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'Love in the Age of COVID-19'; masks in schools; COVID-19 vaccines; housing market and flood zones; climate moves

Hand sanitizer, wipes and surgical masks rest on a desk in a fourth-grade classroom on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021, at Elk Ridge Elementary School in Buckley, Washington.
Ted S. Warren
Hand sanitizer, wipes, and surgical masks rest on a desk in a classroom.

'Love in the Age of COVID-19'; masks in schools; COVID-19 vaccines; housing market and flood zones; climate moves

On our Christmas Eve episode of the "Florida Roundup," Melissa Ross and Tom Hudson shared reporting from across the state as Florida Public Media partners examined the most significant issues facing Florida: the pandemic and environmental concerns.

Love in the Age of COVID-19

Ronnie McBrayer pastors a church in Walton County in Florida’s Panhandle. On March 15, 2020, he delivered a sermon called "Love in the Age of COVID-19," in which he predicted the long road ahead of the virus and its continuing effects.

Reporter: Jennie McKeon, WUWF.

Masks in schools

For months, a debate has raged over masks in Florida schools over who has the ultimate say and if parents can opt out of mask mandates. The argument has pitted some of the state’s largest school districts against the governor, and the state Board of Education went so far as to fine school boards that put mask mandates in place.

The battle over control between the state and local school boards started in the early months of the pandemic.


  • Jessica Bakeman, WLRN.
  • Daniel Rivero, WLRN.

As the infection rate has dropped and more children are eligible for a vaccine, school districts with mask mandates have dropped them, allowing parents to opt out.
The rules for masks in schools spilled out during public school board meetings, with some people repeating disinformation about the science during public comment periods and some board members reporting being threatened.

Reporter: Lynn Hatter, WFSU.

COVID-19 vaccines

When COVID-19 vaccines first received their emergency approval late last year, Florida was the first state to prioritize older residents. The vaccines have now received full authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. More than nine out of 10 Floridians 65 years old and older have received a full vaccine.

However, how the COVID-19 vaccine has been distributed in Florida has exposed inequities in Florida's health care system.

As the pandemic has dragged on, vaccination rates have been climbing, but numbers keep lagging in some groups of people. Younger people are vaccinated at lower rates than older people. And Black Floridians have been vaccinated at a lower rate than white Floridians.

Various techniques have been used to encourage Floridians to get vaccinated against COVID-19 if they can — public service announcements, free vaccine sites and mobile vaccination efforts.


  • Stephanie Colombini, WUSR.
  • Kerry Sheridan, WUSF.
  • Jose Jimenez, WUSF.

Housing market affected by flood zones

Thanks to the pandemic and low-interest rates, the Florida real estate market has been red hot this year. But the situation is putting pressure on finding affordable housing — a familiar challenge in some communities. That affordability is pushing up against environmental concerns.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is supposed to provide quality affordable housing and protect consumers. An NPR investigation this fall found that across the country, HUD sells a disproportionately high number of homes in vulnerable flood zones — hundreds of those homes are in Florida.

Reporter: Jenny Staletovic, WLRN.

Climate moves

De'Andre Long’s family stretches back five generations in Tampa. He moved to Riverview more than a decade ago after noticing cooler temperatures there. He spoke with Florida climatologist David Zierden about his observations.

Reporter: Jessica Meszaros, WUSF.

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Katherine Hobbs was Associate Producer of talk shows at WJCT until 2022.
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