Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.22.21

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Your day is better when you start it with a first read on what's happening in Florida politics.

Eight partners at Hopping Green & Sams have left the firm to join one of the nation’s top lobbying firms, The Vogel Group, and leading law firms, Holtzman Vogel Baran Torchinsky & Josefiak.

Making the move: Eileen Stuart, David Childs, Mo Jazil, Gary Perko, Kent Safriet, Gary Hunter and Robert Volpe. The cohort will cut the ribbon on the firms’ inaugural Florida office and headquartered in Tallahassee.

The team won’t be moving far. The Holtzman Vogel office will be on the fifth floor of 119 S. Monroe St., a floor up from Hopping Green & Sams.

Eight Hopping Green & Sams partners exit to cut the ribbon on a new Holtzman Vogel office one floor up.

Stuart, Hunter and Childs will continue to serve their extensive roster of government relations clients at the local, state and federal levels. Jazil, Perko, Safriet and Volpe will bolster Holtzman Vogel’s fast-growing litigation practice at the state and federal levels.

Though now under a different banner, the Florida team still sports a proven track record of success in the state Capitol and in the courtroom. They will now be backed up by their new firm’s extensive bench strength to provide enhanced services to clients across Florida and in the nation’s capital.

“The unification of our established Florida practice with the firm’s impressive federal practice creates exponential benefits for our clients and unparalleled opportunities to grow our business,” Stuart said. “It is truly a situation where one-plus-one equals 10. We all quickly recognized the huge upside across the board to join forces.”

This expansion is the latest in a string of additions to both firms, as they continue to establish new offices outside of the beltway.

In a joint statement, Vogel Group CEO Alex Vogel and Holtzman Vogel Managing Partner Jill Holtzman Vogel said, “We are thrilled to welcome this impressive Florida team to our firms. They bring decades of significant experience and deep relationships in Florida, which will be critical to our clients as Florida continues to become a major hub for commerce, business, and politics.” 

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​​Experts to talk ‘3Ts’ at Florida Chamber webinar — The Florida Chamber Foundation will host a webinar Monday as part of its Continuing the Conversation series. The panel discussion will feature University of Chicago physician Dana Suskind, Florida Business Alliance for Early Learning Chair Kim Reckley, and Early Learning Coalition Executive Director Erin Smeltzer. The trio will discuss the “3Ts — Tune In, Talk More and Take Turns,” an educational program developed by Suskind that helps parents and caregivers understand their critical role in children’s brain development. The webinar will dive into the importance of early childhood brain development and current efforts underway across Florida. The webinar begins at 2 p.m. It is free to attend, but registration closes Friday.

Register here.

 — SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@DWStweets: (Ron) DeSantis wanted full credit for reopening Florida before we beat the virus. Now, as our hospitals become inundated and patients are forced to suffer alone, let’s make sure he gets it.

@StevenTDennis: (Mitch) McConnell has been pro-vaccine from even before they were approved. Mentions at almost every news conference back in Kentucky. But seems like tide shifting among other Rs in last few days?

@MarkGraban: “I’m mad, I’m upset, I’m depressed because we’re going to watch people needlessly die over the next month or two for no good reason,” Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi’s state health officer, said at a briefing Tuesday.

@Amy_Siskind: Florida had 7,740 COVID-19 cases yesterday — 1 in 5 of the entire country, and a 419% increase in its 14-day trend. #DeathSantis says let it burn — no restrictions.

@KevinCate: Florida just reported 8,988 new cases of COVID-19 to the @CDCgov, the most daily cases reported by the state since Feb. 5, 2021.

@JaniceDean: I love these people who criticize Florida’s Governor for COVID-19 deaths/misinformation but have never tweeted about (Andrew) Cuomo’s thousands of nursing home deaths which he covered up to sell his 5.1 million dollar book.

@KirbyWTweets: Something every hospital executive I’ve talked to has said: The hospitalized COVID-19 patient is younger than ever before. Tom VanOsdol, the CEO of Ascension Florida, just said the median COVID-19 patient age at his facilities is 49.

@MarshallCohen: PEOPLE AROUND TRUMP CHARGED WITH CRIMES SINCE HE TOOK OFFICE IN 2017: Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Alan Weisselberg, George Nader, Elliott Broidy, George Papadopoulos, and now Tom Barrack. (And the [Donald] Trump Organization itself.)

@BurgWinkle: A gift to Kevin McCarthy would be a box set of “Home Improvement” on Blu-ray. Republicans are rolling the Boulder uphill on “the Jan. 6 insurrection wasn’t bad” takes and I don’t think this changes that at all.

@BMcNuldy: #Miami tied its record high heat index for today at 106°F. The last time we reached that high on this date was 1983. Winter can’t come soon enough

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

New start date for 2021 Olympics — 1; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 1; the NBA Draft — 6; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 8; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 15; Canada will open its border to fully vaccinated Americans — 18; ‘Marvel’s What If …?’ premieres on Disney+ — 20; Florida Behavioral Health Association’s Annual Conference (BHCon) begins — 27; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 33; Boise vs. UCF — 42; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 43; Notre Dame at FSU — 45; NFL regular season begins — 49; Bucs home opener — 49; California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 54; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 54; Alabama at UF — 58; Dolphins home opener — 59; Jaguars home opener — 59; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 60; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 64; ‘Dune’ premieres — 71; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 71; MLB regular season ends — 73; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 78; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 96; World Series Game 1 — 97; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 97; Georgia at UF — 100; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 103; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 103; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 107; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 109; Miami at FSU — 114; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 120; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 127; FSU vs. UF — 128; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 141; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 148; NFL season ends — 171; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 173; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 173; NFL playoffs begin — 177; Super Bowl LVI — 206; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 246; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 288; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 315; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 351; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 442; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 477.

— TOP STORY —

‘I am at peace’: FSU’s Bobby Bowden diagnosed with a terminal medical condition” via Jim Henry of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida State’s legendary football coach, who turns 92 in November, wife Ann and their family announced Wednesday that Bowden had been diagnosed with a terminal medical condition. “I’ve always tried to serve God’s purpose for my life, on and off the field, and I am prepared for what is to come,” Bowden said in a statement shared with the Democrat. “My wife Ann and our family have been life’s greatest blessing. “I am at peace.” The Bowden family has also asked for privacy as Bowden deals with his health. The family added that Bowden remains upbeat and optimistic.

Best wishes to legendary FSU Coach Bobby Bowden.

—“‘Grace, faith and courage’: Bowden’s announcement brings forth a slew of well wishes” via Jonathan Tully of the Tallahassee Democrat

Tweet, tweet:

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Ron DeSantis urges vaccinations, blames mainstream messaging for skeptics” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis on Wednesday joined the chorus of prominent conservatives urging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 but continued criticizing the federal government’s approach. COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are on the rise nationwide, particularly in Florida. One statistic released by the White House estimated that 20% of new cases last week occurred in Florida. Conservative regions have largely trailed in vaccinations. This week, Republican officials and conservative media figures reignited calls for people to get the shot. Taking his turn during a news conference in St. Petersburg, DeSantis stressed the vaccine’s effectiveness.

Ron DeSantis criticizes the feds while urging conservatives to roll up their sleeves.

—”Marco Rubio defends right to refuse coronavirus vaccine” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Ashley Moody tests positive for COVID-19” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — “I received a COVID-19 vaccine earlier this year and today tested positive for the virus,” Moody tweeted Wednesday evening. “Thankfully, I am only experiencing mild symptoms and my family is in good health.” News of infection comes amid a summer surge of COVID-19 cases. It also comes as Florida and the nation wrestle with a far more contagious variant of the virus — the delta variant. While many lawmakers tested positive throughout the pandemic, Moody is the first member within DeSantis’ inner circle to test positive. She encouraged Floridians to exercise caution as she isolates.

‘A pandemic of the unvaccinated.’ Miami hospital urges patients, workers to get shots” via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — Leaders of Jackson Health System, the county’s public hospital, came out on Tuesday with a single-minded message: Get vaccinated. “This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Jackson Health CEO Carlos Migoya said during a video conference call with media. On Tuesday, there were 143 COVID-19-positive patients at Jackson Health — a 117% increase over the 66 patients hospitalized just two weeks ago. Jackson Health is not sequencing viruses to identify the strain causing a surge in patient admissions for COVID-19 but, Migoya said, “We believe the delta variant has a lot to do with this.”

‘Let’s get it done’: Jacksonville Mayor pushes COVID-19 vaccinations, but opposes mask mandate, shutdowns” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — With COVID-19 cases rising in the Jacksonville area, Mayor Lenny Curry and top hospital executives took to Zoom Wednesday to plead with anyone who has not gotten a vaccination to do so as soon as possible. “This is something that affects all of us,” he said. “It can save your life.” The executives also urged the public to keep wearing masks, practice social distancing and wash hands frequently. But Curry said he would not order people to stay at home or impose a mask mandate because of the rising numbers and deflected questions about whether there were circumstances that would change his mind.

Duval Schools updates mask policy from optional to ‘strongly recommended’ for unvaccinated” via Emily Bloch via The Florida Times-Union — Less than three weeks out from the first day of school in Jacksonville, Duval County Public Schools is revising its face mask policy for the 2021-22 school year. The district announced it would upgrade its mask policy from “optional” to “strongly recommended” for students who are unvaccinated. The change comes as the City of Jacksonville continues to push back Florida’s latest COVID-19 surge. Still, the masks aren’t mandatory. Originally, face masks were downgraded in Duval County Public Schools from “mandatory” to “voluntary” at secondary schools and “strongly encouraged, but voluntary” at elementary schools.

— STATEWIDE —

DeSantis defends state response to red tide in Tampa Bay amid calls to declare emergency” via Steve Contorno and Kailyn Rhone of the Tampa Bay Times — The St. Petersburg news conference was rolling along as planned until a local reporter informed DeSantis that Mayor Rick Kriseman had accused the Republican administration of politicizing the response. DeSantis snapped at the reporter for relaying Kriseman’s message: “Well, you should look to see, is that credible to say that?” Kriseman, the City Council, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and environmental groups have all called on DeSantis to declare a state of emergency. That’s how the Governor’s office helped the west coast during the 2018 outbreak. DeSantis on Wednesday said Kriseman and other city officials have not articulated why a state of emergency is needed, and he insisted he had already allocated money in the state budget to respond to this kind of problem.

Ron DeSantis is refusing to declare the red tide situation in Tampa Bay a state of emergency. Image via FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

‘It’s gross’: A summer of red tides piles up 600 tons of dead fish on Florida beaches” via Elizabeth Djinis of The New York Times — The stench hits first, uncomfortable at best and gag-inducing at worst. Then comes a small tickle in the back of the throat that won’t go away. It’s been like that for much of the summer at beaches in the Tampa Bay region and across Southwest Florida, where the harmful algal blooms known as a red tide have killed more than 600 tons of marine life, according to local officials. Some of it was likely pushed ashore by Tropical Storm Elsa two weeks ago. “This is unusual for Tampa Bay,” said Kate Hubbard, a research scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Conditions have actually started to improve somewhat in recent days. A week ago, the bacteria in some parts of Tampa Bay were at 10 to 17 times the concentration considered “high.”

Seminole Tribe leader Marcellus Osceola Jr. is elusive, inspiring — but likely unknown to many Floridians” via Issac Morgan of Florida Phoenix — When the new 30-year, multibillion-dollar gambling compact between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida was unveiled, only two names were on the document signed on April 23: DeSantis and Osceola, chairman of the Tribal Council. But who is Osceola? Most Floridians probably don’t know much about him. In fact, several state lawmakers in South Florida said they’ve never met him. The Osceola family has a history of public service, according to The Seminole Tribune. Osceola is the grandson of the late Bill Osceola, the Tribe’s first president. And the chairman’s father, Marcellus Osceola Sr., was a Hollywood councilman in the 1970-80s.

Natural gas costs could drive up utility bills” via Jim Saunders of News Service of Florida — Tampa Electric on Monday asked the Florida Public Service Commission to approve a proposal that would increase customers’ bills from September through December — after Duke filed a similar proposal earlier in the month. The two utilities, which have a combined total of about 2.7 million customers, blamed natural gas prices that fuel power plants. The PSC in April approved an increase in bills of Florida Power & Light customers because of natural-gas costs. Tampa Electric and Duke asked the PSC to take up the proposals during an Aug. 3 meeting. If approved, Tampa Electric customers who use 1,000-kilowatt-hours of electricity a month would see their monthly bills increase by $12.82. Similar Duke customers could see $4.28-a-month increases.

— DATELINE TALLY —

Joe Gruters didn’t deserve presumptuous comments” via Chris Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune —Gruters must go. Why? Because they say he’s a sexual-harassing creep on Twitter, and that’s good enough for me. He’s Republican too? Ooh, even better. So c’mon everybody, grab your pitchforks and protest signs, and we’ll meet on the corner by the bayfront. We’ll shout, you’ll honk, and the entire world will know how reprehensible this morally derelict hypocrite is. Who cares if that harassment allegation is true? Who knows if there even was one? Joe must go, and that’s all there is to it.

Shevrin Jones to offer political crash course seminar in Miami Gardens” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Jones announced a community event in late August to help the public learn about how to run for office, the bill writing process and other major civics topics. Joining Jones will be Reps. Christopher Benjamin and Felicia Robinson, as well as Miami Gardens Councilwoman Linda Julien. Jones is calling the event #WEthePEOPLE University. The seminar will take place on Aug. 21 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. in Miami Gardens. The Betty T. Ferguson Complex, located at 3000 NW 199 St., will host the event. “We can’t leave the people out of politics,” Jones said in a statement on the event sent to Florida Politics.

Shevrin Jones wants residents of Miami Gardens to learn how to get into office. 

— 2022 —

Billboards highlighting DeSantis’ close ties to Matt Gaetz coming to Governor’s Mansion” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — DeSantis’ effort to distance himself from embattled U.S. Rep. Gaetz just got more difficult, as two giant reminders of their close association before Gaetz’s underage sex-trafficking controversy are coming to the Governor’s Tallahassee home. Political group Ron Be Gone announced Wednesday that two billboards highlighting DeSantis’ close relationship with Gaetz will be displayed just outside the Governor’s Mansion at the intersection of North Monroe Street and Thomasville Road. One billboard depicting the two Republicans features a joke Gaetz made on DeSantis’ 2018 campaign trail for the Florida governorship: “Matt Gaetz says DeSantis is the ‘Batman’ to his ‘Robin.’”

New billboards are a twofer.

Donald Trump, DeSantis top survey of NH GOP primary voters” via Nick Niedzwiadek of POLITICO — Trump remains the clear favorite among New Hampshire Republicans should he choose to run again. Close to half the likely primary voters polled, 47%, say they’d back Trump over other prominent Republicans. That’s more than double the support of the next closest potential candidate, DeSantis’ 19%, topping former Vice President Mike Pence’s 5%.

—”Nikki Fried’s political committee trails the pack in mid-July” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics 

‘Right to pray’ initiative proposed” via News Service of Florida — A proposed constitutional amendment, sponsored by Florida Right to Pray Together, would limit the ability of the Governor or other parts of government to close or restrict the sizes of gatherings at religious institutions without legislative approval. “The freedom of religion is a fundamental right enshrined in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and in the Constitution of the state of Florida,” the proposal says. “Any executive order by the Governor or any other designated governmental authority in the state of Florida cannot close, or limit in size, gatherings of any houses of worship or individually organized gatherings of prayer for more than 21 calendar days within a Governor’s term, without specific approval of a majority of both houses of the Legislature.”

Anna Paulina Luna calls murder threats ‘horrifying’” via Evan Donovan of WFLA — In her first interview since obtaining a restraining order against a primary opponent, St. Petersburg Republican Luna said she is horrified by the murder threats made against her, but vowed to continue her congressional race. “It’s horrifying,” Luna said, “but I think when you’re fighting for something you truly believe in, you have to accept that it’s a possibility.” Luna filed for a restraining order in June after a friend, Erin Olszewski, recorded a phone call with a man Olszewski said is William Braddock, a former Republican primary opponent who has since dropped out of the race. During the call, the man says Luna “is gonna be gone” and that he has access to “a Russian and Ukrainian hit squad” that will “make her disappear.”

Seminole State Attorney chose not to probe elections complaint in key Senate race, records show” via Jason Garcia and Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Last September, prosecutors in Miami received a complaint about a mysterious political group that appeared to break state election laws while meddling in an important Central Florida state Senate election. The group was based in Miami, but it had tried to sway Democratic primary voters in a Seminole County-centered race eventually won by Republican Jason Brodeur of Sanford. So the Miami prosecutors sent the complaint to the office of Phil Archer, the elected State Attorney for Seminole and Brevard counties.

Palm Beach County PAC seeks to ‘save’ Florida by registering voters who feel threatened by people moving here from other states” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Life in Florida is good but quickly takes a dark turn in a new political group’s pitch. Virtually everything that so many people like about living in the state, from relative safety and security to no state income tax, is under threat from what’s described as a “massive migration” of people moving to Florida from “states and cities that are unaffordable, unsafe and unfree.” And without action, the website warns, the result is inevitable: “Increased violence and property crime rates, inflation, higher taxes, lower standards of living, mediocre or failing schools, infringements upon guaranteed freedoms and hostility to small business owners.”

—“Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters endorses Berny Jacques for HD 66” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics

— CORONA NATION —

Joe Biden says getting vaccinated ‘gigantically important’” via Alexandra Jaffe and Aamer Madhani of The Associated Press — Biden, speaking at a televised town hall in Cincinnati, said the public health crisis has turned largely into a plight of the unvaccinated as the spread of the delta variant has led to a surge in infections around the country. “We have a pandemic for those who haven’t gotten the vaccination — it’s that basic, that simple,” he said on the CNN town hall. The President displayed exasperation that so many eligible Americans are still reluctant to get a shot. “If you’re vaccinated, you’re not going to be hospitalized, you’re not going to be in the IC unit, and you’re not going to die. So it’s gigantically important that … we all act like Americans who care about our fellow Americans.”

Driven by COVID-19 deaths, U.S. life expectancy dropped by 1.5 years in 2020” via Allyson Chiu, Lindsey Bever and Ariana Eunjung Cha of The Washington Post — Life expectancy in the United States dropped by a year and a half in 2020, a continuation of a worrisome decline that was observed in the first half of last year as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the country. The decline, which is the largest seen in a single year since World War II, reflects the pandemic’s sustained toll on Americans, particularly the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. Black Americans lost 2.9 years of life expectancy while Latinos, who have longer life expectancy than non-Hispanic Blacks or Whites, saw a drop of three years. There was a decrease of 1.2 years among White people.

COVID-19 has led to a significant drop in U.S. life expectancy. Image via AP.

COVID-19 cases in US triple over 2 weeks amid misinformation” via Heather Hollingsworth and Jim Salter of The Associated Press — Across the U.S., the seven-day rolling average for daily new cases rose over the past two weeks to more than 37,000 on Tuesday, up from less than 13,700 on July 6. Health officials blame the delta variant and slowing vaccination rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 56.2% of Americans have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine. In Louisiana, health officials reported 5,388 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday — the third-highest daily count since the pandemic began. Utah reported having 295 people hospitalized, the most since February. “It is like seeing the car wreck before it happens,” said Dr. James Williams, a clinical associate professor of emergency medicine at Texas Tech.

More than 91 million live in U.S. counties with high COVID-19 infections. It’s time to reset and put masks back on, experts say” via Madeline Holcombe of CNN — About 28% of the US population, or more than 91 million people, lives in a county considered to have “high” COVID-19 transmission, according to data from the CDC. According to the CDC, only 48.7% of the total US population is fully vaccinated against the virus — a number far below the 70% to 85% health experts have estimated it would take to slow or stop the spread. Cases are surging in the US. The country averaged 37,055 new cases a day across a week as of Tuesday — 54% higher than the prior week and more than two and a half times the average recorded about two weeks ago (13,665), according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Biden battles a triple-headed monster on vaccines” via Peter J. Hotez of the Daily Beast — This week, the Biden administration recognized how misinformation contributes to the staggering public health impact of COVID-19, with Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issuing his first advisory, warning about the power of vaccine myths when they are amplified on social media sites, and the president himself warning about the spread of misinformation and calling on tech and social media companies in general, and Facebook in particular, to work harder to limit it. Those calls are insufficient and fail to acknowledge how the anti-vaccine movement has expanded and globalized into an anti-science evil empire. Taking this on will require something far more ambitious.

Key federal aid programs are running out of time — and cash — as new coronavirus variant spreads” via Tony Romm of The Washington Post — Some of the federal stimulus programs that kept families and businesses afloat financially throughout the worst of the coronavirus pandemic are soon expiring or already depleted, raising fresh economic fears at a time when another wave of infections is starting to sweep the country. The new concerns stem from the highly transmissible delta variant, which has ravaged largely unvaccinated pockets of states, including Arkansas, Missouri and Florida. The growing caseloads threaten once again to crimp travel and tourism, reduce traffic to storefronts and restaurants, and displace workers from their jobs, a prospect that has led to wild gyrations on Wall Street as investors try to determine what will happen next.

More hospitals are requiring workers to get COVID-19 vaccines” via Reed Abelson of The New York Times — More and more hospitals and major health systems are requiring employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine, citing rising caseloads fueled by the Delta variant and stubbornly low vaccination rates in their communities and even within their workforce. Many hospitals say their efforts to immunize their employees have stalled, in much the same way the nation’s overall vaccination rates are stuck under 60%, behind many European countries and Canada. One recent estimate indicated that one in four hospital workers were not vaccinated by the end of May, with some facilities reporting that fewer than half of their employees had gotten the shots.

Schools confront more polarization with mask rules for fall” via Heather Hollingsworth, Tammy Webber and Todd Richmond of The Associated Press — The spread of the delta variant and the deep political divisions over the outbreak have complicated decisions in districts from coast to coast. In some conservative states, lawmakers have banned districts from requiring masks despite outcry from medical professionals. Schools are weighing various plans to manage junior high and middle school classrooms filled with both vaccinated and unvaccinated students. Adding to the concerns is a rise in cases overall — sharply in some states, including Arkansas, which won’t let schools require masks. On Tuesday, public health researchers called Arkansas’ rapidly climbing infections and hospitalizations a “raging forest fire,” and the state’s top health official warned of significant future outbreaks in schools.

The battle over school mask mandates is heating up. Image via AP.

‘I’m sorry, but it’s too late’: Alabama doctor on treating unvaccinated, dying COVID-19 patients” via Dennis Cobia of AL.com — Dr. Brytney Cobia said Monday that all but one of her COVID-19 patients in Alabama did not receive the vaccine. The vaccinated patient, she said, just needed a little oxygen and is expected to recover fully. Some of the others are dying. “I’m admitting young, healthy people to the hospital with very serious COVID infections,” wrote Cobia, a hospitalist at Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham, in an emotional Facebook post Sunday. “One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late.” Three COVID-19 vaccines have been widely available in Alabama for months now, yet the state is last in the nation in vaccination rate, with only 33.7% of the population fully vaccinated.

—”Employees now required to wear masks indoors in Las Vegas” via Ed Comenda of USA Today

—“ACC’s Jim Phillips calls COVID-19 vaccinations ‘critical’ but also a ‘personal choice’” via David Thompson of USA Today

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

Is the U.S. economy too hot or too cold? Yes.” via Neil Irwin of The New York Times — Here’s a riddle: What is both too hot and too cold? The answer: the United States economy in the summer of 2021. In the mid-2021 economy, employers are offering higher pay to attract scarce workers; airports and car lots are bustling, and a GDP report due out next week will probably show blockbuster growth. It is also an economy in which inflation is outstripping pay gains for many workers; the share of the population working remains far below pre-pandemic levels, and bond markets are priced at levels that suggest a high risk of returning to sluggish growth in the years ahead. Essentially, the economy is having a harder time rebooting itself than had seemed likely in the heady days of spring.

Can the economy be both hot and cold? Yep, it’s possible. Image via AP.

State, local officials distributed just 6.5% of rental aid in first half of year” via Katy O’Donnell of POLITICO — State and local officials disbursed $1.5 billion in federal rental assistance in June, the Treasury Department reported Wednesday morning, bringing the total rental aid distributed over the first six months of the year to a little over $3 billion, about 6.5% of the total aid Congress has allocated. While officials have picked up the pace of disbursal, serving 290,000 households in June, up from 160,00 the previous month, they remain woefully behind demand, with a little over 633,000 households served by a program meant to help millions.

Used car prices slip from dizzy heights, signaling small victory for economy” via Tom Krisher and Mike Householder of The Associated Press — The seemingly endless streak of skyrocketing used-vehicle prices appears to be coming to a close. Not that anyone should expect bargains. Though average wholesale prices that dealers pay are gradually dropping, they’ll likely remain near record levels. And while demand has eased a bit, a steady flow of buyers could keep prices unusually high for a couple of years more. Until the pandemic flattened the economy in March 2020, average wholesale used vehicle prices paid by dealers rose only a little every year. Average prices briefly fell in April last year, only to soar over 60% to a peak in May this year, according to data kept by Manheim, a group of auction houses where dealers buy vehicles.

— MORE CORONA —

Cash shortage threatens White House global vaccine effort” via Erin Banco of POLITICO — In an echo of World War II, the Biden White House announced last month that the United States would become an “arsenal of vaccines” sending hundreds of millions of doses abroad to help save the world from COVID-19. Now that sweeping effort is in jeopardy, officials warn. The virus has killed more people worldwide already this year than it did in all of 2020. And, amid a bureaucratic battle with the White House, the agency charged with distributing the shots is scrambling to figure out how to pay for them.

The global vaccine effort is running low on cash. Image via AP.

More than a million children around the world may have been orphaned by the COVID-19 pandemic, study finds” via Adrianna Rodriguez of USA Today — A recent study reveals another devastating impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on children around the world. According to their model published Tuesday in The Lancet, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital estimate more than a million children may have been orphaned because of a COVID-19-related death. They defined orphaned as losing at least one parent. The authors estimate 1.13 million children lost a parent or custodial grandparent, and of these, 1.04 million lost a mother, father, or both. Overall, 1.56 million children were estimated to have experienced the death of at least one parent or a custodial grandparent or other grandparent living with them.

U.S. extends Mexico, Canada border restrictions through Aug. 21 despite Canada’s plan to allow fully vaccinated Americans” via Bailey Schulz and Morgan Hines of USA Today — The United States has extended border restrictions on nonessential travel yet again as COVID-19 infections rise in every state. U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada will remain closed through Aug. 21. The previous U.S. border restrictions were set to end Thursday. The extensions come on the heels of Canada’s Monday announcement that it would reopen its borders to fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents on Aug. 9, with plans to allow fully vaccinated travelers from any country on Sept. 7. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday: “Any decisions about resuming travel will be guided by our public health and medical experts. … I wouldn’t look at it through a reciprocal intention.”

Sean Hannity’s limited vaccine endorsement is a small drop in Fox News’s ocean of doubt” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — “Please take COVID-19 seriously,” Fox News’s Hannity said Monday night. “I can’t say it enough. Enough people have died. We don’t need any more death.” “I believe in science,” he added a bit later. “I believe in the science of vaccination.” That’s a bit short of “go get vaccinated,” sure, but it’s at least a step in the direction that many critics have been hoping to push the network. Hannity made his remarks while also disparaging mandates for vaccination. More to the point, those watching Hannity’s endorsement of vaccines would have needed to immediately turn off their televisions to avoid seeing him quickly amplify concerns about the process.

Sean Hannity pleas for vaccinations: Too little, too late? Image via AP.

Confidence grows in traveling amid pandemic” via News Service of Florida — Floridians’ confidence about traveling safely has nearly doubled since the first quarter of the year despite a recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases, according to a survey by the AAA Auto Club. The findings, released Wednesday, indicated that 74% of Floridians are now more assured about hitting the road, getting on commercial planes or taking cruises, up from 40% in the first quarter of 2021. At the same time, concerns about contracting COVID-19 dropped from 72% in the first quarter to 47%, according to the survey. “AAA has experienced a surge in demand for travel as more Americans have become vaccinated and feel confident in their ability to vacation safely,” said Debbie Haas, AAA’s vice president of travel.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Why Biden might avoid the policy sinkhole that swamped his predecessors” via Nate Cohn of The New York Times — Over the last 30 years, nearly every incoming President opened his term with an ambitious but ultimately unpopular push to remake America’s health care system. It sapped public support. It contributed to the inexorable polarization of American politics. And it ended in a drubbing in the midterm elections. It is far too soon to say whether Biden will avoid that fate. By carving a middle path between legislative gridlock and a bold initiative to achieve a transformative partisan goal like health care, Biden is so far avoiding one of the most obvious pitfalls of modern presidential politics.

Joe Biden may succeed where his predecessors failed. Image via AP.

—“Biden names tech foe Jonathan Kanter as DOJ Antitrust Chief” via Justin Sink and David McLaughlin of Bloomberg Law

— EPILOGUE TRUMP — 

Allen Weisselberg resigned from the top of the Trump Organization. So who’s running the company now?” via David A. Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey and Jonathan O’Connell of The Washington Post — Earlier this month, Weisselberg resigned his post in the company’s leadership. Weisselberg had been one of two trustees at the trust that owns and controls Trump’s company. But Weisselberg gave up that post, and dozens of others at Trump subsidiaries, after he was charged with running a tax fraud scheme inside the company. Weisselberg still works at the company, according to one person familiar with the Trump Organization. But his resignation from those formal posts means that the company’s already small executive ranks have shrunk even further, at a time when the company faces a raft of financial and legal problems.

With Allen Weisselberg out, who’s running the show? Image via AP.

Political spending at Trump properties is down (because Trump’s campaigns aren’t spending money at them)” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — Over the course of his presidency, the private properties Trump owned raked in millions of dollars from people seeking to curry his favor or to leverage his popularity. But after he left office, analysis from ProPublica shows, that spigot has squeaked closed. In the first six months of 2017, the properties pulled in more than $600,000. In the first six months of 2019, about $1.4 million. So far this year, though? Only about $350,000. However, the reason for the drop isn’t really that Trump isn’t carrying the same appeal for his allies as he used to. It’s that his own campaign committees aren’t spending money anymore because he’s not holding fundraisers at his properties or leasing office space to the campaigns.

The institutions that can defend the U.S. from Trumpism” via Perry Bacon Jr. of The Washington Post — Private colleges often do get some federal funds, so they are not totally insulated from Trump-style politics. But they aren’t as reliant on government money as public ones, and a select few, such as Harvard and Yale, hold tens of billions of dollars in wealth. That means that private colleges can confidently pursue goals and initiatives that diverge or are even in tension with the current Republican Party. You saw an example of this early in the pandemic, with Johns Hopkins University offering reliable COVID-19 data when Trump and others on his team were trying to downplay the virus. Honest research about race and identity, in particular, must remain strong at private colleges, as Republicans seek to outlaw it in public universities.

Kraken attorney’s fundraising group gets Florida’s approval” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — A group run by one of Trump’s most prominent election conspiracy adherents, reacting to accusations it was illegally seeking donations in Florida, has registered with the state and says it will raise $7 million, documents released Wednesday show. The office of Agriculture Commissioner Fried, which polices charities, said it approved paperwork filed by attorney Sidney Powell’s Defending the Republic group. Fried’s office had filed an administrative complaint last month against the group, accusing it of seeking donations without registering with the state as required. Fried spokesman Franco Ripple said the office and Defending the Republic are negotiating what punishment the group should receive for beginning operations before registering. That will include a fine, Ripple said.

— CRISIS —

Nancy Pelosi bars Trump allies from Jan. 6 probe; GOP vows boycott” via Mary Clare Jalonick of The Associated Press — House Speaker Pelosi cited the “integrity” of the probe in refusing to accept the appointments of Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, picked by House Minority Leader McCarthy to be the top Republican on the panel, or Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan. The two men are outspoken allies of Trump. Both voted to overturn the election results in the hours after the siege. Pelosi said she had spoken with McCarthy and told him that she would reject the two names. McCarthy said Pelosi’s move will damage the institution of Congress. “Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be a party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts,” McCarthy said.

Nancy Pelosi gives a big ‘nope’ to Jim Jordan. Image via AP.

Pentagon watchdog to review ‘nuclear football’ safety procedures after Jan. 6 incident” via Barbara Starr and Ellie Kaufman of CNN — The Department of Defense inspector general is launching a review of the Pentagon’s and White House’s ability to keep the “nuclear football” secure during a crisis, following an incident on Jan. 6 when rioters came within 100 feet of the backup “football.” The inspector general will evaluate the policies and procedures around the Presidential Emergency Satchel, also known as the “nuclear football,” if it is “lost, stolen, or compromised.” There is a backup “football” that stays close to the Vice President if the president cannot carry out his nuclear launch responsibilities. The briefcase contains equipment and decision-making papers that the President or, in the event the President cannot, the Vice President needs to authenticate orders for and launch a nuclear strike.

DEA agent trespassed at Capitol on Jan. 6 and lied about it, prosecutors say” via Rachel Weiner of The Washington Post — A DEA special agent trespassed with his government-issued firearm on the Capitol grounds Jan. 6 and then lied about his actions, according to federal prosecutors. Mark Ibrahim, who was arrested Tuesday, is not accused of entering the Capitol building. Prosecutors say he entered the restricted grounds around the building shortly after barricades were torn down by the mob and then repeatedly showed off his badge and gun to other protesters. He then falsely claimed he was there to help the FBI, prosecutors say. According to the court record, Ibrahim, of Orange County, California, arrived at the Capitol just after 1 p.m. Jan. 6 and was there when the barricades around the building were torn down. He appears in several photographs inside the collapsed barricades, near the Senate steps.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Infrastructure bill fails first vote; Senate to try again” via Lisa Mascaro and Kevin Freking of The Associated Press — Senate Republicans rejected an effort Wednesday to begin debate on the big infrastructure deal that a bipartisan group of Senators brokered with Biden. But supporters in both parties remained hopeful of a better chance soon. Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer scheduled the procedural vote described as a step to ”get the ball rolling” as talks progress. But Republicans mounted a filibuster, saying the bipartisan group needed more time to wrap up the deal and review the details. They sought a delay until Monday. We have made significant progress and are close to a final agreement,” the informal group of 22 Senators, Republicans and Democrats, said in a joint statement.

Back to the drawing board: Senate Republicans put the brakes on Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill. Image via AP.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz files legislation to encourage more breast cancer screening” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Wasserman Schultz, who was diagnosed with cancer at age 41, said that women between the ages of 40 and 49 should not face any barrier to routine mammograms. But the Affordable Care Act requires that insurers completely cover just those screenings that get at least a “B” from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. And mammograms for women in their 40s get a “C” from the USPSTF, which is a panel of experts that gives evidence-based recommendations for what screenings are worthwhile. She and Republican U.S. Rep. Fred Upton reintroduced the Protecting Access to Lifesaving Screenings (PALS) Act. And companion legislation has been introduced by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn.

Florida business leaders lobby for Equality Act” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — More than 20 Florida businesses signed a letter calling for Congress to pass the Equality Act. Industry leaders, including a significant number in the tech and hospitality sector, say Florida’s economy stands to gain if the federal government puts nationwide job protections in place the Florida Legislature has so far failed to advance. “Passage of the Equality Act isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s the smart thing to do economically,” said Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. Florida-based businesses co-signing the letter include such major job suppliers as BlueGrace Logistics, Carlton Fields, Citrix, Office Depot and Owens Corning.

3 GOP House members lose appeals over $500 mask fines” via Meg Kinnard of The Associated Press — Three Republican U.S. House members have lost appeals challenging fines for not wearing face coverings on the House floor earlier this year. On Tuesday, the U.S. House Ethics Committee released statements noting that U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Thomas Massie and Ralph Norman had failed in their appeals of $500 fines issued in May. The Republicans challenged the fines in June, arguing that the mandate was out of sync with recent federal guidance on face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The vote in question happened a week after the CDC issued guidance noting that “fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing.”

These lobbyists cashed in on Trump. Now, business is done by millions” via Theodoric Meyer of POLITICO — Brian Ballard, a Florida lobbyist who was a top fundraiser for Trump’s campaigns and who opened a Washington office after Trump won, has experienced a similar trend. Ballard built his firm into one of the largest in Washington. But its lobbying revenues fell by about 26 percent to $4.8 million in the second quarter, compared with $6.5 million in the second quarter of last year. Still, many of Ballard’s clients decided to stick with him even though Trump is no longer in office. … “We talked to them about that, and they were very honest with us,” said Keith Wilkins, the city administrator for the City of Pensacola, which is a Ballard client. The firm assured him they were working to develop “relationships with some of the leading Democrats in the state of Florida,” he said. With Trump gone, Ballard Partners has worked to adapt to President Biden’s Washington. It hired more Democratic lobbyists this year and saw its revenue grow slightly from the first quarter to second quarter of 2021. “We’re institutionalizing our business rather than getting the one-time quick hit,” Ballard said.

— LOCAL NOTES —

Disney may get a $570 million state tax break for its Lake Nona regional campus” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — Disney could get more than half a billion dollars in state tax breaks for building a regional hub in Lake Nona where it plans to put more than 2,000 employees moving from California, documents show. Disney’s capital investment for the project could be as much as $864 million, according to company projections made in documents released to the Orlando Sentinel from the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity. An estimate shows Disney could claim more than $570 million in tax breaks over 20 years for the project. The tax break would be among the largest in state history for a single corporation.

Judge approves $150 million initial minimum payment for Surfside collapse victims” via Kurt Anderson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Victims and families who suffered losses in the collapse of a 12-story oceanfront Florida condominium will get a minimum of $150 million in compensation initially, a judge said Wednesday. That sum includes insurance on the Champlain Towers South building and the expected proceeds from the sale of the Surfside property where the structure once stood, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman said at a hearing. The court’s concern has always been the victims here,” the judge said, adding that the group includes visitors and renters, not just condo owners. The $150 million does not count any proceeds from the numerous lawsuits already filed since the June 24 collapse, killing at least 97 people.

The first payments to Surfside collapse victims are coming soon. Image via Jason Pizzo/Twitter.

‘Why can’t we rebuild?’ Some Surfside condo owners tell judge they want to stay at property” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — Yadira Santos, who survived the Surfside condo collapse along with her 8-year-old son, is part of a group of condo owners that’s now publicly advocating for working with a developer to rebuild Champlain Towers South on the beach-side Collins Avenue site. But as with condo unit owners anywhere in South Florida, a consensus is hard to come by, even in the wake of unprecedented tragedy. Raysa Rodriguez, who escaped alongside Santos, does not want a rebuild. She told the court Wednesday that she remains haunted by the memories of that night, including an unseen woman crying for help from the rubble. The survivors aired their views Wednesday as part of a hearing for the slew of lawsuits filed after the collapse.

Darden Rice repeats attack on Ken Welch for ties to Trump supporters” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Rice has sent another mailer to voters bashing one of her chief rivals in the race for Mayor, former Pinellas County Commissioner Welch. Like a flyer that hit mailboxes over the weekend, another received Tuesday hit Welch for accepting donations and endorsements from what the mailer describes as supporters of former President Trump. The mailer cites a Tampa Bay Times article from Mar. 19 titled “Ken Welch backers in St. Pete Mayor’s race include prominent Republicans to support its claims. It’s the same citation used in the previous mailer.

FBI agent ‘Mike Miller’ testifies about infiltrating Tallahassee” via the Tallahassee Democrat — Miller, one of the undercover FBI agents who developed friendships with Burnette and other power players in town, will continue his testimony. J.T. Burnette is facing racketeering, extortion and other federal charges in the FBI’s long public corruption investigation in Tallahassee. During a trip to Nashville, Burnette bragged about killing a proposal by the McKibbon Hotel Group, which wanted to build a Hampton Inn at Monroe and Tennessee streets, Miller testified. The project died in 2014 after Scott Maddox walked out of chambers.

Lake County lawmaker calls for governor to remove Polk schools’ new superintendent” v ia The Ledger —Rep. Anthony Sabatini is calling for Gov. DeSantis to remove newly installed Polk County Public Schools Superintendent Frederick Heid from his job because Heid is participating in an informational forum about Critical Race Theory, hosted by the NAACP’s Lakeland chapter. Terry Coney, president of the Lakeland National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, organized the event to discuss publicly “what Critical Race Theory is, what it isn’t, and what is all of the fuss about,” according to the event flier.  But Rep. Sabatini sent a letter saying, “This behavior is completely unacceptable for a school superintendent.”

Gainesville gives initial OK to public drinking” via John Henderson of The Gainesville Sun — A proposed ordinance that would allow people to drink alcohol anywhere on public property in Gainesville is one step closer to becoming law. The City Commission narrowly approved the plan on the first of two required votes after debating whether it would lead to more criminal behavior. The Commission voted 4-3 for the ordinance, with Commissioners David Arreola, Gail Johnson and Desmon Duncan-Walker voting no. It would make permanent what is now a temporary rule designed to help businesses during the pandemic.

What Cesar Fernandez is reading — “Self-driving ‘robo-taxis’ rolling into Miami” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade just got one step closer to a future filled with driverless vehicles. Ford, Lyft and the autonomous driving technology group Argo AI announced Wednesday they would begin deploying self-driving ride-hail cars in Miami-Dade, as well as Austin, Tex., this winter. For now, passengers who order up self-driving Lyfts will not be alone in the vehicle: A safety driver ready to take over the wheel, as well as a technology monitor, will be in the front seats. Choosing a so-called “robo-taxi” comes at no extra charge, and there are no preset routes.

Self-driving ‘robo-taxis’ will soon be rolling in Miami.

Florida Power & Light: Demand for solar outstrips capacity” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Thirteen months since Florida Power & Light debuted its community solar program, all its available solar power has been sold, company officials said Wednesday. More than 48,000 residential customers have “subscribed,” and another 2,000 customers are on a waiting list, so they too can be part of what company officials are calling the nation’s largest community solar program. On the commercial side, demand outpaces capacity. Company officials Wednesday hailed the interest the program is generating. “We developed the FPL SolarTogether program because customers wanted access to clean, cost-effective solar energy, and the response to the program was almost immediate,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL.

Duke solar plants slated for North Florida” via News Service of Florida — Duke Energy Florida on Wednesday detailed the locations of four solar power plants that will start being built early next year. One of the 74.9-megawatt plants will be built on 635 acres in Suwannee County; another will be built on 645 acres in Bay County; another will be built on 650 acres in Levy County, and another will be built on 700 acres in Alachua County, the utility said in a news release. They are part of a Duke plan to build 10 additional solar plants by late 2024.

— TOP OPINION —

Biden’s good job on the vaccine” via Christopher Ruddy of Newsmax — Six months into his administration, Biden should be applauded for making a huge dent in the COVID-19 pandemic. He inherited an effective vaccine from Trump, took it into his arms, and ran with it. I personally like what Biden has done with the vaccine. He started by embracing the Trump-backed vaccine. I heard that in the early days of the administration, Biden himself was on a call discussing the rollout of the vaccine with some at the CDC, and others, wanting delays in the rollout. Biden himself would have none of it. He took charge of the call and said there would be no delay. After that, Biden pushed for relaxed mask and social distancing guidelines from the CDC, to the consternation of “lockdown” Democratic Governors.

— OPINIONS —

How many coronavirus deaths each day are acceptable?” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — At the heart of the current debate over the coronavirus pandemic is a related question: At what point do we decide that the number of people dying of the virus or being hobbled by its occasional long-term effects is acceptable? It’s a grim question, certainly, the sort of thing that we generally outsource to insurers and actuaries. But it’s also a question that we need to answer. There’s no real chance that the coronavirus will be eliminated, meaning it’s likely to become endemic. So at what point do we scale back our focus on it? You can see an uptick in the average number of deaths each day over the past two weeks or so, but it’s not clear whether that’s an anomaly or not.

Right-wing media could end the pandemic — without giving an inch in the culture war. Here’s the script.” via Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post — No one took Geraldo Rivera very seriously last year when he proposed naming the coronavirus vaccine in honor of the just-defeated President. Why aren’t conservatives pounding away that it was their guy who started developing the vaccine under his overstated moniker Operation Warp Speed? For good measure, they could even trash the Biden administration for taking credit for their hero’s unbelievable wisdom and execution. Trump himself would certainly be happy to play along.

Unvaccinated people should be offered cash to take the vaccine” via Charles Lane of The Washington Post — Unvaccinated people should be offered cash, guaranteed, not lottery tickets, on a wider scale. If companies, foundations or states won’t step in, the federal government should cover the cost. Only after the possibilities for financial inducement have been exhausted should we consider mandates. Would it work? No one can quite know the minimum vaccination rate needed to achieve “herd immunity” against COVID-19 in the United States, but physician Serpil Erzurum, chair of the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, has cited a range of 70 to 85%.

Giving cover to anti-vax Floridians creates another form of voter suppression” via Frank Cerabino of The Palm Beach Post — Killing your own voters doesn’t seem like a good political strategy. I’m offering this observation to DeSantis, who seems to have allowed his voter-suppression tactics to get out of hand. But DeSantis, who has fully embraced his role as the oracle of stupidity, has accidentally set Florida on a path that will lead to eliminating some of his own voters from the polls. And by the worst way imaginable. By coddling and tacitly endorsing their distrust in getting readily available, free, lifesaving vaccines against COVID-19. It would be quite a turn of events for Republicans to shift from worrying about imaginary dead Democratic voters casting ballots to lamenting that real Republican dead voters aren’t casting ballots.

On Jan. 6, Nancy Pelosi chose truth. Kevin McCarthy chose theater.” via Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post — The GOP has effectively split in two. The overwhelming majority is firmly attached to the MAGA cult, unable to govern seriously and willing to sabotage our democracy further; the second is a handful of House members and senators who evidence some commitment to uphold their oaths, defend the rule of law and stay within shouting distance of reality. They are not nuts, frankly. To the extent that Democrats want to continue to build a firewall around democracy, they should do whatever it takes to keep the minority of Republican voters who despise the Trumpification of their party on board. Fortunately for Democrats, McCarthy has provided evidence that the GOP is beyond rescue and unfit to hold power.

At next Miami rally, reject the Proud Boys. Hate has no place in quest for Cuba’s freedom” via the Miami Herald editorial board — You’d think someone who has admitted to two misdemeanors might keep a low profile. For one reason, Enrique Tarrio won’t be sentenced until next month and could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine on each count. But Tarrio and members of his group have been showing up at demonstrations in Miami during the last week in support of protesters in Cuba who are courageously speaking out despite repression. Let’s be clear: That is not the kind of support the Cuban American community here needs. Miami must repudiate Tarrio, his group, and his extremism at every opportunity, just as we repudiate the far-left extremism of a handful of BLM activists who have come out in support of the repressive regime in Cuba.

Posturing by DeSantis hurts cruise lines and passengers” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — A panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last weekend overruled a trial court judge’s decision against the CDC. The CDC had issued rules designed to help cruise lines return safely to business after the pandemic idled them in March 2020. The CDC was acting on behalf of the industry, even if companies complained that the agency was moving too slowly. But at DeSantis’ urging, the state sued, accusing the CDC of overreach. U.S. District Court Judge Steven Merryday ruled for Florida and said that as of last Sunday, the CDC rules should be just recommendations. A responsible Governor would have tried to advocate with the CDC on the cruise line’s behalf. But DeSantis, like his patron, Trump, is a frivolous politician whose priority is publicity.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

A COVID-19 vaccination task force calls on the state and the feds to step up their outreach in minority communities.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— As hospitals in Jacksonville cope with a new wave of COVID-19 patients, Curry calls on people to use masks and get vaccinated, but there won’t be any mandates or closings.

— Curry joined health care executives who say deaths have increased dramatically this month and there are 800 COVID-19 patients in Jacksonville hospitals. Almost all are unvaccinated.

— Pop quiz: The Governor held a news conference Wednesday. Did he talk about the 40,000 Floridians killed by COVID-19 … or fish killed by red tide?

— When asked by reporters about the doubling of COVID-19 cases over the past week in Florida, DeSantis said he doesn’t care much about that particular statistic.

— And finally, a Florida Man (and Baptist youth pastor) has been busted three times in the past two months for child pornography and video voyeurism.

To listen, click on the image below:

— OLYMPICS —

Olympics, pandemic and politics: There’s no separating them” via Stephen Wade of The Associated Press — Over and over, year after year, the stewards of the Olympics say it: The Games aren’t supposed to be political. But how do you avoid politics when you’re trying to pull off an event of this complexity during a lethal and protracted pandemic? Still, they are going ahead. So how have the IOC and the Japanese government been able to surmount strong opposition? At the core: the “host city contract” that gives the IOC sole authority to cancel. If Japan cancels, it would have to compensate the IOC. And there are billions at stake. Japan has officially spent $15.4 billion, but government audits suggest it’s twice that much. Estimates suggest a cancellation could cost the IOC up to $4 billion.

Tokyo Games boast equal gender participation for first time” via Jenna Fryer of The Associated Press — Most of the public attention goes to the big sports, but away from the spotlight, women from niche sports are being recognized and given an Olympics chance. The IOC added 18 new events to the Tokyo Games in a push toward gender equity. There are an equal number of women and men for every sport, excluding baseball and softball, because of differing roster sizes. The IOC said women’s participation in Tokyo will be 49%, up from 45% at Rio. The committee also noted that when women made their Olympic debut at the Paris Games in 1900, there were only 22 females out of 997 total athletes. Those pioneers competed across five sports, among them croquet and equestrian.

The Tokyo Olympics achieve gender equality. Image via AP.

They are Olympians. They are mothers. And they no longer have to choose.” via Dave Sheinin, Bonnie Berkowitz and Rick Maese of The Washington Post — This summer, at least a dozen moms will compete for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics, among them some of the most accomplished and famous female athletes of their era: Allyson Felix, Alex Morgan and Diana Taurasi, to name a few. Countless other Olympian moms will compete in Tokyo for other nations. None, it is safe to assume, will have to hide their motherhood from the world. Quite the opposite: For Olympian moms, that aspect of their lives is an essential part of their stories, their motherhood journeys highlighted in soft-focused television profiles, their triumphs often celebrated with victory laps or podium photo ops with their infants or toddlers in their arms.

‘Just like any Olympian’: For the first time, Paralympians will get equal pay for their achievements” via Shannon Carlin of The Lily — The 2021 Paralympic Summer Games in Tokyo, which were pushed back a year because of the coronavirus pandemic and will take place Aug. 23 to Sept. 5, are a historic moment for para-athletes: For the first time, Team USA Paralympians will be paid the same as their Olympic counterparts for their medal wins. “I feel valued,” Russian American wheelchair racer Tatyana McFadden said over the phone from Illinois, where she is training for this summer’s Games. In 2018, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) voted to instate equal payouts for all Team USA athletes starting with the Tokyo Games. The decision came 58 years after the Paralympics, formerly known as the Stoke Mandeville Games, made their official debut in Rome in 1960.

U.S. beach volleyball player tests positive for COVID-19, likely ruling him out of Olympics” via Tom Schad of USA Today — American beach volleyball player Taylor Crabb tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Japan and is unlikely to be able to compete at the Tokyo Olympics, according to multiple news media reports Wednesday. The Orange County Register and an NBC affiliate in Los Angeles each reported that Crabb, 29, recorded a positive test over the weekend, which would likely preclude him from competing in his first scheduled match with partner Jake Gibb on Sunday. Crabb’s brother, Trevor, told the NBC affiliate that Taylor is “fine and healthy and should be allowed to play, in my personal opinion.” Taylor Crabb would be the first U.S. athlete to be ruled out of competing at the Olympics after testing positive for COVID-19 in Japan.

Fan-free Olympics leaves hotels facing 1 million cancellations” via Yuko Takeo and Tamayo Muto of Bloomberg — From bellboys and receptionists to chefs and concierges, hotel staff in Japan are likely to find they have more time to watch the Olympics than they ever expected. A fourth COVID-19 emergency in Tokyo and a decision to bar spectators from the main athletics events have triggered a wave of hotel room cancellations. This latest setback puts further pressure on a hotel industry that bet big on the summer games serving as a springboard for Japan’s wider economic goal of attracting 40 million overseas visitors a year. While large hotel chains with deep cash reserves can pace themselves, for smaller operators, the pandemic-hit Olympic dream is already testing their business stamina as bankruptcies in the sector pick up.

Through years and tears, Boynton Beach’s Jessica Ramsey’s Olympic dream takes flight in Tokyo” via Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Late at night, deep in the dark, Ramsey and her fiance will find a remote field — someplace no one can hear — and she’ll bellow into the void: “I AM NO. 1 AT EVERYTHING I DO!” She yelled that mantra into silence for five empty years. “I will do better — I’m coming back with the gold,— she says. “It all starts with belief.” This is an Olympic story of that belief — belief in self, belief in dreams, belief when there’s only belief in a journey of years and tears that began with a Boynton Beach Track Club practice.

Jessica Ramsey’s belief in herself brings her to Tokyo.

The latest threat to Tokyo’s Games? An elusive brown bear.” via Jennifer Hassan of The Washington Post — The Tokyo Olympics have barely started but that hasn’t stopped the games from experiencing more than its share of disturbances — from the coronavirus outbreak to a plague of oysters and now a roaming bear that cannot be contained. A security guard at the Azuma Sports Park first spotted the brown bear at the venue early Tuesday, and it came back again on Wednesday just hours before the first scheduled softball game between Japan and Australia took place. We couldn’t find or capture the bear, and while there won’t be any spectators at the stadium, we are on alert and searching for the bear around the site,” the official said.

— ALOE —

Disney: August return dates set for some theme-park shows” via DeWayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — More live entertainment is set to return to three of Walt Disney World’s theme parks in August, the company announced Wednesday afternoon. These productions have been dark since the resort shut down in March 2020 for the coronavirus pandemic, and they did not return when the parks reopened last summer. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, “Beauty and the Beast — Live on Stage” returns to the park’s Theater of the Stars on Aug. 15. At Magic Kingdom, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor returns Aug. 8. At Epcot, Turtle Talk with Crush, a back-and-forth encounter with the “Finding Nemo” character, returns Aug. 21.

More Disney shows are returning in August. Image via Disney.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to Sen. Vic Torres, Rep. Alex Andrade, House candidate Jen Canady, Chris CantensEric Draper, the great Vic DiMaio, Kasey Lewis, Desmond MeadeMegan RambaMissy Timmins, and David Warner. Belated wishes to Kelly Reichelderfer.

___

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter SchorschPhil AmmannRenzo Downey and Drew Wilson.

Peter Schorsch

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 Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also 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.



#FlaPol

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, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Jesse Scheckner, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

Email: [email protected]
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