TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Floridians age 50 and up will be eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine beginning Monday, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday.
DeSantis said nearly 70% of Florida’s senior citizens have been vaccinated and demand is dropping among those currently eligible for shots. Right now, Florida is vaccinating people aged 60 and up, health care workers and first responders over 50.
“We’re excited about the progress,” DeSantis said. “I think the demand is softened enough that opening up to 50-plus will be good. We’ll monitor to see how next week goes.”
DeSantis said the next step will be to open vaccines up to anybody who wants one.
“I can’t tell you when exactly that will happen, but I can tell you it will definitely be before May 1. That’s not even a question, so stay tuned on that,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis’s announcement came the day after Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said he’s making vaccines available to people 40 and up in the Orlando area that’s home to several major theme parks. DeSantis criticized the decision.
“It’s not his decision to make,” DeSantis said. “Orange County is below the state average in seniors vaccinated. They’re at 63%. Trying to do healthy 40-year-olds over finding maybe some more seniors, to me, would not be the direction I would go.”
Meanwhile, a handful of students who were disappointed that the University of Tampa is holding a virtual spring graduation ceremony have planned their own in-person ceremony.
When university officials announced last month that the Class of 2021 would have an online ceremony because of the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, Jacie Steele sprang into action, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Steele, a graduating senior, started a change.org petition asking UT president Ronald Vaughn and DeSantis, among others, to reconsider the decision. She noted that the university had been holding most of its courses in-person since last fall. And the university said it would host other in-person graduation week events for seniors, including photo opportunities.
“I’m baffled,” Steele told the newspaper. “I’m confused. I don’t understand why we can’t have an in-person ceremony when I see so many in-person things in Tampa.”
University of Tampa spokesman Eric Cardenas said Thursday that the university was aware of the students’ plan, but would not be sponsoring or supporting it.
“We are unable to ensure that this independent event will follow the University’s Spartan Shield Health Safety Plan or CDC regulations,” he said. “Nor can we ensure the event will accurately represent or reflect the mission of the university.”
Also Thursday, the Orlando Sentinel sued the Florida Department of Health for the second time in four months over the release of public records on the virus. The news organization says the Department of Health is violating the state’s public records laws by refusing to release detailed information about the locations of mutated strains of the virus, according to the lawsuit filed in state court in Tallahassee.