Wednesday's Daily Pulse
What you need to know about Florida today
April consumer sentiment continues to rise despite mixed signals from labor market
Consumer sentiment among Floridians ticked up 1.7 points in April to 83 from March’s revised figure of 81.3. Similarly, national consumer sentiment increased 3.4 points. “Consumer sentiment dropped at an unprecedented rate in the second quarter of 2020, when it tumbled 26 points between February and April. One year since, consumer confidence remains 19.3 points below pre-pandemic levels, indicating that confidence has recovered at a slow pace,” said Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. Among the five components that make up the index, three increased, one decreased, and one remained unchanged. [Source: UF News]
Reported COVID variant cases in Florida doubled in two weeks
Over 10,000 cases of COVID-19 “variants of concern” have been reported in Florida, state health officials disclosed Monday, more than double the total just two weeks earlier and an indication that the spread is accelerating. By far, the most common variant was the B.1.1.7 — the strain first detected in the United Kingdom — reported in 9,050 cases statewide. Estimated to be 60% more infectious than the original dominant strain of COVID-19, it is also believed to result in more severe illness and higher hospitalization rates. The most recent estimate is that it is 67% more deadly. [Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
Is Florida the next Coffee King? UF Scientists believe climate change could soon allow farmers to grow coffee beans
Florida has been known as a major player in the citrus farming sector for decades, namely because of its production of orange juice and citrus products. In fact, in most seasons, Florida produces more than 90 percent of the country’s supply of orange juice and produces more than 70 percent of the United States’ supply of citrus. But it may soon have a competitor in the form of caffeine—coffee beans. [Source: Florida Insider]
Florida small businesses can apply for up to $100,000 in low-interest loans from SOAR fund
Small businesses still in need of help getting through the pandemic have a new route to recovery. Business owners and nonprofits with fewer than 50 employees in Florida can apply to the recently launched Southern Opportunity and Resilience Fund for the lesser of $100,000 or 100% of their revenue for any three-month period during 2019 or the first quarter of 2020. [Source: South Florida Business Journal]
Will $8 million more save the manatees this year? The state is hoping
Florida wildlife officials are set to get another $8 million this year — more than double the usual manatee recovery cash on hand — to help sea cows rebound from a year that's on pace to be the deadliest on record for the threatened species. The manatees appear to be starving across the state from a shortage of seagrass decades in the making. The extra money would only be for one year, and state biologists aren't sure yet how they'd spend the extra cash or what difference it might make. [Source: Sarasota Herald Tribune]
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
› Orlando White Castle sets single day sales record for chain
Orlando’s White Castle set a single-day sales record Monday on its opening day, according to vice president Jamie Richardson. The previous record for the hamburger slider chain was the opening day of the chain’s Scottsdale, Arizona, restaurant in 2019. The company did not provide a specific sales total. “Our grand opening exceeded our wildest expectations and beat the previous record by over 15%,” Richardson said in an emailed statement.
› Monroe County will not enforce mask mandate — but businesses can have their own rules
Monroe County will no longer enforce its mask mandate following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order that invalidates local COVID-19 rules. Key West had already stopped enforcing its facial covering mandate in early March after DeSantis canceled fines for violating COVID emergency orders.
› Kforce: Selling Tampa headquarters could save company $2 million per year
Selling its Tampa headquarters will save staffing and professional services firm Kforce Inc. up to $2 million per year, company executives said this week . Speaking on an earnings call with investors, Kforce leaders said selling its office in Ybor City and shifting its workforce to a mix of remote and in-office employees will give the firm greater flexibility in how it operates in a post-COVID-19 world, said president Joseph Liberatore.
› Florida’s Port Canaveral first to vaccinate port workers in effort to boost cruise return
Florida's Port Canaveral started vaccinating port workers and cruise ship crew in an effort to boost the eventual restart of the cruise industry in the state. The first U.S. port to sponsor COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Port CEO Capt. John Murray said in a statement on Friday, the move follows a Florida public health advisory that extended vaccine eligibility to people in the state who provide "goods or services for the benefit of residents and visitors of the State of Florida."
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