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5 Things To Know On Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Posted at 6:58 AM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 06:59:38-04

While you were sleeping, we compiled the biggest stories of the day in one place. Each story has a quick and easy summary, so you're prepared for whatever the day brings. Just click on the links if you want to know more!

1. Why is Matt Gaetz trending? No, not the Newsmax thing
Florida congressman Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., started trending on Tuesday when reports said he was considering early retirement from Congress to accept a job at Newsmax, but that story was quickly forgotten after a New York Times report published Tuesday contends he is the subject of a federal sex trafficking probe.

According to the New York Times, citing three people familiar with the investigation, the Department of Justice is examining whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him. The report said investigators are trying to determine if Gaetz possibly violated federal sex trafficking laws.

Gaetz, whose congressional district covers the westernmost portion of Florida's panhandle, took to Twitter to refute the allegations, claiming that he and his family have been victims of a former Department of Justice official "seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name."

Rep. Matt Gaetz says he's victim of 'organized criminal extortion' amid report linking him to sex trafficking probe

2. The other reason Florida was trending Tuesday: COVID death count under new scrutiny
A study released March 10 found the state should have counted 4,924 excess deaths from COVID-19, but they were ruled as having been caused by something else, effectively lowering Florida's COVID death count.

Tatar's study has not been accepted by all health experts and has been rebuked by Lauren Rossen, a statistician at the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who found nothing exceptionally suspicious in the report.

This isn't the first time Florida and DeSantis have been criticized for data related released by the state related to COVID-19. Former Florida Department of Health analyst Rebekah Jones was ousted from her position last year after saying the state wasn't accurately counting coronavirus cases.

Florida's COVID death count under new scrutiny following study

3. Waiting for a Publix vaccine appointment? You'll be waiting a bit longer
Publix will not be booking appointments on Wednesday morning for the COVID-19 vaccine because of the Easter holiday weekend.

Normally, Publix opens up its booking window at 7 a.m. on Wednesday for vaccinations that will take place on Saturday and Sunday.

Your next opportunity to book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment at Publix will be Friday at 7 a.m.

publix (1).jpg
67 Publix pharmacies in Palm Beach County are now administering the COVID-19 vaccine to residents.

4. Vaccinated Boca Raton woman who gave birth to baby with antibodies shares her story
The woman is a health-care worker, so she was able to get the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine early on in December. She was 36 weeks pregnant at the time.

Mary-Kate, who didn't want to reveal her last name, said deciding to go on camera took a bit more thought than getting the vaccine itself.

"It kind of goes towards all the naysayers of, 'Does this person even exist?' Like, yeah, I exist," she explained. "My baby is healthy. She doesn't have an extra arm growing out of her head, like some people have commented. She's alive and well, and I'm just happy that I could be a part of it. ... To see all the negative comments about myself and about my daughter, it was really unfortunate."

Partially vaccinated mother who birthed baby with COVID-19 antibodies speaks to WPTV

5. Noticed your home insurance has gone up? You're not alone
Homeowners insurance companies across the state of Florida are giving bad news to their customers with rate hikes between 20 to 50 percent.

Tasha Carter, Florida's Insurance Consumer Advocate, said as many as 90 companies operating in the state filed for rate hikes last year.

Two primary reasons appear to be recent storm damage in the state and rising fraud.

South Florida residents stunned by rising cost of homeowner's insurance

Today's Forecast
Turning cooler and breezy behind front for Friday:

Latest Weather Forecast: Wednesday 5 a.m.

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On This Day In History
On March 31, 1959, the Dalai Lama, fleeing the Chinese suppression of a national uprising in Tibet, crosses the border into India, where he is granted political asylum.

Remember, you can join Mike Trim and Ashleigh Walters every weekday on WPTV NewsChannel 5 beginning at 4:30 a.m. And you can always watch the latest news from WPTV anytime on your favorite streaming device. Just search for "WPTV."