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State Ramps Up COVID Vaccine Distribution

Office of the Secretary of Defense

In his first virtual news conference of 2021, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinin disclosed his bout with COVID-19 during the holidays. Meantime, statewide vaccine distribution in Florida is beginning to ramp up.

Robinson announced that he was exposed to the coronavirus four days before Christmas by his son, who unknowingly brought it with him from law school.

“We have gone through it, we’ve certainly experienced it,” said Robinson. “My son had it a second time, he managed to give it to me and my wife; we’re fortunate that we did not have an adverse effect. But obviously, that is the problem with COVID – some people have very strong reactions, and some people don’t have reactions at all.”

The Department of Health has told the mayor that he can neither give nor get COVID-19 for roughly the next 90 days. But he’ll continue to practice the safety measures laid out by the experts.

“I will continue to wear a mask; certainly the right thing to do even though I can’t give COVID or get COVID for the next 90 days,” said the mayor. “It’s possibly the longer but it looks like it only lasts probably that long. That’s why it’s important that everyone get the vaccine.”

“You’re going to see more state effort than what we’ve already done, which has been significant; but I just want to be clear on one thing – we don’t believe it’s time to rest,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Speaking Monday in Longwood in Seminole County, DeSantis rolled out four new methods to continue what he calls an “aggressive approach” to get needles in arms. First, the departments of emergency management and health identifying testing sites that can be converted to vaccine sites.

“These are sites that are generally pretty large; have a lot of parking capacity, [and] have drive-through capacity,” the governor said. “We need to add additional layers to the vaccination strategy; we believe we will have enough doses to be able to do that.”

Second, the state will be identifying places of worship in underserved communities, where the vaccine can be administered. The pilot program for that was Brownsville Community Center in Pensacola, which is adjacent to Brownsville Church of God.

“It was a great success – we were able to vaccinate over 500 seniors and also have them scheduled for their booster shot, which they will then receive at the same location when that time comes,” said DeSantis. “So you’re going to see this approach all over the state.”

Third, state Emergency Management is directed to activate contracts for one thousand additional nurses to support vaccination efforts, to be deployed statewide. And fourth, a state emergency response team will take on extra work to vaccinate residents in Florida’s four thousand long-term care facilities.

“Currently the vaccination of residents and staff in long-term care facilities – including assisted living facilities – are being handled by CVS and Walgreen’s pursuant to agreements they have with the federal government,” said DeSantis. “But we want to accelerate that pace. We believe [for] vaccinations, the sooner the better.”

Given the disorganized nature of vaccine distribution across Florida thus far, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson was asked if there could come a time when cities and counties are asked to lend a hand.

“If the state chooses to roll it out through municipalities and jurisdictions, we’ll be happy to help,” said Robinson. “But at this particular time we’re more of a sideline player, and the decision has been made to move through hospitals and departments of health. So on that line, we’ll be happy to help in as many ways as we can.”

Meanwhile, two mass vaccination events are on tap this week for those 65 and older. The Santa Rosa Health Dept. will be offering the vaccines starting Tuesday, while Ascension-Sacred Heart will hold clinics on Wednesday at two locales: Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, and at the Milton Community center. More information on both events is available by calling 983-4636.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.