first coast connect





This week, students at Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) who opted for in-person education returned to brick and mortar school five days a week. Parents continue to express concern over the DCPS COVID-19 dashboard and say they want more information as schools continue to quarantine students and employees who have been exposed to a classmate or colleague with the virus

EVAN VUCCI / Associated Press

President Donald Trump paid no income taxes in 10 of the last 15 years due to losing much more money than he made, according to a New York Times investigation of tax information it obtained.



On this week’s First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross’ Friday Media Roundtable, we discussed some of the top stories in Northeast Florida, including:


President Donald Trump is holding a rally in Jacksonville Tuesday night, Sept. 24. Anyone who attends must sign a waiver acknowledging that they run the risk of contracting COVID-19 and cannot sue the president or his campaign if they get sick. 

Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash


As the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continues to rise, the concern for childrens’ safety at schools is growing, as well.

Sky Lebron / WJCT News


Professors from the University of North Florida and Florida State College at Jacksonville have formed a coalition of academics to work with other local advocates to ask the mayor and City Council to pass the “People’s Budget” for Jacksonville.


Cyd Hoskinson / WJCT News


Four former superintendents of Duval County Public Schools are banding together to urge voters to support the half-cent sales tax referendum to build safe, secure and modern schools in Duval County.  




On this week’s First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross Friday Media Roundtable, we discussed some of the top stories in Northeast Florida, including:



 A new report finds Florida is sliding deeper into an affordable housing crisis.

Lucio Eastman / Wikimedia Commons



Duval County students are being transitioned back into classes five days a week.  

A voter casts his ballot
David J. Phillip / Associated Press


Florida has spent tens of millions of dollars to increase voting security since the 2016 election. Every county in the state has been audited. Five full-time cyber specialists have been hired. And nonpartisan groups are preparing responses to a variety of scenarios should Election Day chaos ensue.

Evan Dvorkin /Unsplash


Bars and taprooms across most of Florida were allowed to reopen Monday for onsite consumption at 50% occupancy.



On this week’s First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross Friday Media Roundtable, we discussed some of the top stories in Northeast Florida this week, including:


A medical marijuna nursery is pictured in this file photo.
Gerald Herbert / Associated Press



Edible medical marijuana products have been approved, four years after Florida voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana. 





Florida’s reported COVID-19 numbers are beginning to trend downwards.  

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

As the 2020 presidential campaign heads into its final stretch, activists in Duval County are demanding increased access to mail-in ballots.



On Friday’s First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross, our Media Roundtable discussed some of the top stories in Northeast Florida this week, including:




On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that some long-term care facilities would be able to reopen to visitors. The Safe and Limited Re-Opening of Long-Term Care Facilities task force informed his decision.


We spoke with Marty Goetz, CEO of River Garden Senior Services in Jacksonville, who notes that “compassionate visitation, which is discussed in the revised emergency rule, was always in the governor’s original emergency order.”


“We have been using it sparingly here at River Garden,” Goetz said.


Goetz said he expects a vaccine against COVID-19 will be the most effective tool in stopping the spread.


“The governor talked about feeling a pit in his stomach last March, as he ordered nursing homes to begin banning visitation. I hope Gov. DeSantis felt that same pit in his stomach when he refused to order mandatory wearing masks in Florida. Because absent a vaccine; masks, social distancing, and hand washing, I mean [they are] the three most effective tools available to us, that has not changed. As far as the governance or revision, I was expecting that he would be including testing, because testing in communities such as mine are the only way you can get ahead of this fire,” Goetz said.


Attorney Steve Watrel, who specializes in issues related to long-term care facilities, also joined us.

Watrel said he believes that visitation can happen safely if facilities, visitors, and caregivers comply with the rules.


“I think the governor here was trying to strike a balance...right now there’s a risk,” said Watrel.


It’s the first of the month, which means for many that the rent is due. But many Floridians can't afford to pay their rent, due to coronavirus-triggered economic hardships. Stout, a global research firm, predicts that 749,000 Florida renters face the risk of eviction over the next four months.

AP Photo/Ben Margot

This morning, we discussed the Jacksonville Jaguars, who released running back Leonard Fournette on Monday. Off the field, members of the NFL team have also made headlines this year for raising their voice in the national racial justice movement.



Friday our Media Roundtable discussed the biggest stories of the week, including:

AP Photo/David Goldman

Today marks the 60th anniversary of Ax Handle Saturday, the day in 1960 when members of the Ku Klux Klan beat young demonstrators of the Civil Rights Movement with ax handles in James Weldon Johnson Park (formerly Hemming Park, and before that, Hemming Plaza).

Charles Sykes / AP Images

While Duval County has seen more than 25,000 coronavirus cases, a total that rises each day, a new investigation shows Florida’s numerous cuts to its public health budget have contributed to the toll on human lives. We spoke to Jason Dearen, a reporter with the Associated Press.

Federal Moratorium

Susan Walsh / AP Photo

Monday night, the Republican National Convention kicked off in Charlotte, N.C., and Washington, D.C. The convention, previously scheduled to take place in Jacksonville, is set to feature several speakers from the Sunshine State.



Jacksonville University
Excel23 / Wikimedia Commons

Colleges are back in session as COVID cases begin to rise on many campuses. Some students who are returning in person are concerned for their safety.    


We spoke with Kristie Gover, the dean of students at Jacksonville University, on how she’s planning to help bring students back to campus safely. 

Via Jacksonville Jaguars



On this week’s episode of First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross, our Media Roundtable discussed some of the top stories in Northeast Florida this week, including:


File photo of students returning to school during the coronavirus pandemic.
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer



Students in Duval County Public Schools started the 2020-2021 school year Thursday, both in person and online.




Democratic North Florida Congressman Al Lawson, who is running for reelection in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, joined us to discuss the Florida primary election, vote by mail concerns, the Democratic National Convention, and more.