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President Donald Trump speaks with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as he arrives Oct. 16 at Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers. DeSantis said Friday that the state is ready to distribute any COVID-19 vaccine. 

VENICE — Florida is ready to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as one becomes available, Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a video posted to social media Thursday.

Pfizer applied for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for its vaccine Friday and could receive it within a few weeks.

Moderna is expected to apply for the same authorization for its vaccine in the near future.

Millions of doses are ready to go as soon as authorization is received, DeSantis said. In preparation, he said, the state has stockpiled 5 million needles, syringes and alcohol swabs.

Pfizer expects to have about 25 million doses available by the end of the year, Moderna about 15 million. The 40 million doses would immunize 20 million people because each person requires two doses.

Trials of both vaccines have shown them to be safe and about 95% effective.

Florida won’t require its residents to be vaccinated but immunization could save thousands of lives, DeSantis said.

The Pfizer vaccine has to be stored super-cold — at about minus 90 degrees. DeSantis said five hospital systems that can provide the proper storage have been identified: Jackson Memorial in Miami, Memorial Healthcare in Broward County, Tampa General Hospital, Advent Health in Orlando and UF Health in Jacksonville.

Walgreens and CVS will also be getting doses of the vaccine, to administer to long-term-care facility residents, he said. About 2,000 facilities have registered for that program.

Distribution priorities haven’t yet been finalized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Florida’s proposed plan puts health care workers, first responders and high-risk individuals at the top of the list, with vaccines being made more widely available as supplies increase next year.

By the numbers

In a video update posted Wednesday, Sarasota Memorial Hospital CEO David Verinder said it’s not surprising that COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are up locally.

The weather has cooled, so people are spending more time inside, he said; snowbirds are returning from up north, where the coronavirus has been surging; and people have gotten lax about wearing their masks and social distancing.

SMH has been “managing the process,” he said.

On Friday it reported a COVID-19 census of 55 patients — slightly more than half of the 107 patients in the county — with 14 of them in the ICU.

Venice Regional Bayfront Health had 34 patients, with 14 employees self-isolating.

Potentially more concerning, ICU bed availability in the region was only 13.90%. Charlotte and DeSoto counties reported having no ICU beds available Friday afternoon, while availability was 11.54% in Sarasota County, 17.91% in Manatee and 19.42% in Lee.

ICU bed occupancy includes all patients, not just those with a COVID-19 diagnosis.

Statewide, 8,884 new cases were reported Friday, with 76 deaths. It was the second consecutive day with more than 8,000 cases and, with a 7.64% positivity rate, the 12th straight day the rate has been over 7%.

Sarasota County reported 213 new cases — the third time in the last four days new cases have exceeded 200. The county’s positivity rate was 6.78%.

Testing statewide and locally has been up for several days, possibly because people are trying to get tested before Thanksgiving, health officials said.

The Sarasota County School District reported Friday afternoon that 20 staff and 51 students were isolating because of a positive diagnosis, and 70 staff and 804 students were in quarantine because of exposure.

In the previous 48 hours 15 people had been directed to isolate and 121 to quarantine, according to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard.


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