Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order Wednesday that specifies who will get the Covid-19 vaccines during the initial phase of vaccine administration.
The executive order says during the first phase, providers shall only administer the vaccine to long-term care facility residents and staff; persons age 65 and older; and health care personnel with direct patient contact. Hospital providers may vaccinate persons whom they deem to be extremely vulnerable to Covid-19, the order says.
DeSantis did not include non-health care frontline essential workers in the order, although an advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended those workers get vaccinations.
Many essential workers are young and do not have significant health problems, DeSantis said. “For us in Florida, we’re making clear in this executive order that our first priority for the general population — once the nurses, the doctors and the long-term care facilities are done — is to vaccinate people 65 and up,” he said, during a news conference at a hospital in Pensacola.
In addition to hospitals, county health departments are receiving some vaccine and may begin administering that as soon as Monday, he said.
Still, there isn’t enough vaccine to cover all of the 4 million Floridians who are 65 and older, DeSantis said. “I would caution folks who are 65 and over, don’t rush to your local hospital or county health department right now.”
Through the end of day Tuesday, 68,133 people in Florida have received their first dose of vaccine, according to the Florida Department of Health. That includes 5,976 vaccinations in Pinellas County.
Even as the vaccines are rolling out, the case count and death toll continue to climb. There have now been 1,007 deaths attributed to Covid-19 in Pinellas, an additional seven deaths since Tuesday. There’s a cumulative total of 41,654 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Pinellas, an increase of 374 cases since Tuesday.
The positivity rate for test results reported Tuesday was 8.35 percent. For the past two weeks, about 7.3 percent of people who took a Covid-19 test in Pinellas County tested positive for the virus.
At mid-day Wednesday, 250 people were hospitalized in Pinellas County with a primary diagnosis of Covid-19. About 21.3 percent of the beds in Pinellas County’s acute care hospitals were available as were 15.2 percent of the adult intensive care beds.