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Key West Mayor Secures Another Term, COVID-19 Vaccine Trial At UM, Startups During the Pandemic, OUTShine Film Festival

Small vaccine bottles on display.
Small vaccine bottles on display.

We spoke with Key West's mayor about her next four years in office. Then, we take a look at a COVID-19 vaccine trial happening here in Miami. Plus, the world of startups in a pandemic and a local LGBTQ+ film festival hosts a drive-in.

On this Thursday, Aug. 20, episode of Sundial:

Key West Mayor Secures Another Term

Key West Mayor Teri Johnston faced two challengers in Tuesday's August primary election and still secured 59 percent of the vote as she won the mayoral contest.

After securing another four years in office, she is now facing an even greater challenge as her community continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

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“What Tuesday night meant to me was the fact that they [the voters] agree with the direction that we are moving as Key West. We’re trying to bring a balance between the quality of life and the economic vibrancy of Key West. And also, the way we’ve handled the COVID-19 health care crisis,” said Johnston.

We spoke with Johnston about what her next term in office will look like.

COVID-19 Vaccine Trial At UM

Public health experts have repeatedly said our economy and lifestyle cannot return to normalcy without a widely available coronavirus vaccine.

Operation “Warp Speed,” initiated by the federal government to accelerate the development of a vaccine, has invested billions of dollars to the cause. Across the country, 80 test sites have begun trials in partnership with the National Institutes of Health.

The University of Miami is one of the participating test sites. They are working to recruit 1,000 participants to be a part of the phase three trial.

“This is just enrolling volunteers who are at high risk of coronavirus infection," said Dr. Susanne Doblecki-Lewis, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Miami and the principal investigator for the trial at the university.

“And we're offering a fifty-fifty chance of getting a vaccine that's been tested or a placebo."

We spoke with Dr. Doblecki-Lewis about the race to develop and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine.

Startups During the Pandemic

South Florida has consistently ranked in the top ten metro areas for new startup companies because of our region's tax climate, relative affordability compared to bigger cities, and talent from local colleges and universities.

Some businesses in the startup community have been threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic and others have responded to new demands.

“A company named NEORIS, which is a data-driven global digital accelerator, they created something called health check — which is a software for companies to manage and track COVID-19 risks within their organizations,” said Christine Johnson, the Vice President of Innovation and Economic Development at the Beacon Council.

We spoke with Johnson about the challenges and opportunities that have opened up for South Florida’s startup community as they face the pandemic.

OUTShine Film Festival

The OUTshine LGBTQ+ Film Festival, which begins Thursday night, is the largest LGBTQ cultural arts event in South Florida.

This year, the film festival will begin at a drive-in movie theater and by online streaming for the first time in its 22-year history. The festival opens Thursday night with the film “Stage Mother” at 6 p.m. at Dezerland Park in North Miami.

“I think that the whole story behind LGBTQ+ film is that it really tells stories of so many of our lives,” said Mark Gilbert, Board Chair of OUTshine.

"We have our differences, but at the core, we're all human beings and we all care about each other."

We spoke with Gilbert and film director Dan Hunt about the festival’s plans for this year.

Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.