Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.27.21

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Read all about it: Everything you need to know about the day in Florida politics.

Good Friday morning.

ICYMI — Dr. Scott Rivkees is exiting the Ron DeSantis administration.

Florida’s phantom surgeon general is on his way out the door.

Scott Rivkees, we hardly knew you. Literally. Image via WLRN.

Rivkees will leave his position when his contract is up on Sept. 20

“We thank Dr. Rivkees for his meaningful work during the most challenging pandemic of our lifetime. We appreciate his service to the people of Florida and wish him the best in his future endeavors,” DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw said in a statement provided after Florida Politics first reported the news about Rivkees leaving..

A pediatric physician, Rivkees’ selection for Surgeon General in 2019 was panned due to his lack of public health knowledge.

Rivkees was largely absent from public view throughout the pandemic. One of the few appearances he made was noteworthy only because he was yanked from a panel for suggesting social distancing would last for up to a year.

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First in #FlaPol — A new ad from The Lincoln Project takes aim at DeSantis for his failure to keep Florida children safe. “Pro-Life” shows a series of empty school buses and hallways, featuring headlines such as “Florida leads the nation in kids hospitalized for COVID.” The 60-second spot ends by quoting DeSantis: “Florida got it right, and the lockdown states got it wrong.”

“As the man Fox News has chosen to replace Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis is the perfect example of the modern Republican: he doesn’t believe in local control, he doesn’t believe in science, and he’s indifferent the lives of the people who he governs,” says Rick Wilson, the political consultant and author who co-founded The Lincoln Project. “Thousands of Floridians may die unnecessarily, including a tragic number of children and young adults, but hey at least he’s ‘owning the libs.’”

The ad is set to debut today in the Tallahassee market.

To watch “Pro-Life,” click on the image below:

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Just off embargo — Former Joe Biden campaign financial adviser Alicia Pardo is joining Nikki Fried’s bid for Florida Governor as the lead finance consultant.

“This is the most important Governor’s race in the country,” Pardo said in a statement. “We are going to raise whatever it takes to beat Gov. DeSantis and end two decades of one-party control of state government.”

Pardo most recently served as Biden’s Southeast Regional Finance Director, managing a team of seven financial staffers to oversee nine states and two territories — Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

High-profile campaign adviser Alicia Pardo is joining Nikki Fried’s campaign as a lead finance consultant.

In all, the high-profile political veteran helped raise than $55 million in the region for the Biden for President, Biden Victory Fund, and other affiliated committees. Pardo also played a role for the 59th Presidential Inaugural Committee, where she raised funds from individual and corporate donors in the Southeast.

“We are thrilled Alicia is joining our campaign,” Fried said. “We are building the most talented, diverse, and ambitious campaign team in Florida history because that’s what it’s going to take to win.”

In addition to her work on the Biden campaign, Pardo served on several Democratic campaigns, including as a senior adviser to Sen. José Javier Rodríguez’s reelection effort.

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Breaking overnight — “Supreme Court throws out Joe Biden administration eviction moratorium” via Tierney Sneed of CNN —”Congress was on notice that a further extension would almost surely require new legislation, yet it failed to act in the several weeks leading up to the moratorium’s expiration,” the court wrote in an unsigned, eight-page opinion. “If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it,” the court said. The three liberal justices dissented publicly, citing the spike in COVID-19 cases and the delta variant.

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Lee Health’s Michael Nachef gives back with ‘Clips for Cancer’Nachef, the vice president of government relations at Lee Health, is participating in the Clips for Cancer challenge to support “Barbara’s Friends,” the Golisano Children’s Hospital Cancer Fund. The fund, part of the Lee Health Foundation, helps with the needs of patients and families. He’s shaving his head on Sept. 3 for the cause, hoping to raise $10,000 to support Barbara’s Friends. Before heading to Lee Health back in 2016, Nachef spent six years as a legislative assistant to Sen. Garrett Richter. For more info on the Clips for Cancer fundraiser, visit justgiving.com/fundraising/michaelnachef.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@Stengel: In the not-too-distant future, historians will look at this withdrawal as one of the most successful in history. It is already one of the largest airlifts ever.

@GovRonDeSantis: Casey and I are praying for the families of the fallen U.S. Marines and for the safety of our service members, fellow citizens, and Afghan allies in Kabul. Our troops are doing heroic work under dangerous circumstances, and they deserve our continued admiration.

@MarcoRubio: Coordination with the Taliban was a colossal mistake. We have Americans stranded, our forces under siege at the airport & even more sinister terror plots in the works. @POTUS must now implement a new evacuation strategy, or more horror lies ahead

@ToledoforTampa: My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the service members and Afghan civilians we lost today in Afghanistan. I am proud to represent many of the men and women who serve and work at CENTCOM and SOCOM. May God Bless them, their families and our great Nation.

Tweet, tweet:

@TLHElderLaw: The “nut-free” classroom issue is an interesting comparison to school mask mandates. A parent is not allowed to send a child to school with items in their lunches that may contain nuts for the protection of a classmate who may be allergic to nuts

@MichelleTodd: This is terrifying. Oxygen was crucial to my recovery from a non-COVID-related medical emergency last month. Without it, I wouldn’t be here. Tell me again how your refusal to get vaccinated doesn’t impact anyone other than yourself.

: So … the Jonas Brothers (along with Daily’s Place) are the latest to defy Gov. Ron DeSantis.

@SenJanetCruz: Here’s to the women who created equality by necessity. Women like my Mom, Gracie, who was the first woman to work in a Port Tampa gypsum plant and spent 15 years there. 15 years of hard hats, steel toe boots, & 10-12 hr days supporting her family as a single mom.

@JulieKBrown: This is the “new” world of distorted journalism. I guess This reporter (Javier Manjarres) didn’t read the follow- up — because I clarified this (I’m not a lawyer), but the journalist didn’t even email or call me btw.

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

Boise vs. UCF — 6; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 7; Notre Dame at FSU — 9; NFL regular season begins — 13; Bucs home opener — 13; California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 18; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 18; Alabama at UF — 22; Dolphins home opener — 23; Jaguars home opener — 23; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 24; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 35; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 35; MLB regular season ends — 36; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 40; World Series Game 1 — 53; ‘Dune’ premieres — 56; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 61; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 61; Georgia at UF — 64; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 67; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 67; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 70; ‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 72; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 73; Miami at FSU — 78; ExcelinEd’s National Summit on Education begins — 83; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 84; FSU vs. UF — 92; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 96; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 105; ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 112; ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 117; NFL season ends — 135; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 137; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 137; NFL playoffs begin — 141; Super Bowl LVI — 170; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 210; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 254; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 279; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 315; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 327; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 406; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 441.

— TOP STORY —

12 U.S. troops, numerous Afghan civilians killed in Kabul airport attack” via Dave Lawler and Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath of Axios — The Pentagon has confirmed that 12 U.S. troops and several Afghan civilians were killed in an ISIS attack outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday. At least 60 Afghans were killed, per AP, citing an Afghan official. The “complex attack” that struck in the sunset of the U.S.’ longest war involved an explosion at the Abbey Gate entrance to the airport, a second explosion near the Baron Hotel, and gunfire from ISIS fighters, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told reporters. Fifteen U.S. troops were injured. Those killed included 11 U.S. Marines and a Navy medic.

America’s longest war ends much like it started — with a terrorist attack. Image via AP.

Val Demings blasts Marco Rubio for ‘Monday morning quarterbacking’ on Afghanistan” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Democratic U.S. Rep. Demings ignited some Senate campaign fire Thursday, denouncing U.S. Sen. Rubio‘s comments on Afghanistan and his refusal to support health care expansion during a public health crisis. When asked about Rubio’s criticism of Biden in the Afghanistan pullout, she accused her likely 2022 U.S. Senate opponent of “Monday morning quarterbacking” at a time when politics ought to be set aside, as the nation is in the midst of a foreign affairs crisis. “I know it’s tempting to want to criticize and Monday morning quarterback when you’re sitting in your nice office. And there will be plenty of time. … But now is not the time,” she said.

Greg Steube calls for Joe Biden resignation following reported Marine deaths” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Rep. Steube called for Biden’s resignation following the reported death of four Marines in Kabul. “Horrific,” Steube tweeted. “Joe Biden needs to take responsibility and resign. We must keep our troops safe, and our country protected. God bless our soldiers and their families.” Steube has been highly critical of how the Afghanistan withdrawal has been handled, and is hardly alone. The departure comes as the Taliban, the governing body when the U.S. invaded the Central Asian nation in 2001, seizes government control there again. Meanwhile, the world has witnessed images reminiscent of the fall of Saigon.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida COVID-19 update: 901 added deaths, largest single-day increase in pandemic history” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Florida on Thursday reported 21,765 more COVID-19 cases and 901 deaths to the CDC, according to Miami Herald calculations of CDC data. According to Herald calculations of data published by the CDC, all but two of the newly reported deaths occurred after July 25, with about 78% of those people dying in the past two weeks. The majority of deaths happened during Florida’s latest surge in COVID-19 cases, fueled by the delta variant. It is the largest single-day increase to the death total in the state’s COVID-19 pandemic history. In all, Florida has recorded at least 3,151,909 confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide and 43,632 deaths.

Florida’s COVID-19 deaths hit a record. Image via AP.

Gov. Ron DeSantis promotes Regeneron COVID-19 treatment but hasn’t pushed vaccines the same way in months” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis has crisscrossed the state almost every day over the past two weeks promoting Regeneron, a treatment for people who already have COVID-19. But the last time he held an event specifically to encourage getting vaccinated was four months ago. Instead, he’s downplayed the vaccines, citing the breakthrough infections the shots don’t prevent and their apparent failure to achieve herd immunity. Critics say the Governor is playing to a hard-core Republican base that’s skeptical to outright hostile of vaccines as he ramps up for a run for the presidency in 2024. Mac Stipanovich, a Tallahassee consultant and anti-Trump Republican turned independent, called DeSantis’ strategy “politics, pure and simple.”

Ruling imminent on DeSantis’ policy on masks in schools and parents’ rights” via Michael Moline of the Florida Phoenix — The fate of DeSantis’ school-masks policy is now in the hands of a trial judge who conceded Thursday that he’s struggling to reconcile the competing arguments in a lawsuit brought by parents who oppose the policy. “This issue presents a lot of sophisticated legal issues,” Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper told attorneys in the case as they completed their final arguments. “I have notebooks galore. I’ve read your exhibits. I took a lot of notes — I’m usually not a big note-taker, but I took a lot more notes than I usually do in this case. And I’m still wrestling with pretty much all the issues,” Cooper said. Cooper said he would declare his decision from the bench on Friday morning.

‘Waste of time,’ Florida’s federal GOP officials aren’t backing DeSantis in mask fight” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — South Florida’s Republicans in Washington aren’t getting behind DeSantis’ fight against local mask mandates in schools. Rubio has said that mask mandate debates — on all sides — are a “waste of time.” Scott said, “I don’t believe the government should be mandating things.” And Miami’s three Republicans in the House of Representatives have declined to weigh in on DeSantis’ behalf after local elected officials on the Miami-Dade County School Board voted 7-1 to impose a mask mandate in public schools over the objections of the Florida Department of Education. “That’s a state issue,” Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Giménez said in an email.

Schools across Florida may unite to fight the state on masks” via Brooke Batinger of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — School boards across Florida may unite in a legal challenge against state mask rules that they say endanger students and the communities they were elected to represent. The debate about whether students should be required to wear masks has divided Floridians for weeks, and it’s now leading an increasing number of districts to challenge state rules that leave it up to parents whether their children wear masks. For example, School Board members in Palm Beach County voted Wednesday unanimously to move forward with a legal challenge, action the Broward School Board took earlier. This week, Orange County School Board members said that they too might want to join the Broward and Palm Beach.

More Florida school districts are entering the school mask mandate fray. Image via AP.

Slammed by staff shortages and ‘desperation,’ some North Florida prisons to shutter” via Ana Ceballos and Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Department of Corrections will soon close multiple prisons in North Florida, a last-ditch effort to grapple with severe staff shortages, according to a union representative who talked to Corrections Secretary Mark Inch about the move on Thursday. Prison officials plan to shutter Baker Correctional Institution and New River Correctional Institution in the coming weeks, said Jim Baiardi, the president of the Corrections Chapter of the Police Benevolent Association. Cross City Correctional Institution, closed due to flooding damage, will continue to be closed for an indeterminate amount of time. Some work camps, including Gainesville Work Camp and smaller prison annexes in other parts of the state, may also close soon, Baiardi said.

Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner Fried will host a roundtable discussion with Brevard County School Board member Jennifer Jenkins, local teachers, and parents to discuss the surge of COVID-19 cases in Florida schools. A media availability will immediately follow, noon, Viera Government Center, Space Coast Room Building C, Room 216, Viera. RSVP to [email protected]

— CORONA LOCAL —

COVID-19 hospitalizations may have peaked for this wave, says AdventHealth’s chief clinical officer” via Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — After a month of record hospitalizations, ambulance shortages, and 12-hour ER waits, AdventHealth’s Central Florida division announced that COVID-19 hospitalizations have decreased. “We, for the last three days, have seen the number starting to fall with regards to our total number of hospitalizations for COVID-19. I do believe that we have not only plateaued, but I believe we have peaked,” said Dr. Neil Finkler, the chief clinical officer of AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division. “Three days don’t make a complete trend, but we’re certainly hopeful.” This timing is fairly consistent with university models, particularly the University of Washington model, which predicted that a decline would occur around this time. The reported decline comes after AdventHealth announced it would resume some outpatient procedures, though it remains at black status.

Neil Finkler says AdventHealth Central Florida is seeing the number of hospitalized patients drop.

But ... Lee Health at 99% capacity, COVID-19 deaths more than quadrupled in a month; NCH cases dip” via Frank Gluck of the Fort Myers News-Press — As of Thursday, Lee Health was at 99% staffed bed capacity; 114 of its patients have died as a result of COVID-19 since the start of this month, 91 of which happened since Aug. 9. The total number of COVID-19 deaths in July at Lee Health hospitals was 26. Lee Health also reported Thursday that COVID-19 admissions now total 657, a net increase of 10 over the previous 24 hours and another all-time high. There were 87 admissions and 70 discharges. Hospital spokesman Jonathon Little said in a written statement: “The delta variant is extremely contagious and is affecting younger people at a higher rate than last year.”

But …COVID-19 puts Palm Beach County hospitals 10% over capacity” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — A first-ever report of the impact COVID-19 admissions are having on Palm Beach County hospitals paints a grim picture. While individual hospitals aren’t identified, the report issued late Wednesday shows that county medical centers have been forced to add 259 beds to deal with the surge of coronavirus cases. The daily snapshot posted on the county’s website shows hospitals were 10% over normal capacity on Wednesday afternoon. In addition, 80 patients were placed in temporary holding areas in emergency rooms because not enough beds were available or the patient couldn’t be discharged for various reasons, such as no caretaker was available. Hospitals were treating 944 adults with COVID-19 and 16 patients under the age of 18. Overall, 2,941 regular beds were occupied.

And …ICU demand high at South Florida hospitals as COVID-19 cases increase” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A new dashboard released by Palm Beach County Thursday reveals that only 4% of ICU beds in its 17 hospitals are available. In Broward County, only 3% of ICU beds at its 16 hospitals are available. Across the state, the situation is just as bleak. With COVID-19 patients getting sicker and many on ventilators, only 5% of intensive care beds are open to new patients, according to the U.S. Health and Human Services data. Palm Beach County’s dashboard shows 155 COVID-19 patients in Palm Beach County are on ventilators. It also indicates hospitals have added 259 beds to accommodate the flood of COVID-19 patients, and 103 new COVID-19 patients were admitted to Palm Beach hospitals in the last 24 hours.

Tweet, tweet:

Jacksonville mother loses 2 sons to COVID-19 in 12 hours” via Vic Micolucci of WJXT News4Jax — A Jacksonville mother has lost two of her adult sons to COVID-19. She also caught the virus with them. She was vaccinated. They weren’t. “It’s a parent’s worst nightmare,” said a teary-eyed Lisa Brandon. “The only reason I’m doing this is to put the word out to please get vaccinated.” She lived with her sons on the Southside and said everyone got sick in late July. But Aaron Jaggi, 35, and Free Jaggi, 41, got worse. So, she took them to the hospital. Both contracted double pneumonia. Both were admitted into the intensive care unit and ultimately put on ventilators. Free died on Aug. 12. Aaron passed away on Aug. 13. They died within 12 hours of each other.

Orange County hospital morgues filling” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings acknowledged he had been advised that “some hospitals” are having so many patients die of COVID-19 that their morgues are full and are asking for help. Without an emergency order from DeSantis, Demings said he is not sure what local officials can do. But he said he and his administration are looking into it. AdventHealth, a huge system of hospitals throughout greater Orlando, has turned to rented, mobile refrigerated units because of overflow. “We were notified that even those facilities that offer cremation, some of them are at capacity. And, yes, we were made aware that some of our hospitals are at capacity,” Demings said at a news conference.

Escambia, Santa Rosa schools tighten restrictions as COVID-19 cases reach new heights” via Madison Arnold of the Pensacola News Journal — Escambia County schools have canceled open house events, suspended school assemblies and field trips (with some exceptions), and halted visitor access for volunteers. Santa Rosa County, meanwhile, has implemented a 50% audience capacity for indoor activities, including indoor sports games and band, chorus and theater performances. While the Escambia County School District’s COVID-19 tracker showed 172 infected students and 434 students quarantining from school due to exposure Wednesday, the actual numbers are drastically higher due to delays in the district’s reporting system. In the Santa Rosa County School District on Wednesday, 531 students were positive for COVID-19, and 1,437 were in quarantine, including those who tested positive. A total of 117 staff members were positive, and another 50 also were quarantined.

New North Pinellas emergency room opens just in time to help with COVID-19 influx” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — Even before the pandemic, the emergency room at AdventHealth North Pinellas was far from ideal. Located on the hospital’s second floor, it was challenging to reach for injured patients arriving by car. The 1980s era emergency room did not have private rooms and relied on curtains to partition patients. And at just 6,000 square feet, it often operated close to capacity. That all changes Tuesday when AdventHealth is set to open a new $20 million emergency department at the Tarpon Springs hospital. The facility was planned before the pandemic and was intended to meet the growing demand for localized ER care in north Pinellas.

Leon hospitals struggle with surge; monoclonal antibody center opens in old Sears” via Christopher Cann of the Tallahassee Democrat — There are 133 COVID-19 patients — 42 in intensive care — in Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare as of Thursday morning. Of the 42 labeled “critically ill,” one is under 17 years old and 38, or 90%, are unvaccinated. On Monday, local Tallahassee hospitals set the grim milestone of 251 COVID-19 patients, its highest number. It stayed firm Tuesday and dropped by one Wednesday. On Thursday, the number fell to 244. On Friday, Leon County will open its first monoclonal antibody treatment center in the vacant Sears in the Governor’s Square mall on Apalachee Parkway. The treatment center will offer those who make an appointment — regardless of their vaccination status — two medications: casirivimab and imdevimab.

Mulberry teacher dies after contracting COVID-19, husband still fighting virus” via 10 Tampa Bay — Norma Reyes had many roles at Purcell Elementary School, from teaching students English to assisting Purcell families and helping with various school events and programs. However, over the summer, Norma contracted COVID-19 and lost her battle to the virus. In a statement to 10 Tampa Bay, Polk County Public Schools describes Norma as caring and dedicated. “Norma was a fixture at Purcell Elementary, the one who always organized things and brought people together for events. She ensured the students had everything they needed, whether it was book bags, clothing, or other items … She was highly regarded and is dearly missed by the Purcell community, as well as Polk County Public Schools.”

Schools set to surpass last year’s COVID-19 cases in first three weeks of this school year” via Ryan McKinnon of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — There have been more cases of students and staff catching COVID-19 during the first three weeks of school this year than all of last school year in Manatee County, and Sarasota County is not far behind. As of Thursday, Manatee was reporting 1,156 positive cases among students and 200 among staff. Last year, the school district had 1,119 total cases among students and staff for the entire year. In Sarasota, the district was reporting that 1,436 students and 232 staff members have tested positive since July 1, for a total of 1,668 cases in just 13 days of school.

Sarasota Memorial expands ICU to 101 beds amid COVID-19 patient surge” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — With space for critically ill patients in high demand amid a surge of COVID-19 cases, Sarasota Memorial Hospital has expanded its intensive care unit to 101 beds, the most since the pandemic began. The hospital had 97 people in the ICU Thursday, and 60% are infected with COVID-19. Sarasota Memorial reported two more COVID-19 deaths Thursday and 271 patients infected with the virus, compared to 273 Wednesday. Currently, 88% of Sarasota Memorial’s COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. The hospital is very full right now, with 97% of the 839 beds occupied. Sarasota Memorial normally has 62 ICU beds but has repurposed other spaces in the hospital to expand the ability to treat critically ill patients.

Sarasota County School Board member instrumental to law and activists opposing mask mandates” via Ryan McKinnon of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Bridget Ziegler has spent much of the last seven years on the losing end of votes, as a staunch conservative on the Sarasota County School Board. But her influence beyond Sarasota has exploded in recent months. In December, Ziegler teamed with two former school board members to launch “Moms For Liberty,” a grassroots organization that advocates for parental rights in schools. In June, DeSantis signed the Parents’ Bill of Rights into law, which Ziegler helped develop. Now, Moms For Liberty has chapters all over the country, with members leading the charge against school district mask mandates. And the Parents’ Bill of Rights is the linchpin to DeSantis’ argument that school districts cannot require students to wear masks.

Bridget Ziegler is at the nexus of the fight against school mask mandates.

Tampa Bay Water asks users to cut back as COVID-19 saps oxygen supplies” via Anastasia Dawson of the Tampa Bay Times — For hospitals, oxygen is easier to store as a liquid in the large volumes they now require for COVID-19 patients. For many municipal water systems, liquid oxygen is a key component in water purification. Tampa Bay Water asks everyone in its three-county service area to help conserve water by cutting back on nonessential uses like washing cars, watering lawns, and pressure washing. “At this point, it’s great if everyone in our region can conserve water,” Tampa Bay Water spokesman Brandon Moore said. “If we can reduce water demands, that means there is less to treat, which saves on treatment supplies including liquid oxygen.”

Child abuse charge reduced against anti-mask protester at school” via Austen Erblat of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The anti-mask protester arrested after shoving a female student at Fort Lauderdale High School had his charge downgraded Thursday. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department said they filed the wrong charge of aggravated child abuse, a first-degree felony, changing it to child abuse without great bodily harm, a third-degree felony. A department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to questions about why the charge changed or who determined the initial charge was wrong. Dan Bauman, an anti-mask protester with a history of confrontations, shoved the masked student Wednesday after she tried to take his phone while he shot video of her. Videos of the incident were later posted to social media. The 50-year-old Fort Lauderdale man was immediately arrested.

Treasure Coast doctor prescribing Ivermectin for COVID-19 despite FDA warning” via Michael Buczyner of WPTV — Ivermectin is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat parasites but has not been approved for use in treating or preventing COVID-19. In fact, people have been reportedly hospitalized after self-medicating with Ivermectin intended for horses, according to the FDA. Dr. Michele Libman is the owner of Treasure Coast Urgent Care. The day WPTV visited, her office had a 73% positivity rate of patients tested. Libman said she had mixed results prescribing Ivermectin to more than a dozen unvaccinated COVID-19 positive patients. “I’ve had a handful of patients that have definitely felt that it helped them and that they felt better pretty rapidly, and then I’ve also had some patients that really didn’t see much difference,” Libman said.

—”Collier schools report more than 500 COVID-19 cases. It took four months to get there last year.” via Rachel Fradette and Dan DeLuca of the Naples Daily News

—”‘We did everything we were supposed to’: Widow recalls retired Palm Bay officer’s battle with COVID-19” via J.D. Gallop of Florida Today

‘A big deal’: Okaloosa County schools suspend field trips in light of COVID-19” via Savannah Evanoff of Northwest Florida Daily News

— STATEWIDE —

Tropical Depression 9 could be major hurricane before reaching Gulf Coast” via Cheryl McCloud of the Naples Daily News — A tropical wave in the Caribbean has strengthened into Tropical Depression Nine and could become a major hurricane before arriving on the Gulf Coast, according to the National Hurricane Center. AccuWeather forecasters agreed, saying it was becoming much more likely that parts of the central Gulf Coast would need to prepare for a strike from a major hurricane (Category 3 or stronger) later Sunday or Monday. Tropical storm warnings have been issued for the Cayman Islands and portions of western Cuba. Projections put wind speeds at 110 mph within the next 72 hours. The projection is similar to such storms as Hurricane Michael in 2018, which struck the Florida Panhandle, and Hurricane Laura in 2020, which slammed southwestern Louisiana.

DeSantis spars with Biden administration over undocumented immigrants in Florida” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis wants Biden’s administration to stop sending undocumented immigrants to Florida. But he also acknowledged the total number of immigrants who have entered the U.S. without detection or released by the Biden administration since he took office is unclear. In a letter sent to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, DeSantis said the lack of transparency around such transfers gives him concern “that the federal government is running its own massive human smuggling operation, surreptitiously resettling illegal aliens in the various states without consultation or even advance notice to state leadership.” DeSantis’ letter is the latest move to highlight the illegal immigration issue and the surge in border crossings, despite Florida’s lack of a border with Mexico.

Ron DeSantis and Joe Biden spar over undocumented immigrants, despite Florida’s lack of a southern border. Image via AP.

As Florida awaits unemployment ruling, DeSantis points to recovery, fraud” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A Leon County court will soon rule whether to compel Florida to restore federal unemployment benefits, but DeSantis says the state has recovered economically from the pandemic. Leon County Circuit Judge Layne Smith is expected to announce his ruling by Monday in a lawsuit to restore $300 in weekly federal unemployment compensation after the DeSantis administration stopped participating in the program. Florida is one of 26 states that dropped their participation early, arguing it’s discouraging people from returning to work. DeSantis told reporters the state’s attorneys will point to the number of available jobs in Florida. More than 400,000 jobs are now available.

It’s ‘unconscionable’ that DeSantis hasn’t applied for food aid for kids, Nikki Fried says” of the Tampa Bay Times — Child hunger groups and Florida’s top elected Democrat urged Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday to tap into $820 million in federal aid money that would provide meals for more than 2 million children in low-income households. Agriculture Commissioner Fried said it was “unconscionable” that DeSantis’ administration hasn’t requested the money, which has no strings attached. “Every day that this aid is delayed is another night where a child would go to bed hungry that could have been prevented,” said Fried, a Democrat looking to challenge DeSantis’ reelection next year. “The people of Florida can’t afford the Governor leaving money on the table.” Why the DeSantis administration has not applied for the money is unclear.

How Florida’s lack of condo board oversight could mean another Surfside” via Clayton Park of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — A USA Today Network examination of the way high-rise condos are regulated and maintained in Florida shows why some experts believe the system was designed to fail. And human nature plays a part: Many condo boards defer repairs because of the costs. Too much economizing could be deadly. But is it realistic to think only a few condos are in danger? “Buildings in Florida, in general, are only designed to have a shelf life of 40 to 50 years,” said Ariel Neris, a structural engineer in Seminole County. The state’s building codes for oceanfront high-rise condos were strengthened in 1998 to become arguably the strictest in the nation. But that’s only for when they are being constructed.

The real story behind the $25K Donald Trump donation to Pam Bondi” via Jose Pagliery of the Daily Beast — It was the personally signed $25,000 check that landed then-presidential candidate Trump in hot water — the check that sparked accusations that he had bribed Florida’s top prosecutor, Bondi, with funds from his charity. Much has been written about the suspicious timing of Trump’s 2013 gift to the Florida Attorney General’s political campaign. But contrary to previous claims from Trump’s presidential campaign and company executives, records acquired by The Daily Beast show that Trump Organization employees were explicitly told this was a donation to a political group, and emails show that Trump’s own executive assistant had met in person with Bondi’s finance director in New York City.

The real story emerges of Donald Trump’s $25K check to Pam Bondi’s committee.

The Florida Supreme Court adopts new civil procedure rule — The Supreme Court on Thursday adopted an amendment to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure, effective immediately, expressly adopting the “apex doctrine” in both the government and corporate contexts. The apex doctrine protects companies from plaintiffs’ attorneys demanding that their presidents, CEOs, or top officers sit for a deposition. The issue came to the Court as a question of great importance from the 1st District Court of Appeal. William Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute, said, “By adopting first the Daubert evidence standard, then the federal summary judgment standard, and now the corporate apex doctrine through separate rule cases, the Court has expressed a clear willingness to address the problems facing Florida’s civil justice system through broad rule changes that apply even to pending matters.”

— DATELINE TALLY —

State recovers $5 million from ex-CEO of Florida domestic violence center and insurers” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — The state of Florida has recovered $5 million of the $7.5 million lost from the former CEO of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Tiffany Carr, and her staff, Attorney General Ashley Moody and DeSantis announced during a Thursday morning news conference. Carr and two former FCADV officers and directors will pay more than $3.9 million to DCF and the court-appointed receiver — including a more than $2 million cash payment by Carr, who was accused of defrauding the state and federal governments by manipulating her board of directors to pad her salary in a scheme that gave her more than $7.5 million over three years.

Tiffany Carr has to cough up six figures in restitution. Image via The Ledger.

— 2022 —

Ad campaign targets DeSantis donors for ‘funding an agenda that has killed thousands of Floridians’” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A national political action committee is beginning an advertising campaign Thursday calling out high-dollar political donors to Gov. DeSantis. The political group 314 Action said people will start seeing ads on Google, Facebook, and via text messages that highlight four political donors. The PAC said their donations, which collectively total $4 million to support DeSantis since 2018, “are funding an agenda that has killed thousands of Floridians.” One version starts with the declaration, “42,252 dead from COVID.” It then gives the name and picture of a donor and says the person “funded Gov. DeSantis’ COVID agenda.”

A new anti-Ron DeSantis ad blasts top donors. Image via 314 Action.

Charlie Crist jabs DeSantis at Jax mobile vax event” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Democratic candidate for Governor Crist was at the JEA headquarters for an Agape Health Services mobile vaccine site, housed on a JTA bus, and sponsored by all levels of government. Crist used the stop to criticize DeSantis again for handling the COVID-19 pandemic and the current surge in the more aggressive delta variant. After Crist and Sen. Audrey Gibson toured the bus and asked one local how she overcame her vaccine hesitancy, they asserted there was no conflict in holding a media-advised campaign event at a vaccination site. “No, I don’t,” Crist told Florida Politics. “This is about getting the word out and doing what’s right. Unfortunately, I think what Gov. DeSantis is doing is wrong.”

Crist dismisses argument he can’t beat Nikki Fried in 2022 Primary” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Fried‘s campaign has been consistent in its messaging: Crist can’t win. Fried consultant Kevin Cate predicted in a memo that Fried would win the 2022 Primary by double digits. Asked about that in Jacksonville, Crist refused to respond to Cate’s critiques directly. “I don’t really pay attention to it. I listen to the people, and I see what’s in their eyes, and I know they want help. And I know they want a Governor who really cares about them, instead of his political future,” Crist said, referring to Gov. Ron DeSantis, widely viewed as a possible presidential candidate in 2024. “Which is exactly what DeSantis is doing. He’s running for President. He’s forgetting Floridians,” Crist said.

Sabatini’s AR-15 raffle becomes a giveaway after he’s told a raffle would be illegal” via Tiffini Theisen of the Orlando Sentinel — In a campaign email Wednesday, state Rep. Anthony Sabatini announced an AR-15 gun raffle, a promotion he later changed to a “giveaway” after the Orlando Sentinel pointed out it would be illegal for him to hold a raffle. Sabatini touted the promotion as a response to Biden’s nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, David Chipman. Sabatini said anyone who wanted to enter the raffle had to donate at least $5 to him. The Sentinel reached out to him at that point seeking comment and noted that under Florida law, only nonprofit organizations are permitted to raffle items. By Thursday morning, his website said, “No contribution or payment of any kind is necessary to enter or win this Promotion.”

Population growth fuels remake of Florida’s famed I-4 corridor.” via Gary Fineout and Matt Dixon of POLITICO — To understand how Florida’s redistricting process will dramatically reshape the state’s political lines and congressional map, look at Democratic Rep. Darren Soto’s district along the fabled I-4 corridor. Soto’s 9th District, which stretches from Orlando into the communities of Osceola County clustered near Disney World and then along the southern side of Interstate 4, saw the largest amount of growth of any congressional district in the nation between 2010 and 2020, according to a POLITICO analysis. His district now has nearly 1 million residents. But that rapid, sustained growth means the GOP-controlled Legislature is almost certain to pare it back when it tackles redistricting in the coming months.

Chair of dark-money group in Florida’s ‘ghost’ candidate scandal has ties to other secretive groups” via Jason Garcia and Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — The chairman of the dark-money group that provided more than half a million dollars in support of “ghost” candidates in last year’s Florida Senate races is also involved with other nonprofits that have raised millions from undisclosed donors — and distributed money to both Democrats and Republicans around Florida. Two political committees spent a combined $550,000 promoting little-known independent candidates in three key state Senate elections; all won by Republicans. Those committees initially said they got their money from Proclivity Inc., a nonprofit based out of a UPS store in Atlanta, but later changed their reports to say the money actually came from Grow United Inc., a nonprofit based out of a UPS store in Denver.

Sarasota congressional candidate leads The Lincoln Project’s loony reel” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A new ad from The Lincoln Project highlighting frantic opposition to mask mandates prominently features a Sarasota candidate for Congress. The video, titled “Our Kids Are Watching,” kicks off with Republican Martin Hyde making clear he will defy a Sarasota County Schools mask mandate. “The choice here is not whether my son is going to wear a mask,” Hyde said, “because he is 100% not going to.” The advertisement from there goes into some more colorful testimony at local government meetings across the country. While Hyde’s comments may not be so conspiratorial, a hyperbolic exchange between the candidate and board members inspires the video’s name. “This is America, not North Korea,” Hyde says.

To watch The Lincoln Project’s “loony reel,” click on the image below:

For your radar — “Facebook said to consider forming an election commission” via Ryan Mac, Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel of The New York Times — Facebook has approached academics and policy experts about forming a commission to advise it on global election-related matters, said five people with knowledge of the discussions, a move that would allow the social network to shift some of its political decision-making to an advisory body. The proposed commission could decide on matters such as the viability of political ads and what to do about election-related misinformation, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential. Facebook is expected to announce the commission this fall in preparation for the 2022 midterm elections, they said, though the effort is preliminary and could still fall apart.

— CORONA NATION —

Hospitalizations hit 100,000 in United States for first time since January” via Bryan Pietsch, Jacqueline Dupree, Adela Suliman and Brittany Shammas of The Washington Post — More than 100,000 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States, a level not seen since Jan. 30 — when coronavirus vaccines were not widely available — as the country grapples with the delta variant’s spread. Hospitalizations are highest across the South, where every state in the region has a higher portion of its population currently hospitalized with COVID-19 than the national level. More than 17,000 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Florida, which has the most such hospitalizations of any state, followed by Texas, which has more than 14,000. Amid a raging debate over mask requirements in schools, current pediatric hospitalizations for COVID-19 have reached 2,100 nationally, topping 2,000 for the first time since August 2020.

100,000 more COVID-19 deaths expected unless U.S. changes its ways” via Carla K. Johnson and Nicky Forster of The Associated Press — The U.S. is projected to see nearly 100,000 more COVID-19 deaths between now and Dec. 1, according to the nation’s most closely watched forecasting model. But health experts say that toll could be cut in half if nearly everyone wore a mask in public spaces. “Behavior is really going to determine if, when, and how sustainably the current wave subsides,” said Lauren Ancel Meyers, director of the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. “We cannot stop delta in its tracks, but we can change our behavior overnight.” That means doubling down again on masks, limiting social gatherings, staying home when sick, and getting vaccinated. “Those things are within our control,” Meyers said.

America may have to get used to more scenes like this. Image via AP.

Half of U.S. workers favor employee shot mandate: AP-NORC poll” via Alexandra Olson and Hannah Fingerhut of The Associated Press — The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that about 59% of remote workers favor vaccine requirements in their own workplaces, compared with 47% of those who are currently working in person. About one-quarter of workers — in person and remote — are opposed. The sentiment is similar for workplace mask mandates, with 50% of Americans working in person favoring them and 29% opposed, while 59% of remote workers are in favor. About 6 in 10 college graduates, who are more likely to have jobs that can be done remotely, support both mask and vaccine mandates at their workplaces, compared with about 4 in 10 workers without college degrees.

GOP bans on school masks draw federal civil rights challenges” via Michael Stratford of POLITICO — The GOP bans on school mask mandates were already facing a torrent of lawsuits in state courts. The Texas Supreme Court last week temporarily blocked Gov. Greg Abbott’s mask policy, for example. And a judge in Arkansas similarly has paused a state law prohibiting mask requirements signed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who has said he regrets doing so. But disability rights groups are now charting a separate legal path through the federal courts. They argue that GOP states forcing schools to adopt mask-optional policies effectively present the parents of children with disabilities a Hobbesian choice: either they risk their child’s health by sending them to school or risk their education by keeping them home.

Remember when September was going to be the return to normal in the U.S.?” via Reade Pickert and Olivia Rockeman of Bloomberg — When Biden signed a $1.9 trillion U.S. stimulus package in March, dissolving most of the emergency pandemic safety net come September seemed to make sense. Vaccinations were rising rapidly, and schools were preparing to resume in-person learning in the fall, removing two main hurdles keeping people — especially parents — out of the workforce. But the month that originally seemed like a logical time to ease fiscal support is here, and it’s not proving to be the inflection point for normalcy that policymakers and business leaders had imagined. The delta variant of the coronavirus is ripping across a country with far lower vaccination rates than Congress had been modeling when it wrote the latest relief bill.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

U.S. jobless claims rise by 4,000 to 353,000” via Paul Wiseman of The Associated Press — Jobless claims edged up by 4,000 to 353,000 from a pandemic low 349,000 a week earlier, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The four-week average of claims, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, fell by 11,500 to 366,500 — lowest since mid-March 2020 when the coronavirus began to slam the U.S. The weekly count has fallen more or less steadily since topping 900,000 in early January as the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has helped the economy. “We expect jobless claims to remain on a downward path as the labor market continues to recover, but progress will be more fitful as claims get closer to pre-pandemic levels,” economists Nancy Vanden Houten and Gregory Daco of Oxford Economics said in a research note.

Jobless claims are creeping up. Image via AP.

Pandemic windfall for U.S. schools has few strings attached” via Collin Binkley, Geoff Mulvihill, Camille Fassett and Larry Fenn of The Associated Press — As the federal government releases historic sums of pandemic aid to the nation’s schools, it’s urging them to dream big, to invest in seismic changes that will benefit students for generations to come. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has called it a time for bold innovation that breaks down inequities and rethinks all aspects of schooling. Despite those lofty aspirations, many large, urban districts are putting much of their pandemic relief toward practical needs, such as hiring nurses, restocking libraries, fixing playgrounds and bringing back art classes. So far, there’s little evidence of major change, said Marguerite Roza, director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University. Part of the problem is that the aid was given to schools with few strings attached.

Delta’s extra $200 insurance fee shows vaccine dilemma for employers” via Niraj Chokshi, Margot Sanger-Katz and Tara Siegel Bernard of The New York Times — Big employers have been warming to the idea of requiring coronavirus vaccines for employees. Now that one vaccine has received full federal approval, Biden wants more to follow suit. Delta Air Lines has chosen a very different tack. The company on Wednesday became the first large U.S. employer to embrace an idea that has been widely discussed but is mired in legal uncertainty: charging unvaccinated employees more for health insurance. Every Delta employee who has been hospitalized because of the coronavirus in recent weeks was not yet fully vaccinated, with hospital stays costing the company an average of $50,000. Like most large employers, Delta insures its own workforce, meaning it pays health costs directly and hires an insurance company to administer its plans.

Despite moratorium, many Jacksonville renters evicted during pandemic” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — Duval County judges issued 1,991 orders for police to evict tenants during the first seven months of this year, when landlords filed 4,716 lawsuits to take back rental homes, the Duval County clerk of courts office reported. Eviction moratoriums put in place last year were meant to help curb the pandemic’s spread, and a new moratorium the CDC issued this month aimed to do that in places with high transmission of the disease, like Florida. But a huge share of the people being evicted don’t know about those rules, and others aren’t protected in court because they haven’t completed paperwork that state law requires filing in a short five-day window.

In Jacksonville, evictions kept going. Image via the Tennessean.

Florida Chamber: State has ‘recovered’ 950,000 of 1.3 million jobs lost last year” via John Haughey of The Center Square — Florida has recovered more than 950,000 jobs since the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the nation’s economy last spring with mandatory business shutdowns that inflicted sudden but enduring damage on the Sunshine State’s $90 billion tourist/hospitality industry. According to Florida Chamber of Commerce Chief Economist Dr. Jerry Parrish, the state has come a long way since the mass furloughs and layoffs of April 2020, which temporarily cost as many as 1.3 million Floridians their jobs. “We still have a few more (jobs to gain) to go get back to the peak of 9 million nonfarm jobs” in the state, Parrish said in a recently-posted August edition of the Chamber’s Florida By the Numbers video presentation.

Jacksonville evictions displace many as renters, landlords face problems during pandemic” via Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-Union — Eviction moratoriums put in place last year were meant to help curb the pandemic’s spread. This month, a new moratorium the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued aimed to do that in places with high transmission of the disease, like Florida. But a huge share of the people being evicted don’t know about those rules, and others aren’t protected in court because they haven’t completed paperwork that state law requires filing in a short five-day window. “The judge does not have discretion,” said Jim Kowalski, CEO of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, who said he’s frustrated by how many people are missing the chance to stay in their homes.

— MORE CORONA —

COVID-19 protection for the fully vaccinated is waning, U.K. study finds” via Vicky McKeever of CNBC — An analysis from the U.K.’s ZOE COVID-19 app study of over 400,000 people who had received both shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, showed that it was 88% effective in protecting against the coronavirus a month after receiving both shots. However, its effectiveness fell to 74% five or six months after receiving both doses of the Pfizer vaccine. In the same study, an analysis of over 700,000 people who had received both doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine showed its effectiveness fell from 77% after a month to 67% at the four- to five-month mark. The data was collected after May 26, when the delta variant became the dominant strain, said Tim Spector, running the ongoing ZOE COVID-19 app study.

Breakthrough COVID-19 cases: Uncommon and often mild, but not always” via Emma Goldberg of The New York Times — Public health experts continue to believe that breakthrough infections are relatively uncommon, and rarely result in severe illness or hospitalizations. A recent analysis of state-reported data from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that more than nine in 10 COVID-19 cases that resulted in hospitalization and death occurred among people who were not fully vaccinated. For some, breakthrough infections have felt like mild allergies, coming with symptoms including a cough, sniffles, and a scratchy throat. Others have had more severe cases, where they are bedridden with body aches, fevers and chills. And still others have had some of the telltale signs of COVID-19, such as loss of taste and smell, “COVID rash,” and brain fog.

Breakthrough COVID-19 cases are usually mild, but not always. Image via AP.

How a cheap antidepressant emerged as a promising COVID-19 treatment” via Kelsey Piper of Vox — In a large, randomized clinical trial conducted with thousands of patients over the past six months, researchers at McMaster University tested eight different treatments against a control group to figure out what works. One drug stood out: fluvoxamine, an antidepressant that the Food and Drug Administration has already found to be safe and that’s cheap to produce as a generic drug. Patients given fluvoxamine within a few days after testing positive for COVID-19 were 31% less likely to end up hospitalized and similarly less likely to end up on a ventilator. It’s a much larger effect than any that has been found for outpatient COVID-19 treatment so far.

Living with the coronavirus will likely never be risk-free” via Caitlin Owens of Axios — Vaccinated Americans are facing a disheartening reality: Even after getting the shot, they’ll have to live with some level of risk from the coronavirus for the foreseeable future. A glut of data released over the past few weeks supports the idea that coronavirus vaccine effectiveness against infection begins to wane over time. However, it remains effective against severe disease. Most of the data suggest effectiveness is on the decline within six months post-vaccination. However, the Biden administration plans to recommend a booster after eight months — which appears to still be well before effectiveness against severe disease significantly wanes, if that ends up happening at all.

Florida sheriff not disciplining staff who came to work with COVID-19” via The Associated Press — On Aug. 3, Sarasota Sheriff’s Office Maj. Jon Goetluck sent an email asking employees to stay home if they felt ill, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported. On Aug. 12, he said he resent that email. He sent a third email on Aug. 18 after cases continued to increase. The email included a list of COVID-19 precautions to employees about hand-washing and staying home when ill. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Kaitlyn Perez told The Associated Press that four employees who either showed symptoms or tested positive stayed out of work but were unclear on the return-to-work policy and did not follow proper protocol to return. Perez said the agency is not implementing any additional measures such as mandatory masks.

COVID-19 surge forcing critical oxygen away from launchers like SpaceX and ULA” via Emre Kelly of Florida Today — A pandemic-triggered shortage of oxygen across the nation has rippled out to spaceflight companies like SpaceX and United Launch Alliance. It is part of the reason for the Space Coast’s monthslong launch drought. Despite a breakneck cadence of launches during the first half of the year, neither Cape Canaveral Space Force Station nor Kennedy Space Center have hosted a mission since June 30. Had the cadence held, the spaceport was well on its way to approaching a record-breaking 40 to 50 launches in 2021. But changing oxygen demands have forced suppliers to prioritize hospitals overrun with COVID-19 patients — and high-priority customers like launch providers are not immune to seeing their tanks slowly lose pressure.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Biden vows to finish Kabul evacuation, avenge U.S. deaths” via Robert Burns, Darlene Superville and Matthew Lee of The Associated Press — Speaking with emotion, Biden said the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate was to blame for the attacks that killed 12 American service members and many more Afghan civilians. He said there was no evidence they colluded with the Taliban. “We have some reason to believe we know who they are,” he said of the bombers and gunmen involved. “Not certain.” He instructed military commanders to develop plans to strike IS “assets, leadership and facilities.” The IS affiliate in Afghanistan is far more radical than the Taliban, who seized power less than two weeks ago. The group more recently is believed to have concentrated in urban Afghan areas, which could complicate U.S. efforts to target them without harming civilians.

Joe Biden promises the nation he will avenge the deaths in Kabul. Image via AP.

The darkest day of Joe Biden’s presidency” via Natasha Korecki and Tina Sfondeles of POLITICO —An already perilous withdrawal of U.S. personnel and allies from Afghanistan turned into something much darker on Thursday as the kind of catastrophe President Biden had been warning about took place outside Kabul’s main airport. A series of terrorist attacks left at least 12 U.S. service people dead and 15 wounded — the deadliest U.S. casualty event in Afghanistan since 2011. It was the most devastating moment in Biden’s young presidency. In its wake, U.S. officials remained steadfast that they would conclude the evacuation mission from the 20-year war, raising additional questions about Biden’s handling of the end of America’s longest war.

—“Biden faces a tragedy he pledged to avoid” via Michael D. Shear of The New York Times

—“Biden struggles to address the most volatile crisis of his presidency” via Sean Sullivan and Anne Gearan of The Washington Post

— EPILOGUE: TRUMP —

Trumpism has entered its final form” via Peter Wehner of The Atlantic — For more than half a decade, the Republican base — MAGA world — has been fed a constant diet of outrageous lies and conspiracy theories. Over time, “owning the libs” became the name of the game. All of this is not only worrisome but deeply dispiriting, especially for those of us who were loyal Republicans for our entire political life until 2016. To watch an entire party bend and then break and stay broken, to see it move in an even more frenzied direction after Trump’s presidency than during it, is painful. But not nearly as painful as staying silent or becoming complicit with those who continue to cause grave damage to conservatism, to truth, and our republic.

Is Trumpism nearing the end? Image via AP.

Anti-immigrant Trump aide Stephen Miller laid groundwork for disastrous Afghan evacuation” via S.V. Date of HuffPost — As the United States potentially abandons tens of thousands of Afghans who helped two decades of military and diplomatic efforts there to the mercies of the Taliban, a single person may deserve more credit than any other: Miller, a top Trump White House aide and immigration foe. Miller, who worked for all four years as former Trump’s immigration adviser pushing restrictive policies across the board, was instrumental in slowing down the processing of Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) for Afghan interpreters, embassy staff and others who are now top targets for Taliban assassination, according to both refugee advocates and those who have worked with him.

Federal judge in Michigan orders pro-Trump lawyers disciplined over lawsuit seeking to overturn 2020 election” via Rosalind S. Helderman of The Washington Post — A federal judge in Michigan has ordered that Sidney Powell, L. Lin Wood and seven other attorneys who filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s 2020 presidential election be disciplined, calling the suit “a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process.” In a scathing 110-page opinion, Federal District Judge Linda V. Parker wrote that the lawyers had made assertions in court that were not backed by evidence and had failed to do the due diligence required by legal rules before alleging mass fraud in the Michigan vote. “This case was never about fraud,” she wrote. “It was about undermining the People’s faith in our democracy and debasing the judicial process to do so.”

— CRISIS —

Officer who shot Ashli Babbitt during Capitol riot breaks silence: ‘I saved countless lives’” via NBC News — In the chaotic minutes before he shot and killed Ashli Babbitt during the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, Lt. Michael Byrd focused his attention on the glass doors leading into the lobby of the House of Representatives chamber. About 60 to 80 House members and staffers were holed up inside, and it was Byrd’s job to protect them. As rioters rampaged through the Capitol, Byrd and a few other officers of the U.S. Capitol Police set up a wall of furniture outside the doors. “Once we barricaded the doors, we were essentially trapped where we were,” Byrd said.

Capitol Police officers sue Trump, allies over insurrection” via Lisa Mascaro of The Associated Press — The suit in federal court in Washington alleges Trump “worked with White supremacists, violent extremist groups, and campaign supporters to violate the Ku Klux Klan Act, and commit acts of domestic terrorism in an unlawful effort to stay in power.” The suit was filed on behalf of the seven officers by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. It names the former President, the Trump campaign, Trump ally Roger Stone, and extremist groups the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers who were present at the Capitol and in Washington on Jan. 6. Two other similar cases have been filed in recent months by Democratic members of Congress.

Capitol Police are dragging Donald Trump into court. Image via AP.

It looks like the Jan. 6 select committee means business” via Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post — We did not get a full accounting of the violent insurrection of Jan. 6 during the second impeachment of the President who instigated it. We did not get a bipartisan commission to investigate the Capitol riot, because Republicans blocked it. We do not yet see signs of an exhaustive Justice Department criminal inquiry into the effort to deny the rightful winner of the 2020 presidential election. But now, we just might get the investigation we need by way of the House. The list of agencies and individuals from whom documents are demanded is jaw-dropping in scope. It confirms what we previously observed: This is an investigation of the entire plot to steal the 2020 election, of which Jan. 6 was only one element.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Confident freshman Byron Donalds explains position against mask, vaccine mandates to advisory board” via Amy Bennett Williams of the Fort Myers News-Press — Donalds met with the Southwest Florida Community Advisory Board. In a wide-ranging discussion, he reflected on his first eight months in federal office, which he called “a wild ride.” Roger Brown, the Opinions Editor for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, asked about COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates in light of Florida’s infection and death rates. Donalds is squarely against them. “It’s not just COVID mandates. You’re talking to someone who has libertarian leanings — I’m not a fan of mandates, period.” The role of the government should be to inform its citizens, then let them make their own decisions, Donalds says. The bedrock issue: “What’s the role of government in the lives of free people? That is the core question.”

Byron Donalds comes clean on his mask position. Image via Jacob Ogles.

Brian Mast faces STOCK Act questions after Virgin Galactic investment” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Mast appears to have missed a deadline to report a purchase of up to $100,000 in Virgin Galactic stock. The Business Insider notes that purchase came weeks after Virgin Galactic President Mike Moses testified in front of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation. Mast sits on that committee, though he appears to have been absent from the portion of the hearing where Moses testified. But Virginia Canter — the chief ethics counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington — argued the purchase still poses ethical questions given Mast’s role in overseeing the company as part of that subcommittee. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see this conflict of interest,” Canter said.

Scott Franklin’s limits on Facebook comments draw complaints” via Gary White of The Ledger — Linda Steniford of Lakeland is not a supporter of her Congressman but is a follower — on Facebook. In May, Steniford noticed Rep. Franklin, a Lakeland Republican, posted a clip of a speech he made on the House floor. “Sadly, our police force faces unprecedented attack,” Franklin said in the short video posted to his official account. Steniford posted a comment, linking to a CNN story that attributed the spike in officer fatalities to COVID-19. “Incomplete info for another half truth post!” Steniford wrote. About a month later, Steniford noticed that she was no longer seeing comments on Franklin’s Facebook posts.

— LOCAL NOTES —

Florida Supreme Court upholds convictions, death sentences in 2 Tallahassee murders” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Two Tallahassee murderers will remain on Florida’s Death Row after the state Supreme Court upheld their convictions and sentences in separate opinions released Thursday. Both Gary Michael Hilton and Joe Elton Nixon face the death penalty in their cases, decades apart, in which they were both convicted of first-degree murder. Most of the claims in Hilton’s most recent appeal focus on ineffective assistance of counsel. That case was argued in front of the Supreme Court last fall. Convicted 36 years ago, Nixon sought his freedom on an intellectual disability claim his attorneys argued should preclude him from the death penalty. Now 60, he first attempted the argument in 2009 and again in 2015.

Gary Michael Hilton and Joe Elton Nixon are on death row to stay.

South Florida farmers sue Army Corps of Engineers over management of Everglades project water levels” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — South Florida sugar farmers are suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, alleging the Corps is ignoring federal law in its planning process for the Comprehensive Everglades Planning Project. “The water millions of South Floridians depend upon is at risk because the Corps has decided to ignore federal water law,” said Judy Sanchez, U.S. Sugar’s Senior Director for Corporate Communications and Public Affairs. U.S. Sugar, the Okeelanta Corporation and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida filed separate complaints Thursday alleging a violation of the 2000 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The Okeelanta Corporation is a subsidiary of Florida Crystals.

Seven women allege sexual misconduct, abuse at Glades County Detention Center” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Seven women held at a Glades County immigrant detention center filed a federal lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by guards there. Advocacy groups called for the release of everyone currently held at the facility and for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to terminate its agreement with the county, according to a news release from Freedom For Immigrants. The organizations behind the lawsuit document accounts of seven women involving sexual misconduct by guards and a psychiatrist at the Glades County Detention Center. That includes allegations the male guards would watch women shower or enter living areas unannounced for the sake of sexual voyeurism, all of which violated the Prison Rape Elimination Act. The complaint alleges the psychiatrist sexually harassed immigrant women detained at the facility.

Appeals court says former JEA CEO Aaron Zahn can get arbitration over firing” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — A state appeals court sided this week with ousted JEA CEO Aaron Zahn in ruling he can have an arbitrator decide if the utility’s board wrongly deprived him of several hundred thousand dollars in compensation. The decision by the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee is one of two ongoing legal cases related to Zahn’s time at JEA when it embarked on an ill-fated attempt in 2019 to find a buyer for the city-owned utility. The JEA board fired Zahn with cause in January 2020. By finding cause for the dismissal, the board prevented Zahn from getting several hundred thousand dollars in post-employment benefits and a consulting contract contained in his employment agreement.

Judge appoints attorney to oversee Piney Point. He hopes to shut down troubled site” via Ryan Callihan of the Miami Herald — An emergency court order has turned control of the troubled Piney Point hazardous site over to a third-party operator who says he’s committed to finding the best way to shut the site down for good. Judge Edward Nicholas approved the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s request Wednesday. The action takes away oversight of the former phosphate processing plant from HRK Holdings, the property’s owner. According to court documents, Nicholas appointed Herbert Donica, a Tampa-based bankruptcy lawyer, as the receiver. In an interview Thursday with the Bradenton Herald, Donica expressed his commitment to safely closing the site. “I understand the complexities and the enormity of the problem. This can only be done by working with people,” he said. “This is more of a construction project than a case in court.”

Seagrass study in Lake Worth Lagoon hopes to help save starving manatees” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — It was 12 years ago that Palm Beach Atlantic University professor Thomas Chesnes was surprised to find all seven of Florida’s seagrass species in the cove that he surveys twice annually. But that was when his summer census counted nearly 40 acres of vegetation. It was down to 10 acres in 2020, and he hadn’t seen all seven species in years. The thread-thin widgeon grass and star grass have been especially elusive. Wednesday’s survey comes in a year where hundreds of east coast manatees starved to death for lack of seagrass. The epicenter of manatee deaths has been in the Indian River Lagoon, which has suffered repeat brown algae blooms that steal light and life from the submerged vegetation.

Voters blocked Miami Beach commissioner from seeking third term in office, judge rules” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Góngora cannot seek reelection this November, a Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge ruled Wednesday, affirming that a 2014 voter referendum limiting a commissioner’s time in office to two complete terms does, in fact, apply to the veteran Beach politician. Acting City Attorney Rafael Paz relayed the decision in a memo Thursday to Mayor Dan Gelber and the Commission, but the court has not entered a formal order yet. Góngora, running for a third full term as commissioner, asked a judge in July to declare him eligible to have his name on the Nov. 2 ballot after the city said he could not legally run for Commission again.

Michael Góngora is barred from running for a third term.

Lap of luxury: Miami-Dade’s $10M housing market is on fire as sales skyrocket” via Rebecca San Juan of the Miami Herald — The number of ultraluxury houses and condos sold between the first and second quarter 2021 rose by about 54%, to 80 transactions from 52, according to the first luxury sales report by the New York-based brokerage firm Bespoke Real Estate. Miami-Dade also had more luxury sales than Palm Beach, which trailed behind with a total of 60 deals in the second quarter, up from 27 deals in the first three months of the year, an approximately 122% quarter-to-quarter increase. Luxury homes were priced slightly cheaper in Miami-Dade than in Palm Beach. Miami-Dade had an average sale price of about $17 million for houses; Palm Beach had an average sales price of about $22 million.

— TOP OPINION —

Florida’s businesses, unions and governments must step up on COVID vaccinations” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Employers in both the public and private sectors are right to shift into higher gear. Vaccinations have plateaued. The practice of offering gift cards, bonuses and other incentives for holdout employees to get the jab has seemingly run its course. The surge of infections across the country and rising worries over the delta variant are changing policies and perceptions, and new polls show a majority of Americans support mandates for masks and vaccines throughout the public sphere. In short, there’s growing impatience for indulging the unvaccinated who are crowding our hospitals and putting our children at risk. In an absence of state leadership, it’s good to see Mayors, school districts and business leaders in Florida stepping up. This crisis won’t resolve itself.

— OPINIONS —

DeSantis is just woofing in his fight with The Associated Press” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — DeSantis has a genuine gift for changing the subject and assuming victimhood whenever there’s some explaining to be done. This one started last week when The Associated Press reported that a major donor to the DeSantis reelection campaign had invested heavily in Regeneron, a COVID-19 treatment the Governor has been promoting. The AP story was accurate and unbiased. DeSantis, understandably, defended his press aide but also claimed the world’s largest newsgathering agency — a 150-year-old global operation — was out to get him politically. He said lives could be lost if COVID victims don’t go to one of those Regeneron treatment locations because they read something about his campaign contributions. Really? Even by DeSantis standards, this is high-grade, refined, vintage, 100% pure “Whataboutism.”

School boards must unite to protect kids, teachers” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — What started as a decisive and necessary step by the Broward School Board to require students to wear masks with limited exceptions has expanded to nine other counties in Florida. It’s a good start. But 10 counties are not enough in a huge and highly diverse state overrun with COVID-19 cases, especially in communities of color. More districts must confront the reality of the dangers they face. Besides, there is strength in numbers, especially when the obstacle is DeSantis, who has abdicated his duty to protect all Floridians, and a bureaucracy more interested in punishing local officials than protecting unvaccinated kids.

Miami-Dade is a hot COVID mess, but we have company all over Florida. Thank DeSantis.” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald — From Miami to Jacksonville, the tragic trail of new deaths from COVID-19 is heartbreaking. Police officers, young parents who leave behind children and people from all walks of life are dying, only this time with the realization, when it’s too late, that they should have been vaccinated to prevent hospitalization and death. Or, with the realization that, had they properly worn a mask, a lesser viral load of the deadly delta variant might not have killed them. The course of the coronavirus didn’t have to play out this way. But this is DeSantis’ Florida, and denial of the most basic mitigation tool, wearing a mask, is the rule of law. And rejecting masks often goes hand-in-hand with vaccine hesitancy, a fatal combination.

Tony Carvajal, Jonathan Guarine: Congress fails to learn lessons from bad policy” via Florida Politics — Some want to expand the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to include the way that your credit card transactions are processed. During what little debate on the issue occurred before it was passed, proponents argued that these changes were going to help consumers by lowering prices. In the ensuing decade, it has become clear this change really did impact consumers, just not in the way that was promised. Retailers failed to pass any savings onto consumers. So now we have talk of another bill putting these regulations on credit card transactions. We have a real-world example of how these policies hurt Floridians. Why on earth would politicians in Washington expand them?

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Judge John Cooper is set to announce his decision on the lawsuit over the Governor’s ban on mask mandates. On the one side, you have parents who support a mask mandate: on the other side, the Governor and the state education bureaucracy.

Also on today’s Sunrise:

— No matter how the judge rules, an appeal is certain. DeSantis really wants to punish the local officials who have imposed mask mandates against his order.

— Moody announces a settlement with the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence — about $5 million.

— And finally, two Florida Person stories. One is a Florida Man who fell asleep at Wendy’s drive-thru; the other is a Florida Woman who scammed her co-workers out of their sick time for numerous medical maladies — all of them fake.

To listen, click on the image below:

WEEKEND TV —

Battleground Florida with Evan Donovan on News Channel 8 WFLA (NBC): A review of the trial over DeSantis’ school mask-mandate ban.

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 Dr. Chris Mason, asst. professor of National Security, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College; Tampa Bay Times St. Petersburg reporter Colleen Wright; Tampa Bay Times sports columnist John Romano; and Dr. Donna Petersen, Senior Associate VP, USF Health and Dean of the College of Public Health.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A discussion of the overdose epidemic in Florida and what state and local leaders are proposing as solutions to a surging problem. Joining Walker are Sen. Darryl Rouson, Pinellas County Commissioner Kathleen Peters, and Dick Batchelor, executive council, Project Opioid.

Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A recap of the results from the St. Petersburg Municipal elections and the latest on the situation in Afghanistan.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Congressmen Michael Waltz and Brian Mast will discuss the situation in Afghanistan and the perspectives they both had firsthand as veterans serving there.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon speaks with attorney Sean Pittman and Darryl Jones, vice-chair of the Leon County School Board.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Rep. Waltz, Rep. Cord Byrd, Duval County School Board Chair Elizabeth Anderson, and former Jacksonville Chief of Staff Chris Hand.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco.

— ALOE —

‘The Mandalorian’ reveals the tricks that brought Luke Skywalker back” via Brian Lowry of CNN — Mark Hamill thought there would be stories about Luke Skywalker’s exploits after the original “Star Wars” trilogy, but, he said, “I just assumed they’d get an age-appropriate actor.” Hamill’s thoughts about stepping back into the role of Luke Skywalker for an episode of the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian” were among the revelations in a “Disney Gallery” special devoted to the episode, which detailed the technology, security, secrecy, and other tricks that brought the Jedi back, in what turned out to be a surprising and emotional moment for fans of the franchise. Crew members interviewed for the 40-minute documentary, which premiered on Wednesday, noted that they avoided saying “Luke Skywalker” while filming took place.

A little movie magic and Mark Hamill appears on The Mandalorian.

When it comes to Florida politicians and the environment, a myth is as good as a mile” via Craig Pittman of the Florida Phoenix — You may find this hard to believe, but Florida is full of mythical creatures. I don’t mean the fantastic critters you see at the theme parks — the talking mice, the flying carpet, the dancing candlesticks serving your dinner. No, I mean things like our version of the Yeti, the odoriferous Skunk Ape. It supposedly stalks the wilds of Southwest Florida but is seen most commonly on T-shirts and bumper stickers at the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters gift shop in Ochopee. One mythical creature we appear to have here in massive quantities is the “politician who loves the environment.”

Sunshine State cities sink in annual Community Well-Being Index” via Phil Fernandez of the Fort Myers News-Press — The late Tom Petty‘s Free Fallin’ might be a theme for what has happened to the once highflying Sunshine State in the highly regarded annual Community Well-Being Index released Thursday. The yearly survey ties to factors that include dwellers’ views about health, financial security, community, and a sense of purpose. In Southwest Florida, the Naples-Marco Island metropolitan area dominated the survey in the past, at one point garnering No. 1 four years in a row, with other Sunshine Staters also consistently putting on a good showing. Not this year, though. That area plummeted to No. 43. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area, boosted by its community food access to healthy sustenance retailers and grocery stores, led the state, down at No. 39 overall.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today are former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, Rep. Robin Bartleman, Charlie Dailey, Nicole Gomez of LSN Partners, smart guy Albie Kaminsky, former state Rep. Wengay “Newt” NewtonMelissa Stone of Cavalry Strategies, and Roger Stone. Celebrating this weekend are Andy Gonzalez, Alan Levine, and our dear friend Nancy Watkins.

___

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 FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.



#FlaPol

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Daniel Figueroa, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Jesse Scheckner, Andrew Wilson, and Tristan Wood.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
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