Good Thursday morning.
— Death toll: The U.S. death toll for the COVID-19 pandemic has now topped 250,000 Americans, according to the NBC tracker. Florida is one of just five states to have tallied more than 500,000 total cases, behind only Texas and California.
🦠 — There’s an app for that: Did you know there’s a tool on your phone to notify you of potential COVID-19 exposure? About 100 million Americans have access to pop-up phone notifications. The phone feature uses local health department information to notify users if they have potentially been exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus. It’s anonymous, but it only works if you, and those you spend time with, turn it on.
— Back to school they go: An Axios/Generation Lab poll finds 59% of college students plan to return to in-person learning after the winter holidays this year, a number that could startle some concerned about a continued rise in the number of COVID-19 cases state and nationwide. Worse, 24% of students returning home for the holidays don’t plan to take precautionary measures while 22% plan to quarantine for two weeks, and 49% plan to socially distance, but not quarantine.
🦶 — Don’t stub your toe with an audience: Speaking on former Tampa Bay Times Political Editor Adam Smith‘s Political Party podcast, Republican strategist Anthony Pedicini explained why so many Republican candidates this year snubbed political forums and debates. “If we’re going to go ahead and stub our own toe, we’re not going to do it live in front of 500 people online. It’s not worth it,” Pedicini said. Hear the full podcast here.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@ChrisLHayes: Trump’s entire life has been using lawyers and the courts to drag things out. He’s done it with creditors and counterparties and contractors. He even did it successfully with Mueller, and with his tax returns. Now he’s trying to do it to American democracy.
—@Redistrict: It’s time to start calling baseless conspiracies what they are: libelous attacks on the 500,000+ heroic poll workers & election administrators in every corner of the U.S. who pulled off a successful election amid record-shattering turnout and a global pandemic.
Glad to welcome @GovRonDeSantis to @HHSgov yesterday to discuss the progress we are making under #OperationWarpSpeed and our distribution plans for safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics that will protect Floridians and Americans across the country as we work to reopen. pic.twitter.com/u9vcsG6Z1q
— Secretary Alex Azar (@SecAzar) November 18, 2020
—@CharlieKirk11: Every patriot should throw massive Thanksgiving celebrations. Make them fine and arrest all of us. The totalitarianism ends now.
—@PascoSchools: We are aware of the rumor spreading around that Pasco County schools will be closed following Thanksgiving Break and for the remainder of 2020 due to COVID-19. THIS RUMOR IS FALSE.
—@MPDillon: 22-year-old me watched the West Wing and thought how cool it would be to *be* Josh Lyman. 43-year-old me thinks it will be plenty cool to *be married to* Josh Lyman. Super proud.
The Big Bend region is home to the 3 most food insecure counties in #Florida. I sat in on a @JLTally Lunch & Learn to hear about their Little Black Dress Initiative which discusses food insecurity in the #Tallahassee area & how to donate to make a difference. #JLTLBDI #BeTheOne pic.twitter.com/CGP5q19idk
— Laurel M. Lee (@FLSecofState) November 18, 2020
— DAYS UNTIL —
College basketball season slated to begin — 6; Atlantic hurricane season ends — 11; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 13; Florida Chamber Foundation’s virtual Transportation, Growth and Infrastructure Solution Summit begins — 19; the Electoral College votes — 25; “Death on the Nile” premieres — 28; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 33; “Wonder Woman 1984” rescheduled premiere — 36; Pixar’s “Soul” premiere (rescheduled for Disney+) — 36; Greyhound racing ends in Florida — 42; Georgia U.S. Senate runoff elections — 47; the 2021 Inauguration — 62; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 80; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 91; “Black Widow” rescheduled premiere — 105; “No Time to Die” premieres (rescheduled) — 133; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 225; Disney’s “Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” premieres — 232; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 246; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 254; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 288; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 348; Disney’s “Eternals” premieres — 351; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 354; Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” premieres — 386; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 450; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 503; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 684.
— DATELINE TALLAHASSEE —
“Legislators could limit COVID suits, but split on workers’ comp changes” via the News Service of Florida — Legislative leaders on Tuesday showed support for limits on lawsuits stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, but they could have a difference of opinion about whether to move ahead with changes to the workers’ compensation insurance system. In separate news conferences, Senate President Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican, and House Speaker Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican, indicated support for legislation that would protect businesses from lawsuits related to COVID-19. “I think we all agree it’s a problem that we need to figure out the best way to solve. Making sure that people who were going about it kind of the right way,” Sprowls, an attorney, said.
“Daniel Perez: Florida needs long-term leadership on flooding” via Florida Politics — Tropical Storm Eta is the 28th named storm of this hurricane season — and the season is not over yet. Beyond the inconvenience of water in the streets, homes and businesses, livelihoods are at risk, as well. It is impacting every single resident of South Florida. However, we cannot let our previous inaction create the narrative for our future. Adaptation makes sense economically. Inaction will cost us far more than strategic investments in flood protection. Action will preserve the South Florida we all love. Continuity of leadership on this issue is essential. Let’s resolve to look to the future to take on the challenges of flooding and sea-level rise, protect our communities and grow our economy at the same time.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida adds nearly 8,000 coronavirus cases, brings total above 900,000” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida added 7,925 coronavirus cases Wednesday, bringing the state beyond 900,000 total infections as the weekly case average continues upward. Since March, there have been 905,248 coronavirus cases recorded. As of Wednesday, the daily average is 6,748, around the level it was in early August. The state also reported 88 deaths Wednesday, bringing the total number of people who have died in Florida from the virus to 17,949. The seven-day death average increased to about 62 people announced dead per day. The state processed just under 105,000 tests, leading to a daily positivity rate of about 8%.
“Inmate COVID-19 deaths up to 187” via News Service of Florida — Another three state prison inmates died of COVID-19 during the past week, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 187, according to numbers released Wednesday by the Florida Department of Corrections. In all, 16,999 state inmates and 3,647 corrections workers have tested positive for the infectious disease during the pandemic. Two prisons have had more than 1,000 inmate cases. Seven prisons also have totaled more than 100 worker cases.
“Mayors warn Ron DeSantis of dire consequences if state doesn’t change COVID-19 course” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A cohort of Mayors from the southern portion of the state is urging DeSantis to change his hands-off approach to COVID-19 as infections continue to rise. Miami Beach Dan Gelber led a virtual news conference Wednesday featuring four separate requests as local leaders begin bracing for a potential spike in hospitalizations. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández, Sunrise Mayor Michael Ryan and Miami Shores Mayor Crystal Wagar joined Gelber on the call. “It’s unmistakably clear that Florida’s approach to managing this pandemic is failing pretty horribly,” Gelber said at the top of the call. Gelber began by proposing a statewide mask mandate, as described in a letter the Mayors are sending to DeSantis.
“Hospitals at capacity? With no restrictions, dire coronavirus warning for Florida” via Anastasia Dawson of the Tampa Bay Times — In Florida, where the number of coronavirus infections remains the third-highest in the nation, bars and schools remain open and restaurants continue to operate at full capacity. Soon, health officials warned, that means hospitals will be at full capacity, too. “Make no mistake, we are at war and our enemy knows exactly how to kill us,” said Dr. Jay Wolfson, senior associate dean of the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine. Florida’s Department of Health reported more than 10,100 infections in a single day Sunday — the highest daily caseload since the height of the summer surge in mid-July.
“These South Florida hospitals will be among the first with the COVID-19 vaccine” via Lisa Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The new COVID-19 vaccine — not yet approved for use — is on its way to two South Florida hospitals. Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood and Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami will be among the first five hospitals across Florida to store the vaccine while they wait for final approval to use it, officials said Wednesday. The vaccine stored by hospitals will be whichever the government approves first, possibly Pfizer’s. The other three hospitals are AdventHealth Orlando, formerly Florida Hospital Orlando, as well as Tampa General Hospital and UF Health Jacksonville. The first vaccines would start arriving in mid-December and another shipment is expected in January.
“Why doesn’t Florida use contact tracing apps to help combat coronavirus?” via Melissa Marino of WFLA — As COVID-19 cases surge across the country, states are looking for ways to slow the spread of the virus. There’s a tool health experts say could help, but has yet to really take off: Contact tracing apps. States that have rolled out apps are seeing low enrollment numbers as residents are hesitant to sign up over privacy concerns. “People are very reluctant to share any information right now,” Dr. Wolfson, the senior associate dean at Morsani College of Medicine. Unlike states like New York, New Jersey, Virginia and Nevada, Florida does not have an official contact tracing app.
“Remote learning will continue in second half of the year as state grapples with COVID-19” via Dara Kam of News Service of Florida — Florida students will be able to continue to learn remotely through the second half of the school year as the state grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said Wednesday. “From the top down in this state, that will absolutely happen. There is no flexibility for anything but that,” Corcoran told the State Board of Education. The reopening of brick-and-mortar classrooms, which were shuttered during the early stages of the pandemic this spring, became a political flashpoint after Corcoran ordered school districts to offer in-person instruction five days a week or be penalized financially.
“The pandemic hasn’t slowed down Florida dorm-building by private companies” via Mike Vogel of Florida Trend — In July, Global City Development completed The One at University City, a $231-million, 1,244-bed private dorm across the street in Sweetwater from one of the state’s and nation’s largest universities, Florida International. Over their careers, the principals of Miami-based Global City have developed $10 billion in high-rise residential and other real estate, but this was their first dorm. The project fit their development goals of aligning with a “public good” — education, in this case, says principal Brian Pearl. The money in student housing isn’t bad either. “For equity investors in the typical student housing deal, they can make 20%-plus a year,” he says.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“In Miami, a sign of widespread transmission: More non-COVID patients have the virus” via ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — Over the last week, 898 patients at Miami’s public hospitals tested positive for the novel coronavirus, but more than half — 471 — were admitted for other reasons, largely to emergency rooms, without typical COVID-19 symptoms. Public health experts say it’s yet another indicator of increasingly widespread transmission of the virus in Miami-Dade County, as the virus ramps up across the country. Vicky Perez, a nurse and the director of critical care at Jackson North Medical Center, said she’s seen it in growing numbers: Patients who show up for anything from a car accident to abdominal pain are later testing positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
“Half of Lee County’s legislative delegation is sick right now with the coronavirus” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Nearly half the Lee County Legislative Delegation is sick with COVID-19. While paperwork has been scanned in, Sen. Ray Rodrigues and Reps. Mike Giallombardo and Adam Botana all were excused from swearing-in ceremonies in Tallahassee on Tuesday. Instead of attending lawmaker university in person, the delegation’s freshmen must watch videos streamed online and communicate through computer chat software to develop critical relationships in the chamber. “But Speaker Sprowls has talked to us,” said Botana, a Bonita Springs Republican. “We’ll do something at a later date. You just have got to be concerned about everybody.”
“School COVID-19 cases double in Escambia, quadruple in Santa Rosa as virus surges countywide” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — New positive coronavirus cases for students doubled in the past week in Escambia County schools. They almost quadrupled in Santa Rosa County schools, mirroring a troubling trend communitywide as COVID-19 gains a second wind throughout Florida. Escambia County schools logged 20 cases in the first week of November and an additional 41 in the second week, bringing its total to 151. That number doesn’t include Pensacola Catholic High School, a private school run by the Pensacola-Tallahassee Catholic Diocese, which logged as many as 50 cases in the two weeks after Halloween due to super-spreader Halloween weekend events.
“Orlando’s airport looks for plate-half-full Thanksgiving despite spiking COVID-19 cases” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — Travelers who pass through Orlando International Airport during the Thanksgiving holiday stretch may be surprised by long lines at the security checkpoints, a regular occurrence before the pandemic that has since become rare. But airport lines in the age of COVID-19 are deceiving, in that they are lengthened by a requirement of 6 feet of space between passengers. The airport predicts a respectable uptick in passenger counts for the holiday even as COVID-19 cases are spiking in many states. The airport’s largest source of travelers, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, are hard-hit. San Juan, Puerto Rico is now the leading feeder for Orlando airport activity.
— CORONA NATION —
“Long lines and delayed results again plague coronavirus tests as Thanksgiving approaches” via William Wan of The Washington Post — Americans seeking coronavirus tests amid an unprecedented surge in cases are experiencing lengthier lines and waiting days to get test results — delays that complicate efforts to slow the pandemic and that are expected to intensify as people try to get tested ahead of family gatherings. Testing sites from New York to Wisconsin to Oregon are reporting lines stretching three to four hours, with results taking as long as five days. In Denver, officials shut down one testing site within an hour of opening Tuesday because it had reached capacity.
“‘Tired to the bone’: Hospitals overwhelmed with virus cases” via The Associated Press — Overwhelmed hospitals are converting chapels, cafeterias, waiting rooms, hallways, even a parking garage into patient treatment areas. Staff members are desperately calling around to other medical centers in search of open beds. Fatigue and frustration are setting in among front-line workers. Conditions inside the nation’s hospitals are deteriorating by the day as the coronavirus rages across the U.S. at an unrelenting pace, and the death toll closes in on a quarter-million. “We are depressed, disheartened and tired to the bone,” said Alison Johnson, director of critical care at Johnson City Medical Center in Tennessee.
“FDA allows first rapid virus test that gives results at home” via Matthew Perrone of The Associated Press — U.S. regulators allowed emergency use of the first rapid coronavirus test that can be performed entirely at home and delivers results in 30 minutes. The announcement by the Food and Drug Administration represents an important step in U.S. efforts to expand testing options for COVID-19 beyond health care facilities and testing sites. However, the test will require a prescription, likely limiting its initial use. The FDA granted emergency authorization to the single-use test kit from Lucira Health, a California manufacturer.
“Pfizer says that its coronavirus vaccine is safe and 95% effective and that it will seek regulatory review within days” via Carolyn Johnson and Laurie McGinley of The Washington Post — The coronavirus vaccine being developed by Pfizer and German biotechnology firm BioNTech is 95% effective at preventing illness, according to an analysis performed as a trial of the experimental shot reached its endpoint. The study also notched a safety milestone, with two months of follow-up on half of the participants, and Pfizer said it plans to submit an application for emergency authorization within days. The experimental vaccine had already shown promise in a preliminary analysis announced last week, but the trial sped to completion faster than anticipated because of a spike in coronavirus cases. In the trial, half of the nearly 44,000 participants received the experimental vaccine and half received a placebo.
“Inoculations by December? States aren’t so sure.” via Dan Goldberg and Rachel Roubein of POLITICO — President Donald Trump says tens of millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines, which hold the promise of blunting a pandemic that has killed nearly a quarter-million Americans, will be delivered to every state as soon as December. But interviews with more than two dozen experts who work in pharmacies, rural clinics and public health, as well as state and local officials, reveal serious concerns that states may not be ready to distribute a vaccine by then. There are unresolved logistical challenges, little federal guidance over who should be prioritized for vaccination, ongoing technical spats between states and the Trump administration.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Coalition seizes on pandemic to boost ‘Obamacare’ sign-ups” via Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of The Associated Press — As COVID-19 spreads uncontrolled in many places, a coalition of states, health care groups and activists is striving to drum up “Obamacare” sign-ups among a growing number of Americans uninsured in perilous times. The campaign kicking off Thursday is called Get Covered 2021 and contrasts with a lack of outreach to the uninsured by the Trump administration, which is still trying to overturn the Affordable Care Act, even in the coronavirus pandemic. “There’s renewed energy around getting people covered this year, given how COVID-19 is impacting so many people’s lives,” said Joshua Peck, a former Obama administration official helping lead the effort.
“House passes Kathy Castor’s proposal to study impact of coronavirus on travel, hospitality industries” via Kevin Derby of Florida Daily — Castor was able to get her proposal to have the U.S. Commerce Department report on how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting the travel and tourism industries through the U.S. House. The bill “directs the Department of Commerce to complete a study on the effects of the COVID — 19 pandemic on the travel and tourism industry, including various segments — domestic, international, leisure, business, conventions, meetings and events.”
“Toilet paper limits, empty shelves are back as virus surges” via Joseph Pisani and Anne D’Innocenzio of The Associated Press — A surge of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. is sending people back to stores to stockpile again, leaving shelves bare and forcing retailers to put limits on purchases. Walmart said Tuesday it’s having trouble keeping up with the demand for cleaning supplies in some stores. Supermarket chains Kroger and Publix now limit how much toilet paper and paper towels shoppers can buy after demand spiked recently. And Amazon is sold out of most disinfectant wipes and paper towels. A similar scene played out back in March when the pandemic first hit and people hunkered down in their homes.
— MORE CORONA —
“The pandemic safety rule that really matters” via Rachel Gutman of The Atlantic — There’s never a good time to get sick with COVID-19, but in the next few weeks it will be especially dangerous. America’s coronavirus epidemic is really bad right now. One-hundred-seventy-thousand-new-cases-a-day bad. Hospital-systems-on-the-brink-of-collapse bad. Some Americans live with roommates, some can’t work without child care, and some have to work in crowded conditions — everyone’s situation is different — but these basic tips can, we hope, be helpful in a variety of situations. My colleagues’ guidance boils down to this winter’s golden rule for interacting with anyone outside your immediate household: Don’t spend time indoors with other people.
“I’m a contact tracer in North Dakota. The virus is so rampant that we gave up.” via Kailee Leingang of The Washington Post — For the past two weeks, North Dakota has had the most new cases per capita in the country. Our hospitalizations have doubled since last month. We have the world’s highest death rate from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Things got so bad, so fast, that we’ve surrendered one of our key weapons against the pandemic: Test and trace went by the wayside. Even if we had enough staff to call up everyone’s workplace and contact, there are so many new infections that it wouldn’t be as effective.
“Carnival cancels all cruises through January, but ships returning to Florida to ramp up for sailing” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Carnival Cruise Line has opted to not sail from the U.S. until at least February next year as it ramps its efforts to adhere to stringent requirements from the CDC on how to resume safe cruising amid the coronavirus pandemic. In an announcement Wednesday, the line canceled all sailings from U.S. home ports set to sail from Jan. 1-31, all sailings from Baltimore, Charleston, Jacksonville, Long Beach, Mobile, New Orleans and San Diego through Feb. 28; and all sailings on Carnival Legend from Tampa through March 26. “Carnival is in the process of building a gradual, phased-in approach to resume guest operations, which will focus initially on Miami and Port Canaveral, to be followed by Galveston.”
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Donald Trump pursues recount of 2 liberal Wisconsin counties” via Scott Bauer of The Associated Press — Trump filed Wednesday for a recount of Wisconsin’s two largest Democratic counties, paying the required $3 million cost and alleging that they were the sites of the “worst irregularities” although no evidence of illegal activity has been presented. The recounts in Milwaukee and Dane counties will begin Friday and must be done by Dec. 1. Democrat Joe Biden received 577,455 votes in those two counties compared with 213,157 for Trump. Biden won statewide by 20,608 votes, based on canvassed results submitted by the counties. “The official canvass results reaffirmed Joe Biden’s clear and resounding win in Wisconsin after Wisconsin voters turned out to cast their ballots in record numbers,” said Biden campaign spokesman Nate Evans.
“The first big test of Trump’s attempt to steal the Electoral College was a failure” via Amber Phillips of The Washington Post — His legal challenges to overturn election results have gone nowhere, so Trump has floated another way to get around his loss: persuade Republican legislatures in swing states to change state law on how to appoint electors and give them to him rather than Biden. It’s a legally dubious long shot. Pulling it off would depend on a chain reaction of events that start with local election officials all raising the specter of election chaos, which is exactly what happened in Detroit on Tuesday night before it fizzled.
“Trump and his supporters are discovering how hard it is to sabotage election results” via David Ignatius of The Washington Post — Trump may be rattling our nerves with his baseless claims of fraud and his vindictive firings. But the two weeks since the election should give Americans greater confidence that our democracy can’t so easily be subverted. Trump launched yet another assault on members of his administration who have dared to speak up. In a tweet, he “terminated” Christopher Krebs as head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at the Department of Homeland Security. Krebs’s supposed crime was that he had rebutted Trump’s wild accusations of “massive improprieties and fraud” in the Nov. 3 election, as the president put it in the tweet firing Krebs.
“Trump has achieved one of his postelection goals: Sowing doubt about the outcome with his base” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — One can think of the last two weeks as Trump setting both a goal and a stretch goal. A goal is something he hopes to achieve. By contrast, a stretch goal is something that may not be achieved but which may be within reach, given the right amount of effort. Since Election Day, Trump’s stretch goal has been a second term in office: unlikely, but, hey, who knows? The immediate and attainable goal, on the other hand, is simpler. Trump wants to be able to spend the rest of his days, insisting that he didn’t lose the 2020 election. He wants to march around Mar-a-Lago and have people nod as he grumps that Biden committed unidentified crimes that denied him a second term in office.
“Trump wasn’t just a rural phenomenon. Most of his supporters come from cities and suburbs.” via Andrew Van Dam of The Washington Post — Only 14% of Americans lived in rural counties as of 2018. Because most Trump voters are urban, that means the places that the outgoing president has repeatedly blasted as crime-ridden Democratic cities are also home to millions of his voters. The 11 largest metropolitan areas in the United States gave Trump more total votes than all of rural America combined. Los Angeles County accounts for as much of Trump’s share of the popular vote as the 633 most-rural counties combined.
“Did mail delays lead to more late-arriving ballots? The opposite, Florida counties say” via Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — Florida voters had plenty of reasons to question the reliability of voting by mail in the Nov. 3 election. The U.S. Postal Service was delivering ballots at delayed speeds, and thousands of ballots were flagged for signature issues that disproportionately affect young and minority voters. With people voting by mail in record numbers due to COVID-19, rejected ballots had the potential to become Florida’s “hanging chads” of 2020. But that hasn’t come to pass. In fact, early data from some of the state’s largest counties suggest efforts by local election supervisors, voters and advocates helped drive down the number of ballots received after Florida’s 7 p.m. Election Day deadline.
“UM law professor tries to make a case for Trump on Twitter. Some of his colleagues object” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — Like many supporters of Trump in the aftermath of the Nov. 3 presidential election, a University of Miami law school lecturer jumped on social media to criticize the ballot counting in a half-dozen battleground states that would decide the next occupant of the White House. Daniel Ravicher, without identifying himself as a UM instructor, turned to Twitter to declare that Trump’s challenger, Biden, “lost” in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia and other swing states — yet their goal is “to deny @realDonaldTrump [the] ability to win tonight, to falsely claim [the] election was close, to weaken him. Like all their other dirty tricks, it won’t work.”
“Parler social network draws Orlando conservatives as Facebook, Twitter crack down on false info” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Since Biden’s election victory, Twitter and Facebook have amped up their policing of false statements and misinformation. In response, many Central Florida conservatives have moved to Parler, a social network funded by the conservative Mercer family that touts itself as a site where people can “speak freely” without “censorship.” That mostly means it’s an echo chamber for not just conspiracies about the election but also threats of violence. The move is part of a state and national trend, as figures ranging from conspiracy theorist U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, Longwood Commissioner Matt Morgan and DeSantis’ press secretary Fred Piccolo are among its members.
“Time to drop the disappearing act. Mike Pence allies say the lame-duck VP needs to stay in the public spotlight if he wants to be a viable 2024 presidential candidate.” via Tom LoBianco of Business Insider — The last time Pence lost an election, in 1990, he plotted a steady course that kept his name in the spotlight even as he insisted he was done with politics. That strategy paid big dividends, ultimately landing him by Trump’s side in the White House almost 30 years later. Now the lame-duck Pence and his closest advisers are plotting a similar course to keep the staunch conservative politician in the public eye as they look to a likely White House run in 2024. Recently Pence has appeared more in public, walking the same tightrope he has walked throughout his four years with Trump. Pence’s longtime allies say he’s making all the right moves given the circumstances.
— TRANSITION —
“‘Fox & Friends’ host says it’s time for President to start coordinating with Joe Biden team on virus.” via Paulina Villegas of The Washington Post — With pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announcing it has completed its coronavirus vaccine trial and saying it will seek emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration “within days,” more conservative public figures are calling on Trump to collaborate with the Biden transition team to ensure a swift and effective distribution. “Fox & Friends” host Brian Kilmeade said Wednesday morning that “it’s in the country’s best interest if he starts coordinating on the virus and starts coordinating on security with the Biden team,” even if the President continues with his legal crusade to challenge the election results. “We will be able to get this out as soon as two weeks, and we need to coordinate on the transportation and implementation,” Kilmeade said.
“‘It’s a terrible situation’: Inside a government bureaucrat’s pressure-filled decision to delay the transition” via Kristen Holmes and Jeremy Herb of CNN Politics — As the only obstacle between Biden and the formal start of the presidential transition, General Services Administrator Emily Murphy is struggling with the weight of the presidential election being dropped on her shoulders, feeling like she’s been put in a no-win situation. This was never a position that Murphy thought she would find herself. But as the government official in charge of signing off on the election result, Trump’s refusal to concede the election has thrown Murphy into the middle of a political firestorm.
“Trump team looks to box in Biden on foreign policy by lighting too many fires to put out” via Nicole Gaouette, Kylie Atwood and Alex Marquardt of CNN Politics — Trump‘s order of a further withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Iraq is the latest foreign policy move on a growing list in his final weeks in office that are meant to limit Biden‘s options before he takes office in January. The White House has directed newly installed acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller to focus his attention in the remaining weeks on cyber and irregular warfare, with a focus on China, in particular, an administration official tells CNN.
“Add to Biden’s transition challenges: Imposing COVID-19 precautions on cramped West Wing” via Carol E. Lee and Mike Memoli of NBC News — Biden is facing a dilemma that no modern incoming president has had to contend with, and it comes on top of the challenges already posed by Trump‘s refusal to cooperate in the transition: how his White House team will work out of the building’s tight quarters during a pandemic. Biden’s team is brainstorming ways to apply his coronavirus-conscious campaign practices to the presidency, several of his advisers said. Transition officials are trying to determine how White House officials can physically work out of the West Wing while maintaining social distancing and other protocols the pandemic requires, the advisers said.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Casey Askar sues Byron Donalds for defamation” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Askar filed a civil defamation lawsuit against Rep.-elect Donalds. The legal action came months after Donalds won a crowded Republican primary in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. Askar came in third place. The primary election saw a dirty trick pulled that day, when a sophisticated text message was blasted to voters in the district claiming Donalds had dropped out of the race. The texts in question included photographs and a link to video from a previous run for Congress in 2012. Immediately, Donalds went on Facebook and pointed in a particular direction. “A text message just went out from a rival campaign, and I know whose campaign it is,” Donalds said.
“Republicans have elected a record number of women and minorities. It wasn’t an accident.” via Henry Olsen of The Washington Post — Republicans have long been under scrutiny because of the relatively small number of GOP women and minorities holding House and Senate seats. The recent election, however, has changed everything, as a record number of Republican women and minorities take their seats in the House. At least 33 House Republicans will be either women or non-White when the new body sits in January. This includes 27 women, six Hispanics, and two Black men, Burgess Owens of Utah and Byron Donalds of Florida. They come from all regions of the country and represent urban, suburban and rural seats.
“Kathryn Kimball “Kat” Mizelle confirmed as federal judge” via News Service of Florida — A former clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was confirmed Wednesday by the U.S. Senate to serve as a federal district judge in Florida. Mizelle, a lawyer at the Jones Day firm, will serve as a judge in the Middle District of Florida. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio issued a statement praising the confirmation. “By all accounts, Mizelle is an impressive nominee having served in various legal roles both in the public and private sector,” Rubio said. “Notably, she has served as a law clerk at every level of the federal judiciary, most recently as clerk to United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.” Mizelle received her law degree from the University of Florida in 2012, according to information on the Jones Day website.
— STATEWIDE —
“Florida’s latest massive toll plan is a pain in the asphalt” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Lawmakers try to run a trio of toll roads through the western half of the state — roads that aren’t needed and will cost billions of dollars. The Legislature’s paving plan was a bad idea when the state’s finances were flush. With the state facing budget shortfalls of at least $3 billion this year alone, it’s downright reckless. Before lawmakers start talking about raiding education or affordable-housing funds, they should stop plowing money into bad ideas. This road plan, after all, isn’t about moving traffic. Three of the state’s own transportation task forces couldn’t even agree there was a “specific need” for these roads.
— LOBBYING REGS —
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Daphnee Sainvil: City of Fort Lauderdale
Brian Jogerst, Waypoint Strategies: Parallel
Mike Corcoran, Jacqueline Corcoran, Matt Blair, Ralph Criss, Andrea Tovar, Corcoran Partners: The Florida Holocaust Museum
David Clark, Allegiant Strategies Group: Slalom
Nicole Graganella, Katie Webb, Colodny Fass: Easter Seals Florida
Kasey Lewis, Lewis Longman & Walker: Florida Association of Special Districts
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Critics attack Palm Beach County Commissioner over daughter’s anti-DeSantis posting” via Hannah Morse of the Palm Beach Post — For a mother facing an attack over the actions of her teenage daughter and a Black county executive upset over derogatory comments about George Floyd, Tuesday’s upbeat Palm Beach County Commission meeting swiftly turned ugly and emotional. Commissioner Melissa McKinlay found herself once again addressing the social media account of her 19-year-old daughter, who tweeted on a post critical of Gov. DeSantis: “Someone assassinate him already.” It provoked several of McKinlay’s critics to lash out at her during public comment, calling her a “horrible parent.” McKinlay responded from the dais. “It’s not a reflection of the parent. It’s a reflection of the parent if the parent doesn’t respond to it,” McKinlay said.
“Judge denies suspended Delray city manager injunction to postpone Friday hearing” via Mike Diamond in the Palm Beach Post — Suspended City Manager George Gretsas’ misconduct hearing will occur as scheduled Friday at City Hall. County Judge John Kastrenakes refused to issue a temporary injunction Tuesday to prevent the hearing from taking place after an hourlong emergency hearing. The judge noted Gretsas can always return to court to seek reinstatement as well as damages if the City Commission votes to terminate him. “You are asking for extraordinary relief,” Kastrenakes told Gretsas’ lawyer, Thomas Ali. “You are asking me to stop a hearing before it happens. I am not about to do that.” He said it would be improper for the court to involve itself in the city’s business at this point.
— TOP OPINION —
“Cancel Thanksgiving” via James Hamblin of The Atlantic — The United States is now in what disaster-preparedness experts once modeled as a worst-case scenario. The curve is not flat, or even a curve. It’s almost a line that points straight upward. More than 1,000 Americans are dying every day, on average. Soon that number will likely hit 2,000. In this precarious moment, many Americans are planning to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday by traveling and having dinner with 10 or more people. If this were an outbreak movie, and the characters were congregating in multigenerational units indoors to have boisterous conversations over lengthy meals, you’d probably be yelling at your screen.
— OPINIONS —
“The U.S. can’t wait for new COVID-19 relief” via Bloomberg Opinion editorial board — In the months leading up to the election, U.S. lawmakers failed to agree on a new coronavirus relief plan. Now, with a lame-duck Congress and Trump moving reluctantly toward the exit, the temptation will be to do nothing until Biden is in office and the new legislature is installed. Several provisions of the earlier CARES Act are set to end just as coronavirus cases are surging. Over the next nine weeks, the recovery’s momentum is likely to fade as economic restrictions are tightened again. Without a new and substantial round of fiscal support, jobs will be lost, households of limited means will again be hit hard, and state and city budgets will come under even greater strain.
“Gov. DeSantis needs to work with a President Biden” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Gov. DeSantis never missed an opportunity to parlay his relationship with President Donald Trump. Whether it was securing hurricane relief assistance, or supplies to fight the coronavirus pandemic, the Republican governor used his party’s kinship to the Oval Office to Florida’s advantage. But now DeSantis is threatening the interests of 22 million Floridians by clinging to the Trump train and snubbing President-elect Joe Biden. DeSantis has joined the chorus of Trump devotees and conspiracy theorists in egging on the President to continue challenging his defeat for reelection Nov. 3.
“It’s time to hunker down” via Zeynep Tufekci of The Atlantic — The end may be near for the pestilence that has haunted the world this year. Good news is arriving on almost every front: treatments, vaccines, and our understanding of this coronavirus. Pfizer and BioNTech have announced a stunning success rate in their early Phase 3 vaccine trials — if it holds up, it will be a game-changer. Treatments have gotten better too. A monoclonal antibody drug — similar to what Trump and former Gov. Chris Christie received — just earned emergency-use authorization from the FDA. We have reasons to celebrate, but — and you knew there was a but — a devastating surge is now underway.
“On Thanksgiving, take this chance to avoid everyone” via Stephanie Hayes of the Tampa Bay Times — COVID-19 cases are back on the rise as we wait for a vaccine, just in time to coincide disastrously with the holidays. First, it’s Thanksgiving, that bastion of family togetherness and awkward conversations around obscene amounts of creamed comestibles. In these divided times, family relations may be more strained than usual. Conspiracy theories are sliding around corners like evil toadstools in Super Mario. Whereas specific topics were once off-limits in polite society, your relations may show up in gowns made of campaign flags. The pandemic affords an opportunity to cool off without cutting anyone out of your life. Politely decline due to safety concerns.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Retailers expect a decline in sales during the all-important Christmas holiday shopping season, all thanks to COVID-19.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Florida just passed another milestone in the COVID-19 crisis: The number of cases just blew past 900,000; at the current rate, it won’t be long until we hit 1 million. The number of fatalities is closing in on 18,000, and five Florida Mayors are asking DeSantis to change the way the state responds to the crisis.
— State education officials are contemplating what happens next semester in public schools during the pandemic. Most parents want their kids back in the classroom, but not all.
— Education Commissioner Corcoran says he’ll release a new executive order by the end of the month and parents will still have the choice of remote learning next semester.
— A deep dive into the three “p”s of the Florida Legislature: police, protest and patriotism.
— And finally, a Florida Man will serve 50 hours of community service for poking a manatee with a fishing pole.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“Batman, Detective comic collection goes to auction after owner recovers 500 stolen books” via Julius Whigham II of the Palm Beach Post — Randy Lawrence described it as a heartbreaking moment. While visiting a Boca Raton-area self-storage facility in January 2019, he discovered that someone had stolen about 500 of his vintage and rare Batman and Detective Comics books. Nearly two years later, and after a year of fighting to get the stolen comics back, Lawrence recently had most of his collection taken again, but this time voluntarily. The 60-year-old resident of suburban Delray Beach has decided to sell it. “It’s time for someone else to enjoy these books, and I think people are really excited about them,” he said Tuesday. About 200 books, largely from Lawrence’s older collection, will be available for sale beginning Thursday.
“How the lessons of 2020 may make travel better in the long run” via Christopher Elliott of The Washington Post — From “no risk” bookings that you can cancel at the last minute to eliminating change fees, experts say the new rules could be here to stay. Airlines, car rental companies and hotels have introduced programs that promise a cleaner travel experience. Instead of kowtowing to big spenders, travel companies introduced policies that made sense for everyone. Airlines are scrubbing their planes, taking passengers’ temperatures and if you think you might be sick, you don’t have to worry about losing your airfare.
“Twitter ‘exploring’ adding a dislike button or downvote system” via Jack Morse of Mashable — Twitter is currently “exploring” adding a dislike button or some kind of downvoting system, presumably a la Reddit, announced the company’s product lead on Tuesday. The potential change, confirmed Twitter, is part of a larger effort to make Twitter a place amenable to more nuanced conversations. Notably, Twitter explores new features all the time — and many of those features never launch. Still, hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth suggests a dislike button of some kind may very well be an actual thing coming to Twitter.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are Anthony Pedicini, Laila Aziz, Jon Coley of Capitol Resources, Karen Moore, and one of St. Pete’s best, Sara Stonecipher.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.