Assignment editors — Gov. Ron DeSantis is set to meet with President Donald Trump at The White House at 11 a.m.
I hate you, Coronavirus — “Disney Cruise line cancels all sailings until at least late June” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — An update to the cruise line’s website said Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, which sail out of Port Canaveral, have canceled cruises that depart through June 18. Disney Magic, which was scheduled to go to Europe for the summer, had all sailings canceled until mid-July. At the same time, Disney Wonder, which was slated to be in Alaska, won’t sail until Canada opens its ports up after July 1. The next scheduled cruise for Disney Fantasy is now June 20, Disney Dream is now June 21, Disney Wonder is July 6 and Disney Magic is July 13. The line is offering either a full refund or the option to use funds on a future cruise credit for up to 15 months from the original sail date.
No Disney cruise for you. At least until June.
I realize this poll only deals with the sentiments of Pinellas County residents, but given its results, I believe it’s worth sharing.
Only 37% of residents back reopening beaches and pools, according to the latest data from St. Pete Polls. 56 percent oppose the measure while 8% are undecided.
Last month, the Pinellas County Commission closed all public beaches and public beach parking to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Today the board is expected to decide whether to re-open beaches and public pools.
Polling also found that 69% of respondents favor a countywide order requiring people to wear masks in public. Only 27% oppose such an order while 5% are undecided.
On the issue of reopening nonessential business, Pinellas County voters are split. A slight number of voters, 46%, favor lifting the closures while 44% want those businesses to stay closed — within the 1.6% margin of error. The remaining 10% of respondents are undecided.
Keep these numbers in mind as you see folks clamor for anything but a go-slow approach.
— EXECUTIVE SUMMARY —
— Global COVID-19 confirmed cases passed the 3 million mark. Read more here.
— Grim milestones passed on Monday: more than 50,000 coronavirus deaths in the U.S. and more than 200,000 around the world. Read more here.
— The Donald Trump administration is reviewing new federal plans designed to guide restaurants, schools, churches and others as states look to lift their coronavirus restrictions gradually. Read more here.
Donald Trump listens during a briefing about the coronavirus pandemic. Image via AP.
— The government plans to provide enough to all 50 states to screen at least 2% of their residents, a White House official said. Read more here.
— New York may open some parts of the state in May after reporting steady hospitalizations and lower intubations. But New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said his stay-at-home order would “remain in effect in its entirety until further notice.” Read more here.
— New Zealand will begin to reopen tomorrow after saying transmission of the virus had been “eliminated” in the country. Read more here.
— A vaccine could be available as early as this year for vulnerable groups such as health care workers, according to a coalition funding nine projects. Read more here.
— TOP STORIES —
“Global coronavirus death toll could be 60% higher than reported” via John Burn-Murdoch, Valentina Romei and Chris Giles of Financial Times — The death toll from coronavirus may be almost 60% higher than reported in official counts. Mortality statistics show 122,000 deaths over normal levels across these locations, considerably higher than the 77,000 official COVID-19 deaths reported for the same places and periods. If the same level of underreporting observed in these countries were happening worldwide, the global COVID-19 death toll would rise from the current official total of 201,000 to as high as 318,000.
The coronavirus death toll could be much higher than originally estimated.
“‘We are ready to open’: Health experts join Ron DeSantis as reopening nears” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Health experts at Tampa General Hospital are in lockstep with DeSantis on whether Florida is ready to reopen. DeSantis has faced criticisms from Democrats for the composition of his Re-Open Florida Task Force, which leans heavily toward business interests. Tampa General Hospital’s president and CEO, Dr. John Couris, is the only health expert on the task force’s executive committee. didn’t give Democrats what they wanted to hear. Rather, he advanced the reopening rhetoric a step farther. “We are ready to open,” Couris said. “And I’m not only speaking for Tampa General Hospital but probably speaking for every hospital across the state.”
“Unemployment: 35% of Florida claims processed, 20% paid” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — By Sunday, Florida processed more than 281,000 claims and verified and paid unemployment benefits to nearly 220,000 more people than it had by Friday, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. With a downward revision in the number of total claims submitted [because of duplicate claims identified,] that means the state of Florida now has managed to process more than a third of all the 1,880,343 re-employment assistance claims it has received since the start of the coronavirus economic crisis on March 15. In another way to measure the state’s progress, 824,297 applicants have been confirmed as unique claims. Of them, 79% have been processed, and 47% have been paid.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@RealDonaldTrump: Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat-run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help? I am open to discussing anything, but just asking?
—@Kristin_Wilson: Sen Rick Scott: Senate is coming back next Monday: “That’s what [Mitch] McConnell said … he didn’t say how long we’re coming back, but he said we’re coming back.” 86 Senators are 50+ years old 39 in their 60s, 22 in their 70s, 6 in their 80s All flying in from all over the country
—@PeterKrupa: it’s been interesting to see Americans start to realize that what they think of as a small business (the coffee shop down the street) and what the law describes as a small business (chain of McDonald’s franchises with 1,000 employees and $35 million in revenue) are not the same.
—@GwenGraham: The lies and deception being spread by @GovRonDeSantis is deadly. @HealthyFla is significantly undercounting the number of #COVID19 cases and deaths in Florida. And, in order to honestly say that the “curve is flattening, the number of tests per day must increase SIGNIFICANTLY.
—@ShevrinJones: If our reasoning for opening back up in Florida is because we want to scapegoat paying the unemployment claims, not only is it a bad idea, it’s also dead wrong.
—@JoyAnnReid: It’s still really, really hard to get tested for coronavirus. And we are now four months into the official start of this crisis. This reality — these deaths — are completely unacceptable. For Christ sakes it’s 2020, not 1920.
—@Langstonitaylor: Idk why we can’t be more straightforward … FL ranks 3rd among states in total tests conducted, but 22nd in tests per capita. It’s tested 1 of every 60 people so far, but its per-day testing is only half of what a med school dean who appeared with DeSantis today says we need to.
—@MikeVasalinda: If Lawton Chiles came back from the grave, he would likely say the states re-employment assistance program was a bad dog with a good name.
—@JimRosicaFL: A federal lawsuit to strike down Amendment 13, passed in 2018 & which outlaws greyhound racing in the state, today was thrown out by Chief Judge Mark Walker of the Northern District of Florida.
— DAYS UNTIL —
World Press Freedom Day — 5; Pulitzer Prizes announced — 6; The next supermoon — 9; Gov. DeSantis’ executive order closing bars and restaurants expires — 10; Mother’s Day — 12; TNT’s adaptation of “Snowpiercer” premieres — 19; NASCAR season resumes — 26; English Premier League soccer to restart — 41; PGA Tour resumes — 44; Last day of state candidate qualifying — 45; Father’s Day — 54; Federal taxes due — 78; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premieres — 80; “Mulan” premieres — 87; TED conference rescheduled — 89; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 111; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 115; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 118; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 129; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 130; Rescheduled date for French Open — 145; First presidential debate in Indiana — 154; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 164; Second presidential debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 170; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 171; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 177; 2020 General Election — 189; “Black Widow” premieres — 192; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 203; “No Time to Die” premieres — 210; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 239; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 451; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 458; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 556; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 654; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 696; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 739; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 892.
— CORONA NATION —
“The known death toll in the U.S. exceeds 50,000.” via The New York Times — More than 50,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the United States, which has seen more confirmed cases and deaths than any other nation in the world, according to a tally by The New York Times. And as the outbreak spread, the nation’s total number of confirmed cases continued to climb toward one million. The bleak milestone offered yet another sign of how the virus has upended life in America, taking lives, destroying families, and causing more than 26 million people to lose their jobs in the past five weeks. The tally does not include more than 5,200 people in New York City and smaller numbers in other places who died and are believed to have had the virus.
“U.S. deaths soared in early weeks of pandemic, far exceeding number attributed to COVID-19” via The Washington Post — In the early weeks of the coronavirus epidemic, the United States recorded an estimated 15,400 excess deaths, nearly two times as many as were publicly attributed to COVID-19 at the time, according to an analysis of federal data conducted for The Washington Post by a research team led by the Yale School of Public Health. The excess deaths — the number beyond what would normally be expected for that time of year — occurred during March and through April 4, a time when 8,128 coronavirus deaths were reported.
“Donald Trump raises his virus death toll projection to up to 70,000 in U.S.” via Alice Miranda Ollstein of POLITICO — More than 56,000 have already died, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker. “So, yeah, we’ve lost a lot of people,” Trump said during a news briefing in the Rose Garden. “But if you look at what original projections were, 2.2 million, we are probably heading to 60,000 to 70,000.” Trump had previously seized on the estimate of 50,000 to 60,000 because of his administration’s preference for a model developed by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The latest forecast from that model showed a much lower death toll than earlier projected, as well as a much lower number of fatalities than many other epidemiological models.
Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House. Image via AP.
“White House is reviewing expanded guidance on reopening society” via Lena H. Sun and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — The White House is finalizing expanded guidelines to allow the phased reopening of schools and camps, child care programs, certain workplaces, houses of worship, restaurants and mass transit. It represents the most detailed guidance to date on the administration’s plan to gradually reopen key sectors of society and comes as business groups lobby to lift stay-at-home orders and protesters flock to state capitols to demand their end. Although Trump was highly critical of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp for reopening already, he also has prodded governors to open by May 1 and has tweeted citizens should “liberate” states whose leaders have ordered people to stay home.
“Trump cuts U.S. research on bat-human virus transmission over China ties” via Sarah Owermohle of POLITICO — The Trump administration abruptly cut off funding for a project studying how coronaviruses spread from bats to people after reports linked the work to a lab in Wuhan, China, at the center of conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic’s origins. The National Institutes of Health on Friday told EcoHealth Alliance, the study’s sponsor for the past five years, that all future funding was cut. The agency also demanded that the New York-based research nonprofit stop spending the $369,819 remaining from its 2020 grant, according to emails obtained by POLITICO. “At this time, NIH does not believe that the current project outcomes align with the program goals and agency priorities,” Michael Lauer, the agency’s deputy director for extramural research, wrote in a letter.
“Riots, escapes and fear as coronavirus hits juvenile centers” via Margie Mason and Robin McDowell of The Associated Press — As more and more state and local officials announce the release of thousands of at-risk inmates from the nation’s adult jails and prisons, parents along with children rights’ groups and criminal justice experts say vulnerable youths should be allowed to serve their time at home. But they say demands for large-scale releases have been largely ignored. Decisions are often not made at the state level, but instead carried out county by county, with individual judges reviewing juvenile cases one by one. Such legal hurdles have resulted in some kids with symptoms being thrown into isolation for 23 hours a day, in what amounts to solitary confinement, according to relatives and youth advocates.
“Searching for answers in a pandemic” via Stef W. Kight of Axios — A detailed new analysis of how Google searches changed since January traces Americans’ real-time scramble to get ahead of the pandemic as new information surfaced. The project shows how searches became more specific as infections spread across the United States, documenting Americans’ urgency as questions shifted from the general to practical ones about how to protect themselves and how to get tested. This data gives an intimate look at how individuals have reacted to the uncertainty as the virus cases have risen. The search trends also signal how widely people are heeding (or at least hearing) the advice from public health officials, who early on urged Americans to wash their hands, and more recently to wear masks in public.
“Under pressure to reopen this fall, school leaders plot unprecedented changes” via Laura Meckler, Valerie Strauss and Moriah Balingit of The Washington Post — From the White House podium to harried homes, pressure is building to reopen the nation’s schools. But the next iteration of American education will look far different from the classrooms students and teachers abruptly departed last month. Many overwhelmed school systems remain focused on running remote education that was set up on the fly. Others, though, are deep into planning for what they see coming: an in-between scenario in which schools are open but children are spread out in places where they are normally packed together.
“For a glimpse at what reopening looks like, head to Waffle House” via Gerald Porter Jr. Michael Sasso of Bloomberg — Waffle House has a reputation for hardiness, so it surprised no one familiar with the restaurant chain that it would be among the first to embrace Georgia Gov. Kemp’s plan to reopen the economy. Georgia’s plan was designed by a 20-person committee that includes Waffle House Executive Vice President Joe Rogers III. At a suburban Atlanta Waffle House, staff placed plastic bags over the backs of four of the six stools at the front counter to keep people apart, while sealing off certain booths with red tape. The traditional place-mat menus with their lists of smothered hash browns, eggs and biscuits aren’t on tables anymore, though customers can get paper ones or request the plastic variety. Every location will enforce its own capacity limit that will depend on its layout, with signs posted on the door for customers’ reference.
“A ‘new normal’, as Georgia restaurants allowed to reopen” via Kate Brumback and Russ Bynum of The Associated Press — With tables wide apart and staff wearing masks, some Georgia restaurants reopened for limited dine-in service Monday as the state loosened more coronavirus restrictions, but many eateries remained closed amid concerns that serving in-house meals could put employees and customers at risk. Gov. Kemp issued 39 requirements that restaurants must follow if they reopen, including observing a limit of 10 customers per 500 square feet and ensuring that all employees wear face coverings all the time. Movie theater ushers were ordered to enforce social distancing.
Restaurants around metro Atlanta began to reopen dining rooms as restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic are lifted. Image via AP.
“Texas, the nation’s second most-populous state, moves to reopen.” via The New York Times — Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas on Monday announced the reopening of the state’s businesses in phases starting Friday and said he was allowing the stay-at-home order he put in place this month to expire as scheduled on April 30. Abbott had previously lifted some restrictions, including on retail shopping and state parks. But his announcement on Monday brought the country’s second-most populous state to the brink of a complete reopening. His move gave Texas one of the shortest such orders in the country: It will have been in effect for 28 days when it expires on Thursday. “That executive order has done its job to slow the growth of COVID-19,” Abbott told reporters at the State Capitol on Monday.
“People across the country are delivering groceries free. It’s ‘solidarity, not charity.’” via Cathy Free of The Washington Post — Delivery networks have sprung up from Seattle to Portland, Maine, giving those who are isolated a much-needed boost, and providing relief from the fees, long wait times and out-of-stock notices for those wrangling with the complications of buying groceries online. When somebody needs groceries, that person sends a list of what they need to the network, then a shopper will buy the items and drop them off, no fee required.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“State had fewer new cases and fewer deaths last week than week before” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun Sentinel — Florida is nearing the end of April with fewer new cases of coronavirus — and a lower weekly number of deaths. The total number of Florida deaths, 1,088, the state reported Monday is 299 more than the state reported on April 20. In the previous week, 319 people died. The increase in the total number of cases is also smaller in the last week than in the week before. The state reported 32,138 coronavirus cases as of Monday — 5,478 higher than it had on April 20. In the previous week, the number of cases increased by 6,059.
“Florida will reopen in ‘baby steps,’ DeSantis says in Tampa” via Steve Contorno and Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida, and Hillsborough County especially, is slowing the coronavirus outbreak better than anyone could have expected, DeSantis said. He cautioned that a quick restart of Florida’s economy is unlikely. Speaking from Tampa General Hospital, DeSantis reiterated what he has emphasized for more than a week: Florida is flattening the curve. Hospitals here are far from overwhelmed, he said, as the end of the state’s stay-at-home approaches Thursday. A state task force is expected to deliver recommendations this week on how and when to lift restrictions. “This phase one is a baby step,” DeSantis said.
Ron DeSantis says the state will take ‘baby steps’ in reopening. Image via WPLG.
“Governor ‘bullish’ on phased reopening, says Travis Cummings” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Cummings, a member of the Governor’s Re-Open Florida Task Force, expressed confidence that Gov. DeSantis is “bullish” about getting Florida back to work. “There are certain businesses that are lower-risk or moderate-risk that need to be put back to work,” Cummings said. “I think the Governor in the next couple of days is going to weigh in for sure.” DeSantis has been touring hospitals around the state, with doctors backing his narrative of flattening the curve. DeSantis has mused openly about moving beyond “essential” and “nonessential” businesses for restrictions going forward, questioning the need to keep “low-risk” businesses closed past the end of the month.
“Partisanship grips Florida as state plans new normal” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO — Planning for a post-coronavirus new normal is deepening Florida’s political divide, with Democrats portraying Gov. DeSantis as Trumpian and overly partisan while the governor takes a victory lap for bringing the coronavirus outbreak under control despite early predictions to the contrary. Tensions are flaring over the speed at which the economy will reopen, how to address the state’s boondoggle of an unemployment system, and the emergence of the Republican governor as a Trump mini-me determined to follow the White House script.
“Florida releases data on number of COVID-19 cases in each nursing home, assisted living facility” via Allison Ross, Zachary T. Sampson and Rebecca Woolington of the Tampa Bay Times — Nearly 400 nursing homes and assisted living facilities have had at least one confirmed case of the highly contagious virus, according to the state’s list. Health officials had previously provided a roster of such facilities but had not included the number of infections in each location. The data say 2,225 residents have tested positive for the virus. The list does not include those that are no longer positive, said Katie Strickland, a spokeswoman with the Agency for Health Care Administration. It also does not include how many coronavirus-related deaths those facilities have seen. The list also shows 1,130 staff members who have tested positive. That would put the total current known cases in such facilities at 3,355.
“Health experts worry about reopening without better testing” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Florida’s coronavirus outbreak has been reined in enough to slowly start reopening the state if the proper public health measures are in place to keep the virus contained, but testing and contact tracing remain inadequate, experts say. “We have done an excellent job in terms of bending the curve, in terms of slowing down transmission,” Dr. Glenn Morris, the director of the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, said Monday. The lockdown order issued by DeSantis to contain the coronavirus expires on Friday. DeSantis currently is weighing whether to lift the lockdown and reopen all or part of the state. Morris said he worries about reopening until testing improves, something he hopes could be achieved in a matter of weeks.
“More than 200,000 Floridians deemed ineligible for unemployment this weekend, many of them jobless due to coronavirus” via Chabeli Carrazana of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida did send out more payments, but in the process it marked a wave of Floridians as “ineligible” for benefits with no explanation, thrusting families across the peninsula into complete uncertainty. More than 40% of all processed applicants were told they were ineligible for unemployment as of Sunday, the most recent figure the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has put out. That’s an additional 203,699 claimants whose applications were added to the ranks of the unemployment ineligible in just three days, since Thursday, before the CONNECT website that processes the applications went down over the weekend. That number is the largest jump yet in ineligible applications, and it follows a big jump in application processing, too.
“Florida promised an unemployment site for gig workers. It’s still not open” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Independent contractors and gig economy workers in Florida are still unable to apply for unemployment assistance amid the coroaovirus pandemic one month after President Donald Trump and Congress expanded benefits to include $600 a week for workers previously excluded from state-based unemployment systems. The state announced April 16 that it would create a new unemployment benefits system for gig workers within 10 days, after Florida’s regular unemployment system was overwhelmed with applicants, but late Monday, no new site had been opened.
“Florida’s economy could lose $859 million from school closures, says report” via the News Service of Florida — Florida’s economy could take an estimated $859 million hit as a result of school campuses being closed for six weeks during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report by the Florida Council of 100 business group. A 12-week school closure could cost the state’s economy about $1.7 billion, according to the Council of 100 report. A survey commissioned by the organization found that 41% of employed parents with minor children said Florida’s school closures or a lack of child care have “somewhat” hurt their ability to fully perform their jobs during the pandemic, while 23% of working parents said they had been “greatly” impacted.
Private colleges seek slice of education stimulus — Florida’s private colleges and universities want a piece of the education stimulus the state is expected to dole out in the coming weeks, Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reports. Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida President Bob Boyd said the association’s 30 members could a combined $1 billion due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Half the expected loss has already been realized through a drop in institutional endowments. Through mid-April, when Boyd first asked DeSantis for CARES Act funding, ICUF schools had refunded $60 million for room and board and $90 million for canceled summer courses. Fall could bring further financial troubles. “I can’t image the enrollment numbers would be good given the uncertainly of all this,” Boyd said.
“With ticket sales cratered, Florida arts advocates spotlight critical role of state grants” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Performing artists aren’t normally known to be shy. But with state grants under scrutiny, Florida Cultural Alliance President and CEO Jennifer Jones is reminding arts organizations they must speak up to be heard. During a conference call with advocates from around the state, Jones encouraged nonprofit and cultural leaders to contact lawmakers and continue advocating for projects, just as they would normally after a Legislative Session. Jones expressed some frustration at a lack of arts and culture representatives on the Re-Open Florida Task Force. But she noted the state has encouraged participation in task force discussions through an online portal.
“Could Disney World ‘beta test’ COVID restrictions?” via Robert Niles of Theme Park Insider — The idea is that Disney would reopen one of its parks to a select number of guests — likely cast members and then annual passholders — to visit under new restrictions put in place to support social distancing. Health screenings might also be part of the new procedures to be tried. Universal Orlando earlier this month surveyed its passholders and previous visitors about proposed operational changes, to gauge potential public reaction to them. But talking about hypothetical changes is one thing, seeing actual reactions to those changes in practice provides far more useful feedback. An in-person test also would allow cast members to make on-the-fly adjustments to the new procedures to see how they would affect operations, in real-time.
— CORONA LOCAL —
“Lenny Curry says Jacksonville restaurants, retail and lodging should start planning for reopening” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Curry said that businesses in the fields of retail, dining and lodging should start making plans for how they will handle more customers when the city eases the Safer at Home restrictions that were established to battle the spread of the coronavirus. Curry did not announce a specific target date, but he said Jacksonville needs to move toward a more normal life while coexisting with the continued presence of COVID-19 in the community. Curry said the city will continue to promote testing with sites around the city. He said the latest figures show 4.6% of tests have come back positive, which is down from a high point of 6.3% on April 6.
Lenny Curry is urging businesses to get ready to reopen soon. Image via the Jacksonville Daily Record.
“Jacksonville City Council approves $159 million relief package” via Christopher Hong of The Florida Times-Union — The Jacksonville City Council unanimously approved a $159 million relief package that will give $1,000 to 40,000 Duval County households that have lost wages to the pandemic-induced closures and open six new testing sites that could administer a combined 1,200 tests per day. The relief package, which is funded by the federal government, also includes money to waive developer fees, bankroll a previously approved small business loan program and award grants to organizations that operate city-owned facilities.
“State data shows COVID-19 outbreak in Clay, Duval care facilities” via David Bauerlein and Clayton Freeman of The Florida Times-Union — Two Clay County nursing homes are dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks that affected dozens of residents and staff members, according to state data. Heartland Health Care Center-Orange Park currently has 43 residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus. Thirty-two of those residents are at the facility for treatment and 11 were transferred elsewhere for care. Heartland also has 14 staff members who have tested positive, making it one of the hardest-hit long-term care facilities in the state.
“Parks, golf courses and boat ramps to open Wednesday across South Florida” via Lisa J. Huriash, Susannah Bryan, Austen Erblat and Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — South Florida will reopen county parks and several other destinations for outdoor fun Wednesday, although the beaches will remain closed. Golf courses, marinas, tennis courts and, in some cases, community pools also will reopen, but will require the public to stick to keeping apart to keep safe from the spread of the new coronavirus. “There will be stiff penalties if people don’t abide by rules,” said Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner. “We will continue to be in an emergency state in Palm Beach County and throughout the stat. We have a long, long way to go.”
“Coral Gables residents clamored for COVID-19 testing. A site will open Friday.” via Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — At a virtual commission meeting last Wednesday, Coral Gables City Manager Peter Iglesias said his administration had looked at “every single way” to bring COVID-19 testing to the city, with no success. But after the commission responded to residents’ cries for testing by directing Iglesias to create a plan for a drive-thru site, the turnaround was swift. On Monday, six days after the meeting, the commission approved the manager’s plan for a free drive-thru testing site for Coral Gables residents. It will open on Friday. The city is partnering with BioCollections Worldwide to administer and process the nasal swab tests at a city-owned parking lot off LeJeune Road near the Shops at Merrick Park.
“PBSO mandates masks for county jails” via Hannah Winston of The Palm Beach Post — By the end of April, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said all individuals housed in its two county jails should expect to receive two cloth masks, made at the West Detention Center, to wear in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This move comes after a recommendation for jails and prisons from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Protection at the end of March and after the Florida Department of Corrections said it began having inmates manufacture masks. Those masks in the state prisons first were released to staff employees and then to inmates.
“Storm shuts down corn festival, rips through testing site” via Emily Sullivan and Allen Eyestone of The Palm Beach Post — A mighty thunderstorm trudged through Palm Beach County on Sunday afternoon, bringing winds and hail, pulling down wires and shaking up the biggest scheduled event of the day. The winds also tossed tents and traffic cones at a primary coronavirus test site for Palm Beach County. The Sweet Corn Fiesta at the South Florida Fairgrounds was ringing in its 20-year anniversary with a drive-thru version of its usual antics — selling six ears of corn for $2 and crates of corn, filled with dozens of ears, for $15. There also were tomatoes, green beans and donated sugar.
Assignment editors — Reps. Anthony Rodriguez, Daniel Perez, Vance Aloupis, Ana Maria Fernandez, and Juan Fernandez-Barquin will take part in a Feeding South Florida Distribution, 9 a.m., Tropical Park, 7900 SW 40th Street, Miami. Drive-through distribution of fresh produce and other foods will be provided on a first-come first-served basis.
— MORE LOCAL —
“Orange County announces testing in hot ZIP codes, as region awaits Governor’s decision on stay-at-home orders” via Ryan Gillespie, Martin E. Comas and Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — As Central Florida governments and businesses prepare for what could be a weekslong restart of the economy, Orange County officials emphasized the importance of testing, announcing plans for coronavirus testing in two neighborhoods that have led the county in positive cases. The new test sites at Ventura Elementary and South Orange Youth Park, the first sites in the hardest-hit 32822 and 32824 ZIP codes, will open on Wednesday and run through Friday. By late Monday, those two ZIP codes had 180 confirmed positives, according to state data.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings is looking to target specific ZIP codes for coronavirus testing. Image via Orlando Business Journal.
“Jane Castor tells Fox News that Tampa is crushing the curve” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — Tampa Mayor Castor has become a fixture on national cable news since the pandemic began in March. Her latest appearance on “Fox and Friends” might have been her largest audience yet, perhaps including President Donald Trump, who is known to be a frequent viewer of the news network’s morning show. Asked about her opinion of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to reopen the state, Castor noted, as she has several times in recent weeks, that she hasn’t spoken to the governor, but believes from his comments that they share the same goal: to reopen Florida slowly and safely.
“St. Pete, Pinellas test for coronavirus in underserved communities” via Caitlin Johnson of the Tampa Bay Times — The pop-up testing site was a one-day partnership among the Florida Department of Health and St. Petersburg city and fire officials to make testing available to those who may find it harder to get — minorities, people without a car, and anyone lacking health insurance, said Maggie Hall, spokeswoman in Pinellas County for the Department of Health. One reason for the special opportunity: Concerns that the African American population is underrepresented in state and county counts of coronavirus cases, said Gina Norris, assistant director of nursing in Pinellas County with the Department of Health.
“One Escambia County nursing home has 87 coronavirus patients – most in state” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Southern Oaks Care Center currently has 87 residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus. An additional five patients have been transferred out of the facility for treatment. Fifteen staff members are also positive. The nursing home has the largest number of cases of any single facility of any kind in Escambia County, and the most COVID-19 patients of any other nursing home in the state, according to new information released from the Florida Department of Health. Officials for Southern Oaks were not immediately available for comment Monday.
“Indian River County reopening guarded beaches Tuesday; St. Lucie may, Martin will not” via Joshua Solomon of TCPalm — One month ago, Treasure Coast leaders closed beaches. It was a unified front from local officials to present clarity for their region. With pressure heating up over when to reopen the beaches the three counties are taking different paths. Indian River County plans to open its guarded beaches Tuesday, with social-distancing restrictions. St. Lucie County has drafted an order to open all of its beaches. Martin County, closest to the coronavirus hot spot in Palm Beach County, plans to hold steady and keep beaches closed.
“Indiantown may become first on Treasure Coast to require face masks in public” via Joshua Solomon of TC Palm — The village is set to become the first on the Treasure Coast to require people in town to wear a face mask in public. The Village Council will hold an emergency public meeting, scheduled virtually for 5 p.m. Tuesday. Village officials announced the meeting Monday afternoon. Indiantown has 33 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, which makes up 18% of reported cases in Martin County. The village has less than 4% of the county’s population.
“Pensacola taking phased approach to reopening, beginning with city parks on Friday” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson announced on Monday the city would take a phased approach to reopen the city safely while also preventing a resurgence of the coronavirus. During a virtual press conference on Monday, Robinson said he believes phase one of the plan to reopen dubbed “Recover Pensacola” would begin on Friday with the city reopening playground equipment, basketball and tennis courts at city parks. Under the plan, once a 14-day trend of decreased COVID-19 cases and flu-like symptoms reported by the local Florida Department of Health are confirmed, other businesses will be allowed to reopen following social distancing guidelines. The city is still working on details for each phase of the plan.
“Fifth inmate dies of COVID-19 at NW Florida prison” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — A 72-year-old inmate at a Northwest Florida prison has died as a result of COVID-19, the local medical examiner’s office confirmed. He was the fifth inmate incarcerated at the Blackwater River Correctional Facility to die of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. All the inmates who have died were over 65. Dana Peterson, who had begun a 27-year sentence in 2018, died April 27 of complications related to COVID-19 at the Santa Rosa Medical Center, according to Jeff Martin, the director of the medical examiner’s office that oversees Santa Rosa County. The first inmate deaths weren’t acknowledged by the Florida Department of Corrections for six days — and only after a news organization revealed them.
Multiple COVID-19 deaths were inmates at the Blackwater River Correctional Facility.
“‘No issues’ as Sarasota County beaches reopen” via Timothy Fanning of the Herald-Tribune — The announcement last week that the county’s beaches would open Monday to walkers, joggers, swimmers and paddlers met with praise from those advocating a swift end to the pandemic shutdown. The announcement also brought a swift rebuke from others who thought the beaches should remain off-limits until Florida saw a two-week downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases. For that reason, the city of Sarasota decided to keep Lido Beach closed. In Sarasota County, parking lots remained closed in an effort to reduce the congregation and large crowds. Still, people were more than willing to risk a ticket by parking at nearby restaurants.
“Lack of access to tests hampers care in Tallahassee’s poorer neighborhoods” via Nada Hassanein — When Jewel Brown‘s 11-year-old daughter Jaaliyah had a 103-degree fever, she worried and took her to the hospital. There, they were told the child couldn’t get tested for COVID-19 unless she had a doctor’s referral. Moreover, Brown has an underlying autoimmune disease. She later got sick, too. They live in the underserved Frenchtown neighborhood, where local leaders are concerned about disparities amid coronavirus cases. And those disparities are not just in the ZIP codes with spikes in coronavirus cases, like 32304, but in other high-poverty areas where cases go unreported.
“Burnette, Rivers donate 10,000 protective masks to Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee business duo Kim Rivers and John “J.T.” Burnette donated 10,000 KN95 masks to help Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare during the coronavirus outbreak. TMH CEO Mark O’Bryant thanked Rivers and Burnette in a Friday letter, saying the masks are increasingly in limited supply and are essential in the hospital’s efforts to provide high-quality care to COVID-19 patients. Rivers is CEO of Trulieve, Florida’s largest purveyor of medical marijuana, with locations around the state and operations in California, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Burnette is a local developer, entrepreneur and hotel owner. He is under indictment in federal court.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Gears jammed again during relaunch of small-business relief program” via Mark Niquette and Hannah Levitt of Bloomberg — The relaunch of a government relief program for small firms got off to a rocky start Monday, with lenders reporting being shut out of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s system amid a flood of applications for loans. The SBA said that “unprecedented demand” was slowing down its loan-processing platform and there were double the number of users accessing the system compared with any day during the initial round of funding that ended April 16. The SBA said in a statement that it had processed more than 100,000 applications from more than 4,000 lenders as of 3:30 p.m.
“Virus is expected to reduce meat selection and raise prices” via David Pitt of The Associated Press — Meat isn’t going to disappear from supermarkets because of outbreaks of the coronavirus among workers at U.S. slaughterhouses. But as the meat plants struggle to remain open, consumers could face less selection and slightly higher prices. Industry leaders acknowledge that the U.S. food chain has rarely been so stressed and that no one is sure about the future, even as they try to dispel concerns about shortages. On Sunday, the meat processing giant Tyson Foods ran a full-page advertisement in The New York Times and other newspapers outlining the difficulty of producing meat while keeping more than 100,000 workers safe and shutting some plants.
The Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where health officials reported dozens employees have confirmed cases of the coronavirus infection. Image via AP.
“How Fed intervention saved Carnival” via Matt Wirz of The Wall Street Journal — It was mid-March and the vultures were circling the largest cruise-line operator in the world. The company, forced to virtually shut down by the coronavirus outbreak, needed billions of dollars fast. With financial markets frozen, executives were forced to consider a high-interest loan from a band of hedge funds who called themselves “the consortium.” The group included Apollo Management Group, Elliott Management Corp. and other distressed-debt investors that sometimes take over the companies they lend to, people familiar with the matter said. That all changed on March 23 when the Federal Reserve defibrillated bond markets with an unprecedented lending program.
“Lakers got money from loan program, returned it” via Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN — The Los Angeles Lakers have returned approximately $4.6 million that they received from a federal government program intended to help small businesses weather the economic burden caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The Lakers, one of the NBA’s most profitable franchises, applied for relief through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, and were among the companies and nonprofits granted loans during the first round of distributions. But after reports that several large or highly capitalized entities were securing aid from the program’s initial $349 billion pool, while hundreds of thousands of smaller businesses were shut out, the Lakers said they returned the money.
“SeaWorld, other big companies preparing to borrow money from taxpayers” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel — SeaWorld Entertainment is hoping for a hand from taxpayers. The Orlando-based marine park owner says it is “actively engaged and working on” a potential loan from the federal government through a new pot of money Congress has set aside to help larger companies struggling through the coronavirus pandemic. SeaWorld is one of a number of big companies — from department store retailer Kohl’s to adult-arcade chain Dave & Buster’s Entertainment — that have signaled potential interest in the larger government lending programs, according to regulatory filings.
“Miami-based movie theater chain files for bankruptcy amid coronavirus economic crisis” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — CMX Cinemas, which acquired Cobb Theatres in 2017, operates about a half dozen movie theaters throughout South Florida has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy amid the economic crisis caused by the novel coronavirus. “We are in a state of complete uncertainty as to when we can reopen our theaters and when our customers will feel safe and secure in returning to them given that there is presently no vaccine against the virus,” a company representative wrote in a statement. “We cannot forecast when — if ever — customer numbers will return to precrisis levels.”
— MORE CORONA —
“Doctors find more cases of ‘COVID toes’ in dermatologic registry. Here’s what they learned.” via Adrianna Rodriguez of USA Today — The American Academy of Dermatology has compiled a registry of skin manifestations associated with COVID-19. About half of the more than 300 total cases on the dermatologic registry consist of COVID toes. COVID toes are pinkish-reddish “pernio-like lesions” that can turn purple over time. Pernio, also called chilblains, are skin sores or bumps that occur on a patient’s feet when they’re exposed to cold temperatures. While experts can’t confirm why COVID toes appear, they have some educated guesses. One could be inflammation in the toes’ tissue, which is similar to pernio. Another hypothesis is inflammation of the blood vessel wall, medically known as vasculitis. And finally, it is possible COVID toes could be caused by small blood clots that form inside the blood vessel.
COVID toes could be yet another symptom of the infection from coronavirus.
“Why Apple and Google are moving away from the term ‘contact tracing’” via Richard Nieva of CNET — Apple and Google announced a major joint project to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus. Health authorities would build contact tracing apps for the tech giants’ mobile platforms, which would use signals from people’s phones to alert them if they’ve been in contact with someone who’s tested positive for COVID-19. Apple and Google have been met with scrutiny and pushback over the privacy implications of such a system. Critics worry about the possibility of abuse or spying. The shift is in a sense a rebranding effort, but it’s more than cosmetic. Ditching a term like “tracing,” which could have ominous connotations of surveillance, may go a long way in getting consumers to use the tools.
“Internet crimes investigator says social distancing may help combat digital exploitation of children” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — In March, the FBI warned that school closures could up that risk. But Detective Michael Joo of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) unit offered a different take. “We are relying heavily on the internet to make sure that our children are getting the education that they need,” Joo said in a digital conference with Sen. Lauren Book. “It’s a little more difficult to get away and hide in your bedroom or go to the park or the library to get away from your parents’ watchful eye. Now, everyone’s at home. Dad and mom aren’t at work and you aren’t at school. Any little nuances or changes in behavior might be a little more observable.”
— THE HUMAN TOLL —
“Death of Palm Harbor nursing home resident ‘just doesn’t seem fair,’ son says” via Kathryn Varn of the Tampa Bay Times — Clayton Snare lived many lives over 95 years. A meteorologist in the Navy during World War II. The president of two banks. An avid golfer and churchgoer. A family man who once held his great-granddaughter with a smile so bright it was as if he’d won the lottery. The elder Snare was a resident of St. Mark Village, a Palm Harbor retirement community that last week reported a flare-up of COVID-19 cases among residents and staff. Snare became the first St. Mark resident to die since the outbreak was discovered.
“‘It didn’t have to be that way:’ Daughters question info from Seminole nursing home after mom dies” via Kathryn Varn of the Tampa Bay Times — Tango Jessee moved into Freedom Square of Seminole in 2016. In that facility, Eight residents have died. Jessee, 92, was one of them. Jessee’s daughters have joined a growing chorus of Freedom Square residents and their family members scrutinizing the facility’s management of the outbreak. Several have said they were left in the dark as the illness spread through the facility.
— ONE GOOD THING —
Jessiah Lee was enjoying his own private parade.
A fire truck blared its sirens. Police cruisers flashed their lights. Dozens of families in cars decorated with balloons honked horns, raised handmade signs, and yelled: “Happy birthday, Jessiah!”
While none of them knew this 6-year-old boy, they all showed up for his special day. According to The Associated Press, the surprise drive-by birthday party in Arlington, Virginia, was organized on social media by Ashley Johnson, an accountant who met Lee while volunteering at a homeless shelter in Washington, D.C., four years ago.
A fire truck, police cruisers, and dozens of families in cars decorated with balloons in a community parade surprised 6-year-old Jessiah Lee to celebrate his birthday. Image via AP.
Despite the shelter closing and Jessiah’s family finding a home, the relationship didn’t end there. Johnson took Jessiah to museums, parks and on a trip to New York City for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
This year, she was planning on a Lego-themed party — but COVID-19 thwarted those plans.
“Birthdays are such a big thing at any age,” Johnson told the AP. “It’s such a celebration, life is so fragile, and so I felt I couldn’t accept the defeat of ‘we’ll do nothing.’”
The inspiration for the drive-by birthday celebrations were the ones seen all across the U.S. during the quarantine.
Johnson wanted something similar, but bigger.
Recalling his love of firetrucks, she passed by a fire station and asked for help. No response.
Then the day before the day set for Lee’s party, the phone rang. A firefighter on the other line — Johnson calls him “her angel” — asked if his station could join the parade.
With only one day to plan, she went on Nextdoor, the neighborhood social media site, and asked other people to join.
“In need of a MAJOR favor from all who are willing!” she wrote in an April 9 post, which was also shared on Facebook. “I have a sweet, sweet kid I met while volunteering … His sixth birthday is today, and sadly I didn’t get to host a party this year, BUT I just got a last-minute reply from the fire station, and they’re willing to do a drive-by and lead the way for a mini birthday parade …”
The next day, at 5:29 p.m., the fire truck, police cruisers, and dozens of cars turned the corner. Some neighbors shook pom-poms; others offered gifts, all from a safe distance.
Lee’s favorite? A man who played “Happy birthday” on an accordion.
“E-veryyyybody came!” he said.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Trump leans against state bailouts as Governors cry foul” via Quint Forgey and Anna Gronewold of POLITICO — “Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat-run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help?” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I am open to discussing anything, but just asking?” The President’s social media post inflamed an already fierce debate over further federal assistance to states expending vast financial resources to battle a highly infectious outbreak. During his daily news conference, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo charged that scolding states and cities seeking federal help is antithetical to the ambition of a national rebuild that will require a wide distribution of funds across the country.
“Mitch McConnell’s rejection of federal aid for states risks causing a depression, analysts say” via Robert McCartney of The Washington Post — McConnell would rather see states declare bankruptcy than give them federal aid to deal with the economic collapse triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. That’s a recipe for turning a potentially short recession into a prolonged depression. The question of whether Congress and the White House should provide relief funding to state and local governments, as the feds have done already for private business, is about to reach a showdown in Washington. Nancy Pelosi says the next bill must include state and local aid, but Trump has sent mixed signals about whether he will support it. McConnell and many other Senate Republicans are resisting.
Mitch McConnell would rather see some blue states go bankrupt than give them federal money.
“Big-government conservatives mount takeover of GOP” via Ryan Lizza of POLITICO — Congressional Republicans in 2020 have embraced $2 trillion — and counting — in stimulus with almost no resistance. The two most notable politicians crafting stimulus policy for Trump to sign are Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Josh Hawley of Missouri. Before the coronavirus crisis, both Senators had taken stabs at articulating a new kind of policy populism for the GOP that was self-consciously anti-libertarian, skeptical of Big Business, and more comfortable with Big Government. Before the crisis, Rubio, Hawley and their fellow Republican populists (the term applies more to Hawley than Rubio) seemed to amount to little more than a small group of legislators, a tight network of D.C. policy wonks, and some right-leaning opinion columnists.
“As PPP round two begins, Marco Rubio prioritizes underserved communities” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Rubio wants to ensure funds from the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program end up in the hands of financial institutions backing minority-owned businesses. In a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Jovita Carranza, head of the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Florida Republican urged the two to expedite approvals for funds headed to Community Development Financial Institutions and minority depository institutions. The administration began processing new loan requests Monday. “We have the opportunity to make sure that counted in the hundreds of thousands of businesses receiving PPP loans in this round of funding are those independent contractors, self-employed, and small businesses in underserved communities,” he said.
“Charlie Crist calls on two more stimulus payments for Americans” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Crist is calling on two additional stimulus payments in the upcoming legislative packages known as CARES 2. Crist did not specify how much the checks should be. The first round of checks has already gone out to many Americans and provides $1,200 per adult and $500 per dependent child for qualifying individuals and families. Crist is also calling on Congress to fix a drafting error that left college students and children with disabilities unable to receive their stimulus. It’s unclear when, or if, another stimulus package would go through for Americans.
“Debbie Wasserman Schultz says feds should compel additional PPE production” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Wasserman Schultz called on Trump to compel the production of personal protective equipment (PPE) amid reports of shortages in Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals. “We write to express profound concern over your failure to fully implement the Defense Production Act to meet the growing demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) across the nation’s public health systems, as well as the largest integrated health system, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA),” a letter to Trump reads. The letter was signed by Wasserman Schultz and Democratic U.S. Rep. Brian Schatz of Hawaii.
“Census says restart to field operations will be in phases” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — The U.S. Census Bureau’s return to field operations for the 2020 national headcount will take place in phases based on a region’s lockdown orders and the availability of protective gear against the new coronavirus. The bulk of the field operations in which hundreds of thousands of census takers knock on the doors of homes where people haven’t yet answered the questionnaire isn’t starting until August after the pandemic forced a delay from a May start.
— STATEWIDE —
“Medicaid expansion backers battle Senate on new law” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Saying the Legislature “moved the goalposts,” backers of a proposed constitutional amendment that would expand Medicaid coverage argue a new law should not block a key review of the initiative by the Florida Supreme Court. Barry Richard, an attorney for the political committee Florida Decides Healthcare, filed a brief disputing a contention by the state Senate that the controversial new law should scuttle the Medicaid proposal. The law increased a petition-signature requirement for supporters of proposed constitutional amendments to trigger Florida Supreme Court reviews of the initiatives.
“Ben Diamond urges Rubio, Rick Scott to back ‘State Stabilization Funds’” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Rep. Diamond sent a letter to Republican U.S. Sens. Rubio and Scott asking them to support $500 billion in funding to shore up state governments struggling during the global pandemic. The National Governors Association made the appropriations request. U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, and Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, are co-sponsoring a bill that tracks with the NGA’s plan. Diamond, a Democrat who represents St. Petersburg in the Florida House, said Florida’s state budget could be among the hardest hit when the dust settles on the COVID-19 pandemic because tourism, and by extension sales tax revenues, make up the backbone of Florida’s budget.
Ben Diamond urges Florida’s U.S. Senators to help shore up state budgets struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Miami feds seize $450 million — cash, condos, horses — in Venezuelan corruption cases” via Jay Weaver and Antonio Maria Delgado of the Miami Herald — Since targeting Venezuelan corruption in 2017, South Florida federal authorities have seized $450 million in bank accounts, luxury properties, show horses, high-end watches and a superyacht that belonged to more than a dozen government officials and business people in Venezuela, all charged with laundering billions of dollars into the United States, Switzerland, and other countries. Alejandro Andrade, Venezuela’s former national treasurer, wrote several checks totaling $250 million to the U.S. government last fall. That payment was counted toward a $1 billion forfeiture judgment against him.
“New JEA board sends message to employees: JEA is not for sale” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — The newly confirmed JEA board will have plenty on its plate, but the board is making clear in a message to employees that a repeat of putting the utility up for sale won’t happen on its watch. The open letter to JEA employees is part of the packet for the new board’s first meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday when action items will include kicking off the search for the next CEO. “We are committed to doing everything within our power to make sure that you have the tools you need to perform the duties of your individual and collective jobs, and the most important tool we can give you today is peace of mind: JEA is not for sale,” the letter says.
“Lee, state cut watering day to one a week to help combat drought conditions” via Chad Gillis of the Fort Myers News-Press —Lee County and state water managers agreed to implement one-day-a-week irrigation restrictions for all of the county starting Saturday. “These irrigation restrictions are necessary to protect the water resources in the aquifer needed by all users and our environment,” said South Florida Water Management District spokesman Randy Smith. Southwest Florida is now in a moderate drought, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. Nearly all of Florida is in some level of drought, but this region is one of the driest in the state.
— 2020 —
“USA Today/Suffolk Poll: Six months out, Joe Biden jumps to lead over Trump amid coronavirus concerns” via Susan Page of USA Today — Six months before Election Day, the coronavirus pandemic has done what impeachment did not: Cost Trump his advantage over Biden in the 2020 campaign. A new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll shows the former VP leading Trump nationwide by 6% points, 44% to 38%, a shift from Trump’s 3-point lead in the survey as the House was impeaching him in December. In a contest without a third-party contender, Biden’s margin jumps to 10 points, 50% to 40%. The findings underscore the challenge the deadly pandemic is posing to the president’s political standing, which has proved durable through investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, a Senate impeachment trial over his dealings with Ukraine and other controversies.
Donald Trump is suffering from the coronavirus pandemic, a clear boost to Joe Biden. Image via AP.
“All coronavirus and no campaign rallies. Does Trump have a Florida problem?” via David Smiley and Francesca Chambers of the Miami Herald — Throughout April, with the economy, campaigns and society in general upended, polls have found Trump falling behind former Vice President Biden and struggling to win the trust of voters in his home state. Surveys also suggest Trump is losing ground with senior citizens — a conservative-leaning demographic that is most vulnerable to the severest symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Strategists expect the race for Florida to be a nail-biter once again come November. But it’s unclear when or whether Trump will be able to return to the campaign rallies and Mar-a-Lago fundraisers. And dissatisfaction with the president’s performance during the pandemic could do lasting damage in a state Trump’s campaign has treated as a must-win.
“Biden calls for more virus testing, public health jobs corps” via Tyler Pager of Bloomberg — Biden called on the Trump Administration to vastly expand the country’s testing capabilities for the coronavirus, including launching a new public health jobs corps of 100,000 people to assist with the testing and contact tracing, as he laid out his vision for safely reopening the economy. Criticized the president’s inaction on testing and detailed how the country should expand its capabilities to catch a spike in infections before it spreads. The former vice president’s proposals include creating a pandemic testing board, modeled after Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s War Production Board, to scale up production of diagnostic and antibody tests.
“New York nixes Democratic presidential primary due to virus” via The Associated Press — New York has canceled its Democratic presidential primary scheduled for June 23 amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Democratic members of the State’s Board of Elections voted Monday to nix the primary. New York will still hold its congressional and state-level primaries on June 23. New York Democratic Party chair Jay Jacobs has said that the cancellation of the state’s presidential primary would mean a lower expected turnout and a reduced need for polling places.
“Democrats see Senate suddenly within reach, boosted by Biden’s ascent” via Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post — Biden’s unexpectedly rapid consolidation of the Democratic presidential nomination has upended calculations in both parties about the U.S. Senate landscape, with Democrats hopeful that Biden can actively help with close races and Republicans increasingly nervous about losing their 53-47 majority. Biden’s ascent has dented GOP plans to paint Democratic candidates as left-wing extremists, something they were eager to do had Sen. Bernie Sanders emerged as the nominee. Instead, the Democrats now have a more moderate standard-bearer who is keenly aware of how Senate control could affect his potential presidency. Even in Alabama, one of the most conservative states, underdog Sen. Doug Jones stands an outside chance of an upset, a fact that Jones attributes in part to Biden besting Sanders.
— MORE FROM THE TRAIL —
“A major trial for voting rights in Florida is happening on video chat” via Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — Only the judge and a couple of his staff members were in the courtroom when he called the trial to order. The plaintiffs, witnesses and lawyers were at home in front of webcams, awaiting their turns to speak. The most unusual of trials got underway in Florida on Monday in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Because of the virus, the participants could not safely travel to the federal courthouse in Tallahassee, the state capital. But the question at hand was too important to put off in an election year: Should people with felony convictions have to fully pay back court fines and fees before regaining their right to vote?
“Six Florida campaigns recognized by Kevin McCarthy’s GOP Young Guns program” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Three Republicans running for Congress in Florida were added to McCarthy’s Young Guns program. Another three were promoted to “Contender” status. While no Florida candidate has graduated to the highest “Top Gun” recognition, the newest additions show confidence in multiple candidates’ ability to pick off Democratic incumbents. The list of “Contender” candidates now includes Leo Valentin, William Figlesthaler and Carlos Giménez. Meanwhile. The program identified Anna Paulina Luna, Byron Donalds and Casey Askar as “On the Rader” campaigns.
Leo Valentin has been named a GOP ‘Young Gun.’
“Anna Eskamani, Amy Mercado draw election opponents” via the News Service of Florida — Two Orlando Democrats have drawn new election opponents. Republican Kevin Miles Morenski opened a campaign account to try to unseat Rep. Eskamani in Orange County’s House District 47. Orlando Republican Jeremy Sisson also opened an account for the race in December. Eskamani had raised $113,122 for her reelection bid as of March 31, a finance report shows. Meanwhile, Democrat Anthony Tsonis opened an account last week to challenge Rep. Mercado in Orange County’s House District 48. Mercado had raised $26,319 as of March 31.
“Tampa legislative candidates resort to gathering petitions electronically, but they don’t love it” via Mitch Perry of Bay News 9 — One of the basic tenets of retail politics — knocking on doors — isn’t happening in our current COVID-19 environment, which means it’s a bit more challenging for candidates running for the state Legislature this year. Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee made an emergency order earlier this month to change the law and allow signed petitions to be collected “without person-to-person contact.” That means through the internet. “It’s been a challenge,” says Florida House District 60 Republican Jackie Toledo, who needs to get 1,262 verified signatures submitted to the Division of Elections office is less than two weeks. Toledo says she can easily afford to write a check to qualify, but that’s not the way she rolls.
“Roger Lolly surpasses petition threshold to qualify for ballot in HD 78” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Lolly has already submitted enough petitions to qualify as a state House candidate. Running to succeed Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen in House District 78, the owner and president of the If I Can Dream Foundation and of AllCare National has submitted more than 1,300 signed petitions. Like many campaigns, Lolly’s organizing efforts were impacted by social distancing guidelines that made the normal petition gathering process more difficult. But ultimately, the campaign passed the required threshold and put a cushion of extra signatures to account for any rejected petitions.
“State Attorney candidate takes aim at foe” via the News Service of Florida — Just hours after a qualifying deadline, a candidate to become state attorney in part of North Florida filed a lawsuit seeking to knock his only opponent off the ballot. Republican Brian Kramer filed the lawsuit in Leon County circuit court contending that his Democratic opponent, Beverly McCallum, did not meet an eligibility requirement to serve as state attorney. Kramer and McCallum are running to replace outgoing State Attorney Bill Cervone in the 8th Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union counties. The lawsuit names as defendants the Florida Department of State and elections supervisors in the counties.
“Racial slurs, Nazi imagery interrupt Zoom event, Miami State Attorney candidate says” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — Melba Pearson, The lawyer challenging Miami-Dade’s longtime state attorney, said she reported the incident to the FBI, as well as Zoom. The incident happened Friday night during an online event, which was simultaneously broadcast on Facebook. Cybersecurity has become a major issue for Zoom, the popular video conferencing site that has skyrocketed in use as the coronavirus pandemic has forced huge swaths of the world’s labor force to work from home. The technology has become particular vital for the public sector.
— TOP OPINION —
“College campuses must reopen in the fall. Here’s how we do it.” via Christina Paxson for The New York Times — Across the country, college campuses have become ghost towns. Students and professors are hunkered down inside, teaching and learning online. University administrators are tabulating the financial costs of the COVID-19 pandemic. As amazing as videoconferencing technology has become, students face financial, practical, and psychological barriers as they try to learn remotely. This is especially true for lower-income students who may not have reliable internet access or private spaces in which to study. Remaining closed in the fall means losing as much as half our revenue.
— OPINIONS —
“Ruth’s Chris political backlash” via The Wall Street Journal editorial board — After public criticism, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Shake Shack and other restaurant chains are returning loans from the federal Paycheck Protection Program. The economy is still locked down, but already the political backlash against business has begun. We’re referring to Treasury’s guidance late last week to exclude many public companies from the PPP. Those that have received loans have until May 7 to return the money or face penalties. “Although the CARES Act suspends the ordinary requirement that borrowers must be unable to obtain credit elsewhere,” SBA guidance says, borrowers must still certify the loan is necessary, “taking into account their current business activity and their ability to access other sources of liquidity.”
“Don’t threaten our freedoms to fight virus” via Jamie Grant for the Tampa Bay Times — The lasting consequences of this global pandemic remain to be seen, but one thing is for sure: the constitutional rights which guarantee against the government taking individual liberty and personal freedom are being challenged daily by governors and mayors across this country in the name of protecting the American people from themselves. We have watched the rapid repeal and impulsive suspension of the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Amendment rights as guaranteed by our Constitution — 80 percent of the Bill of Rights has been, in one way or another, trampled on across our country.
“Florida should proceed with caution in reopening” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — The Pinellas County Commission will consider a recommendation by County Administrator Barry Burton and Sheriff Bob Gualtieri to reopen the beaches and some pools with appropriate social distancing. That would be another reasonable decision that could be reversed if the public fails to follow the rules, or there is a surge in coronavirus cases. This is uncharted territory, and it remains difficult to balance protecting public health and restarting the economy. Florida and Tampa Bay should move slowly as they take tentative steps this week toward reopening public life — and officials should be prepared to shut it down again if residents and businesses fail to follow the rules or there is a new surge in coronavirus cases.
“There’s a reason why DeSantis called Florida ‘God’s waiting room’” via Frank Cerabino of The Palm Beach Post — Somebody needs to defend DeSantis for referring to Florida as “God’s waiting room” during a briefing. “Florida is ‘ground zero’ for the nursing home,” DeSantis said Sunday. “We’re God’s waiting room. We have a huge number of facilities, a huge number of residents.” Immediately, he was attacked for what was seen as a failure in humor. Calling Florida “God’s waiting room” is such an overused line that it doesn’t qualify as a joke anymore. It’s something everybody has heard a thousand times. So, If DeSantis were trying to make jokes about Florida’s elderly population, he’d have gone with better material.
“COVID-19 a crisis on the Treasure Coast, but let’s keep it in perspective” via Gil Smart of TC Palm — The idea first dawned on me when I went — fully masked, a bottle of hand sanitizer in my back pocket — to Winn-Dixie for supplies. I noticed something else, too: the people, the employees in red shirts. It was the same crew I’d always seen, faces I recognized from four years of shopping at this store. Even as COVID-19 rampaged across the globe, they were still on the job — and bless them for it. For theirs must be one of the highest-risk situations around, with hundreds or even thousands of shoppers passing through daily. Still, that we know of, one grocery store employee on the Treasure Coast has fallen sick ever since this virus crisis began.
— TODAY’S SUNRISE —
Florida has mailed out more unemployment checks, but the state also rejected a record number of jobless claims. One applicant with the rejected claim says he was able to reach a human being at the Department Economic Opportunity, and told it was a massive computer glitch.
Also, on today’s Sunrise:
— Gov. DeSantis takes his coronavirus roadshow to Tampa General Hospital, where he says there is a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.
— Florida Democrats tee off on the Governor again, saying it’s time to fix not just the unemployment website, but the entire compensation program. When it comes to unemployment benefits, Florida is one of the stingiest states in the country. They blame former Gov. Scott for creating a flawed system and DeSantis for failing to fix it.
— A federal judge in Tallahassee is presiding over a trial that could shift the balance in Florida politics. The issue is the constitutional amendment that restores voting rights to former felons, as well as the bill passed by Republican lawmakers that would keep 700,000 of those ex-felons from having their rights restored because they can’t afford to pay all their fines and court fees. Sunrise takes a deep dive, hearing some of the opening arguments in the trial.
— Checking in with Florida man, who is keeping law enforcement officers busy during the lockdown.
“Tokyo Olympics: Questions, few answers in face of pandemic” via Stephen Wade of The Associated Press — The Tokyo Olympics were postponed a month ago. But there are still more questions than answers about the new opening on July 23, 2021, and what form those games will take. IOC President Thomas Bach has already said there is “no blueprint” in assembling what he called this “huge jigsaw puzzle.” Many scientists believe an Olympics with spectators can’t happen until a vaccine is developed. That is probably 12-18 months away, experts say, and then there will be questions about efficacy, distribution, and who gets it first. Japanese organizers and the IOC have said they are “assessing” the added costs. They have not ventured an estimate, at least not publicly.
IOC president Thomas Bach has no blueprint to work from in a delayed 2020 Olympics. Image via AP.
“NBA pushes plan to reopen facilities until May 8 at earliest” via Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press — The NBA has pushed back the possible reopening date of some team practice facilities for at least a week until May 8 at the earliest. The extra time was needed in part to make sure player training options would be safe and controlled to try to mitigate the threats caused by the coronavirus pandemic. When those facilities reopen, the rules will be strict. A person with knowledge of the league’s plans said players would have to wear face masks inside facilities except when working out, that any staff members present would have to wear face masks and gloves, and that a minimum distance of 12 feet would be required as a buffer between players and staff members working with them.
“Apple delays mass production of 2020 flagship iPhones” via Yoko Kubota of The Wall Street Journal — Apple Inc. is pushing back the production ramp-up of its flagship iPhones coming later this year by about a month, according to people familiar with the changes, as the coronavirus pandemic weakens global consumer demand and disrupts manufacturing across Asia, the heart of the consumer electronics supply chain. Apple is forging ahead with plans to release four new iPhone models later this year, people familiar with its plans say. The phones, some with 5G connectivity, will vary in price and come in three sizes.
What Ryan Smith is reading — “‘The Rise of Skywalker’ to hit Disney+ on May 4” via The Associated Press — “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” will begin streaming on Disney Plus on May 4, about two months earlier than scheduled. “The Rise of Skywalker” will land on the streaming service timed to what’s referred to as “Star Wars Day” after the slogan of “May the Fourth be with you.” The release will give fans the option of streaming the full nine-part saga on the annual “Star Wars” holiday. Disney has diverted several of its titles to its streaming service early for housebound viewers. It also sent “Frozen 2” and “Onward” to Disney Plus early, and plans to premiere “Artemis Fowl” on the streaming platform in May in place of a theatrical release.
“Lin-Manuel Miranda just did an awesome thing for a young ‘Hamilton’ fan who makes masks” via Madeleine Marr of the Miami Herald —Even in quarantine lockdown, Miranda is a busy guy. But he is not too busy to help those, especially little people, grappling with the pandemic. He even reached out to a young girl/huge “Hamilton” fan in Hollywood, who is making face masks for her Mitzvah Project. The 12-year-old’s original idea was to collect beauty supplies for hospitalized kids, but the pandemic made that “impossible,” she wrote. A few weeks ago, Zucker heard Elliana fan-singing “Dear Theodosia” while busy sewing and decided to reach out to Miranda through his website. To her surprise, his reps responded, asking for the family’s address.
“Undefeated, high schoolers head online for isolation proms” via Leanne Italie of The Associated Press — High schools and cheer teams have thrown virtual proms of their own as social media has filled up with sweet moments among families. Dads have taken their dressed-up daughters for living room spins for a dance or two, and teens have organized home proms among parents and siblings. The site expects about 5,000 teens to attend its virtual prom May 16, on Zoom. Organizers are working with high schools around the country to set up separate rooms so kids can be with their friends as celebrity co-hosts pop in, and DJs get busy.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to the great Jenn Ungru of Dean Mead.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.
Julie Van Dusen has been a journalist with CBC News for over 30 years. In that time she’s been Canadians’ eyes and ears in the halls of federal power, witness to some of the most important political events of the age. She announced this week that she is retiring from CBC to pursue other projects.
I came to the Parliamentary Bureau a little over 30 years ago. It seems like only yesterday
Actually, I did leave for two years in total — three surprise maternity leaves. (You try it!) Then I came back, pronto, to the peace and quiet of filing for a 24-hour news channel.
I consider myself one of the luckiest reporters in Canada. I have had a career on Parliament Hill — an exhilarating career, in a place I truly love.
Walking up every morning to go to work at Centre Block, the most beautiful Neo-Gothic building in the country, was a thrill on its own. Add to that the privilege of covering the hurly-burly of Canada’s democracy, and you can understand why I often wanted to pinch myself over my good fortune.
A childhood on the Hill
My dad spent 40 years on Parliament Hill, so it always felt like a second home to me. My mom, an artist, would often paint the Parliamentary buildings. She would load us into the station wagon and we would fight and swat at each other in the back while she tried to create in the front seat. One of her paintings hangs in the Speaker’s Hallway. I pass it often.
My Dad would take us kids to the Hill — all seven of us — for different events, including Christmas parties. I remember running around the Foyer as a toddler, screaming with excitement. Who knew I would get paid to do the same thing years later?
Making a living pursuing and scrumming so many politicians in that same venerable location. Never, ever getting sick of it, never getting bored, always learning. At one point, along with my dad there were five Van Dusens roaming about the Hill. So much fun!
I have covered so many history-making moments in Canadian politics, starting from the day I came to the Parliamentary Bureau in 1988, during the “free trade” election. A series of seismic events in Canadian politics followed: the Meech Lake Accord, the birth of the Bloc Québécois and the Charlottetown Accord. It was one big constitutional roller coaster.
I moved briefly to Montreal in 1995 to cover the heart-stopping sovereignty referendum and watched mesmerized as Lucien Bouchard, who had recently survived an attack of flesh-eating disease, turned the whole thing on its ear over a Thanksgiving weekend. It is a time I will never forget.
I’ve seen so many party coups up-close as leaders were handed their heads. As kids, we would get the inside scoop from my father about the mutiny against John Diefenbaker.
Sometimes a leader gets ousted with lightning speed (Stockwell Day, Stéphane Dion, Andrew Scheer). Sometimes the ejection unfolds in slow motion (the prolonged unraveling of Jean Chrétien’s leadership).
The end result is always the same. When enough people want you to go, they’ll find a way to make your life miserable.
I’ve seen waves of people flocking to the Hill to protest or to advocate for an cause, on the front lawn and in the corridors.
A society in flux
I’ve witnessed tectonic shifts in society, from the abortion law going down to defeat in the Senate, to the legalization of same-sex marriage, to the government giving the green light to recreational marijuana use.
I’ve talked to every Canadian political figure you can name over the past 30 years, and many famous non-politicians as well. (I can still hear Mother Teresa’s pithy comments on family planning.)
After more than 30 years covering politics from Parliament Hill, CBC reporter Julie Van Dusen announced this week she is moving on to other projects. Here are some highlights from her relentless work as a journalist. 0:55
I’ve seen politicians struggle behind the scenes with big problems, divorces, mental health issues, unruly kids and the angst of being away from their families. I feel so privileged to have known so many of these men and women.
They’re not just suits going in and out of question period. They are so much more than just names on a ballot. They are risk-takers, the ones who throw themselves into the emotional cauldron and brutal machinations of politics, and give up much of their personal lives, to make our democracy work.
The art of the scrum
I’ve loved covering Canadian politics for so many reasons — but especially for our method of buttonholing politicians. Thanks to the wizardry and agility of our amazing cameramen, I’ve been in walking-backward scrums, running scrums, elevator scrums, escalator scrums, and one flinging-myself-onto-the-hood-of-a-moving-car scrum. (My kids call me “scrummy mummy.”)
Like so many of us, I was jolted by the 2014 shooting on the Hill. Your workplace never seems the same after you hear gunshots and smell gunpowder near the scene of your last scrum, while lying on the floor of a nearby office for eight hours hoping some armed madman doesn’t storm through the unlocked, furniture-barricaded door that’s your only protection.
Over the years, I’ve been touched and gratified by how we at the CBC look after one another. Yes, we arrive every day to an adrenaline rush of deadlines. But when the chips are down, when a relative has died or someone is going through a hard time, we rally around, we embrace and nourish each other with good wishes, flowers and casseroles.
I am extremely grateful for the CBC’s team of professionals — so good at getting the news on the air and meeting impossible deadlines.
So thank you, all of you — the bosses who became my mentors, the cameramen, editors, producers, reporters, researchers, resource specialists, sound techs and writers.
I have learned so much from all of you, shared so many laughs. (And I would like to officially apologize now for all the times my hair was in the shot.)
I will never stop loving the CBC, public broadcasting and all that it’s taught me. Most of all, I will always cherish and be so grateful for the lifelong friendships I have made coast to coast to coast.
Je veux aussi remercier mes collegues a Radio Canada, pour votre amitie et patience envers “l’anglaise.”
And now, I’m off. I have deadline-driven projects that I want to tackle in the coming months. Keep up the rock-solid and compassionate coverage of the pandemic and all of the other news. I will be watching, listening and reading — and most likely pining for the action.
On Thursday night, thousands of people gathered in the streets of Minneapolis, and other cities across the country, to protest the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Outside the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct, the protests turned violent, as people looted businesses, threw projectiles, and set the station house on fire; police in riot gear fired rubber bullets and sprayed tear gas at the crowds. On Friday, Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed Floyd, was taken into custody by Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and charged with manslaughter and third-degree murder.
I spoke by phone, on Friday afternoon, with Omar Wasow, a professor of politics at Princeton, who studies protest movements and their effects on politics and elections. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed which tactics worked best in the civil-rights era, what violent protests have meant, historically, for Democrats running for office, and whether Donald Trump is a figure of order or disorder.
How would you summarize your work on the political effects of protest?
I would say that nonviolent protests can be very effective if they are able to get media attention, and that there is a very strong relationship between media coverage and public concern about whatever issues those protesters are raising. But there is a conditional effect of violence, and what that means, in practice, is that groups that are the object of state violence are able to get particularly sympathetic press—and a large amount of media coverage. But that is a very hard strategy to maintain, and what we often see is that, when protesters engage in violence, often in a very understandable response to state repression, that tends to work against their cause and interests, and mobilizes or becomes fodder for the opposition to grow its coalition.
What we observe in the nineteen-sixties is that there was a nontrivial number of white moderates who were open to policies that advanced racial equality, and were also very concerned about order. The needle that civil-rights activists were trying to thread was: How do you advance racial equality, and capture the attention of often indifferent or hostile white moderates outside of the South, and at the same time grow a coalition of allies? And over time the strategy that evolved was one of nonviolent protest, which actively sought to trigger police chiefs like Bull Connor [in Birmingham, Alabama,] to engage in spectacles of violence that attracted national media and would, in the language of the nineteen-sixties, “shock the conscience of the nation.” So it isn’t just nonviolence that is effective, but nonviolence met with state and vigilante brutality that is effective.
The interesting thing to me that came out of this research was that civil-rights leaders were picking Birmingham and Selma specifically because they had police chiefs with hair-trigger tendencies toward violence. So there was this strategic use of violence by the civil-rights movement, but it was to be the object of violence, not the instigators of violence. At the same time, what was very hard about, with that strategy, is that you had images of people observing their kinfolk being brutalized on television, and that helped fire up a more militant wing of the civil-rights movement, which endorsed violence in self-defense and was much less committed to tactics of nonviolence. When we observed a wave of violent protests in the mid- to late sixties, those white moderates who supported the Democratic Party after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 defected to the Republican Party in 1968. So, when the state was employing violence and protesters were the targets of that violence, the strategy worked well, and when protesters engaged in violence—whether or not the state was—those voters moved to the law-and-order coalition.
What did you find in your research, specifically about the 1968 election?
There has been a debate in social science for a long time about whether there was a backlash to the waves of violent protest in 1967 and 1968. Commonly, people will say “riot,” but I am using “violent protest” and “nonviolent protest” as the two categories. I looked at a hundred and thirty-seven violent protests that followed Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s assassination, in April, 1968. There is a bunch of evidence that protests are sensitive to weather, and when rain happens it is much less likely people engage in protests. And so we should expect that when there is more rainfall there is less likelihood that people will engage in protest, and when there is less rainfall there is more likelihood. So we get a crude natural experiment—it’s as if some places were randomly assigned a violent protest and some were not.
And what I find is that, in the week following King’s assassination, when ninety-five per cent of those violent April protests occurred, if your county was proximate to violent protests, then that county voted six to eight percentage points more toward Nixon in November. But maybe there was something correlated with rainfall driving this result, and so to address the possibility of a confounding factor, like geography, I also looked at rainfall in periods where we should expect no effect of rainfall on voting—e.g., periods before and more than a few days after the assassination. This is called a placebo test. It is only rainfall in the one week after the assassination that predicts this conservative shift in November, and, in the absence of a plausible alternative story for why rainfall in April was predicting voting in November, the most obvious explanation is that the violent protests were the cause. And so we can then claim a causal relationship between violent protests and the shift away from the Democratic coalition.
What protest tactics would you recommend for people concerned about police brutality today? On the one hand, these current protests were already sparked by state violence, so they don’t need to incite more of it. On the other hand, we have had these viral videos of police brutality for years, and it is not clear all that much is changing.
If you are an activist and there is this outrageous incident (like a knee on a neck) and you say, “How can we advance our interests?,” it might be that both violent and nonviolent protests are legitimate—but it still might be more effective to employ nonviolence, if we get everything we would from a violent protest, plus we don’t splinter a coalition that favors change. One puzzle is, if you are an activist, are nonviolent tactics going to get you more of what you want, or are violent tactics? And what I found from the sixties is that nonviolent protest achieved many of the same sorts of outcomes that the more militant activists were fighting for without splintering the Democratic coalition. There was a pro-segregation media at the time, and there were all kinds of state and federal repression—and, despite all of that, the nonviolent wing of the civil-rights movement was really able to move the country from tolerating Jim Crow to breaking Jim Crow.
So I think there is a lot of evidence that nonviolent tactics can be effective. You saw this on the first day in Minneapolis, where the police showed up with an excess of force, and you had these images of children running away and police dressed like stormtroopers. There are a set of narrative scripts in the public mind, and I think we interpret the news through those preëxisting narratives. And so a nonviolent protest where we see state excesses is a very powerful and sympathetic narrative for the cause of fighting police violence. And as soon as the tactics shift to more aggressive violent resistance—and, to be clear, as best I can tell, police were shooting rubber bullets and there was tear gas. It seemed like an excessive police response, and so in reaction protesters escalated as well. That has an unfortunate side effect of muddying the story. Instead of talking about the history of police killings in Minneapolis, we are talking about a store going up in flames, and the focus in reporting tends to shift from a justice frame to a crime frame. And that is an unfortunate thing for a protest movement. It ends up undermining the interests of the advocates.
Your answers are making me think about the Régis DeBray line that “the Revolution revolutionizes the Counter-Revolution.” Because whether intentional strategy or not, firing rubber bullets and police violence against protests may have the effect of making the protests more violent, and thus hurting the cause.
It’s a great question, and, in cross-national studies, that has definitely been shown to be a strategy. We definitely observe politicians in other countries ginning up ethnic conflict before an election, to try and heighten people’s sense of in-group identification before they vote. The evidence in the United States I have seen points more toward a kind of racialized incompetence, where the police chief in Los Angeles can behave with a certain disregard—I am thinking of the uprising in 1992. [The authorities’] response was so ham-fisted and hands-off that it allowed something to escalate to an epic scale. And I suspect most of what we saw in Minneapolis was not a strategic effort to inflame protesters, but an idiotic and incompetent over-response that also had the effect of inflaming protesters.
And it was an idiotic and incompetent response tinged by race. You don’t see these kinds of overreactions to the armed white militias. So I don’t have evidence about these being strategic efforts. I do think there is a lot of evidence that there are overreactions when the protesters are black, and that this excess of force is deployed in ways that have precisely the opposite effect of what a police chief is intending. Instead of trying to bring order, they create more chaos.
Trump has run as a law-and-order candidate, and today repeated the looting-and-shooting comment that was made by the Miami police chief Walter Headley, in 1967. At the same time, it seems like Nixon was fundamentally selling stability, and Trump often tries to destabilize situations. How do you think this will or won’t have political ramifications?
On the first part, I have looked at polling data from the sixties, and the numbers are really surprising. It was something like eighty per cent of Americans said that law and order had broken down. We had King’s assassination, and two Kennedys assassinated, and these waves of violent protests. So it was more than just urban unrest. There was a sense that the social fabric was tearing, and I think Nixon was clearly appealing to voters for whom that was an anxiety. And I also found that, in the 1966 gubernatorial election in California, Democrats who thought Pat Brown, who was the Democratic governor at the time, had handled the Watts riots poorly were hugely less likely to support him. [Ronald Reagan defeated Brown by fifteen percentage points.] So it really was pivotal in the nineteen-sixties.
What’s often hard for people to see is that there are these white moderates who are part of the Democratic coalition as long as they perceive there to be order, but when they perceive there to be too much disorder they shift to the party that has owned the issue of order, which is the Republican Party. For some people, the idea that there are these swing Democratic-minded voters is hard to grasp, but there is pretty strong evidence that in 2016, and in 1968, that was an important and influential niche of voters.
You are absolutely right that Trump, to a lot of people, is an instigator of chaos rather than a restorer of order, so I think that potentially works against him. But if you are this white moderate, and perceive the disorder to be coming from African-Americans in cities, then turning to Trump, even if you see him as a rough character, is appealing: He’s a street fighter, but he is our street fighter. So the real danger for advocates of reform in Minneapolis trying to get better policing, and for those trying to pursue racial justice nationally, is that there are people who are turned off by Trump but who have a strong taste for order, and so if they are more concerned about racial disorder, then Trump is their racial order.
Yes, essentially, to view Trump as a figure who will bring order, in any rational sense, is to have a racially tinged view of order. The only kind of order he promises—even if he can’t actually deliver it—is an order based on racial issues. This is a guy who cheers on protesters showing up with automatic weapons to state capitols.
That’s right. There was a tweet that said something like, “Who could want four more years of this?” It’s got a sort of Rorschach-like quality. If you are exhausted by Trump’s chaos, you think about who could want four more years of Trump. But it could also be that, if this is how you perceive Democratic governance—letting a police station go up in flames—then who could want four more years of disorder and lawlessness, particularly if you are someone who has a bunch of stereotypes about African-Americans and Democrats in cities.
And so, to your point, I think it is exactly right that there are different kinds of chaos people are weighing in their minds. I might say the pandemic and economic dislocation are my top priorities, but if you are someone who has deep-seated anxieties about an unsettling of the racial hierarchy in America, about an egalitarian society where you might lose some status, or a society where there isn’t enormous state capacity brought to bear on controlling out-groups, then you might say, “I want Trump because he is promising to maintain the racial hierarchy. I want someone who is tough on crime. Those are my top priorities.”
Epidemiologists have firmly established that the probabilities of getting severe symptoms and dying from the coronavirus are positively correlated with age. This age relationship has a number of causes, including that older people are more susceptible to respiratory issues; have decreased immunity in general; are more likely to have underlying chronic diseases that make them more susceptible to severe consequences of the virus; and are in many instances living in close-quartered retirement and nursing homes.
We can assume that older people are aware of this relationship, although I haven’t seen survey research that directly assesses people’s knowledge of the relationship between age and susceptibility to the virus.
Given this assumption, we would logically conclude that older Americans would be the most likely to worry about getting the virus, most likely to socially isolate themselves and most likely to express trepidation about reduced social distancing. But the data don’t confirm these hypotheses. I’ve been looking at the attitudes and self-reports of behavior for Americans 65 and older, and find that in most instances, this group is indistinguishable in their attitudes and behaviors from those who are younger.
I’m basing this analysis on a large sample of over 12,000 individuals in Gallup’s panel interviewed between May 4 and May 24. I divided the sample into three groups by age: 18-64, 65-74, and 75-90, although for sample-size reasons, in some instances I collapse the last two into those 65 and older.
Worry About Getting the Virus Doesn’t Differ by Age
The first measure of interest is worry or concern about getting the virus, a core question in Gallup’s panel interviewing. Here we find that 49% of those 65-74 and 50% of those 75-90 are very or somewhat worried, compared with 52% of those 18-64. In other words, no significant difference by age.
Americans’ Worry About Getting the Coronavirus, by Age
How worried are you that you will get the coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Not very/Not at all worried
18-64 years old
65-74 years old
75-90 years old
Gallup Panel, May 4-24, 2020
Logic based on the virus’ real-world impact would lead to the assumption that older people should be more worried about getting the virus. Why aren’t they?
One explanation could involve social isolation. If older Americans are more likely to be confined to their dwelling units and less likely to go out, their lower level of worry could be because they believe they are not in a position to catch the virus.
But our data on social isolation and social distancing don’t strongly support the hypothesis that older people are more homebound. Gallup’s data show that 17% of Americans under age 65 say they are completely isolated, with another 37% saying they are mostly isolated. Older Americans’ reports are not significantly different, with 19% of those 65-74 and 16% of those 75-90 saying they are completely isolated, and 41% and 40%, respectively, mostly isolated.
Americans’ Self-Reported In-Person Contact, by Age
Next, thinking about everything you’ve done in the past 24 hours, which of the following comes closest to describing your in-person contact with people outside your household?
Completely isolated yourself, having no contact with people outside your household
Mostly isolated yourself, having very little contact with people outside your household
Partially isolated yourself, having some contact with people outside your household
Isolated yourself a little, still having a fair amount of contact with people outside your household
Did not make any attempt to isolate yourself from people outside your household
Gallup Panel, May 4-24, 2020
A separate question assessing self-reports of social distancing show some differences. Here we find that 65+ adults are about 12 percentage points more likely than those under age 65 to say they are “always” practicing social distancing, but the two groups are more equal when we look at the combined categories of those who report always and “very often” social distancing.
Older Americans are actually slightly more likely than those under age 65 to say they have been out to the grocery store in the previous 24 hours. Older Americans are also more likely to say they have visited a pharmacy and a doctor’s office, hospital or treatment center, no doubt reflecting the higher probability of having medical conditions and prescriptions as age increases.
There is a big difference by age in leaving home to go to work, as we would expect. Older Americans are much less likely to be employed than younger Americans (only 15% of those 65 and older are employed either full or part time in our panel data, compared with 70% of those 18-64). There is a lot of remote working today, but 37% of those who are under age 65 have left their home to go to work within the 24 hours before they were interviewed, compared with 13% of those 65-74 and only 2% of those 75-90.
All in all, older Americans’ worries about getting the virus may not be as high as expected because they are less likely to be working and are more likely to perceive themselves to be always practicing social distancing. But the data on self-reports of contact with other people and the frequency with which older and younger people get out to the store, pharmacy and doctor’s offices don’t confirm that hypothesis.
Partisanship Much More Powerful Than Age
There are often confounding influences at work when we look at the relationship between a demographic characteristic and another variable. Most demographic characteristics are associated with other characteristics, and sometimes those relationships help explain what’s behind an initial finding.
Older Americans are substantially more likely to identify as Republicans than those under age 65. Republicans are much less worried than Democrats about the virus and less likely than others to socially isolate themselves. This could mean that the lack of higher levels of worry on average among older Americans is caused by their greater likelihood to be Republican.
The data, however, show that older Democrats are no more likely to worry about getting the virus than younger Democrats, and older Republicans are only slightly more likely than younger Republicans to worry. This means there is no hidden effect of party in the age finding. No matter how we might hypothetically change the proportions of Republicans or Democrats among older Americans in the sample, there would not be a significant age skew in worry about the virus.
The same pattern holds when we look at the relationship between age and social isolation. There is little variation across age in social isolation among Democrats, while 65 and older Republicans are only slightly more likely to say they are social isolating than those who are younger.
The remarkable thing about these findings is the degree to which the subjective factor of partisanship is a much more powerful correlate of worry about the virus and self-isolation than the objective factor of age.
I call age an objective factor because the relationship between age and higher probabilities of having severe symptoms and mortality from the coronavirus is well-established. Yet, these objective facts don’t appear to make a great deal of difference to older Americans on the measures we have looked at; older Americans aren’t a lot different than those who are younger, in terms of their worry and social isolation. But one’s political self-identity makes a huge difference on these same measures. Among Americans of all age groups, Democrats are overwhelmingly more likely to say they are worried about getting the virus and are more likely to be socially isolating themselves than those who identify as Republicans. And prior research shows that these political differences are not the result of where the two partisan groups live.
Worry about getting the virus, in short, is to a significant degree a subjective phenomenon that arises from one’s political and ideological identity, and that in turn leads to big differences in actual behavior relating to the virus. The objective facts, at least based on age data, don’t seem to make a great deal of difference.
Organizations May Need to Take Partisanship of Their Members Into Account
Organizations developing their reopening plans are in many cases focusing on age as a major consideration. Religious organizations, for example, are now grappling with decisions on when and how to reopen to in-person worship in their sanctuaries, temples and mosques. In-person worship, in most instances, is skewed toward older parishioners. Religious leaders might initially jump to the conclusion that their older members would disproportionately be worried about coming back, leading to a decision to delay reopening and continue with virtual worship as a complete or parallel option.
Other entities that disproportionately depend on older patrons include restaurants, theaters, symphonies, ballet, cruises and travel destinations. All will be affected if their older customers are resistant to returning as customers.
Our data suggest that assumptions about disproportionality of concern among older members, customers and patrons need to be examined closely. Churches and other business organizations may find that the political orientation of their membership and patrons is a more powerful predictor of returning to in-person participation than the members’ and patrons’ average age.
We have some limited data from May 4-10 interviewing that speak to the issue of reopening. The question asked when people would feel comfortable in returning to normal activities if government restrictions were lifted and people were able to decide for themselves how soon they would return to normal day-to-day activities. The overall results may be somewhat dated now, but the relevant finding is the lack of significant differences in the responses by age. Those 65 and older did not differ significantly from those under age 65 in terms of saying they would return right now; after cases decline; after there were no new cases; or when a new vaccine was developed. But, importantly, there were major differences by partisanship, underscoring the basic conclusion of the power of political orientation in determining virus-related attitudes and behavior.
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