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2020 Florida Politics, Touch Deprivation During The Pandemic, And An Isolated Key West In Photos

Let's Flatten the Curve
Roberta DePiero
At the beginning of the spring shutdown, Mallory Square artists painted message signs and placed them all over town. April 6, 2020.

The key races in South Florida beyond the presidency. How touch-deprivation could be affecting your health. And a collection of photographs looking at isolation in Key West during the pandemic.

On this Wednesday, Oct. 28, episode of Sundial:

2020 Florida Politics

Millions of voters have already cast their ballots in the November general election as of Wednesday morning. Vote by mail and early voting totals are already exceeding records from previous elections. Dr. Susan MacManus, professor of political science emeritus at the University of South Florida, said this indicates the success of the get out the vote campaigns from both parties. But she argued that they’ve taken fundamentally different approaches.

“We’ve well established the fact that Democrats really encourage people to vote by mail and Republicans are stressing in-person early voting or Election Day voting. Particularly, the vote by mail is a flip from in the past when it was Republicans pushing that with Democrats pushing for in-person voting.”

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Aside from the excitement generated by the presidential race, a number of key congressional races in South Florida have gotten national attention and are leading to significant spending by both parties. The race for District 26 between incumbent Democrat Debbie Mucarsel Powell and Republican Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, is expected to be one of the most expensive U.S. House races in the country.

“The fact that there is a female incumbent is generating a lot of interest and a lot of money from Democrats across the country,” said MacManus. “This time out we are seeing a lot more women donate to campaigns than we’ve ever seen before. The other piece of it is, this was once a Republican district that Democrats seized in 2016 and Republicans would like to win it back.”

One of the other key races gaining a lot of attention nationally is incumbent Democrat Lois Frankel in Palm Beach County facing Republican challenger Laura Loomer. MacManus explained that even though the county is heavily Democratic, Loomer’s high profile status as a conservative voice on social media is generating a lot of interest from younger Republican voters that may have not seen a candidate that represents their political viewpoints in past elections.

MacManus also explained how the state’s Supervisors of Elections are preparing for this year to prevent the issues that occurred in 2018 and 2000 and the significance of winning the state for both presidential campaigns.

2020 Florida Politics
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Touch Deprivation During The Pandemic

Think about the last time you hugged someone who is not in your “COVID bubble.” Maybe it was a family member that you haven’t seen because of social distancing or maybe it was even a stranger.

It’s been months since health experts cautioned us against touching our faces, hugging and shaking hands to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

And that’s not changing anytime soon as the virus continues to spread without a vaccine.

Health experts say touch deprivation can lead to anxiety, depression and even a weaker immune system.

“Either a handshake or a hug or a back rub or even various forms of exercise that slows down the nervous system and it slows down the production of stress hormones. And when that happens it saves immune cells that fight off viral and bacterial cells,” said Dr. Tiffany Field, the director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami.

“It’s ironic that at a very time when we really need a strong immune system, things like the absence of touch is basically hurting our immune system.”

We spoke with Field about navigating this new “contact-free” world and what impact it can have on our health.

Touch Deprivation During The Pandemic
Maria gives Rosa a hug while they go for a walk.

Isolated Key West Photobook

When Florida shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Florida Keys closed the Overseas Highway — only people who lived, owned property or worked in the Keys were allowed to drive in.

The normally bustling Duval Street in Key West, filled with thousands of visitors from across the globe, turned quiet and desolate. This went on for months — the highway was later reopened in June.

Those of us who have gone through [Hurricanes] Wilma and Irma and George and now the COVID, it kind off really weaves us together even more as we all become stronger for having lived through it. And I think that the community will be stronger once we all get back,” said Roberta DePiero, photographer and the brainchild behind the new photography book “Isolated Island,” which captures life in the Southernmost point during the early days of the pandemic.

We spoke with DePiero and Mark Hedden, one of the photographers featured in the book, about living through the pandemic in the Keys.

All proceeds from the book will benefit the Sister Season Fund, which provides financial assistance to those who work in the hospitality and tourism industries in Key West. You can find more information about the book here.

Isolated Key West Photobook
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Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.
Leslie Ovalle produces WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. She previously produced Morning Edition newscasts at WLRN and anchored the midday news. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.