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Vaccine eligibility age lowered

By CJ HADDAD - | Mar 25, 2021

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday announced new changes to vaccination eligibility.

Starting this coming Monday, all individuals age 40 and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19. On the following Monday, April 5, those age 18 and older will be able to receive the vaccine as well.

“We’ve been able to expand eligibility to those age 50 and above and we’ve seen additional success,” DeSantis said Thursday. “Now because of this success, I am pleased to announce additional vaccine eligibility expansions.”

DeSantis noted that the state has vaccinated more than 70% of its 4.4 million seniors, adding, “We are ready to take this step.”

Currently, there are roughly 1,6000 pharmacies across the state that offer the COVID-19 vaccine, including Publix, CVS, Walmart and Sam’s Club and Winn Dixie.

DeSantis also announced that in the coming days, Walgreens will be expanding to more than 400 locations throughout the state to bring their total to more than 600 locations.

“We have made great progress and I look forward to continuing to work hard to make sure everyone in Florida who wants a shot, can get a shot,” DeSantis said. “No mandate, but access for all.”

Floridians are encouraged to pre-register at www.myvaccine.fl.gov. Once pre-registered, they’ll be contacted when the vaccine is available in their area.

By the Numbers

As of Thursday afternoon, there are 2,027,429 total cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Florida, an increase of 5,773 since FDOH’s last update Wednesday.

Test results reported to the Department of Health on Wednesday, March 24 resulted in a 5.58% positivity rate among 123,970 tests.

The state saw its highest daily percentage of positive patients on Dec. 29 when 22.75% percent of tests reported were positive among 62,303 tests.

The average positivity rate in new cases over the last week is 5.91%.

Of those testing positive, 84,203 Florida residents have been hospitalized at some point during their illness according to the state.

The death toll increased by 109 from Wednesday’s report, bringing the total number of deaths, both resident and non-resident, to 33,589.

According to the state, hospitalizations in Lee County, and statewide in Florida, make up 4% of all positive cases. Deaths statewide and in Lee County stand at 2% of positive cases.

On Dec. 27, 974 people were given the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine throughout the state according to FDOH. The total number of persons vaccinated as of Thursday throughout Florida was 5,346,471 with 200,921 being in Lee County. According to the state, 2,919,471 individuals have had their vaccine series completed, 107,154 of those being in Lee County.

In Lee County, 61,572 individuals (+184) have tested positive as of Thursday’s update.

Positive COVID-19 cases in the county have ranged from infants to a 103-year-old. Lee County saw its first two cases on March 7, when a man and a woman, each 77, tested positive. They had traveled to the Dominican Republic.

There have been 910 deaths in Lee County — an increase of one from Wednesday’s report.

As of Thursday afternoon, Lee Health had 53 COVID-19 patients isolated in system inpatient hospitals, including three new admissions and eight discharges since Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Lee Health had a 17.6% positivity rate on COVID-19 tests processed through Lee Health Labs. This represents Lee Health results only, not Lee County as a whole. Hospital positivity rates tend to be higher as the tests are performed on patients seeking treatment for a health issue, not the general public that includes asymptomatic individuals.

A total of 5,474 COVID-19 patients have been discharged from Lee Health facilities since the beginning of the pandemic. Census as of Thursday afternoon was at 94% of staffed operational bed capacity, with 3.9% of those being COVID-19 patients. Staffed operational capacity reflects the number of beds for which the hospital has adequate staffing, not the total number of beds within Lee Health hospitals. Overall bed capacity fluctuates hour to hour as the system discharges patients throughout the day who are ready to go home.

As of Thursday, 68% of ventilators and 34% of ICU rooms are available for use across Lee Health facilities.

As of Thursday, there were four COVID-19 patients on ventilators and seven in the intensive care unit.

COVID-19 is a highly contagious viral disease. For most individuals, symptoms are mild. For a minority, the disease becomes a type of viral pneumonia with severe complications. Especially at risk are those who are older, those with underlying health conditions and the immune-compromised.

Officials strongly urge all members of the public who are at risk to remain at home so as to limit exposure. All others are urged to observe social distancing and to wear a mask for all public interactions.

For more detail on Florida resident cases, visit the live DOH Dashboard.

To find the most up-to-date information and guidance on COVID-19, visit the Department of Health’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage. For information and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control, visit the CDC COVID-19 website. For more information about current travel advisories issued by the U.S. Department of State, visit the travel advisory website.

For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, contact the Department’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling 1-866-779-6121. The Call Center is available 24 hours per day. Inquiries may also be emailed to COVID-19@flhealth.gov.

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj