After making the perfectly reasonable decision to set up vaccination sites to reach elderly Florida residents, Governor Ron DeSantis has been under the microscope for days. Meanwhile, Governor Andrew Cuomo has just begun to receive scrutiny for his horrible decision to return COVID-19-positive patients to nursing homes and then lying about the death toll.
DeSantis is being accused of prioritizing his political allies for vaccination in placing pop-up clinics in senior living communities. Potential gubernatorial candidate and former Florida governor Charlie Crist sent a letter to acting U.S. Attorney General Monty Wilkinson alleging that DeSantis is “establishing coronavirus vaccine distribution and administration sites to select locations to benefit political allies and donors, over the needs of higher-risk communities and existing county waitlists.”
Crist alleges that the presence of a vaccination site at the Premiere Sports Complex to vaccinate residents of Lakewood Ranch in Manatee County is benefitting “wealthy communities with which he has clear political connections.” He fails to mention that Lakewood Ranch is an active adult community for residents who are 55 and over. From the website:
Discover Del Webb Lakewood Ranch, a 55+ active adult community located in the master-planned community of Lakewood Ranch. Explore a collection of new construction, single-family homes and villas designed to fit your lifestyle. Enjoy resort-style amenities and activities including a fitness center, a resort pool with lap lanes, a grand clubhouse with full-time Lifestyle Director and social clubs.
DeSantis was crystal clear on the vaccination plan for Florida in an executive order. He will prioritize the population over 65—those at the highest risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19. He has even said he would not take the vaccination until every elderly resident who wants a vaccination has received one. At 42 years old with young children, he recognizes that his family is at low risk from the virus. As governor of a state with a massive population of retirees, he chose to manage the process the way many other countries are. As my colleague Rick Moran reported in December:
The order requires vaccine providers in the first phase to administer vaccines only to long-term care facility residents and staffers; those 65 and older; and health care staffers with direct contact with patients.
Creating vaccine sites to serve active senior adult communities seems like an excellent way to accomplish this. Contained long-term care facilities are easier to serve. Other seniors are spread out through the state. Many live in senior communities and are, perhaps, some of the state’s wealthier residents, as they are across the nation. They also tend to lean Republican in Florida, as they do nationwide. The point is that they are most likely to die from COVID-19.
Statista data shows that approximately 75% of all COVID-19 deaths have occurred in those over the age of 65. DeSantis’s order also allows those aged 16-64 with a preexisting high-risk condition to receive the vaccine. Israel has taken the same approach, starting with the most senior residents and going down in five-year increments. As of the last report, the results were encouraging:
Israel’s largest healthcare provider on Sunday reported a 94% drop in symptomatic COVID-19 infections among 600,000 people who received two doses of the Pfizer’s vaccine in the country’s biggest study to date.
Health maintenance organization (HMO) Clalit, which covers more than half of all Israelis, said the same group was also 92% less likely to develop severe illness from the virus.
Vaccination sites in more senior adult communities is just one facet of the program. DeSantis announced four new federally run vaccination sites in Tampa, Miami, Orlando, and Jacksonville. These serve those aged 65 and older located in cities where seniors may not live in older adult communities. They include mobile vans, which can go to where patients are to vaccinate them. Crist, who has had three different political affiliations in his political career, has adopted the Democrat line about “equity.”
“While I am anxious for every Floridian, in every community, to get the vaccine as soon as possible, it should be done based on fairness, not political connection. As a former Florida governor and attorney general, these issues of equity and fairness matter deeply to me. I request that the Department of Justice determine if the governor’s blatantly political vaccine distribution decisions, which do not seem to be in the public’s best interest, violate federal law and merit a full federal investigation.”
His assertion is insane, political, and anti-science. DeSantis has prioritized the highest risk population and is using multiple approaches to reach them. Can you imagine alleging that Crist and Cuomo are acting politically? Their policies would put those gosh-darn non-woke Boomers, who are more likely to vote Republican, at the highest risk of dying. That is every bit as cynical as accusing DeSantis of acting politically.
What Crist is critical of in Manatee County was not directed by DeSantis but by local officials.
Without consulting with other commissioners, [Vanessa] Baugh instructed staff to draw residents of the two zip codes from the county’s vaccine pool, which had intentionally been created to draw names randomly, regardless of their residency.
Baugh also created a VIP list that included herself, Jensen, Jensen’s father and two of Baugh’s former neighbors to ensure they received vaccine appointments.
After the backlash, Baugh said she had not received a vaccine and Jensen declined to comment. But Jensen’s father confirmed he had received an appointment, which he later declined because he had recently recovered from COVID-19. Baugh’s former neighbors, however, did confirm that they were vaccinated.
On Thursday Baugh apologized for creating the list but denied she was trying to get herself, Jensen and the others ahead of the line.
Instead of holding the local officials accountable, Crist is targeting DeSantis for strictly political purposes.