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Florida’s Piney Point Crisis, COVID-19 Vaccinations In Prisons, The Anxieties Of A Post Pandemic World

A woman wearing a pink shirt and blue pants does yoga from home, in front of a gray Apple laptop.
Miami Herald
Jenny Sanchez has shifted to teaching live-stream yoga classes from her home since her Santuario Miami studio was closed because of coronavirus concerns. Pandemic isolation could have long-term effects on people. Some are having a hard time returning to a normal life.

A catastrophe was averted at Piney Point, but what about all of our other estuaries and waterways? Thousands of prisoners in Florida are finally getting their vaccines. Plus, the isolation we’ve struggled with over the past year due to the pandemic could have long-term effects.

On this Wednesday, April 14, episode of Sundial:

Florida’s Piney Point Crisis

Piney Point, a phosphate plant near Tampa Bay, suffered a leak that began two weeks ago — sending hundreds of millions of gallons of toxic waste water into the bay.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection plans to permanently close the plant, following the leak.

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“When that stuff cascades into Tampa Bay, it fuels toxic algae blooms out there, which can kill seagrass beds and and fuel fish kills as well. It’s an ongoing ecological disaster out there. We apparently avoided the 20-foot wave of toxic waste that county officials were worried about. But instead, we've got this sort of slow growing, slow-moving disaster that's going to result from dumping all of this pollution in the bay,” said Craig Pittman, a longtime environmental reporter and author.

The crisis at Piney Point raises the question of how many other waterways and estuaries across the Sunshine State could be imperiled by unregulated industry and eroding infrastructure.

“We've had sewage spills. We had an ocean outfall pipe that was leaking for more than a year before it was capped. But not anything like this sort of catastrophe. [Biscayne Bay] can't take hardly any nutrients at all. This is a bay that thrives on no phosphorus, no nitrogen. So just a little bit can really upset things,” said WLRN environment reporter Jenny Staletovich.

Florida’s Piney Point Crisis

COVID-19 Vaccinations in Prisons

About 33,000 inmates in Florida will be receiving COVID-19 vaccinations in the coming weeks.

At the start of the vaccine rollout, Gov. DeSantis defended his decision to prioritize the general public before allocating doses to the incarcerated.

“As soon as the entire general population was able to get the vaccine, they started sending vaccines to inmates. Even though there was no announcement, it was just kind of implied that now that everyone had access to the vaccine, inmates would have access as well,” said Ana Ceballos, a reporter for the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times who’s been covering this story.

The shots that have been allocated were done so based on “inmate interest,” according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

Sundial reached out to the Florida Department of Corrections to join the program Wednesday. They declined but sent us the following statement:

Approximately 33,000 inmates have indicated they would like to receive a vaccine. The number of vaccines provided to FDC is based on the number of inmates who indicated they would like to receive one.

FDC’s Office of Health Services along with contracted medical staff have been educating the inmate population regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. Medical staff visited each dormitory to answer questions and provide an overview of the vaccine, including benefits, potential side effects, as well as the process of scheduling and follow-up, if applicable. Every inmate is encouraged to participate if indicated by vaccine guidance.

Inmates who elect not to receive the vaccine are required to document their refusal on Refusal of Health Care Services Form. If an inmate later decides they want to receive the vaccination, they may request an appointment to be vaccinated.

The total number of vaccines distributed is a rapidly evolving number and will change daily. All vaccinations are counted by county of residency and are included in the county statistics on the Florida DOH website daily.

COVID-19 Vaccinations In Prisons

The Anxieties Of A Post Pandemic World

Concerts, travel, dating — many have given up social activities like these because of the pandemic.

Now, as vaccines continue to roll out, medical experts have announced new, more lax guidelines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced fully vaccinated people can gather indoors with others who are vaccinated without wearing masks or social distancing. They’ve also said fully vaccinated people can travel safely within the United States — no need for COVID-19 tests or self-quarantine.

Still, the pandemic is not over. And not everyone is ready to go back to life as we knew it. For some, being home has become a place of comfort and the outside world a place of anxiety.

Dr. Arthur Bregman was the chief of psychiatry of Nicklaus Children’s Hospital for several decades and now leads a private psychiatric practice. He describes this phenomenon as “cave syndrome.”

“I broke it down into a mild, moderate, severe,” he said. “The mild people were like hesitant [to go out]. This is probably the largest part of the cave syndrome population. They're afraid to go to the cleaners, afraid to go grocery shopping. They're just hesitant to go out. I think a lot of people could take a look and they probably have some friends like that.”

Bregman recommends slow exposure like talking a walk outside and going to the grocery store.

In more severe cases people become overly attached to being isolated, to the point where it interferes with their life. In these cases he recommends seeking professional help.

The Anxieties Of A Post Pandemic World
A woman sitting on the floor holding her cat.

Suria is Sundial's fall 2020 high school intern and a production assistant.
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.