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The Point, July 5, 2024: What's happened in 2024 so far?

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The year so far

With the year half over, much has happened so far in 2024. Here are some of the top stories from the first six months of the year.

North Florida Regional Medical Center in Gainesville, Fla., is seen in this photograph on Jan. 18, 2024. One of the state’s largest hospitals, it said it is abruptly suspending surgeries for at least four days to deal with significant concerns about its processes to sterilize surgical instruments.
Ashleigh Lucas/Fresh Take Florida
North Florida Regional Medical Center in Gainesville, Fla., is seen in this photograph on Jan. 18, 2024. One of the state’s largest hospitals, it said it is abruptly suspending surgeries for at least four days to deal with significant concerns about its processes to sterilize surgical instruments.

• HCA Florida North Florida Hospital abruptly suspended all surgeries amid concerns over sterile equipment, a suspension that lasted over two weeks and ended in an inspection from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. The hospital eventually got a clean checkup from the state, and also later removed its surgical vice president.

• The push to convert Newberry's public schools into public charter schools was met with opposition from some parents and teachers, and ended in a close teacher vote. While the city is going forward with converting Newberry Elementary School, the middle and high schools will not be converted. Later, a spokesperson from Newberry Education First, the organization pushing to convert the city's schools, was arrested on charges of soliciting a minor for sex.

The Gainesville City Commission discusses how soon the decision from the ballot would go into effect if voters were to approve it. City Attorney Daniel Nee said it could be effective almost immediately after the election. (Layne Know/WUFT News)
The Gainesville City Commission discusses how soon the decision from the ballot would go into effect if voters were to approve it. City Attorney Daniel Nee said it could be effective almost immediately after the election. (Layne Know/WUFT News)

• The ongoing drama with Gainesville Regional Utilities continued in March when all the members of the governor-appointed GRU Authority Board resigned. Gainesville city commissioners then discussed putting the question of GRU's governance to the voters with a ballot referendum. In May, Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed new members to the authority, including former general manager Ed Bielarski, who opposed the ballot referendum. Bielarski is once again the utility's general manager, following a vote last month to put him back in the position.

• Gainesville city officials held a press conference in early April stating that the University of Florida was pulling its share of the funding for the Regional Transit System, a move that UF called a "major misunderstanding." This confusion happened in the wake of RTS turning 50 years old this year.

Laila Fakhoury, center, yells while protesting Gov. Ron DeSantis during his press conference at the University of Florida in Gainesville on Wednesday, May 8, 2024. (Lee Ann Anderson/WUFT News)
Laila Fakhoury, center, yells while protesting Gov. Ron DeSantis during his press conference at the University of Florida in Gainesville on Wednesday, May 8, 2024. (Lee Ann Anderson/WUFT News)

• Pro-Palestinian protests continued on UF's campus, resulting in the arrest of nine protesters. All were later released from jail. DeSantis held a press conference shortly afterward on UF campus to laud law enforcement and universities' responses to campus protests across the state.


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Environment and Agriculture

Citrus fruit hangs on one of Ben Bateman's trees. (Courtesy of Ben Bateman)
Citrus fruit hangs on one of Ben Bateman's trees. (Courtesy of Ben Bateman)

Miracle cure or wishful thinking? Research using oak leaves on citrus trees to combat citrus greening has been fruitful so far. Some growers say it’s been a lifesaver, but others say it’s not enough.

March of the Mangroves: Mangroves, once axed for development, are expanding across Florida due to climate change. Will Floridians learn to live with the iconic coastal tree?

Longleaf pine forests once covered 92 million acres of the southern landscape, from Virginia into northern and central Florida. Their restoration has become an urgent conservation priority as a way to help mitigate climate change. (Augustus Hoff/WUFT News)
AUGUSTUS_HOFF
Longleaf pine forests once covered 92 million acres of the southern landscape, from Virginia into northern and central Florida. Their restoration has become an urgent conservation priority as a way to help mitigate climate change. (Augustus Hoff/WUFT News)

The tree’s truth: Longleaf pine conservation is considered a key part of climate resilience for Florida and the Southeast. But when it comes to climate change, longleaf pines are not out of the woods.

The new natives: Climate change is pushing Florida’s native marine species into new regions across the state. You can call them the new natives.

Kevin Lussier kisses a dairy cow at Hawthorne Creek Creamery. (Courtesy of Kevin Lussier)
Kevin Lussier kisses a dairy cow at Hawthorne Creek Creamery. (Courtesy of Kevin Lussier)

USDA Agriculture Census: Both the number of farms and total acreage of farms in the US and Florida decreased between the previous census in 2017 and 2022. But Alachua County’s numbers increased.

From farm not to table: Sanctuaries in Alachua County provide refuge to farm animals in need.

Other stories this year

Gainesville’s forgotten history: Birthplace of the women’s rights movement

‘Student loophole’ in Florida’s Live Local Act exacerbates Gainesville’s financial issues

An unexpected danger: the dark side of pickleball

In Gainesville, first-offense youth arrests are increasing. How is Alachua County reaching its troubled youth?

Candlelight vigil honors the victims of the Marion County bus crash

UF employee, students implicated in illegal plot to ship drugs, toxins to China

‘Who would ever thought we’d be here again’: 75-year-old protester marches for abortion rights a second time

Kristin Moorehead curated today's edition of The Point.