed half a year, $3 trillion of our treasure and 157,000 lives and it has been squandered by one man’s incompetence. Not just incompetence, but incompetence in the misguided pursuit of his personal interests over the needs of the nation he leads.

That tweet about mail-in voting and Trump’s Florida lies” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As he railed against voting by mail in Nevada this week, the tweeter-in-chief warned us about a “corrupt disaster” and said this in the context of elections planning: “Florida has built a great infrastructure over years, with two great Republican Governors.” Nothing could be further from the truth. While Florida for the most part has strong voting systems, it’s in spite of these two. The credit goes to county supervisors who actually run elections, and advocacy groups that mobilized public opinion and went to court when needed. That’s especially true in the case of Scott, who was openly hostile to even minor voting reforms, and has been labeled by advocacy groups as a “repeat offender” at suppressing the vote.

Use science, not politics, in reopening Duval schools” via Julie Delegal of The Florida Times-Union — The decision whether to reopen Duval County Public Schools, given our current COVID-19 infection rate, should be no more controversial than the decision to close schools in the face of an impending hurricane. Just as we look to meteorologists to understand our risks of being hit by a hurricane, so should we look to medical experts to guide our decisions during this global pandemic. The silence of current state and local health officials on the subject has been deafening. Fortunately, the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics has chimed in with science-based guidelines for reopening schools. Children are, without question, better off in school than out of school, says the Academy of Pediatrics, but only when school is safe.

Deloitte screwed up unemployment website, but at least Florida believes in second chances” via Carl Hiaasen of the Miami Herald — The DeSantis administration is poised to award a lucrative new contract to the same company responsible for the train wreck of an online system that has delayed or blocked thousands of Floridians from unemployment checks during the coronavirus crisis. Deloitte Consulting, which the governor has bashed for its frequently crashing website known as CONNECT, has just won a $135 million state contract to manage Medicaid data for Florida patients. All of you who waited weeks or even months for your first unemployment check have good reason to be baffled, and also pissed off. Taxpayers ended up paying Deloitte Consulting $77 million for its defective software system, $14 million more than the original estimate.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Gov. DeSantis’ big gamble is underway — public schools are beginning to reopen amid the worst pandemic in a century. And if county health officials don’t think it’s safe, too bad. The Governor has tossed them out of the decision loop.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Smaller school districts have the dubious distinction of being first for reopening, serving as a test run for the rest. 

— Remember how DeSantis berated the media for focusing on the number of new COVID-19 cases? He insisted hospital and ICU admissions were a better indicator of how the state is doing. Florida just set a record over the past week, with 3,355 people hospitalized for COVID-19. It might be time for the Governor to find a new metric.

— Florida Department of Health reported 77 more fatalities Sunday, bringing the state’s death toll to 8,315, including more than 1,100 in the past week alone. The total number of infections in Florida since the start of the pandemic is now almost 533,000. But DeSantis is saying it would actually be a good time to hold a convention in a Florida hotel.

— Sunrise speaks with some of the people on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle in Miami-Dade, including a nurse, a teacher and a construction worker. They want Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott to stop playing political games and approve the coronavirus stimulus package known as the “HEROES Act.”

— They’re also tired of hearing wealthy politicians (like Scott) say $600 a week is too much for people who lost their jobs and their health insurance because of the pandemic.

— And the latest with Florida Man, who is accused of felony assault with a Slurpee.

To listen, click on the image below:

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

 

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— ALOE —

NBA time zone: Body clocks get a reset inside the bubble” via Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press — The NBA body clock is finely tuned. Game days are marked by a morning shoot-around, afternoon nap and then the actual contest in the early evening. Practice days typically feature a late-morning or midday workout. Teams tend not to deviate much. In normal times, anyway. In the bubble, all bets are off. Before games inside the NBA bubble started July 30, there was a three-week stretch where most teams were practicing pretty much daily. Teams were given three-hour windows to practice at one of seven facilities at Disney, with at least an hour before another team could enter the same facility because of cleaning and disinfecting requirements. Besides, it’s not like teams can go anywhere. 

Toronto Raptors’ head coach Nick Nurse applauds his players during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat. Playing in the ‘bubble’ is wreaking havoc on NBA players’ internal clocks.

Puncher’s chance: Fighting is up during unique NHL playoffs” via Stephen Whyno — Fighting has decreased drastically in recent years, especially in the playoffs when every shift matters, but the unique circumstances of hockey’s restart, several months off, empty arenas and more intense best-of-five series, have ratcheted up the fisticuffs in the battle for the Stanley Cup. Four months of built-up testosterone might explain some of this, though the reasons behind each fight have varied. In other cases, emotions just boil over. It happened twice in four games between Minnesota and Vancouver, including the opening minutes of Game 4 when Ryan Hartman and Jake Virtanen squared off. Rivalries will continue to emerge, so don’t expect the gloves to stay on as the stakes get higher.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to lobbyist Jack Cory and Democratic operative Joshua Karp. Belated wishes to Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, Mark Harper of the Daytona Beach News-JournalYolanda Cash Jackson of Becker and Jay Malpass of Motorola.

___

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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