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GAINESVILLE - Monday, Oct. 18 is the voter registration deadline for the upcoming City of Gainesville Special Election. This election is being held on Nov. 16 to fill the At-Large Seat B vacancy.
 
Only voters registered within the city limits of Gainesville are eligible to vote in this election. Currently registered voters are encouraged to check and verify their registration status at https://www.votealachua.com/My-Registration-Status or by calling 352-374-5252.
 
Prospective voters may choose to register to vote in any of the following ways:
  • Online: The online voter registration portal — found at RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov — it is a safe and secure option for voter registration.
 
  • In person: The Alachua County Supervisor of Elections’ office, located in Gainesville at 515 N. Main St., Suite 300, will be open on Monday, Oct. 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Registrations can also be completed and turned in at any Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles office or Alachua County Library District branch by the Oct. 18 deadline. 
 
  • By mail: Forms are available online at VoteAlachua.com. Mailed forms must be completed and postmarked by the Oct. 18 deadline.
 
Important Note: The after-hours white drop box in front of the Supervisor of Elections Office is closed due to certain provisions of Senate Bill 90. Voters may return their ballots in-person to the third floor of the Supervisor of Elections Office, Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 5 p.m. The drop box will be available only to receive vote-by-mail ballots during Early Voting starting Friday, Nov. 12 to Sunday, November 14 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. 
 
Once early voting has ended, the drop box will again be available on Monday, Nov. 15 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Tuesday, Nov. 16, Election Day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
 
For more information, contact the Supervisor of Elections at 352-374-5252.

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NEWBERRY ‒ A Newberry teacher received a coveted award and a $500 grant recently for her exemplary work in educating her students using Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Newberry High School Spanish teacher Grisell Santiago was awarded the My Virtual Learning Success Story grant by the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS), Atlanta. 

This grant recognizes high school teachers who, when presented with a tough situation and through the trials and tribulations of virtual learning, came out successful.  Santiago was one of five educators, and the only one in Florida, who was selected to be awarded this grant and recognition.

Santiago was faced with trying to make sure that all students were able to complete the various tasks online for her class such as speaking, presenting, listening, reading and writing in Spanish.  In Zoom break rooms, students were able to work in groups and talk to each other in Spanish, helping them with not feeling alone or feeling that they were not able to make friends during the shutdown.  

Santiago also worked with her students from the Hispanic Honor Society to assist her with tutorial sessions after school to help students via Zoom who needed extra practice or were having internet issues during class time.  This was successful and doing tutorials gave the students the opportunity to also earn community service hours for their graduation requirement.

With the students in advanced level courses, Santiago created an online bilingual newspaper, celebrating different activities each month and things they learned in the classroom.  This also helped students in the lower levels express themselves by publishing poems, essays and art.  They had originally started the newspaper only for the Spanish classes, but when they decided to share it with the whole school, it was a success.  

Topics covered culture and education, including Hispanic food, dances, festivals, music and literature.  They also used the newspaper to celebrate the graduating class of 2021 by having student-conducted interviews with seniors talking about their experiences during the year.

Making the changes to virtual learning gave Santiago the opportunity to seek other outlets to celebrate students and help them have a way to express themselves.

“The switch to virtual learning has been a challenge for students and educators, but it has also opened up new possibilities for creativity and innovation in teaching and learning,” said NSHSS Director of Scholarships and Communications Karen Kane.  “NSHSS wanted to celebrate those success stories of educators pushing past the difficulties to create rich, new, and engaging experiences.”

Kane said that Santiago was able to quickly use the virtual learning environment to help her Spanish language students share how they were feeling while practicing the required skills, and from that simple exercise grew a bilingual newspaper that eventually involved the whole school.  

“Submissions of art, poems and articles on Hispanic food, music, and literature from all grades provided a forum for self-expression at a time when social connections were scarce,” said Kane.  “The popular project is continuing even though in-person classes have resumed and the grant from NSHSS will hopefully help it grow.”

Co-founded by Claes Nobel and James Lewis, NSHSS is the premier international honors and scholarship program.  It offers a lifetime of benefits, pairing the highest performing students worldwide with high school and college scholarships, events, connections, internships and career opportunities that begin in high school and carry on through college and careers.  

For more information about NSHSS and their program, visit NSHSS.

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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ The Florida Department of Health in Alachua County (DOH-Alachua) is offering influenza vaccine starting immediately. “Receiving an influenza vaccine is a primary preventive measure against influenza infection,” said Paul Myers, Administrator of the Alachua County Health Department. “In addition to getting a flu immunization, staying home when ill, practicing proper cough etiquette, and washing your hands are effective personal means to protect yourself and the community from a variety of illnesses.”

Parents and guardians are encouraged to take advantage of the convenience of school-based flu clinics for their children. “Popular, painless, safe and effective FluMist® is once again available at school clinics, while FluMist® and shots are available at all health department sites,” Myers said.

Flu immunizations are being offered at the Health Department’s main clinic in Gainesville (224 S.E. 24th Street, 352-334-7910), the City of Alachua satellite clinic located in the Hitchcock’s shopping plaza (15530 N.W. U.S. Hwy 441, 386-462-2542), and the southwest Gainesville satellite clinic (816 S.W. 64th Terrace, 352-225-4320). Appointments are required for flu shots at all three health department sites and these can be made by calling the clinics.

This year’s flu vaccine is effective against the major circulating strains of flu, and Fluzone® High-Dose shots are available for those 65 and older. The cost for the vaccine is $25. If citizens have Medicare part B, there is no charge if they bring their Medicare B card and any other supplemental insurance cards with them. Citizens who normally receive their vaccines from providers other than the Health Department should contact them for vaccine availability. Those between the ages of 6 months and 18 years who are uninsured, have Medicaid or an insurance that does not cover the immunization may receive the vaccine at the Alachua County Health Department at no cost to them.

Parents of public and private school students are encouraged to review and complete FluMist® consent forms provided by their child’s school, or download the consent form online at http://alachua.floridahealth.gov/.

FluMist® clinics will be held in the schools this fall and a completed consent form is required for participation. FluMist® is effective, painless, and offered at no cost.

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ARCHER ‒ A two-vehicle crash just north of Archer required the Jaws of Life to be used to extricate one 62-year-old Alachua woman from a 2021 BMW sport utility vehicle. Units from Alachua County Fire Rescue responded to the scene of the crash on Wednesday, Sept. 29, at approximately 3:40 p.m.

The SUV was traveling on County Road 241 and was stopped at the intersection of U.S. Highway 27. A 2021 F250 truck pulling a trailer was traveling north on U.S. 27, approaching the intersection of CR 241.

The driver of the SUV attempted to cross the intersection in the oncoming path of the F250, at which time the front of the truck struck the left side of the SUV.

The driver of the SUV was transported to UF Health Shands Trauma Center, Gainesville, with serious injuries, after she was extricated from the vehicle. Also, a 20-year-old Alachua woman, a passenger in the SUV, reported minor injuries.

The driver of the pickup truck, a 55-year-old Lake Butler man, reported no injuries.

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WINDSOR ‒ The Windsor Fire Department and units from Alachua County Fire Rescue (ACFR) responded to a crash on Friday, Sept. 24, at 7:20 p.m. The accident occurred in the area of 3400 N.E. U.S. 301, near Hawthorne.

The crash involved two vehicles both of which suffered heavy damage. One man had to be extricated from a vehicle in critical condition.

In all three patients on the scene were transported to UF Shands for treatment.

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HAWTHORNE ‒ A 13-year-old male student was arrested and put into juvenile custody Friday, Sept. 24, after it was determined that he falsely reported an upcoming school shooting at Interlachen Junior-Senior High School.

Earlier in the week, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) investigated a threat to the school, which was subsequently determined to be false.

“The suspect was not responsible for the initial threat to the school, but the suspect spread rumors about there being a school shooting in small groups,” said PCSO spokesperson Allison Waters-Merritt. The student also spread rumors that the reports were not false, which were reported to school resource officers and the Sheriff’s Office.

Although the student was advised to stop spreading rumors about the impending shooting, witnesses said the student continued to talk about it, which led to authorities obtaining a warrant for his arrest on Friday.

“As we’ve said time and time again with any threats that are made to a school, we’re going to seek the highest-level charges possible so that we can keep our schools, students, faculty and families safe on campus,” Waters-Merritt said.

The suspect was arrested at his home on Friday and taken to the Volusia County Juvenile Detention Center.

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TALLAHASSEE  – Under the direction of Governor Ron DeSantis, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) submitted a request to Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis, to indefinitely defer all referrals to collection agencies for all non-fraudulent debts owed by claimants for state Reemployment Assistance benefits owed for weeks beginning March 1, 2020, through September 4, 2021. This request does not apply to fraudulent overpayments and DEO will continue to investigate fraudulent overpayments to ensure individuals and bad actors are held accountable for their fraudulent actions in accordance with the law. 

A copy of Governor DeSantis’ letter to DEO Secretary Dane Eagle is available HERE.

“As Florida’s strong economic recovery continues under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, DEO is focused on encouraging Floridians to return to the workforce and helping employers attract job seekers to continue fueling the state’s economic growth,” said DEO Secretary Dane Eagle. “Today’s announcement affirms the Governor’s commitment to a compassionate and graceful approach to help Floridians elevate above avoidable setbacks in their personal economic recoveries following the pandemic. As part of this mission, DEO is also implementing several proactive measures to continue relieving the frustration and confusion being experienced by claimants regarding federal and state overpayment issues.”

Federal and state law requires DEO to issue a Notice of Disqualification that may have overpayments attached. However, DEO understands how confusing and burdensome these federal and state requirements may be following the economic hardship experienced by claimants throughout the pandemic. To ease the burden of overpayments on claimants, DEO: 

·         Requested to indefinitely defer all referrals to a collection agency for non-fraudulent debts owed to the state for weeks of unemployment beginning March 1, 2020 through September 4, 2021. DEO first requested the suspension of debt referrals on January 7, 2021, and was recently extended until January 2023. 

·         Announced the opportunity for claimants to apply for federal overpayment waivers on April 21, 2021. Claimants should still complete overpayment waivers as they become available to relieve federal overpayments created on their account. 

·         Announced numerous resources to assist claimants navigate this process, including their appeal rights. Visit FloridaJobs.org/Overpayments for additional resources. 

Issuing Overpayments: 

The pandemic created financial obstacles for many claimants, which caused millions to file claims for Reemployment Assistance benefits. During the height of the pandemic, DEO’s number one priority was to ensure claimants received their benefits in a timely manner. Since day one, DEO has remained focused on reducing red tape to speed up that process. As a result, many claimants have received overpayments from the state. 

Federal and state law requires DEO to issue a Notice of Disqualification that may have overpayments attached. An overpayment may be issued when a claimant is paid state or federal Reemployment Assistance benefits and they were not eligible to receive the benefits. 

Claimants who received a prior Notice of Disqualification with an overpayment for any underlying state or federal Reemployment Assistance program (i.e., state Reemployment Assistance, Extended Benefits, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA), Short Time Compensation, or Trade Readjustment Allowance) will also soon receive an overpayment notice for the same weeks for the supplemental benefits paid for Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC), Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), or Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) benefits. 

Next Steps:

Claimants who have received federal Reemployment Assistance benefits may be eligible to receive an overpayment waiver for federal overpayments established on their claims. Previously, DEO announced the availability of an overpayment waiver for the PUA and PEUC programs in the CONNECT system on April 21, 2021. The overpayment waiver request form for MEUC, FPUC, and LWA programs will soon be available to claimants in their CONNECT account. 

DEO encourages claimants to check their Reemployment Assistance account frequently and take actions on their claim when prompted. In some instances, a claimant may be required to complete additional forms or, at the claimant’s option, file an appeal to ineligible notices to reverse overpayments created on their account. 

Resources: 

To assist claimants in navigating overpayments on their accounts, DEO has made the following resources available:

·         FloridaJobs.org/Overpayments - with easy-to-understand information and resources on overpayments

·         Reemployment Assistance Overpayments Guide for applying for an overpayment waiver

·         Informational Flyers with helpful information on overpayments and overpayment waivers

·         FloridaJobs.org/RAHelpCenter - Reemployment Assistance Help Center self-service paths for notice of disqualification, overpayment, and appeals assistance

For more information about Reemployment Assistance overpayments, click here

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North Florida— Starting Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021, the North Florida/ South Georgia Veterans Health System (NF/SGVHS) will begin offering Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine booster shots under Emergency Use Authorization.

This decision follows the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authorization and CDC recommendation for a booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to:

  • People 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings should receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series

  

  • People aged 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions should receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series
  • People aged 18–49 years with underlying medical conditions may receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risk
  • People aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks

“Our facility knows that fighting the COVID-19 pandemic is truly a team effort and we will continue to make sure that we are doing all we can to protect Veterans, staff and the North Florida/South Georgia community against COVID-19,” said James Waller, MD, NF/SGVHS Deputy Chief of Staff and COVID-19 Vaccine Coordinator. “Our staff is preparing to offer Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots to those at highest risk, following the FDA and CDC recommendations.”

The safety and care of Veterans is VA’s top priority, as well as ensuring the health and welfare of its workforce. NF/SGVHS sites will begin offering the Pfizer-BioNTech booster vaccines starting Wednesday, September 29, 2021, to Veterans and employees, first prioritizing those who are 65 years and older, residents of long-term care facilities, and people aged 50-64 years with underlying conditions. VA will also offer the booster to Veterans, their spouses, caregivers and CHAMPVA recipients under the authority of the SAVE LIVES Act, as supply and capacity permits.The Save Lives Act which was signed into law in March 2021expanded VA’s authority to offer vaccine to include Veterans not traditionally eligible for VHA care, and others including spouses and caregivers of Veterans.

“We currently have four sites within our health system that will be administering COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech Booster shots,” stated Waller.Individuals that meet current criteria can receive the Pfizer-BioNTech booster vaccine by calling 352-548-6000 ext. 103755 to schedule an appointment or by attending a no appointment needed vaccination clinic at one of the following sites:

COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech Booster Clinic Locations

Location 

Additional Information  

Malcom Randall VAMC 
1601 SW Archer Road 
Gainesville, FL 32608 

No Appointment Needed 
 
1. Primary Care Waiting Room (located on the first floor near Valet Parking) Monday- Friday from 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. 

2. Independence Parking Garage Monday- Friday from 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. 

3. Gainesville Auditorium (Near Canteen) Monday- Friday from 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.  

American Legion Post #57 (Lake City) 2602 SW Main Blvd. Lake City  

No Appointment Needed  
Monday- Friday from 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. 

The Villages Outpatient Clinic
8900 Southeast 165th Mulberry Lane 
The Villages, FL 32162-5884 

Appointment Preferred (near CAU) 
Monday - Friday, 9:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. 

Timuquana Market Place 
5150 Timuquana Road
Suite 6,  
Jacksonville, FL 32210 

No Appointment Needed 
Monday- Friday 8:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m.  
 

Individuals who meet current criteria for the Pfizer- BioNTech Booster will need to bring their COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card with them.

CDC advises that people can get both the COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccine at the same time.“Veterans can also obtain their flu shot at any of the sites of care currently offering the Pfizer-BioNTech Booster shot during the same visit,” said Waller.Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only booster shot authorized by the FDA and recommended by the CDC. Reviews of new data are in the process of being conducted to determine whether and when a booster might be recommended for recipients of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson (J&J)/Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine(s). NF/SGVHS will plan to offer boosters of those vaccines if/when they become authorized and recommended.For more information, visit:  VA’s Questions webpage for questions and answers regarding COVID-19 vaccine.

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TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) announced that the application cycle is now open for eligible units of local governments to apply for more than $92 million in funding through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG-CV) Small Cities and Entitlement programs.

 Administered by DEO, CDBG-CV funds are federally awarded by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and designed to help local governments prepare for, prevent, or respond to the health and economic impacts of the pandemic. The activities must be critical to their locality and primarily for the benefit of low- and moderate-income residents. Local governments are encouraged to include activities that benefit workforce housing, training, and sustainability, as well as broadband infrastructure and planning.

 “The Department remains focused on ensuring the state is able to fully recover from the effects of the pandemic,” said Secretary Dane Eagle of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “I encourage all eligible local governments to apply and utilize this relief funding to assist in the recovery process.”

 Nearly $42 million is available through the CDBG-CV Small Cities program. Eligible communities include municipalities and counties that participate in the Small Cities CDBG program. Communities may submit one application requesting a minimum of $200,000 and a maximum of $5 million in grant funding for one program or project through the competitive application cycle. To provide communities with specific program requirements and guidance on the completion and submission of the application, DEO will host a CDBG-CV Small Cities application webinar on September 9, 2021, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Eastern Time.

A total of $51 million is available through the CDBG-CV Entitlement program. Eligible communities include municipalities and counties that participate in the HUD entitlement program. Entitlement communities are encouraged to coordinate with local governments and subrecipient agencies within their jurisdiction and may apply for funding up to the amount allocated to the local government through a funding formula. To provide communities with specific program requirements and guidance on the completion and submission of the application, DEO will host a CDBG-CV Entitlement application webinar on September 9, 2021, from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Eastern Time.

To be considered for funding, applications for the CDBG-CV Small Cities and Entitlement programs must be submitted by Nov. 1, 2021.

For more information about the CDBG-CV program, the application webinars, and how to apply, click here

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MIAMI — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jim Risch (R-ID), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Rick Scott (R-FL), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Mike Braun (R-IN), John Hoeven (R-ND), John Barrasso (R-WY), Richard Burr (R-NC), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Michael Rounds (R-SD), John Boozman (R-AR), Deb Fischer (R-NE), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Roger Marshall (R-KS) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin demanding a full account of U.S. military equipment left behind in Afghanistan, which has already or risks falling into the hands of the Taliban and their terrorist allies.

“It is unconscionable that high-tech military equipment paid for by U.S. taxpayers has fallen into the hands of the Taliban and their terrorist allies,” the senators wrote. “Securing U.S. assets should have been among the top priorities for the U.S. Department of Defense prior to announcing the withdrawal from Afghanistan.” 

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Secretary Austin:

          

We write with grave concern regarding the status of U.S. military equipment left behind in Afghanistan as a result of our poorly executed withdrawal from the country. As we watched the images coming out of Afghanistan as the Taliban retook the country, we were horrified to see U.S. equipment – including UH-60 Black Hawks – in the hands of the Taliban.

It is unconscionable that high-tech military equipment paid for by U.S. taxpayers has fallen into the hands of the Taliban and their terrorist allies. Securing U.S. assets should have been among the top priorities for the U.S. Department of Defense prior to announcing the withdrawal from Afghanistan. We therefore request detailed information on the following:

  1. A full account of military equipment provided to the Afghan Armed Forces in the last year;
  2. All military equipment, owned by either the U.S. or Afghan Armed Forces, that was removed or destroyed prior to the U.S. withdrawal, or is rendered inoperable without U.S. logistics personnel;
  3. All U.S. military equipment that remains operational in Afghanistan; 
  4. A list of what military equipment has been seized by the Taliban;
  5. An assessment of how long it will take the Taliban to use each of the captured equipment;
  6. An assessment of the likelihood that the Taliban will seek to work with Russia, Pakistan, Iran, or the People’s Republic of China for training, fuel, or infrastructure necessary to utilize the equipment they do not have the capabilities to use on their own; and
  7. Any efforts by the administration, planned or underway, to recapture or destroy equipment that remains in Afghanistan and is at risk of being used by terrorist entities.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.

Sincerely, 

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TALLAHASSEE ‒ The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is offering free hunter safety internet-completion courses in nine counties during September. Hunter safety courses are designed to help students become safe, responsible and knowledgeable hunters, and learn about conservation.

Students who have taken the online course and wish to complete the classroom portion must bring the online-completion report with them.

All firearms, ammunition and materials are provided free of charge. Students should bring a pen or pencil and paper. An adult must always accompany children younger than 16.

Anyone born on or after June 1, 1975, must pass an approved hunter safety course and have a hunting license to hunt alone (unsupervised). The FWC course satisfies hunter-safety training requirements for all other states and Canadian provinces.

The date and times are:

Alachua

Sept. 11 (8 a.m. until complete) Gainesville

Baker

Sept. 11 (8 a.m. until complete) Macclenny and range to immediately follow in Lake City

Citrus

Sept. 4 (9 a.m. until complete) Lecanto

Sept. 18 (9 a.m. until complete) Lecanto

Clay

Sept. 16 (6 to 9 p.m.) Green Cove Springs

and Sept. 18 (8 a.m. until noon) Graham

Columbia

Sept. 18 (8 a.m. until complete) Lake City

Duval

Sept. 9 (6 to 9 p.m.) and Sept. 11 (8:30 a.m. until noon) Jacksonville

Madison

Sept. 18 (1 p.m. until complete) Madison

Nassau

Sept. 25 (8 a.m. until complete) Fernandina Beach

Suwannee

Sept. 11 (8:30 a.m. until complete) Live Oak

The specific location for these classes will be given to those who register in advance. Those interested in attending a course can register online and obtain information about future hunter safety classes at MyFWC.com/hunting, then clicking on “Hunter Safety” or by calling the FWC’s regional office in Lake City at 386-758-0525.

Youth between 12 and 17 years old who successfully complete a hunter safety course can learn more about conservation and experience hunting through the FWC’s Youth Hunting Program. Check out the calendar for safe, educational, mentored youth hunts. In addition, hunter safety course graduates can participate in the Youth Hunter Education Challenge program. YHEC events are designed to teach youth aged 18 and younger about leadership, safety and conservation while building skills and knowledge related to hunting, map and compass, wildlife identification and target shooting. Find and register for YHEC events.

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GAINESVILLE – As COVID-19 ravaged India and Indonesia this spring and summer, supplemental oxygen supplies became critically scarce. For some families, that meant exhausting their life savings on a single cylinder of oxygen in a desperate effort to help loved ones awaiting a hospital bed.

With that shortage in mind, a team at the University of Florida Health’s Center for Safety, Simulation and Advanced Learning Technologies, or CSSALT, conceived a novel way to prolong the life of oxygen cylinders by reducing oxygen waste. The simple, manual technique involves intermittently interrupting the oxygen flow from the cylinder during exhalation so that oxygen flows only during inhalation. The team tested the technique on a patient simulator invented at CSSALT.

An electromechanical device called an oxygen conserver can do the same function by delivering oxygen only while a patient is inhaling and shutting off the flow during exhalation. But few oxygen conservers are available in developing nations, resulting in continuious oxygen flow that depletes supply without benefitting patients.

The CSSALT team programmed the human patient simulator to replicate a COVID-19 patient’s rapid breathing and poor gas exchange. Three participants manually crimped the oxygen tubing with pliers to halt oxygen flow during each exhalation. The goal was to prolong the bottled oxygen supply while still providing better oxygen delivery than room air.

The results are promising: In the simulator, the intermittent oxygen-pinching technique decreased oxygen use by approximately 60% compared with continuous oxygen flow. Three indicators of oxygen supply were improved compared with breathing room air, although they were lower than breathing continuous supplemental oxygen.

“We found that when we manually imitated an oxygen conserver, this technique reduced oxygen use while simultaneously improving oxygen saturation,” said Sem Lampotang, Ph.D., the Joachim S. Gravenstein Professor of Anesthesiology in the UF College of Medicine’s department of anesthesiology and the CSSALT director. 

Due to the dire situation in India, a description of the technique and other relevant material were quickly posted on the CSSALT website so that it could be swiftly disseminated. A report describing the experiments performed on the simulator has been accepted for publication in the journal Simulation in Healthcare.

The team was able to quickly pass the data along to colleagues in India so they could independently evaluate it and decide whether to use the technique, which has not been approved by any regulatory body.

The project started when Lampotang was contacted in late April by Jeffrey Feldman, M.D., an anesthesiology and critical-care professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as well as a former UF anesthesiology faculty member. After being approached by a physician in India seeking help with the oxygen shortage, Feldman turned to Lampotang. It was Lampotang who led a team of engineers in designing a low-cost, open source ventilator during the early months of the pandemic.

Lampotang’s team acted fast. Just more than a week later, he sent Feldman the link to the CSSALT webpage, asking that it be forwarded to the physician in India.

The next morning, the physician in India sent a brief email indicating that he had already tried the oxygen-pinching technique on his patients.

“I am already advising caregivers,” the physician wrote in early May. “It actually helps.”

The physician later told Feldman he had advised hundreds of people on the technique and all said that it improved oxygen use.

CSSALT engineers who tried the pinching on a simulator found the process repetitive but not tiring, Lampotang said. Prior experiments indicated that using pliers was less fatiguing and provided better flow interruption than using hands and fingers.

Lampotang described the technique as a stopgap measure. In many countries facing acute oxygen shortages, the situation has been so dire that there was no time to await international aid. With the new technique, all that is required is a pair of pliers.

“A huge number of people could potentially benefit,” Lampotang said.

For complete details about the technique and visualizations, visit https://simulation.health.ufl.edu/2021/05/03/conserving-oxygen-by-manually-pinching-off-the-supply-during-exhalation/

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Floridians,

This week, I announced the new Mental Health Care Service webpage on the Department of Financial Services (DFS) website, which aims to provide resources and assistance to mental health services for consumers. This past legislative session, HB 701 was signed by Governor DeSantis and establishes new communication duties for health insurers and HMOs and creates reporting requirements for DFS.

I’m proud to provide Floridians with resources they need to seek vital treatment so they can live a healthier life. As we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, mental health challenges are on the rise nationwide, especially within our first responder and front-line healthcare communities. Thank you to Governor Ron DeSantis, First Lady Casey DeSantis and the Florida Legislature for stressing the importance of mental health resources in our communities.

On Tuesday, I recognized, October 12th, as National Savings Day and urged Floridians to make saving a priority to secure their financial well-being. Saving is the cornerstone of a strong financial foundation. Setting money aside each month allows families to handle unexpected costs or prepare for future expenses, like college tuition. As your CFO, I remain focused on ensuring all Floridians have the tools they need to make their hard-earned money work for them. For information about financial literacy programs available through the Department, please visit Your Money Matters, which is a one-stop shop for tips and resources to help Floridians manage their finances wisely.

Lastly, in recognition of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, I encouraged Floridians to 'Be Cyber Smart' and raised awareness in an effort to stay safe and secure online. Recently, officials are warning consumers of a new scam where fraudsters are creating fake Google Voice accounts to scam people without being detected. Scammers are always searching for new ways to trick their next victim and using fake Google Voice accounts is their latest ploy. I encourage all individuals and businesses to take action today to 'Be Cyber Smart' and learn how to protect your identity online to ensure you don’t fall victim. Learn about the latest scams and report signs of fraud immediately at FraudFreeFlorida.com

Jimmy Patrons

State of Florida CFO

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With Memorial Day behind us and Independence Day on the horizon, I’m happy to report that our state parks have never been more popular.

Our beaches – two of which were recently named among the 10 best in America by beach guru Dr. Beach – and our springs have attracted a record number of visitors, and we expect that trend to continue in the weeks and months ahead.

Not only that, but our campsites are filling up too as more people discover the joys of camping and RVing.

As it turns out, now is a great time to plan an overnight stay. June is National Camping Month, and the Florida Park Service has just launched a new reservation system that provides our visitors with quicker, easier access to their favorite parks.

The new system shows clearly which parks and sites are available for camping and provides online users with a streamlined process for making reservations. Additionally, campers can now reserve same-day accommodations, which is something that we’ve been wanting to implement for a long time.

The changes will also be apparent at each park’s ranger station, as we’ve updated our point-of-sale system to be more modernized and, most importantly, faster. That means less time at the park gates and more time inside the park.

You might also notice welcome additions such as the ability to be notified when a site becomes available. And, in the future, we’ll be looking to add expanded reservation capabilities for Florida residents.

When thinking about your favorite parks, you might remember an unforgettable paddling adventure or boat tour. But take a moment to consider the park operations needed to offer our visitors the best experiences possible.

Food sales, camp stores, kayak rentals, ferries and trams are services that we could not provide if not for a specially selected group of businesses – many of them owned locally. These companies and their employees are a part of our park community, and they’re just as committed as regular park staff to making your visit safe and enjoyable.

The business that helps us with reservations is just one of our partners that help make 800,000 acres, 30 springs and 100 miles of beaches special places to visit.     

Eric Draper

Director, Florida State Parks

 

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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is on June 15. On this day, and throughout the month, communities, seniors, caregivers, governments, organizations, and the private sector unite to prevent the mistreatment of and violence against older people.

Social Security imposter scams are widespread across the United States. Scammers use sophisticated tactics to deceive you into providing sensitive information or money. They target everyone – even the elderly – and their tactics continue to evolve.

Most recently, Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has received reports of phone scammers creating fake versions of the identification badges most Federal employees use to gain access to Federal buildings. The scammers may text or email photos of the fake badges to convince potential victims of their legitimacy. These badges use government symbols, words, and even names and photos of real people, which are available on government websites or through internet searches.

If you receive a suspicious letter, text, email, or call, hang up or do not respond. You should know how to identify when it’s really Social Security. We will NEVER:

  • Text or email images of an employee’s official government identification.
  • Suspend your Social Security number.
  • Threaten you with arrest or other legal action unless you immediately pay a fine or fee.
  • Require payment by retail gift card, wire transfer, internet currency, or cash by mail.
  • Promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment.
  • Send official letters or reports containing your personal information via email.

We only send text messages if you have opted in to receive texts from us and only in limited situations, including the following:

  • When you have subscribed to receive updates and notifications by text.
  • As part of our enhanced security when accessing your personal my Social Security account.

If you owe money to us, we will mail you a letter with payment options and appeal rights.

We encourage you to report suspected Social Security imposter scams — and other Social Security fraud — to the OIG website at oig.ssa.gov. You may read our previous Social Security fraud advisories at oig.ssa.gov/newsroom/news-release. Please share this information with your friends and family to help spread awareness about Social Security imposter scams.

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The first drug developed to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD), the modern term for alcoholism, was disulfiram (Antabuse). Today disulfiram is still used, but as a second line William Garst HSdrug behind acamprosate (Campral) and naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol). Disulfiram works by blocking the enzymatic breakdown of alcohol and allowing a metabolite to build up in the blood, producing very unpleasant effects. People taking disulfiram will be deterred from ingesting alcohol because they know they will become very ill. The drug is used as an aid to help alcoholics overcome their cravings and addiction.

Disulfiram (a compound that contains sulfur) was first synthesized in 1881 as an industrial chemical, and in the early 1900s was introduced in the manufacturing of rubber. Adding sulfur in rubber manufacturing produces varying degrees of hardness in the final rubber compound.

During the late 1930s sulfur compounds, including disulfiram, were being investigated because of the antimicrobial effects of drugs containing sulfur, and the search was intense. Two scientists at the Danish firm of Medicinalco, Erik Jacobson and Jens Hald, began investigating disulfiram for treatment of intestinal parasites. This company had a group of employees called the “Death Battalion” who would experiment on themselves.

During this phase of testing the drug on themselves, they discovered they became ill after ingesting alcohol. This discovery was made in 1945, but a few years later disulfiram was considered to be used in the treatment of alcoholism as an aversive-reaction drug therapy. Jacobson and Hald’s work was finally published in 1948 and disulfiram was approved by the FDA in 1951.

The discovery of disulfiram led to a renewed interest in the metabolism of alcohol in the body. It was known alcohol was metabolized in the liver and broken down to acetaldehyde then to acetic acid and carbon dioxide by unknown enzymes. In 1950 it was discovered that disulfiram blocked the action of the enzyme that converts acetaldehyde, thus causing an accumulation of acetaldehyde in the bloodstream, which is the cause of the unpleasant effects.

Effects that occur when disulfiram is taken with alcohol include flushing, sweating, nausea and vomiting, chest pain, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness. One should not take disulfiram within 12 hours of alcohol ingestion or 14 days from the last dose of the drug. In addition, products that contain alcohol such as aftershave, cologne, perfume, antiperspirant, and mouthwash can produce unpleasant reactions for people taking Antabuse. Other products to avoid are paint thinners, solvents, and stains, along with dyes, resins and waxes, because even small amounts of alcohol absorbed through the skin can produce the effects.

Other drugs can produce adverse reactions, commonly called the “antabuse-like reaction.” The most notable of these drugs are metronidazole (Flagyl, an antibiotic), griseofulvin (an antifungal), and some cephalosporin antibiotics. If a drug is known to have this side effect, it should be pointed out to the patient by the prescriber and the pharmacist. Always read the drug information given to you when starting a new medication that tells you about side effects that may occur and how to avoid them.

Substance abuse of any kind is not good, but alcohol abuse has been especially devastating to society, families, and individuals because of the convenient availability, relative inexpensiveness, and its association with festivities. In addition, the abuse of alcohol leads to lack of inhibitions and unpredictable behaviors, which are many times violent and destructive. When people take disulfiram, they are acknowledging their problem, and they know that very unpleasant reactions will occur if alcohol is consumed, thus it helps to deter the first drink.

The history of disulfiram is still being written. Currently, it is being studied to treat certain cancers, parasitic infections, HIV, and Covid-19.

Stay informed and stay healthy.

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William Garst is a consultant pharmacist who resides in Alachua, Florida. He received his B.S. in Pharmacy from Auburn University in 1975. He earned a master’s degree in Public Health in 1988 from the University of South Florida and a Master’s in Pharmacy from UF in 2001. In 2007, he received his Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Colorado. Dr. Garst is a member of many national, state, and local professional associations. He serves on the Alachua County Health Care Advisory Board and stays active as a relief pharmacist. In 2016, he retired from the VA. Dr. Garst enjoys golf, reading (especially history), and family. He writes a blog called The Pharmacy Newsletter (https://thepharmacynewsletter.com/). William Garst can be contacted at communitypharmac
ynewsletter@gmail.com.

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When learning the ropes — and rods — of saltwater fishing, thorough preparation involves more than just a rich arsenal of gear and the appropriate attire. Open-water fishing is challenging and requires technique and prior research.  

If you’re embarking on an open-water adventure for the first time, keep the following saltwater fishing tips in mind.  

Research Your Destination

The key to discovering a spot rich in saltwater fish is ample research. At least a week before your trip, you’ll want to read up on fishing reports, tide charts and weather forecasts.  

For instance, while a rainy morning might deter most anglers, it can also surprise you with better catches — if you know where to look. 

Some areas are more crowded with fishing enthusiasts during different times of the year. Consider whether you are traveling in the spring, summer, fall or winter and do the appropriate research. You can get some ideas of  where to go at MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “Where to Saltwater Fish.”

Think About Your Target Species

The type of catch you’re after will dictate where you anchor your boat. Targets, such as yellowfin or other tunas, for instance, are surface feeders. Thus, you’ll want to be on the lookout for weed lines and baitfish breaking the surface.  

On the other hand, some species including groupers and snappers are bottom feeders and prefer structures including reefs and wrecks. Angling for these species can require special equipment, such as a fishfinder, circle hooks, dehooking tools, descending devices and more. MyFWC.com/FishHandling explains much of this fishing gear.    

Stay up to date on the latest regulations for saltwater fishing at MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “Recreational Regulations” or by downloading the Fish Rules app on your smart device. Learn about fish identification at MyFWC.com/FishingLines or by visiting MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “Fish Identification.”

Use a Bathymetric Map

When it comes to open-water angling, you can never underestimate the usefulness of a map. Bathymetric maps are a type of underwater topographic map that indicates specific depths. Space between lines on the map illustrates whether an area is close to a steep slope, drop off, flat or shoal. Lines that are close together indicate a rapidly changing depth in the area. 

Keep in mind that bathymetric maps can be challenging to find at your local angling shop. If you have trouble coming across a bathymetric map, you can rely on other tools, such as nautical charts or satellite images.    

Speak to the Locals

While ample internet research might suffice, nothing quite compares to gathering input from local anglers. When you have a specific target species in mind, drop by the local bait shop for advice. Or join an online group focused on fishing in your area of interest. 

Some angling hot spots have knowledgeable fishing guides who can direct you to the ideal area for your specific catch. Hop on a trip for a chance to see the area up close with an expert who can teach you how to catch your target species. 

Alternatively, you can venture out into the ocean yourself and observe where other anglers are setting up shop. Just be sure to mind your distance and not crowd other anglers. Learn more about angler etiquette at MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “On-the-Water Etiquette.”

Make the Most of Angling Technology

Nowadays, you won’t find any shortage of state-of-the-art angling technology available online and at your local bait shop. Make sure that a reliable fish finder is part of your staple arsenal.  

Fish finders use sonar to locate fish within your chosen area. When an echo transmits back to your device, it indicates the presence of fish immediately under or around your vessel. Some wireless fish finders are Bluetooth compatible and will quickly pair with your Android or iOS device.  

You'll want to consider other staple needs for open-water fishing: GPS, VHF 2-way radio, flares, noise-making device, first aid kit and life jacket for each person on board. Wearing a life jacket while on the water is a simple way to prevent you from drowning if you fall overboard due to a boating accident. Learn more about boating requirements and safety at MyFWC.com/Boating. Find more tips and tricks at MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “How to Saltwater Fish.”

The Bottom Line

If you have recently taken an interest in saltwater fishing, knowing how to target your intended catch will go a long way in the open water. Make the most of your day out by researching your destination beforehand, coming well-equipped, and learning how to identify different kinds of saltwater fish. Consider sharing your catches with scientists through the iAngler app and submitting catches for recognition at FWC’s CatchaFloridaMemory.com

About the Author

Kenneth is an expert at saltwater fishing and the founder of Perfect Captain. He has been angling for over two decades and hopes to provide accessible resources for fishing rookies and veterans.

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Remember the old adage “April showers bring May flowers?” In Florida, April is typically a dry month when water demands are higher due to springtime planting and low rainfall amounts. For 22 years, April has been recognized as Water Conservation Month in Florida, a designation to heighten public awareness about the many ways we can reduce our water use until summer thunderstorms arrive.

Each spring, a renewed focus on our lawns and landscapes make it an ideal time to inspect our automatic sprinkler systems and timers. The St. Johns River Water Management District’s seasonal “Did You Set It and Forget It” message is a timely springtime reminder to give your automatic sprinkler system a checkup for leaks, timer adjustments, replacing the rain sensor battery and other maintenance.

The District’s annual Water Less outdoor water conservation campaign promotes easy ways to make water conservation part of your regular routine at home.

Consider this: More than half of all residential water is used outdoors for lawn and landscape irrigation. Studies show that up to half of that water can be saved and isn’t necessary for native and Florida-friendly plants to thrive.

Individually and collectively, you make a big difference when you take control of your water use. In fact, between 2010 and 2019, gross per capita water use in the St. Johns District decreased 12 percent, from 132 gallons per person per day to 116 gallons per person per day.

Changing old habits doesn’t have to be hard. Just follow our five easy ways to save water outdoors: Adhere to the District’s watering restrictions. Give your sprinkler system regular checkups and turn it off if there is rain in the forecast. Use water-efficient smart irrigation technology and replace thirsty landscape materials with drought-tolerant “waterwise” plants. Our waterwise plant database at www.sjrwmd.com/water-conservation/waterwise-landscaping is simple to access and use, too.

Year-round water conservation is an important way to help meet the state’s water supply needs, and you can still maintain a healthy and beautiful Florida landscape.

We’re grateful to all those helping us raise awareness of the small behavior changes that can lead to big water savings. I ask you to spend a few minutes visiting the District’s water conservation campaign website, WaterLessFlorida.com, to learn how you too can make a difference.

Ann Shortelle, Ph.D.

Executive Director

St. Johns River Water Management District

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JACKSONVILLE - The newly enacted legislation will dedicate $300 million to preserving migratory routes within the Florida Wildlife Corridor, which includes NFLT’s Ocala to Osceola (O2O) wildlife corridor project. It will also commit $100 million to Florida Forever, the state’s land conservation program.

The Florida Wildlife Corridor includes more than 18 million acres of land, 8 million of which remain unprotected. The O2O wildlife corridor is a critical component of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. NFLT leads a partnership made up of public and private organizations dedicated to conservation and land management along the O2O which is a 1.6-million-acre corridor of public and private lands that connect the Ocala and Osceola National Forests.

“The Florida Wildlife Corridor Act and the funding for Florida Forever is a huge step forward for conservation and for the work we do to conserve environmentally sensitive lands within the O2O and in other Florida Forever project areas,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “Conservation is important for not only protecting and preserving wildlife habitats but also for protecting water quality in our state. This state funding provides an opportunity for conservation that may not have been possible otherwise. We thank the Governor and all our representatives who were instrumental in passing this legislation.”

In addition to funding conservation efforts and protecting the critical wildlife corridor, the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act will connect land needed for flood and sea-level rise resiliency and will protect areas that provide vital drinking water sources for most Floridians. NFLT will be working closely with its partners to continue the mission to preserve lands within the O2O. Those partners include Florida DEP’s Division of State Lands, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Camp Blanding, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, U.S. Forest Service, and county governments.

The money dedicated to the Florida Forever program could also be instrumental in preserving 541 acres in Marion County known as Big Pine Preserve. The land is part of the Longleaf Pine Ecosystems Florida Forever project area which makes it eligible for funding through the Florida Forever program in 2022. The nonprofit land conservation organization is also working with private timberland company Weyerhaeuser on a possible sale of a conservation easement on 50,000 acres of timberland within the O2O.

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TALLAHASSEE – Last week, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (FDACS) Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement (OALE) made an arrest following an investigation into a credit card skimming operation in Hernando County. On June 17, 2021, OALE investigators took Yadian Quesada-Hernandez into custody; Quesada-Hernandez was booked into the Hernando County Jail and bond was set at $40,000.

“Florida has the highest fraud rate per capita in the entire nation, with $84 million lost to fraud in 2018,” said Commissioner Fried. “Our Department’s law enforcement professionals are working hard to thwart these criminals every day, our inspectors are checking thousands of gas pumps for these devices, and I will keep working with the Legislature to attack this problem head-on. I appreciate the selfless, hard-working law enforcement officers that diligently serve our communities.”

Timeline and background information:

March 10: A suspect was caught on video placing a credit card skimming device inside a fuel pump at 7003 N Florida Avenue, Hernando, Florida in an apparent attempt to steal credit card information from Florida consumers. After extensive investigation, investigators with OALE and members of the United States Secret Service Electronic Crime Task Force identified the suspect as Yadian Quesada-Hernandez of Spring Hill, Florida. OALE investigators obtained an arrest warrant for Quesada-Hernandez for multiple related offenses in Citrus County.  Quesada-Hernandez is also suspected of placing credit card skimming devices in gas pumps at other locations throughout Florida.

 

June 17: OALE investigators located and arrested Quesada-Hernandez at his residence without incident. Quesada-Hernandez was booked into the Hernando County Jail with a $40,000 bond.

 

Arrestee: Yadian Quesada-Hernandez, Hispanic male, DOB 01-11-1986, Spring Hill, Florida

Charges:

  • Violation of Section 655.0322(6), F.S., Scheme to Defraud a Financial Institution, Second-Degree Felony, 1 count;
  • Violation of Section 815.06(3)(b)(2), F.S., Unauthorized Access to an Electronic Device, Second-Degree Felony, 1 count;
  • Violation of Section 817.625(2)(c), F.S., Possession of Skimming Device, Third-Degree Felony, 3 counts;
  • Violation of Section 806.13(1)(b)(3), F.S., Criminal Mischief, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.

Skimmers: Skimmers are small electronic devices illegally installed inside gas pumps – first appeared in Florida in 2015 and have grown exponentially since. FDACS’ Bureau of Standards inspects over 8,700 gas stations each year and has removed 4,860 skimmers since 2015. The Bureau also inspects pumps for safety and accuracy. Skimmers can be undetectable to consumers because of their location inside gas pumps, and have a potential for $1 million in fraudulent credit card charges per skimmer. They range from simple devices that clamp onto internal wiring that criminals must later retrieve, to sophisticated devices that deliver stolen credit card data via Bluetooth and automated text messaging. For more information visit FDACS.gov/skimmers.

Since September, FDACS has partnered with local law enforcement offices in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Volusia, Flagler, Orange, Sarasota, St. Johns, Broward, and Bay Counties to perform multiple successful gas pump skimmer sweeps of over 1,500 gas stations.

 

Consumer tips to avoid fraud at the pump:

 

  • Take a close look at the pump: Avoid using pumps that are open or unlocked, have had the tamper-evident security tape cut or removed, or otherwise appear unusual. If unsure, use another pump or pay inside with cash or a credit card.
  • Use a credit card, not a debit card: If a credit card number is skimmed, you’re protected by the card issuer’s zero-liability policy – but a stolen debit card number could be far more damaging. If you must use a debit card, choose to use it as credit, instead of selecting debit and entering your PIN.

 

  • Pay inside, not at the pump: It takes just seconds for criminals to place a skimmer in a gas pump — but it’s far less likely that a skimmer has been placed on the payment terminal in front of the clerk inside the gas station or convenience store. Take the few extra minutes to pay inside with cash or a credit card to protect yourself from fraud.

 

  • Choose gas pumps closest to the physical building: Don’t use gas pumps out of the attendant’s line of sight such as those around a corner or behind a building. Thieves placing skimmers are less likely to put them in pumps where the store attendant may catch them in the act.

 

  • Check card statements and sign up for fraud alerts: Nearly every credit card issuer offers fraud alerts, and many will email or text you when your card is used at a gas station. Check your credit card and debit card transactions frequently to make sure no fraudulent activity has occurred.

If consumers suspect a gas pump skimmer, they should contact FDACS — all consumer complaints will be investigated. To file a consumer complaint, visit FloridaConsumerHelp.com or call 1-800-HELP-FLA or 1-800-FL-AYUDA (en español).

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TALLAHASSEE – Today, the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) announced the initial English Language Arts (ELA) results of the Grade 3 Florida Standards Assessment (FSA). Findings from the initial results include that districts with higher rates of in-person instruction had more consistent learning outcomes between 2019 and 2021 (state tests were not administered in Spring 2020). Achievement gaps also narrowed for Florida’s African American and Hispanic students, who experienced less of a decline (3 percent) than White students (4 percent). The results illustrate that Governor DeSantis and Commissioner Corcoran exhibited remarkable leadership while continuing to make the right decisions when fighting to provide parents with the choice to send their children to in-person learning.

“On June 11, 2020, Commissioner Corcoran and I stood with our school district superintendents and said our schools will be open,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Throughout the year we continued to work with districts to get struggling students on campus full-time to stop learning loss and the possibility of widening achievement gaps. With overwhelming data to support our decisions, we stood firm for our students, families and their teachers. We can now say without hesitation that this generation of Florida’s K-12 students are positioned for success better than any other state in the nation.”

“With 68 percent of students on campuses full-time and 80 percent on campus full- or part-time, I am grateful to report that 97 percent of Grade 3 students tested in-person in Spring 2021,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “Moreover, preliminary results show that between 92 to 94 percent of students took Florida’s state tests (ELA Writing, ELA Reading, Mathematics and end-of-course exams). I am so grateful for the support of Governor DeSantis and district superintendents like Pinellas County’s Mike Grego in crafting the supports and flexibilities needed to ensure Florida could lead the nation in in-person instruction and ensuring that we assess the progress of so many of our students. Getting our students on campus and ultimately informing those students, their parents and their teachers about their academic progress put Florida families and teachers in the driver’s seat to make decisions in the best interest of their children’s growth.”

Throughout the year, Florida leaders, parents and school districts had access to state-of-the-art progress monitoring systems to provide almost real-time feedback. This allowed them to identify student deficiencies in learning and focus targeted resources and supports to improve student achievement. For example, progress monitoring suggests that Florida students are performing at a higher level than their national counterparts on i-Ready reading. The initial results suggest that progress monitoring data has been highly accurate by substantially predicting student assessment scores prior to testing.

Florida’s advancements with progress monitoring this school year are seen as a potential game-changer in the future that will allow districts to access valid and reliable data to predict student achievement and academic progress.

  • While the statewide percentage of Grade 3 students scoring Level 3 or above on the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) English Language Arts (ELA) assessment saw a slight decrease, the data clearly shows that, on average, districts with higher rates of in-person instruction weathered the “COVID slide” better and saw lesser declines between 2019 and 2021 than districts with higher rates of virtual instruction.
  • Overall, in 2021 performance at Level 3 and above (on grade level and above) decreased by 4 percentage points compared to 2019 (58% to 54%).
  • All student subgroups continue to have a higher percentage of students performing at Level 3 and above than in 2015 when the FSA was first administered.
  • Charter school performance was higher than non-charter school performance by 8 percentage points on the 2021 Grade 3 FSA ELA (61% vs. 53% at Level 3 or above, respectively). Additionally, charter school performance has been consistently higher than non-charter school performance since 2015 when the test was first administered.

These results are the first glimpse of valuable information that will help policymakers understand the reading achievements and deficiencies of Florida’s Grade 3 students. The picture of where Florida students academically stand will become clearer as additional assessment results become available this summer. The entirety of student assessment results will assist FDOE and districts identify individual student deficiencies for districts to begin providing targeted interventions and supports to students moving forward. The remaining statewide assessment results will be available no later than July 31, per Florida Department of Education Emergency Order No. 2021-01.

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ORLANDO – Six of the 16 Florida municipal electric utilities that are part of one of the largest municipal-backed solar projects in the nation reached a milestone in reducing power plant emissions after the first two solar sites in the Florida Municipal Solar Project completed their first year of operations. The group celebrated the milestone today with a tour of the Harmony Solar Energy Center, which provides 74.5 megawatts of emission-free energy.

“FMPA and its members are committed to providing clean energy with diverse fuel sources that ensure affordable and reliable electricity,” said Jacob Williams, general manager and CEO of the Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA). “Over the last year, we took a major step forward in reducing emissions in a cost-effective way by bringing these two solar farms online.”


The Harmony Solar Energy Center in St. Cloud and the Taylor Creek Solar Energy Center in east Orange County near Wedgefield came online in June 2020 and provide zero-emissions energy to six Florida cities, including Fort Pierce, Jacksonville Beach, Key West, Kissimmee, Ocala and Orlando.

Project Provides Affordable Solar and Environmental Benefits

The large-scale solar project enables participants to provide solar energy to customers in the most cost-effective way. The cost of solar power from the project is approximately one-third the cost of a typical private, rooftop solar system.

Over the past year, the Harmony and Taylor Creek solar sites have generated more than 370,000 megawatt hours, enough energy to power approximately 31,576 homes per year. The sites have also reduced carbon emissions equivalent to:

  • Eliminating 262,213 metric tons of carbon dioxide
  • Taking more than 57,000 vehicles off the road annually
  • Planting 4.3 million trees in 10 years

Additional Solar Sites on the Way

Participants of the Florida Municipals Solar Project plan to add three more solar farms. When the first two phases are complete in late 2023, the project will total approximately 1.5 million solar panels that will have the capability to generate nearly 375 megawatts on more than 3,000 acres of land. That is enough solar energy to power approximately 75,000 homes.

This is the first large utility-scale solar project for FMPA and its members. The 16 local utilities that will purchase power from the project include: Alachua, Bartow, Beaches Energy Services (Jacksonville Beach), Fort Pierce Utilities Authority, Havana, Homestead, Keys Energy Services (Key West), Kissimmee Utility Authority, Lake Worth Beach, Mount Dora, New Smyrna Beach, Newberry, Ocala, Orlando Utilities Commission, Wauchula and Winter Park. These cities are member-owners of FMPA along with 15 other municipal utilities.

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