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COVID-19 Morning Report

Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 17,783 new COVID-19 infections, Wednesday, for a total of 1,409,906 cases to date.

The Florida Department of Health also reported 132 coronavirus-related deaths, yesterday, increasing the statewide death toll to 22,647 fatalities since the start of the pandemic.

The latest single-day positivity rate reported by the Florida Division of Emergency Management stood at 14.26% on Tuesday. Over the past two weeks the single-day positivity rate has ranged between 9.93% and 26.34%.

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration reports that as of this morning 471 patients are admitted to hospitals with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19 in Charlotte, Collier, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties combined. AHCA reports there are 7,294 patients hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19 throughout the state.

Lee Health reported Wednesday afternoon that 193 patients were being treated for COVID-19 throughout the health system's hospitals.

Currently 75% of Lee Health's ventilator capacity and 12% of ICU rooms are available. The health system reports having 12 COVID-19 patients on ventilators and 27 COVID-19 positive patients in intensive care.

As of Wednesday morning, the Florida Division of Emergency Management reports 329,060 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Florida.

Florida's Lieutenant Governor Says Vaccine Demand Outpaces Supply

Florida is adding drive through vaccinations at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, where COVID-19 testing is also taking place. Following a news conference, Wednesday, Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez said the state is considering sites to vaccinate people quickly.

“Places where they will get shots in arms; That is the nature of the beast. We want shots in arms as quickly as possible,” said Nuñez.

The Lieutenant Governor admits the rollout hasn’t been smooth. She said the biggest problem is not logistics.

“It’s more than an issue of whether things have gone wrong, whether websites have crashed, whether phone lines have crashed,” said Nuñez.

“It’s more of an issue of supply and demand and unfortunately we just don’t have the supply for the amount of demand.

The state is expecting more dosages of both the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines.

State Emergency Management Director Expects Vaccine Distribution To Get Better In Time

Floridians have been left confused and frustrated by the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine. While most expected a unified distribution plan the responsibility has been passed on to the state’s 67 local health departments—which has led to a patchwork of policies. But Florida Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz says he thinks those kinks will soon get worked out. He spoke during a virtual press conference Wednesday.

Moskowitz says the scramble that’s happening during the first weeks of the vaccination distribution isn’t surprising.

"Well, obviously when you don’t have one person leading the effort now you have 300 plus hospitals, 67 different county health departments," said Moskowitz. "You have different plans, different procedures, different systems."

Moskowitz believes as departments try out different approaches they’ll look to their neighbors and learn from each other’s mistakes. For example, he says the state has learned from a Lee County approach that left senior citizens waiting outside in long lines—with some even camping out overnight.

"There are other counties that those plans have not worked out well. Lining people up outside, that is not what the plans call for in a first come first served concert ticket basis and that’s nothing the division nor the department of health up here told people to do," said Moskowitz. "In fact, we shut it down as soon as we were made aware of it."

Moskowitz says numbers so far numbers have been lowest among minority groups with 7% of the minority population who’ve had access to the vaccine having received it. He’s hoping to work with faith leaders to help encourage more African Americans and people of color to get the vaccine.

Black Faith-Leaders Join Hands In Task Force, Urging African Americans To Take COVID-19 Vaccine

Black faith-leaders across Florida are joining health experts in encouraging communities of color to get the COVID-19 vaccine. They've formed a task force to spread their message. Tallahassee pastor R.B. Holmes says he will lead by example and take the vaccine.

"All of us have buried, ministered, and comforted thousands of people who have died or dying from the virus; this is one battle that we cannot sit out," Holmes says.

To date, more than 22,000 Florida residents have died as a result of contracting COVID-19. Black people make up nearly 3,800 of those deaths. Holmes stresses that COVID-19 is real and that it hits home for him emotionally.

"I've lost many of my closest pastors. My mentors, who've died across this country last year, and I'm burying another one next Monday who died because of COVID-19," Holmes says.

But despite what he calls a life-or-death scenario, Holmes says some people of color might be reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"Historically, African Americans have been misused by the medical profession. People still have a strong, sad memory of the Tuskegee experiment," Holmes says.

For those who want the vaccine, Holmes foresees obstacles those in the Black community may face.

"Many senior citizens in this community do not navigate the internet. So, what are we doing by people who cannot go online and set up an appointment? May not even have a car to drive to get there," Homes says.

Florida A & M University President Larry Robinson is also serving on the task force. He's hoping HBCUs can be a hub for COVID-19 vaccinations because he says they are trusted sources in the community.

NCH To Offer COVID-19 Vaccines To Seniors

On Friday, Jan 8, the NCH Healthcare System will have COVID-19 vaccine doses for people 65 and older.

NCH is offering 1,200 appointments for the vaccine to be administered at NCH Baker Hospital near downtown Naples and at NCH North Naples Hospital.

Appointments must be made online through the hospital's website: www.nchmd.org. The link to reserve an appointment is set to go live at noon on Thursday, Jan 7.

The Naples Daily News reports vaccine appointments through NCH hospitals will be offered Jan. 8 and then again Jan. 11-13, but officials have not yet specified times.

So far, NCH has inoculated more than 2,100 frontline medical workers.

Lee Health Provides COVID-19 Vaccine Doses to Lee Physician Group

Lee Health is set to provide an unspecified quantity of COVID-19 vaccine doses, Thursday, Jan. 7 to patients of Lee Physician Group who are 65 or older. The News-Press reports the health system has administered about half of its supply of the vaccine.

Lee Health President and CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci said, Wednesday, that they're inoculating front-line medical workers, volunteers and high-risk patients as quickly as possible.

Lee Health also issued the following statement:

"Lee Health’s switchboard has been overwhelmed with people calling to make appointments for vaccination. We are asking the community to discontinue calls to Lee Physician Group for vaccination appointments so that people who need to reach our hospitals may do so. Our limited supply of vaccinations for patients in Lee Physician Group offices is spoken for at this time. We will let the community know when we have more vaccines to offer to patients.”

COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Continues in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto Counties

Residents of Sarasota and Manatee Counties seeking a COVID-19 vaccine remain frustrated as demand continues to far outpace supply and available appointments continue to fill up rapidly.

The Herald Tribune reports that as of Tuesday, more than 7,600 doses of the vaccine had been administered in Sarasota at the William L. Little Health and Human Services building at 2200 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota, 34327.

For updates from Sarasota County on the future availability of vaccine doses, text "SRQCOVID19" to 888777. To schedule an appointment when more become available, visit: Sarasota.floridahealth.gov. For more information call 941-861-2900.

In Manatee County, more than 6,400 doses of the vaccine had been administered as of Tuesday. Bennett Park at 400 Cypress Creek Blvd. in Bradenton is serving as the vaccine distribution site in Manatee.

Officials in Manatee County are now distributing vaccines through a new lottery system that includes a new website that went live Thursday morning. For more information visit mymanatee.org/vaccine or call 941-748-0747.

In Charlotte County, nearly 2,200 vaccine doses had been administered as of Tuesday. Harold Ave Regional Park at 23400 Harold Ave. in Port Charlotte is the vaccine clinic site in Charlotte County, and currently appointments are booked through Jan. 15.

In DeSoto County, the Turner Agri-Civic Center at 2250 NE Roan St. in Arcadia is serving as a vaccine distribution site, with doses being administered on a first come, first served basis. Just over 300 vaccine doses had been administered in DeSoto as of Tuesday.

Nursing Home Accused Of Giving COVID-19 Vaccines to Wealthy Donors/Country Club Members

Executives of an upscale nursing home in Florida are accused of providing COVID-19 vaccine doses to wealthy donors and members of a country club, along with residents and employees of the long-term care home.

The Washington Post and New York Post have both reported that MorseLife Health System gave vaccine doses to donors and members of the Palm Beach Country Club.

Currently vaccine doses in Florida are limited to high-risk frontline medical workers and people 65 and older. A spokeswoman for Governor Ron DeSantis tells the AP, the state is investigating the situation.

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