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00000177-b32b-d5f4-a5ff-bbfb6e660000Here is the information you need to know about COVID-19 in Northwest Florida. We will keep this post updated with the latest information from local, and statewide agencies. For inforamtion from Centers for Disease Control and prevention: cdc.gov/coronavirusFor updates on Florida cases of coronavirus, visit the FDOH dashboard.The COVID-19 call center is available at 24/7 at 1-866-779-6121

DeSantis Touts Vaccine Availability, Convenience

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City of Pensacola
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Gov. Ron DeSantis brought his COVID-19 vaccination update to Pensacola Tuesday morning, reminding the Panhandle that the shots are now available to everyone over the age of 50.

“Most of the Panhandle counties are about two-thirds of the seniors – some of them more – that have gotten shots,” said DeSantis. “Obviously this is open to 50-plus, but we hope there will be more remaining seniors come here.”

The governor spoke at the county’s newest walk-up vaccination site, Zion Hope Primitive Baptist Church on Leonard Street. It’s expected to provide 2,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to individuals 50 and older over the next three days.

“We’re now at over a third of that age 60 to 64 in Escambia, and I think that’s pretty similar throughout most of the Panhandle; so I think that 60 to 64 will keep growing this week and into next week,” the governor said.

The demand for vaccine was more intense in January than it is now, said the governor, in part because of the millions of doses given to Florida’s seniors.

“If the demand continues to be manageable, we want to lower the age again at the proper time,” said DeSantis. “I don’t have an announcement on that yet, but we’re monitoring it. We’re talking with all the retail pharmacies about how many people are going in for that; looking at the county sites, the state sites, all these different things.”

As more people get the COVID shots, the question is becoming just what they can, and cannot do, when they reach full vaccination. The CDC has some new guidelines, according to Marie Mott at the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County.

“Gathering indoors in small groups, with fully-vaccinated people not wearing a mask; or gathering indoors with un-vaccinated people from one other household,” Mott said. “Unless there’s somebody in that group that has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID, or lives with someone with a severe risk.”

While some things are loosening up, Mott and the CDC emphasize that this is not the time to go hog wild – some practices should remain in place for now, even for those fully vaccinated.

“Wearing a mask; staying 6 feet apart from other people, avoiding large crowds, avoiding closed-up and poorly-ventilated spaces,” said Mott. “And particularly, when you’re around unvaccinated people or people with a high risk for severe illness, and public places as well.”

With numerous locations offering the shots both statewide and locally, Gov. DeSantis said more are expected to come online in the next few weeks.

“Here in Escambia County, you have nine  Walgreen’s that are offering it; seven Publix pharmacies, two CVS, one Winn-Dixie, and five Walmart pharmacies,” DeSantis said. That’s a pretty significant retail footprint; it’s easy for people to go, [and] it’s usually pretty close by where they live.”

Floridians are also more able to get the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which is only one shot, compared to the others that require a couple spaced out between three to four weeks.

“We hope to get more Johnson and Johnson over the next couple of weeks, although right now we’re not scheduled to get any more,” the governor said. “But we weren’t scheduled to get any this week, and they did trickle this out. So my hope is that, you start to get really significant amounts of Johnson and Johnson, to match what we’re getting with Pfizer and Moderna.”

And the governor said getting online appointments is now a lot easier than at the start, because the demand has slackened up.

“So it doesn’t necessarily fill up in 10 minutes; and so you go on these websites [and] you’ve got a pretty good chance to get an appointment in a very convenient way,” said the governor. “And that’s partially because we’ve vaccinated so many people, but also because we do have more vaccine on a weekly basis that we did two to three months ago.”

The walk-up site at Zion Hope Primitive Baptist will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. each of the three days.