LONGWOOD, Fla. — Calling the next two months "crunch time," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday said he wants to identify large-scale sites throughout the state where mass COVID-19 vaccinations can take place.
"We don't believe it's time to rest," DeSantis said during a news conference at Orlando Health South Seminole Hospital in Longwood. "We want to continue to see this vaccine administered as quickly as possible."
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The governor said Florida's Division of Emergency Management will work with the Florida Department of Health to identify state-run COVID-19 testing sites that can be converted into vaccination sites.
"These are sites that are generally pretty large, have a lot of parking capacity, have drive-thru capacity," DeSantis said. "We need to add additional layers to the vaccination strategy."
DeSantis said his goal is to have these large-scale vaccination sites open seven days a week.
In addition, the governor said state officials are identifying places of worship where COVID-19 vaccines can be given, as well as deploying 1,000 additional nurses across the state to support vaccination efforts.
"I think 2021 is gonna be brighter, and I think this vaccine is providing a lot of hope to a lot of people," DeSantis said.
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The governor said the next group he's targeting for vaccinations is the workforce, including teachers and other essential workers. However, he admitted it could take weeks or even months before enough vaccines are available for that population.
"I view people that are earning a living and putting food on the table as essential, cause it's essential to their family," DeSantis said. "So we want to make it as widely available to the workforce."
Gov. DeSantis also warned hospitals on Monday that state health officials will be closely watching how efficiently they distribute the initial vaccine doses.
"If you have other hospitals that are sitting on it and not using it, then future distributions will be reduced accordingly," DeSantis said. "We don’t want vaccines being idle, we want folks to be able to use it."
AdventHealth responded to the Governor's comments Monday with the following statement:
"AdventHealth continues to follow state and federal guidelines, which call for frontline health care workers to receive the vaccine first to keep them safe so they can continue caring for our communities. We utilized all doses of our Pfizer distribution of vaccines and as of today, we have opened vaccination sites at all West Florida Division hospitals with our Moderna shipment. We are encouraged by our team member response and the swiftness with which our clinical teams are making this happen. We are committed to supporting community vaccinations and encourage our patients to visit coronavirusvaccinealerts.com to sign up for alerts to learn when AdventHealth locations near them begin community vaccinations."
BayCare stated Monday, "We are working daily with government and health care partners serving West Central Florida to devise vaccination plans that will have maximum impact."
According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health on Jan. 4, there are 1,365,436 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 21,987 coronavirus-related deaths in the Sunshine State.