ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Florida began converting the Hard Rock Stadium, one of its major testing locations, into a vaccination site.
Gov. Ron DeSantis called Wednesday’s press conference a “soft opening” that will last a few days until the site opens to the regular public. DeSantis also announced that residents over 65 should be soon able to receive a shot at other large-scale venues, churches, and even some grocery stores around the state.
More than 329,000 people have been vaccinated in Florida — or about 1.5% of the population — almost all of them either health care workers, residents in care homes, or people over the age of 65.
“We believe putting seniors first is the right policy as a matter of public health,” DeSantis said.
Florida followed federal recommendations in starting vaccinations first for front-line medical workers plus residents and staff of nursing homes in mid-December. However, instead of putting essential workers and people over 75 next in line, as those recommendations suggested, or fully completing the first group of recipients, DeSantis moved in late December to open up vaccinations more broadly for people 65 and over.
The rollouts have been very uneven across the state’s counties, but have been met with huge demand, with some people camping out in cars overnight to be in line for the limited supply. DeSantis said public drive-through sites like the one opening in Miami would be ramped up in coming days.
Meanwhile, questions were being raised about whether rich or well-connected people were unfairly getting access to the vaccine earlier than others. Florida has launched an investigation into an upscale nursing home amid reports that it administered coronavirus vaccines to wealthy donors and members of a country club along with its residents and employees.
The Washington Post and New York Post both reported that MorseLife Health System, a nonprofit that operates a nursing home and assisted living facility in West Palm Beach, has given vaccinations to donors and members of the Palm Beach Country Club, whose foundation has donated at least $75,000 to MorseLife since 2015, tax records show.
Spencer reported from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.