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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ The Alachua County Commission will conduct a virtual Special Meeting on Monday, August 3, 2020, at 1:30 p.m. At this meeting, the Commission will discuss the Alachua County CARES Act application process details.

Read the Alachua County CARES Act Funding Plan.

The public may attend virtually through Cox Channel 12, Facebook, and the County's Video on Demand website. For meeting audio-only, call 301-715-8592, and when prompted, use code 670 965 3024. The public may submit comments to the board through email (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or by calling into the public comment message line when prompted to call during the meeting. Public comment will be taken by telephone for all non-ministerial items on which the Commission votes. Once public comment is opened for an item under discussion, please call 929-205-6099 (enter meeting code 273 174 8038).

Callers will be put in a queue and prompted when it is their turn to speak. To avoid feedback, speakers must turn down their meeting sound when addressing the commission. The commission will allow up to a total of 30 minutes for citizen comments on each item opened for public comment. In addition, the Commission will open phone lines for one 30-minute public comment session for the public to discuss items not on the Commission agenda. The public is encouraged to submit any written or photographic documents prior to the meeting to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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GAINESVILLE – City of Alachua Vice-Mayor Robert Wilford has been elected 2nd Vice-President of the Florida Regional Councils Association Policy Board.  He has served on the Policy Board since 2017, representing the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council.  Vice-Mayor Wilford is the Immediate Past Chair of the Council and has served on the Council since 2012, representing the City of Alachua.

The Florida Regional Councils Association is the statewide organization of the 10 regional planning councils.  The Association strengthens Florida’s regional planning councils, partners with government and the business community to enhance regional economic prosperity and improves the consistency and quality of regional planning councils programs to ensure they add value to state, regional and local initiatives.

The membership of the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council includes local elected officials and gubernatorial appointees.  The Council, in partnership with economic development organizations and local governments, promotes regional strategies, partnerships and solutions to strengthen the economic competitiveness and quality of life of 12 counties and 40 incorporated municipalities in the north central portion of Florida.

The Council administers a variety of state and federal programs for North Central Florida including Alachua, Bradford, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Madison, Suwannee, Taylor and Union counties. 

Programs include development of a strategic regional policy plan, technical assistance to local governments in development of comprehensive plans, land development regulations and grant management, and administration of hazardous materials programs and economic development programs. 

In addition, the Council staffs the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization for the Gainesville Urbanized Area, the North Central Florida Local Emergency Planning Committee, the North Central Florida Regional Hazardous Materials Response Team and The Original Florida Tourism Task Force.

Wilford has been active on the Council, and he has previously served as Chair, Vice-Chair and Secretary-Treasurer of the Council; Chair of the Finance Committee and Chair of the Program Committee.

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NEWBERRY – Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell delivered a 2019 state of the City report on law enforcement at the beginning of the July 13 virtual City Commission meeting.

Darnell said the purpose of her presentation was to improve services and operations, enhance relationships with the community, identify gaps in services, develop short- and long-term goals and plan joint strategies for problem solving.

Darnell reported that the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) responded to 6,706 calls in Newberry during the 2019 calendar year, which was an increase of 951 over the previous year. Of those calls, 832 actual case reports were written with 217 of them as a result of major crimes committed within the city. The majority of those crimes were the result of domestic violence, which topped out at 120. Burglary of a Conveyance and Assault and Battery clocked in at 29 and 28 calls, respectively. A flurry of business, residence and other burglaries, along with eight stolen vehicles were also listed. Six sexual battery crimes were committed during that time period with one robbery at the bottom of the list of cases.

Previous to this year, Darnell said she would expect approximately 50 domestic violence calls per month. However, from January to July this year, the average has increased to 70 domestic violence calls per month. She pointed out that people are under much more pressure this year and many are out of work, which could be contributing to the dramatic increase in those types of calls.

Darnell also reported on solved notable cases, the first of which was recovery of a vehicle stolen from Citrus County and a subsequent arrest for grand theft auto, which also resulted in a possession of a controlled substance charge for the driver.

A second arrest was made for a hit and run crash involving a driver and passenger in which the driver who caused the crash left the scene without stopping to render assistance or alert law enforcement. The two injured parties were taken to the hospital and the perpetrator was located at his home and arrested.

A third was a burglary at Pro Pawn Shop in which six handguns were stolen. An off-duty school resource officer recognized one of the subjects from the video of the break in. Officers spotted the juvenile out walking with his family and observed him hand off a gun to his brother. Following up, that gun was confiscated and two more guns were found in the defendant’s home. The juvenile and a co-defendant were charged on multiple charges including Grand Theft of a Firearm, Burglary, Criminal Mischief and Carrying a Concealed Firearm.

During her presentation, Darnell also reviewed four of Newberry’s unsolved cases. The first involved a fire at Newberry High School in September 2019. That incident resulted in destruction of a forklift on the school’s baseball field. A second fire in a bale of hay three days later, also at Newberry High School, was quickly extinguished by a school staff member.

Another unsolved crime involved a construction site burglary in November by a couple who cut the lock on the fence, pried through a metal door and stole several copper wire rolls. Although videos of the suspects and likely vehicles were obtained, the crime remains unsolved.

The last crime she mentioned occurred in 2010. It was the murder of Lila Leach, who was attacked in her home and died of the injuries she sustained. A billboard at the entrance to Newberry offered an $8,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible. Darnell says the reward is now at $10,000. “Advances in DNA technology have narrowed the search for the perpetrator,” said Darnell.

Darnell showed photographs of Newberry residents who are on the Sexual Offenders/Predators List. Of the 19, two are females. One male is technically listed as a sexual offender, which is someone convicted of or who has pled no contest or guilty to a sexual offense involving a minor.

Darnell also talked about the various juvenile relations programs ACSO participates in with children. “Some of these programs have been put on hold during COVID-19, but Kickball with a Cop was one of the programs we were able to do with social distancing,” she said. “The kids had a great time and the deputies did, too. It was extremely hot, but they were rewarded with an ice cream truck at the end of that game.”

She also reviewed some of the City events ACSO participated in during 2019. They included Movie Night at the Park, Operation C.O.N.E. at the Criminal Justice Expo, Youth Dialogue at Newberry High School, the Newberry Christmas Parade, tree lighting and Newberry Toy Giveaway.

Although school is not in session right now, the School Resource Officers are staying in touch with the kids. “They visit with them at the end of the kids’ driveways and follow up when school officials are unable to locate the child or parent.” She said one officer was reading to the kids at night via social media. “The children really enjoy it and it’s good for them to see adults read,” she said.

She closed her presentation by reminding everyone that if they see suspicious activity, say something.

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HIGH SPRINGS – High Springs Police were called to the scene of a crash involving three vehicles at 3:53 p.m. on July 15. The crash site was 17572 N.W. US Highway 441, High Springs. All three vehicles involved in the incident were traveling north on U.S. Highway 441.

In the lead was a 2018 Ford truck driven by Jon R. Lowell of High Springs. Lowell attempted to make a U-turn in the designated median turn-around area and was struck from behind by Joshua S. Jones of Ft. White. Jones was driving a 2012 Ford four-door vehicle.

Maverick L. Gaddy of Branford, who was driving a 1995 Saab, struck Jones’ car causing what police termed “a chain reaction of the vehicles striking each other.”

When High Springs police officers arrived on the scene the crash had caused a complete road blockage.

A minor injury to Jones’ left arm was sustained in the crash. Gaddy was issued a citation for careless driving. Jones was issued two citations, the first of which was for no proof of insurance and the second was for an expired registration of more than six months.

High Springs police reports do not include information regarding seat belt usage and there was also no information regarding suspected alcohol use of the drivers.

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ALACHUA COUNTY – Alachua County Emergency Management encourages everyone to make hurricane season preparations. Residents and businesses are encouraged to sign up for emergency alerts at www.alertalachua.com.

Alert Alachua provides participants with critical information quickly in a variety of situations, such as severe weather, unexpected road closures, missing persons, and evacuations of buildings or neighborhoods. Users receive time-sensitive messages wherever specified, such as home, mobile or business phones, email address, text messages, and more.

A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and an NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
  • Food and water for pets
  • Medications/medical supplies
  • Items for small children/babies (diapers, formula, etc.)

View additional checklists and kit suggestions.

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ALACHUA – Dayna Miller, Municipal Marketer for Waste Pro and City Commissioner in Alachua, has been selected to join the Board of Directors of Recycle Florida Today, Inc. (RFT).

RFT is Florida’s premier recycling organization representing recycling and environmental professionals throughout Florida from both the public, private and non-profit sectors.

“I am proud to represent Waste Pro on the Recycle Florida Today board, the leading recycling organization in Florida,” Miller said. “RFT’s mission walks in step with the Waste Pro Way, and I am honored to have been chosen to be a part of such an influential organization in our industry.”

Miller is heavily involved in organizations in the Alachua-Gainesville area, including the Gainesville Elks Lodge and the Alachua Lions Club, for which she serves as immediate past president and first vice president, respectively. She will serve as President of Alachua Lions Club effective June 25. She additionally serves as Vice President of Keep Alachua County Beautiful. In 2012, she spearheaded the creation of Waste Pro’s company-wide community watch program, Waste Pro-Tection, which allows Waste Pro drivers to alert first responders if they see suspicious activity or encounter an emergency situation while on their routes.

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TALLAHASSEE ‒ The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the South Florida Water Management District, working together under the direction of Gov. Ron DeSantis, removed 5,000 invasive Burmese pythons from South Florida’s Everglades ecosystem.

“We’ve learned through the Python Challenge that experience counts when finding and removing Burmese pythons,” said FWC Commissioner Rodney Barreto. “We can’t win the battle alone. It’s one team, one mission. We need the support of these experienced python hunters as well as the partnership with the South Florida Water Management District and the ongoing support of Gov. Ron DeSantis.”

“Another win for the Everglades. This is what agencies like the South Florida Water Management District and the FWC, focused and working together, can accomplish,” said SFWMD Governing Board Member “Alligator Ron” Bergeron. “Every snake counts. Each invasive python eliminated represents hundreds of native Florida wildlife saved. With Gov. DeSantis’ continued leadership, Florida is doing more than it ever has to remove pythons from the Everglades and protect this ecosystem for generations to come.”

The public can help control nonnative invasive wildlife by reporting sightings to the FWC’s Exotic Species Hotline at 888-IveGot1 (888-483-4681), online at IveGot1.org or by using the free smartphone app IVEGOT1. If possible, take a picture and note the exact location of the sighting. Python Action Team and Python Elimination Program members respond to reports of large constrictors and other priority species to remove these harmful invaders from the wild.

Burmese pythons became established in Florida as a result of escaped or released pets. It is illegal to release nonnative species into the wild and can negatively impact Florida’s native wildlife and habitat. Don’t let it loose! The FWC’s Exotic Pet Amnesty Program allows pet owners to surrender nonnative or exotic pets without penalty. Visit MyFWC.com/PetAmnesty for more information.

To learn more about the FWC’s Python Action Team and the SFWMD’s Python Elimination Program, visit MyFWC.com/Python and SFWMD.gov/Python.

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TALLAHASSEE - At its July meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) unanimously approved staff recommendations to create new rules to address the importation, breeding and possession of high-risk reptiles.

The FWC will host online stakeholder workshops to present proposed rule changes and collect public and industry comment on this topic. Staff will use these comments to help improve the final rule language, which will be brought before the Commission at a future meeting. Close coordination with stakeholders and the public will help ensure the best outcome for final rules.

The proposed rule changes to chapter 68-5, F.A.C., specifically address pythons, tegus, green iguanas and other high-risk nonnative snakes and lizards.

FWC rulemaking will include reporting requirements for permittees, biosecurity requirements to limit escape of these high-risk species, and possible additional language to clarify limited exceptions for possession of green iguanas and tegus for commercial use or as pets.

These proposed rule changes complement the recent amendments to Section 379.372, F.S., which were signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis and went into effect on July 1, 2020.

More than 500 nonnative species have been reported in Florida. Eighty percent of these have been introduced via the live animal trade with 150 established in Florida, meaning they are reproducing in the wild. Since most nonnative fish and wildlife find their way into Florida's habitats through escape or release from the live animal trade, it is important to create regulations to prevent high-risk nonnative wildlife from becoming introduced or further established in Florida’s environment.

Details on upcoming public and stakeholder meetings on this topic are still to be determined. Visit MyFWC.com/Nonnatives for more information. 

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TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Forest Service is announcing that applications are now being accepted for the 2020 Southern Pine Beetle Assistance and Prevention Program. The program is limited to 44 northern Florida counties, the known range of the southern pine beetle, and open to non-industrial, private forest landowners through August 6, 2020.

“Pine forests are an essential part of Florida’s ecosystem,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Helping landowners take preventative action significantly reduces the risk and impacts associated with the southern pine beetle and is critical to preserving the benefits that forests provide Floridians and visitors alike.”

The southern pine beetle (SPB) is one of the most economically devastating forest pests of the Southeast, with periodic outbreaks leading to deaths of millions of pine trees. Since 2015, over 460 SPB infestations have been reported in Florida, killing trees on more than 2,200 acres. This pales in comparison to the last major outbreaks between 1999 and 2002, which caused an estimated $59 million in timber losses on over 24,000 acres.

Since it was first offered in 2005, the Southern Pine Beetle Assistance and Prevention Program has been implemented on more than 197,000 acres and helped thousands of landowners.

“Southern pine beetle activity is relatively low in Florida right now, but it can increase rapidly,” said Erin Albury, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service. “Awareness is key, and we want to help landowners improve the health and productivity of their pine forests.”

Click to view the full-size map of eligible counties

The Southern Pine Beetle Assistance and Prevention Program, supported through a grant by the United States Forest Service, provides incentive payments for landowners who conduct a first pulpwood thinning and offers partial cost reimbursement for activities, such as prescribed burning, mechanical underbrush treatments, and the planting of longleaf or slash pine rather than the loblolly pine, the beetle’s preferred species. Qualified landowners can apply for up to two different practices per year, and funding requests may not exceed $10,000. All qualifying applications received during the submission period will be evaluated and ranked for approval.

Visit FDACS.gov/SPBPrevention to learn more about the Southern Pine Beetle Assistance Program or click here to obtain an application.

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TALLAHASSEE — As Independence Day approaches, the Florida Forest Service is encouraging residents to use caution with fire while celebrating. Since January, 1,845 fires have burned more than 86,600 acres throughout Florida.

“With most traditional organized firework celebrations being cancelled to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19, many people may be planning to enjoy celebrating our nation’s independence with fireworks, barbeques,, and campfires at home,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “We need all Floridians and visitors to use fire responsibly and understand their role in keeping our families, friends and communities safe.”

Residents and visitors should always check local laws before using fireworks. Local fire and police departments as well as the State Fire Marshal’s Office can also provide guidance. If choosing to celebrate with fireworks, grills, or campfires, follow these safety tips:

  • Light fireworks in a cleared area free of vegetation or dry debris;
  • Clear debris from around campfires, grills and all fire sources;
  • Remove debris from any location where fireworks could land;
  • Always have a water source available;
  • Aim fireworks away from people, homes and wooded areas;
  • Never use homemade fireworks;
  • Discard used fireworks in a bucket of water;
  • Store unused fireworks, matches and lighters out of the sight and reach of children;
  • Never leave a fire unattended and ensure it is completely out before leaving it;
  • Report any fire immediately to 9-1-1.

“Despite recent rainfall, the potential for wildfire always exists when using fire and fireworks outdoors,” said Erin Albury, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service. “It is important for everyone to understand that Florida’s unique, fire-prone vegetation has the potential to ignite a fire at any time.”

https://www.fdacs.gov/Divisions-Offices/Florida-Forest-Service/Wildland-Fire/Current-Wildfire-Conditions2" Click here to access current wildfire conditions in Florida, including active wildfires and additional fire safety information.

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TALLAHASSEE — Legislation championed by Senator Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) to promote well-rounded elementary education by increasing access to music classes in elementary schools has been signed into law with full funding. SB 156 "Early Childhood Music Education Incentive Pilot Program" establishes a three-year music education pilot program within the Florida Department of Education to assist needs-based school districts in implementing comprehensive music education programs for students in kindergarten through grade 2.

“What if we could raise the I.Q. of Florida students by an average of seven points with one simple change? Studies suggest that exposure to comprehensive music education has a dramatic effect on I.Q., long-term memory and concentration,” said Senator Keith Perry. “I thank Governor DeSantis for recognizing the vast benefits of increasing fine arts education and signing this transformative law to provide a more well-rounded education for our students and future workforce.”

Representative Vance Aloupis (R-Miami) said, “As someone who has worked in early childhood education for more than a decade, I know firsthand the importance of music in young children’s lives. This bill will be a wonderful partnership between UF and FIU as we expand music education across Florida and support our youngest learners.”

The bill also requires The University of Florida’s College of Education to coordinate with Florida International University’s College of Music to evaluate the program’s positive impacts on academic performance. The findings will be shared with the Florida Center for Partnerships for Arts-Integrated Teaching.

UF College of Education Dean Glenn Good, PhD said, “I am delighted that SB 156 has been signed by Governor DeSantis. This important project will advance our understanding of the relation between children’s early K-2 involvement in comprehensive music education and their subsequent academic performance.”

 UF College of Education Professors David Miller, PhD and Anne Seraphine, PhD said, “We are pleased to hear that the Governor has approved SB 156. The bill provides funding for an early childhood music education pilot program, which is much needed. As evaluators of the pilot program, our work will be a collaborative effort with FIU’s school of music and the state. We’re enthusiastic about music education being offered in the schools. We strongly believe that music education benefits Florida’s youngest citizens and their families, playing an important role in children’s growth, both intellectually, artistically, and psychologically. We look forward to this opportunity to do our part to serve the educational needs of Florida’s schools and children.”

In order for a school district to be eligible for the pilot program, the superintendent must certify to the Florida Commissioner of Education that the specified schools within the district have established a comprehensive music program that meets DOE standards. District selection will be prioritized by proximity to the University of Florida, and selected districts will receive $150 per FTE student in K-2 who are enrolled in music classes.

Senator Perry began championing the pilot program as one of his top legislative priorities in 2016. While the program has been established since 2017, implementation was made possible by Governor DeSantis’s approval of the full recurring funding in the state budget for Fiscal Year 2020-2021.

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FLORIDA - Florida’s SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) program provides free, unbiased Medicare counseling and virtual Medicare classes to assist beneficiaries, families and caregivers.

Topics include: • Medicare 101 (English & Spanish) • Medicare Financial Assistance • Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage • Medicare Part C - Medicare Advantage Plans • Medicare & COVID-19 • Navigating Medicare.gov • Introduction to SHINE/SMP • Be Scam Smart

To join us: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., call (352) 692-5262 or 1-800-262-2243 for details.

Elder Options is a non-profit agency that administers funds from the Florida Department of Elder Affairs for senior services in a sixteen-county area (Alachua, Bradford, Citrus, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Lafayette, Lake, Levy, Marion, Putnam, Sumter, Suwannee and Union counties). Elder Options, mandated by the Federal Older Americans Act, exists to promote the independence, dignity, health, and well-being of our elder citizens; to plan, fund and administer a coordinated continuum of services; and to advocate for the needs of older Americans.

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Pharmacists are the most visible and accessible health professionals. We see them every day in community pharmacies filling prescriptions, counseling patients about prescription and over the counter medications, administering immunizations, conferring with providers, and working with insurance companies on the patient’s behalf. They are approachable when questions need to be answered and all this without an appointment. However, pharmacists are involved in health care in ways not as visible as in community pharmacies.

William Garst Column HeadShot WebPharmacists are an integral part of hospital care. Did you know that every order a provider writes for an inpatient must be verified by a pharmacist as appropriate? This involves checking allergies, drug-drug interactions, routes of administration, and appropriateness per guidelines for therapy. The pharmacist sometimes must make arrangements for the delivery of unique medications in special situations. For instance, if a patient has a rare blood disorder and a particular medication needs to be obtained the pharmacist will make the arrangements for shipping and delivery. In addition to these activities, pharmacists also monitor storage conditions for all the medications in the hospital, especially the refrigerated medications or the ones that need to remain frozen. When temperatures are out of range the pharmacist is responsible for relocating the medications to proper storage conditions.

Another important function of the pharmacist is the monitoring of controlled drug usage. The pharmacist must be involved in resolving discrepancies when they occur, in the number of doses of a controlled drug that are supposed to be on the unit, and what is actually on the unit. All discrepancies must be resolved to make sure that controlled substances are not being diverted. When discrepancies are not resolved the pharmacist must report these occurrences to the hospital administration for further investigation.

Hospital pharmacists are involved in a process called medication reconciliation. When a patient is admitted to a hospital the patient’s current medication list needs to be clarified and double-checked to make sure the list is appropriate and accurate. This same procedure is done when a patient is discharged from a hospital. Patients are given a list of their medication regimen and told of any changes that have been made. They are made aware of any new medications added to their regimen and any changes in dosage. The patient is told to take this list to their primary care provider. May I add here that this list should be shown to the community pharmacist, so they know of the changes that have been made.

Monitoring laboratory results of patients taking medications that affect their blood coagulation or blood sugars is another important function of the pharmacist. They ensure the results are acted on if the laboratory results are out of range. Another of the more important functions of pharmacists in hospitals in the monitoring of antibiotic usage, called antibiotic stewardship. In fact, some large hospitals have pharmacists dedicated to monitoring antibiotic usage and conferring with providers on the most appropriate antibiotic therapy. The pharmacist, called an infectious disease pharmacist, reviews laboratory results of antibiotic levels and recommends dosage adjustments.

Also, large hospitals have pharmacists dedicated to the oncology unit, who are responsible for the correct ordering and preparation of the oncology regimen medications and scheduling. In addition, the pharmacist monitors the oncology patient’s laboratory values because oncology therapy can affect a patient’s blood values and alerts the provider when values are out of range.

Many emergency departments have pharmacists dedicated to their service to assist in the management of patients. These pharmacists participate in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and assist in complicated medication management issues that present to emergency departments.

In addition to the role’s pharmacists play in hospital care, there are a few more that need mentioning. They are very much involved with patients who need parenteral nutrition, which is given to patients who cannot use their gastrointestinal tract for a period of time and must be feed intravenously. Another area that is emerging is the appropriate management of pain in hospital patients, so pain is addressed, and the risk of addiction is lowered. Of course, the pharmacist is still responsible for the medication distribution system that involves correct charging for medications, timely delivery to nursing units, and the compounding of sterile products for intravenous administration.

I trust this column has given the reader a deeper appreciation of the role a pharmacist plays in health care that may not be as visible to the public as the community pharmacist, but is vitally important and adds to improved outcomes. Be alert for a column in the future detailing how pharmacists assist patient care in nursing homes and other places where medications are administered.

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William Garst is a consultant pharmacist who resides in Alachua, Florida. He received his B.S. in Pharmacy from Auburn University in 1975. He earned a master’s degree in Pharmacy from UF in 2001. In 2007 he received his Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Colorado. He is a member of many national professional associations as well as the local Alachua County Association of Pharmacists, and he serves on the Alachua County Health Care Advisory Board. He works part time at the UF Health Psychiatric Hospital. He retired from the VA in 2016. Dr. Garst enjoys golf, reading (especially history), and family. He writes a blog called The Pharmacy Newsletter (https://thepharmacynewsletter.com/). He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Editor’s Note: High Springs Fire Chief Bruce Gillingham is also the Emergency Management Coordinator in High Springs, a position he has held for nine years, and he is the key contact between the City and other agencies regarding the Coronavirus. He meets remotely with Alachua County Department of Health three times per week, the Department of Health EMS twice weekly and the Florida Fire Chief’s Association weekly. He is knowledgeable about the Coronavirus pandemic, and periodically he will be writing about the pandemic and updates on best practices.

“Uncharted territory.” “Unprecedented times.” “Flatten the curve.” All phrases we have heard way too often. COVID-19 has changed life as we know it. Businesses have closed. There are now lines at grocery stores and millions out of work. To a certain extent, a modern day Pearl Harbor: “A [time] which will live in infamy.” (President Franklin Roosevelt)

As we continue to learn about this deadly virus, I encourage us all to do our part. The Stay-At-Home order is in place to protect your family and mine. Unless you need to travel for essential purposes, such as grocery shopping or going to an essential job, try to stay home. The only way to prevent the spread of this virus is to wash our hands often, wear a mask when in public and maintain social distancing.

As a department, we are taking extra steps to ensure our firefighters remain healthy and safe. Our lobby remains closed and new cleaning procedures, both for equipment and our personal gear, are in place.

While we manage a new normal, we are also trying to focus on a certain area of our community that is impacted the most by COVID-19—our seniors. Those are the people who may live alone, and who now find themselves in near total isolation with the cancellation of countless services and programs once available to them.

We recently launched the Caring Card Drive. With the help of members of our own community who are creating thoughtful and encouraging “caring cards,” we plan to deliver these cards to those in need in an effort to bring a moment of joy, and to remind them they have not been forgotten. This is the perfect activity to do with the kids. Cards can be big or small, simple or elaborate. Cards can include a saying, positive words, a poem or whatever card creators think fits best. A bin has been positioned outside of the main High Springs Fire Station lobby as a drop off location for cards. The address is 18586 N.W. 238th Street, High Springs.

In closing, let us remember to all do our part. We are in this together and we will persevere.

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During this time of crisis, America’s courageous patriots in uniform still deserve our utmost respect and admiration for keeping us free and safe from the bad guys of this world.

They are fulfilling an undying and faithful commitment to ‘'duty, honor, country” for every American no matter how they look or what they believe.

Today, these military heroes are joining countless millions of other American heroes in the brutal war against an adversary we call “Coronavirus or COVID-19.

The list of these patriotic heroes is long and consists of American warriors from every walk of life. They include:

  • Doctors, nurses, and other medical workers and support personnel,
  • Hospitals, nursing homes, and pharmacies,
  • Law enforcement and first responders,
  • Truckers and warehouse stockers,
  • Supermarkets and local grocery/convenience stores,
  • Restaurants and fast food chains who are finding creative ways to feed us and provide some degree of normalcy in our lives,
  • School systems for developing creative methods to teach our children,
  • Volunteers who are courageously putting others above self,
  • Corporations and small business who are “retooling” operations to make respirators, masks, and other personal protective equipment,
  • City, county, state, and national government bodies,
  • Broadcast and print media outlets, and
  • The millions of Americans who are faithfully committing to “social distancing” to combat the spread of this insidious and deadly disease.

Got the picture? We are all in this battle together. Sadly, just like every other war: “Some are giving some while others are giving all.”

Let us continue together as “One Nation Under God” in faithful commitment to “duty, honor, country” in fighting this war against humanity.

I am confident we will defeat this brutal enemy and come out stronger with renewed respect for one another. I know we can do it; I have to believe; I can do no other.

God Bless America!

Robert W. Wilford

City of Alachua

There is no legitimate argument for making this change now and sending government further into a black hole and out of the light.

If you haven’t heard, the Florida Legislature is attempting to abolish the requirement that governmental agencies publish legal notices in newspapers, which would push government further into the shadows and make it harder for Floridians to learn about public policy issues, make their voices heard and hold their leaders accountable. This bill, HB 7 is scheduled to be heard by the full House on Tuesday. 

First off, this bill flips public notice on its head by reducing government transparency. Simply put, putting legal notices on government websites means very few Florida citizens will ever read them.  Public notice along with public meetings and public records have been part of our nation’s commitment to open government since the founding of the Republic. Our Founders placed public notices in newspapers to be noticed.

Secondly, from the perspective of efficient use of technology, I believe the bill takes a step backwards by placing these notices on government websites. 

The Florida Press Association has a comprehensive website which aggregates and places all of the notices under one umbrella – it’s called floridapublicnotices.com.  We have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars building this website to serve Florida’s state government as well as its towns, municipalities, businesses and taxpayers. To date, we have over 32,000 registered users and over 70,000 monthly page views in addition to the notices in the newspapers and their websites. And, it’s free for the public to use. Why re-invent the wheel now? 

If this bill is passed, city and county governments will be required to recreate the same infrastructure currently in place to make notices easily searchable, mobile friendly, and provide email notification upon request of a specific notice (which newspapers do today), that recreation will not be cheap. In fact, the promised savings may not be there.  Nor will the audience, without a major investment in marketing to direct our citizens to what would be hundreds of government websites.

Further, the bill has the impact of significantly reducing notice. 

Despite what you read and hear, newspapers or should I say, media companies are alive and well. Our weekly newspapers are growing, and our dailies are growing digital subscriptions and page views. In some cases, double-digit online growth.  

Newspapers in Florida alone are reaching 7.5 million readers in any given week, and our websites typically will reach more audience than most city or county websites. Our websites draw a minimum of 58 million unique online users in any given month.

By moving notices to less-frequently visited government websites, not only will you reduce the reach to the Florida public, you also lose the active and well-informed citizen. These are people who read often and find notices while they’re staying current with other community news. 

Finally, while this bill claims to save cities and counties money, the unintended consequence is that notices will lose both readership and the legally important third-party verification. 

With notices in newspapers -- in print and online -- it provides a verifiable public record through sworn required affidavits of publication.   Does the government really want to take on this responsibility of residents not being properly notified? 

In closing, 250 years ago our founders decided to place these public notices in a public forum -- newspapers – an open space where The People were most likely to see them… not on hundreds of different government sites hoping folks will find them.

Let’s keep Florida transparent and informed.  Please feel free to call your local legislator to share your voice before it’s too late.

Jim Fogler is the President & CEO Florida Press Service

336 E. College Ave. Suite 304, Tallahassee, FL  32301

 This Valentine’s Day, many Veterans who fought to preserve our freedoms will be hospitalized, receiving the medical care they earned, but separated from the homes and communities they defended.  No one should be alone on Valentine’s Day, and with the help of our grateful community, no Veteran has to be.

I would like to personally invite every one of your readers to show their love and appreciation to Veterans by visiting the Malcom Randall or Lake City Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers as part of the National Salute to Veteran Patients Feb. 9-15.

During the National Salute, VA invites individuals, Veterans groups, military personnel, civic organizations, businesses, schools, local media, celebrities and sports stars to participate in a variety of activities at the VA medical centers.

During the week we are excited to host many various organizations, groups, schools and others that are taking the time out of their busy schedules and visit our some of our facilities.

The love doesn’t have to end on Valentine’s Day.  Many of our Veterans are coming to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with special needs and challenges that require the hearts and hands of a new generation of VA volunteers. North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System invites citizens, young and old, to join us in honoring our Veterans year-round by learning more about VA’s volunteer program as well.

Every citizen can make a positive difference in the life of a Veteran patient.  Visits from community groups do so much to lift the spirits of our patients.  I invite every member of our community to participate.

Call our Voluntary Service office at 352-548-6068 for the Malcom Randall VAMC or 386-755- 3016, ext. 392032 for the Lake City VAMC to schedule a visit and learn how to join the VA’s National Salute to Veteran Patients.

Thomas Wisnieski, MPA, FACHE


North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System

When I started graduate school at Florida State University, I had never seen a sawfish in the wild but I was excited to be part of the recovery of a species I had been so awestruck by in aquariums.

The smalltooth sawfish, the only sawfish found in Florida, has been protected in Florida since 1992 and became federally listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2003. Little was known about the species when it became listed but since that time, scientists have learned a lot about its biology and ecology.

As sawfish recovery efforts continue, we expect there to be more sawfish sightings, especially in Florida. This includes anglers who may accidentally catch one on hook-and-line while fishing for other species.

Sawfish encounters

Sawfish can be encountered when participating in a number of activities including boating, diving and fishing. Further, the species may be encountered by waterfront homeowners and beach goers in the southern half of the state where juvenile sawfish rely on shallow, nearshore environments as nursery habitats. When fishing, targeting sawfish is prohibited under the ESA, though incidental captures do occur while fishing for other species. Knowing how to properly handle a hooked sawfish is imperative as sawfish can be potentially hazardous to you. One of the first things that stood out to me while conducting permitted research was the speed at which a sawfish can swing its rostrum (commonly referred to as the saw). For creatures that glide along the bottom so slowly and gracefully, they sure can make quick movements when they want to. It’s best to keep a safe distance between you and the saw.

If you happen to catch a sawfish while fishing, do not pull it out of the water and do not try to handle it. Refrain from using ropes or restraining the animal in any way, and never remove the saw. It is important that you untangle it if necessary and release the sawfish as quickly as possible by cutting the line as close to the hook as you can. Proper release techniques ensure a high post-release survival of sawfish. Scientific studies show us that following these guidelines will limit the amount of stress a sawfish experiences as a result of capture. Note that a recent change in shark fishing rules requires use of circle hooks, which results in better hook sets, minimizes gut hooking, and also maximizes post-release survival. 

In addition to capture on hook-and-line, sawfish can easily become entangled in lost fishing gear or nets. If you observe an injured or entangled sawfish, be sure to report it immediately but do not approach the sawfish. Seeing a sawfish up close can be an exciting experience but you must remember that it is an endangered species with strict protections.

If you are diving and see a sawfish, observe at a distance. Do not approach or harass them. This is illegal and this guidance is for your safety as well as theirs.

An important component of any sawfish encounter is sharing that information with scientists. Your encounter reports help managers track the population status of this species. If you encounter a sawfish while diving, fishing or boating, please report the encounter. Take a quick photo if possible (with the sawfish still in the water and from a safe distance), estimate its length including the saw and note the location of the encounter. The more details you can give scientists, the better we can understand how sawfish are using Florida waters and the better we can understand the recovery of the population. Submit reports at SawfishRecovery.org, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone at 1-844-4SAWFISH.

Sawfish background

Sawfishes, of which there are five species in the world, are named for their long, toothed “saw” or rostrum, which they use for hunting prey and defense. In the U.S., the smalltooth sawfish was once found regularly from North Carolina to Texas but its range is now mostly limited to Florida waters.

In general, sawfish populations declined for a variety of reasons. The primary reason for decline is that they were frequently caught accidentally in commercial fisheries that used gill nets and trawls. Additional contributing factors include recreational fisheries and habitat loss. As industrialization and urbanization changed coastlines, the mangroves that most sawfishes used as nursery habitat also became less accessible. For a species that grows slowly and has a low reproductive rate, the combination of these threats proved to be too much.

Engaging in sawfish recovery

During my thesis research, which focuses on tracking the movements of large juvenile and adult smalltooth sawfish, each tagging encounter is a surreal experience.

The first sawfish I saw was an adult, and what struck me the most was just how big it was. I also remember being enamored by its mouth. Like all other rays, its mouth is on the underside of its body. The mouth looks like a shy smile and I found it almost humorous how different the top of the sawfish was compared to the bottom. After seeing my first baby sawfish, the contrast seemed even greater. It’s hard to believe upon seeing a 2 to 3 foot sawfish that it could one day be 16 feet long! No matter the size, anyone who has encountered a sawfish will tell you it’s an experience like no other.

The hope is that one day the sawfish population will be thriving once again, and more people will be able to experience safe and memorable encounters with these incredible animals. Hopefully, we can coexist with sawfish in a sustainable and positive way in the future.

For more information on sawfish, including FWC’s sawfish research visit:
MyFWC.com/research, click on “Saltwater” then “Sawfish.”

For more information on smalltooth sawfish and their recovery watch:



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TALLAHASSEE - At its July meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) unanimously approved staff recommendations to create new rules to address the importation, breeding and possession of high-risk reptiles.

The FWC will host online stakeholder workshops to present proposed rule changes and collect public and industry comment on this topic. Staff will use these comments to help improve the final rule language, which will be brought before the Commission at a future meeting. Close coordination with stakeholders and the public will help ensure the best outcome for final rules.

The proposed rule changes to chapter 68-5, F.A.C., specifically address pythons, tegus, green iguanas and other high-risk nonnative snakes and lizards.

FWC rulemaking will include reporting requirements for permittees, biosecurity requirements to limit escape of these high-risk species, and possible additional language to clarify limited exceptions for possession of green iguanas and tegus for commercial use or as pets.

These proposed rule changes complement the recent amendments to Section 379.372, F.S., which were signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis and went into effect on July 1, 2020.

More than 500 nonnative species have been reported in Florida. Eighty percent of these have been introduced via the live animal trade with 150 established in Florida, meaning they are reproducing in the wild. Since most nonnative fish and wildlife find their way into Florida's habitats through escape or release from the live animal trade, it is important to create regulations to prevent high-risk nonnative wildlife from becoming introduced or further established in Florida’s environment.

Details on upcoming public and stakeholder meetings on this topic are still to be determined. Visit MyFWC.com/Nonnatives for more information. 

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