Appointments to receive vaccines in the county reached capacity Tuesday afternoon, however, officials say more are on the horizon.
The spike in COVID-19 cases throughout the nation following the onslaught of holiday travel and gatherings has kept Florida at the third-highest number of cases since the start of the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the Florida Department of Health reported 15,431 coronavirus cases and 100 deaths. Adding that to the prior data that now means that the state has recorded 1,392,123 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. It has now reached a total of 22,515 deaths.
The daily average now for Florida this week is 14,267 new cases and 114 deaths per day. The only states with more cases than Florida are Texas, which has 1.7 million COVID-19 cases, and California, which has had 2.3 million cases.
Hospitals are continuing to see a rise in COVID-19 patients as well. According to the Agency for Healthcare Administration Florida, approximately 21 percent of hospital beds and 17 percent of intensive care units beds are available.
Those numbers were slightly shifted for Tampa Bay, where approximately 17 percent of hospital beds and 12 percent of ICU beds were open. As of Tuesday, there were 7,376 Floridians in hospitals with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19 and of those 1,580 patients were in Tampa Bay.
The hope for many that this pandemic will soon come to an end lies in the distribution of the coronavirus vaccines. The initial wave of the vaccinations were distributed this week and the expectation is more will follow on a weekly basis.
As a whole, Florida has vaccinated 289,773 people as of Tuesday. Of those, Hillsborough County had16,757 people vaccinated. Governor Ron DeSantis, who left the distribution up to a county-by-county plan, received flack when several counties chose to have a “first-come, first-serve” plan. This led to massive lines of senior citizens sitting in the cold overnight under their blankets and jackets as they waited to hopefully receive a vaccine.
Those who chose to distribute via appointment, however, were not without their share of problems. The phone lines to get appointments for the vaccinations were flooded with callers all over the state.
“With the Department of Health, I’ve told them ‘Put more people on these phones. We need to help out with the phones,’” DeSantis said at a news conference in Ocala. “If you’re 85, you may not be totally fluent with the Internet. And so providing other ways to do it, I think, is important.”
The county had four vaccine distribution sites available for residents age 65 and older. The distributions were by appointment only and all of the appointments were booked by Tuesday afternoon. On Monday, within minutes of going live, the county website residents were told they could use to sign up for the vaccine crashed due to the high volume of traffic. By that afternoon the site had still not been fixed, so many turned to the phones.
Of course, that didn’t go much better as the phone lines remained full from open to close. It’s an issue reported throughout the state and has led to national coverage of the way Florida is handling the distribution.
But there is still hope those age 65 and up can get a vaccine soon. The county announced it expects to be able to offer more appointments next week. Residents can visit HCFLGov.net/vaccine for additional information and updates.
The 9,000 COVID-19 vaccines the county had in stock will be distributed by this Saturday. The county expects to have weekly shipments of the vaccine and residents will be notified on how to make their appointments as soon as the next batch is available. If you do get a vaccine appointment for the next round the four sites are located at the following places:
University Mall (parking lot) — 2200 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa, FL 33612
Vance Vogel Sports Complex — 13012 Bullfrog Creek Road, Gibsonton, FL 33534
Strawberry Festival Fairgrounds — 2700 W. Risk St., Plant City, FL 33563
Ed Radice Sports Complex — 14720 Ed Radice Drive, Tampa, FL 33626
The State of Florida has made the vaccine available to some of its health care partners across Hillsborough County, including Tampa General Hospital, BayCare Health System, CVS, and Walgreens.
The county also still has its face covering mandate in effect. This mandate requires face coverings be worn in indoor locations of businesses, with certain exceptions. For more information, go to HCFLGov.net/facecoverings.