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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ On Monday, Aug. 30, Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran announced that the Florida Department of Education (DOE) withheld monthly school board member salaries in Alachua and Broward counties, as directed by the State Board of Education.

Corcoran is making good on a threat targeting local school boards that required students to wear masks in direct violation of Governor Ron DeSantis’s executive order against mask mandates. The is in despite of Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper issuing a ruling that stops the Florida Department of Education from leveling sanctions on school districts that require face coverings.

In Alachua County, members make about $40,000 a year and in Broward County about $46,000. The money will be withheld on a monthly basis until the school systems come into compliance, amounting to a reduction of $13,429 per month for the Alachua County School System.

The state does not pay salaries of local officials and cannot withhold the salaries directly. Corcoran previously said that he may recommend withholding funds “in an amount equal to the salaries of the superintendent and all the members of the school board.”

On Monday, his department said that the counties had been instructed to cut school board compensation and nothing else despite that fact that the DOE is removing the funds from the general budget. While restricting the School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) budget, the state will cover expenses for students that transfer to schools in neighboring counties or to private and charter schools that have no mask mandate.

SBAC has seen a continual reduction in state funding for the past decade including a 50-percent reduction in facilities money equaling a loss of $168 million to county schools. Many COVID-19 expenses for readjusting the teaching systems, sanitizing classrooms and buses and other changes and purchases required were absorbed in large part by the school districts, further strapping their budgets. The state did reimburse for digital distance learning equipment.

On issuing the order Monday evening, Corcoran said the department would fight to protect parents’ rights to make health care decisions for their children. “They know what is best for their children.”

The CDC and most medical experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), have stated that mask mandates help control the infection rate. Corcoran also did not address whether the rights of the parents who want masking were considered as well in the Parents Bill of Rights.

The Delta variant has proven to be much more infectious with more serious illness than previous versions and infects younger age groups more. Currently Florida has a bigger surge than the peak rate last year. As of Aug. 28, there were 865,406 active cases in Florida. The state recorded more than 31,700 new COVID-19 cases in Floridians age 19 and younger last week. There were also two additional deaths of Floridians under the age of 16 reported.

Daily data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows there are currently 224 children in hospitals in Florida as of Monday, the highest reported number in more than a year. According to the data, there were only 20 children admitted to hospitals across the state on July 1. On Aug. 1, that number increased to 103 cases and as of Aug. 30.

Dr. Raul Pino with the Department of Health in Orange County says children make up the largest group of new cases, with 19 percent of all new cases in children ages 5-14, adding that this is the age group where most are not eligible to be vaccinated.

In the Alachua County School System there are currently 569 student cases with 412 of these in the last 14 days and 141 staff cases. In addition, 1,761 students and 48 staff are in quarantine totaling 2,330 students who cannot attend school. While these numbers are alarming, Alachua County, with a mask mandate for both the school system, government and businesses, has the second lowest positivity rate in the state at 15.8 percent. Neighboring Columbia County, which has no mask mandate, has a 30.8 percent positivity rate.

Due to the surge, the SBAC, along with 10 other school districts, are pursuing legal measures against the mandate. In response to Corcoran's restriction of funds, Alachua School Superintendent Carlee Simon released a statement on Tuesday regarding the decision of the SBAC to continue the mask mandate.

Simon said, “I'm very troubled by the state's action...We have already begun working with our colleagues in other districts to take legal action. We believe this is a necessary step to ensure that Florida's districts have the right to act in the best interests of those they serve.”

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ALACHUA ‒ After having served as the City of Alachua’s Assistant City Manager and Communications and Executive Project Manager, on Aug. 6, 2021, Mike DaRoza was appointed City Manager. DaRoza wasn't expecting or seeking the job, but stepped in when Kamal Latham, who the Commission had earlier appointed to replace outgoing manager Adam Boukari, withdrew.

The Commission appointed DaRoza as Interim City Manager for a year. As Assistant City Manager and Communications and Executive Project Manager , DaRoza understood not only the requirements of the position but also the inner workings of the City’s departments as well as public relations.

Born in Fort Lauderdale, DaRoza moved to the Alachua area at the age of eight and has been involved in the community for 46 years. “Alachua is virtually my home. I went to high school at Santa Fe and my first job as a teen was at Hitchcock’s. I met my wife here and we raised our kids here.” For the last 20 years DaRoza has served as announcer for the Santa Fe Raiders Varsity Boys Basketball Team. “I have moved to other places but always returned home,” DaRoza said.

He has spent the majority of his life in business and communications. “In 1990 I took a job at Jack Busby's Design Cabinets and Furniture.” DaRoza started off sweeping floors and sanding doors and never expected to stay long. In the beginning it was just a paycheck to support the family. He wound up staying with the company for nearly 27 years doing virtually every job there except accountant and receptionist.

He worked his way up in the expanding business, eventually managing over 100 people in the organization. “Working there gave me skills in management, production, administering employees and finding methods to efficiently produce results. All of which were important in my job as Assistant City Manager and the current position,” DaRoza said.

While still working at Busby's, DaRoza began radio announcing for the high school’s varsity football team and found he had a talent for communicating and engaging people’s interest. As a side job he began writing for the High Springs Herald, eventually moving over to the then Alachua Today newspaper, covering both news and sports. “The job gave me new skills, improving my communication abilities and interviewing, as well as aspects of design, graphics, layout and web design,” DaRoza said. “It also gave me an understanding of the news media, which assisted me in communications with the City.”

“All of these skills have come in handy for the City Manager position. The job is fast paced and versatile with ever-changing priorities. When we were suddenly looking for a replacement for Adam [Boukari] the priority was to make a smooth transition so that everything kept running as efficiently as possible,” said DaRoza. “My position as Assistant City Manager gave me a good understanding of how each of the departments worked and what their needs were to do their job. We have a great staff here that provides excellent service to the community, which is our number-one priority,” DaRoza said.

DaRoza says the Commission has made it clear to staff the importance of education and the performance of our community schools. “Any thriving community depends on a strong educational network. Not only is it important for the future success of the children, but it also supports economic development and the growth of the community.” He said the quality of the schools is often the first question prospective residents ask before moving to an area. “We consider ourselves a GED to Ph.D. community. While we have a lot of growth in the science and bio tech industry in areas like Progress Park and Tech City, we also have a lot of job opportunities in our retail, industrial and distribution centers like Wal-Mart, Sysco and Dollar General.”

Growth in a small town can overwhelm infrastructure if not planned ahead, creating urban sprawl that taxes City services. DaRoza is confident that the City is in strong position regarding growth and infrastructure. “We are very fortunate that the City has thought ahead on future needs.”

Over the past three years, Alachua has constructed a second electrical substation, new water lines and wastewater facilities to cover the city limits and including expansion both in residential and commercial needs for the future. “Although I see no concerns about the already planned developments, and we have more than enough utilities capacity, we will review all development to make sure we are capable of handling growth with the services the City provides,” DaRoza said.

Another priority for the City has been development of Legacy Park and the cultural and recreational activities it provides. Having a place for people to play sports, exercise and enjoy entertainment while interacting as a community is important to the lifestyle the City strives to offer and has been a long-term goal. Under the City’s Legacy Park Master Plan, the City developed the multipurpose center in 2017 followed in 2019 with the addition of the amphitheater to provide concerts, shows and theater entertainment for residents.

However, some programming were put on hold due to the 2020 Covid pandemic. Now, the City is planning a variety of entertainment and sports events. However, DaRoza that the City is once again keeping a close eye on, and assessing daily, what is happening with the virus. “We currently have no plans to cancel any of the upcoming activities, but are keeping aware of the situation,” DaRoza said. “Checking news, medical data and caseloads have become part of my daily activities. While we want to return to a sense of normal life, our first concern is the safety of the community,” DaRoza said.

DaRoza has been in his new position for only three weeks, but is looking toward the future and making City services better for the community. “My first goal is to use my business management skills to help create an even more efficient organization to serve the community. In business, you are always on the margin, seeking profit through efficiency and reduced cost. You analyze the process as it is going on and take out the things that aren't adding value to the process to create a more lean and efficient work environment.

“While the government is not-for-profit, the same concept of a lean business process applies. The goal is to provide the best services for the community you can for the least cost and create a positive employee environment with high morale and pride,” said DaRoza. “This job is not about me; it is about the City team and the community. There is a phrase I have always lived by that says, ‘the higher one ascends in an organization, the more one should serve others.’”

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ALACHUA COUNTY – The Alachua County Commission has authorized a new COVID Vaccination Incentive Program. Beginning Sept. 1, until Sept. 30, 2021 (participating CVS pharmacies will participate beginning September 3), Alachua County is giving a $25 gift card to those getting COVID-19 vaccinations. The gift cards will be available at the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County and other participating businesses. The incentive is available for each COVID-19 shot. Johnson & Johnson single shots will receive one $25 gift card, the Moderna and Pfizer shots will receive $25 for each shot, including booster shots. 
 “My fellow Commissioners and I are very excited that we are now at a 66% vaccination rate for citizens who are eligible to get the shot,” Commission Chair Ken Cornell said. “This incentive is just one more tool to help motivate folks to keep themselves, their families and our community safe.”
 These incentives are for new vaccinations and are distributed after the COVID-19 vaccines are administered. Those who have already been vaccinated are not eligible.
 Participating vaccine providers include:
 The Florida Department of Health in Alachua County 
224 SE 24th St, Gainesville, FL 32641
 
Hitchcock's Pharmacies
15560 NW US Hwy 441, Alachua, FL 32615
24220 W Newberry Rd, Newberry, FL 32669
 
West End Pharmacy
25340 W Newberry Rd, Newberry, Fl 32669
 
Wise's Pharmacy
708 SW 4th Avenue, Gainesville, FL 32601
 
Winn Dixie Pharmacies
20303 N, US‐441, High Springs, FL 32643
300 SW 16th Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601
 
CVS Pharmacies ‐ Beginning September 3
901 N Main St, Gainesville, FL 32601
7430 SW Archer Rd, Gainesville, FL 32608
6025 US‐301, Hawthorne, FL 32640
4354 NW 23rd Ave, Gainesville, FL 32606
4145 NW 53rd Ave, Gainesville, FL 32653
3904 NW 13th St, Gainesville, FL 32609
3404 SW Archer Rd, Gainesville, FL 32608
2303 SW 75th St, Gainesville, FL 32607
19225 NW US Hwy 441, High Springs, FL 32643
1621 SW 13th St, Gainesville, FL 32608
15174 NW US Hwy 441, Alachua, FL 32615
1515 NW 13th St, Gainesville, FL 32601
14355 W Newberry Road, Gainesville, Fl 32669
 

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TALLAHASSEE – On Aug. 30, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced that the Florida Department of Education (DOE) has withheld the monthly school board member salaries in Alachua and Broward counties, as directed by the State Board of Education. DEO states that each district has implemented a mandatory face mask policy that violates parental rights by not allowing a parent or legal guardian to opt-out their child, as required by Florida Department of Health Emergency Rule 64DER21-12. The withholding of funds will continue monthly until each school board complies with state law and rule.

 “We’re going to fight to protect parent’s rights to make health care decisions for their children. They know what is best for their children. What’s unacceptable is the politicians who have raised their right hands and pledged, under oath, to uphold the Constitution but are not doing so. Simply said, elected officials cannot pick and choose what laws they want to follow,” said Commissioner of Education Corcoran.

 On Aug. 20, 2021, the State Board of Education issued the Alachua and Broward County school districts with an Order demanding that they comply with state statute and rule; however, both districts refuse to comply. Each county is also prohibited from reducing any expenditures other than those related to compensation for school board members, and clearly states each district may not permit the reduction of funds to impact student services or teacher pay.

 DOE says there may be additional sanctions and take additional enforcement action to bring each school district into compliance with state law and rule.

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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ In Newberry a 71-year-old Trenton man lost his life at 2:50 a.m., Monday, Aug. 16, when the sedan he was traveling in on State Road 26 and Northwest 202nd Street ran off the roadway. The driver was heading west on SR 26 when the crash occurred.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol report, the vehicle ran off the roadway to the right and into the north grassy shoulder of SR 26 where it struck a fence. The driver was transported to UF Health where he was pronounced deceased.

The crash is still under investigation by FHP.

A 65-year-old High Springs woman was killed at 3:42 p.m., Monday, Aug. 16, in Columbia County. The crash occurred on State Road 47 south of Chastain Glen. The driver was in the process of making a U-turn when her car was struck by a pickup truck traveling in the same direction.

The driver was pronounced dead at the scene. Her passenger, a 67-year-old High Springs man was transported to UF Health with serious injuries.

The driver of the pickup truck, a 66-year-old Fort White man, was transported to the Lake City Medical Center, also with serious injuries.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol report, the investigation is ongoing.

A 31-year-old Gainesville woman lost her life at 9 a.m., Sunday, Aug. 15, as she was traveling north on U.S. Highway 441 near Micanopy. The vehicle in which she was traveling exited the roadway traveling onto the east shoulder of U.S. 441 where it struck a fence. According to the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), the vehicle continued to travel northeast on the east shoulder, striking a tree and overturning onto its roof.

The driver was pronounced dead on the scene.

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HIGH SPRINGSThe High Springs Police Department (HSPD) is on the hunt for the individual or individuals responsible for shooting into a vehicle. On Sunday, Aug. 15 at 8:40 p.m., a vehicle was struck by a bullet at 22900 Railroad Avenue.

HSPD responded to a delayed report that a vehicle was travelling on Railroad Avenue when an unknown person or persons shot at the victim’s vehicle. At the time of the investigation, the shooting incident appears random and there is no known connection between the victim and the perpetrator.

HSPD is asking that if anyone has information pertaining to this case, to contact them at 386-454-1415 or the Combined Communication Center at 352-955-1818.

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TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) announced that the application cycle is now open for eligible units of local governments to apply for more than $92 million in funding through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG-CV) Small Cities and Entitlement programs.

 Administered by DEO, CDBG-CV funds are federally awarded by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and designed to help local governments prepare for, prevent, or respond to the health and economic impacts of the pandemic. The activities must be critical to their locality and primarily for the benefit of low- and moderate-income residents. Local governments are encouraged to include activities that benefit workforce housing, training, and sustainability, as well as broadband infrastructure and planning.

 “The Department remains focused on ensuring the state is able to fully recover from the effects of the pandemic,” said Secretary Dane Eagle of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “I encourage all eligible local governments to apply and utilize this relief funding to assist in the recovery process.”

 Nearly $42 million is available through the CDBG-CV Small Cities program. Eligible communities include municipalities and counties that participate in the Small Cities CDBG program. Communities may submit one application requesting a minimum of $200,000 and a maximum of $5 million in grant funding for one program or project through the competitive application cycle. To provide communities with specific program requirements and guidance on the completion and submission of the application, DEO will host a CDBG-CV Small Cities application webinar on September 9, 2021, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Eastern Time.

A total of $51 million is available through the CDBG-CV Entitlement program. Eligible communities include municipalities and counties that participate in the HUD entitlement program. Entitlement communities are encouraged to coordinate with local governments and subrecipient agencies within their jurisdiction and may apply for funding up to the amount allocated to the local government through a funding formula. To provide communities with specific program requirements and guidance on the completion and submission of the application, DEO will host a CDBG-CV Entitlement application webinar on September 9, 2021, from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Eastern Time.

To be considered for funding, applications for the CDBG-CV Small Cities and Entitlement programs must be submitted by Nov. 1, 2021.

For more information about the CDBG-CV program, the application webinars, and how to apply, click here

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MIAMI — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jim Risch (R-ID), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Rick Scott (R-FL), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Mike Braun (R-IN), John Hoeven (R-ND), John Barrasso (R-WY), Richard Burr (R-NC), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Michael Rounds (R-SD), John Boozman (R-AR), Deb Fischer (R-NE), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Roger Marshall (R-KS) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin demanding a full account of U.S. military equipment left behind in Afghanistan, which has already or risks falling into the hands of the Taliban and their terrorist allies.

“It is unconscionable that high-tech military equipment paid for by U.S. taxpayers has fallen into the hands of the Taliban and their terrorist allies,” the senators wrote. “Securing U.S. assets should have been among the top priorities for the U.S. Department of Defense prior to announcing the withdrawal from Afghanistan.” 

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Secretary Austin:

          

We write with grave concern regarding the status of U.S. military equipment left behind in Afghanistan as a result of our poorly executed withdrawal from the country. As we watched the images coming out of Afghanistan as the Taliban retook the country, we were horrified to see U.S. equipment – including UH-60 Black Hawks – in the hands of the Taliban.

It is unconscionable that high-tech military equipment paid for by U.S. taxpayers has fallen into the hands of the Taliban and their terrorist allies. Securing U.S. assets should have been among the top priorities for the U.S. Department of Defense prior to announcing the withdrawal from Afghanistan. We therefore request detailed information on the following:

  1. A full account of military equipment provided to the Afghan Armed Forces in the last year;
  2. All military equipment, owned by either the U.S. or Afghan Armed Forces, that was removed or destroyed prior to the U.S. withdrawal, or is rendered inoperable without U.S. logistics personnel;
  3. All U.S. military equipment that remains operational in Afghanistan; 
  4. A list of what military equipment has been seized by the Taliban;
  5. An assessment of how long it will take the Taliban to use each of the captured equipment;
  6. An assessment of the likelihood that the Taliban will seek to work with Russia, Pakistan, Iran, or the People’s Republic of China for training, fuel, or infrastructure necessary to utilize the equipment they do not have the capabilities to use on their own; and
  7. Any efforts by the administration, planned or underway, to recapture or destroy equipment that remains in Afghanistan and is at risk of being used by terrorist entities.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.

Sincerely, 

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TALLAHASSEE ‒ The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is offering free hunter safety internet-completion courses in nine counties during September. Hunter safety courses are designed to help students become safe, responsible and knowledgeable hunters, and learn about conservation.

Students who have taken the online course and wish to complete the classroom portion must bring the online-completion report with them.

All firearms, ammunition and materials are provided free of charge. Students should bring a pen or pencil and paper. An adult must always accompany children younger than 16.

Anyone born on or after June 1, 1975, must pass an approved hunter safety course and have a hunting license to hunt alone (unsupervised). The FWC course satisfies hunter-safety training requirements for all other states and Canadian provinces.

The date and times are:

Alachua

Sept. 11 (8 a.m. until complete) Gainesville

Baker

Sept. 11 (8 a.m. until complete) Macclenny and range to immediately follow in Lake City

Citrus

Sept. 4 (9 a.m. until complete) Lecanto

Sept. 18 (9 a.m. until complete) Lecanto

Clay

Sept. 16 (6 to 9 p.m.) Green Cove Springs

and Sept. 18 (8 a.m. until noon) Graham

Columbia

Sept. 18 (8 a.m. until complete) Lake City

Duval

Sept. 9 (6 to 9 p.m.) and Sept. 11 (8:30 a.m. until noon) Jacksonville

Madison

Sept. 18 (1 p.m. until complete) Madison

Nassau

Sept. 25 (8 a.m. until complete) Fernandina Beach

Suwannee

Sept. 11 (8:30 a.m. until complete) Live Oak

The specific location for these classes will be given to those who register in advance. Those interested in attending a course can register online and obtain information about future hunter safety classes at MyFWC.com/hunting, then clicking on “Hunter Safety” or by calling the FWC’s regional office in Lake City at 386-758-0525.

Youth between 12 and 17 years old who successfully complete a hunter safety course can learn more about conservation and experience hunting through the FWC’s Youth Hunting Program. Check out the calendar for safe, educational, mentored youth hunts. In addition, hunter safety course graduates can participate in the Youth Hunter Education Challenge program. YHEC events are designed to teach youth aged 18 and younger about leadership, safety and conservation while building skills and knowledge related to hunting, map and compass, wildlife identification and target shooting. Find and register for YHEC events.

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GAINESVILLE – As COVID-19 ravaged India and Indonesia this spring and summer, supplemental oxygen supplies became critically scarce. For some families, that meant exhausting their life savings on a single cylinder of oxygen in a desperate effort to help loved ones awaiting a hospital bed.

With that shortage in mind, a team at the University of Florida Health’s Center for Safety, Simulation and Advanced Learning Technologies, or CSSALT, conceived a novel way to prolong the life of oxygen cylinders by reducing oxygen waste. The simple, manual technique involves intermittently interrupting the oxygen flow from the cylinder during exhalation so that oxygen flows only during inhalation. The team tested the technique on a patient simulator invented at CSSALT.

An electromechanical device called an oxygen conserver can do the same function by delivering oxygen only while a patient is inhaling and shutting off the flow during exhalation. But few oxygen conservers are available in developing nations, resulting in continuious oxygen flow that depletes supply without benefitting patients.

The CSSALT team programmed the human patient simulator to replicate a COVID-19 patient’s rapid breathing and poor gas exchange. Three participants manually crimped the oxygen tubing with pliers to halt oxygen flow during each exhalation. The goal was to prolong the bottled oxygen supply while still providing better oxygen delivery than room air.

The results are promising: In the simulator, the intermittent oxygen-pinching technique decreased oxygen use by approximately 60% compared with continuous oxygen flow. Three indicators of oxygen supply were improved compared with breathing room air, although they were lower than breathing continuous supplemental oxygen.

“We found that when we manually imitated an oxygen conserver, this technique reduced oxygen use while simultaneously improving oxygen saturation,” said Sem Lampotang, Ph.D., the Joachim S. Gravenstein Professor of Anesthesiology in the UF College of Medicine’s department of anesthesiology and the CSSALT director. 

Due to the dire situation in India, a description of the technique and other relevant material were quickly posted on the CSSALT website so that it could be swiftly disseminated. A report describing the experiments performed on the simulator has been accepted for publication in the journal Simulation in Healthcare.

The team was able to quickly pass the data along to colleagues in India so they could independently evaluate it and decide whether to use the technique, which has not been approved by any regulatory body.

The project started when Lampotang was contacted in late April by Jeffrey Feldman, M.D., an anesthesiology and critical-care professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as well as a former UF anesthesiology faculty member. After being approached by a physician in India seeking help with the oxygen shortage, Feldman turned to Lampotang. It was Lampotang who led a team of engineers in designing a low-cost, open source ventilator during the early months of the pandemic.

Lampotang’s team acted fast. Just more than a week later, he sent Feldman the link to the CSSALT webpage, asking that it be forwarded to the physician in India.

The next morning, the physician in India sent a brief email indicating that he had already tried the oxygen-pinching technique on his patients.

“I am already advising caregivers,” the physician wrote in early May. “It actually helps.”

The physician later told Feldman he had advised hundreds of people on the technique and all said that it improved oxygen use.

CSSALT engineers who tried the pinching on a simulator found the process repetitive but not tiring, Lampotang said. Prior experiments indicated that using pliers was less fatiguing and provided better flow interruption than using hands and fingers.

Lampotang described the technique as a stopgap measure. In many countries facing acute oxygen shortages, the situation has been so dire that there was no time to await international aid. With the new technique, all that is required is a pair of pliers.

“A huge number of people could potentially benefit,” Lampotang said.

For complete details about the technique and visualizations, visit https://simulation.health.ufl.edu/2021/05/03/conserving-oxygen-by-manually-pinching-off-the-supply-during-exhalation/

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TALLAHASSEE - Piney Point has received approximately 23 inches of rain since the beginning of June, and is expected to receive at least another 11 inches by the end of September. The current storage capacity for additional rainfall at the site is approximately 11 inches. This capacity is expected to change with rainfall amounts as well as adjusted water management activities at the site.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is overseeing HRK's efforts to mange water onsite by reinstating daily piping and trucking of water to nearby water treatment facilities, and enhancing  ongoing water management and treatment efforts at the site. The priority remains to pursue all available water management tools to ensure safe storage capacities for rainfall during the next months to avoid the risk of uncontrolled or untreated discharges from the site. 

HRK continues to manage rainwater runoff through its permitted outfalls to the drainage ditch along Buckeye Road. This is rainwater, not wastewater from the compartment areas onsite. Samples of the stormwater are collected by HRK daily to ensure it meets the requirements of HRK’s discharge permit and water quality standards. 

Key status updates and response activities:

  • On Aug. 14, 2021, DEP filed a Motion for Emergency Hearing regarding its request for of a court-appointed receiver to serve as an independent third party to oversee management and closure of the Piney Point site. This request was included in DEP’s enforcement action against HRK and in a motion in an ongoing foreclosure case concerning the site, both of which were filed on Aug. 5, 2021.  Learn more by reviewing DEP’s Motion for Emergency Hearingenforcement complaint and a frequently asked questions document.
  • Approximately 266 million gallons are currently held within the NGS-South compartment. Pond level readings are expected to fluctuate due to a host of factors, including rainfall, water management activities and wind/associated waves in the pond.  
  • Innovative technology companies have been onsite treating water since April 2021, and this is ongoing. As a result of these innovative water treatment practices, nutrients, including Total Phosphorus (TP) and Total Nitrogen (TN), have been significantly reduced. To date, approximately 200 tons of TN and 150 tons of TP have been removed from ponded wastewater.

  • DEP continues to monitor and sample surrounding waterways following previous discharges. DEP's interactive water quality dashboard details sampling locations and corresponding results to evaluate any environmental impact. Results will continue to be posted as soon as they are available. 
  • DEP is also working collaboratively with the Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TBEP) and local governments to cover more area and collect more data. For a comprehensive view of all sampling in Tampa Bay related to Piney Point, visit TBEP's interactive water quality dashboard.
  • DEP continues working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Florida Department of Health to monitor algal blooms and water quality. FWC is the lead agency on red tide and will continue to update conditions on their website. For more information on red tide, please visit ProtectingFloridaTogether.gov.

Residents can find the latest information on the status of the site and response activities at ProtectingFloridaTogether.gov/PineyPointUpdate. 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) introduced the Iran Hostages Congressional Gold Medal Act to honor the 52 Americans who were held hostage for 444 days by the Islamic Republic of Iran with a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award that Congress can bestow. The Americans, including three Floridians, were held against their will from 1979 to 1981. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Americans’ release and their return home. Thirty-four of the original hostages are still alive, with some still suffering the lasting effects of the trauma from their captivity. 

  “As Iran continues to hold American citizens hostage, I’m proud to honor the 52 Americans, including three Floridians, who were held captive during the 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis,” Rubio said. “Through this Congressional gold medal, we pay tribute to the courage and resilience of our fellow Americans who were the first to be held hostage by the evil regime in Tehran.”

“40 years ago, the nation came together to celebrate 52 patriots’ safe return after more than a year in captivity under brutal conditions,” Padilla said. “The resilience, strength, and courage of these American heroes must never be forgotten. Their bravery and valor deserves to be honored with Congress’ highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal.”

“It is past time that these fifty-two American heroes, whose resolve did not waver under the worst of conditions, be honored by their government,” said Ezra Friedlander, founder of Commission 52, which is spearheading a grassroots effort to honor the former hostages. “Fortunately, with the introduction of the Iran Congressional Gold Medal legislation in the Senate, justice delayed will no longer mean justice denied for the patriots who went through hell to defend and uphold our American values of freedom and democracy.”

"This act of the Senate and leadership of our sponsors lifts our spirits, honors our service and sacrifices, and shouts out to the world, we in the United States will stand by our voices in foreign lands. It will not go unnoticed or unrecognized,” said Tom Lankford, lead counsel for the former hostages held in Iran.

On November 4, 1979, 52 Americans were taken hostage from the U.S. Embassy in Iran by militant supporters of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in violation of international law. For the next 444 days, they were subjected to intense physical and psychological torture, including mock executions, beatings, solitary confinement, and inhospitable living conditions.

Despite abuses designed to break their spirits and faith in democracy, the hostages stood resolute, and refused to denounce or sign fraudulent statements condemning the United States. 

Joining Rubio and Padilla in introducing this bipartisan bill were Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM).

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With Memorial Day behind us and Independence Day on the horizon, I’m happy to report that our state parks have never been more popular.

Our beaches – two of which were recently named among the 10 best in America by beach guru Dr. Beach – and our springs have attracted a record number of visitors, and we expect that trend to continue in the weeks and months ahead.

Not only that, but our campsites are filling up too as more people discover the joys of camping and RVing.

As it turns out, now is a great time to plan an overnight stay. June is National Camping Month, and the Florida Park Service has just launched a new reservation system that provides our visitors with quicker, easier access to their favorite parks.

The new system shows clearly which parks and sites are available for camping and provides online users with a streamlined process for making reservations. Additionally, campers can now reserve same-day accommodations, which is something that we’ve been wanting to implement for a long time.

The changes will also be apparent at each park’s ranger station, as we’ve updated our point-of-sale system to be more modernized and, most importantly, faster. That means less time at the park gates and more time inside the park.

You might also notice welcome additions such as the ability to be notified when a site becomes available. And, in the future, we’ll be looking to add expanded reservation capabilities for Florida residents.

When thinking about your favorite parks, you might remember an unforgettable paddling adventure or boat tour. But take a moment to consider the park operations needed to offer our visitors the best experiences possible.

Food sales, camp stores, kayak rentals, ferries and trams are services that we could not provide if not for a specially selected group of businesses – many of them owned locally. These companies and their employees are a part of our park community, and they’re just as committed as regular park staff to making your visit safe and enjoyable.

The business that helps us with reservations is just one of our partners that help make 800,000 acres, 30 springs and 100 miles of beaches special places to visit.     

Eric Draper

Director, Florida State Parks

 

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is on June 15. On this day, and throughout the month, communities, seniors, caregivers, governments, organizations, and the private sector unite to prevent the mistreatment of and violence against older people.

Social Security imposter scams are widespread across the United States. Scammers use sophisticated tactics to deceive you into providing sensitive information or money. They target everyone – even the elderly – and their tactics continue to evolve.

Most recently, Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has received reports of phone scammers creating fake versions of the identification badges most Federal employees use to gain access to Federal buildings. The scammers may text or email photos of the fake badges to convince potential victims of their legitimacy. These badges use government symbols, words, and even names and photos of real people, which are available on government websites or through internet searches.

If you receive a suspicious letter, text, email, or call, hang up or do not respond. You should know how to identify when it’s really Social Security. We will NEVER:

  • Text or email images of an employee’s official government identification.
  • Suspend your Social Security number.
  • Threaten you with arrest or other legal action unless you immediately pay a fine or fee.
  • Require payment by retail gift card, wire transfer, internet currency, or cash by mail.
  • Promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment.
  • Send official letters or reports containing your personal information via email.

We only send text messages if you have opted in to receive texts from us and only in limited situations, including the following:

  • When you have subscribed to receive updates and notifications by text.
  • As part of our enhanced security when accessing your personal my Social Security account.

If you owe money to us, we will mail you a letter with payment options and appeal rights.

We encourage you to report suspected Social Security imposter scams — and other Social Security fraud — to the OIG website at oig.ssa.gov. You may read our previous Social Security fraud advisories at oig.ssa.gov/newsroom/news-release. Please share this information with your friends and family to help spread awareness about Social Security imposter scams.

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The first drug developed to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD), the modern term for alcoholism, was disulfiram (Antabuse). Today disulfiram is still used, but as a second line William Garst HSdrug behind acamprosate (Campral) and naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol). Disulfiram works by blocking the enzymatic breakdown of alcohol and allowing a metabolite to build up in the blood, producing very unpleasant effects. People taking disulfiram will be deterred from ingesting alcohol because they know they will become very ill. The drug is used as an aid to help alcoholics overcome their cravings and addiction.

Disulfiram (a compound that contains sulfur) was first synthesized in 1881 as an industrial chemical, and in the early 1900s was introduced in the manufacturing of rubber. Adding sulfur in rubber manufacturing produces varying degrees of hardness in the final rubber compound.

During the late 1930s sulfur compounds, including disulfiram, were being investigated because of the antimicrobial effects of drugs containing sulfur, and the search was intense. Two scientists at the Danish firm of Medicinalco, Erik Jacobson and Jens Hald, began investigating disulfiram for treatment of intestinal parasites. This company had a group of employees called the “Death Battalion” who would experiment on themselves.

During this phase of testing the drug on themselves, they discovered they became ill after ingesting alcohol. This discovery was made in 1945, but a few years later disulfiram was considered to be used in the treatment of alcoholism as an aversive-reaction drug therapy. Jacobson and Hald’s work was finally published in 1948 and disulfiram was approved by the FDA in 1951.

The discovery of disulfiram led to a renewed interest in the metabolism of alcohol in the body. It was known alcohol was metabolized in the liver and broken down to acetaldehyde then to acetic acid and carbon dioxide by unknown enzymes. In 1950 it was discovered that disulfiram blocked the action of the enzyme that converts acetaldehyde, thus causing an accumulation of acetaldehyde in the bloodstream, which is the cause of the unpleasant effects.

Effects that occur when disulfiram is taken with alcohol include flushing, sweating, nausea and vomiting, chest pain, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness. One should not take disulfiram within 12 hours of alcohol ingestion or 14 days from the last dose of the drug. In addition, products that contain alcohol such as aftershave, cologne, perfume, antiperspirant, and mouthwash can produce unpleasant reactions for people taking Antabuse. Other products to avoid are paint thinners, solvents, and stains, along with dyes, resins and waxes, because even small amounts of alcohol absorbed through the skin can produce the effects.

Other drugs can produce adverse reactions, commonly called the “antabuse-like reaction.” The most notable of these drugs are metronidazole (Flagyl, an antibiotic), griseofulvin (an antifungal), and some cephalosporin antibiotics. If a drug is known to have this side effect, it should be pointed out to the patient by the prescriber and the pharmacist. Always read the drug information given to you when starting a new medication that tells you about side effects that may occur and how to avoid them.

Substance abuse of any kind is not good, but alcohol abuse has been especially devastating to society, families, and individuals because of the convenient availability, relative inexpensiveness, and its association with festivities. In addition, the abuse of alcohol leads to lack of inhibitions and unpredictable behaviors, which are many times violent and destructive. When people take disulfiram, they are acknowledging their problem, and they know that very unpleasant reactions will occur if alcohol is consumed, thus it helps to deter the first drink.

The history of disulfiram is still being written. Currently, it is being studied to treat certain cancers, parasitic infections, HIV, and Covid-19.

Stay informed and stay healthy.

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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 Public Health in 1988 from the University of South Florida and a Master’s in Pharmacy from UF in 2001. In 2007, he received his Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Colorado. Dr. Garst is a member of many national, state, and local professional associations. He serves on the Alachua County Health Care Advisory Board and stays active as a relief pharmacist. In 2016, he retired from the VA. Dr. Garst enjoys golf, reading (especially history), and family. He writes a blog called The Pharmacy Newsletter (https://thepharmacynewsletter.com/). William Garst can be contacted at communitypharmac
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When learning the ropes — and rods — of saltwater fishing, thorough preparation involves more than just a rich arsenal of gear and the appropriate attire. Open-water fishing is challenging and requires technique and prior research.  

If you’re embarking on an open-water adventure for the first time, keep the following saltwater fishing tips in mind.  

Research Your Destination

The key to discovering a spot rich in saltwater fish is ample research. At least a week before your trip, you’ll want to read up on fishing reports, tide charts and weather forecasts.  

For instance, while a rainy morning might deter most anglers, it can also surprise you with better catches — if you know where to look. 

Some areas are more crowded with fishing enthusiasts during different times of the year. Consider whether you are traveling in the spring, summer, fall or winter and do the appropriate research. You can get some ideas of  where to go at MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “Where to Saltwater Fish.”

Think About Your Target Species

The type of catch you’re after will dictate where you anchor your boat. Targets, such as yellowfin or other tunas, for instance, are surface feeders. Thus, you’ll want to be on the lookout for weed lines and baitfish breaking the surface.  

On the other hand, some species including groupers and snappers are bottom feeders and prefer structures including reefs and wrecks. Angling for these species can require special equipment, such as a fishfinder, circle hooks, dehooking tools, descending devices and more. MyFWC.com/FishHandling explains much of this fishing gear.    

Stay up to date on the latest regulations for saltwater fishing at MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “Recreational Regulations” or by downloading the Fish Rules app on your smart device. Learn about fish identification at MyFWC.com/FishingLines or by visiting MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “Fish Identification.”

Use a Bathymetric Map

When it comes to open-water angling, you can never underestimate the usefulness of a map. Bathymetric maps are a type of underwater topographic map that indicates specific depths. Space between lines on the map illustrates whether an area is close to a steep slope, drop off, flat or shoal. Lines that are close together indicate a rapidly changing depth in the area. 

Keep in mind that bathymetric maps can be challenging to find at your local angling shop. If you have trouble coming across a bathymetric map, you can rely on other tools, such as nautical charts or satellite images.    

Speak to the Locals

While ample internet research might suffice, nothing quite compares to gathering input from local anglers. When you have a specific target species in mind, drop by the local bait shop for advice. Or join an online group focused on fishing in your area of interest. 

Some angling hot spots have knowledgeable fishing guides who can direct you to the ideal area for your specific catch. Hop on a trip for a chance to see the area up close with an expert who can teach you how to catch your target species. 

Alternatively, you can venture out into the ocean yourself and observe where other anglers are setting up shop. Just be sure to mind your distance and not crowd other anglers. Learn more about angler etiquette at MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “On-the-Water Etiquette.”

Make the Most of Angling Technology

Nowadays, you won’t find any shortage of state-of-the-art angling technology available online and at your local bait shop. Make sure that a reliable fish finder is part of your staple arsenal.  

Fish finders use sonar to locate fish within your chosen area. When an echo transmits back to your device, it indicates the presence of fish immediately under or around your vessel. Some wireless fish finders are Bluetooth compatible and will quickly pair with your Android or iOS device.  

You'll want to consider other staple needs for open-water fishing: GPS, VHF 2-way radio, flares, noise-making device, first aid kit and life jacket for each person on board. Wearing a life jacket while on the water is a simple way to prevent you from drowning if you fall overboard due to a boating accident. Learn more about boating requirements and safety at MyFWC.com/Boating. Find more tips and tricks at MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “How to Saltwater Fish.”

The Bottom Line

If you have recently taken an interest in saltwater fishing, knowing how to target your intended catch will go a long way in the open water. Make the most of your day out by researching your destination beforehand, coming well-equipped, and learning how to identify different kinds of saltwater fish. Consider sharing your catches with scientists through the iAngler app and submitting catches for recognition at FWC’s CatchaFloridaMemory.com

About the Author

Kenneth is an expert at saltwater fishing and the founder of Perfect Captain. He has been angling for over two decades and hopes to provide accessible resources for fishing rookies and veterans.

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Remember the old adage “April showers bring May flowers?” In Florida, April is typically a dry month when water demands are higher due to springtime planting and low rainfall amounts. For 22 years, April has been recognized as Water Conservation Month in Florida, a designation to heighten public awareness about the many ways we can reduce our water use until summer thunderstorms arrive.

Each spring, a renewed focus on our lawns and landscapes make it an ideal time to inspect our automatic sprinkler systems and timers. The St. Johns River Water Management District’s seasonal “Did You Set It and Forget It” message is a timely springtime reminder to give your automatic sprinkler system a checkup for leaks, timer adjustments, replacing the rain sensor battery and other maintenance.

The District’s annual Water Less outdoor water conservation campaign promotes easy ways to make water conservation part of your regular routine at home.

Consider this: More than half of all residential water is used outdoors for lawn and landscape irrigation. Studies show that up to half of that water can be saved and isn’t necessary for native and Florida-friendly plants to thrive.

Individually and collectively, you make a big difference when you take control of your water use. In fact, between 2010 and 2019, gross per capita water use in the St. Johns District decreased 12 percent, from 132 gallons per person per day to 116 gallons per person per day.

Changing old habits doesn’t have to be hard. Just follow our five easy ways to save water outdoors: Adhere to the District’s watering restrictions. Give your sprinkler system regular checkups and turn it off if there is rain in the forecast. Use water-efficient smart irrigation technology and replace thirsty landscape materials with drought-tolerant “waterwise” plants. Our waterwise plant database at www.sjrwmd.com/water-conservation/waterwise-landscaping is simple to access and use, too.

Year-round water conservation is an important way to help meet the state’s water supply needs, and you can still maintain a healthy and beautiful Florida landscape.

We’re grateful to all those helping us raise awareness of the small behavior changes that can lead to big water savings. I ask you to spend a few minutes visiting the District’s water conservation campaign website, WaterLessFlorida.com, to learn how you too can make a difference.

Ann Shortelle, Ph.D.

Executive Director

St. Johns River Water Management District

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Each year, thousands of Florida children enter foster care due to domestic violence.

And each October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, children's advocates like me remind the public that this scourge devastates children, families and communities – and we must respond.

For children, witnessing intimate partner violence can cause lifetime harm. It makes them more prone to addiction and at greater risk for dating violence, academic problems, post-traumatic stress disorder, aggression, and chronic physical health and developmental problems. They find it harder to interact well with peers, partners and, ultimately, with their own children.

They worry about the safety of their parents – which no child should have to do. Yet millions of children witness the abuse of a parent or caregiver each year. And males who batter their wives batter their children 30 to 60 percent of the time.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement data for 2019 show 105,298 domestic violence incidences and 66,069 domestic violence arrests. That year, according to the Department of Children and Families, there were 87,546 allegations of household violence or intimate partner violence received by the Florida Abuse Hotline.

In the Eighth Judicial Circuit, which includes Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union Counties, there were 169 dependent children from violent homes in the system as of August.

We also know violent households often involve substance abuse or mental illness as well, and that the combination heightens the harm done by each. What's more, child witnesses of intimate partner violence are at increased risk to become abusers or victims themselves.

So the cycle must be broken, and that is what we are trying to do at the Guardian ad Litem Program. We know the single most critical factor in how children weather their exposure to domestic violence is the presence of at least one loving, supportive adult in their lives.

Guardian ad Litem volunteers represent abused and neglected children in dependency court. We know their challenges. We also know children can recover from trauma given the right services and supports, and we advocate for trauma-informed, evidence-based screening, assessment and treatment.

We also work to support the child's relationship with his or her non-offending parent. For most children, a strong relationship with that parent is a key factor in helping them heal.

And as their advocates, we work to tell children the violence is not their fault and to show them they are lovable, competent and important.

Help us break the cycle.

To learn more about the Guardian ad Litem Program or become a volunteer, please contact Riley Ashmore-Volunteer Recruiter at (352) 384-3167 or visit www.GAL8Circuit.org.

To get help, call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-500-1119, or find your local domestic violence program at www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/domestic-violence/map.shtml. Florida's 41 certified domestic violence centers served more than 10,000 victims between March and June 2020, and they remain open and available to serve.

Angela Armstrong, Guardian ad Litem Circuit Director

for Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union Counties

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TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Division of Licensing has announced the suspension of 22 licenses held by individuals involved in the insurrection.

The FDACS Division of Licensing administers Florida’s concealed weapon licensing program and oversees Florida’s private investigative, private security and recovery services industries. The division’s regulatory oversight of private investigative, private security and recovery services includes licensing, enforcing compliance standards, and ensuring public protection from unethical business practices and unlicensed activity.

“The deeply disturbing events that occurred at our nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6 were sedition, treason, and domestic terrorism – and those individuals involved in the insurrection must be held accountable for attempting to subvert our democratic process,” said Commissioner Fried. “Since charges began being filed, we are using our lawful authority to immediately suspend the licenses of 22 individuals involved in the storming of the U.S. Capitol. This is an ongoing effort, and as charges and sentences continue in the wake of this despicable attack, we will further suspend and revoke any additional licenses granted to insurrectionists.”

The FDACS Division of Licensing has the ability to immediately suspend a license if the licensee is charged with a felony or certain other disqualifying offenses. Once a judgement is rendered, if the sentence disqualifies, FDACS can revoke the license.

Pursuant to Section 790.0601, Florida Statutes, FDACS can neither confirm nor deny whether an individual has ever applied for or received a concealed weapon or firearm license, as this information is exempt from disclosure as a public record.

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