Facing South Florida: Jared Moskowitz Steps Down

Jim DeFede spoke with Moskowitz about his decision to resign.

Video Transcript

- Now from CBS 4 news, this is Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede.

JIM DEFEDE: Good morning. I'm Jim DeFede and welcome to Facing South Florida. There was some major news this week surrounding vaccine distribution in Florida. On Friday, the Biden administration announced they were opening, what they described as, four major new vaccination centers in Florida. The federal sites will be in Miami, Orlando, Tampa, and Jacksonville. The White House expects the sites to be open in two weeks and provide a total of 12,000 shots a day. This will be in addition to the hundreds of smaller sites being operated by state and local officials.

The other big news? The person who has been overseeing the state's logistical response to the pandemic, Jared Moskowitz, announced he was stepping down as Florida's director of Emergency Management as of April 30th. Moskowitz, a Broward Democrat who served in the state legislature, has been part of the Santos administration from the beginning. I spoke to him earlier this week after the announcement was made.

So Jared why now?

JARED MOSKOWITZ: Well I mean, Jim, I know sometimes-- we always hear people-- people say this because it-- it makes for a good story, but in my case, it's tremendously true. Obviously, my family lives in Broward County. I'm up here working in Tallahassee. As the governor said yesterday, in a transportation sense, it's kind of a world away. I'm spending 12 hours in a car to see my kids for 36 hours. It's just not sustainable. And the truth of the matter is-- is you know, I had been teetering, you know, on this because the work here is just so important. It's been an honor of a lifetime to serve, to-- to help Florida's families in, you know, their worst crisis in 100 years. But my four-year-old, as I was putting him into a car seat said to me, you know, daddy you work for the governor. And I said, that's right buddy. And he said, I don't want you to work for the governor anymore. I want you to come home.

And you know, on the third anniversary of the shooting at Parkland at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, which is my hometown, my high school, those are parents that had plans for their kids. Those are grandparents that we're looking forward to weddings and-- and marriages and careers with their children. And I just-- you know, this pandemic also makes me realize that tomorrow is not guaranteed. And so, my kids are only young once. I'm missing things that I can never get back. And I want to leave the state in a good spot which is why I'm not leaving until April 30th. But you know, look, it's time to go home to my family.

JIM DEFEDE: And just to be absolutely clear, this is not you being asked to step down. This is not you leaving because of any policy dispute that you have with the governor. This is truly, as you sort of noted, you know, you always hear, leaving to spend more time with his family. You're saying that is truly, absolutely, the case here.

JARED MOSKOWITZ: Yeah, I mean, listen one of the things, you know, about me, Jim, and hopefully, you know, the time we've spent together doing these Zooms people-- people will see that I say what-- I say what I want to say, and I mean what I say, right? There's no filter here. There's no talking points. I say the truth. So look, if I was being pushed out or there was some disagreement over policy, I mean, I would tell you and there is none of that.

I mean, I had a great meeting with the governor last week. As soon as I explained to him the kid thing, he recalled about when he served in Congress and what that was like. And he's got three young kids, him and the first lady totally get it obviously. They-- they're sad to see me go, but you know, he-- he's appreciative of my service. We started talking about, you know, other things and policies and, you know, what the next couple of months will look like, what we need to accomplish, but it was a positive conversation. I think he made some additional comments at a press conference yesterday. You know, I wish him and the first lady the best obviously. But you know, look, sometimes you got to reprioritize things.

And truthfully, I was in Parkland over the weekend. I went back to the high school. I went back to the Memorial there. I talked to some of the families. And I just-- I just realized like, my youngest was two when I took this job. He's now four. I mean, I left when he was a toddler. I spent tremendously and more time away from them because this pandemic than I anticipated. My family quarantined without me. Ninety days they quarantined. I didn't see my family. And so, I just-- I've just got appreciation for, you know, what-- needing-- needing my kids to have both their parents be present. I mean, I want to do some mundane stuff. I want to drop my kids off at school. I want to pick them up. I know that-- that-- you know, when you don't do that for a long period of time you look forward to that.

And so, as I've told people. I'm not done with public service forever. I'm hitting the pause button for now. This is 15 years in public service. I got elected when I was 25 years old, was a law student living in my parent's house. I'm 40 now. I have found myself at the center of two of Florida's greatest tragedies. I'll leave that up to a higher power decide why I was in the middle of Parkland and the pandemic. But I've given the state of Florida everything I have in both of those instances. And now look, I put Florida's families first for-- for a long time. Now, it's just-- it's time for me to-- to put my family first for a period of time.

JIM DEFEDE: Look as we get closer to your-- to your end date on April 30th. We can sort of revisit, sort of take a look back over-- over your time and how this has played out. So-- but let's turn to the present because there's still work to be done, and as you said, you're still in office now, going to do this for the next couple of months. Where do we stand right now as it relates to vaccines? And I think what most people are interested in is if you're not 65 or older if you're under 65, when might you be able to get the vaccine?

JARED MOSKOWITZ: Yeah, so obviously that's the number one question I get asked is, when's the next group? I mean, look, it's totally dependent on-- on supply and demand. Supply is picking up. The Biden administration has done a fantastic job. They were handed a complete mess on-- on production and distribution, and so they're doing everything they can. There's no easy button to fix that, by the way. But we've got increases week over week. We're also getting information about what the next several weeks will look like. So I've been told my-- my allocations will increase 10% every week for the next three weeks. So that's an additional 35,000 doses a week. That's tremendously helpful.

So look, we've done about two million seniors. We're coming up in on two million Caesar's-- seniors that's about 50% of the population. Not everyone is going to want it. So I think we've probably got another million seniors to go. We're doing 350,000 right now a week. So I think, you know, three more weeks or so we can start looking at the next groups, whether that's lowering the age to 60, which would include 1.4 million people, whether that's looking at police officers, teachers based on some-- some-- some age range. And so those are obviously conversations I have to have with the governor.

You know, one of the things I want to talk about, obviously, is continuing to do more people with comorbidities. I mean, look Florida started with 65. We were the first state in the nation to do so. We got a lot of criticism doing that, but now the CDC saw what we've done and they've recommended that to all the other 49 states. So the data showed 80% of our deaths are in 65 and older, obviously the rest of people with comorbidities, so we can't forget about them. We reduce the death rate. We reduce hospitalizations. We start to get out of the health crisis that the pandemic has caused, and then we can start going to the general population so that we can start getting out of this pandemic and decreasing the amount of disease we have in the community.

JIM DEFEDE: You talk about the difference between what the promises were during the Trump administration and what was left for the Biden administration. How is the relationship with the Biden administration, and-- and what is working, and what can we see or what can we expect is going to be built on?

JARED MOSKOWITZ: The relationship with the Biden administration is fantastic. I mean FEMA is in the building. We're-- we're talking to FEMA all the time, are planning some-- some things for the residents of Florida to try to increase, you know, vaccine distribution here.

And so-- look, they were handed you literally a worst case scenario. They took over the administration that there was no production plan. There was no distribution plan. And-- and everything we were told in October or November literally did not happen. And so I think the previous administration, you know, worked with scientists, got a vaccine, did a really good job shipping that vaccine, but-- but had-- had no-- had literally no distribution plan, and their production plan was a complete failure. So there look there's no easy button to fix those things. I think the Biden administration has literally done the best job that anyone could be doing with the cards that they have been dealt. I think, obviously, communicating and being transparent is also extremely important, which is what they've been doing saying, look, this is what your doses are going to be for the next several weeks.

Remember I used to tell you, I'm only getting information and then I have six days to plan. That was the case for two months. Hey, this is what you're getting on a-- you tell me on a Tuesday what I'm getting on a Monday. Now I can plan two or three weeks ahead. We're already planning to open up sites in the future. We're planning where those are going to go, planning announcements, talking about the next couple of groups because I know what my future is. I know what the next two or three weeks is going to be. Rather than getting a half a million doses in week two and then in week three that going to 280,000 doses, an almost 50% decline.

JIM DEFEDE: You said before, FEMA is now in the building. I would have assume that FEMA had always been part of the emergency command center in the state of Florida. Was it not, and what does that actually mean now that they are?

JARED MOSKOWITZ: Well I mean, look, we were always communicating, coordinating with FEMA on the phone especially very on when it had to do with PPE. But no they weren't in the building because of, obviously, COVID and COVID protocols. And now they are here because we're doing some planning and preparation. I don't want to get ahead of the White House or the governor's office, but I think there's going to be some good announcements here later this week on vaccine expansion in a number of areas in the state of Florida. It's very, very exciting.

And so look, this is what the Federal government should be doing, right? The federal government shouldn't divert things away from the state. They should be adding value. And that's why they're here to add that value, to work with us, to help our residents.

And again Jim I mean, we've done 3 and 1/2 million people here in the state of Florida, two million of them ceder-- seniors. We're leading the nation in seniors more than any other state. We're-- we're right at the top, right below California and Texas on doses administered. So we're the third largest state and we're third. As far as first doses in the 10 most populous states, we're right at the top doses per 100,000 administered. So we're back to the-- the whole percentage of allocation. You know, we're almost at 80% now for allocation. The other 20% are second doses that obviously have to wait until their second dose appointment is due. So we're using everything we're getting. The distribution model is working, but look, I'm very appreciative of the Biden administration and what-- what FEMA is trying to do to try to speed this up. Dr. Fauci has said, you know, in April it should really be flowing. I'm hopeful it's before then.

There's a tremendous demand for this vaccine, and we're seeing the results. that hope, that light at the end of the tunnel. We're seeing it. The numbers are coming down. The hospitalizations are coming down. The anxiety that people have had for a year is starting to be released. So you know look, I'm going to help I'm going to help land this plane hopefully over the next couple of months, really get things rocking and rolling. But I can't-- I can't wait until the fall until everyone's been vaccinated.

JIM DEFEDE: Up next, the push for immigration reform when we return.