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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ This Order was released to clarify what is currently in place in the County's Emergency Order in light of recent actions by the Governor. Businesses are still required to post "masks required" signs and require their employees to be masked; masking is required for residents; groups over 50 must be socially distanced or all must be masked; and law enforcement may disperse crowds of any size that are not following safety requirements.

Read the full Order.

See below for the most pertinent paragraphs within the Order.

  1. Alachua County shall be governed as set forth below.
  2. Operations of services and activities.
  3. All services and activities permitted to be operated by Governor DeSantis' Executive Orders (in existence as of this Emergency Order and executed subsequent to this Emergency Order) may operate in Alachua County pursuant to the standards contained herein and referenced by this Emergency Order. All services and activities shall operate in accordance with OSHA and CDC guidelines applicable to their business.
  4. All services and activities, in which persons are required to wear facial covering, shall post the appropriate signage in color in both English and Spanish, available here. http://alachuacounty.us/covid-19/ or by calling 311 (for preprinted sign). Signs shall be at least 11in x 17in. Signage shall be posted in conspicuous locations, which are clearly visible to the patrons and employees throughout each physical location reminding patrons and employees to observe social distancing requirements and to use facial coverings, as required by this Emergency Order. Signage shall be posted, at a minimum, at all points of access (including employee points of access) and throughout the service and activity. Whenever possible, signage shall be posted between 4ft and 5ft as measured from the floor to the bottom of the sign.
  5. Use of facial coverings.
  6. Persons working in or visiting grocery stores, restaurants, bars, dance halls, nightclubs, in-store retail establishments, pharmacies, public transit vehicles, vehicles for hire, along with locations inside or outside, where social distancing measures are not possible shall appropriately wear facial coverings as defined by the CDC, in a manner which covers the mouth and orifices of the nose.
  7. Facial covering includes any covering, which snugly covers the nose and mouth, whether store bought or homemade, and which is secured with ties or ear loops. The Centers for Disease Control provide examples of homemade facial coverings.[1]Persons who wear facial coverings should review the CDC and Florida Department of Health guidelines regarding safely applying, removing, and cleaning face coverings.
  8. A facial covering shall not be required for children under six, persons who have trouble breathing due to a chronic pre-existing condition or individuals with a documented or demonstrable medical problem. It is the intent of this provision that those individuals who cannot tolerate a facial covering for a medical, sensory or any other condition, which makes it difficult for them to utilize a facial covering and function in public, are not required to wear one. It is recognized that this requirement is broader than what might be considered a covered condition under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  9. This Emergency Order does not change or alter any social distancing requirements imposed by this or any other emergency order.
  10. This Emergency Order does not change any requirements for wearing facial coverings imposed by regulatory bodies or orders from the Governor.
  11. Facial coverings do not have to be worn while actively eating or drinking.
  12. Businesses and employers are required to ensure that their employees are using appropriate facial coverings and other methods to protect the employees and public, unless the employee meets an exception in Sec. 3(c) of this Emergency Order. The business or employer may be cited, along with the employee, for an employee's violation of this Section, if the employee is actually engaged in employment-related activities at the time of the violation.
  13. Groups with more than 50 people are not permitted to congregate in a space that does not readily allow for appropriate social distancing unless individuals are wearing facial coverings and may be ordered to disperse by law enforcement or other governmental employees authorized by the County Manager or in the case of a municipality the City Manager or other administrative head of the municipality. Groups of any number who are not socially distancing and not wearing facial coverings will be required to socially distance and may be ordered to disperse by law enforcement or other governmental employees authorized by the County Manager or in the case of a municipality the City Manager or other administrative head of the municipality if they do not comply. Social distancing, for the purpose of this provision, requires adherence to the social distancing recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and the Surgeon General of Florida, and requires 6 foot spacing between persons of different households.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ On Sept. 26 a new art gallery opened complete with a COVID-19 aware reception for its first exhibit. The art gallery world has been hit hard by the pandemic, where social distancing and indoor spaces limit how many people can attend. Many art galleries no longer hold receptions for the exhibits, and a number of the smaller galleries have been forced to close altogether.

The new art gallery is located at 23352 West Highway 27, Suite 80 in a small strip mall in High Springs. Jessica Caldas, owner of Good News Arts, is taking a different approach to the traditional reception, and staged the event in the parking lot in front of the store. Inside viewing of the exhibits was limited to only six people at a time. All guests were required to wear a mask and practice social distancing. This outdoor/indoor event featured three outside tents with live music, live art making for the children, and refreshments for people to enjoy while waiting to see the inaugural exhibition.

Caldas is a Puerto Rican American, Florida and Georgia based artist, advocate, and activist. Her work deals with connecting personal and community narratives to larger themes and social issues. Originally based in Atlanta where her artistic work is well known, she says she has always wanted to open a gallery that would offer not only art and a place for artists to sell their work, but also offer a community arts center, a place for artists to work and a place for community groups to meet. Caldas moved to High Springs with her husband, Brian Bates, who is from the area and owns Head Waters restaurant in the same plaza.

While Caldas had not planned on opening a gallery in the midst of a pandemic, when the space became available, the couple realized it was too good an opportunity to miss.

Good News Arts will provide space for local, regional, and national artists to show challenging and engaging work tied to relevant contemporary issues.

“Artists will be chosen by the power of their practice and message, rather than the commercial viability of their work,” said Caldas.

Outside of curated exhibitions, Good News Arts will also be an open space for community members to present work via additional exhibitions, musical performances, spoken word, events, and whatever else serves the community’s needs. Caldas also wants to partner with local schools, libraries, nonprofits, and other community organizations to broaden their impact and serve the community better. She also is planning classes and workshops taught by local artists for anyone that would like to learn a particular art form

“Good News Arts is meant to be both a gallery and education space for the arts with justice at its heart,” said Caldas. “We will collaborate with artists to provide community space for creative and cultural output while working towards a more just and equitable society.”

In her advocacy work, Caldas has spent time lobbying for policy at the local level in Georgia and spent time with the YWCA Georgia Women's Policy Institute at the 2016 general assembly to assure the passage of the Rape Kit Bill and in 2016 to stop HB 51 in 2017, a bill that would have harmed the safety of sexual assault survivors on college campuses.

Caldas received her Masters of Fine Arts degree at Georgia State University in 2019 and received her BFA in printmaking from the University of Georgia in 2012. She taught at Georgia State University as an adjunct professor and Chastain Arts Center as a drawing instructor.

“In the first show I wanted to show off the incredible talent and work of the many artists I hope to collaborate with during the initial programming for the space,” said Cadas. “Many of the artists I'll be choosing to work with at Good News Arts imagine a world that is different from our own, a future that is better, or they challenge our present.”

Caldas says that many of the artists she admires draw heavily from past lives, experiences, and histories to inform their work and the creative spaces they imagine. While the first show was large with multiple artists represented, Cadas plans that future shows will focus on either a single artist with a large body of work or a small group on a similar theme.

Due to COVID-19 she also set up a virtual gallery on her website www.goodnewsarts.com where visitors can tour the gallery and view all the art, along with bios for each artist and prices for the purchase of the art. The gallery will not receive profits from the artists by taking a commission, but instead will enable artists to keep all of their sales, while providing information for donations to nonprofits and charitable organizations if the artist chooses to do so.

The first show will run until Nov. 14 and the gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday from 12 to 6 p.m. or by appointment. Future shows, classes and workshops will be posted on the goodnewsarts.com website.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The High Springs Farmers’ Market Pavilion is finally becoming reality. Maria Antela, the Farmers Market Manager at the time the grant was written, applied for a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Business Enterprise Grant for $199,441, to construct a pavilion to house the city’s farmers’ market.

The purpose of the grant was to provide a location for small businesses to have a place to grow locally. USDA offers the grant to provide technical assistance and training for small rural businesses. “Small” in USDA terms means that the business has fewer than 50 new workers and less than $1 million in gross revenue. The funds must be used for projects that benefit rural areas or towns and grant money typically assists with economic development planning and/or the financing or expansion of rural businesses.

At the time Antela wrote the grant, Carol Rowan, the current Farmers’ Market Manager, was a volunteer coordinator. One of the grant stipulations was that the vendors had to provide their tax information showing that they were a legitimate business owner, which they were easily able to do.

“There were 17 of us vendors that provided the required tax information, but we had approximately 35 vendors at that time. Over the years, with delays and changes, the 16 other vendors dwindled away and I am the only one of those 17 that still remains at the market,” said Rowan.

“There have been approximately eight vendors that have stuck by me throughout all the delays and extensions from 2013 to the present time in order to keep it a market,” she said.

Rowan and Basti Gonzalez co-managed the market for part of 2013 and Rowan took over management and became a City of High Springs employee in 2014. For a while CRA Director Kristina Wright and Finance Director Jennifer Stull filed extensions every two years in order to keep the grant active. When Wright left the City, Stull took over all of the aspects of the project and acted as liaison for the Farmers Market with USDA.

According to CRA Director David Sutton, “Stull is the one who took the project from inception, met with the architect and got the bids for the pavilion. She was on top of this project all the way,” he said.

USDA provided funding to the project on Sept. 25, 2014. “They give out those big checks, but they don’t really give you the money until you begin digging dirt. That’s when you get your money,” said Rowan.

Once work began on the project, the market had to vacate their space and they moved over to the parking lot at City Hall on Fridays since City Hall was closed. “At that point,” said Rowan, “the market changed from Thursdays to Fridays, but we kept the same 12 – 4 p.m. hours as always.”

Construction started, but slowed down when COVID-19 hit. “We were supposed to be in by the end of August, which didn’t happen. Then we were supposed to move in last week, but that didn’t happen either,” she said. Apparently, a punch list of items still needed to be addressed, which has now been taken care of.

Last week the Farmers’ Market had 19 vendors show up. All together approximately 30 vendors take advantage of the Farmers Market in High Springs according to Rowan’s records. “Everyone doesn’t show up every week,” Rowan said, “but right now I have the entire pavilion booked for the ribbon cutting and grand opening at 2:15 p.m. on Oct. 27.” She said it is possible that more may show up, and tents will be set up to accommodate them.

The City plans to have light refreshments and beverages to keep everyone hydrated said Sutton. High Springs Public Information Officer Kevin Mangan will act as master of ceremonies for the event.

Once the pavilion formally opens, the Farmers Market will be open on Fridays from 3 – 7 p.m. Rowan did a survey on the Farmers Market social media page and asked the citizens which day and at what times they wanted to visit the Farmers Market. “We had an overwhelming number of views and this is the day and time they chose,” she said. “We’re here to serve our citizens. If that’s what they want, that’s what we’ll do.”

Previously, the market couldn’t stay open after dark. “It just wasn’t safe. We didn’t have lights and it was just too dangerous for vendors to be out here that late,” Rowan said. “Now, we’re in a safe and protected environment so we can more safely accommodate the later shoppers.”

In addition to High Springs’ dignitaries, staff and citizens, invitations have gone out to Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Congressman Ted Yoho, State Representative Chuck Clemons, Senator Keith Perry, State Representative Clovis Watson, Jr., Miss Florida Gator 2020, Ashtyn Brown, the 2020 State of Florida Watermelon Queen, who is also the Newberry Watermelon Festival Queen, Bethany Barfield, County Commissioners and dignitaries from area cities.

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HIGH SPRINGS - The High Springs Garden Club has chosen Jim and Sandra Duncan’s beautiful garden as the “Yard of the Month” for October. The lovely home decorated for fall is located in Bailey Estates. L to R: Garden Club President Vickie Cox with homeowners Sandra and Jim Duncan.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ Alachua County Public Schools Communications and Community Initiatives Director Jackie Johnson will be addressing High Springs Commissioners and citizens on Oct. 8 to advocate for the passage of the One Mill Tax.

“This,” said Johnson,” is not the half-cent for existing aging schools and new construction, which was approved by voters.” The one mill tax was approved originally in 2008, but must be approved every four years by voters. In 2008, the country went through a serious depression which resulted in massive budget cuts for school. Johnson said the schools had to make some painful cuts in programs and people.

Art and music programs and media professionals had to be cut at that time. Johnson said that school budgets never recovered from the recession. Money for school programs have traditionally been low in Florida. The one mill property tax costs the average property owner less than $7 per month according to Johnson. The funds go to pay for fulltime art and music programs at the elementary level, school counselors, media specialists, career technology teachers and academic magnet programs.

The voters approved the one mill tax again in 2012, which allowed the schools to add band and chorus teachers for middle and high schools.

Johnson says this tax is the sole source for classroom technology, which includes computers, projectors, 7,000 laptops and 1,000 hotspots that the schools have given out since the pandemic started.

“The last thing it does is to pay for one nurse in every school for the next four years,” Johnson said. “Because this is a renewal of an existing tax, it won’t increase property taxes because it is not a new tax.”

“The legislature, not the school board, determines the rates provided for schools each year,” Johnson said. “For the last five years and for nine out of the last 10 years, the legislature has reduced school property taxes. Historically, the legislature has provided very low student funding in Florida.”

“The one mill tax brought in $11 - $12 million in 2008. Last year the tax brought in about $17 million. Depending on the economy, we are still projecting somewhere in the $17 million range.”

Johnson said that just last year, between salaries and technology at the High Springs Community School and Santa Fe High School, the cost was $814,000.

Currently, Johnson said the one mill tax funded salaries for 15 teachers in those two schools and funded a total of more than 220 laptops and hotspots given out to children at those two schools. It also helped pay for other technology as well like classroom computers and signal boosters.

In Alachua County alone, legislators are predicting $16 million in cuts to school funding. A number of students haven’t come back to school. Some Florida school districts have laid people off. Johnson said this hasn’t happened here yet, but these cuts are coming when schools are having to pay for unusual items like PPEs, certain cleaning supplies and equipment, additional custodial firms who can provide deep cleaning.

She summarized by saying, “Good quality schools bring in businesses to help provide for economic development. We want our children to be well-educated future pharmacists, teachers and doctors and to be contributing adults. A good education fosters those goals.”

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NEWBERRY ‒ The City of Newberry has made it known that it opposes the “County Charter Amendment Establishing County Growth Management Area” and went so far as to pass a resolution on Aug. 24 regarding that opposition. On Oct. 1, The Newberry City Commission went a step further by proposing to authorize funds for litigating and advertising to educate and inform the public about Alachua County’s proposed Charter referendum and how it will impact Newberry, as well as all of the smaller communities within Alachua County.

The specific Charter Amendment of concern is referred to on the ballot as the “County Charter Amendment Establishing County Growth Management Area.” The issue centers on the concern that the amendment, if approved by the voters, will restrict the ability of municipalities to determine the appropriate uses for property within their jurisdiction after annexing property from the County into their cities.

The Florida Constitution provides for Home Rule. The governing article reads: “Municipalities shall have governmental, corporate and proprietary powers to enable them to conduct municipal government, perform municipal functions and render municipal services, and may exercise power for municipal purposes except as otherwise provided by law.”

Each city, including Newberry, considers this authority to be fundamental to all Florida municipalities and they believe that local elected officials make the best decisions about commercial, residential, recreational and conservation development within their own communities.

Newberry’s Commissioners believe that the amendment, as it has been drafted, is averse to the fundamentals of home rule and undermines their ability to govern. By adopting this ordinance, they also agree that the proposed amendment eliminates the ability of municipalities to determine land uses that allows them to chart their unique course of development and differentiate themselves from other local communities.

Further, they believe the amendment discourages businesses from moving into the community as the City will not have control over land use policies. It negatively impacts the City’s ability to attract citizens deciding where to live and raise their families based on the look and feel of the community, which is in large part a result of local land use decisions. Commissioners also believe that the proposed amendment adds an extra, unnecessary level of bureaucracy to its citizens.

The ordinance, if approved on second reading, will allow the City of Newberry to expend public funds for an electioneering communication that is limited to factual information and does not expressly advocate for an issue.

The City of Newberry opposes the passage of the proposed amendment and opposes its application within their city as they stated in a resolution previously passed by the City Commission on Aug. 24. Also, the City opposes the passage of the proposed amendment for the reasons spelled out in a suit filed by the City of Alachua, v. Alachua County, Florida, et al. in which the City of Alachua is seeking injunctive relief from the Circuit Court.

During the Oct. 1 meeting Commissioners also received information from the city attorney as to how to best communicate the pros and cons of the issue to the public. One item of note is that Commissioners are free to express their own personal opinions in person, on their own media page or in letters to the editor, etc., but are not allowed to use public funds to advocate for or against this or any other issue on the ballot.

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TALLAHASSEE — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced $50 million for more than 20 statewide springs restoration projects to aid the recovery and provide additional protection for Florida’s springs. These projects work in concert with increased monitoring, enforcement, and other measures to ensure compliance with best management practices implemented under the Governor’s leadership to improve water quality across the state.

“Florida’s springs are integral to both our economy and environment,” said Governor DeSantis. “Our state is home to more large springs than any other state in the nation and they serve as a fun source of recreation for our residents and visitors to enjoy. The projects announced today continue our mission to restore and protect our water quality throughout Florida.”

“Thanks to Governor DeSantis’ leadership, DEP is engaged in a broad suite of water quality improvement efforts across the state,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “Of particular importance to the state are those projects tied to springs restoration. This diverse selection of projects will be complemented and enhanced by Department initiatives to increase facility inspections, water quality monitoring, and enforcement.

“Florida’s springs are among our most precious water resources,” said Chief Science Officer Dr. Tom Frazer. “They reflect the quality of our drinking water and nourish some of the most iconic surface waters in the state. The projects announced by Governor DeSantis today are intended to increase spring flows and improve water quality so that these springs systems and the resources that they support can be accessed and enjoyed by generations to come.”

Springs provide a window into Florida’s vast groundwater system and are a barometer of the condition of the state’s primary source of drinking water. DEP and four Florida water management districts have identified a broad suite of projects that include land acquisition, septic to sewer conversion, and water quality improvement efforts, intended to increase aquifer recharge, improve spring flow, and protect downstream habitats all the way to the coast.

Many of the projects will benefit ongoing restoration efforts in springsheds. These restoration efforts reflect a collaborative effort with the department, water management districts, community leaders and local stakeholders. The contributions and cooperation of these agencies and individuals have been crucial throughout the development process. Combining and leveraging resources from various agencies across Florida allows for a more efficient and comprehensive restoration effort.

The more than 20 statewide springs projects include:

Northwest Florida Water Management District:

  • $1.1 million to extend central sewer service to the Tara Estates neighborhood located north of Marianna, including abandoning septic tanks proximate to the Chipola River.

 “We are so excited to help carry forward Governor DeSantis and DEP’s unparalleled commitment to the long-term improvement and protection of Florida’s priceless springs and other water resources,” said Brett Cyphers, Executive Director of the Northwest Florida Water Management District. “The district, like the governor, is focused on tangible solutions and we are grateful for the opportunity to help deliver results.”

Southwest Florida Water Management District: 

  • A total of more than $8.3 million for projects in Marion County that will help protect Rainbow Springs, including Burkitt Road Septic to Sewer, Northwest Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion, Oak Bend I-75 Water Quality Improvement and the 180th Avenue Package Plant Abatement. 

“Improving our five first-magnitude springs is a top priority for our District,” said Brian Armstrong, Executive Director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. “Thanks to the ongoing financial support from the Governor, the Legislature and DEP for springs restoration, we are launching a new initiative to fund septic to sewer conversion projects that will reduce nutrients and improve the health of our springs.”

St. Johns River Water Management District 

  • $1.1 million for the Apopka West Reuse Storage Facility and Reclaimed Water Extension projectthat will provide nearly 3.48 million gallons per day of reclaimed water, benefiting Wekiwa and Rock springs.

“Protecting Florida’s springs is among our state’s highest environmental priorities,” said Dr. Ann Shortelle, Executive Director of the St. Johns River Water Management District. “The Governor’s increased focus is providing historic levels of funding to bolster district and local funds and enhancing our joint environmental initiatives. We are also grateful for FDEP’s commitment to helping us fund projects improving the health of Florida’s springs and their ecosystems.”

Suwannee River Water Management District

  • A total of more than $2.3 million for the acquisition of more than 3,600 acres of land to protect springs in Columbia County Grasslands (Ichetucknee Springs), Devil's Ear Springs Recharge (Ginnie Springs Group), Santa Fe Springs and Sawdust Spring (Sawdust and Devil's Ear springs). The acquisition of these lands will help improve aquifer recharge potential, enhance recreational opportunities and protect native species.

“As Florida’s Springs Heartland, it is critical for us to focus on the health of our springs and connect with our community partners to accomplish that effort. Funding these projects will help protect and restore our natural systems,” said Hugh Thomas, Executive Director of the Suwannee River Water Management District. “Thank you to Governor DeSantis, the Legislature and Florida Department of Environmental Protection for leading this initiative to protect our water resources.”

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TALLAHASSEE ‒ The Florida Department of Elder Affairs’ (DOEA) Serving Health Insurance Needs of the Elderly (SHINE) Program has received multiple reports of Medicare phone scams involving Durable Medical Equipment (DME). The Social Security Act prohibits suppliers of DME from making unsolicited telephone calls to people on Medicare. The reports indicate people have not only received unwanted sales calls, but other people have received unordered supplies including back braces. One case involves a person receiving twenty different items from five different companies.

People on Medicare should be aware that DME sent by a supplier needs to be prescribed by their doctor. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), fraudulent telemarketing and DME supplies contribute to the estimated $60 billion in fraudulent Medicare payments each year. To help put a stop to unsolicited calls and unordered supplies, you may consider the following actions:

  • If you receive a call that pressures you to buy medical equipment you don’t want or need, simply HANG UP.
  • If you receive items in the mail you didn’t order, refuse the delivery or send them back and report it to your local SHINE Senior Medicare Patrol Office at 1-800-963-5337.

With your help, we can stop Medicare fraud one case at a time.

SHINE is a program of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and is operated locally through Elder Options. Senior Medicare Patrols (SMPs) empower and assist Medicare beneficiaries, their families, and caregivers to prevent, detect, and report heath care fraud, errors, and abuse through outreach, counseling, and education. To receive help from SHINE, please arrange to speak with a trained SHINE counselor at 1-800-96-ELDER (1-800-963-5337). For a listing of SHINE counseling sites and enrollment events, please visit www.floridashine.org.

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GAINESVILLE ‒ As slow-moving Hurricane Sally approached the Gulf Coast – eventually making landfall as a category 2 storm near Gulf Shores, Alabama, early Wednesday morning – its bands enveloped most of the Florida Panhandle.

But like the rest of the state, the Panhandle is more than its tourist-attracting beaches. The seasonal crops, livestock and aquaculture products produced in the region are valued at approximately $400 million and directly support over 8,000 jobs, and that’s not including related economic contributions in supporting industries.

The affected counties represent major producers of several agricultural products. This includes, per 2018 data from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, approximately 100,000 acres each of peanuts, cotton and hay; around 10,000 acres of corn; nearly 4,000 acres of horse farms; plus other commodities like aquaculture fish and shellfish. To capture the full impact on the damages to these commodities from Hurricane Sally, the UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program is preparing to conduct an assessment of the damages.

“These types of climate-related disasters are the most destructive to agriculture,” said Christa Court, director of the program and an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department. “When we do our assessments, we’re really looking to capture the acute, short-term impacts, like losses of seasonal crops that were in the field when the storm hit, but we know that other impacts will appear in the long-term.”

The assessment surveys, completed via an online survey tool or paper survey by local Florida Cooperative Extension agents or producers themselves, aim to capture impacts to sales revenues for the wide variety of industries covered. Even ancillary components of operations can be affected, although Court adds that these will not necessarily be captured quantitatively within the survey.

“As examples, the area has grazing or pasture land that the USDA had classified as ‘in excellent condition’ in recent crop progress reports, as well as significant timber resources,” Court said. “Further along the supply chain, there is also food or crop processing in the area, such as timber mills, cotton gins, etc., that might be shut down due to flooding or be inaccessible due to road

closures that are not currently covered in our assessment efforts, which focus on agricultural production. Also, we know there are roughly 8,000 to 9,000 farm-related buildings – homes, barns, greenhouses, other structures – that are in the area and at risk of flooding or wind damage.”

Court cautions that power outages, impassible roads and other challenges could affect the ability to conduct assessments until those issues can be addressed.

“With roads and bridges being closed, it’s going to be some time before anyone is able to really assess what happened,” agreed Pete Vergot, who oversees all of the affected counties as director of the UF/IFAS Northwest Extension District. “Reports that I’ve gotten back from county Extension directors is that water is the biggest effect. Our producers were already dealing with saturated fields before all this happened.”

In addition to producers’ fields, also at risk in the region were several UF/IFAS buildings, which house programs that support growers and others in these communities: 16 county extension offices; four Research and Education Center sites in Marianna, Quincy, Milton and Jay; and 4-H Camp Timpoochee.

According to Jennifer Bearden, UF/IFAS Extension Okaloosa County agriculture agent, her local growers had been dealing with a rainy growing season that presented other challenges, like boll rot in cotton fields. Tropical storm force winds likely sent much of that crop to the ground, but she says what remains is now even more susceptible to the disease already sweeping through the fields.

She listed the other crops she helps troubleshoot for farmers in her county: “We still had some corn to be harvested but with the excess moisture and wind it may be a huge loss. Soybeans also were looking good but will likely suffer significant losses. Peanuts will probably be the least affected, but harvest will likely be delayed some due to transportation issues.”

But it’s not just plants at risk, Bearden added.

“Livestock owners face issues like trees down on fences and structures, feed and hay availability, and water availability due to power outages,” she said. “In the near future, mosquito-spread diseases can be an issue, such as encephalitis.”

Even still, Bearden noted, the rivers are rising.

“Time will tell if this will affect yields significantly,” Bearden said. “The longer we delay, the more yield losses we will see. We will have a better idea come next week when the rivers start receding.”

Court confirms that the amount of water brought by Hurricane Sally presents an unusual assessment ahead.

“Typically, we are assessing crops that have wind damage, and it is easy to tell what has been lost or destroyed,” she said. “It might be weeks or months before growers are able to determine the full impact of flooded fields – crops might be destroyed, experience lower yield or lower quality product,

etc. We also aren’t sure of the impact of soil erosion, things like sink holes, or even soil salinity for areas near the coast that got storm surge.”

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TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Division of Consumer Services issued administrative complaints, revoking the telemarketing registration for three Florida-based businesses conducting sham telemarketing operations. This  follows a court order obtained by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Florida Attorney General.

FDACS revoked the telemarketing registrations of GDP Network, LLC, G&N Squared, LLC, and G&G Success, LLC. Since 2014, these three telemarketing businesses conducted sham credit card interest rate reduction operations that often targeted financially distressed consumers and older adults.

“As Florida’s consumer protection watchdog, we have zero tolerance for businesses attempting to defraud Floridians, especially those who may be struggling with debt and are seeking help,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Revoking these registrations is necessary to hold these bad actors accountable for their fraudulent actions, and to prevent Floridians from being taken advantage of.”

According to FTC complaints, these companies targeted vulnerable consumers with unsolicited telemarketing cold calls, which falsely promised consumers that they would substantially and permanently reduce their credit card interest rates in exchange for sizable upfront fees. The company’s telemarketers failed to identify themselves and misled consumers into believing that they were credible organizations associated with their bank, credit card company, or well-known credit card networks such as Visa and MasterCard.

These businesses charged significant upfront fees ranging from $995 to $3,995 for their alleged services immediately following the telemarketing call using remotely created payment orders with the promise of saving consumers thousands of dollars in credit card interest. However, their telemarketers frequently fail to provide the promised debt reduction results and typically fail to provide refunds to dissatisfied consumers, generating millions of dollars through this unlawful scheme.

In July, the FTC and the Florida Attorney General obtained a court order to freeze the assets and temporarily halt the operation of these Orlando-based businesses.

FDACS Division of Consumer Services is providing the following information on debt relief scams and legitimate practices:

Many reputable credit counseling organizations can help consumers manage their debt. Debt relief scammers offer fake guarantees to eliminate debt quickly and cleanly, but often only after the consumer has paid them. This request to pay upfront is prohibited under the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule, and it is an early indicator that the offer is a scam. Legitimate debt relief firms can charge for their services but can only collect when they get results.

Signs that a debt relief company may not be legitimate include:

  • Promises of a “new government program” to bail out personal credit card debt
  • Guarantees about making unsecured debt go away
  • Instructions to stop communicating with creditors without explaining the serious consequences
  • Promises that they can stop all debt collection calls and lawsuits
  • Guarantees that unsecured debts can be paid for pennies on the dollar

Consumers who work with a debt settlement company may have to deposit funds into a dedicated bank account. This account is administered by an independent third party responsible for transferring funds to creditors and the debt settlement company when settlements occur.

Information that debt settlement companies must disclose about the debt relief program before the consumer signs any agreements includes:

  • The company must explain its fees and any conditions of service
  • The company must disclose how many months or years before it will make an offer to each creditor for a settlement
  • The company must tell the consumer how much money or the percentage of each outstanding debt the consumer must save before it makes an offer to each creditor for settlement
  • The company must explain the negative consequences if the consumer stops making payments to creditors, including possible damage to credit report and credit score, creditors may sue or continue with the collection process, and credit card companies may charge additional fees and interest, which will increase the amount the consumer owes
  • The funds deposited in a dedicated bank account for debt settlement belong to the consumer and the consumer is entitled to any interest earned
  • The account administrator may charge a reasonable account maintenance fee, is not affiliated with the debt relief provider, and does not get referral fees
  • The consumer may withdraw their money at any time without penalty

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WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service has announced it will reopen the registration period for federal beneficiaries who didn't receive $500 per child payments earlier this year.

The IRS urges certain federal benefit recipients to use the IRS.gov Non-Filers tool starting August 15 through September 30 to enter information on their qualifying children to receive the supplemental $500 payments.

Those eligible to provide this information include people with qualifying children who receive Social Security retirement, survivor or disability benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Railroad Retirement benefits and Veterans Affairs Compensation and Pension (C&P) benefits and did not file a tax return in 2018 or 2019.

The IRS anticipates the catch-up payments, equal to $500 per eligible child, will be issued by mid-October.

"IRS employees have been working non-stop to deliver more than 160 million Economic Impact Payments in record time. We have coordinated outreach efforts with thousands of community-based organizations and have provided materials in more than two dozen languages," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. "Given the extremely high demand for EIP assistance, we have continued to prioritize and increase resource allocations to eligible individuals, including those who may be waiting on some portion of their payment. To help with this, we are allocating additional IRS resources to ensure eligible recipients receive their full payments during this challenging time."

Used the Non-Filers tool after May 5? No action needed.

For those Social Security, SSI, Department of Veterans Affairs and Railroad Retirement Board beneficiaries who have already used the Non-Filers tool to provide information on children, no further action is needed. The IRS will automatically make a payment in October.

Didn't use the IRS Non-Filers tool yet? Provide information by September 30.

For those who received Social Security, SSI, RRB or VA benefits and have not used the Non-Filers tool to provide information on their child, they should register online by Sept. 30 using the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool, available exclusively on IRS.gov. Remember, anyone who filed or plans to file either a 2018 or 2019 tax return should file the tax return and not use this tool.

For those unable to access the Non-Filers tool, they may submit a simplified paper return following the procedures described in this FAQ on IRS.gov.

Any beneficiary who misses the September 30 deadline will need to wait until next year and claim it as a credit on their 2020 federal income tax return.

Those who received their original Economic Impact Payment by direct deposit will also have any supplemental payment direct deposited to the same account. Others will receive a check.

Eligible recipients can check the status of their payments using the Get My Payment tool on IRS.gov. In addition, a notice verifying the $500-per-child supplemental payment will be sent to each recipient and should be retained with other tax records.

Other Non-Filers can still get a payment; must act by October 15.

Though most Americans have already received their Economic Impact Payments, the IRS reminds people with little or no income and who are not required to file tax returns that they remain eligible to receive an Economic Impact Payment.

People in this group should also use the Non-Filers' tool – but they need to act by October 15 to receive their payment this year.

Anyone who misses the October 15 deadline will need to wait until next year and claim it as a credit on their 2020 federal income tax return.

Available in both English and Spanish, the Non-Filers tool is designed for people with incomes typically below $24,400 for married couples, and $12,200 for singles. This includes couples and individuals who are experiencing homelessness. People can qualify, even if they don't work or have no earned income. But low- and moderate-income workers and working families eligible to receive special tax benefits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit, cannot use this tool. They will need to file a regular return by using IRS Free File or by another method.

Other important notices involving Economic Impact Payments:

Spouse's past-due child support. The IRS is actively working to resolve cases where a portion or all of an individual's payment was taken and applied to their spouse's past-due child support. People in this situation do not need to take any action. The IRS will automatically issue the portion of the EIP that was applied to the other spouse's debt.

Spouses of deceased taxpayers. Upon enactment of the CARES Act, the IRS initially implemented the legislation consistent with processes and procedures relating to the 2008 stimulus payments (which were transmitted to deceased individuals). After further review this spring, Treasury determined that those who died before receipt of the EIP should not receive the advance payment. As a result, the EIP procedures were modified to prevent future payments to deceased individuals. The cancellation of uncashed checks is part of this process. Some EIPs to spouses of deceased taxpayers were cancelled. The IRS is actively working on a systemic solution to reissue payments to surviving spouses of deceased taxpayers who were unable to deposit the initial EIPs paid to the deceased and surviving spouse. For EIPs that have been cancelled or returned, the surviving spouse will automatically receive their share of the EIP.

The IRS has taken steps to get payments to as many eligible individuals as possible. A recent oversight report confirmed that the IRS correctly computed the amount due for 98% of the payments issued. However, the IRS acknowledges the significance for those who have not yet received their full payment. The IRS continues to look at ways to help people get the right amount of the payment and will continue to provide updates on additional enhancements as they occur.

For more Information on the Economic Impact Payment, including updated answers to frequently-asked questions and other resources, visit IRS.gov/coronavirus. These online resources are helpful for people who might not understand (i) why the payment received is less than $1,200, (ii) that they are ineligible to receive a payment, or (iii) why they may not be eligible to receive the $500 per qualifying child payment.

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TALLAHASSEE ‒ The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has recently received several reports of suspected Asian giant hornets (AGH) sightings throughout Florida. FDACS’ Division of Plant Industry has confirmed that there is no evidence that so-called “murder hornets” are present anywhere in Florida.

"With reports of suspected Asian giant hornet sightings in Florida, our department and the USDA have confirmed that there is no evidence of this species in Florida," said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. "Our partners at the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the USDA are continuing to study and contain the Asian giant hornet to Washington state. We have every reason to believe that these ongoing efforts will keep this invasive pest far away from Florida’s residents and 650,000 honeybee colonies."

Reports of Asian giant hornets, frequently known in media as "murder hornets,” in Florida are often cases of misidentification, as they bear a close resemblance to native hornet and wasp species in Florida. Residents are encouraged to consult this FDACS Asian Giant Hornet Quick Guide, a to-scale comparison of the AGH and common Florida native species, as a reference to identify this invasive species accurately.

According to the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), AGHs  remain limited to a small part of Washington state. Currently, FDACS is providing technical and financial support to WSDA to help study and monitor the species, with the USDA's APHIS also closely monitoring the situation.

How to report a possible AGH sighting:

As a regulatory agency, FDACS' Division of Plant Industry works to detect, intercept, and control plant and honeybee pests that threaten Florida's native and commercial grown plants and agriculture resources. 

If you believe you have seen an Asian giant hornet, report it to the FDACS Division of Plant Industry by emailing DPIHelpline@FDACS.gov or calling 1-888-397-1517 and provide as much detail as you can about what you saw and where. If possible, include a photo if you can safely obtain one. 

Please visit the USDA APHIS' Asian Giant Hornet website for more information.

Background: Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) is the world's largest species of hornet. In December of 2019, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) confirmed the detection of several individual Asian giant hornets. Later that fall, Canada also confirmed sightings of the species in two locations in British Columbia.

Asian giant hornets are known to feed on insects, sap, and soft fruits, but rarely attack people or pets unless they feel threatened. Their stinger is longer than that of a honeybee, and their venom is highly toxic. They can also sting repeatedly. They are known to attack and kill beehives in the late summer and early fall when developing males and future queens need protein. 

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During this very stressful time—not only in Alachua, but all over the world—we have been forced into situations that we have never faced before, and I would like to say, “thank you” City of Alachua and “The Goodlife Community” for your patience, understanding, and most of all, your great common sense.  

I’m so proud to be your mayor and want to say, “Please keep up the wonderful work you have accomplished so far.”

Gib Coerper

Mayor, Alachua, Florida

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The history of the development of the class of chemicals we call “steroids” goes back several decades. There are a couple of interesting stories regarding this history I would like to relate to the reader in this week’s column.

William Garst HSThe first story is about the earliest documented clinical use of the hormone cortisol obtained from the adrenal glands of animals. At the time cortisol was known as “Compound E” because scientists did not know the actual chemical structure but knew there was a powerful substance produced by these glands.

On Sept. 21, 1948, Dr. Charles Slocumbe and Dr. Philip Hench injected 50mg of Compound E into a young woman suffering from acute rheumatoid arthritis. The same injection was repeated twice the next day. Remarkably, the patient improved so much that she went into remission and was discharged home. It is said that the patient felt so good she was able to immediately go shopping. News of this treatment spread quickly and the demand for this substance increased greatly.

Shortly after this occurred, the chemical structure for cortisol was discovered. Also, at this time many other hormone structures were discovered and found to be similar, though how they act on the body varied significantly. The production of these steroids took several tons of animal glands and was costly to produce; so costly that it was too expensive to be used routinely. Soon another production process was found that took the bile from an ox to make the different steroids. However, even this was too expensive, complicated, and impractical.

During this time, it was discovered that certain female hormones (also steroids) could prevent pregnancy. A determined search for a less costly process to produce steroids was undertaken by the pharmaceutical industry because of the demand for cortisol-like compounds, but also the female hormones which promised to make oral contraception a reality.

Prior to these events, it was known that plants produced chemicals called sterols, structurally similar to steroids. A scientist named Russell Marker discovered that the Mexican Yam (Dioscorea mexicana) produced a high quantity of a chemical, diosgenin, which could easily be converted to the basic steroid structure. He started a company in Mexico called Syntex to produce steroids.

Because of the discovery of a relatively inexpensive way of producing steroids the price of these medications dropped so much that they became commonly used. In fact, it is thought that the hormones estrogen and progesterone (both steroids) are the most used medications in the history of medicine. However, it was the discovery of the Mexican Yam as a source of the basic building block chemical that made the production of steroids affordable to the world.

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 communitypharmacynewsletter@gmail.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Bless America!

Robert W. Wilford

City of Alachua

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Fogler is the President & CEO Florida Press Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Wisnieski, MPA, FACHE

Director

North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System

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TALLAHASSEE – On June 26, 2020, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) issued an Immediate Final Order to Adolphe Take Out Restaurant & Supermarket, Inc., ordering an immediate cease of operations and closure of their Miami store. The order was issued after Adolphe violated multiple stop use and stop sale orders and endangered public health by using equipment and selling products that had violated sanitization requirements.

 

 “It’s our Department’s responsibility to protect Florida’s consumers and a major part of that is ensuring our food supply is safe — it’s unfortunate that Adolphe Take Out Restaurant and Supermarket chose to ignore our directives and compromise public safety,” stated Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Adolphe employees repeatedly disregarded directives, broke stop use and stop sale orders multiple times, failed to remedy numerous violations found upon inspection, and continued operation in a manner which could create a serious health risk. As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s crucial that businesses practice proper sanitization procedures and take precautions to minimize the risk of illness.”

 

Background

An FDACS Division of Food Safety inspector initially visited Adolphe on May 4 and followed up on May 18, May 19, June 17, and June 24, 2020. Upon initial inspections, violations were found that led  to the issuing of several stop sale and stop use orders. Upon return for follow-up inspections, our inspector found the facility had broken six of twelve stop sale and use orders, a clear violation. The inspector communicated to the facility employees that breaking stop sale and stop use orders results in a fine, directed them to remedy the issues that caused the orders, and warned them not to break the orders again.

 May 4 Inspection

Twenty-five violations were found upon our Division of Food Safety inspector’s initial inspection visit on May 04, 2020, ranging from Adolphe’s lack of an employee health policy, to employees consuming food and beverages while using a meat band saw, soap and paper towels not available at an employee sink, and more. The inspector also observed four cats and cat excreta throughout the establishment, multiple food products with compromised packaging due to rodent gnawing and feeding, products with grain insects and rodent excreta inside and outside of packaging, and dented and bulging cans of corned beef hash and spaghettios that were leaking on the storage shelf. All damaged products were voluntarily destroyed during the visit and witnessed by inspector. Nine stop use orders were issued for several pieces of equipment and facility areas.

 May 18 Inspection

Our inspector followed up on May 18, 2020 for a re-inspection visit and found issues which resulted in nineteen violations and two stop use orders being issued. Many violations included issues observed during the previous inspection which had not been remedied. New violations were witnessed, including issues like the lack of a certified food protection manager, automobile motor oil stored directly above single-use items like Styrofoam cups, dented and bulged at the rim canned tuna fish, coolers lacking thermometers. Rodent excreta and live roaches were observed in the facility front receiving and distribution area, in all retail aisles and shelving, in the dry storage area, meat and produce cooler, meat processing area, produce area, product repackaging area, beverage storage area, and backroom area. Inspectors also observed a live kitten trapped inside of a trapping control device. Two additional stop use orders were issued on all processing equipment and the outside receiving and distribution area. 

 May 19 Inspection

During the next follow-up focused inspection on May 19, 2020, three retail aisles and associated shelving areas were released from previous stop use orders. The produce area, retail aisle and shelving areas, product repackaging area, dry storage area, meat and produce cooler, receiving area, meat band, saw meat processing area, and the backroom area remained under the original stop use order issued due to rodent infestation.

 June 17 Inspection

Seventeen violations were found during the inspector’s June 17, 2020 re-inspection visit. Many of the violations were again previous issues that were not remedied. Some of the new violations observed include an excessive number of house and fruit flies and house flies in all areas of the establishment, live roaches in packaging and storage areas, retail and processing areas leaks in the plumbing infrastructure, soil build-up, dead insects, and debris found in all areas. Employees were also witnessed violating previously issued stop use orders. Six citations for breaking stop use orders were issued. A stop sale order was issued on all food items being sold by Adolphe Take Out Market and another stop use order was issued for the beverage storage area.

 June 24 Inspection

On the final follow-up focused inspection, our inspector found multiple stop use and stop sale orders being broken, employees were processing meats, receiving new product, repackaging items, selling food products to customers, and more. Thirteen citations for breaking stop use orders were issued. Two new stop use orders were issued on two reach-in freezers due to unsanitary conditions. 

 For full details from each inspection and on the Immediate Final Order, access the documents here.

 “Insects and animals like roaches, rodents, and cats, can contribute to the distribution of toxins and microorganisms that can cause severe illness and even death in some cases,”  stated Dr. Matthew Curran, Director of the FDACS Division of Food Safety. “The FDACS Division of Food Safety works every day to protect consumers, and ensure they are not exposed to harmful pathogens or chemicals.”

 For photos from the inspections and the Immediate Final Order issue, click here.

 Immediate Final Order

Following the June 24, 2020 follow-up focused inspection, the Department’s Director of the Division of Food Safety, Dr. Matthew Curran, determined that the continued operation of Adolphe Take Out Restaurant & Supermarket, Inc’s Miami store presents an immediate danger to public health, safety, and welfare. Today, inspectors visited the business and issued an Immediate Final Order to cease all operations without delay. Closure notices were attached to each entrance.

 Next Steps

Adolphe cannot re-open until they remedy all violations noted by FDACS’s Division of Food Safety and receive approval from the Department. Now that final order has been issued, the case will continue to be reviewed to determine further administrative action.

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TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) is launching its Safe Summer Travel Campaign, reminding motorists to plan ahead and prepare for safe travel this summer. With residents and visitors starting to venture out more on Florida s roadways, FLHSMV and its Division of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) are partnering with the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Department of Children and Families, Florida Police Chiefs Association, Florida Sheriffs Association and AAA The Auto Club Group to help ensure all travelers Arrive Alive.

This summer, your safety is of utmost importance. Take time to make sure your vehicle is travel ready before your trip, and remember, no matter how eager you are to get to your destination, speeding and driving aggressively is against the law and extremely dangerous, said FLHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes. Whether it’s a day trip or a long overdue road trip, remember to slow down, stay cool and be safe.

In June and July 2019, there were 120,336 citations issued for unlawful speed. Obeying speed limits and not driving aggressively improves safety by reducing the probability and severity of crashes. All motorists must obey speed limits and are responsible for knowing the speed limit on the roadway. Driving slowly and carefully also ensures you have plenty of time to stop in a situation with vulnerable road users, like pedestrians and bicyclists. In Florida, the speed limit will never be higher than 70 mph.

“As summer arrives, FHP Troopers remain committed to public safety,” said Colonel Gene S. Spaulding, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “Your family is precious cargo, so please ensure your vehicle is well maintained and you allow sufficient time to arrive at your destination safely.”

Throughout June and July, FLHSMV is joined by its campaign partners to educate Floridians on all aspects of vehicle and driving safety during the busy summer months.

“As Florida continues to reopen and more vehicles are on the road, it is up to each of us to practice safe driving habits so everyone can arrive at their summer destination safely,” said Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin J. Thibault, P.E.  “FDOT is proud to partner with FLHSMV to remind motorists to travel safely this summer.”

Motorists are reminded to never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even for a short period of time. The inside of a vehicle can heat by 20 degrees in just 10 minutes and cracking a window open does little to keep the vehicle cool. There have been four child heat stroke deaths in the United States in 2020, one of which occurred in Florida, claiming the life of a 10-month-old baby girl. Since 1998, 93 child heatstroke deaths have occurred in Florida, more than any other state except Texas.

“Now more than ever, families may feel an impulse to get away, unplug, and spend quality time together,” said Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell. “While the summer months are an ideal time to have fun and make lasting memories, they’re also conducive to tragedies like drowning and heatstroke. Parents and caregivers are reminded to be vigilant around pools and other bodies of water (designating a Water Watcher is often helpful) and never leave their children alone in hot cars. These precautions will help keep families happy and safe all summer long.”

“The number one priority for the Police Chiefs in the state of Florida is to create a safe environment for our citizens and visitors. You can help us by ensuring that your vehicle has been properly serviced before hitting the road for travel,” said Chief Kenneth Albano, Temple Terrace Police Department and President of the Florida Police Chiefs Association. “Driving a vehicle that is road ready, avoiding aggressive driving, and exercising courteous driving helps save lives. Always remember to never leave children or pets in an unattended vehicle, the consequences can be deadly.”

“As we begin to recover from our recent challenges, we will once again welcome guests and tourists to our great state for the summer increasing both the local and state-wide traffic. While we return to normal please drive safely and considerately. On behalf of our Florida Sheriffs, I fully endorse the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Safe Summer Travel campaign,” said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, President of the Florida Sheriffs Association.

“Please stay safe as we all get back on the road this Summer,” said Matt Nasworthy, Florida Public Affairs Director, AAA The Auto Club Group. Be patient with other drivers and vigilant that you don t ever leave children or pets unattended in your car.

FLHSMV reminds motorists to follow this critical Safe Summer Travel Checklist:

  • Slow down, stay cool. Obey all posted speed limits. Speeding and driving aggressively increases the probability and severity of a crash.
  • Check all tires, including the spare. As a vehicle s first line of defense, tires should be routinely inspected and maintained to ensure they are in good condition. Check the vehicle s tire pressure and ensure the vehicle s tires have adequate tire tread. Under-inflated tires can overheat. Never overload a vehicle; it can result in premature tire wear, blowouts and hydroplaning.
  • NEVER leave children or pets in vehicles unattended. Summer can be incredibly hot in Florida and leaving children or pets unattended for even a short time can be deadly. Make sure all passengers are accounted for when exiting the vehicle.
  • Register emergency contact information. In the event of an emergency, make sure law enforcement knows who to call. The FLHSMV allows all driver license and ID card holders to register up to two designated emergency contacts. Log on to flhsmv.gov/eci to register or update contacts.
  • Prepare for driving in inclement weather. Summer is hurricane season in Florida, and along with an increased number of wildfires, drivers should be aware of changing weather and road conditions. Drivers should know their evacuation routes, check road closures and call *FHP to report unsafe road conditions.
  • Check for recalls. Always make sure your vehicle is in peak condition to travel. Check for recalls before hitting the road at safercar.gov.
  • Drive Sober. Plan ahead and designate a sober driver or call a ride service. Report impaired drivers by dialing *FHP (*347) or 911.

For a more detailed, downloadable checklist, visit flhsmv.gov/summertravel.

The public is encouraged to report aggressive or impaired drivers by dialing *FHP (*347) or 911 and check traffic conditions before departing for their trip. For more information, real time traffic conditions and additional travel information, visit: flhsmv.gov/summertravel

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FLORIDA ‒ The 2020 recreational bay scallop season for Dixie County and a portion of Taylor County opens June 15 and will remain open through Labor Day, Sept. 7, 2020. This includes all state waters from the Suwannee River to the Fenholloway River and includes the towns of Keaton Beach and Steinhatchee.

The daily bag limit from June 15-30 in this area is one gallon of whole bay scallops in shell or one cup shucked per person or five gallons whole or two pints shucked per vessel.

From July 1 through Labor Day in this area and all season long in other areas when open, regular bag and vessel limits apply. Regular season limits are two gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or one pint of bay scallop meat per person, with a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or 1/2 gallon bay scallop meat per vessel (1/2 gallon = 4 pints). Vessel limits do not allow an individual to exceed their personal bag limit.

Other 2020 Season Dates

Additional bay scallop season dates are as follows:

  • Joseph Bay/Gulf County: 16 through Sept. 24. This region includes all state waters from the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County to the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County.
  • Franklin County through northwestern Taylor County (including Carrabelle, Lanark and St. Marks): July 1 through Sept. 24. This region includes all state waters from the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County to the mouth of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County.
  • Levy, Citrus and Hernando counties(including Cedar Key, Crystal River and Homosassa): July 1 through Sept. 24. This region includes all state waters from the mouth of the Suwannee River in Levy County to the Hernando–Pasco county line.
  • Pasco County: Open for 10 days starting the third Friday in July (July 17-26, 2020). This region includes all state waters south of the Hernando–Pasco county line and north of the Anclote Key Lighthouse including all waters of the Anclote River.

Other regulations

Scallops may be collected by hand or with a landing or dip net.

There is no commercial harvest allowed for bay scallops in Florida.

Direct and continuous transit of legally harvested bay scallops is now allowed through closed areas. Boaters may not stop their vessels in waters that are closed to harvest and must proceed directly to the dock or ramp to land scallops in a closed area.D

For information on bay scallop regulations, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Bay Scallops” under the “Crabs, Shrimp and Shellfish” tab.

Boater and scalloper safety

Be safe when diving for scallops. Wear a life jacket when underway and do not drink and boat. When scalloping in open water, divers should stay within 300 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or device, and within 100 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or device if on a river, inlet or navigation channel. Boat operators traveling within 300 feet of a divers-down flag or device in open water or within 100 feet of one on a river, inlet or navigational channel must slow to idle speed. For more information, visit MyFWC.com/Boating/Regulations and click on “Divers-down Warning Devices.”

Stow it, don’t throw it

Don’t forget to stow your trash securely on your vessel so that it doesn’t blow out and do not discard empty scallop shells in the Hernando or Crystal rivers. Scallop shells may be discarded in a trash receptacle or in larger bodies of water where they are more likely to disperse.

Citizen Science

Done for the day? Help FWC’s scallop researchers by completing an online survey at svy.mk/bayscallops. Harvesters can indicate where they harvested scallops, how many they collected and how long it took to harvest them. Participants can email BayScallops@MyFWC.com to ask questions or send additional information.

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TALLAHASSE – The Florida Forest Service has announced the launch of the 2020 Longleaf Pine Private Landowner Incentive Program. Applications will be accepted Wednesday, June 10, 2020 through Wednesday, July 8, 2020.

 

 The primary objective of the Longleaf Pine Private Landowner Incentive Program is to increase the acreage of healthy longleaf pine forests in Florida by assisting eligible, non-industrial private forest landowners with the long-term investment necessary to establish and maintain the valuable longleaf pine ecosystem.

 Longleaf pine forests are native to the southeastern United States and are among the most diverse ecosystems in North America. Longleaf pines provide high-quality wood products and are valued for their resistance to damage by insects, disease, wildfire and storms. Due to urbanization and conversion to other land uses, longleaf pine forests have been dramatically reduced and now cover less than four percent of their historical range. Florida is home to more than 2 million acres of longleaf pine ecosystems, which represents more than half of all current longleaf pine forests.

 The Longleaf Pine Private Landowner Incentive Program offers incentive payments for the completion of timber stand improvement, invasive species control, prescribed burning, planting longleaf pine, establishing native plant understory and mechanical underbrush treatments. Private lands located within the 58 counties north of Lake Okeechobee, the historical range of longleaf pine, are eligible for the program.

 To learn more and access an application, visit FDACS.gov/LongleafIncentive or contact your local Florida Forest Service county forester.

 The Longleaf Pine Private Landowner Incentive Program is supported through a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation with funding from the Southern Company, the U.S. Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

 The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests and provides forest management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests. The Florida Forest Service is also responsible for protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres. 

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