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GAINESVILLE - Due to rapidly rising COVID cases in the community and among employees, Alachua County Public Schools will require indoor masking by all employees, vendors and visitors at district facilities. The requirement will be in place regardless of vaccination status.

The requirement will take effect Tuesday, August 3 and last through Friday, September 17. The district will then reassess the COVID data to determine if the requirement should remain in place.

Florida recently recorded the highest number of COVID cases since the beginning of the pandemic. The state also has the nation’s highest hospitalization rate. Cases among ACPS employees have risen significantly over the last two weeks, and one individual passed away this past weekend due to COVID-related complications.

“With rates as high as they are, I felt the district had to take action to reduce the spread of COVID in our community and schools,” said Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon. “The state has taken some options out of our hands, but this is something we can do to protect students and staff.”

The district will continue to work with the Health Department to offer free vaccinations for students and staff. That includes vaccine clinics at schools during the school day. The district is also working on an agreement with the Alachua County Education Association, which represents district employees, to offer a $100 incentive for employees who are already vaccinated and those who get vaccinated by September 17.

“By taking these steps, I believe we can keep more of our students in school and more of our employees at work,” wrote Simon in an email to employees. “More importantly, we can reduce the number of people affected by COVID. The sooner we do that, the sooner we can get back to normal.”

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GAINESVILLE – Motorists traveling U.S. 441 through Paynes Prairie next week should expect a traffic shift as construction crews prepare to start a new phase of the road resurfacing project.

One lane of northbound traffic is scheduled to be shifted to the newly rebuilt northbound lanes on Monday, August 2, weather and unforeseen circumstances permitting. Currently, traffic is configured in a way that both directions of travel are on the southbound side of the roadway while the northbound lanes were being reconstructed and repaved.

By the end of the month, it is expected that both directions of travel will be moved to the newly paved northbound side of the roadway, which will allow crews to reconstruct the southbound side of the U.S. 441.

The $13.9 million project is expected to be completed in Spring 2022. The approximately 12-mile resurfacing project, which takes place between Southwest Williston Road (State Road 331) and the Marion County line, also includes the addition of guardrail through Paynes Prairie and additional signal and lighting upgrades at County Road 234 in Micanopy.

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GAINESVILLE – Members of the Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors® (GACAR) gathered at Splitz Bowling Alley on Thursday, July 29, to enjoy a night of friendly competition to conclude weeks of fundraising for charity.

At the time of publication, GACAR has raised $18,065 to help St. Francis House and Arbor House update their playgrounds and facilities. “We are so appreciative and grateful that GACAR selected St. Francis House and Arbor House for their annual charity event this year,” said Lauri Schiffbauer, Executive Director of St. Francis House.

“Proceeds raised will go toward enhancing our existing playgrounds for the children in our programs. We cannot thank GACAR enough for helping us provide a fun and safe play area, where the children can be kids with no worries!”

St. Francis House and Arbor House provide homeless women and families with children the tools needed to obtain permanent, sustainable housing. Because of the support of the surrounding community, St. Francis House, Inc. was able to house 108 families and over 150 children in 2020. Patti Moser, 2021 GACAR President, was on hand to celebrate the association’s first in-person event since the pandemic. “I am incredibly proud of our members and business partners and how quickly and enthusiastically they have mobilized. It is an honor to work with and help St. Francis House and Arbor House continue their efforts to aid families in need of safe and stable housing.”

For more information on how GACAR supports local housing charities and affordable housing efforts, contact 2021 GACAR President Patti Moser at 352-538-1773 or president@gacar.com.

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ALACHUA COUNTY - Due to increased infection rates, the Alachua County COVID-19 Dashboard has returned with the latest COVID-19 infection and vaccination information. The link will be available on the home page of the Alachua County website and will be released weekly on social media. The source of the data is the Florida Department of Health COVID-19 Weekly Situation Reports. This report replaced the daily reports on June 11, 2021.

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GAINESVILLE — After a hiatus last year due to the pandemic, the Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors® (GACAR) is proud to host its seventh annual charity bowling tournament at Splitz Bowling Alley today (July 29th) from 5:00pm to 8:00pm . This year’s tournament is benefitting St. Francis House and Arbor House, charities that focus on assisting homeless women and families with children on their journey to have stable and permanent housing. At the time of publication, GACAR has raised $15,700.00 to help repair and improve the playground facilities at both charitable organizations. Below is a tentative timeline for the event, please note we currently have the check presentation to St. Francis House scheduled for 7:00pm tonight.

5:00pm

·        Registration Open

·        Networking for Members

5:15pm

·        Practice Bowling

5:30pm

·        Welcome/Announcements

·        1st Game begins

7:00pm

·        Check Presentation

·        50/50 winner

8:00pm

·        Event conclusion

For more information on how GACAR supports local housing charities and affordable housing efforts, please contact 2021 GACAR President Patti Moser at (352) 538-1773 or president@gacar.com.

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GAINESVILLE — Gainesville Regional Airport (GNV) gathered today with dignitaries, community leaders, well-wishers and staff to hold a ribbon cutting ceremony for its 15,200 square foot, two-gate passenger terminal expansion and improvement project, less than two years after breaking ground.

The expanded terminal provides a variety of passenger amenities and services to accommodate increased passenger traffic and demand. New amenities include expanded restrooms, a second food and beverage area, mother’s lactation room, quiet/reflection room, an outdoor pet relief area, and connectivity features in every passenger chair.

In his opening comments to guests, GNV’s CEO Allan Penksa expressed gratitude to those who have “been instrumental in shaping the vision for this great community asset,” and paid homage to the local construction teams “working hard through all types of conditions” to realize the almost $16 million project that is part of the airport’s master plan.

“This project has been years in the making and is an important milestone in our continuing efforts to provide high quality air service and passenger facilities to our region,” Mr. Penksa said. “The fact that all involved were able to do this so well and uninterrupted despite the challenges of a worldwide pandemic is simply amazing.”

Gainesville Alachua County Regional Airport Authority (GACRAA) Chairwoman Grace Horvath said as the community comes out of the pandemic, passengers are truly responding to the airport’s enhanced service and GNV’s “Fly Easy” experience. “Beyond the capacity improvements and ability to support new service, this project provides an even more beautiful front door to our region, one we can all be proud of.”

The terminal expansion was paid for by a combination of state and federal grants, along with passenger facility charges, or PFCs collected by the airport’s carriers, Delta and American Airlines. The terminal expansion and boarding bridges are the second and third phases of terminal investment, with final phases including additional parking options, new outbound, baggage screening/ handling system and additional airline operations space to better accommodate existing and future carriers.

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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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WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the Reef Safe Act of 2021, legislation that would help protect our oceans and marine ecosystems from potentially harmful chemicals found in some types of sunscreen by creating Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards for the use of “Reef Safe” and “Ocean Safe” labels in the marketing of sunscreens. Congressmen Carlos Giménez (R-FL) and Ed Case (D-HI) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

“Florida’s coral reefs and coastal ecosystems are foundational to Florida’s economic, ecological, and cultural character, and protecting them is vital,” Rubio said. “Establishing science-based definitions for “reef safe” and “ocean safe” will protect consumers from false or misleading product claims, and allow Americans to make informed decisions to help preserve critical marine habitats.”

“Like many Oregonians, I have many great memories with my family at the Oregon Coast, walking up and down the shore, collecting seashells, and checking out the fascinating sea life in the tide pools,” Merkley said. “The last thing any of us want is to accidentally harm that sea life by wearing toxic chemicals in our sunscreen. This simple bill will help us choose the best products both for our skin protection and for sea life protection.”

“Hawai‘i has been a national leader in preserving our precious coral reefs, including by enacting the first state-wide ban on certain chemicals harmful to those reefs,” Case said. “This legislation would help all consumers across the country make informed choices regarding their sunscreen use and assist state and local jurisdictions like Hawai‘i enforce their regulations. We all have a role to play as stewards of our oceans and marine resources for future generations, and this bill simply makes it easier for us to meet our obligation to our oceans and earth.”  

“Florida’s aquatic ecosystems are crucial to the well-being of our state. They serve an incredibly important part of our local economy in Florida’s 26th congressional district and play a vital role in the identity of South Florida’s communities,” Giménez said. “That is why I am teaming up with my colleagues to ensure that any and all preservation measures, including warning labels on consumer products that may have an impact on our aquatic ecosystems, are accurate and science-based.”

The legislation would require the FDA, in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to develop a criteria that must be used in order for sunscreen to be labelled “Reef Safe'' and “Ocean Safe.” The criteria would be required to take into consideration the impacts on species including fish, sea urchins, corals, crustaceans, sea grasses, and macroalgae such as kelp, each of which play a vital role in the health of marine ecosystems. Additionally, the FDA would be required to reevaluate labelling criteria every 10 years, to ensure labelling criteria are based on the best-available science.

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TALLAHASSEE - It will be more than just a trip to the sands of the Gulf of Mexico for those who happen to be visiting Pier Park in Panama City Beach, the weekend of August 13-15.

Not only will the 1,500 foot Russell-Fields City Pier, one of the area's most popular attractions, beckon visitors out over the water, but it will be a perfect vantage point for spectators to watch Sunshine State Games Beach Volleyball.

The 2021 Sunshine State Games International Beach Games features three sports, Beach Soccer, Beach Volleyball and Highland Games, the weekend of August 13-15.  Athletes have one week remaining to register for the sports of the 2021 Beach Games and be a part of the first Sunshine State Games event in Northwest Florida in the 42-year history of the Games.

The registration deadline is Saturday, August 7 and entry fees vary by sport. Visit  https://sunshinestate.fusesport.com/registration/1505/ to register.

The three days of Beach Volleyball features competition for Boy’s and Girl’s Junior Divisions, beginning at 14 and Under through Men’s and Women’s Open Divisions.  Two-person and four-person coed teams will be competing on the 10 regulation beach volleyball courts, on the East side of the City Pier, with a backdrop of the clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The sand courts have been the home to several Extreme Volleyball Professionals (EVP) tournaments, including the June, 2020 AVPNext Panama Jack Summer Slam Tournament, with current Olympian Nick Lucena among the athletes.

“There have been some great people who have played on Panama City Beach,” said Sport Director Craig Lenninger, of Marineland, who has directed EVP Tournaments over the years at Pier Park. “It will also be a good for players who want to enjoy the beach and have a good time.”

The schedule for Sunday, August 15, also features King and Queen of the Beach competition for the Junior and Open Divisions.  Players sign up as individuals and are paired with different players throughout the afternoon.  The individual player with the most wins and points among the paired teams are declared the King and Queen of the Beach.

“It’s a great way to meet new people and possibly find a new teammate for those who don’t have a regular doubles teammate,” Lenninger said. “During the course of play with four or five different teammates, players also have a chance to pick up new skills.”

Besides the Beach Volleyball at Pier Park, Highland Games events will be held across the street at Aaron Bessant Park on Saturday, August 14.

A few miles down the beach to the east, Beach Soccer will be played at the M.B. Miller County Pier on Saturday, August 14 and Sunday, August 15. Prospective Beach Soccer players can learn more about the sport at a Free Clinic, on Friday evening, beginning at 5:00 p.m.

2021 Sunshine State Games International Beach Games Schedule of Events
Friday, August 13
5:00 p.m. – Free Beach Soccer Player and Officials Clinic, M.B. Miller County Pier
TBD – Beach Volleyball. Juniors Division competition, Pier Park

Saturday, August 14
8:00 a.m. – Beach Volleyball, Men’s and Women’s Open Doubles competition, Pier Park
9:00 a.m. – Beach Soccer, M.B. Miller County Pier
9:00 a.m. – Highland Games, Aaron Bessant Park

Sunday, August 15
9:00 a.m. – Beach Volleyball, Coed and King of the Beach competition, Pier Park
9:00 a.m. – Beach Soccer, M.B. Miller County Pier

For more information about the 2021 Sunshine State Games International Beach Games, presented in conjunction with Visit Panama City Beach, please visit, www.sunshinestategames.com/beach-games

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JUPITER, FL — In a move designed to marry the clinical and educational expertise of the state’s flagship university with one of the world’s premier biomedical research enterprises, the University of Florida and Scripps Research today announced they are in talks to integrate the Florida-based branch of Scripps Research with the research arm of UF’s academic health center.

Discussions have proceeded swiftly because UF is ideally positioned to expand on Scripps Florida’s successful research track record to accelerate the translation of scientific discoveries into clinical advances that improve outcomes for patients in the state and around the world, said officials from both organizations.

“Our shared vision for propelling biomedical research forward is based on the great mutual respect our two institutions have for each other,” said Peter Schultz, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of Scripps Research, based in La Jolla, California.

“UF is an outstanding partner for Scripps Florida — the two institutions have complementary basic and translational research capabilities and strengths which, when combined, will enhance their collective reputation and impact on Florida,” Schultz added. “We have built an outstanding research institute in Scripps Florida with generous support from the state and from local communities and we believe it will have its biggest impact on Florida and greatest opportunity for further growth as part of UF, one of the country’s leading research and educational institutions.”

Details of the agreement will be finalized over the next few months and will build on existing research collaborations UF has had with Scripps and the organizations’ complementary strengths, said David R. Nelson, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health, the university’s academic health center.

Initial efforts include appointing key leadership positions; UF and Scripps Research plan to name Patrick Griffin, Ph.D., to head the scientific arm of the new research endeavor. Griffin is currently chair of the department of molecular medicine at Scripps Florida and directs its Translational Research Institute.

“Our shared vision focuses on improving the health of humanity and developing innovations to optimize quality of life,” Nelson said. “With this venture, we will both be positioned to take medical research to the next level in a way that is win-win for the people of Florida and beyond.”

The 30-acre Scripps Florida campus in Jupiter is situated within Palm Beach County’s innovation corridor and houses more than 40 faculty-led laboratories supported by a 500-member team dedicated to understanding an array of illnesses and seeking to generate effective treatments. Its researchers are regularly heralded for their pioneering discoveries that have led to hundreds of patents and numerous spinoff companies. Scripps Florida has a robust research portfolio, with nearly $50 million in National Institutes of Health funding and over $67 million in total research funding, which includes industry support.

UF ranks among the top research-intensive public universities in the country, with research expenditures totaling more than $942 million during the past fiscal year.

Over time, the relationship will generate additional jobs, further catalyzing economic development, officials said. Other natural areas of collaboration could potentially include cancer, drug discovery, immunology and infectious disease, neuroscience (including Alzheimer’s disease and other aging-related disorders), and structural biology and molecular medicine.

UF President Kent Fuchs said the deal opens the door to building off Scripps Research’s platform of excellence and teaming up with other State University System institutions such as Florida Atlantic and Florida International universities on various programs.

“This would be the next logical step, adding to the impact Scripps Research has already made in Florida,” Fuchs said. “They have been great stewards of the state’s investment in biotech, and we look forward to partnering on this next phase to add value and grow additional research and tech collaborations.”

“This news is welcome because it aligns with the commitment of Florida’s public universities to work together for the greater good,” said John Kelly, Ph.D., president of Florida Atlantic University. “FAU is looking forward to expanding on our existing collaborations with UF and Scripps Florida by identifying educational and research opportunities that leverage our shared strengths. These include exploring common interests in areas like autism, neuroscience, molecular biology and data science to advance medicine.”

Recent academic health collaborations with FAU span at least seven colleges at UF on a range of topics. Highlights include the 1Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, which UF leads in collaboration with FAU and others. The 1Florida ADRC received a five-year $15 million NIH grant in 2020 to expand its work with a heightened focus on further understanding dementias in diverse populations. In addition, UF and FAU collaborate on the NIH-funded National Drug Early Warning System coordinating center to identify emerging drug abuse trends.

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TALLAHASSEE – Today, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the state agency that regulates and inspects Florida’s gas stations and fuel pumps, is strongly encouraging Floridians to consider adding a fuel plan to annual hurricane preparations.

Surges in consumer demand due to hurricanes can cause disruptions in Florida’s fuel distribution system. Early preparation by consumers will reduce the strain on fuel distribution, ensure fuel is available as needed, and reduce the cost of fuels that can increase due to sudden higher demand.

“We have all seen how panic-buying and sudden surges in demand for gas can cause disruptions to the fuel supply – which unfortunately happened earlier this year following the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline,” said Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Just as we encourage preparing for your family’s food, water, medical, and power needs before there is an imminent storm threat, we are also encouraging Floridians to keep their vehicles and generators fueled up throughout hurricane season. We can all take simple preparatory steps to help prevent a rush at the gas pump when hurricanes threaten, lessening the likelihood of potential supply shortages and pricing issues.”

Click here to download a sharable graphic with tips on fuel preparations and safety during hurricane season.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) recommends the following tips for hurricane preparedness, along with important fuel safety reminders:

  • Keep all vehicles at least half full during hurricane season.
  • Keep at least one vehicle filled with gasoline once the earliest predictions indicate a storm may threaten the state.
  • Pre-purchase fuels (LP gas and gasoline) for generators at the start of hurricane season – properly stored fuels will last at least six months, and can be transferred into a vehicle for use should no emergency arise
  • Use gasoline fuel stabilizer to keep gasoline fresh and ready to use when it is needed.

Fuel Safety:

  • Refill fuel containers on the ground, not in the truck bed or trunk.
  • Transport and store fuel ONLY in appropriate containers – look for DOT approved containers that close tightly and do not leak.
  • NEVER store or transport gasoline in milk jugs or open top containers.
  • Store fuel in a safe and well-ventilated location.

Report Outages/Quality: To report fuel outages or quality issues before or after a hurricane, consumers should contact the department’s Division of Consumer Services at 1-800-HELP-FLA, 1-800-FL-AYUDA en Español, or FloridaConsumerHelp.com.

FDACS is Florida’s state consumer protection agency, responsible for handling consumer complaints, protecting against unfair and unsafe business practices, and more. FDACS handles over 400,000 consumer complaints and inquiries annually, oversees more than 500,000 regulated devices, entities, and products like gas pumps and grocery scales, performs over 61,000 lab analyses on products like gasoline and brake fluid, performs nearly 9,000 fair ride inspections, and returned over $2.8 million to consumers through mediations with businesses last year.

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FORT LAUDERDALE/DAVIE – After a nearly seven-month journey spanning more than a combined 29,100 miles, Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) has announced the winners of The Great Shark Race 2021, which began in January and ended at midnight on Shark Awareness Day, July 14.

The Great Shark Race 2021 was divided into two races: (1) shortfin makos, the fastest marine creatures on the planet that can swim up to 44 miles per hour, and (2) whale sharks, the gigantic shark species (the largest fish in the ocean), which, not surprisingly, are some of the slowest swimmers.

The wining makos, which traveled a combined 8,900+ miles, are:

  • Cuddles, sponsored by Penmanship, was declared the victor with 3,207 miles logged, followed closely by;
  • Caison, sponsored by Certified Contracting Group, Inc., traveling 3,073 miles; and
  • Fishangler, sponsored by Fishangler App, which finished third with 2,627 miles.

As for the whale shark category, there was an interesting “side race” within the division that pitted NBC national news anchor Lester Holt against NBC reporter Kerry Sanders, who is known for his affinity for sharks. Lester beat out Kerry, 4,718.73 miles to 3,058.14 miles.

The whale shark finished as follows:

As different as they may seem in terms of size and speed, both shark species in the Great Shark Race have something in common – they are endangered. The main goal of this unusual race is to further key scientific research aimed at saving these and other endangered shark species.

“Everyone loves a contest, so we thought this could be a great, fun, engaging way to raise public awareness about the dire status of both these endangered shark species and an effective way to attract sponsors to further fund this long-term research. The announcement was timed to Shark Week when the spotlight shines brightest on sharks,” said Mahmood Shivji, Ph.D., director of NSU’s GHRI and Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Research Center. “From the work we’ve done, we know that both these species can travel up to 12,000 miles in one year so our goal is to use new data to understand where they go, when they go and potentially why they travel to these specific locations.”

The latest in ocean wildlife tracking technology was used to measure race results. A fin-mounted SPOT satellite tag on each shark allowed them to be tracked in near real time on the GHRI Race Tracking Website. These SPOT tags relayed crucial data back to researchers, including the distance that each shark covered as they swam around the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean Sea.

The presenting sponsor for each race category were FishAngler App for the makos and The Moss Foundation for the whale sharks. In addition to the companies Certified Contracting Group, Inc., Advanced Green Technologies, Crawford Roofing, Inc., Miller Glass & Glazing, Inc., and Boatyard Restaurant, individual shark sponsors were Penmanship and Gordon James III.

“As we continue the long-term project of working with GHRI researchers at NSU, we learn more and more how important sharks are to preserving healthy ocean ecosystems,” said world-renowned artist, conservationist and scientist Dr. Guy Harvey, chairman of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, which conducts scientific research and hosts educational programs aimed at conserving the marine environment, ensuring that future generations can enjoy and benefit from a properly balanced ocean ecosystem. “The Great Shark Race 2021 was a success and brought in much needed funds to continue our research. We sincerely thank all who supported us during this race. It is an amazing educational opportunity and a critical research initiative.”

According to NSU’s GHRI research, up to 73 million sharks a year end up in the global shark fin trade, and some estimates say that annually approximately 100 million sharks are removed from the world’s oceans. Case in point: approximately 30% of the mako sharks tagged by NSU’s GHRI research scientists have been lost. These are clearly not sustainable numbers, and it should alarm everyone. It’s why creating awareness about this issue is more important than ever.

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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

 

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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
ynewsletter@gmail.com.

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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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JACKSONVILLE - The newly enacted legislation will dedicate $300 million to preserving migratory routes within the Florida Wildlife Corridor, which includes NFLT’s Ocala to Osceola (O2O) wildlife corridor project. It will also commit $100 million to Florida Forever, the state’s land conservation program.

The Florida Wildlife Corridor includes more than 18 million acres of land, 8 million of which remain unprotected. The O2O wildlife corridor is a critical component of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. NFLT leads a partnership made up of public and private organizations dedicated to conservation and land management along the O2O which is a 1.6-million-acre corridor of public and private lands that connect the Ocala and Osceola National Forests.

“The Florida Wildlife Corridor Act and the funding for Florida Forever is a huge step forward for conservation and for the work we do to conserve environmentally sensitive lands within the O2O and in other Florida Forever project areas,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “Conservation is important for not only protecting and preserving wildlife habitats but also for protecting water quality in our state. This state funding provides an opportunity for conservation that may not have been possible otherwise. We thank the Governor and all our representatives who were instrumental in passing this legislation.”

In addition to funding conservation efforts and protecting the critical wildlife corridor, the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act will connect land needed for flood and sea-level rise resiliency and will protect areas that provide vital drinking water sources for most Floridians. NFLT will be working closely with its partners to continue the mission to preserve lands within the O2O. Those partners include Florida DEP’s Division of State Lands, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Camp Blanding, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, U.S. Forest Service, and county governments.

The money dedicated to the Florida Forever program could also be instrumental in preserving 541 acres in Marion County known as Big Pine Preserve. The land is part of the Longleaf Pine Ecosystems Florida Forever project area which makes it eligible for funding through the Florida Forever program in 2022. The nonprofit land conservation organization is also working with private timberland company Weyerhaeuser on a possible sale of a conservation easement on 50,000 acres of timberland within the O2O.

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TALLAHASSEE – Last week, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (FDACS) Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement (OALE) made an arrest following an investigation into a credit card skimming operation in Hernando County. On June 17, 2021, OALE investigators took Yadian Quesada-Hernandez into custody; Quesada-Hernandez was booked into the Hernando County Jail and bond was set at $40,000.

“Florida has the highest fraud rate per capita in the entire nation, with $84 million lost to fraud in 2018,” said Commissioner Fried. “Our Department’s law enforcement professionals are working hard to thwart these criminals every day, our inspectors are checking thousands of gas pumps for these devices, and I will keep working with the Legislature to attack this problem head-on. I appreciate the selfless, hard-working law enforcement officers that diligently serve our communities.”

Timeline and background information:

March 10: A suspect was caught on video placing a credit card skimming device inside a fuel pump at 7003 N Florida Avenue, Hernando, Florida in an apparent attempt to steal credit card information from Florida consumers. After extensive investigation, investigators with OALE and members of the United States Secret Service Electronic Crime Task Force identified the suspect as Yadian Quesada-Hernandez of Spring Hill, Florida. OALE investigators obtained an arrest warrant for Quesada-Hernandez for multiple related offenses in Citrus County.  Quesada-Hernandez is also suspected of placing credit card skimming devices in gas pumps at other locations throughout Florida.

 

June 17: OALE investigators located and arrested Quesada-Hernandez at his residence without incident. Quesada-Hernandez was booked into the Hernando County Jail with a $40,000 bond.

 

Arrestee: Yadian Quesada-Hernandez, Hispanic male, DOB 01-11-1986, Spring Hill, Florida

Charges:

  • Violation of Section 655.0322(6), F.S., Scheme to Defraud a Financial Institution, Second-Degree Felony, 1 count;
  • Violation of Section 815.06(3)(b)(2), F.S., Unauthorized Access to an Electronic Device, Second-Degree Felony, 1 count;
  • Violation of Section 817.625(2)(c), F.S., Possession of Skimming Device, Third-Degree Felony, 3 counts;
  • Violation of Section 806.13(1)(b)(3), F.S., Criminal Mischief, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.

Skimmers: Skimmers are small electronic devices illegally installed inside gas pumps – first appeared in Florida in 2015 and have grown exponentially since. FDACS’ Bureau of Standards inspects over 8,700 gas stations each year and has removed 4,860 skimmers since 2015. The Bureau also inspects pumps for safety and accuracy. Skimmers can be undetectable to consumers because of their location inside gas pumps, and have a potential for $1 million in fraudulent credit card charges per skimmer. They range from simple devices that clamp onto internal wiring that criminals must later retrieve, to sophisticated devices that deliver stolen credit card data via Bluetooth and automated text messaging. For more information visit FDACS.gov/skimmers.

Since September, FDACS has partnered with local law enforcement offices in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Volusia, Flagler, Orange, Sarasota, St. Johns, Broward, and Bay Counties to perform multiple successful gas pump skimmer sweeps of over 1,500 gas stations.

 

Consumer tips to avoid fraud at the pump:

 

  • Take a close look at the pump: Avoid using pumps that are open or unlocked, have had the tamper-evident security tape cut or removed, or otherwise appear unusual. If unsure, use another pump or pay inside with cash or a credit card.
  • Use a credit card, not a debit card: If a credit card number is skimmed, you’re protected by the card issuer’s zero-liability policy – but a stolen debit card number could be far more damaging. If you must use a debit card, choose to use it as credit, instead of selecting debit and entering your PIN.

 

  • Pay inside, not at the pump: It takes just seconds for criminals to place a skimmer in a gas pump — but it’s far less likely that a skimmer has been placed on the payment terminal in front of the clerk inside the gas station or convenience store. Take the few extra minutes to pay inside with cash or a credit card to protect yourself from fraud.

 

  • Choose gas pumps closest to the physical building: Don’t use gas pumps out of the attendant’s line of sight such as those around a corner or behind a building. Thieves placing skimmers are less likely to put them in pumps where the store attendant may catch them in the act.

 

  • Check card statements and sign up for fraud alerts: Nearly every credit card issuer offers fraud alerts, and many will email or text you when your card is used at a gas station. Check your credit card and debit card transactions frequently to make sure no fraudulent activity has occurred.

If consumers suspect a gas pump skimmer, they should contact FDACS — all consumer complaints will be investigated. To file a consumer complaint, visit FloridaConsumerHelp.com or call 1-800-HELP-FLA or 1-800-FL-AYUDA (en español).

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TALLAHASSEE – Today, the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) announced the initial English Language Arts (ELA) results of the Grade 3 Florida Standards Assessment (FSA). Findings from the initial results include that districts with higher rates of in-person instruction had more consistent learning outcomes between 2019 and 2021 (state tests were not administered in Spring 2020). Achievement gaps also narrowed for Florida’s African American and Hispanic students, who experienced less of a decline (3 percent) than White students (4 percent). The results illustrate that Governor DeSantis and Commissioner Corcoran exhibited remarkable leadership while continuing to make the right decisions when fighting to provide parents with the choice to send their children to in-person learning.

“On June 11, 2020, Commissioner Corcoran and I stood with our school district superintendents and said our schools will be open,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Throughout the year we continued to work with districts to get struggling students on campus full-time to stop learning loss and the possibility of widening achievement gaps. With overwhelming data to support our decisions, we stood firm for our students, families and their teachers. We can now say without hesitation that this generation of Florida’s K-12 students are positioned for success better than any other state in the nation.”

“With 68 percent of students on campuses full-time and 80 percent on campus full- or part-time, I am grateful to report that 97 percent of Grade 3 students tested in-person in Spring 2021,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “Moreover, preliminary results show that between 92 to 94 percent of students took Florida’s state tests (ELA Writing, ELA Reading, Mathematics and end-of-course exams). I am so grateful for the support of Governor DeSantis and district superintendents like Pinellas County’s Mike Grego in crafting the supports and flexibilities needed to ensure Florida could lead the nation in in-person instruction and ensuring that we assess the progress of so many of our students. Getting our students on campus and ultimately informing those students, their parents and their teachers about their academic progress put Florida families and teachers in the driver’s seat to make decisions in the best interest of their children’s growth.”

Throughout the year, Florida leaders, parents and school districts had access to state-of-the-art progress monitoring systems to provide almost real-time feedback. This allowed them to identify student deficiencies in learning and focus targeted resources and supports to improve student achievement. For example, progress monitoring suggests that Florida students are performing at a higher level than their national counterparts on i-Ready reading. The initial results suggest that progress monitoring data has been highly accurate by substantially predicting student assessment scores prior to testing.

Florida’s advancements with progress monitoring this school year are seen as a potential game-changer in the future that will allow districts to access valid and reliable data to predict student achievement and academic progress.

  • While the statewide percentage of Grade 3 students scoring Level 3 or above on the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) English Language Arts (ELA) assessment saw a slight decrease, the data clearly shows that, on average, districts with higher rates of in-person instruction weathered the “COVID slide” better and saw lesser declines between 2019 and 2021 than districts with higher rates of virtual instruction.
  • Overall, in 2021 performance at Level 3 and above (on grade level and above) decreased by 4 percentage points compared to 2019 (58% to 54%).
  • All student subgroups continue to have a higher percentage of students performing at Level 3 and above than in 2015 when the FSA was first administered.
  • Charter school performance was higher than non-charter school performance by 8 percentage points on the 2021 Grade 3 FSA ELA (61% vs. 53% at Level 3 or above, respectively). Additionally, charter school performance has been consistently higher than non-charter school performance since 2015 when the test was first administered.

These results are the first glimpse of valuable information that will help policymakers understand the reading achievements and deficiencies of Florida’s Grade 3 students. The picture of where Florida students academically stand will become clearer as additional assessment results become available this summer. The entirety of student assessment results will assist FDOE and districts identify individual student deficiencies for districts to begin providing targeted interventions and supports to students moving forward. The remaining statewide assessment results will be available no later than July 31, per Florida Department of Education Emergency Order No. 2021-01.

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ORLANDO – Six of the 16 Florida municipal electric utilities that are part of one of the largest municipal-backed solar projects in the nation reached a milestone in reducing power plant emissions after the first two solar sites in the Florida Municipal Solar Project completed their first year of operations. The group celebrated the milestone today with a tour of the Harmony Solar Energy Center, which provides 74.5 megawatts of emission-free energy.

“FMPA and its members are committed to providing clean energy with diverse fuel sources that ensure affordable and reliable electricity,” said Jacob Williams, general manager and CEO of the Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA). “Over the last year, we took a major step forward in reducing emissions in a cost-effective way by bringing these two solar farms online.”


The Harmony Solar Energy Center in St. Cloud and the Taylor Creek Solar Energy Center in east Orange County near Wedgefield came online in June 2020 and provide zero-emissions energy to six Florida cities, including Fort Pierce, Jacksonville Beach, Key West, Kissimmee, Ocala and Orlando.

Project Provides Affordable Solar and Environmental Benefits

The large-scale solar project enables participants to provide solar energy to customers in the most cost-effective way. The cost of solar power from the project is approximately one-third the cost of a typical private, rooftop solar system.

Over the past year, the Harmony and Taylor Creek solar sites have generated more than 370,000 megawatt hours, enough energy to power approximately 31,576 homes per year. The sites have also reduced carbon emissions equivalent to:

  • Eliminating 262,213 metric tons of carbon dioxide
  • Taking more than 57,000 vehicles off the road annually
  • Planting 4.3 million trees in 10 years

Additional Solar Sites on the Way

Participants of the Florida Municipals Solar Project plan to add three more solar farms. When the first two phases are complete in late 2023, the project will total approximately 1.5 million solar panels that will have the capability to generate nearly 375 megawatts on more than 3,000 acres of land. That is enough solar energy to power approximately 75,000 homes.

This is the first large utility-scale solar project for FMPA and its members. The 16 local utilities that will purchase power from the project include: Alachua, Bartow, Beaches Energy Services (Jacksonville Beach), Fort Pierce Utilities Authority, Havana, Homestead, Keys Energy Services (Key West), Kissimmee Utility Authority, Lake Worth Beach, Mount Dora, New Smyrna Beach, Newberry, Ocala, Orlando Utilities Commission, Wauchula and Winter Park. These cities are member-owners of FMPA along with 15 other municipal utilities.

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