ORMOND BEACH, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis was in Ormond Beach Thursday to announce the opening of a monoclonal antibody treatment clinic, the third in Central Florida.
The clinic is set up at Ormond Beach Senior Center, 351 Andrew St., and will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to the governor, with the ability to treat more than 300 patients.
DeSantis said he plans to open 15 to 20 such clinics throughout the state. In Central Florida, clinics are already open in Orlando and Merritt Island. Later on Thursday, the governor spoke at another treatment center opening in Hudson and his office announced one in Tampa at Kings Forest Park.
“This is in addition to what the health systems have already been doing. Some people say that some people didn’t know about this,” he said. “It’s been here. it’s been used — but there’s not been as much, I think, knowledge of it.”
The governor has made several stops around the state this week as he works to open these state-run treatment clinics. He defended his efforts to boost the profile of monoclonal antibodies, rather than push people to get the vaccine.
“The vaccine has been the centerpiece of our efforts since this is December. I think it has helped mitigate severe illness for many of our elderly population and I think it’s been something that has kept people out of the hospital. I think it saves lives. At the same time, once you’re infected the vaccine does not treat the illness and so this is a different component,” he said.
DeSantis stressed during his second appearance of the day that the treatment is not to be used in place of the vaccine.
DeSantis was asked about his thoughts on President Joe Biden’s mandate that all nursing homes have their staff vaccinated or risk losing federal funding.
“That’s a massive hammer that they’re trying to bring down,” DeSantis said. “The issue is going to be, what’s that going to do to the staffing. They (nursing homes) are already short staffed and there’s a lot of people that feel strongly against being mandated (vaccinations) — they think it should be something that they choose and they may have reasons why they make different choices — so I don’t know how it’s going to work.”
He added that “every single” nursing home staff member has had access to the vaccine since December.
The governor stopped short of denouncing the move by the Biden administration. He recently made a similar move to enforce his ban on mask mandates in schools — threatening to withhold paychecks from superintendents who try to enforce masking for students.
When questioned about whether he would encourage Floridians to get a booster shot of the vaccine, DeSantis said they would be available but shied away from pushing for them.
“It’s hard for me to say go do this when I haven’t seen any data. I think the one thing that people should start to do — hopefully a lot of people are doing it now — just because some expert says something. You have to look at the underlying data.”
The governor then referenced information provided by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Chief Medical Advisor to the President — who DeSantis has been critical of in the past.
“I think Fauci did a four-point slide — what he (Fauci) was saying is the benefit is really it doesn’t change your protection for death or serious illness — they think the booster will help reduce the chance that you have effectively a mild infection. And so I think people can look at that and ask themselves whether that’s something that they think is good,” he said.