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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.9.21


The Florida Chamber of Commerce has promoted Frank Walker to Executive Vice President of Government & Political Relations.

For the past six years, Walker has led the Florida Chamber’s lobbying team and taken the lead on developing the Chamber’s annual legislative agendas. The new role will put him in charge of the Florida Chamber’s extensive legislative and political operations.

“As we ramp up the Florida business community’s advocacy efforts to continue growing Florida’s economy and investing in Florida’s future, Frank Walker is the right leader to represent the interests of Florida’s job creators in Tallahassee and D.C.,” said Florida Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Mark Wilson. “Unifying the business community is not for everyone, and Frank has proved he has the integrity, experience and belief in free enterprise to make sure the right issues are addressed, and the right leaders are elected.”

The Florida Chamber gives Frank Walker a big promotion.

Before Walker landed at the Florida Chamber, Walker spent more than a decade in Washington working for numerous members of the U.S. House and Senate, including U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, former U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, and former U.S. Sens. George LeMieux and Mel Martinez.

“I am thankful to work alongside such an accomplished and dedicated team at the Florida Chamber and honored to be entrusted to continue advancing the incredibly important mission laid out by our Board. The opportunity to build upon the track record of achievement for our members and commitment to Florida’s future of those before me is humbling,” Walker said.

Walker’s elevation was met with enthusiasm by ABC Fine Wine & Spirits CEO and Florida Chamber Chair-elect Chas Bailes, as well as the next-in-line leaders of the state Legislature, Sen. Kathleen Passidomo and Rep. Paul Renner.

“Frank Walker is always focused on the future and in a process where trust matters, Frank is proven to be effective and trustworthy,” Passidomo said.

Renner added: “I’ve worked with Frank on several important initiatives, and when it comes to fighting for free enterprise and unifying Florida’s business community, Frank has the experience, wisdom, and team to move the needle forward.”

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Assignment editors — Sentencing for Scott Maddox and Paige Carter-Smith will be handed down, noon, U.S. Courthouse, Courtroom 5 East, 111 North Adams St., Tallahassee.

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Listen up — On the return of Hunkering Down, I explain how podcasting has become a major part of moving ahead during the continuing pandemic and why we all still have a need to “hunker down.” Special guest Rep. Michele Rayner visits the pod to talk about her activist roots and entry into politics, pointing out that being a gay, Black woman would not have been an easy path to Tallahassee only a few years ago. Rep. Anna Eskamani also drops in to reflect on her growing stature as an activist and reproductive rights advocate; she fears a Texas-style “heartbeat bill” could come to Florida. We all share our thoughts on the death of Michael K. Williams, who played the iconic Omar on “The Wire.” Williams’ portrayal of complex characters made him a well-loved actor, nominated for an Emmy this year for his role in HBO’s “Lovecraft Country.”

Please check out Hunkering Down on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.

More pods — “State of Emergency” is also new; Jared Moskowitz and I welcome Rep. Randy Fine, who is one never to shy away from a good debate, particularly regarding individual freedom and his deeply felt ideological beliefs. Randy gives an “alternate view” on the battle over school mask mandates and why they don’t work (because he “can read,” he says). Randy argues that the science isn’t there, and neither is the practicality of having children mask up in schools. The CDC’s own research backs him up, he notes. While he insists on vaccinations — having battled COVID-19 himself — Randy bristles at the idea of mandates, especially in schools. We discuss the reopening of Broadway (and “Hamilton”) as well as celebrations of the Jewish New Year.

Listen to “State of Emergency” on Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts and Spotify.

Wait, there’s more Trimmel Gomes wraps up his first week as the new host of “Sunrise,” the daily digest of the who, what and WTF of Tallahassee. Trimmel casts his experienced eye on The Process every weekday morning, making for an excellent way to get up-to-speed fast.

Catch the heat of “Sunrise” right now on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, Castbox, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Spotify, Stitcher and TuneIn.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@JoeBiden: The pandemic of the unvaccinated is a tragedy that is preventable. People are dying and will die from COVID-19 who don’t have to. If you haven’t gotten vaccinated, do it now. It could save your life and the lives of those you love.

Tweet, tweet:

@JimmyPatronis: Great job @GovRonDeSantis on reappointing @floridapsc Commissioners Art Graham and Andrew Fay. Congratulations and thank you for your service to the state of Florida

@KevinCate: In awkward #flapol news, looks like every @FlaDems candidate for Governor is out here using @CATECOMM footage in their announcement videos — even though we’re with @NikkiFried.

@MayorofTLH: Tonight, at our City Commission meeting, I asked our City Attorney to bring back information exploring our legal options to challenge HB1. As I said back in March, HB1 tramples Home Rule authority. It is bad for Tallahassee, and it is bad for Florida.

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— DAYS UNTIL —

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election — 5; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 5; Apple launch event for new iPhones — 5; Alabama at UF — 9; Dolphins home opener — 10; Jaguars home opener — 10; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 11; The Problem with Jon Stewart premieres on Apple TV+ — 21; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 22; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 22; MLB regular season ends — 23; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 24; World Series Game 1 — 37; ‘Dune’ premieres — 41; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 48; Florida TaxWatch’s annual meeting begins — 48; Georgia at UF — 51; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 54; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 54; The Blue Angels 75th anniversary show — 57; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 57; ‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 59; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 60; Miami at FSU — 65; ExcelinEd’s National Summit on Education begins — 70; FSU vs. UF — 79; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 83; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 92; ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 99; ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 104; ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 107; NFL season ends — 122; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 124; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 124; NFL playoffs begin — 128; Super Bowl LVI — 157; Daytona 500 — 164; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 197; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 241; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 260; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 266; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 302; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 314; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 393; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 428.

— TOP STORY —

Shot:

Chaser:

Florida’s summer surge of COVID-19 worse than any Democratic-led state” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Those include the nation’s most populous state, California, and, in descending order of population, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Virginia, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Connecticut, Nevada, New Mexico, Hawaii, Maine, Rhode Island, and Delaware. Some had tragically bad COVID-19 outbreaks in 2020. Some had horrible outbreaks this past winter. None of them, though, saw a summer surge as widespread or deadly as Florida’s. While Oregon is among the hardest-hit Democratic states this summer, CDC data shows it remains well behind Florida in new COVID-19 cases per capita, hospital loads, and deaths per capita in recent weeks. No Democratic-controlled state has struggled with nearly as many new COVID-19 cases per capita as Florida. And none saw hospitals burdened nearly as much with COVID-19 patients as Florida.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida COVID-19 update: 13,774 cases added. Percentage of hospital, ICU patients sliding” via Devoun Cetoute and David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — Florida on Wednesday reported to the CDC 13,774 more COVID-19 cases. In all, Florida has recorded at least 3,378,772 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 46,977 deaths. On average, the state has added 344 deaths and 15,610 cases to the daily cumulative total in the last seven days. About 11,673,147 eligible Floridians, 54.3% of the state’s population, had completed the two-dose series of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, or have completed Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine.

Anti-mask merch salesman Ron DeSantis wonders how masks became political” via Justin Baragona of The Daily Beast — “I don’t know why the masks have politics around it,” said the Governor who has made a name for himself by railing against mask rules. Just two months ago, and with his state topping the nation in coronavirus deaths, DeSantis began selling items like trucker hats and drink koozies with printed phrases like “How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?” or “Don’t Fauci My Florida.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has become a top villain in conservative circles for promoting social distancing, masks, and vaccinations as measures to combat the pandemic.

Ron DeSantis mocks masks and then wonders how they became so political. Image via AP.

‘COVID-19 is a treatable illness’: DeSantis lauds monoclonal antibody treatment” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis continued his Regeneron roadshow Wednesday, this time touting the effectiveness of monoclonal antibody treatment in Palm Coast. Like those manufactured by Regeneron, Monoclonal antibodies are lab-created antibodies proven to mitigate COVID-19 symptoms and complications. At Daytona State College, DeSantis described the drug as a “really significant” tool in the COVID-19 therapeutic arsenal. “If treated early, the success rate is very, very high,” the Republican Governor lauded. Wednesday’s trip marked the latest in a monthslong series of promotional grand opening events the Governor has held across the state.

Nikki Fried blasts DeSantis for spreading ‘disinformation’ on vaccines” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — DeSantis asserted vaccinations won’t slow COVID-19 infection rates, Fried slammed him spreading disinformation. “It’s extraordinarily dangerous and irresponsible for Gov. DeSantis to continue to lie about the vaccine — which he’s done twice in as many days,” Fried said. “By saying vaccines don’t help anyone but the recipient (not true) and that breakthrough cases among vaccinated aren’t rare (also not true), he’s continuing to impede the health and economic recovery of our state.” Fried also said reporters should reconsider what they repeat from the Governor’s pulpit. The Governor drew ire when declaring at a Friday news conference that when it comes to vaccination, “it’s about your health and whether you want that protection or not. It really doesn’t impact me or anyone else.”

Nikki Fried tells Ron DeSantis to stop it with COVID-19 misinformation.

Judge who overturned DeSantis’ mask order will also oversee Carlos Guillermo Smith’s public records challenge” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Rep. Smith’s lawsuit against the Florida Department of Health and outgoing Surgeon General Scott Rivkees now has a judge, according to records from the Leon County Clerk’s office. And his name might be familiar to those who have been following Florida politics during the pandemic. Judge John Cooper of the 2nd Judicial Circuit, the same judge who invalidated DeSantis’ ban on school mask rules, has been assigned to oversee Smith’s public records suit, filed Aug. 30. The nonpartisan Florida Center for Government Accountability (FLGCA) joined Smith in the suit, which came more than a month after the Orlando Democrat submitted a public records request for daily COVID-19 pediatric hospitalization and case counts from Orange County.

Now that COVID-19 cases peaked, the question remains: When will so many Floridians stop dying of the virus?” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida’s COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are declining. Still, it could take weeks before a drop-off in deaths from the virus occurs. One public health researcher suggests the state’s death count could reach as high as 56,000 people before the impact of the delta variant subsides. The COVID-19 death toll climbed to nearly 47,000 over the past week. Because of a lag, Florida’s daily death counts this week reflect the aftermath of record hospitalizations seen two to three weeks ago. The daily count has been higher than during any point in the pandemic. Over the last seven days, an average of nearly 345 more people per day have succumbed to the virus, according to a New York Times COVID-19 tracker.

— CORONA LOCAL —

‘It’s going to happen:’ Tampa pediatric nurse fears worst as more & more kids in ICU with COVID-19” via Melissa Marino of WFLA — Medical experts at Tampa General Hospital say the delta variant has changed the game for them in terms of treating children with COVID-19. A video on the TGH Facebook page titled “COVID Chronicles” shows doctors and nurses from the Children’s Medical Center urging people to protect themselves and children. “Every day, I come to work, and I wonder if this will be the first pediatric death at TGH from COVID-19. It’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of time the way the numbers of going, if this is going to be the day?” said Danielle Strutt, a Pediatric ER nurse at TGH. While pediatric ICUs have not seen as many deaths as adult ICUs, TGH said they are now experiencing more and more children with COVID-19 ending up in the ICU.

ICU nurses are bracing for an influx of children. Image via AP.

Lee Health, first Florida hospital to suffer COVID-19 death, surpasses 1,000 fatal cases” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The first Florida hospital network to lose a patient to COVID-19 has now reported more than 1,000 deaths. “Yesterday, 14 people lost their battles with COVID-19 at Lee Health hospital, marking an extremely sad milestone of over 1,000 deaths in our health system since the start of the pandemic,” wrote Lee Health Communications Supervisor Jonathan Little in an email update. The particularly tragic day in Southwest Florida brought total losses among Lee Health COVID-19 patients to 1,005. The climb to a four-digit fatal case count comes just over 18 months after a woman in her 70s died at Gulf Coast Medical Center, becoming the first known novel coronavirus death in the state. The March 5, 2020, loss started Florida’s official death toll, which as of Friday, had climbed to 46,324.

August COVID-19 deaths break monthly record at Tallahassee Memorial” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — COVID-19 deaths skyrocketed past the all-time monthly high at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare in August with 77 fatalities reported. The hospital’s previous monthly high for COVID-19 deaths was 43, set in January as access to vaccines was still ramping up, and shots were reserved for people 65 and older. But the delta variant, which took off in July, has hit Florida with its worst COVID-19 surge yet and has impacted younger populations. Already in September, TMH has recorded 19 COVID-19 deaths, the latest coming Wednesday. The 18 deaths as reported through Tuesday put the hospital on pace to match August’s record.

Monroe County Commissioner dies after battle with COVID-19” via NBC 6 — Commissioner Forster, owner of Mangrove Mike’s Cafe, died early Monday, his longtime friend, Rev. Tony Hammon, confirmed. Forster had been in the intensive care unit at Baptist Health in Kendall since last month. Forster’s friends told NBC 6 he was vaccinated, tried to stay healthy, and did what public health officials asked. Forster, who has lived in the Keys since 1990, previously served as Mayor and Council member of the Village of Islamorada. When the pandemic shut down restaurants in the Florida Keys, including Mangrove Mike’s, Forster’s restaurant became the area’s food distributor through Farm Share.

Orlando VA has the most COVID-19 cases in the U.S., despite decreased hospitalizations statewide” via Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — The Orlando Veterans Affairs health care system as of Tuesday has more COVID-19 cases than any other VA in the nation, a week after it began caring for patients in a mobile intensive care unit. The system serves one of the highest veteran populations in the nation, about 125,000, with over 5,000 staff members, said spokesperson Heather Frebe. This large population combined with COVID-19’s fourth wave and a high number of at-risk patients brings the system’s active case count to 506 as of Tuesday.

Mask mandate buzz a bust at Leon Commission meeting as county leaders get first surge update” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — County commissioners bucked the buzz that they may be looking to implement a countywide mask mandate and took little action after getting a COVID-19 update for the first time since a summer explosion of cases.  In a special meeting Tuesday, a week out from their regularly scheduled gathering, board members learned that in the past week, case numbers and percentage of positive cases have begun to dwindle while intensive care unit occupancy and hospitalizations remain high

St. Johns schools report 25 times as many COVID-19 cases, year over year” via Claire Heddles of WJCT — St. Johns County public schools had recorded 881 COVID-19 cases as of Thursday, more than 25 times the number of cases in the district after the first 14 school days of the 2020 school year. By the end of the third week of 2020-21, 35 students and staff had tested positive. District officials released COVID-19 case counts going back to the start of the 2020-21 school year in response to a public records request from WJCT News. The St. Johns County School District shares daily COVID-19 case counts to its website and has posted historical COVID-19 data going back to November 2020. Two and a half weeks into the school year in 2020, there were five COVID-19 cases among district employees. This school year, there were 89.

Despite threats to board member salaries, Brevard Public Schools stick to mask mandate” via Bailey Gallion of Florida Today — Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran demanded that Brevard Public Schools withdraw its classroom face mask mandate by Wednesday morning or the Florida Department of Education would withhold School Board member salaries. Despite the threat, Brevard’s School Board refused to yield, telling Corcoran in a five-page letter Wednesday that it would stand by the board’s recent decision to require face coverings at Brevard Public Schools for 30 days because of the skyrocketing COVID-19 infections hitting both students and staff. “As of right now, the state cannot take action against the board as outlined in Richard Corcoran’s letter,” School Board Chair Misty Belford said. “It’s a legal dance, there’s going to be a lot of back and forth, but right now, the stay has been lifted.”

Richard Corcoran’s threat to withhold money from school districts is being ignored. Image via AP.

Parents’ rights groups takes aim at Indian River superintendent, 3 School Board members” via Sommer Brugal of TC Palm — A parents group is organizing to remove the school superintendent and three School Board members for voting in favor of a mask mandate for pre-K-8 students.  The effort — which includes a GoFund Me page and a petition — calls on Gov. Ron DeSantis to remove Superintendent David Moore, board Chairperson Brian Barefoot and board members Peggy Jones and Mara Schiff. It claims the mask policy violates DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates; the Parents Bill of Rights passed by the Legislature; and the state Department of Health’s emergency ruling that allows mandatory mask policies as long as parents or guardians can opt-out their students.

No vaccine, no service. Miami physician orders patients to get a shot or find another doctor” via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — Throughout the pandemic, Dr. Linda Marraccini has kept her office door open for in-person visits with patients, just as she has done nearly every day during more than 30 years as a practicing family doctor in South Miami. Marraccini kept in touch with all her patients via regular emails, guiding them through the latest developments and recommendations on prevention, treatment and ultimately a vaccine for COVID-19. For the August email blast, Marraccini informed the nearly 3,000 patients in the practice she shares with her brother, John Marraccini, that the FDA had approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for regular use, lifting the emergency authorization the agency had granted the vaccine in December.

A Miami-Dade County worker admits attempting a $160,000 COVID-19 relief scam” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — When Miami Gardens resident Willie Curry applied for a COVID-19 relief loan in June 2020, he claimed that Will Curry Computers had 10 employees and gross revenues of $755,416 and that his goods sold cost about $170,664. “In reality … [Curry] established Will Curry Computers in 2020, it had only minimal gross revenues and cost of goods sold during the 12-month period before Jan. 31, 2020, and it had no other employees.” That’s from Curry’s factual proffer statement, the admission of facts that accompanied his guilty plea to wire fraud in federal court. Curry, a network manager with Miami-Dade County and a full-time county employee, is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 17.

USF new home for tracking Florida nursing shortages” via Jorgelina Manna-Rea of WUSF — The Florida Center for Nursing will reopen at the University of South Florida in Tampa, with a mission of tracking nursing shortages across the state and finding ways to improve those numbers. In its 2019 annual report, the center said the state was experiencing a “critical shortage of registered nurses, licensed practitioners, and many other health occupations.” Although the center hasn’t had the resources to assess the shortage recently, USF College of Nursing Dean Usha Menon said the problem is still evident. “As you talk to area employers, anecdotally, we keep hearing that there is a tremendous shortage,” said Menon.

— DATELINE TALLY —

DeSantis reappoints two to Public Service Commission” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis reappointed Arthur Graham and Andrew Fay to the Florida Public Service Commission on Wednesday. Graham, a former PSC chairman, has served on the Commission since 2010. He was first appointed by former Gov. Charlie Crist and reappointed twice by former Gov. Rick Scott. Fay, who served as a deputy to Pam Bondi, was appointed to the PSC in 2018.

With final House Session ahead, Joe Geller wants to help ax Electoral College process” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Democratic Rep. Geller is making one final push to have Florida break from the Electoral College system and potentially transform the nation’s presidential election into a popular vote system. Heading into his last Legislative Session before running into term limits, Geller is once again introducing a measure signing Florida onto the Nationwide Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The Compact seeks to ensure the winner of the nationwide popular vote will serve as President. It does that by circumventing the nation’s Electoral College system.

Happening today — The Hendry County legislative delegation will meet: Sen. Kathleen Passidomo and Rep. Lauren Melo, 10 a.m., LaBelle City Hall, 481 West Hickpochee Ave., LaBelle.

Watch Anthony Sabatini rant about ‘liberal’ Chris Sprowls, Wilton Simpson, ‘cuck’ Thad Altman” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Rep. Sabatini ripped all of Florida’s Republican leadership during a rant at a Brevard County conservative event. The Lake County Republican labeled House Speaker Sprowls, ”a complete and total liberal,” called longtime lawmaker Altman a “cuck” and a “senile fool,” and even suggested DeSantis initially acted “cowardly” about pandemic lockdowns and mask mandates. “I’m just so absolutely disgusted by every damn Republican in the state of Florida,” he railed. Sabatini, a second-term member of the House, chose to run for Congress next year instead of another term in the Legislature. That’s in part, he said, because he’s tired of the “insanity.”

To watch the rant, click on the image below:

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Miguel Abad, Melaney Cordell, Buigas and Associates: Anthem

Alan Abramowitz: The Arc of Florida

Brad Burleson, Ballard Partners: Renewable Energy Aggregators

Ron Pierce, Edward Briggs, Natalie King, RSA Consulting Group: Tapper Ventures

Will Rodriguez, Corcoran Partners: American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Florida Chapter, Safety Glass Association of Florida, St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, Sunrise Mills Limited Partnership, University of South Florida Foundation, Verizon, Walmart Stores, Williams Communications

Jeff Sharkey, Capitol Alliance Group: Climate First Bank, United Wholesale Mortgage

Ashley Spicola, Eleven Consulting Solutions: Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida

Crystal Stickle, Magnolia Advocacy: The Hurst Group

Walter White: AAR Corp

— STATEWIDE —

What Ben Albritton is readingFlorida farmers still hurting even after new trade agreement with Mexico, Canada” via WFSU — The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement was supposed to help U.S. farmers. But Fried says farmers in her state are still hurting. And the agreement isn’t stopping Mexico from engaging in what she calls “unfair trade practices.” Bud Chiles runs Jubilee Orchards and grows blueberries in Tallahassee. Chiles says Mexico floods the market with lower-priced blueberries during the same window local growers need to sell their products, a practice called Dumping. “Blueberry farmers are going out of business left and right,” Chiles says. A paper says there’s been a surge of subsidies by the Mexican government to pay for structures like greenhouses that protect crops from the elements.

Happening today — The South Florida Water Management District Governing Board meets for a public hearing on the upcoming budget and possible millage rates, 5:15 p.m., South Florida Water Management District, 3301 Gun Club Road, West Palm Beach. Zoom link here.

— 2022 —

Lincoln Project ad taunts Donald Trump, says DeSantis is ‘running away’ with GOP” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A new ad from the Never Trumper troupe juxtaposes Trump and DeSantis. “Ron is running for President … and with Fox’s help, he will beat you.” Lincoln Project founder Rick Wilson was unambiguous in explaining what the latest LP creative, “Sad!” conveys. “Republicans in Washington and the Fox News echo chamber are having a hard time hiding their excitement over the ascension of Gov. Ron DeSantis as party leader,” Wilson said. The 60-second spot trolls Trump, with a female narrator saying, “people are trying to forget about you … people you made … people like Ron DeSantis.”

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Nonprofit founder Audrey Henson announces run for Congress” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — Henson, a St. Petersburg native and the founder of a nonprofit that helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds secure Congressional internships, announced her campaign for Florida’s 13th Congressional District Wednesday morning. Henson joins a Republican primary with two other candidates, Anna Paulina Luna and Amanda Makki. Growing up poor in St. Petersburg, Henson said she concluded that big government doesn’t help move people out of poverty but instead keeps them there. College to Congress, the nonprofit Henson founded when she was 26, aimed to even the playing field by making often unpaid congressional internships accessible for students from low-income backgrounds.

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Naples Realtor John Dugan becomes fourth candidate to run for City Council in 2022” via Omar Rodriguez Ortiz of the Naples Daily News — Naples Realtor Dugan filed a form Thursday appointing a treasurer and designating a bank account for his campaign, becoming the fourth candidate running for City Council in February 2022. Dugan is also a director of Bayfront Condo of Naples and president of the Naples Republican Club. One of Dugan’s top priorities is preserving the city’s way of life, including its natural resources, businesses, and “freedoms,” he said. Another of Dugan’s top priorities is managing and accelerating growth to have funds to provide better services for the community, he said.

Voting think tank launches lawyer network to defend election officials” via Antonio Fins of the Palm Beach Post —Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley, said the legal help is sorely needed and he is grateful for it. ‘We are being dragged into partisan politics and that is not the place for election administration,’ said Corley. Corley said the 2020 election was a major success from the number of citizens who cast a vote in the county just north of Tampa to the prompt certification of results — all amid a once-in-a-century global health emergency. Yet Crowley said he and elections officials have ‘almost become criminalized for our professionalism.’ Corley said members of his staff have been subjected to racial slurs more than 50 times. One member was threatened with being shot.”

— CORONA NATION —

U.S. reaches 75% of adults with at least one vaccine dose” via Josh Wingrove of Bloomberg — Three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, setting a new milestone in the country’s fight against the pandemic. But with a continued surge of cases, hospitalizations and deaths due to the delta variant of the coronavirus, President Joe Biden plans a speech Thursday to outline a “six-pronged strategy” to “get the pandemic under control,” Press secretary Jen Psaki said. The U.S. hit 70% of adults with at least one dose in early August, four weeks after Biden’s July Fourth target for the achievement. Despite the wide availability of free shots, hesitancy among many Americans, especially political conservatives, has left the U.S. well behind many other countries in inoculating its population.

As hospitalizations rise, so do vaccinations. Image via Bloomberg.

Daily U.S. COVID-19 cases up more than 300% from Labor Day last year” via Jessica Schladebeck of Yahoo News — Daily coronavirus cases are four times higher than they were following Labor Day weekend of last year, with the number of daily deaths twice as high as they were this time in 2020. Since the global health crisis emerged in late 2019, the United States has recorded more than 40 million COVID-19 cases, including just 4 million in the last month alone. Health officials noted the biggest difference between this year and last is the delta variant. They blamed the 316% increase over last year’s daily infections on the highly contagious COVID-19 mutation, as well as a large number of Americans refusing to become vaccinated against the fast-spreading disease.

People who got Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus shot feel left behind in push for boosters” via Derek Hawkins of The Washington Post — Scores of Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients voiced similar concerns, saying they felt left behind by the White House’s move toward boosters for everyone but them. Officials noted the single-dose regimen was authorized later, and they expect Johnson & Johnson booster shots would be needed, too, a fact that they said would become evident when data on long-term effectiveness is made available. They also emphasized that for most people, one dose of Johnson & Johnson is a strong shield against the worst effects of COVID-19. A small, non-peer-reviewed study by the company showed it was effective against the delta variant, too, and other research indicates immunity remains strong eight months after injection.

As experts debate boosters, vaccinated people are calling their own shots” via Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post — It might seem a no-brainer. Still, nothing is simple when it comes to coronavirus vaccine boosters. The Biden administration’s coronavirus task force wants to roll out boosters the week of Sept. 20. Too soon, some experts have declared. Not soon enough, others say. Meanwhile, officials at the FDA, which has regulatory authority over such matters, have warned the White House they may need to limit the boosters initially to people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine because they have not yet received the data they need to make decisions on Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine boosters.

Moderna COVID-19 vaccine may give you more antibodies. What this does and doesn’t mean” via Katie Camero of the Miami Herald — People who received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine had “slightly higher” antibody levels than those who received the Pfizer, now formally called Comirnaty, shot. While both vaccines insert mRNA molecules that teach our bodies how to produce coronavirus antibodies, the Moderna shot uses more than three times the amount of mRNA than the Pfizer vaccine. This, the University of Virginia School of Medicine researchers say, could explain their findings. Not necessarily, the team says. It’s still unclear if more antibodies equal more or better protection against the disease. There’s also more to an immune system than antibodies, including T cells and B cells.

Must-read — “One in 5,000” via David Leonhardt of The New York Times — The CDC reported a terrifying fact in July: Vaccinated people with the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus carried roughly the same viral load in their noses and throats as unvaccinated people. The news suggested that even the vaccinated were highly vulnerable to getting infected and passing the virus to others. In recent weeks, however, more data has become available, suggesting that the true picture is less alarming. Yes, delta has increased the chances of getting COVID-19 for almost everyone. But if you’re vaccinated, a COVID-19 infection is still uncommon, and those high viral loads are not as worrisome as they initially sounded.

The U.S. Surgeon General says we’re thinking about the end of the pandemic in the wrong way: ‘Success does not equal no cases’” via Dominick Reuters of Business Insider — COVID-19 is unlikely to be going away completely, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in an interview with Politico. Although the U.S. has missed the opportunity to eradicate the disease totally, he said people can still take steps to keep the situation from getting worse. “It is really important that we convey that success does not equal no cases,” Murthy said. “Success looks like very few people in the hospital and very few dying.” Murthy’s remarks come as many hospitals across the U.S. report having zero ICU bed capacity remaining, with several treating nearly twice as many ICU patients as they have room for.

— CORONA ECONOMICS —

Janet Yellen warns of a possible October default of U.S. debt, swollen by the pandemic.” via Alan Rappeport and Jonathan Weisman of The New York Times — The United States could default on its debt sometime in October if Congress does not take action to raise or suspend the debt limit, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned on Wednesday. The “extraordinary measures” that the Treasury Department has been employing to finance the government temporarily since Aug. 1 will be exhausted next month, Yellen said in a letter to lawmakers. She added that the exact timing remained unclear, but that time to avert an economic catastrophe was running out. “Once all available measures and cash on hand are fully exhausted, the United States of America would be unable to meet its obligations for the first time in our history,” she wrote.

Janet Yellen warns that the U.S. could default on its debt in October. Image via AP.

Travel restrictions are back in Europe for U.S. visitors, at least in some places.” via The New York Times — Italy now requires travelers from the U.S. to take a test before arrival, and unvaccinated American visitors must isolate for five days. Sweden is barring all nonessential U.S. visitors. The Netherlands says vaccinated travelers must isolate after arriving from the U.S. — and unvaccinated ones are not welcome. In removing the U.S. from a safe list of countries whose residents can travel without coronavirus testing or quarantine requirements, the European Union last week opened the door to myriad rules, restrictions and hurdles for travelers, with the bloc’s member countries implementing different measures. The surge of coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations in the United States has led some countries to enforce new obstacles, and the list could grow.

— MORE CORONA —

WHO chief urges halt to booster shots for rest of the year” via Jamey Keaton of the Miami Herald — Rich countries with large supplies of coronavirus vaccines should refrain from offering booster shots through the end of the year and make the doses available for poorer countries, the head of the World Health Organization said, doubling down on an earlier appeal for a “moratorium” on boosters that has largely been ignored. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also said he was “appalled” after hearing comments Tuesday from a top association of pharmaceutical manufacturers that vaccine supplies are high enough to allow for both booster shots for people in well-supplied countries and first jabs in poorer countries that face shortages. He said that’s already been the case.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wants to hit the pause button on booster shots. Image via AP.

Covax, a program to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, cuts its 2021 forecast for available doses by a quarter.” via Benjamin Mueller and Daniel E. Slotnik of The New York Times — The United Nations-backed program to vaccinate the world against the coronavirus slashed its forecast for doses available in 2021 by roughly a quarter on Wednesday, another setback for an effort that has been hampered by production problems, export bans and vaccine hoarding by wealthy nations. Shortly after the forecast was released, the World Health Organization asked wealthy countries to hold off on administering booster shots for healthy patients until at least the end of the year as a way of enabling every country to vaccinate at least 40% of their populations. In its latest projection, the global immunization program, known as COVAX, said that it is expected to have a total of 1.4 billion doses available by the end of 2021.

The plan to stop every respiratory virus at once” via Sarah Zhang of The Atlantic — At the University of Maryland, Donald Milton — one of the few longtime airborne transmission researchers — is about to embark on a multiyear, controlled trial aimed at understanding influenza. Flu patients and healthy participants will share a room in this study. And they will take different precautions, such as hand-washing plus face shields or having good ventilation. The trial is meant to prove which intervention works the best, and thus which transmission route is dominant. When Milton had managed to get funding for a different aerosol study in the 2000s, he said a public-health official told him, “We’re funding you to put the nail in the coffin of the idea that aerosols are important.” Now, Milton says, “We’ll find out which direction the nail is being driven here.”

MeanwhileFlu season is coming fast and could be miserable, studies warn” via Erika Edwards of NBC News — Health officials are urging people to get their flu shots now, in an attempt to prevent further strain on hospitals already overwhelmed by COVID-19 and other viruses. The push to get flu shots as soon as possible comes as two studies warn that this flu season could be a miserable one. “There are some factors that we cannot control as far as how bad the flu season is going to be,” said Xiaoyan Song, chief infection control officer at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., “but there are some that we absolutely have control over.” It is notoriously difficult to predict what will happen in any flu season. But a combination of factors could make this winter particularly tough, experts said.

— 20 YEARS —

What does it mean to ‘never forget’?” via Dan Barry of The New York Times — Twenty years later, the command to “Never Forget” retains its power, jolting us into the past whenever we see it. These twinned words seem freighted with the complexities of guilt, obligation, and even presumption, as if we could ever forget. “When I hear ‘Never Forget’ for 9/11, my next question is: ‘Never forget what?’” said Charles B. Stone, an associate professor of psychology. Never forget the international dynamics that set the stage? The homeland insecurities that followed, including the harassment of American citizens simply because they were Muslim? “Probably the closest answer is: Never forget that it occurred,” Dr. Stone said. “But it’s the little details that will be forgotten.”

More Americans say 9/11 changed U.S. for worse than better, Post-ABC poll finds” via Scott Clement of The Washington Post — Americans increasingly say the events of Sept. 11, 2001, had a more negative than positive impact on the country, and predictions for the pandemic’s long-term impact are even more downbeat. Ahead of the 20th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Saturday, more than 8 in 10 Americans say those events changed the country in a lasting way. Nearly half (46%) say 9/11 changed the country for the worse, while 33% say they changed the country for the better. That represents a shift from 10 years ago when Americans were roughly divided on this question, and it marks an even larger swing from the anniversary of the attacks in 2002.

Tweet, tweet:

Proceedings in 9/11 case resume, and then are delayed again” via Carol Rosenberg of The New York Times — It was supposed to be a hearing intended to get the case against the five men accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks back on track after a long delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, it turned into another example of how legal maneuvering and a changing cast of characters continue to slow the process of trying the defendants 20 years after the horrific events that the prosecution says they helped set in motion. Guards led the five men, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is accused of being the mastermind of the plot, into the courtroom on Tuesday for the first time since the pandemic halted the pretrial proceedings.

Pentagon’s 9/11 anniversary is its first without troops in Afghanistan” via Nancy A. Youssef of The Wall Street Journal — This year, for the first time, the anniversary of 9/11 will be marked without troops in Afghanistan, where the attacks were planned. And it is colored, for many, by still-fresh reactions to the U.S. exit from the country in late August, which saw 13 troops killed and 20 injured along with hundreds of Afghan casualties from an Islamic State attack in the war’s final days. Of the nearly 3,000 people killed on Sept. 11, 125 were at the Pentagon, which houses the Defense Department.

Florida’s 9/11 terror cell: 20 years later, questions linger about Saudi connection” via Jay Weaver, David Ovalle, and Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Before they executed the deadliest terrorist attacks in American history, most of the 9/11 hijackers spent months unsuspected and undetected in Florida, The first puzzle piece is in Sarasota, where at least one FBI report found that 9/11 plot leader Mohamed Atta and two other hijackers visited the gated community of a Saudi Arabian family, who hurriedly left their home just two weeks before the attacks. The second piece is across the county and suggests that two more cell members in Southern California may have been assisted by government employees of Saudi Arabia, the home country of 15 of the 19 men who died in the suicide mission.

Tampa Muslim woman looks back on the aftermath of 9/11” via Mitch Perry of Bay News 9 — While the focus this week in the U.S. media is on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, the negative fallout for many American Muslims lasted far longer than on that horrific day. In April 2004, Shari Akram was operating a jewelry kiosk at the Westshore Mall in Tampa when she was verbally and physically confronted in an altercation with a husband, wife and their daughter who told her to “get out of (America)” and said that her religion was “hateful and violent.” “They started yelling and basically blaming me for terrorist attacks and my faith and tried to grab my scarf from my neck,” she recounted.

Shari Akram tells one story of the many that faced Muslim women after 9/11. Image via Mitch Perry/Bay News 9.

—”20 years later, six Southwest Florida residents reflect on 9/11 tragedy they witnessed” via Andrew Atkins of the Naples Daily News

How the N.Y.P.D. is using post-9/11 tools on everyday New Yorkers” via Ali Watkins of The New York Times — New Yorkers simply going about their daily lives routinely encounter post-9/11 digital surveillance tools like facial recognition software, license plate readers, or mobile X-ray vans that can see through car doors. Surveillance drones hover above mass demonstrations and protesters say they have been questioned by anti-terrorism officers after marches. The department’s Intelligence Division, redesigned in 2002 to confront al-Qaida operatives, now uses anti-terror tactics to fight gang violence and street crime. Policing technology has always advanced along with the world at large. The department’s intelligence and counterterrorism budget has quadrupled, spending more than $3 billion since 2006.

I was stranded in Newfoundland on Sept. 11. Here’s my ‘come from away’ story.” via Amy Polacko of The Washington Post — On my way home from a German vacation with a friend on Sept. 11, 2001, our captain announced: “Airspace in New York is closed. America is under attack.” Passengers grabbed the hand closest to them and spoke in hushed voices. After my plane touched down on the old military airstrip in Gander, Newfoundland, we remained stuck there for 13 hours. Attendants started rationing water, and smokers got cagey. Then, reports trickled in from people making phone calls to family that the World Trade Center had been hit. That’s all we knew. Remember, this was the age of flip phones. What I didn’t know then was that this nightmare, and the five days I’d be stuck in this town I’d never heard of, would change me forever.

On 9/11, split-second decisions by employees at ICAP affected the rest of their lives” via Gregory Zuckerman of The Wall Street Journal — On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of people working in the World Trade Center were confronted with decisions. Vacate an office or remain? Take a stairwell up or head down? Leave immediately or persuade colleagues to get out? Most had mere moments to make the decisions, which would affect the rest of their lives. “Seemingly minor decisions, often made in a state of confusion, had an enormous impact on experiences and outcomes,” says Marie Patton, who worked at ICAP on Sept. 11. “I’m still discovering these stories from colleagues.”

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Joe Biden to address pandemic-weary nation” via Alexander Nazaryan of Yahoo — Biden will address the nation on Thursday, the White House said, laying out a “six-pronged strategy” to combat the coronavirus pandemic throughout the fall. The speech will likely mark a stark departure from the upbeat announcements of last spring, as vaccination rates rose, and infection rates declined. The delta variant frustrated Biden’s plans for a “summer of freedom.” With cold weather approaching and children returning to school, he faces a challenge in telling Americans that the end is still in sight; but that he, and they, must do more to bring the pandemic to its conclusion.

Joe Biden will lay it on the line. Image via Reuters.

Biden is expected to call for global vaccine summit” via Dan Diamond of The Washington Post — Biden is planning to call for a global summit to respond to the coronavirus crisis and boost vaccine supply to the developing world, said three people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the pending announcement. The summit would be held during the United Nations General Assembly meetings the week of Sept. 20. Topics would include coordination among leaders worldwide to collectively tackle the health crisis and address inequities, including that the developing world has lagged behind on vaccinations. Biden is set to give a speech detailing his coronavirus strategy Thursday, although the announcement of the global summit could come before the speech, the people said.

Afghanistan drawdown leaves Biden at a crisis point with veterans” via Natasha Korecki of POLITICO — The day Kabul fell, veterans’ mental health crisis hotlines lit up. As Taliban militia members streamed into Afghanistan’s capital, Veterans Affairs chief of staff Tanya Bradsher blasted out an email to the department’s senior staff. “My veteran network is reeling, and I am sure yours are as well,” Bradsher wrote in the Aug. 15 email. Veterans and active military service members were taken aback not only by the speed with which the Taliban swept through the nation but by what that meant for the scores of allies, including interpreters, still in the country and now at risk of getting left behind. The emotional toll, particularly for the more than 700,000 veterans who served in Afghanistan at some point during the 20-year war, was readily apparent.

‘There’s no good news’: Biden’s rough summer puts Dems on high alert” via David Siders of POLITICO — Biden was billed as the steadying antidote to four turbulent years of Trump. But after being buffeted this summer by one crisis after another, COVID-19, Afghanistan, wildfires in the West and Hurricane Ida in the East, his young presidency is confronting a make-or-break fall. Democrats are well aware of what happened to the last two Democratic Presidents after a choppy first two years. Halfway through Bill Clinton’s first term, in 1994, Democrats lost 54 House seats and eight in the Senate, ceding control of both houses of Congress to Republicans for the first time in 40 years. During Barack Obama’s first midterm, the carnage was even uglier: Democrats lost 63 seats in the House.

Biden cans Trump military academy holdovers” via Lachlan Markay of Axios — Critics say President Biden’s moves to clean house at America’s military service academies creates a precedent that politicizes a traditionally nonpartisan — if patronage-heavy — system. The White House’s personnel office today sent letters to all six members of each of the three service academy visitors boards — overseeing West Point, Annapolis and the U.S. Air Force Academy — demanding they resign by 6 p.m. or face termination. Some refused and said they’d consider legal action. Appointees to those academies’ visitors boards are generally permitted to serve out their terms regardless of their political affiliations even after a new president takes office.

— EPILOGUE: TRUMP —

Trump reaches out to families of U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan” via Matt Viser and Josh Dawsey of The New York Times — When Darin Hoover traveled to Dover Air Force Base to receive the casket of his 31-year-old Marine son, who was killed in Afghanistan, he, like several other families, declined an offer to meet with Biden. But out of the blue last week, his cellphone rang, and he instantly recognized the voice on the other line: Trump. “It was just very cordial, very understanding. He was awesome,” Hoover said, recalling the conversation. Trump and his allies have seen the calamitous end to the war in Afghanistan as a potent political opportunity as he weighs a potential 2024 reelection bid — even though Trump himself advocated for the withdrawal, negotiated with the Taliban before leaving office, and urged Biden to leave even sooner.

Donald Trump reaches out to families who refuse to meet with Joe Biden. Image via AP.

Trump announces rallies in Georgia, Iowa as 2024 speculation mounts” via Samuel Chamberlain of the New York Post — Trump will hold two more campaign-style rallies in the coming weeks, one in Georgia and one in Iowa, as speculation continues to grow that he will make yet another run for the White House in 2024. Trump’s Save America PAC announced Tuesday night that the 45th President will hold a rally in Perry, Georgia, approximately 100 miles south of Atlanta, on Sept. 25. A few minutes later, the organization announced that Trump would speak in Des Moines, Iowa, on Oct. 9. The events will be the fourth and fifth rallies Trump has held since leaving office in January. He previously drew crowds in Ohio, Florida and Alabama, where he was briefly booed by some audience members after recommending they get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The most dangerous Trump exposé” via Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen of Axios — Former White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham has quietly written a top-secret memoir of her four years in Trump’s White House, and a publishing source says she’ll reveal “surprising new scandals.” The book — “I’ll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw in The Trump White House” — will be published Oct. 5 by Harper Collins. A former West Wing colleague of Grisham’s tells Axios: “When I heard this, all I could think about was Stephanie surrounded by a lake of gasoline, striking a match with a grin on her face.”

With Trump in the rearview mirror, Proud Boys offer muscle at rallies against vaccine mandates, masks” via Will Carless of USA Today — After lying low for months since the Capitol insurrection Jan. 6, members of the far-right street gang the Proud Boys have been showing up at protests against mask mandates and coronavirus vaccine requirements. In recent weeks, Proud Boys have been spotted at rallies in at least five states. From Los Angeles to Columbus, Ohio, members have scrapped with counterprotesters after gathering for events branded as pro-freedom, pro-patriot or anti-COVID-19 restrictions. They’ve even appeared at school board meetings to protest the teaching of “critical race theory,” a controversy fanned by conservative activists and news media.

— CRISIS —

Capitol Police memo warns of potential for violence during Sept. 18 rally” via Melanie Zanona and Whitney Wild of CNN — Law enforcement officials are bracing for potential clashes and unrest during an upcoming right-wing rally in Washington, DC, as violent rhetoric surrounding the Sept. 18 event has increased online and counterprotests are being planned for the same day. The latest intelligence report on the “Justice for J6” rally notes that online chatter in support of the event started increasing after the officer who fatally shot rioter Ashli Babbitt went public with his identity. There’s been a noticeable uptick in violent rhetoric around the event and heated discussions centered on Babbitt’s shooting on social media and discussion boards.

We may be seeing this again. Image via AP.

Americans may have thought the 2020 election was over. Yet the conspiracy theories are accelerating.” via The Washington Post editorial board — With Trump largely out of the headlines, many Americans may have thought the 2020 election was over. In fact, the conspiracy theories, recriminations and demands emanating from the former President, and amplified across right-wing media, are only accelerating. State Republicans cannot overturn the 2020 results. But they are sapping the U.S. political system of precious legitimacy for a substantial swath of the population, and their willingness to take official actions based on fiction speaks ominously about what they would do if the next presidential election does not go their way.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Democrats and lobbyists gird for battle over far-reaching tax increases” via Jonathan Weisman, Alan Rappeport and Jim Tankersley of The New York Times — Congressional Democrats always knew their battle plan for raising taxes on corporations, large inheritances and the super-wealthy would not survive initial contact with the enemy. They just didn’t realize that enemy would be North Dakota-nice Heidi Heitkamp. The Democratic former senator has emerged as the smiling face of a well-financed effort to defeat a proposed tax increase crucial to funding the $3.5 trillion social spending bill at the heart of Biden’s agenda. Her effort is indicative of the difficult slog ahead as the business lobby mobilizes to chip away at Democrats’ tax-raising ambitions, which some lawmakers say will have to be scaled back to maintain party unity, an assessment the White House has disputed.

Democrats prepare for battle over tax increases. Image via AP.

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto has mild COVID-19 case, gets Regeneron treatment” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Soto has a breakthrough case of COVID-19 with minor symptoms, he said Wednesday, adding he was treated at a Regeneron monoclonal antibody clinic opened by DeSantis on Tuesday in St. Cloud. Soto, a Kissimmee Democrat who was vaccinated along with other Congress members in December, said in an interview he had just mild symptoms and was recovering at home. “Obviously, [I] was vaccinated as soon as I could,” said Soto, 43. “[But] I started feeling some cold symptoms last week and tested positive. Soto added he received a monoclonal antibody treatment Tuesday morning meant to ward off any major symptoms.

— LOCAL NOTES —

Hillsborough County redistricting disintegrates into salvos questioning motives” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — Hillsborough County commissioners took their first public stab Wednesday at drawing new district boundaries for themselves amid accusations of self-serving gerrymandering, indifference to minority communities, and a lack of transparency. The county staff released four draft maps Friday evening, and Commission Chairwoman Pat Kemp and District 3 Commissioner Gwen Myers offered their own versions. The timing drew immediate criticism. “It looks like the same kind of political maneuvering I’ve seen in Tallahassee,” said former state Rep. Ed Narain. But the sharpest criticism came from the commissioners themselves. Commissioner Ken Hagan said most of the maps, except Myers’ submission, were dismissive of the Black community because some predominantly Black areas, like portions of Progress Village, were split from District 3.

USF ‘going to’ build on-campus football stadium, board of trustees chair says” via Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times — As USF football boosters, administrators and players gathered Wednesday for the groundbreaking ceremony of a long-awaited indoor practice facility, board of trustees chair Will Weatherford announced his vision for the Bulls’ next step. An on-campus football stadium. Weatherford only said it will be somewhere on the main campus, south of Fletcher Avenue. Neither Weatherford nor athletic director Michael Kelly were ready to talk about a timeline. Second-year coach Jeff Scott said he’s confident it will come to fruition “sooner rather than later.” Financial details were not discussed, but one reasonable comparison, the 36,500-seat stadium Colorado State opened in 2017, cost $220 million.

A new stadium for the University of South Florida? Image via USF.

Pinellas Sand Key beach renourishment project in peril” via Gabe Stern of the Tampa Bay Times — Sand moves quickly along the Pinellas County coast. It flows into inlets and piles up next to jetties. It expands and thins beaches. Every five to seven years, the Army Corps of Engineers hires a contractor to pump in sand to replace what has eroded. But a once-brushed-over provision of the project that the Army Corps is now emphasizing puts the Sand Key project in doubt. If Pinellas County does not get perpetual easements from 100% of the private properties that border the project, the Army Corps will skip each cycle until all 461 easements are signed.

Identities of Surfside condo collapse victims stolen. Suspects have been arrested” via David Ovalle and Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — Ana Ortiz was one of 98 people who died when Champlain Towers South collapsed in June. The night before the funeral, her sister noticed strange emails popping up on Ortiz’s iPad, detailing password changes to bank accounts and credit cards, new addresses and contact information. “I was home writing the eulogy. I don’t know why, but I looked down. I saw notifications from Wells Fargo. I saw emails with money transfers. I didn’t even know she had a Wells Fargo account,” Nicole Ortiz said. “It was crazy. These people are professional. Who would do something like this?” The answer, authorities say, was identity thieves who used Ana Ortiz’s name to make a slew of purchases.

Biscayne Bay conditions improve after Labor Day weekend fish die-off” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Scientists are still trying to determine what killed roughly 150 fish in Biscayne Bay over Labor Day weekend in Miami-Dade County. Early signs indicate the cause was similar to that of past fish kills: severely depleted oxygen in the bay, this time onset by “extreme heat with numerous rainy days,” Miami Beach officials said Tuesday. The county said Wednesday conditions appear to have since improved. The Miami-Dade Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) “coordinated sampling efforts to maximize coverage across the affected basins.”

Get ready, South Florida. The first round of king tides is upon us.” via Chris Perkins of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — During the dreaded king tides, which begin Thursday, South Florida is prone to “sunny day flooding,” when streets can be inundated by water without the slightest hint of rain, when an intrusive sea lifts fancy boats to street levels, forces tourists to slosh their way through the streets, and sends cities rushing to erect barricades. It’s common to see seawater bubbling up through storm drains and flowing over seawalls, leaving neighborhoods in low-lying areas vulnerable to flooding, and roads can be deluged with water. September’s king tides are expected this Thursday through Saturday. King tides in autumn are often the most intense. The round forecast for Oct. 20-21 could be the most significant because it coincides with the full moon.

— TOP OPINION —

Why is Florida so secretive with COVID-19 records?” via the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board — In the week ending Sept. 2, nearly 130,000 news cases were reported in the state, less than the previous week but still unsettlingly close to record highs. Speaking of records, in that same week, the state recorded 2,245 deaths, the second consecutive single week high since the start of the pandemic. So far, about 47,000 Floridians have died from COVID. And yet, the state leadership doesn’t want residents to know the details behind those numbers. Information is power, and Floridians need this data to protect themselves, their families and their communities. This should be an easy call for the courts, and they need to act while it counts.

— OPINIONS —

We treat COVID-19 patients. Here’s why the ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’ narrative is wrong.” via Bonnie Castillo of USA Today — The delta variant is driving COVID-19 infections back up, even among younger patients, including people in their 20s to 50s and our children. Intensive care units in many communities across the country are once again overflowing. If you watch the news, chances are you’ve heard all of this can be resolved based on the behavior of just one group of people. You’ve probably heard that we have entered a new era called “the pandemic of the unvaccinated.” As advocates for public health, registered nurses want to be extremely clear: There is no such thing as a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

In Pinellas schools, doing our best requires masks right now” via Laura Hine for the Tampa Bay Times — Regarding COVID-19 and masks, conditions in Pinellas schools are vastly different from they were at the same time last year. Without a mask requirement and with the far more contagious COVID-19 delta, we have an alarmingly higher incidence of illness and quarantine among students and staff, leading to a less safe and less effective learning environment. Given our responsibility for a safe and effective learning environment, our current conditions, and the professional recommendations, I believe it is our school board’s duty to implement all mitigation strategies to include requiring masks when conditions dictate, and I further believe that it is every American citizen’s responsibility to be a good teammate, to serve their neighbor and the common good, even when personally inconvenient.

Texas abortion ban takes a page out of Cuba’s communist playbook. Is this what Florida wants?” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Vigilantes video recording detractors, standing outside buildings with flashlights to identify the people they will go after. People outing strangers and acquaintances alike for violating rules created by ideologues in control of the government. Turning private citizens into watchdogs willing to tell on each other for financial rewards often works better than the government itself doing the dirty work. It’s Texas’ new approach to banning abortion, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to block this atrocity has emboldened other states to consider their own bans. Of course, Florida, where former state House Speaker José Oliva once referred to pregnant women as “host bodies,” is among them.

For your radar —California looks to natural gas to avert rolling blackouts” via Dale Calhoun of the Naples Daily News — In recent years, local governments across the Golden State have banned natural gas in favor of renewable energy alternatives. As a result, California’s energy cost is through the roof, they don’t have enough power to meet their needs, and residents are enduring rolling blackouts. Things are so dire that California Gov. Newsom was forced to declare an emergency for the power grid. Now, officials scrambling to shore up power resources are turning to natural gas to save them. For once, it’s a smart policy move by California. Natural gas is clean, affordable and reliable.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

A judge once again shuts down the Governor’s attempt to block local mask mandates. But even before the judge’s ruling, DeSantis vowed to fight back through appeal and win.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Agriculture Commissioner Fried touted the safety of vaccines during her COVID-19 briefing but issued a statement calling on news outlets to stop broadcasting “the Governor’s misinformation without immediate editorial correction with the facts.”

— And Florida’s largest teachers’ union weighs in on the judge’s mask ruling against the state.

— On the Sunrise Interview, Andrew Spar, President of the Florida Education Association, says they are prepared for the Governor’s appeal as they continue the fight to keep teachers and students safe.

— And finally, a Florida Man fed up with a private road in poor condition near his Southwest Florida business produced a novel solution: plant a banana tree in a pothole to warn motorists away.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Historic Florida Keys lighthouse gets new owner, and possible new life” via The Associated Press — U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has approved a recommendation from the National Park Service that Islamorada-based Friends of the Pool Inc. be granted ownership of Alligator Reef Lighthouse under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. The nonprofit organization announced the approval Tuesday. “Alligator Reef Lighthouse has stood since 1873,” project organizer Rob Dixon said. “It’s an important part of Islamorada’s local history. It’s our Statue of Liberty and needs to be saved.” Dixon said the restoration project will likely take five to seven years and cost up to $9 million. “We’re going to need a lot of fundraising help and a lot of technical help,” Dixon said.

A Florida Keys landmark could get a new lease on life. Image via AP.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today is hotelier Harris Rosen.

___

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


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