Florida has done a good job distributing COVID-19 vaccinations to people who want them, Gov. Ron DeSantis declared Tuesday — though he stopped short of encouraging anyone to get one.
Speaking in Orlando at a press conference highlighting his civics education initiatives, DeSantis lauded his administration’s efforts to distribute vaccines, but he said nothing about whether he thinks people should get the shots.
He also downplayed reports of rising COVID-19 numbers in many parts of Florida, saying they show a seasonal rise in cases that was expected.
DeSantis’ continuing theme of victory over COVID-19 once again runs counter to what many local officials are expressing as they see the numbers of COVID-19 cases rising and the numbers of people getting vaccinated falling sharply in recent weeks. Some local leaders are pleading with people to get vaccinated.
After averaging 10,000-12,000 new cases of COVID-19 per week for most of June, Florida recorded about 16,000 new cases for the week ending July 1, and then almost 24,000 new cases in the most recently reported weekly total, through July 8.
Meanwhile, far fewer people are getting vaccinated now than in the spring. By early June, 53% of Floridians had received at least one vaccine shot. That number crept up only sligtly to 58% by early July.
“We’ve done a good job of making it available,” DeSantis said when asked what his message would be to people who have not yet received the vaccine.
He pointed out that the state has been exceptionally successful with senior vaccinations, noting the vaccination rate is around 85% for them. He also presumed the state is doing well in seeing people with high-risk health conditions to get vaccinated.
His office responded to an inquiry by saying state officials, including the Governor, have consistently encouraged Floridians to receive the vaccine. The Florida Department of Health also is undertaking a variety of campaigns — through radio, billboards, social media, digital, cable, streaming, and door knocking — to promote vaccinations as safe, effective and free of charge.
DeSantis did not take the opportunity to do so Tuesday in Orlando, where local officials are particularly alarmed by rising COVID-19 infection rates. He also expressed no concern about the current rising numbers in COVID-19 cases.
“What we said — I made this comment at the beginning of May — look, this is a seasonal pattern. We knew it was going to be low in May, and it was. And we knew that at the end of June and July it would go up. Because that’s what happened last year,” DeSantis said. “And that’s not just unique to Florida.”
In 2020 Florida saw a significant decline in COVID-19 cases through May and June. DeSantis began reopening much of the state at that time. And then a major surge of cases began in late June and did not abate until late August. Florida’s second major coronavirus surge began in late November and extended through January.
DeSantis reiterated his confidence that Florida’s most vulnerable — seniors and those with underlying health conditions — are safely vaccinated, for the most part.
“So I think what you’re seeing with the positive tests, I think it is generally unvaccinated people who are in some of those lower age groups,” DeSantis said.