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Mosquito project concludes active releases

The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District and Oxitec recently announced the completion of another phase of the joint project to evaluate the use of Oxitec mosquitoes in controlling invasive Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

Photo provided by Oxitec 

The completion of another phase of the joint project between the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District and Oxitec to evaluate the use of Oxitec mosquitoes in controlling invasive Aedes aegypti mosquitoes was recently announced.

The project team has successfully concluded the active release stage, FKMCD announced in a news release. All project release boxes will be removed from their sites in the coming weeks and ongoing monitoring will continue, likely until February next year, officials said in the release.

“We are so very appreciative to our Florida Keys communities for getting involved and supporting this ground-breaking project,” said Florida Keys Mosquito Control District Executive Director Andrea Leal.

“We have learned so much in this first season, and it has been exciting to see that male Oxitec mosquitoes were successfully finding and mating with the target females as predicted. This pilot project simply would not have been possible without the dedication and support of so many local residents and community stakeholders and we are grateful to all of them,” she said.

Throughout the project, only Oxitec’s non-biting male mosquitoes emerged from the boxes and dispersed as expected, mating successfully with invasive females. Additional, detailed information about the project will be shared in the coming months as data is evaluated by the project steering committee, according to the news release.

The Florida Keys experienced cases of dengue fever as recently as 2020, which emphasized the importance of controlling the public health threat posed by the mosquitoes.

“On behalf of the entire Florida Keys community, we’re thrilled to share that our first mosquito releases on U.S. soil have been successful with tremendous public support,” said Oxitec CEO Grey Frandsen. “We are also indebted to the professionalism and commitment of our local partner, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District. There is no doubt that this represents a landmark achievement as the first crucial step to making our technology available in the U.S. at a time when Aedes aegypti continues to expand its impact across the country.”

Frandsen noted the project has expanded to the West Coast.

“We aim to build on this momentum, continuing to work with world-class partners in Florida and California to deliver accessible, effective, and environmentally friendly solutions to control the increasing threat of invasive, disease-carrying mosquitoes,” he said.

To stay up to date or learn about the project, visit http://www.keysmosquitoproject.com.


Chef Byron Reyes pulls from the oven two of 12 turkeys being prepared for the annual S.O.S. Callahan Community Kitchen on United Street. On Wednesday, the organization provided 150 Thanksgiving meals for Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter, the Kennedy Senior Center and the Inez Martin Child Care Center that included mashed potatoes, stuffing and green bean casserole.


In addition to providing prepared meals to residents of KOTS, the Kennedy Senior Center and the Inez Martin Child Care Center, the S.O.S. Food Pantry on Stock Island provided 300 food baskets and another 100 baskets at the Key Largo pantry. The packages included Spanish-inspired meals kits that include rice, beans, cooking oil, apple sauce and sweets, while the traditional Thanksgiving packages contain mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, yams and pumpkin pie filling. Gift certificates for $25 were provided to buy meat for the meals.


State
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Corps adopts final Lake Okeechobee plan

Out of more than 240,000 model runs of discharging water from Lake Okeechobee, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers chose “Model 260467” as the framework on which the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual, the playbook that will guide water releases for the next decade, will be based.

While not every stakeholder is happy, conservationists applaud LOSOM as an improvement over LORS 08, the current lake schedule that has been, in part, guided by the lake’s ailing Herbert Hoover Dike and responsible for sending toxic blue-green algae west to the Caloosahatchee estuary and east to the St. Lucie estuary.

Since 2001, the 143-mile dike structure surrounding Lake Okeechobee has been undergoing rehabilitation at an estimated cost of $1.8 billion. The work is expected to be complete near the end of 2022, at which time, LOSOM is expected to be implemented.

According to Col. James Booth, the Army Corps of Engineers’ Jacksonville District commander, Model 260467 was chosen since it eliminates lake releases to the St. Lucie under normal conditions 95% of the time while flows to the west will be below 2,000 cubic feet per second, which the Corps says will minimize algae blooms.

The Corps manages lake levels to ensure the safety of the 9.3 million people of South Florida who rely on the Herbert Hoover Dike for flood protection.

However, large releases of fresh water from the lake into the estuaries can fuel massive algae blooms that are harmful to the ecosystem. Everglades advocates have called for that water to be released south where a huge reservoir and filtration marshes are being built to store and clean the water before it moves into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay, where it is needed.

The new plan will increase water flows south to the Everglades to an annual average of 203,000 acre-feet per year, “which is a massive annual increase,” according to Booth.

The Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg praised the Corps’ new plan.

“This is the first time since 2008 that water managers are changing their approach in managing Lake Okeechobee’s water, and it is a major improvement from the status quo for the overwhelming majority of Floridians,” Eikenberg said in an issued statement. “This plan will significantly reduce harmful discharges to our east and west coasts and increase water flow south to the Everglades and Florida Bay, particularly in the dry season. ...

“While the long-term solution to South Florida’s complex water problems and the full elimination of discharges from the lake will only happen with new water infrastructure like the Everglades reservoir, this is a significant step toward a more balanced approach to managing the lake water that Floridians and our state rely on.”

Under LOSOM, the lake will spend less time below 12.56 feet than under LORS. LOSOM will keep the lake on average .6 inches higher than LORS, at 14 feet and runs from 14 feet to 15.5 feet in January and at about 13 feet in June. Ultimately, lake levels above 17 feet were not retained in the Corps’ plan.

Florida Bay advocates say the plan will benefit local waters.

“We are pleased with the outcome of the LOSOM process and the Corps’ selected plan. The modeling shows that flows south to the Everglades will increase threefold, which is sure to yield hydration and great benefit to Florida Bay as we await southern storage,” said Emma Haydocy, the Florida Bay Forever executive director.

Still, some remain skeptical of LOSOM.

“It’s not all we hoped for, but ultimately, it’s better than what we have now,” the Friends of the Everglades said in an issued statement.

“Model 260467 would discharge an average of 117,000 acre-feet of water from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie estuary every year. The good news is that’s 37% less than what might have been discharged had the Corps taken no action and continued to utilize the existing lake schedule. The bad news? It’s a 63% increase over the 72,000 acre-feet per year originally proposed in the Corps’ ‘preferred alternative,’ Plan CC.

“To be sure, there are other benefits. The amount of water sent south to the Everglades will triple under LOSOM. The Caloosahatchee estuary will see an increase in optimal flows and a decrease in damaging discharges from the lake. We applaud these changes, having advocated the Corps improve outcomes for the Caloosahatchee via the optimization process.”

The group, however, was critical of LOSOM’s “conservation mode,” which it says would “cut off helpful flows to the Everglades and Caloosahatchee during dry periods in order to stockpile water for sugarcane corporations south of the lake — resulting in more damaging discharges east and west during the wet season.”

According to Tim Gysan, LOSOM project director, the Corps next intends to issue a full-sweep model mid-December and begin drafting the Environmental Impact Statement as required.

tjava@keysnews.com


Local
featured
Anti-vax doctor contracts COVID

Seven anti-vaccine doctors, including Key West physician Dr. Bruce Boros, fell sick after gathering earlier this month for a Florida “summit” at which alternative treatments for COVID-19 were discussed, according to published sources.

Boros

The British newspaper, The Guardian, quoted Boros as telling the audience at the event, which was held at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala: “I have been on ivermectin for 16 months, my wife and I,” adding, “I have never felt healthier in my life.”

The 71-year-old cardiologist and anti-vaccine advocate contracted COVID-19 two days later, according to the head event organizer, Dr John Littell.

Littell, an Ocala family physician, also told the Daily Beast, an American news website, that six other doctors among 800 to 900 participants at the event also tested positive or developed COVID-19 symptoms “within days of the conference.”

Littell raised the suggestion the conference was therefore a super-spreader event but rejected it, vehemently saying: “No.

“I think they had gotten it from New York or Michigan or wherever they were from,” he told the Beast. “It was really the people who flew in from other places.”

He also said: “Everybody so far has responded to treatment with ivermectin … Bruce is doing well.”

The Beast said sources close to Boros said he was gravely ill at his Key West home. Attempts to contact Boros were unsucessful.

Ivermectin is an antiparasitic that has uses in humans but is predominantly used in livestock such as cows and horses. Authorities say it has no proven use against COVID-19 and can be dangerous if taken in large quantities. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not authorized or approved ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment and has said clinical trials are continuing.

Boros has claimed on Facebook ivermectin is “working where it’s being used around the world” as a COVID-19 treatment.

In the same social media post, he condemned Dr Anthony Fauci, Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, as “a fraud” and said “big pharma is playing us for suckers”.

At the summit in Ocala, Boros criticized his 97-year-old father for getting a COVID-19 vaccine, saying: “He had been brainwashed … He got it. He didn’t tell me. I was very upset. I wanted to give him a spanking. He got both jabs.”

Earlier this year, a significant study supporting ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment was withdrawn after data was found to have been falsified and patients non-existent.

The FDA recommends people should “never use medications intended for animals on yourself or other people. Animal ivermectin products are very different from those approved for humans. Use of animal ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 in humans is dangerous.”


News
U.S. 1 Radio listing

Diane Beruldsen, president of the Stock Island Association, talks with News Director Joe Moore and Chuck Thomas about a request the group has of Monroe County.

On Morning Magazine,

• Pasta Pantaleo, Sea Turtle Gallery and Gifts owner

• Steve Estes, The News Barometer Editor and Publisher

• J.W. Cooke, Key West Citizen Managing Editor

• Adrienne Z, Florida Keys singer-songwriter

• Chris Seymour, Key West Citizen Executive Editor

On Evening Edition, host Ron Saunders talks with publicist Carol Tedesco about the numerous holiday events scheduled throughout the Florida Keys.


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