Home Blog

Is the Flu Shot Necessary?

Every September, medical professionals remind the public of the importance of a flu shot. This year, they are saying it is more important than ever.

“There is no way to know how bad the flu season will be this year,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s leading independent homeowners insurance agency.

So, in a year, already plagued with a respiratory pandemic, is the flu vaccine necessary? People are wearing masks, social distancing and staying home. Is the threat of influenza really a concern?

Many healthcare experts report it is possible to get coronavirus and influenza simultaneously. Getting a flu vaccination will help prevent the occurrence of a feared, “twindemic.”


While a flu shot cannot prevent COVID-19, there is hope it might help. A preliminary observational study from the Brazilian Ministry of Health, was released in July suggesting that being inoculated against influenza might reduce the mortality risk of coronavirus.

Researchers examined 92,664 COVID-19 patients in Brazil and looked at outcomes in those who received a flu shot in 2020 and those who did not (Brazil’s peak flu season is April to July). The results showed that those who had the flu shot and got sick with COVID-19 were 17 percent less likely to die from coronavirus complications.

Because the flu and COVID-19 are both respiratory illnesses, they have similar symptoms, fever, sore throat and cough. The loss of taste and smell is the difference with COVID-19. However, it is almost impossible to rule out a coronavirus diagnosis without a test.

“In cases of COVID-19, a quarantine is required before returning to school, work or travel,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent homeowners insurance agency. By contrast, with the flu, quarantine is not necessary with the absence of a fever, because the flu is not as severe.  

An additional reason, healthcare experts are encouraging people to get a flu shot is to decrease the burden on the health care system that could once again become strained from two respiratory illnesses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), last year in the U.S. 45 percent of adults received a flu vaccination and 63 percent of children.

Who should get the flu shot? Everyone over the age of 6 months. Those especially vulnerable such as, those over 65 years of age, people with underlying illnesses- asthma and heart disease, pregnant women, caretakers and essential workers.

The best time to get the flu shot is September or October, before the start of flu season.

As a reminder, the flu vaccine is safe for most people. Some experience mild symptoms such as a sore arm, itchy eyes or fatigue after getting a flu shot, but these go away on their own after a couple of days. Every year vaccines undergo rigorous clinical trials reviewed by the U.S. Food Drug and Administration (FDA) before released.

In uncertain times, you can depend on GreatFlorida Insurance homewoners insurance to protect your belongings. Contact us today.


Food Recalls

“There are several product recalls this summer from food-borne illnesses, “says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent homeowners insurance agency.

Recalls include a large nation-wide recall due to a major salmonella contamination in the produce department. Read on for further details to keep you and your household safe.


The U. S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is analyzing samples collected at Thomson International which has recalled all red, white, yellow and sweet yellow onions shipped to all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The onions are being linked to a Salmonella outbreak that has sickened 510 people.

The Mayo Clinic reports Salmonella symptoms include, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, chills, headache and blood in the stool.  Most healthy people recover within a few days without specific treatment. In some cases, dehydration can prompt immediate medical attention.

The onions are sold under the following brand names, Thomson Premium, TLC Thomson International, Tender Loving Care, El Competitor, Hartley’s Best, Onions 52, Majestic, Imperial Fresh, Kroger, Utah Onions and Food Lion.


A multi-state outbreak of salmonella infections is being linked to peaches. The peaches are packed or supplied by Prima Wawona or Wawona Packing Company. They are sold bagged, in bulk and loose. The peaches are distributed nationwide and sold at Walmart, Target, Aldi and elsewhere.

Also, discard peach salsa labeled as “Perfectly Peach Salsa.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends, “If you cannot tell where your peaches are from, don’t eat them. Throw them out.”



“Thankfully, some food recalls are not as life threatening as others, says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent homeowners insurance agency.

Case in point, thousands of cans of Progresso’s Organic Chicken Noodle Soup, produced by Faribault Food Inc. are being recalled for a misbranding. Instead of chicken noodle, customers found a meatball and pasta product. The products were also reported to have undeclared allergens.

Affected cans have a best by date of “BestByMAY262022” printed on the bottom of the can and a best by date of “09JUN2022,” printed on the product case.

Frozen Shrimp

Kader Exports, is recalling various sizes of frozen cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp due to possible salmonella contamination. The product has been distributed nationwide.

Frozen cooked deveined shrimp sold under the brand names Aqua Star Reserve, Censea, Fresh Market, Kirkland Signature (Costco), Tops, Unistar, and Wellsley Farms (BJ’s Wholesale Club). For details on the specific products being recalled, check out the FDA website.

Pet Food

Three brands of dog food are being recalled. The pet food manufacturer Sunshine Mills has issued a voluntary recall of dog food products due to potentially high levels of aflatoxin, a byproduct of mold. 

The FDA reports, “Pets that have consumed any of the recalled products and exhibit symptoms of illness including sluggishness or lethargy combined with a reluctance to eat, vomiting, yellowish tint to the eyes or gums, or diarrhea should be seen by a veterinarian.”

The dog food in question is sold under the brand names Family Pet, Heartland Farms and Paws Happy Life.

The dog food was sold at retailers nationwide. The list of potentially hazardous products includes “Family Pet Meaty Cuts Beef Chicken & Cheese Flavors Premium Dog Food,” “Heartland Farms Grilled Favorites Beef Chicken & Cheese Flavor,” as well as “Paws Happy Life Butcher’s Choice Dog Food.”

Consumers who have purchased any of the recalled products should discontinue use of the products and may return the unused portion to the place of purchase for a full refund.

For dependable homewoners insurance contact GreatFlorida Insurance today.


What to Expect This Labor Day

“Expect more people,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent home insurance agency.

While Florida is always a popular travel destination, this year it ranks high for travelers flying according to a survey by travel itinerary app, TripIt. Popular spots for visitors include, Orlando, Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Meyers, Miami, Panama City and Key West. The Central Florida area dominates hotel reservations for Labor Day weekend.


Public beaches in Palm Beach will be closed for Labor Day weekend, opening back up Tuesday, September 8. County officials are hoping closing for the holiday weekend will prevent a “super-spreader” event. Islamorada public beaches are also closed through Labor Day.

Most Labor Day celebrations will continue despite warnings from top U.S. health officials Adm. Brett Giroir and Dr. Anthony Fauci that a safe Labor Day holiday will be vital for controlling COVID-19 spread this fall.

“People are clearly seeking a sun-filled vacation after months of quarantine and tedium,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent home insurance agency.

If you are looking to avoid the crowds, Labor Day weekend you can ride a bike or float down a river, two activities that make social distancing easy. However, for those wanting to stay indoors, this weekend is an ideal time for our favorite quarantine pastime, online shopping.

Today.com, has scoured the internet for the biggest sales categories to find the best deals from retailers. Read their list below.

Furniture and Home Items-Walmart, Home Depot, Kirkland’s, Frontgate, Rugs USA, Rugs.com, Macy’s Overstock, Wayfair and Etsy

Mattresses-Leesa Sleep, Temper-Pedic, Bear Mattress, Avocado Mattress, Casper, Nectar Sleep, Helix Sleep, Birch Living, Zoma Sleep, Mattress Firm and Purple

Clothing and Accessories-Sunglasses Hut, REI, Anthropologie, Nike, Amazon, Kate Spade, Baublebar, Nordstrom, J. Crew, Dolce Vita, Old Navy, Macy’s, Express, Ted Baker and Shein

Appliances-Home Depot, Amazon, Lowes, Dyson and Wayfair

Outdoor Grills-Amazon, Home Depot, Overstock, Walmart and Lowes

Electronics-Apple, Amazon, HP, Microsoft and GoPro

Whatever activities you decide on this Labor Day, be sure to stay safe. To keep your valuables and home protected, check out home insurance from GreatFlorida Insurance.  


Cooling Down a Hot Car

You know the familiar feeling of opening the car door on a hot day, only to feel like a blast from a blow dryer in your face. Then you sit down, burning the backs of your thighs on your seat and hands on the steering wheel.

“A car sitting in the Florida sun is scorching,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent auto insurance agency.

A parking garage is not always available, so below are some tips for cooling down your car swiftly.

Seek some shade

Park your car in the shade. Look for a tree or neighboring structure that could be casting a shadow in the parking lot. At least try to shield the sun from entering through your back window.

Crack your window

This may seem risky, but if you are in a safe area it is worth it. A study in Pediatrics, found that cracking the window 5 cm lowered the temperature in a car by about 28 degrees F on a 98-degree day. Measured with the windows fully closed the car measured 150 degrees.

Turn on the AC

This sounds like a no brainer, but make sure the air conditioning is set on fresh air instead of recycled, since it is cooler outside.

Use a sunshade

Sunshades reflect some of the light out of your windows before the interior of the car absorbs it. The Florida Solar Energy Center (FSCE) a research institute run by the University of Central Florida (UCF), discovered these shades can reduce the interior of a car by 15 to 20 degrees. Researchers also found the coolest results came when the reflective surface was turned to face the interior of the car. That’s right, backwards.

Car window tint

A good ceramic window tint covers all the windows. While it requires an investment, it is a permanent solution that will drop the internal temperature by several degrees.

Florida tint laws allow your windshield to be tinted with non-reflective tint along the top of the windshield. The front side windows must allow 28 percent of light through, while the back windows and rear window must allow more than 15 percent of light through.

Try the Japanese Door Trick

Roll down the driver’s side window, then open the passenger door, opening and closing it several times. This helps draw hot air out and pull in cool air.

“Regular car maintenance will also make sure systems are running accurately,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent auto insurance agency.

Check the air filter

Check your cabin’s air filter to make sure it is clean. A dirty filter prevents air flow.

Keeping the interior of your vehicle cooled off will protect your investment and keep you and your passengers more comfortable.

GreatFlorida Insurance has been providing friendly service and affordable auto insurance since 1991. We are comprised of independent insurance agents with over 110 offices located throughout Florida. We are committed to helping you make informed decisions about all your insurance needs. Call us at 1-888-478-7801 or visit us online at www.greatflorida.com.


Re-evaluate Your Insurance Policy Before the Storm

Florida is in the height of hurricane season. While no storms are currently declared hurricanes, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) predicts a busy hurricane season with 6-10 hurricanes.

This is a good time to re-evaluate your insurance policy. Assessment will confirm if your policy is adequate to repair and replace once a storm hits.

“Waiting until a hurricane watch is issued is too late,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent homeowners insurance agency.

Homeowners Insurance

Be sure to check that your homeowners policy covers wind damage. Weather.com reports, wind is responsible for most structural damage during a hurricane. Also, look into flood insurance. It must be purchased separately from your homeowners insurance and it takes 30 days to go into effect.

Make sure your coverage limits for belongings and the home’s structure are equal to replacement and reconstruction costs. The actual cash value is the depreciated value from when you purchased an item. The replacement cost is the amount you need to buy the item new.

Ask about temporary accommodations. This pays for additional living expenses such as a hotel and meals if your home is unlivable due to hurricane damage.

Renters Insurance

Your landlord is responsible for the structure of your rental. However, the renter is responsible for damage to belongings. Renters insurance does not always cover floods. “Check your renters insurance, because flood insurance is available for purchase separately and it is really affordable,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance.

Auto Insurance

Comprehensive car insurance covers damage not caused by a crash. This includes, flooding, hail, fallen rocks or trees and vandalism.

GreatFlorida Insurance‘s experienced, independent agents are located throughout the state to answer your questions. They can help you find insurance for your home, auto or rental for the right price. To learn more about our services call 888-478-7801 or go online for a free quote at www.greatflorida.com.


Is the Gym Safe Now?

Gyms, fitness centers and studios are open but, is it safe to go? Exercising regularly builds and maintains a healthy immune system. But, most professionals agree, exercising outdoors is preferable to a gym or confined space.

“The decision on where to workout is an individual decision regarding personal risk,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent homeowners insurance agency.

If you go to the gym at least make sure your fitness center is following the guidelines from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

  • Capacity at 50 percent
  • Readily available disinfectant on hand
  • Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting surfaces throughout the day
  • Keep restrooms open, functional, clean and disinfected
  • Check employees for symptoms

Best practice recommendations,

  • Signage on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19
  • Keeping doors open to improve ventilation and reduce the amount of times people touch the door
  • Remove frequently touched and unnecessary items such as magazines, newspapers, service menus, paper products and décor from waiting areas and locker rooms

More specific instructions will differ from county to county across Florida such as, taking temperatures or making an appointment to attend.

“Apprehension about going to the gym is usually, concern over asymptomatic spread from others,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent homeowners insurance agency.

There are ways to minimize risks for those who cannot resist the urge to go to the gym.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommends wearing a cloth mask, maintaining six feet apart from others, bringing your own water bottle and sweat towel. However, they do not advise wearing gloves. Gloves do not get washed often, so hand washing is better.

As far as a mask goes, you might have to limit the intensity of your workout because a mask can make it difficult to breathe. The Mayo Clinic suggests using disposable masks for working out since they will most likely get sweaty. Then you can throw them out. Also, use the bathroom at home and skip the showers.

Sports medicine specialist Caitlin Lewis, MD told Cleveland Clinic, “The biggest concern with coronavirus is being in close contact with other people and the exposure to their respiratory droplets, which are usually transmitted through cough, sneezing or heavy breathing.” The article went on to say, “And although there is a lack of research that says COVID-19 is spread through sweat, often time’s respiratory particles can get mixed in with sweat.”

Taking safety precautions at the gym will lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission, while you work to keep your mind and body in healthy shape.

GreatFlorida Insurance can provide peace of mind covering your valuables and protecting your dwelling with homeowners insurance. Contact us today.


More Stores are Requiring Masks

“Face masks are a continual source of debate, says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent homeowners insurance agency.

So, where is the public with wearing masks? Most Americans are in favor of wearing masks. July of this year, Gallup found 44 percent “always” wear a mask outside the home with 28 percent wearing them, “very often” outside their homes.

In addition, there is growing evidence to support their use. A recent editorial published by the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), they confirm, face masks are critical in the fight against COVID-19.

JAMA writes, “Community-level protection afforded by the use of cloth face coverings can reduce the number of new infections and facilitate cautious easing of more societally disruptive community interventions such as stay-at-home orders and business closings.” These conclusions are based on newly published data as well as two recent case studies. regarding face masks.

With increasing evidence that masks help slow the spread of COVID-19, an increasing number of retailers are requiring the use of masks. The National Retail Federation is encouraging retailers to set nationwide masks policies to protect shoppers and employees.







Banana Republic

Bed, Bath & Beyond

Best Buy

BJ’s Wholesale Club

Circle K





Great Clips


Home Goods

Home Depot

Jewel Osco


Kroger (and their additional supermarket chains)

Life Time athletic clubs






Natural Grocers

Noodles & Company

Office Depot and Office Max

Old Navy

Panera Bread


Planet Fitness

Pottery Barn

Pottery Barn Kids



Sam’s Club

Schnuck Markets

Smart & Final

Southeastern Grocers




T.J. Maxx

Traders Joes






West Elm

Whole Foods Market

Williams Sonoma

“Keep checking your favorite stores as the list is expected to grow,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent homeowners insurance agency.

If you are looking for a face mask, try any store and over 100 online retailers. Many who are skilled at sewing are making them, chances are you know someone who has made some.

GreatFlorida Insurance is here to answer all your insurance inquiries. For dependable home insurance, contact us today.


Hand Sanitizer Recall

“Keeping your hands clean has never been so crucial as it is now,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s top independent homeowners insurance agency.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most effective way to clean your hands is to wash them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you are unable to wash them, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent ethanol or ethyl alcohol is good.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for hand sanitizer has soared. During March it became difficult to find it stocked on store shelves. Even now, stock is constantly fluctuating.

The demand has unconventional companies making hand sanitizer. Beauty brands and even ExxonMobil is making hand sanitizer. Distilleries are also using their supply of high proof alcohol to produce hand sanitizer. Local Florida distilleries making hand sanitizer include, St. Augustine Distillery and Copper Bottom Craft Distillery.

“Even though many companies are getting into hand sanitizer making, leave it to the professionals,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent homeowners insurance agency.

Officials at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have tested hand sanitizers and found many are not safe. Numerous hand sanitizers have tested positive for methanol or wood alcohol. Methanol can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested. The FDA explains, substantial methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death.”

The FDA found, products containing methanol do not have it listed among the ingredients in the product. So far, 87 hand sanitizers have been added to the growing recall list. Newly added products include those made by Scent Theory, Herbacil, Jaloma and Leiper’s Fork Distillery.

The recalled products are manufactured in Mexico and one in Tennessee. Some are sold at popular retailers such as Target, Costco, BJs Wholesale Club and Walmart. The FDA’s investigation into methanol contamination is ongoing. The agency recommends not only throwing out the contaminated sanitizers but avoiding hand sanitizers from the companies on their list.

The full list can be found at this FDA link.

GreatFlorida Insurance can provide peace of mind covering your valuables and protecting your dwelling with homeowners insurance. Contact us today.

Road Tripping During a Pandemic


Are you ready to get out of the house? Grab your mask and keys and hit the road. “With COVID-19 continuing to inflict cities, many travelers are hesitant to fly but the open road is before you,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance.

Taking a road trip during a pandemic does not lend itself to spontaneity. A vacation during this time requires a little more planning, but we are here to help.

Make a plan

It sounds basic but get an idea of where or how far you want to go. COVID restrictions differ not only from state to state, but by city and county. With businesses opening, then re-closing confusion and misinformation is rampant. If there is a specific destination you want to visit, call ahead. It is also helpful to check out a location’s current COVID guidelines.

If you are looking for a place to stay along the way or once you reach your destination, check local hotels or Airbnb. Some major hotel chains are open for now such as Hyatt, and Best Western but not all, especially upscale hotel chains in bigger cities. Be sure to make reservations ahead of time. Many hotels have restricted pools, gyms and room service.

Ready your vehicle

Make sure your car is ready to set out on a journey. Get your oil checked along with the coolant levels, wiper fluids, brakes and tire pressure. AAA reports only 17 percent of cars on the road have their tires properly inflated.  The proper tire pressure can help save on gas. Check to see what kind of car insurance coverage and emergency roadside service is available to you while traveling.

Rental car

You may decide, instead of taking your car to rent one. Before renting a car, check with your insurance agent for the type of car insurance coverage you currently have in order to avoid paying for unnecessary coverage. “If you have a current car insurance policy, you likely will not need additional coverage,” says Buck, with GreatFlorida Insurance.

A car rental employee is a salesperson. Employees are encouraged to sell you upgrades as well as auto insurance. Also, most homeowner’s insurance  as well as renters insurance policies will cover the cost of belongings stolen in the car.

In the vehicle

A mask might be necessary outside the vehicle but not inside. Travel and Leisure report, “Experts caution against wearing a mask when driving alone because of a potential reduction in oxygen and possible lightheadedness.”

Food is an important part of every road trip. While most drive-ins are open, restaurants are hit and miss. Eater.com can provide you dining information for each state. If you want to limit your stops on the road, pack a cooler full of snacks and drinks.

On the road

Once you are off, you can get the latest travel updates from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).

GreatFlorida Insurance is here for you. During these uncertain times, some of your auto insurance needs could have changed and we are here to help. Contact us today.

What is and is not included with renters insurance

Most renters do not get renters insurance under the false assumption the landlord is responsible for damages. Your landlord covers structural and building damage but does not pay for your damaged or stolen personal property. Only 37 percent of renters have renters insurance despite the growing number of renters in the U.S. according to Policygenius.com.

“Renters insurance is affordable,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance. The Insurance Information Institute reports the average cost for a renters insurance policy in Florida is $18 a month, or $188 annually.

A standard renters insurance policy covers personal property stolen or damaged by vandalism, fire, smoke, lightning and wind (tornadoes). Damage caused by hurricanes is not as straightforward. While most renters insurance policies cover wind damage, hurricanes are excluded from standard coverage. You may be required to purchase additional hurricane insurance. Hurricanes also cause water damage. If the water is failing from the sky during a hurricane it will most likely be covered. However, if the water damage is caused by flooding due to a hurricane, it will be excluded from the standard renters insurance policy.

Flood insurance is available to renters, but must be purchased separately from your renters insurance,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance.

Policies generally start at $20,000-$30,000 worth of coverage. The more coverage you require, the more it will cost. While this may seem like more than enough to cover your belongings, renters insurance also covers personal liability. If a visitor falls and injures themselves at your home, renters insurance may help cover the cost of their medical bills. If you are renting a home with a pool, you might want to consider getting a little more than standard coverage. You may also consider more coverage if you own a dog. If your dog bites someone, your renters insurance could help cover the costs.

Renters insurance covers you beyond your four walls. While you are away, if something is stolen from your rental car or hotel room, you may be reimbursed for your loss.

Renters insurance does not cover your roommates. Renters insurance only covers personal property of the policyholder or a resident relative. If your landlord requires renters to get insurance coverage as terms of your lease, all parties need to have an individual policy.

It is important to carefully read and understand any renters insurance policy before purchasing it so you know exactly what is and is not covered.

The agents at GreatFlorida Insurance can answer your questions regarding renters insurance. They can craft a renters insurance policy to suit your individual needs so you get the coverage you need and are not paying for unnecessary coverage. Contact us today.