Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis showcased a drive-thru vaccination clinic south of Tampa on Thursday as part of a push to get frontline workers and seniors immunized in innovative ways.
“They’re gonna knock out 700 vaccinations today,” the Republican said at the site in Bradenton.
Mr. DeSantis spoke as seniors waited in their cars behind him to receive shots. The governor said frontline workers and EMTs will be served at the site in a “walk-up” fashion.
The coronavirus is surging as the nation is transfixed by the waning days of the Trump era, which featured extremist violence at the Capitol. The virus killed over 3,000 people on successive days, including a record 3,964 on Wednesday, bringing the U.S. toll to over 360,000.
Hospitals are more taxed than ever. More than 132,000 people were admitted for COVID-19 as of Wednesday, sending states into a scramble to vaccinate people at stadiums, fire departments or elsewhere.
A federal tracker says 5.3 million doses have been administered out of 17.2 million distributed, although there is a data lag so the administered number is certainly higher. Health officials insist the effort will speed up as clinics get a better sense of their rhythms and how to schedule shots.
Mr. DeSantis said he will keep pushing the federal government for bigger allotments of doses because they’ve set up enough infrastructure to move vaccines off the shelf.
“Most hospitals have done their key front-line health workers,” Mr. DeSantis said.
The governor said he is putting a premium on getting people 65 and older — a substantial age demographic in Florida — vaccinated to reduce mortality and hospitalizations, since COVID-19 tends to inflict the most harm on the elderly.
Early efforts ran into problems, including long lines at vaccination sites. The state is setting up phone banks and a random lottery system for signups as blocks of doses come in, so people don’t feel like they need to rush into the online system before others.
Mr. DeSantis also said the vaccine operation reached 100 nursing homes last week, before a nationwide effort by CVS and Walgreens ramps up.
“That mission continues and we’re putting muscle behind it,” Mr. DeSantis said.
Earlier this week, Florida converted Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens from a testing center to a vaccine site. It will open Friday and deliver at least 1,000 shots of the Moderna vaccine per day once it is fully operable, according to the governor.