Florida lawmakers face huge COVID-19 fallout as session convenes on Tuesday
When Florida lawmakers ended their last session, the COVID-19 pandemic was just getting started. Nearly a year later, as vaccines are distributed and some can sense the end of the pandemic that has taken more than 30,000 lives in the state, lawmakers will return Tuesday for a 60-day session to deal with the fallout. The coronavirus pandemic will color nearly everything the Legislature does, and not only because lawmakers, staff and reporters still face testing, social-distancing, and mask-wearing requirements. More from the Orlando Sentinel.
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UK variant of COVID is overtaking Florida. Can vaccines stymie it or is surge coming?
The more-infectious “U.K. variant” continues to out-compete other strains of the COVID virus in Florida, causing about 15% to 20% of infections, according to estimates from one major private diagnostic and research lab, leading the rest of the country by far in confirmed and estimated cases. The variant has so far matched the rate in other countries where it had caused an explosion in cases, such as England and Ireland. But the strain is facing a tougher fight as it cements its foothold in Florida. More from the Miami Herald.
JTA ready to 'flip the switch' on adding New Town for free rides to grocery stores
The Door To Store program that delivers free rides from some Northwest Jacksonville neighborhoods to grocery stores is ready for expansion into the New Town neighborhood, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority said Thursday. "We just need to flip the switch," Jessica Shepler, assistant vice president at JTA, told Jacksonville City Council members. City Council voted unanimously Tuesday for using $50,000 to continue the Door to Store service as a pilot program for a second year. More from the Florida Times-Union.
Levine Cava enlists SoftBank’s Claure, former Miami Beach mayor for new economic program
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced a new economic development initiative Thursday to boost the county’s economy as it begins to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. The initiative, RENEW305 — for Revive, Explore, Network, Economic partnership and Workforce — is part of a “coordinated campaign to reassure the world that we can reopen safely for business,” said Levine Cava. More from the Miami Herald.
He thought the pandemic ended his career, but now he’s paying forward new successes
Florida convention photographer Chuck Fazio had to pivot fast after the pandemic canceled all the events he planned to work in 2020. Since then, he’s successfully switched up his photography career to include creating virtual tours and conducting drone shoots that he sells to hotels and other destinations for marketing. And he has managed to make a living.
» More from the Tampa Bay Times.
Orlando’s hankering for hamburgers shuts down White Castle ghost kitchen
Facing overwhelming demand, White Castle shut down its Orlando ghost kitchen Thursday until the burger chain’s full restaurant opens near Disney World this spring. It was like “having a dinner party for eight and 800 people showed up,” White Castle vice president Jamie Richardson said. He offered a “heartfelt apology to anyone who was hoping to be able to enjoy White Castle sooner.” The White Castle ghost kitchen at 18 N. Dollins Ave. opened Tuesday and sold out within a few hours. It shut down Wednesday and re-opened briefly Thursday but had to stop orders within the first half-hour because of the demand, Richardson said.
» Read more from the Orlando Sentinel.