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Coronavirus in Florida

Florida National Guard remains in logistical role during COVID-19 vaccine rollout

An expanded role would require Gov. Ron DeSantis’ authorization.

Despite growing calls for more military involvement, an emergency management official on Tuesday said roughly 1,300 Florida National Guardsmen remain limited to a “logistical” role in the COVID-19 vaccination process.

Speaking to the Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security, Florida Division of Emergency Management (DEM) Deputy Director Kevin Guthrie said troops are working in logistics rather than administering the shots or playing a more hands-on role.

An expanded role, he added, would require Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ authorization.

“They were helping us direct traffic; they were helping us capture patient information,” Guthrie explained. “They’re helping us report information into systems for follow-up such as second shots and things of that nature.”

Amid a nationally sluggish vaccine rollout, DeSantis has faced criticism for not using more Florida National Guard resources. In December, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried called on DeSantis to increase National Guard involvement.

On Tuesday, Osceola Democratic Sen. Victor M. Torres, Jr. — a committee member — argued more resources and troops should be used.

“When we help other states with hurricanes, they have the military trucks and they go out there and they set up the tents, they provide power, they provide areas for them to be safe,” Torres told reporters. “I think this is something that we could set up in different locations throughout the state to help vaccinate those who are having a tough time getting vaccinated because the Department of Health is overrun. The hospitals are overrun. Every little bit helps.”

Notably, Guthrie contended a larger military mobilization could have far-reaching implications. Civilian health care workers, he noted, often staff National Guard medical units.

“If we call up that medical unit task force, we’re taking a paramedic out of a rescue unit that’s at the local level, we’re taking a doctor out of the hospital at the local level,” Guthrie said.

Guthrie stood in place Tuesday for DEM Director Jared Moskowitz at the Senate meeting.

More than 648,353 have been vaccinated in Florida, according to the latest state report. Of those vaccinated, 597,119 have received the first dose and 51,234 have completed the vaccine series.

Written By

Jason Delgado covers news out of the state capital for Florida Politics. After a stint with the U.S. Army, Jason attended the University of Central Florida where he studied American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. Throw him a line at jason@floridapolitics.com or on Twitter at @JasonDelgadoFL.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Kaye Gainer

    January 13, 2021 at 10:44 am

    There are also a LOT of National Guard members (aka Medics) who are not in health care jobs as civilians and could be utilized. Many Guard members MOS (job) is different in the Guard than it is as a civilian. I suspect most are ready and willing to help if asked. They were used last Spring and the Guard only “activated” those who were not already first responders or health care workers. Many are students and could definitely help on a part time or rotating basis, especially because many of them are also out of work at this time and could use the work/pay.

  2. Sonja Fitch

    January 14, 2021 at 7:53 am

    Of course this is a reasonable solution! But of course Duffus Desantis is a damn failure at the most obvious solutions to 24/7 vaccinate Floridians ! Duffus Desantis were you REALLY in the military?

  3. Read before you think

    January 14, 2021 at 11:08 am

    It’s not reasonable. Only 150 Guardsmen are certified to administer shots. Taking them out of their current jobs would just exacerbate the health care crisis.

  4. Kaye gainer

    January 14, 2021 at 12:36 pm

    Well they are being used to direct traffic. if they can be pulled out of jobs to direct traffic I’m sure there are plenty who are not already first responders or in healthcare who would be willing. I know that because my daughter is one of them. And I’m pretty sure there are more than that who are certified to give shots because there are more medics than that in the Florida National Guard

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