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HAWTHORNE ‒ As part of the of widening improvements on State Road 20 from the Putnam County line to Southwest 56th Avenue, County Road 20A will be temporarily closed at State Road 20 Monday, Aug. 17 through Monday, Aug. 24, weather and schedule permitting.

The temporary closure is necessary to safely complete roadway reconstruction work. Traffic will detour via County Road 21 south to County Road 20A.

The improvement project includes widening State Road 20 from a two-lane roadway to a four-lane urban roadway with curbs, gutters, grassed medians, bicycle lanes, five-foot sidewalk on the north side, a 10-foot multi-use path on the south side of the roadway and five-span bridge at Fowlers Prairie. This segment will complete a 12-mile span of improvements on State Road 20 from Alachua County to Putnam County.

Lane closures are allowed Monday through Friday after 8:30 a.m. Intermittent detours and periodic traffic shifts will be necessary to complete reconstruction work at access points to State Road 20.

Anderson Columbia Co. Inc is estimated to complete the $49 million widening improvements by late 2022. Construction completion estimates are fluid and subject to change, weather and schedule permitting.

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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ Alachua County and the Tax Collector's Office invites residents to the unveiling of their new public art installation (an alligator constructed from recycled license plates) funded through the Alachua County Public Arts Program. The unveiling is on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, at the Tax Collector's Downtown Office (12 S.E. 1st Street, Gainesville) at 11 a.m. Light refreshments will be served. Social distancing, masks, and other COVID-19 related precautions will be observed.

A Call-to-Artists was nationally advertised for art to be commissioned, created, and installed at the Tax Collector's Office that would incorporate recycled license plates. Nine submittals were evaluated and the top three were reviewed by the Alachua County Commission, who selected Beth Ravitz in November 2019. 

This art was commissioned to celebrate the service provided to the public by the Tax Collector's Office, while repurposing license plates into an alligator, which not only symbolizes Alachua County's respect for nature and the environment, but also pays homage to the University of Florida's mascot

"We are thrilled to unveil this art for the public's enjoyment," said Alachua County Tax Collector John Power.

The mission of the Alachua County Public Arts Program is to enhance the quality of the visual environment in Alachua County, thereby adding to the quality of life and the level of citizen awareness of the importance of aesthetic experience in their everyday lives.

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GAINESVILLE – Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Interstate 75 northbound ramp on Newberry Road (State Road 26) will remain closed Monday, August 10. The ramp was originally scheduled to reopen at 6 a.m. Monday morning.

 It is now expected the ramp will reopen Tuesday morning, weather and unforeseen circumstances permitting.

 Motorists attempting to go north on I-75 will be required to first go south on I-75, exit onto Archer Road (State Road 24), and then head north on I-75.

 This closure is necessary for construction activities at the Newberry Road and I-75 interchange as crews widen the ramp to the interstate.

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PALATKA ‒ Teachers have until Sept. 4 to apply for 2020-2021 Blue School Grant funds from the St. Johns River Water Management District

Now entering the fifth year of its Blue School Grant Program, the district is offering up to $20,000 in grants for education projects that enrich student knowledge of Florida’s water resources through hands-on learning.

“We are eager once again to support our science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers as they pursue creative ways to engage students in water education,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle.

The district has funded 47 water resource education projects in the last four funding cycles.

Through the district’s Blue School Grant Program, up to $2,000 per school may be awarded to middle and high school teachers to enhance student knowledge of Florida’s water resources. Public and charter school teachers within the district’s boundaries are eligible to apply.

Grants may be awarded in three areas: freshwater resources field study, water conserving landscape projects, or water conservation community/school awareness campaigns.

Examples of previous successful grant applications include:

  • Service-learning projects where middle and high school students partnered to study water quality
  • Creation of native landscape garden with educational signage
  • Water quality comparison of stormwater ponds on campus
  • Conversion of traditional irrigation to micro-irrigation in school landscape
  • Water conservation awareness posters and video

Teachers receiving grants will be notified on Oct. 1.

Information about criteria and deadlines and the online application can be found at www.sjrwmd.com/education/blueschoolor contact Dr. Jennifer Mitchell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 904-730-6283.

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ALACHUA – What was once just a sketch on paper has become reality as Alachua’s San Felasco Parkway has opened. On Tuesday, July 28, with a large crowd in attendance, the road was officially opened with a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

Among those attending were members of the City of Alachua Commission and staff, University of Florida President Kent Fuchs, State Representatives Chuck Clemons and Clovis Watson, Jr. as well as members of the public.

Several speakers from the City of Alachua, including Mayor Gib Coerper, City Manager Adam Boukari and Public Services Director Rodolfo Valladares provided their insights into the project and the great potential the Parkway offers for bringing hi tech economic development to the area,

University of Florida President Kent Fuchs said the academic community is enthused to play a part in the future expansion of knowledge as well as helping give a start to entrepreneurs in the UF Innovation program.

This first phase of the San Felasco Parkway includes a 1.4-mile divided road with sidewalks and bike paths. The road passes though the University of Florida Foundation's 280-acre site southwest of Progress Park. Water, wastewater and electric infrastructure improvements are also included to provide “shovel ready” sites for high-tech industries to build on with all the utilities in place.

In addition to new industry, many high-tech firms that will use the parkway are already established in the area. The road is in close proximity to Copeland Park, Alachua Research Park, San Felasco Tech City and the Santa Fe College Perry Center. In addition, students from Santa Fe College and the University of Florida provide an excellent workforce pool and serve as a catalyst for innovation and further advances in their fields. Many of the tech companies in these parks were spin-offs created by University of Florida graduates or staff.

The presence of the Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator also provides another valuable asset to grow these industries. And looking back 25 years, it was the University of Florida’s founding of the Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator on a vacant piece of land between Alachua and Gainesville that became the impetus for what would become a world-renown biotechnology hub.

At that time, the newly constructed facility was surrounded by open fields and little else. Designed to help tech entrepreneurs and scientific startups, the incubator attracted companies that would occupy incubator space and use shared scientific equipment. As the startup companies grew and matured, they moved out of the incubator with many locating into space in Progress Park. Today, over three dozen companies employing over 1,200 are centered in Progress Park.

The first phase of the San Felasco Parkway is reality and is one of the single largest capacity and infrastructure improvement investments built in the last decade in Alachua County, with more to come. While there are no confirmed plans yet, development on the UF foundation land may include a combination business and residential community for employees in the expanding Progress Park.

As Alachua Mayor Coerper put it, “The futures so bright that I'm wearing shades”.

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ALACHUA COUNTY – With the COVID-19 pandemic not abating, there are renewed concerns with the school year starting. In Alachua County, the school board has postponed the opening of schools until Aug. 24 in the hopes that the infection rate will decline.

However, in the United States cases are not declining, yet there is a push to reopen in-person schooling. The United States accounts for 25 percent of the cases worldwide with over 4,398,994 cases and 150,774 deaths as of July28. Since July 1 there have been over 50,000 new cases per day in the U.S.

Florida has become a hot spot in the pandemic. As of July 28, there were 441,977 cases in Florida and 6,240 deaths. Over 80 percent of ICU beds are occupied throughout the state and are in use. In the past 10 days the state has seen an average of 10,000 new cases per day. On July 24, there was a high of 12,444 cases in 24 hours.

Despite the rise in cases, Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran issued an Executive Order July 6 requiring all public schools, including charters, to open in August for in-person instruction five days a week for all students.

While students are not required to attend school in person, the school districts are required to make it available to them. School districts must comply if they choose to also provide an alternative form of instruction, such as the Digital Academy.

Based on the order, all school districts must offer in person education five days a week to any student who wants it. The districts can then offer online learning as an alternative as long as in-person classes are also available. If a district does not have a state approved plan or were to defy the state order and employ 100 percent online learning, they stand to lose a portion of funding.

In Alachua County it is estimated that funding will be cut by about $30 million for half a school year. Since 85 percent of the district's operating budget goes toward salaries, that would have a large impact on employees and teachers, which would also limit the number of teachers and services, thereby limiting the district's ability to operate. State law prohibits paying people if they don't work, which means paying those employees whose jobs are based on student attendance such as bus drivers would be problematic. It would also affect other programs such as limiting the ability to provide free meals to students.

Teachers in Florida are suing the State to block the order requiring schools to open next month with in-person instruction. They say, with the surge of coronavirus cases, the order violates a provision in the Florida Constitution requiring the state to ensure schools are operated safely.

The order does say the final decision on whether to reopen schools rests with local superintendents, school boards and health offices. But it suggests funding may depend on whether they comply to open schools in person. The districts that submit reopening plans approved by the state will receive full funding.

The Florida Education Association (FEA) is suing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over his administration’s push to reopen schools next month despite surging coronavirus cases in the state. Under the new guidelines requested by the White House, the CDC has downgraded their guidelines but recommends schools follow a certain level of precautions based on the amount of community transmission in their area.

The FEA contends that ordering an unsafe return to on-site instruction at public schools is a violation of Florida’s Constitution. Two nationwide unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, joined an announcement of the litigation in Tallahassee. Under current conditions the State does not meet the CDC guidelines. However, the executive order stands unless overturned in court, which is unlikely to happen prior to most schools opening.

The School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) has postponed the opening of schools for two additional weeks until Aug. 24 in the hopes that the infection rate will decline. They also sent out a notice to all families with school age children to survey whether they would prefer in person classes, digital learning or the Alachua eSchool, which is also computer based.

“Our initial results showed about 41 percent chose brick and mortar in person classes, 41 percent chose the Digital Academy and about 18 percent chose Alachua eSchool. However, we had a significant number of families who either didn't choose or didn't fill out the form correctly. We are also hearing from some parents who want to change their choice, so we are asking them to work with their schools to do that,” said SBAC Public Information Officer Jackie Johnson.

“For students in the Digital Academy and brick and mortar, we will be providing free meals. We cannot provide meals to students in the Alachua eSchool. For students who choose Digital Academy or Alachua eSchool, we will provide devices and will work with families to provide Internet access. We are working with Cox, Verizon, AT&T and other providers to make that happen, and in some cases, we may be using the buses for wifi,” Johnson said.

“Based on the number of students choosing the brick and mortar option, we do think we'll be able to have more social distancing. We're instituting a number of strategies to try to promote social distancing, but of course that is a challenge in a school, a setting that is designed for social interaction,” said Johnson.

The SBAC has submitted a draft plan to the state outlining the three options they intend to provide. The plan outlines strategies that will be implemented depending on the community spread of the virus—no spread, minimal/moderate spread and significant spread. According to the Alachua County Health Department, Alachua County is currently in the minimal/moderate spread category, although that could change.

One of the key goals of the Digital Academy is to promote a more seamless transition between brick-and-mortar and online learning if the state orders all schools closed or when more students return to in-person learning later in the school year. Under the Digital Academy option, students would receive live instruction at home from their assigned teachers. Students would be expected to be engaged in digital learning following their typical school schedule—for example, 7:45 a.m. to 1:52 p.m. for most elementary schools.

The third instructional option for local families is Alachua eSchool, which allows students to learn material and complete coursework on their own schedule and pace without live lessons. Since these students are not “in school” either in person or online, they are not included in the meals programs. The eSchool has been in existence for eight years and during the last school year served about 3,000 full and part-time students.

The debate on reopening schools during the rising case numbers is raging nationwide with many educators and medical experts concerned about its outcome and the possibility of creating a breeding ground for infection.

Only time will tell whether it was a good decision or not. Additional information on all three plans can be found at https://www.sbac.edu/

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TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is continuing to warn Floridians about unsolicited packages of seeds received through the mail. The seed packets, which may arrive unexpectedly in packages bearing Chinese characters, may bear the name China Post, and may be labeled as jewelry, have been reported in multiple states including Virginia, Kansas, Washington, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, and others.

As of July 28, FDACS has received at least 631 reports from Florida residents reporting having received suspicious seed packages. The content of the seed packages remains unknown at this time, until testing by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) takes place.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the lead regulatory body on this matter, issued guidance. The  USDA believes the seeds to be part of a “brushing” scam, where unsolicited items are sent in order to post false customer reviews and boost online sales. Upon receiving seed packages from recipients, the USDA will test the contents to determine if a risk is posed to agriculture or the environment.

 The introduction of plant seeds into the United States is tightly regulated by the USDA. Seeds of unknown origin may constitute agricultural smuggling, may be invasive, may introduce pathogens, toxins, or plant and animal diseases, may pose a risk of foodborne illness, and may pose a threat to plant and animal health. FDACS is continuing to work closely to receive additional guidance from the USDA and APHIS, in consultation with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“Plant seeds from unknown sources may introduce dangerous pathogens, diseases, or invasive species into Florida, putting agriculture and our state’s plant, animal, and human health at risk,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Anyone receiving these suspicious seed packets should not plant them, but should report it to our department immediately, so that our inspectors can safely collect them for analysis.”

Anyone receiving unsolicited seed packages from other countries should follow these directions:

  • Do not open the seed packet and avoid opening outer packaging or mailing materials, if possible
  • Place the seed packet AND mailing materials into a sealable plastic bag – this is important to determining the origin of the seeds
  • Do not plant the seeds or discard them in trash that will be landfilled
  • Report the seed package to the FDACS Division of Plant Industry at 1-888-397-1517 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • After reporting the seed package, an Inspector from the FDACS Division of Plant Industry will contact seed recipients to schedule a safe, contactless collection of the seeds, packaging, and mailing materials

 When reporting the seed package to FDACS and USDA/APHIS, please be prepared to provide one’s name, physical address, phone number, and email address for contact and seed collection purposes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click to view the full-size map of eligible counties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Bless America!

Robert W. Wilford

City of Alachua

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Fogler is the President & CEO Florida Press Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Wisnieski, MPA, FACHE

Director

North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System

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

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

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

Sawfish encounters

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

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

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

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

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

Sawfish background

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

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

Engaging in sawfish recovery

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

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

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

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

For more information on smalltooth sawfish and their recovery watch:
YouTube.com/watch?v=NSRWUjVU3e8&t=3s

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GAINESVILLE – The Humane Society of North Central Florida will be holding a Pop-Up Thrift Shop. It will be held at the Humane Society’s South Campus location at 5403 S.W. Archer Road in Gainesville on Saturday, Jan. 25.

The Pop-Up Thrift Shop will be open to the public on Jan. 25 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Items that will be available include jewelry, clothing, toys, household goods, books, electronics, and more. All proceeds will go toward the Humane Society of North Central Florida’s mission and will aid in our life-saving efforts.

“Our thrift store is one of our most important sources of revenue. People can shop a great selection of items and save money while also helping to save our community’s pets,” said Ricky Scricca, Development Coordinator of the Humane Society of North Central Florida. “We are very excited to bring our thrift store to another part of town.”

The Humane Society of North Central Florida is a limited intake, no-kill animal rescue shelter. The animals in the facility are transferred from open-intake and/or managed admission municipal shelters across North Central Florida. The Humane Society of North Central Florida is an independent, local 501(c)(3) organization. It does not receive funding from federal agencies, nor is it affiliated with any other state or national organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States or the ASPCA.

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