State of Play

News from state government and around Florida

Thursday, September 23, 2021

FL Covid patient flown to CT for treatment; Students exposed to Covid but are asymptomatic don't have to quarantine; TX abortion-style bill introduced in FL

  • In early September, a Florida Covid-19 patient was flown to Connecticut for a life-saving treatment after his wife reached out to 169 hospitals without success, reports Nexstar Media Wire. Robby Walker was in need of ECMO treatment, which allows the blood to bypass the heart and lungs, allowing these organs to rest and heal. ECMO wasn't available at the hospital he was at. Walker was taken off ECMO and is now recovering. 

  • Florida says students exposed to Covid-19 but remain asymptomatic do not need to quarantine, reports the Huffington Post. The state's new surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, who is critical of mask and vaccine mandates, signed new rules to that effect. The measures are at odds with the recommendations released by federal health officials and have already drawn criticism from education groups in Florida, the Post says.

  • State Rep. Webster Barnaby, R-Deltona, on Wednesday filed a bill (HB 167) that follows a Texas law that blocks abortions if there is a “detectable fetal heartbeat," reports the News Service of Florida. The bill requires doctors to test for fetal heartbeats. If detected they cannot "knowingly" perform an abortion. It makes an exception for emergencies that threaten women’s lives. It excludes abortions due to rape or incest.


Maxim Tolchinskiy/Unsplash

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Problems persist with state jobless office system; FL reports 13K more Covid cases, 5 deaths; New FL surgeon general against mask, vaccine mandates

  • More problems are still being reported with Florida’s unemployment system, reports News 4 Jax. While the system is working better than at the beginning of the pandemic, with more than 2.4 million people receiving benefits since March 2020, the news station says it continues to get notified of issues. In its newsletter, the state office said it's "due to bad actors attempting to gain access to personal information and accounts.”

  • Florida on Tuesday reported 13,201 Covid-19 cases and five deaths to the CDC, reports the Miami Herald. In all, Florida has recorded at least 3,517,177 confirmed Covid cases and 51,889 deaths since the pandemic began. In the past seven days, on average, the state has added 376 deaths and 9,112 cases per day. The 376 deaths per day, reported Tuesday, tie with Florida’s highest seven-day death average recorded Monday.

  • New Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo, a UCLA physician, has a history of opposing mask, vaccine mandates and promoting Covid treatments like hydroxychloroquine, reports WTVX-West Palm. "Vaccines are up to the person, there's nothing special about them from any preventive measure," Ladapo said. "The state should be promoting good health and vaccination isn’t the only path to that."


Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

FL hospitals facing major nursing shortage; Sarasota business suing state law banning proof of vaccination for entry; Texts, emails show GOP sought to undermine Dem voting edge

  • Hospital administrators testified to state House lawmakers that their facilities are facing a major nursing shortage due to Covid-19, reports the Florida Times-Union. An AdventHealth Orlando executive said nurses have left the profession altogether or becoming traveling nurses earning upward to $10,000 a week around the U.S. At AdventHealth, 79 percent of nursing-job postings are being filled by nursing-agency staff.

  • A Sarasota craft store called Bead Abode is suing Florida's surgeon general over a state law that prevents businesses to require proof of a Covid vaccination to allow entry, reports WUSF. Store co-owner and legal counsel Andrew Boyer said the store has been closed since March 2020 -- though making online sales -- but wants to reopen with such safety protocols. He said the law is unconstitutional.

  • Despite assurances that a new Florida law was designed to make it easier for citizens to vote and strengthen electoral security, internal emails and text messages obtained by Politico show that GOP officials had sought to make it more difficult to get mail-in ballots explicitly to undercut Democrats' edge over Republicans: 2.18 million voters v. 1.5 million voters, respectively, in the 2020 election.


Rusty Watson/Unsplash

Monday, September 20, 2021

Nearly 9,000 Covid patients in FL hospitals reported Sunday; Orthodox Jewish communities in South FL booming due to pandemic; FL Democratic voter registrations now almost even with Republicans

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday reported there were 8,976 Covid-19 patients at 255 Florida hospitals, which was about 417 fewer patients than the day before, reports the Miami Herald. They occupied 15.90% of inpatient beds, compared with 16.11% in the previous day's reporting. Of those hospitalized, 2,284 people were in intensive-care units, a decrease of 97 from the previous day’s report.

  • South Florida’s Orthodox Jewish communities are seeing a major Covid-driven population boom, reports the Time of Israel, with Hollywood, Fla., quickly becoming one of the fastest-growing such communities in the U.S. "New and longtime residents of the area say the newfound flexibility of remote work, combined with frustration over Covid restrictions elsewhere, has driven people toward the more freewheeling Florida."

  • Registrations of Florida Democrats, who once enjoyed a 700,000-voter edge over Republicans when ex-President Obama was elected president in 2008, have seen that shrunk to 23,055 at the end of August, reports Politico's Florida Playbook. A consultant says the party needs a partisan effort to turn that around. Florida Democratic Party chair Manny Diaz said they have registered 20,000 in September.


HH E/Unsplash

Friday, September 17, 2021

Hospitality industry faces staggering losses in US, Florida; 237 FL nursing-home residents died in 4-week period due to Covid; FL slams Biden for managing Covid treatment distribution

  • The American Hotel and Lodging Association said the hospitality industry is projected to lose nearly $60 billion in revenue since 2019 across the U.S., with Florida's industry losing more than $5.3 billion due to the pandemic, reports News Channel 8. Orlando is projected to lose $2.3 billion since 2019. The industry is hoping a bill in Congress, the Save Hotel Jobs Act, will help the industry and its employees.

  • AARP said in a report this week that 237 Florida nursing-home residents died of Covid-19 during the four-week period that ended Aug. 22, which tied for the highest death rate in the nation, reports News 4 Jax. In early June, the Florida Department of Health report said 11,531 residents and staff members at long-term care facilities have died of Covid. The department then subsequently stopped releasing such data.

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio attacked Joe Biden's administration for controlling the distribution of monoclonal antibody treatments for Covid-19 because a few states like Florida were using up supplies disproportionately, reports the South Florida Sun Sentinel. DeSantis said people will suffer and said the government was "seizing control." Rubio called the move "ridiculous" and "outrageous."


Thursday, September 16, 2021

Sarasota County arts organizations will require vaccine, or proof of negative test; Judge upholds state's anti-mask mandate rule; Repeal of anti-transgender bill introduced

  • Nine Sarasota County arts and cultural organizations said they will require proof of a Covid-19 vaccination or a negative test starting Sept. 26, reports Axios Tampa Bay. However, a state law goes into effect today that bars businesses from requiring proof of vaccination and threatens a $5,000 fine for each violation. But the law doesn't address giving patrons an option — proof of vaccination or a negative test — and many such venues are enacting policies that will force a clear interpretation. 

  • Federal Judge K. Michael Moore in Miami declined to to block a mask mandate ban imposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, reports The AP. Parents of disabled children had sought a preliminary injunction against DeSantis' executive order issued in July. Moore said the parents should have pursued administrative claims before filing a lawsuit. An attorney for the parents said "he believed the judge misconstrued a U.S. Supreme Court decision about the exhaustion of administrative remedies in cases involving children with disabilities."

  • Florida Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer, a Democrat from Broward, has introduced a bill (212) that would repeal the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which bars transgender athletes from competing in activities specifically designed for girls and women, reports Florida Politics. A half dozen states have passed similar anti-transgender bills while many others are considering similar bills.


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Jacksonville goes 'Lights Out' for birds; DeSantis will change school standardized testing; South Florida nurse pleads guilty to threatening VP Harris

  • Jacksonville will embark on its second "Lights Out" initiative that aims to reduce light pollution so it doesn't disorient migratory birds, thousands of which collide into buildings and windows, reports News 4 Jax. As part of the project, volunteers will walk through the city's downtown at dawn every week from mid-September to mid-November to document and collect birds that have struck buildings.

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration is preparing legislation that will do away with its standardized testing system called the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) in the upcoming legislative session, reports the Hill newspaper. He called FSA "outdated." Instead, he will propose "three shorter tests in the fall, winter and spring in an effort to assess students in 'real-time' rather than with a single, longer exam."

  • South Florida nurse Niviane Petit Phelps, 39, pleaded guilty last week for threatening to kill Vice President Kamala Harris, reports CNN. The Department of Justice said she faces up to five years in federal prison when she is sentenced Nov. 19. She admitted to sending a video to her incarcerated husband that showed herself threatening to kill Harris and claimed she accepted $53,000 to carry out the "hit."


Mehdi Sepehri/Unsplash

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

DeSantis silent as false conspiracy theories spewed at presser; Top state officials rail against vaccine mandates; Sarasota County school board bans criticisms of members

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis stood silently as several unvaccinated Floridians, including a city of Gainesville employee, spewed wild conspiracy theories, including that the Covid-19 vaccine alters RNA, reports Popular Information. "This claim is totally false. The mRNA vaccines do not change the body's natural mRNA or DNA. Rather, the vaccine uses mRNA to instruct the body to make a harmless protein, which mimics the spike protein on the Covid-19 virus."

  • DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis have been all vaccinated, but railed againt President Biden's vaccine mandate push during that presser, reports the Florida Phoenix. Biden proposed companies with 100 or more employees mandate vaccines. Republicans said they will penalize those who do. Agriculture Secretary Nikki Fried, a the only statewide elected Democrat who is also running against DeSantis for governor, was not invited to the press conference.

  • The Sarasota County school board banned criticism of its members during members, reports Axios Tampa Bay. Last week, Vice Chairwoman Jane Goodwin — standing in for Chairwoman Shirley Brown, who lost control of the meeting — directed police to remove citizens who criticized specific elected officials during the public comment period. However, the move may have riled up parents, instead.


Monday, September 13, 2021

More kids in Florida dying from Covid-19; State positivity rate declines but not far enough; Blacks, Hispanics getting vaccinated at higher rates

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis won an appeal that allows Florida to continue to punish school districts that impose mask mandates, reports Vanity Fair. Ten children under 16 have died from the virus since July 30 with 17 total Covid-19 fatalities in the state -- many with underlying conditions such as obesity. More kids are reportedly being admitted and intubated in ICUs. “Unfortunately, some of these children will not survive,” said a doctor.

  • While Florida's Covid positivity rate is declining, to 13.5% from 15.3% over the past week, doctors say it needs to go down to 5%, reports WFTS Tampa Bay. The World Health Organization suggests a 5% or less positivity rate to be in the clear and fully open as a state. About 58% of adults ages 18 to 64 are fully vaccinated in the state but 5.3 million don't even have one shot. About 858,000 kids 12-17 also don't have a single shot.

  • Black and Hispanic people are getting vaccinated for Covid at higher rates, which is also the trend in Florida, reports the Tampa Bay Times. When the vaccines rolled out earlier this year, the racial disparity was large, but recent data shows the gap is closing. However, without specific local data on race and ethnicity, it's difficult to pinpoint where vaccination rates are equitable, or inequitable, and how to address any disparities.



Friday, September 10, 2021

Judge rules against anti-riot law; DeSantis files emergency motion to reinstate stay against school mask mandates; Before she died, woman urged TikTok followers to get vaccinated

  • On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled that Florida's anti-riot law violated the First Amendment, reports the Hill newspaper. He said the law was too broad and the definition of a “riot” unclear. “Is it enough to stand passively near violence? What if you continue protesting when violence erupts? What if that protest merely involves standing with a sign while others fight around you?" he asked. Groups sued the state, saying the law was designed to stifle free speech.

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration filed an emergency motion asking an appeals court to reinstate a stay, hours after a Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper allowed schools to mandate masks to curb Covid-19 infections, reports USA Today. Cooper had said DeSantis overstepped his constitutional authority in ordering the mask-mandate ban. The state wants the appeals court reimpose the stay as the underlying case moves forward.

  • Nine days before she died of Covid, Jacksonville resident Megan Alexandra Blankenbiller urged her TikTok followers to get vaccinated, reports CBS News. "I don't have a lot of energy for talking," Blankenbiller, who went by Alex, said in the final video, posted on August 15. " ... I did not get vaccinated. I'm not anti-vax, I was just trying to do my research. I was scared."


Thursday, September 9, 2021

Judge rules against Florida on enforcing mask-mandate ban; Opinion: DeSantis approach helped Covid's high death rate; 15-year-old Pensacola teen dies of Covid

  • Second Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled Wednesday that Florida cannot enforce its mask-mandate ban while the case is being appealed, reports CNN. Cooper two weeks ago ruled against the state's ban, which allowed school districts to impose mask requirements without exceptions, but the state decided to enforce the ban anyway as it appealed the case. Thirteen school districts have imposed a mask mandate.

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis' approach in dealing with the Delta variant is the main reason why Florida has the highest per capita death rate, says several experts in an opinion piece in The Gainesville Sun. While DeSantis gets credit for a "reasonable" Covid-19 vaccination campaign, providing treatments and keeping the economy open, he has "fanned the flames of anti-vax, anti-mask culture," stressing personal liberty over public health. 

  • Fifteen-year-old Pensacola resident Victoria Ramirez, a sophomore in high school, died of Covid two weeks after she tested positive, reports News Channel 8. Her father, Hector, said he regretted that she was unvaccinated and is considering getting the shot himself now. “It’s something that’s going to be stuck with me for my whole life, thinking maybe I should have done that sooner,” he said.


Wednesday, September 8, 2021

DeSantis denies he's running for president; OC says total vaccinations just under 70%; State, local officials don't provide total deaths in communities

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis said speculation about him running for president in 2024 is "purely manufactured," reports Business Insider. He made the remarks during the opening of a Covid-19 treatment center in Osceola County. "I hear all this stuff and honestly it's nonsense. So I don't really know what to say to rumors," he added. However, in GOP presidential straw polls, he's ranked second behind Donald Trump.

  • Florida Department of Health statistics show that 70 percent of Orange County residents 12 and older are vaccinated against Covid, but the county says the number is lower, reports The state said at least 873,125 county residents have received at least one dose, but the county said it's actually 67.62 percent. The discrepancy may be due to "different data set or may not be omitting certain factors," it said.

  • Last week, Covid was killing one Floridian at least every four minutes, the second worse in the nation, but state and local officials won't say how many are dying within a given locale, reports the Fort Myers News-Press. The state said the CDC website provides county death tolls but that number "undercounts Florida's tally by thousands, and the CDC’s most prominent map of county-level COVID-19 deaths shows only blanks for each of the state's 67 counties." The state said it's not hiding anything.


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