COVID-19 UPDATE On December 14th, the first Floridian to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccination was 31-year-old Vanessa Arroyo, a nurse at Tampa General Hospital. Florida will initially receive 179,400 doses of this vaccine, with half of them going to 30 hospitals to be administered to high-contact, high-exposure health care workers. The remaining vaccines will go to CVS, Walgreens and the Florida Department of Health for nursing home and assisted living facility residents. Florida is expecting another 300-400,000 vaccines from Moderna, as that vaccine may be approved by the Federal Drug Administration and the Center for Disease Control this week. The state is implementing the plan submitted to the federal government that outlines the priority levels for COVID-19 vaccinations.
Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel and its sister publication, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, have sued the Governor alleging violations of the Public Records Act for not timely releasing the weekly White House Coronavirus Task Force reports in a timely manner. To date, official records on the Florida Department of Health website report 1,168,483 cases and 20,305 deaths.
Floridians can access dashboards that track daily COVID-19 infection rates throughout the state by zip code. The Florida COVID-19 Hub is searchable thanks to University of South Florida researchers.
The Governor extended an earlier executive order on November 24th prohibiting cities and counties from enacting their own shutdowns or fining residents for refusing to wear a mask. Conversely, Orange County has developed strike teams which visit local businesses attempting to ensure compliance with suggested protocols. The county mayor plans to institute fines for businesses refusing to comply. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced that school districts could continue offering virtual learning options for students in the Spring. The original order released in July was set to expire in December. The Florida Department of Education has not indicated how this will impact district funding. Meanwhile, student enrollment is down between 5 and 10 percent at most of Florida’s 28 state colleges. The biggest drop is among first-time college students who recently graduated from high school.