Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.19.21

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Good morning. ‘Sunburn’ has been waiting for you.

If you start complaining about your job requiring vaccines, don’t be surprised if your co-workers don’t back you up.

According to a new poll conducted by Florida Atlantic University, two-thirds of Floridians support employers who set a “no jab, no job” workplace. Just 30% oppose, and the rest aren’t sure.

Likewise, FAU also found 66% of Floridians agree with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation that students, teachers, and other school staff wear masks. Yes, colleges, too.

Schools are employers, after all — and in most counties, they’re among the largest.

Don’t expect backup if you complain about vaccine mandates at work.

The margins tightened when the “parental rights” argument was floated. A slim majority (51%) said they think, just as Gov. Ron DeSantis does, the mom and dad should be the ultimate arbiters on masking matters. Two-fifths think parental authority ends when their kids get on the bus, however. Another 9% said they weren’t sure who should decide.

Among the sample of 500 Floridians — 80% of whom said they were vaccinated or plan to be — were 131 parents of children between the ages of 12 and 18 and another 118 parents of children 6 to 11 years old.

Though a comparatively small sample, 76% of those with tweens and teens said their children either have or will get the vaccine. The other 24% said they do not plan to get their kids vaccinated. And 85% of parents with elementary school-aged kids said they would get their child vaccinated once the FDA gives the OK.

Notably, Floridians are also standing against the Governor on so-called “vaccine passports.” FAU found that majorities think they should be required to board planes (68%) and cruise ships 70% or enter stadiums (61%) and restaurants (53%).


@NYTimes: Pope Francis is urging people around the world to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in a new public service ad, calling it “an act of love.”

@POTUS: We will not sit by as Governors try to block or intimidate educators protecting kids against COVID-19. This isn’t about politics. This is about keeping our kids safe and taking on this virus together.

: The sudden emergence of Deep Down Everyone Truly Is An Expert About Afghanistan Twitter is really making me miss the golden days of Armchair Epidemiologist Twitter

@GeorgeTakei: Why are anti-vaxxers OK with experimental monoclonal antibody treatments but not OK with a proven, field-tested vaccine? Makes zero sense.

@TarynFenske: This is not an either/or situation. There are people who are vaccinated and also testing positive. We have a successful, effective, and early treatment available through monoclonal antibodies. Treatment & prevention are not mutually exclusive.

@IamSharpe: It’s been 128 days since @GovRonDeSantis tweeted about the vaccines.

Tweet, tweet:

@MacStipanovich: Well, well, well. The rebellion spreads. Now DeSantis can suspend the school boards and superintendents of Dade, Broward, Hillsborough and Alachua. That would be something.

@DuranForFlorida: Kudos to the leadership on display by the 7 @MDCPS board members who voted to ensure the safe and continued participation for in-school learning. Students having to quarantine aren’t in class. This decision was pro-student and pro-in-person learning.

@USFHealth: USF Health continues to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak in our community. We are shifting our resources to focus our teams on COVID care at our partner @TGHCares and in our outpatient clinics. Due to this, we may have selective clinic cancellations and rescheduling.

@PGuzzoTimes: My kids casually speak about class quarantines and active shooter drills. This is their norm.

Tweet, tweet:


St. Petersburg Primary Election — 5; Boise vs. UCF — 14; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 15; Notre Dame at FSU — 17; NFL regular season begins — 21; Bucs home opener — 21; California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 26; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 26; Alabama at UF — 30; Dolphins home opener — 31; Jaguars home opener — 31; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 32; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 36; ‘Dune’ premieres — 43; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 43; MLB regular season ends — 45; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 50; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 68; World Series Game 1 — 69; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 69; Georgia at UF — 72; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 75; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 75; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 80; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 81; Miami at FSU — 86; ExcelinEd’s National Summit on Education begins — 91; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 92; FSU vs. UF — 100; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 104; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 113; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 120; NFL season ends — 143; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 145; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 145; NFL playoffs begin — 146; Super Bowl LVI — 178; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 218; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 262; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 287; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 323; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 335; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 414; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 449.


The Joe Biden administration will use a federal civil rights office to deter states from banning universal masking in classrooms.” via Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Erica L. Green of The New York Times — Biden, escalating his fight with Republican Governors who are blocking local school districts from requiring masks to protect against the coronavirus, said Wednesday he had directed the Education Department to intervene in states, including taking possible legal action, that have moved to bar universal masking in classrooms. Biden said he directed Miguel Cardona, his education secretary, “to take additional steps to protect our children,” including against Governors who he said are “setting a dangerous tone” in issuing executive orders banning masks mandates and have threatened to penalize school officials who defy them. “This includes using all of his oversights, authorities and legal action, if appropriate, against Governors who are trying to block and intimidate local school officials and educators,” Biden said. And the President predicted he would have “a lot to say” about children in schools next week.

Joe Biden is calling on Miguel Cardona to examine legal ways the federal government can enforce mask mandates. Image via AP.


Florida COVID-19 update: 23,335 new cases, state continues to see increasing hospitalizations” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Florida reported 23,335 new COVID-19 cases to the CDC on Wednesday. On Wednesday, the state also reported eight new deaths the day before. In all, Florida has recorded at least 2,978,433 confirmed COVID cases statewide and 41,149 deaths. In early August, the CDC changed the way it reported new cases and deaths in Florida. According to statements from the Florida Department of Health, a complete renewed set of data is given to the CDC daily, including changes to previous days’ daily totals.

Florida hospitals continue to fill up fast. Image via AP.

Florida hospitals report another record high level of COVID-19 hospitalizations” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Florida Hospitalization Association is reporting a new high in active hospitalizations for COVID-19 with 16,721 people hospitalized in the state. Wednesday’s update shows a net increase of 200 more hospitalizations over the day prior. It also shows the state with nearly two-thirds more hospitalizations than during the previous peak in July 2020. Florida hospitals admitted another 2,695 COVID-19 patients Tuesday. Nearly 36% of all patients in hospitals have the disease. Additionally, 55% of those in ICUs have the virus.

As COVID-19 hospitalizations soar, Ron DeSantis touts new monoclonal antibody treatment site” via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — With some Florida hospitals overwhelmed by record numbers of COVID-19 patients and new cases still on the rise, DeSantis visited one of the state’s hardest-hit regions on Wednesday to announce the opening of a new site for providing the only treatment designed to keep infected people out of the hospital, monoclonal antibodies. The new monoclonal antibody treatment site at C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines is across the street from Memorial Hospital West, one of six public hospitals in South Broward that altogether had 713 COVID-19-positive inpatients on Wednesday, more than at any other time during the 18-month-long pandemic.

New monoclonal antibody treatment sites are coming to South Florida’s three major counties” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — DeSantis says new sites will open in South Florida to help provide early treatment for individuals who test positive for COVID-19. Monoclonal antibody therapy has shown signs it can help patients avoid severe symptoms if therapy is initiated early in an infection. With hospitals overwhelmed in South Florida and across the state, the Governor said the additional therapy locations could help the state’s health care workers. “Even vaccinated people are testing positive. So once that happens, the goal is to get people to just have a swift recovery without needing to go into the hospital,” DeSantis said Wednesday.

DeSantis says school boards with mask mandates are defying state, not him” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis’ comments came hours before school boards in Miami-Dade and Hillsborough joined Alachua and Broward in imposing masks at schools. “There will obviously be consequences, I think, in probably a number of different ways,’’ he said without elaborating what those would be. “At the end of the day, you have local officials who do not believe they need to follow the law. That’s what this is about.” The Orange County school district, the largest in the state, recorded 238 new student cases of COVID-19 on Monday alone, almost equaling the 259 cases from all of last week. Other school districts around the state are reporting similar jumps in cases. Florida hospitals also are reporting record numbers of hospitalizations.

Nikki Fried rallies around lawsuit against ban on school mask mandates” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Fried rallied support around a federal lawsuit Wednesday challenging DeSantis’ ban on school mask mandates. The ban, Fried alleged, violates federal law and endangers students. Implemented in July, it empowers the state to impose financial consequences against districts that enact school mask mandates. “The Governor is forcing parents to make terrible choices,” Fried told reporters in Tampa. Filed in early August, the lawsuit contends DeSantis’ order disproportionally threatens the safety of students with disabilities. What’s more, plaintiffs assert it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

DeSantis urges caution on COVID-19 booster shots” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — In West Palm Beach Wednesday, DeSantis again addressed the issue of vaccinations, urging caution when it comes to booster shots. “Talk to your physician and see what’s right for you,” the Governor advised, highlighting another monoclonal treatment site in South Florida. “This has not been something that I think has been trialed clinically yet,” DeSantis said. “So the FDA hasn’t done it. Whatever’s been approved will be available for people.” A pharmacy would, he added, “simply fill whatever fits the emergency use authorization.”

Publix offers third COVID-19 vaccine shot for the immunocompromised” via Bernadette Berdychowski of the Tampa Bay Times — Publix is offering a free third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus shot to vaccinated patients who are eligible to receive it. The additional vaccination shot is only available to the immunocompromised who qualify under federal guidelines and have received the two-dose vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine is currently only available in Brevard, Duval, Orange and Polk counties. The government encourages people to get a booster shot of the original vaccine they received. Health officials are only recommending boosters shots for those vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna. There isn’t enough data to show that an additional dose of Johnson & Johnson boosts antibodies.

DeSantis jabs at critics: ‘If you make it about me, you get on CNN’” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis criticized local officials Wednesday who characterize the controversy over student masks mandates as an issue centered around him. Speaking in Pembroke Pines, DeSantis said the state’s preemption of school mask mandates isn’t personal. But instead, a matter of state law. He pointed to a newly-minted law dubbed the Parents’ Bill of Rights. The law empowers parents, rather than government, to direct a child’s upbringing on educational and health care issues.

Ron DeSantis says criticizing him is an express ticket to CNN. Image via AP.

DeSantis has no idea what he’s talking about” via Chris Cillizza of CNN — DeSantis is totally wrong about masking — specifically when he says “even though it’s not proven to be effective.” While masks aren’t perfect, they are one of the best ways to slow the spread of the virus. That’s especially true for the unvaccinated but also true for those who have already been vaccinated. I can’t imagine DeSantis is unaware of all of that data. But he’d rather get a cheap bit of applause than do the responsible thing, which is to tell people to wear masks as a way to slow the speed of the delta variant. This isn’t some theoretical debate. Deaths from COVID-19 in Florida have increased 123% over the last two weeks. Who’s clapping now?


As COVID-19 cases rise in Hillsborough, a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’ emerges” via Josh Cascio of Fox 13 — Hillsborough County’s COVID-19 data appears to show a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” according to Mike Wiese, an epidemiologist with the Hillsborough County Health Department. “Our average number of cases continues to rise and now is 1,622 cases per day, and our positivity is 22%. That’s higher than any time during the pandemic,” Wiese shared. Wiese says that’s due in large part to the relaxed restrictions and delta variant. Since January, there have been 1,545 breakthrough cases in Hillsborough County, but Wiese says that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Patients with chest pains, head injuries wait for hours after initial triage at full ER amid COVID-19 surge” via Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — From Aug. 8-14, 100% of ICU beds and 95% of hospital beds were full in Seminole County, according to White House data. Seminole’s Emergency Medical Services system is at “crisis level,” said Seminole county’s fire chief on Monday after he asked people to stop calling 9-1-1 for nonemergencies because of low ambulance availability. This pressure on hospital resources is due to the new wave of COVID-19 cases, fueled by the delta variant. According to White House data, about 37% of inpatient beds and 46% of staffed ICU beds in Seminole County were occupied by a COVID-19 patient.

Expect to wait hours at ERs, even with head injuries or chest pains, thanks to COVID-19. Image via AP.

—“Jacksonville fire lieutenant becomes JFRD’s first member to die from COVID-19 in line of duty” via Dan Scanlan of The Florida Times-Union

—“Manatee County Jail on partial lockdown due to rise in positive COVID-19 cases among inmates” via Jordan Highsmith of WTSP

Hillsborough School Board votes to require masks for students, staff” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — Confronted with rising numbers of COVID-19 cases on its campuses, the Hillsborough County School Board voted to require students, teachers, and staff to wear masks for the next 30 days, starting Thursday. The 5-2 vote appeared to flout DeSantis’ recent order to prevent mask requirements in schools. It also risks consequences from the state Department of Education and the State Board of Education, which have threatened action for districts that don’t comply, including the removal of school board members. Minutes before the Hillsborough vote, the Miami-Dade School Board voted 7-1 to approve a similar measure.

Masked students return to school on Broward’s first day back” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — More than 260,000 students returned to Broward schools for the first day of school Wednesday, decked out in the accessory that has thrust the district into a national debate: masks. A day after the state Board of Education found the district in violation of a state rule that allows parents to opt their children out of masks, the school district held firm to its rule on the first day of school. The state has threatened to strip money from the district and remove School Board members from office. The district initially planned for masks to be optional but required them due to skyrocketing COVID-19 cases.

Duval Schools launches COVID-19 vaccine clinics at district’s middle and high schools” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — Duval County Public Schools will launch its “Duval Vax of Kindness” COVID-19 vaccination drive effort Wednesday to vaccinate students and faculty at each of the district’s secondary campuses. As part of the program, every Duval County Public School secondary campus will host a vaccine clinic once over the next month. Among the first schools to receive the one-day clinics are Darnell Cookman Middle/High School, Grand Park Alternative School, John E. Ford K-8, and Raines High School, which will offer the first doses of the vaccine on Wednesday. The initiative is one Superintendent Diana Greene has been hinting toward since summer vacation.

More schools are instituting mask mandates, dealing with quarantines. Image via AP.

Alachua schools: Mask rule extended eight weeks” via Gershon Harrell of The Gainesville Sun — In the face of state education officials threatening to unseat Alachua County school officials and siphon away funding, the school board voted Tuesday night to extend its mask mandate for students for eight more weeks. The decision was based on the virus’ quick spread in Alachua County and the facts presented by community medical professionals and physicians who advised that the mask mandate was still needed. The eight-week mask mandate extension comes after a State Board of Education meeting during which state officials said they would continue to investigate Alachua County and could ultimately withhold school officials’ salaries or remove school board members.

Over 600 quarantined at Leon Schools; Chiles leads the county in mask opt-out forms” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — Chiles High School leads the Leon County School District in the number of mask opt-out forms turned in, according to records. The district also updated its dashboard with the number of students currently quarantining. As of the end of Tuesday, 641 students are quarantined, with the most students coming from Deerlake Middle School. As of Tuesday, 458 students from Chiles in northeast Tallahassee have turned in an opt-out form. Scott Mazur, president of the Leon Classroom Teachers Association, said he’s heard from Chiles teachers about the safety of their students and their families.

—“Pompano Beach offering $200 gift cards to fully vaccinated residents” via Brett Shweky of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

—”Another record-breaking day of hospitalizations in Leon County” via Casey Chapter and Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat

—”‘The system is under strain’: Polk Co. fire chief asks residents to limit 911 call usage” via WFLA

‘Difficult decision’: Nonprofit postpones Tallahassee Beer Fest amid surging COVID-19 cases” via the Tallahassee Democrat — Citing rising COVID-19 cases and insufficient vaccine rates in the Tallahassee area, United Partners for Human Services announced the postponement of its annual Tallahassee Beer Festival that was scheduled to take place Aug. 28, 2021, at the Tucker Civic Center. The event will be rescheduled at a later date. “The lack of vaccinations among our attendees in certain age groups led to our decision to postpone the 3rd Annual Tallahassee Beer Festival,” said Amber R. Tynan, Executive Director of United Partners for Human Services.


Damning — “Florida lacks cybersecurity experts as state sees growing threats” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis’ new technology office is supposed to resolve the state’s longtime tech woes and lead the state’s defense against cybersecurity threats. A year into its inception, the office is struggling. In the last several months, the new Florida Digital Service has seen a wave of high-level departures. Top officials have left without giving notice. In less than a year, it’s looking for its third chief information security officer, who leads cybersecurity defense for the state’s $100 billion government. Half the state’s 10-member cybersecurity response team positions are vacant.

Program for brain-damaged kids arbitrarily denied claims, overspent on perks, audit finds” via Carol Marbin Miller and Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — Over the last two years, Florida’s embattled compensation program for children who suffer brain damage at birth spent nearly $800 for holiday luncheons and violated state spending laws by offering lavish buffets to employees and board members, but refused to reimburse a family for the full amount of a $1,314 computer designed to help a nonverbal child speak. Parents traveling with their children to out-of-town doctor appointments were limited to $6 for breakfast, although administrators for Florida’s Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association, or NICA, paid $158 per person for a board meeting breakfast buffet and all-day nonalcoholic drinks.

Kathleen Passidomo: Lawmakers will demand equitable Lake O plan” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Army Corps of Engineers erred by not inviting Florida lawmakers to discussions on Lake Okeechobee discharges, Sen. Passisomo said. The Naples Republican won’t forget that mistake. “We’ll see how it ends up, but we’re not going to just let it slide,” Passidomo told Florida Politics. Like all lawmakers representing Lee, Collier and Hendry counties, Passidomo signed a letter heavily criticizing “Plan CC,” the starting plan selected last month by the Army Corps. That plan turned up potential discharges from Lake Okeechobee, and with it, the potential for blue-green algal blooms while largely eliminating eastward discharge into the St. Lucie River.

Kathleen Passidomo seeks a fair solution to Lake O’s problems. Image via Colin Hackley.

What Lauren Book is reading — “Leda Health offers fast, discreet DNA collection kits to sexual assault survivors” via Florida Politics staff reports — A sexual assault occurs every 68 seconds, but 77% of survivors never report their abuse, and even fewer receive post-assault medical attention. And during the pandemic, even fewer survivors have received hospital care. Hospitals beds may be in short supply, but the need for survivor services hasn’t decreased. One company, Leda Health, is helping survivors get the services they need at home and quickly. As the fall semester beings, the company is offering Early Evidence Kits (EEK) with discreet delivery in under two hours starting Wednesday at the University of North Florida, Jacksonville University, the University of Tampa, and the main campus of the University of South Florida.

Anna Eskamani joins call for ‘robust humanitarian response’ in Afghanistan” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Declaring “This is a crisis and there’s no way to sugarcoat it,” Rep. Eskamani joined a national call Wednesday urging the Biden administration to make it a top priority to help deliver Afghan refugees to safety. “We have a moral obligation to do what’s right and support the Afghan people at this moment,” Eskamani said Wednesday in a national “Afghan Rapid Response” forum organized by a humanitarian aid group called We Are All America. Eskamani, a daughter of Iranian immigrants, joined representatives from several national organizations in urging the Biden Administration to cut bureaucracy to bring Afghan refugees out of Afghanistan.

Invasive Florida highway construction crippled Black communities. Fallout remains decades later.” via Eileen Zaffiro-Kean of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — In recent years, some cities have redesigned road systems that choked the life out of bustling business corridors and the neighborhoods surrounding them. But most of the communities beaten down by heavily traveled streets and highways running through them have just been left to deal with the disfigurement, incessant exhaust fumes and constant whir of cars speeding past. “I-95 was put in for the convenience of white people to get around,” said 73-year-old Beverly Neal, who recalls that a lot of Black people didn’t even have cars as Florida was diving into highway construction in the 1950s and 1960s.


Happening todayThe St. Lucie County legislative delegation will meet as it prepares for the 2022 Session: Sen. Gayle Harrell; Reps. Erin Grall, Kaylee Tuck, Toby Overdorf and Dana Trabulsy, 9 a.m., Indian River State College Main Campus, The Kight Center, 3209 Virginia Avenue, Fort Pierce.

High stakes: Medical marijuana analyst sees consequences for Trulieve after guilty verdict of CEO’s spouse” via Jeffrey Schweers of USA Today Network — As John “J.T.” Burnette’s bribery and corruption trial progressed in a U.S. courtroom in Tallahassee, Kim Rivers, his spouse and CEO of one of the biggest medical marijuana companies in the U.S., sat in the gallery, watching and listening. Over four weeks, Rivers had an unobstructed view as government prosecutors, and defense lawyers grilled witnesses about their interactions with Burnette and listened as taped recordings of his conversations with undercover agents were played in court. Those taped conversations, text exchanges the government submitted as evidence, and witness testimony suggested Burnette played a larger role in the creation of Trulieve than previously acknowledged or reported.

Kim Rivers is under the cloud of her husband’s corruption trial. Image via Jacob Ogles.

Critical Corridor” via Mary Wozniak of Fort Myers Florida Weekly — The Florida Wildlife Corridor Act, passed at the end of the last Legislative Session, recognizes a geographic swath of approximately 18 million acres of land stretching from the Panhandle to the Everglades called the Florida Wildlife Corridor. The push is to preserve 8 million acres and create a continuous, linked passageway of protected lands for wildlife. Preserving the remaining lands is equally important to protect and sustain water resources. To support the act, the Legislature set aside $400 million in this year’s budget to fund the conservation efforts: $100 million to Florida Forever and $300 million in federal stimulus money will acquire land through conservation easements or purchase.

—“Lobbying compensation: Capitol Alliance Group reports another $400K quarter” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Jon Johnson, Travis Blanton, Darrick McGhee, Johnson & Blanton: Ability Housing, Isograd

Stuart Brown, SKB Consulting Group: Isograd

Mike Haridopolos: BTC Florida

Dave Murzin, 850 Consulting Group: Baskerville Donovan

Jared Rosenstein, Capital City Consulting: Broward County Clerk of the Court

Melissa Smith, Michael Willson: Executive Office of the Governor

— 2022 —

The Governor, the virus and next year’s election” via Howard L. Simon for the Fort Myers News-Press — A few weeks ago, before the surge of the delta variant, DeSantis seemed willing to bet his reelection, and perhaps his political career, on opposition to government mandates. He seemed to be betting that more voters support his brand of “personal freedom” than voters willing to make sacrifices and endure inconveniences to make it more likely that they, and their family and neighbors, get through this pandemic alive. As much as DeSantis tried to be the leader of the pro-freedom approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, his continued pursuit of that approach in the face of such abysmal numbers instead has cemented his national reputation as the leader of the “head in the sand” anti-science response to the pandemic.

Only half of Florida voters support re-electing DeSantis and Marco Rubio, but they’re still polling ahead of likely Democratic challengers” via Anthony Man of the Sun Sentinel — Slightly more than a year in advance of Florida’s gubernatorial primary, a poll released Wednesday found Democrat Charlie Crist in a slightly better position than Nikki Fried as the candidate to go up against DeSantis. The survey, paid for by the gaming company BUSR and conducted by a well-rated firm, Susquehanna Polling and Research, found DeSantis with 46% of the vote to 43% for Crist. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points, making it impossible to say which one would fare better in the November 2022 general election.

‘Remove Ron’ says DeSantis has ‘blood on his hands’ — Delta is decimating Florida, and anti-DeSantis committee “Remove Ron” said the Governor is to blame. The group released a new ad Wednesday hammering DeSantis for the variant’s rapid spread, which has caused a spike in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. “You’ve got blood on your hands,” an ad narrator says to DeSantis. “It’s your fault that masks and vaccines have been politicized, questioned, even disputed. And now? A darkness has fallen over the Sunshine State as Florida has again become a worldwide epicenter of COVID-19.” In a statement, Remove Ron founder Daniel Uhlfelder said, “DeSantis seems to be doing everything he can to sow the seeds of division, questioning of the science, and outright denial of public policies that have been proven to slow down the virus.”

To watch the video, click on the image below:

Assignment editorsFried will hold a virtual conversation with Pat Diaz, a registered nurse in South Florida and representative of Service Employees International Union (1199SEIU) United Healthcare Workers East, 11 a.m., Zoom link available upon media RSVP no later than 10 a.m. to Franco.R[email protected], and will be livestreamed at

PAC activity in 2020 ‘ghost’ candidate race mirrored tactics in ‘18 Gainesville-area election” via Annie Martin and Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — When state Sen. Jason Brodeur won election last year in Central Florida’s Senate District 9, the Republican from Sanford had help from a pair of political committees that flooded voters with ads aimed at undermining his strongest rival by boosting lesser-known opponents. The two short-lived committees spent more than $400,000 combined promoting other candidates in the hotly contested race; one encouraged Democratic primary voters to nominate a candidate widely perceived as a weaker potential challenger to Brodeur, while the other promoted a little-known independent candidate with ads worded to appeal to left-leaning voters.

As population grows, so does debate on how to reach Latino voters in 2022 midterms” via Stephanie Akin and Suzanne Monyak of Roll Call — Democrats know that overall, the party does better with Latino voters than Republicans, but there is more recognition that they are far from monolithic and that outreach needs to start much earlier. Republicans, meanwhile, saw candidates do better with Latinos — even flipping two South Florida seats — and want to build on that success. Donald Trump, for example, made gains among Latino voters compared to his 2016 election, especially in the Texas Rio Grande Valley and South Florida. The parties’ renewed efforts are especially important in Texas, where the 2020 census not only led to the state gaining two seats in the House, it showed people who identified as Hispanic or Latino were responsible for more than 50% of the state’s population growth over the last decade.


More than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths recorded as U.S. returns to April levels” via Mychael Schnell of The Hill — The U.S. recorded more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths as numbers reach levels last seen in April, largely due to the highly infectious delta variant spreading rapidly throughout the country. The 1,017 coronavirus deaths reported on Tuesday equate to roughly 42 fatalities an hour. The U.S. has recorded more than 620,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the CDC. The U.S. had consistently seen fewer than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths per day since mid-March when large swaths of the country started getting vaccinated.

COVID-19 hospitalizations could hit 32,000 a day, CDC forecast says” via Catherine Park of Fox 13 — The United States could start seeing more than 32,000 new COVID-19 hospitalizations a day as early as September, according to the COVID-19 Forecast Hub at UMass Amherst, which is utilized by the CDC to forecast COVID-19 trends. The forecasts predict new hospital admission over the next four weeks, and the information is derived from eight modeling groups. The forecasts also predict that states seeing record numbers of hospitalizations, such as Florida, Texas and Arkansas, will see a slight downward trend in new COVID-19 hospitalizations.

COVID-19 booster shot for Pfizer, Moderna vaccines will be available Sept. 20” via Courtney Subramanian of USA Today — The Biden administration on Wednesday unveiled plans to begin offering COVID-19 booster shots on Sept. 20 for American adults who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines as cases of the highly contagious delta coronavirus variant continue to spread across the country. The U.S. will provide a third shot to Americans who received their second vaccine dose at least eight months ago, pending authorization from the FDA. Biden announced the decision, along with a series of measures to boost vaccination rates at nursing homes and thwart states’ plans to block mask mandates in schools, in remarks at the White House.

Prepare to roll up your sleeve for the third time. Image via AP.

—”‘I did not believe any of it’: Man warns from ICU to protect yourself, get the vaccine” via Alex Denis of Nexstar Media Wire

—”An Alabama doctor watched patients reject the coronavirus vaccine. Now he’s refusing to treat them.” via Timothy Bella of The Washington Post

How CDC data problems put the U.S. behind on the delta variant” via Yasmeen Abutaleb and Lena H. Sun of The Washington Post — When Pfizer representatives met with senior U.S. government health officials on July 12, they laid out why they thought booster shots would soon be necessary in the United States. Data from Israel showed the vaccine’s effectiveness waned over time, especially in older and immunocompromised people. But officials from the CDC disagreed, saying their own data showed something quite different. Critics lament that the most up-to-date data about the delta variant has come from other countries. And they say the CDC’s inability to share real-time information led top administration officials, including the President himself, to offer overly rosy assessments of the vaccines’ effectiveness.


AMC continues to soar as meme-stock phenomenon, despite bleak future of cinema” via Brent Lang and Rebecca Rubin of Variety — AMC may have evaded persistent threats of bankruptcy, managing to defy its skeptics and survive the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s emerging as a very different company. That reality was evidenced last week during the company’s quarterly earnings call, in which the nation’s largest exhibition chain embraced its status as a meme stock and tailored its remarks to appease its new base of young retail investors. CEO Adam Aron, a showman who is known to pepper a Churchill quote or two into earnings calls, has good reason to appeal beyond institutional investors. Thanks to the internet frenzy around its stock, AMC has improved its financial situation and renegotiated its massive debt obligations.

AMC is still trading strong, despite doubts of the industry. Image via AP.

Port Canaveral projects record cruise revenue for 2022” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Port Canaveral CFO Michael Poole presented the initial operating and capital budget proposal at a port commission meeting Wednesday that projects $85.1 million in cruise revenue for the fiscal period from Oct. 1, 2021, to Sept. 30, 2022. That exceeds the record set for the 2019 fiscal year that topped $81.9 million. The revenues from the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years were hit by the COVID-19 shutdown leading to more than 16 months without major cruise lines sailing from the port. He said the projections are for limited capacity sailings, counting on only 50% for the first three months and only 75% for the remaining nine months of the fiscal year.


Do I need a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot for my Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine?” via C.A. Bridges of The Palm Beach Post — Data published by Israel’s Ministry of Health shows that protection from the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine dropped off precipitously after six months, from 95% down to 40-50% effectiveness against infection, said Dr. Eric Topol, vice president for research at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, and a national expert on the use of data in medical research. The vaccine was still highly protective against serious illness and death but not against milder COVID-19. Availability for booster shots will be staggered, with immunocompromised people getting it now and everyone else later.

Variants vs. vaccines — is the COVID-19 race ever going to end?” via Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman of The Jerusalem Post — The bad news is that COVID-19 is here to stay. The good news is that this will eventually be stabilized; it just has not happened yet. Pandemics do not have a start or an end date. “We have this expectation that COVID-19 had a start: It started in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. And we have this expectation that it is going to end,” said Dr. Daniel Landsberger, chief physician for Maccabi Health Services. He noted that epidemics are not just “biological events” but social, cultural, and geopolitical events. So, while Israel might see the rate of infection decline or nearly disappear, as happened in the late spring, other countries might continue to be plagued by the virus.

With variants, will COVID-19 ever end? Image via AP.

How does COVID-19 affect the brain? A troubling picture emerges.” via Emily Mullin of National Geographic — As the pandemic has dragged on, clinics have filled with people who were never hospitalized but suffer lingering symptoms, including brain fog and other cognitive issues. A picture is starting to emerge of how COVID-19 causes these cognitive issues. While a few studies have detected the presence of the virus in neurons and their supportive glia cells, which hold neurons together like glue, scientists now think it’s unlikely that SARS-CoV-2 infects brain cells, at least in large enough quantities to cause neurological damage. If the virus is present there at all, it’s likely in minimal amounts or contained within the brain’s blood vessels.

Israel, once the model for beating COVID-19, faces new surge of infections” via Isabel Kershner of The New York Times — Last spring, Israel’s remarkably swift vaccination campaign was seen as a global model. Coronavirus infections plummeted, an electronic pass allowed the vaccinated to attend indoor concerts and sporting events and distancing rules and mask mandates were eventually scrapped. Israel offered the world a hopeful glimpse of the way out of the pandemic. No longer. The fourth wave of infections is rapidly approaching the levels of Israel’s worst days of the pandemic last winter. The daily rate of confirmed new virus cases has more than doubled in the last two weeks, making Israel a rising hot spot on the international charts. Restrictions on gatherings and commercial and entertainment venues were reinstated this week, and the government is considering a new lockdown.

Delta variant looms over the fall fest circuit, but insiders insist the show must go on” via Scott Roxborough of The Hollywood Reporter — Last year, as much of Europe emerged from its first coronavirus lockdown, Venice 2020 was the first major film festival to hold an in-person, physical event. A year on, Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera hopes Venice 2021 will serve as the real restart. That is if the delta variant doesn’t spoil everyone’s party. The fall film festivals, which, alongside Venice, include Telluride, Toronto and a broad second tier of events, are having to adjust on the fly, making decisions on hygiene, travel and safety measures. Masks or no masks? Tests or vaccinations? Social distancing or full-capacity cinemas? And all these decisions are based on information that could change tomorrow.

Texas school district requires masks after finding dress code loophole to bypass ban” via Samira Sadeque of The Guardian — The Texas Governor’s executive order, issued last month, had said no governmental institution, including schools, could not require anyone to wear masks. The Paris Independent school district made the announcement on its website, citing its concerns for the health and safety of its students. With a population of about 25,000, the city of Paris currently has almost 3,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. “The board [of trustees] believes the dress code can be used to mitigate communicable health issues, and therefore has amended the PISD dress code to protect our students and employees,” read a part of the statement. The announcement was made on the same day that Abbott himself tested positive for the coronavirus.

—”After Texas parent rips mask off teacher’s face, school official warns: ‘Do not fight mask wars in our schools’” via Jaclyn Peiser of MSN

‘I’d never been sick in my life’: Young, healthy COVID-19 long hauler thanks vaccine” via Casey Chapter of the Tallahassee Democrat — Rose McBride spent 22 years living an active lifestyle, including working out six to seven days a week. But in May 2020, she tested positive for COVID-19. Local cases at the time were in the 200s. She then became what health officials have called “long haulers,” who experience symptoms for longer than 28 days. Her symptoms went away for the most part after she was vaccinated, but she still struggles with mild headaches and dizziness a year later. Eleven days after testing positive, she had what was described as a “mini-stroke” and was taken to TMH, where doctors monitored her for two nights.

COVID-19 long-haul symptoms are a nagging problem for many. Image via AP.

“’Salad doesn’t cure COVID-19, Connor’: Baltimore vaccine campaign goes viral for being ‘authentic’” via Asha C. Gilbert of USA Today — The City of Baltimore wanted to meet people where they were to provide COVID-19 vaccination information, so they turned to social media and used memes, ones that feature hilarious conversations while debunking myths. And in the last few weeks, the city’s messages have gone viral with a positive outcome. “We can be authentic, we can be funny, and we can reach people who we wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise,” said Adam Abadir, director of communications for the Baltimore City Health Department. At the beginning of the pandemic, the health department used more standard communications to get out information about COVID-19, vaccinations and harm reduction principles.


Biden: Troops will stay in Afghanistan to evacuate Americans” via Robert Burns, Ellen Knickmeyer and Zeke Miller of The Associated Press — Biden said Wednesday that he is committed to keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan until every American is evacuated, even if that means maintaining a military presence there beyond his Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawal. He also pushed back against criticism that the U.S. should have done more to plan for the evacuation and withdrawal, marked by scenes of violence and chaos as thousands attempted to flee while the Taliban advanced. Pressed repeatedly on how the administration would help Americans left in the nation after Aug. 31, Biden said, “If there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay till we get them all out.” Up to 15,000 Americans remain in Afghanistan after the Taliban took full control of the nation last weekend.

Joe Biden vows to get Americans out of Afghanistan. Image via AP.

Biden to require COVID-19 vaccines for nursing home staff” via Zeke Miller of The Associated Press — Biden on Wednesday announced that his administration will require that nursing home staff be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition for those facilities to continue receiving federal Medicare and Medicaid funding. “If you visit, live or work in a nursing home, you should not be at a high risk for contracting COVID from unvaccinated employees,” Biden said. In the form of a forthcoming regulation to be issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the new mandate could take effect as soon as next month. According to federal data, hundreds of thousands of nursing home workers are not vaccinated, despite those facilities bearing the brunt of the early COVID-19 outbreak and their workers being among the first in the country to be eligible for shots.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to visit White House later this month” via Maeve Sheehey of POLITICO — Bennett will visit the White House and meet with Biden for the first time since assuming office, according to a statement from press secretary Jen Psaki. Bennett took office in June after the ousting of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Speaking in a news conference on Wednesday, Bennett said the topic of Iran would be “central” to his conversations with Biden on Aug. 26. He said the leaders will discuss an approach to prevent Iran from nearing a nuclear breakout. Psaki said the visit “will also be an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss efforts to advance peace, security and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians and the importance of working toward a more peaceful and secure future for the region.”


Donald Trump promoted vaccines on Fox. Then the host goaded him into bashing boosters.” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — Wednesday was a big day in the fight against the coronavirus. It’s the day the U.S. government launched its campaign to get Americans to take booster shots for the vaccines, amid the increasingly challenging situation brought on by the delta variant. It’s also the day in which a Fox Business Network host tried hard to goad Trump into questioning that effort and succeeded. Trump, who has on a few occasions urged vaccinations but has generally avoided lifting a finger to really convince skeptical Republicans, on Wednesday pitched the booster effort as essentially a money-grab by Big Pharma.

Jared Kushner ally pardoned by Trump is charged by New York prosecutor” via Chris Dolmetsch of Bloomberg — Former New York Observer editor-in-chief Ken Kurson, who was pardoned by Trump in his last days as President over cyberstalking allegations, was charged with similar crimes by state prosecutors in Manhattan. “We will not accept presidential pardons as get-out-of-jail-free cards for the well-connected in New York,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance in a statement announcing the charges. Kurson is a close friend of Trump’s son-in-law and former senior White House aide Kushner, who previously owned the Observer.

A presidential pardon is not much help for Ken Kurson.

Trump alumni plan voting group” via Mike Allen of Axios — The America First Policy Institute, led by Trump administration alumni, on Thursday will announce a Center for Election Integrity, a nonprofit group it says will push policies in state legislatures to “help make it easy to vote, but hard to cheat.” CEI will hold a morning announcement event at Atlanta Metropolitan Cathedral. Hogan Gidley, a former White House spokesman and the center’s director, said CEI “will work tirelessly to protect the voters and safeguard the integrity of future elections because one illegal vote is one too many.” Although election security is a hot issue with Republicans, even Bill Barr, attorney general under Trump, said he saw no evidence of widespread election fraud in the 2020 presidential election.


Wrangling over Jan. 6 footage could force open congressional records” via Josh Gerstein of POLITICO — A new lawsuit is demanding that Congress release a vast trove of Capitol riot surveillance video currently the subject of legal tussles involving judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and the press. Past efforts to use the courts to force disclosure of congressional records like the videos have gotten little traction, but the Jan. 6-related case seizes on an opinion a D.C. Circuit judge issued in June. The new legal fight has the potential to set a new precedent for what kinds of information Congress must disclose and when, and is squarely aimed at upending decades of law that shielded the institution from public scrutiny.

Capitol riot footage shows a surprising level of coordination. Image via CNN.

San Antonio man arrested, suspected of assaulting police officer during Jan. 6 Capitol breach, DOJ says” via KENS5 — Steven Cappuccio, 52, of Universal City, Texas, was arrested last week for crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, according to the United States Department of Justice. The DOJ said he is charged with federal offenses that include assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers; obstruction of an official proceeding; and civil disorder, among other charges. Court documents reveal Cappuccio was at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. DOJ says the video appears to show Cappuccio pushed past officers who were guarding Capitol doors inside the tunnel and “violently ripped off the mask of an officer pinned against the doors by other rioters.”

The FBI keeps using clues from volunteer sleuths to find the Jan. 6 Capitol rioters” via Tim Mak of Houston Public Media — Now, more than 575 federal criminal complaints have been filed, and a striking pattern has emerged: Time and time again, the FBI is relying on crowdsourced tips from an ad hoc community of amateur investigators sifting through that pile of content for clues. These informal communities go by several names. Some go by the moniker Sedition Hunters. Others call themselves Deep State Dogs. Together, they amount to hundreds of people who, since Jan. 6, have dedicated themselves to helping law enforcement track down suspects. Their cumulative work represents what is likely the largest spontaneous, open-source information collection and analysis effort ever conducted by volunteers to assist law enforcement.

Feds weigh new charges for Capitol rioter allegedly caught on video attacking cops” via Ryan J. Reilly and Christopher Mathias of HuffPost — A federal judge delayed the sentencing of Capitol rioter Robert Reeder on Wednesday, just hours after a community of online sleuths collectively known as the Sedition Hunters surfaced several new videos that allegedly show Reeder assaulting a Capitol Police officer during the Jan. 6 attack. Reeder was scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday afternoon on a plea deal he reached in June, in which he’d pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building. A prosecutor indicated Wednesday that the government had planned to argue for a six-month prison sentence when they received the first video, but then decided to ask for a delay in the sentencing so they could evaluate all the evidence.

U.S. Capitol Police official in charge of intel on Jan. 6 returns to that role” via Whitney Wild of CNN — Yogananda Pittman is back in her position as assistant chief of protective and intelligence operations, where she oversees the physical security of the U.S. Capitol and the intelligence operations, according to the department’s website. From 2019 until early Jan., Pittman held that position when she was promoted to acting chief following Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund‘s abrupt resignation after the Jan. 6 riot. Tom Manger was sworn in as the new chief last month. Pittman has endured criticism from the union representing rank-and-file Capitol Police officers, who feel she was one of the leaders responsible for intelligence failures leading up to the riot. Earlier this year, an overwhelming majority of officers who participated in a union-organized vote chose to vote no-confidence in her leadership.


Marco Rubio blasts Afghanistan ‘catastrophe,’ blames Biden’s ‘terrible plan’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Rubio blasted what he called the “worst foreign policy disaster in half a century.” “The debacle in Afghanistan isn’t because we decided to withdraw. We all knew we couldn’t stay there forever. It’s because the Biden administration had a terrible plan, and it isn’t because American intelligence got it wrong. It’s because the Biden administration ignored clear warnings that their plan would lead to disaster,” Rubio said. According to Rubio, the key failing was a withdrawal that deprived Afghan ground forces of critical air support from the United States. “The Biden plan called for scaling back and ending air support (and) was built on a status quo that their own plan intended to change,” Rubio said.

Tweet, tweet:

—”Congressional Democrats: DeSantis is ‘a threat to public health’” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics

John Rutherford co-sponsors Growing Climate Solutions Act — Rep. Rutherford recently signed on as the first Republican U.S. House co-sponsor from Florida. The other Florida co-sponsor, Democrat Rep. Ted Deutch, signed on in the spring. The bipartisan bill will remove barriers for farmers and foresters interested in participating in carbon markets. Sen. Marco Rubio was a co-sponsor in the upper chamber, which approved the bipartisan bill by an overwhelming majority. The Growing Climate Solutions Act has support from over 60 leading agricultural and environmental organizations. It would create a certification program at the USDA to help solve technical entry barriers preventing farmers and foresters from being rewarded for climate-smart practices. These issues — including access to reliable information about markets and access to qualified technical assistance providers and credit protocol verifiers — have limited landowner participation and the adoption of practices that help reduce the costs of developing carbon credits.


Broward politician’s daughter faces charges in alleged $300K fraud of COVID-19 relief program” via Andrea Torres of WPLG Local 10 News — Damara Holness appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick Hunt on Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale to face federal charges for allegedly lying to get $300,000 that were intended to help small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Holness, 28, applied for $300,000 in Paycheck Protection Program aid on behalf of Holness Consulting, Inc. with fraudulent payroll tax forms to allege her company employed 18 people and had about $120,000 in monthly payroll expenses — while she actually didn’t have any employees at all, prosecutors said. FBI Miami special agents found a bank in Georgia approved her fraudulent application.

Damara Holness is accused of scamming the COVID-19 relief program. Image via Facebook.

$5 million Surfside charity fund to open to survivors, families soon. Here’s the plan” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — Survivors and family members of the 98 people who died in the Champlain Towers South collapse in Surfside will soon get the chance to apply for money from a $5 million fund established by local charities and supported by more than 16,500 donors. Before the year is out, money should begin to flow from the Support Surfside Fund, a spokeswoman announced on Tuesday. “We aim to do this with humility, compassion, respect and especially, transparency,” said Eduardo J. Padrón, the former president of Miami Dade College and chair of the Support Surfside steering committee. “We will look at the individuals and their loss and grief.”

Beach park seen as site for Florida condo collapse memorial” via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press — An oceanfront park is emerging as the leading site for a memorial to the victims of the deadly condominium building collapse in Florida, a judge said. Miami Beach recently offered a portion of the 28-acre North Beach Oceanside Park as the potential location to remember the June 24 collapse of the Champlain Towers South building, which killed 98 people. At a remote hearing Wednesday, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman said it was unrealistic to pursue any plan for a memorial where the 12-story condo once stood as some family members wish. That nearly 2-acre location in Surfside, he said, must be sold to compensate victims of the tragedy. At least one bidder has offered up to $120 million for the property.

Miami-Dade Democrats elect a new leader during chaotic virtual meeting” via Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — Robert Dempster, who had run unsuccessfully to be mayor of North Miami Beach in 2018, was elected as the new chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party in a messy Tuesday night meeting, nearly a month after the former volunteer head of the chapter announced his resignation. Dempster, who is originally from Jamaica, received 92 votes, or 58%, to defeat his opponent Natascha Otero Santiago during a chaotic two-hour-long Zoom gathering, where attendees struggled to agree on how to best cast their ballots and held several different rounds of votes through the platform’s poll tool. Dempster said he is “between jobs at the moment” and was last employed at AT&T and was a union steward for Communications Workers of America.

Miami Beach residents growing more concerned about crime, survey shows” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A new poll shows recent reports of crime could be impacting Miami Beach voters’ priorities ahead of the Nov. 2 election. The McLaughlin & Associates survey shows that most respondents, nearly 52%, say Miami Beach is moving in the wrong direction. A slim majority, 53%, also say crime and safety are the most important issues on voters’ minds. That leads flooding and sea-level rise at 20%, growth and development at 13%, and rebuilding the economy at 10%. Mayor Dan Gelber maintains a +24 approval rating, with 57% approving and 33% disapproving.

Parkland ex-deputy Scot Peterson breaks down outside courtroom: ‘I did the best I could’” via Rafael Olmeda and Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Peterson, the school resource officer accused of hiding during the Parkland shooting, broke down in a Broward courthouse hallway Wednesday, saying he would never have sat idle while students and staff were killed. Standing outside the courtroom where his lawyer had just argued to dismiss child neglect charges against him, Peterson lost his composure, fighting back the tears as he described how his life changed after Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. “I didn’t do anything there to try to hurt any child there on the scene,” he said, his voice cracking as he continued. “I did the best that I could with the information. I did the best ….”

$1 million fix: Design flaw in city seawall at Palafox Pier led to destruction in Sally” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — A seawall the city of Pensacola built in 1997 meant to protect the Palafox Pier Yacht Harbor Marina has a design flaw that led to the destruction of the marina during Hurricane Sally. Now, the marina owners have told the city that they will not rebuild until the city fixes its seawall. The City Council will hold a special workshop on the issue later this fall after attorney Ed Fleming, representing the marina’s owners, told the council that the marina would not be rebuilt until the wall is fixed. The seawall on the Palafox Pier only covers the water’s surface and does not go down all the way to the bottom of Pensacola Bay.

There’s an awfully expensive design flaw in Palafox Pier. Image via

Bay County eyeing $15 million loan for courthouse expansion” via Tony Mixon of the Panama City News-Herald — The Bay County Debt Committee has agreed to borrow up to $15 million to expand the Bay County Courthouse. The expansion of the courthouse will include building a new facility that will host Juvenile Justice Courthouse services on the same campus. The loan comes at a 2.26% interest rate from Truist Bank. The Bay County Commission still has the final say on whether to take out the loan. The loan would fund the entire project as well as renovations to the existing courthouse building. The debt committee doesn’t anticipate using the full $15 million because there is still the possibility of more money coming from FEMA for Hurricane Michael’s recovery.

Bay County sees some flooding from Tropical Storm Fred; assesses damage to roads and homes” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News-Herald — Although Tropical Storm Fred veered east in its approach to the Panhandle, taking some pressure off Bay County, local leaders say many areas still experienced significant flooding. About a day after Fred made landfall on Monday afternoon near Cape San Blas in Gulf County, officials were busy clearing water and debris from roads and determining how many homes sustained damage during the storm. “We had significant flooding in Southport and more toward the end of the county, along with Lynn Haven,” said Brad Monroe, chief of emergency services for Bay County. Only one person has been confirmed killed in Bay County because of the storm.

Florida public school names still commemorate the ‘Lost Cause,’ but that’s changing” via Issac Morgan of Florida Phoenix — In a trend amplified following the murder of George Floyd and last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, school districts across the country, including Florida, are relegating the names of Confederate “heroes” to the ash heap of history. The Southern Poverty Law Center documented the trend in a recent report. More than 100 Confederate symbols have been toppled since a Minneapolis police officer killed Floyd in May 2020, according to the SPLC’s report. Still, in many Southern states, including Florida, the organization said glorification of Confederates remains a problem. One such monument stands to this day on the grounds of the Florida Capitol.

‘Narcissistic waste’: Former Sheriff David Morgan spent $75,000 of taxpayer money on statue of himself” via Colin Warren-Hicks of the Pensacola News Journal — Former Escambia County Sheriff Morgan spent thousands of public tax dollars to order a life-size bronze statue of himself last year before the end of his final term in office. Current Sheriff Chip Simmons called the 6-foot-4-inch statue, which arrived last week at the Sheriff’s Office, a “brash narcissistic waste.” “You don’t make a statue of yourself,” Simmons said Wednesday. “And you don’t use tax dollars to do it.” Morgan had his likeness cast on bronze before leaving the office. Morgan defended the decision, saying it was not that big of a deal.

Personnel note: HCA North Florida picks Peter Lindquist for chief nursing exec” via Florida Politics staff reports — Dr. Lindquist will take over as the chief nursing executive for HCA Healthcare’s North Florida Division on Sept. 7, the company announced Wednesday. Lindquist, who holds a doctorate in nursing, heads to HCA North Florida from HCA’s MidAmerica Division, including 13 hospitals and numerous other facilities stretched across Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri. As chief nursing exec, Lindquist will ensure nurses are delivering top-notch care to patients in HCA North Florida’s 15 hospitals and other facilities. His role includes developing cross-functional collaboration among nursing teams across hospital departments, and implementing evidence-based, innovative practices that further clinical operational excellence.

Congratulations to Peter Lindquist on his new gig at HCA.

Have you noticed St. Lucie River water getting darker? Here’s why.” via Max Chesnes of Treasure Coast Newspapers — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Saturday began discharging rainfall runoff through the St. Lucie Lock and Dam and into the St. Lucie River, the agency’s data show. Though the water is from the western Martin County basin, not Lake Okeechobee, it may carry with it trace amounts of toxic cyanobacteria, commonly called blue-green algae, measured in the C-44 Canal as recently as three weeks ago. At 8 parts per billion, microcystin makes the water too hazardous to touch, ingest or inhale for people, pets and wildlife, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If ingested, the toxin can cause nausea and vomiting and rash or hay fever symptoms if touched or inhaled.

How Gulfstream Hotel’s new developers plan to win over Lake Worth Beach residents” via Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post — Developers pitching to city commissions regularly claim they want to be part of the communities where they build. Amrit and Amy Gill, the St. Louis-based husband-and-wife team tasked with redeveloping the historic Gulfstream Hotel, are proving it. The Gulfstream, which opened in 1924 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, has been closed for business since 2005. Boasting a long track record of restoring life to long-neglected edifices around the country, the Gills are the latest and, possibly, best hope of revitalizing the Gulfstream to its former glory. Like nearly everything having to do with the star-crossed hotel, it hasn’t been easy.

Landscaper’s family sues Lockheed Martin, Universal for ‘toxic waste’ poisoning” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Daniel Vandestreek ran his landscaping business for nearly a decade located 600 feet directly across from land with a long history of toxic waste. In a new lawsuit filed in Orange Circuit Court, his family alleged Vandestreek was unknowingly exposed to “highly toxic contaminants and volatile organic compounds” from the Lockheed Martin complex off Sand Lake Road once used for missile testing and production. Vandestreek died 18 months after his Grade IV Glioblastoma diagnosis. Vandestreek’s wife is now suing Lockheed Martin and Universal, which bought 2,000 acres from the aerospace company in 1998. In a 1998 story, when Universal purchased the land, most of the 2,000 acres were not polluted and could be developed while Universal cleaned it up.

Limited fishing hours and more? Proposed fishing rules at Naples Pier spark public interest” via Karl Schneider of the Naples Daily News — Residents who regularly use the Naples City Pier are upset about proposed changes to fishing rules that could regulate when people can fish there. A Naples advisory board met Tuesday to discuss the matter. Both the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and the Naples Police Department presented suggestions to the Community Services Advisory Board, including limiting fishing hours, adding more patrols and clearing up language in the city ordinance. The proposed changes are meant to curb the rising number of pelicans injured by fishing gear at the pier. Last year, the Conservancy’s wildlife hospital admitted hundreds of injured birds and pushed for limited fishing hours and more pier patrols.

Vero Beach man wins $930K from $2 scratch-off lottery game” via Corey Arwood of Treasure Coast Newspapers — A 45-year-old Vero Beach man won nearly $1 million from a scratch-off game card bought at a convenience store off State Road 60 near 43rd Avenue, according to the Florida Lottery. After winning the top prize from the $2 “$1,000 A Week For Life” game, Rodolfo Martinez chose the lump sum payment. He bought the card at Grocery Express, 4207 20th St., which will receive $2,000 from the winnings. Martinez chose the one-time $930,000 payment when claiming the winning card at the Florida Lottery West Palm Beach District Office. On June 29, the Florida Lottery announced a 67-year-old Vero Beach man won a $1 million top prize from a scratch-off card.


Delta has changed the pandemic risk calculus” via Amanda Mull of The Atlantic — For the past year and a half, humans around the world have been asked to do something we’re pretty bad at, even in the best of circumstances: figure out what constitutes safety, and act accordingly. A well-understood risk doesn’t necessarily improve our thought processes, thanks to a host of cognitive biases and external pressures that pull some people away from the lowest-level danger and push others toward clear peril. What makes our current moment tricky is that pandemic risk has never been more highly variable, which means the list of things to consider about any given situation is longer and has fewer hard-and-fast rules.


The worsening COVID-19 picture in Florida” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — The pandemic has reached another crisis stage. The number of new infections in Florida continues its record-breaking spike, with an average last week of more than 21,600 per day, the third consecutive weekly record. Deaths also spiked recently, and Florida had 15,441 COVID-19 patients in the hospital Friday, the highest level of hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic. As bad as the individual numbers are, though, they cannot be viewed in isolation. The more infectious delta variant has heightened the threat, prompting some employers and retailers to reimpose masking policies to stem the viral spread. Florida’s positivity rate rose again last week to about 20%.

Facing off against local school leaders, DeSantis’ attack dogs bark but don’t bite” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Tom Grady is the sort of run-of-the-mill political backbencher the average Floridian wouldn’t ordinarily need to know much about. In less than two months leading the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. in 2012, Grady managed to accumulate more than $10,000 in travel costs, including a limo ride and a three-night trip to Bermuda; during his time leading the state Office of Financial Regulation, he spent $6,000 on travel and another $10,000 on office furniture; as a member of the state House, he routinely charged taxpayers for rides on private planes. Summing up his legacy at Citizens, Grady quipped, “I think we were very frugal at expenditures, actually.”

Dolphins should take cue from Raiders, require vaccine proof for fans at Hard Rock” via Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post — The most important call the Dolphins have to make this season has nothing to do with who makes the 53-man roster, how to unleash first-round picks Jaelan Phillips and Jaylen Waddle or which linemen will protect Tua Tagovailoa’s health. It’s how to help you protect your health. Luckily for the Dolphins, it’s an easy call. Or should be. They should follow the lead of the Las Vegas Raiders and require everyone attending games at Hard Rock Stadium in 2021 to show proof they’re fully vaccinated. Just as the University of Miami Hurricanes followed the Dolphins’ lead to fight COVID-19 last season, they should piggyback on this, too. Will the Dolphins do it? We don’t know.


The Governor says aloud what we’ve all been thinking; in DeSantis World, he’s the victim … not the one slinging bullshit.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Miami-Dade’s school superintendent draws a line in the sand. He opposes the Governor’s emergency order that forbids mandatory mask policies at public schools and told the Board of Education their threats mean nothing to him.

— Florida Democrats in Congress are criticizing the Governor’s mask policy … or lack thereof. And they blame DeSantis for the resurgence of COVID-19 in Florida.

— And finally, two Florida Men: One used a bogus credit card to steal $10,000 worth of home improvement supplies from a Home Depot. The other has his phone in one hand — and his dick in the other.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Bruce Arians’ wife working to help abused and neglected children in the court system” via Jamison Uhler of ABC Action News — As the head coach of the Buccaneers, Arians took the Bucs out of some of the franchise’s worst days and led them to the pinnacle of pro sports last year. Unpacking her bags right behind him with a different goal in mind was his wife of 50 years, Christine. Twenty years ago, as a family law attorney, Christine saw how abuse was tearing families and children apart. Christine now spearheads the Arians Family Foundation. The mission is to raise money and make sure that children involved in the court system, as a result of abuse or neglect by their families, receive the love and help they need.

New Las Olas mural captures Fort Lauderdale’s flora and fauna” via Brett Shweky of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The BBX Capital Fund for the Arts at the Community Foundation of Broward revealed its newest mural on the west exterior wall of the Hoffman’s Chocolate Store, 601 E. Las Olas Blvd., in Fort Lauderdale. Filled with vibrant colors inspired by Florida’s plants and animals, the mural was created by artist Steven Teller, specializing in street art and large-scale public murals. Representing South Florida’s tropical environment, waterways, among other features of the city, the elements in Teller’s mural were inspired by the anticipation of the Henry E. Kinney Tunnel Top Park. “Plantlife thrives in South Florida’s subtropical climate,” Teller said in a statement.

Disney relaxes mask requirements for some outdoor areas” via WFLA — Walt Disney World is relaxing the mask requirements for some outdoor areas. Beginning Thursday, face coverings will be optional for guests while enjoying outdoor attractions, outdoor queues, and outdoor theaters. Masks are still required indoors for all guests ages 2 and up, regardless of vaccination status. This includes buses, monorail, Skyliner, and upon entering and throughout all attractions. According to Walt Disney World, “neck gaiters, open-chin, triangle bandannas and face coverings containing valves, mesh material or holes of any kind are not acceptable face coverings.” Costume masks are also not allowed.

Mask rules at Disney are changing again. Image via AP.

Disney to launch Genie service at Disney World, Disneyland this fall” via Ashley Carter of My News 13 — Disney is rolling out new services at Disney World and Disneyland to give guests more options when visiting the parks, including a replacement for its FastPass+ and MaxPass services. The company’s new Disney Genie service will debut this fall at both resorts, Disney announced Wednesday. The free service will be part of the Disney World and Disneyland’s existing park apps and feature three main components: a complimentary planning tool where guests can build out individualized itineraries; the Disney Genie+ option where guests purchase a pass to access Lightning Lane entrances at select attractions; and the option to make individual purchases to access Lightning Lane entrances.

Michael Keaton on reviving Batman and the power of saying no to Hollywood” via Rebecca Keyton of The Hollywood Reporter — In “Worth,” which Netflix will release Sept. 3, Keaton plays attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who took on the agonizing task of dispersing the $7 billion Sept. 11 Victims Compensation Fund. In “Protégé,” a thriller out Aug. 20, he plays a shadowy figure who has a complicated relationship with an assassin played by Maggie Q, falls into the gall category. Early in his career, Keaton became known for turning down high-profile roles, including Tom Hanks’ part in “Splash” and the third “Batman” movie.


Celebrating today are Wadi Gaitan, Rheb Harbison of GrayRobinson, William Hatfield of the Tallahassee Democrat, Merritt Lindstrom, and Elnatan Rudolph of Converge Government Affairs.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as 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. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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 @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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