Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.8.21
Good Wednesday morning.
Gov. Ron DeSantis will be the top-billed speaker at the 2021 Future of Florida Forum, the Florida Chamber of Commerce announced Wednesday.
The Future of Florida Forum, scheduled this year for Oct. 27-28, is an annual Chamber event focused on the long-term outlook of the state’s economy and business environment. The past few editions have homed in on ways to bring Florida’s economy into the Top 10 (if measured as a separate country).
Ron DeSantis will keynote the Chamber’s premier Future of Florida Forum.
In an announcement, the Chamber noted that Florida’s economy has begun to thrive again despite the continuing pandemic. DeSantis deserves a large share of the credit, the Chamber says, for “following the facts and not the fear” while navigating the state’s reopening.
“Under the strong leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida’s momentum continues to move forward toward becoming the 10th largest economy in the world by 2030,” said Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson.
“The actions taken by Gov. DeSantis have kept Florida open for business, Floridians safe, our economy moving and continuing to build our brand nationally as the Florida Model.”
At the Future of Florida Forum, DeSantis will speak directly to Florida’s business community about his vision for the state’s future.
The 2021 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting and Future of Florida Forum will be held at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Orlando. DeSantis will be the distinguished lunch keynote on the first day.
He will be one of more than 80 notable speakers who will address the state’s business leaders during the two-day event focused on how business leaders are engaging in the Florida Chamber’s Six Pillars Framework and the 39 goals of the Florida 2030 Blueprint.
More details and registration information for the 2021 Future of Florida forum are available online.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@CruziChips: Texas won’t force a 12 yrs old to wear a mask, but they will force that same 12 yrs old to have a baby.
—@MaryEllenKlas: On Aug. 26, @GovRonDeSantis said antibody treatments have: “been politicized, particularly by a lot of national corporate media outlets, and it’s got to stop.” Now, @ChristinaPushaw wants you to compare COVID #s to a “Democrat-run State.” So, is it okay to politicize? Confused?
—@CarlosGSmith: LAWSUIT UPDATE: Judge (John) Cooper has officially been assigned our case in our lawsuit against the #DeSantis administration seeking public health records and transparency in COVID-19 data reporting. @FLCTRGA and I have asked for an immediate hearing and eagerly await a formal date!
—@OmariJHardy: I KID YOU NOT — Gov. DeSantis says that NFL players who test positive for COVID should still be able to play.
The anti-vaxers are deafening online, though IRL they’re in very few regions.
But 73% of eligible, common-sense Americans have had at least one dose. 206.5 million of us!
Pfizer submits data showing its vax is safe for 5-11yos for approval this month.
We will get to 80%.
— Virginia Heffernan (@page88) September 7, 2021
—@NikkiFried: Elect yourself a Governor who is honest and transparent about COVID-19 and the safe, free, lifesaving vaccine.
FL cannot hide the fact that Floridians are dying at the rate of 345/day (latest 7-day average). This is a horrendous rate – nearly double the previous record rates for FL. While we predict the death rate will top out, we still expect 7.9k more to die over the next 4 weeks. https://t.co/v7cSEjD2Vs pic.twitter.com/iTGj5N6Apf
— William Ku, Ph.D. (@DrWilliamKu1) September 7, 2021
—@AngieNixon: Clickbait was good until the last episode. Y’all on here lying cause y’all don’t wanna admit y’all wasted time on that series. It literally spiraled out of control and jumped the shark at the end.
Just another typical evening in Palm City….8’2”….PS – she’s alive and on her way to the gator farm… pic.twitter.com/73vjlHbUto
— Rep Toby Overdorf (@TobyOverdorf) September 8, 2021
— DAYS UNTIL —
NFL regular season begins — 1; Bucs home opener — 1; California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 6; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 6; Apple launch event for new iPhones — 6; Alabama at UF — 10; Dolphins home opener — 11; Jaguars home opener — 11; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 12; The Problem with Jon Stewart premieres on Apple TV+ — 22; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 23; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 23; MLB regular season ends — 24; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 25; World Series Game 1 — 38; ‘Dune’ premieres — 42; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 49; Florida TaxWatch’s annual meeting begins — 49; Georgia at UF — 52; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 55; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 55; The Blue Angels 75th anniversary show — 58; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 58; ‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 60; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 61; Miami at FSU — 66; ExcelinEd’s National Summit on Education begins — 71; FSU vs. UF — 80; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 84; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 93; ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 100; ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 105; ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 108; NFL season ends — 123; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 125; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 125; NFL playoffs begin — 129; Super Bowl LVI — 158; Daytona 500 — 165; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 198; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 242; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 261; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 267; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 303; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 315; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 394; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 429.
— TOP STORY —
“Florida Realtors scrap affordable housing amendment, look for legislative solution” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Affordable housing advocates are set to scrap a proposed constitutional amendment to protect affordable housing funds from sweeps for other purposes, instead opting to work with lawmakers to reach a consensus. Realtors is abandoning its attempt to put the question to Floridians whether to prevent the Legislature from raiding money meant for housing into the state’s general pool of cash. That comes after legislative leadership applied pressure on the group to end the campaign. The group will work with legislative leaders for a solution, including new homeownership opportunities targeted at front-line workers. Realtors President Cheryl Lambert said leadership has committed to working with the group to solve the housing crisis.
Cheryl Lambert says Florida Realtors are changing strategies in the fight for affordable housing. Image via Facebook.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Tuesday Florida COVID-19 update: No deaths and 10,162 new cases, almost 53% vaccinated” via Michelle Marchante and David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — Florida on Tuesday reported to the CDC 10,162 more COVID-19 cases on Monday. The state also reported no new deaths. In all, Florida has recorded at least 3,364,998 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 46,973 deaths. On average, the state has added 345 deaths and 16,364 cases to the cumulative total each day in the last seven days. About 11,548,538 eligible Floridians, 53.8% of the state’s population, had completed the two-dose series of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna or have completed Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine.
“Ron DeSantis hopes to add Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline to monoclonal antibody arsenal” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis hopes more COVID-19 treatments, including Eli Lilly’s and GlaxoSmithKline’s antibody cocktails, will soon be readily available in Florida. The Governor has spent more than a month in a hard push to promote Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment. Despite previously downplaying Eli Lilly’s version for not being as effective against the delta variant, DeSantis was more optimistic about the option as he spoke in St. Cloud. Florida is looking into how it could make those options readily available. As produced by Regeneron, monoclonal antibody therapy is a therapeutic available when a person at high risk for severe infection tests positive for COVID-19 or is exposed to the virus.
Ron DeSantis is adding another weapon to the monoclonal antibody arsenal.
“DeSantis and the worst fallacy about vaccine skepticism” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — With the DeSantis’ response again under a microscope thanks to a big surge in cases and deaths in Florida, he has repeatedly offered curious comments about how all of this works. His most recent: suggesting that vaccinated people need not really be concerned about others choosing to remain unvaccinated. The reality for anyone who has truly digested the data and the realities of vaccination campaigns or a pandemic, though, is clear: It does have a substantial impact. The fact that DeSantis would go down that road in favor of justifying the decisions of the unvaccinated says a lot about where the Republican Party is on this issue.
Happening today — U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore will hear arguments in a lawsuit challenging the ban on school mask mandates, alleging it violated laws designed to protect the rights of students with disabilities, 1 p.m., United States Courthouse, 400 North Miami Ave., Miami.
“COVID-19 is nation’s No. 1 cop killer, but many Florida officers still say no to vaccines” via Eileen Kelley and Lisa J. Huriash of the Orlando Sentinel — Even though COVID-19 is the No. 1 killer of cops in the country, lots of officers are refusing to be vaccinated against the virus. As of Friday, there have been at least 622 deaths in the U.S., according to the National Fraternal Order of Police. That’s more than one a day since the pandemic began. In Florida, 56 officers have died so far, including five from South Florida in one week. California has also suffered 56 deaths. Only Texas, with 143 deaths, has had more. But most agencies say vaccine mandates are not under consideration, including Coral Springs, which has no plans for mandates for any city employees, including police, even though they just buried one of their own.
“Florida universities shy from stronger COVID-19 rules. They won’t say why.” via Divya Kumar of the Tampa Bay Times — Repeatedly in recent days, university leaders have pushed aside calls for safety measures like mask mandates, stronger action to encourage vaccinations, or the ability to teach online temporarily. University officials say the state has legally tied their hands from taking stronger action. But they have declined to explain exactly what rules or laws prevent them from challenging the state as many school districts have. Although universities aren’t specific about the legal barriers that limit their options in tackling the virus, faculty leaders have an idea. They’ve pinpointed two factors that are likely at play — a new state law that bans vaccine passports and a May 3 executive order that formally suspended “all local COVID-19 restrictions and mandates.”
“Volusia County Councilman Fred Lowry ‘in the hospital wrestling with COVID-19’” via Mary Helen Moore of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Volusia County Councilman Lowry is hospitalized with COVID-19, County Chair Jeff Brower announced Tuesday. “He is in the hospital wrestling with COVID-19. It’s been about three weeks now,” Brower said as Tuesday’s council meeting kicked off with Lowry’s chair empty for the second week. Lowry missed last week’s special meeting on the budget. He last attended a meeting on Aug. 17. Lowry, a 66-year-old registered Republican, is midway through his second four-year term on the Volusia County Council, representing Deltona, Enterprise, and parts of DeBary and Osteen.
Fred Lowry had once called COVID-19 ‘a hoax.’ He is now fighting it.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“COVID-19 death toll reaches 2,237 among Duval County residents” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — The latest wave of COVID-19 infections raised the death toll among Duval County residents to 2,237 fatalities, with one-third of those deaths coming this summer when Northeast Florida became one of the nation’s most heavily hit regions. The surge is showing signs of being on the downside, but health officials are nervously looking ahead to the winter and hoping vaccinations will become more widespread by then to head off a repeat of last year’s post-holiday increase. “Vaccination is the only way we can hope to get out of this,” UF Health Jacksonville CEO Russ Armistead said Tuesday during a teleconference call with community leaders.
“Pasco schools stick with voluntary masks despite growing calls for action” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — After watching 13 school districts around Florida adopt strict mask requirements — despite the possibility of state sanctions — a growing number of Pasco County parents have wanted to know if their School Board would do the same. Several came to the board’s meeting Tuesday in Land O’Lakes to urge action. They got none, as the board listened to pleas but did not discuss the subject of masks beyond receiving their lawyer’s report about the current status of mask rules and lawsuits across the state. Superintendent Kurt Browning said he was reluctant to recommend a change in the district’s mask-optional policy. “We’re doing what our charge is to do, and that is to educate kids,” he said. “That is in spite of COVID.”
Volusia County is standing firm on its mask mandate.
“After 13 colleagues die from COVID-19, Miami-Dade teachers union sets up vaccine pop-up” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — Thirteen unvaccinated Miami-Dade County Public School employees have died from COVID-19 since the 2021-2022 school year began on Aug. 23, including teachers. Now, United Teachers of Dade is hosting a vaccine pop-up Tuesday at Lillie C Evans K-8, 1895 NW 75th St. in Miami in hopes of encouraging school district employees and residents of Liberty City, Brownsville and the surrounding communities to get vaccinated. The pop-up will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will offer all three vaccine options, the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson.
“Orlando VA has the most COVID-19 cases in the U.S., despite decreased hospitalizations statewide” via Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — The Orlando Veterans Affairs health care system as of Tuesday has more COVID-19 cases than any other VA in the nation, a week after it began caring for patients in a mobile intensive care unit. The system serves one of the highest veteran populations in the nation, about 125,000, with over 5,000 staff members, said spokesperson Heather Frebe. This large population combined with COVID-19’s fourth wave and a high number of at-risk patients brings the system’s active case count to 506 as of Tuesday. The Orlando VA health care system has also recorded the largest total number of COVID-19 cases of any VA, 7,167. There have been 151 known deaths, putting it at about 27th.
“COVID-19 patients drop further over weekend at Alachua County hospitals” via Danielle Ivanov of The Gainesville Sun — UF Health Shands CEO Ed Jimenez said there were 161 in the hospital on Tuesday, including five children, down significantly from the 197 there on Thursday. “My enthusiasm continues,” he said, calling the decrease great progress. However, the lower numbers do not necessarily mean an easier time for exhausted employees. UF Health had around 80 additional patients on Tuesday who had previously tested positive for COVID-19. He said they either stayed, still receiving treatment after no longer being infectious or returned to the hospital after going home, keeping staff extraordinarily busy. “It is something to pay attention to,” Jimenez said. “The second category really is something that we need to keep an eye out on — the lasting impacts of COVID.”
“No mask, no show: Broward Center will require negative COVID-19 tests for audiences, vaccines for staff” via Arlene Borenstein-Zuluaga of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — In one of the toughest public safety moves made by a South Florida destination this year, The Broward Center for the Performing Arts is requiring masks at all times for all of its partner venues including The Parker. Theatergoers must also provide a negative COVID-19 test result or proof they’ve been fully vaccinated. Vaccinations are also required for staff, volunteers and crew working performances. The new guest entry policies come on the heels of the delta variant’s spike in COVID-19 cases that bottlenecked South Florida hospital beds. However, the new guidelines defy DeSantis’ hard-fought wishes to avoid mask mandates and proof of vaccines at any establishment in the state, including cruise ships and schools.
Don’t even think of going to the Broward Center without some proof you are COVID-19 free.
“Duval School Board approves threshold to end mask mandate as campus COVID-19 cases pass 2,000” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — Superintendent Diana Greene said that after consulting with the Duval County Health Department and other local medical experts, the threshold that the district would need to meet to discontinue its current mask mandate is a “moderate” transmission rate. The health department defines the moderate transmission rate as a 5% to 7.99% positivity rate or 10 to 49.99 new cases per 100,000 persons in the past seven days. In Duval County, the transmission rate remains substantial both countywide and within the school community. According to Greene, Duval County is currently witnessing a rolling positivity rate of 13% to 14% to date, which would be considered “high” — two levels above where the district would need to land for the discontinuation to go into effect.
“FSU ‘disappointed’ that more fans did not wear masks at Sunday’s opener vs. Notre Dame” via Jim Henry of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida State will continue to follow health protocols for the Seminoles’ second home football game of the season Saturday against Jacksonville State. The FSU administration also voiced its disappointment that the vast majority of fans did not wear a mask inside Doak Campbell Stadium at Sunday night’s opener against Notre Dame. “We were disappointed with the fact that a very low percentage of the fans, particularly our students, chose to wear masks,” Associate Athletics Director for Communications Rob Wilson said in a statement to the Democrat. “We will continue to work to educate our fans regarding the expectation that masks will be worn on campus and for all athletic events.”
— STATEWIDE —
“Odds increase for tropical system projected to pass over Florida this week” via Joe Mario Pedersen of the Orlando Sentinel — An area of interest out in the Gulf of Mexico, and forecast to pass over Florida this week, has improved odds of developing into the next tropical depression before landfall, the National Hurricane Center said. As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, the trough has a 30% chance of becoming the next tropical depression by Thursday and a 40% chance of doing so by Sunday, the NHC said. The system is expected to be met with resistance from “unfavorable” upper-level winds keeping the system from developing properly. If the storm were to develop into a tropical storm, it would be the 13th named storm of the season and take on the name Mindy.
“‘Pro-life’ DeSantis hasn’t committed to following Texas example on abortion” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — The U.S. Supreme Court’s acquiescence in Texas’ de facto ban on abortions has given DeSantis another chance to burnish his “pro-life” bona fides ahead of next year’s gubernatorial election and a possible run for the presidency in 2024. It’s not clear whether he will take that chance. Last week, during a news conference, the Governor didn’t exactly pledge to follow Texas’ lead, as Senate President Wilton Simpson wants to do. But he seemed intrigued at the prospect. “I’m pro-life; I welcome pro-life legislation,” DeSantis said.
Abortion becomes Florida’s hot topic after a Texas law fails to get a SCOTUS challenge. Image via AP.
Happening today — The annual three-day Florida Governor’s Conference on Tourism begins. GC is the premier educational conference for the Florida tourism industry, with professionals, advertising agencies, travel experts, and state leaders examining the latest trends and opportunities for the industry. Registration begins at 2 p.m., Diplomat Beach Resort Hollywood, 3555 S Ocean Dr., Hollywood.
Assignment editors — Attorney General Ashley Moody will promote the law enforcement mentoring program Bigs in Blue, a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Joining Moody are Big Brothers Big Sisters Association of Florida CEO Dan Prinzing, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami President and CEO Gale Nelson, and retired Miami-Dade Schools Chief of Police Ian Moffett, 2:30 p.m., Big Brothers Big Sisters Carnival Center for Excellence, 550 NW 42nd Ave., Miami.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“$5K signing bonus among proposals DeSantis touts to recruit law enforcement personnel” via News4Jax — Law enforcement agencies nationwide have been having a hard time finding qualified candidates to fill vacancies in their departments. That issue extends to Florida, DeSantis acknowledged during a news conference Tuesday in Polk County. DeSantis and Moody announced three new policy proposals for next year’s Legislative Session to combat the issue and attract recruits. The proposals involve three separate programs, new officer signing bonuses, an academy scholarship program, and out-of-state relocation support. The signing bonuses would be a one-time $5,000 payment to sworn law enforcement officers who are new to the profession in Florida.
Ron DeSantis is pushing programs to attract more law enforcement officers.
Happening today — Sens. Lauren Book, Jason Pizzo and Janet Cruz host a panel of experts to explore various facets of the pandemic, including Jared Moskowitz, former director of Floridas Division of Emergency Management; Alachua County Schools Superintendent Carlee Simon; Sarasota County School Board Chair Shirley Brown; critical care nurse Kevin Cho Tipton, small-business owner Jamaris Glenn; and Ed Montanaro, retired university professor, former state economist and director of the Office of Economic and Demographic Research. The virtual event begins at 6 p.m. Facebook Live link here.
“Tyler Sirois proposes tax-exempt rocket ships” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Rockets and the cargo they might lift into orbit would be tax-exempt when they’re launched from Florida, under a bill introduced by Rep. Sirois. “Zero-G, Zero Fee,” declares Sirois’ House Bill 65, filed last week. HB 65 would create a state and local sales tax exemption and other competitive incentives to give Florida more advantage when trying to entice aerospace companies to operate out of Florida. Florida may have the world’s premier launch center with the combined facilities of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. But competition is rising internationally and from several states, notably Virginia, Texas, California, New Mexico and Nevada.
Happening today — The Indian River County legislative delegation will meet: Sen. Debbie Mayfield and Rep. Erin Grall, 9 a.m., Indian River County Commission Chamber, 1801 27th St., Building A, Vero Beach.
Happening today — The Florida Public Service Commission meets to discuss electric, gas, water and telecommunications issues, 9:30 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.
— 2022 —
DeSantis downplays 2024 rumors — DeSantis told reporters Tuesday that the rumors he will run for President in 2024 are “purely manufactured” and “nonsense.” Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida reported that the comments come just a few days before the Governor’s scheduled appearance at a Nebraska Republican alongside several other rumored contenders for the 2024 GOP nomination. DeSantis, who is up for reelection next year, has so far avoided showing face in early presidential primary states. Still, he has made stops in several other states and courted donors who have pumped millions into his state-level political committee.
For Ron DeSantis, 2024 is not on the radar, Or so he says. Image via AP.
“Outlier? Poll shows voters still favor Charlie Crist over DeSantis” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A poll showing DeSantis trailing Crist suggests Floridians have turned on the Governor regarding mask-wearing. And while voters remain unhappy with DeSantis’ performance as Florida’s Governor, they dread the prospect he could run for President even more. If the election were held today with Crist as the Democratic nominee, he would take almost 54% of votes to the Republican incumbent’s 46%, with independents breaking for Crist by a 5-percentage-point margin. That’s a sizable lead outside the poll’s 3.1% margin of error, and more importantly, puts Crist well above the 50% mark. The same firm two weeks ago similarly found Crist up by a slightly wider 57%-43% margin.
Assignment editors — Crist continues on his GOTV (Get Out the Vaccine) tour, 1:30 p.m., Little Havana Community Health Center, Miami. RSVP to receive location at [email protected]
Save the date:
“Miami Mayor on possible White House bid: I think people are ‘thirsting’ for a ‘next-generation candidate’” via Max Greenwood of The Hill — Miami Mayor Francis Suarez isn’t ruling out a potential presidential bid, saying he believes Americans are “thirsting” for a new generation of leadership in the White House. Asked in an interview on “The Carlos Watson Show” set to air Wednesday whether he would run for President, the Republican Mayor said that the prospects of a White House bid have become “more possible” since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the stature that big-city Mayors have gained. “People know national Mayors a lot more than they did, you know, a generation ago, and so I think it becomes more possible,” he said.
Danielle Cohen Higgins racks up union endorsements for Miami-Dade Commission race — Cohen Higgins’ most recent union endorsement is UNITE HERE Local 355, which represents workers in airports, hotels, casinos, stadiums, and arenas across South Florida. Other recent backings came from South Florida AFL-CIO and Transport Workers Union Local 291, which currently operate under President Jeffrey Mitchell‘s leadership. “In this era of growing cynicism and disdain, Commissioners with Danielle Cohen Higgins’ attributes are critical, and we must find common ground and continue to move important issues forward,” Mitchell said in a statement. In December, Cohen Higgins was appointed to serve out Daniella Levine Cava’s term on the Commission representing District 8. She raised about $443,000 as of July.
“Drawing lines: Redistricting panel gets to work on County Commission, School Board boundaries” via Jim Thompson of Northwest Florida Daily News — Ten Walton County residents began work Wednesday on a math problem whose eventual answer will have 10 years of consequences. Those residents, appointed by the Walton County Board of County Commissioners and the Walton County Board of Education, are charged with reconfiguring the county commission and School Board electoral district boundaries to align with the latest federal census figures. As they began their work Wednesday, redistricting committee members got a broad look at the issues before them, starting with the fact that the county’s population has increased from 55,043 people in 2010 to 75,305 people in 2020 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
— CORONA NATION —
“New ‘mu’ COVID-19 variant now found in 49 U.S. states” via Brandon Sapienza of MSN — Since being discovered in Colombia in January, the mu variant of COVID-19 has spread to nearly four dozen countries and has made its presence known in Hawaii and Alaska. It has been found in 49 states, with Nebraska being the only state not to have a mu variant case detected. Health officials believe mu is even more transmissible than the delta variant and can resist vaccines. California has reported the highest number of the latest variant with 384. A total of 167 of those cases were found in Los Angeles County.
“Pediatric cases reach the highest point of pandemic” via Arielle Mitropoulos of ABC News — The U.S. reported 251,781 COVID-19 cases among kids during the week ending Sept. 2 — the highest week of pediatric cases since the pandemic began, according to the weekly report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. After declining in the early summer, new cases among kids are rising “exponentially,” the organizations wrote, with the weekly figure now standing nearly 300 times higher than it was in June, when just 8,400 pediatric cases were reported over the span of one week. According to federal data, the rate of pediatric hospital admissions per 100,000 people is also at one of its highest points of the pandemic, up by 600% since the Fourth of July.
Pediatric COVID-19 cases are hitting a new peak. Image via AP.
“Serving the most vulnerable, weary community health centers worry about COVID-19 vaccine booster shot demand” via Nada Hassanein of USA Today — As health centers across the country prepare to receive COVID-19 booster shots, many community health clinics serving vulnerable people are preparing for a slew of patients amid limited resources. Nationwide, community health centers serve about 30 million patients. Most are uninsured or on Medicaid, and about two-thirds live at or below poverty. About half are people of color, who disproportionately suffered throughout the pandemic. Experts say that the centers provide health care to underserved communities across the country and have been essential in vaccinating hard-hit populations and will continue to be key in ensuring the populations receive booster shots.
“The masked professor vs. the unmasked student” via Anemona Hartocollis of The New York Times — More than 1,000 colleges and universities have adopted vaccination requirements for at least some students and staff. In an indication of how political vaccination has become, the schools tend to be clustered in states that voted for Biden. But at some campuses, particularly in Republican-led states with high rates of contagion — such as Florida — vaccination is optional and mask-wearing, while recommended, cannot be enforced. Certainly, some professors are happy to go maskless. A smattering resigned in protest over optional mask policies. But the level of fear is so high that even at universities that do require vaccination and masks, like Cornell and the University of Michigan, professors have signed petitions asking for the choice to return to online teaching.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“COVID-19 resurgence clouds business travel rebound” via Alison Sider and Chip Cutter of The Wall Street Journal — Airlines and hotels had hoped that business travel would start to bounce back in the coming months. Those hopes are fading as the busy summer travel season peters out, and the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 postpones some companies’ plans to return to offices and resume in-person meetings and events. “I’d say it’s a pause, as compared to continued growth. That said, we understand why it’s paused,” Delta Air Lines Inc. DA Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian said in an interview last week. Delta said U.S. corporate travel returned to about 40% of pre-pandemic levels this summer, and the airline was predicting it would climb to 60% by September.
U.S. travel is under a cloud, thanks to the delta variant. Image via Reuters.
“The U.S. expected an economic takeoff. It got a September slowdown.” via Eric Morath and Theo Francis of The Wall Street Journal — Earlier this summer, many economists saw the week of Labor Day as the moment when the economic recovery would kick into high gear. They expected that widespread vaccination would ease labor shortages. Schools and offices would reopen, which would mean a comeback for local businesses reliant on office workers. Instead, the rise of COVID-19’s Delta variant has the nation tapping the brakes. Businesses and consumers are reworking plans to adjust to renewed mask mandates, travel restrictions, event cancellations and delayed office reopenings. Consumers are pulling back on purchases and employers have slowed hiring.
“Jacksonville attorney: Volunteer lawyers needed nationwide to help COVID-19 eviction tsunami” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville attorney Mike Freed has left his mark locally cultivating an annual series of marathons raising money for Jacksonville Area Legal Aid. Now he’s asking lawyers around the country to donate their time to help prevent a deluge of evictions rooted in the pandemic’s effect on jobs and incomes. “Sometimes, you have to give up your time without compensation for the greater good,” he said. Freed, an attorney at the Gunster law firm, used online messages to highlight a letter U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland signed last week asking lawyers to prevent an eviction tsunami. “ … [N]o matter where you live, lawyers and law students like you can apply your legal training and skills to help your community,” the letter reads.
— MORE CORONA —
“COVID-19 boosters are coming, but who will get them and when?” via Lauran Neergaard of The Associated Press — COVID-19 booster shots may be coming for at least some Americans, but already the Biden administration is being forced to scale back expectations. The initial plan was to offer Pfizer or Moderna boosters starting Sept. 20, contingent on authorization from U.S. regulators. But now administration officials acknowledge Moderna boosters probably won’t be ready by then — the FDA needs more evidence to judge them. Adding to the complexity, Moderna wants its booster to be half the dose of the original shots. Already the CDC is considering recommending the first boosters just for nursing home residents and older adults who’d be at the highest risk of severe disease if their immunity wanes — and to front-line health workers who can’t come to work if they get even a mild infection.
Who will be the first to roll up their sleeves again? Image via AP.
“What the Sturgis rally shows us about the delta variant” via Ashish K. Jha of The Washington Post — By bringing together hundreds of thousands of people, Sturgis helps answer a simple yet critically important question: Are we at a point in the pandemic where we can safely stage big-crowd events? The best data suggests that at least 75% of the entire South Dakota population has some degree of immunity against the virus. If it had gone off without big spikes in COVID-19 cases, it would have provided strong evidence that this level of population immunity, around 75%, would allow us to get back to the way we did things in 2019. But unfortunately, that’s not what happened.
— “Idaho hospitals begin rationing health care amid COVID-19 surge” via Rebecca Boone of The Associated Press
“North Carolina has 170 clusters in schools, centers” via The Associated Press — North Carolina health officials on Tuesday released a report showing 170 ongoing COVID-19 clusters in K-12 schools or child care settings. While the state Department of Health said it does not have data on the number of pupils quarantined statewide, districts without mask-wearing requirements are seeing substantially more spread of the virus and hours of lost learning among students. Union County Public Schools, which voted down a proposal last month to require mask-wearing in the state’s sixth-largest public school district, reported about one in 8 of the more than 41,000 students in the district were under quarantine, as of Friday. More than 5,200 students were placed under quarantine after 337 pupils tested positive for the virus last week.
“An Ohio judge reverses an earlier order forcing a hospital to administer ivermectin” via Becky Sullivan of NPR — A judge in Ohio has reversed an earlier emergency order that required a hospital to administer ivermectin to a COVID-19 patient against the hospital’s wishes. The anti-parasitic drug is most commonly used in the U.S. as a dewormer in animals. Federal agencies and medical associations alike have cautioned against the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19, as there is little evidence it is effective. But prescriptions — and related calls to poison control centers — have skyrocketed in 2021 as right-wing media have hyped it as a treatment for COVID-19. A previous ruling by a different judge had ordered the hospital, West Chester Hospital near Cincinnati, to administer the drug to a patient after his wife brought suit over the hospital’s refusal.
A judge reversed an order to prescribe ivermectin for COVID-19.
“Americans face new restrictions in the Netherlands and other European countries” via Annabelle Timsit and Reis Thebault of The Washington Post — As of Saturday, U.S. travelers seeking to enter the Netherlands must be vaccinated or qualify for an E.U. exemption. Regardless of vaccination status, they have to quarantine 10 days — unless they test negative for the coronavirus on their fifth day in the country. As of Monday, they also have to bring a negative test result even if they are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19. As the hyper-contagious delta variant drives up coronavirus cases in the U.S., the Netherlands is the latest in Europe to downgrade the country’s sorting systems for travel restrictions. The E.U. recommended in August that member states reinstate “temporary restrictions on nonessential travel” from the U.S. and five other countries.
“Cuba will reopen its borders in November, hoping its vaccines will keep COVID-19 cases down” via Nora Gámez Torres of the Miami Herald — Despite an ongoing COVID-19 surge that has overwhelmed its health system, Cuban authorities will reopen the country’s borders starting in mid-November, saying that the country will have vaccinated 90% of its population by the beginning of the high season for tourism. COVID-19-related measures at airports will be relaxed and “focused on symptomatic patients and taking the temperature,” Granma, the Communist Party’s newspaper, said. Travelers will no longer be required to show a recent PCR test, and “vaccination certificates will be recognized,” the paper said. It is unclear if this means certificates are mandatory. The borders will start reopening “gradually” on Nov. 15. Authorities will also allow domestic tourism.
—TWENTY YEARS —
“‘Clear the skies’: Behind the unprecedented call to stop air travel on 9/11” via Alan Levin, Marilyn Adams and Blake Morrison of USA Today — Empty the skies. Land every flight. Fast. No one can be certain how difficult this task will prove. But for an air traffic control system sometimes paralyzed by a patch of bad weather, the order seems overwhelming. Almost 4,500 planes will have to land within hours, many at airports hundreds of miles from where they were headed. The situation could be worse. On this day, the weather is pristine over most of the nation. And the early hour means most West Coast flights haven’t even taken off. Still, the skies have never been emptied before, and controllers, pilots, and aviation officials have never faced such pressure. And no one knows how many terrorists might still be in the air.
Nobody knew exactly how difficult it would be to clear the skies on 9/11.
“How 9/11 changed members of Congress” via Rhonda Colvin of The Washington Post — Some lawmakers who were on Capitol Hill on Sept. 11, 2001, remember it as a turning point that has served as a basis of their work today, from which committees they sit on to how they draft legislation. Others said it was an event that changed the course of their careers and ultimately led to them running for Congress. Sen. Susan Collins said her current focus on power-grid vulnerabilities and cybersecurity is something she traces back to 9/11. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney spent years advocating for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Joe Biden surveys deadly storm damage in New York, New Jersey and talks climate change” via Aamer Madhani and Darlene Superville of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Pointing accusingly at climate change, President Biden toured deadly Northeast flood damage Tuesday and said he was thinking about the families who suffered “profound” losses from the powerful remnants of Hurricane Ida. Biden was in New Jersey and planned to visit New York City to survey the aftermath and call for federal spending to fortify infrastructure to better defend people and property from future storms in the region and far beyond. “Every part of the country, every part of the country is getting hit by extreme weather,” Biden said in a briefing at the Somerset County emergency management training center attended by federal, state and local officials, including New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.
Joe Biden visits the storm-ravaged Northeast. Image via AP.
“Biden greeted, and jeered, on tour of Ida flood damage in Manville” via Mike Deak, Alexander Lewis and Cheryl Makin of My Central Jersey — When Biden was touring flood-ravaged Manville on Tuesday and consoling victims of the flood, most people welcomed him and were happy to see the leader of the free world in their neighborhood. But others were not as welcoming. Protesters congregated on South Main Street in Manville to greet the President with banners, some with obscene messages, and others jeered him as he walked the streets lined with belongings damaged in the flood. Hillsborough resident Edward Bellotti said he came to see Biden, who he called an “illegitimate President.” … “He hasn’t done the right thing once,” Bellotti said. “We’re hoping he’ll do the right thing here so we can just say ‘thank you’ and move on.”
“Amid surge in COVID-19 cases, Biden to outline plan for decreasing spread of delta variant heading into fall” via Eugene Scott of The Washington Post — Biden plans to give a speech Thursday outlining his plan to stop the spread of the delta variant as autumn approaches. “As he has said since Day One, his administration will pull every lever to get the pandemic under control,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday aboard Air Force One. “And on Thursday, he will lay out a six-prong strategy that will help us to do just that.” … “We’re going across the public and private sectors to help continue to get the pandemic under control. We’ll have more to preview on that, I would expect, in the coming days.”
“Biden escalates shutdown stare-down with hurricane aid, Afghan resettlement plea” via Caitlin Emma of POLITICO — The White House asked Congress on Tuesday to include hurricane relief and money for Afghan resettlement in a package to fund the government later this month, upping the ante in the latest shutdown scare. Those special requests will increase the political pain for any lawmaker planning to oppose the funding patch Congress needs to pass this month to keep government agencies open beyond Sept. 30. Top Democrats have also been flirting with the idea of adding action on the debt limit to that package. The combination would present a triple threat, daring GOP lawmakers to go on record in opposition to aid for disaster-hit communities, staving off a debt default that could throw financial markets into chaos and preventing a government shutdown.
“Cory Mills evacuates Americans from Afghanistan, says Biden admin wrongly wants credit” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Mills went to Afghanistan to successfully rescue Americans still on the ground in the war-torn nation. Now he’s upset President Biden’s administration wants credit. Mills, an Army combat veteran, spoke to Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade about what the news network billed the first ground evacuation of American citizens. He became involved with rescuing family through communications with U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson, a Texas Republican. “Congressman Jackson and I know each other,” Mills said. “There’s a mutual respect there.”
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“When will Donald Trump answer the big 2024 question?” via Reid J. Epstein of The New York Times — Last week, Trump dodged a half-dozen opportunities to say whether he is planning to run for President once again in 2024. For months the best working theory had been that he would wait as long as possible. Trump is still very much invested in his own false claims about the 2020 election, pushing local Republican officials to audit their ballots and voting machines while trumpeting the phony idea that any election that Democrats win is a fraud.
So, what’s the deal for 2024? Image via AP.
“Trump builds ‘turnkey’ campaign operation for 2024” via Meridith McGraw of POLITICO — With a flurry of activity from his super PAC and hints dropped in private conversations with confidants and advisers, Trump is signaling a heightened interest in reclaiming the White House — and laying the necessary groundwork to do it. Since his November defeat, Trump and his allies have fanned the notion that he will seek a rematch in 2024. That’s nothing new — before his first bid for President, Trump feinted and flirted with runs for President for decades without pulling the trigger.
“Former Trump adviser Jason Miller briefly detained in Brazil as political tumult grips country” via Felicia Sonmez and Terrence McCoy of The Washington Post — Miller, a former senior adviser to Trump, said Tuesday that he was briefly detained and questioned by Brazilian authorities on a day in which the South American country inched yet closer to a full-blown constitutional crisis. In a statement, Miller, the chief executive of the social media site Gettr, said that he and other members of his traveling party were “questioned for three hours at the airport in Brasilia, after having attended this weekend’s CPAC Brasil Conference” before eventually being released to fly back to the United States.
— CRISIS —
“‘Keep your head on a swivel’: FBI analyst circulated a prescient warning of Jan. 6 violence” via Betsy Woodruff Swan of POLITICO — An FBI intelligence analyst warned days after the 2020 election that Stop the Steal rallies — one of which metastasized into the ransacking of the Capitol — could turn violent. The emailed warning from an analyst at the FBI’s school for bomb technicians circulated through the Bureau and to some of its state and local partners on Nov. 9, 2020. “As Joe Biden is declared the victor in the 2020 Presidential Campaign, chatter from the far-right indicates the belief the election was stolen from President Trump,” the analyst wrote, urging recipients to “keep your head on a swivel.” The message indicates that federal law enforcement officials saw ample signs before Jan. 6 that right-wing efforts to overturn the election results could result in violence.
An FBI analyst warned that violence was coming on Jan. 6.
“GOP effort to hamstring the Jan. 6 investigation enters a new phase” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — A group of 11 House Republicans sent letters to various technology company CEOs last week warning them against complying with subpoenas from the House Jan. 6 select committee. The letters were notable for a couple of reasons. One was that the signatories included a murderer’s row of fringe figures in the House GOP. The second was that the letter to Yahoo was incorrectly addressed to a former CEO who left the company in 2017, Marissa Mayer. The letters were, in many ways, emblematic of the GOP’s increasingly pitched and slapdash efforts to prevent the committee from gaining information about the historic attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“Kevin McCarthy is the O.J. Simpson of Jan. 6” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — “I will pursue as my primary goal in life the killer or killers who slaughtered Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman,” said Simpson, vowing to find the real killers. “We will run our own investigation,” said McCarthy, vowing to find the real insurrectionists. Now McCarthy embodies the corruption of truth that has consumed the GOP. He led the effort to kill an independent, bipartisan Jan. 6 commission negotiated by his own point man. He then marshaled Republican votes against the bill creating the House select committee to scrutinize the attack. Rest assured: He’s still seeking the real culprits, just like O.J.
“GOP’s promised Jan. 6 probe has one problem: No one wants it” via Sam Brodey, Matt Fuller and Asawin Suebsaeng of The Daily Beast — The day that Speaker Nancy Pelosi booted two Republicans from a panel to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, House Minority Leader McCarthy pledge the GOP would run its own investigation. More than six weeks later, and well into the official Jan. 6 committee’s own work, there’s no sign that McCarthy and the House GOP will make good on that pledge. For most of the GOP, those crickets sound good. Most Republicans would be happy to never talk about Jan. 6 again, and with the party increasingly focused on Biden’s handling of the end of the war in Afghanistan, some are baffled that McCarthy might lift any finger to remind the public of the low point of Trump’s presidency.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“With bulk of their agenda on the line, Democrats gird for battle over $3.5 trillion budget package” via Tony Romm of The Washington Post — The fate of Biden’s $3.5 trillion economic agenda hinges on work that’s slated to resume on Capitol Hill this week, as Democrats attempt to overcome their internal divisions and craft what could be the largest spending package in U.S. history. The next few days could prove daunting for top lawmakers in the party tasked with assembling a bill that can satisfy their past promises to remake broad swaths of the American economy. The work is set to unfold primarily in the House beginning Thursday when the chamber has scheduled a series of grueling marathon legislative sessions to toil over the finer details of its plans.
Democrats are readying for a $3.5B budget scrum. Image via AP.
“Defense budget proposal pitches $600 million for Northwest Florida military projects” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Military projects in Northwest Florida may soon get a $600 million boost under a defense-spending bill OK’d by the U.S. House Armed Services Committee. Under the House’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act, roughly $359 million is slated for Eglin Air Force Base construction projects. Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz highlighted the passage Friday, saying the money will support facility upgrades and more. “Our community is proud of our contribution to the fight. With this historic financial commitment to Eglin, we are poised to attract even more military mission, strengthening our local economy and our nation’s defenses,” he said.
Staffing shuffle for Ted Deutch — Jason Attermann, who has served in Rep. Deutch’s office for eight years, is moving on this week, according to an announcement by Attermann Tuesday. Aviva Abusch will succeed Attermann in the press secretary role following Attermann’s final day on Thursday, Sept. 9. Attermann has served in several roles in Deutch’s office since joining the team in June 2013, such as a legislative aide, press secretary and policy adviser. Attermann says he’ll be stepping away from government for now but that his work with Florida “likely won’t end.” Abusch has worked as a legislative aide in Deutch’s office since Jan. 2020.
“How the rise of POLITICO shifted political journalism off course” via Perry Bacon, Jr. of The Washington Post — At its start, POLITICO rightly identified two shortcomings in political media: It was too slow and too dull. POLITICO pioneered the fast-paced coverage of Capitol Hill and campaigns that now thrives on Twitter and cable news. And it recognized that there is a real audience of people who love the behind-the-scenes machinations of politics. The POLITICO approach is probably fine if you cover parties and politicians who share some values and norms. The newly POLITICO-ized press spent much of the Barack Obama years acting as if his opposition was solely because he had liberal policy ideas.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“‘This guy was totally off his rocker’: DeSantis condemns massacre of Lakeland family” via Nathaniel Rodriguez of WFLA — DeSantis praised Lakeland police officers and Polk County deputies Tuesday for their work in arresting the suspect in the Lakeland massacre Sunday morning. This past Sunday, deputies got into a firefight with an armored gunman who authorities say murdered four people, including a baby, and injured an 11-year-old girl. “This is an outrageous crime,” DeSantis said. “This guy was totally off his rocker.” DeSantis said tragedies like the Lakeland massacre and the Surfside condominium collapse highlight the importance of supporting first responders and law enforcement agencies across the state. “These are the folks that you call upon, and they’re there for you time and time again,” he said.
‘Off his rocker’: Bryan Riley is the ex-Marine accused of killing four people in Lakeland.
“Woman running late for flight at Florida airport arrested for bomb threat, police say” via Angie Dimichele of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A Chicago woman was arrested Monday night after telling airport employees that her luggage on the plane had a bomb in it, according to Broward Sheriff’s Office. Marina Verbitsky, 46, of Chicago, and other people were running late for their flight from Terminal 3 at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Three airport employees told the group they could not board the plane because they were late. Verbitsky then claimed there was a bomb in her checked bag, deputies said. She was arrested. The plane, already moving on the runway, was evacuated, and Sheriff’s Office detectives and FBI agents found no threat, the Sheriff’s Office said.
“Labor Day Weekend Biscayne Bay fish kill highlights urgent need for action” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A fish die-off has again struck Biscayne Bay, this time over Labor Day weekend near the 79th Street Basin in Miami Beach. While Miami-Dade crews and environmental groups are still working to quantify the number of dead marine life, the cause is assumed to be similar to that of past fish kills: severely depleted oxygen in the bay. “Early evidence indicates that the cause is a combination of extreme heat with numerous rainy days, which reduces oxygen levels in our waterways,” a city press note said. A Miami-Dade spokesperson said the county’s Department of Environmental Resources was aware of hundreds of dead fish on the bay’s eastern side along Miami Beach’s coastline.
“A year after expanding to South Florida, local TV streaming service Locast suspends operations” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Locast, an internet service that streamed local broadcast TV signals to viewers in the stations’ coverage areas, has suspended its operations a year after expanding into South Florida. And it’s unclear whether it will ever come back. The nonprofit service, launched in January 2018, was being sued by ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and their parent companies for copyright infringement. Last week, a federal judge in New York granted the networks’ motion to dismiss Locast’s defense that it was exempt from liability under U.S. copyright law.
“Buchholz High School all-clear after fourth bomb threat disrupts school day” via Gershon Harrell of The Gainesville Sun — Buchholz High School has received its fourth bomb threat, disrupting day-to-day school operations. Students were evacuated off-campus at about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. Those who walk or drive to school left freely, while students who take a bus home were sent to the nearby Boys and Girls Club. No further details about the threats were provided because it’s an active investigation. After the third bomb threat, Alachua County Public Schools sent a letter to Buchholz High School students and families detailing the severity of the situation if the threats continue. According to the letter, a false bomb threat is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
“$125K in double-red flag fines? 1,700 rescues? Swimmers have kept PCB busy this year” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News Herald — According to James Tindle, code enforcement manager of Panama City Beach, more than 250 people have been ticketed $500 each in the city so far this year for entering the Gulf of Mexico under double-red flags. His department began citing people for the offense in July 2020, when officials who were desperate to reduce water-related emergencies approved the ordinance to crack down on unruly beachgoers. Wil Spivey, beach safety director for Panama City Beach Fire Rescue, said that his lifeguards had rescued more than 1,700 swimmers so far this year. That is about 1,150 more than during all of 2020. He also said there had been five drownings this year in PCB — four less than during 2020.
“In Tampa Bay, it takes three minimum wage jobs to make rent, report says” via Margo Snipe and Emily L. Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — Rent increases across Tampa Bay this year aren’t just breaking records. They’re obliterating them. As of late August, asking rents for apartments have increased since the beginning of the year by 21.7%, according to data from CoStar Group, a real estate data firm, and aren’t showing signs of slowing. Both analyses include Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties. Rents in Tampa Bay have been shooting up at an especially fast clip — with the highest increase in the first half of this year of any metro area in the country, CoStar Group found. But the situation here is hardly unique and exacerbates an issue that was already deeply impacting lower-income workers.
In Tampa Bay, the rent is too damn high.
“Troubled Citrus County road builder, U.S. 19 contractor files bankruptcy” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — D.A.B. Constructors, which abandoned $250 million in state and local highway projects when it suddenly shut down in July, announced Tuesday it had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The Inglis-based road builder had been in business for 33 years, company President Debora Bachschmidt said in a statement. Its closing left 400 people, many living in Citrus and surrounding counties, suddenly without work. D.A.B. was the contractor on the much-maligned $31.8 million U.S. 19 widening project in Homosassa, which was more than a year behind schedule as of the business’s closing in late July. The company had similar scheduling issues with the Florida Department of Transportation on other state projects as well.
— TOP OPINION —
“Your ‘personal choice’ not to get COVID-19 vaccine is putting our ‘health care heroes’ at risk” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is not a “personal choice.” It never was, really, but the onslaught of cases fueled by the delta variant has removed any doubt. And yet, that’s not what Florida’s Governor would have you believe. On Friday, Gov. DeSantis actually uttered these incredible — and incorrect — words about the vaccine: “It’s about your health and whether you want that protection or not. It really doesn’t impact me or anyone else.” Doesn’t impact anyone else? Talk about a profile in selfishness. And it’s the opposite of what he says. COVID-19’s spread actually is a community problem, and solving it starts with vaccines.
— OPINIONS —
“Florida’s health care system is in pandemic crisis. Who will come to its rescue?” via Nicholas X. Duran of the Miami Herald — In the year and a half since its savage debut in the United States, the coronavirus pandemic has stretched our health care system nearly to the breaking point. Florida has a workforce shortage that started well before the pandemic and accelerated in the past 18 months because of it. Hospitals are contending with burnout among physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and support staff. We’re seeing right now in the United States a health care system that is stressed to the brink in terms of its capacity and pushed to the limit in terms of how it can remain afloat money-wise.
“We don’t know what caused Surfside collapse, but we know something else that’s gone wrong” via the Miami Herald editorial board — The collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside cracked open Florida’s condominium regulations, once the topic of interest of a few lawyers and association-board volunteers. In the months since the June tragedy, as committees and tasks forces were created to scrutinize our current laws, we have learned that Florida must do a better job of regulating condos and high-rises. “It’s a wild, wild West out there, with not a lot of accountability,” state Sen. Book said. Book, a Democrat, sits on the Broward County Condominium Structural Issues Committee created to make reform recommendations.
“Reinstate Lake-Sumter State College professor, whose dismissal stinks of union-busting” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — By nearly any measure, the pay for teaching at Lake-Sumter State College is awful. No wonder Lake-Sumter’s faculty voted overwhelmingly in 2018 to form a union over the opposition from the college administration. Now, one of the faculty’s lead contract negotiators is fighting to get his job back after being summarily dismissed in June. Dr. David Walton, who was fired by college President Stanley Sidor on what look to be flimsy grounds. If the board has any sense of fairness, it will give Walton his job back. Upholding his dismissal would send the wrong message to a faculty that already feels like it’s under attack for simply exercising its right to organize so they can earn a decent salary.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
It looks like Gov. DeSantis’ claim that the vaccine is a mere personal choice — without impact to others — is drawing rebuke from experts across the country, including Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Also on today’s Sunrise:
— Meanwhile, Broward and several other school districts have mounted a new legal challenge against the state’s mask mandate.
— DeSantis announced a three-part proposal to recruit law enforcement but took the opportunity to criticize those calling for police reform.
— That hit a nerve with groups like the Tallahassee Chapter of the NAACP saying it’s the Governor’s own rhetoric that’s making it hard to recruit those who want to serve.
— Imagine being a health care reporter during a pandemic; we hear from one looking ahead to the 2022 Legislative Session. On the Sunrise Interview is Christine Sexton, a returning health care reporter for Florida Politics.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“Florida State-Notre Dame football game attracts massive TV audience” via Jim Little of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida State’s showing against Notre Dame Sunday night at Doak Campbell Stadium was a win-win for the Seminoles. For starters, FSU drew plenty of praise for its effort in the 41-38 overtime defeat. While the program and fans will never be satisfied with moral victories, it was one of the Seminoles’ best and most enjoyable performances in years. FSU rallied from an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter, forced overtime with a field goal in the final minute and nearly knocked off a Top-10 team before an energized crowd of 68,316 at Doak Campbell Stadium and national television audience on ABC.
The FSU-Notre Dame game posted some blockbuster viewership numbers. Image via AP.
“The ballad of Omar Little, Michael K. Williams’s enduring role” via Travis M. Andrews of The Washington Post — Omar Little was portrayed by Williams, who was found dead in his apartment on Monday. As tributes to the 54-year-old actor poured out on Twitter, one thing was clear: It wasn’t only the characters in “The Wire” who knew Omar simply by his first name. Nearly everyone in the real world did, too. “I’ll never forget Omar,” tweeted author William Gibson. “Omar might be the best character of all time,” tweeted Rep. Jamaal Bowman. Portraying a murderous stickup man wasn’t necessarily the most natural fit for Williams. On the first day of filming the show, he was confused by Omar’s iconic shotgun.
“Publix is opening its first store in Kentucky” via Bernadette Berdychowski of the Tampa Bay Times — Publix Super Markets is heading to Kentucky, the grocer announced Tuesday. The Lakeland-based supermarket chain signed a lease for its first store in the Bluegrass State in Louisville. Publix is now operating in eight states, with the majority of its locations still in Florida. Publix began its expansion outside of Florida in the 1990s when it opened stores in Georgia and later South Carolina and Tennessee. But that accelerated in 2014 when the grocer entered North Carolina. “Moving into Kentucky is a natural progression for our company,” said Publix CEO Todd Jones in a statement. “We are excited to serve and be a part of this vibrant community.”
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, former Sen. Anitere Flores, Rep. Thad Altman, former Rep. Ed Narain, former St. Petersburg City Councilman Jeff Danner, former Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, and Sean Phillippi.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.