A St. Pete cop dies of COVID. His widow shows us true selflessness | Editorial

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Uncommon selflessness. On a day of unspeakable loss, Karen Weiskopf had more to give. Speaking at her husband’s funeral Tuesday, the widow of St. Petersburg police officer Michael Weiskopf, who died Aug. 27 after battling COVID-19, used her own tragedy as a warning. “I promise you,” she told the crowd at The Coliseum, speaking of the coronavirus, “it’s grueling, dangerous — and it will destroy you.” As the Tampa Bay TimesNatalie Weber reported, Karen Weiskopf had tried for months to convince her husband to get the vaccine. But then he grew ill and the time was too late. Weiskopf wanted to turn her husband’s death into a way to potentially save a life. Before the funeral, the Department of Health offered coronavirus vaccines in a tent outside. One woman who stopped for a shot said she wanted to protect herself to make more memories with her family. Karen Weiskopf turned a terrible day for her family into a cause of hope for someone else. It was an incredible display of selflessness and poise that undoubtedly would make her husband proud.

Where there’s a will. Somebody lit a fire under the Florida Department of Children and Families, and it seems to be working. New figures show that Florida has distributed more than $108 million in emergency rental assistance funds as of Aug. 27, a significant increase from the $18.3 million disbursed at the end of July. While the new figure represents only 12 percent of the first round of funding the state received from the federal government, it’s much better than the 2 percent the state had doled out only a month prior. An agency spokesperson said DCF relaxed some bureaucratic requirements, such as reducing the demand for documentation, which has helped speed more funding through the pipeline. The state has also been advertising on radio, and working with utilities, landlords and food banks, to spread the word about the program. Florida still lags behind the national pace, and the 12 percent figure is hardly a success given COVID’s impact on the housing pinch in Florida. But the numbers are moving in the right direction.

Not above the law. Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran suffered a resounding defeat when a state judge ruled they had unlawfully moved to strike down mask mandates at local Florida school districts. Thirteen districts representing a majority of Florida’s public school population have stood up to DeSantis’ and Corcoran’s bullying and imposed masking requirements in an effort to curb runaway coronavirus infections, which have forced thousands of students and staff across the state into isolation or quarantine. In a written ruling filed this week, Leon Circuit Judge John Cooper held that DeSantis and Corcoran acted contrary to a state law that allows school districts to take such precautions. Cooper’s ruling was a clear reading of the statutory text — what Republicans demand of the judiciary. But DeSantis has appealed, wasting more tax money and squandering a chance for him and Corcoran to save face and finally stand with Florida’s school children.

Our gulf neighbors need us. Floridians can look at the devastation Hurricane Ida wrought throughout southeast Louisiana with only one thought: it could have been us. The storm that ripped through Sunday left countless people without homes, a million without electricity and hundreds of thousands of people without running water. The misery alone from these conditions in the oppressive, three-digit summer heat is enough. But officials fear a rising death toll from the sweltering humidity, more injuries and accidents, and lack of access to shelter, essentials and hospitals. Gulf state residents are experienced with hurricanes and know to be prepared. Ida was another reminder of how swiftly and brutally everyday life can evaporate. Our gulf neighbors need help; cash is the best in these emergencies, and informed giving is essential. Charity Navigator and GuideStar are two good places to start. And there are the old, reliable hands, from the American Red Cross to Catholic Charities.

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.