ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis is taking exception with Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings’ plan to expand vaccine eligibility at the Orange County Convention Center to anyone 40 and older starting on Monday.
“It’s not his decision to make,” DeSantis said of the county leader’s plan. “There’s a structure in the state of Florida on how these decisions are made.”
The governor made those comments Friday morning in Tallahassee, shortly after he announced a statewide expansion of vaccine eligibility to anyone 50 and older, also starting on Monday.
“I would note Orange County is below the state average in seniors vaccinated,” DeSantis added. “They’re at 63%. Trying to do healthy 40-years-olds over finding maybe some more seniors would not be the direction that I would go.”
According to a Florida Department of Health report released Friday, 65% of Floridians age 65 or older have already been vaccinated and the average percentage of seniors vaccinated among Florida’s 67 counties is 61.23%. There are 30 counties, including Orange, with 63% or more of their seniors 65 and older vaccinated.
DeSantis did not say whether he would try to prevent Orange County from going through with its plan.
News 6 contacted the governor’s office to find out if DeSantis planned to take any additional action. DeSantis’ press secretary sent the following statement.
“Local officials are expected to follow the parameters of the Governor’s executive orders.”Cody McCloud, Press Secretary
Demings announced the eligibility expansion for the convention center during a news briefing Thursday. The mayor said he has had conversations with state officials about the move. This decision does not follow the current eligibility list in Florida, but Demings said he does not think DeSantis will prevent Orange County from making this move.
“At the end of the day the governor wants the best for the residents of Florida and Orange County,” Demings said.
Residents who are between the ages of 40 and 59 can visit ocfl.net/vaccine at 9 a.m. on Monday to make an appointment.
County officials said crews can administer 3,000 COVID-19 doses a day at the convention center.
“We’ve done a fairly good job with our seniors, and now we have to kind of move to middle young adults,” Demings said.
On Friday, his office provided a letter showing the Florida Division of Emergency Management was made aware of his decision.
“I am unapologetic for making a decision in the best interest of my county. Before I made my announcement that lowered the vaccine eligibility age to 40, we notified the Florida Department of Emergency Management and followed up with a letter,” Demings said in a written statement. “I was elected to work on the behalf of the citizens of Orange County and I take that responsibility seriously. In my judgement, due to the depressed demand at the Convention Center, lowering the age was the right thing to do.”