The Point, Dec. 15, 2021: Florida has returned funding that was withheld to punish the Alachua County School District

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The stories near you

• Florida Phoenix: Following federal scrutiny, FL education officials returned $878,000 to certain local school boards. “The return of the money came at a time when the state’s education department was under scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Education over potential violations of federal education laws.”

• WUFT News: New Alachua County conservation land provides a wildlife corridor for black bears, other species. “The nearly 300-acre property links Lake Alto to Lake Santa Fe and expands the existing 1,000-acre preserve near the town of Waldo. Alachua County paid $1.3 million for the property.”

• WUFT News: Some Florida residents faced a $600 fee for reporting free-flowing wells on their property. Now they won’t. “Residents within the St. Johns River Water Management District used to pay a high price for abiding by the law.  Until recently, residents of its northeast Florida counties were expected to report free flowing wells on their property and incur a $600 fee for plugging it. But now, St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Mike Register said he wants to lift the financial burden off the backs of residents.”

• Mainstreet Daily News: Local school vaccinations higher than expected. “Alachua County reported 158 cases last week according to the DOH report. The School Board of Alachua County’s COVID case reports states that there were 18 students and two staff members who tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days.”

• News Service of Florida: Judge set to hear arguments in UF faculty dispute. “Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker on Monday scheduled a Jan. 7 hearing in the lawsuit alleging the school’s policy violates First Amendment rights. For weeks, the state’s flagship university has been under scrutiny after media reports about its handling of professors’ expert testimony and a conflicts-of-interest policy initiated last year.”

• Click Orlando: 3 residents of The Villages arrested for casting multiple votes in 2020 election. “The probe into the allegations of voting irregularities was initiated by the office of Sumter County Supervisor of Elections Bill Keen, according to prosecutors.”


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Around the state

• Miami Herald ($): Delta caused Florida’s worst COVID wave. What will omicron bring? “The delta variant caused Florida’s worst wave of the coronavirus from late June through mid-October. During that time, more than 20,000 Floridians died of COVID — that’s a little under one-third of all Floridians who have died of COVID-19 since March 2020. As of Tuesday, 62,073 Floridians had died of COVID, according to data published by the CDC.”

• WFSU: Leon County has agreed to a settlement with the state following a lawsuit over the county’s employee vaccine mandate. “Under the agreement, the county won’t have to pay the millions of dollars in fines it was facing after Gov. Ron DeSantis and the health department said the county violated state law by requiring its employees to get fully vaccinated against the coronavirus or lose their jobs.”

• News Service of Florida: Enrollment continues to shrink at Florida’s state colleges, and officials are not sure why. “Florida college officials are trying to figure out what’s behind a continuing drop in state college enrollment, which analysts project could decline by more than 9% over the next five years if the trend persists.”

• WMFE: Orlando International Airport stands to earn $233 million dollars from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal. “Florida’s busiest airport will receive $47 million dollars each year, for the next five years, under the new law that passed in November. The money will go to support Airport Improvement Programs including the expansion of the South Terminal known as Terminal C.”

• TCPalm ($): Bustin’ berries: UF researchers want your help to fight invasive Brazilian peppertree. “For decades, the Brazilian peppertree has swept throughout Central and South Florida, driving away native species and outcompeting habitats such as mangrove swamps along Everglades marshes and the Indian River Lagoon. Now, University of Florida researchers are seeking public volunteers to collect berries from plants on their Fort Pierce research fields. Enter: The first ever Brazilian Peppertree Berry Busting Day.”

• Florida Politics: Nikki Fried delivers Christmas trees to Ron DeSantis, fellow Cabinet offices. “Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the lone Democrat currently serving in a statewide-elected office, continued the annual tradition of delivering locally grown Christmas trees to the members of the Florida Cabinet. On Friday, Fried’s team delivered trees to the offices of the Governor and the other two Cabinet members, the Attorney General and Chief Financial Officer.”


From NPR News

• Health: Pfizer data shows that its COVID-19 pill is effective against severe disease

• Health: Vaccine protection vs. omicron infection may drop to 30% but does cut severe disease

• Health: As COVID patients pack Colorado hospitals, anger grows against the unvaccinated

• Health: Cornell shuts down its Ithaca campus after significant signs of omicron variant found

• Science: COVID can cause long-term injuries to the brain. Here’s what scientists have learned

• National: Kentucky crews search painstakingly for 109 people missing after deadly tornadoes

• National: An ex-NFL player who killed 6 people and then himself had CTE, doctors say

• Politics: The House votes to hold Mark Meadows in contempt, sending a criminal referral to DOJ

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 emagoc@wuft.org.

About WUFT News

Contact WUFT News by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org

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