Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

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May 4

The Miami Herald on former Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Colts head coach Don Shula:

Don Shula — hands down the Miami Dolphins’ greatest coach — was living proof that good is great, but that perfect is priceless.

Twenty-five years after he retired, Shula died Monday at 90 with the honor of being the winningest coach in NFL history firmly intact. He earning 328 regular-season victories in 33 years with the Dolphins and the Baltimore Colts.

How lucky we were that a young Shula came to Miami from Baltimore in 1970 and stayed for the rest of his career, building a powerhouse team with the likes of Bob Griese, Dan Maríno, Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, Paul Warfield, Mercury Morris, Mark Duper, Mark Clayton and Nat Moore.

Shula’s greatest accomplishment, of course, was leading the 1972 Dolphins to that perfect season, undefeated, yet to be repeated. The record still stands today. Even the dynamic duo of quarterback Tom Brady and New England Patriots Bill Belichick were not able to win 17 games in a year.

DOLPHINS’ ‘PATRIARCH’

The Dolphins franchise is well aware of their debt to Shula, too:

“Shula was the patriarch of the Miami Dolphins for 50 years,” the Dolphins said in a statement, expressing condolences to his wife, Mary Anne, and his children. “He brought the winning edge to our franchise and put the Dolphins and city of Miami in the national sports scene.”

There’ is no doubt.

Shula taught us that perfection is possible. He believed in hard work, discipline and God to achieve it.

To his players, Shula was tough and demanding, but find one today who won’t sing his praises for shaping them while they were still in the locker room, on the football field and in their lives long after they had left stadiums behind.

HIS LIFE LESSONS

Many of us recall Shula as a stoic, nonsense coach who seldom cracked a smile in the locker room, on the sidelines or during new conferences. And that jaw — solid titanium.

But like a true coach, he also taught not just his players, but also the rest of us, about life. About never giving up, about getting up when you’re down as happened to Shula when New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath famously guaranteed a Super Bowl win over Shula’s 1969 Colts — then made it come true in Miami’s Orange Bowl.

Shula was crushed. But the loss propelled him to the Dolphins’ first title in 1972.

Anyone who lived in South Florida during the Shula years felt that he was their coach, too.

In retirement, Shula would still be approached by fans who always called him “coach” as if they knew him.

We owe Shula a debt of thanks for all those fun Sundays, the enduring life lessons — and a glimpse of what perfection looks like on a football field.

Online: https://www.miamiherald.com/

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May 2

The Orlando Sentinel on being mindful of food waste

In a recent tweet, famed chef José Andrés showed two side-by-side images: One was mountains of potatoes going to waste in Idaho, the other an aerial picture with some of the 10,000 cars lined up for groceries at a San Antonio food bank.

We have similar contrasts right here in Florida. A huge pile of green zuchini and yellow squash discarded at a Florida City farm because of shrinking demand, while less than 50 miles north, in Miramar, cars lined up for five miles as people waited to get free groceries.

It’s not hard to spot what’s wrong with these pictures — a glut of food while at the same time people are struggling to feed their families.

Andrés put it this way in his tweet: “How is it possible these two photos exist at the same time, in the most prosperous and technologically advanced moment in our history? It’s because all along the way, we have a food supply chain that we treat as invisible when it’s working...and only notice it when it’s not.”

Andres urged leaders at all levels of government to pay more attention to food issues and make them a higher priority.

The hard part is figuring out what can be done about it in the short term and what we can learn about how to better distribute food to those who need it not only in times of emergency but also in good times.

If the coronavirus outbreak has taught us anything, it’s how quickly society’s carefully structured systems can break down, and how difficult it is to pivot.

That’s vividly illustrated with something as simple and essential as food.

When thousands of schools and restaurants closed their doors in a matter of days last month, there was nothing to do with the fresh food they would normally buy, much of it from vegetable growers right here in Florida, which accounts for a third of the nation’s sales of cucumbers, tomatoes and bell peppers.

More disruption came with smaller changes, like how we shop. People tend to order less fresh food when they use grocery shopping services like Instacart, which people started doing to avoid the risk of infection at supermarkets. If they can’t squeeze a tomato or examine a cucumber, they might take a pass.

So many other complications emerged, like the differences in production and packaging for restaurants versus retail, a limited number of refrigerated trucks to transport fresh food, limits on cold storage at food banks, even a shortage of volunteers to distribute food.

“Our systems are set up for ‘blue sky’ days and cannot immediately ramp up to accept so much perishable product,” David Krepcho, president and CEO of Second Harvest food bank in Orlando, wrote in an email.

Food banks like his are doing their best, and so are many farmers who have no interest in plowing their unused harvests back into the soil.

But what choice do they have? Farmers aren’t in a position to pay the labor costs for a harvest they won’t be able to sell.

That hasn’t stopped some from unfairly vilifying farmers.

Long & Scott Farms in Mount Dora recently wrote in a lengthy Facebook post — partly in response to public anger — that it has about 4 million pounds of cucumbers “we cannot afford to harvest because we have no cucumber processing orders, and minimal fresh market cucumber sales.”

The farm is donating some to food banks like Krepcho’s and has invited other charities to pick as much as they can.

Long & Scott Farms aren’t the bad guys here. It’s a family business, and they’re hurting, too. The losses to Florida’s fruit and vegetable industry from the pandemic could top a half-billion dollars.

No one’s really playing a villainous role in this chapter of the pandemic story.

We simply have a rigid, specialized system for producing, transporting, processing and distributing food that worked fine under normal circumstances but couldn’t respond when life took a turn.

As with many other things with this pandemic, we have to rethink how food-supply chains works, or how they could become more nimble.

It’s clear we also need to place more value and resources in food banks, which are a lifeline when economic conditions go south. We need to figure out how to get more food to them, how to store it, and how to efficiently distribute it to the needy.

This pandemic has caused so much grief, despair and disruption. That would be all the worse if we don’t seize the chance to learn from it.

Online: https://www.orlandosentinel.com/

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May 1

The Palm Beach Post on testing for the new coronavirus and contract tracing:

With the virus that has already killed at least 1,268 in this state still rampant, it’s good that Gov. Ron DeSantis has decided on “baby steps” toward restarting the economy.

His reopening plan — announced with much fanfare on Wednesday after hearing from an advisory group mostly of business executives and meeting in the Oval Office with his political idol President Donald Trump — is less a return to normal than a clear-eyed recognition of the peril that’s still out there, despite increasingly vocal pressure to get folks back to work.

And it doesn’t touch Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward counties at all.

Unlike Georgia and some other Republican-led states, barber shops, nail salons and gyms are staying closed in DeSantis’ Florida. Movie theaters and sports arenas are still shuttered. Schools remain empty.

The biggest changes are that restaurants, retail stores, museums and libraries can open at 25% indoor capacity. Hospitals can resume elective surgeries. Affecting much of the state, this “Phase 1” goes into effect on Monday, if local governments allow. DeSantis said a Phase 2 will begin when he considers it safe after consulting state health officials.

South Florida, which accounts for 60% of the state’s more than 33,690 cases of coronavirus disease, is unchanged for now — save for the counties’ own relaxing of some restrictions, such as a modified return to golf, boating and beach-going in Palm Beach County with social distancing rules in place.

For now, then, little is changing with our patterns of isolation and social distancing. That’s the right call. Because this state is nowhere near doing the most important things we need to get back to normal while the novel coronavirus courses through the world’s population without a vaccine.

We still need more testing. If we really want to restart our economic and social life, we need to be testing the people who will be going back to work. Want to instill confidence that it’s safe to eat in a restaurant? Then let’s have a regular system of testing — and re-testing — to ensure that the people who are preparing the food and putting it on your plate are healthy.

We’ve only done about 383,000 tests in Florida. That’s just 1.7% of the state’s population. Florida ranks a mediocre 22nd in testing in the nation per capita.

On Monday, DeSantis said that testing capacity will double to 18,000 per day at the end of May from its present 9,000 a day. On Wednesday, he said Florida will be able to test 30,000 to 40,000 per day during this phase one period. But he didn’t share how that would happen.

Florida needs to test about 33,000 people every day — that’s about 150 people for every 100,000 residents every day — said Dr. Charles Lockwood, the dean of the University of South Florida’s College of Medicine, at a news conference with DeSantis on Monday at Tampa General Hospital.

We still need contact tracing. Besides knowing who is infected with the virus through testing — on the job, in nursing homes, in jails — it’s crucial that we can locate everyone who has been in contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. That way, we can isolate the exposed and the sick for 14 days — and do our best to contain the virus and prevent a resurgence in cases, hospitalizations and death.

Right now, without delay, there should be an aggressive drive going on to recruit teams of people to locate those contacts. But DeSantis barely seems to mention the need.

According to a survey by NPR, Florida is woefully behind in this vital area: We need 30 tracers per 100,000 residents, according to estimates from the National Association of County and City Health Officials. But Florida has only 2.3 per 100,000, and no plans to expand.

Alarmingly, this is typical. Currently, 41 states and the District of Columbia have a total of only 7,600 contact tracers and plan to expand to 36,500, according to the NPR survey, released on Tuesday.

That’s a trifle. An influential, bipartisan group of former government officials has called for the contact tracing workforce to be expanded by 180,000 people across the nation. They also urge a $46 billion federal investment to do the tracing and help pay expenses for people in self-isolation. Congress should listen.

We’re glad that DeSantis decided against the sort of headlong plunge toward wider infection that states like Georgia are taking. A cautious approach is the right one. Florida’s next steps must be guided by data and accompanied by testing and contact testing.

To get from baby steps to great strides will take time. And thought. And action. The governor now has the opportunity to pick up the pace and not trip over his response, as he did at the outset of this pandemic.

Online: https://www.palmbeachpost.com/