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This week’s highs and lows across Tampa Bay and Florida | Editorial
The roundup includes a local nonprofit helping with COVID vaccinations, a sheriff doing the right things, and a waste of taxpayer money.
Margarita Rescalvo, 10, looks on while Medical Assistant Cassandra Ross administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Nurse Jordan Dierksheide holds her arm during a vaccination event hosted by Enterprising Latinas at Wimauma Opportunity Center in Wimauma last month.
Margarita Rescalvo, 10, looks on while Medical Assistant Cassandra Ross administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Nurse Jordan Dierksheide holds her arm during a vaccination event hosted by Enterprising Latinas at Wimauma Opportunity Center in Wimauma last month. [ Times ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Dec. 5, 2021

Jabs in Wimauma. Migrant families face particular hurdles in fighting COVID-19, from a lack of access to transportation and regular medical care to fears of interacting with government authorities. That’s why the nonprofit group Enterprising Latinas is filling such a critical void in Hillsborough County’s largely Hispanic area of Wimauma. The nonprofit recently organized a vaccination event which drew some 100 families from the farmworker community. Maria Rescalvo, a 42-year-old mother of five, remembers the ache and fatigue from falling ill to COVID a year ago. Her two oldest daughters came down with the virus, too, and this event gave Rescalvo, who was born in Mexico, the opportunity to safeguard her three youngest children. Enterprising Latinas was established to “create pathways of opportunity” for Latinas in Tampa Bay. This is merely another example of the group’s terrific, meaningful work. Another vaccination event is scheduled Dec. 11 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Wimauma Opportunity Center, 5128 State Road 674.

Gualtieri stands up. When trouble strikes nowadays, most public officials hide behind publicists and press releases. But Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has a different M.O. That was on display again this week, after Gualtieri announced the arrest of a former Pinellas jail sergeant on charges of battery and official misconduct. Authorities say Sgt. Patrick Knight slapped, punched and pushed a jail inmate and pulled out a clump of his hair in November, and then lied about it. The inmate, 41-year-old Terrell Johnson, had become agitated and uncooperative during a medical screening, authorities said. Knight responded and pushed Johnson, slamming him to the ground “without provocation,” Gualtieri said, ultimately leaving Johnson with a laceration above his eye. Knight reported the use of force, but the story didn’t hold up to his superiors. Knight resigned a few days after the Sheriff’s Office launched an internal investigation, and he was arrested Monday. Gualtieri’s stand-up style is commendable, and it’s clearly rubbed off in his command ranks. Credit Lt. Priscilla Campbell for bringing this case to her superiors. She practiced what the sheriff preaches, and bolstered public confidence in the agency as a result.

Not their money. What do Florida taxpayers have to show for the nearly $2 million (and counting) that Gov. Ron DeSantis wasted by rushing state law enforcement personnel to Texas’ southern border? Everybody knew this was a political stunt, aimed at bashing Democratic President Joe Biden on immigration while raising DeSantis’ profile in the runup to the 2024 White House race. But now that the costs are ballooning, doesn’t the Republican governor owe some explanation for this misuse of public resources? And why did DeSantis suggest that Florida would seek reimbursement when Texas made clear early on it would not be reimbursing the state? The outlay for overtime, meals and hotels is egregious enough, but still incomplete, since the Florida Highway Patrol still has not reported the fuel costs for having 114 troopers drive their vehicles to Texas. And that raises another question: If FHP is so bloated it can send 114 troopers to Texas, could its budget be reapportioned more effectively to other law enforcement agencies?

True role model. Dexter Frederick is training the next generation of doctors in a way that helps medicine better serve the melting pot we call America. Every day, as the Tampa Bay Times chronicled this week, Frederick, 51, gives his students real-world medical experience combined with exercises in confidence-building through a program he founded called Brain Expansions Scholastic Training, or B.E.S.T. Since 2004, the Tampa program has supported about 3,000 minority students who dreamed of becoming doctors, and provided more than $20,000 in scholarships. BEST aims to address the lack of diversity among health care providers by inspiring and educating youth in underrepresented groups with a passion for medicine. “Sometimes if you don’t have a physician that looks like you, talks like you, understands the culture,” Frederick said, “there’s some distrust, sometimes there’s a delay in treatment.” This fall, he was recognized as a 2022 AARP Purpose Prize fellow, which honors people over 50 years old who use their knowledge to address social issues. One of Frederick’s goals is to impress on medical students an understanding of how social factors, such as housing, education and public safety, impact a person’s quality of life. This is a commendable program that should help close the racial gap in health care, sensitize doctors and inspire the next generation to similarly give back.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.