Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.
Good Tuesday morning.
She said yes — A top-of-Sunburn shoutout to a couple of great people, Beth Boyd Nunnally of SAS and GrayRobinson’s Kirk Pepper, who became engaged this weekend in Colorado Springs.
Congratulations to the engagement of two good peeps. ___
There is no question Jeff Bezos is a brilliant, innovative man. It’s not enough that he revolutionized global commerce when he founded Amazon; he has always been two steps ahead of the competition.
At $188.4 billion, give or take an island or two, he also has the cash to indulge himself. That wealth will be on full display Tuesday morning when he blasts to the edge of space in his fully automated Blue Origin rocket.
He spent an estimated $7.5 billion to build and program the vessel.
Godspeed to Blue Origin and its multibillion-dollar passenger. Image via AP. Let’s compare and contrast, shall we?
MacKenzie Scott, Bezos’ ex-wife, committed to giving away the billions she received when she ended their 25-year marriage. Her original $36 billion in Amazon stock has grown to an estimated $60 billion.
Scott and her new husband, high school science teacher Dan Jewett, have so far donated $8.5 billion to 786 organizations — roughly equivalent to what Bezos spent to scratch a lifelong itch for space travel.
Recent recipients include Florida International University, the University of Central Florida, and Broward College.
“In this effort, we are governed by a humbling belief that it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a small number of hands and that the solutions are best designed and implemented by others,” Scott wrote in a recent blog post.
To be fair, Bezos donated $10 billion last year to launch the Bezos Earth Fund. He also gave $100 million to Feeding America, which supplies more than 200 food banks.
But where his ex-wife pledged to “keep at it until the safe is empty,” Bezos plans to charge passengers who want to join him in space up to $2.1 million for the ride.
But Godspeed Blue Origin, and return safely.
Just don’t forget, though, what Bezos’ former wife said about disproportionate wealth concentrated in a small number of hands. Her point will be made the second Blue Origin’s engines ignite.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@asmamk: In response to a question about Canada reopening its borders to US citizens and whether the US would do the same for Canadians, @PressSec says the US is continuing to evaluate the situation and wouldn’t look at this through a “reciprocal” lens.
—@NikkiFried: 1 in 5 COVID new cases are from Florida — but @GovRonDeSantis is still fighting the CDC in court on businesses requiring vaccines. He should drop the lawsuit. Taxpayer funds aren’t for attacking businesses’ ability to protect customers. Our economy depends on public health.
—@RepValDemings: Please be aware: COVID-19 cases are once again spiking in Florida. We are not through this yet. Please get vaccinated. Doctors and medical experts agree: it is safe, effective, and free.
—@MitchPerry18: Congressman @VernBuchanan office reports he’s tested positive for #COVID19. Press release says that he’s been vaccinated, but was tested after experiencing “very mild-flu-like symptoms.”
—@ammarmufasa: COVID cases surging in Florida. Vaccination rates are down. Red tide outbreak along the coast. And where’s @GovRonDeSantis? Texas and Aspen, Colorado. #FlaPol
—@SkylerSwisher: “I would rather see us ‘(Anthony) Fauci our Florida’ than have people go through death by DeSantis,” @DWStweets says, placing blame on DeSantis for Florida’s new COVID surge
—@pdacosta: Dr. Fauci, asked about whether there’s a risk to school reopening in the fall on Bloomberg TV: “Everything is on the table.”
Doocy: 99% of people who are dying are unvaccinated
Kilmeade: That’s their choice!
Doocy: They don’t want to die. The admin and gov’t says mask mandates are to protect the unvaccinated
Kilmeade: That’s not their job, it’s not their job to protect anybody! pic.twitter.com/NsP2IcMnCX
— Lis Power (@LisPower1) July 19, 2021
—@justinbaragona: Hell of a scoop here from @ryangrim Fox News has a “FOX Clear Pass” for all vaccinated employees. Yep, the very vaccine passport that Tucker Carlson and other hosts have railed so loudly against on air.
—@conarck: Notably, @JacksonHealth is sharing vaccination status of its patients now. Says 95% are unvaccinated. CC: @DaytimeDan
—@LSeabrookWFTV: The two-week rolling positivity rate is now 11.2% in @OrangeCoFL and the @OCFLMayor says ALL of the recent cases have been in unvaccinated people. The vax rate is slowly ticking up but still a ways to go before hitting herd immunity at 79%.
Sums it up. pic.twitter.com/0k0CjP2i63
— Fred Wellman (@FPWellman) July 19, 2021
—@JesseRodriguez: Hospital in Jacksonville, FL thinks they will break their record for number of COVID patients today, last set in Jan during the last outbreak, and before vaccines were available
—@Conarck: Miami-Dade’s public @JacksonHealth hospital has updated its COVID threat level to high, rolling back visitation policies effective Wednesday.
—@Farhip: The post-(Donald) Trump news slump continues online. Traffic has declined at leading news sites almost every month since January peak and from a year ago.
— DAYS UNTIL —
New start date for 2021 Olympics — 3; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 3; the NBA Draft — 8; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 10; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 17; Canada will open its border to fully vaccinated Americans — 20; ‘Marvel’s What If …?’ premieres on Disney+ — 22; Florida Behavioral Health Association’s Annual Conference (BHCon) begins — 29; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 35; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 45; NFL regular season begins — 51; California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 56; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 56; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 62; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 66; ‘Dune’ premieres — 73; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 73; MLB regular season ends — 75; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 80; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 98; World Series Game 1 — 99; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 99; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 105; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 105; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 109; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 111; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 122; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 129; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 143; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 150; NFL season ends — 173; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 175; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 175; NFL playoffs begin — 179; Super Bowl LVI — 208; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 248; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 290; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 317; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 353; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 444; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 479.
— TOP STORY —
“Ron DeSantis vows to appeal court decision that keeps CDC cruise rules in place” via Taylor Dolven of the Miami Herald — Ten minutes before cruise safety regulations from the CDC were set to turn into recommendations for Florida cruises on Saturday at midnight, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit intervened to keep them in place in a 2-1 decision. Now DeSantis said Monday that the state plans to appeal that ruling to the full panel of appeals court judges in hopes of allowing cruises to operate from Florida ports free of CDC oversight. The ruling is the latest in a series of whiplash-inducing court decisions as the cruise industry tries to regain consumer confidence. It reverses last month’s decision from U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday of the Middle District of Florida, that said the CDC did not sufficiently justify the need for its cruise safety regulations that are causing the state “economic harm.”
Ron DeSantis is not giving up on the CDC fight. — #SOSCUBA —
“U.S. expected to take initial steps soon in aftermath of Cuba protests” via Matt Spetalnick, Daphne Psaledakis and Simon Lewis of Reuters — The United States is expected to soon announce initial steps as part of the Joe Biden administration’s review of Cuba policy, and in response to Havana’s crackdown on the biggest street protests in decades, State Department officials said on Monday. The senior officials’ comments further signaled that Biden was not ready to soften the U.S. approach after his predecessor rolled back a historic Barack Obama-era detente with Havana and that the latest Cuban unrest would have a significant impact on any policy moves. The officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, also made clear that the Biden administration is still seeking ways to ease the humanitarian plight of the Cuban people while keeping pressure on the Communist-led government in Havana.
The Joe Biden administration is still seeking ways to ease the humanitarian plight of the Cuban people. Image via Reuters. —“‘Time is of the essence’: DeSantis urges Joe Biden to move on Cuba internet help” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics
“Biden orders review of Havana embassy staff, remittances after Cuba protests” via Michael Wilner and Nora Gamez Torres of the Miami Herald — Biden took steps on Monday to respond to a historic wave of protests in Cuba, ordering the State Department to review an increase in staff at the U.S. Embassy in Havana and forming a working group that will consider remittances for Cuban families. The administration’s new policy moves mark a step forward for a White House that has been reviewing its posture toward Cuba for over six months. But the administration felt a sudden sense of urgency to act when an islandwide anti-government uprising erupted last week, leaving many injured and at least one confirmed dead. Hundreds of protesters are still under detention after a violent crackdown ordered by Cuban authorities.
“Marco Rubio blasts calls from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders to lift U.S. embargo on Cuba” via Samuel Chamber lain of the New York Post — “All they know is, they’re just spewing off a left-wing talking point, because if you notice, these are the same people that [say] over and over again, ‘It’s always America’s fault,’” Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants and a Republican from Florida, told Fox News. “No matter what problem there is in the world, America’s to blame for it. America’s done something wrong. They don’t know what the heck they’re talking about.
“A week after the protests began in Cuba, the rallies in Miami continue to manifest” via Carlos Martínez of the Miami Herald — Hundreds of people gathered outside Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana Sunday afternoon in solidarity with the demonstrations in Cuba protesting against the communist regime. Cuban flags, music by Willy Chirino, and T-shirts with the phrase “Patria y Vida” — Spanish for “Homeland and life” — were the common denominator during the demonstration. Protesters shouted “freedom” in unison as cars with flags drove along 8th Street, honking their horns. One of the protesters, Luis Eligio D. Omni, said that these events that are being experienced in Cuba are a “continuation” of what happened in November with the San Isidro barracks.
— DATELINE TALLY —
“‘Paying for tickets on buses and flying folks around’: DeSantis continues to hammer Biden after border visit” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — After a weekend visit to the Southern border, DeSantis returned to Florida Monday with an urgent message for Floridians: Biden’s immigration policies are failing at the border. Speaking at a news conference in Poinciana, DeSantis described the surge of narcotics and “criminal aliens” into the United States as “unprecedented.” What’s more, he laid the blame at Biden’s feet. “Word is out that the U.S. isn’t going to defend its border….” DeSantis told reporters. The Governor’s weekend trip comes weeks after he mobilized roughly 50 state law enforcement officers to patrol the region.
Ron DeSantis continues to blast Joe Biden for the ‘disaster’ at the Mexican border. “First bill filed for 2022 Session would criminalize harassing police” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — After Republicans prioritized a bill this year cracking down on riots, at least one lawmaker wants to penalize people who harass police officers. Rep. Alex Rizo filed a measure (HB 11) Monday that would prohibit people from provoking or harassing law enforcement officers or impeding their duties. That bill is the first bill filed ahead for the 2022 Session, which begins in January. The bill would criminalize approaching a police officer after being warned not to if the offender does so with the intent to disrupt the officer’s duties. People would also break the law if they approached with the intent to harass or provoke a physical response from the officer.
“DeSantis celebrates Florida Wildlife Corridor expansion” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — Florida is expanding protected land to encourage wildlife habitats and migratory routes and to aid the large network of watersheds throughout the state. At a bill signing ceremony Monday, DeSantis said the legislation would generate a host of ecosystem benefits, including new water quality and quantity, outdoor recreation and habitat, and species protection. “Land conservation is an essential tool for environmental protection, and the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act will further our already successful efforts,” DeSantis said. The Florida Wildlife Corridor Act requires the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to encourage and promote investment in and protection of the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
— STATEWIDE —
“Drug overdoses climb in Florida amid pandemic” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Floridians are overdosing at higher rates than many Americans. According to provisional data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths spiked in Florida amid the COVID-19 pandemic, surging at least 37% in 2020. In all, roughly 7,579 people died of an overdose in Florida last year. Comparatively, fewer than 5,550 died in 2019 within the state. Democratic Rep. Kelly Skidmore suggests the dramatic increase underscores the ongoing toll of a pandemic inflicting isolation and economic despair among the masses.
Kelly Skidmore believes economic distress is fueling a spike in opioid overdoses. Image via Colin Hackley. “Florida leads the nation in new HIV cases” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida leads the U.S. in the number of new HIV cases and has the nation’s third-highest infection rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. The state reported almost 4,400 new HIV infections in 2019, the most recent data available for the federal agency’s HIV surveillance report. Florida’s infection rate averages out to 23.7 cases per 100,000 people, trailing only the District of Columbia and Georgia. Florida is also well above the national average rate of 13.
“State gives assurances on addressing red tide” via The News Service of Florida — Department of Environmental Protection Interim Secretary Shawn Hamilton plans to be in the Tampa Bay region Tuesday to address a red tide outbreak that is being tied to massive sealife deaths. Hamilton said he wants to give assurances that the state coordinates with people working locally on the outbreak. “I think it’s important to make sure they know that they have a connection to the highest level of the department, to make sure there are no unanswered questions,” Hamilton said. “We’ve been involved since day one securing funding avenues. And we’ll continue to do that.” DeSantis said Monday the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Center for Red Tide Research received $4.8 million in the current state budget.
“Ron DeSantis has a dead fish problem” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO — A new red tide algae bloom expanding in Southwest Florida has left more than 650 tons of dead marine wildlife floating in waterways and polluting the tourist-heavy region of Tampa and St. Petersburg with decomposing sea life. About 200 St. Petersburg employees have been cleaning up beaches there, and Pinellas County has already spent more than $1 million to mitigate the environmental mess. DeSantis’ critics over the last week have criticized the Republican governor for his response to the algae bloom, urging him to take more drastic measures before the problem becomes worse.
“Jimmy Patronis heads to Greece to honor father’s life” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Patronis will travel to Greece alongside his mother this week as they honor the passing of his father, Jimmy Patronis Sr. Patronis Sr., 88, died in early January of 2020 after a long illness. But travel restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic left loved ones abroad unable to attend a service. A Florida State University graduate and an Air Force veteran, Patronis Sr. leaves behind a thriving family, a restaurant and winery. “Although he is an alumnus of Florida State and was a die-hard Florida State sports fan, we must not fail to mention that Jimmy attended the University of Florida for a year and a half,” an online obituary reads.
“Hedge fund, Duke Energy spar over the utility’s leadership team” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A hedge fund with a large stake in Duke Energy says the company’s stock has underwhelmed, but changes in the C-suite could put it back on track. The utility company isn’t buying it. Elliott Investment Management had previously recommended Duke Energy split into three companies, one covering the Carolinas, another covering Florida, and a third covering the Midwest. Duke Energy balked at the suggestion, but hedge fund managers say it has received “an outpouring of feedback” from other stakeholders that Elliott isn’t alone in believing there are inefficiencies at Duke Energy. The new letter, dated July 19, says Duke Energy has a “poor track record of delivering on commitments.”
“‘Serious lapses’ in state condo law come after years of influence by special interests” via Jeffrey Schweers of the USA Today Network — The bill was passed unanimously by both the House and Senate, and signed into law by then-Gov. Charlie Crist. Two years later, lawyers and lobbyists for the condominium associations, property managers and developers pushed back. They convinced lawmakers to repeal the five-year inspection provision Rep. Julio Robaina worked so hard to get into law in the first place, according to Robaina and others involved in the process. But it was done in a way Robaina didn’t see coming: snuck into the back of a 102-page, comprehensive building safety bill.
— 2022 —
“DraftKings, FanDuel target Florida user base to fuel sports betting petition” via Jordan Kirkland of The Capitolist — Major sports betting operators DraftKings and FanDuel are tapping into their Florida player base to meet a petition threshold that would give Florida voters a say in the expansion of sports gambling. The colossal sports betting platforms, which recently funneled $20 million to spearhead a voting initiative led by Florida Education Champions that would expand online sports gambling beyond the proposed Seminole Tribe Compact, are calling on users to ‘sign the petition to bring more sports betting’ to the Sunshine State.
“Amanda Makki ‘major announcement’ signals likely CD 13 bid” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Makki, who lost the race two years ago in the Republican Primary to Anna Paulina Luna, is making a “major announcement” Tuesday at 10 a.m., she said Monday. The news follows a trip to the southern border earlier this month in which she lamented in a tweet: “wall construction has STOPPED & now we have ARMED ILLEGALS crossing an open border, trespassing/kidnapping because of Biden’s OPEN BORDER policies.” Over the weekend, Makki joined a rally supporting Cuban protesters in St. Pete. Both moves show Makki is positioning herself on key issues facing voters in the 2022 election cycle. If she runs, Makki will again face Luna, who established herself two years ago as a pro-Trump conservative and social media firebrand.
Is Amanda Makki about to hit the campaign trail? —“Long-shot Miami politician Ken Russell debuts in U.S. Senate race with $441K raised” via Anne Geggis
—“Mario Díaz-Balart holds more than $1M in cash as he faces challenge from Adam Gentle” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics
“Wilton Simpson, Kathleen Passidomo endorse Nick DiCeglie in SD 24” via Janelle Taylor Irvin — DiCeglie picked up two major endorsements Monday in his race for Florida Senate District 24. Senate President Simpson and Passidomo, who will serve as Senate President in 2022-2024, both offered nods. “The Florida Senate is where taxpayers’ hard-earned money is respected, families and communities are protected, and businesses are left to create jobs and fuel our economy,” Simpson said. “Nick DiCeglie has been a steady champion for these shared Florida values, and we look forward to helping his campaign for Senate.” DiCeglie is running to replace Sen. Jeff Brandes, who is not seeking reelection due to term limits.
“Citing increased demands, Steve Simeonidis stepping down as head of Miami-Dade Democratic Party” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Simeonidis says he’s resigning from that role at the end of July, citing increased demands of the position. “While rewarding, being party chair is demanding, both personally and professionally,” Simeonidis wrote in his resignation letter. “And it should be — it’s a tough job. But that’s just it. It should be a job — not a volunteer position.” The move comes just over seven months after Simeonidis was reelected party chair. That term was expected to last for four years. But in the letter, Simeonidis said he made his decision to step down official. “I’ve provided notice to the state party and the Supervisor of Elections that I will be stepping down as Chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party at the end of the month.” Simeonidis wrote.
“County elections offices using multistate database for first time to check voter info” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Final address verification notices are going over the next few days to 12,000 people on the Leon County voter rolls who may not be living in Florida anymore based on official records gleaned from a multistate database. “Ensuring the accuracy and integrity of our voter rolls is an important responsibility of my office,” Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley said Monday. This marks the first time that Earley and the state’s other 67 county election supervisors are using the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) since joining two years ago to identify and purge ineligible voters from their rolls. Some counties have already completed the list maintenance update, while others are in the process of doing so or will complete it in the next month.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“DeSantis says vaccines are keeping people out of the hospital” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — In his most comprehensive statement on vaccine advocacy in a long time, DeSantis said Monday it is clear COVID-19 vaccines are keeping people out of hospitals. Yet, at a news conference in Poinciana regarding wildlife corridors, the Governor expressed reluctance to sound pushy in telling Floridians they should get vaccinated. He suggested anything coming across as aggressive likely would make distrustful people more annoyed and hesitant. But the data makes a case, he offered. “If you are vaccinated, though, the number of people who end up hospitalized is almost zero. It’s incredibly, incredibly low,” DeSantis said.
“Gov. DeSantis blames ‘quote-unquote experts’ for public distrust of COVID-19 vaccines” via Steven Lemongello — DeSantis wouldn’t commit to holding more events promoting COVID-19 vaccinations and blamed public distrust of “experts” as the main reason why more people haven’t gotten inoculated in Florida. His comments came Monday as the virus is booming again in the state and across much of the United States. Asked what he would do to raise Florida’s fully vaccinated population beyond the current 54% of people 12 and older, DeSantis didn’t answer the question, saying instead it was important not to be overly critical of people who don’t want to get the shot.
“‘Death by DeSantis.’ Wasserman Schultz blames Governor for Florida’s COVID-19 surge” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Wasserman Schultz says two factors help explain the dramatic increase in Florida’s COVID-19 cases: DeSantis’ cavalier attitude and the spread of vaccine misinformation on Facebook. Mainly, Wasserman Schultz told a national CNN audience, “the blame lies at [DeSantis’] feet.” Christina Pushaw, the governor’s press secretary, said the “claims by Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz are shockingly misinformed.” Coronavirus cases in Florida have recently soared. As of July 14, the state leads the country with 21.4% of all new COVID-19 cases. The state is home to 6.5% of the U.S. population.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz puts the blame for rising COVID-19 cases squarely on Ron DeSantis. “Vern Buchanan tests positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated” via POLITICO Florida — Buchanan announced that he has tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated against the virus. The Florida Republican said he got tested after experiencing mild flu-like symptoms and has been quarantining at home. “I look forward to returning to work as soon as possible,” he said in a statement. More than 185 million people have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, including more than 160 million fully inoculated. Yet, while rare, it’s still possible to contract the coronavirus after being vaccinated.
“Jump in Brevard’s COVID-19 cases is ‘very worrisome,’ says Department of Health epidemiologist” via Dave Berman of Florida Today — The number of COVID-19 cases in Brevard County is rising sharply — creating concern in the community about a new wave of coronavirus materializing. There were 1,443 cases of the virus reported in Brevard in the week that ended Friday; more than double the 693 cases reported in the previous week and nearly triple the 495 cases reported the week before that, according to data compiled by the Florida Department of Health. “We’re increasing our cases dramatically,” said Barry Inman, an epidemiologist with the Florida Department of Health in Brevard. Inman said many people want to think the pandemic is over — but it’s not.
“Central Florida hospitals close to ICU capacity as COVID-19 cases increase” via Jerry Askin of WKMG —Orange County leaders are reporting some of the highest COVID-19 cases since the holiday peak back in January, including almost 2,000 new cases this past weekend and five deaths. “We’re asking everybody to do their part,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said. Positive cases continue to rise, Floridians are getting a glimpse of the many ICUs getting close to capacity. “I think it should be something that concerns everybody,” said Dr. Jason Salemi, an associate professor of Epidemiology at the University of South Florida. “More people are getting the virus, and we still have a lot of vulnerable people.”
“Leon County Commissioner Brian Welch’s ‘breakthrough’ COVID-19 infection a cautionary tale” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Welch and his family find themselves in a rare scenario that is beginning to play out across the country: People contracting coronavirus despite being vaccinated. Welch, his wife and two children all contracted the virus this month, while local public health officials are noting an increase in cases. He participated in several public meetings this week by phone, and the family has been quarantining at home since the beginning of July. Although their symptoms were relatively mild and they are feeling well, the first-term County Commissioner hopes his experience is a cautionary tale. “I think that, like a lot of people, I assumed that once I was vaccinated, I was free to rock ’n’ roll,” he said.
Brian Welch hopes his COVID-19 experience can be a cautionary tale. Image via Facebook. “Council member Ju’Coby Pittman ‘doing better’ but still not back from COVID-19 infection” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Pittman remains out of action at City Hall after being hospitalized weeks ago with a COVID-19 infection, but she is “doing better,” City Council President Sam Newby said Monday. City Council members returned Monday from their summer break, so Pittman’s absence is the first time she has missed any council meetings because of the illness. She was hospitalized in the intensive care unit in early July. Her council office administrator said she did not have any information to provide about Pittman. Pittman will serve on the council’s Finance Committee, which is heavily involved in working on the budget during summer meetings, and on the Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety Committee.
— CORONA NATION —
“A third of Americans say they are unlikely or hesitant to get COVID-19 vaccine” via Karen Nikos-Rose of UC Davis — News reports indicate COVID-19 vaccines are not getting out soon enough nor in adequate supplies to most regions, but there may be a larger underlying problem than shortages. A study found that more than a third of people nationwide are either unlikely or at least hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them. “Our research indicates that vaccine uptake will be suboptimal … with 14.8% of respondents being unlikely to get vaccinated and another 23% unsure,” said Jeanette B. Ruiz, assistant professor of teaching communication at UC Davis and lead author of the study.
—”Lawsuits challenge D.C. law allowing kids to get vaccines without parental permission” via Justin Wm. Mower and Julie Zauzmer of The Washington Post
“Majority of COVID-19 misinformation came from 12 people, report finds” via Erum Salam of The Guardian — The vast majority of COVID-19 anti-vaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories originated from just 12 people, a report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) cited by the White House this week found. CCDH, a U.K./U.S. nonprofit and nongovernmental organization, found in March that these 12 online personalities dubbed the “disinformation dozen” have a combined following of 59 million people across multiple social media platforms, with Facebook having the largest impact. CCDH analyzed 812,000 Facebook posts and tweets and found 65% came from the disinformation dozen. Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General, and Biden focused on misinformation around vaccines this week as a driving force of the virus spreading.
A handful of Facebook users are responsible for a majority of misinformation about COVID-19. “Canada will open its border to fully vaccinated Americans Aug. 9” via Ivana Saric of Axios — Fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are currently residing in the United States will be able to enter Canada for nonessential travel without quarantining starting Aug. 9, Canada announced on Monday. The U.S.-Canada border was closed for nonessential travel beginning in March 2020. With rising vaccination rates and falling case numbers, officials have faced criticism for not moving faster toward a full reopening of the border. To be eligible for entry, American citizens and permanent residents will be required to upload onto the Canadian government app or website at least 14 days before their trip proof that they are fully vaccinated with an authorized COVID-19 vaccine.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“The recession officially ended in April 2020” via Sam Ro of Axios — The U.S. economic recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic officially ended in April 2020, the National Bureau of Economic Research said Monday. The NBER initially said the recession brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic began in February 2020, making this is the shortest recession on record. While some define recessions as two consecutive quarters of decline in real GDP, that measure is imprecise and lacks nuance. The NBER considers changes in income, employment, retail sales, and industrial production in determining if there has been a “significant decline in economic activity.”
The COVID-19 recession was the shortest on record. “Virus headwinds hit Wall St. after months of smooth sailing” via Matt Phillips of The New York Times — Fear jolted the financial markets on Monday as investors realized that the path to global economic recovery after the pandemic would be anything but straightforward. For months, investors had been behaving as if they expected a full, smooth rebound from the COVID-19 crisis. From January through June, stocks rose 14%, one of the best first-half performances since the late 1990s. But the virus’s potential to upend life all over again caught up with investors, as a spate of worrying news led to a big sell-off on Monday. The S&P 500 stock-market index had its worst decline since May, sliding more than 2% during the day before closing down 1.6. The Dow fell 2.15, its biggest one-day loss this year. Europe’s Stoxx 600 fell 2.3%.
“As the eviction moratorium expires, South Florida renters are left vulnerable” via Amber Randall of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Many renters, unable to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic, could be forced from their homes soon. A federal moratorium on evictions will expire at the end of the month, giving landlords the ability to boot tenants for the first time in over a year. According to housing advocates and nonprofit organizations, many renters will become vulnerable to homelessness or forced to seek scarce affordable housing. Palm Beach County has 1,194 open eviction cases and Miami Dade County 7,067, according to court clerks. Figures for Broward County were not available.
What John Lux wants you to read — “Film, TV studios are offered incentives from states after pandemic shutdowns” via Ryan Nguyen of The Wall Street Journal — More than a dozen states, including the home of Hollywood, are bolstering or considering expanding tax credits and incentive programs for movie and television production, hoping shoots can re-energize their economies. Meanwhile, mega productions from WarnerMedia, Apple Inc. and Netflix Inc. have been filming in states that recently expanded their incentive programs, such as Oklahoma, Montana, Oregon and Kentucky. In Oklahoma, Martin Scorsese is filming the drama “Killers of the Flower Moon.” California’s program attracted Netflix’s psychological thriller series “You,” along with HBO’s “Westworld.” A multitude of streaming services that became popular during the pandemic are scrambling to make as many new shows as possible.
— MORE CORONA —
“Here’s a list of colleges that will require students or employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19” via Andy Thomason and Brian O’Leary of The Chronicle — As colleges look toward the fall semester, they’re grappling with whether to require or just strongly encourage students to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Below is a map showing the locations of colleges requiring vaccines of at least some students or employees. The states are color-coded based on how each voted in the 2020 presidential election. That’s followed by a graphic showing the pace at which campuses have made their announcements. Here is a searchable list of those campuses. Institutions that have said their requirement hinges upon full approval of one or more vaccines by the FDA are included in this list. The Chronicle has so far identified 586 such campuses.
Nearly 600 colleges will require vaccinations for the fall semester. Image via AP. “A federal judge upholds Indiana University’s vaccination requirement for students.” via Stephanie Faul of The New York Times — In what appeared to be the first ruling upholding a coronavirus vaccine mandate by a university, a federal judge affirmed on Monday that Indiana University could require that its students be vaccinated against the virus. A lawyer for eight student plaintiffs had argued that requiring the vaccine violated their right to bodily integrity and autonomy, and that the coronavirus vaccines have only emergency use authorization from the FDA and should not be considered as part of the normal range of vaccinations schools require. He vowed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.
—”L.A. County coronavirus spike hits alarming levels, with 10,000 infected in a week, as Delta variant spreads” via Rong-Gong Lin II, Sean Greene and Thomas Suh Lauder of The Los Angeles Times
“New ways to work anywhere in the world” via Krithika Varagur of The Wall Street Journal — Matt Haynes anticipated a grand round-the-world itinerary when he decided to become a digital nomad in January 2020. The 32-year-old marketing consultant from York, England, would work remotely, spending a few weeks each in Bali, Thailand, a few Eastern European cities and beyond. Instead, the world shut down while he was visiting a friend in Lisbon that March. He stayed in a hostel there for a week, which turned into a month, which turned into 7½ months, during which he bonded intensely with the 13 others staying and working there.
“Peppa Pig, a pandemic favorite, has American children acting British” via Preetika Rana and Meghan Bobrowsky of The Wall Street Journal — The Peppa Effect, as some parents call it, already had some children snorting like pigs and using cheeky Britishisms before the pandemic. Then lockdowns sent screen-time limits out the door, and children gorged on the cartoon in a silo away from their usual social interactions, amplifying the effect. Some parents say the show made their children more accepting of younger brothers because Peppa has one, too. Many used the show’s differences as teaching points.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Biden’s Facebook attack followed months of frustration inside White House” via Andrew Restuccia and Sarah E. Needleman of The Wall Street Journal — President Biden’s attack on Facebook Inc. on Friday followed months of mounting private frustration inside his administration over the social-media giant’s handling of vaccine misinformation, according to U.S. officials, bringing into public view tensions that could complicate efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. The tough words between the White House and Silicon Valley escalated over the weekend, as Facebook issued a blunt statement accusing the Biden administration of distorting the facts. U.S. Surgeon General Murthy, who made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows in Washington, countered that social-media companies weren’t doing enough to clamp down on false statements about COVID-19 vaccines.
Joe Biden always had a rocky relationship with Facebook. Image via AP. “Biden recasts criticism of Facebook over vaccine misinformation” via Nick Niedzwiadek of POLITICO — Biden on Monday walked back his declaration that Facebook is “killing people” by not acting forcefully enough to combat vaccine-related misinformation. “I’m trying to get people to look in the mirror, think about that misinformation going to your son, your daughter, your relative, someone you love. That’s what I’m asking,” Biden said following a speech touting the economic recovery and making his case for the infrastructure proposals being negotiated in Congress. Biden said his Friday comments were not meant to be taken literally and instead were a challenge to the social media company to do more to prevent its platform from being used to spread inaccurate information.
— EPILOGUE: TRUMP —
“Donald Trump follows his base toward rationalized vaccine skepticism” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — Chris Wallace welcomed Surgeon General Murthy to “Fox News Sunday” to discuss the evolution of the coronavirus pandemic, now described as “a pandemic of the unvaccinated” by the director of the CDC. Murthy touted the effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines in halting the spread of the virus and in saving lives. He said that “99.5% of the deaths that we’re seeing right now, Chris, from COVID-19 are among those who are unvaccinated,” adding: “So I worry that we are seeing, in fact, significant increases among the unvaccinated. But the good news is the vaccinated are still highly protected.” It was not a subtle point: Getting vaccinated protects your life and the lives of others by slowing or halting the virus’s spread. Refuse vaccinations, and we’re in trouble.
Vivek Murthy is optimistic about the effectiveness of vaccines. Image via AP. “The media scramble at the heart of Trump Book Summer” via Paul Farhi of The Washington Post — The peak of Trump Book Summer, the moment of maximum media intensity, may have come Wednesday when reporters scrambled to match a story about a story contained in one of those books. Around 3 p.m. that day, New York Magazine published an article based on a revelation its writer had discovered in the pages of “I Alone Can Fix It,” one of the entries in the current spate of Trump Studies, a copy of which the magazine said it had “obtained” before its official release. The gist of the magazine’s report — that the book would reveal that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, feared Trump would precipitate a coup to maintain power, was so hot that it, in turn, triggered a nearly immediate follow-up report on CNN.com, which in turn prompted The Washington Post to chase down the same nugget.
“What is happening to our apolitical military?” via Kori Schake of The Atlantic — The nation’s senior military adviser, Milley, is once again in the news for reportedly having described Trump’s postelection rhetoric as “a Reichstag moment” and privately reassuring friends and members of Congress that the President and his supporters “may try, but they’re not going to f—ing succeed” in preventing the peaceful transition of power. And although some of the sources, and the subject himself, might be attempting to remake an image tarnished by Milley’s decision to march with Trump across Lafayette Square in combat fatigues during nationwide protests, the American military nevertheless did an admirable job navigating the interregnum between election and inauguration.
“Former Trump aide says campaign paid actors to appear at his 2016 presidential announcement” via Oma Seddiq, Adam Wren, Tom LoBianco, Nicole Gaudiano, Warren Rojas, and Darren Samuelsohn of Insider.com — Trump‘s top 2016 aide previously denied the campaign had paid actors to appear at the future President’s big campaign-launch announcement at Trump Tower, but that same official recently told Insider that people were indeed hired to show up. Trump kicked off his candidacy at his New York City skyscraper in a speech on June 16, 2015, appearing before a large crowd of what seemed to be his supporters. The event immediately prompted speculation about how Trump managed to draw a sizable group of people.
— CRISIS —
“Capitol rioter who breached Senate gets eight months for felony” via Michael Tarm of The Associated Press — A Florida man who breached the U.S. Senate chamber carrying a Trump campaign flag was sentenced Monday to eight months behind bars, the first resolution for a felony case in the Capitol insurrection. Paul Allard Hodgkins apologized and said he was ashamed of his actions on Jan 6. Speaking calmly from a prepared text, he described being caught up in the euphoria as he walked down Washington’s most famous avenue, then followed a crowd of hundreds into the Capitol. “If I had any idea that the protest … would escalate (the way) it did … I would never have ventured farther than the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue,” Hodgkins told the judge. He added: “This was a foolish decision on my part.”
Paul Allard Hodgkins gets eight months for his role in The Capitol riot. Image via AP. “Officers attacked at Jan. 6 Capitol riots to testify at select panel’s first hearing” via Shawna Chen of Axios — The Jan. 6 select committee’s first hearing on July 27 will feature law enforcement officers who were subject to some of the highest-profile acts of violence during the Capitol insurrection. The officers, who suffered a range of traumas, have demanded accountability from the Republicans who downplayed the events or voted against certifying the 2020 election results that day. The select committee is moving forward even though House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has yet to choose Republican members to be appointed to the panel.
“New chief selected for Capitol Police after 1/6 insurrection” via The Associated Press — A police official who has run large departments in Maryland and Virginia has been selected as chief of the U.S. Capitol Police in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection, in which pro-Trump rioters stormed the building in a violent rage, disrupting the certification of Biden’s presidential win. According to two people briefed on the matter, J. Thomas Manger, who most recently served for 15 years as chief in Montgomery County, Maryland, was being named to the position following an extensive search. Those jobs and a leadership position in the Major Cities Chiefs Association have made him a familiar face in Washington law enforcement circles and on Capitol Hill.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Investigation into Rick Scott ends with regulators on campaign violations” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — A three-year probe into Sen. Scott has ended with a federal panel deadlocked on whether the Florida Republican and a political committee he once led violated campaign laws during his 2018 bid for U.S. Senate. A 3-3 split decision along party lines by the Federal Election Commission, made public Friday, comes despite the commission’s general counsel concluding there was reason to believe Scott broke the law. The general counsel recommended further investigation into Scott and his former political committee, New Republican PAC.
“Could Tyndall AFB F-35 plans be grounded? Marco Rubio expresses concern in letter” via Jim Thompson of the Northwest Florida Daily News — The Senator is worried a provision in the proposed federal defense spending and policy bill for the upcoming fiscal year could jeopardize plans to remake Tyndall Air Force Base into a “base of the future” centered around three F-35 squadrons. Rubio’s concern is based on a current draft of the defense authorization bill that would prohibit the Air Force from divesting itself of 42 A-10 aircraft, which provide close air support to friendly ground troops and attack enemy tanks and armored vehicles.
“Senate Democrats take their case for voting bill to Georgia” via Christina A. Cassidy of The Associated Press — Taking their case for a federal voting bill to Georgia, Senate Democrats argued at a field hearing on Monday that their sweeping elections measure is desperately needed to counter the impact of new GOP state laws that tighten voting rules. “Congress must take action on voting rights, and we have no time to spare,” U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat from Georgia, said in testimony before the Senate Rules Committee. “We Americans live in a great house that democracy built, and right now that house is on fire.” Democrats used the rare field hearing in Atlanta to gain attention for their voting and elections overhaul, which remains blocked by unified Republican opposition.
The Senate Rules Committee holds a field hearing on voting rights in Atlanta. Image via AP. Assignment editors — U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist and Nancy Mace of South Carolina will hold a virtual news conference to discuss bipartisan legislation that would provide legal remedies for victims of abusive conservatorships or guardianships, 9:30 a.m., access link here.
“Far-right. Far-left. Who are Florida’s most extreme — and moderate — members of Congress?” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Ever wondered where your member of Congress stands politically? Far-left? Far-right? Or somewhere in the middle? Well, if you’re a Floridian, there’s a much better chance it’s far-right. According to the 2020 rankings from GovTrack.us, Florida has some of the most hard-core party-line Republicans in America; but hardly any Democrats who’d qualify as hard-core lefties. Just as significant, Florida has very few House members who rank as centrists when drafting legislation that attracted co-sponsors from the other party. In fact, Florida had just three centrists in the middle 20%.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Mayor Lenny Curry set to roll out $1.4 billion proposed budget with pay raises for workers” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Pay raises for city employees and a long list of neighborhood-based construction projects will be part of the budget that Mayor Curry presents Tuesday to the City Council. Other than a previously approved increase in the local gas tax that will take effect on Jan. 1, the budget is expected to avoid increases in the property tax rate or city fees. City Hall will draw more tax revenue from continued economic growth along with doses of federal relief money that’s helping cities nationwide deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think we’ve come through this pandemic with the city in excellent shape financially,” said City Council member Ron Salem, chairman of the council’s Finance Committee.
Lenny Curry puts the finishing touches on his $1.4 billion budget. Image via Twitter. “Central Florida tourism leaders see high hopes, challenges in post-pandemic” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Tourism is coming back toward the level it was in Central Florida, but it won’t be the way it was. With demand for hotel rooms, convention space, and tourism reaching peak levels already in the summer of 2021, Central Florida’s tourism industry is challenged with finding labor and adjusting to some of the other post-pandemic changes in the economy. That was part of the message delivered Monday to the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida by Casandra Matej, president of Visit Orlando; Mark Tester, executive director of the Orange County Convention Center; and John W. Murray, port director and chief executive officer of the Canaveral Port Authority.
“Disney to get $1.3M refund after settling extended tax dispute” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Disney will receive a $1.3 million tax refund after the company paid about $23 million in property taxes in 2015 for the four theme parks and 10 other parcels involved in a lawsuit, according to the Orange County tax collector’s office. Property Appraiser Amy Mercado said she expects Disney to get additional refunds for 2016 to 2020 as well. Mercado said the settlement shows her office is “willing to negotiate and have the hard conversations and not run away from it.” When asked if Disney World is paying its fair share in taxes, Mercado said, “The value is the value … The whole purpose of our office, regardless of who is in it, is fair, equitable, and just values.”
“Tampa Bay transit agency faces new criticism. ‘It no longer needs to exist.’” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — The region’s transit planning agency could face derailment in Tallahassee after state Sen. Brandes said he would again propose legislation in 2022 to dismantle it. “If there is another more useless entity in government in the Tampa Bay area, I don’t know what it is,” said Brandes, referring to the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority. His comments to the Tampa Bay Times came after the authority’s governing board, known commonly by the acronym TBARTA, failed to attract an in-person quorum for its meeting on Friday, July 16. Executive Director David Green defended his agency’s performance.
“Hillsborough school leader did not violate ethics rules, attorneys say” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — Investigators hired by the Hillsborough County School Board responded to a state regulatory complaint against superintendent Addison Davis, saying Davis did not act improperly when he recommended a multimillion-dollar curriculum purchase and, later, cut back on teaching staff to balance the budget. This comes in response to a complaint early in the year to the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General from a Tampa parent. The parent raised numerous issues, including the contention that Davis acted improperly when he recommended a deal with educational software provider Achieve 3000 without disclosing that his brother was a senior vice president at the company.
“‘Ken is a uniter’: Rick Kriseman endorses Ken Welch as successor” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Kriseman is endorsing former Pinellas County Commissioner Welch as his successor. “Ken has been at this for a long time, always on the side of right, always fighting for what’s right, and doing so in a thoughtful, deliberate manner. His approach to issues is why he receives such broad support,” Kriseman said Monday. This endorsement also comes at a jab to St. Pete City Council member Darden Rice, also a Democrat, who found herself at odds with Kriseman’s decision to move forward with the Trop development without the Tampa Bay Rays. The endorsement from the term-limited Mayor is a significant nod in the upcoming election. Kriseman, a Democrat, stayed within party lines to endorse Welch, a front-runner in the race.
“Lisset Hanewicz releases first ad ‘St. Pete Values’ for District 4 race” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Hanewicz has released her first campaign ad in the race for the District 4 seat on St. Petersburg City Council. The 30-second ad, called “St. Pete Values,” highlights Hanewicz’s experience as a prosecutor and neighborhood president, and shares her priorities for the city. “As a former state and federal prosecutor, I fought to keep our community safe. As president of the Crescent Lake Neighborhood Association, I brought our neighbors together to protect our green spaces and fix our streets and sidewalks,” Hanewicz says in the ad. The ad features Hanewicz speaking with constituents in District 4 and going to Crescent Lake Park with her daughter.
To watch the ad, click on the image below:
“USF President Steve Currall is retiring two years into his tenure” via Divya Kumar of the Tampa Bay Times — University of South Florida President Currall announced Monday he would step down from presidency effective Aug. 2. “For the entire USF community, the past two years have been a challenging and intense journey,” Currall said in a message to faculty, staff, students and alumni. “In the face of challenges, you have shown tremendous resiliency and the power of our community. As a result, we have achieved many significant milestones. The intensity of the past two years has put a strain on my health and my family. Therefore, after thoughtful reflection, I have decided to retire from the USF presidency to ensure that I preserve my health, as well as to spend more time with my wife, Cheyenne, and my 91-year-old father.”
“Two nonprofit groups negotiating to replace disgraced domestic violence coalition” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — After more than a year of transition, Florida officials are about to choose a private vendor to replace the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which was shut down in disgrace after it was discovered that its board of directors was complicit in a scheme to compensate former executive Tiffany Carr $7.5 million over three years using federal and state funds. On Monday, the selection committee of the Florida Department of Children and Families met to rank the two candidates still in the running for the job of providing training, legal and technical services to the state’s 41 domestic violence centers as well as running the 24-hour domestic abuse hotline and distributing grants to the centers.
“Amazon expanding in South Florida again to increase same-day delivery” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Amazon is expanding again in South Florida, and it could speed your purchases to your door. The company this summer will open a same-day fulfillment center in Tamarac, a facility close to customers to get products to them within five hours of ordering. Amazon will open the site in a 178,240-square-foot warehouse in the city’s Commerce Park, directly north of City Furniture. An Amazon spokesman declined to comment about the plans in Tamarac or its opening date, but the center is the latest of nearly a dozen possible Amazon centers in South Florida, with more to come. The sites range from warehouses to fulfillment centers to same-day sites like the one planned for Tamarac.
“Florida city may legalize public alcohol drinking” via The Associated Press — The city that is home to the University of Florida may allow people to drink legally from open containers in public places such as sidewalks. The Gainesville Sun reports that the city commission plans a vote Monday on whether to allow open drinking on city property or right of way. If the measure passes, a second commission approval would be required to make it final. Gainesville adopted a similar temporary rule in September due to the business downturn triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. That ordinance also allows businesses to serve alcohol in public and outdoor spaces.
“Northwest Florida residents weigh-in as Matt Gaetz misses Escambia County celebration” via Carolyn Cerda of WEAR-TV — Gaetz continues to make headlines across the U.S. The spotlight is raising concerns for some of his constituents in Northwest Florida. Escambia County celebrated its bicentennial celebration this weekend. While others such as Florida’s Secretary of State, Reps. Alex Andrade, Michelle Salzman, and U.S. Sen. Rick Scott attended — one noticeable absence was that of Gaetz. “I understand it’s got a lot to do with campaigning – but it should be focused here because it is his hometown,” says resident Briquell Chapron.
— TOP OPINION —
“What the White House doesn’t get about misinformation” via Jack Shafer of POLITICO — The Biden administration recently escalated its campaign against the death-bringing COVID-19 misinformation that’s propagated on social media and cable news and advanced by Republican scaremongers. Abandoning its previous, more passive strategy, the administration has wrapped its critics in a clinch and commenced counterpunching. It’s despair-making that misinformation about COVID-19 and other topics takes root so easily and demands constant monitoring and refutation. Misinformation, false and fake stories, has always been with us, but it didn’t really begin to flood our political debates until the 2016 presidential campaign.
— OPINIONS —
“COVID-19 is surging in Florida. Wanna bet DeSantis won’t put that on his beer koozie?” via the Miami Herald editorial board — As Florida faces one the highest rates of new coronavirus cases in the country, a more transmissible variant and millions of eligible Floridians have yet to be vaccinated, DeSantis has found a way to make a buck from distrust in science and masks. His campaign on Monday dropped a new line of merchandise, including drink koozies and T-shirts emblazoned with “Don’t Fauci my Florida,” “How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?” and “Keep Florida Free.” Perhaps the slogan “Florida has lost more than 38,000 people to COVID-19” or “Coronavirus cases have nearly doubled in the past weeks in South Florida” were taken — or wouldn’t sell any T-shirts.
“How Fox News’ COVID-19 vaccine denialism hurts my patients” via Dr. Rob Davidson of NBC News — In many parts of the country, summer looks relatively normal and safe, thanks to wide acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine. But that’s not the case for areas that have low vaccination coverage. In those areas, cases are rising again. And as an emergency physician still battling COVID-19 in Michigan, I’m often frustrated by the way the news sources my community watches add fuel to these surges. I don’t blame my patients for their refusal. What breaks my heart, as someone who took an oath to prevent harm, is that my patients choose to abandon the science and evidence that can save their lives. I do blame Fox News and other right-wing media outlets for poisoning the minds of millions of Americans with the deceptive propaganda they spray into living rooms 24/7.
“Why many of the unvaccinated insist on going without” via Brian Broome of The Washington Post — Their “caution” feels almost neurotic, based on little more than the thrill of contrarianism. The “I’m so unique and different” of it all. More than anything else, they seem to want to show that they’re smarter than the average bear. Like the pompous hipster who says, “You wouldn’t even know the bands I listen to.” Little do these people know how unspecial they are. I recently had the opportunity to hear a 95-year-old man speak on the subject of COVID-19. When asked if he’d gotten the vaccine, he responded that he received it as soon as it was available. He went on to say that, in his long life, he has seen this behavior over and over again concerning vaccines.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Gov. DeSantis is promising to appeal the latest ruling in the state’s lawsuit to force the CDC to rescind its health and safety guidelines for cruise ships.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— The Governor has already signed a new state law prohibiting businesses (like cruise lines) from requiring proof of vaccination from their customers … and he says there’s a reason why so many people won’t get their shots.
— The head of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection is in the Tampa Bay area today to meet with local officials dealing with a massive fish kill.
— A celebration of the newly approved Florida Wildlife Corridor Act. It was championed by National Geographic nature photographer Carlton Ward.
— And finally, a Florida Man gets eight months in prison for his role in The Capitol coup on Insurrection Day.
To listen, click on the image below:
— OLYMPICS —
“Olympic athletes test positive in Tokyo days before Games” via The Associated Press — A third athlete at the Olympic Village in Tokyo has tested positive for COVID-19, with the Czech Republic team reporting the case Monday of a beach volleyball player who could miss his first game. Czech beach volleyball player Ondřej Perušič could miss his opening game on Monday after a PCR test confirmed his infection. Perušič and his playing partner are due to begin their Olympic program against a team from Latvia. Czech team leader Martin Doktor said they would ask to postpone the game until the infected player is cleared to play. Perušič, who said he had been vaccinated, is the second member of the Czech delegation to test positive in Tokyo after a team official’s case was reported Saturday.
More Olympic athletes are testing positive for COVID-19. Image via AP. “Ready or not: Short-handed U.S. basketball roster off to Tokyo” via The Associated Press — The U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team has been together for two weeks. There have been six practices. The team played four exhibitions. A pair of roster changes have already been required, and the Americans have no idea when three other players will join the team for the first time. If that wasn’t enough, shortly before they were scheduled to fly on Monday, they found out Zach LaVine has entered the health and safety protocols and wouldn’t be accompanying them on the flight to Tokyo. All that probably isn’t the formula for Olympic success, but ready or not, Tokyo awaits. “It’s a little bit different,” U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said.
“Plenty at stake for NBC as COVID-19 Olympics opening looms” via David Bauer of The Associated Press — If all goes well for NBC Universal over the next several weeks, Americans will be buzzing about the Olympic performances of Simone Biles, Gabby Thomas, Kevin Durant or some unexpected star. The year-delayed Tokyo Olympics officially opens with NBC’s telecast of the opening ceremony on July 23, live in the morning and with an edited version in prime time. The Olympics arrive dripping in bad vibes, amid a COVID-19 state of emergency in Japan. Yet once the competition begins, NBC is banking on a COVID-weary United States to embrace the Games. “I really believe that people are craving a shared experience after all we’ve been through,” said Molly Solomon, executive producer of NBC’s Olympics coverage.
“Toyota pulls its Olympics TV ads in Japan.” via Ben Dooley and Tiffany Hsu of The New York Times — Toyota said on Monday that it had decided against running Olympics-themed television advertisements in Japan, a symbolic vote of no confidence from one of the country’s most influential companies just days before the Games begin amid a national state of emergency. The Japanese public has expressed strong opposition to the Games, with many worrying that the influx of visitors from around the world could turn it into a COVID-19 superspreader event, undoing national efforts to keep coronavirus levels low. Toyota will refrain from airing television ads at home during the Games, and its chief executive, Akio Toyoda, will not attend the opening ceremony, a company spokesman told local news media during an online news conference.
— ALOE —
“In a first, an MLB game will be called entirely by women” via David Waldstein of The New York Times — Next week, for the first time on a broadcast, fans of Major League Baseball can watch a game in which they might not hear a man’s voice. Five women will serve as the on-air crew for the Baltimore Orioles game against the Tampa Bay Rays from St. Petersburg. Melanie Newman, the Orioles’ radio play-by-play announcer since last year, will call the action for Tuesday’s game, which will be the MLB Game of the Week Live on YouTube. Sarah Langs, a popular baseball analyst and writer for MLB.com, will be the analyst in the booth. Alanna Rizzo will handle the on-field reporting, and Heidi Watney and Lauren Gardner will anchor the pre- and postgame shows.
“This Cantonment couple ranks as Florida’s No. 1 most hospitable Airbnb hosts” via Emma Kennedy of the Pensacola News Journal — Kim and Richard Davis host guests in two sites at their home: the “Quiet Delight,” a garage converted into a mother-in-law suite, and “Just Peachy,” a vintage Airstream on their one-acre property. The short-term rental site recognized the couple this week as the most hospitable Florida hosts for having achieved 100% five-star ratings in cleanliness, check-in and communication. Another Florida host was a close second, but the Davises had more reviews, which put them over the edge. Richard Davis said he and his wife launched the rentals a few years ago when Kim’s mom, for whom they converted the 600-square-foot garage into a livable space, passed away.
Kim and Richard Davis were named Airbnb’s most hospitable hosts in Florida. Image via Richard Davis. “Why Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise cultural changes aren’t just ‘woke’ — they’re necessary” via Todd Martens of The Los Angeles Times — “The Pre-Opening Report From Disneyland,” a fascinating historical record that today lives on the company’s Disney+ streaming service, included a look at the mechanical hippos and crocodiles of the park’s Jungle Cruise ride, as well as the plaster molding of a Black male model. Today we cringe at this scene for a ride that went on to develop a reputation for racist depictions of Indigenous people as tourist attractions, attackers or cannibals; tribal caricatures crafted through a colonialist lens. The tension modern Disney reckons with is a desire to create a clean, wholesome, and inviting Americana while not sanitizing our world to the point of creating false, good-ol’-days nostalgia. Or erasing someone’s own.
“Disney: Joe Biden joins Hall of Presidents in August” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Magic Kingdom’s Hall of Presidents will reopen — complete with audio-animatronic Biden — next month, Walt Disney World announced. The attraction has been closed for the renovation and addition since Biden took office in late January. On a table near the new figure will be Biden-centric touches, including a set of aviator sunglasses, which the president frequently sports, and a vase of peach blossoms, representing his home state of Delaware, according to a post on the official Disney Parks Blog. The new figure will recite the oath.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are state Sen. Darryl Rouson and William Large of the Florida Justice Reform Institute.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.
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