The Point, Dec. 31, 2020: Florida’s Top Stories During The Holidays


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While we were away

We hope these past few weeks have been as restful for you as they have been for our newsroom staff. The time away from a daily roundup allowed us time to recharge and gather new story leads for the new year. Still, this year wasn’t complete without a handful of notable and impactful stories over the holiday weeks. Here are 20 we’ve been following across Florida at the end of 2020.

(The Point will return to its normal format and schedule on Monday.)

• Florida Politics: Vaccines available in all Florida counties by week’s end. “By the end of the week, the third week of the vaccine rollout, all remaining county health departments that have not already received vaccines will receive 93,900 doses combined. Another 54 hospitals that have not previously received the vaccine will receive 33,200 doses.”

• Spectrum News: Florida Isn’t Vaccinating People Fast Enough, State Leaders Say. “In an interview at his Tallahassee office Wednesday, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said he’s pressuring hospitals and county health departments to more quickly vaccinate at-risk Floridians, including health care workers and senior citizens.”

• WUSF: Could Schools Eventually Require Coronavirus Vaccines? “Dr. Marissa Levine, professor with the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health, says maybe. The coronavirus can spread from person to person easily, which Levine said is an important factor when states consider which disease vaccinations are required from its students.”

• Miami Herald: Will COVID-19 vaccines be available at Publix, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens and others? “Besides vaccination sites (similar to COVID-19 testing sites) that are expected to open across the state, you’ll eventually be able to get vaccinated during your grocery run.”

• Spectrum News: How Many People Have Received the COVID Vaccine in Florida? “… while supplies of the two available COVID vaccines are increasing, there aren’t nearly enough doses available yet for every one of Florida’s roughly 21 million people.”

• Gainesville Sun ($): Health care workers concerned over Gainesville vaccine disparity. “While about 460 of North Florida’s health care workers have received their first doses of the vaccine so far, more than 6,600 UF Health workers had received a dose as of Tuesday.”

• WUFT News: A Total Freefall: Gainesville Sinkhole Showcases Cracks In Geology And Government Systems Alike. “So far, three houses have been condemned and torn down by the city. More could meet the same fate. …Municipal government is in the dark with no state agency to offer assistance. Firefighters and geologists stand by in wait until the site stabilizes. Meanwhile, the murky water gurgles, entrancing neighbors to their local natural disaster.”

• WUFT News: Track Owners And Animal Shelters Prepare For The End Of Dog Racing In Florida. “After decades of dog racing at tracks across the state, they will stop chasing come Jan. 1. That’s when Amendment 13 takes effect in Florida. Passed with 69 percent of the vote in a statewide election in 2018, the amendment to the state constitution prohibits wagering on live dog races held in Florida and will ultimately force the closure of 11 racetracks.”

• WUFT News: State Law Judge Approves Majority Of Development On Former Seminary Lane Site. “On Tuesday, State Administrative Law Judge Hetal Desai approved the proposed student housing development on land straddling Northwest Fifth Avenue and 12th Street. After long, grueling hours of Zoom deliberation and months of wait, the Peak Campus Seminary Lane development is given a green light — with some changes.”

• WUFT News: Alachua County, Cities Argue Whether Amendment Ballot Language Misled Voters. “Arguing that the amendment should be invalidated and not take effect on Jan. 1, they argued that the ballot language calling for creating a ‘growth management area’ did not signal the actual impact: Municipalities would no longer exercise their own land use rules.”

• WUFT News: Gainesville Moving To Require Businesses To Regulate Shopping Cart Containment. “Businesses without a shopping cart retention system risk getting a $250 fine for each offense.”

• WUFT News: Alachua County Immigration Activists Reflect On Year Ahead Following 2020 Elections. “Local Alachua County immigration activists said President-elect Joe Biden’s victory provided a sigh of relief. The feeling was prompted by Biden’s push to decrease the operations of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in combination with his promised 100-day deportation moratorium.”

• Citrus County Chronicle: School district tosses out teacher-certification study guides bought from indicted company. “Citrus County is one of many school districts statewide that unknowingly bought compromised teacher-certification study guides from a business being prosecuted for fraud and racketeering.”

• Palm Beach Post ($): Gov. DeSantis’ holiday season hasn’t been jolly as criticism mounts. “It’s been a tumultuous December for Gov. Ron DeSantis even as he touts the good news of the COVID-19 vaccines that could put an end to the pandemic.”

• Palm Beach Post ($): Post-presidency at Mar-a-Lago; What Trump can expect. “Some of Trump’s neighbors, fed up with four years of road closures and security checkpoints, do not want Trump living at Mar-a-Lago. They claim he forfeited that right when he converted Mar-a-Lago to a club in 1993.”

• WUFT News: In 2020, Gainesville’s Birders Counted On The Unusual. “Alachua County is a prime spot for the obsessed birder, with a new high of 362 species now recognized and ecologically diverse habitats such as Sweetwater Wetlands Park, Paynes Prairie, San Felasco and Newnans Lake. The birds change with the seasons: some are year-round residents, some part-timers and some just passing through.”

• Tallahassee Democrat ($): Hurdles still remain for rooting North Florida’s hemp industry. “The first year of Florida’s hemp industry was one of trial and error on the ground, but the projections that it will become a green boom could mean a shift in the Panhandle’s agricultural scene.”

• Florida Today ($): Transplanted ‘super clams’ thrive, sparking hope of cleansing gunked-up Indian River Lagoon. “Whatever genes it takes to survive our collective waste, these clams seem to have them. They are, in the words of one researcher, ‘super clams.'”

• WMFE: Data Show Fewer Florida Panthers Killed In 2020 Compared To Previous Years. “The 22nd panther to be killed this year was discovered on December 28th in Collier County. Like most of the others killed in 2020, the 3-year-old male was hit by a car.”

• WTSP: Don’t shoot bullets into the sky this New Year’s Eve – or ever. “It’s a message that was echoed Wednesday by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, which sent a message warning people living in the Tampa Bay area about the dangers of firing into the sky.”

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About today’s curator

I’m Ethan Magoc, a news editor at WUFT. Originally from Pennsylvania, I’ve found a home telling Florida stories. I’m part of a team searching each morning for local and state stories that are important to you; please send feedback about today’s edition or ideas for stories we may have missed to

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