Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.20.21

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Who's up, down, in and out — your morning tipsheet on Florida politics.

Good Friday morning.

In case you missed our scoop, Sen. Ben Albritton has won the race to be President of the Florida Senate for the 2024-26 term.

After an intense, behind-the-scenes battle with Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., the Wauchula Republican secured the votes necessary to take over the gavel after Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, who is set to preside over the chamber for the 2023 and 2024 Legislative Sessions.

Ben Albritton is taking the Senate presidency in 2024.

The two men buried the hatchet in statements to Florida politics, with Albritton saying he and Diaz “share a vision for the future of Florida, and we’ll work together in the years ahead to advance policies that are in the best interest of the state of Florida.”

Albritton becoming Senate President assumes Republicans will maintain control of the Senate after the 2024 election, which is likely.

While Senate Democrats, led by Plantation Sen. Lauren Book, will have two opportunities to trim the GOP advantage before Albritton takes the gavel, they will be doing so on new district maps approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature.


On a new “State of Emergency,” Jared Moskowitz and I welcome Chief Financial Officer — and State Fire Marshal — Jimmy Patronis to talk about the collapse of Champlain Towers South, a 12-story beachfront condominium in the Miami suburb of Surfside.

Patronis recounts the middle-of-the-night phone call that informed him of the tragedy; as Fire Marshal, he immediately bolted to the scene, describing his first impression as looking like a “giant anthill crawling with first responders.”

Surfside was the third-largest building disaster in U.S. history (behind Oklahoma City and the twin towers), the largest that was not an attack. Jimmy and Jared discussed firsthand descriptions of the devastation and heartbreak in searching for survivors and comforting the victims.

Jared notes that FEMA “broke every rule” to get federal help to the scene. And as someone who represented the area in the Florida House, he took the Surfside disaster “in a personal way.”

As for politics, Jared and I talk about the latest polling in the Governor’s race and how it is only a “snapshot in time.” COVID-19 will probably not be a winning issue in 2022, Jared predicts. We also looked at the challenges of mixing COVID-19 and politics; how the national media helped Gov. Ron DeSantis politicize the pandemic response and Regeneron controversy.

For that and much more, check out the new episode live here.


DeSantis’ odds of winning reelection are shrinking, according to betting aggregator US-Bookies.

That’s not to say the Governor is in dire straits — he still has a 75% chance to win a second term. But that’s an eight-point fall from where he stood a couple of months ago.

“The odds still point to DeSantis being a heavy favorite, but they took a noticeable hit during a time in which the state of Florida has seen quite a few challenges, and many have been openly critical of the Governor,” a US-Bookies spokesperson said.

Ron DeSantis’ once-high popularity is slipping a bit. Will it come back? Image via AP.

Bookies say U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is the second-most likely to win the election next year, with a 20% chance. Though slim, his current 4/1 odds represent a doubling in bettors’ confidence. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, meanwhile, has seen her stock rise from 10/1 in June to 8/1 today.

U.S. Bookies also poured water on DeSantis’ 2024 hopes, noting he now holds a 9% chance of heading to the White House in three years. That puts him behind President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Donald Trump.

Still, he could end up with a consolation prize.

“Though DeSantis’ chances at winning the next presidential election aren’t strong at the moment, it does seem like he’ll be the most likely pick as Trump’s running mate,” says a US-Bookies spokesperson. “With 14/1 odds, a Trump-DeSantis is currently the most likely Republican ticket we’ll see in 2021.”


The public corruption investigation that has gripped Tallahassee for the last three years has expanded, according to law enforcement sources close to the investigation.

Now, it’s wrapped its tendrils around state courts in North Central and Northwest Florida.

It isn’t clear which judges have caught investigators’ eyes, but there is certainly some overlap with the investigation that snared Scott Maddox.

While judicial misconduct is typically investigated by Florida’s Judicial Qualifications Committee, the fact that federal investigators are now looking into cases in Tallahassee means the fallout from the ongoing public corruption investigation is far from over.

A hint on who may be in the crosshairs: one of the Leon County judges who was supposed to oversee Maddox’s disbarment was pulled from the case with no real explanation.

Some threads also connect back to the investigation that resulted in Jeff Siegmeister’s indictment earlier this year. The former State Attorney represented Florida’s 3rd Judicial Circuit, and sources say the feds are also digging into judges from that Circuit.

A refresher: Siegmeister was arrested for allegedly accepting payments to close criminal cases as serious as attempted murder.

Siegmeister’s circuit included Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee and Taylor counties. Other counties of interest in the probe: Alachua, Bay, Lake and Walton.

In many counties, investigators are poring over judges’ personal financial and business interests, as well as those of their family members, and cross-checking them with rulings that don’t pass the smell test — and there are quite a few.

It’s unclear what they’ve already found, whether they’ve honed in on a particular court, or just how many judges could be in hot water. What is clear, however, is that a lot of them are feeling the heat.


@Weijia: Big vaccine news today: 1.02M doses were reported administered today, including 562K newly vaccinated per WH official. This is the first 1M day reported in close to 7 weeks and a 31% week-over-week increase in the daily average of people completing their vaccine series.

@MarcoRubio: I wrote this 13 months ago & both monoclonal antibody treatments & vaccines became reality in the time frame I predicted Both are widely available now Neither is a substitute for the other Get Vaccinated AND if you get really sick, get the antibody treatment EARLY

Tweet, tweet:

@Aronberg: If only Florida leaders fought as hard to keep guns out of schools as masks, our schools would be a safer place.

@HurleyWink: I live in a small beach town in FL, which is as retirement-aged as it sounds. Usually, the obits in our community newspaper are like, “104, served in Normandy landing.” Lately, though, they’ve been more like, “41, parent of three.” I hate this pandemic so much. Get vaccinated.

@JayobTV: Florida. News. Is. National. News. But you should still get it from local FL papers and TV stations.

@SteveLemongello: Remind me again when I cover a DeSantis news conference live that people watching online can hear every little conversation reporters are having up there

Tweet, tweet:

@JoshCeb: Using other journalists as sources can be pretty annoying because some call you when the story is published and start critiquing your sentences as if they were your editor

@DavoneMorales: No word works harder in modern journalism than the word “amid”

@SShawFL: There are several Twitter conflicts that I want to jump into … but it’s hard to be mad while on the 🚤 and listening to #yachtrockradio on @SIRIUSXM.


St. Petersburg Primary Election — 4; Boise vs. UCF — 13; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 14; Notre Dame at FSU — 16; NFL regular season begins — 20; Bucs home opener — 20; California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 25; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 25; Alabama at UF — 29; Dolphins home opener — 30; Jaguars home opener — 30; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 31; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 35; ‘Dune’ premieres — 42; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 42; MLB regular season ends — 44; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 49; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 67; World Series Game 1 — 68; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 68; Georgia at UF — 71; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 74; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 74; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 79; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 80; Miami at FSU — 85; ExcelinEd’s National Summit on Education begins — 90; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 91; FSU vs. UF — 99; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 103; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 112; ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 119; NFL season ends — 142; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 144; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 144; NFL playoffs begin — 145; Super Bowl LVI — 177; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 217; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 261; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 286; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 322; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 334; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 413; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 448.


Florida parents’ lawsuit challenging Ron DeSantis’ school mask limits set for trial” via John Kennedy of USA Today Network — DeSantis was dealt another setback in his push to ban mask requirements in Florida schools when a judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by parents challenging the order. Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper rejected arguments by an attorney for the Governor that the parents from a half-dozen counties lacked legal standing to stop the state action. The case is now scheduled to go to trial Monday. “These parents and children have a right to have their case heard in court,” Cooper said. He cautioned, though, that his ruling “does not indicate I’ve decided anything” about whether DeSantis overreached with his no-mandatory-mask order, which is the central argument from the parents.

A challenge to Ron DeSantis’ mask mandate ban is headed to court next week. Image via AP.


DeSantis decries Joe Biden’s nursing home vaccination order as ‘massive hammer’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — DeSantis called Biden‘s new requirement that nursing home staff get vaccinated against COVID-19 a “massive hammer,” lacking legislative backing. “The issue is these nursing homes could lose access to Medicare and Medicaid funding. So that is a massive hammer that they’re trying to bring down,” DeSantis said. DeSantis was at the Ormond Beach Senior Center to announce another state-supported monoclonal antibody treatment site, part of his current strategy to expand access to a treatment shown to keep people with early cases of COVID-19 from getting too sick.

DeSantis casts doubt on ‘experts,’ encourages people to evaluate third dose for themselves” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis encouraged Floridians to research before getting another COVID-19 booster shot. The Biden administration announced Wednesday that third Pfizer and Moderna vaccine doses will become available eight months after people received their second shot, beginning Sept. 20. The plan is pending an independent safety and effectiveness evaluation by the FDA and further analysis from the CDC, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said. DeSantis said the federal government had some of its guidance wrong throughout the pandemic, including keeping children away from classrooms last year. The data now “contradicts” that decision, he noted.

DeSantis: Regeneron monoclonal antibodies are best treatment” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis says monoclonal antibody treatment is a patient’s best bet for avoiding a severe COVID-19 case after exposure. DeSantis has spent much of this month raising public awareness of monoclonal antibodies, a therapeutic available when a person at high risk for severe infection tests positive for COVID-19 or is exposed to the virus. For people who test positive, regardless of whether they’re vaccinated or not, the Governor on Thursday said receiving the antibody cocktail is the best way to “nuke” an infection. “If you don’t do the monoclonal early, the fact of the matter is, there’s not a lot of great stuff out there for you,” DeSantis said.

Ron DeSantis urges early Regeneron treatment as the best course of action. Image via AP.

While DeSantis touts free Regeneron COVID-19 treatment, feds pick up the bill” via Skylar Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Much of DeSantis’ push to offer free monoclonal antibody treatment to Floridians sick with COVID-19 is being paid for by the federal government, which has spent billions of dollars on the drug cocktail made by Regeneron. DeSantis has been crisscrossing Florida to promote clinics from Orlando to Pembroke Pines offering the treatment. One of his big selling points: The drug is free to patients with no out-of-pocket costs. That wouldn’t be possible without the help of the federal government, promoting the use of monoclonal antibodies in states hit hard by the virus while stressing vaccination is the best protection against COVID-19. Vaccines are also available to Floridians for free.

Feud over Tampa fairground COVID-19 treatment site erupts between top Florida officials” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — A territorial feud erupted between Agriculture Commissioner Fried and DeSantis over who claims credit for opening a monoclonal antibody treatment site in Hillsborough County. Fried announced that she “granted permission” to use the Florida State Fair Grounds as a treatment site. “For those who unfortunately test positive for COVID-19, monoclonal antibody therapy may help reduce symptoms when treated early, so we’re pleased to make the Florida State Fairgrounds available for those needing this treatment,” Fried said in a news release that went out at 9 a.m. Under state law, the Commissioner of Agriculture oversees the Florida State Fair Authority, which grants use of the Florida State Fairgrounds. “She’s jumping on the bandwagon,” claiming credit for a site that was already on the governor’s radar, said Taryn Fenske, communications director for DeSantis.

Assignment editors — Fried will provide a COVID-19 update joined by Sen. Shevrin Jones and Dr. Steve Gallon III, vice-chair of the School Board of Miami-Dade County, 11:30 a.m., 606 NW 183rd Street, Miami Gardens. The briefing will also be livestreamed at RSVP to [email protected].

Florida’s two largest health organizations launch vaccine PSAs” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Florida’s two largest health organizations, the Florida Hospital Association and the Florida Medical Association have partnered with the Florida Association of Broadcasters to roll out a new series of public service announcements promoting COVID-19 vaccines. The English and Spanish television and radio spots, which appear to target young Floridians hesitant to get the shot, will hit “every market in the state” through the end of November. According to the release, additional advertising will run online and on social media, which said the PSAs feature unscripted messaging from Florida physicians and nurses.

To watch one of the spots, click on the image below:

Publix, Walmart, Winn-Dixie, Walgreens, CVS offer third COVID-19 vaccine to immunocompromised” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — Major retail pharmacies including Publix, Walmart, Walgreens, CVS and Winn-Dixie are now offering a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine to people who are immunocompromised. There is no cost to the customer. The CDC recommends individuals with moderately to severely compromised immune systems get an additional dose at least 28 days after receiving the second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. The third shot should be the same brand as the first two. Moderna vaccines are available at all in-store Publix pharmacies, and the Pfizer vaccine is available in pharmacies in Orange, Brevard, Polk and Duval counties.


DeSantis announces Pasco, Hillsborough monoclonal antibody treatment centers” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — The state will set up monoclonal antibody treatment sites in Hudson and Tampa, the Governor announced at a news conference in Hudson. Like other treatment sites set up across the state, the two new centers will be able to support about 300 patients per day, DeSantis’s office said in a news release. No prescription is required, and the treatments are free. Tampa’s site will be at Kings Forest Park, 8008 East Chelsea St. The site in Hudson will be at the Mike Fasano Regional Hurricane Shelter, 11611 Denton Ave. Both will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.

Photo shows Jacksonville Regeneron Clinic overburdened with COVID-19 patients” via Sydney Boles of WJCT — A photo circulating on social media shows COVID-19 patients lying on the floor of the antibody treatment clinic at the Jacksonville Public Library Downtown. The photo shows a woman lying facedown on the library floor. She appears to be in distress. In the background, another person is also flat on the floor, being tended to by a loved one. The photo was posted on Reddit around midday Wednesday by user Suzieb2220, who wrote, “My husband (vaccinated, but positive) has been waiting 2+ hours for monoclonal therapy, and he says he has never seen people so sick. Moaning, crying, unable to move.” Reached Thursday afternoon, Louie Lopez, who took the photo, said the image was more dramatic in person.

—“Yes, this photo of severely ill COVID-19 patients lying on the floor in Jacksonville is real” via Harold Goodridge and Kailey Tracy of First Coast News

Yes, this photo is real. Image via Louie Lopez/Twitter.

—”Jacksonville health system to offer monoclonal antibody treatment ‘for some high-risk patients’” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union

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 — A 17-year veteran of the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department has become the first in the agency to succumb to the COVID-19 virus in the line of duty. Lt. Mario Moya, a U.S. Navy veteran who spent most of his firefighting career at Station 42 in Mandarin, died late Tuesday at Baptist Medical Center South, the fire department reported. The 51-year-old received a police and fire department escort as his body was taken to a funeral home from the hospital Wednesday, with firefighters saluting Rescue 42 as it and the procession went past. Fire officials did not release information on whether Moya had been vaccinated against the virus, citing privacy laws.

COVID-19 in the workforce: Miami-Dade police, bus operators home sick as virus spreads” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade’s transit system is again feeling some strain from COVID-19’s spread — this time without the emergency measures that increased the cleaning of buses and decreased the number of passengers aboard. On Wednesday, the county’s Department of Transportation and Public Works said 63 bus operators were home due to COVID-19 and that a bus technician died from it Saturday. The technician was not named. The county’s transit union said a supervisor also recently died of the virus. Miami-Dade police, paramedics and firefighters also are staying home due to COVID-19, with the absences putting a logistical strain on two of the county’s largest agencies.

More than 3,400 Palm Beach County students sent home due to possible COVID-19 exposure” via Sonja Isger of the Palm Beach Post — On the sixth day of the school year, one in every 50 students was directed to stay at home due to possible COVID-19 exposure in Palm Beach County, according to data released by the district Thursday. The stay-at-home rolls reached 3,472 midweek, not a couple of students at a time, but by leaps of hundreds, including 417 additions from Tuesday to Wednesday. Also growing daily, though considerably smaller, was the number of confirmed infections among students and staff. The first three days of this week, positive cases averaged 207 students and 24 employees per day. The total infections since the district’s dashboard went live on Aug. 10, hit 946 Thursday morning.

Palm Beach County schools cancel mask opt-out for students, defying DeSantis” via Andrew Marra of The Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County School Board members Wednesday removed parents’ ability to exempt their children from wearing masks on public school campuses, joining a growing number of school boards defying DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates. Under a new policy adopted late Wednesday, all students will have to wear a facial covering at school unless they have an exemption for a disability. The policy is expected to take effect Monday. The surprise decision does away with a parental opt-out that more than 10,000 district students use to attend school maskless.

Palm Beach County schools can’t find subs for half their absent teachers. Now subs will get a raise.” via Andrew Marra of the Palm Beach Post — It’s become so hard to hire substitute teachers that Palm Beach County public schools can’t find one for half the hundreds of classrooms left empty each day when regular teachers go absent. In the second week of classes, school district officials say that thousands of students were being taught by counselors and school staffers or squeezing into other teachers’ classes while their classrooms sat unstaffed. Substitute shortages have hit the school district hard since the coronavirus pandemic began, and records show the problem has worsened from the spring, as more substitutes decline assignments amid skyrocketing coronavirus cases. Now, in an attempt to coax more substitutes back to campus, school district officials are giving them the biggest pay boost in years.

Orange schools to consider face mask mandate, legal challenge to DeSantis order” via Leslie Postal and Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The Orange County School Board could join five other Florida school districts defying DeSantis by requiring students to wear face masks as several Orange board members said Thursday they are convinced the governor’s order banning mask mandates is illegal and irresponsible in the face of rising COVID-19 cases. “I am fully in support of putting mandates back in place,” said Chair Teresa Jacobs as the board discussed COVID-19 safety protocols during a four-hour meeting. “I think we need to aggressively challenge the rule,” Jacobs said. “The only question is the right way to do it.”

Nearly 300 COVID-19 cases reported in Collier’s first week of school; quarantine cases not shared” via Rachel Fradette of the Naples Daily News — Close to 300 positive COVID-19 cases were reported in Collier County schools during their first week back to class, according to the district’s coronavirus dashboard. Since classes started on Aug. 10, student and employee positive cases have been logged on the dashboard, updated daily. From Aug. 10 to Aug. 17, 234 student cases and 61 employee cases were reported on the dashboard, 295 cases in total. Based on a 180-day calendar, that’s 3.3% of the school year. Last school year, the district reported 1,582 student cases. Collier reached about 15% of that total in its first week.

Full ICUs, daily deathwatch: A look at COVID-19, unvaccinated patients in Southwest Florida hospitals” via Frank Gluck of the Fort Myers News-Press — Aaron Renfroe lies semi-reclined in his hospital bed as he struggles to speak between labored breaths and bouts of tears. The 44-year-old Fort Myers man has been at Gulf Coast Medical Center for four days because of COVID-19 complications and can’t properly breathe without plastic tubing, known as a nasal cannula, sending extra oxygen into his lungs. His wife is also sick from the novel coronavirus, much worse than him, he worries, on another floor of the hospital. His son and daughter have it too but are well enough to recover at home.

A ‘grim threat’ to region: Lee Health COVID-19 hospitalizations nearing 600, cases still increasing in Lee and Collier” via Frank Gluck of the Fort Myers News-Press — COVID-19 hospitalizations at Lee Health reached 598 on Thursday, another all-time high in cases that hospital system administrators said reflected the “grim threat to our community.” Six of them are children. Intensive care units within Lee Health’s four primary hospitals are now at 96% capacity. The entire health system is also at 96% of staffed bed capacity. Larry Antonucci, the hospital system’s president and CEO, said he worries cases will continue to go up for weeks, or longer. As a result, the organization hires more nurses and support staff and offers bonuses to employees volunteering for extra shifts.

Hospitals are filling with younger COVID-19 patients. Image via AP.

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. 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. About 37% of inpatient beds and 46% of staffed ICU beds in Seminole County were occupied by a COVID-19 patient.

How Tampa Bay groups help connect Hispanics to COVID-19 vaccines, information” via Juan Carlos Chavez of the Tampa Bay Times — Doubts about vaccines in the Latino population continue to be a strong obstacle to curbing the high rate of infections. Even amid a new wave of hospitalizations and deaths linked to the Delta variant, the fear has not ceased. To allay fears and open the doors to mass vaccination, different Hispanic and national organizations such as UnidosUS reinforce their public health and education strategies. Unidos and Walgreens recently ran a three-day mobile tour called “Esperanza Hope for all” in Tampa and Lakeland.

Orlando offers vaccinated employees cash, time off and other perks” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Vaccinated City of Orlando employees are being offered cash payments, more time off, and other benefits, in hopes of driving up the number of people immunized against COVID-19. The incentives, announced in an email from Mayor Buddy Dyer to employees Thursday, will be for all employees who are fully vaccinated by Halloween and upload their Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention card to the city’s human resources platform by Nov. 5, it says. In exchange, vaccinated full-time workers will receive $150, and part-timers will get $75. Also, the city will offer extra paid leave to vaccinated employees and enter them into weekly drawings “of cash, tickets and other financial benefits up to $1,000,” it states.

—”Polk County health care workers rally against COVID-19 vaccine mandates” via The Ledger

Republican Club of Lakeland, health department team up to host COVID-19 vaccination clinic” via Kimberly C. Moore of The Lakeland Ledger — In July, U.S. Army Reserve Chief Warrant Officer 3 James Ring, a retired Lakeland Police sergeant and president of the Republican Club of Lakeland, thought he was going to die from COVID-19. Now, he hopes to prevent others from suffering what he endured and maybe even save their lives. On Saturday morning, the Lakeland Republican Club is partnering with the Florida Department of Health Polk County to host a COVID-19 pop-up vaccination clinic from 8 a.m. until noon at Cleveland Heights Country Club at the corner of Edgewood Drive and Buckingham Avenue.

An elected leader in the Keys has COVID-19 as cases spike and a new mask rule approved” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — A vaccinated Florida Keys politician was hospitalized Aug. 14 after testing positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, Monroe County Commissioners voted to require masks inside local government buildings as cases spike along the island chain. According to friend Susanne Bloy, Monroe County Commissioner Mike Forster was in stable condition at Baptist Hospital in Kendall on Thursday. Forster had gotten the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine, Bloy said. “We are all praying for you, Mike,” County Mayor Michelle Coldiron said Wednesday at a Commission meeting in Key West after reading a statement Bloy had sent to the Commission. “Stay strong for us.”

COVID-19 takes down Mike Foster as Monroe County mandates masks.

Gulf Coast’s beloved ‘Redneck Riviera’ now a virus hotspot” via Jay Reeves of The Associated Press — Tourists and servers alike dance atop tables and in the aisles at one restaurant on the “Redneck Riviera,” a beloved stretch of towns along the northern Gulf Coast where beaches, bars and stores are packed. Yet just a few miles away, a hospital is running out of critical care beds, its rooms full of unvaccinated people fighting for their lives. On maps that show virus “hot spots” in red, this part of the U.S. coast is glowing like a bad sunburn. And a summer of booming tourism that followed the lockdowns and travel restrictions of 2020 is making the turn toward fall with only a few signs of slowing down.


African dust to create haze over Florida and suppress hurricanes” via David Fleshler of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The dry, dusty air will arrive in South Florida this weekend, creating hazy conditions. The air could suppress hurricane formation across the Atlantic, a welcome development after a week that produced the second hurricane of the 2021 season and is expected to produce the third. Hurricane Grace struck Mexico Thursday and Hurricane Henri is expected to form Friday and pose a threat to the northeastern United States. Hurricanes and tropical storms thrive on humid air, which spins upward and forms the immense cloud structures that give them their characteristic whirling shape. Dry air impedes that upward movement.

Florida could be spared a few devastating hurricanes by Saharan dust coming from the Atlantic.

Woman paid to front group behind ‘ghost’ candidates says consultant used signature without permission” via Jeff Weiner, Annie Martin, and Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — Sierra Marie Olive, an unemployed 23-year-old Palm Harbor resident who had recently graduated from Florida State University, told prosecutors she was at the dentist last September when a former roommate texted her with an enticing offer. “Want to know if you want to be a chair for a political committee,” Alex Alvarado said. “You don’t do anything and make 2K.” She said she soon learned that Alvarado had sent documents to a bank, including account origination paperwork and an Internal Revenue Service Form, that bore her signature but which she didn’t sign. Meanwhile, the committee she agreed to front quickly began attracting scrutiny due to a scandal that has rocked Florida politics.

Deerfield health care marketing company faces lawsuit for ‘bait-and-switch’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A new lawsuit alleges Insurance Care Direct (ICD), a health care marketing company based in Deerfield Beach, is engaged in a “bait-and-switch” scheme where customers are duped into buying limited-coverage health care plans they believe are far more comprehensive. McLaren Insurance Solutions and Maxim Health, based in California, are serving as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed in California. The suit was filed against ABS Healthcare Services and Health Option One, which collectively function as ICD, as well as My Agent Solution, an affiliate of ICD. Plaintiffs say they’ve lost revenue due to the defendants’ actions.


Tallahassee federal courthouse could be named after first Black state Supreme Court justice” via James Call of USA Today Network — All 26 members of Florida’s Congressional delegation are backing a bill to designate the U.S. Courthouse in Tallahassee as the “Judge Joseph Woodrow Hatchett U.S. Courthouse.” Joseph Hatchett, who died in April, was Florida’s first Black state Supreme Court justice. The 88-year-old was appointed to the court in 1975 by then-Gov. Reuben Askew. U.S. Rep. Al Lawson introduced the measure (H.R. 4771) to name the courthouse on North Adams Street. Lawson called Hatchett a social justice pioneer who devoted his career to advocating for civil rights.

Tallahassee’s federal courthouse could be renamed for Joseph Hatchett, the first African American on the Florida Supreme Court,

United Airlines cancels service to Tallahassee” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — United Airlines will no longer fly to the capital after Oct. 1, according to a Facebook post by Tallahassee International Airport. In a March 2019 Air Service Update of Tallahassee’s airport, Houston ranked 15 out of the airport’s Top 25 markets. The air travel snapshot showed an average of 13 passengers each way each day between Houston and Tallahassee with an average fare of $244, which does not include passengers connecting to other markets at the IAH airport. The news comes after the Chicago-based airline expanded service here in November with direct flights to Houston through SkyWest, an affiliated carrier of United Airlines.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Brian Ballard, Jose Diaz, Ballard Partners: Yeilyn Quiroz Otero

Zachary Hubbard: Foresite, Skydio, Western Governors University

Lori Killinger, Kasey Lewis, Martin Lyon, Lewis Longman & Walker: Collier Mosquito Control District

Jonathan Kilman, Converge Government Affairs of Florida: BLOCKCHAIN

Georgia McKeown: Halifax Health

Karl Rasmussen, Metz Husband & Daughton: Columbia County Board of County Commissioners

Lori Rocky: City of Fort Pierce, School District of St. Lucie County, St. Lucie County

Patrick Steele, Lindsey Zander: Agency for Health Care Administration

— 2022 —

Democrats challenging DeSantis in 2022 criticize his pandemic policies. What would they do? via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — “Dictator” is a word both Democrats vying for governor in Florida have used lately to describe the man they want to replace in 2022: DeSantis. DeSantis’ unabashed, unwavering approach to the pandemic has become the focal point of the campaigns of Fried and U.S. Rep. Crist in the weeks since Florida once again became the epicenter for the country’s coronavirus outbreaks. Fried recently accused DeSantis of catering to the “radical right” with his less restrictive pandemic policies. Crist called for “common sense” in a new campaign ad taking aim at DeSantis over masks.

Ron DeSantis gets a double blast from Democrats over COVID-19. Could they do any better?

—”Does Jeff Vinik like Charlie Crist three times more than he likes Nikki Fried?” via Florida Politics

Happening this weekend: Senate Democrats Disney Event — Florida Senate Democrats are holding a “Family Weekend” fundraiser at Disney World this weekend. A $15,000 contribution will get more details on the Aug. 20-22 event. Money raised this weekend will benefit the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which serves as the Florida Democratic Party’s main fundraising arm for Senate campaigns.

Kamia Brown faces campaign fines as she finally kicks off SD 11 campaign” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Rep. Brown kicked off her 2022 campaign for Senate District 11 Thursday while facing fines from the state for late campaign treasurer reports from her former House reelection campaign. Late campaign treasurer reports for her previous House District 45 reelection campaign have put Brown in trouble with the Florida Division of Elections. She has been assessed more than $5,000 in fines for failing to file campaign paperwork on time in that previous campaign. Brown called it “an oversight” and said everything necessary has since been submitted and corrected. “We are currently working out a payment plan with the Division of Elections,” she said in a text to Florida Politics.

Duval elections office asks city for millions to replace decade-old machines” via Hannah Lee of The Tributary — To prepare for redistricting and back-to-back elections in the fall of 2022 and spring of 2023, Duval’s county elections office is asking the City Council to boost its budget from $6.9 million to $9.4 million, a 35% increase. The new budget will allow the Duval County Supervisor of Elections office to replace what it says is outdated equipment, bring on a new employee, cut down on voting lines, notify residents of their new districts and begin purchasing mail-ballot envelopes. Despite the significant request, the office’s budget will continue to be lower than in peak years a decade ago. One of the biggest expenses is the replacement of voting machines. The AutoMARK ballot-marking machines are almost a decade old.


CDC to create new information center to forecast disease threats” via Adela Suliman, Jacqueline Dupree, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Lena H. Sun of The Washington Post — The Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics will accelerate access to data for public health decision-makers who need information “in real-time” to mitigate the effects of disease threats, both domestically and abroad. It will also serve as a hub for innovation and research on disease modeling, the CDC said. “This is an amazing opportunity for CDC and public health as we stand up the country’s first governmentwide public health forecasting center,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement Wednesday.

The CDC has a golden opportunity to track and predict diseases in real-time. Image via AP.

Record delta wave hits kids, raises fear as U.S. schools open” via Lindey Tanner of The Associated Press — With the highly contagious delta variant spreading across the U.S., children are filling hospital intensive care beds instead of classrooms in record numbers, more even than at the height of the pandemic. Many are too young to get the vaccine, which is available only to those 12 and over. The surging virus is spreading anxiety and causing turmoil and infighting among parents, administrators and politicians around the U.S., especially in states like Florida and Texas, where Republican governors have barred schools from making youngsters wear masks. While pediatric COVID-19 hospitalization rates are lower than those for adults, they have surged in recent weeks, reaching 0.41 per 100,000 children ages 0 to 17, compared with 0.31 per 100,000, the previous high set in mid-January.

GOP Governors embrace COVID-19 cocktails over masks as cases surge” via Dan Goldberg of POLITICO — Republican governors in some of the states hardest hit by the pandemic are pushing expensive COVID-19 cocktails over cheap masks. The governors in Florida, Missouri and Texas are promising millions of dollars in antibody treatments for infected people even as they oppose vaccine and mask mandates, saying they can potentially keep people with mild COVID-19 symptoms out of hospitals that are being swamped by new cases. But the treatments and cost of providing them are thousands of dollars more than preventive vaccines, and tricky to administer because they work best early in the course of an infection.

Why didn’t officials recommend boosters for people who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?” via Emily Anthes of The New York Times — The federal government’s recent booster recommendation was based on data suggesting that the protection provided by the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines against infection and mild disease has been waning over time, officials said Wednesday. But less data is available on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was not authorized until the end of February, two months after Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. In addition, Johnson & Johnson vaccinations were temporarily paused while health officials investigated reports that a very small number of people had developed a rare blood-clotting condition after receiving the vaccine. Without robust data on the long-term effectiveness of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, it is hard for health officials to recommend boosters, said John Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medicine.


U.S. jobless claims hit a pandemic low as hiring strengthens” via Paul Wiseman of The Associated Press — The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell last week for a fourth straight time to a pandemic low, the latest sign that America’s job market is rebounding from the pandemic recession as employers boost hiring to meet a surge in consumer demand. The Labor Department reported that jobless claims fell by 29,000 to 348,000. The four-week average of claims, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, also fell, by 19,000, to just below 378,000, also a pandemic low. The weekly pace of applications for unemployment aid has fallen more or less steadily since topping 900,000 in early January.

Mortgage delinquencies sink to pandemic low as U.S. jobs return” via Prashant Gopal of Bloomberg — The seasonally adjusted delinquency rate dropped to 5.47% of all loans outstanding, down from 8.22% a year earlier and the lowest since the first quarter of 2020, according to a survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association. The decline in the delinquency rate for loans for veterans and Federal Housing Administration mortgages — the affordable path to homeownership for many first-time buyers and low-income Americans — was the biggest in data going back to 1979. The federal government may have staved off a foreclosure crisis by allowing people who lost income during the pandemic to defer mortgage payments. They can have principal and interest tacked on as a lump sum that only needs to be repaid when they sell or refinance.

As more jobs come back, mortgages are getting paid. Image via Bloomberg.

The CEO wants his staff vaccinated. He also worries they will quit.” via Jesse Newman of The Wall Street Journal — An impasse over vaccinations is bedeviling the corporate world. On one side are employers and employees eager to see their co-workers be vaccinated, both out of health concerns and to head off the risk of an outbreak that slows production or shutters a workplace. On the other are workers who see it as their right to decide when and if to vaccinate. Some large companies, including Walmart, Microsoft, and Tyson Foods have imposed vaccine mandates. But the balance of power isn’t necessarily with every employer. Taylor Farm’s 14 U.S. plants, which supply restaurants such as Taco Bell and grocers like Whole Foods Market, are already short some 1,500 employees. The tight labor market means that Taylor and others must be careful not to alienate workers.

Battered but not broken: movie theaters anxiously hold out hope for late box office rebound” via Rebecca Rubin of Variety — Operating a movie theater during a stubbornly persistent global health crisis means that returning to normal isn’t as easy as flipping a switch, rehiring employees and installing state-of-the-art air-filtration systems. Owners have made it through the worst of the pandemic, a devastatingly long period in which zero revenue was coming through the door, but they’ve emerged on the other side in a situation that remains un­certain. Businesses, especially of the indoor variety, have to navigate a world where unpredictable spikes in COVID-19 cases will impact their ability to function. Some cinema operators, for their part, have been willing to take financial hits to ensure their customers feel safe returning and sitting in a dark room full of strangers.


In obituary for a vaccinated man, daughters share anger — and a plea” via Claire McNeill of the Tampa Bay Times — Danielle Allen sifted through the files on her dad’s computer. Her sister Nicole Allen-Gentile had packed up his scooter, which he’d used to visit a nature preserve during the long pandemic days. They knew he didn’t want a service. In the packet titled “Stuff to Do Upon the Death of Clark Allen,” it became clear that an obituary mattered very much. Clark Allen had taken the virus seriously. He knew he was vulnerable, and he desperately wanted to see his grandkids again. Nicole emailed Danielle a furious start. Clark died of COVID-19. Danielle rewrote the intro. “He was infected by someone who chose not to get vaccinated, and his death was preventable.”

As delta variant spreads, some companies with vaccine mandates deploy tech to verify records” via Danielle Abril of The Washington Post — Google, which employs more than 144,000 people, has turned to membership-based health care provider One Medical as one of the services it uses to verify the U.S. vaccination records of its contract workers and employees, according to an internal email obtained by The Washington Post. San Francisco-based startup Superhuman recently paid for ReturnSafe to help verify the vaccination status of its workforce, which totals about 100 employees. After an employee uploads a vaccination card to the app, a human at ReturnSafe checks to make sure the record matches the employee, that the person had two doses of an approved vaccine, and that at least two weeks have passed since the last vaccination.

Technology is helping employers keep track of vaccinated workers. Image via AP.

—“Inside Mississippi’s fourth COVID-19 wave: Younger patients, crying nurses and 7 ICU beds left” via Bracey Harris of NBC News

Only 2% of Africans are vaccinated, WHO official says” via Hannah Knowles of The Washington Post — Only 2% of the African population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa said Thursday as she reiterated the global health group’s criticisms that booster shot programs hog resources for wealthy nations. “As some richer countries hoard vaccines, they make a mockery, frankly, of vaccine equity,” Matshidiso Moeti said. Her statements came a day after the Biden administration said that pending reviews from health agencies, it plans to start offering booster shots in late September for Americans eight months into their second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Israel is already giving the shots, and the country’s health minister said Thursday that they are expanding eligibility to people over 40 years old.

Fox News told employees to report vaccination status” via Haley Messenger and Ben Kesslen of NBC News — As some Fox News stars continue to question the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, the company has drawn its own line: mandating employees to tell the network if they have been vaccinated, according to an internal memo. It is not, however, requiring to employees to be vaccinated to come into the offices. CEO Suzanne Scott said in the memo, which was an updated version of a memo sent in June, that the mandate applies to all employees, including those working remotely. Fox News has also said masks are optional for vaccinated individuals but required for all in “small, confined spaces” like control rooms.

Locked-up and fed-up: Australian voters put Prime Minister on notice” via Jonathan Barrett and Colin Packham of Reuters — On current polling, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal Party-led Coalition would likely lose its thin majority in the country’s 151-seat parliament at an election that must be held by the middle of next year. Australia’s exposure to the coronavirus pandemic remains small compared to many other developed nations, with a total of just over 41,400 cases and 971 deaths, and for several months it appeared to be emerging from the crisis. But the fast-moving Delta variant has exposed a major weakness; the country’s slow-moving vaccine program. “The problem is Morrison set expectations so high,” said John Hewson, a former Liberal Party leader. “Australia was riding high with few if any cases, and now he has to manage these lows.”


Biden’s approval rating is slipping fast. Democrats should be nervous.” via Henry Olsen of The Washington Post — The media is hammering Biden over the chaotic fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban. That can only amplify what was already a slow but steady decline in his job approval numbers. Biden started his presidency in good standing with a healthy 55.5% approval rating. His net favorability began to decline in the late spring as previously undecided respondents said they disapproved of his performance, but his favorability ratings remained stable and high. That standing has been in steady decline recently. His job approval dropped to 53% by June 25 and 52.2% by July 25. As of Wednesday, it stands at 49.6%.

Joe Biden’s popularity is dropping fast, thanks to negative media coverage. Image via AP.

Why didn’t the Biden administration evacuate Afghans sooner?” via Amber Phillips of The Washington Post — Why did the Biden administration fail to get Afghan allies of its 20-year war there out of Afghanistan before the Taliban took over? That, more so than Biden’s decision to withdraw, is shaping up as a main point of contention between Biden and Congress. The United States has only rescued a fraction of the thousands of interpreters, fixers and other allies, and those left behind are in danger in a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. It’s looking like there will be investigations into this led by Democrats in Congress.

Biden: Greater threats than Taliban-controlled Afghanistan” via Robert Burns, Ellen Knickmeyer, and Zeke Miller of The Associated Press — Biden says even with the Taliban in power in Afghanistan, he sees a greater threat from outposts of al-Qaida and its affiliated groups in other countries, and that it was no longer “rational” to continue to focus U.S. military power there. “We should be focusing on where the threat is the greatest,” Biden said. Biden has repeatedly said that America will not send significantly more forces to fight in Afghanistan. The U.S. has not had tens of thousands there for several years and had 2,500 to 3,000 deployed there when Biden took office.


Donald Trump’s Palm Beach County tax bills could hit $1.5 million, initial estimates show” via Darrell Hofheinz of The Palm Beach Post — Soaring real estate values were reflected in the estimated tax bills released Thursday for Palm Beach County properties whose ownership companies are controlled by Trump, including three houses next door to his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach. All three of those Palm Beach houses, one on Woodbridge Road and two nearby on South Ocean Blvd, saw their estimated “total market values” rise, with a corresponding increase in their estimated taxes for 2021. That also held true at the Mar-a-Lago Club, which saw a $1 million hike in its estimated market value, from $26.6 million in last year’s estimates to $27.6 million this year.

Mar-a-Lago is bracing for a tax wallop. Image via AP.


A judge said it was ‘concerning’ that Jan. 6 plea deals don’t allow more court oversight of Capitol rioters” via Zoe Tillman of BuzzFeed News — U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson raised the issue near the end of a plea hearing for a California man who briefly entered the Capitol Jan. 6. Mark Simon pleaded guilty to one count of parading, demonstrating, or picketing in the Capitol, a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of six months in jail. Shortly before she accepted Simon’s plea, Jackson said she found it “concerning” that the specific charge Simon and others have pleaded guilty to remove the option of what’s known as supervised release. Supervised release comes with a series of conditions that defendants must follow or else risk more charges and prison time; those conditions can include a prohibition on drugs and guns, a curfew or anything else the judge considers “appropriate.”

A judge wonders: Why is supervised release off the table for Capitol rioters? Image via AP.

Watchdog group urges Jan. 6 committee to question Republican AGs” via Karl Evers-Hillstrom of The Hill — In a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and members of the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot, Accountable.US urged lawmakers to question the Republican Attorneys General Association and some of its key members about their involvement in a pro-Trump rally before the Capitol attack. The Rule of Law Defense Fund, RAGA’s policy arm, paid for robocalls encouraging Trump supporters to march to the Capitol on Jan. 6 to “stop the steal.” Revelations of RAGA’s involvement sparked outrage, triggering internal resignations and prompting some corporations to pause donations to the group. But earlier this year, RAGA named Peter Bisbee, the operative who approved the robocalls, as its new executive director.

Man claiming to have bomb near U.S. Capitol is in custody after standoff, police say” via Lizzie Johnson, Ellie Silverman, Antonio Olivo and Peter Jamison of The Washington Post — Congressional office buildings and nearby homes were evacuated as authorities negotiated with the man, identified by law enforcement as Floyd Ray Roseberry, of North Carolina. Roseberry surrendered to authorities after about five hours and will face criminal charges, U.S. Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said. Before he was taken into custody, he delivered a tirade over a Facebook live video — watched by tens of thousands of people — in which he assailed President Biden and other Democrats, called for a revolt against the U.S. government and claimed there were other “patriots” waiting in vehicles elsewhere in D.C.


Three more Senators have tested positive for the virus; all are breakthrough cases.” via Zach Montague of The New York Times — U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi, Angus King, independent of Maine, and John Hickenlooper, Democrat of Colorado, said on Thursday that they had tested positive for the coronavirus, adding to the number of breakthrough cases among lawmakers. Several other vaccinated politicians have recently announced breakthrough cases of their own, including U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who said he tested positive for the virus after attending a gathering hosted by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia. The surge and the rising frequency of breakthrough infections have prompted agencies to extend public health measures. On Tuesday, the Transportation Security Administration said that the mask mandate would remain in effect on public transportation through Jan. 18.

Angus King is one of three more U.S. Senators sidelined by COVID-19. Image via AP.

As gun violence spikes in Miami and across Florida, where is Marco Rubio?” via Amit Dadon and Vivian Azalia of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — In COVID-19′s shadow, over 43,559 people were killed by guns in 2020, a record year for America’s long-running epidemic. Every day, 119 disproportionately Black and Latino lives are lost. With a gun death rate well-exceeding national averages, Florida is no exception. But the words and actions of Sen. Rubio would make you think gun violence never kills or injures his constituents, let alone 7,000 every year. It’s a bought-off silence. Between 2011 and 2019, gun violence killed 23,159 Floridians while Rubio was showered with an A+ rating and $3.3 million from the NRA. In other words, donations by gun lobbyists of $142.49 per victim are all it’s taken for Rubio to overlook the deaths of our fellow Floridians, our loved ones.

Tweet, tweet:

Brian Mast said Biden ‘owns’ Afghanistan withdrawal chaos, cites tactical errors” via Antonio Fins of The Palm Beach Post — Congressman Mast said that the Biden administration bears the full blame for the chaotic collapse in Afghanistan. “He owns this one 100%,” Mast, a Republican representing a district that stretches from northern Palm Beach County north along the Treasure Coast, said. “President Biden chose to conduct the withdrawal, to do it how he did it, which was the most backward possible way that it could be done.” Mast is just one voice in Congress, but one that carries particular moral authority regarding the war in Afghanistan. He served in the country’s Kandahar region as part of his 12-year stint in the U.S. Army, a record of service that includes earning a Bronze Star.

Alejandro Mayorkas announces Cuba sanctions, but no Haiti TPS extension during Miami visit” via Bianca Padró Ocasio, Nora Gámez Torres and Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — The U.S. will impose further sanctions on officials involved in quashing anti-government protests in Cuba, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas said after a meeting with Cuban American activists in Miami on Thursday. “Later today, we will be announcing another set of sanctions against individuals who were responsible for the repression and the brutality in response to the Cuban people’s cry for liberty on July 11,” Mayorkas said. “This administration stands with the Cuban people,” he said, adding assurances that the administration will not develop a policy toward Cuba without the input of Cuban Americans.


Momentum builds for putting memorial to victims of Surfside condo at Miami Beach park” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — A plan for building a memorial honoring the 98 people who died in the Surfside condominium collapse is gaining momentum — but the leading site is on donated land in a Miami Beach park a short walk from the now-vacant Champlain Towers South property. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman, who oversees the condo property’s fate at 8777 Collins Ave. and supports selling it to a private developer for luxury units, expressed his preference for the memorial site in Miami Beach during a court hearing on Wednesday. Hanzman said it would not be feasible for a government entity to buy the former 12-story condo property in Surfside at the going sales price of $120 million.

A nearby park is floated as the spot for a Surfside memorial. Image via AP.

No-party candidate in Miami election fraud case to enter plea, testify against Frank Artiles” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — Alexis Rodriguez, the no-party candidate involved in an alleged vote-siphoning scheme, will enter into a plea with prosecutors and serve as a witness in the state’s case against former Miami state Sen. Artiles, a dramatic move that distances himself from his former friend and delays the process by another 60 days. Rodriguez, an auto parts salesperson and acquaintance of the former state Senator, originally pleaded not guilty on charges related to the scheme, including taking donations that exceed the legal limit and lying on sworn campaign documents. Rodriguez will officially enter into a plea on Tuesday.

‘It’s cost us hell’: Artiles had his hands in second Miami Senate race, records show” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — The former Miami Republican Senator who recruited an acquaintance to run in Miami-Dade’s Senate District 37 race was simultaneously guiding another spoiler no-party candidate in Senate District 39. Artiles, 47, walked 81-year-old NPA candidate Celso Alfonso and his wife, Maricela Cardenas, through the entire election process by giving them campaign filing paperwork to fill out, uploading campaign finance reports using Cardenas’ PIN and login information, and even flying to Tallahassee to hand-deliver Alfonso’s qualifying check to the Department of State on June 12, according to Cardenas’ testimony in court records released Thursday.

Judge lets charges stand against Parkland deputy Scot Peterson” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Peterson, the former deputy accused of taking cover while dozens were shot at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, will have to convince a jury that he’s not guilty of criminal negligence, a Broward judge ruled Thursday. On Wednesday, Peterson, 58, asked Broward Circuit Judge Martin Fein to dismiss the criminal charges he’s facing because he does not meet the legal definition of a caregiver as defined in Florida law. Peterson is charged with multiple counts of criminal neglect of a child by a caregiver. Peterson’s lawyer, Mark Eiglarsh, argued that the laws defining a caregiver explicitly omit law enforcement officers.

Former player arrested, charged with 2006 murder of Miami Hurricanes star Bryan Pata” via David Ovalle and Susan Degnan Miller of the Miami Herald — Cell records, a key eyewitness, and a history of bad blood led authorities on Thursday to arrest a former University of Miami football player for the murder of Pata, a star Hurricanes defensive lineman who was gunned down in 2006 in what had been one of South Florida’s most infamous unsolved killings. Miami-Dade homicide detectives arrested Rashaun Jones, 35, a former Canes defensive back, in Marion County on a charge of first-degree murder. He’ll be extradited to Miami-Dade County to await trial. The arrest, 15 years after the homegrown football star was shot to death outside a Kendall apartment, was met with relief from family, fans and current and former members of the University of Miami program.

‘My jaw dropped.’ Video raises questions about another Miami Beach arrest and a new law” via David Ovalle and Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Mariyah Maple, a visitor from New York, was arrested last month under a new Miami Beach ordinance intended to protect police officers from belligerent crowds interfering with their “lawful” duties. The arrest report described her as part of a group that “refused officers’ commands” to back away from cops making an arrest on South Beach on July 25. When a police sergeant used his bicycle to “create a physical barrier,” the report claimed, the crowd “stood their ground and refused to move” — forcing him to use pepper spray. A recording of the previously unreported incident obtained by the Miami Herald shows a much different sequence of events.

Miami cop suspended over hand gesture. He’d also been dinged for a Trump campaign mask” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — A Miami police officer has been relieved of duty for displaying a hand signal that some interpret as a white power message while posing for a picture. In October, Officer Daniel Ubeda was reprimanded after he strolled through a voting site at Miami’s Government Center in uniform and on duty while wearing a Trump campaign face mask. The latest incident happened last week. Not long after his unit took part in a large weapons bust, Ubeda was photographed standing in uniform at the end of a line with six other officers, openly displaying the last three fingers on each hand with his thumb and index finger touching and forming a circle.

Family of man killed by BSO deps in psychiatric hospital, release video, seek answers” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — Almost three years after her son was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies in a hospital psychiatric ward hallway, Angela Randall said the only information she’s received from police and prosecutors was that her son was dead. The family has requested police reports, body camera videos, even a Florida Department of Law Enforcement report on potential criminal wrongdoing by three deputies who fired their weapons at the facility in Tamarac. It was completed two years ago. None of their requests have been fulfilled, they said. “We want justice for my son, and we want answers,” Randall said. “I’ve only talked to one detective since this happened, and that was one-and-a-half days after it happened.”

Police officer suspended in handling of case involving gun, neighbor trouble, report shows” via Will Greenlee of Treasure Coast Newspapers — A Port St. Lucie police officer was suspended three days after an internal investigation found fault with the handling of a call involving neighbor trouble and a firearm. Officer Michael Connor received the suspension in connection with a July 17, 2020, incident in which a woman told 911 dispatchers about 6:40 a.m. her neighbor was outside with a gun, and she couldn’t go outside. Another person on the call said the “neighbor is drunk, stinks of liquor and is belligerent,” according to records released Wednesday to TCPalm. No arrests were made at the time, and a complainant later took issue with Connor, including alleging inaccuracies in his report about the incident.

Florida educator fired over racist tirade at woman, sons” via Tiffini Theisen of the Orlando Sentinel — A Florida educator has lost her job after a video surfaced of her screaming racist rants at a woman and her sons. In addition to firing Patricia Schmidt, the Collier County School District sent the video of her profanity-laced tirade to The Florida Department of Education Office of Professional Practices Services. The victims were walking near a paved “residents only” path in an east Naples neighborhood Saturday when Schmidt is accused of driving by, blaring her horn, lowering her window, and screaming profanities and slurs at them. The incident was caught on video.

To watch the video, click on the image below:

If you like Caribbean rum, food and music, then this is the festival for you.” via Rod Stafford Hagwood of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — There’s a lot of newness with the Caribbean Food and Rum Festival this year. First of all, there’s that name. The fête was formerly known as the Caribbean Village Festival when, in previous years, it was staged in Lauderhill and then Miramar. For this seventh edition, the event is making a move to downtown Hollywood’s ArtsPark at Young Circle. Back in the day, the festival was a part of Caribbean Heritage Month in June. This is the first time it will be held over Labor Day weekend, on Sunday, Sept. 5, from 3-10 p.m. But the thing that’s the same is the array of Caribbean cuisines and craft cocktails available.


DeSantis has ‘made a monumental mess of masking in public schools’” via Mac Stipanovich of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis is a Governor uninterested in actually governing, a lawyer with little respect for the law, an anti-elitist with an Ivy League education and a hypocrite unbothered by inconsistency. Populist politics, not public policy, is his long suit. So it is not surprising that he has made a monumental mess of masking in public schools. When it became apparent that many of Florida’s 67 local school boards intended to require students, teachers, and staff to wear masks based on the recommendations of the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, plus the clear consensus of health care professionals generally, DeSantis did not see a serious public health issue. He saw an irresistible opportunity to pander to the MAGA peanut gallery on a grand scale.


Why I’m doing the Governor’s job” via Nikki Friend for Florida Politics — As I stood in the Cabinet Room of the Florida Capitol, delivering the grim details of the delta variant rapidly infecting, sickening, and killing Floridians, our actual Governor, DeSantis was on a fundraising vacation to Utah, Michigan and who knows where else. His ambivalence and worse during an emergency of sickness and death, including children, is disqualifying and discrediting. Going back through as many Governors as you can remember, when a hurricane is threatening Florida, Governors throw on the Division of Emergency Management jacket, get all the best experts in the room, and then, most importantly, they communicate clearly to the public. All to save lives, property, jobs, and everything else. During this crisis, DeSantis has done the opposite.

Tax hikes on tobacco hurt Florida’s working-class” via Ned Bowman for the Orlando Sentinel — As Floridians, we live in one of the most tax-friendly states in the nation, where small businesses can thrive and families benefit from no state income tax. Unfortunately, the federal government is finding loopholes to raise taxes for low- and middle-income families despite their promises not to. On the campaign trail, Biden assured us there would be no tax increases for families making $400,000 or less a year. However, Congress is now considering tax hikes that will disproportionately impact America’s working class and small businesses to pay for a massive budget reconciliation package.

Nation must follow Florida on first responder mental health care” via Lauren Book for the Tallahassee Democrat — Today, first responders are more likely to die by suicide than from a physical injury sustained in the line of duty. For Officer Jeffrey Smith, for three of his brave colleagues who also died by suicide following the Jan. 6 attack, and for so many other first responders who suffer on-the-job trauma, we must recognize, destigmatize and treat mental health illnesses before it is too late. Several years ago, I learned from a neighbor, a local first responder, that she had suffered through a traumatic event in the line of duty and needed help. It was especially disturbing that mental health benefits were only available if the first responder also suffered a physical injury. And because she suffered no physical injury, she was forced to go untreated and take an unpaid leave of absence.

Cuba criminalizes criticizing regime on social media, thinking it will hide people’s discontent. It won’t” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald — The Cuban regime is a 21st-century abomination. In the middle of a deadly pandemic — with hospitals and clinics understaffed and lacking basic, lifesaving equipment like oxygen and people dying in ruinous conditions — Cuban leaders have decided the solution is to crank up the repression. In the midst of suffering, when people need the unrestricted flow of information to survive, the only thing the government of Miguel Díaz-Canel has to offer is a wholesale attack on free speech and internet communications. Cowards! They’re afraid of an unarmed people who staged historic protests across the island on July 11 and whose only weapon is the truth.


Three more school boards have rebelled against the Governor and imposed mandatory mask rules. Gov. DeSantis says it’s another sign of America’s decline.

Also on today’s Sunrise:

— He brought it all back to masks at the end … honestly. Meanwhile, the state Agriculture Commissioner has the latest stats from the CDC.

— The Governor opens two new centers where you can get the Regeneron treatment. And it’s free.

— And you just knew he would find a way to plug Trump.

Pat Diaz talks about the staffing crisis in hospitals from COVID-19.

— And finally, a Florida Man ordered a life-size bronze statue of himself and billed taxpayers $75,000.

To listen, click on the image below:


Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at South Florida politics and other issues affecting the region.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Hillsborough County School Board member Nadia Combs, Marine Corps veteran Kevin Belickis, parent/education advocate Veronica McDonald and Republican activist Vanessa Brito.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A discussion of high-rise oversight in Florida after the Surfside condo collapse and what state lawmakers are considering when it comes to safety. Joining Walker are Sens. Jason Pizzo and Jeff Brandes; and Erin Sykes, Chief Economist and Real Estate Weather Adviser, Nest Seekers International.

Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A closer look at the situation in Afghanistan and how we got here; the latest on the fight between the state and school districts over mask mandates; and a preview of the 2021 St. Pete Municipal Elections.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Congressman Bill Posey will discuss Afghanistan, the resurgence of the Space Coast, Cuba, and the infrastructure bill.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon speaks with Neighborhood Medical Center CEO Jeanee Freeman.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Talking Afghanistan with Ambassador Nancy Soderberg; Lt. Gen. Joe DiSalvo (ret.) U.S. Army and Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges (ret.) U.S. Army.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz discussing Afghanistan, COVID-19, DeSantis and Cuba.

— ALOE —

Are you ready for sentient Disney robots?” via Brooks Barnes of The New York Times — The Walt Disney Co.’s secretive research and development division, Imagineering, had promised a walking, talking, emoting Groot, as if the arboreal “Avengers” character had jumped off the screen and was living among us. In the back, near a black curtain, a little wrinkled hand waved hello. It was Groot. He was about 3 feet tall and ambled toward me with wide eyes as if he had discovered a mysterious new life form. He looked me up and down and introduced himself.

To see what Disney Imagineers have cooked up, click on the image below:

New Mandalorian behind-the-scenes video shows Mark Hamill reprising his Star Wars role” via Eric Frederiksen of — The Disney Gallery series, now into Season 2, gives us behind-the-scenes looks at Disney productions, with the current season focusing on The Mandalorian Season 2. Ahead of an upcoming installment titled “Making of the Season 2 Finale,” Disney has released a clip to prime us for the episode, featuring Hamill himself. The clip features Hamill entering through the ship doors, lightsaber lit, cut with clips of Filoni talking.

—”Star Wars, Marvel, wet Mickey and hidden stars: Disney Cruise Line offers up Disney Wish behind-the-scenes look” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel

Black Panther 2 will introduce a new Marvel hero, and the choice is A+” via Adam Holmes of Cinema Blend — Because Marvel Studios decided not to recast T’Challa following Chadwick Boseman’s passing, someone else will take over the Black Panther mantle for next year’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. However, they won’t be the only new superhero to shine in the sequel. It turns out that Black Panther 2 will also feature the Marvel Cinematic Universe debut of Riri Williams, aka Ironheart. It was announced last year that Ironheart will star in her own Disney+ series, with Dominque Thorne being cast as Riri Williams.

Amazon plans to open large retail locations akin to department stores” via Sebastian Herrera, Esther Fung and Suzanne Kapner of The Wall Street Journal — plans to open several large physical retail locations in the U.S. that will operate akin to department stores, a step to help the tech company extend its reach in sales of clothing, household items, electronics and other areas, people familiar with the matter said. The plan to launch large stores will mark a new expansion for the online shopping pioneer into bricks-and-mortar retail; an area Amazon has long disrupted. Some of the first Amazon department stores are expected to be located in Ohio and California, the people said. The new retail spaces will be around 30,000 square feet, smaller than most department stores


Happy birthday to U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, Mark Bubriski of Florida Power & Light, former Florida Attorney General Bob ButterworthMatt Florell of St. Pete Polls, Janelle Hendren, and Bethany Swonson.


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.


  • Alex

    August 20, 2021 at 6:35 am

    ICU’s are full, kids being hospitalized at an unprecedented rate, cases skyrocketing with no slowdown in sight, and our brave freedom loving governor sits on his fat little ass and whines he’s the victim of Biden trying to stop the coming massive wave of new cases and deaths in retirement homes.

    You only have yourselves to blame Florida.

    You allowed it to happen.

    • Ed

      August 20, 2021 at 8:04 am

      Again Covid cases are up in all 50 states. They are up around the world as well. So you sit on your fat ass complaining that it would be different if DeSantis wasn’t Governor.

Comments are closed.


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