More COVID-19 vaccine doses are expected in Florida next week. Florida’s Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz says he expects 400,000 doses directly to the state. So far, more than 2.5 million people have been vaccinated in Florida.
Gov. Ron DeSantis faced a new backlash about vaccine distribution after the state gave special access to more affluent, less-diverse neighborhoods in Manatee County.
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The governor warned county officials not to complain about the distribution since he’d be “totally fine” moving their vaccines to another county. Moskowitz responded to criticism saying that the state's pods serve all communities with seniors age 65 and older.
“Time is of the essence with 4.3 million seniors,” said Moskowitz. “So we have multiple strategies, which is open pods and all of these areas, it's the retail pharmacies, over 500 locations, and it's these closed pods with big concentrations of seniors.”
There's also a new stream of vaccine doses that are going directly toward the federal pharmacy program with Publix, Winn-Dixie, and Wal-Mart. And the White House announced Friday that Florida is getting four federally-supported vaccine sites that will open March 3. The cooperation with the Biden administration comes just weeks after Gov. DeSantis seemed to reject the federal government's help — saying FEMA camps were not necessary in Florida.
Moskowitz explained what appeared to be an about-face when it comes to dealing with the federal government.
“I think our position has always been clear, which is we didn't want — whether it was the federal government [or] any entity — to come into the state of Florida and just try to open up the site with state vaccine,” he said. “But if it came with its own vaccine, we were always interested. The Biden administration has been extremely fantastic to work with. We asked for more than two sites, which is what Texas and California got. We're getting four. We asked for these mobile units to make sure we're getting into the minority communities, and the Biden administration wants to make sure that that's happening as well.”
The new cooperation comes as Moskowitz prepares to step down from his role. He resigned this week, saying he wanted to spend more time with his young children.
“I've got two kids,” he explained. “They're seven and four. When I left, my four-year-old was two. I spent a lot more time away from them than I ever thought I was going to have to with this job because of the pandemic, obviously. And so, I was literally putting my four-year-old in his car seat a couple of weekends ago, and he said, ‘Daddy, you work for the governor.' And I said, 'Yeah, that's right, buddy. I do work for the governor.' He said, 'Daddy, I don't want you to work for the governor anymore. I miss you. I want you to come home.'"
Moskowitz said the recent three-year anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting in Parkland also informed his decision.
"I grew up in the city of Parkland, and I went to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School," he said. "I just realized that tomorrow is not guaranteed. This pandemic has shown us that in a tragic way. And I'm just missing a lot with my kids. They like me now.”