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FLORIDA — Speaking at River Garden Senior Services nursing facility in Jacksonville Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that all long-term health care residents and staff will have received the coronavirus vaccine by the end of this month.
"We have the second oldest population in the United States and yet our per capita mortality for COVID is less than the national average for COVID 25 other states," DeSantis said.
He said that's because Florida was the first state to begin vaccinating residents and staff of the state's nearly 4,000 long-term care facilities in mid-December.
While waiting for CVS and Walgreens to begin distributing the vaccine to long-term care facilities through a federal agreement, DeSantis said Florida sent in strike teams to start the process in the two counties with the greatest number of seniors in long-term care — Pinellas and Broward counties. The state was able to vaccinate residents in 105 nursing homes before the pharmacies took over the mission, he said.
To date, 97 percent of residents and staff at all skilled nursing facilities and residents at more than 2,000 assisted living facilities have had at least one vaccine shot, DeSantis said.
"This was an important mission. That's where we've seen the greatest mortality because age and underlying health status makes them more vulnerable to severe outcomes from COVID," he said.
DeSantis said his Seniors First initiative, which put a priority on vaccinating those age 65 and up, has resulted in 22 percent of seniors in Florida receiving a vaccination with almost a million vaccinations reported in the state. There is an estimated 4.5 million seniors in Florida.
"We've done more vaccinations than any other state in the country," he said, adding that the state has received 1.7 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. "Almost 70 percent of the shots have gone to a senior. We feel great about being at the top of the pack, and we're only just beginning."
Emmett Reed, executive director of Florida HCA hospitals, said the state is about to reach a milestone in the fight against coronavirus by vaccinating all long-term care facility residents.
"The vaccine brings hope to many seniors and their loved ones," he said. "The vaccine represents the light at the end of the tunnel and, as I heard earlier, that light is not a train; that light is hope. The vaccine is our residents' hope that they can return to normal as soon as possible, so they can gather for birthday celebrations, they can hug their loved ones, they can see their grandchildren, they can go to their houses of worship. That day is coming when they'll be able to hug their loved ones, and it's because of this vaccine. It's because we have a governor who has led the way to make sure that these most vulnerable people are prioritized."
That hope hasn't come soon enough thousands of seniors age 65 and over in Florida who have been unable to get the vaccine during the mad dash to register for appointments.
Their frustration and anxiety has increased as some Florida counties continue to report rising positivity rates and hospitals experience increased admissions.
However, there was some good news from the Florida Department of Health Monday, which reported just a single death each day for the past three days. That's in contrast to Jan. 13 when 26 people died and Dec. 30 when 145 people died in a single day.
The number of residents testing positive is also down slightly with 8,607 positive cased reported Sunday, down from 9,418 on Saturday and 12,122 on Friday. That brings the state's positivity rate below the critical 10 percent mark to 9.56 percent.
As of Monday, according to the DOH coronavirus dashboard, 1,658,169 residents have tested positive since the pandemic was declared in March. There have been 23,849 deaths and 70,346 hospitalized.
Florida's Positivity Rate
New Cases Of Coronavirus
Courtesy Florida Department of Health
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