Florida votes as COVID deaths in the state spike



While political junkies enjoy recounting stories and eyeballing statistics from 2000, 1992 and other past elections, this year’s race has a major wildcard that makes it unlike anything in recent history: COVID-19.

The election is playing out amid increases across the country in COVID-19 cases, including more cases popping up in Florida.

On Friday, for example, Florida reported 5,592 new cases, bringing its total to 800,216 since the pandemic began. Also, the number of Florida residents who have died from the virus has topped 16,700.

Ultimately, it appears that a vaccine might be the only answer to curbing the pandemic. And while it remains anybody’s guess when a vaccine will be approved and made available to the public, Florida health officials have started planning for how to roll out vaccinations.

In an initial phase, the state expects to prioritize vaccinations for front-line workers at hospitals, nursing homes and senior centers and first responders, according to a draft plan that the Florida Department of Health submitted to the federal government this month.

When the supply of vaccinations becomes more plentiful, the state would enter the second phase, which would include county health departments opening mass vaccination clinics. Also, the Florida Department of Health and the state Division of Emergency Management “might open such clinics to ensure there is equitable distribution of the vaccine, in the same way COVID-19 testing was made available,” the report said.

Also in the second phase, hospitals willing to partner with the state would provide vaccinations to inpatients and outpatients who seek care in emergency rooms, urgent-care centers and outpatient clinics.

Commercial pharmacies wouldn’t be given vaccination supplies until the third phase, under the 51-page draft.

The state based the draft plan on recent experiences with the hepatitis A vaccination program, launched by Department of Health Secretary Scott Rivkees, as well as vaccination activities related to the H1N1 pandemic and annual seasonal flu. It’s not clear when a vaccine for COVID-19 will be approved for use in the United States, though the federal government has tried to expedite the production through Operation Warp Speed.

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