Vaccine supplies, vaccine eligibility and vaccination sites have increased in recent weeks — as efforts continue to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and restore a sense of normalcy.
The availability of vaccine supplies and vaccination sites continues to change, so it’s a good idea to check with local health departments and congressional offices to secure updated information.
In Pasco County, for instance, the health department previously had vaccine appointments available on Friday afternoons for the following week. As of April 9, however, it began allowing appointments for a two-week period.
“Working with local physicians’ offices and pharmacies, Pasco County now has over 130 locations that are offering COVID-19 vaccines” Health Officer Mike Napier, said in a news release.
Hillsborough County health officials are concerned about an increasing number of COVID-19 cases during recent weeks, despite the expansion of vaccination options, according to a Hillsborough County news release.
The release noted that Dr. Douglas Holt, who oversees the state’s health department in Hillsborough County, told the Hillsborough County Commission that Hillsborough’s newly confirmed cases currently average 400 a day, with the positivity rate at about 8.6%.
At this time, Holt told commissioners, there’s no indication that variants of the virus are causing the increase. But, he noted this could change rapidly as the variants are generally more contagious.
Holt’s report prompted Hillsborough commissioners to remind residents not to relax their guard and to be sure to continue following COVID-19 preventive measures.
Hillsborough commissioners are scheduled to discuss the county’s state of local emergency and other COVID-19 issues at their next regular meeting on April 21.
Mask mandates are evolving.
Pasco County dropped its mask mandate, effective April 6, although officials are continuing to encourage the use of masks at indoor public spaces, where social distancing isn’t possible.
Hillsborough County’s mask ordinance remains in effect, at least through April 15.
Hillsborough County Schools’ mask mandate remains in effect, according to the district website.
Pasco County Schools is retaining its mask mandate, at least through April 26. That’s when Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Executive Order is scheduled to expire. If that order isn’t extended, the school district will shift to optional masks for the rest of the school year.
While there has been discussion in some circles regarding if COVID-19 vaccination passports should be required by air carriers, at sporting venues and in other places, Gov. DeSantis has banned the use of COVID-19 vaccination passports in Florida.
In authorizing the ban, DeSantis reasoned that such passports “restrict individual freedoms and will harm patient privacy.”
He also noted, “requiring so-called COVID-19 vaccine passports for taking part in everyday life — such as attending a sporting event, patronizing a restaurant, or going to a movie theater would create two classes of citizen based on vaccination.”
In other news, the governor has proposed a $1,000 bonus for Florida’s public school pre-kindergarten through 12th grade teachers and public school principals.
In making the proposal, DeSantis said “we know how important it was for our students to return to school, and our teachers and principals answered the call.”
In other COVID-19 school-related news, Pasco County Schools has announced its plan to drop its mySchool Online option, when the new school year begins in the fall.
MySchool Online always was intended as a temporary measure to provide parents a remote learning option during the pandemic, Superintendent Kurt Browning said. The district will continue to operate its nationally recognized Pasco eSchool, which has operated since 2009.
Status of mask mandates
- Pasco County has rescinded its countywide mask mandate as of April 5, however it recommends the continued use of face coverings in indoor public places where social distancing cannot be maintained.
- The mask mandate remains in effect in Pasco County Schools until at least April 26, which is when Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Executive Order is scheduled to expire. If the governor doesn’t extend the Executive Order, Pasco County Schools will switch to an optional mask policy when the Executive Order expires.
- Hillsborough County’s mask mandate remains in effect at least through April 15.
- The mask mandate remains in effect in Hillsborough County Schools.
- Hillsborough County: Appointments are mandatory in Hillsborough County. Persons without appointments will not receive a vaccine and will be turned away. Florida residency is required. To make an appointment, go to the CDR Health Pro portal at PatientPortalFl.com. Hillsborough County sites dispense only the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which can be given to individuals 16 years of age and older.
- Pasco County: DOH-Pasco uses the Moderna vaccine, so Florida residents age 18 and older are eligible to sign up with CDR Maguire for appointments at the DOH-Pasco drive-thru vaccination sites at the Gulf View Square Mall and Saint Leo University. Eligible residents can go to PatientPortalFl.com, or call 844-770-8548 to create an account with CDR Maguire.
- FEMA vaccination site, Tampa Greyhound Track, 755 E. Waters Ave., in Tampa, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily. Walk-ups accepted. As of April 6, the site is dispensing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only for new vaccinations. The second dose Pfizer appointments, for those who got their first dose at the FEMA site, still will be provided at their appointment time. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is not approved for 16- and 17-year-olds.
- Private providers: A number of private pharmacies also are administering vaccines. Check with individual websites to find out specifics.
United States: 30,965,577 cases; 558,843 deaths
Florida: 2,084,173 positive residents; 34,021 resident deaths
Pasco: 37,594 positive residents; 703 deaths
Hillsborough: 125,515 positive residents; 1,637 deaths
Pasco County Schools: Total county for 2020-2021 school year: 2,152 cases student cases, 838 staff cases
Hillsborough County Schools: 4,766 students; 2,171 employees
Sources: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Florida Department of Health, Pasco County Schools and Hillsborough County Schools. Latest available information as of the morning of April 12.
Published April 14, 2021