TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Expect COVID-19 cases to again rise this winter, Florida's governor said Friday. He also announced a new tool to help a coronavirus surge.
At an Ocala press event, Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state would now offer a preventative monoclonal treatment that received emergency use authorization last week. It's called EVUSHELD from AstraZeneca.
Florida's initial 3,100 doses are available from at least 10 sites across the state. The treatment is approved for those with weak immune systems or poor response to COVID-19 shots.
"In the clinical trials, it reduced the risk of developing COVID in the first instance by 77%," DeSantis said. "This is for people that have not been exposed to COVID."
The Republican also said Floridians should expect a "seasonal" rise in cases this winter but vowed to continue pushing back on virus mandates that he believes will protect jobs and individual liberties.
"We are not going to indulge in any of the insanity that you see starting to happen again in some of these parts of the country," DeSantis said. "You have universities in different parts of the country that force every student to do vax, force them to mask, probably force them to booster, and they're still shutting down."
Early data has shown that the new omicron variant appears less severe but more transmissible. Federal officials warn the virus may still overwhelm hospitals. Many are also dealing with flu and delta cases. The White House continues to push vaccination as the best means of protection.
Florida Democrats, like State Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-Miami Gardens, felt the state was now particularly vulnerable to severe omicron impacts after lawmakers approved three bills last month heavily restricting shot rules in the state.
Jones said he would support repeal in the upcoming session — difficult as that may be against a GOP-majority.
"We have no safeguards — no safeguards are in place," Jones said. "We're only seconds away, that if the omicron variant hits us in a real way, it doesn't matter what the economy looks like. You're going to have a bunch of sick people."
Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Miami, filed three repeal bills in the Senate earlier this week. They don't yet have House companions and are unlikely to get much traction with Republicans in control.
The 2022 regular legislative session begins in January.