• Lakey Love

DeSantis Update: Publix, FEMA, Vaccinations and Racial Inequities

by Lakey Love, February 3. 2021

Photo computer generated from Florida Channel video of Gov. Ron DeSantis "Seniors First" press conference on February 1, 2021

Last week, Governor Ron DeSantis gloated about the success of Florida’s vaccination rollout and stated that Florida doesn’t need federal help with vaccine distribution. Within hours the White House reported that close to half of the vaccinations sent to Florida by the federal government have yet to be distributed. This comes on the heels of reported complaints by seniors stating that access to the vaccine has been next to impossible and reports from the Florida Department of Health that thousands of life saving vaccination doses have been wasted.

To make matters worse both the Tampa Bay Times and Orlando Sentinel reported recently that vaccinations are being unequally distributed to white people in Florida. White people are being favored in a system that is disorganized and dysfunctional and prioritizes distribution by Publix, a corporate right-wing backed grocery store that is affiliated with the January 6th attacks on the White House and has contributed over $100,000 to DeSantis’ campaign. COVID-19 death tolls just passed 26,000 in Florida, COVID-19 positive cases climbed last month, and January marked “the deadliest month” in Florida yet.

The Center for Disease Control said on Tuesday, February 2nd that Florida has received 3,657,775 doses and only 56% of them have been distributed. Eight percent of the population in Florida has received the first shot and only 1.5% of the population has received the second shot. This puts Florida 42nd out of 50 states in ranking for the number of doses given compared to the number that have made it into someone’s arm. Even with documented and demonstrated evidence of a slow and unequal vaccine

distribution in Florida the DeSantis administration still complains that all Florida needs is more doses. The current COVID vaccination registration site for seniors in Florida reads: “COVID-19 vaccines continue to arrive in Florida in extremely limited supply. As we await additional vaccine supply from the Federal Government, we urge currently eligible Florida residents to save their place in line by pre-registering today”

FEMA announced on Feb. 1st that it has obligated $245 million to Florida for its COVID-19 vaccination plan. This award includes a reimbursement of 100% of costs for a

90-day vaccination program, including storage, supply, personal protective gear for vaccine administers, medical and support staff. “This funding will help the state distribute and administer COVID-19 vaccinations to more Floridians,” said Gracia Szczech, regional administrator for FEMA Region IV. “We have been working closely with our state partners since the onset of the pandemic, and these dollars will assist with their ongoing efforts.”

Congressman Darren Soto tweeted Monday:

Meanwhile, DeSantis held a COVID update press conference Monday in the Villages commenting on Florida’s expanded vaccination rollout. This included updates on the 261 Publix pharmacies giving vaccinations in Florida , more accessible drive through locations, and 5,000 additional doses going to the Kings Point community (98.1% white) and 3,500 additional doses alloted to Palm Aire Pompano Beach 71.7% white). No comment was made by the Governor on the recent reports of racial inequity in vaccine distribution across the state or the public political pressure put on DeSantis by Palm Beach County commissioners about the dearth in vaccines coming into the county.

Palm Beach Post reported yesterday that the commissioners' public pressure worked, although the concession speech was made behind closed doors. Vaccines began flowing into the county shortly after the public outcry and County Mayor Dave Kerner stated “I got a call from the governor’s office following (last week’s) meeting” that the “message (was) received”.

Good news is that the pressure is working. FEMA dollars are coming to Florida, and the Biden administration announced yesterday that they will begin funneling vaccines directly to pharmacies. This will be a slow process and certainly won’t repair the broken vaccine distribution problems in Florida anytime soon.

ACT NOW: Keep the Pressure Going:

CLICK HERE to Email Governor DeSantis, his staff, Senate President Wilton Simpson, and Speaker Chris Sprowls and let them know that you want them to work with FEMA and fix the broken and unequal vaccine distribution system.

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