Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.24.21

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Good Tuesday morning.

The debates and forums are over, and the campaign mailers found new homes in recycling bins. Now it’s up to the voters.

They go to the polls today in the Primary Election to choose St. Petersburg’s next Mayor. After the vote-counting finishes, two people from the nine-candidate field will remain for the General Election in November.

Surveys by St. Pete Polls suggest former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch and City Council member Robert Blackmon will be the survivors.

Welch had 37% in the most recent poll, and Blackmon had 27%.

City Council member Darden Rice was a distant third at 17%.

Now it’s up to St. Pete voters.

Polls don’t win elections, though, and we all understand the folly of calling a race before the votes are counted. That’s especially true in an election where turnout could be light, and the swing of a few hundred votes could turn things upside down.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that voters returned just 30% of eligible mail-in ballots. That compares to 47% in the 2017 Primary when incumbent Mayor Rick Kreisman and former Mayor Rick Baker were on the ballot, and St. Pete has nearly 20,000 more registered voters than four years ago.

However, it turns out, the eventual winner could be breaking new ground.

Welch would be the city’s first Black Mayor. Blackmon would be St. Pete’s first Millennial leader, while Rice would be the city’s first openly gay Mayor ever and its first female leader since shifting to a strong Mayor form of government.

Interestingly, Welch picked up considerable support from the local LGBTQ community, including Rep. Michele Rayner and Council member Amy Foster, one of Welch’s first endorsers, and the Pinellas Stonewall Democrats.

We’ll find out if the fateful mailer Rice sent about Welch was a factor. She faced considerable backlash for trying to tie Welch to Donald Trump. That was partly because Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who voted for Trump in 2016 and supported the controversial “anti-riot” bill from Gov. Ron DeSantis, endorsed Welch.

Rice, a popular and effective Council member, dropped sharply in polls after that mailer.

“Some people will do or say anything to win an election,” Welch said in the statement. “I will not.”

That’s been about the only explosive moment of the race so far, though.

Several long-simmering and familiar issues came up during the campaign.

What would the new Mayor do about Tropicana Field and the possible departure of the Tampa Bay Rays?

How would they address St. Pete’s oft-challenging issue of race relations?

St. Pete has transformed into a dynamic and lively city from its former image of “God’s waiting room.” This change and growth, though, led to skyrocketing rents and housing costs. Which candidate has the best plan to address that troubling issue?

And, of course, the environment always will be an important topic for the city. The recent red tide surge reminded everyone that St. Pete’s pristine beaches could quickly turn into a smelly, polluted mess that drives tourists away.

So, now we wait to see how many of those issues resonated with voters. Even more, we wait to see how many of them will make their voice heard at the ballot box.

Opponents defend Darden Rice after Rick Kriseman criticism” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — In a Facebook post published Sunday, Kriseman called mayoral candidate Rice hypocritical for saying in a WFLA interview that she “won’t tweet insults” as Mayor at DeSantis. Kriseman criticized Rice, providing a screenshot of a tweet from Rice last November that shows her slamming one of DeSantis’ new hires. “It is a weak and foolish ‘pretender leader’ who surrounds himself with loyalists, yes men, & compromised hacks instead of qualified public servants,” Rice wrote in the tweet, which links to a Tampa Bay Times article, “Meet the Uber-driving, conspiracy theorist blogger who DeSantis just hired.”

—”Mayoral Q&A: 8 On Your Side speaks with candidates in St. Petersburg mayoral race” via Evan Donovan of WFLA

—”As voting begins in St. Pete City Council District 1, Copley Gerdes is the man to beat” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics

—”The race to replace Rice is crowded, diverse” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics

—”St. Pete City Council District 8 race features a familiar face, and some new ones” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@aedwardslevy: The share of American adults who have been at least partially vaccinated (73%) is greater than the share of American adults who know the earth revolves around the sun (72%)

@drewmagary: It’d be amusing if Pfizer did a big ad blitz for Comirnaty without mentioning it’s the COVID vaccine AT ALL. Like if they just said, “Promotes lung girth!” and jabs suddenly went up nationwide by 60%.

@JaredEMoskowitz: Pfizer Vaccine Has a New Name: ‘Comirnaty.’ Wait, What? Who names this stuff? Was NOVID not available

@MerylKornfield: During the hearing on Florida’s restrictions for requiring students wear masks, one of the attorneys representing parents has been coughing all day. She told the judge she caught COVID from her preschooler.

@GNewburn: The work product of a 21-19 Florida Senate sure would’ve looked a whole lot different than a 23-17 Senate last Session, wouldn’t it?

@SenPizzo: Yesterday, I went for a quick swim before heading to the office. Left my bag in the car for 30 min, and someone broke in, taking a laptop, cash, cc’s, iPhone, iPad, watch, wedding ring, and a firearm. Yesterday, they were free. When they’re caught, they face life in prison.

Tweet, tweet:

First day of class at ⁦@floridastate⁩ pic.twitter.com/fpmhBDTKDy

— Paul Cottle (@PaulCottlePhys) August 23, 2021

Tweet, tweet:

October. pic.twitter.com/1kNnfr13Wa

— Succession (@succession) August 23, 2021

— DAYS UNTIL —

Boise vs. UCF — 9; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 10; Notre Dame at FSU — 12; NFL regular season begins — 16; Bucs home opener — 16; California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 21; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 21; Alabama at UF — 25; Dolphins home opener — 26; Jaguars home opener — 26; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 27; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 38; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 38; MLB regular season ends — 39; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 43; World Series Game 1 — 56; ‘Dune’ premieres — 59; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 64; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 64; Georgia at UF — 67; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 70; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 70; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 73; ‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 75; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 76; Miami at FSU — 81; ExcelinEd’s National Summit on Education begins — 86; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 87; FSU vs. UF — 95; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 99; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 108; ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 115; NFL season ends — 138; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 140; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 140; NFL playoffs begin — 144; Super Bowl LVI — 173; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 213; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 257; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 282; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 318; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 330; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 409; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 444.

— TOP STORY —

U.S. gives full approval to Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine” via The Associated Press — The United States gave full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine Monday, a milestone that may help lift public confidence in the shots as the nation battles the most contagious coronavirus mutant yet. The vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech now carries the strongest endorsement from the FDA, which has never before had so much evidence to judge a shot’s safety. “The public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product,” said acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock.

It’s officially official. Image via AP.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

‘Was it worth it?’: Ron DeSantis excoriates AP for Regeneron-donor story” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — In a strongly worded letter to The Associated Press, DeSantis criticized the news organization for writing and defending its “political smear” against him. The Governor wrote the letter after the news wire reported his press secretary, Christina Pushaw, was suspended from Twitter for “abusive behavior,” which led to threats against reporter Brendan Farrington. Twitter locked her account for 12 hours beginning Friday night. The suspension came after Pushaw encouraged her 21,800 followers to harass Farrington, who published a story Tuesday about a top DeSantis donor’s link to a hedge fund that invested in Regeneron, which produces a drug used to treat COVID-19.

Ron DeSantis goes to bat for Christina Pushaw. Image via AP.

DeSantis christens additional monoclonal treatment sites” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Two additional monoclonal antibody sites will open Tuesday in Alachua and St. Lucie counties, DeSantis announced Monday. The sites will operate daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and serve more than 300 patients daily. More details and locations are available online. Monoclonal antibody treatment involves injecting laboratory-created antibodies into the system of a COVID-19 infected person. The treatment, health officials say, may reduce symptoms and prevent virus-related hospitalizations. In clinical trials and real-world data, DeSantis said the cost-free cocktail could reduce the odds of hospitalization by 70%.

—“DeSantis stands ground against critics of monoclonal roadshow” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

Can courts resolve Florida’s great school mask debate? A trial begins.” via Jeffrey S. Solochek and Ana Ceballos of the Tampa Bay Times — A nationally watched court battle over masks began in Florida on Monday with parents from across the state arguing that DeSantis’ administration should not have prevented schools from implementing universal mask mandates. The trial in Leon County court has the attention of the White House, other states, and local school district officials, many of whom are still wrangling with the question of mandatory masks as coronavirus cases and quarantines rise in schools. At its core, the case pits personal liberty versus collective responsibility.

School mask mandates go to trial. Image via AP.

Parents of disabled children: ‘We need action right now’ on mask mandates” via Issac Morgan of Florida Phoenix — Two Florida parents who filed a federal lawsuit against DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates in public schools argued Monday that the Governor’s mask-optional policies put their kids, who have serious medical conditions already, at greater risk from COVID-19. During a Zoom news conference, plaintiffs’ attorney Matthew Dietz said that “schools are obligated to provide an environment in which kids with disabilities can safely be educated in an integrated environment.” Additional families in Hillsborough and Pasco counties have joined the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Miami, which focuses on the education rights of students with disabilities. The trial opened Monday in a separate lawsuit filed in state court raising related claims.

Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried will hold a news briefing with Lucia Baez-Geller, a Miami-Dade County School Board member, to discuss the county’s efforts to keep students safe, 9:45 a.m., Dade County Public School Administration, 1450 NE Second Ave., Miami. RSVP to [email protected]

— CORONA LOCAL —

Days after record death toll, COVID-19 hospitalizations down in Jacksonville” via Beth Reese Cravey of The Florida Times-Union — Compared to 24 hours earlier, Baptist Health’s five area hospitals and Ascension St. Vincent’s three area hospitals collectively reported fewer patients. In contrast, UF Health’s two hospitals had a slight uptick. Still, hospital officials said the summer surge is still underway. Florida’s COVID-19 hospitalizations dropped to 17,143 Monday from 17,198 total patients Friday morning, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. According to the department, about 29.9% of the state’s hospital beds were used by patients with the virus; Florida and neighboring Georgia were the only two states with above 25%. Across the state, 92.8% of all hospital beds are occupied with patients being treated for one illness or another.

Jerry Demings says hesitant people ‘should be getting off the fence’ following FDA’s Pfizer approval” via Stephen Hudak and Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County Mayor Demings said Monday that he hopes the full FDA authorization of the Pfizer vaccine would spur hesitant people to get vaccinated. The use of vaccines under an emergency use authorization has been cited by many people as their reason for not rolling up their sleeves. “If you were one of the people who were sitting on the fence because of that, you should be getting off the fence at this point and getting vaccinated,” he said. “So we’ll just have to see if that was really the reason why people were sitting on the fence, or there was some other reason they were using, and that was just a means to create confusion and conflict.”

Jerry Demings says now is time to get off the fence. Image via Facebook.

Leon cases fall 26.9%; Local hospitalizations at record level” via Mike Stucka of the Tallahassee Democrat — In the latest week, coronavirus cases in the United States increased 12.7% from the week before, with 1,031,057 cases reported. With 6.45% of the country’s population, Florida had 14.62% of the country’s cases in the last week. Leon County reported 1,787 cases in the latest week. A week earlier, it had reported 2,446 cases. Throughout the pandemic, it has reported 42,554 cases and 332 deaths. However, local hospitalizations from COVID-19 remain at record levels, as medical officials have warned of reaching a “crisis level” in the latest surge. Local hospitals set another grim record Monday with 248 people hospitalized with COVID-19.

‘Dire situation’: Nature Coast EMS concerned COVID-19, low pay could interrupt service” via Chip Osowski of WFLA — A combination of COVID-19 and poor compensation is taking a toll on EMS workers in Citrus County. That’s why administrators with Nature Coast EMS, the county’s nonprofit ambulance provider, say they plan to ask the county for more federal dollars to bring EMS workers’ salaries more in line with others in the area. Battalion Chief Dan Brady calls the situation very serious. Nature Coast EMS has the lowest starting pay of any EMS provider in the Tampa Bay area, with paramedics starting salaries below $13 an hour.

‘Two weeks too late’: Duval County School Board approves stricter mask mandate” via Emily Bloch of the Florida Times-Union — All 125,000 Duval County Public Schools students attending brick-and-mortar classes will be required to wear masks starting Sept. 7 unless they can provide a doctor’s note requesting otherwise, the School Board voted. The board’s 5-2 decision is effective for 90 days, the maximum amount an emergency action can stand for. Board members Lori Hershey and Charlotte Joyce voted against it. Dr. Mobeen Rathore, chief of pediatric infectious diseases and immunology at UF Health Jacksonville and at Wolfson Children’s Hospital called the decision “two weeks too late.” It was a tense meeting, extending past eight hours long, with 68 public speaker cards, polarizing views and more than one threat to remove people from the auditorium for speaking out of term.

Palm Beach County School Board firm on mask mandate despite state salary threat” via Sonja Isger of The Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County School Board members are not backing down from their newly minted mask mandate despite word Friday that the state has begun to go after the salaries of those who impose such policies on students. The Florida Department of Education had aimed the mavericks in Broward and Alachua counties, where the first mask mandates emerged in the days before school started. The department confirmed Friday that it will extend its efforts to Palm Beach County public schools and others that have since defied state demands that parents be able to opt out of such policies.

‘I’m happy that we’re back.’ Miami students return to school, fully masked and no complaints” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — The last time 16-year-old Nicolas Rodriguez went to school for a full year of in-person learning was when he was in the eighth grade. In March 2020, his first year of high school, all students in the state were sent home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The next school year, Rodriguez was among the almost 50% of Miami-Dade public school students who opted to stay home to learn. He began his junior year at MAST Academy’s Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay campus Monday, the first day back at school for all roughly 350,000 Miami-Dade public school students. “I’m happy that we’re back,” Rodriguez said while sitting in teacher Viviana Bermudez’s honors anatomy and physiology class.

‘The numbers don’t lie.’ COVID-19 hits Miami’s justice system with deaths, staff shortages” via David Ovalle and Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — The coronavirus is hitting Miami-Dade’s criminal justice system hard. In the past week, amid a surge in COVID-19 outbreaks across the state, at least five South Florida police officers have died because of complications from the virus. As officials have moved to limit the number of people gathering inside courtrooms, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office reported Monday that at least 35 employees have reported positive in August.

Delray puts pause on $500 COVID-19 vaccine incentive plan” via Victoria Villanueva-Marquez of The Palm Beach Post — Earlier this month, Delray Beach offered a $500 incentive to city employees who came into contact with the public at the height of the coronavirus pandemic to get vaccinated. But the plan is now on hold after concerns were raised about its workability. City Attorney Lynn Gelin said at the City Commission meeting last week that the city could fall afoul of discrimination laws if the vaccine incentive is limited to one group of employees. The vaccine incentive payments would have been made to 180 employees in parks and recreation, public works and utilities.

94 Sarasota sheriff’s office employees out with COVID-19-related symptoms, 60 test positive” via Allyson Henning WFLA — The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office says it is seeing an influx of employees test positive for COVID-19. According to a spokesperson, the Sheriff’s Office currently has 94 employees out of work experiencing COVID-19-related symptoms. Sixty of those employees have tested positive for COVID-19. The Sheriff’s Office has more than 1,000 employees, so under 10% of its workforce is impacted.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office gets a wave of COVID-19 cases. Image via Facebook.

—”Decorated Polk County deputy dies from COVID-19” via Fox 13

—“‘She did everything she could’: 41-year-old Lake Shipp Elementary teacher dies of COVID-19” via Kimberly C. Moore of The Lakeland Ledger

DeSantis’ mask amnesty no help for woman in viral bagel shop encounter” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — DeSantis’ executive order granting full pardon for violators of local mask ordinances was not the get-out-of-a-jam-free card that a Boynton Beach woman believed it should be. Cindy Falco DiCorrado took a trip into viral fame, with a write-up in the New York Post, when Palm Beach County deputies dragged her out of a West Boca bagel shop. Management at Einstein Bros. Bagels had called deputies after she refused to wear a mask, violating Palm Beach County’s ordinance. Decked in a leopard-print top and pants, she shrieked that she was being kidnapped as Palm Beach County deputies dragged her away.

— STATEWIDE —

FDLE opens investigation into controversial Central Florida Senate election” via Jason Garcia and Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said has opened an investigation into a high-profile state Senate race won last year by Republican Sen. Jason Brodeur. “I can tell you that FDLE is currently reviewing allegations associated with the recent Senate District 9 election,” said Gretl Plessinger, a spokeswoman for the statewide police agency. Plessinger characterized it as a “preliminary investigation.” Plessinger said FDLE is working on the probe with the office of 18th Circuit State Attorney Phil Archer, the top prosecutor for Seminole and Brevard counties.

— DATELINE TALLY —

Gun rights advocates rally at Capitol to push for ‘constitutional carry’ in Florida” via Tori Lynn Schneider of the Tallahassee Democrat — With empty gun holsters strapped to their belts, around 50 gun rights advocates rallied at the Florida Capitol Monday afternoon. Led by state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, an outspoken conservative currently running for Congress, the group gathered to display their support for relaxed gun laws in the Sunshine State. While flanked by two representatives from Gun Owners of America, a grassroots nonprofit, Sabatini announced plans to file a bill, for the third year in a row, that would allow “constitutional carry,” including open carry, in Florida.

Anthony Sabatini heads to Tallahassee for a Second Amendment rally.

Happening today — The Revenue Estimating Conference meets to discuss tax-collection enforcement diversion program and monthly revenue estimates, diversion program meeting begins 10 a.m.; revenue estimates at 10:15 a.m., 117 Knott Building.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Karl Rasmussen, Metz Husband & Daughton: Roche Diagnostics Corporation

Sherie Carrington: Executive Office of the Governor

Scott Dick, SKD Consulting Group: Novium

Cesar Fernandez, Converge Government Affairs of Florida: BLOCKCHAIN

Bob Harris, Messer Caparello: Ana G. Mendez University

Sandra Mortham, Mortham Governmental Consultants: Ana G. Mendez University, Arizona College of Nursing

— 2022 —

Another poll shows DeSantis’ favorability rating underwater” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Asked by Political Matrix/The Listener Group to rate DeSantis’ handling of the pandemic, nearly 54% of voters have an unfavorable or very unfavorable view of the Governor’s performance. By comparison, just 43% gave a favorable response of any sort, with 27% rating DeSantis’ leadership as very favorable. Charlie Crist, a Democratic Congressman and former Republican Governor running for his old job, leads 57% to DeSantis’ 43% in a head-to-head matchup. The pollsters report a 3.1% margin of error. According to this poll, DeSantis would hold up better against Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried but is still losing. She leads with 54% to DeSantis’ 46%.

Ron DeSantis’ popularity is taking a hit. Image via Twitter.

—”Different worlds: Democratic poll finds Florida voters polarized over freedom, health, DeSantis” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

—”How Nikki Fried wins the Florida primary by double digits” via Kevin Cate for Medium.com

Charlie Crist: DeSantis is a ‘direct threat’ to health, safety” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Crist met with a group of parents Monday suing DeSantis over an executive order banning mask mandates at Florida public schools. Implemented in July, the order empowers the state to impose financial consequences against school districts that implement mask mandates as a means to discourage forced masking. Crist chided DeSantis and the policy as a “direct threat” to health and safety. “This is not about calling for lockdowns or closing down our economy,” Crist said. “It’s about taking small common-sense steps to protect our children and our families and prevent another lockdown from ever happening again.”

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick unveils ads on immigration, abortion in CD 20 bid” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Cherfilus-McCormick is releasing two new television ads focusing on immigration and abortion as she seeks to replace former U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings Florida’s 20th Congressional District. Cherfilus-McCormick is part of an 11-person group battling for the Democratic nomination. Cherfilus-McCormick has tried to appeal to progressives during her campaign. Her two new ads call on Congress to approve a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and repeal the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funds from being used to pay for abortions. Both positions are popular among the progressive flank of the Democratic Party.

Happening tonight:

Blaise Ingoglia backs Jeff Holcomb as HD 35 successor” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Ingoglia endorsed Brooksville Republican Holcomb as his successor in House District 35. Holcomb is a Realtor, Hernando County Commissioner and U.S. Navy Reserve officer. “Jeff Holcomb is a principled conservative, dedicated community leader, and true patriot. He served our country with pride and distinction as an Intelligence Officer, including answering the call to active duty to defeat ISIS,” said Ingoglia, who cannot run for reelection due to term limits. “As a County Commissioner, he has been instrumental in increasing economic development and strengthening our quality of life. His deeply-held principles and valuable experience have prepared him to be an effective advocate in the State House for our community’s interests.”

For your radar, Part 1 — “9 of 10 fastest-growing districts repped by Republicans, census data shows” via POLITICO — The eight congressional districts that grew the most over the past decade were all in either Texas or Florida, mostly centered around growing cities such as Dallas, Houston and Orlando. Districts in Utah and South Carolina rounded out the Top 10. All but one of those districts are represented by Republicans — many of whom found themselves in more competitive races driven by those population changes as the last decade went on. But now, Republican lawmakers in both states have the opportunity to redraw their states’ maps.

For your radar, Part 2 — “Why some socially liberal Gen-Z voters aren’t leaving the GOP” via Alex Samuels of FiveThirtyEight — Similar to millennials, who are now in their mid-20s to early 40s, members of Gen Z are more liberal on several key social issues than older generations. Millennials and Gen Zers also backed Joe Biden over Trump in that year’s election by a 20-point margin. There is also a small but, so far, solid chunk of Gen Z that identifies as Republican. Most of them break with the mainstream of the Republican Party on many social and cultural issues but solidly agree with the GOP’s stances on the economy. They also think the Democratic Party, as it is now, has veered too far left, specifically with its stances on immigration, gun control and race.

— CORONA NATION —

—”How one woman vaccinated her town and brought attention to rural Alabama” via Hadley Hitson of the Montgomery Advertiser

—“Oregon doctors make emotional plea to the unvaccinated: ‘We cannot keep fighting this fight without your help’” via Andrea Salcedo of The Washington Post

—”N.Y.C. will require shots for all education staff, including teachers and principals.” via Eliza Shapiro and Tracey Tully of The New York Times

“First U.S. COVID-19 deaths came earlier — and in different places — than previously thought” via Harriet Blair Rowan of The Mercury News — In a significant twist that could reshape our understanding of the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, death records now indicate the first COVID-19-related deaths in California and across the country occurred in January 2020, weeks earlier than originally thought and before officials knew the virus was circulating here. A half dozen death certificates from that month in six different states — California, Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Oklahoma and Wisconsin — have been quietly amended to list COVID-19 as a contributing factor, suggesting the virus’s deadly path quickly reached far beyond coastal regions that were the country’s early known hotspots.

The first COVID-19-related deaths in California occurred in January 2020, weeks earlier than originally thought. Image via AP.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

Studies show modest job gains from U.S. states’ benefit cuts” via Howard Schneider of Reuters — New U.S. state-level data and accompanying studies show a group of largely Republican governors did not yet get the job boom they hoped for by cutting federal unemployment benefits this summer, but the loss of the stipend did appear to prompt some of the unemployed to take jobs. Underlying that top-line conclusion, however, is also evidence of a more nuanced reshuffling among different employment categories that could have a bearing on the economy’s performance in the critical months to come. Separate analyses released last week, using different data sets and methods, concluded that the 26 states that cut a $300 weekly federal unemployment stipend this summer did see the unemployed find a job at a faster rate.

Carnival Cruise Line follows other lines requiring vaccines for Bahamas sailings” via Richard Tribou of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Carnival Cruise Line took the weekend to decide but is following other cruise lines that have decided to require vaccines for most of its passengers 12 and older for sailings to the Bahamas. The line announced it was changing protocols to limit passengers on ships to those fully vaccinated only if over age 12 or with a medical condition prohibiting vaccination. The move comes after Thursday’s updated emergency COVID-19 declaration signed by Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, which will prohibit cruises ships from entering a Bahamas port, including the many cruise lines’ private islands, unless eligible passengers are fully vaccinated.

Carnival toes the line of requiring vaccinated passengers and crew. Image via AP.

—”CVS Health will require COVID‑19 vaccinations for clinical and corporate employees” via CVS Health

—”United Airlines will require vaccination, and Amazon revives mask mandates.” via Niraj Chokshi of The New York Times

It’s ‘back to that isolation bubble’ for workers pining for the office” via Kellen Browning of The New York Times — While workers who want to stay at home forever have been especially vocal about their demands, a silent majority of Americans do want to get back to the office, at least for a few days a week. But as the latest coronavirus surge has led employers to delay return-to-office plans, that larger group is growing increasingly glum. In a national survey of more than 950 workers, 31% said they would prefer to work from home full time. By comparison, 45% said they wanted to be in a workplace or an office full time. The remaining 24% said they wanted to split time between work and home.

— MORE CORONA —

China hits zero COVID-19 cases with a month of draconian curbs” via Bloomberg — It’s been just over a month, and China has once again squelched COVID-19, bringing its local cases down to zero. It was more difficult this time, even though the leaders of the world’s most populous nation used the same playbook they followed to quell more than 30 previous flare-ups. The China model shows what it takes to get COVID-19 under control and raises questions about whether other nations would be willing — or able — to follow the same draconian steps. China took testing to an unprecedented level during this go-round. Local authorities checked their populations repeatedly, a dozen times in one city alone, to ensure every last infection was caught. In all, more than 100 million tests were administered.

China’s hard-line on COVID-19 is paying off. Image via AP.

WHO head calls for two-month vaccine booster moratorium” via Justin Spike of The Washington Post — The head of the World Health Organization called for a two-month moratorium on administering booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines as a means of reducing global vaccine inequality and preventing the emergence of new coronavirus variants. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Hungary’s capital, Budapest, that he was “really disappointed” with the scope of vaccine donations worldwide as many countries struggle to provide first and second doses to more than small fractions of their populations while wealthier nations maintain growing vaccine stockpiles. Tedros called on countries offering third vaccine doses “to share what can be used for boosters with other countries so (they) can increase their first and second vaccination coverage.”

Israel finds COVID-19 vaccine booster significantly lowers infection risk” via Reuters — A third dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has significantly improved protection from infection and serious illness among people aged 60 and older in Israel compared with those who received two shots, findings published by the Health Ministry showed on Sunday. The data were presented at a meeting of a ministry panel of vaccination experts on Thursday and uploaded to its website on Sunday, though the full details of the study were not released. The findings were on par with separate statistics reported last week by Israel’s Maccabi health care provider, one of several organizations administering booster shots to try to curb the Delta coronavirus variant.

Many school districts keep COVID-19 closure thresholds flexible” via Ben Chapman, Lee Hawkins and Yoree Koh of The Wall Street Journal — When U.S. schools reopened for in-person learning last year, many districts had clear metrics for thresholds that would trigger school closures due to COVID-19. This year, more are taking a wait-and-see approach. As districts around the country reopen amid rising cases and hospitalizations, many haven’t developed formal contingency plans that lay out what it will take for them to close a school or quarantine students. Officials say they are wary of setting benchmarks that may repeatedly change as they did last year. The contingency plans, or lack thereof, have some parents clamoring for more transparency while others advocate for schools to remain open as much as possible.

This school year is going to be a mess — again” via Sarah Zhang of The Atlantic — Since early summer, three pandemic clocks have been ticking. The first pertains to the coronavirus’s Delta variant. The second clock is more predictable: The school year starts in late August or early September. The third clock counts down to the authorization of vaccines for children under 12. These three timelines have now managed to converge in the worst way possible. The risk the coronavirus poses to an individual child is still very low — fewer than 1% of sick kids need ICU treatment — and with millions of the most vulnerable adults now vaccinated, the danger of kids bringing the virus home from schools is also much reduced from last year. But Delta will make for a bumpy school year even without very sick kids.

Parents are not OK” via Dan Sinker of The Atlantic — It was a year in limbo: school on stuttering Zoom, school in person, and then back home again for quarantine, school all the time, and none of the time. No part of it was good for kids or parents, but most parts of it were safe, and somehow, impossibly, we made it through a full year. It was hell, but we did it. Time collapsed, and it was summer again, and, briefly, things looked better. And suddenly, now it’s back to school while cases are rising, back to school while masks are a battleground, back to school while everyone under 12 is still unvaccinated. Parents are living a repeat of the worst year of their lives — except this time, no matter what, kids are going back.

Parents are feeling the strain and have had enough. Image via AP.

“A hospital finds an unlikely group opposing vaccination: Its workers” via Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura of The New York Times — Their movement started discreetly, just a handful of people communicating on encrypted apps like WhatsApp and Signal. But in just days, it had ballooned tenfold. And within two weeks, it had turned into a full-blown public protest, with people waving picket signs to denounce efforts to push them to receive coronavirus vaccines. But these were not just any vaccine resisters. They were nurses, medical technicians, infection control officers and other staff who work at a hospital in Staten Island, which has the highest rate of COVID-19 infection of any borough in New York City.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Full FDA approval of Pfizer vaccine ‘a key milestone,’ Joe Biden says” via Adela Suliman, Bryan Pietsch and Brittany Shammas of The Washington Post — On the heels of the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, Biden again urged unvaccinated Americans to get the shots. Speaking from the White House, he called the approval “a key milestone in our nation’s fight against COVID-19” and stressed that inoculation saves lives. The coronavirus continues to be “a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” he said, adding that those awaiting final FDA approval no longer have a reason to delay. “The moment you’ve been waiting for is here; it’s time for you to go get your vaccination and get it today,” Biden said.

No more excuses for not getting vaccinated, Joe Biden says. Image via AP.

— CRISIS —

Infowars host Owen Shroyer wanted a ‘new revolution’ on Jan. 6, feds say. Now he’s charged in The Capitol riot.” via Jonathan Edwards of The Washington Post — The day of the U.S. Capitol riot, Shroyer led a crowd from the spot where Trump had just given a speech encouraging his supporters to “fight like hell,” authorities said. As they marched to the Capitol, the right-wing talk show host allegedly told the masses why they were going. “Today we march for the Capitol because on this historic January 6, 2021, we have to let our Congressmen and women know, and we have to let Mike Pence know, they stole the election,” Shroyer told them. Shroyer was charged with two federal crimes in connection with the Jan. 6 riot: illegally entering a restricted area on Capitol grounds and disorderly conduct. In a video posted to the Infowars website, Shroyer said he plans to turn himself in on Monday morning.

Proud Boy leader Enrique Tarrio sentenced to five months in jail for high-capacity magazines, BLM flag burning” via Jordan Fischer of WTSP — A D.C. Superior Court judge sentenced Tarrio to more than five months behind bars Monday for burning a Black Lives Matter banner and bringing two high-capacity magazines into the District of Columbia. Judge Harold Cushenberry said Tarrio’s apparent lack of remorse and repeated criminal violations following previous terms of probation warranted a higher sentence than the 90 days the Justice Department requested in the case. On Monday, he sentenced Tarrio to 155 days in jail and three years of probation.

— LOCAL NOTES —

Joe Carollo reelection bid for Miami Commission tops $1.6M with real estate-heavy July haul” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Carollo‘s reelection bid for the city’s 3rd District continued to gain steam last month as he added $142,000 to his already stacked campaign coffers. That’s roughly triple the combined amount his two opponents have raised altogether. Carollo’s campaign last month added $23,500. His political committee, Miami First, took in $118,500. Unsurprisingly, much of the money came from Miami’s booming real estate market, including some notable commercial property owners and developers. Now less than three months from the city’s General Election, the former Miami Mayor has more than $1.6 million in cash to defend the City Commission seat he won in 2017 by just 252 votes.

Joe Carollo posts some blockbuster numbers for reelection. Image via Facebook.

Miami losing another chief resilience officer. What’s left of the climate change department?” via Alex Harris Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Alan Dodd, Miami’s chief resilience officer and head of public works, announced his resignation this week. He took over the resilience position just a year ago in addition to his public works duties after the city’s first CRO, Jane Gilbert, left. Dodd submitted his resignation in a letter. In it, he does not explain leaving but said it was “an honor” to work alongside the resilience and public works staff. City Manager Art Noriega told the Miami Herald he considers the position crucial in preparing the city for the impacts of climate change. He said he’ll miss Dodd’s experience that blended public works with resilience knowledge.

Redistricting, take two: Jacksonville resumes work on new map using 2020 Census” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — The U.S. Census Bureau released detailed data on Aug. 12 that Jacksonville City Council will use to draw lines for 14 City Council districts and seven Duval County School Board seats. The stalled redistricting for Jacksonville City Council and School Board seats has swung back into action after the U.S. Census Bureau finally released data that will guide redrawing lines in a city that’s increasingly turned “purple” in choosing among Republican and Democrats in political races. A special City Council district on redistricting will propose a new map by the end of the year that will determine the characteristics of the 14 City Council districts and shape campaigns for the rest of the decade.

FEMA giving $12.7 million to Bay County cities, schools for hurricane recovery costs” via The Panama City News Herald — According to FEMA, the agency this week approved about $7.4 million in reimbursement to Panama City and Mexico Beach for recovery expenses from the 2018 Category 5 storm. It also approved about $5.3 million to Bay District Schools. Specifically, Mexico Beach will get a little more than $6.2 million for dredging operations throughout the city marina municipal canal, including collecting and removing 23,589 cubic yards of storm-generated dredge solids. Panama City will receive about $1.2 million to help cover the cost of rebuilding the 31,200-square-foot old City Hall occupied by the juvenile justice system. The building will be stronger and more resilient to future storms.

Frustrated house hunters give up on buying a home in Orlando” via Trevor Fraser of the Orlando Sentinel — Ken Johnson, a real estate economist at Florida Atlantic University, says a lack of supply and all-cash buyers who don’t care about the condition of the house are driving out many house hunters. “If you’ve got a more traditional homebuyer, they’re almost certainly coming with financing,” he said. Real estate agent Vicki Foley of Dunklestern LLC in Volusia County said several clients had walked away from the market. “The buyers I’m working with, when we first started out, homes were in their budget,” she said. “Now, I don’t have anything to offer them for the amount they got approved.”

Palm Beach County, state cast a wary eye on tourism in coming months” via Alexandra Clough and Antonio Fins of The Palm Beach Post — Florida’s emergence as a global COVID-19 pariah is a national talking point, but will that make promoting travel here a harder sell? While the scrutiny has proved costly to some state travel businesses, Palm Beach County tourism officials remain optimistic. It’s not just wishful thinking. The numbers show business has been booming this summer. And the anecdotal evidence supports that view, too. Hotel rooms are booked. Weddings are taking place. And meetings and conventions still are on, for now. That’s not necessarily the case elsewhere. Orlando, for example, has seen the cancellation of a few key conventions.

Florida is cautiously optimistic about the return of tourism.

Tampa airport to hire nearly 1,000 workers at largest job fair ever” via Jay Cridlin of the Tampa Bay Times — Even with COVID-19′s Delta variant surging, people are still traveling to and from Florida in huge numbers. And Tampa International Airport is racing to meet demand. That’s why the airport this week will hold its largest career fair ever, with nearly 1,000 jobs up for grabs. The fair, scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday between airsides E and F in the main terminal, will feature about 950 openings at shops, restaurants and rental car companies; as well as airport services like maintenance, baggage handling and customer service. The fair has about twice the number of openings of two other big airport job fairs this year. Events in February and May sought to hire about 480 workers.

Happening today — The University of South Florida Board of Trustees meets at 9:30 a.m., University of South Florida, Marshall Student Center, Tampa.

— TOP OPINION —

To COVID-19, there are no red states, no blue states, just the United States” via Jason Sattler of USA Today — If you were repulsed by the idea that DeSantis “won” the pandemic, you might get perverse pleasure from watching his state of Florida continually set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations. Critics of Gov. Greg Abbott could get smug watching him catch the coronavirus as he wages war against any effort to mandate measures to contain the pandemic. And who can do anything but shake their heads as the 20,000 students forced to quarantine in Mississippi can’t persuade Gov. Tate Reeves to implement a statewide mask requirement? But please don’t get cocky. These slow-motion disasters are nothing to savor and not just because the tens of thousands getting sick aren’t getting an early booster shot. And, as Oregon has already learned, your state could be next.

— OPINIONS —

The tweets of a dangerously disengaged Governor” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — During the latest COVID-19 surge, DeSantis posted scores of tweets on his official Twitter account, @GovRonDeSantis, mirroring the Governor’s priorities. He weighed in on issues of vital interest to Floridians, like the condo collapse in Surfside, the approach of tropical weather, and the red tide outbreaks on Florida’s west coast. DeSantis even found time to post about Florida’s annual python hunt — twice. That’s two more times than he posted about the crush of COVID-19 patients pushing the limits of Florida’s hospital system. Two more times than he posted to console the hundreds of families who lost loved ones during this summer’s COVID-19 outbreak. And two more times than he posted a plea for his fellow Floridians to get vaccinated.

Dr. Scott Rivkees is no longer suited to be Florida’s Surgeon General” via Stephen E. Landay, Lisa Tumarkin, Judith Banks and Irwin Kash for The Gainesville Sun — Until he became the Surgeon General of Florida, Rivkees had a distinguished career in pediatric education and research. However, since he’s become the surgeon general, something or someone — or both — have made him change … dramatically. Rivkees has rarely been seen or heard in public. Why? Doesn’t his pediatric and scientific expertise make him the most authoritative member of DeSantis’ administration to speak on medical matters, especially those related to children? As our “state’s doctor,” shouldn’t he have been holding town hall meetings in communities with low COVID-19 immunization rates to try to overcome vaccine hesitancy, a subject that all general pediatricians regularly encounter and address? Why has he allowed DeSantis to go verbally unchallenged on this critically important subject?

COVID-19 through the eyes of a Miami ER doctor. ‘Getting vaccinated is an act of love’” via Juhi Varshney of the Miami Herald — I have been trying to recommend vaccination to all of my patients. I tell them that getting vaccinated is an act of love showing how deeply you care about the health of the people around you. For some people, talking to a doctor has helped. There is so much information out there, and it can be hard to know what to trust. If you follow the news, it can feel like many people get bad reactions to the vaccine. But that’s not what we see in the hospital. Most people who get the vaccine get a sore arm and a day of body aches. The number of people who get complications from the vaccine is almost zero compared to those who get complications from the virus.

The health and safety of children remain the priority” via Alexandria Ayala for the Orlando Sentinel — Aug. 18 was the one-year anniversary of the day I won my election to serve on the Palm Beach County School Board. Back then, I never could have imagined that exactly one year later, I’d have to risk everything I just fought for simply to protect my constituents. I knew that life as a public official would have its trials and tribulations but defying state mandates wasn’t part of the deal. We have a long, uncertain path before us. Many of us are looking at possible removal from office. But as long as I’m in a capacity to serve, I will do everything in my power to keep our children and teachers safe. We must prioritize safety over comfort so that we can come out of this together.

We need infrastructure funding now” via Rep. Stephanie Murphy for the Orlando Sentinel — This month, the Senate passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill after painstaking negotiations between Biden and Congress. All 50 Senate Democrats and 19 Senate Republicans voted yes. Beyond proving the two parties can still work together in terribly partisan times, the bill constitutes a critical first step to improve quality of life and create good-paying jobs in the Sunshine State. Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, and the bill would make historic investments to combat climate change, an existential threat to our planet, our country, and the Florida way of life. The bill enjoys support from over 70% of the American people.

Hey, GOP: There’s a museum up in Montgomery y’all really ought to see” via Diane Roberts of Florida Phoenix — Thousands of names written on the 800 columns at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a place that only opened in 2018 but feels as ancient and as sacred as Stonehenge. The EJI’s cultural projects have made sure that Montgomery doesn’t only celebrate the “romance” of the Old South but also maps where enslaved people were shipped up the Alabama River, the pens in which they were kept, and the site of the city’s huge slave market, now called Court Square, where an estimated 135,000 human beings were bought and sold between 1804 and 1862. The Equal Justice Initiative is here to remind us that Jim Crow isn’t gone. Our history still warps our present.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Circuit Judge John Cooper is hearing legal arguments in a trial over the Governor’s right to ban mask mandates at local schools. But attorneys for the Governor say he did nothing wrong. The trial continues today.

Also on today’s Sunrise:

— Another day on the road with DeSantis as he continues to plug Regeneron in St. Lucie, Alachua and Englewood.

— Remember that awful photo last week of a woman lying on the floor of a Regeneron center in Jacksonville writhing in pain while they waited? Turns out she’s OK.

— What do you get when you combine a mask supporter with a podium mic with an anti-masker holding a megaphone? Chaos.

— And finally, police are accusing a Florida Woman of throwing her pussy in the river. His name was Stanley.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Disney Wish behind-the-scenes: Star Wars space for adults long time coming” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Hundreds of recognizable and barely recognizable Star Wars spacecraft will be flying in the background scenes of the very high definition window into space of the new Star Wars: Hyperspace Lounge coming to the Disney Wish when Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship debuts in summer 2022. Disney Imagineers are honing the bells and whistles in Orlando for the space to be installed on the ship under construction in Germany. It’s the first Star Wars space geared toward adults after the cruise line installed spaces in the Oceaneer Club aboard both Disney Dream and Fantasy, geared for kids ages 3-12.

Themed restaurants are just one of the high-end amenities on the new Disney Wish. Image via Disney.

Apple’s iOS 15 reversal shows it’s now actually listening to users” via Mark Gurman of Bloomberg — Steve Jobs used to say that consumers don’t know what they want and trust Apple to make decisions for them. For iOS 15’s release this year, Apple planned to make some of the biggest changes ever to the design of the Safari web browser on the iPhone. This past week, after mounting complaints from users, including by me in Power On, Apple reversed course, making the new design an option in the Settings app. With that change, Apple will offer users two distinct interfaces for a core app, a rarity in the iOS world.

What Adam Giery is reading — “Do blue-light glasses work? Who cares — they look hot” via Aydali Campa of The Wall Street Journal — Almost a year and a half after the pandemic shut offices and schools, people are starting to return to normal routines and reducing screen time. Even if they are ready to trade sweatpants for work slacks, many don’t want to let go of their blue-light glasses. Fans are keeping them on or buying the first pair because they say they look cool or smart wearing them or that the lenses make the world take on the dreamy look of a “Twilight” movie. Eyewear brands market them as being able to protect eyes from damage by blue light, a light wave from the sun and digital devices.

Diner leaves $10,000 tip for workers at Florida restaurant” via The Associated Press — A diner at a north Florida restaurant gathered the staff of 10 together to thank them for their hard work before leaving them a $10,000 tip to share. It happened Tuesday night as the man, his wife and son finished their dinner at the Wahoo Seafood Grill, the Gainesville Sun reported. Shawn Shepherd, who owns Wahoo, told the newspaper he got a call from his employees that night, alerting him to the big tip. His first thought was to be suspicious. He said he’s very thankful to the diner because his employees have been loyal to the restaurant through the pandemic.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday to former state Sen. Rob Bradley, former state Reps. Dave Kerner and Leslie Waters, as well as Steve Cona of Associated Builders and Contractors, Fred Grimm, TV’s Troy Kinsey, and the brilliant Andrea Reilly.

___

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


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