Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:


Dec. 9

The Dayton Beach News-Journal on keeping Florida's “drinks to go” allowance past the pandemic:

During the coronavirus pandemic, Florida restaurants took it on the chin. Even before Gov. Ron DeSantis shut down in-person dining in March, many were voluntarily limiting capacity. And though the governor gradually eased Florida restaurants and bars back to full capacity, a significant number of customers saw on-premises dining as too risky.

The result has been widespread suffering in the restaurant industry. The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association reported in September that more than 336,000 hospitality workers have lost their jobs. The review site Yelp identified restaurants and bars as the hardest-hit among businesses listed on its site; through Aug. 31, 10,200 restaurants in Florida were listed as “closed,” with about 70 percent of those closures believed to be permanent. Meanwhile, the ones that have remained open often operate with smaller staffs, limited hours and fewer menu options.

The one bright spot — and for many restaurants, the lifeline — has been the explosion of carry-out dining. It’s a sparser option for restaurants, because it frequently deprives them of the chance to “upsell” profitable add-ons such as appetizers, desserts and, most of all, alcoholic beverages. Foreseeing that, DeSantis included a provision in his March shutdown order allowing restaurants to offer wine, beer and cocktails as to-go options as part of a food order, so long as the drinks are sealed in containers and only consumed once customers have reached their destination. That dispensing dispensation has become a saving grace for some restaurants, industry experts say.

A pair of state senators want to make drinks-to-go a permanent possibility for Florida eateries. They are on the right track. Done right, this could provide a bump in profit for restaurants.

And it makes customers happy, says Errin Reese, bar manager at LuLu’s Oceanside Grill in Ormond Beach, which serves a wide range of signature cocktails featuring fresh-squeezed juice and house-made syrups, wines by the glass and beers to go. “Our alcohol sales have definitely risen,” she says. Drinks are served in lidded, sealed cups without straws, and customers are told they can’t be consumed in their vehicles.

Other restaurants are experimenting as well. St. Augustine’s famous Columbia Restaurant offers its signature sangria in to-go portions, and Cantina Louie’s, one of the newest chains in the area, sells margaritas in shareable sizes from its restaurants in Ponte Vedra Beach, St. Augustine, Palm Coast and Daytona Beach.

DeSantis said in September that he favored making the to-go rule permanent. “I think that you guys need all the help you can get, and I think it would make a lot of sense,” DeSantis told a gathering of restaurant owners in Ft. Myers. Bills filed by Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Fleming Island, and Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would both accomplish that, enshrining in law the rules that restaurants like LuLus’ are already using.

To satisfy potential naysayers, we’d suggest one addition: Include an information-gathering element that could quickly determine whether Floridians are compliant with those regulations. It could be as simple as asking police to note, on DUI arrest forms and citations for open-container violation, whether the offending alcohol was obtained at a restaurant for off-premises consumption. If drinks to go become a problem, lawmakers can revisit the restrictions.

We suspect, however, that this won’t have a significant impact on public safety. And it could provide a real boost to an industry that is critical to Florida’s status as one of the world’s top tourist destinations. This should be an easy ‘yes’ for lawmakers.



Dec. 7

The Palm Beach Post on prioritizing marginalized communities for coronavirus vaccination:

This woeful year of 2020 — all disease and death, economic distress, social unrest, political anxiety — nears its end on a hopeful note. Vaccines are coming.

Not a moment too soon. Last month, Americans died of COVID-19 at the rate of 50 persons per hour, Johns Hopkins University data showed. The 36,918 deaths in November were more than U.S. fatalities over the entire Korean War.

And the pace is quickening. Last week, COVID deaths in the U.S. were averaging one every 30 seconds as the nation passed a grim milestone: a quarter of a million deaths since the first fatality, on Feb. 29 in Washington state. Public health experts warn that worse is still to come.

Thankfully, 20 million doses of vaccine are expected to begin rolling out from two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, this very month. That’s assuming the two receive emergency authorization from U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

We’re now faced with the thorny question: who gets first crack at the immunizations? Then who’s next, and who after that? It will be crucial for policy-makers to be guided by the needs of the most vulnerable, not the most politically supportive. This includes looking out for the poorest among us.

We know that Florida’s communities of color have been particularly hard-hit by this disease: Blacks and Hispanics, especially those working in low-wage jobs, are dying at rates up to 40 percent higher than whites.

But do our state leaders know it?

Gov. Ron DeSantis said that the 1 million doses expected to come to Florida in those initial batches will be distributed on a priority list that starts with residents of long-term care facilities. Next, healthcare workers in high-risk environments, people over 65 and those with pre-existing conditions. The governor announced the plan on Wednesday, not to reporters but in a pre-recorded video, and on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show.

DeSantis seems to be following the leanings of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Last week, the CDC’s advisory committee on vaccines made headlines by recommending that when shots are ready for distribution, the country’s estimated 21 million healthcare workers and 3 million nursing home staff and residents should get them first. The CDC almost always approves the panel’s choices, and sends them out as guidelines to the states.

Protect healthcare workers in high-risk environments? Of course. Their calling is to heal the sick, not to volunteer for their own sickness and death. We need them on their feet.

Protect the elderly? That, too, is an obvious call for the governor of Florida, where over 20% of residents are 65 or older and 6,753 of Florida’s 18,916 COVID deaths as of Dec. 1 – more than one-third – occurred in long-term care facilities. Prioritizing long-term care facilities seems an obvious call for DeSantis. Although this governor has been notoriously lax on emphasizing coronavirus precautions, he has been tough on the coronavirus in one respect: sealing off nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

But DeSantis must also prioritize many Floridians who aren’t generally part of his base. Black people in Florida have been particularly devastated by this disease, with infection rates running twice as high as whites’. Their death rate is much worse as well: 98 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to 60 per 100,000 for white people.

Latino people, too, are suffering from the coronavirus in intolerable numbers, with 5,333 known infections per 100,000 people. That’s almost three times the rate for white people (1,907 cases per 100,000). Latino people are dying at a rate of 84 fatalities per 100,000 persons in this pandemic – a death rate 28% higher than the white rate. (The figures are from Boston University and the COVID Tracking Project.)

It’s no secret that healthcare and health outcomes for poor people of color are far worse than they are for Americans on the whole. Black and Latino people of limited means are less likely to have health insurance. In poor neighborhoods, fresh food can be hard to find, leading to diets larded with salt, sugar and fats. People more frequently dwell in crowded housing, making it easier for a contagious disease to spread.

And it’s common for poorer people to hold jobs that can’t be done remotely: landscaping, housekeeping, construction,restaurant work, picking crops, caregiving. It’s no accident that the first hot spots in Palm Beach County flared up in poorer neighborhoods in Belle Glade and Lake Worth Beach. Flared up there, but didn’t stay there: workers in those occupations, by definition, make their living throughout the larger community.

“At-risk populations.” It’s time to use that term not just for people with diabetes, heart disease or obesity, but for those whose conditions include poverty and racism.



Dec. 6

The Miami Herald on a U.S. judge's ruling that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program should be reinstated:

A federal judge’s latest affirmation that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — DACA — should be reinstated is great news for the young people called DREAMers, who for the past four years have been tiptoeing around the possibility of being deported.

The judge’s ruling also affirmed the ongoing absurdity of U.S. immigration policies that for years have lacked the coherence of comprehensive reform.

Friday, Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, ordered the Trump administration to restore DACA, created by President Obama’s executive order in 2012. It prevents the deportation of young, undocumented immigrants, whose parents brought them to the United States illegally when they were children. The ruling says the administration must again accept applications for DACA renewal as well as from those who are newly eligible.


President Trump, who in 2016 vociferously campaigned on a bigoted anti-immigrant platform, announced in September 2017 that he was ending DACA, which he had used as a bargaining chip to get funds for his border wall. His action and the viability of the program itself have been litigated in courts ever since, alleging that the administration ended the program unlawfully.

Along the way, U.S. district courts in New York, California and the District of Columbia allowed those protected by DACA to renew coverage.

And there have been challenges to DACA’s existence, and those are expected to continue. Despite President-elect Joe Biden’s stated support for the program, the U.S. Supreme Court, with the addition of conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, has signaled its dissatisfaction with DACA.

The Editorial Board has always supported DACA: It protects blameless undocumented immigrants while giving them the legal tools to get an education and find employment. In all, their numbers are few — about 25,000 in Florida; about 12,000 in South Florida; eligibility requirements are stringent; individually, DREAMers are rarely burdens on the nation’s social services. In all, it has shielded about 800,000 young people from deportation.


But the ping-ponging fortunes of the DREAMers highlight the absurdity of this nation’s willingness to create immigration law by the stroke of a pen, rather than by lawmakers courageously working toward a tough, fair and, ultimately, effective endgame for this nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.

This didn’t begin with the Trump administration. In 1995, President Clinton signed off on admitting Cuban rafters only if they made it to dry land. Obama ended it in early 2017. Back in 1907, Theodore Roosevelt signed executive orders restricting Japanese and Korean laborers.

“This piecemeal approach — some (immigrants) have TPS, some don’t, for instance — causes a lot of uncertainty for many immigrants, a lot of instability,” Ted Hutchinson, Florida director of, told the Editorial Board on Saturday, referring to Temporary Protected Status.

“Biden should push for comprehensive reform.” Hutchinson said, including a pathway to citizenship. Streamline and modernize the system, a 15-to-20-year wait for green cards is counterproductive. Yes, secure the border, not with a wall, but with smart technology.

But this is a job for lawmakers who will ensure that when Trump leaves the White House, his anti-immigrant rhetoric goes with him; that, instead, congressional leaders on this issue, like Sen. Marco Rubio once was, see the dangerous folly of letting 11 million people languish in limbo. It’s bad for families, for the economy, for civil society. It’s a heavy lift, and not one for the new president to hoist alone.