Good Monday morning.
There’s no way to spin it. The weekend sucked for front-line health care workers.
Florida cemented its place as the national epicenter of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with nearly 22,000 new cases reported on Saturday alone, setting a new daily record. According to the Florida Hospital Association, hospitalization numbers are just as dire, with more than 10,000 people currently laid up.
Want next weekend to be better? Get the shot. And wear a mask, too.
There were some bright spots this weekend, at least in Tokyo.
Team USA entered The Games undefeated in the men’s 4×100 medley relay. That streak continued Sunday with a gold-medal performance from Ryan Murphy, Michael Andrew, Zach Apple and Caeleb Dressel. The men’s basketball squad has also bounced back from its early stumbles to reach the quarterfinals — and Kevin Durant is officially the leading men’s scorer in U.S. Olympic basketball history after landing a three-pointer in the second quarter of Team USA’s match against the Czech Republican on Saturday.
Back in Florida, back-to-school season is underway. That means parents across the state are shelling out for new backpacks, clothes and computers. While their wallets took a beating, those who got a jump start on their shopping had a better weekend than those who are holding out thanks to the sales tax holiday approved by lawmakers last Session. There’s still time to take advantage — the holiday runs through Aug. 10.
It was a weekend to remember for the graduating seniors at Florida A&M and Florida State students, who were able to celebrate earning their lambskins during in-person commencement ceremonies. Some members of FAMU’s 2020 had an even bigger reason to celebrate — their alma mater said it had spent more than $16 million to clear student debts incurred during the 2020-21 school year.
FAMU VP of student affairs William E. Hudson, Jr. said it was a way for the university to live out its motto: “Excellence with caring.”
The weekend could have gone better for Citizens Property Insurance Corp. customers, who were treated to a small dose of sticker shock. The average policy costs about 3% more for the state-backed insurer’s 600,000-plus policyholders. They did get some warning — the rate hike was approved in April — but that doesn’t make it much better.
St. Petersburg residents were treated to an awesome show this weekend by way of 300 highly synchronized drones. The squadron flitted about over the bay with Blue Angels-esque precision, parking midair to display images such as beer mugs and even a map of Florida. The Duke Energy-sponsored show marked the anniversary of the St. Petersburg Pier.
If you missed out, the Tampa Bay Times’ Arielle Bader snapped plenty of pictures that’ll brighten your Monday.
Why you should be vaccinated and why you should urge everyone you know who can be vaccinated to get jabbed, in one graphic (h/t to Mike Allen):
Now, how about some good news about a great person — Anna Alexopoulos Farrar is taking on a new role.
Starting today, she will lead global communications strategy at high-tech recycling company PureCycle Technologies.
PureCycle holds the patent for a groundbreaking recycling process that takes plastic waste and removes the color, odor, and contaminants to produce a virgin-like resin that can be used again in unlimited markets.
The Orlando-based company went public in March and is listed on THE NASDAQ stock exchange under the ticker symbol PCT. The company is currently building out its first commercial-scale recycling plant in Ironton, Ohio.
“Anna is the quintessential communications professional for PureCycle at the perfect time. As we continue working with global stakeholders and building sites in new markets, we will rely on her top-tier public relations expertise to amplify our brand and share our story,” said David Brenner, PurCycle’s chief commercial officer.
Farrar added, “I’m thrilled to be joining the top-notch team at PureCycle Tech to expand our brand reach and amplify the message to a wide range of audiences. The PureCycle team is doing incredible work and revolutionizing the way we recycle and think about plastics, and we want the whole world to know about it.”
She joins Adrianna Sekula, who recently joined PureCycle as the Chief of Staff to the CEO, overseeing public affairs, government affairs, and communications teams.
Spotted at the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island: Speaker-to-be Paul Renner, Reps. Sam Garrison, Josie Tomkow, former Sen. President Mike Haridopolos and Dr. Stephanie Haridopolos, as well as Erica Chanti, Megan Fay, Taylor Ferguson, John Holley, Nick Iarossi, Brian Logan, Holly Miller, Beth Nunnally, Joel Overton, Kirk Pepper, Tom Piccolo, Kevin Reilly, Will Rodriguez, Stephanie Smith, and top fundraiser Katie Ballard.
Happening today — Sen. Aaron Bean holds his 2021 Amelia Island Gathering, an annual tradition that this year will feature a catboat cruise to Cumberland Island. Special guests for the family-friendly fundraising event include Sens. Ben Albritton, Jennifer Bradley and Joe Gruters. The day’s activities begin at 8 a.m. with a coffee and family breakfast, The Ritz-Carlton, 4750 Amelia Island Parkway, Amelia Island.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
There it is. The bipartisan infrastructure bill pic.twitter.com/0vypuMIQFw
— Leigh Ann Caldwell (@LACaldwellDC) August 1, 2021
—@RepThomasMassie: I don’t have time for anyone in the liberty movement who doesn’t understand the implications of the vaccine/mask fight.
—@RepHorsford: When I was growing up, my family was evicted. It’s the scariest thing to know that you can be kicked out of your home with all your belongings and nowhere to go. We must extend the #EvictionMoratorium NOW.
—@TomBossert: Too late in FL to mitigate meaningfully. FL has 2,038 in ICUs. FL needs to position to deal w/ the potential of 3-4 weeks of overwhelmed health care systems: plan for hospital surge, especially pediatric capacity. Neighboring states are strained & soon might not be able to help.
—@AstorAaron: What bothers me about Florida is that it is not a particularly low-vax state. And it has been hit hard a few times before, so there should be lots of natural immunity as well. And yet, it is facing pretty serious pressure on its health care system.
—@kkfla737: The anti-intellectualism & cognitive dissonance that made us the epicenter of a global pandemic is the culmination of decades of driving away young professionals, high-wage jobs & intellectuals. My Florida, the one I grew up in, is dead. One hope left
—@Mike_Grieco: An overwhelming majority of Republicans are patriotic, well-meaning, well-balanced Americans who care about their country and their neighbors. So why do so many Republican elected officials pander to the far-right conspiracy theorists and anti-science crowd?
—@ShevrinJones: My # Aunt is now suffering from COVID. After just speaking with her on the phone, she said she wish she would had just got the vaccine and not have listened to the misinformation from “street committee.” #GetVaccinated
—@MacStipanovich: My grandchildren (then 10, 13, 13, and 16) in Leon County had to wear masks to school all year, plus social distancing when outside. They minded it so much and were so uncomfortable that they would often forget to take their masks off after they in the car after pickup.
—@SheaSerrano: a thing I miss from teaching is when you start the professional development stuff and the administration has their new buzzwords they’re really excited about like “this year we’re focusing on something called Aggregated Curriculum,” and all the veteran teachers roll their eyes lol
— DAYS UNTIL —
‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 4; Canada will open its border to fully vaccinated Americans — 7; ‘Marvel’s What If …?’ premieres on Disney+ — 9; Florida Behavioral Health Association’s Annual Conference (BHCon) begins — 16; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 22; Boise vs. UCF — 31; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 32; Notre Dame at FSU — 34; NFL regular season begins — 38; Bucs home opener — 38; California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 43; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 43; Alabama at UF — 47; Dolphins home opener — 48; Jaguars home opener — 48; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 49; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 53; ‘Dune’ premieres — 60; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 60; MLB regular season ends — 62; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 67; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 85; World Series Game 1 — 86; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 86; Georgia at UF — 89; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 92; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 92; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 96; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 98; Miami at FSU — 103; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 109; FSU vs. UF — 117; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 130; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 137; NFL season ends — 160; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 162; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 162; NFL playoffs begin — 163; Super Bowl LVI — 195; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 235; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 279; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 304; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 340; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 352; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 431; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 466.
“Florida breaks record for new coronavirus cases as surge of infections rips through state” via Timothy Bella and Meryl Kornfield of The Washington Post — Florida reported 21,683 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the state’s highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic. The data shows the severity of the surge in Florida, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak and now responsible for 1 in 5 new infections nationally. According to the CDC, the previous peak in Florida had been on Jan. 7, when the state reported 19,334 cases, before the widespread availability of coronavirus vaccinations. Florida has reported an average of 15,818 new cases a day over the past seven days. The Florida Department of Health reported that coronavirus cases in the state had jumped 50% in the past week. In that time, the state has reported 409 deaths.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Rural, North Floridians lagging further behind in COVID-19 vaccinations” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — There still are seven counties in Florida — all low-population, North Florida counties — where less than a third of eligible people have gotten at least one vaccination shot, according to the latest weekly COVID-19 report released by the Florida Department of Health. In Holmes County, only 26% of people who could get vaccinated have gotten the shot. In 16 Florida counties — all among the Sunshine State’s least populated, almost all in North Florida — the vaccination rates remain below 40% of the eligible population, those age 12 or older. Meanwhile, demand for shots has ramped up again elsewhere in Florida, particularly in South and Central Florida’s urban and dense suburban counties. In Miami-Dade County, 78% of eligible people have been vaccinated.
“Vaccination rates rise in Central Florida as COVID-19 infections strain health systems” via Stephen Hudak and Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Central Floridians are heeding the call to boost vaccination rates, as the COVID-19 delta variant rips through the state, and spawns 20% of the nation’s new infections. More than 31,000 people across Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Lake counties became vaccinated this week, a 51% increase from last week. The steepest climb came in Lake and Seminole counties, which each saw about 73% climbs week over week. At the same time, the state added 110,477 new infections in the past week with about 18% of test results finding a person positive for COVID-19. Experts say this is the work of the delta variant, deemed the most infectious and aggressive strain of the virus yet.
“Central Florida’s sewage sounds COVID-19 alarm” via Skylar Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — Central Florida’s leaders have been turning to an unexpected place for clues on the direction of the COVID-19 pandemic: Our toilets. What they are seeing has them worried. The level of COVID-19 viral components detected in sewage has been climbing steadily since the Fourth of July holiday and suggests the outbreak could grow worse in the days ahead. Wastewater also shows that the highly transmissible delta variant has become the predominant strain of the virus circulating in the community. Sewage surveillance has been likened to a COVID-19 Doppler radar that can warn of new cases and hospitalizations. Increases in wastewater viral loads are typically followed four days later by an uptick in cases.
“‘That light did turn out to be a train’: UF Health Jacksonville staff face surge in COVID-19” via Katherine Lewin and Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — Until the last month, the rate of COVID-19-positive people needing hospitalization seemed to be decreasing and health care workers in Jacksonville felt an upwelling of hope. “It definitely did kind of look like there was at least a light at the end of the tunnel. It was starting to look that way,” said DJ Whaley, a charge nurse. In recent weeks, Florida has become a leader in new cases. The Jacksonville area is among the state’s hardest-hit regions. The Florida Hospital Association said COVID-19 hospitalizations totaled 8,816 across the state’s health systems in the pandemic’s latest surge. In the first year of the pandemic, statewide hospitalizations peaked on July 23, 2020, reaching 10,179.
“Jacksonville’s Mayo Clinic to activate ‘surge plan,’ reaches capacity amid COVID-19 increase” via Clayton Freeman of the Florida Times-Union — Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville has reached its maximum capacity and is activating a “surge plan” as a result of a sharp increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations during the recent Northeast Florida coronavirus resurgence. The letter said that the hospital exceeded its listed capacity of 304 beds on Sunday morning. Mayo said it is requesting the Agency for Health Care Administration to authorize operation above capacity “until the current COVID-19 surge ends.” The hospital did not specify how many additional beds, described as “unlicensed beds,” would be added to meet the surge, but said that Mayo would be able to “meet the essential needs of our patients.”
—”Northeast Florida COVID-19 vaccinations soar as cases reach 2021 highs” via Clayton Freeman of the Florida Times-Union
—”City Councilmember Ju’Coby Pittman released from hospital after COVID-19 battle” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union
“COVID-19 cases soar in Palm Beach County, state; Masks required again in county government buildings” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — When Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker learned that a staggering 1,000 county residents tested positive for COVID-19 on a single day (last) week, she knew she had to act. On Friday, she announced that a mask mandate that was lifted more than two months ago would be back in place in county buildings on Monday. “That is huge,” she said of the triple-digit case count that was recorded on Thursday. It marked the first time since a January surge that more than 1,000 cases were recorded in the county in a 24-hour span. “We have got to take some measures to minimize the growth we are seeing,” Baker said.
—“Broward and Miami-Dade hospitals lead US in COVID-19 admissions” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel
—”‘Fully Moderna vaccinated’: Miami businesswoman diagnosed with breakthrough COVID-19” via Madeleine Marr of the Miami Herald
“COVID-19 hospitalizations spike to all-time high at Lakeland Regional Health, AdventHeath” via Sara-Megan Walsh of The Lakeland Ledger — COVID-19 hospitalizations have hit a record high this week in Polk County’s health care systems, and providers say the current surge shows no signs of slowing. AdventHealth of Central Florida has about 1,000 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 … across its sites in Polk, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake, Volusia and Flagler counties. This is an increase of nearly 39% in six days.
—”Polk County’s new COVID-19 infections hit yearly high, positive rate still rising” via Sara-Megan Walsh of The Lakeland Ledger
—”COVID-19 surge: Record high positivity rate in Marion; health department reopens testing site” via Joe Callahan of the Ocala Star-Banner
“‘I beg you to get vaccinated’: TMH VP sounds alarm as hospital sets record in COVID-19 patients” via Tori Lynn Schneider of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare’s chief communications officer sounded the alarm on COVID-19 hospitalizations Sunday as the hospital reached 70 patients in its COVID unit, an increase of 11 in just two days since Friday and the highest the hospital has seen since the start of the pandemic in early 2020. “This is the most we’ve ever had,” Stephanie Derzypolski said, adding that their previous highest number of hospitalizations was 51. Derzypolski, a vice president at TMH, also said two of the patients are under age 12. “This is no longer people with co-morbidities in their 70s and 80s but otherwise healthy people in their 20s, 30s and 40s,” Derzypolski said in a Facebook post Sunday.
—“‘He was the rock’: Pensacola family of 20 loses jovial grandfather and patriarch to COVID-19” via Jake Newby of the Pensacola News Journal
“Sarasota Memorial Hospital sees surge in COVID-19 patients; fewer than 10% are vaccinated” via Elizabeth Djinis of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — As Sarasota Memorial Hospital staff find themselves in the midst of another COVID-19 surge due to the Delta variant, Chief Medical Officer Dr. James Fiorica said … that each event has been a little bit different. “The difference this time is that it’s predominantly unvaccinated patients that are sick,” he said on a recorded video conversation. “They’re younger patients. There are a lot of emotions and a lot of fatigue at the same time.” The hospital now sees 30- and 40-year-old patients rather than an older population with co-morbidities and medical issues.
“Residents scramble to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as Tampa Bay sees 20% positivity rate” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Tampa Bay is continuing to see a rise in COVID-19 cases, and it seems the recent high caseloads are prompting more vaccinations in the area. Hillsborough County saw slightly less than double its number of weekly vaccinations in the latest report, which covers Friday, July 23 through Thursday, July 29. In that time, the county reported 14,523 new vaccinations. In the week prior, 8,918 people got vaccinated. With the wave of new vaccinations, 57% of those eligible to receive a vaccine have now received one in Hillsborough. That eligibility accounts for the county’s 12 years and older population. So far, 728,413 people have been vaccinated in the county. The substantial increase in vaccinations may be in response to the growing number of cases the county has seen in the past couple weeks.
“COVID-19 alarm sounded over City Hall meetings” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Wilton Manors is trying to make sure they aren’t dealing with a potential superspreader event. A maskless person at a Wilton Manors meeting at City Hall tested positive for COVID-19 and could have infected others, officials said Friday, so they’ve sent out an email blast telling people to watch for symptoms. City Commissioner Gary Resnick said there were “a lot” of people at two back-to-back meetings on Tuesday, leading into the wee hours of the morning with the public “in and out.” Two more meetings took place Wednesday with “easily a dozen” people, he said. Although most city staff wore masks, most of the public did not cooperate, he said.
“Masks: It’s what Floridians are talking about, and things are tense” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — As the coronavirus delta variant spreads and the start of school draws near, one topic, masks, has taken on a life of its own. And it’s starting to test people’s nerves. Hillsborough County School Board members have been inundated with emails from parents who want them to pressure superintendent Addison Davis to reconsider his position on the subject. Like most Florida superintendents, he’s decided that masks will be optional when schools reopen to students on Aug. 10, despite the alarming rise in variant cases. The tide of emails grew so strong that board chairperson Lynn Gray considered calling an emergency meeting next week to discuss a possible change in course, which alarmed a different group of constituents: anti-mask parents.
“Publix requiring its employees to mask up again as Florida faces another COVID-19 surge” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — Vaccinated Publix employees had about two months to show customers their smiles. That’s ending Monday as the Lakeland-based supermarket chain again requires all employees, regardless of vaccination status, to wear face coverings while inside any of Publix’s 1,273 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and the Carolinas. “We encourage all to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19,” spokeswoman Maria Brous said, reflecting Publix’s statement.
“Disney requires all nonunion U.S. employees to get COVID-19 vaccinations” via Austin Fuller and Katie Rice of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Walt Disney Co., Central Florida’s largest employer, is requiring all of its nonunion hourly and salaried employees across the U.S. to get the coronavirus vaccine. Staffers who work on-site will have 60 days from Friday to complete getting vaccinated, and those who work from home will need to verify vaccination before returning to work with certain limited exceptions, an unsigned statement released by the company on Friday said. New hires will need to be fully vaccinated before starting. Disney has told the union representing 9,000 attractions and custodial workers at Walt Disney World that the company would like to bargain about mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.
”UF employees petition for mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for fall” via Danielle Ivanov of The Gainesville Sun — A petition asking the University of Florida Board of Trustees and President Kent Fuchs to require the COVID-19 vaccine for all faculty, staff and postdoctoral fellows ahead of the fall semester has gained almost 500 signatures in just a few days. It was created by Mark Hostetler, a UF professor, researcher and extension specialist with Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, because of the recent local and statewide surge in COVID-19 cases. “I feel it’s an important issue. I just want our university to be a safe and healthy teaching environment,” he said. The petition asks that COVID-19 vaccinations be required for all faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and staff at the university two weeks before classes begin Aug. 23.
— CORONA NATION —
“‘Pain and suffering’ coming, and Dr. Anthony Fauci says unvaccinated making it worse” via The Associated Press — Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, is warning of “some pain and suffering in the future” as coronavirus cases continue to rise. Fauci said he doesn’t foresee more lockdowns in the U.S. but warned that the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic will continue to get worse because so many Americans are still unvaccinated. While this week the nation saw a surge in Americans getting the shot, as coronavirus cases rise driven largely by the more infectious delta variant, still only about 60% of Americans are fully vaccinated. Fauci argued that the unvaccinated are affecting others because they’re “allowing the propagation and the spread of the outbreak” and pushed back against critics who say whether to get the shot is an individual decision.
—“When will the summer coronavirus surge peak? It will get worse before it gets better, experts predict.” via Ben Guarino and Dan Diamond of The Washington Post
“A rush to get shots” via Ariana Eunjung Cha, Rose Hansen and Jacqueline Dupree of The Washington Post — One thing is finally grabbing the attention of millions of unvaccinated Americans, the invasion of the hyper-contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. More than 856,000 doses were administered Friday, the highest daily figure since July 3. This was the third week that states with the highest numbers of coronavirus cases also had the highest vaccination numbers, deputy White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a briefing Friday. Vaccine-hesitant pockets of the country turned hot spots, are at the vanguard, including Louisiana, which experienced a 114% increase in uptake. Arkansas recorded a 96% increase, Alabama, 65%, and Missouri, 49%.
“Who are the unvaccinated in America? There’s no one answer.” via Julie Bosman, Jan Hoffman, Margot Sanger-Katz and Tim Arango of The New York Times — As coronavirus cases rise across the United States, the fight against the pandemic is focused on an estimated 93 million people who are eligible for shots but have chosen not to get them. These are the Americans who are most vulnerable to serious illness from the highly contagious Delta variant and most likely to carry the virus, spreading it further. In one group are those who say they are adamant in their refusal of the coronavirus vaccines. The other are those who say they are open to getting a shot but have been putting it off or want to wait and see before making a decision. The problem is surveys show that the group firmly opposed to the vaccines outnumbers those willing to be swayed.
“CDC under fire for decision to limit tracking of COVID-19 cases in vaccinated people” via Rachel Roubein and David Lim of POLITICO — The CDC’s limited tracking of COVID-19 cases in vaccinated people is hindering public health officials’ attempts to stem the nationwide surge of the highly transmissible Delta variant. In May, the agency said that it would stop routinely tracking so-called breakthrough infections that didn’t lead to hospitalization or death. Several states then stopped tracking mild breakthrough cases, and at least two states said they are having trouble reliably tracking infections in vaccinated people. Now some public health experts and lawmakers are pressuring the CDC to reverse its decision and collect comprehensive data on infections in vaccinated people from mild to severe.
“CDC study shows three-fourths of people infected in Massachusetts coronavirus outbreak were vaccinated but few required hospitalization” via Carolyn Y. Johnson, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post — A sobering scientific analysis found that three-quarters of the people infected during an explosive coronavirus outbreak fueled by the delta variant were fully vaccinated. The report offers key evidence bolstering the hypothesis that vaccinated people can spread the more transmissible variant and may be a factor in the summer surge of infections. The data helped persuade agency scientists to reverse recommendations on mask-wearing and advise that vaccinated individuals wear masks in indoor public settings in some circumstances. Critically, the study found that vaccinated individuals carried as much virus in their noses as unvaccinated individuals, strongly suggesting that vaccinated people could spread the virus to others.
“White House blasts COVID-19 coverage” via Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy of CNN — The White House is frustrated with what it views as alarmist, and in some instances flat-out misleading, news coverage about the Delta variant. In some instances, poorly framed headlines and cable news chyrons wrongly suggested that vaccinated Americans are just as likely to spread the disease as unvaccinated Americans. The administration is worried that the media’s focus on these instances of breakthrough infections might lead to people being more hesitant to get a vaccine.
“I got a breakthrough COVID-19 infection. The worst part is the conflicting advice.” via Greg Harris of The Washington Post — A rapid antigen test and then a slower PCR confirmed that, yes, I had a breakthrough case of COVID-19. The symptom, I use the singular, since the loss of smell is all I’ve experienced so far, is mild. I’ve had nary a sneeze. In the hotel room where I immediately self-isolated, I did jumping jacks and pushups every morning, caught up on assignments, stared restlessly at the walls. What surprised me most was the range of reactions. I don’t mean just among those at the reunion, most of whom were grateful that I got tested. I mean from the CDC, the airlines and others supposedly watching out for public health, who offered confusing and often conflicting advice that reminded me how little we still know about this virus and the best way to keep everyone safe.
“Grieving families asked Congress to recognize COVID-19’s victims. It didn’t go well.” via William Wan of The Washington Post — For weeks, the COVID-19 survivors had been calling their representatives in Congress, pleading for an appointment. Each one had lost someone they loved to the virus. Now they wanted to have that loss, along with those endured by the families of 610,000 other victims, acknowledged by the U.S. government. Most congressional offices simply ignored them. As the virus surged once again, roughly 50 activists from a dozen grassroots organizations across the country converged on Washington at the end of July, determined to make their voices heard. Their most immediate task was for the country to designate a day of national remembrance to recognize all the people they, and the entire country, had lost.
— STATEWIDE —
Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried begins a three-day tour across the state to discuss the FDACS Office of Agricultural Water Policy Clean Water Initiative, 10 a.m., Punta Rassa Boat Ramp, 15001 Punta Rassa Road, Fort Myers; 2:30 p.m.; news conference with Sarasota Mayor Hagen Brody on FDACS. Location and RSVP to [email protected]
“’Like an ocean’: $1 billion Caloosahatchee River Reservoir should be operational by 2023” via Chad Gillis of the Fort Myers News-Press — Tom McKernan‘s dusty white Toyota 4Runner bounced along a deserted sandy road last week in a remote stretch of Hendry County along Highway 80 and south of the Caloosahatchee River. “It will take several months until we can actually get water in here, about two months with the pumps on full-bore to fill it up,” he said while driving through the 11,000-acre property. At six miles by three miles, the Caloosahatchee River Reservoir, often called C-43, will be one of the largest bodies of fresh water in Southwest Florida when it becomes operational in December of 2023.
Happening today — The Revenue Estimating Conference meets to examine property taxes, 9 a.m., Room 117, Knott Building.
“Florida’s back-to-school sales tax holiday returns” via The Associated Press — Florida’s back-to-school sales tax holiday returned this weekend with residents getting the levies waived for purchases of school supplies, clothing and computers. The sales tax holiday on school-related items runs through Aug. 9. Florida’s sales tax is 6%, but that can be higher based on added county taxes. According to a legislative analysis, Florida shoppers are expected to save $69.4 million during the sales tax holiday, up from $41.8 million last year, $41.7 million in 2019 and $32.7 million in 2018. According to a survey, families with kids in elementary through high school plan to spend $848.90 on school items this year, $59 more than last year. That figure is $1,200.32 for college students, up $141 from last year.
— 2022 —
“Ron DeSantis, other Republican 2024 prospects target public health officials with political attacks” via CBS Miami — DeSantis’ warning this week of a “Faucian dystopia” offered the latest glimpse at how ambitious Republicans eyeing 2024 presidential bids are increasingly targeting public health officials as they attempt to grow their national brands in front of conservative audiences. “It is very important that we say unequivocally no to lockdowns, no to school closures, no to restrictions, and no to mandates,” DeSantis said to a crowd in Utah. The approaches by DeSantis and other potential GOP 2024 contenders frequently mirror former President Donald Trump’s downplaying of the pandemic. DeSantis is using Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, as a political punching bag, touting his opposition to Fauci and the CDC.
“Wealthy candidate pumps staggering $2.3 million of her own money into South Florida special election” via Anthony Man of the Orlando Sentinel — Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, a candidate who has never held elected office, so badly wants a South Florida congressional seat that she’s pumped more than $2.3 million of her own money into the campaign. The figure is staggering. It’s $1 million more than seven other Democratic candidates combined have raised, and more than any other congressional candidate in the country has put into their own campaign in the first six months of 2021. And, Cherfilus-McCormick said in a telephone interview, she’s prepared to put in more, up to another $1 million, if needed.
“Joe Geller backs Jordan Leonard as his preferred successor in HD 100” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Geller is endorsing Bay Harbor Islands Council member Leonard in the race for Geller’s House District 100 seat. Nearly three dozen current and former elected officials at the local and state level have now endorsed Leonard. Geller, who has won four terms representing HD 100, is facing term limits heading into 2022. The list of officials endorsing Leonard includes several of Geller’s House colleagues, such as Reps. James Bush III, Kevin Chambliss, Mike Grieco and Felicia Robinson. So far, Leonard is one of four Democrats running in the left-leaning district. Monday morning, Geller released a statement endorsing Leonard over Democratic candidates Todd Delmay, Clay Miller and Evan Shields.
“Miami Beach candidate asks voters to donate to her campaign. And eat at her restaurant” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Miami Beach Commission candidate Kristen Rosen Gonzalez raised a few eyebrows this week when she asked voters to donate to her campaign and visit her new restaurant, too. Rosen Gonzalez, a former Commissioner who filed Monday to run for office in the city’s Nov. 2 elections, sent a fundraising email on Friday announcing her campaign and plugging Café Bernie, a restaurant she recently opened with her fiancee, Chef Bernie Matz. “P.S. Have you been to Café Bernie yet?” she wrote near the bottom of her email. Two elections attorneys who reviewed the email said it was unusual and perhaps “unethical” to solicit votes and business side-by-side, even if it didn’t appear to violate campaign finance laws.
“‘The one to beat’: Wilton Simpson praised ahead of possible bid for Florida agriculture commissioner” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO —Republican Senate President Simpson has for years championed Big Agriculture in Florida — and the industry is ready to return the favor. Simpson is on a glide path to being elected the next agriculture commissioner should he choose to run, and some agricultural groups are already publicly praising him. He’s a proven ally, they say, who already has deep ties to the industry. “Obviously President Simpson is a farmer who has spent a better part of 10 years in the Senate making agriculture a priority,” said Adam Basford, director of legislative affairs for the Florida Farm Bureau Federation.
— MORE CORONA —
“They spurned the vaccine. Now they want you to know they regret it.” via Jack Healy of The New York Times — Amid a resurgence of coronavirus infections and deaths, some people who once rejected the vaccines or simply waited too long are now grappling with the consequences. A number are speaking from hospital beds, at funerals, and in obituaries about their regrets, about the pain of enduring the virus, and watching unvaccinated family members die gasping for breath. The recent surge of infections and hospitalizations among unvaccinated people has brought the grim realities of COVID-19 crashing home for many who thought they had skirted the pandemic. But now, the question is whether their stories can actually change any minds. Doctors in COVID-19 units say some patients still refuse to believe they are infected with anything beyond the flu.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Eviction ban’s expiration leaves renters in South appearing most vulnerable” via Will Parker of The Wall Street Journal — A national ban on most residential evictions expired after Saturday, setting the stage for a potentially widespread displacement of low-income renters that looks poised to hit Southern states particularly hard. The CDC enacted the eviction ban in September to protect millions of tenants who could not pay rent due to financial hardship during the pandemic. The CDC has extended the moratorium three times. On Wednesday, the White House said that only the U.S. Congress could extend it again, citing a Supreme Court ruling that a spokeswoman said limited the CDC’s power to renew it. But lawmakers failed to reach an agreement to renew the ban. Renters in Southern states are among the most vulnerable to the ban’s expiration. Mississippi, South Carolina and Georgia tenants are more likely to carry rent debt than the U.S. average.
“With new vaccine and mask requirements, businesses scramble to respond to delta variant and shifting health guidance” via Abha Bhattarai and Erica Werner of The Washington Post — Stunned business executives are struggling to adjust to the rapidly shifting environment caused by COVID-19′s delta variant, rocked by a cascade of evolving mask and vaccine recommendations from federal, state, and local officials. In many cases, they institute new mask or vaccine guidelines or requirements within hours of shifting government reports. Big companies have also moved aggressively in recent days, with Google and Facebook announcing a vaccine requirement for all workers and Citigroup reinstituting a universal mask mandate.
“Welfare rolls decline during the pandemic despite economic upheaval” via Amy Goldstein of The Washington Post — The number of Americans receiving financial help through the nation’s welfare system ebbed last year, even as economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic gripped the nation. As the pandemic destroyed jobs and health officials urged people to stay home to avoid exposure to the virus, 13 states left in place rules requiring residents to work or look for a job to qualify for monthly checks from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the main public program of cash assistance for the very poor. The work requirements were part of dramatic state-to-state variations in how the welfare program, known by the acronym TANF, responded to the pandemic. As a result, the odds of getting and staying on welfare have hinged on where someone lives.
“6 passengers test positive for COVID-19 after Royal Caribbean cruise” via The Associated Press — Six passengers who sailed on a Royal Caribbean ship tested positive for COVID-19 at the end of their cruise and were quarantined. The passengers, four adults, and two minors were on the Adventure of the Seas ship for a 7-day cruise that left and returned to the Bahamas, said Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Lyan Sierra-Caro. Sierra-Caro said the adults were all vaccinated against COVID-19, and one has mild symptoms of the virus while the other three do not. They were not traveling together. The two minors — who were in the same group but not traveling with any of the four adults who tested positive — were not vaccinated and are not showing symptoms, the spokeswoman said.
That’s a choice — “Crystal Serenity cruise adds PortMiami amid COVID-19 surge, won’t comply with CDC” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity ship will add Miami as a stop on its cruises to The Bahamas next month, and the ship will be the first not to comply with the CDC’s COVID-19 safety rules after a federal appeals court decision that they are not enforceable in Florida. Starting Aug. 9, passengers will be able to board the Crystal Serenity, one of the Miami-based luxury cruise company’s ships, at PortMiami each Monday for seven-night cruises. Passengers will continue to be able to board the ship in Nassau on Saturdays and Bimini on Sundays. CDC spokesperson Caitlin Shockey said Crystal Serenity will appear in gray on the agency’s color-coded chart a few days before entering U.S. waters, indicating that it is not voluntarily complying with the CDC’s “conditional sail order.”
“Vaccine passports prove controversial in Europe” via The Associated Press — Denmark pioneered vaccine passes with little resistance. Belgium will require a vaccine certificate to attend outdoor events with more than 1,500 people by mid-August and indoor events by September. Germany and Britain have so far resisted a blanket approach, while vaccinations are so popular in Spain that incentives are not deemed necessary. In France and Italy, demonstrations against vaccine passes or virus restrictions, in general, are bringing together otherwise unlikely allies, often from the political extremes. They include far-right parties, campaigners for economic justice, families with small children, those against vaccines, and those who fear them.
“Florida has disbursed 2 percent of rent aid as eviction moratorium ending” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — The state of Florida has received more than $870 million from the federal government to make landlords whole and keep renters in their homes during the pandemic, and expects to receive a grand total of more than $1.56 billion as more money is distributed. It’s given out around 2% of what it’s gotten so far. For the first time in about 15 months, starting at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, there will be no barrier to Florida evictions moving forward, barring last-minute action by Congress.
“Debts are paid: FAMU, Larry Robinson surprise class of 2020 graduates with news on outstanding debts” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat —Florida A&M University, whose motto is ‘Excellence with Caring,’ has provided over $16 million to erase outstanding debts carried by students, President Robinson said. Robinson made the announcement toward the end of commencement ceremonies for Class of 2020 graduates in the School of Business & Industry, the College of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences/Institute of Public Health and School of Environment, at the Lawson Center. It was one of four ceremonies being held Saturday and Sunday.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Biden’s infrastructure win overshadowed by new virus surge” via The Associated Press — Biden wagered his campaign and now his presidency on the premise that government itself could still work, even at a time of fractious political division. When the Senate voted this week, with bipartisan support, to begin work on an infrastructure bill that Biden supported, he seemed to have proof of the concept. But the triumph was overshadowed by the surging delta variant of the coronavirus that has forced the restoration of mask guidelines, imperiled the nation’s economic recovery, and threatened Biden’s central promise that he would lead the United States out of the pandemic. “Democrats have to put wins on the board going into 2022, and COVID-19 clouds on the horizon make getting infrastructure and reconciliation done all that much more important,” said Robert Gibbs, former press secretary to President Barack Obama.
“Joe Biden keeps pressure on Cuba, meets with Cuban American leaders” via Sabrina Rodriguez of POLITICO — The Biden administration announced more targeted individual sanctions on Cuban regime officials and entities as the President met with a group of Cuban-American leaders to discuss his administration’s response to recent historic anti-government protests on the communist-run island. It comes after thousands of Cuban Americans protested in Washington to urge President Biden to take swift action and do more to support the Cuban people following the island-wide protests. Demonstrations led by Cuban Americans have been ongoing in Washington, Miami and several cities around the country and world in the almost three weeks.
— EPILOGUE: TRUMP —
“Donald Trump has more than $100 million in political cash after first six months of 2021” via Isaac Stanley-Becker and Anu Narayanswamy of The Washington Post — Trump proved himself his party’s most powerful fundraiser in the first six months of the year, amassing a political treasure chest of $102 million by the end of June. His aides said he had raised $82 million in that period, though a significant part of that money came in transfers from accounts soliciting funds last year. The sums, which are extraordinary for an ex-President who has been booted off social media, testify to the power of Trump’s online donor base and the deep financial reservoir available to him if he chooses to seek the White House a third time. They also reveal how the former President has reaped financial rewards while claiming the election was stolen from him.
Giuliani allies are looking at the Trump $ – even if it isn't $82 million – and are aghast that Trump isn't helping Giuliani with legal fees. Giuliani's friends say he is saying he is close to broke, and his interview w @MelissaRusso4NY makes clear he knows he's in legal jeopardy https://t.co/mv9QtedbMR
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) August 1, 2021
— CRISIS —
“Jan. 6 committee faces unprecedented choice of whether to call Republican lawmakers to testify” via Karoun Demirjian, Marianna Sotomayor and Jacqueline Alemany of The Washington Post — The leaders of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol promise a vigorous inquiry, which could lead to an unprecedented legal and political showdown over how to force members of Congress to take the witness stand. Several congressional Republicans have admitted to having some contact with Trump during the insurrection or in the days leading up to it, making their testimony potentially key. The Jan. 6 panel’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, said in an interview that there is “no reluctance to subpoena” any member of Congress “whose testimony is germane to the mission of the select committee” if they resist cooperating voluntarily.
“Federal judge berates riot suspect who refuses to wear mask: ‘When did you go to medical school?’” via Rachel Weiner of The Washington Post — A federal judge in D.C. erupted in anger at a Jan. 6 riot defendant and his lawyer Friday afternoon for refusing to cooperate with court officials on COVID-19 safety requirements. “You may not believe in this virus even though 600,000 people have died,” said U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton. “I’m not going to be a part of spreading this virus because of what you don’t believe.” But he did not immediately incarcerate Daniel Goodwyn, a San Francisco webpage designer accused of taking part in the assault on the Capitol. The judge said he would give Goodwyn one more chance to comply, even as the defendant insisted he would not.
Interesting read — “Michael Flynn’s curious ties to Cyber Ninjas, QAnon and the Ellenton post office” via Chris Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — There is a post office box in Ellenton, number 904, to be exact. It belongs to former Trump national security adviser and admitted liar Flynn. In the name of all things complicated and conspiratorial, might as well start there. Flynn, it turns out, is chairman of a nonprofit called America’s Future. America’s Future emerged from the shadows this week when it was revealed the nonprofit gave Cyber Ninjas Inc. a total of $976,514.43 to “audit” the presidential election votes in Maricopa County, Arizona. Cyber Ninjas, if the news sneaked past you, is the Sarasota-based computer security company hired by state Senate Republicans in Arizona and originally paid $150,000 to do something it was hardly qualified to do
“‘Playing politics’: Partisan divide evident in Polk as Jan. 6 inquiry starts” via Gary White of The Lakeland Ledger — As the U.S. House investigates the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, local opinions on what happened that day and how it is being investigated diverge dramatically along party lines. While many Americans regard the insurrection, which disrupted the counting of votes in the 2020 presidential election, as one of the nation’s worst days, prominent local Republicans don’t see it that way. “I’d call it a protest with a little bit of riot in there because people damaged stuff,” said J.C. Martin, chairman of the Polk County Republican Party. Catherine Price, chairwoman of the Polk County Democratic Party, described the riot as “an armed insurrection.”
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Tensions in the House of Representatives boil over after 1/6 hearing and mask rule” via Annie Grayer of CNN — In the direct months after Jan. 6, tensions between members of Congress were at an all-time high. Many lawmakers refused to work with those who did not vote to certify the presidential election, and the installment of the metal detectors off the House floor bred distrust and resentment. On the Senate side, thawing tensions had slowly become more evident. But on the House side, the creation of the select committee to investigate the events of Jan. 6 has infused a level of rage through the hallways of the House that has poured gasoline on an already scorching working relationship.
“Matt Gaetz stops at Largo coffee shop for ‘Florida Man Freedom Tour’” via Jake Sheridan of the Tampa Bay Times — Rep. Gaetz took center stage in front of a semicircle of souped-up trucks wrapped in Trump-themed vinyl. As the Florida Republican congressman and ardent ally of Trump began to speak outside Largo’s Conservative Grounds coffee shop, he clung hard to the cues of the former President, whose image was plastered behind him. “Mask mandates are stupid,” Gaetz started. “Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election,” he added to cheers. On a “Florida Man Freedom Tour” stop, the 38-year-old representative contradicted the coronavirus guidance of leading medical experts and echoed disproved claims of election fraud.
Happening today — Reps. Val Demings and Darren Soto will hold an online news conference to call for lower drug prices and mark the 56th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid. The event will include representatives of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, noon. Zoom link here. Call 1-929-436-2866. Password: 376011.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Family: Last victim ID’d in Florida condo building collapse” via Kelly Kennedy of The Associated Press — The final victim of the condo building collapse in Florida has been identified, a relative said Monday, more than a month after the middle-of-the-night catastrophe that ultimately claimed 98 lives and became the largest non-hurricane related emergency response in state history. Estelle Hedaya, an outgoing 54-year-old with a love of travel, was the last to be identified, ending what her relatives described as a torturous four-week wait. Her younger brother, Ikey Hedaya, confirmed the news. A funeral was scheduled for Tuesday. It comes just days after rescuers officially concluded the painstaking and emotionally heavy task of removing layers of dangerous debris and pulling out dozens of bodies.
“Builder of collapsed Surfside condo was a partner in Broward project that went bust” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Long after he built the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, developer Nathan Reiber became a partner in a company that converted a 377-unit apartment complex in Coconut Creek into condominiums. While that project did not suffer the same tragic fate as the Surfside collapse, it did not end well for the investors or the dozens of buyers who soon found themselves in foreclosure. Reiber spent the latter part of his career as a partner in a business brought down by bankruptcy, foreclosure and accusations of underhanded financial dealing.
“Judge: Skanska was operating under maritime law during Sally, commuter case going to trial” via Emma Kennedy of the Pensacola News Journal — A federal court judge has determined Skanska was operating under maritime law when its construction barges hit the Pensacola Bay Bridge during Hurricane Sally, but what that means for the close to 1,000 businesses and commuters seeking damages as a result of the bridge’s outage won’t be determined until a September trial. U.S. District Court Judge Lacey Collier issued the order Wednesday, more than a month after a hearing in which lawyers for Skanska and Pensacola-area claimants argued over whether maritime law exists in the case and whether the claimants who suffered only economic losses deserve a portion of any yet-to-be-determined settlement. Collier determined Skanska was operating under maritime jurisdiction while building the bridge, which keeps the case in federal court.
“Florida regulators put controversial Puerto Rico utility on notice for coal ash spill” via Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union — Florida environmental regulators have included AES, the controversial utility with a coal-fired plant in Puerto Rico, among the list of companies it is investigating for liability for the 5,000-ton spill of coal ash just off the Jacksonville coast earlier this year, according to a letter the Department of Environmental Protection sent the companies this month. That means AES could face either a consent order or a fine as a result of the spill, which took place during a monthslong attempt to salvage the barge, Bridgeport, that had been carrying the coal ash to a private port in Jacksonville. The ash originated at AES’ coal-fired plant in Puerto Rico, where the company has faced scrutiny from residents and the government over concerns about the health effects of the waste product and possible groundwater contamination.
“For Orlando’s entertainment industry, $57 million in relief” via Matthew J. Palm of the Orlando Sentinel — If you hear cheers coming from theaters, concert halls and movie theaters, they aren’t necessarily for the shows: The joy is over the financial help now flooding into Central Florida’s battered entertainment industry, nearly $57 million worth. The federal government’s Small Business Administration has started announcing recipients of its Shuttered Venue Operators Grants, including $10 million for Orlando’s Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and $7.6 million for the nearby Amway Center. The grant program, which is authorized to disburse more than $16 billion nationwide, grew out of the “Save Our Stages” campaign waged by entertainment organizations across the country after COVID-19 left venues empty for months.
“A Florida city wanted to move away from fossil fuels. The state just made sure it couldn’t.” via Emily Pontecorvo and Brendan Rivers of Grist.org — In Jan., Tampa was set to become the 12th city in Florida to set a climate goal to transition to 100% clean energy. But that was before the natural gas industry and Republican state lawmakers got involved. Tampa City Councilman Joseph Citro had worked for months with environmental groups and local businesses on a nonbinding resolution. State Sen. Travis Hutson introduced bills that would make Citro’s Tampa proposal illegal. Hutson wanted to prohibit cities from passing any policies aimed at regulating energy infrastructure or fuel sources. Florida law now prohibits local governments from taking “any action that restricts or prohibits” energy sources used by utilities.
“As robotaxis arrive, Miami’s Uber and Lyft drivers fear they’ll be left at the curb” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — Uber and Lyft have long advertised that driving for them is a great way to earn extra cash. For Miami-area residents like Humberto Pimental, driving for Lyft for the past four months has now turned into 50% of his regular income. So the announcement that autonomously driving Lyfts will soon be arriving in the city makes him apprehensive. Self-driving technology group Argo AI, along with Ford and Lyft, announced last month that they would begin testing 1,000 self-driving ride-hail vehicles, nicknamed “robotaxis,” in Miami and Austin this winter. It continues the work Argo AI and Ford have performed testing self-driving Ford cruisers in Miami starting in 2018; last fall, Ford announced it was increasing its Miami testing footprint.
“As John Thrasher nears retirement, he doesn’t want FSU ‘left behind’ in college football” via Curt Weiler and Andre C. Fernandez of the Tallahassee Democrat — Thrasher, who turns 78 in December, is retiring in August after nearly seven years atop the university. Mere weeks before the end of his tenure, the future of college football looks as uncertain as ever, with the news breaking last week that Oklahoma and Texas intend to move from the Big 12 to the SEC in 2025. It seems quite possible that the future of college athletics is moving toward a few super conferences, perhaps gaining even more autonomy. A path out of the ACC would be difficult for any school, even FSU and Clemson. The conference currently has grant of rights with each ACC school through 2036.
Happening today — Chairman Will Weatherford and the University of South Florida Board of Trustees meet to consider a replacement for exiting USF President Steven Currall, 10:30 a.m. More information here.
— TOP OPINION —
“America’s vaccination woes cannot be blamed only on politics” via The Economist — Many Democrats have been quick to blame Republican politics for the soaring infections. Republicans are less likely than Democrats to get vaccinated. They were also less likely to comply with social distancing last year. Prominent Republican leaders have long politicized the jab and other COVID-19 prevention methods, such as masks and social distancing. COVID-19 is not the only health epidemic raging across the United States. The states struggling the most with COVID-19 infections also have the least healthy populations. In the longer term, education and trusted information — along with access to better health care — will be vital in overcoming disinformation, raising vaccination rates and improving America’s overall health.
— OPINIONS —
“The CDC’s delta variant panic” via The Wall Street Journal editorial board — The CDC on Tuesday issued murky new guidance, without backup evidence, recommending that vaccinated people resume wearing masks indoors in some cases because unpublished studies suggest they could transmit the virus. But on Thursday, The Washington Post ran an alarmist story on an internal CDC slide presentation with the unpublished evidence, which triggered a media panic that could undermine vaccinations. Only on Friday afternoon did the agency release some of its evidence and offered a calmer explanation. What a fiasco. The CDC should be a source of fact and reason, not a hair-on-fire spreader of fear.
“Require the vaccine. It’s time to stop coddling the reckless.” via Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post — Pay people to get vaccinated, no matter whether that is unfair to those who didn’t receive checks for jabs. Require them to do so as a condition of going to work or enrolling in school. Do whatever it takes to get the pandemic under control. Those of us who have behaved responsibly, wearing masks and, since the vaccines became available, getting our shots, cannot be held hostage by those who can’t be bothered to do the same, or who are too deluded by misinformation to understand what is so clearly in their own interest. The more inconvenient we make life for the unvaccinated, the better our own lives will be. More importantly, the fewer who will needlessly die.
—“It’s time to play hardball with the unvaccinated. They’re a menace to society” via Leonard Pitts, Jr. of the Miami Herald
“Healthcare workers shouldn’t make patients sick. Hospitals must mandate COVID-19 vaccines” via the Miami Herald editorial board — With COVID-19 cases skyrocketing and the delta variant raging across Florida, it seems like this should be obvious: All hospital workers should be vaccinated. You’re at your most vulnerable when you go to a hospital. You’re seriously ill or need surgery. Maybe you’re medically frail or have a compromised immune system from chemotherapy. You shouldn’t have to wonder for one instant if the people you turn to for help at that moment, people who choose to work in the health care field, after all, have taken the single most effective step to prevent transmission of the deadly virus that has plagued us since 2020.
“As a Florida crisis deepens, DeSantis seems immune” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida hospital emergency rooms are overwhelmed with cases, many young and unvaccinated. Memorial Healthcare System in Hollywood was struggling with about 400 patients Thursday. DeSantis should have been at or near Memorial’s ER Friday, using his bully pulpit to demand that people get vaccinated and mask up. Instead, he was at a Cape Coral restaurant decorated with red, white and blue balloons, yukking it up, tossing more insults at the CDC and getting rave reviews from Republican parents for opposing masks in schools. With the Governor, everything has a politically over-the-top feel.
—“Mask policy could make “pro-life” Governor a schoolhouse grim reaper” via Steve Schneider for What’s Going On
“Miami-Dade schools chief to follow science on masks. Too bad DeSantis won’t do the same” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho vowed to be guided by “science, by medical experts and public health experts” before deciding on a mask mandate for the next school year. Good. That’s what you’d expect from the leader of Florida’s largest school district in a county with high transmission rates in a state where COVID-19 is running rampant. DeSantis is forcing Carvalho and other school district leaders to make these decisions based on the Governor’s interpretation of public health, which means we’re all in trouble.
“NPR ethics code is a step in the wrong direction” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — The press doesn’t react when a jury verdict is announced, or applaud a new Governor’s victory speech, and certainly doesn’t urge passage or defeat of legislation. Even if we personally hope for a certain result, in football or politics, we keep our opinions to ourselves. Until now. That public facade of professional detachment is eroded, just a bit, in a new ethics policy adopted recently by National Public Radio. NPR employees may now participate in public demonstrations for social causes they find morally correct and good for society. In a way, it’s good that NPR is dropping the pretense and letting its reporters openly admit their liberalism. Even occasional listeners can easily spot the bias. NPR’s ethics plan appears to permit its journalists to take sides with the good guys on their own time.
— OLYMPICS —
“Olympic medals no longer show off nations’ cultural power. That’s good.” via Paul Musgrave of The Washington Post — The 2021 Tokyo Olympics show that the relationship between what a country’s elites want from The Games and what their athletes are willing to provide is far from straightforward. The nature of power in international relations has more to do with setting the terms of debate rather than piling up gold medals — and sometimes that means a system that allows dominant competitors to withdraw can be more exemplary than one that forces them into the arena. Leaders hope that the prestige accumulated through athletic prowess can reap greater support at home and more legitimacy internationally. Aspiring powers can use excellence to demonstrate their independence and standing.
“Caeleb Dressel takes place among Olympic greats” via The Associated Press — Dressel finished off his gold rush at the Tokyo Olympics with two more dazzling swims. The guy who dreads all the attention won’t be able to escape it now. He’s one of the greatest Olympians ever. “I’m really glad to be done,” said the tattooed, 24-year-old Floridian, who captured his fourth and fifth gold medals of the Tokyo Games on Sunday. Dressel was perfect in the events he had a chance in, capping off his stunning week in the final race at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre by putting the Americans ahead to stay in the 4×100 medley relay on their way to a world record. He doesn’t plan to savor his triumph for long, which is right on par for a guy who said a day earlier, “the sport was a lot more fun when no one knew my name.”
Seven of the US’s current 18 gold medals are Gators…it’s always great to be a Florida Gator, but during the Olympics there’s a special kind of pride. https://t.co/7J9YySW6Ak
— Jason Brodeur (@jasonbrodeur) August 1, 2021
“Fencers refused to fight. Then came the rule that changed the sport.” via Andrew Beaton of The Wall Street Journal — For various strategic reasons, the world’s most prestigious epee matches were devolving into long stretches in which the sword fighters simply stood around, fighting as much as a pair of pacifists. They would sometimes just salute one another to signal they preferred to lay down their weapons for the round. But fencing didn’t have a rule to stop it. It was the fencing equivalent of basketball without a shot clock, with the action grinding to a halt for almost the entire game. The comic severity of the issue within the epee discipline was laid bare by the name of the rule fencing’s governing body came up with as a solution. It’s called the “Unwillingness to Fight” rule. They say it has reinvigorated a sport that features sharp weapons yet had become painfully dull.
— ALOE —
“Florida chefs leave restaurants to work in private homes” via Carlos Frias of the Orlando Sentinel — More restaurant chefs, from line cooks to the second in command in well-respected kitchens, are making the decision to work as personal chefs after the pandemic exposed their industry’s fragility. Some are moonlighting on their off days. Others left restaurants altogether. It’s another dent to a big Miami hospitality industry struggling to staff up in the pandemic. But for chefs who have turned years of restaurant experience into cooking in private homes, it has been a revelation. Demand for private chefs has been skyrocketing.
“‘Jungle Cruise’ sails atop box office despite COVID-19 concerns” via Jonathan Landrum Jr of The Associated Press — Despite growing concerns over the delta variant, “Jungle Cruise” still drew moviegoers out to theaters during the film’s opening weekend to sail atop the North American box office. The Disney film starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt exceeded expectations by pulling in more than $34.1 million over the weekend. The adventure movie was estimated to open with around $25 million to $30 million domestically, but it outpaced those numbers despite the surge in coronavirus cases. Globally, “Jungle Cruise” brought in a total of $90 million, including $27.6 million in the international box office and more than $30 million from Disney Plus.
“Let it go? Disney princess culture isn’t toxic, study finds” via Julie Jargon of The Wall Street Journal — For years, scholars have suggested that the classic Disney trope, the damsel in distress, can damage girls’ sense of self-worth and also negatively shape boys’ views of girls and their own masculinity. So when little girls start to beg for Aurora’s tiara and Cinderella’s ballgown, parents have to decide whether to let the Disney princess movies flow or shun the uber-girly culture and the antiquated, male-dominated world it long represented. A recent study shows that even kids immersed in classic Disney films such as “Sleeping Beauty” and “Beauty and the Beast” managed to develop what researchers say are healthier views about gender roles.
“It started because he went to watch the sunrise. Now he’s a trusted confidant to strangers each morning from his bench.” via Cathy Free of The Washington Post — About seven years ago, Al Nixon decided to start watching the sunrise every morning from a bench in St. Petersburg. Looking at the water helped him feel grounded for the day as he relaxed in Vinoy Park. About a year later, a woman stopped to say hello. “She said, ‘You know, every morning when I see you sitting here, I know that everything is going to be OK,’” Nixon recalled. Instead of staring straight ahead, Nixon started smiling at people and striking up conversations. And pretty soon, more than a few early-risers began joining him, sometimes even unburdening themselves. “I was happy to listen,” Nixon said. “I wanted them to walk away knowing they didn’t have to feel alone.”
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to former House Speaker Dean Cannon, as well as Kevin Cate, and Lindsey Perkins Zander. Belated birthday wishes to Chloe Conboy, spokeswoman for Manatee County Public Safety, the brilliant Ashley Mayer Kalifeh, our favorite chef in Tallahassee Brian Knepper, Daniel Nordby, our friend Brian Shuford, and Karen Unger.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.