ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida’s more than 4 million seniors learned Wednesday they will be among the next priority group to receive the state’s COVID-19 vaccinations as the Department of Health continues to report rising virus infections before the Christmas holiday.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order Wednesday making it official that the next group of people in Florida to get the COVID-19 vaccine will be people over 65 years old -- after health care workers and long-term care centers.
Meanwhile, American families and businesses are waiting to learn the fate of the latest coronavirus relief bill now in the hands of the president, who is making new demands of Congress.
With CARES Act funding set to expire at the end of the month, sending millions of unspent funding back to the federal government, local leaders are relying on the latest COVID-19 relief package to extend resources that include funding for testing and now vaccine distribution.
President Donald Trump has threatened to torpedo Congress’ massive COVID-19 relief package, suddenly demanding changes fellow Republicans have opposed.
Trump called on lawmakers to increase direct payments for most Americans from $600 to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for couples.
If Trump were to upend the sprawling legislation, the consequences would be severe, including no federal aid to struggling Americans and small businesses, and no additional resources to help with vaccine distribution. In addition, because lawmakers linked the pandemic relief bill to an overarching funding measure, the government would shut down on Dec. 29.
While both Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are in the early stages of distribution, it will still be months before the vaccine is available to the general public.
[READ YESTERDAY’S REPORT: With Moderna vaccine shipments arriving, Florida reports 10,000 new COVID-19 cases]
Florida, along with the rest of the country, continues to see a huge demand for virus testing ahead of the Christmas holiday. People seeking tests in order to travel should expect long wait times and arrive early.
More than 5 million people passed through the nation’s airport security checkpoints between Friday and Tuesday, according to the Transportation Security Administration. That is down around 60% from the same time last year.
Overall, the AAA projected that about 85 million people will travel between Wednesday and Jan. 3, most of them by car.
The United States has not issued nationwide travel restrictions, leaving that decision to state governments, but the CDC is advising people to stay home for the holidays.
“Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19,” according to the CDC.
All state-supported COVID-19 testing sites will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Below is a breakdown of Florida COVID-19 data reported by the state on Dec. 23:
The Florida Department of Health reported 11,036 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the state’s overall total to 1,234,399 cases since March.
Editor’s note: Along with the resources previously utilized by News 6 (state and county-by-county data), as of Dec. 7, WKMG has added state data pulled from the Florida Department of Health’s Florida COVID19 State Testing Totals. This new dataset includes the number of people tested the day prior, which is the number public health officials use to calculate the state’s daily positivity rate.
Florida reported 121 new virus deaths Wednesday. This means at least 21,173 people have died in relation to the coronavirus across the state, including 299 non-residents who died in Florida.
As of Wednesday afternoon, there are currently 5,590 people with the virus hospitalized in Florida, according to the state Agency for Health Care Administration, a decrease by 43 patients within 24 hours.
Since March, 60,800 people have been hospitalized in Florida after complications from the coronavirus. That number includes the 329 people who have been recently hospitalized due to the virus, according to the health department’s daily report.
The positivity rate for the 128,189 tests reported Wednesday was 8.61%. This statistic is the number of people who tested positive for the first time based on test results reported to the state Tuesday.
The Florida Department of Health recently began releasing a daily report on COVID-19 vaccines administered throughout the state. As of Wednesday, 68,133 people have been vaccinated in Florida, 18,201 more than the previous day.
See COVID-19 data for the Central Florida region below:
|County||Cases||New cases||Hospitalizations||New Hospitalizations||Deaths||New deaths|
The Associated Press contributed to this report.