The ABC 27 Digital Team selected these five stories based on web analytics.
Gov. DeSantis tackles mask and vaccine mandates
The first opposition by Gov. DeSantis to masks in schools came on May 11, 2021, when Gov. DeSantis said during a press conference that children did not need to be wearing masks in schools anymore. LCS said two weeks later that no changes would happen before the end of the 2020-2021 school year.
In June 2021, LCS announced that masks for students and teachers would be optional for summer school and the 2021-2022 school year. In July 2021, the CDC updated its guidelines to say that vaccinated people wear masks indoors and that everyone in K-12 schools should wear face coverings.
At the end of July 2021, Gov. DeSantis signed an executive order to ban mask mandates in schools. In August 2021 LCS reversed course and said that masks would be required and would only allow a parental exemption to get out of it. After the first week of classes, LCS Superintendent Rocky Hanna announced that the opt-out policy would only be allowed if there was a doctor's note.
A Florida judge ruled in late August that Gov. DeSantis had no legal authority to issue a blanket ban on school mask mandates. On Sep. 22, 2021, the Florida Surgeon General issued new guidelines for schools which said that districts may require masks but must allow parents to opt-out at their discretion.
Then came the lawsuits, with back and forth between lawyers. The state wanted school districts to get in line with their guidelines. Those that did not had their school board members' pay docked by way of fines.
Eventually, Leon County Schools fell into line and changed their mask policy to be in compliance with state rules.
During the year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was also against COVID-19 vaccine mandates placed on individuals and companies.
Following President Joe Biden’s push for vaccine mandates for companies with 100 or more employees during the summer, DeSantis, a republican, led the charge in Florida against the democratic president’s mandate.
Leon County was one of many municipalities that required employees to receive the vaccine or lose their employment.
The state responded by levying fines against government entities that enforced vaccine mandates.
In October, DeSantis called for a legislative session to fight the mandates.
On Nov. 18, DeSantis signed a bill that prohibited private employer COVID-19 mandates. The law also prevented government entities from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations of anyone, including employees.
The bill also stated educational institutions may not require students to be COVID-19 vaccinated, while school districts could not require students to wear face covering.
The legislation gave parents and students the right to sue violating school districts and recover costs and attorney's fees.
Death of a Legend: FSU football coach Bobby Bowden dies at the age of 91
The news of legendary Florida State Seminoles football coach Bobby Bowden's diagnosis of a "terminal medical condition" broke on July 21, 2021. Coach Bowden, who led the Seminoles to three national championships during his tenure from 1976 to 2009, told ABC 27 that he was "at peace" with the diagnosis. The following day, Bowden's son Terry confirmed to ABC 27 that his father's terminal diagnosis was pancreatic cancer. On Aug. 8, 2021, at 5:08 a.m. Bobby Bowden passed away at home surrounded by his wife and six children. He was 91 years old.
Tributes came in many forms after Bowden's death. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered flags to be flown at half-staff statewide. Friends, family and colleagues remembered Bowden for what he did off the field just as much as his on-the-field accomplishments. FSU had a banner in Doak Campbell Stadium to pay tribute to Bowden with his notable hat and signature in addition to player helmet stickers and patches on the coaching staff's gameday outfits.
Amazon comes to Tallahassee
The first hint that linked retail giant Amazon to the Capital City came when Tallahassee tried to become home to Amazon's second headquarters outside of Seattle in 2017.
Fast forward to May 2021, when reports of a development called "Project Mango" were released that called for a large distribution center planned for the area between Mahan Drive, Thornton Drive, and Vineland Drive; brushing up against I-10.
There were rumors of who it could be, but in August 2021 Amazon was confirmed to be coming to Tallahassee. The robotics fulfillment center is expected to bring in 1,346 full-time jobs at $15 an hour. Construction began in September 2021 and is slated to complete in late 2022.
In October 2021, another Amazon development, "Project Cyprus" was announced. Amazon paid $3.4 million for a 47.7-acre lot on the Northwest passage off of Capital Circle Northwest. City documents showed that the development is expected to be a 123,000 square foot warehouse facility.
Red tide impacts Florida's panhandle, southwest coast
Red tide made an impact on the state and the Big Bend region this year.
According to the Florida Wildlife Commission, red tide - a harmful algal bloom - is a higher-than-normal concentration of microscopic alga.
In Florida, specifically in the Gulf of Mexico, the species that causes most red tides is K. brevis.
The impact of red tide is dead fish, an odor and discolored water.
In July, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, both located on the Gulf of Mexico, had a significant outbreak of red tide.
More than one million pounds of dead marine life in the Tampa Bay region was discarded because of exposure to red tide.
Red tide normally impacts the southwest portion of Florida, but red tide impacted the panhandle in September.
The alga was spotted in areas of Walton and Bay counties by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.
By October, red tide was spotted on the shores of Franklin County.
Scientists say one of the reasons for the uptick of red tide in the panhandle is that tropical cyclones, like hurricanes and tropical storms, push the alga up the coast.
By December, the small alga had subsided along the Big Bend coastline. Scientists say winds from the north push the red tide alga away from the coast.
North Florida, south Georgia impacted by Colonial Pipeline cyberattack
The southeastern United States was impacted by a gas shortage in May. The issue began May 7 when the Colonial Pipeline computer systems fell victim to a cyberattack.
The Colonial Pipeline provides 45% of the fuel consumed on the East coast of the United States.
The residual effect of the attack led to panic buying of fuel, which led to a fuel shortage in the southeast and some mid-Atlantic states.
The following Monday, long lines began in gas stations across north Florida and south Georgia.
Stations in both states had a shortage of gas for a period, even after when the Colonial Pipeline restored operations.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on May 11 a state of emergency in response to the gas shortage.
Even after the Colonial Pipeline restored service by paying a ransom, it took days for the company to catch up and fill empty stations across the east coast and some mid-Atlantic states.