FAC News Clips - November 23, 2021 -

Tampa Bay Times

Florida COVID vaccine rules make it easy for workers to opt out, experts say

Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature made it easy for a vaccine-hesitant person to opt out of a workplace coronavirus vaccine requirement. Then hours later, the Florida Department of Health made opting out even easier. On Thursday, Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo signed an emergency rule outlining a number of exemptions an employee can claim to avoid a workplace vaccine mandate. Earlier that day, DeSantis had signed a law restricting a company’s ability to mandate vaccines unless they offered the following carve-outs:

  • Those with medical reasons not to get the vaccine — including pregnancy or anticipated pregnancy — may opt out.
  • Those who have already been infected with COVID-19 are exempt.
  • Those with a religious objection to vaccination may opt out.
  • Those who agree to periodic testing can claim an exemption.
  • Those who agree to wear personal protective equipment may opt out.

Florida Politics

University of Florida scientists make promising discovery on COVID-19 treatment

A combination of over-the-counter products can thwart the duplication of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, researchers at the University of Florida and the University of Saskatchewan, have discovered. Diphenhydramine, an antihistamine used for allergy symptoms, and lactoferrin, a protein found in cow and human milk used as a supplement to treat stomach and intestinal ulcers, have proven effective in retarding duplication of the virus during tests on monkey cells and human lung cells. The findings, published in the journal Pathogens and announced in a UF press release Monday, could eventually lead to the development of a product that could be used in the fight against COVID-19, said David A. Ostrov, an immunologist and associate professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine.

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Gov. DeSantis appoints Jared Moskowitz and Torey Alston as Broward’s two new county commissioners

Broward’s two newest county commissioners will be Jared Moskowitz, the state emergency management director who oversaw Florida’s pandemic response, and Torey Alston, who led as chief of staff for the state transportation department, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday. Moskowitz, a Democrat, will fill one of the two soon-to-be empty Broward County Commission seats. He in February resigned as the director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management after he led the state’s response efforts, including rolling out the vaccine distribution and ensuring masks get to front-line workers. “This gives me the ability to continue public service at home,” Moskowitz, a Democrat, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel before DeSantis announced the appointments Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale. Alston spent the past two years as the chief of staff for the Florida Department of Transportation. He also previously served as the chief of staff for Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief. “Wow. God is so good,” Alston said, thanking DeSantis. “I am ready to roll up my sleeves and serve the people of Broward County in District 9.”

Florida Politics

Former DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein named to Biscayne Bay Commission

Gov. Ron DeSantis has appointed the state’s former top environmental officer to the Biscayne Bay Commission. The Governor’s Office on Monday announced former Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein would be DeSantis’ appointee to the Commission. DeSantis in June signed the Biscayne Bay Commission into law, helping to protect the prominent natural resource along South Florida’s coast. The bill (HB 1177) gives the Governor one appointee to the nine-member panel. Valenstein left the administration in June after four years leading DEP, beginning his stint there under then-Gov. Rick Scott. He also doubled as the state’s Chief Resilience Officer during his final year as Secretary. Since then, Valenstein has joined the American Flood Coalition as a senior adviser and The Nature Conservancy as a board member. DeSantis also appointed him to the Florida Communities Trust Governing Board in August.

Florida Politics

All bets are off. Federal judge tosses Florida’s new Gaming Compact.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C. has thrown out the 2021 Gaming Compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe. “The instant Compact attempts to authorize sports betting both on and off Indian lands. In its own words, the Compact authorizes such betting by patrons who are “physically located in the State [of Florida] but not on [the Tribe’s] Indian Lands,” U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich wrote in an opinion issued Monday night. For now, the Seminole Tribe’s Hard Rock Sportsbook app — the state’s first legal on-line sports betting platform — appears to be shut down from taking any more bets. Other functions on the app appeared to be working Tuesday morning, but not the Place Bet button. The judge said the deal violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and that the compact should be vacated by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “In the Court’s understanding, the practical effect of this remedy is to reinstate the Tribe’s prior gaming compact, which took effect in 2010,” Friedrich wrote.

The Capitolist

CVS Health invests $7.7 million in affordable housing in Tampa

CVS Health is making a major investment in Tampa’s affordable housing market, announcing it will invest $7.7 million with Raymond James Tax Credits Funds to build a 61-unit multifamily apartment home development called Uptown Sky for families in Tampa. “When people have access to high-quality, affordable housing, it puts them in a better position to take care of their health and manage chronic disease,” said David Casey, SVP and Chief Diversity Officer, CVS Health. “As part of our commitment to address social justice and racial inequity, we’re addressing social determinants of health at the community level in Tampa, which is where we can make a meaningful and lasting impact.” The new Uptown Sky development will be located at 13603 North 12th Street in Tampa. Data compiled from the Census indicates that approximately 75 percent of residents identify as Black or Latino, and 60 percent live below the poverty line. Additionally, according to a recent report from the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, nearly half of American workers don’t earn enough to afford a one-bedroom apartment, and Tampa is reaching its highest rates to date, with rent increasing more than 20 percent in the last year.