Good Monday morning.
ICYMI (but how could you) — After nearly three years of serving the Governor — first as a Deputy Chief of Staff and then Chief of Staff — Adrian Lukis is leaving the administration, likely in mid-September with an announcement about the move to come sometime after Labor Day.
The Ron DeSantis administration confirmed Lukis’ plans after Florida Politics first reported his anticipated departure.
When he was asked to fill the shoes of Shane Strum, the Chief of Staff to DeSantis who had served for more than two years, Lukis made clear that his time in the most powerful staff position in state government would not be as long as his predecessor’s.
The father of two young kids, the first of whom was born days after DeSantis was elected Governor in 2018, Lukis made a promise to his wife that he would not be one of those political husbands who missed the formative years of his children’s upbringing.
Six months ago, that promise seemed reasonable. But that was before the state ran headlong into the buzz saw that is the Delta variant.
Lukis had intended to announce his plans for departing sometime in early August. But that was delayed by the realities of the pandemic.
Because Lukis’ personnel move is still freshly decided, there hasn’t been time for him to decide on his next move. Clearly, a former Chief of Staff, even one who served a shorter stint than others, will be in high demand by law firms and lobbying shops.
The Department of Education and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran are making recent staffing changes permanent, headlined by Bethany Swonson remaining as full-time Chief of Staff.
Swonson had been serving as Interim Chief of Staff since April — when Corcoran’s previous Chief of Staff, Alex Kelly, left to become a Deputy Chief Staff in DeSantis’ office. Corcoran made Swonson and others’ staffing positions permanent during a meeting Thursday.
“The Department of Education is very fortunate to have such an amazing leadership team,” DOE Communications Director Jared Ochs said in a statement to Florida Politics.
Florida Politics was the first to report the staffing realignment Friday.
“For the last few months, we’ve been working as an interim leadership team. This week, we made the interim status permanent,” Ochs said. “Bethany Swonson will be Chief of Staff instead of Interim Chief of Staff. Eric Hall will continue to be a Senior Chancellor, as he was during the interim, and Jacob Oliva will be Senior Chancellor and remain over all K-12 education as well as Early Learning.”
Brittany Morgan Clark is joining Red Hills Strategies. As a professional graphic designer, photographer and videographer, she expands the creative capabilities and offerings of the Tallahassee-based communications firm.
Clark joins Red Hills from the Florida Department of Education, where she served as the Creative Media Director on the Communications team. Aside from directing all photo and video production, she led a variety of creative projects in the agency, managed multiple social media channels, and partnered with many other state agencies to develop their creative content.
During the Rick Scott administration, Clark was often seen snapping photos of the Governor and First Lady while traveling across the Sunshine State.
Clark is also known as a sought-after wedding and family photographer. For nearly a decade, folks inside The Process and across the Southeast have trusted her with their happiest moments and greatest memories.
“With the addition of Brittany Morgan Clark, we’ve significantly expanded what we’re able to offer our clients in print, in broadcast and online,” said Amanda Bevis. “She‘s got the strategic mindset, can-do attitude, and enthusiasm that makes her a great value-add to our clients and a perfect addition to this team.”
Clark makes four on the Red Hills Strategies team. Bevis started the firm in 2018, and the team also includes Julie Fazekas and Madison Dorval. The firm counts among its clients Kathleen Passidomo, Ben Albritton, Tampa General Hospital, TECO Energy, and the Florida Retail Federation.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
Flag-draped transfer cases line the inside of a C-17 Globemaster II Aug. 29, 2021, prior to a dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. The fallen service members died while supporting non-combat operations in Kabul.
Gone, but never forgotten. pic.twitter.com/7HzJvnFrSD
— U.S. Marines (@USMC) August 29, 2021
—@oldenoughtosay: I’m gonna preemptively remind those of y’all who have never lived in a hurricane zone that the reason people don’t evacuate isn’t because they think they’ll be fine; it’s because they don’t have money to evacuate. Gas costs money. Somewhere to stay out of town costs money. Harder+ pricier with pets and kids. The lower your income, the less likely your employer is gonna cancel your shifts in advance. People aren’t staying in the path of danger just for fun. They can’t leave.
—@MarcoRubio: Get vaccinated today
—@DeForestNews6: .@ spox: “It’s not surprising that Judge (John) Cooper would rule against parent’s rights … but instead rule in favor of elected politicians.” NOTE: The judge *literally* ruled in favor of the plaintiffs (parents) and against the defendants (inc. the elected Governor).
—@SheriffChitwood: Losing too many good people to COVID-19. Judge (Steven) Henderson is another shocking loss. RIP to a true public servant, beloved husband & father. My condolences & prayers to his family. I’m also praying for all the good people battling this awful disease.
—@BubbaProg: Florida didn’t make a strong push to “vaccinate people,” it made a strong push to vaccinate rich white people. When the federal government opened up mass vaccination centers to serve everyone else, DeSantis derisively called them “FEMA camps.”
—@JebBush: (re: Rick Flagg‘s retirement): I always enjoyed our give and take. Congrats on a great career.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Boise vs. UCF — 3; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 4; Notre Dame at FSU — 6; NFL regular season begins — 10; Bucs home opener — 10; California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 15; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 15; Alabama at UF — 19; Dolphins home opener — 20; Jaguars home opener — 20; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 21; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 32; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 32; MLB regular season ends — 33; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 34; World Series Game 1 — 47; ‘Dune’ premieres — 51; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 58; Florida TaxWatch’s annual meeting begins — 58; Georgia at UF — 61; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 64; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 64; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 67; ‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 69; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 70; Miami at FSU — 75; ExcelinEd’s National Summit on Education begins — 80; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 81; FSU vs. UF — 89; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 93; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 102; ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 109; ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 114; NFL season ends — 132; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 134; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 134; NFL playoffs begin — 138; Super Bowl LVI — 167; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 207; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 251; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 276; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 312; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 324; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 403; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 438.
“What went wrong with the pandemic in Florida” via Patricia Mazzei, Benjamin Mueller and Robert Gebeloff of The New York Times — The Florida story is a cautionary tale for dealing with the current incarnation of the coronavirus. The United States has used the vaccines as its primary pandemic weapon. But Florida shows that even a state that made a major push for vaccinations, Florida ranks 21st among states and Washington, D.C., in giving people of all ages at least one shot, can be crushed by the delta variant, reaching frightening levels of hospitalizations and deaths. More scant since the state ended its declared COVID-19 state of emergency in June, Florida’s pandemic data reveals only limited information about who is dying.
“Florida starts turning on Ron DeSantis” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO — COVID-19 infection rates continue to climb as [Florida] faces shortages of health care staff, morgue space and even oxygen for patients. About 16,000 people are hospitalized. Child infection rates have shot up. School districts — even in Republican strongholds — have rebelled against DeSantis’ anti-mask mandates. And cruise lines are resisting DeSantis’ vaccine passport ban. Even his recent poll numbers are slipping. … “There’s no question it’s impacting him politically,” said a Republican consultant who has previously worked with DeSantis and requested anonymity to speak freely. “You can tout all the freedom and anti-lockdown that you want. There’s no political strategy for sick kids and tired parents.”
“Political pressure mounts on DeSantis, who cannot, and will not cave” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — Democrats would absolutely love it if DeSantis reversed course — and not just because it would their own political position, but it would also weaken DeSantis far more than his stubbornness ever could. Anyone with an ounce of political experience knows that DeSantis simply cannot back down at this point, or he’s toast with the rank-and-file GOP base who love the unshakable confidence he seems to have in himself. Republicans love a winner, and will not tolerate a wishy-washy elected official, no matter how right or wrong he may be. And that’s why Florida isn’t ever closing for business as long as DeSantis is Governor.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Florida reports 151,749 new COVID-19 cases for the week. Largest number of cases occurring in children 12 and under” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — With the start of a new school year underway in most of Florida, state health officials reported more than 48,000 new COVID-19 cases in children 19 or younger in the last seven days and more than 85,000 in the last two weeks. For the second week in a row, teenagers represent the highest positivity rate of any age group in the state (23.1%), and for the first time, children younger than 12 represent the age group with the most new cases. Overall, new COVID-19 cases continue to climb in the state.
“DeSantis’ statements about Florida’s COVID-19 death rate get renewed scrutiny” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Multiple times during the COVID-19 pandemic, DeSantis has pointed to a positive, but still tragic, metric: Florida’s death rate, which was long better than the national average. It was part of a message that the state under his leadership was faring better than most. Now, the delta-fueled surge in COVID-19 cases has significantly increased Florida’s death rate. And the Governor’s past comments are drawing new attention. Florida is the first U.S. state where daily deaths in the current wave have exceeded deaths in previous waves. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 43,979 people have died from COVID-19.
“Ray Rodrigues, parents’ rights advocates maintain courts ruled wrong on masks” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A judge has ruled a ban on mask mandates violates the Parents’ Bill of Rights. But the Senator behind the state law says that reading goes against legislative intent. “We put all health care decisions in the hands of the parent,” said Sen. Rodrigues, who sponsored the Parents’ Bill of Rights and carried it to passage this year. DeSantis signed the bill into law in June. A month later, he cited it when he announced an executive order forbidding school districts from requiring students to wear masks. Rodrigues was at DeSantis’ side at both of those events. He said then the legislation ought to provide a solid foundation for the Governor’s direction.
“Doctor who promoted ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment has advised DeSantis” via Steve Contorno and Kirby Wilson of the Miami Herald — A California psychiatrist who has advised DeSantis on the coronavirus pandemic recently promoted a drug for COVID-19 patients that federal disease experts have strongly warned against after a spike in calls to poison control centers. The surge of interest in the parasite drug, ivermectin, prompted the CDC on Thursday to issue a national alert advising against its use to treat coronavirus. The maker of the drug, Merck, has also said there is “no scientific basis” to claim that ivermectin is effective against COVID-19. Dr. Mark McDonald of Los Angeles is among a fringe group of outspoken medical professionals who have pushed ivermectin as an alternative to widespread vaccination against coronavirus.
It appears Ron DeSantis is getting his medical advice from a psychiatrist pushing dewormer as a COVID cure.
I wish this was a joke. Let me be clear — this is both dumb and dangerous. https://t.co/wiEuX4GfYW
— Nikki Fried (@NikkiFried) August 28, 2021
“Florida nursing homes protest COVID-19 vaccine mandate as deaths climb” via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel — COVID-19 cases in Florida nursing homes have surged more than twentyfold since June as vaccination rates among staff continue to lag far below the national average. Still, the industry is pushing back against a new Joe Biden administration vaccine mandate for its workers over concerns that many will quit rather than comply. “By the federal government singling out nursing homes with a vaccination requirement that does not apply to health care personnel at other locations and in other health care sectors, we fear that our already critical workforce shortages will worsen,” said Emmett Reed, CEO of the Florida Health Care Association, which represents 310 of the state’s 700 nursing homes.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“Tallahassee hospital staff share heartbreaking stories of ‘talking dead’ COVID-19 patients: Awake, but lungs too damaged to survive without machines” via Sarah Rumpf of Mediaite — There’s a heartbreaking new term emerging from the COVID-19 ward of Tallahassee Memorial Hospital: the “talking dead,” referring to patients whose lungs are so damaged they cannot survive without machines, but who are still awake and aware of their fate. TMH Chief Clinical Officer Ryan Smith, a registered nurse, said he had recently picked up a nursing shift in one of the hospital’s COVID-19 units to see firsthand what TMH’s medical staff were experiencing. “The first part of my shift, I had my first few patients look at me and say, ‘Don’t let me die,’” said Smith.
“Hospital filled with COVID-19 patients was forced to turn away someone needing emergency cancer treatment, doctor says” via Travis Caldwell of CNN — Dr. Nitesh Paryani, a third-generation radiation oncologist in Tampa recently was forced to make a decision that he says he and his family have never had to make in 60 years of treating patients. A nearby hospital was working on transferring a cancer patient to a location that had adequate treatment options. Paryani said he regularly accepts such patients, but for the first time, could not do so due to the number of those sick from COVID-19. “We just didn’t have a bed. There was simply no room in the hospital to treat the patient,” he said.
“Brevard County COVID-19 death counts ‘elevated’ since the start of summer” via Rick Neale and Dave Berman of Florida Today — The nonstop urgency means there’s no time for even simple things like grabbing blankets, fetching a meal or dumping trash. Now, colleagues from departments, typically far from the front lines like finance and communications, are stepping up to help. Have there’s the exhaustion that comes from changing personal protective equipment up to 100 times a day. And dealing with patients who are alone, really alone because visitors aren’t allowed, except under extreme circumstances. And then there’s the worry that comes when colleagues get sick, and their symptoms are worse and linger longer, even as much as six weeks, putting more strain on an already exhausted staff. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” nurse practitioner Christine Zonka said.
—“Brevard School Board to discuss face mask policy at emergency meeting Monday” via Emily Walker of Florida Today
“Sarasota Memorial Hospital seeing more pregnant patients with COVID-19 complications” via Elizabeth Djinis of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Sarasota Memorial Hospital is seeing a significant uptick in pregnant patients coming to the emergency room with severe effects from COVID-19, doctors say. “We have seen really in the past several weeks an increase in the number of pregnant women that are coming to the emergency room with COVID-19, high fevers, pneumonia, respiratory distress and babies not moving that much,” said Dr. Felice Baron, the hospital’s director of maternal-fetal medicine. Those who are pregnant are considered at substantial risk for developing severe COVID-19 complications.
“COVID schmovid? No, not necessarily, but Daytona visitors didn’t pack hesitations” via Ken Willis of The Daytona News-Journal — Yes, it’s a big gathering of Americans, in relatively tight quarters compared to the neighborhoods many of them call home. And yes, all are aware of the news regarding a relentless COVID-19 and its delta variant. All seem to have feelings and opinions about it, some stronger than others. But this weekend’s NASCAR visit to Daytona International Speedway was no combustible opportunity awaiting ignition. No, if you want rancor and discord, go to a school board meeting. On Saturday, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic seemed to be somewhere in everyone’s consciousness, just not front and center.
“After three-week COVID-19 battle, Daytona Beach talk radio host Marc Bernier dies” via Mark Harper of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Bernier, a talk radio host in Daytona Beach for 30 years, died after a three-week battle with COVID-19, WNDB and Southern Stone Communications announced on Twitter Saturday night. Bernier, 65, of Ormond Beach, has been remembered in recent days as a conservative who sought out and aired others’ points of view while airing a morning comment, three-hour afternoon show, weekend shows and specials, such as remote town halls and political debates. He interviewed countless Governors, Senators, Mayors, sheriffs, journalists, historians and authors. He also was an outspoken opponent of vaccinations.
“Lake City high schooler dies from COVID-19 as state’s pediatric hospitalizations hit record high” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — A Lake City high schooler has died as a result of COVID-19. She was only days away from starting her senior year. The teen, 17-year-old Jo’Keria Graham, was in quarantine at home after testing positive for the virus only days before schools started. She seemed to be getting better when she collapsed in the bathroom earlier this month. As she collapsed, the teen told her grandmother that she couldn’t breathe, the report said. Graham was a high schooler in Columbia County, which now leads Florida in COVID-19 cases per capita. The teenager’s death comes as Florida hospital officials report more serious COVID-19 cases among young, healthy adults.
“Duval parents are worried about slow COVID-19 contact tracing. They’re spreading word themselves.” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — Across Florida, school districts are releasing data about hundreds if not thousands of students being told to quarantine because of COVID-19 exposure on campus. But in Duval, those numbers were at least initially much lower. Last week when Duval County Public Schools had nearly 500 positive COVID-19 cases reported, officials said there were “only 189 student and adult quarantines.” The exact number of students and staff with quarantine orders districtwide hasn’t been disclosed. Duval Schools doesn’t post those numbers daily like it publishes positive case numbers.
—“Colleagues grieve after two Florida Highway Patrol members die from COVID-19” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics
—“Duval property appraiser back at work after ‘vicious’ bout with COVID-19, regrets being unvaccinated” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union
—”James Taylor, Jonas Brothers to require proof of vaccination at Jacksonville shows” via Tom Szaroleta of The Florida Times-Union
“Despite warnings, many Polk County residents still seek livestock drug ivermectin to treat COVID-19” via Sara-Megan Walsh of The Lakeland Ledger — A federal warning against using the drug ivermectin to treat COVID-19 hasn’t stopped Polk County residents from rallying for it as an alternative low-cost treatment for the virus. The FDA issued a warning against ivermectin, an anti-parasite treatment approved for humans and deworming animals such as horses and cattle, against COVID-19. The FDA stated the drug could “be dangerous and even lethal.” That hasn’t stopped Florida residents from seeking it out as protection against the virus.
“Osceola, other Central Florida school districts to consider mask mandates after judge rules against DeSantis ban” via Cristóbal Reyes of the Orlando Sentinel — An Osceola County school board member called for an emergency meeting to discuss putting in place a mask mandate in public schools, joining at least two other counties after a judge ruled that DeSantis’ ban on such mandates was unconstitutional. Board member Clarence Thacker called for the meeting scheduled for Monday following the ruling out of the Second Judicial Circuit in Leon County on a lawsuit brought by families arguing that DeSantis’ mandate bans unfairly put children at risk of contracting COVID-19.
“Private schools and COVID-19: Maskless choices for parents limited in Palm Beach County” via Sonja Isger of The Palm Beach Post — The parents of more than 12,000 students sought to evade requirements that the children wear a mask in Palm Beach County public schools last week, but where will they turn now that the school board has pulled the plug on opting out? The Governor has suggested they take the state’s money and find a private school more to their liking. But few have tried, only 68 in all of Florida so far. And most well-known private options in this county have also taken measures and adopted mask mandates as the school year begins. And, as happened in public school, a certain faction has pushed back there as well.
“Are mask-only classrooms a COVID-19 solution or segregation? Parents, attorneys react” via Giuseppe Sabella of the Bradenton Herald — “You hear so many different stories about COVID,” said Lindsie Walker, the mother of a local second grader. “I don’t want my child to be sick, whether it’s COVID, the flu, whatever.” According to a survey, Walker was among 2,406 people who preferred their child be in a mask-only classroom. They account for about 52% of the people who responded. Another 1,249 people — or approximately 27% — said they preferred their child be in a classroom without masks. The survey offered insight into how strongly parents feel about mask use in schools. But as a legal battle continues at the state level, the fate of mask-only classrooms was uncertain in Manatee County.
“Need a late-night COVID-19 test? Tropical Park has you covered with new 24/7 schedule” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — As Florida’s COVID-19 third wave surges, more and more residents are taking themselves to testing sites. To meet the demand, Tropical Park is extending its testing hours to 24 hours a day, effective immediately. The move comes amid a growing number of COVID-19 cases in Florida, fueled by the very contagious delta variant. Florida on Friday reported to the CDC that 27,584 COVID-19 cases were added on Thursday, a single-day case record. As Miami-Dade County averages more than 24,000 COVID-19 tests per day, the Tropical Park COVID-19 testing site will be offering PCR testing nonstop, every day, the county said in a statement. The previous hours were 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“Vinyl dividers to separate guests and scare actors inside Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights houses” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — Haunted houses at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights will use clear vinyl to separate guests and scare actors this year as a precaution against the transmission of COVID-19, a resort spokeswoman said Friday. The vinyl will be installed “in key locations” of the houses to allow safe interactions between scare actors and guests, said Alyson Solo, senior public relations director. She said that team members and performers will also be required to wear face coverings indoors during the event, according to the resort’s employee mask guidelines.
“‘We’re all in denial.’ With eye on COVID-19, Key West looks at Fantasy Fest on calendar” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — Key West’s annual Fantasy Fest, a 10-day spectacle that brings parades, parties, and crowds of body-painted tourists to the small island, is still on the calendar. The events start on Oct. 22 and run through Halloween. But can the city safely pull off its largest attraction while COVID-19 cases are surging in Florida and the Keys? The Key West City Commission meets Wednesday, Sept. 1, with plans to listen to the people before making any decisions. Some fear it will be canceled, leading to losses of income. Others fear the impact of tens of thousands of visitors during a surge of new COVID-19 cases.
— STATEWIDE —
First on #FlaPol — FDOT chief of staff hits the road — Chief of Staff Torey Alston is leaving the Department of Transportation according to a Thursday announcement by Secretary Kevin Thibault. Thibault commented on the staffing change late last week during a virtual meeting of the Florida Transportation Commission. “He has done an outstanding job as our chief of staff, and he will truly be sorely missed,” Thibault said of Alston. Alston joined FDOT in Jan. 2019. He’ll continue helping the department with its transition to a new chief of staff. Thibault said Alston will depart the agency “in the next several weeks.”
Happening today — Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker will hold a hearing on an injunction to block Florida’s “anti-riot” law, 9 a.m. Call: 1-888-684-8852; code: 385313.
What Jason Pizzo is reading — “Designed to fail,” Clayton Park of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — An 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. “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. “It doesn’t mean you have to demolish it or that it’s unsafe after that period of time, but it might require significant structural, mechanical and/or electrical and plumbing upgrades. Buildings closer to the coast are more exposed to salt air that increases the rate of corrosion.”
Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried will release the findings of a report produced by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Division of Marketing and Development on the impacts of Mexican imports on Florida’s seasonal producers, followed by a COVID-19 update, 10:30 a.m., Office of the Agriculture Commissioner, Plaza Level. RSVP to [email protected]; also livestreamed at Facebook.com/FDACS.
Farmers earn support from current, former officials in legal battle against Army Corps of Engineers — The lawsuit argues the Corps is ignoring federal law in its planning process for the Comprehensive Everglades Planning Project (CEPP). At issue is the A-2 section of CEPP, which includes a stormwater treatment area and a reservoir. The complaints argue the Army Corps plan keeps water levels in that area too low, which violates a provision of WRDA 2000 known as the “savings clause.” Former DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard says he supports the lawsuits. “I am thrilled that the plaintiffs took care to file a narrowly tailored lawsuit which does not interfere with the ongoing construction of any Everglades projects or disrupt the state’s tremendous progress in the Everglades that has been made over the last decade,” Vinyard said.
— DATELINE TALLY —
Happening today — The Orange County legislative delegation will host a virtual meeting: Sens. Randolph Bracy, Linda Stewart, Victor Torres; Reps. Kamia Brown, Anna Eskamani, Joy Goff-Marcil, Travaris McCurdy, Daisy Morales, Rene Plasencia, Geraldine Thompson, Keith Truenow, and Carlos Guillermo Smith, 9:30 a.m. Information and link here.
Happening today — Rep. Kelly Skidmore will host a meeting on ocean-related issues, 6 p.m. Zoom link here.
— 2022 —
“DeSantis raises money in New Jersey on Sunday” via David Wildstein of the New Jersey Globe — DeSantis arrived in New Jersey on Sunday morning for a high dollar event in Deal hosted by real estate developer Joe Cayre. Unlike 2014, when no GOP candidate would dare raise money in New Jersey without the permission of Gov. Chris Christie, potential 2024 presidential candidates no longer hesitate to cultivate donors in the Garden State. He has already raised $626,254 from New Jersey-based donors, according to the Florida Department of State. Four months ago, DeSantis raised money at the Moorestown home of Vernon Hill, the founder of Commerce Bank.
🇺🇸 — PHOTO: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was in New Jersey today for a fundraiser hosted by Joe Cayre and other Sefardi moguls who also backed Donald Trump’s run for President.
— Belaaz (@TheBelaaz) August 29, 2021
“On campaign money, DeSantis doth protest too much” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — What’s with DeSantis and his spokeswoman, Christina Pushaw? Their high-volume squawking over an Associated Press story about his biggest campaign contributor has been so over the top and out of proportion to the article itself that it calls to mind Shakespeare’s phrase, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” That has been a metaphor for suspicious insincerity ever since “Hamlet.” Team DeSantis’ outrage may be mostly about discouraging more questions about all the money it’s raising. To recap, the AP story noted that “a top donor” to DeSantis also has a $15.9 million corporate investment in Regeneron Pharmaceutical, the company makes the monoclonal antibody treatment that the governor is promoting heavily in Florida to reduce hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.
Assignment editors — Charlie Crist will join Broward County School Board Members, Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco, and elected officials for a news conference following the Circuit Court decision to strike down DeSantis’ Executive Order on mask requirements in school, 1:30 p.m., RSVP to [email protected] for location.
“A Shalala-Mucarsel-Powell primary is possible in Florida’s most competitive House seat” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — The upcoming redrawing of congressional districts and the undefined ambitions of two former incumbents has put the pursuit of Florida’s two most competitive U.S. House seats in a holding pattern as Democrats jostle behind the scenes to potentially take on Republican U.S. Reps. María Elvira Salazar and Carlos Giménez. Former U.S. Reps. Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell haven’t decided their 2022 plans, though Shalala is leaning toward a third straight run against Salazar next year. A Mucarsel-Powell rematch with Gimenez could also be in the works.
Spotted at Sen. Ed Hooper‘s reelection campaign kickoff at Island Way Grill in Clearwater: Senate President Wilton Simpson, Sen. Passidomo, Rep. Nick DiCeglie, former Rep. Kim Berfield, Neil Brickfield, Frank Hibbard, Jim Holton, Jeff Johnston, Sandy Murman, Amanda Stewart, Alan Suskey, and J.D. White.
— CORONA NATION —
“U.S. COVID-19 hospitalizations approach a peak as delta variant spreads” via Melanie Evans, Andrew Mollica, Anthony DeBarros and Jon Kamp of The Wall Street Journal — COVID-19 hospitalizations nationwide crossed above 100,000 this week for the second time in the pandemic, overwhelming caregiver capacity in several states. According to doctors, nurses, and hospital executives, keeping ahead of demand is harder now than during earlier surges. Patients with other illnesses returned to hospitals this year, leaving fewer open beds as COVID-19 cases soared. The demand is most acute in ICUs, which care for the most-critical patients and need highly trained medical staff. Hospitals are short-staffed and unable to recruit enough nurses and respiratory therapists, who are exhausted as the pandemic wears on.
“100,000 more COVID-19 deaths seen unless US 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. In other words, what the coronavirus has in store this fall depends on human behavior. “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.
—“COVID-19 surge pummels Hawaii and its native population” via Jennifer Sinco Kelleher of The Associated Press
“FDA vaccine approval, mandates persuade New York City holdouts” via Amy Yee of Bloomberg — Sharray Gray has been vigilant about wearing masks, using hand sanitizer and social distancing, even from her grandchildren. Several of her friends and family members have died of COVID-19. Yet, for months, she declined to get a vaccine. “If it doesn’t get FDA approval, I’m not putting it in my body or my child’s body,” said Gray. On Tuesday, Gray and her 12-year-old daughter got their first shots. Gray’s turnabout underscores how the FDA’s approval of one of the COVID-19 vaccines could prove to be an important step in boosting vaccination rates, particularly in communities where uptake has been low.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Millions of Americans face financial cliff as eviction ban, unemployment aid lapse amid Washington inaction” via Tony Romm and Rachel Siegel of The Washington Post — The clock is now ticking for millions of Americans who are set to face a series of stinging financial hardships in a matter of days, with the loss of federal protections against eviction and looming cuts to their weekly unemployment checks. The two developments arrive at a moment of great tension in Washington, where the White House and Congress have grappled over the state of the country’s pandemic aid even as the economy shows potential signs of strain in the face of a resurgent coronavirus.
“Democrats rush to avert eviction calamity after ban is blocked” via Katy O’Donnell of POLITICO — Democratic lawmakers and the White House scrambled Friday to shore up safeguards for millions of tenants facing a housing crisis after the Supreme Court blocked an eviction ban imposed by the Biden administration. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House was considering “possible legislative remedies” as more than 60 House Democrats demanded that she and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer work to revive the national eviction moratorium. Top Biden officials also mobilized to contain the fallout, with three Cabinet secretaries urging state and local officials to enact their own bans and pause eviction proceedings in court.
“It’s time to let the U.S. economy stand on its own two feet” via The Washington Post editorial board — The U.S. economy continues to recover, despite the growing uncertainty caused by the resurgence of the coronavirus delta variant. Payrolls grew by an average of more than 800,000 jobs in the three-month period ending July 31. The unemployment rate stands at 5.4%, a drop of more than three-fifths since the 14.8% peak hit in April 2020. To be sure, the data reflects the fact that many people have dropped out of the labor force, but even that negative phenomenon seems to be diminishing in recent weeks. Much of the progress reflects extraordinary interventions by the Federal Reserve at the beginning of the crisis, yet that very fact implies it’s getting safer for the Fed to curtail some support.
— MORE CORONA —
“U.S. spy agencies rule out possibility the coronavirus was created as a bioweapon, say origin will stay unknown without China’s help” via Ellen Nakashima and Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post — The U.S. intelligence community has ruled out the possibility that the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 4 million people globally was developed as a bioweapon by China, but the agencies failed to reach consensus on the virus origin, according to key takeaways from a classified report delivered to Biden. The report, the result of a 90-day sprint ordered by Biden, also found that the agencies are unlikely to conclude the virus’s origins without cooperation from the Chinese government, which is unlikely.
“New COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa, most mutated variant so far” via Tzvi Joffre of The Jerusalem Post — A new coronavirus variant, C.1.2, has been detected in South Africa and several other countries, with concerns that it could be more infectious and evade vaccines, according to a new preprint study by South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform. The study is awaiting peer review. Scientists first detected C.1.2 in May 2021, finding it was descended from C.1, which scientists found surprising as C.1 had last been detected in January. The new variant has “mutated substantially” compared to C.1 and is more mutations away from the original virus detected in Wuhan than any other Variant of Concern (VOC) or Variant of Interest (VOI) detected so far worldwide.
“A California elementary school teacher took off her mask for a read-aloud. Within days, half her class was positive for delta.” via Ariana Eunjung Cha of The Washington Post — The Marin County, California, elementary school had been conscientious about following COVID-19 protocols. Masks were required indoors, desks were spaced 6 feet apart, and the students kept socially distant. But the delta variant found an opening anyway. On May 19, one teacher, who was not vaccinated against the coronavirus, began feeling fatigued and had some nasal congestion. She dismissed it as allergies and powered through. While she was usually masked, she made an exception for story time so she could read to the class.
“How much impact could Sturgis rally have on COVID-19 caseload?” via Stephen Groves of The Associated Press — Rumbles from the motorcycles and rock shows of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally have hardly cleared from the Black Hills of South Dakota, and the reports of COVID-19 infections among rallygoers are already streaming in, 178 cases across five states, according to contact tracers. In the three weeks since the rally kicked off, coronavirus cases in South Dakota have shot up at a startling pace, sixfold from the early days of August. While it is not clear how much rallygoers spread the virus through secondary infections, state health officials have so far reported 63 cases among South Dakota residents who attended the event.
“‘It’s stupid to protest’: Children reveal what it’s like to wear a mask all day” via Lois K. Solomon of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Thrilled to return to school after last year’s quarantine, South Florida’s kids are putting on their masks each morning and forgetting about them for most of the day. Meanwhile, the adults quarrel: the Governor with school boards, anti-mask parents with school officials, pro-mask parents with state officials they have taken to court for saying masks must be optional. The kids say they don’t understand the commotion. “I forget it’s on my face,” said Joel Bender, an eighth grader at Indian Ridge Middle School in Davie. “Everyone’s wearing it. If it slides off, they put it back on. It’s stupid to protest.”
“E.U. set to propose travel restrictions on U.S. visitors” via Elian Peltier and Steven Erlanger of The New York Times — The European Union is set to advise member states they should reintroduce travel restrictions for visitors from the United States as coronavirus infections and hospitalizations have surged in the U.S. in recent weeks. Starting Monday, the United States will be removed from a “safe list” of countries whose residents can travel to the 27-nation bloc without additional restrictions, such as quarantine and testing requirements. The suggested restrictions, made by the European Council, will not be mandatory for member countries, and it will remain up to those countries to decide whether or not to impose them.
— CRISIS —
“Jan. 6 investigators demand records from social media companies” via Nicholas Wu of POLITICO — The select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection is seeking a massive tranche of records from social media companies, on whose platforms many defendants charged in the Capitol attack planned and coordinated their actions. In a series of letters dated Aug. 26, the Democratic-controlled panel asked the companies, which include Facebook, Google, Twitter, Parler, 4chan, Twitch and TikTok, for all records and documents since April 1, 2020, relating to misinformation around the 2020 election, efforts to overturn the 2020 election, domestic violent extremists associated with efforts to overturn the election and foreign influence in the 2020 election.
“Orlando man pushed barriers into police during Capitol riot, feds say” via Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — An Orlando man was arrested Friday after federal prosecutors say he was part of a crowd that pushed security gate barriers into a line of police officers defending the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot. Robert Flynt Fairchild Jr., 40, is the latest Central Florida resident involved in the ordeal that left five dead. He is facing nine charges, including assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers. Fairchild was released from custody by a federal judge Friday in the Middle District of Florida. Investigators say Fairchild was captured on multiple police body cameras wearing a “green jacket, green neck gaiter, green knit hat, green backpack and green gloves.”
“Former Windermere cop’s YouTube ‘battlefield’ rant could hurt Capitol riot defense, experts say” via Grace Toohey of Orlando Florida — After his recent arrest in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, former Windermere police officer Kevin Tuck has begun posting incendiary videos on YouTube, spouting contempt for the Republican Party and the federal agencies investigating the pro-Donald Trump rioters and calling for others to “rise up.” Under the account “Patriot Pastor,” Tuck in one five-minute video defended the rioters as “patriots” and downplayed the trespassing offense faced by many of those accused of illegally entering Capitol to interfere with the formal certification of Biden’s victory.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Scott Franklin’s phone-in events are open to all on his list” via Gary White of The Ledger — Franklin differs from Polk County’s other two representatives on his approach to town halls as well as social media. … Franklin has exclusively held telephone town halls, hiring a vendor to manage the events. Franklin’s office does not advertise the sessions in advance or post a number for constituents to call. Instead, the vendor makes automated calls to constituents shortly before the events, usually held at 7 p.m., said Russ Read, Franklin’s communications director.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“FDLE investigation leads to racketeering charges for Tamarac City Manager Michael Cernech” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Cernech is facing racketeering charges after being accused of participating in a scheme to threaten a landowner into paying millions of dollars. Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office announced the charges Friday after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) investigation. “The defendant conspired with convicted felons, using his position of authority to relay false information to the highest levels of city government to further this multimillion-dollar extortion scheme — disgraceful,” Moody said of Cernech. Prosecutors say Cernech worked with real estate developers Bruce and Shawn Chait, along with several other individuals. The Chaits are already facing charges of attempting to extort rival developer Arnaud Karsenti.
“More money, more projects. Miami-Dade governments bouncing back with help from the feds” via Samantha J. Gross, Doug Hanks and Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Heading into 2021, as a COVID-19-cratered economy undercut government income and forced politicians to slash spending, the possibility of a protracted pandemic looked as if it might also prolong the pain for public institutions. But even as Florida sets records for COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations this month, local officials are putting the final touches on 2022 spending plans that offer a departure from last year’s cuts. Thanks to a healthy injection of federal stimulus dollars aimed at COVID-19 relief, rising property values and a Florida economy that reopened before many other states across the U.S., few Miami-Dade cities are hiking tax rates at all.
“Miami-Dade Commissioners to weigh creating first new city since 2005” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — There hasn’t been a new municipality established in Miami-Dade County in more than 16 years. That could soon change with Biscayne Gardens. County Commissioners are to decide on Sept. 1, after a public forum, whether to let voters decide on incorporating five square miles abutting four existing cities in the northeast. If OK’d by area voters in a special election on Nov. 2, the new town would be Miami-Dade’s 35th municipality and the first since the Town of Cutler Bay was incorporated in January 2005. Biscayne Gardens would keep the neighborhood name locals have used for decades.
“Military veteran hospitalized following violent outburst at Miami airport” via Saira Anwer of Local 10 News — Authorities took a man into custody at Miami International Airport after a violent attack on several airport employees. Police later said that man was a military veteran who was going into some form of crisis. After being taken into custody, Miami-Dade police said the man was brought to a treatment center for evaluation. The incident was captured by several people on their cellphones. It happened Friday night at Miami International Airport. The man could be seen in the video trying to enter an American Airlines gate in Terminal D. In one video, the man is seen picking up a security post and swinging it at bystanders, including airport staff.
“Jacksonville evictions displace many as renters, landlords face problems during pandemic” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — As COVID-19 cases have surged across Northeast Florida, thousands of people have continued being evicted from local homes despite federal rules written to prevent that during the pandemic. 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.
“Escambia polices logos while pillaging taxpayers?” via Andy Marlette of the Pensacola News Journal — On Friday, July 30, I got a surprise email from Escambia County Attorney Alison Rogers prefaced with a subject line that said, “friendly note.” The “friendly note’s” arrival came after a column had published taking aim at Escambia County Commissioners and the county attorney for their various roles in pursuing massive, taxpayer-funded “settlements” that could have potentially enriched Commissioners Steven Barry, Lumon May and a few other top county attorneys and officials. In the column, I satirized the sheriff’s famous “Wheel of Fugitives” by suggesting that the cash-grabbing politicians could end up on the billboards due to their attempted taxpayer robbery.
— TOP OPINION —
“As Florida suffers with another dreadful COVID-19 surge, DeSantis focuses on reelection” via Reed Galen for the Miami Herald — In the last few weeks, DeSantis has demonstrated his willingness and ability to utilize the organs of power he controls (including a supine GOP-led Legislature) to promote himself, his chaos agenda and his donors’ interests. Infections by the delta variant of COVID-19 are overrunning the state. Hospital beds are filling up and will soon be unavailable to anyone not already in them. In his attempt to ensure that he faces no significant challenger next year, DeSantis is writing the obituary for his own governorship and future aspirations.
— OPINIONS —
“DeSantis, how many COVID-19 deaths are enough?” via Charles M. Blow of POLITICO — Perhaps no politician has taken the reins from Trump with more vigor than DeSantis, a man who thinks he could be the next Republican President. But to supplant the last leader of his party, he has to out-Trump Trump. He needed to become the darling of the Trump freedom fighters, fighting for the right to get sick and die. As long as he is fighting Washington and Democrats and experts, it doesn’t matter to entrenched Republicans that he’s not fighting the plague. Some bodies must be sacrificed to appease the gods of partisan resistance.
“Florida’s missing-in-action Surgeon General surfaces, to say he’s quitting” via Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post — His resignation announcement was more of a confirmation that Scott Rivkees was still alive. Before the announcement of his departure, he had been missing for so long, he was running the risk of being the subject of a Silver Alert to Florida motorists or getting his face put on the side of milk cartons. … Rivkees … disappeared April 13, 2020, moments after addressing the public about the then-new COVID-19 pandemic. … Florida’s chief medical officer talking about virus-mitigation measures lasting for a year or more practically led to kidnappers throwing a pillowcase over his head and tossing him into the back seat of a waiting car.
“Undocumented immigrants aren’t Florida’s COVID-19 problem” via The Palm Beach Post editorial board — If the bit about the 2020 presidential election being stolen is the “Big Lie,” then misinformation about the hordes of COVID-19-infected undocumented immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border impacting the Sunshine State amounts to the “Florida Fib.” Truth is, Florida has enough problems with its own residents who have avoided taking the shot, not to mention unvaccinated tourists flocking to the state, to be blaming people far from our state. There’s no data to support the fib, but that hasn’t stopped some politicians from repeating it as if it were documented fact.
“Rebuttal: Many top athletes raised on clean Glades air” via Eric Green of The Palm Beach Post — As someone who was born and raised in Clewiston, played high school football in the Glades, and eventually made it into the NFL, I am surprised by the recent news articles suggesting our environment and our air quality is anything but good. Interestingly enough, it seems like most of the complaints are coming from either the same paid advocates who regularly attack the Glades over water and other issues as well as “experts” who live many miles away. Anyone who lives here knows farmers help, not hurt, our communities, and take all necessary steps to protect our resources.
“Skanska again proves an untrustworthy community partner” via the Pensacola News Journal editorial board — U.S. District Court Northern District of Florida Judge Hope T. Cannon has ruled against Skanska on charges that the company deliberately destroyed evidence by wiping company cellphones in the aftermath of Hurricane Sally and the trail of destruction left by Skanska’s unsecured barges in Pensacola Bay. This is just further confirmation for the citizens of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties that the construction company is not a trustworthy community partner, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars taxpayers are paying them.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Tomorrow is Flagg’s final episode before retiring; Sunrise 2.0 with Trimmel Gomes will premiere next Monday.
Also on today’s Sunrise:
— About that mask mandate; the one the Governor tried to ban. Circuit Judge Cooper decided that DeSantis’ order is unconstitutional. Local school boards are free to adopt mask mandates WITHOUT a parental opt-out if they think that’s the best way to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
— The newly approved “Parents Bill of Rights” that the Department of Education tried using to force school districts to do their bidding. In effect, the state has been hoisted on its own petard.
— For the third week in a row, the Department of Health reports 150,000 cases and an average of more than 200 deaths per day. Or, as the Governor describes it, a seasonal fluctuation.
— What did DeSantis have to say about those deaths during an appearance on FOX? He was never asked. But he did blame Biden for letting COVID-19 cross the border.
— One of the Governor’s medical advisers is recommending a horse deworming medicine to treat COVID-19. The company that makes the drug says that’s pretty stupid.
— A woman who signed up to be a state corrections officer is killed while training to use firearms.
— A Quincy man who worked as a federal correctional officer will spend two years in jail after admitting he raped female inmates in Marianna and Tallahassee.
— And finally, two Florida person stories: A Florida Man and Woman are wounded during a shootout between a boat and jet skiers, and a Florida Woman goes to jail for taking a whiz outside her car.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“SpaceX breaks Florida’s two-month drought with launch to International Space Station” via Emre Kelly of Florida Today — SpaceX officially broke Florida’s two-month launch drought early Sunday, vaulting a Dragon spacecraft from Kennedy Space Center with thousands of pounds of cargo for astronauts stationed in low-Earth orbit. Falcon 9 slowly ascended from pad 39A exactly 47 seconds after 3:14 a.m., relying on its nine Merlin main engines to propel Dragon on a trajectory to catch up with the International Space Station some 250 miles overhead. It marked the 23rd run for SpaceX under contract with NASA to deliver supplies, cargo, and science experiments to the International Space Station. The uncrewed capsule should dock with the Harmony module’s forward-facing port around 11 a.m. Eastern time Monday. NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur will oversee the procedure.
“Keep on Tech’n: How local logistics companies are growing through tech” via Will Brown of the Jacksonville Business Journal — As the pandemic shaped and reshaped the movement of goods, many First Coast trucking companies responded by leaning into technology. “The supply chain and logistics technologies the trucking industry has employed for years was put to good use during the pandemic and showed how nimble the trucking industry can be in responding to ever-changing needs from consumers,” said Florida Trucking Association President Alix Miller. The last 18 months have illustrated the merits of investing in technology, be it through the launch of an app for drivers, creating a web-based platform for end-users, making the tools currently in place more effective or developing new ones that provide better integration of various management systems.
“The race to rescue Florida’s diseased corals” via Teresa Tomassoni of The Washington Post — Since 2014, a mysterious illness known as stony coral tissue loss disease has plagued Florida’s reef tract, killing off nearly half the state’s hard corals, whose rigid limestone skeletons provide the architectural backbone of the largest bank reef in the continental United States. By 2018, it became clear that without drastic intervention, these corals would face imminent localized extinction. To save them, scientists devised a plan to remove the most vulnerable species from their natural habitat and create a land-based gene bank that would serve as a modern-day ark for the animals. They knew that to succeed, time was of the essence, and collaboration was key. What followed was an unprecedented effort.
“St. Pete native & Afghanistan veteran takes gold in Paralympics triathlon” via WFLA — St. Pete native Brad Snyder took gold in the men’s triathlon Saturday morning, finishing nearly a minute ahead of the runner-up. This is the first year the event has been included in the Paralympics, making him the first man to take gold in it ever. Snyder is a navy veteran who was blinded by an IED blast while serving in Afghanistan. He’s also a swimmer and won seven medals in London and Rio.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to Rep. Lauren Melo. Belated birthday wishes to John Holley of Florida Power & Light.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.