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COVID-19 Morning Report

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Florida Department of Health

State health officials reported 3,987 new COVID-19 cases, Sunday, for a total of 2,008,349 infections. The Florida Department of Health also reported 29 coronavirus-related deaths yesterday, increasing the statewide death toll to 33,369 fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic.

The latest single-day positivity rate reported by the Florida Division of Emergency Management stood at 6.35% last Thursday. Over the past two weeks the single-day positivity rate has ranged between 6.17% and 8.91%.

The Agency for Health Care Administration reports that as of this morning the number of patients admitted to hospitals throughout the state with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19 has dropped to 2,856. Hospitals in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota counties combined have a total of 189 admitted patients with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19, compared to 220 patients last Thursday.

As of last Friday morning, the Florida Division of Emergency Management reported more than 4.7 million (4,710,033) people have been vaccinated including more than 2 million (2,092,938) people who have received a first dose, and more than 2.6 million (2,617,095) who have completed the series, including 138,419 people who have received the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

DeSantis Extends Coronavirus Vaccine Eligibility To Everyone 50 And Older

Governor Ron DeSantis announced Friday that on Monday state eligibility for the coronavirus vaccine will extend to residents 50 and older.

The move comes one week after the age was lowered to 60.

The governor has focused on putting seniors first. Now nearly 70 percent of residents 65 and older have gotten a vaccine and demand is down.

“So, we’ll do the 50,” DeSantis said during a press conference. “Then I think our next move will most likely be to just say anyone who qualifies under the EUA’s — to the 16 or 18 up depending on the shot.”

He is referring to the vaccines’ emergency use authorizations from the FDA.

Orange County has already gone a step further. Citing unmet capacity, Mayor Jerry Demings said the county’s drive-thru at the Convention Center will offer vaccines to anyone 40 and older.

DeSantis insists that “it’s not his decision to make” and says the county should focus instead on bringing its senior vaccinations up to the state average.

FEMA-Run Vaccine Sites in Florida to End 1st Dose Shots This Week

First doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will no longer be available at federally run sites. Federally supported vaccine locations in Tampa, Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville, and FEMA-affiliated sites around the state will stop offering first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine sometime this week.

A FEMA spokesperson urges those who meet the criteria not to wait if they still need the first shot.

As demand has lessened, Governor Ron DeSantis has rapidly lowered the age requirement to receive the vaccine.

There is no specific date for the elimination of first doses at FEMA sites, as it will change depending on supply and demand.

Miami Beach Sets Curfew After Conflict With Spring Break Crowds

Spring break crowds in Miami Beach got really big over the weekend. Tensions grew. Then police say gunshots were heard. Later, they dispersed crowds using pepper balls. Now a curfew’s in place from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. and it could last for the next three weeks.

Miami Beach resident Nico Bisschop sat with his wife and their dogs on the grass on Ocean Drive. They say spring break has gotten out of hand.“We’re super liberal here. I love it here for that reason. The diversity here is unbelievable and that’s what makes it a great atmosphere, but it doesn’t mean that everything goes here,” said Bisschop.College student Christina Thomas from Indiana said she didn’t see rowdy crowds. “It was lit. It was a nice time. I mean, I didn’t see a whole lot of drama going on. Everyone was having a good time,” said Thomas.

She said most of the tourists were Black people and that the police presence was too heavy. “The police was out here; Everywhere on their four wheelers and bikes and cars and then they pepper sprayed everybody,” said Thomas.The curfew affects 5th to 16th Streets and Ocean Drive to Pennsylvania Avenue. After 8:00 p.m. restaurants can only deliver food. The curfew can be extended until April 13.

Vaccination a Struggle For Visually Impaired

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine has been difficult for many in Florida. But the visually impaired have several additional hurdles that sighted people don’t.

Maggie Saldana of Naples is legally blind. She calls the process to get a vaccine appointment online “long and hopeless.”

“Because I am legally blind, the computer is not my friend,” Saldana said.

Saldana said that the Publix website is not compatible with the screen reader she uses to make websites accessible.

Like many people, she recruited family members to help.

“Five family members in various parts of the world have been trying,” she said.

So far, none of them has had any luck.

Dotty St. Amand is the CEO of Lighthouse of Southwest Florida, an organization that assists people with visual impairment. She says that getting vaccinated is of great concern.

“Our social workers and our program staff, our instructors, are meeting virtually with our clients and we address this topic on a regular basis, in terms of how well they are accessing the registration sites to be able to get an appointment for the vaccination as well as navigating the system, in terms of, how do they get there?” St. Amand said.

She went on to say that some clients have been successful in navigating the sites to make appointments. LeeTran Passport buses have provided transportation and shepherded Lighthouse clients through the process at the vaccination sites.

The state announced last week that it will start bringing vaccines to the homebound, a program that could also help the visually impaired.

The Florida Department of Emergency Management did not respond to a request about whether they would offer this service to the visually impaired, and when vaccines for the homebound might make it to Southwest Florida.

DeSantis Holds COVID-19 Roundtable

Governor Ron DeSantis held a roundtable in Tallahassee, Thursday, with a group of hand-picked panelists who supported and validated the governor's handling of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The AP reports, the panelists echoed DeSantis' claim that lockdowns and mask orders did little to slow the spread of the virus. Thursday's roundtable sparked criticism from Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried, who issued a statement saying in part, "Governor DeSantis must stop elevating dangerous disinformation — masks save lives and social distancing is crucial.”

The panel included Dr. Scott Atlas who advised former President Donald Trump's response to the pandemic and who has no formal experience in infectious disease or public health.

The Governor said Florida may open vaccine eligibility to the general public as soon as April.

COVID-19 Outbreak Prompts Partial Closure of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club

Former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach partially closed last week due to a COVID-19 outbreak. The AP reports, a source familiar with the situation spoke under the condition of anonymity, saying an email had been sent to club members indicating some services are temporarily suspended in the club's dining room and at its beach club because staff members recently tested positive for the virus.

Royal Caribbean Plans To Resume Some Sailings in June

The cruise industry, which has been on a year-long hiatus, is looking to resume some sailings in the coming months. The AP reports, two Royal Caribbean lines are set to begin cruises again in the Caribbean in June. Passengers 18 and older will be required to test negative for COVID-19 before boarding a ship.

The company's Celebrity Cruises subsidiary says its Celebrity Millennium ship will begin sailings again on June 5 from St. Maarten. Ports of call include in Aruba, Barbados and St. Lucia, among others.

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